Pambazuka News 521: African awakenings: The spread of resistance
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Action alerts, 2. Announcements, 3. Features, 4. Dakar World Social Forum 2011, 5. Comment & analysis, 6. Advocacy & campaigns, 7. Pan-African Postcard, 8. Obituaries, 9. Books & arts, 10. African Writers’ Corner, 11. Highlights French edition, 12. Cartoons, 13. Zimbabwe update, 14. African Union Monitor, 15. Women & gender, 16. Human rights, 17. Refugees & forced migration, 18. Africa labour news, 19. Emerging powers news, 20. Elections & governance, 21. Corruption, 22. Development, 23. Health & HIV/AIDS, 24. Education, 25. LGBTI, 26. Racism & xenophobia, 27. Environment, 28. Land & land rights, 29. Food Justice, 30. Media & freedom of expression, 31. Social welfare, 32. Conflict & emergencies, 33. Internet & technology, 34. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 35. Fundraising & useful resources, 36. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 37. Jobs, 38. WikiLeaks and Africa
Highlights from this issue
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Crackdown on activists continues
AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: AU demands halt to Libya attack
WOMEN AND GENDER: Male domination is only half a revolution in Egypt
HUMAN RIGHTS: Niger Delta communities call for oil industry regulation
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: AU calls for ratification of IDP mechanism; Latest on Libyan exodus
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Read the latest news about Africa and China, India and other powers
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: A guide to protests; Latest news from Algeria, Djibouti, Nigeria and Sudan
DEVELOPMENT: Development bank reviews policy after North African revolt
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Activists urge countries to get clever with trade policy
EDUCATION: Cry for better education in South Africa
LGBTI: Homophobia pervasive in Africa’s media, despite campaigns
ENVIRONMENT: Is nuclear the way to go in South Africa?
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Customary law, democratic decentralization and women’s land rights
FOOD JUSTICE: Peasant resistance to land grabs in Mali
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: The new media, revolution and repression
SOCIAL WELFARE: DRC – Malnutrition in the land of plenty
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Latest news from Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Sudan
PLUS…Internet and Technology, e-newsletters and mailing lists, fundraising, courses and jobs…
Kenya: Abduction of witness of extrajudicial killings
Release Political Prisoners Trust
Oxford opens a new chapter on Pan-Africanism
The ‘Pan-Africanism for the New Generation’ conference at the University of Oxford marks a turning-point in the history of Pan-Africanism. To be held on 4 June 2011 at St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, the event will unite students, activists and academics across the United Kingdom to reflect on challenges facing their countries at the turn of the 21st century. What sets it apart from the previous generation championed by Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey and Jomo Kenyatta, to mention a few, is the context in which it unfolds.
As African Union leaders and heads of states in Africa and the Caribbean respond to the challenges of poverty, political instability and poor economic growth, Pan-Africanism for the new generation opens up a new chapter of dialogue among young researchers, policy makers and social movements in addressing the future of their countries. Beyond idealism, practical projects need to be initiated. Among these includes the joint publication of the African/Caribbean Academic Journal and the New Generation Pan-Africanism, online journals and newsletters respectively. These shall become high-level platforms that share strategies and solutions that promote growth, development, sustainable livelihoods, leadership and building social cohesion for partners in the UK, Africa and Caribbean.
As the United Kingdom currently reviews its policies on admissions (in particular, Tier 4 policy) as well as seeing an unprecedented rise in international fees, it is African and Caribbean students who are likely to feel significant pressure given the socio-economic state in which our countries stand. Strengthening relationships among our organisations in order to discuss the future of our students in the United Kingdom is of utmost importance. Furthermore, a partnership is important in assisting qualified graduates to identify opportunities in their home countries upon completion. However, this is not an easy path with current political uncertainties in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – to mention a few – and poverty in Haiti, Sudan and Somalia, among others.
Together, collective solutions can be forged, and with one voice, the research organisers believe, common understanding with the UK government on many issues can be reached. Further, the conference acknowledges the important role already played by other strategic organisations for the interest of Africa and the Caribbean in the UK. Their participation in the conference will be vital in building a formidable alliance and collaboration on issues of mutual interest. In particular, the focus is on research and the well-being of African and Caribbean students and their partnerships in current research.
BEYOND THE ORDINARY
In view of the current leadership bankruptcy in many African and Caribbean countries, foremost on its agenda the conference seeks to galvanise support for the development of a new generation of leaders. While university qualifications are important in preparing future leaders, the political economy of most of these countries are not homogeneous for the immediate absorption of these rare skills. Such facts inform part of the reason why many highly qualified graduates remain in the UK and are willing to settle for odd jobs. African and Caribbean students are no exception to this experience.
Without condoning this unfortunate status quo, the conference reckons with the state of polarisation in the UK in fostering common solutions to prepare this valuable human resource for the future participation in their countries. Practical leadership training programmes and international trade and business opportunities with foreign partners located in the UK must be championed. Through these partnerships, UK graduates shall become envoys to facilitate foreign direct investment and establishment of pro-poor industrial projects. Currently, these opportunities are under-optimised, except to pressure these noble citizens to be plunged back home amid poverty, complacency and indolence.
A need to review current research undertaken in developing countries is overdue. Although a great deal of research is commissioned by reputable international research foundations, the participation of qualified African and Caribbean researchers in driving these scientific expeditions has been limited. Not only that, agenda setting on the quality of research output generated from these countries remains questionable. In turning the tide of longstanding tradition of providing external solutions to address local problems in these countries, the conference shall become a meeting point to share research programmes undertaken from the perspective of these communities. This initiative is made possible through the support of the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, which is committed in developing world-class researchers, most of whom are citizens of these countries, in order to provide world-class research from the perspective of their countries. This training plays out in an interdisciplinary setting, thus allowing students to specialise in their area of choice.
PARTICIPANTS AT THE CONFERENCE
The participation of African and Caribbean policy makers, including heads of states, high commissioners and many other policy heavyweights, during the conference is important. It will bring the researchers close to the pulse of these leaders in understanding both the challenges and opportunities they face. However, different from a series of its types, meaning the conference, the role of social movements and activists is highly appreciated. Not only shall the social movements deepen the nature of discussions and debates, but new perspectives shall also be engendered. Similarly, internationally renowned experts on the subject of Pan-Africanism shall reflect on the successes and failures of the concept as driven by its past trailblazers. A series of presentations and roundtables shall unfold from one of the University of Oxford’s internationally renowned colleges, St Antony’s College, in economics, international relations and political science.
Because of limited seats allocated for university students, advocacy organisations and policy experts, accreditation shall be provided to delegates whose impact shall be felt on their return to their constituencies. However, individual students, professors and non-academic individuals are invited, albeit with limited space. Accreditation shall be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and on the geographic spread of delegates. The sooner the prospective candidates send an email requesting an application form for accreditation, the better the chance they stand to be accredited.
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* Enquiries can be made via email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 7918 902869 (cell) or +44 1865 284574 (home).
* Moshe Molefe is a reader and DPhil in social policy at the University of Oxford.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The death of Nigerian progressive politics?
General Olusegun Obasanjo’s assault on academics in the late 1970s was the first open attack on Nigeria’s progressives and the idea of university autonomy in the postcolonial era. Popular student protests, built around the battle cry of ‘Ali Must Go’, was the robust response. Obasanjo’s government proved a transitional one and military rule ended two years later as President Shehu Shagari and the National Party of Nigeria took office.
However, the emergence of General Ibrahim Babangida in 1985, coinciding with the rise of a new market-fundamentalist economic and political project in the United States and the United Kingdom called neo-liberalism presented this group of Nigerians, whose political and economic outlook is generally left of the centre, with a complex existentialist challenge. That they responded to this challenge poorly and tactically instead of adopting the long view and shaping their strategies accordingly is clearly demonstrated in the farcical game still playing out in Nigeria as the so-called ‘progressive’ political parties refuse to come together in a coalition to give the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party, a meaningful fight in the April general elections.
The defining element of coalition politics is the willingness of key actors to put personal ambition in service of a larger goal they consider vital to national progress and prosperity. Realising that their individual parties alone cannot make the required impact to dislodge a well-entrenched ruling party, they agree to a minimum programme reflecting the broad policy thrust of all parties in the coalition, pool resources and then take to the field, jointly mobilising the electorate to support candidates presented by that coalition. Of course that means that only one of them will get to be president if they take a majority of the votes, but that, in the view of the classical progressive tradition, is a small personal price to pay compared to the enormous benefits that would accrue to citizens nationwide.
President Umaru Yar’Adua’s illness during the last months of 2009 and the reluctance of powerful elements in the ruling PDP to cede power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan as specified in the 1999 Constitution unsettled the powerful cabal, composed of conservative politicians drawn from virtually all parts of the country, that the discredited generals handed power to after flawed elections that same year.
Successive rigged polls following that ‘army arrangement’ that saw Obasanjo taking power a second time in May 1999, and the president’s repressive and abrasive tactics had not given progressive politicians and their traditional allies in the media, organised labour and the higher institutions much space for maneuver. But the confusion that attended the Yar’Adua succession changed all that. Here, at last, was an opportunity to be ruthlessly exploited by progressives truly hungry for power.
It speaks volumes about the state of Nigerian progressive politics today that the hero of that important political moment turned out to be the pastor of a Pentecostal church in Lagos, known more for his regular upbraiding of the country’s corrupt rulers than for a careful and nuanced analysis of Nigeria’s social and economic challenges and the appropriate policies to be applied as remedy. The march on Abuja in the early months of 2010 led by the pastor even as the ailing president’s true condition was kept a top secret only privy to his inner court, quickly degenerated into a comical carnival. Charley Boy, the ageing comedian, Nollywood actors, and the usual Lagos airhead celebrity crowd were in full parade in the Nigerian capital, mouthing ‘progressive’ rhetoric and demanding that Goodluck Jonathan be ‘empowered’ to assume the presidency. The ‘real’ battle-hardened progressives were nowhere to be seen.
That the opposition to Jonathan quickly melted away like morning dew and Jonathan himself moved to appoint Professor Atahiru Jega, an academic and a leading thinker of the progressive camp, chairman of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) was clear indication, if indeed any was needed, of the deep legitimacy crisis that had taken hold of the election-rigging PDP and the corrupt ruling elite arrayed behind this machine.
The consensus country-wide, voiced out in beer parlours and mosques and churches and wherever else citizens gathered in their numbers, was that PDP politicians, like their fictional parallel in Achebe’s novel ‘A Man of the People’, had stolen enough and now it was time for the owner of the house to do something about this thievery. Jega was the new president’s sop to this emerging consensus; a tactical manoeuver designed to stave off the mob while he and his advisers quickly got to work repairing their party’s battered image.
As in politics and other aspects of public life, some actions can have unintended consequences. The emergence of Professor Jega, who in the early 1990s had led the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the Babangida junta and its anti-poor policies, as INEC chairman was a potential game changer. Creatively and strategically exploited, the new INEC under Jega was precisely what Nigerian progressives needed to ensure that the 2011 general elections were free and transparent, and that all they needed to do was organise well politically and the elections would be theirs to lose. Jega has a well-deserved reputation as a dogged fighter for justice; a man of unbending moral principles for whom ethnic politics and ballot-stuffing, the favourite staple of Nigerian ‘politicians’, is anathema. All that was now required of the progressives was to unite, stand on a common platform and make a real bid for power.
That this did not happen, and that the three main political parties that style themselves as ‘progressive’ are yet to reach an agreement on how to jointly articulate a common policy platform two weeks to the elections, suggest that all is not well with the progressive camp. Indeed, given the once-in-a-life time opportunity about to be missed (and there is not even a whimper in apparently progressive circles about what to do to avert the impending calamity), the question has to be boldly asked: is Nigerian progressive politics now really and truly dead? If it is dead, how did this tragic development come about? Who struck the fatal blow? Or, if it has only been knocked unconscious, what is to be done to revive it?
Now, it is important that I stress at this point that these are not merely academic questions that have little or no relevance to the ‘great game’ of power politics that is now playing out in Abuja and other parts of the country. Nigeria is one of the countries on which the political stability of the African continent rests, but it is also the continental laggard, busy trying to stamp out ethnic and religious brushfires in her northeast, central region and the oil-bearing Niger region. If, however, the April elections turn out wrong, then these seemingly ‘small’ fires could quickly become part of the inferno that will ensue.
Nigeria’s stability and prosperity is vital to Africa and her trading partners. Given the sorry record of the conservative segment of the political class that has been in power since 1960, it has become obvious that a new brand of politics, grounded in a progressive intellectual platform, perhaps holds the key to the country’s regeneration. But progressive politicians are missing in action now that the conservative camp is in disarray and the April 2011 elections is for them take.
‘SEND DOWN THE RAIN’
So when did the rain really begin to beat Nigeria’s progressives? I mean, seriously, the kind of rain that drenches the clothes and then seeps into the bones threatening to cause fatal pneumonia? We must locate the source of this rain in the first few years of Babangida’s rule. It is now widely accepted that Babangida’s rule was an ill-wind that forced a once proud and self-confident nation to her knees. But yet unanalysed is the specific way in which the Babangida moment, with the IMF-promoted Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) as its principal assault weapon, sapped the self-confidence of Nigeria’s intellectual class and the progressive politics that has historically used this group as a bulwark.
There can be no meaningful progressive politics without virile and active intellectuals, in academia and embedded in the people themselves. This is not the time to analyse Babangida’s methods and tactics. In any case the Lagos-based ‘The News’ magazine did this in sufficient detail in 1993, in the evening of the dictator’s rule. SAP not only killed off the middle class that supplied the bulk of the country’s army of questing intellectuals, it also made research and teaching in the universities a difficult, even dangerous proposition.
For it is not only that the suddenly worthless Naira, devalued and devalued again by the IMF battering ram, put books and academic journals out of reach, the whole idea of SAP, and the politics of its implementation, was hostile to the very notion of the university. The university is a site for free and disinterested inquiry; a place where knowledge forever goes boldly forward to challenge cant, sophistry, and entrenched power married to illicit booty. The university and its moral equivalent anywhere in the land (and this includes primary and secondary schools) is the only true shining city on a hill; radiating light and combating darkness. When you kill the university, you let slip the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Nigeria’s progressive intellectuals had made it clear right from the onset in 1985 that they were opposed to SAP, and had strenuously mobilised workers, students, women’s groups and even peasants all over the country to join hands and reject Babangida’s proposed elixir. Babangida, as the IMF, was determined to force this elixir on the patient whether it wanted it or not.
The universities and other higher institutions in the country were the centre of this formidable intellectual opposition, now about to balloon into a political one too. So, even as the pitiless economics of SAP was emptying university libraries and laboratories and transforming hitherto comfortable middle-class university teachers into mendicants scrambling for garri and groundnuts, the general’s storm troopers, in the shape of student-led secret cults financed by the junta, spread out into the campuses harassing and beating up teachers who, in Babangida’s own immortal words, were ‘teaching what they are not paid to teach’.
The destruction of Nigeria’s intellectual tradition was also being played out in the Nigerian street at the same time. Newspaper and magazine journalism in the country, while not yet able to match academia in rigour, was nevertheless rooted in the people and thus able to instantly articulate their preferences in times of social crisis. But the hard times, in combination with the greed and short-term vision of newspaper proprietors, came together to force the brightest and the best to either look for better pay in the Ponzi-type banks that were now springing up all over the place or got out of the country altogether.
The new regime of corrupt and self-serving editors unable to meaningfully analyse the policy platforms of the various political parties has its root in the ‘great transformation’ that the industry underwent in the wake of the Babangida cyclone in the late 1980s.
Elsewhere, the indigenous publishing houses and the local branches of international publishing, unable to walk the tightrope of importing raw material with scarce foreign exchange and selling their books locally at prices they knew the now vanishing middle class couldn’t afford, shut shop one after the other. Where these firms went, city bookshops followed. The other side of SAP was, of course, corruption in high places. As public library budgets were routinely embezzled by high officials, weed and darkness overtook these former citadels of light. Massive flight of university teachers back to Europe and North America where the bulk of them had trained in the 1960s and 1970s rounded the circle.
It was this herd-like flight abroad that sounded the death-knell of progressive politics in Nigeria. Nature, as the trite saying goes, abhors a vacuum. What Nigeria’s brightest minds vacated, the dim-witted and grasping quickly filled. That Nigeria’s universities, even the ‘best’ of them, today are more noted for the large number of Mercedes Benz cars in the garages of the professors than for the Nobel Prizes they win annually speak to the caliber of the ‘academics’ who now hold sway in our former centres of light. Nigerian academics in the West are prospering, but the same cannot be said of their counterparts at home.
My area of training is the humanities and social sciences - the policy sciences broadly construed. The last major book produced by a Nigerian academic living in Nigeria that the world took notice of since 1993, when Babangida quit, is Claude Ake’s ‘Democracy and Development in Africa’. So what are the rest of our ‘professors’ in their gilded towers doing?
I too was part of this unthinking ‘African flight’. It was a colossal strategic error on the part of the Nigerian progressive intellectual class. For it left unsupported the political re-flowering that the likes of Bamidele Aturu and the now deceased Ubani Chima were nurturing into being using the platform of the Democratic Alternative, a broad left of the centre political party that emerged a year after Babangida fell from power. These days, the only meaningful progressive politics you get in the country are the writings of Edwin Madunagu, Jibo Ibrahim and Biodun Jeyifo in the newspapers. Even so their columns (with the possible exception of Jibo’s) are still entombed in Marxist straitjackets and are redolent of yesterday’s ideological battles - battles that the global political left lost in the early 1980s following the rise of neo-liberalism.
Should we then go ahead and call in the undertakers? Is it over and done with for progressive politics in Nigeria even as the three political parties that claim the mantle refuse to come together and share a common policy and political platform? These and related questions will be the subject of another essay when the election results come in two weeks from now and the dust, hopefully, would have settled.
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* Dr Okonta is an Abuja-based writer and academic. His is currently an Open Society Fellow and a visiting scholar at Columbia University. Okonta’s latest book is ‘When Citizens Revolt: Nigerian Elites, Big Oil and the Ogoni Struggle for Self-determination’.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Madagascar: The 2009 crisis and outside interests
Historians and political analysts will probably look at Madagascar’s two-year crisis from the standpoint of internal factors: a cyclical crisis characterised by power struggles between various political and economic interest groups obsessed with the conquest of power and its privileges. On top of this, there is the incapacity of successive governments to define and build a model of sustainable development that would free people from poverty and chronic under-development.
The other major aspect of this crisis was the role of the international community, divided between adherents of a principled position – which meant a formal isolation of the putschist regime – and those who continued to back the regime either on principle or because of political expediency. There are those who openly back or backed the former ruler Marc Ravalomanana and others who don’t bother to conceal their support for the High Transitional Authority (HAT) that resulted from a universally recognised coup d’état.
This is not an ordinary clash. It is also a reflection of the conflict between external interests, between one set of geopolitical interests and another – interests which are so strong that the main protagonists of the Malagasy drama, the ousted president Marc Ravalomanana and the leader of the High Transitional Authority have been unable to extricate themselves from their backers or from their entrenched positions in order to reach some kind of consensus. So even if a solution to the crisis should be purely Malagasy, determined by the people of Madagascar, it is impossible to ignore outside influences and the varying interests of external actors.
France is in the forefront of this crisis. Even if its direct role in the coup d’état cannot be proved, there is enough material for researchers and political analysts to have a field day. Paris never officially extended backing for the regime that grabbed power in March 2009, but the constant interference by the French presidency and Foreign Ministry leaves little doubt about their involvement and is regularly denounced in Madagascar and elsewhere.
France’s relaxed attitude towards the coup and its aftermath, which irritated the US State Department and other European governments and roundly condemned by the African bloc, as well as international concern over the seemingly interminable Malagasy crisis, are an indication of the stakes of the crisis, which are not just economic but have wider geopolitical and geostrategic underpinnings that are perhaps not sufficiently appreciated by the vast majority of the Malagasy.
Its reluctant condemnation of the illegal power grab notwithstanding, the facts on the ground paint a totally different picture of French involvement in Malagasy politics: a new French ambassador shaking hands with Andry Rajoelina on the day after his coup d’état; the presence of the French military attaché on 26 June, which ruffled feathers in many capitals; the declarations of Joyandet in the French parliament or foreign minister Kouchner’s support for elections which got no international backing; the trouble-shooting trips by Bourgi, the French Presidency’s African emissary; the welcome extended to Rajoelina before he appeared before the commission in Brussels; the frantic attempts by the Foreign Ministry to win African support after the clash at the United Nations; the diplomatic manoeuvrings in Maputo and Addis to kick start the Malagasy economy and attract foreign investment despite the illegality of the government in place and so on. France may not have been the direct instigator of the coup d’état that brought the current regime to power in March 2009, but it is clearly not dissatisfied with the status quo in place. Certainly, it has not condemned the power grab as it did in 2002 when Marc Ravalomanana took power in less ambiguous circumstances insofar as he did have substantial popular support.
In light of all this, France’s condemnation of Laurent Gbagbo’s hold-up in Côte d’Ivoire cannot but raise questions about double standards. It is true that the stakes are much higher in Côte d’Ivoire, which is France’s top trading partner in the franc zone and fourth in sub-Saharan Africa. (8)
France has never hidden its interest in and attachment to Madagascar. While there is a solid economic bedrock to Franco-Malagasy relations, there is also an ambiguous affective duality in the ties – even the Malagasy refer to France as the ‘reny malala’ (dear mother). Conversely, the calibre of the French ambassadors selected to serve in Madagascar reveals the importance of the ‘Grande Ile’ (‘Big Island’) in France’s geopolitical strategy: from Maurice Delaunay (1972–75) to Gildas Le Lidec (2008), the French embassy in Antananarivo seems to be a must stint for those with diplomatic ambitions. The sheer numbers of people working in the French embassy in Antananarivo (10) make it the 8th biggest (11) French diplomatic mission in the world. It is not necessary to go through the entire history of bilateral relations from colonisation to independence to the neocolonial epoch which followed to understand the strength of Franco-Malagasy ties. A glimpse at the 2006–10 Framework of Partnership says it all. The agreement reset the main thrust of French cooperation and France’s expectation of development in Madagascar. In the document, France clearly recognised, when not praising, like other international institutions, the achievements of the Ravalomanana government. That was in 2006.
2007 saw a new government take power in France. There was a break with the past but not necessarily what one had hoped after hearing President Sarkozy’s pledge when elected that he would implement a different policy towards Africa. Since then a real politik drenched in neoliberalism has replaced those noble declarations of intention. And so, after Jean-Marie Bockel, who claimed he had ‘signed the death certificate of Françafrique’, was removed from office at the behest of Gabonese leader Bongo, his successor at the Ministry of Cooperation and Francophonie Alain Joyandet proclaimed publicly on 19 June 2008 that ‘France must defends its share of the market and reclaim its role in Africa’.
Having bought into the official position, it was only natural that the French economic players installed in Madagascar – who were fed up with what they considered disloyal competition from an entrepreneur–president – should want an end to his rule. This group, united in their demand for ‘anyone but Ravalomanana’, was a natural ally of the president’s political opponents, descendants of the Malagasy elite, and together they diabolised the head of state. The hate campaign, amplified by the French presidential network, probably laid the basis of the ‘position’ of the French government, only too willing to be convinced of the legitimacy of the coup and its leaders.
Franco-Malagasy relations took a turn for the worse in 2002, when France dragged its feet before finally recognising the Ravalomanana government. The mutual distrust and suspicion deepened after what Paris called the unjustifiable expulsion of one of its most brilliant emissaries, Ambassador Gildas le Lidec. Given the mistakes and demands of one side and the approximate analyses of the other, the situation could only end in total rupture. As President Sarkozy put it after Rajoelina’s power grab, ‘It is a coup d’état … but the former president was also to blame.’
The question remains therefore: Why did France abandon Ravalomanana? Why is Paris involved in the Malagasy crisis? Is it to satisfy some obscure geopolitical strategy? Or is to guarantee its future resources? Is it to safeguard the local economic interests of some French nationals and those with dual citizenship? Is it due to the actions of the ‘Françafrique’ lobby? Is it to keep the opportunists of the High Transitional Authority happy? Or is it because of the demands of the economic war being waged by transnational companies involved in the globalisation game? The answer is a combination of all this.
* Patrick Rakotomalala’s (alias Lalatiana Pitchboule) blog is madagoravox.wordpress.com.
* This article was first published by Pambazuka News’s French-language edition.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 The international community means here the members of the International Contact Group (GIC) for Madagascar: the African Union, the Indian Ocean Commission, the Community for the development of Southern Africa, the United Nations, the International Organisation of the Francophonie, the European Union, the permanent members of the Security Council and a non-permanent member, Japan. International recognition means recognition by all these groups. Those who tried to extend diplomatic recognition to the regime that followed the coup did so outside the international community – this refers to Syria, Pakistan or Turkey – even if the last country is a non-permanent member of the Security Council until 31 December 2010.
 France was directly implicated by Ravalomanana himself in May 2009 in South Africa, a position shared by the majority of Malagasy intellectuals. For example, Professor Adolphe Rakotomanga was invited to a discussion to ‘clarify’ things by the French ambassador Jean-Marc Chataignier. The ambassador was upset about his criticism of France in a communiqué published on 27 April 2010 in ‘Les Nouvelles’: it is very clear to us that French authorities want at all costs that the ‘Grande Ile’ remain French and that the future president (that they are trying to put in power by forced elections) be a ‘friend of France’. The same ambassador refused to admit in a private discussion in February that anti-French feelings were rising amongst the Malagasy.
 Source WikiLeaks : (Remi) Marechaux (French presidential advisor) denied rumours indicating that France was providing a military plane to the HAT; he said that bilateral relations were in a ‘grey zone’, with the new French ambassador not yet having presented his credentials. Marechaux said that France was abiding by the EU’s strictures against ‘no new non-humanitarian assistance’ which the EU was enforcing strictly. The GOF is trying its best not to embroil itself in the dispute over control over Madagascar’s embassy in Paris.
 ‘We know that other countries are reviewing their relations with Madagascar on the basis of the amount of aid they give. We think military aid is a big problem and cannot understand why anyone would want to provide such help to an unconstitutional regime’ (interview with the Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs Karl Wycoff, 15 January 2010 in www.america.gov)
 ‘The President [Andry Rajoelina] of the High Transitional Authority (HAT) was prevented Friday (25/9/09) to address the UN General Assembly on behalf of Madagascar following the intervention of a southern African country. A representative of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – 15 countries – objected to any intervention by Mr. Rajoelina, whose legitimacy is contested by several African countries, saying he had no right to speak. A vote on the motion was carried in favour of the SADC position’ (AFP, 25 September 2009).
 On Friday, shortly after the French Foreign Ministry spoke of ‘a power change in abnormal conditions’, President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking at a European Union summit in Brussels, referred to a ‘coup d’état’ in Madagascar and called for immediate elections which he said were ‘the only way out of the imbroglio’ (lexpress.fr, published on 20 March 2009).
 On 6 May 2002, the entire diplomatic corps excluding France was present in Mahamasina for the inauguration of Marc Ravalomanana. On 26 June, France was absent from Independence Day celebrations and only decided to recognise the new regime on 3 July by sending Dominique de Villepin. Contrast this with the 2009 crisis, where there was no French representation for eight months after the ‘expulsion’ of Ambassador Le Lidec in July 2008, the new ambassador, Jean-Marie Chataignier arrived in Antananarivo on 18 March 2009, the very day after the coup d’état. He met Andry Rajoelina on 19 March.
 The big French companies traditionally present in Africa have local subsidiaries in Côte d’Ivoire for the most part. There are an estimated 140 French subsidiaries, which employ 40,000 people and some 500 small and medium local French companies. The bulk of France’s business interests in sub-Saharan Africa are in Côte d’Ivoire. The turnover of French companies and subsidiaries, French-owned either in part or in whole, represents around 30 per cent of GDP and 50 per cent of tax money (French Economic Mission in Ivory Coast).
 ‘The Malagasy attach great importance to the French point of view, and the relationship is still largely affective, though not without great ambiguity. At one level, France is the Reny Malala (Mother Dear); it is to her one turns when one wants to address the international community. Moreover, there is a big Malagasy community living in France. The destiny of the Grande Ile is of concern to France. But at the same time, one wants to break with the colonial past’ (Faranirina V Rajaonah, ‘The imagined stranger in the Malagasy crisis’, May 2002, published in Politique Africaine).
 There are three kinds of French diplomatic embassies: those ‘de plein exercice à mission élargie’ (39), those ‘à mission prioritaire’ (90) and those ‘à mission spécifique « de veille »’ (31).
 In order: USA, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Senegal, Madagascar.
Libya, Egypt, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire: Confusion remains
It is becoming increasingly difficult to know where to begin in writing about Libya. The Arab League have given their support to the suggestion of a ‘no-fly zone’ but have no intention of becoming directly involved. The question is: Is their call for a ‘no-fly zone’ just hot air, knowing that no one is going to go for it anyway? Europe, Canada and the US are indecisive and one gets the feeling that they are losing their nerve and probably asking themselves why they came up with this idea in the first place. While many of us wish to support the revolutionaries on the ground, the idea of foreign forces intervening in Libya is abhorrent. Stop the War have a list of ’Ten reasons why military intervention’ is a bad idea.
As of writing @feb17voices tweets that Ajdabiya, Misratah and Benghazi are under attack from the air and land. The Libyan Youth Movement @ShababLibya remain focused believing ‘the game is over but the question is how many more will die’? They also tweet Al Jazeera’s challenge to Gaddafi to appear on TV along with his sons.
Immanuel Wallerstein writes on his blog that there is so much ‘confused analysis and hypocrisy’ about what is happening in the country, and he makes some good points. For example, the left is split in support for Gaddafi, with Hugo Chávez and other Latin American states on the one hand and the Middle East, Africa, US and European left decidedly against him. Gaddafi’s very recent friendships with various European powers hardly speak to an anti-imperialist stance:
‘First of all, for the last decade and up to a few weeks ago, Qaddafi had nothing but good press in the western world. He was trying in every way to prove that he was in no way a supporter of “terrorism” and wished only to be fully integrated into the geopolitical and world-economic mainstream. Libya and the western world have been entering into one profitable arrangement after another. It is hard for me to see Qaddafi as a hero of the world anti-imperialist movement, at least in the last decade.’
Despite statements to the contrary, are we really to believe that the Arab League and southern European countries are not secretly hoping Gaddafi will prevail? Their dilemma is now how to stop fleeing refugees from North Africa landing on their shores. Only yesterday Malta and Italy turned away a ship carrying 1,800 refugees from Libya. The Italian foreign minister was quoted as saying, ‘We can’t know if there are terrorists aboard.’ A boat from Tunisia carrying about 40 people capsized. Another boat managed to rescue just five of the passengers. At present there are about 10,000 refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The people however think differently, as these two quotes show:
‘Any ambivalence about that regime, gone, gone, gone. It is brutal, corrupt, deceitful, delusional’ (Helen Sheeham, Marxist scholar invited to Libya just before the revolt broke out).
‘COSATU does not accept however that these achievements in any way excuse the slaughter of those protesting against the oppressive dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi and reaffirms its support for democracy and human rights in Libya and throughout the continent.’
Libyan writer Mustafa Abduallah writes that Gaddafi may have won a battle here and there but his regime, his theory, is over. The Green Book is so obsolete that it cannot even be recycled. Abduallah’s essay is a sad lament for the losses the revolutionaries have incurred. He lays some of the blame on those who ‘remained silent’ in the face of the young who have given their lives in the pursuit of liberation.
The Egyptian revolution remains in a critical stage, as explained by blogger SandMonkey in his post on the state of the ‘Free Republic of Egypt’.
‘The Mubaraks are still free, so are Fathy Surrour, Zakaria Aazmy and Safwat ElSherief, alongside with all the corrupt NDP officials in all branches of government, not to mention all the state security and police officers who spent the last 3 decades terrorizing, monitoring, torturing & killing those they were supposed to protect. The Political prisoners and detained Jan25 protesters are still unlawfully in prison, the stolen money is still in foreign countries, and the Minimum wage of 200 dollars a month for all Egyptians is still not enforced.’
There are some Egyptians who are satisfied with Revolution Part I, but not at all happy with the continued protests, Revolution Part II, III and so on. SandMonkey takes the doubters to task on their concerns over the ‘lagging economy’, which is due to the ‘complete and total corruption in all government institutions’, concerns over ‘thugs attacking and robbing’ people and property, forgetting that prior to the revolution the police did this every single day, and concerns that ‘Islamists are going to take over the country and turn it into Afghanistan’ but are not ready to demand a ‘complete overhaul of the education system, the end of bigotry & discrimination against minorities in all job positions (private or public), the removal of hate-inciting Imams or Priests from Mosques and Churches’.
Arabawy links to an article in the Washington Post ‘Dictator Watch’ which reports on the turnaround by the Egyptian army, which only a few weeks ago was welcomed as heroes by the people. Since 9 March there’ve been reports of torture. Samira Ibrahim Mohamed was one of the many protestors arrested on 9 March and subsequently tortured.
‘Samira was handcuffed to a wall in the museum complex. For nearly seven hours — almost every five minutes, she said — Samira was electrocuted with a stun gun. Her torturers would sometimes splash water on her and others to make the shocks more painful. The electrical jolts were applied to her legs, shoulders and stomach. She pleaded with the soldier to stop. Repeating what the demonstrators had chanted in Tahrir Square, she said, “I begged them. I said, ‘You are my brothers. The army and the people are one.’” Her tormentor replied, “No, the military is above the nation. And you deserve this.”’
In another torture story from Egypt Alive, revolutionary singer Rammy Issam gives his testimony from 9 March.
Rammy Issam - torture victim'They began to kick my body and face, and hit my back and feet with sticks, whips, pips, wires, and hoses. Afterwards, they got an Electric detonator, the same kind that was used in the demonstrations and started electrifying different places in my body – with one device at first, then with more than one device at the same time. The military officers would leave me, throw stuff at my back, step on me, and throw shoes at my face. They cut my hair (It was long), and finally they put my face in the dirt and then filled my body with dust.’
WEST AFRICA – CAMEROON, SENEGAL, COTE D’IVOIRE
Last week in a desperate attempt to halt communication by protestors, President Paul Biya’s government forced mobile operator MTN to ban Twitter SMS. Cameroonian blogger Dibussi Tande rightly commented:
‘unless the government plans a total Internet blackout, including the banning of all mobile phones and standard SMS, then it has embarked on a very futile battle which it will never win.’
In Senegal political opponents of President Abdoulaye Wade announce countrywide protests on 19 March and the creation of a Facebook page, which presently has 250 members.
‘BraVo POUR Cette iNitiaTive CouraGeux Qui mériTe un EnCouraGeMent VeNant de la GloBalité des SénégaLais EnrAgEaient, pOur tOut jUste dirE y en a maRRe, pEace.’
(‘Congratulations on this bold initiative that deserves encouragement from the globality of the Senegalese were furious, for just saying we are sick, peace.’)
‘j-9 pour en finir avec wade une chose est sure wade n´est pas au senegal il est out seul reste souleyman Ndede ndiaye et il a mobilise beaucoup d´argent pour freiner la revolution mais si on bloque la capitale est direction au palais pui l´aeroport pour que wade ne reviendra pas’.
(‘j-9 to end one thing is sure wade wade in Senegal is not alone out there is Suleyman remains Ndedi Ndiaye and has mobilised a lot of money to stop the revolution but if you block east towards the capital to the palace pui Airport to wade will not return.’)
Some of the reasons behind the protests are: (At the risk of being accused of ageism, it’s unbelievable that at age 86 Wade is seeking a third term.)
‘Sénégal: élections locales à enjeu national sur fond de succession dynastique’ (‘Senegal: Sunday March 22, 2009, local elections with national stakes set to a backdrop of dynastic succession’).
‘Karim Wade fait son entrée au gouvernement sénégalais’ (‘Karim Wade makes his entry into the Senegalese government’). The subheader reads ‘The prodigal son is appointed minister of state for air transport and infrastructure’.
‘Sénégal: Karim Wade hyperministre’ (‘Senegal: Karim Wade super-minister’). The subheader reads ‘The son of the Senegalese president takes over from the minister of energy’.
‘Sénégal: errements et difficultés d'une succession monarchique au pouvoir’ (‘Senegal: The misguided ways and difficulties of a monarchical power succession’).
‘L'irrecevabilité de la candidature’ (‘The inadmissibility of Wade's candidacy’).
‘Sénégal: le président Wade veut briguer un 3ème mandat présidentiel à l’âge de 86. L'opposition dénoncent une tentative de manipulation de la constitution’ (‘Senegal: At the age of 86, President Wade is seeking a 3rd presidential term. The opposition is denouncing an attempt to manipulate the constitution’).
‘Congres du PDS: Comment Wade veut positionner Karim’ (‘Conference of the PDS: How Wade wants to position Karim’). The subheader reads ‘The Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) will hold its convention at the end of November. In four months there will be the 2012 presidential election, scheduled for February. But why is president Wade so attached to this conference? What is it concealing?’
‘Au Sénégal, Wade inaugure une statue à la mesure de sa mégalo’ (‘In Senegal, Wade inaugurates a statue the size of his ego’).
The African Union (AU) finally declared Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate president of Côte d’Ivoire. But being the ‘legitimate’ winner of an election does not mean you get to be president. After nearly four months the AU’s solution is yet another ‘government of national unity’, one which was immediately rejected by Laurent Gbagbo, whose behaviour is becoming increasingly like that of a spoilt child screaming at the grocery checkout – except he has thugs and guns at his disposal.
@ayittey [George Ayittey] made a couple of announcements on Twitter. First:
‘Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast declares a no-fly zone for UN peacekeepers. Lord save us.’
To which @niyyie responded:
‘How would he enforce it? He shoots one UN plane and he'd probably be out of office faster than you can say au revoir’.
In another tweet @ayittey has a ‘fact check’:
‘Black Africa's revolutions occurred before Tunisia in 90s: Benin, Mali, South Africa, Zambia, etc. World paid no attention.’
Africa Review raises the question of whether Zimbabwe is breaking sanctions imposed since 2004 and is supplying Laurent Gbagbo with weapons. However, their investigations date back to December.
‘The investigation focuses on four aircraft which landed at San Pedro airport in southern Côte d'Ivoire in territory controlled by Gbagbo's forces, between December 17-21. The planes arrived from Angola, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe, according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. Investigators are also looking into a shipment of 10 large wooden crates “which may contain trucks or tanks.” The report said the consignment has been at Abidjan port for six months under “24/7” military surveillance.’
Finally, the International Socialist Organisation announced that the remaining 6 ‘Egypt protests’ Zimbabweans have been released on $2,000 bail each – a huge sum so they will need a great deal of support. They can be contacted via their website http://isozim.blogspot.com/
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Awakening protests in Morocco and Western Sahara
For international analysts closely observing Morocco’s awakening uprisings, the absolute monarchy’s financially draining, vice-like grip on the Western Sahara might prove to be its Achilles heel. Unlike its fellow Gulf monarchs or the respected North African power of Algeria, Morocco has no oil wealth to lavishly soothe grievances.
The former French president Charles de Gaulle once described Morocco as a country whose revolution was still to come. The escalating discord and protests may yet see Morocco’s own population giving voice to what the full detrimental magnitude of the monarchy’s colossal expenditure in its 35-year war and occupation of the Western Sahara means for their desperate socio-economic woes.
Meanwhile, cities across the occupied Western Sahara such as El Aaiun, Boujdour and Dakhla have seen continuous non-violent protest rallies by the indigenous Western Saharans and the now systematic pattern of violent counter-attacks by Moroccan military forces.
MOROCCO’S ACHILLES HEEL
The Western Sahara conflict is in all actuality a hot geopolitical potato, with potent economic and political security–stability implications as the superpower dynamics between US and France engage in fierce rivalry over coveted natural resources, strategic supremacy and regional economic alliances.
At the ground level, Morocco's invasion and 35-year occupation of the Western Sahara threatens the fundamental tenets of our Western modern political system, which espouses the inviolable sanctity of a nation-state's own sovereignty, the basic rights of human beings and regional socio-economic stability.
As Zunes and Mundy (2010) emphasise, ‘The on-going Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara is one of the most egregious … affronts to the international system in existence today… The [United Nations] Security Council has turned a blind eye to Morocco’s blatant contravention of the UN Charter (1945).’ Morocco has not only flouted the International Court of Justice’s original legal opinion in 1975 – and thereafter over 100 United Nations Resolutions – but its Israeli-like policy of moving settlers into the Western Sahara and thereby changing the demographics to three Moroccans for one Sahrawi constitutes a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibition of moving civilians into a militarily occupied territory. So too has its exploitation and plunder of Western Sahara’s natural resources brought it disgrace.
Yet although much attention goes to Morocco's international legal contraventions, it is ultimately the US and France who are violating the very legal and moral principles that they so publicly avow. For over 35 years, the US and France have been complicit in financing and morally permitting Morocco's aggressive territorial expansion, as well as tactically blocking the conflict’s solutions at the UN Security Council. Without this US–French support, Morocco would never have been able to get away with, let alone sustain, such blatant violations of international law.
Western Sahara is not just the ‘last colony of Africa’, it is a country that has undergone uncompleted decolonisation and then been re-colonised – a subtle new order of modern economic colonisation by Western powers, primarily US and France vying for regional hegemony and economic self-interest. Playing out like re-coloured footage from the colonial past, Algeria fiercely defends its independence from France’s modern economic courting, while Morocco appears, as ever, eager to be the beloved child of France. If Algeria, the slumbering lion of North Africa, were to summon the strength for a mighty roar in warning, would the US and France take note? If Algeria harnessed its regionally respected courage and power to take skilful control of France’s unrequited desire of its beloved jewel in North Africa, would France drop Morocco like a hot protectorate brick again?
THE CONFLICT’S SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACTS ON MOROCCO
Morocco’s war and occupation of Western Sahara has done nothing for the country or its people other than drain vast amounts of wealth from ordinary Moroccan people. Will Morocco’s population now find the courage to voice dissent on the impacts on their own socio-economic woes from the relentless economic burden of their regime’s colossal expenditures on Western Sahara? How did they end up so cheated and what are the costs of war?
Morocco’s national–ideological obsession for the Western Sahara began during King Hassan II’s reign when the monarchy faced a volatile political landscape. The concept of a ‘Greater Morocco’ (originally including Mauritania and parts of Algeria and Mali) was formed by nationalist elites threatening the monarchy’s survival. Adopting this powerful idea enabled Hassan II to reassert royal legitimacy by portraying it as a national emergency to successfully distract public attention and political dissenters away from domestic problems. To this day, the illegal occupation of Western Sahara remains a central orthodoxy in Moroccan politics, with the monarchy’s legitimacy said to still be dependent upon it.
Morocco’s invasion and war for Western Sahara between 1975 and 1991 corroded the existing domestic economic–political deterioration and social inequities. Since the 1991 ceasefire, the costs of occupation have continued to undermine Morocco’s socio-economic potential. Cited as a weak state since independence in 1956, the regime has been heavily dependent on income to sustain the hierarchical clientelist authoritarian ‘Makhzen’ which governs the country under the absolute control of its ‘Alawi monarchy.
Although the occupation of Western Sahara brought opportunities to plunder natural resources such as phosphate mining and Atlantic fishing, Morocco’s colossal expenditures to prop up its war and occupation brings a bigger and economically devastating picture into focus.
Its biannual military expenditure rose rapidly from $270 million in 1972 to $367 million (1974), $755 million (1976) and $770 million in 1978 (Stork and Paul 1983 p. 6). By the mid-1980s, the average cost of war and occupation was estimated at $1.5 million per day (Africa Report, May–June 1986). In 1990, the estimated annual military expenditure – including infrastructure investment – reached $430 million (Damis 1990). Damis’s study in 2000 using Moroccan-published data estimated the cost of war at $1.17 million a day between 1976–86. While this figure accounts for only 3 per cent of government spending and 9 per cent of GDP, Morocco received lavish financial war grants and arms sales from the US, France and Saudi Arabia, such as, for example, $1 billion a year between 1979–81.
Despite this extensive foreign financial support, the statistics show that it has actually been phenomenally expensive for Morocco, and financially devastating even with the foreign war grants. The sheer focus of the monarchy’s obsession to sustain its war effectively drained what should have been full attention on socio-economic development for the Moroccan population itself.
Seddon’s 1989 analyses calculated Morocco’s cost of war as much higher, even with foreign war grants: for example, in 1979, the war cost between $2 million and $5 million a day, and that Moroccan defence spending was ‘no less than 40 per cent of the … national budget’. Tessler calculated Morocco’s total defence spending had risen from 13 per cent in 1975 to 23 per cent by 1977 (1985). Although in 1991 Saudi Arabia wrote off Morocco’s debt for Moroccan participation in the first US-led war against Iraq (Economist Intelligence Unit 2003), Zoubir has shown how Morocco had to resort to additional domestic ‘national solidarity taxes’ (1990).
Even after the 1991 ceasefire, Morocco’s illegal occupation and military defence costs remained an expensive redirection of funds that could otherwise have benefitted the Moroccan population itself. US Department of State figures show that between 1975–99, Morocco’s daily military expenditure averaged $4.1 million per day. And the costs were even higher due to arms purchases – Morocco bought $529 million in arms every year between 1975–91, dropping to $145 million each year between 1992–99.
Morocco’s implementation of the 1978 austerity plan to finance the war occurred as its debt burden increased phenomenally, triggering major labour strikes (Leveau 1997). Throughout the 1970s, Morocco’s unemployment grew, while poor rainfall reduced crop yields and herd stocks, making food prices rise higher than personal incomes. With this rapidly deteriorating socio-economic situation, in 1980 Morocco resorted to an IMF economic rescue package, which at that time was the second-largest of its kind across the developing world. Again labour and student strikes hit Morocco in 1981, leading to civil unrest and army retaliation. Under pressure, Morocco succumbed to the World Bank and IMF’s deeper debt and again the burden fell on Moroccan society, with yet more rises in food prices and unemployment. Yet more strikes broke out in 1984 after further food price rises and education cuts (Tessler 1985). By the late 1980s, the picture in Morocco was still of continuing social discontent. And the 1990s still showed signs of an economy in trouble: unemployment, inflation and national debt had risen from $8.47 billion in 1980 to $20.66 billion in 1993 (Layachi 1998).
The 1991 ceasefire should have eased the burdens of the cost of war for Morocco and allowed it to stabilise its appalling domestic socio-economic position. Observers note however that not much has changed. The monarchy still retains unqualified power without any financial separation from the state, the biggest landowner and controller of state contracts and holding companies which remain the ‘personal vehicle of the king’s economic and commercial interests’ (Leveau 1997).
Will these tragic statistics provide the historical window of opportunity for the Moroccan people to also demand an end to the billions of dollars being misappropriated to prop up their regime’s Western Sahara ‘distraction’ instead of on their own social and economic needs?
With the current revolutions successfully challenging the heads of Arab republics, how safe are the Arab monarchies and does their ‘divine’ position leave any hope for protesters?
Taking analyses of recent events in Saudi Arabia as a reference point, Saudi author Mai Yamani has written in The Guardian that, ‘No kingdom is an island, particularly when it sits in a sea of revolution.’ Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud conveyed in The New York Times that, ‘Arab governments can no longer afford to take their populations for granted … The winds of change are blowing across our region with force and it would be folly to suppose that they will soon dissipate.’ Shadi Hamid, research director at the Brookings Doha Centre, suggests that the Saudi ‘regime is learning all the wrong lessons from Egypt and Tunisia – the unrest in the region is not fundamentally economic, it's fundamentally about politics’. Eman al-Nafjan, a professional and mother of three who blogs as Saudiwoman, writes, ‘Across the board, there's a demand for a constitutional monarchy and accountability and the end of corruption in the handling of the nation's wealth’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 5 March).
The Middle East Foreign Policy (4 March) evaluates how the Gulf States’ dynastic nature of monarchy helped them survive the last period of political upheaval in the Arab world in the 1950s and 1960s. Their wide presence in society provided a built-in intelligence service, keeping the families close to those they ruled. Many heads were better for monarchical survival than the single heads of rulers in Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Yemen that were lopped off, either figuratively or literally, in the Arab revolts of that earlier age. Since the first constituency of any dynastic monarch is his own family, proposing political reforms that would vastly decrease family power is likely to excite opposition not just to the reforms, but possibly to the ruler himself. Whatever reforms and promises Morocco makes to its people, they will not occur without the elite ensuring their wealth interests remain secure.
In the Financial Times’s ‘Arab monarchs nervously watch Morocco’ (2 March), Victor Mallet’s discussion suggests that Arab monarchs are far from immune to the people’s revolution. In Morocco, royalists believe that traditional regal and Muslim religious credentials (the king claims to be a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed and styles himself as ‘commander of the faithful’) will protect Morocco’s absolute monarchy from the reality of its economic injustices, a ‘medieval’ foundation to its current constitution and the absence of any real democracy. Despite this divine, sacrosanct untouchability, reports suggest that the 20 February protest marked the first time where pictures of the king, which normally symbolise loyalty, were not necessarily carried. Said Benjebli, a 32-year-old blogger and the chair of the Moroccan Bloggers’ Association, tells Mallet that if the king does not face the populations’ demands for change, ‘… the level of demands will increase and then people will want a republic. There is not much time to save the monarchy.’
So too does Imad Mesdoua explore the likely outcomes of Morocco’s uprisings in Morocco in ‘The “tranquil” kingdom?’ (2 March). She discusses how Morocco has sought to portray itself as the regional exception – the ‘tranquil kingdom’ – in the chaos of shaking republics and monarchies across the Arab world. The possibility of institutional reforms that would relegate the king to a ceremonial monarch/head of state in a constitutional model such as those of Europe’s monarchies would break one of Morocco’s chief taboos in a long history of Moroccan monarchs wielding sacrosanct and unchallengeable power over every institution. The current king is undoubtedly more popular than his father, bringing a ‘greater leniency and modernity’ to his reign alongside successfully portraying a ‘model of democracy’ with Western praise. However, the fundamental pillars of his father’s reign – corruption, nepotism, human rights violations and feared power of the ‘Makhzen’ – have not been reformed. WikiLeaks reports suggest the current monarch institutionalised bribery and coercion at the start of his reign to ensure his family’s businesses gain the upper hand over local and international competitors. Political freedom and freedom of speech only exists if it does not touch on the ultimate taboos: to criticise the monarchy or question the Western Sahara issue is a direct attack on the sacred. The vocabulary in the monarchy’s official speeches gives some clue as to gravity of it all.
WESTERN SAHARA UPRISINGS
As Noam Chomsky pointed out in a recent interview, the brutal dawn raid by Moroccan military forces on a Sahrawi peace camp in the occupied Western Sahara in November 2010 was the start of the current waves of uprisings sweeping the Arab world.
In cities across Western Sahara such as Dakhla, El Aaiun and Smara, civil society and human rights advocates have long embarked on waves of pro-democracy protests, now seen echoing through the Moroccan population itself. It is widely believed that the Sahrawi do not want to divert attention from the Moroccan populations’ own protests. But how serious the Moroccan regime takes these multi-directional campaigns can be seen in contradicting reports emerging about Moroccan military movements. In February, several sources said military troops had been moved north to prepare for the announced protests in Morocco-proper. Then in March local sources reported that large army contingents were being moved back into the Occupied Territory. Reports on 8 March indicated that the occupied city of Boujdour was under military siege.
Although the king’s two recent televised speeches announced a wide set of reforms, he nevertheless made it clear these would be carried out on his own initiative. Such reforms will prove decisive in whether the kingdom can retain its ‘tranquillity’. The risk is that Arab leaders will remain ‘behind closed doors in gilded palaces and well-guarded mansions, asking what can we give them and still stay in power?’ (Gardner, BBC, 4 March). As much as for any republic leader, a monarch’s legitimacy depends on ‘a social contract that treats the population as citizens rather than subjects, and has as its primary goal the economic and social advancement of society’ (Kaplan, Financial Times, 2 March).
Algeria’s wealth and independence on the international scene enables it much room to manoeuvre in responding to its population’s demands. Morocco does not have this luxury. What remains to be seen is just how much longer the monarchy can justify its archaic Western Sahara myth to the international community, the Sahrawi living under a repressive occupation and ultimately to the Moroccan population’s own socio-economic woes.
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* Konstantina Isidoros is a doctoral researcher in anthropology at the University of Oxford. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author. This document is an original transcript and copyrighted property of the author. Changes to this original transcript are not permitted without prior approval from the author.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Zunes, Stephen. and Mundy, Jacob. 2010. Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution. Syracuse University Press.
Pazzanita, Anthony G. 1994. ‘Morocco versus Polisario: A Political Interpretation’. The Journal of Modern African Studies. 32 (2). June. pp.265-278.
Shelley, Toby. 2004. Endgame in the Western Sahara: What Future for Africa’s Last Colony? New York: Zed.
Hodges, Tony. 1983. Western Sahara: Roots of a Desert War. Westport, Conn.: L. Hill.
Damis, J. 1983. Conflict in Northwest Africa: The Western Sahara Dispute. California: Hoover Institution Press.
International Court of Justice. 1975 Judgements, Advisory Opinions and Orders: Western Sahara.
Western Sahara Resource Watch (www.wsrw.org)
Norwegian Support Committee for the Western Sahara (www.vest-sahara.no)
Illegal EU-Moroccan Fisheries Agreement (www.fishelsewhere.org/legal.htm)
Amnesty International (www.amnesty.org)
Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org)
Western Sahara Campaign UK (www.wsahara.org.uk)
Free Western Sahara Network (http://freesahara.ning.com)
Australia Western Sahara Association (www.awsa.org.au)
The Western Sahara Association in California (www.calwesternsahara.org)
Spanish Group of pro-Sahrawi Associations (www.saharaindependiente.org)
Landmine Action (www.landmineaction.org)
Burkina Faso: No to Compaoré’s repression
Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste
At a time when the people of Tunisia and Egypt have driven the dictators Ben Ali and Mubarak out of their countries, the people of sub-Saharan Africa should not be forgotten and must be supported. The people of Burkina Faso, ‘the country of honest men’ (the name given to them by the revolutionary Thomas Sankara), have been fighting for weeks against the regime which, since 1987, has prevented Burkina Faso from living in freedom and dignity. This regime is that of Blaise Compaoré, who recently won the November 2010 presidential elections with more than 80.15 per cent of the vote.
Implicated in the murder of Thomas Sankara and dashing the hopes of an entire continent – which were carried by this worthy son of Africa who dared say no to imperialism – the regime of Blaise Compaoré is also responsible for the death of journalist Norbert Zongo in December 1998, a crime which remains unpunished to this day and every year is denounced by the Burkinabe. Many other sons and daughters of the land of honest men have lost their lives in the resistance against this unjust regime, whose only weapons are fashioned of the destabilisation in the sub-region, particularly Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire. Nevertheless, Blaise Compaoré has managed to fashion himself as an African mediator. With the support of countries like France, the good student of Françafrique and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) thought he could hold on until the next farcical election.
The day after the death by torture of the young Justin Zongo on 20 February 2011, violent demonstrations in Koudougou left two dead while the regime attempted to cover up the murder of Justin Zongo by proclaiming he had died of meningitis. But the demonstrations are growing, and the only response by the system is the unjust repression that has led to two new deaths, bringing the number of Burkinabe youth killed while demanding justice to six. Since then, the Burkinabe have taken to the streets every day, while Blaise Compaoré continues to repress his people, who are only demanding one thing: that justice be done. The demonstration on Friday 11 March organised by the ANAB (National Association of Students of Burkina – Ouagadougou) was severely repressed in turn, injuring several people. The regime has since closed all schools until further notice while soldiers and police roam the capital. It also appears that a militant of the Union for Resistance/Sankarist Party (UNITE/PS) was arrested by the gendarmerie at Kaya on 11 March 2011.
The NPA (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste), in this period of struggle against dictatorships, corruption and injustice:
- Expresses its solidarity with our arrested comrades
- Denounces the behaviour of the Burkinabe authorities, who have grown accustomed to the harassment of opposition forces
- Supports the youth of Burkina Faso in their fight against injustice
- Calls on the youth, democratic parties and social movements in Africa and around the world to continue to mobilise to shed light on the assassination of Norbert Zongo and the young Justin Zongo
- Calls for justice for Thomas Sankara, assassinated 15 October 1987 during the coup d’état that brought Blaise Compaoré to power.
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* This article was first published in French by Afriques en Lutte.
* Translated from the French by Ifeoma Morah.
Togo: Violating the right to information
In a country where the opposition isn’t strong and structured enough to provide a counterweight to a repressive regime which flouts the principles of democracy and good governance, the media provides a rare space for some amount of freedom of expression. But now, the media have also become part of the Togolese regime’s blacklist.
The former president of the Togolese republic General Gnassingbé Eyadéma died on 5 February 2005. He ruled the country with an iron fist for almost four decades – assassination, imprisonment and the routine violation of the human rights of political opponents were the order of the day. The Togolese people thought they were free after his death, but those hopes were scuppered by the army, which installed Eyadéma’s son in power. The repression which followed the people’s uprising led to a sham election to legitimise what was in fact a coup d’état by Gnassingbe’s son.
Fauré Gnassingbé has managed to stay on in power in this tiny West African nation despite the will of his people and a blood bath, which according to the UN left 800 people dead. The track record of the ruling Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais is grim – there is systematic repression of protest, journalists are harassed and radios and newspapers have been shut down.
Re-elected for a second term on 4 March 2010, President Fauré continues to use the same methods that allowed him to stay in power in 2005. While the people reel under miserable conditions – no sanitary infrastructure, bad roads, lack of drinking water – the regime chooses to go after whatever media dares to criticise its poor track record. Three radios (Radio Metropolys, X-Solair, Providence FM) have recently been banned and two newspapers (Golfe Info and the bimonthly Beninois Tribune d’Afrique) taken to court.
THE COMPLAINTS AGAINST THE PRESS
For some time now, the media have begun airing interactive programmes in a bid to help people understand political developments and current affairs. These programmes, often in local languages, allow people to express their opinions on issues or question guests on the show. The programmes have solid audiences, an important factor to remember in the context of the huge illiteracy rate (80 per cent) in Togo. However, the regime fears that these kinds of programmes could spark unrest and hence uses everything in its power to prevent the media from carrying on.
Radio X Solair was shut down on the pretext that it didn’t have an installation licence, though it had been on air for several years and had never defaulted on its annual tax. Two other radios were shut down immediately afterwards to cover up the campaign against X Solair. Radio Metropolys and Providence were also accused of not possessing a licence and that their infrastructure was rundown. It appears therefore that the regime doesn’t want these media outlets to function, given that it’s the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC) which issues licences in the first place.
The two newspapers in question were charged with defamation against Mey Gnassingbé, the brother of the head of state. On 25 August 2010, the Benin bimonthly was ordered to pay a 6 million FCFA fine and 60 million in damages to Mey Gnassingbé for having accused of him of links to drug trafficking. It was also banned in Togo. The appeal proceedings of the magazine Tribune d’Afrique, due to have taken place on 18 February, has been postponed to 14 April on the request of the plaintiff without any explanation. Naturally, the paper will be banned in Togo in the interim.
Golfe Info, which has appealed against similar accusations, also has to wait until 14 April to know its fate, but at least it is allowed to publish in the meantime. The private Togolese newspaper was ordered by the First Appeals Court in Lome to pay a 1.5 million FCFA fine (US$3,000) for ‘misquoting’ the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) in one of its editions last September. The paper is facing a 100 million FCFA fine and a three-month suspension, as well as a public retraction of the alleged quote. Golfe Info, which is published three times a week, had published an article on 30 September on the arrest of a Togolese television anchor close to the presidency in a drugs-related affair. According to several sources, Eugene Attigan had been arrested at Lome International Airport.
The article in question, ‘Drug trafficking in Togo – an embarrassment for the presidency’, quoted the National Intelligence Agency as saying the television anchor had a diplomatic passport when he was arrested. The newspaper suggested he possessed a diplomatic passport because of his ties to the presidency.
The Togolese regime, which has been in power since 1967, remains deaf to calls for freedom of expression and information. Social justice movements therefore must continue to mobilise, especially after the recent World Social Forum in Dakar and challenge the arbitrary decisions of African rulers. Especially in Togo where municipal elections are around the corner, there is an urgent need for the polls to be democratic and transparent. Mobilisation is underway to push the authorities to allow the radios to go back on air and abandon legal proceedings against the newspapers.
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* Bernard Bokodjin is a sociologist and communicator with ATTAC/CADTM-Togo.
* Translated from the French by Sputnik Kilambi.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Why Gaddafi's overthrow may be bloody
Correcting Western misunderstandings of Africa
Although the Western media has sustained negative and biased reports about the Libyan uprising, they are doing it from a neocolonial and Eurocentric view. Literally, they think as Europeans and the style of their thoughts is not very different from that of the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference, where European powers and their populations plotted to venture into Africa, to colonise, gain raw material, rule over Africans and plunder most of their resources to be taken to Europe for its development at the expense of African countries.
Basically, no country in Africa escaped colonialism. Even in Ethiopia – which the Eurocentric writers have written about as having not been colonised – there was some tacit colonisation in that the Europeans powers gave support to the Amharic Emperor to rule over other nationalities, for example, the Oromo, Anywak, or the Lou Nuer, among others, against their will. Africa as a whole, then, was colonised because of the greed of Europe. As Europeans ventured into Africa, they claimed that they were civilising ‘savage Africans’ even though earlier than that, from 1500, they had been trading with Africans until they decided to capture and deport millions of them across the Atlantic to go and work as slaves on plantations owned by European entrepreneurs and aristocrats. Some of the slaves were actually owned by the Anglican and Catholic churches in the New World. (The White House, for example, is said to have been built by Black African slave labour).
Moreover, the country we know today as Libya, did not escape colonisation because Italy moved in to colonise it. Before Gaddafi ever was, there was King Idriss, who was serving European interests as long as they left him on the throne. The coming of Gaddafi changed all that. Gaddafi plotted the downfall of Idriss for some time. For example, Gaddafi strategically joined the army and went for training at the elite Sandhurst Military Academy in England. Secondly, Gaddafi entered Benghazi University and read law. Gaddafi also meditated on and studied Machiavelli in preparation for the overthrow of King Idriss. It so happened that the intelligence of King Idriss was quite weak and he had not expected his imminent downfall. When King Idriss was holidaying in Italy, Gaddafi moved swiftly, together with the army officers that he had mobilised, to take power in a bloodless coup. Gaddafi also moved swiftly after the discovery of oil in the country to nationalise the oil wells, effectively putting it in the hands of the Libyans, which without doubt, was welcomed by the citizens. Before that it is said, Libya was as poor as any African country, with only desert dates for export. However, later under Gaddafi, Libya became an oil exporter. The organisation of leadership under people’s committees was also Gaddafi’s idea. It worked and dissent proved unpopular initially. The dissenters were propagating for Western style democracy, which was largely ignored by the majority of Libyans who were rather content with Gaddafi’s leadership for some time.
Today the Western countries are calling the anti-Gaddafi rebels ‘revolutionaries’. It is rather hypocritical to see Ronald Reagan’s slogan of yesteryears once more brought to the more to depict Gaddafi as ‘The mad dog of the Middle East’. Moreover, the flag that the rebels are hoisting is that of King Idriss who was overthrown more than 40 years earlier. How exactly revolutionary are the rebels at this juncture? The rebels are also said to hunt for people with darker skins, or Africans, accusing them of being ‘mercenaries’ for Gaddafi in a racist agenda previously mainly common in the West. In their fight for Western-style democracy in Libya, it is glaring that the Western countries also underestimated the influence Gaddafi’s anti-Westernism on sections of Libyans. Western countries, particularly the UK and USA, erroneously thought that Gaddafi, as a tyrant without any support, would fall within three to four days of the rebellion. The Western propaganda about ‘peaceful protestors’ standing up against Gaddafi was equally delusional. The protestors are not peaceful civilians but an armed insurrection that has sought to move and conquer or dislodge Gaddafi from Tripoli. USA, already overstretched to the limit with its army in Iraq and Afghanistan, would make another serious blunder in invading Libya in Africa.
Moreover, concerning the African Union (AU), Bill Richardson, now portrayed as former US ambassador to UN, has made another delusional statement on CNN that because African countries have well-trained air forces and armies, they would take action against Gaddafi. Looking at Bill Richardson’s face, it is to be remembered that he has been the immediate former governor of New Mexico who attempted to run as president. He was investigated for tax evasion. Therefore, Richardson’s statement depicts him as a neocolonialist who thinks that African countries are there at the disposal of the powerful, to be used to serve the interests of USA, when the US army is stretched thin and too busy in other countries, other than at home.
It is also amazingly hypocritical for the Western friends to start calling Gaddafi a dictator while they have been doing business with him until a few weeks ago. If Gaddafi is a dictator for staying long in power, in a position that Gaddafi himself describes as ‘honorary’ then he, Gaddafi, has the legitimate right to question how long the Queen of England has been on the throne. Moreover, the Libyan type of democracy of ‘rulership’ through the ‘people’s committees’ should not categorically be dismissed in favour of Western democracy or Greek democracy. Why should we always follow Western democracy to the letter when it is prescribed by the West and imposed on us all the time? The people who revolted in Benghazi are also using the ‘people’s committee’ style of leadership.
The other day, the British foreign minister, proverbially named Hague, admitted that he had covertly sent some SAS officers to escort a junior British diplomat to make contact with the rebels in Benghazi. Unfortunately, they were arrested and exposed, thereby bringing much embarrassment to the British Conservative government. This gesture has something to tell if the council in Benghazi is actually revolutionary or not.
On the other hand, Libya is an oil-rich country with per capita wealth higher than or rivalling that of USA. The uprising in Libya has forced oil prices higher in the West. The West has thought of dealing swiftly with Libya on behalf of the rebels to stop Gaddafi forces from ‘killing civilians’. This kind of swift action was not carried out when the Interahamwe were committing genocide in Rwanda or eastern Congo. This kind of swift military action has not taken place in Somalia, a country that everybody has shunned except for the AU countries of Uganda and Burundi. Both Rwanda and Somalia have no operational oil wells where oil companies from the West could invest in by sending expatriates to work there.
Again, viewing the exodus from Libya, it is quite proper to say that Libya has been offering employment to hundreds of thousands of foreign workers under Gaddafi. These people’s employment has been brought to an abrupt end as they go back to their countries having lost lucrative jobs. Libya employed hundreds of thousands of Egyptian workers, Bangladeshis, Americans, Britons etc. No wonder the West wanted a quick solution, either the quick overthrow of Gaddafi and his immediate replacement by the ‘Libyan National Council’ or a democratically elected government modeled on Western principles. Such a quick solution will be hard to come by immediately. In the meantime, more blood is being spilled and all the Western countries can do immediately is to pull their nationals out of Libya.
Meanwhile, Africans must say something about the butchering of Black or dark skinned people christened ‘mercenaries’ by the Libyan rebels. We know that Libya has a distinct population of Libyan Tuaregs who are Black and are citizens of Libya. The Tuaregs can be found as well in Algeria, Morocco, Mali and other countries in north-west Africa. Similarly, there are Black Libyans whose mother tongue is Arabic, just like the Nubians of Egypt who now mainly speak Arabic. Should the Libyan rebels continue executing Black people because of the colour of their skin? Should Africans get butchered in Libya because Gaddafi ditched pan-Arabism for Pan-Africanism?
Gaddafi, it is said, has apologised for Arab slave trade over Africans, whereas no European power has apologised for their slave trade in Africans. For us, who are of African descent, whom would we rather forgive? The one who apologises or the one who refuses responsibility for the enslavement of Africans whose legacy has evolved into entrenched racism? ‘Kiri Mutu’ is a Ugandan African proverb that says that it is the wearer of the shoe that knows where it pinches most. Tuaregs and other Africans in Libya today are targeted as ‘mercenaries’ fighting for Gaddafi. Africans guest workers should not be butchered by Libyan rebels.
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* Jenn Jagire is a doctoral student, from an anticolonial and antiracist standpoint.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Wisconsin's lessons for the working class
‘The images of tens of thousands of workers and their supporters – including teachers, students and firefighters – who took part in the occupation of the Capitol Rotunda in Madison, Wisconsin for more than two weeks have reignited the morale and militancy of the labor movement. Even beyond labor, the scenes from Wisconsin have shown ordinary people the power they possess when they are organized and take bold action. Many who visited Madison in the first two weeks of the struggle commented on the breathtaking spirit of solidarity among the protesters, the efficient operation of self-organized demonstrators, and the display of democracy come to life.’
This statement by the labour journalist Brian Tierney on the self-organisation of working people to defend their democratic rights in the midst of the extended capitalist crisis brings out the realities of the current political and ideological struggles in the United States. Before the news of the multiple tragedies of earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis and massive loss of lives in Japan dominated the consciousness of people in all corners of the world, the images of hundreds of thousands of workers demonstrating for their rights as humans in Wisconsin competed with the images of uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Oman.
Wisconsin is one state in the USA where there are progressive traditions as well as very conservative heritages. It was the state that produced the dreaded Senator Joseph McCarthy who pursued one of the most systematic anti-communist witch-hunts during the Cold War. It is also the state where there were intense and militant demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. Senator Russell Feingold was for a long time the representative for this state until the conservative forces nationally poured millions into the state to defeat him in the last round of elections in November 2010. In this Republican sweep Scott Walker became the governor of Wisconsin state and promised to continue the job of Ronald Reagan: Breaking the organised workers of the USA.
The threats to take away the basic democratic rights, including the right to elect local leaders had come after three decades when the neoliberal ideas of trickle-down wealth had launched a forthright attack on working peoples all over the world. From Durban, South Africa to Athens, Greece; from Jakarta, Indonesia to Mumbai, India; and from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Rio De Janiero in Brazil, working peoples have been struggling against ‘austerity’ measures where the costs of the capitalist crisis were being transferred to working peoples. After the impressive struggles by the youth, women, workers and students in Egypt to remove a dictatorial regime, the workers of Wisconsin in the USA gained inspiration and courage from these revolutions in Africa and stood their ground against a governor who had signed into law the removal of collective bargaining rights by workers. For a brief period after the financial meltdown and the capitalists were exposed in September 2008, the capitalist class in the USA was on the defensive, but under the Obama administration, this class recovered its nerve along with the extraction of wealth as high rates of corporate profits have returned with all forms of government support, and now are pushing an all out counter-revolutionary campaign to destroy the last vestiges of the collective rights of the US working class. After stoking the fires of racism, sexism and Islamophobia, this class decided to go after the last vestige of popular democracy in the USA, taking away the ability of working people to bargain, which also represents an attack on a key piece of the Democratic Party political machine and is thus a opening political salvo of the 2012 Presidential campaign in the United States
In my analysis this week, I seek to place the struggles in Wisconsin in the wider social and political struggles in the United States.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND THE WORKING CLASS IN THE UNITED STATES
When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law, on 11 March 2011, a bill that bans collective bargaining by most of the state’s public sector workers, he was striking at one of the fundamental pillars of the democratic rights of workers in the USA. Liberal democracy in the US had emerged after centuries of struggles where the working people fought for the right to vote and the right to collective bargaining – including the fundamental right to organise and bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions. These struggles had matured after the Civil War in a society that had denied Africans the rights to be citizens and the rights to be free. The war against enslavement was the first major working class struggles in the United States. When this Civil War ended in 1865, the conservatives sought to divide black and white workers by placing the stamp of whiteness on sections of the working class so that labour was divided between black and white workers.
Despite this division, the depths of exploitation and brutality were so deep in the USA that the struggles for the eight-hour workday strengthened the resolve of workers internationally. The Haymarket uprisings and the battles in Illinois at the end of the 19th century are now part of the legend of working class struggles internationally. Yet, despite these epic struggles in the industrial heartland of the USA over decades, the ideological push of the US rulers sought to inculcate the idea of pulling oneself up by the bootstrap into the minds of working peoples. This idea was that every worker could become a member of the capitalist class if they worked harder. The media was deployed to divide the working class so that although the struggle for the eight hour workday galvanised workers in the USA, May 1 is not celebrated as a worker holiday in the USA. US workers were told to see themselves as part of the ‘middle class.’ However, police violence, ideological confusion and goon squads could not halt the long-term workers’ struggles. During the capitalist depression of the thirties, the organised workers of the US combined to defend their interests.
Capitalism is the social system which now exists in most countries of the world, but pundits prefer to speak of ‘the market’ or ‘globalisation’ in order to mask the realities of social production of goods and services and private appropriation of wealth. Under this system, the means for producing and distributing goods (the land, factories, technology, transport system etc) are owned by a small minority of people. We refer to this group of people as the capitalist class. The majority of people must sell their ability to work in return for a wage or salary (who we refer to as the working class.) At all times, this capitalist class believe in socialism for the rich, that is they are the ones who benefit from the gains of the system while the majority of the poor absorb the losses. This socialisation of the dangers of capitalism is best exemplified in the areas of environmental destruction when capitalists plunder nature and society bears the social costs of the clean-up.
Under the present mode of economic organisation, the dominant capitalist class profits from the exploitation of labour. During periods of extended capitalist crises, especially during a depression – when there is a severe economic downturn that lasts several years – the capitalist classes seek to drop all of the usual legalities of the rights for workers, whether the right to vote or the right to collective bargaining. In the most extreme cases, when the capitalist class seize total power, there is the rise of fascism. The strength of the working class movement, especially the organised resistance of black workers ensured that the US escaped the worst aspects of fascism, although local fascism was manifest in the activities of the Ku Klux Klan and the extreme white supremacists. During the last major depression (1929-1945), US workers consolidated the gains that we take for granted today: The eight-hour workday, the minimum wage, social security, pensions, job safety, paid vacations, retirement benefits and health insurance. These concessions were won because the struggles were linked internationally and organisations such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) opposed the division of working peoples internationally.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, it was accepted internationally that the right to collective bargaining should be one of the fundamental rights of workers in all parts of the world and this right was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Collective bargaining asserted the right of workers, organising together (usually in unions) to meet, discuss, and negotiate upon the work conditions with their employers. For a generation after the Second World War, it was accepted that collective bargaining was as important a right as the right to freedom of association or the right to vote. In fact Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated,
1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Hence when the Governor of Wisconsin signed into law a bill that banned the right to collective bargaining by public sector workers, it was a major attack on the US worker as well as an attack on a right recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even the New York Times opined that, ‘Workers’ rights — including the fundamental right to organize and bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions — are under attack in states from Maine to Ohio, from Wisconsin to Florida.’
WEAKENING THE US WORKERS
The very strength of the US workers in the aftermath of the 1939-1945 war challenged the capitalist class to find ways to weaken the organized workers. This was effected through a massive brainwashing campaign to separate US workers from international working class struggles by mobilizing US workers as a privileged sector of humanity who could plunder the resources of the planet. In this way, even the trade union centers in the US were mobilised as accessories to US military adventures overseas. Hence, the trade union bureaucracy supported the military attacks against the peoples of Vietnam and the support for counter-revolution in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This counter-revolutionary mobilisation took a fillip under Ronald Reagan when the idea of anti-communism was used to scare US workers. The dismissal by Ronald Reagan of Air Traffic Controllers was the first blow in the savage attack carried out by capital against workers in the USA and amplified across the world. It was under this period that the ideas of social democratic rights for workers around the world were attacked. Social democratic ideas stipulating that workers must have basic rights such as the right to health care, the right to sanitation, clean environment and the right to organise were being replaced with the neoliberal dogma of privatisation and liberalisation. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, under the impact of neoliberalism, sweatshop conditions were praised and US capitalists shipped jobs overseas in an effort to weaken workers in the USA. The de-industrialisation of the USA meant the systematic weakening of the US workers to the point where by 2009, only 12.3 per cent of the US workers were organised in trade unions.
The number of organised workers in the USA were always small relative to the organisation of workers in Western Europe but from the peak of 33 per cent of the US workers organised in Unions in 1955, the drop to 12. 3 per cent by 2009 was the lowest level of organized workers activity since 1935. In 1957 manufacturing accounted for 27 per cent of US GDP, while finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) accounted for only 13 per cent. By 2008 the relationship had reversed, with the share of manufacturing dropping to 12 per cent and FIRE rising to 20 per cent. Despite the fact that over 20 per cent of the GDP came from the financial sector, one of the most graphic features of this sector of the economy was that workers in this sector were not unionised and had no legal protection against the financial speculators.
PUBLIC SERVICE WORKERS AND THE CAPITALIST DEPRESSION
With unorganised service workers of the FIRE sector and the success of US companies outsourcing manufacturing jobs overseas, public sector workers became the dominant section of the organised workers in the USA so that in 2010 for the first time in US history, public sector union members outnumbered their private sector counterparts. According to the labour bureau 7.2 per cent of private-sector workers were union members last year, down from 7.6 per cent the previous year. This is the lowest percentage of private-sector workers in unions in the USA since 1900. ‘Overall union membership fell by 771,000 in 2009, to 15.3 million, largely because employment declined over all. But the rate of private-sector unionization fell because two sectors where unions are especially strong — manufacturing and construction — suffered especially large job losses. Construction lost more than 900,000 jobs last year, falling to 5.9 million, while 1.3 million factory jobs were lost, declining to 11.6 million.’
Public employees were the most tenacious in defending their rights and they were intimately connected to the social programs being slashed by every level of government throughout the country. When Republicans felt confident of their resurgence in 2010, one of the talking points of Republican strategists across the USA was to weaken public sector employees, because these workers were conscious of the need to defend basic rights to pensions, minimum wage and quality health care.
FINANCIAL CAPITALISTS AGAINST WORKING PEOPLES
There was always an ideological onslaught against working peoples. The weakening of organized workers went hand in glove with the rise of speculative capital and the new financial instruments such as derivatives and other such opaque phenomenon that were called Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and credit default swaps. These ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’ created by the powerful Wall Street banks were backed by the military power of the US army, and it was in this period that major financial institutions such as Cerberus, General Electric, Halliburton and the Carlyle Group became outright owners of private armies in the military-industrial-financial-information complex. The US dollar as the currency of world trade was backed up by the military and organisations such as Halliburton and Cerberus, which set about establishing private military structures in the era of financialisation. Many readers may not know that a major private military contractor such as DynCorp (active all over the world, especially in Africa) is owned by the capital management group, Cerberus.
Militarisation and financialisation further shifted the center of gravity of the capitalist economy from production to finance. Monthly Review identified the following features of financialisation: (1) increasing financial profits as a share of total profits; (2) rising debt relative to GDP; (3) the growth of FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) as a share of national income; (4) the proliferation of exotic and opaque financial instruments; and (5) the expanding role of financial bubbles.
The full implications of this financialisation and militarisation came to a head by 2008 when the US military adventures were discredited in Afghanistan and Iraq and workers were no longer deceived by the so-called ‘War on Terrorism’. When the full bubble was exposed with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and American International Group (AIG) the capitalists ducked temporarily, until they realised that the election of Barack Obama would not be a threat to their interests. Despite the popular momentum that swept Obama into the Oval Office, Obama surrounded himself with the same elements that were at the front of the bubbles, and under his administration there has been a continuation of the vast transfer of wealth from the working class to the richest one percent of society.
Trillions of dollars were expended to bail out the banks while state and local government, under both Democrats and Republicans, went about responding to budget deficits by closing schools, libraries, clinics and other public facilities, and carrying out attacks on state and municipal employees. This attack went the furthest in the state of Michigan where the governor more or less declared ‘financial martial law’ against communities in the form of ‘financial managers.’ The governor was doing what neoliberal governments have been doing all over the world, giving the executive the power to abrogate contracts at will and supersede the democratic process.
According to the law, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, which was approved earlier this year, the governor will be able to declare ‘financial emergency‘ in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services. Under the law, whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down. The governor can appoint managers to fire local elected officials, break labor agreements, suspend collective bargaining rights for five years, order millage elections, take over pension funds and even dissolve local governments.
These draconian measures came after a decade of dividing workers against each other. When it was no longer possible to mobilise workers on the basis of fighting overseas, there was a major campaign to divide workers with an explicit attack on workers from the Latino/Latina community. Conservative commentators and conservative politicians in states such as Arizona moved to implement legislation that divided immigrant workers who were the most unorganized and part of the super-exploited sections of the US working class. Of the working class in the society the black and immigrant workers belonged to the bottom rung of the ladder. Billionaires mobilised groups such as the Tea Party and other quasi religious fronts to support greed and the obscene consumption of the top one per cent of the population. Issues of reproductive rights for women and the rights of same gender loving persons were placed at the top of the political agenda while conservative ‘evangelists’ preached division and celebrated religion as a business.
WORKERS FIGHT BACK
The struggles of workers internationally must be seen as part of the global fight back against the welcome mat for authoritarianism and dictatorship. From Greece to Ireland and from Tunisia to Egypt working peoples mobilized to oppose the ‘austerity measures’ that rewarded the billionaires for their plunder of humans and nature. In Egypt this liberalisation of the economy strengthened the cronies of the Mubarak regime while millions were unemployed. There was the spectacle of hundreds of graduates jostling for job as tourist guides mounting foreigners onto camels. It was not by chance that the maturation of the anti-dictatorial struggles in Egypt acted as an inspiration to workers in all continents, because after decades of militant activities, these workers and their children had learnt new tactics of revolutionary non-violence to counter the structural and direct violence of one of the allies of US imperialism. Egyptian workers had gained self-confidence in their fight against austerity measures and when the workers of Wisconsin started to mobilise they carried placards pointing to the solidarity with workers in Egypt.
Inside the USA, all sections of the workers have been mobilising with organised and spontaneous actions to defend their living standards. Since 2008, the number of industrial actions by workers in the USA has increased in every sector of the economy, with workers going on strike in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Illinois, Washington State, New York State, and other parts of the country. These struggles have taken up many of the central issues of working peoples: health care, benefits, pensions, layoffs, and the general questions of safety of work and occupational health issues. The workers movement, environmental justice movement, the peace movement and the student movement mobilised in numerous forms of engagement and one of the lost prolonged struggles is continuing in California where students fought against tuition increases and attacks on their living and working conditions. All across California students occupied universities, blocked roadways, and attempts were made at creating assemblies and drawing teachers and staff and other parts of the California working class out in support.
The attack on trade union and the collective bargaining rights of workers in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, and other areas of the USA represents the boldness of capital in this age. These attacks, while not new, are new to workers in the US. The dismissal by Ronald Reagan of air traffic controllers was the first blow in the savage attack carried out by capital against workers across the world. There are not isolated attacks. It is part of the liberalisation project, what is sometimes called neoliberalism, neocolonism, and the Washington consensus. Since the mid 1980s we have witnessed a concerted effort on the part of global capital to destroy trade unions as a way of creating a more fertile playground for business. Such a playground has been created in the Export Promotion Zones in Mexico, China, India, Guatemala, Jamaica, El Salvador, Barbados, and most other countries. Republican Governors such as Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Kasick of Ohio, Christie of New Jersey are now in the process of creating the equivalent of EPZs in these states to make it possible for education to be further privatised, and to privatise the public sector.
THE WISCONSIN DIMENSIONS OF THE FIGHT BACK AGAINST COUNTER-REVOLUTION
Wisconsin is one of the many states in the USA that had blossomed in the post-war period when US capitalism expanded and the workers were able to live at a comfortable standard of living. However, since 1970 Wisconsin has become one of the former rustbelt states that suffered the effects of deindustrialisation. As stated above, it inherited two strong traditions of US society, the conservatism of settler colonial ideas and the radicalism of populist working class struggles. Senator Joseph McCarthy was the mirror image of this conservative/neo-fascist tradition, while political leaders such as Russell Feingold represented the long anti-war traditions. The working class had built strong communities and strong institutions and the levels of public services were respected all over the country. Wisconsin was also the birthplace of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and boasted long traditions of committed public employees mobilisation.
In the past 30 years, cities such as Milwaukee, the principal working class center in the state reflected the rising inequalities in the period of de-industrialisation. In the city of Madison the strength of the Public service employees had maintained a level of progressive politics that set Wisconsin aside in the USA. Madison earned the distinction of one of the most livable cities in the USA. This was a statement on the levels of social cohesion that had prevented the kind of hollowing out of major urban areas as was the case in cities such as Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Youngstown, Ohio. The alliance between politicians and real estate developers had robbed urban areas of a base for regeneration and this alliance paved the way for the big republican resurgence all over the USA. When the Republicans made their major electoral gains in the Midterm elections in November 2010, the Republican leadership calculated that if they were able to break the power of AFSCME in Wisconsin, it would be possible to attack workers’ rights in every state of the USA.
From Ohio to Indiana and from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, conservative Republican governors strategised to take away collective bargaining rights from workers. In Tennessee, a law that would abolish collective bargaining rights for teachers passed a State Senate committee. The attack on teachers, nurses and other public servants was part of a double-pronged attack on trade unions and also the sectors that blocked the complete destruction of the rights of worker to education and health.
Using shortfalls in the budget as the pretense to attack workers, these governors called for ‘austerity measures’ in order to cut the deficit of the states. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin was seeking to carve out a national niche for himself and proposed a sweeping measure to cut benefits for public employees in the state and to take away most of their unions’ ability to bargain. Democratic senators fled the state in order to deny the Republicans a quorum and workers began to demonstrate to defend their right to collective bargaining.
In February 2011, while the bill was before the Wisconsin state legislature, public service workers mobilised in one of the most prolonged and consistent demonstration of worker protest in the USA to the point where these demonstrations made international headlines. When the governor attempted to stir up trouble by fomenting violence, sections of the police forces threw their support behind the workers. University students from the University of Wisconsin, especially those organised in the union of teaching assistants threw their energies into the demonstrations. High school students brought a new level of intergenerational energy as there were actions of solidarity from all parts of the country and internationally. The solidarity took many forms with one Pizza owner gaining international notoriety because there were people from all over the world ordering free pizzas in support of the demonstrators in Wisconsin.
However, the boldness of the conservative Republicans could not be deterred by hundreds of thousands of workers demonstrating over three week period. After a three-week struggles where workers occupied the buildings of the Wisconsin State Capitol, Republicans in the state found a procedural way to force Mr Walker’s signature measure through the legislature despite the absence of the Democrats in the state senate. Mr Walker then signed the bill into law on 10 March 2011 over the objections of the unions and the Democrats. Among the items listed in the bill until the night of Wednesday 9 March, were selloffs of state power generation facilities – in no-bid contracts. According to, Michael Hudson:
‘The 37 facilities he wants to sell off that produce heating and cooling at low cost to the state's universities and prisons. Walker's budget repair bill would have unloaded them at a low price, presumably to campaign contributors such as Koch Industries – and then stick the bill for producing this power at higher rates to Wisconsin taxpayers in perpetuity.’
We are reliably informed by the New York Times that:
‘Among key provisions of Mr. Walker’s plan: limiting collective bargaining for most state and local government employees to the issue of wages (instead of an array of issues, like health coverage or vacations); requiring government workers to contribute 5.8 percent of their pay to their pensions, much more than now; and requiring state employees to pay at least 12.6 percent of health care premiums (most pay about 6 percent now).’
CLASS WARFARE IN THE UNITED STATES
Although there have been consistent struggles by workers in the USA, the divisions of the US workers on numerous grounds had weakened the working class. Ideological and propaganda wars against workers had suborned the dominant section of the white working class to see themselves as whites and not as workers. The capitalist crisis and prolonged recession (some say depression) forced all workers to defend their rights and the boldness of the conservative republicans led to an escalation of class warfare. In the same week that Scott Walker signed the anti collective bargaining bill into law, Forbes magazine printed the information on the billionaires in the world. The list, showing that the USA still has the largest number of billionaires in the world, reminded workers that great wealth emanate from extreme forms of exploitation. The myth that these billionaires made their wealth from hard work and sacrifice was being exposed as Scott Brown exposed his fawning admiration for the Koch brothers, one of the billionaires in the USA who are financing neo-fascist causes. Michael Moore, the film-maker who made the documentary, ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’, was one of the many supporters who traveled to Madison Wisconsin to show solidarity to the workers. In his speech he spoke for workers all over the United States when he said:
‘America is not broke. Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages and settle for the life your great grandparents had. America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it is not in your hands.’
Calling the great conservative redistribution of America’s wealth a heist he continued by speaking of the wealth in this way:
‘It has been transferred in the greatest heist in American history from the workers and consumers to the banks and portfolios of the super-rich. Right now this afternoon just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. Let me say that again, and please someone in the mainstream media, just repeat this fact once. We’re not greedy. We’ll be happy to hear it just once. 400 obscenely wealthy individuals, 400 little Mubaraks, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer bailout of 2008 now have more cash, stock, and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined.’
Moore finished his speech by pointing to the epic nature of the struggles being fought in Wisconsin:
‘Wisconsin isn’t only about freedom of unions and collective bargaining. At a deeper level, Wisconsin is about the systemic redistribution of wealth that the Republican Party has overseen since 1980. It is about creating an economic caste system where the rich always stay rich and rest of us are destined to serve them. Conservatives have expertly hid their true motives for years with distractions like the culture wars, and sometimes shooting wars like in Iraq. While America was focusing on the terror alert level, George W. Bush was picking up the mantle of Ronald Reagan and redistributing wealth. If Republicans and their puppet masters are successful in breaking the back of organized labor then millions of Americans will be returned to a form of economic serfdom that was once thought to have been banished decades ago.
‘Wisconsin is the battle field and unions are our last line of defense, and nothing less than economic liberty, and the American Dream hinge on the outcome.’
THE NEW STAGE OF THE REVOLUTIONARY MOMENT
Just as how the Egyptian revolution gave the workers and youth a sense of dignity and self esteem, the massive revolt of the workers in Wisconsin has given workers across the USA a new sense that there are social classes in the USA and that the idea that upward mobility is for the majority of working peoples, is simply a myth. Working peoples are beginning to re-awaken from the slumber and pacification of the corporate media and refuse to support jingoism and islamophobia. In the absence of committed leadership from the mainstream democratic party and the trade union bureaucracy, the working peoples are now thinking of defensive actions as the Republican Congress outlined plans to slash a trillion dollars from vitally needed social services, to pay for the bailout of Wall Street, the extension of the Bush era tax cuts for the rich and the Pentagon war machine.
It is in the midst of these struggles when we are witnessing the massive loss of lives with the triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophy in Japan. As we seek to grasp the depth of the tragedy, the mainstream media trivialises the depth of the disaster by crying about the drop in the stock market and the fall of share prices. The callous reporting of the US media was one more reminder of the ways in which money was more important than human lives. Yet, it was one more reminder that the struggles for the rights of workers in the USA was part of the struggles against nuclear power and against all forms of capitalist plunder in all part of the world. In this period of neo-liberal capitalism, conservatives said that the idea of trade unions to defend workers was a depression era concept. Workers are now saying that in this depression, unions are needed as the struggles of workers in Wisconsin and the spreading of this movement around the country pose the necessity for a political struggle against the capitalist system.
Deregulation, privatisation, and the liberalisation doctrine of neoliberal capitalism were unleashed as weapons of war against the livelihood and rights of working people in Wisconsin and elsewhere, regardless of race, sex, and geography. In these struggles the ant-racist traditions remind workers that in order to put up an effective resistance, there must also be a concerted fight against racism and sexism. There is no better time to stand up to neoliberal capitalism in a manner that transcends racial, gender, and geographical barriers. This call for resistance across geographical borders was summed up by Michael Moore who linked the struggles of Tunisia, Egypt and Wisconsin when he said, ‘Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.’
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* Professor Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. His website is www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Nigerian youth is no fool
KHADIJA SHARIFE: Will the uprising in Egypt and Tunisia spark a similar response in Nigeria?
NNIMMO BASSEY: Nigerians at the moment are demonstrating their desire for change and for the respect of their right to choose who leads them through the eagerness they are showing in the ongoing voter registration exercise in the country. People have had to go to the registration centres as early as 4am to be sure they get attended to early enough in the day. If the political elite scuttle the next election coming up in April through rigging, violence and ballot box snatching or stuffing, I believe what we appear to be cushioned from by the desert buffer will happen here. The energy of people power released in Tunisia and Egypt will find a place here. There is no doubt about it.
KHADIJA SHARIFE: Is there a similarity between the repression of the North African states, where regimes are interlocked with foreign governments, and Nigeria's historical and present reality?
NNIMMO BASSEY: In the case of the North African states, the US interest is greased by the need for unrestricted access to crude oil and gas. Their security interests are locked into this. It is clear that the US diplomacy in Nigeria is also hinged on open and unhindered flows of crude oil and gas.
When it comes to crude, there is no sync between diplomacy and democracy. It appears dictatorships and repression serve the interest of the volatile industry and US leaders. This explains why we do not hear any denunciations of the rampant impunity and human rights abuses recorded since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.
Whole communities have been attacked by state military forces and thousands have been killed, hundreds of women raped and properties destroyed. I name a few here: Odi, Odioma (under Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency), Gbaramatu (under late President Umaru Yar’Adua) and recently Ayakoromo (under President Goodluck Jonathan).
KHADIJA SHARIFE: Are ballots perceived by Nigeria's youth as a means of change or is there a general feeling that the current rot in the political system cannot be upended by voting?
NNIMMO BASSEY: Nigerians are incurable optimists and believe the ballot is the way to effect change. This will clearly not go on forever. As it is said, if you fool a person once you are a fool, but if you fool that person twice then for sure that person is a fool. I don’t think the Nigerian youth is a fool.
KHADIJA SHARIFE: What are your thoughts on President Goodluck Jonathan?
NNIMMO BASSEY: If he wins the election he will have a moral duty to take up the environmental challenge not only of the Niger Delta, where he comes from, but the entire devastated Nigerian environment. He will have to tackle the rising violence in the land and also tackle corruption and sectarian politics. He will have no excuses. Nigerians will not be patient with him.
KHADIJA SHARIFE: What are some of the primary faultlines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? What are your thoughts on Attahiru Jega?
Jega has impeccable credentials as a trustworthy person and has a history as a human rights crusader. I cannot personally think of a better person for the job. The system is the challenge. Can he succeed despite the system? That is his test. That is our test as Nigerians. The INEC has a good man as its chair, but having just a good head is not enough. It is not at all clear that the present structures and state of readiness will secure a hitch-free election in April.
Rigging is a big element of corruption and is never limited to any region. It has always been more brazen in the more remote areas where communication is limited and election materials may not be recalled on time. We are also waiting to see if the computerised system can detect multiple registrations. Some people have already been arrested for being in possession of multiple cards. If the machines could not detect such duplications, despite the fact that such persons were finger printed, then we have reason to worry about multiple voting.
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* Nnimmo Bassey is a poet, the executive director of Environmental Rights Action, the chair of Friends of the Earth International and was named a Time magazine 'Hero of the Environment' 2009.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Nyerere, nationalism and Pan-Africanism
Decisive moments in Nyerere’s intellectual and political thought
Issa G. Shivji
INTRODUCTION: THE MAN
Julius Kambarage Nyerere belonged to the first generation of African nationalists. He was among the most articulate, intense and militant. Leading a country like Tanganyika, which was essentially a semi-commoditized peasant society and ruled as a trust territory, provided space to an individual leader which was not available, for example, to a much more differentiated society like that of Kenya under the white settler rule or Uganda with a history of fairly developed kingdoms. While individuals may make history, they do not choose the circumstances in which they do so. The circumstances are given by history (Marx 1869, 1973: 146, Carr: 1961: passim, Plekhanov 1969.). The circumstances of the then Tanganyika where social forces were not developed produced a prominent individual like Nyerere who no doubt appeared to tower above society and so did the state, which he headed after independence. An understanding of the trajectory of Nyerere’s intellectual and political thought is not only rewarding in its own right but also because it tells a lot on and about the context, circumstances and the lives and struggles of his fellow Tanganyikans.
In the first section of the paper, I develop a conceptual framework for structuring, periodising and laying bare the tensions in Nyerere’s thought. Subsequent sections tentatively periodise the trajectory based on decisive moments or turning points in his political journey.
Nyerere no doubt was a great man. But he was also a politician at the pinnacle of state power and as such at times pragmatism, even Machiavellism, overshadowed his avowed principles. Unlike others, though, Nyerere had a great ability and talent to rationalize his political action with an astute exposition of principles. (In that respect he could have his cake and eat it.) Thus he was also a great thinker and intellectually stood head and shoulders above many of his political contemporaries. He could be truly described as a philosopher-king. While we have touched on some of his political practices, which needless to say did not always conform to his avowed principles, full justice to it can only be done in a larger work, which is in the process of being developed.
THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
Mwalimu Nyerere was an ardent and militant African nationalist and an equally convinced and persuasive pan-Africanist. Unlike, Nkrumah, though, Nyerere arrived at continental pan-Africanism through Tanganyikan nationalism. Nkrumah arrived at Ghanaian nationalism through pan-Africanism. Nyerere saw an irresoluble tension between nationalism and pan-Africanism, which he perceived as a ‘dilemma of the pan- Africanist’ in his famous 1966 address (Nyerere 1966 in 1968). As head of state he was supposed to build and nurture ‘territorial nationalism’ based on a sovereign independent state while pan-Africanism required him to dissolve individual sovereignty and therefore the basis of ‘territorial nationalism’. For Nkrumah, Ghanaian nationalism and sovereignty were a momentary expression in the struggle for pan-Africanism. (This was captured in his famous dictum that Ghana’s independence was meaningless without the independence of the rest of the continent.) This brings out other two poles of the tension, imperialism and ethnicity or tribalism.
Nyerere counterposed nationalism to tribalism. He constantly emphasised that the newly independent countries had to weave together a nation out of tribes and ethnicity. He would not succumb to ideologisation and politicization of tribe. On this he remained steadfast throughout his political life. In a dialogue with academics in 1991, he was questioned as to why he saw tribal identities as inherently negative when he himself was a ‘proud Mzanaki’, Nyerere retorted:
‘I’m a good Mzanaki, but I won’t advocate a Kizanaki-based political party. ... So I’m a Tanzanian, and of course I am Mzanaki; politically I’m a Tanzanian, culturally I’m Mzanaki.’ (Sandbrook & Halfani eds. 1993: 31-32).
Nyerere’s perception of the other two poles, ‘imperialism’ and ‘state’, was interesting but he did not sufficiently problematise these concepts. To be sure, as a leader of the independence movement, and later as a head of state, he intensely hated colonialism and imperial powers. His opposition and resistance to colonial form of imperialism and imperial powers was articulated in terms of the sovereign right of a people to make their own decisions, that is, in the language of the right of peoples to political self- determination. He thus located the tension with imperialism at the level of the sovereignty of the state rather than that between imperialism and the nation or people. His opposition to colonial powers, and occasionally to imperialism, was politically perceptive and often couched in very caustic terms. However, he did not always fully understand or appreciate imperialism as a world system based on the political economy of capitalism. For Nkrumah, on the other hand, neo-colonialism was a stage of imperialism embedded in the processes of capitalist accumulation (Nkrumah 1965).
As for the state, Nyerere’s perception was strongly coloured by the fact that he headed it. His held a typically liberal view of the state. Given that at the time of independence there was no organised force other than the state, Nyerere perceived the state as the agency both for nation-building and economic development as well as a unifier and organiser of society. Being a head of state, such conceptualisation of the state logically led to the suppression of any independent initiative of the people to organise themselves, independent of, and opposed to the state. This is where the greatest contradiction in Nyerere’s political practice lay. His well-intended policies were meant for the people executed by the state from top. Top-down approach is a distinct mark of Nyerere’s political rule (see, for instance, Havnevik 1993). He had little faith in the people and people’s own initiative. While he recognised the limitations of his bureaucracy, he sought to overcome them partly by training and partly by keeping their excesses in check using his fiat as the head of state. The result was that Nyerere’s politics became typically authoritarian on the one hand, and destructive of people’s organisational capacity, on the other (see generally articles in Shivji ed. 1986).
The conceptual framework in which we have deployed a number of conceptual categories and ideological constructs, namely, imperialism, state, nationalism, pan-Africanism, and ethnicity, helps us to organise our discussion of Nyerere’s thought. The tensions between them and in his thought are of course in the last instance a reflection of real social relations and struggles. History is not made by tensions between abstract categories; rather it is the product of the interaction and struggles between real social beings. As Marx says,
‘History does nothing, it possesses no immense wealth, fights no battles. It is rather man, real living man who does everything, who possesses and fights.’(Quoted in Carr 1961: 49)
We will undoubtedly locate the contradictions of Nyerere and his thought in the real men and women who possess wealth and fight battles in the proposed larger work. The present paper only schematically identifies some of the decisive or critical moments both in his thought and the historical events in Tanzania.
CONTRADICTIONS OF NATIONAL-BUILDING AND POLITICAL SURVIVAL: 1961- 1966
The immediate post-independence period in Africa was generally tumultuous. More than a dozen countries got their independence at a go. Many of them, almost immediately, faced problems of stability and survival. In 1966 alone there were eight military coups including the one that overthrew Kwame Nkrumah (Nyong’o 1998:78). Among them the Congo experience was the most traumatic with the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and the outbreak of violence and chaos. In 1964, there were army mutinies in all the three East African countries. In Tanganyika, it almost succeeded. Nyerere went into hiding for a week. Eventually the mutineers were subdued with the assistance of British troops. Nyerere’s nationalist ego was wounded. Soon after, he called a meeting of the O.A.U (Organisation of African Unity) foreign ministers to explain (Nyerere 1964 in 1966: 286- 5 290). Nyerere took one of the most dramatic steps of his rule: he disbanded the colonial army completely. During a period of one year when the new army was being rebuilt and soldiers recruited from the youth wing of the ruling party TANU (Tanganyika African National Union), Nigerian troops looked after the country’s defense.
In the same year there was another momentous event, the revolution in Zanzibar, which overthrew the newly independent government led by a coalition of the Arab-dominated Zanzibar Nationalist Party and the Shirazi-dominated Zanzibar and Pemba People’s Party. Influenced by the left-wing party Umma, of Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu, the revolution immediately attracted Cold War rivalries on the door step of the East African mainland. Nyerere came under intense pressure from Western powers to do something about the ‘communist’ revolution on the Islands. Only three months after the revolution, on failing to persuade the Kenyans to join the federation, Tanganyika and Zanzibar formed a union, which was put together hurriedly. The preparations for the union had been made under great secrecy (see generally Shivji 2008). Nyerere’s later rationalisation of the union as a step towards pan-Africanism did not cut much ice. To be sure, he would have preferred an East African Federation of the three East African countries and Zanzibar. He had passionately advocated an East African Federation and was prepared to delay Tanganyika’s independence should the three East African countries agree to federate (see generally Nye 1966). When Uganda pulled out of this, he was prepared to go ahead with Kenya and Zanzibar. When this too failed he had no alternative but to go it alone with Zanzibar. There can be little doubt that the Tanganyika-Zanzibar union was driven more by pragmatism and the necessity for political survival in the storm of Cold War rivalries, than principles of pan-Africanism. Zanzibarian nationalism continued to test Mwalimu’s pan-Africanism throughout his political life.
In another twist of events, Nyerere clashed with West Germans who threatened to withdraw aid should Tanzania continue to allow the then East Germany to have their Consulate in Zanzibar. The German Democratic Republic was among the first to recognise the revolution and establish an Embassy there. After the Union, Zanzibar continued to have the embassy but now called it a Consulate. West Germany would not compromise. In a strident response Nyerere asked West Germans to take away all their aid. In an assertion of the country’s sovereignty, he said, we would not allow our friends to choose enemies for us.
While Nyerere refused to see the problem of the union as a quintessential expression of Zanzibar nationalism against his territorial pan-Africanism, the tension between his territorial nationalism and ethnic/racial parochialism was dramatically expressed only a couple of months before independence in the debate over the citizenship law. The Government had proposed a citizenship bill, which would allow all residents of Tanganyika regardless of their race to obtain Tanganyikan citizenship provided they satisfied certain conditions. A large number of militant members of the parliament from the ruling party opposed the bill arguing that citizenship ought to be based on race. Nyerere retorted with an uncompromising condemnation of the racial position and threatened to resign.
You know what happens when people begin to get drunk with power and glorify their race, the Hitlers, that is what they do. You know where they lead the human race, the Verwoerds of South Africa, that is what they do. You know where they are leading the human race. These people are telling us to discriminate because of the ‘special circumstance of Tanganyika.’ Verwoerd says, ‘the circumstances of South Africa are different.’ This is the argument used by the racialists. ... ...
[T]his Government has rejected, and rejected completely, any ideas that citizenship with the duties and the rights of citizenship of this country, are going to be based on anything except loyalty to this country. (Applause.) ... The views of those Hon. Members and those of the Government could not be further apart. I am therefore asking for a free vote, and the moment the majority of the representatives of our people show that their views are different from ours, we resign at that point. (Applause.) (Nyerere 1961, 1966:128-9. For a detailed discussion see Listowel 1965.)
Immediately after independence, Nyerere’s regime was threatened from not only external but also internal forces. Two other centers of power, besides the state, were the army and the trade unions. The army was dismantled following the mutiny. The state took the opportunity also to ban free trade unions on the allegation that some trade union leaders had collaborated with the mutineers. Instead a law of the parliament established a single trade union subordinate to the state. The subsequent year saw the establishment of the one-party state, which marked the end of independent organisations of the civil society. Centralisation of power in the state had an obverse effect though. As in many other African countries the new petty bourgeoisie that had come to power began to differentiate rapidly as the state positions were being used to gain a foothold in the economy giving birth to what came to be called wabenzi (meaning owners of Mercedez Benz, a symbol of the political nouveau riche then) in Tanzania. The state became a terrain of accumulation. This development would have two-fold effect. It would fracture the unity of the new rulers with the masses built around the promise of independence and mobilized under the nationalist rhetoric. Secondly, the new political class would fortify and safeguard the unequal structures inherited from colonialism. Nyerere saw this and deeply agonized over it.
The opportunity came in October 1966 when university students of the then University College, Dar es Salaam (the only university in the country established on the eve of independence) demonstrated in opposition to the national service law that required all graduates to work in national service camps for six months and then contribute 40% of their salary for the next 18 months. Nyerere commanded all the demonstrators to be brought to the compounds of the state house. The cabinet was there sitting at the high table as Nyerere listened carefully to student demands. Then he erupted like a volcano reaching a crescendo with an order: ‘Go home’. ‘Go home’ meant over 300 students were expelled from the University.
‘You’r are right when you talk about salaries. Our salaries are too high. You want me to cut them? (some applause) ... Do you want me to start with my salary? Yes, I’ll slash mine (cries of ‘No’.) I’ll slash the damned salaries in this country. Mine I slash by twenty per cent as from this hour.
‘The damned salaries! These are the salaries which build this kind of attitude in the educated people, all of them. Me and you. We belong to a class of exploiters. I belong to your class. Where I think three hundred and eighty pounds a year [the minimum wage that would be paid in the National Service] is a prison camp, is forced labour. We belong to this damned exploiting class on top. Is this what the country fought for? Is this what we worked for? In order to maintain a class of exploiters on top? ...
‘You are right, salaries are too high. Everybody in this country is demanding a pound of flesh. Everybody except the poor peasant. How can he demand it? He doesn’t know the language. ... What kind of country are we building?’ [Smith 1971: 30 – 31]
That event was a turning point. It paved the way for the adoption of the policy of socialism and self-reliance a few months later.
THE MILITANT MELLOWED: 1967-1974
In February 1967 the ruling party TANU adopted the policy of Socialism and Self- reliance proclaimed in the document famously called the Arusha Declaration. It was a historic document. Its significance lay in providing a vision around which masses could rally. Hitherto, Nyerere had made his beliefs regarding socialism, or what he called Ujamaa, known in the famous 1962 article called Ujamaa – The Basis of African Socialism. There he announced: ‘Socialism ... is an attitude of mind.’ (Nyerere 1962 in 1966: 162). He went further.
‘The basic difference between a socialist society and a capitalist society
does not lie in their methods of producing wealth, but in the way that
wealth is distributed. While, therefore, a millionaire could be a good
socialist, he could hardly be the product of a socialist society.’ (ibid. 162-
Nyerere’s conception of socialism then could at best be described as Owenite, if not utopian. It did not inspire anybody nor did it mobilize the masses. It was not meant for them. In any case, it was written in English.
The Arusha Declaration was of a different genre. It was written in Kiswahili, perhaps the best, yet understandable, linguistic articulation. It inspired, it mobilized. It was a call for a revolution, yet not a call to arms. It went beyond the ‘attitude of mind’ to take concrete action. Major means of production – big plantations, banks, insurance, wholesale business, etc. – were nationalized. More importantly, it imposed by law ‘leadership conditions’ on top state and party leaders and civil servants, including executives in the public sector. Those occupying leadership positions were prohibited from having shares and taking directorships in private companies. They could not own houses for rent. They could not have more than one income and so on. In short, they were legally barred from using their public positions to accumulate private wealth. The moving call of the Arusha declaration echoed all over the country.
‘We have been oppressed a great deal, we have been exploited a great deal and we have been disregarded a great deal. It is our weakness that has led to our being oppressed, exploited and disregarded. Now we want a revolution – a revolution which brings to an end our weakness, so that we are never again exploited, oppressed, or humiliated.’ (Nyerere 1967: 235)
The revolution was going to be made from the top, by the state, with the support of the masses, - peasant populism at its best. Nyerere was making politics in the Leninist sense. ‘Politics begin where the masses are; not where there are thousands, but where there are millions, that is where serious politics begin.’ But he was also laying a basis for a hegemonic state. The great Caribbean historian, C. L. R. James, got it right when he said:
... Dr. Julius Nyerere in theory and practice laid the basis of an African
state, which Nkrumah had failed to do, and the Arusha Declaration in
which Nyerere laid down his principles is one of the great documents of
post-World War II. (James 1977: 7)
Nyerere had indeed laid the basis for a state. This helped him survive until he voluntarily retired from formal politics in 1985. Nkrumah did not. He was overthrown by a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency, the notorious spy agency of the United States) engineered military coup with the collusion of right wing Ghanaian politicians. The period 1967 to 1974, the heyday of the Arusha Declaration, was undoubtedly the most momentous period in the political history of Tanzania. In terms of time it was short; in terms of politics it was epochal.
The most decisive moment of the period, and a turning point in Nyerere’s intellectual and political trajectory, was 1971. It marks the high point of Nyerere’s resolute nationalism, militant anti-imperialism and shrewd pragmatic politics. Nyerere’s speeches and lectures in the immediate post-Arusha period were some of the most militant, some of the most articulate, increasingly showing his appreciation of the political economy of capitalism and imperialism. He undoubtedly read Marx but perhaps much more Lenin. He gave a lecture in Kiswahili at the Kivukoni Ideological College – equivalent of Nkrumah’s Ideological Institute at Winneba (Milne 2000: 119) – on ‘The part played by Labour in the transformation of Man’, which was very close to Engel’s article4 (personal memory). But Nyerere was no Marxist or a proletarian revolutionary. He detested the notion of ‘class struggle’ although by his own admission he was no Gandhinian pacifist either. Where all other means failed, he was prepared to support armed struggles waged by liberation movements in Southern Africa. He got on very well with and even admired freedom fighters like Samora Machel and Amilcar Cabral who were avowed Marxists. He often visited the University and conducted teach-ins on the Arusha Declaration. He was well informed of the ideological fervour on the campus where radical students had formed a militant organisation called the University Students African Revolutionary Front (USARF). To preempt and disarm ‘revolutionary students’ who advocated ‘scientific socialism’ and likened Ujamaa to ‘utopian socialism’, he often quoted Lenin’s dictum of the need for ‘concrete analysis of the concrete situation’. In one of such teach- ins he made the famous statement that, ‘if Marx had been born in Sumbawanga5, he would have come up with the Arusha Declaration instead of Das Capital.’
Two events with lasting impact on Nyerere’s politics happen in 1971. Guinea, then the rear base of the struggle of Guinea-Bissau against Portuguese colonialism, was invaded by Portugal. Although Guinean forces including the people’s militia rebuffed the attack, it was a clear warning to Tanzania, which was a steadfast rear base for a number of liberation movements including the FRELIMO of Mozambique. In the same year, as Uganda’s Milton Obote was attending the Commonwealth conference in Singapore where he had strongly backed Nyerere on the issue of arm sales to South Africa by Britain, his regime was overthrown by Idi Amin Dada. Amin was supported by Britain and Israel. Obote had started moving to the Left and had become quite close to Nyerere.
This was also the time when Numeiry in Sudan had declared socialism. A kind of ‘corridor of progressive states’ was thus in the making when imperialist powers struck to overthrow Obote to break the chain while at the same time send warning signals to Tanzania. Ngombale-Mwiru, one of the most articulate Marxists in the party, was sent to Guinea to learn the secret of Guinean success against Portuguese invasion. He came back with the idea of people’s militia (Ngombale/Shivji 2009).
Nyerere argued that the coup was ‘directed against progressive African countries in a desperate move to blow up the bridge between Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia (quoted in Shivji 1976:124). Nyerere went further and interestingly linked imperialism with local reactionary forces antagonized by the measures taken by the Arusha Declaration and similar measures that Obote was contemplating to take in Uganda.
‘When President Obote set for the control of the economy, naturally he angered some of the Uganda Africans who wanted to mass wealth and they branded him as their enemy and will work hard to slow the process of his return. When we in Tanzania nationalized the major means of production, we basically angered the British and even some of our leaders and to those aspiring for wealth we laid down a code of behaviour. President Obote was working for a similar goal to define the function of the leader and that was why some of these Ugandan Africans are enthusiastic towards the rebel regime in Kampala’ (Interview with Mustafa Amin, The Standard, Tanzania, 16 February 1971).
Immediately after the Uganda coup, the National Executive Committee of the Party met and adopted one of the most militant documents, the Mwongozo or Guidelines. The Mwongozo analysed the security situation and underlined the need for the party to control the army and for the people to be armed. People must be involved in decision-making, it demanded, and the habits of leaders must be scrutinized, it asserted. Clause 15 of Mwongozo was a short but succinct summation of the developing contradiction between the bureaucracy in the public sector and the working class. ‘For a Tanzanian leader it must be forbidden to be arrogant, extravagant, contemptuous and oppressive.’ This set off a wave of strikes and workers struggles in the public and private sector. The struggle quickly moved from strikes to locking out of managers and then on to taking over of factories. Between February 1971 and September 1973, there were some 31 industrial disputes involving almost 23 000 workers with a loss of some 64 000 man-days. This was almost twice the man-days lost and workers involved for the previous six years (Shivji 1976: 135 et seq). Almost two-thirds of these strikes were in the public sector.
Mwongozo was thus a document of different genre compared to the Arusha Declaration. It was undoubtedly the work of the Left6 in the party, in particular Ngombale-Mwiru and Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu (Ngombale/Shivji interview 2009: 69). Whereas the Arusha Declaration mobilized people’s demonstrations in support, the Mwongozo lit the fire of class struggle against the ‘new class’, the state based proto-bourgeoisie. During the workers struggle Nyerere kept quiet. The sides to the contention did not know where he stood. But behind the scenes there seems to have been pressure on him in the usual language of the status quo. ‘Workers were causing havoc, there was no industrial discipline, the country and the economy would suffer, etc.’ On 1st May 1974, Nyerere came down on workers in his famous speech ‘unapogoma, unamgomea nani?’ ‘when you strike, against whom are you striking?’ The logic was standard. Nationalized enterprises were public property, workers own property through their state. When they struck, therefore, they were hurting themselves. Nyerere chose his side. The 1974 marked the end of Nyerere’s socialist militancy. Demagogues in the party took over. A number of events happened subsequently in quick succession.
DEMAGOGUERY SETS IN: 1975-1979
Statutory workers committees at the work place led the post-Mwongozo workers struggles. The committees, composed exclusively of elected workers from non- management cadre, were originally meant to help the employer discipline workers at the work place. They had no relationship with the trade union. During the post-Mwongozo struggle, however, the committees spearheaded the struggle because they were the only organised and legitimate organs available at the workplace. The trade union established by the state had no role; in fact in many cases workers either ignored the trade union or were openly hostile to it. After the 1974 speech, managers managed to push through the law that abolished workers committees and substituted them with trade union branches. The aim was to bring workers under the control of the state through the trade union (Kapinga 1986: 87-106).
In the sister paper of the Arusha Declaration, Socialism and Rural Development (1968), Nyerere had advocated the establishment of ujamaa villages based on collective ownership of means of production and collective work. But they were meant to be voluntary associations. Between 1969 and 1972, the process of villagisation was slow. The party stalwarts were for speeding up the process. In November 1973, Nyerere directed that living in villages was no longer voluntary. By the end of 1976, the whole rural population should have moved into villages. Thus began the forced villagisation in which millions of peasants were resettled in villages. There was no prior planning. Villagers were not consulted or involved in decision-making (Land Commission 1994: 43). Politically the peasantry was alienated and Nyerere began to lose his popular rural base. Meanwhile, co-operatives, which had played a major role in the 1950s and early 1960s were abolished in 1976 by fiat. State crop authorities were given monopoly powers to buy crops. These authorities became a siphon to transfer the surplus from the peasantry to state bureaucracy. Peasants were paid as low as 20-30% of the market price for their crops.
As the economy was showing signs of decline, politically the demagogues in the party began to wield more and more power resulting in the state becoming more and more authoritarian. In 1975, the party was declared supreme. The National Executive Committee of the party was now the real powerhouse. The parliament was sidelined. The line between the party and the state were blurred. Politics were monopolized as the civil society was statised. Within the state, power was concentrated in the executive and within the executive in the presidency. Extreme concentration and centralisation of power was formally consecrated in the 1977 Constitution so much so that Nyerere could quip to a BBC reporter that, ‘I have sufficient powers under the Constitution to be a dictator.’ (Quoted in Mwakyembe 1986: 45). To be sure, Nyerere was not a dictator. That is commendable of the man. But the same cannot be said of the constitutional order which he created and presided over.
The stroke that broke the camel’s back came in 1979 with the Uganda war. Although the Tanzanian army was able to drive Iddi Amin out of Kagera and finally even out of Uganda, it proved to be very costly to the economy. As it was, the economy had already entered into a crisis. The Ugandan war only deepened it. The last term of Nyerere as president was the worst of his 25-year rule.
THE CRISIS: 1980-1985
In his 25 years at the helm of the state, there was no period when Nyerere had to face such a deep crisis in his leadership. It was a crisis of both the economy as well as politics when Nyerere’s own popularity and the legitimacy of his state were challenged. Foreign exchange was scarce. Commodities disappeared from the shelves. Traders and smugglers took advantage. Parastatals were running below capacity. There was no foreign exchange to import raw materials and spare parts (Coulson 1982, passim). Corruption became endemic. The army that had tasted power in Uganda began to flex its muscles on return. The attempted army coup in 1982 came very close to success. Negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank dragged on, as the latter would not budge, imposing severe conditionalities. The Reagan-Thatcher duo had declared the ‘Washington Consensus’ to build the world in the image of a rampant neo-liberal model. Even the social-democratic friends of Nyerere from the Scandinavian countries turned away as Europe turned right. Country after country in Africa succumbed to structural adjustment programmes mindlessly imposing liberalization policies and withdrawal of crucial subsidies. Nyerere’s rhetoric on the unfair international system and the need for the Third World to come together fell on deaf ears. Pan-Africanism was at its lowest. In an interview with American academics in 1983, Nyerere put up a brave face but the despondence was clear: ‘At present, Africa is not in the mood for its continental unity, rather it has settled for economic cooperation. We are still panafricanists but we have lowered our objectives and have become more realistic.’
The union with Zanzibar, which Nyerere had sacrificed his principles to maintain, was shaken to the core in the famous one-year debate in 1983. Zanzibaris openly questioned its legitimacy and demanded revisiting the Articles of Union that had ordained a two- government structure. In a seven days meeting of the National Executive Committee of the Party convened to discuss what was dubbed as the ‘pollution of political atmosphere’ Zanzibar’s president, Aboud Jumbe, was made a sacrificial lamb. He was forced to resign from all his state and party posts (see generally Shivji 2008). Nonetheless the crisis of the union was only shoved under the carpet. It continued to bedevil the Tanzanian polity.
Much research needs to be done to uncover the struggles and tensions in the party during this period. There can be no doubt that there was such a struggle. The 1981 Mwongozo of the party, one of the most candid documents ever produced, and no doubt the work of the left in the party (see Ngombale/Shivji interview 2009), openly admitted that under the umbrella of the Arusha Declaration and the parastatals, a new class had emerged. It was this class that was now demanding that the party and the country change its course. The document went further and for the first time in any party document, talked about class struggle, which was anathema to Nyerere himself. Where did Nyerere stand? It is not clear but indications are that he tried to steer a middle course, an impossible course of action at that time. When asked about factional struggles in the party in the 1983 conversation with American academics, once again, Nyerere in his characteristic style evaded the question. He tried to underplay the reality of factional struggles:
‘It is much clearer, the left/right conflicts are more clearly contained in a single-party system than in a multi-party one where they break away. In a huge single-party system like ours, the right and the left factions are very strong. We find that the younger members are more theoretical and the older members are more to the right and « wiser ». This describes the socialists but I am not sure all CCM members are socialists ! This is the problem with a single-party system. I am quite sure we have non-socialists and also sure that we have communists inside the CCM but the tendencies are to gravitate towards the centre - and I am supposed to be in the centre !’
The truth perhaps was that the right-tendency was gaining ground and it clearly reared its head once Nyerere stepped down in 1985. Edward Moringe Sokoine, the prime minister, put up the last defense for Nyerere’s socialism. Sokoine was a no-nonsense politician. He was a man of great integrity but at loggerheads with his fellow politicians surrounding Nyerere. He was one politician who became popular with the masses in his own right, not under the shadow of Nyerere. In the process, he almost overshadowed Mwalimu and Mwalimu did not always like it. When he was killed in a car accident on his way back from parliament in Dodoma where he had promised to uncover and sack all corrupt leaders on his return to Dar es Salaam, no one believed that the accident was genuine. In 1985, Nyerere stepped down from the presidency and left the reigns of power to Ali Hassan Mwinyi. It is widely believed that Mwinyi was not Nyerere’s first choice. Nyerere would have liked Salim Ahmed Salim, whom he had appointed prime minister after Sokoine’s death, to take over. Like Mwinyi, Salim is from Zanzibar, but from Pemba Island, a neglected part of Zanzibar and the hotbed of political opposition. A seasoned diplomat and a Nyerere loyalist, Salim would have certainly been an obvious choice from within the mainstream politicians in the party. Rumour has it that an alliance between the right-wing mainland party stalwarts and hardliner ‘revolutionists’ from Zanzibar in the Central Committee of the party, thwarted Nyerere’s efforts using, ironically, the race factor against Salim. (Salim is perceived to be half-Arab.) If this is true, then it shows how far Nyerere’s power even within the party had begun to wane when he stepped down from the presidency.
‘OUT OF STATE POWER’: 1986-1999
Mwinyi’s regime quickly gave in to the dictates of the IMF and World Bank, out of necessity, if not choice. Mwinyi was no socialist nor were there any socialists in the party to pressurize him. Even the icon of the Left in the party, Ngombale-Mwiru, abandoned ship. When the workers and peasants party opened its doors to capitalists and business people, it was Ngombale, deploying his Marxist rhetoric, who rationalized and justified it, including pulling in the example of one of the founders of ‘scientific socialism’ Engels who, he said, was after all an industrialist. It is telling on Nyerere’s political style and practice that there was no one in his party or the state to defend his ideology.
As the Arusha Declaration was being abandoned, so the leaders of the party under Mwinyi abandoned the ‘leadership code’. The public sector executives of yesteryears became the frontliners to clamor for privatization of the parastatals for they were a burden to the ‘poor’ Tanzanian taxpayer, they lamented. And, of course, they should be privatized to wazawa, that is, indigenous Tanzanians. Parochial ideologies against which Nyerere had stood steadfast in his attempt to build a nation were making a comeback. Nonetheless, Mwinyi moved somewhat cautiously, partly because he still worked under the shadow of Mwalimu, and partly because he was still an old guard nationalist. His successor, president Benjamin William Mkapa, had no such qualms or constraints. He led the neo-liberal counter-revolution at full steam. Mkapa’s 10 years in power (1995-2005) saw the final burial of all vestiges of the Arusha Declaration and the policy of socialism and self-reliance. Mkapa opened the doors to financialisation of the economy, to the pillage of natural resources and to the uninhibited entry of speculative capital in the real estate sector. State positions became a means of private accumulation and wealth. Overnight Tanzanian politicians became filthy rich as class polarization deepened. Nyerere watched the beginnings of this development from political sidelines. His last ditch effort to save the state-owned National Bank of Commerce from being decimated and privatized failed miserably.
Nyerere, out of power, probably flowered much more as an intellectual thinker than an elder statesman although it is for the latter that he is often eulogized. He returned to his pet subject of South-South co-operation as head of the South Commission. Coming at a time when neo-liberalism was in its triumphal stage, it did not have much of an impact. In fact, some of the prominent members of his Commission (Manmohan Singh of India, for example) were to become uncompromising neo-liberal reformers in their own countries. I am not sure if Nyerere fully appreciated the extent to which the countries in the South had differentiated. The South of the 1990s was not the same South that Mwalimu spearheaded in the non-alignment movement and the New International Economic Order of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Through the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation he also ventured into the Burundian peace process. That initiative and Mwalimu’s leadership needs to be closely studied and analyzed. My hunch is that it was only moderately successful. In any case, Mwalimu did not live long enough to take it to the end.
Another much less publicized attempt by Mwalimu on the African political front was in DRC, the then Zaire. Given the mess that his protégés created there, it is doubtful if that initiative too can be considered a roaring success.
Much more refreshing and inspirational though was Mwalimu’s return to Pan- Africanism. His speech in 1997 on the occasion of celebrating forty years of Ghana’s independence is one of the most candid admissions on the failures of the first generation African nationalists and the restating of the case for Pan-Africanism. Reading between the lines, one gets the impression that Nyerere is admitting to the failure of the national project. One does not see the same agonizing over the tension that he perceived between African (territorial) nationalism and Pan-Africanism in 1966 in his address on the dilemma of a pan-Africanist (Nyerere 1966 in 1968:207). He even comes close to admitting that in their 1960s debate with Nkrumah when he (Nyerere) advocated ‘gradualism’ and opposed Nkrumah’s call for ‘African Union now’, he was wrong. He no longer posits tension between ‘tribalism’ and (‘territorial’) nationalism; rather he sees Africa at crossroads, either it goes down the road of Pan-Africanism or descends into ethnic divisions and tribalism. He calls upon the new generation to reject the ‘return to the tribe’. He characterizes the upsurge of ethnic, racial, and other forms of narrow nationalisms as fossilising ‘Africa into the wounds inflicted upon it by the vultures of imperialism.’ (Nyerere 1997a) In his Reflections on the occasion of his 75th birthday, Nyerere returned to the issue of balkanization of Africa which was predominant in the debate of the 1960s around the time of independence. He said the Balkans themselves are being Africanised as they are absorbed in the larger European Union, while, we, Africans, are being tribalised! Mwalimu said:
‘...these powerful European states are moving towards unity, and you
people are talking about the atavism of the tribe, this is nonsense! I am
telling you people. How can anybody think of the tribe as the unity of the
future, hakuna!’ (Nyerere 1997b: 22)
On the Arusha Declaration, Nyerere seems to have had an intellectually ambivalent attitude. He admitted that some mistakes were made under the Declaration, in particular hasty and unplanned nationalizations but still believed that the Arusha Declaration was the correct course of action for Tanzania then and that the country would return to the values and principles of the Declaration (Nyerere & Ikaweba Bunting, 1999). Intellectually, Nyerere’s analysis of the Arusha Declaration as an ideology is more interesting than his political position on it. Towards the end of 1980s and early 1990s, there were rumblings to abandon the Arusha Declaration and the leadership code. In a meeting of parastatal and state leaders, Nyerere made an ex tempore speech, one of his best. On whether or not the Arusha Declaration should be abandoned, he said:
‘It is not that peace has come by itself. The source of peace in Tanzania is not that the Arusha Declaration has done away with poverty even a little bit. Isn't there this poverty we are still living with? This poverty is right here with us. Is it not the same economy we are grappling with? The fact is not that the Arusha Declaration has banished poverty even by an iota - nor did it promise to do so. The Arusha Declaration offered hope. A promise of justice, hope to the many, indeed the majority of Tanzanians continue to live this hope. So long as there is this hope, you'll continue to have peace. Here in Tanzania we have poverty but no "social cancer" [original in English]. It is possible it has just begun. But otherwise we don't have a social cancer. There isn't a volcano [in English] in the making such that if you pressed your ear to the ground you'd hear a volcano in the making, that one day it is bound to erupt. We have not yet reached that stage because the people still have hopes based on the stand taken by the Arusha Declaration. It did not do away with poverty but it has given you all in this hall, capitalists and socialists alike, an opportunity to build a country which holds out a future of hopes to the many. ...
‘To be sure, you few Waswahili [a colloquial for, in this case, `people'], do you really expect to rule Tanzanians through coercion, when there is no hope, and then expect that they will sit quiet in peace? Peace is born of hope, when hope is gone there will be social upheavals. I'd be surprised if these Tanzanians refuse to rebel, why?
‘When the majority don't have any hope you are building a volcano. It is bound to erupt one day. Unless these people are fools. Many in these countries are fools, to accept being ruled just like that. To be oppressed just like that when they have the force of numbers, they are fools. So Tanzanians would be fools, idiots, if they continued to accept to be oppressed by a minority in their own country. Why? ...
‘Therefore we cannot say that we have now reached a stage when we can forget the Arusha Declaration. Don't fool yourselves. This would be like that fool who uses a ladder to climb and when he is up there kicks it away. Alright you're up there, you've kicked away the ladder, right, so stay there because we'll cut the branch. You're up there, we're down here and you've kicked away the ladder. This branch is high up, we'll cut it. Your fall will be no ordinary fall either.
‘Let me say no more. It is sufficient to say we should accept our principles, we should continue with our principles of building peace and peace itself. Tanzanians should continue to have faith in the Party, in the Government and in you in positions. Tanzanians should see you as part of them not their enemies. They should trust the Party, the Government and you who have opportunities for there is no country where everyone is equal. These fingers of mine are not equal, and in that sense there is no such equality anywhere.’ (Quoted in Shivji 1995).
In this speech, Nyerere is at his best as the philosopher-king. The Arusha Declaration was a legitimizing ideology without which the country would break up into violence. You cannot have a society polarized into the filthy rich and the miserably poor and still expect the poor to maintain peace while the rich continue living in peace. So the Arusha Declaration did not bring about equality, nor was it meant to do so. The Arusha Declaration was meant to give hope, hope which would preserve peace both for the ‘capitalists and the socialists’. Was Nyerere’s socialism then a strategy for political survival9 or a philosophical conviction of a vision for a future society or both? Perhaps both, as was Nyerere himself both, a king and a philosopher.
Indeed two of his close expatriate associates, Roland and Irene Browne, trace the origins of the Declaration to the need to survive both against external forces and the budding internal elites who would become a bulwark of the status quo. (Brown, 1995: 12- 13.)
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Issa G. Shivji is the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere University Professor in Pan-African Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 No wonder one of his last works was the translation of Plato’s The Republic. He revealed this to us at a conference commemorating his 75th birthday held at the University of Dar es Salaam. He had just completed translating Plato’s The Republic into Kiswahili. To date unfortunately it has not seen the light of the day.
 Nyerere came from a small ‘tribe’ from around Lake Victoria called Wazanaki.
 This was the nationalist movement, which fought for independence and ruled as the only party under the one-party system until 1977. In 1977 TANU and ASP (Afro-Shirazi
Party) of Zanzibar merged to form CCM (Chama cha Mapinduzi).
 Engels, F., 1876, ‘The part played by Labour in the Transition of Ape to Man’ at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1876/part-played-labour/index.htm, visited on 24th September 2010.
 Ironically, Sumbawanga, a remote region in southwest Tanganyika, was considered
Tanzania’s Siberia by militant students. It is the area to which some of the militant nationalists were exiled by the colonial government. When one of the radical students and
a member of USARF wrote a piece critical of Nyerere’s Education for Self-reliance, the over‐zealous University administrator’s transferred him to Sumbawanga to the post of a junior officer.
 Interestingly this historic document does not appear in the collection of three volumes of speeches and writings of Nyerere from 1952-1973. The documents of the Arusha period, on the other hand, are included.
 Question-and-answer session given by President Nyerere to a group of university professors from the USA : June 22 1983. State house, Dar es salaam, recorded by Annar Cassam (in author’s possession)
 In is interesting that in his interview with the author (Ngombale/Shivji interview 2009) Ngombale does not directly answer the question as to Nyerere’s stand on the 1981 Mwongozo. Ngombale admits though that for unknown reasons Nyerere refused at the last moment to present the draft document to the meeting of the Party Congress and ordered Ngombale to do so. (Interview p. 74)
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Beatitudes for a civilisation of peace
Rumour has it that President Bertrand Aristide will return to Haiti on 17 March 2011. That is if the South African government does not capitulate to US demands to delay his departure – which in my mind confirms their role in his kidnapping and forced removal in 2004. As a way of explaining the US fear of President Aristide’s return, The Haitian Information Project publishes the text of his 1992 speech to the UN where he presented his ‘eight democratic beatitudes for a civilisation of peace’ – a truly inspiring and beautiful speech:
‘1:Blessed are those who defend democracy; 2:Blessed are those who promote economic growth because peace and economic poverty are incompatible; 3:Blessed are those who heroically say no to getting off scot-free, not to vengeance, Yes to justice; 4:Blessed are those who reduce arms expenditure and increase expenditure for human development; 5: Blessed are those who resist political pollution, for they will make the sun of peace shine; 6: Blessed are those who defend the truth, for they are a source of justice and peace; 7: Blessed are they who, regardless of class and race, love one another the Lavalas way. 8: Blessed are they who, on the threshold of the third millennium, discover the true face of the Haitian people.’
Justice In Nigeria reports on the destruction of ‘illegal’ oil refineries in the Niger Delta by the Nigerian government. The number of refineries has risen in response to years of exploitation by oil companies and the federal government, lack of jobs and need to create local industries:
‘Destroying illegal oil refineries dotted among the creeks of the Niger Delta is almost as dangerous for these soldiers as working here was for the young men who turned stolen crude oil into home-made gasoline........Crude oil thieves — known locally as “bunkerers” — have been a fact of life for years in Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, puncturing pipelines and costing Nigeria and foreign oil firms millions of dollars in lost revenues each year....A government amnesty two years ago for gunmen in the Niger Delta, where dirt-poor thatch-roofed villages sit among some of Africa’s biggest industry installations, brought some respite.....But rising world oil prices have pushed the cost of gasoline in Nigeria up by a third to 150 naira a litre over the past three months, increasing demand on the black market and making the illegal refineries as profitable as ever.....“The local communities raised the alarm because of the devastating effects on their waterways and farms, and complaints have also started coming from the oil majors,” said Timothy Antigha, military spokesman in the Niger Delta.’
Think Africa Press comments on the realities of contemporary Somaliland which has been presented as the antithesis of Somalia – economically prosperous and socially progressive and most of all safe. (Africa Today has an excellent analysis of Somalia and piracy by Abdi Samatar):
‘It took me about a month to realize the ugly face of poverty behind the façade of the booming and prospering town. A lot of men are jobless. Many of the young people have no education. The average wages are not sufficient to feed a family. Huge amounts of money are spent every day on qat. I would guess that two thirds of all males in Hargeisa chew Qat almost every afternoon. The impacts on the economy, the family and the individual health are disastrous. One sees a lot mentally disordered people chewing qat from morning until midnight. The public healthcare system is very basic. But the dominant and publicized (e.g. in the newspapers) announced view is that Somaliland is a successful independent country.’
Sudan Reeves reports on what he perceives as the impending assault on the Abyei region of which borders Sudan and Southern Sudan by Sudanese armed forces (SAF):
‘What’s impending is not a series of “skirmishes” but major fighting using all the military assets of the SAF, including tanks, artillery, rocket launchers, attack aircraft, and other advanced weaponey; the goal will be to take control of as much of Abyei as possible, and use this military seizure as the basis for final negotiation of Abyei’s status (http://www.dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=396). The “police” Dirdiri refers to are military elements from the south that are now protecting several locations that have been attacked by armed Misseriya militia from north of the Abyei area, possibly with the assistance of the Popular Defense Forces and regular SAF (the villages attacked include Todach, Tejalei, Maker Abior, and Noong). The UN mission in the region (UNMIS) is essentially paralyzed, and the so-called “Joint Integrated Units” (units of both the SPLA and SAF) are simply not functional. In short, the Ngok Dinka of Abyei are without protection other than from the SPLA.’
P D Braide comments on the Nigerian presidential debates which she intends to boycott. The question is why is a non-Nigerian (Jonathan Mann) co-anchoring this debate? How are we supposed to have confidence in a country which invites foreigners to host a presidential debate? Are we being told that there is only one possible Nigerian (out of 150 million people) who could only be trusted to ‘co-anchor’ the debate?. Can we seriously believe that Mann understands the nuances of Nigerian politics?
‘I have heard all manner of defences for this lunacy and started responding to them in this piece and then changed my mind and pressed delete. Even engaging in a conversation about the cons is drinking the kool aid.
‘As a Nigerian who struggles daily with diminishing earning opportunities which our dysfunctional value system contributes to, I regard a country of 150 million reaching out to CNNs Jonathan Mann to helm a NIGERIAN Presidential debate the equivalent of poking fingers into both my eyes... with pepper.
‘If they have no confidence in Nigerians and Nigeria, I need to shout out loud that I have confidence in myself. I may be frustrated, economically challenged (fancy word for impoverished middle class) and tired but I am not some idiot statistic than can be bamboozled by vanity project.’
Black Looks comments on the recent victory by South African activists in obtaining an agreement from the government to:
‘…long term sustained engagement of various government arms and civil society groups to research, develop and implement a national action plan to tackle “corrective rape” and the intersecting issues of gender-based violence, anti-LGBTI violence and hate crimes.’
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Kenya: Kibaki has abused his office as president
Yash Pal Ghai
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has grossly abused his office as president. This abuse is sufficient for his impeachment, but Article 145 of the constitution concerning impeachment is not yet in force. Grounds for impeachment include gross violation of the constitution and gross misconduct. Kibaki has committed both these offences. Powers under the constitution are given to the president, as to other state officers, for specific purposes; this constitution specifies powers of state officers more precisely than most constitutions. This was for a purpose. Kenyatta and Moi were notorious for the abuse of their office. The intention was that presidents would now understand and respect the limits of their powers and responsibilities. An important objective of the constitution is fundamental reform of institutions of government to stop abuse and corruption. The gist of my case against Kibaki is this. He is a state officer; the constitution prescribes the conduct of state officers; if state authority is exercised by a state officer contrary to the purposes and standards laid down, the officer is in breach of the constitution and must be dismissed and cannot hold public office again.
The presidency is a ‘state office’ (Art. 260). Chapter Six of the constitution is entitled ‘Leadership and integrity’. Many people regard this as the most important part of the constitution. It addresses a fundamental problem that has faced Kenya since at least independence: corruption and other abuses of state power. Public confidence in state institutions has collapsed. The constitution seeks to restore confidence in them, by making a complete break from the long-established practices of abuse of state authority by presidents, ministers, MPs and other state officials. It sets new norms of integrity and service to the people (‘responsibility to serve the people, rather than the power to rule them’). State power must be exercised in accordance with the purposes and objects of the constitution. The use of power must bring honour to the nation and dignity to the office. Decisions must be made impartially and objectively, ‘based solely on the public interest’, instead of being influenced by ‘nepotism, favouritism, other improper motives or corrupt practices’. More specifically, the president, as other state officers, must behave, ‘whether in public and official life, in private life, or in association with other persons’ so as to avoid ‘any conflict between personal interests and public official duties, compromising any public or official interest in favour of a personal interest, or demeaning the office’ he or she holds. He must protect constitutional values, including the promotion of human rights and national unity.
In his obsession with sabotaging the ICC (International Criminial Court) trials, he has massively violated the constitution. He has placed himself in a situation of conflict of interest when he decided that he would do everything to ensure that his political and administrative friends charged by Luis Moreno-Ocampo did not face the ICC trial. Here he may be trying to protect them, but even more significantly, as many suspect, he is trying to protect himself – lest his friends, in the throes of the trial, implicate him – after all, constitutionally they were expected to carry out his orders. His primary duty under the constitution is to cooperate with the ICC; this duty follows from international law applicable in Kenya. Instead he has been party to a deceitful video shown to the AU (African Union), which has brought shame and ridicule to Kenyans – so much for upholding our integrity and dignity. He hobnobs with the ICC accused, shown in newspapers joking with them, and relies heavily on the advice of Mathaura, Uhuru and Ruto in matters where their interests are implicated. It is hard to imagine a worst case of conflict of interest.
The state has no business to take sides in the ICC trials; the state is not on trial. Not unusually for him, he has reneged on his promise to cooperate with the ICC. He has illegally squandered large sums of public money lobbying for the deferral of the trials. Provincial administration under his office has coerced people into signing petitions against the ICC.
In a supreme act of cynicism (and poor judgment), his nominations for the CJ, AG and DPP were made to convince the AU of his commitment to legal reforms. The nominations have been widely condemned as unconstitutional, on account of both improper motive and unlawful procedure.
In summary, Kibaki deserves to be impeached because he has:
- (a) run the government as a personal fiefdom, not a public institution under the constitution, to protect the national interest
- (b) used state money for unlawful purposes
- (c) used the vice-president and ministers for purposes extraneous to their functions
- (d) shown little respect for international law, which is part of Kenyan law
- (e) neglected his official duties
- (f) pursued ethnic alliances instead of promoting national unity
- (g) nominated candidates for constitutional office without proper scrutiny for compatibility with Chapter 6
- (h) consorted and conspired with ministers who are charged with crimes against humanity
- (i) continued the politics of immunity
- (j) disgraced the office of the presidency
- (k) made Kenya a laughing stock of the world.
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* Yash Pal Ghai is a former chair of the now defunct Constitution of Kenya Review Commission.
* This article was originally published by the Nairobi Star.
The problem with Africans and Arabs
Elleni Centime Zeleke
The way the term Arab is being thrown around these days is enough to give a person reason to pause while celebrating the victories of the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. After all, in the present context of social revolt in North Africa there has been a deliberate effort to erase the fact that Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are all continental African countries.
Moreover, to call one's self Black or African or Arab is to use identity markers that are not indigenous to Africans or even the vast majority of people we now call Arab. The question then is: who uses these identities and when? No doubt, mobilising these identities can be useful for making certain kinds of political claims that advance the needs of African and Arab peoples. But still, we need to always ask for whom is this mobilisation happening.
Cutting off the historical ties between so-called Arabs and so-called Africans (by which we mean Black people, as if those kinds of people are easily identifiable) is a trick of Orientalist historiography. And, as the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said has taught us, Orientalism is a Western style of thought first invented in the 18th century that was used to ‘dominate, restructure and have authority’ over the area we now call the Middle East.
The problem with this style of thought is that it posits Arabs and Africans as having fixed and distinct qualities that mark them off as different from both Europeans as well as each other. So investigating the problem of Orientalist methodology is not just about raising the bogeyman of identity politics; rather, if we don't, what ends up happening is that Orientalist methods are often blindly adopted to conceal the multiple historical, political, and economic ties that connect so-called Black people to browner looking people.
For example, Yemeni ancient and contemporary history has deep connections with Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians across the Red Sea (20km), but the way the story gets told you would think Yemen was closer to Libya, and that the west side of the Red Sea could be skipped in any story about Arabs. I would venture to say this is ridiculous. And I really don't think we should accept Orientalist methods when thinking about what is an Arab or an African.
In fact, neither Arab identity or Black identity is self-evident. Instead, the parameters of identity shift over time and are negotiated within the context of changing political and economic processes. We need to be vigilant about how identity is produced as a sediment of these various political, economic and social processes and not simply assert it as something given, or else we will only sound defencive and silly when we do.
The fact of the matter is that Egypt as a modern nation-state is deeply connected to the developmental ambitions and contradictions set in play by Mohammed Ali, who was an Albanian commander that ruled over Egypt on behalf of the Ottoman Empire but who eventually became the independent ruler of Egypt in the early part of the 19th century.
What is important to note about Mohammed Ali is that he was the first non-Western leader who really tried to catch up with the industrialised West, and in trying to catch up with the West he colonised present day Sudan, transforming the political-economy of Egypt from small-scale peasant based production towards cash crop based export oriented production.
Egyptian cotton became the main export commodity of this new economy, with Sudan providing a source of cheap slave labour. Mohammed Ali attempted to use cotton as the basis for industrialising Egypt, though he did not industrialise Sudan. But precisely because Mohammed Ali’s project was intimately tied to Sudan, chattel slavery, and cotton production, one cannot separate the developmental trajectories of Egypt from its larger continental African connection and questions of race.
Indeed, since the time of Mohammed Ali and the initiation of a trade in chattel slavery, race has begun to operate in a peculiar way in the region's history. More specifically, the slave trade has played a role in the racialisation of 'Africans' and 'Arabs'.
What this means is that we cannot reference abstract identities like ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ as if they are outside real political and economic processes. And since the transformation of Egypt into a modern nation-state is intimately tied to its ‘African’ developmental trajectories we need to name it as such.
It should also be noted that in large measure because Mohammed Ali’s industrialisation of Egypt ended up as a failed project, from the 1870’s until 1952 Mohammed Ali’s offspring were forced to rule Sudan and Egypt with the English in what was known as the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium. It was not until Nasser's free-officer revolution in Egypt in 1952 that we really saw the end of Anglo-Egyptian rule in Sudan. In fact Nasser's regime was an attempt to resolve the contradictions of the developmental trajectories set in place by Mohammed Ali, his offspring and the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium - the promise of nationalism of course being that you could democratise development on behalf of all of the nation’s people. But as such, Egyptian independence was always tied to a very ambivalent relationship to Sudan and vice-versa.
Importantly, then, if this present revolution is not going to simply sink back into neo-liberal hell we need to seriously think through Egypt’s regional political and economic formation. This is particularly the case since Nasser’s successor Anwar Sadat (Egypt’s president from 1970 until his assassination in 1981) and Hosni Mubarak (who succeeded Sadat and against whom the Egyptian people took to the streets) are also failed attempts at speaking to the very same developmental patterns that have historical roots and that Nasser tried to address.
Moreover, the revolution in present day Egypt not only signals the failure of post-colonial arrangements, but it also signals the failure of a third world project that Nasser articulated in tandem with people like Kwame Nkrumah and Josip Tito. Partly this project failed because it was elitist, but more importantly that elitism failed to interrogate national developmental trajectories and to build a truly inclusive popular nationalism (as our friend Frantz Fanon might say).
In the case of Libya, then, we should be aware that Gadaffi was a major player in African politics. So much so that he nearly convinced the African Union (AU) to move the seat of the organisation to Libya. But again his involvement in politics was not just symbolic; Gadaffi's money and weapons are involved in nearly every major conflict on the continent of Africa from Sierra-Leone to the conflicts in Chad and Sudan. The political economy of Libya is also such that it relies on the importation of large amounts of migrant labourers from the African continent as well as South Asia.
Historically, of course, Tripoli was also an important destination in the trans-Saharan trade routes (whose starting point lay in the forest regions of ‘darkest’ Africa) bringing important trading goods to Libya that were then exported to the Mediterranean world and beyond. These historical ties are what Gadaffi himself has mobilised in justification for why the AU should be based in Libya.
In contrast to this, in the media coverage that has reported on the use of paid African mercenaries brought into fire on the anti-Gadaffi protestors, we have been led to believe that there is a yawning gap between ‘Black’ mercenaries and the rest of civilised Libya. But, the claim about the use of Black African mercenaries should be viewed with caution. After all, the constitution of Libya outside of an African context is an Orientalist fallacy (and fantasy) that obscures the real histories of these places and can only play to a violently racist hand.
A few nights ago someone suggested to me that what tied Arabs together was a shared language and culture. But spoken Arabic is not always intelligible to other Arabic speakers. In Oman, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia other linguistic practices exist which help form the locally spoken Arabic, but also remind us of other kinds of historical and cultural connections that make up these places (too diverse and complicated to get into now). I also remember being schooled by an Egyptian in Cairo, about why Egyptians are not Arabs. So again, I would venture to say things are complicated and this is not just a matter of identity politics. Instead, it seems that the Afro-centrics speak a kernel of truth when they state that present historical methods tend to elide the myriad Afro-Arab connections.
However, because the Afro-centrics are an African-American school of thought and because they refuse to periodise their claims about the historical formation of race in different places, they end up making sweeping statements that projects American cultural history on to the rest of the world. Can we really accept the claim that an inherently racist attitude towards Black people is constitutive of an Arab or Islamic identity in the way it is for white people in the Americas? Yet, just because such a claim seems implausible it should not make it easy for us to dismiss the point that we need to pay attention to the way race has been operationalised in the framing of the present North African revolutions.
Indeed, because I don't want to go Afro-centric, I think it is better if we think through the production of contradictory histories. So, while I would suggest that we need to not rewrite the history of the world as a footnote to America's cultural wars, at the same time, we need to see that the rest of the world has increasingly come to see itself in highly racialised terms. This too needs to be explained, but I would suggest that we probably should not turn to the use of cultural categories such as Arab or Islam to explain the rise of a notion of ‘Arab’ that is distinct from ‘African’. Instead we want to link these identities back to political-economy. But for now we also need to take seriously the kernel of protest and truth that the Afro-centric folks speak about and build on it. Race does lie at the heart of many of these so-called Arab revolutions in very complicated ways. Let’s not sweep this under the carpet in the name of self-righteous indignation or else we will add one more substantive reason for why these revolutions might come to naught.
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* Elleni Centime Zeleke is an adjunct lecturer in African Studies at York University. firstname.lastname@example.org.
* (An earlier version of this article was posted on the blog site Relentlessly Progressive Political Economy.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Migrants rights at WSF Dakar
The World Social Forum (WSF) was launched in 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil as an alternative, popular space to counter the World Economic Forum, an annual meeting of trade ministers and business elite in Davos, Switzerland. (A comprehensive history and beginnings of the WSF by Francisco Whitaker can be read here.) In this, its 10th anniversary, the 2011 WSF was held in Dakar, Senegal, the gateway to West Africa and a city oozing with history and culture.
As in all our previous participation at the WSF, we were part of a critical grassroots US delegation organized and coordinated by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ). Read other postings, resources, pictures and videos of the GGJ delegation at the GGJ WSF 2011 page. And be sure to also checkout our fellow-travelers, the Detroit Delegation's D2D blog.
WORLD ASSEMBLY OF MIGRANTS & WORLD CHARTER FOR MIGRANTS
Along with NNIRR board member Gerald Lenoir of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and NNIRR member Nunu Kidane of Pririty Africa Network (PAN), our first stop in Dakar on February 2nd - 4th, was at the World Assembly of Migrants to deliberate the World Charter for Migrants, taking place on the Island of Goree. (Checkout the BAJI and PAN blogs.)
Initiated by a migrant collective in Marseilles, France, the World Charter was intended to create a global charter of principles "guaranteeing the freedom of movement and of establishment for men and women everywhere on our planet." After presenting this concept to the World Social Forum on Migration in Rivas, Spain in 2006, this initiative continued to percolate and develop, and eventually organizers proposed this World Assembly to deliberate and and launch the World Charter.
The World Assembly of Migrants took place on the island of Goree, which presents a unique and powerful location for any such gathering. Goree is infamous as the gateway through which slaves were traded during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It houses a somber memorial in the form of the Slave House, built in the 1700s, through which millions of slaves from around West Africa were brutally transported to the Americas. (For a pictorial tour of the Slave House, visit the author's online album: "Brutal, Forced Migration: Goree Island Revisited.")
Unfortunately, the so-called World Assembly of Migrants, failed to live up to its name or expectations. Firstly, aside from the 100 or so participants from Francophone West/North Africa and Western Europe, there were only a handful from other regions; 1 person from Latin America, the 3 of us from North America, and not even a single participant from Asia! There was little recognition of the long-existing migrant rights movements in these regions, and all deliberation seemed mostly relevant to only the regions represented there.
Certainly the usual challenges for participation in any international convening of grassroots migrant communities existed -- lack of resources, barriers to free movement and travel, inability to access information etc. -- but it was also clear that no real effort to engage a more global process was undertaken and it seemed organizers were either blinded to this glaring gap or dismissive of it. This also meant our participation was sidelined to that of passive observers -- listening in on translation devices, not being able to truly engage, and not having our minimal comments translated for other participants.
Furthermore, it seemed that various critical issues (race, globalization, sexuality, gender, indigenous peoples' rights, among others) were purposefully excluded from the Charter, with seemingly misplaced intentions. Organizers aggressively defended these omissions with arguments for trying to maintain the Charter's length, that we all belong to a "human race", sexuality being a "personal preference", that all Africans are indigenous etc. None of these were valid, and some were quite preposterous, but the few dissenters against these arguments, while allowed to comment, were ultimately not heard and the Charter continues to not address these.
Finally, from this writer's opinion, the Charter, while well-intentioned, seems to have little to no political traction. It is primarily driven by the organizers and their allies, has no connection to any domestic nor inter-governmental policies, and there is no articulated plan to take it beyond what is in effect, a declaration. It does not even make any attempt to link or comment on standing international principles on migrant rights, such as the UN Migrant Workers Convention nor acknowledges the critical role that the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) is taking as the primary inter-governmental policy-deliberating institution on migration. Again, the organizers appeared vehemently opposed to addressing these and dismissed all other international principles as not emerging from migrant communities, which is of course inaccurate.
Having said all that, it should be noted that of the participants present, many were grassroots migrants connected to well-respected organizations providing critical migration-related work in the region. Groups such as GADEM in Morocco, CEAR in Spain, and AME in Mali, all had representatives there. But the Assembly's emphasis on individual migrants, rather than movements and organizations, meant that the wealth of the knowledge, work and rich history these organizations and movements share, were super-seeded by individual reflections only.
While we continue to communicate and work with the Assembly organizers and related organizations and agree with most of the Charter's Principles, we don't have much hope of this gathering helping advance the international movement for the rights of migrants.
The proclamation from the Assembly can be found here in French only, and the draft English text of the Charter (before edits taken during the Assembly) can be found here.
THE PAN-AFRICAN NETWORK FOR THE DEFENSE OF MIGRANT RIGHTS: AN AFRICAN MOVEMENT WITH AFRICAN VOICES
At the 2008 People's Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (PGA) in Manila, Philippines, a critical gathering of African participants formed an African Caucus to discuss pressing issues pertaining to migrant rights among the African diaspora. This eventually led to the founding of the Pan-African Network for the Defense of Migrant Rights in Bamako, Mali last year.
In spite of the enormous logistical challenges of the WSF (see "Grab-A-Space" below), the Pan-African Network was able to meet on February 9th-10th at the accommodating OSIWA offices.
As previously noted, most of the organizations working on African migration that are internationally known are primarily based in Europe, or are larger international NGOs providing advocacy and services. As the first and only Africa-based, primarily migrant-led and grassroots network on migrant rights, the Pan-African Network has a lot riding on it. It also faces tremendous challenges to be recognized on a larger scale while it advocates and organizes for its own members' and communities' rights.
Aside from developing strategies and plans for growing the Network and addressing critical infrastructural issues, the Pan-African Network members talked about the dire lack of protections for African migrants around the world, the inherent racism faced by African communities in motion, and the lack of adequate protections in Europe, as well as within Africa itself.
Unfortunately, the Pan-African Network did not receive the attention it deserved within the WSF context, but hopefully that will change in the coming months and years. NNIRR stands in full support of the Pan-African Network for the Defense of Migrant Rights as an ally, and wishes its members all the best as it overcomes its growing pains as well as the institutionalized obstacles it faces in Africa and around the world.
THE 2011 WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: FROM OPEN SPACE TO "GRAB-A-SPACE"
The march that kicked off the 2011 WSF on February 5th was promising. An estimated 50,000 - 70,000 of us took to the streets from the Grand Mosque of Dakar to Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD), about 3 miles away. The mass rally at UCAD was highlighted by an address by Bolivian President Evo Morales, who, in support of the people's uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, signaled that "...these are signs of change!"
However, the first full day of the forum on February 6th demonstrated the challenges that laid ahead. Just a few months before the WSF, there was a change of Chancellor at UCAD. While the previous Chancellor was supportive of the WSF being held at the university campus, the new one was not. It took many weeks of intense negotiation between WSF organizers and the new Chancellor for him to agree for the WSF to take place in some parts of the campus but with a much smaller allocation of rooms and space.
On top of that, UCAD had just witnessed a student strike earlier this year. Students were protesting the lack of classroom space at UCAD in particular, and around Senegal in general -- there is an estimated space shortfall for 30% of enrolled students at UCAD. This raised two critical issues for the 2011 WSF.
Firstly, University officials refused to cancel classes during the WSF week because they were already behind their official syllabi due to the strikes. This meant that there would also be a severe shortfall in workshop space, a defining issue for the 2011 WSF.
Secondly, and ironically, the presence of the WSF at UCAD also meant further limitations to the dearth in classroom space, and a disruption in classes for UCAD students. Most WSF participants were completely unaware of this, and many were quite confused when some students took to protesting the WSF, frustrated that the WSF was taking up what little space they had just fought for!
It should be acknowledged that some of the primary organizers acted with little transparency and did not divulge many of these underlying issues to other organizers, the International Council, nor participants until it was much too late. Also, they were painfully slow to react to the obvious lack of designated workshop space -- workshop conveners were often left without assigned rooms and had to spend hours at the WSF Secretariat office arguing for room assignments right until the very last moment before their scheduled start time. With around 20,000 - 40,000 participants wondering around a large university campus for workshops they wanted to attend, this undoubtedly created unprecedented chaos, confusion and frustration.
As a stop-gap measure, organizers erected tents around the UCAD campus with little to no assignments. While some workshop coordinators petitioned the secretariat for a tent assignments, many with creative self-organizing skills, took to claiming a tent. As a result, the Open Space methodology that the WSF framework is famously built upon, quickly eroded to a Grab-A-Space method.
Groups and organizations experienced with the logistical challenges the WSF sometimes presents, with established relationships and international networks, and who had a plan of action going into Dakar, were mostly able to navigate around these tremendous challenges and come away with successful meetings, exchanges, strategies and collaborative plans of actions.
Unfortunately, for many who had expanded a lot of their resources to be at this WSF (some as part of the Social Movements Caravan across West Africa) and for those who were experiencing the WSF for the first time, the lack of assigned space meant a tremendous waste of their energies and precious resources, leading to a complete frustration with the entire process. For thousands of participants, the 2011 WSF left a bitter taste in their mouths.
We were fortunately among the set of participants who could muddle our way through the Forum. Despite canceled or very late workshops, we were still able to take part in a number of interesting and important events, organize meetings with critical international partners, meet new potential allies, come away with a far better understanding of the region and the migrant rights movements here, and plan further followup actions and collaborations.
The increasing shutdown of the borders of Fortress Europe and the lack of real development opportunities in the region, has intensified both displacement of communities, the criminalization of African migrants in Europe, and the state of landlessness most deported migrants find themselves in when returned to the continent. However, movements and organizations and responding both at the national and regional level, building coalitions and finding opportunities to impact inter-governmental policies for better protections for migrants. There is very close coordination between migrant rights groups in Europe and those based in North and West Africa. Some organizations even have satellite offices in both continents.
There is however, little to no relationship with migrant rights movements in North America and Asia, and limited ties with those in Latin America. This reflects a dire and critical need on both our parts, to take steps to address this, and to find ways to collectively build a more global movement. Stay tuned to NNIRR as we begin modest efforts and plans to deepen the relationships (beginning this summer with an international effort to establish a global standard against the current conditions experienced by migrants along international borders.)
Finally, the WSF closed with a series of Social Movement Assemblies, including a few related to migration and migrants rights. One of these even applauded the efforts of the World Assembly of Migrants and its proclamation. A couple of these promoted international days of actions including one for December 18. Most of them called for the need for collective global strategy and action to shift the current dominant paradigms of criminalizing and exploiting migrants, a call those of us in the US must heed urgently.
As for the WSF itself, it continues to generate mixed-results. While it has done a lot for Leftist and progressive movements internationally, it still faces many questions and challenges, including that to its own credibility as the primary vehicle to support the advancement of a global movement. There was much talk in Dakar about the future of the forum. For a good and careful critique about the WSF and its future, read Michael Leon Guerrero's "Initial Thoughts."
As for now, we move forward with a greater understanding of the challenges faced by migrants in and from West Africa as well as the efforts to organize movements and networks in the region, and the hope for greater solidarity in the struggle for migrant rights around the world.
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* This article first appeared on Migrant Diaries.
* Colin Rajah is program director of the International Migrant Rights and Global Justice Program at the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR).
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The WSF should remain what it is…
Like most people at the World Social Forum in Dakar in 2011, I share the exhilarating feeling of the ‘spirit’ of success, in defiance of all the challenges that the organisers faced. There were those who sacrificed nights and days to make the event a success, and without naming individual names, I would join everybody in congratulating them. They will no doubt tell us about how the WSF might be better organised.
At the end of the WSF, Immanuel Wallerstein wrote: ‘There was…one underlying complaint among those in attendance. People said correctly we all know what we're against, but we should be laying out more clearly what it is we are for.’ He drew a distinction between ‘those who want another world’, and ‘those who believe that what the world needs is more development, more modernisation, and thereby the possibility of more equal distribution of resources.’
I agree that there is tension between these two viewpoints. But these ‘viewpoints’ are not ideational conflicts; they have a material bases in reality. As long as people continue to be oppressed and exploited by imperialist finance capital - both in the developed world as well in the countries in the South - these two viewpoints will remain.
‘Another world’ is not only possible, but it is in the making on a daily basis not only in the realm of ideas and viewpoints, but more substantially as a result of the struggles in the streets of Athens, London and Wisconsin as well as in those of Cairo, Tripoli, Manila and Managua.
These struggles manifest in different forms; they have ups and downs and internal contradictions, even as they are globally conditioned by the forces of finance capital which is now in deep crisis. I am in no doubt that Wallerstein will agree with me, so why is it necessary for me to say this? Because if people think that we should now move to some kind of a ‘Fifth’ or ‘Sixth’ Socialist International, or ‘Socialist Green International’, or ‘Socialist Human Rights International’, and that the WSF is the platform for it, then I do not agree with this ‘viewpoint’.
Socialism has been on the global agenda for over a century now, but any attempt to foist another ‘socialist international’ on the exploited and oppressed peoples and nations of the world would be both premature and divisive. For example, there are people who may think that the ‘national project’ is now a spent force, and they may be right; but I do not agree that it is a spent force.
We need to debate (not assert) this in the light of an understanding of the concrete struggles of people on the ground. National liberation from finance capital is part of internationalism, and it has its own dynamics in the North and in the South. My own view about the WSF is that all these views must have space; any effort to steamroll an artificial ‘unity of the left’ is bound to be counter-productive to the survival of the WSF. I am an original member of the WSF since its inception in January 2001 in Porto Alegre. On its website it still projects itself as ‘an open space - plural, diverse, non-governmental and non-partisan - that stimulates the decentralised debate, reflection, proposals building, experiences exchange and alliances among movements and organisations engaged in concrete actions towards a more democratic and fair world…a permanent space and process to build alternatives to neoliberalism.’ It should remain so.
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* Yash Tandon is the author of ‘Ending Aid Dependence’ and ‘Development and Globalisation: Daring to Think Differently’.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
NATO's inevitable war
When at just 27 years old Gaddafi, colonel in the Libyan army, inspired by his Egyptian colleague Abdel Nasser, overthrew King Idris I in 1969, he applied important revolutionary measures such as agrarian reform and the nationalization of oil. The growing incomes were dedicated to economic and social development, particularly education and health services for the reduced Libyan population living in the immense desert territory with very little available farm land.
Beneath that desert was an immense deep ocean of fossil waters. I had the impression, when I learned about an experimental farming area, that this would be more beneficial in the future than oil.
Religion, preached with the fervour that characterizes the Muslim peoples, was helping in part to balance the strong tribal tendency that still survives in that Arab country.
The Libyan revolutionaries drew up and applied their own ideas in regards to the legal and political institutions which Cuba, as a norm, respected.
We refrained completely from giving opinions about the conceptions of the Libyan leadership.
We see clearly that the basic concern of the United States and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is not Libya, but the revolutionary wave being unleashed in the Arab world, something they would like to prevent at any cost.
It is an irrefutable fact that relations between the US and its NATO allies with Libya in recent years were excellent, before the rebellions loomed up in Egypt and Tunisia.
At senior level meetings between Libya and the NATO leaders, nobody had any problems with Gaddafi. The country was a sure supply source of top-quality oil, gas and even potassium. The problems arising between them during the first decades had been overcome.
Strategic sectors such as oil production and distribution opened their doors to foreign investment.
Privatization reached many public corporations. The World Monetary Fund exercised its beatific role in the orchestration of these operations.
As logic would have it, Aznar piled lavish praise on Gaddafi and on the heels of Blair, Berlusconi, Sarkozy, Zapatero and even my friend the King of Spain, they paraded under the mocking gaze of the Libyan leader. They were happy.
Although it may appear that I am being facetious, that's not the case; I merely wonder why they now want to invade Libya and haul Gaddafi up in front of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
They are accusing him, 24 hours a day, of shooting against unarmed demonstrating citizens. Why don't they explain to the world that the weapons, and especially all the sophisticated repressive equipment Libya possesses, were provided by the United States, Great Britain and the other illustrious hosts of Gaddafi?
I am against the cynicism and the lies that they are now using in an attempt to justify the invasion and occupation of Libya.
The last time I visited Gaddafi was in May of 2001, 15 years after Reagan attacked his rather modest residence where he took me to show me how it had been left. It received a direct air hit and was considerable destroyed; his little three-year-old daughter died in the attack: she was murdered by Ronald Reagan. There was no prior agreement by NATO, the Human Rights Council, not even the Security Council.
My earlier visit had taken place in 1977, eight years after the start of the Libyan revolutionary process. I visited Tripoli; I participated in the Libyan Peoples' Congress in Sebha; I toured the first experimental farms using the waters extracted from the immense sea of fossil water; I saw Benghazi and I received a warm reception. This was a legendary country that had been the stage for historic battles in the last world war. At the time the population barely reached six million, nor were they aware of the enormous volume of light oil and fossil water. By then the former Portuguese African colonies had been liberated.
In Angola, we had fought for 15 years against the mercenary gangs organized by the United States on tribal bases, the Mobutu government, and the well-armed and trained racist apartheid army. That army, following instructions of the United States, as we know today, invaded Angola to prevent its independence in 1975, reaching the outskirts of Luanda with their motorized troops. Several Cuban instructors died in that brutal invasion. With the utmost urgency we sent resources.
Ejected from the country by internationalist Cuban troops and the Angolans, right up to the border with Namibia that was occupied by South Africa, for 13 years the racists received the mission of liquidating the revolutionary process in Angola.
With the backing of the United States and Israel they developed nuclear weapons. They already had that weapon when Cuban and Angolan troops defeated their land and air forces in Cuito Cuanavale and, confronting the risks, using conventional tactics and weapons, advanced to the Namibian border where the apartheid troops wanted to put up resistance. Twice in their history our troops have been under the risk of being attacked by these kinds of weapons: in October 1962 and in southern Angola, but on that second occasion, not even using the weapons that South Africa possessed would they have been able to prevent the defeat that marked the end of the odious system. The events occurred under the Ronald Reagan government in the United States and that of Pieter Botha in South Africa.
No one speaks about that, and about the hundreds of thousands of lives that were the toll of the imperialist exploit.
I regret having to remember these facts when another great risk hovers over the Arab peoples, because they do not resign themselves to continue being the victims of pillage and oppression.
The revolution in the Arab world, so feared by the US and NATO, is the revolution of those who lack all their rights in the face of those who wield all the privileges, thus called the most profound revolution since the one which burst on Europe in 1789 with the storming of the Bastille.
Not even Louis XIV, when he proclaimed that he was the State, had the privileges that King Abdul of Saudi Arabia possesses, and much less than the immense wealth that lies beneath the surface of this practically desert-covered country where Yankee transnationals determine extraction and thus, the price of oil in the world.
Starting with the crisis in Libya, extractions in Saudi Arabia reached a million barrels a day, at a minimal cost and, as a result, for just this reason, the incomes of that country and those controlling it are reaching a billion dollars a day.
Nobody imagines, of course, that the Saudi people are swimming in money. It is heartrending to read about the living conditions of many of the construction workers and those in other sectors, who are forced to work 13 and 14 hour days for miserable salaries.
Alarmed by the revolutionary wave that is shaking the prevailing system of plunder, after what has happened in Egypt and Tunisia with the workers, but also because of the unemployed youth in Jordan, the occupied territories in Palestine, Yemen and even Bahrain and the Arab Emirates with their higher incomes, the Saudi upper hierarchy is under the impact of these events.
Unlike other times, today the Arab peoples receive almost instant information about what is happening, even if it is being extraordinarily manipulated.
The worst thing for the status quo of the privileged sectors is that the stubborn events are coinciding with a considerable increase in the price of foods and the devastating effect of climate change, while the US, the biggest producer of corn in the world, uses up 40 percent of that subsidized product and a large part of soy to produce biofuel to feed automobiles. Surely Lester Brown, the American ecologist who is the best-informed on agricultural products, can give us an idea about the current food situation.
Bolivarian President Hugo Chávez is making a brave attempt to seek a solution without NATO intervention in Libya. His possibilities of reaching his objective would be increased if he would attain the feat of creating a broad movement of opinion before and not after the intervention happens, and the peoples don't see a repetition in other countries of the atrocious Iraqi experience.
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* Fidel Castro is a Cuban politician and former president of the Council of the State of Cuba.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Free Republic of Egypt
Dear Free People of Egypt,
It’s a lovely day to be talking to you all in a Mubarak and NDP free Egypt. It’s been quite the undertaking, and many people were terrified, injured or killed, but we somehow managed to do it. Congratulations on that to all of us. Pats on the back, everybody!
Naturally, we (the revolutionaries) still don’t think the battle is over. The Mubaraks are still free, so are Fathy Surrour, Zakaria Aazmy and Safwat ElSherief, alongside with all the corrupt NDP officials in all branches of government, not to mention all the state security and police officers who spent the last 3 decades terrorizing, monitoring, torturing & killing those they were supposed to protect. The Political prisoners and detained Jan25 protesters are still unlawfully in prison, the stolen money is still in foreign countries, and the Minimum wage of 200 dollars a month for all Egyptians is still not enforced. There is also the matter of transparency of the government (financially & operationally and having the country run by civilians instead of a military Junta, a new constitution to be drafted instead of one that gives absolute power to the head of state, political freedoms to all Egyptians, enforceable bill of rights to all Egyptians, equal rights to all women, equal political rights to Egyptians living abroad and/ or born or married to a foreigner, freedom of the media, etc..etc.. I don’t want to bore you, but, yep, lots of work is yet to be done, and it’s taking far too long by those in charge to get done, which is making us unhappy. And Unhappy protesters usually protest. It’s just a fact of life.
But we are hearing that some of you are unhappy with all this protesting. We are hearing that you think we are kids with no purpose or jobs, who are currently destroying the country and the economy by all of our protesting and demands. We are hearing that you just want stability & security, and that we are not listening to all of you or your concerns and that we are no different than the dictator we just toppled. Please be assured, this is not the case here, because you are our people, and your concerns are the same as our concerns. We must admit that we are surprised by such accusations, & some of us are not taking it well, while others don’t have time to respond because, let’s face it, trying to find out whether your friends are killed or not, and trying to free them from being court-martialed in the new democratic Egypt, all the while addressing a the new referendum, and the issue of Copts getting murdered, churches being burned and such other sectarian strife issues that plague us, well, it could become a consuming full-time job. Our sin might be that we are so used to fighting those small (in your opinion) battles that we are not focusing enough on explaining our point of view to you and how we are on the same side. For that we apologize and we hope you forgive us. Now, on to your concerns.
You are concerned about the lagging state of the economy and the losses that were caused by the revolution and all of our protests, and you just want everybody back to work, without asking yourself how is it that our economy was so weak that all it took to destroy it was less than two months of protests, while a country like France has nation-wide protests all the time, and their economy isn’t collapsing because of it. You are also forgetting that that the other main causes of the lag in economy is the complete & total corruption in all government institutions (state, municipal & local), the military curfew that’s completely destroying our logistical operations and Tourism, the absence of Security (more on that later), and the total confusion of (the many many many) foreign investors- who want to come to Egypt now and invest- in regards to who they could talk to in order to come here and invest, given that the civilian government has no power and the military council isn’t exactly approachable.
You are concerned about the thugs attacking and robbing you of your property & demanding the return of the police & security, but you are forgetting that the police (who acted no different than the thugs except having a shiny uniform) used to rob you every single day. And about those thugs who are terrorizing you, who let them out of their prisons in the first place and then refused to arrest them? Oh yes, I remember, the Police. Silly us for demanding that they get held accountable for their actions. We should beg them daily- like you- to come back to work unconditionally after they betrayed their oath to protect us & put us all in grave danger. Our bad.
You are concerned about your kids getting killed by thugs (who, again, reminder, are unleashed by the police), but you were not concerned that they were getting killed daily by the polluted water, the poisoned meats & fruits & vegetables, the completely unsafe roads & public transportation options, the complete and utter catastrophe that is health-care and Egyptian public hospitals, where far more people die than get better and where any Egyptian would rather not step a foot inside if they can afford to go to a private Hospital (which isn’t always incredibly better). Lest we forgot, even the grandson of our former President died in one of them. But yes, the thugs are the problem. Our bad.
You are concerned that the Islamists are going to take over the country and turn it into Afghanistan, and yet don’t seem concerned with taking concrete steps to ensure that this won’t happen without impeding their rights. A good way to do so is to demand the overhaul of the Egyptian education system, the end of bigotry & discrimination against minorities in all job positions (private or public), the removal of hate-inciting Imams or Priests from Mosques and Churches, and in case all of the aforementioned are too much for you to handle, you could simply stand for religious freedom and equal rights to all in Egypt, especially Egypt’s Christians, who in case you didn’t hear are getting attacked and their churches are getting burned and you don’t seem to care. We would recommend you take a small visit to the Maspiro protest and talk to “those people” and understand the issues at hand, but we also should understand that this would take some time from your busy schedule of complaining about us ruining everything. Our bad.
We get it. We see how we are irresponsible. How we are ruining the country. How we are not concerned about you. We are evil. A cancer that plagued this fine and healthy nation. 25 Khasayer. You are right not to like us. You are right to hold protests against protesting and only 500 of you would show up on a Friday and then claim you are talking in the name of the silent majority. Those millions of us who went down to support those demands are only from every social class and religious background and from both genders. We are in no way representative, especially that the majority of people in Tahrir right now are now the poorest of all the protesters, who are told to go home & live on 20 dollars a month salary until we figure all of this out in 6 month to a year, and all of your Korba Festival buddies are too busy to go there anymore. You want the ones who are still there to go home and leave u alone. After all the ones in Tahrir now are poor. They smell. Can’t have that! Egyptian people are not smelly or poor, of course. Shame on them for defaming us all.
So, since we are such a public menace and refuse to listen to reason, I have a proposal to all of you that will surely make you happy: How about we take all those people who took part in the revolution and supported it, and give them a piece of land in Egypt to create their own failed state on? Maybe somewhere in Sinai, on the beach, say Sharm el Sheikh for example? Yes, give us Sharm and some backland and leave us there, so you can continue living your lives in Peace and stability. We will give you back the Mubarak Family (we are not big fans) and we recommend you give us all those people you don’t like in return: you know those annoying minorities, like the Copts, the Bahaai’s , the Shia, the jews, the Nubians even. Yes, get rid of the races you dislike as well. We will take them all. We will even divide the people up fair and square and ensure that none of us remain with any of you. Ok? Let’s start right now.
You can have Ahmed Shafiq as your Prime Minister and we will take Essam Sharaf as ours.
You can have the NDP and its officials and we will have all the new political parties that are starting up all over the place.
You can have Aamr Moussa as your ideal Diplomat; we will take Mohamed ElBaradei as ours.
You can have Zaghloul elNaggar as your top Scientist; we will take Ahmed Zuweill.
You can have Alaa Mubarak, Ahmed Ezz, Mohamed Abu Elenein, ElMaghraby as your businessmen, and we will take Naguib Sawiris and the Bisharas and all the other businessmen in Egypt who want to run legitimate businesses without unnecessary bureaucracy and bribing 18 different entities to open and continue to run one.
You can Have Adel Emam, Yosra and Samah Aanwar, we will take Khaled Abulnaga , Basma and Yousra Ellouzy.
You can have Tamer Hosny and Mohamed Fouad, we will take Mohamed Mounir, Mariam Aly and Ramy Essam (and we will make sure no one tortures him while he is in their custody).
You can have Farouk Hosny, and we will take the artists that the revolution brought out.
You can have the Supreme Military Council meet your demands on their schedule and discretion; we will take the Revolution Trustee Council any day of the week.
You can have a country where women suffer from oppression, sexual assaults, genital mutilation and honor killing, we will have a country where women are in all positions of power, sexual harassment and FGM absolutely not tolerated, and where one gender doesn’t see that it has the right- in the name of honor- to oppress , beat and violently murder the other gender. We won’t tolerate that happening to our women; you can do with yours what you please.
You can keep a constitution that got amended so much in the past 7 years and still discriminates against many Egyptians and gives the President absolute Power, and we will have one that ensures the rights and equality of all of our citizens (no matterwhere their parents come from or whom they marry) and where there are checks and balances against executive Power.
You can keep an economy that is plagued with inefficiency, corruption, poverty and Monopoly. We will have one where entrepreneurship is encouraged and supported, our country open to all investments, and our workers are guaranteed a living wage.
You can keep a public school system in shambles and half of the population being illiterate, and be forced to pay for public schools and private tutoring for your children. We will have public schools that are well funded and teachers who are well-trained and well paid.
You can have your healthcare system being a complete and total fiasco where apathy and complete lack of concern for the patients’ well-being is what defines it, while our public Hospitals will be properly funded and staffed and those who due to negligence harm or kill a patient will be held accountable.
You can have a country where people believe that being civilized is to go for one day and clean Tahrir Square up, while we will believe that true civilization is ensuring that our government cleans our street up and as for us, well, we just won’t litter.
You can have Your Internal Security services spying on you, arresting you indefinitely, collaborating with terrorists to attack your churches (if you will continue to have any) torturing and/or kill you, and your Police to bully you and blackmail you. Our internal security service won’t do that to us and our Police will protect us, will uphold the law, and, god forbid, reduce crime and put criminals in jail instead of letting them out.
You can have an Army that dictates orders to you; we will have an army that obeys us.
As you can see, what we are asking for is totally unrealistic and we are completely dedicated to destroying ourselves. If we are truly such a problem, we urge you to help us make that happen, so we can get out of your hair as soon as possible.
But if you are insane and unreasonable like the rest of us, please join us and help us. We don’t want our own state, we want to do this here. We want our Country, Egypt, to be the best country it can be. One where we all can live and co-exist; one where the state is healthy and functions and all are represented and have rights. That’s what we always wanted and called for, and we don’t know when that message stopped being clear to you.
We are not saints. We make mistakes and we are not above criticism of any kind. You have the right not to help rebuild the country, and you have the right to criticize those who are trying to do it, but you don’t have the right not to help and only criticize that things aren’t exactly to your liking. If you don’t like something, change it. That was the lesson of the Jan25 revolution after all, you know?
So please, if you agree with our vision, join us, and if you can’t, simply defend us. We have achieved so much, that it would be a sin to stop now.
Help us! We need you!
(A Jan25 Protester)
* © Sandmonkey
* This article first appeared on Rantings of a Sandmonkey.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
When ‘civil-societyism’ fronts for barbarism
If Muammar Gadaffi’s wicked son Saif al-Islam is to be believed, we will soon be witnessing ‘rivers of blood’ in Benghazi in Libya to shame even the Middle East’s most murderous tyrants, worse even than Israel’s massacre of 1,400 Gaza residents two years ago and its 2006 invasion of Lebanon (although probably shy of the US army’s depopulation of Iraq by what The Lancet medical journal estimated to be a million dead civilians courtesy of oil-crazed Washington’s 2003 invasion).
Looking at the Libyan carnage from South Africa, we see both grubby local fingerprints and soaring global ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ rhetoric that together need exposure to the light, so that neither are ever used again to bolster a dictatorship.
The regime’s attacks on its citizenry, Saif al-Islam (38) warned the BBC and Sky News on Sunday, will intensify in coming days: ‘This is our country, we will never, ever give up and we will never, ever surrender. This is our country. We fight here in Libya, we die here in Libya.’
Hundreds are dying on Gadaffi’s orders already. In addition to British and US made guns and tanks, some of his army’s weaponry is of South African origin. Pretoria’s state-owned Denel corporation has flogged weapons of mass civilian destruction to Libya, with a seal of approval from National Conventional Arms Control Committee chair Jeff Radebe, who doubles as SA Minister of Justice. In Denel’s June 2009 newsletter, Insights, we learn, ‘As a result of the display of our infantry weapons, like 40mm AGL, NTW-20 anti-materiel rifle, SS77 and Mini SS machineguns, as well as artillery capability, missiles, aircraft maintenance and mine action services, Denel is already negotiating contracts in Libya.’
Dust storms ordinarily make it difficult to target pesky protesters scurrying to safety, so Gadaffi’s army will happily deploy Denel’s notorious Rooivalk attack helicopters. For as Denel Aviation chief executive Ismail Dockrat told DefenseWeb.co.za just before his 2009 sales trip to Tripoli, ‘We have identified North Africa and the Middle East as key markets in which Denel Aviation can leverage its brand.’
So too did singers Mariah Carey, Beyonce Knowles and Nelly Furtado leverage their brands - doing personal concerts - in exchange for millions of dollars of Gadaffi oil money.
And in Johannesburg’s hedonistic financial district, the five-star Michaelangelo and Radisson Blu hotels are partially owned by the Libyan Investment Authority, an agency set up in 2006 by Saif Gadaffi. According to brand-conscious Michealangelo manager Bart Dorrestein, the Libyan connection was ‘hugely damaging to our organisation and the morale in our company’.
That’s good: there’s some justice then. Similar damage was caused at the Libyan School of Economics, formerly known as the London School of Economics (LSE), now considered just as much of a supermarket school for Libyan brats as Oxford and Cambridge are for other Middle Eastern tyrants’ kids, especially with new revelations about Saif al-Islam’s purchased, plagiarised, ghost-written and obviously unsupervised and unexamined doctoral thesis.
The plagiarised material, according to Robert Sparling of McGill Universty, ‘seems to be giving unwarranted comfort since it makes the LSE appear to be the victim of a fraud, rather than accomplice to moral corruption.’
Many institutions are guilty of selling favours to the rich and powerful, or in the case of my own institution, Durban’s University of KwaZulu-Natal, of being conveniently asleep at the academic wheel. In 2003, our Mechanical Engineering Department awarded a doctorate to SA’s top arms dealer, Shamim ‘Chippy’ Shaik, responsible a decade ago for $9-billion of arms deal procurements and hence a great deal of the country’s subsequent political rot, including a $3-million bribe to the Shaik family from German firm Thyssen, as was revealed last September.
After allegations that Shaik’s PhD was ‘fraudulent and littered with errors, including incorrect formulations and poor spelling and referencing’ - according to the Mail & Guardian, which with the help of disgruntled arms dealer Richard Young broke the story - the doctoral degree was revoked in 2008 on grounds it was ‘substantially plagiarised’. Shaik’s supervisors, Professors Viktor Verijenko and Sarp Adali, were disgraced, the former resigning his post via email and gapping it to Australia.
The LSE’s ethical collapse is special, not only because of a £2.2-million contract to train Gadaffi’s civil servants, but because of the hubris within its Centre for the Study of Global Governance, which in July 2009 was granted £1.5-million by the Gadaffi International Charity and Development Foundation, on whose board Centre director David Held sat in June 2009.
‘I came to know a young man who was caught between loyalties to his family and a desire to reform his country,’ said Held of Saif-al-Islam after the latter’s commitment last month to use the bullet not the ballot: ‘He tragically, but fatefully, made the wrong judgment.’
Oh come off it. The wrong judgments were Saif al-Islam’s and Held’s use of the LSE name, a ridiculous version of global reformism during worsening global apartheid, and Held’s cosmopolitan-democracy rhetoric to disguise their central roles in the West’s re-engagement of a rogue North African dictatorship, and in the process, all the arms and oil contracts that British elites could sign up.
(Confession: In 2004 I had a heated debate on the website OpenDemocracy.net with Held about the topic of Saif al-Islam’s PhD, where I claimed Held’s visions of reforming global governance were a distracting fantasy.)
In a typical LSE ruse, here’s Held introducing the man chosen to give the 2009 Ralph Miliband Memorial Lecture: ‘I’ve come to know Saif as someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values as the core of his inspiration.’
Especially sickening, this, since Miliband was one of the greatest-ever socialist theorists and the stain on his name through Saif al-Islam is matched only by the stain on his centrist son Ed’s reputation as leader of the Labour Party, now that Held is reportedly ghostwriting the Miliband lad’s forthcoming statement of political philosophy.
‘Held has a history of ignoring academic standards in order to come close to people in power,’ according to Erik Ringmar, now based at Shanghai’s Jiaotong University, but who worked with him from 2001 to 2007 and who was compelled by Held and the then LSE director, Anthony Giddens, to admit an underqualified student simply because she was related to former Bill Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal.
‘Undue pressure was put on me to do things I regarded as unethical,’ says Ringmar. ‘Incidents such as these have repeatedly gone on at the LSE. Their recent troubles are no surprise to me.’
What an academic cesspool: ‘Leading figures at the LSE openly joked about getting a donation from Saif Gaddafi before he had even been examined for his PhD,’ London’s Independent on Sunday has just reported. ‘Professors just one rung below the former director Sir Howard Davies, who resigned last month over the scandal prompted by the university’s links to Libya, were “anticipating the solicitation of a donation”.’
In Saif al-Islam’s thesis, ‘The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions’, he declares his bias: ‘…liberal individualism as a political ideal within which liberty is an inalienable right of individuals and a just government must protect individual liberties in its constitution and laws.’
Saif al-Islam thus recalls that tired old line: ‘A conservative is a liberal who got mugged and a liberal is a conservative who got arrested.’
The Gadaffi family’s mugging by democratic Libyans should be joined across the continent, for as Muammar bluntly told Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi just six months ago, Libya was willing (for a high price) to play gendarme for Euro-xenophobes, by ensuring no Africans reached Italian shores: ‘We don’t know what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans. We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.’
This employer of $1000 per day African mercenaries, who on several occasions attempted to recruit Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini to his campaign for recognition as ‘King of Africa’ (as he did many other dubious monarchs), is obviously a tyrant with little confidence in bottom-up globalisation.
Yet son Saif al-Islam’s PhD thesis makes the case for a global ‘tripartite system that includes civil society and the business sector formally as voting members in inter-governmental decision-making structures in the United Nations system, the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organisation and other global governing institutions.’
In reality, the bulk of these institutions are just as destructive as the Gadaffis when it comes to democratic ideals, civil society and social justice, with no hope of change given G8 imperialist and now G20 partner-sub-imperialist power dynamics.
Yet without conceding that international NGOs typically get sucked into eco-social destruction in league with the multilaterals, Saif al-Islam’s thesis sought ‘prospects for civil society to evolve from its current expert and advisory role in global governing institutions to a more formal role in new collective decision-making structures’ which will in turn provide ‘fair, mutually beneficial arrangements on a global level’.
In short, Saif al-Islam’s is a ridiculously naïve thesis. The reality is that NGO reform proposals for multilateral institutions have universally failed. His backing evidence comes only from self-interested NGO officials: ‘88 per cent believe that NGO participation in International Governmental Organisations (IGOs) can lead to better IGO decision-making, citing as key reasons that they can democratise IGOs by expressing the views of marginal and vulnerable populations and by asking difficult questions’ (sic).
Saif al-Islam’s banal, content-less dissertation is a perfect continuation of Held’s cosmopolitan democracy advocacy, void of any realpolitik, simply vacuous. The main external doctoral examiner of this junk, Lord Meghnad Desai - former chairperson of the Labour Party (as it drifted rightwards in the early 1990s), founder of the LSE Global Governance Centre and promoter of the World Trade Organisation as allegedly pro-Third World - first reacted to the charges of plagiarism with characteristic hubris: ‘I don’t think there’s any reason to think he didn’t do it himself…This is over-egging the pudding. The man [Saif] is evil enough, you don’t have to add that he’s a plagiarist as well!’
Yes you do, it turns out, after rudimentary checks showed vast sections were copy-and-pasted, not to mention that Boston’s Harvard-associated Monitor Group - hired also by the South African government for neo-liberal economic policymaking - did the primary research of chatting to the NGO and IGO elites.
Partially repenting a few days later, Desai wrote in The Guardian, ‘It was only after bullets started flying in Libya that his thesis was subjected to an online investigation for plagiarism, and Gaddafi was found to have cheated. Nor had anyone until then objected to the LSE receiving a donation from Gaddafi’s foundation.’
Again, not true. The late LSE professor Fred Halliday had strenuously objected to Held’s Libya programme, writing in an October 2009 letter to the school’s governing Council, ‘I have repeatedly expressed reservations about formal educational and funding links with that country.’ One reason was that Saif al-Islam was recycling dirty monies which ‘come from foreign businesses wishing to do business, i.e. receive contracts, for work in Libya, most evidently in the oil and gas industries.’
Concluded Halliday, after much debate with Held, ‘Libya has made no significant progress in protecting the rights of citizens, or migrant workers and refugees, and remains a country run by a secretive, erratic and corrupt elite.’
As for Saif al-Islam, ‘in Libya, as in such states as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran the primary function of such liberal elements is not to produce change, but to reach compromises with internal hard-liners that serve to lessen external pressure. So it has been, since 2002, with the various Libyan initiatives affecting LSE and the UK/US foreign policy establishment in general.’
This is how Saif al-Islam’s use and abuse of ‘civil-societyism’ can best be understood: as a momentary compromise with Libyan barbarism that, now scratched by emancipatory potential, has quickly shed both his liberal skin and London dupes.
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* Patrick Bond is based at UKZN’s Centre for Civil Society.
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After DFID review: Nairobi-based UN-HABITAT’s fortunes to decline
The fortunes of the Nairobi-based United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) could change drastically in the wake of a damning report by the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID) that suggests that the organisation is riddled with irregularities. In a move that has been described as ‘a major shake-up of Britain’s aid programme’, the international development secretary announced early this month that it will stop core funding to four UN agencies, among them UN-HABITAT. The others are the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
UN-HABITAT is one among several UN agencies that have received a bad scorecard from the bilateral donor. DFID’s review of 43 multilaterals found that that many UN agencies and other multilaterals consistently fail to deliver results on the ground, particularly in fragile states, partly because of lack of results-based management, including human resources management. More than two-thirds of the multilaterals assessed were found to be weak in strategic and performance management. Moreover, quite a large number were not sufficiently focused on driving costs down and reducing waste. The review also found that most of the multilaterals reviewed did not pay much attention to gender issues and that ‘there is still much room for improvement for the multilaterals as a group on transparency and accountability’.
DFID’s Multilateral Aid Review report, dated March 2011, is part of a larger effort on the part of David Cameron’s coalition government to provide ‘value for money’ to Britain’s bilateral and multilateral aid programme. In a strongly worded statement, Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, said that Britain will take a ‘very tough approach’ with organisations that are found to be weak in a number of key areas and that DFID ‘will not tolerate waste, inefficiency or a failure to focus on poverty reduction’.
DFID found that only nine of the 43 multilaterals reviewed offered ‘very good value for money’. Among these were the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, TB and Malaria and the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation (GAVI), all of which will see an increase in British aid in the coming years.
UN-HABITAT was established in 1977 with the aim of improving housing for the urban and rural poor. In recent years it has shifted its focus to making cities more sustainable and is considered the lead agency in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goal of improving the lives of slum dwellers worldwide. It is also one of only two UN headquarters based in a developing country (Kenya); the other is the UN Environment Programme (which, incidentally, also did not score very highly in the DFID review).
The review found that UN-HABITAT performed unsatisfactorily in two critical areas: strategic and performance management and cost and value consciousness. The review says that UN-HABITAT has a poor record of institutional performance and transparency. It states: ‘UN-HABITAT does not operate under a presumption of disclosure. It provides some information on projects to the governing body, but does not publish full details on project performance.’ Even more critically, DFID says that the UN agency charged with improving the lot of slum dwellers worldwide ‘is not demonstrating a significant contribution’ to this goal.
In 2009, UN-HABITAT received voluntary core contributions of $20 million, including £1 million from DFID. DFID says it did not receive a breakdown of how the money was spent from UN-HABITAT, so had to rely on other sources to find out.
The decision by DFID to stop funding to UN-HABITAT should be of concern to African countries that have, through UN-HABITAT’s governing council, consistently fought for more support for the organisation, and have been instrumental in endorsing the continued appointment of the former executive director, Anna Tibaijuka, a Tanzanian national, who headed the organisation from 2000 to 2010. (Tibaijuka is now minister of housing in President Jakaya Kikwete’s government.)
Mass withdrawal of funding to UN-HABITAT could not only severely impact its programmes and projects, but could also dent the image of Tibaijuka, who prided herself on raising the profile of the UN agency and increasing total contributions to the organisation threefold during her tenure. The DFID review was conducted when she was still in office, hence any shortcomings within the organisation could be directly attributed to her leadership and management style, which some insiders claim was authoritarian and secretive.
DFID’s assessment of the current head of UN-HABITAT, Juan Clos, is also not very optimistic. A DFID report dated February 2011 states that the arrival of the new executive director in October last year may not lead to any change in the organisation’s management culture, which has been ‘resistant to change in the past’, adding that any change will require ‘ambitious reforms’, which seem ‘uncertain’ in the current set-up. It concludes that ‘while some reform efforts are underway, the organisation’s track record on improvements is not strong.’
The DFID review may force UN agencies to be more vigilant about fraud and corruption, especially in light of the fact that several large donor countries, including the United States, are talking of cutting funding to the UN until ‘sweeping’ reform measures are undertaken. The US has cut funding to the UN in the past: in the 1990s, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, succeeding in blocking all US funding to the UN. And in 1997, the then head of UN-HABITAT, Wally N’Dow, was forced to leave the organisation after UN-HABITAT’s governing council, led by key Western donors, found several irregularities in the way funds were used.
A senior UN-HABITAT official, who did not wish to be named, told this correspondent that it was unfortunate that Clos inherited problems caused by what he called ‘the poor leadership of his predecessor’, but that the problems facing UN-HABITAT are hardly unique to the organisation and can be found throughout the UN system. ‘One of the reasons UN-HABITAT and other agencies continue performing poorly is that they do not allow themselves to be audited externally,’ he said. ‘This allows for a lot of room for corruption.’
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The moral hazard of US policy in Africa
Alemayehu G. Mariam
MORAL HAZARD AND MORAL BANKRUPTCY
The concept of ‘moral hazard’ in politics may be used to explain a situation in which a government is insulated and immunised from the consequences of its risky, reckless and incompetent behaviour. For instance, a regime that is heavily dependent on the safety net of foreign aid, sustained infusion of multilateral loans and a perpetual supply of humanitarian assistance will behave differently if it were left to its own devices to deal with the consequences of a mismanaged economy, debilitating corruption and proliferating poverty. Many African regimes today simply avoid the demands of good governance, ignore the rule of law and commit gross violations of human rights in the belief that Western aid, particularly American taxpayer handouts, will always bail them out of their chronic budget deficits and replenish their empty grain silos. Stated simply, Western taxpayer dollars provide the fail-safe insurance policy for the survival and persistence of failed regimes in Africa.
By shifting the risk of economic mismanagement, incompetence and corruption to Western donors, and because these donors impose no penalty or disincentive for poor governance, inefficiency, corruption and repression, African regimes are able to cling to power for decades abusing the human rights of their citizens and stealing elections. Western donors continue to bail out failed African states for two reasons. First, the iron-fisted African dictators make excellent business partners. Recent WikiLeaks cablegrams have documented that the most important objective for Western policy makers in Africa is to support a strongman who can guarantee them stability so that they can continue to do business as usual. Basically, they want a ‘guy they can do business with’. Second, Western donors believe that the few billions of aid dollars given every year to guarantee ‘stability’ in African countries is more cost effective than helping to nurture genuinely democratic societies in Africa. The moral hazard in Western policy comes not just from the fact that they provide fail-safe insurance to repressive regimes, but also from the rewards of increasing amounts of aid and loans to buffer them from a tsunami of democratic popular uprising. As we have recently seen with Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, supporting ‘strongmen’ in Africa will at best produce the illusion of stability, control and permanence for the West. But turning a blind eye to gross human rights violations and complicity in the denial of democratic rights to African peoples is irrefutable evidence of moral bankruptcy.
OBAMA’S FOREIGN POLICY IN AFRICA
In 2008, when then-Senator Obama was campaigning for the presidency, his advisor on Africa, Witney W. Schneidman, laid out the candidate’s fundamental policy objectives for Africa. Schneidman argued that ‘Barack Obama understands Africa and its importance to the United States’ and ‘to strengthen our common security, we must invest in our common humanity’. Unquestionably, Senator Obama was a man of little talk and lots of action. He aggressively promoted human rights and accountability throughout the continent. He co-sponsored major legislation to help end genocide in Darfur (Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2006), vigorously advocated for a no-fly zone in Darfur (not so in Libya today), secured funds to facilitate free and fair elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, helped bring Liberian warlord Charles Taylor to justice and worked to develop a coherent strategy for stabilising Somalia.
Senator Obama was a straight-talker. In 2006, he visited Kenya and ‘spoke truth to power’ ‘about the corrosive impact of corruption’. He visited Kibera, Kenya, a 2.5 square-kilometre tract of urban land, the second-largest slum in Africa and home to an estimated 1.2 million people. He told the proudly delirious mass of poor people, ‘I love all of you, my brothers — all of you, my sisters’. He embraced the wretched of Kibera: ‘Everybody in Kibera needs the same opportunities to go to school, to start businesses, to have enough to eat, to have decent clothes.’ After the 2007 Kenya elections, Senator Obama rolled his sleeves and for ‘18 months worked with the Kenyan leadership to help resolve the post-election crisis in that country’. He called out Robert Mugabe for stealing elections in Zimbabwe and condemned his gross human rights violations. In South Africa, he ‘demanded honesty from the government about HIV/Aids.’ He went into ‘refugee camps in Chad, where he heard first-hand about the experiences of Sudanese women who had been forced from their homes and had their families torn apart, and worse, by Khartoum's genocidal policies’.
In America, Senator Obama made a ‘strong effort to reach out to first, second and third generation Africans who have become American citizens to encourage them to be part of the effort that will elect Barack Obama president of the United States’. He actively sought the support of Ethiopians. His campaign specifically called on the ‘10,000 Ethiopian-Americans in Virginia to help turn that state blue on November 4th.’ On 4 November 2008, Ethiopian-Americans came out by the tens of thousands and helped turn Virginia blue.
When Senator Obama became president, his ‘Africa agenda’ revolved around three basic objectives: 1) ‘accelerate Africa's integration into the global economy’; 2) ‘enhance the peace and security of African states’; and 3) ‘strengthen relationships with those governments, institutions and civil society organizations committed to deepening democracy, accountability and reducing poverty in Africa’. Over the past two years, what we have seen in Africa is a whole lot of deepening repression, human rights violations and corruption. We have seen very little ‘accountability, democracy building, the rule of law, judicial reform’ and the rest of it.
Much to our dismay, upon becoming president Obama morphed from a ‘confrontor’ to an accommodator of Africa’s notorious human rights violators. He began preaching and issuing moral pleas to Africa’s ‘strongmen’ in an effort to redirect them from their evil ways and to become nice, and not nasty, to their peoples. From day one, President Obama began soft-pedalling. In his inaugural speech, his message to those stealing elections and committing crimes on their citizens was a bit disarming: ‘To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.’ We thought promising rewards to practitioners of corruption and deceit was rather odd; but we deciphered the hidden message: If Africa’s dictators unclench their fists and became nice, American taxpayers will lay some cold hard cash on their open palms. In other words, it is possible to pay these dictators to become nice guys.
In April 2009, President Obama told the Turkish parliament that the ‘choices that we make in the coming years will determine whether the future will be shaped by fear or by freedom; by poverty or by prosperity; by strife or by a just, secure and lasting peace.’ He told them that ‘freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society’ and ‘an enduring commitment to the rule of law is the only way to achieve the security that comes from justice for all people.’ In July 2009, in Ghana, President Obama went on the rhetorical offensive and told Africa's ‘strongmen’ that they have been driving on the wrong side of history for so long that they are headed straight for history's dustbin. ‘Make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans [citizens and their communities driving change], and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.’ In the same month, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, in a major speech at Georgetown University, announced that the Obama Administration's approach to ‘putting our principles into action’ meant demanding accountability in American global human rights policy. She warned the world that ‘we must be wary of the steel vice in which governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit.’
In December 2009, Secretary Clinton offered further enlightenment on US human rights policy: ‘It is crucial that we clarify what we mean when we talk about democracy, because democracy means not only elections to choose leaders, but also active citizens and a free press and an independent judiciary and transparent and responsive institutions that are accountable to all citizens and protect their rights equally and fairly.’ She said the ‘first pillar’ of this policy is ‘accountability’, which means ‘governments [must] take responsibility by putting human rights into law and embedding them in government institutions; by building strong, independent courts, competent and disciplined police and law enforcement.’
In April 2010, US Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson, speaking at the Second Annual Africa Focus at Harvard University, expanded on the meaning of accountability: ‘A key element in Africa’s transformation is sustained commitment to democracy, rule of law, and constitutional norms… African countries need civilian governments that deliver services to their people, independent judiciaries that respect and enforce the rule of law, professional security forces that respect human rights, strong and effective legislative institutions, a free and responsible press, and a dynamic civil society.’
In May 2010, in a keynote speech at the 35-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, US Attorney General Eric Holder railed against ‘corruption [which] weakens the rule of law, undermines the promise of democracy, imperils development and stability and faith in our markets.’ In July 2010, Holder and Johnnie Carson announced at the African Summit in Kampala, Uganda, that the US is launching a special Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative to catch and prosecute corrupt foreign individuals and institutions operating in the US.
Egypt proved to be a test case for President Obama’s policy in Africa. In June 2009, in a speech given at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, President Obama told the young people of his unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: ‘[T]he ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose… You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party.’
In February 2011, when Egyptian students took the streets seeking to remove Mubarak after three decades of rule by state of emergency and institute a ‘government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people’, President Obama was visibly hesitant and wavering. He seemed to stand aloof and not with the young people of Egypt making history. He waffled on the issue of Mubarak’s departure from power and could only offer abstract moral exhortations against ‘violence’ while calling for an ‘end to the harassment and detention’ and the need to create a ‘process that is broadly inclusive of the Egyptian opposition’. Only after Mubarak took off for Sharm-el-Sheikh did President Obama step forward to take a stand: ‘For in Egypt it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.’ He was effusive in his praise of Egyptian youth: ‘It's [Egypt’s] young people who've been at the forefront. A new generation, your generation, who want their voices to be heard… America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt.’
BACKING UP TALK WITH ACTION
President Obama is a source of great pride for Africans on the continent and others scattered in the diaspora. That pride carries with it extraordinarily high expectations for US policy in Africa. His writings and speeches demonstrate that he is very knowledgeable, well-informed and passionate about Africa, and his African ties are deep, strong and genuine. His involvement with Africa dates back to his student days in the early 1980s at Occidental College in California protesting apartheid. Africans would like to see qualitative changes in US policy towards Africa.
The president’s Africa policy pivots on a strategy of ‘constructive engagement’ of African ‘leaders’. It is impossible to clap with one hand. There is overwhelming evidence to show that most African leaders are only interested in clinging to power cushioned by the financial support of American taxpayers. They are not interested in engaging America on what matters most to Americans – democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law, accountability, transparency and the like. President Obama, on the other hand, has partners right here in the US who are willing to engage him on issues of democracy, freedom and human rights in Africa. They are the tens of thousands of Ethiopians who helped turn Virginia blue for him; they are the multitudes of Nigerians in Ohio and Somalis in Minnesota and other Africans throughout the US who opened their wallets, canvassed the precincts and stood in line for hours that cold November morning in 2008 to make Senator Obama President Obama. Democracy, freedom and human rights in Africa cannot be subordinated to the expediency of ‘engaging’ incorrigible African ‘leaders’ whose sole interest is clinging to power to enrich themselves and their cronies. Like charity, we believe, constructive engagement should begin at home.
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* Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at CSU San Bernardino.
* This article first appeared in Ethiopian Review.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Will popular rebellions spread south of the Sahara?
Many an African dictator is trembling in his (invariably dictators appear to be mostly men) boots, following popular uprisings that swept long-time rulers out of power in Tunisia and Egypt.
Libyan people are rebelling against their ruler, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – and he is fighting back violently. Gaddafi has ruled since 1969 when he took power in a coup, making him Africa’s longest ruler.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF has prohibited state owned media from reporting the full extent of the Maghreb uprisings – presumably lest its own people get ideas from the citizen of Tunisia and Egypt. Robert Mugabe’s government charged 45 students, trade unionists and activists with treason, accusing them of watching news videos of the uprising in Egypt and plotting to topple Zimbabwe's autocratic president.
But will the domino effect of these popular uprisings also sweep dictators out of power further south?
Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho and other Sub-saharan African countries are also ruled by long-time autocrats and their people are suffering as hard – if not harder – than those in Tunisia and Egypt.
In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has been in power since 1980. In Cameroon Paul Biya has been in the saddle for 29 years. Yoweri Museveni has presided Uganda since 1986. Jose dos Santos has been in power since 1979, and is preparing to stand for another term – while, incredibly, grooming one of his children to take over. The list goes on.
There are some parallels, but also some clear differences, between societies in the north, and those South of the Sahara. The first parallel is that both the Maghreb countries and those South of the Sahara have allowed – in the words of South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, ‘inequality to grow, allow(ed) joblessness to accelerate (and is) about state(s) that doesn’t actually perform (and is) about a minority that accumulates things for itself’.
ECONOMIC CRISIS, ELITES AND UPRISING
All African countries are about to feel the delayed effect of the global financial crisis, just as Tunisia and Egypt had. Typically in countries, like Swaziland, Lesotho or Cameroon, leaders pride themselves on the fact that they have supposedly not been so harshly affected by the recent global financial crisis. However, they are mistaken – the true effects are yet to be felt.
But many of those countries depend heavily on Western aid. With the austerity in most of the major donor countries, this aid may either dry up, or trickle into a drip. Even the budgets of international organisations and NGOs heavily active in development projects in these countries have been cut or will be reduced. In some African countries more than 50 per cent of the national budget comes from foreign aid.
Combined with a perceptible rise in the prices of basic food and living costs in most African countries, ordinary African people are having it tough. Desperation is easily turned into the political outrage. Just last year, high bread prices cause violent riots in Maputo, Mozambique. With day-to-day living expected to become even worse, such riots may this year turn into full-blown uprisings against the ruling elites.
Like in Tunisia and Egypt, there is a deep gulf between the relatively small ruling elite, living a ‘bling’ and elite lifestyle, and a majority of the poor – a potent grievance, a festering sore if one happens to be the unfortunate poor individual.
The effect of the global financial crisis has also hit the relatively small middle classes in countries south of the Sahara, just as it also hit the Tunisian and Egyptian middle classes. In Tunisia and Egypt the middle classes were also starting to feel the pinch of difficult economic circumstances. Generally in these regimes, the middle classes are locked into the system, and often have much too loose opposing it. The combination of squeezed middle classes, the usually long-suffering poor working classes and the unemployed and underemployed youth are a potential explosive cocktail – also in the countries south of the Sahara.
YOUTH AND UNEMPLOYMENT
The demography of all African countries has changed so dramatically since independence, so much so that young people now make up most of their populations, whether the country is south, or north of the Sahara. Young people were at the vanguard of the uprisings in both Tunisia and Egypt.
Furthermore, young African people – those unemployed - now have generally higher levels of education, although in most cases, not with the kind of technical skills African economies now desperately need, compared to a generation ago.
Globalisation and new technological advances, such as the internet, social media, such as twitter, have meant that many people in Tunisia and Egypt, including the youth can see how better-off their peers in Western countries live, compared to them.
MEDIA FREEDOM AND CONTROL
In most African countries most of the media is in state hands, so ruling parties can ensure news about official corruption, mismanagement or wrongdoing is kept out of the public domain.
Private media, where present, often does not have a wide reach. Furthermore, such private media is often also financially vulnerable. The state in many African countries still directly controls most of the economy – whether in North Africa or Africa south of the Sahara. And if they don’t, they have indirect influence, through their ability to restrict private companies trading licenses, and so on, should they refuse to tow government lines.
This means in most African countries the state is still the biggest advertiser. If they are not, they can influence the private sector not to advertise in print, broadcast or electronic media they perceived to be critical of government – or risk losing government contracts or operating licenses.
Radio is the largest medium in Africa, including South Africa, but it is often controlled by governments. In many cases, independent FM radio is frequently only given licenses if they do not cover political issues. Although community radio is increasingly proliferating across the continent, they often also have the same restrictions – or they just refrain from covering politics to stay on the good side of governments.
The news blackout in most African countries means that leaders and political movements can stay in power for longer without many of their supporters in the far-flung rural areas knowing the extent to which these leaders abuse their powers. This is why the likes of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe can get away with blaming his government’s own bad governance on the work of Western ‘imperialists’, former colonial powers, minorities or opposition groups supposedly linked to them.
A flourishing private and independent media that conveys information to citizens about the corrupt activities of leaders and ruling parties, which is not conveyed to them by official media, plays a crucial role in informing citizens of what is really happening in their name. Not surprisingly, ‘people power’, the phenomenon where African citizens finally kick out bad governments that have ruled for far too long, often always coincides with the growth of private independent media– that can provide citizens (especially ordinary members of these parties) with the real story – and a growing civil and opposition movement, that can offer an alternative.
THE ROLE OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES
The rise of the internet, social media, the mobile phone, has meant there are now alternative means of communication outside that of the state-owned media.
In the uprisings against unpopular governments in Tunisia and Egypt, new social media, that can circumvent the official media, and the rise of independent media, such as Al Jazeera, has done the trick also.
Although the internet is not as widespread in many African countries south of the Sahara compared to Egypt or Tunisia, the power of the worldwide web is still potent. In Zimbabwe’s last elections, people used mobile phones to text witnessed attempts at vote rigging by Zanu PF strongmen at voting stations in remote areas. This meant that opposition groups, international observers and independent media could be informed more quickly than during previous elections.
Mobile phones are more promising among poorer Africans. This presents potential for the internet if most of these mobile phones can be made internet capable.
Furthermore, the potential to bringing news via the mobile phone is an attractive option for Africa.
So if a revolution is unlikely to arrive in most African countries south of the Sahara via the internet, it may arrive via the mobile phone.
CURBS ON MIGRATION
In Egypt and Tunisia many young people and professionals in the past could migrate across the Mediterranean to Europe to seek better prospects. However, economic difficulties in most of Europe have meant that these countries blocked entry barriers for the young from Africa – the phenomenon of ‘fortress’ Europe.
It is also now more difficult for young Africans to seek greener pastures in Europe or the US. Of course countries neighbouring South Africa, such as Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, also have the option of exporting many of their young to relatively richer South Africa. Yet, South Africa itself has felt the brunt of the global financial crisis – all this after leaders initially claimed the country rode the storm. Last year more than one million people lost their jobs. In spite of all the talk by politicians that they will create millions of jobs this year: looking at their plans it becomes quickly clear this is half-baked and mere wishful thinking. The opposite appear more likely; more people will lose their jobs this year.
South Africa is also now tightening entry barriers for those looking for jobs from neighbouring countries. This will force the unemployed young at home – where they could become a potent force for change.
PLAYING THE ELECTIONS GAME
One big difference between Egypt and Tunisia compared to other African countries south of the Sahara, is that there are more incidents of staged elections in the latter which on regular occasions give the masses an outlet for their frustrations. The recent presidential and parliamentary elections held in Uganda springs to mind.
Furthermore, the opposition parties in these countries are so irrelevant – little alternative policies, and generally clones of the ruling parties and each other (the opposition political parties in Nigeria are a good example); they are more of a stumbling bloc to genuine democracy than anything else.
In the Ivory Coast presidential election that took place last November strongman Laurent Gbagbo lost against Alassane Quattara, but still insists he won. Whoever finally becomes president, there is very little, if any, differences between their policy platforms or even the outlook of the two – so it will in real terms be more of the same.
Most of Africa’s dictators are of course being propped by Western giants or the new Eastern powers, such as China, in exchange for oil, minerals or for strategic geopolitical reasons – Kenya is a good example. Zimbabwe recently stated that China’s Development Bank will pump in up to US$10 billion of investment in the country’s mining and agriculture sector, a big boost for Mugabe political survival.
Over the past few years, Tunisia’s supposed economic ‘miracle’ – in spite of political autocracy - was toasted by multilateral organisations and Western powers. Egypt was a strategic focus for the US and the regime there was flush with foreign aid.
Even Libya joined the US-led ‘war of terror’ and became an ally of Western powers – which shored up Gaddafi’s powers ahead of the recent rebellion against his rule by ordinary citizens of Libya.
It is instructive when US President Barack Obama pulled the plug on Egypt the regime caved in. Many African countries south of the Sahara have in the past either like Swaziland, kept on the right side of the US, by claiming they are partners in the ‘fight against terror’, or have been kept in power, by financial support from China (who needs their minerals), as is the case of Zimbabwe, or South Africa (in Zimbabwe because of historical ties as a fellow liberation movement).
Long-time strongmen Yoweri Museveni in Uganda and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia have been the darlings of the West, in spite of their autocratic behaviour. Recently Ethiopian economists and scholars wrote an open letter to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who is close to Meles Zenawi, to distance himself from the autocrat.
Most African regimes – whether north or south of the Sahara – have been in power because the army has been loyal to them. These regimes have generally showered the army with largesse to keep them onside. With difficult economic times ahead it will prove increasingly hard to keep feeding these armies.
Furthermore, in the cases of Egypt and Tunisia once it became clear, to the army, that the regimes had lost the support of powerful overseas backers, they changed allegiances, or at least remained neutral.
In countries south of the Sahara, the army still remains a formidable obstacle. That is why in countries, like Zimbabwe, in order to bring about change, the army may have to be bought off, or at least given enough incentives, for example amnesty and job security, to remain neutral.
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
Tunisia and Egypt are countries that are relatively ethnically homogenous. Except for perhaps, Swaziland and Lesotho, most countries south of the Sahara are ethnically diverse. More importantly, in most of these countries unscrupulous political leaders and parties have played off different ethnic groups against each other to remain in power, or did so on the back of the most dominant ethnic group, or by forming ethnic alliances.
This means that in many African south of the Sahara countries, people often perceived their problems in the context of the fact that they are in the ‘wrong’ ethnic group, rather than blaming it on their bad leaders or governments, no matter the ethnicity. Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya are cases in point.
LIBERATION AND THE LIBERATED
Finally, in some African countries south of the Sahara, parties of liberation and independence are still in power. Many supporters vote for them mostly on the credentials they acquired as a result of their struggles for independence.
The youth in many countries south of the Sahara, where liberation or independence movements are still in power, are often mobilised by youth wings of these ruling movements. The youth leagues are often allowed to be more radical by the founding liberation and independence movements, in order to periodically disperse popular anger among the youth. A good case is the ANC Youth League, and its leader Julius Malema or Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF, Mozambique’s Frelimo or Angola’s MPLA youth wings.
In African countries ruled by independence/liberation movements, the number of youth participating in civil movements outside these leagues is small – though not insignificant.
Youth, like their senior activist predecessors, may protest against incumbent liberation/independence movement now in governments, but still see these movements as the parties of liberation and independence.
Angry youth in such cases are not demanding for these liberation/independence movement governments to be removed, but for them to improve the way they govern – or to allow them to share the spoils of government also. As the demography of most African countries is increasingly becoming younger, these credentials independence/struggle credentials are wearing thin.
This changing demographic means many young people have little if any memory of yesterday’s liberation struggle. And very soon, young voters will have no recollection of the anti-apartheid or the anti-colonial struggle, and may not simply vote for ruling parties because of their historical liberation movement record. This may herald the kind of youth-led rebellions seen in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Revolution south of the Sahara may not come immediately, but it is certainly on its way.
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* A version of this article was first published by the Foreign Policy Centre.
* William Gumede is senior associate and programme director, Africa Asia Centre, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. His forthcoming book, The Democracy Gap, Africa’s Wasted Years, is released in 2011.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Nigeria’s elections: Concern over parties’ conduct
We note with great concern the tendency of some political parties and politicians to flagrantly disregard the provisions of the Electoral Act in the run-off to the April 2011 elections in the country. This worrisome state of affairs has resulted in creating uncertainty around the upcoming elections, with the much-desired free, fair and credible polls assuming more and more the semblance of a mirage. We observe with apprehension that, barely 22 days to Election Day, several political parties are still yet to fully resolve who their candidates for some elective offices will be.
The cause of this is because many of them, in violation of the Electoral Act and their own constitutions, have ousted the course of internal party democracy and have engaged in underhand practices of selection or the imposition of candidates. The results of these are the over 700 court cases involving the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) and related to the replacement or substitution of candidates for election and the violence in some places leading to the assassination of candidates, thereby heating up the polity and creating insecurity. This scenario negates the kind of atmosphere conducive for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
We are also alarmed at the manner in which campaign finance is deployed by political parties and politicians. We consider the strange patterns of donations, proliferation of support groups and unusual strategies for promoting candidates' and parties' visibility dubious means of circumventing the provisions of the Electoral Act as it relates to party funding and campaign finance. This is in addition to obvious violations of the principles of full disclosure and spending limits. This is unhealthy for our democracy as it abets corruption, makes the political space skewed in favour of some parties and provides room for the use of state funds for individual and party purposes. This is illegal and totally unacceptable.
We also find deplorable the abuse of the power of incumbency to deny the opposition access to the media and use of public places for campaigns, the destruction of campaign materials of opposition candidates and the vandalisation of property belonging to opposition parties.
We condemn the refusal of some political parties to sign the code of conduct for political parties on 8 March 2011. The code was the culmination of a process involving all the 63 political parties. We are aware that the process entailed the review of the 2007 version by an international technical team followed by a retreat at Tinapa, Calabar, during which political parties, including the concerned parties, were invited to participate, to harmonise thoughts and validate the code and the date for signing was set. Afterwards all the parties were given four additional days to turn in observations and input for incorporation.
The code was meant to serve the purpose of moral suasion to regulate the conduct of political parties participating in the April 2011 polls to conform to basic standards of party behaviour that will ensure free, fair and credible elections in an atmosphere of peace, harmony and equity.
It was disappointing that at the signing ceremony, the presence of the concerned parties’ representatives was uncertain. Even more so is that on the final count, out of the 49 parties that appended their signatures to the code, the concerned parties’ signatures were conspicuously missing. We find this disheartening, disturbing and sad.
It is appalling that a party that has ruled Nigeria for 12 years and prides itself on being the largest party in Africa could display such disdain for collective resolution and concerted self-regulation. It is unbecoming of a party that seeks the trust and mandate of Nigerians not to be willing to accept an arrangement that only requires that it practices what it is preaching.
We find the claims by the parties concerned they were not included in the development of the code spurious and untenable as records show that they were invited to be part of the process at every stage of its compilation. Besides, the principles in the code are meant to equally apply to all 63 and can only be considered unfair by a party which has plans other than being part of a fair and credible process.
We consider it an aberration that a party that should ordinarily provide leadership can be involved in a process, contribute to the development of a code, attend a retreat at the expense of taxpayers' monies and agree to a code of conduct, only to refuse to sign to it and commit to its implementation. We view this as a lack of respect for consensus and a demonstration of lack of commitment to credible elections in April 2011.
We are aware that parties have used their power of incumbency to flaunt several provisions of the code, such as allowing the opposition access to the media, non-destruction of opposition campaign materials, non-use of state resources for party purposes and excessive deployment of mysterious campaign finance. This refusal to sign the code only reveals an intention to continue to perpetrate undemocratic actions going into the elections, such as the use of the security operatives to accompany politicians, making them available to intimidate opponents and electoral officers and possibly manipulate the electoral process. We condemn the parties' refusal to be part of this collective effort to reassure Nigerians of their commitment to credible elections.
We want to remind the parties concerned that irrespective of their sizes, they are not better that 49 other political parties in the nation and that with 77 per cent of the number of political parties signing to the code, the 50 per cent required for it to be binding and take effect has been surpassed. These parties are therefore expected to abide by its provisions, whether they sign it or not. Their refusal to sign is not only immaterial but also indicates the quality of their character.
We call on the INEC to be unrelenting to ensure that all these parties do not violate this code and in the process subvert the electoral process and discredit its rising reputation.
We also call on all security agencies to be vigilant, play their constitutional roles and impartially perform their duties to guarantee security of all participants and materials throughout the electoral period. They should refuse to be used as tools of power-hungry politicians and desperate political parties. We call on the inspector-general, police and the heads of all security agencies to withdraw their operatives attached to politicians during the period of elections and deploy them to duty posts other than their present locations.
We call on CSOs (civil society organisations) and the media to view the parties' refusal to sign the code as a declaration of an intention to subvert the electoral process. We must continue to insist on issues-driven political campaigns and a level playing field for all parties. We should not relent in educating and mobilising the electorate to defy intimidation and come out en masse to vote for candidates of their choice and peacefully defend their votes to make sure they count.
We remind all politicians and political parties that Nigeria is greater than any party or individuals and Nigerians would settle for nothing less than free, fair and credible elections come April 2011.
1. TRANSITION MONITORING GROUP (TMG), PRO Auwal Musa Rafsanjani
2. NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS (NLC), Secretary Political Emma Ogbaja
3. CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC), Uche Hilary
4. CENTRE FOR DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT (CDD), Director, Dr Jibrin Ibrahim
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* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Kenya: Arrest of women human rights defenders in Huruma
28 February 2011 began just like any other ordinary day. That is, until I received a distress call from my colleague Carolyn, a fellow community organiser, with the sad information about the preventable death of expectant mother due to birth-related complications.
Elizabeth Ajwang, A 28-year old pregnant mother of one and loving wife to Moses Oduor, died on Monday morning in her husband's arms while waiting to be attended to at Huruma Nursing Home. They had gone to the facility at 9:00 pm on the previous night with Elizabeth at the early stages of her labour pains and a slowly rising blood pressure due to her hypertension.
Though there were varying accounts of exactly what happened at the facility in regards to why she had not been attended to; with some saying that the nurses attempted to administer the wrong treatment, some, that the doctor was away on another case, others, that they had refused to pay extra for the ‘emergency’ nature of the situation, the fact of the matter is that by 5:00 am on the 28th of February 2011, Elizabeth Ajwang lay dead on a stretcher without having received sufficient medical attention at the nursing home that purports to offer medical services to the people of Huruma and Kiamaiko slums ,the nursing home has been established by the community to have had a trend of an unacceptably high maternal mortality rate for a single health centre.
As I and my equally shocked colleagues in the human rights movement, Vicky and Yvonne made our way to the Huruma Nursing Home, we were met with a crowd of aggrieved community members lamenting about the spate of pregnancy related deaths in Huruma Nursing Home at the hands of seemingly incompetent medical staff.
As community organisers and human rights activists, I contacted the media (K24), and mobilised the community for the purposes of recording statements from members of the Huruma and Kiamaiko who have previously fallen victims to Huruma Nursing Home.
The purpose of the statements was to document the community’s complaints to the Ministry of Health and to the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission –KACC for further investigations and action. The desired outcome of the expected action from the public was to prevent maternal deaths in Huruma Nursing Home due to the indignity accorded to the lives of the poor mothers of the Huruma and Kiamaiko communities who are unable to access quality maternal care.
After addressing the media, the local Huruma police boss Mr. Wanyama, accompanied by the OCS, and about five other Police officers ordered the women to disperse, while hurling insults at them. I did not take this kindly and politely asked him to apologise to the women. Women who had presently felt threatened and were about to disperse were emboldened by this action, and accordingly reminded Wanyama of the people’s rights that he, as a public servant was shamelessly violating.
In response, Wanjala ordered me Vicky, Duli and Mato to accompany him to the police station to record a statement.
We contacted lawyers through FIDA, who took quite a while to come. we continued to mobilise the communities of Kiamaiko and Huruma for the purposes of recording a statement concerning the deaths of our beloved colleagues, sisters, mothers, kith and kin, in the hands of Huruma Nursing Home.
The process was peaceful, until Wanjala who is the the deputy OCS Huruma police post called for reinforcement from Kasarani police post who surrounded the harmless women, and with a threat of state violence and force, dispersed the aggrieved victims of Huruma Nursing Home before proceeding to roughly bundle myself Vicky and two male colleagues Ali and irungu to the police vehicle enroute to the police station.
At the police station, my colleagues and I refused to record a statement and invoked our right to remain silent. We received great support from our comrades and friends from Bunge La Mwananchi, RPP and of course kiamaiko community who visited us at the police post.
At 4.30 A.M the next morning the four of us were taken to Muthaiga police station for onward transportation to Makadara Law Courts, where we arrived at 6A.M (March 1st 2011).
The Prosecutor read an incitement to violence charge against the four of us, and we all entered a plea of not guilty,in the dock we were filled with great inspiration of love that was accorded to us by our comrades and friends who filled the court which made me humbled by presence of comrade Kelly Gacheke ojiayo mulialia Onyango oloo, Beatrice, lilian rahma wako Adigo Ann Naomi wanjiru and of course my younger sister nduta.
The judge released us that I (Mumbi, Vicky, Ali and Irungu) on Cash Bail of Ksh 30,000 each.
The mention of our case was put at 15th March, while the hearing will be on the 10th of May2011.
Around 4.30pm on 1 March 2011 when our dear comrades family and friends were unable to raise our cash bail, we had to start a new journey, a journey to Langata women prison a journey I had never imagined I would one day find myself, as I entered the prison bus the question that was lingering in my mind was How will my kids take and cope up with situation? They have been socialised in a society that believes prisons are meant for criminals, my family and friends had high hope that I would be released the same day which never happened, I sat at window where I would see everything that was around as the bus was moving I saw my sister she had not yet given up she was still wandering around makadara law courts when she saw me been transported to Langata prison she could not hold her tears she cried with a lot of pain later on I came to realise she was crying because I was taken to Langata not because I was a criminal but because I had stood my grounds for peoples and women’s right to health care.
We arrived at Langata women’s prison at 5.30 pm. Life changed as soon as we entered the prison compound what I saw and experienced made me remember the prison note book by Maina wa Kinyatti that I had been given by comrade GACHEKE, as I was reading the prison note book I tried to imagine how the inmates coped with the harsh conditions in Kenyan prison little did I know that one day I will bear witness whatever Maina was writing. The term dignity does not exist in prison we were ordered to remove all of our clothes for body search and they don’t even care whether you are on your periods or not it’s such a an awful experience, as soon as you remove off your clothes you are supposed to put your legs apart for the body search, I was humiliated but could not help it when I saw a woman enough to be my grandmother removing clothes together with us from that moment I would not be referred as Mumbi anymore I had a new identity my prison number was 306/11 and Vicky’s 306/12.
We were given kungurus to wear a blue and white stripped free dress as I was wearing the kunguru I imagined wearing a graduation gown but this was a different graduation that was supposed to be a mile stone in my struggle to equality, right to health care, food education and housing I paid tribute to women who have been ahead of me, to the likes of mothers of prisoners who bared it all at the freedom corner, women who have been my source of my inspiration women, women who had been the central pillars of our liberation struggle, field marshal muthoni,mekatili wa menza,mary nyanjiru micere mugo wangari maathai name them.
At 6.30pm it was time to eat, mururu was served (mururu is a term used in prison to refer food)we had starved for two days at the police station they had refused our friends to give us food, we lined up like any other inmate but we tried to eat the food half cooked ugali and a piece of boiled sukuma wiki (kales)with its stem. We tried to eat but we could not but the women desperately comforted us by telling us not to mind we will get used to it. After eating it was time to wash the jars and later go for the head counts the head counts are done in such way every one must squat in a line of five by five and its is referred us kukaba.
The inmates are used and they have memorised the time for head counts when the time comes you are supposed to run very first and be conscious how you are lining if you make a stupid mistake you are in for it, we spent a night at the women prison but one night in prison is like a century time moves very slowly in prison,
On 2/3/2011 will always remain to be a memorable day to me, the day that our cash bail was paid by IMLU (Independent Medical Legal Unit) I appreciate and recognise the presence of Sophie Dowllar, Deb from WORLD MARCH OF WOMEN, Lilian Beatrice, Magret Wayona, Gacheke,Nduta Mwangi and Kennedy from imlu who visited us at the prison. Special thanks to all the organisations that worked very hard to see us released – IMLU,RPP,BUNGE LA MWANANCHI,WORLD MARCH OF WOMEN and I would not forget to appreciate URGENT ACTION FUND AFRICA for your great willingness to support in the process of bailing myself RUTH MUMBI and VICTORIA ATIENO, but the question we are still asking ourselves is:
Why is the state still the enemy of the women?
It is evident that despite changes in the Constitution of Kenya, institutions of the state are still conspiring against the people to keep them in ignorance and fear.
Why won't the Ministry of Medical Services act on such facilities, which are operating under their licensing yet are dens of open un-professionalism and clear neglect and are leading to the high cases of maternal deaths, which are well documented in government reports?
Why should the police always act with such bestiality against its own peaceful citizens whenever they ask for accountability and how come they don't focus on the culprits even when it is crystal clear who the violators are? Why are the police defending the criminals? Are they on the take?
Why does our justice system feign blindness when poor and unrepresented people are on the stand and punishes them with its undue processes which can imprison one for several years even when the circumstances of the case do not warrant such punishment? Is this a method of extortion?
And why won’t the government at large protect its own citizens using the very constitution that brings it into being? Is this an unconstitutional government or is it that the state is the enemy of the people?
How many of our sisters and brothers are we going to lose to injustice before we act?
For now, we hold the Government of Kenya responsible for the death of Elizabeth Ajwang!
May justice be served within our borders!
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* Ruth Mumbi is a member of the Kiamaiko Young Women Resource Center/Bunge La Mwananchi Women Social Movement.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Family cries foul over activist's woes in a Ugandan jail
Some countries would do anything, including going to war, to protect their citizens. Last year, China severed links with Japan after a captain of a Chinese vessel was detained. They demanded his release and an apology from Japan for normalcy to resume. Japan took the threat seriously and obliged. Citizenship brings rights and responsibilities but not so in Kenya, it seems, as we found out from the family of Al-Amin Kimathi.
The human rights crusader was arrested by Ugandan police in September when he went about to defend the rights of other Kenyans who had been renditioned to Uganda.
For defending the rights of Kenyans, he is now languishing in a Ugandan prison. The Government has remained silent, leaving his wife and children to fight for him. Kimathi is in custody at the notorious Luzira jail in Kampala, where according to his wife, Farida Saad, he is being held in solitary confinement, sleeps on the cold hard floor and is allowed only one hour of basking a day.
"I’ve been visiting him twice a month since he was arrested. Though he tells me all is well, he has physically changed. He is not the husband I knew, he has lost weight and looks older and weak," said Farida when I visited her at their home in South B. She adds, "They are only fed beans and posho and my husband has been denied the mattress I took to him. He sleeps on the cold concrete while the mattress is lying in the office of the prison officers in Luzira." In a staccato voice, the mother of two recalled how she dropped her husband at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on September 15, last year not knowing that he was destined for imprisonment. "I rushed him through the Mombasa Road traffic jam not knowing what awaited him," she says with regret. Farida says when he called him after two hours and could not pick his phone, she did not worry because she assumed he was tired and probably resting. Even when her subsequent calls went unanswered, she still did not think of anything sinister and wrote him a text message.
"Since we have not heard any bad news on planes en route Uganda, you arrived safely," read the short text message.
However, after two days without receiving any communication from Kimathi, she was informed that he had been arrested and would be charged for the Kampala bombings. "It was devastating because I was certain the charges were framed up but I still believed he would be released after interrogation," she says. But this has turned into months, six months now, since Kimathi was arrested and there is no hope of him being released anytime soon.
The Executive Co-ordinator of Muslims Human Rights Forum (MHRF) is facing 79 counts of murder, ten counts of attempted murder and three counts of terrorism in connection to the terrorist bombings in Kampala on July 11 last year.
And for the last six months, Farida and her four children have lived without their father and they do not know what tomorrow holds for them. The Government, too, has deserted them. And with his absence, things have been difficult for the family. Farida, who was an assistant manager at the Postal Corporation of Kenya, resigned after receiving several warning letters from her employer for devoting much time to her family affairs. "I worked for Posta for 19 years and after my husband was arrested, things became difficult because I had to ask for leave of absence to visit him in jail. That is when warning letters started landing on my desk that I was not concentrating on my work," she says. She says she does not understand why she was receiving the letters yet she would get permission from her managers who knew what was going on. "I then decided to resign because I would eventually be sacked," she adds. She says efforts to seek audience from the Government have been futile making her believe the Government is behind her husband’s tribulation. Despite the serious charges her husband faces, she says no police officers have ever conducted a search in her house. "Police have never come to our house to conduct searches or asked me to record a statement on my husband if they think he is a terrorist," she says.
Before his arrest, Kimathi had been in the forefront in exposing and documenting human rights violations, arbitrary detention and unlawful renditions in the context of counter-terrorism operations in East and Horn of Africa.
As a human rights defender, Kimathi constantly angered not only the Kenyan government but also the US, whom he accused of complicity in renditions carried out in Kenya since 2007. His brother Onesmus Murithi sees the Government’s hand in Kimathi’s troubles, saying it has never come out clearly to say why he is being held in Uganda. Kimathi was arrested for alleged involvement in the Kampala bombings yet he had travelled to attend court hearings of other Kenyans who were arrested in Nairobi and whisked in secrecy to Kampala. "It is not logical that my brother participated in the bombings and still had the guts to go to Uganda. This is not logical," says Murithi. "My brother is a victim of broader and powerful forces who want to punish him for his effort to champion the rights of Kenyans," he adds. "As the Co-ordinator of the Muslim Human Rights Forum set up in 2005, Al-Amin Kimathi has beenexposing the illegal activities of the Government and human rights abuses suffered by Muslims under the pretence of fighting terror," says Murithi.
Farouk Machanje a member of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, says the human rights activist has been a marked man. "He is obviously a thorn in the flesh of US and the Government and his innocent incursion into Kampala provided an excellent opportunity to take him out," says Machanje. He accuses the Anti-terrorism Police Unit, which he alleges serves the interests of western countries, of being behind the arrest of Kimathi and the seven Kenyans accused of terrorism in Uganda. "The Kenyan security and specifically ATPU has built a reputation as a lapdog of western intelligence at the cost of its primary responsibility to Kenyans," he says. Clara Gutteridge, an investigator with Reprieve, one of the human rights watchdogs in Uganda, says the treatment of the human rights activist is disgraceful and the Government of Uganda should release him. "Kimathi has been a beacon of hope to some of the marginalised people in Africa, and his treatment an indication of the depths to which the Ugandan government will stoop to prevent light from being shone on their illegal practices," she says. Gutteridge adds, "The international community must not stand by as one of the most strident human rights defenders is locked away on trumped up charges."
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* This article first appeared in the Kenya’s The Standard.
Mass rally at VE informal settlement
On the 21 March 2011 Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape will have a mass rally at VE informal settlement at 10:00 till 13:00.
The aim of the rally is to launch our campaign for the 2011 local government elections, which is: No land! No house! No water! No electricity! No jobs! No vote!
As much as this day was supposed to be celebrated as a Human Rights Day in South Africa and having one of the best constitutions in the world which recognised the socio economic rights.
As ordinary citizens of this country we find it frustrating and disappointing to see that there is a huge gap between the constitution of this country and with its citizen because in reality South African government does not adhere to its constitutional obligation to provide its citizens with basic rudimental services such as: WATER, ELECTRICITY, TOILETS AND HOUSING.
Instead of providing people who cannot afford to pay municipal rates with sufficient water they cut off people’s water and instead of building houses for the poor they demolish people’s houses and evict people to the edge of the city.
More than 15 communities across the city of Cape Town will join ABM WC to say No! To Capitalist Democracy. No! To ANC, DA, ID, COPE, UDM policies that lead to water cut offs, electricity cut offs and forced evictions.
The rally is going to endorse a number of activities/programmes that the movement is going to take/implement during its NO! LAND NO! HOUSE NO! VOTE CAMPAIGN
For more info contact: Mzonke @ 073 2562 036 or our admin @ 083 4465 081
For more, please visit the website of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign at: www.antieviction.org.za and follow us on www.twitter.com/antieviction
Visit Abahlali baseMjondolo at www.abahlali.org and www.khayelitshastruggles.com
The Poor People's Alliance: Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with with Landless People's Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, is part of the Poor People's Alliance - a unfunded national network of democratic membership based poor people's movements.
Open letter on police extortion and extra-judicial killings
17th March 2011
The Commissioner of Police Kenya Police Service
P.O. Box NAIROBI
RE: OPEN LETTER ON POLICE EXTORTION AND EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS
We the undersigned organizations write to you over the existence of an extortion ring and an upsurge in extra-judicial killings perpetrated by members of the Kenya Police.
In the past 10 weeks we have received over ten such cases that follow the pattern of the following case of the late James Macharia and Paul Mwangi Wambui, who were gunned down by police officers at Dandora dumpsite:
The two deceased persons were well known as small scale businessmen involved in the purchase and resale of plastic from Dandora dumpsite among other persons also involved in the same trade. On 1st March 2011 at about 3:00pm, the two deceased persons were within the environs of the aforesaid dumpsite when a contingent of plain clothes policemen drove into the area with several unmarked vehicles. The said officers surrounded the deceased persons and started firing gunshots. The unarmed deceased persons, realizing that they were in danger, were spotted lifting up their hands in surrender. However, they were forcefully seized and frog-marched to another section of the dumpsite where they were shot several times thereby occasioning them fatal injuries.
Evidence in our possession indicate that the following well known police officers, from a unit supposedly posted in the Dandora region to curb organized and violent crime, were part of the contingent of officers involved in the summary execution:
1. Officer Cosmas Rotich Makero
2. Officer Sirma
3. Officer Ngure
The said officers are said to have ordered the members of the public to depart from the scene of crime as they shot in the air amidst protests that they had summarily executed the unarmed deceased persons without any justifiable cause. Post- mortem reports on the bodies of the two deceased, and others killed in the recent past, indicate the cause of death as ‘multiple organ injuries due to multiple gun shots at close range’
Extortion by Police Officers
Our investigations reveal that some time in October 2010, the above named officers, in the company of an Administration police officer from the environs of the aforesaid dumpsite known as Nur and another unidentified officer arrested one of the deceased persons, James Macharia in the presence of witnesses, fired a mock gunshot between their two heads to instill fear and took them to Kinyago police post. We are informed that instead of booking them in the Occurrence book, they wrote their names on a piece of paper, and shoved them into a room in the police post where after frisking their pockets and establishing that they had ATM cards, they asked them to give a bribe of Kshs.40,000 for their acquittal.
The two negotiated the amount and the deceased, James Macharia gave Kshs.10,000 to the officer named Rotich.. Subsequently, the officer asked for the deceased’s phone number and demanded that a negotiated sum of Kshs.2000 be sent to him by MPesa every week as “protection fees” to avoid being arrested again. Since his release to the time of his murder, the deceased (James Macharia) has been sending the Kshs.2000 to Officer Rotich’s number via MPesa every Saturday and the recipient confirmation identity message would always read as COSMAS ROTICH MAKERO which is the full name of the said officer. It is noteworthy to state that, the said officer would always call from the same phone number whenever there was a delay.
We are further informed that the said police officers are known to frequently detain their abductees in that police post by writing their names on pieces of paper and not booking them in the Occurrence Book. They are well known by the Officer in Charge of the said police post. They are also reputed to be using the same vehicles but alternately affixing different registration plates presumably to cover up for their atrocities in the Eastlands region.
Following our investigations, we conclude that the deceased persons were executed, by the officers named above who form an extortion racket in the region, on the basis of a longstanding deal gone sour.
Sir, it is unconscionable and unacceptable that such a trigger-happy extortion racket continues to operate unabated in this region harassing young and poor Kenyans seeking an honest living. We take note that not only have the police officers violated the deceased’s right to life safeguarded by section 26 of the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Kenya is a State Party, but also committed the offence of murder as defined in the Penal Code.
We appeal to your office to intervene and ensure that these officers are arrested and charged for their illegal acts set out herein.
It is regrettable that such violations are thriving amidst commendable efforts by your office and that of the Police Reforms Implementation Task Force in institutionalizing the culture of police service to replace the brutality that has so often characterized the institution. Though, we are committed to supporting these efforts for reform, we believe that unless such violations perpetrated with impunity are countered we are unlikely to achieve the full realization of the reform objectives.
Dear Sir, we would like to state clearly that the buck stops at your desk and urge that you take the following actions:
1. Publicly declare the names of the officers who you allege to have interdicted over the Langata cold blooded murder of January 2011. We believe the same officers are running rogue out there and may be involved in the continuing killings;
2. Immediately arrest and charge the officers mentioned above over the murder of Macharia and Paul Mwangi;
3. Immediately arrest and charge the officer in charge of Kinyago police Post for complicity in extortion taking place in a room at the station,
4. Immediately institute a public inquiry on the following police stations as bases for extortion, abductions and murders by serving police officers: Kinyago, Kayole, Huruma and Kasarani, and make the findings known to the public;
5. Make a personal commitment about the safety of witnesses and family members of the deceased to facilitate testimony in these cases.
As we await your response we pose, “how many more Kenyans are you willing to oversee killed by rogue officers during your tenure?
We look forward to your response to this petition and action to ensure justice is done..
Independent Medico-Legal Unit
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Acting Coordinator - RPP
Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission
Solidarity with Zimbabwe's Treason Trial Six
Six Zimbabwean activists are on trial and may face the death penalty for watching a video about the revolts in Egypt. They had been detained since February 19 and suffered physical and mental abuse. Although released they now have to find US$12,000 bail.
A global day of protest in solidarity with the six Zimbabwean activists takes place on 21 March 2011.
In South Africa, assemble at the Pretorius corner of Banket Street, Hillbrow, Johannesburg. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the USA, protest outside the Zimbabwe embassy in either Washington DC or New York. Email email@example.com
In London gather outside the Zimbabwe embassy on The Strand. Email Peter Dwyer firstname.lastname@example.org
In Australia it takes place 18 March 2011. Gather at 257 Collins Street, Melbourne, 18 March, 5.30pm to 6.30pm. Email email@example.com
If you want to donate to their bail and defence campaign fund send payment to:
Branch Code 191 60535
Account Number: 100 185 3784
Swift Code NEDSZAJJ
Please use reference: Zimbabwean Treason Trialists.
The 'S' word: The demise of the doctrine of stability in Africa?
H. Nanjala Nyabola
It’s not very often that a single word becomes a definition of and explanation for a specific approach to politics, but over the last 40 years ‘stability’ has become just that for many nations – as an all-encompassing political agenda, a call to inaction in rejecting change and an excuse to tolerate brutality and blatant disrespect for even the most basic of human rights. The Stability Doctrine has been the guiding force of domestic and international politics in many parts of the world, and has been the justification for flagrant abuses of power, including abolition of any semblance political freedom in places like the Gambia, or even for situations where those in power can simply ignore the needs of the general population and still find acceptance in the international sphere, as in Ethiopia. Yes, the Stability Doctrine has been the cornerstone of diplomacy when dealing with African governments but following a tumultuous start to 2011, could it be finally falling out of fashion?
The problem with stability is not in the desire for peace or predictability in politics. Rather, it is in the means that have been employed in the pursuit of this goal, and the lengths to which international actors especially have been willing to go in order to attain it. Stability has been the excuse for Western governments to look the other way or actively work to keep the most unsavoury types in power, providing arms and military support to Moi and Mubarak, or giving Bongo and Eyadema a place to stash their plundered millions. 'Stability' for the citizens of many African nations has become synonymous with disempowerment and marginalisation, not to mention complete exclusion from the day-to-day governance of their own countries. Whether said power is indirectly given to the military or handed over to autocratic leaders and secret police cadres is inconsequential; inevitably the Stability Doctrine produces vulnerable shell states that practically invite the kinds of revolution that we’ve witnessed over the last three months.
It is easier to pinpoint the emergence of the Stability Doctrine than to account for it’s continued implementation. The rise of Cold War realpolitik is likely the key driver of an idea that had been toyed with in Southern Africa and South East Asia, as international ideological concerns – fears is perhaps a better word – pushed Soviet and Western Governments to keep predictable, if distasteful leaders in office. Volumes have been written about the impact of the Cold War on domestic politics in Southern Countries, and while the era did indeed leave an indelible mark on said countries, it’s been over 20 years since the Berlin wall fell, so why hasn’t this approach to diplomacy evolved? Why in the absence of any formidable ideological opposition are African leaders, particularly of nations with appalling rights records, still making appeals to stability as a reason to maintain the status quo? Why, even in the face of difficult economic times, are Western governments especially still spending significant portions of their national income keeping certain leaders in place across the continent, especially in situations where the local population has rejected them?
A simple answer is oil, and the Western nations’ thirst for the resource has produced its own corpus of analysis and discussion. But beyond this, I believe that there are important sociological explanations related to the highly personalised nature of international diplomacy when dealing with individual fiefdoms like those that are common especially in Africa. In fact, the persistence Stability Doctrine makes the most sense when modern international relations is conceptualised as a giant playground, in which friends are bought and traded, and popularity matters more than actual ability or character. These aren’t just international diplomats negotiating on behalf of nations – in many cases they are personal friends with real economic or social interest in keeping their friends in power. The case of France in Africa is a critical example of this. Far too embedded with the Ben Ali regime, the foreign minister and president were caught out by how quickly the regime fell in part because they were blinded by personal, predominantly economic relationships. Similarly, senior members of the British monarchy and government, some of its most prestigious universities and institutions have been caught red handed cosying up to the Gaddafi regime, even though its excesses are matters of public record. These examples are in the limelight now given the way in which the citizens of Tunisia and Libya rejected stability in lieu of governance, but there are other potential points of friction across the Africa that will soon present similar challenges, such as Uganda, Chad or Senegal.
Indeed the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, not to mention Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti and Gabon is a stark reminder of the need to dump the Stability Doctrine – its inherent shortcomings are significant contributors to the unrest. For one thing, this approach to politics always produces dictators. Always. Without fail. It may take some time between the rise of the young military ingénue and the emergence of the heavily botoxed 'benevolent' but all-powerful leader, but it is generally a question of when rather than if. It involves continuous appeals to the usually non-existent goodness of the leader, rather than his (so far never her) abilities as a leader or association with the people. It involves systematically inflating the ego of said leader to the point where he believes that only he is capable of stewarding the country, thereby robbing the public of any power that they may have to criticise or challenge.
In short, it creates an indispensability complex that robs the general public of any right to participate in the governance of their country. More importantly for the citizens of these nations,the resulting shell states make true political transition difficult if not impossible. It also involves implicitly tearing apart any institutions of accountability in order to prop up the myth of indispensability. Electoral commissions, independent judiciaries, credible opposition parties – all of these institutions have and continue to be sacrificed for the sake of perpetuating the apparent indispensability of some of the most unsavoury characters in international politics. Plus, it costs a fortune in arms deals and military support for nations that will inevitably at some time of need support the enemy anyway.
The end result of these factors is the kind of instability that plagues Africa today – even where authoritarian regimes are overthrown there are no credible institutions left to hand over to a transitional administration. This in turn breeds the kind of dissatisfaction and sustained aftershocks of unrest that are being felt in Tunisia and Egypt. Indeed, the reasons for ditching the Stability Doctrine can be neatly summarised in that it simply doesn’t do what it says on the jar – it is a perfect recipe for the kind of instability that is rocking North Africa today.
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* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Dipping our banners for May Brutus
8 May 1929 – 12 March 2011
It is a time of sadness for the friends and admirers of struggle veteran May Brutus. She was a fighter with legendary courage. She died suddenly in London on Saturday at Barnet General Hospital.
Those who knew May will remember a feisty, outspoken and awe-inspiring figure, speaking her mind on racism and injustice wherever she found it. The apartheid regime never banned or jailed May, but she confronted their brutal agents when she visited her late husband Dennis after he was shot in Johannesburg; again when he was imprisoned on Robben Island in 1964, and continuously when he was under house arrest in Shell Street, Port Elizabeth after his release from jail.
Dennis had been shot, was being given oxygen in intensive care, but he was under close guard of security police. Seeing the brazen policemen smoking beside his bed, she chided them and drove them outside the hospital, leaving no room for argument.
Port Elizabeth had a crew of particularly vicious special branch, and they got to know that May was a force who refused entry on their missions of looking for banned material. And she scolded them, saying they should think about their behaviour. Their clumsy arrogance was shocking for children learning and they should show respect rather than barging in and wrecking harmless lives.
The home that May kept in Port Elizabeth sheltered fugitives from the Special Branch, at one stage former President Nelson Mandela took refuge there, whilst mobilizing and campaigning for the resistance movement. Her ready meals, produced few resources sustained late night meetings with the likes of Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, MN Pather.
May followed Dennis into exile in 1966, packing up and shipping a household and seven children would have daunted many, but she set about ensuring that nothing would get in the way of building a better life. Dennis worked tirelessly in his campaigns for the cultural and sporting isolation of white South Africa, and that required the solid stalwart support of May. Joining the local branch of the African National Congress, she fearlessly confronted the conduct of colleagues who dared to underestimate the role of wives and mothers in fundraising and nurturing the social fabric of South Africans in exile in London.
Based at Canon Collins House in London, May played a major part in the “letter” campaign. Countless families whose breadwinner was awaiting trial or in detention or banned and without income all received correspondences from “distant relatives” who were in fact providing support and the means to put food on the table to the needy.If ever you visited Canon Collins House, May was there, larger than life, and keeping everyone on their toes.
May’s house in London remained a source of refuge to your people, from South Africa, but also Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Nigeria, and even Kosovo. Delicious cakes, legendary curries and all sorts of treats flowed from her kitchen throughout the years. Notwithstanding this, May also accompanied Dennis on many of his travels around the world and stood resolutely by him, even when he defied the directives of the liberation movement when his instincts told him to do so.
May was invited to the Presidential Guest House for the memorable reunion of exiles.Her exploits don’t appear in books, but loom large in the memories of those who now pen their memoirs of those dark struggle days.
May started work at the age of fifteen, when her father died; and having lost her own mother at an early age. She worked hard throughout her life, and her children feel blessed to have had her care and comfort in their growing years. She will be terribly missed.
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'The Witches of Gambaga'
’The Witches of Gambaga’ is a disturbing documentary about a community of women condemned and exiled as witches to the village of Gambaga in northern Ghana. The film was produced by Nigerian feminist academic Amina Mama and Ghanaian filmmaker and writer Yaba Badoe, who also directs and narrates the film. During repeated visits over a period of five years, Badoe interviewed the women, traditional rulers and community activists in the region. [Video clip link: ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8WbAvdjdMg]
The village of Gambaga has traditionally been a sanctuary for women accused of witchcraft where they are protected by the village chief. Many of the women are elderly and arrive after been driven into exile by their families. Guilt is established by the arbitrary way a chicken dies following an accusation by a male or even a young child. The bird’s throat is cut and if it dies with its wings down, then the woman is a witch. In trying to understand what it means to be a witch, the film’s producer and narrator, Yaba Badoe, asks a question which goes to the heart of the film: ‘[What] if witchcraft traditions are so deeply entrenched that to be born a woman is to be born under a shadow of suspicion?’ This is contrasted with men, who can also be witches, but for them the practice is used in a positive way such as to protect a house or family.
The belief that some women and men have supernatural powers has existed throughout history and across the world as a way of maintaining social control and upholding patriarchal structures. But invariably it is women who have been singled out for persecution at different points in history, usually when communities are facing a crisis or series of events which are unexplainable or unpredictable. To understand the naming of women as witches requires close scrutiny of the factors behind, on the one hand, the powers of Pentecostal churches and Muslim marabouts in Ghana and other parts of the continent, and on the other, the use of traditional and spiritual practices for explanations around the failure of nation-states to address poverty and the lack of socio-economic responsibility by governments. It is similar to the cultural and religious fundamentalism that is the driving force behind homophobic laws on the continent, which are also being used as political decoys. Both the charismatic churches and some local imams feed on witchcraft as explanations of social and economic problems. The power of male authority, patriarchal traditions and the low status of women are central to this. It is pertinent to point out that although accusations of witchcraft cut across class and age, it is those women who are seen as strong and independent who are most at risk.
The witches of Gambaga are protected by the paramount chief, the Gambarrana, and there is no doubt that he benefits from their presence. They pay to stay and must pay to leave, so it is in his interest to accept either a ‘confession’ as proof of guilt or the direction of the chicken’s death and to ensure the practice continues. But as the film points out, good and evil is never simple, and change is always possible. As we see from the film, community engagement by local community activists has been central to eliminating the practice as well as trying to reintegrate accused women back into their villages. Even though this can be a slow process, it is preferable to a confrontational strategy led by outside people, especially Westerners, descending on communities. Once the work has been consolidated at a very local level then it can be taken up by activists at a national level, with moves towards intervention by the government and community leaders. ‘The Witches of Gambaga’ shows that there is another way to addressing traditional and religious practices which hurt women and children. Women activists are beginning to speak out against the practice and the film itself has contributed to raising awareness at the national level. Changes in attitudes by local leaders can also contribute to ending the practices of accusing women of witchcraft. For example, in one of the villages where the practice was prevalent, the new chief has chosen to ignore the supernatural and instead intervene by counselling families and encouraging a change of attitude towards women in general. However, despite this, Badoe points out that the minister for women, whose constituency is in the Gabaga region, did not once visit any of the villages nor attempt in any way to engage with community leaders and chiefs or give any support to the women.
The success of the film is due to Badoe’s persistent visits and her personal engagement with both the women and the Gambarrana, who allows her to film the ‘secret’ ceremony which decides on the guilt of the women. Her interviews are intimate and heart-breaking, showing both the vulnerability of the women as well as their agency and strength. One young mother of two is ambivalent about her exile but at the same time focused on ensuring her children are educated by raising money to send them to school. The film thankfully lacks the ‘pitying’ and patronising tone often found in documentaries made by non-Africans as neither the women nor the audience are treated with anything but the utmost respect. The strong feminist intervention places the women at the centre and focuses only on the issue it wishes to confront and expose, leaving all of those involved – including the audience – proud and empowered. ‘The Witches of Gambaga’ has been shown and well received by audiences in Ghana and Burkina Faso.
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* ‘The Witches of Gambaga’ was the winner of the 2010 Black International Film Festival Best Documentary Award. Watch a trailer of the film ‘The Witches of Gambaga’. The film was also selected for special mention at this year’s FESPACO in Burkina Faso.
* Yaba Badoe is also author of ‘True Murder’, a mystery novel set in England.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Before I set myself on fire
Yes, I have struck the match, ready to light my cheap, blonde hair extensions. I am waiting for my sister to buy the kerosene to pour on myself. The only problem is that the queue is long at the fuel station and the traffic is very bad around Wuse II. At least, so she said when I called her about five minutes ago. But wait a minute, is she not trying to buy time in order to make me change my mind about my chosen path of honor?
We had talked and argued all night about my decision. Imagine how the name of our family would ring in the world for centuries to come, I told her. Think Queen Amina, Queen Nzinga, Nefertiti or even Cleopatra, so shall all lips utter my name in awe. Myths and counter myths shall be woven around my person. Historians will camp at my poor, inaccessible village. By then of course, it will become the top tourist destination in Nigeria, complete with tarred roads, street lights, pipe borne water, hotels and other trappings of modernity. I smiled as I wondered what worthy title shall then prefix my humble name: ‘the immortal’, the everlasting’ or perhaps a suffix of ‘the courageous one’, or simply ‘the bold’. Anyway, I would not worry about that, it is most likely that different generations would prefix or suffix different titles to my name, according to what they consider to be the highest honor of their time.
I remember the look on my sister’s face when I told her. She is only fourteen, and all she could say was:
‘Sister, I don’t want you die. I will miss you – Mummy and Daddy will miss you.’
I laughed and assured her that our parents will be forever grateful for the sacrifice, the supreme price I would pay.
‘What is my poor life when compared to the 150 million worthy souls of my fellow Nigerians?’, I responded with a glorious smile on my face, the type of smile reserved exclusively for the near-dead who lay claim to the Blessed Hope.
She began to wail and roll on the floor, clutching her stomach. I rushed to her, picked up her slight frame and held her against the wall. How could she be so selfish, I accused her. She was the last person I expected to act the way she did. Despite her tender age, she is a keen student of politics. Government is her best subject in school and she has never scored anything less than 98% in the exams. Together we have watched with unbelief as events unfolded in the Middle East, all because Sidi Bouzid dared to light the match. Many times we have fasted and gone on night vigils for our country Nigeria; we have cried and prayed and gnashed our teeth in repentance for the sins of our leaders. Now, I believe it is time to act. Is it not written somewhere in the Holy Book that faith without works is dead? Be still, I cautioned her. I only woke her up at that ungodly hour to let her know of my pious plans, not to ask her opinion. No matter how hard she cried, first thing in the morning, I was going to the National Assembly to set myself ablaze. She will have to go home and inform our parents before they see it on television.
‘But sister, who will Nigerians protest against when you die?’
Smart question; the Tunisians removed the Ben Ali guy who was there 24 years, the Egyptians removed Hosni Mubarak who was there 30 years, the Libyans are now trying to oust Gadaffi who has been there 40 years. Who should we as a people protest to remove? Of course, I had thought about that; it was not for me to predict what would follow my martyrdom, I told her. Sidi Bouzid set himself ablaze to protest the seizure of his means of income; I am going to set myself ablaze to protest that the country is bad, the leadership and the politicians are rotten and heartless, that people are suffering, dying and being killed like fowls. As a lamb, I sacrifice myself, first for the good of my country, and yes, for a shot at posthumous awards, wealth and honors for my family – something that would have been impossible barring my proposed act – I did not tell her my second reason.
I succeeded in calming her down and we went to sleep. As I slept, I heard two soft knocks on the door, another followed in quick succession. The time was 3.30 am. That was the sign. My sister, a heavy sleeper, snored on, exhausted and depressed at the thought of my impending demise. I sneaked out the door. The CIA agent, who I can only identify as ‘Tom’, gave me the substance in a can, and helped me to spray it generously on my body. He gave me my flight ticket to the United States. The ticket read Accra – Amsterdam – Washington; it was a one-way ticket and it came with a fake Somalian passport and some thousands of dollars in cash.
‘Tom’ told me the name of the doctor who worked at the Emergency Unit of the National Hospital, Abuja.
‘He is one of us. As soon as you are taken there, he will declare you dead and you will escape through a back door. He will take care of the rest.’
‘Tom’ turned to leave, but noticing the apprehension on my face turned back and asked if I had changed my mind.
‘No Sir, I have not, but I have a question.’
‘Ok?’ His overgrown, scattered light-brown and grey eyebrows raised quizzically.
‘What if it does not work?’ I humbly intoned. Abeg na Naija pesin I be, I almost added before I held my tongue.
‘What if what does not work?’ He asked, his eyes as cold, mean and as calculating as they come.
‘The thing you sprayed on my body.’
He laughed, or rather chuckled. The way you do with a 3 year old when he asks you why a car does not fly like an airplane.
‘It is the best. The kind used on Hollywood actors in action movies. You can have this.’
Short, pudgy hands extended to give me the can of spray.
‘Try it on something first and see for yourself. It lasts 10 to 12 hours. Best of luck.’
I felt better. It will be utter madness for me to believe a word of what any American government official tells me, talk more of a CIA agent. Not so soon after WikiLeaks, at least. I went back inside the house to wait with apprehension.
At the first cock crow, I ran outside, caught the cock and sprayed some portion of the can contents on it. I lit a match, set the cock on fire and watched as it became engulfed in flames. I waited about three minutes – time I assumed some hustlers around the National Assembly would have run to my aid – before I poured a bucket of cold water on the bird. True to ‘Tom’, the bird shook itself dry and walked on in search of breakfast. My heart swelled with pride and love for country; it is safe. The time for Nigeria is here. I am gone on my ‘suicide’ mission to save Nigeria.
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* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Patriotic traitor wheel
Mimi Harriet Uwineza
Criminal of innocence
Ideal citizen in pain
Grain sown in past
Growing unhindered and strong
Crushing all he loved
Banished by his own
Out of the box thinker
Partisan of No party
Marrying for No Nose but Love
To stop the greedy wheel
Good neighbor and friend
Protecting and providing with love
Despite rejections and torture
What did it matter
Starved and drained
Refusing the bloody cake
Poor despite possibilities
To stop the slaughtering wheel
Crown changed hands
He paid undue dues
Of murdered innocents
of the swallowed cake
And of the looted cars
From hired witnesses
Through Sovietic trials
To grabbing his land
Killing his sons
Raping his daughters
And exiling his toddlers
What good did it do him
Good citizen and patriot
Now ill in a bottomless pit
From Franco to Anglo decorations
Despite changed flags and constitutions
With unchanged wheel of oppression
And no value for his goodness
How long will it take
To stop the wheel of hatred
Centuries of revenge
From Noses unequal
To Roses of tolerance
And what does it matter
To be good and humble
Where neutrality is denied
On a boat of past and present covered blood
Citizen turned traitor
As in the past so is the present
I look back to our past deaths
A life full of suffocation
And decide without hesitation
To break the silence that swallowed you
What does it matter
writing a poem,
This song of your loss
Before the wheel reaches my trail
If only one soul would learn of your pain
A spirit will be born to break your chains
You will be dead
Yet, the spirit shall be born to break the hypocrisy wheel
I will be alive
I will tell the world of your innocence
I will tell them of your easy ways
Of your love and care
Of your strength and love of integrity
Even without then
Without that time and place
Without freedom of these chains
I live in your love
Good citizen and patriot
It does not matter
That they bruise your tender skin
That they break your strong legs
That they treat you unjustly
That they use you for their political games
I know of your innocence
I tasted your protection
I lived your laughter
I felt your strength
I breath by your love
Someone else will talk
Someone else will chose to differ
From the crowd of liars
From the basket of hatred
You will be already gone
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* Mimi Harriet Uwineza is a human rights defender, poet, writer and teacher by profession. She currently works with SIHA Network.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News 181: Madagascar : Les dessous d'une crise qui perdure
Africa Union and the no-fly zone
Enforcing a no-fly zone against Gaddafi…
Gaddafi firing on all cylinders
ICC cases taken to Mars
Kenya's Grand Coalition Government...
Zimbabwe: Activists granted bail
Human rights activist Munyaradzi Gwisai and five others, detained on treason charges in Harare, were on Wednesday (16 March) granted bail, more than three weeks since their arrest. The group, who have been held in solitary confinement for more than a week, appeared in a Harare court on Wednesday for a bail hearing. The judge granted them US$2,000 bail each, with conditions to report three times a week to the police.
Zimbabwe: Interview with Pride Nleya, wife of treason detainee
www.kubatana.net carries an interview with the wife of one of the activists currently jailed in Zimbabwe and awaiting a bail hearing on Wednesday 16 March. In the interview, she talks about the impact of her husband's detention on her life. 'You know, you feel helpless because you don’t [know] who to approach or where to go for help. All you can do is wait at central police where no one tells anything. At the end of the day you don’t really feel safe.'
Zimbabwe: Police raid MDC headquarters
Zimbabwe police raided Harvest House, the headquarters of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) arresting five people whose charges are yet to be known. The MDC said 30 police officers besieged Harvest House at around 7pm on Sunday night (13 March) and arrested officials and youths who were at the headquarters. The party said the five arrested are still in police custody.
Zimbabwe: ZANU PF crackdown on activists continues
The ZANU PF led crackdown on human rights activists and NGOs has continued, with leading action groups coming under threat. On Tuesday (15 March) police officers from Harare Central Police Station raided the offices of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, before going on to search the home of the group’s Director, MacDonald Lewanika. The police were armed with a search warrant signed by Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzu. They said they were looking for anything ‘subversive’, such as t-shirts, documents, fliers, or anything incriminating.
Africa: Where is the voice of the African Union?
As the world discusses the protests and battles sweeping North Africa where is the African Union (AU)? asks Wangari Maathai. 'In discussing the situation in Libya, US president Barack Obama did include the AU in a list of partners for finding a solution. But, by and large, the voice of the AU has been faint and largely ignored by the international media. Surely the AU should have been among the first international organisations consulted as internal conflict engulfed AU member states in North Africa.'
Libya: AU demands 'immediate' halt to Libya attacks
The African Union's panel on Libya Sunday called for an 'immediate stop' to all attacks after the United States, France and Britain launched military action against Muammar Gaddafi's forces. The situation in Libya 'demands urgent action so that an African solution can be found to the very serious crisis which this sister nation is going through', said Mauritanian President Ould Abdel Aziz, who is one of the AU panel members.
Africa: Let’s make FGM a part of history
'At age 18 I was told the time had come for me to go through Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I didn’t want to. It was my mother and maternal grandmother’s idea: they’d also been responsible for the initiation of all of my female siblings. My mother cried and pleaded with me, begging me not to bring shame to my family. She told me it was not going to be hard because I was having it done in a hospital. I didn’t know it could be done in hospital; at the time this came as a shock.'
Africa: Let’s make FGM a part of history
At age 18 I was told the time had come for me to go through Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I didn’t want to. It was my mother and maternal grandmother’s idea: they’d also been responsible for the initiation of all of my female siblings. My mother cried and pleaded with me, begging me not to bring shame to my family. She told me it was not going to be hard because I was having it done in a hospital. I didn’t know it could be done in hospital; at the time this came as a shock.
My father, despite being a devout Muslim, was never in support of it. He always said he had never seen any part in the Quran that supports FGM. But according to our Sierra Leonean culture it is the role of the mother to ensure her female children are initiated into the ‘secret’ Bondo society; a society solely responsible for FGM initiation.
Even though it is illegal in many countries, in Sierra Leone FGM is still carried out in hospitals for the middle and upper classes, usually by trained medical personnel. I was escorted by my siblings and some relatives to The Family Clinic on Wilkinson Road in Freetown. It is owned by a midwife based in the United States, where she works as an FGM practitioner for children of African parentage.
She comes to Freetown during the holiday period and performs the practice on children from the west (more affluent) side of Freetown. I was anaesthetised while the act was performed. The midwife works with two assistant nurses. The wound is treated medically but the impact of FGM is the same as if performed in a non-clinical environment, where the majority of these procedures occur. I couldn’t walk normally for about two weeks. The sore was very painful. I found it excruciatingly painful to pass urine and it didn’t heal easily.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, FGM is practiced in about 28 African countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Tanzania. It has only been outlawed in 15 of these countries and the World Health Organisation estimates that as many as 130 million girls and women have undergone the procedure. Although there are different types of FGM, in Sierra Leone it mostly means the removal of the clitoris and the labia minora.
As dreadful as it is, every level of Sierra Leonean society seems to have accepted FGM as a reality that we must live with. And it has become highly politicised, making it much more difficult for human rights activists. It is said more than 90 per cent of Sierra Leonean women have undergone the procedure and despite international calls for criminalising it, many of my country’s politicians continue to secretly support it.
Another Sierra Leonean woman I know, Moijama Brima*, recently offered herself up to be initiated into the Bondo society at 24-years of age. Brima decided to undergo FGM because she wants to be a politician.
‘I was laughed at. I was called names such as an unclean person, a non-initiate, a promiscuous woman,’ she says. ‘Besides I realised that I will never become a successful female politician if I am not a member of the society. I must be a part of it to get the vote of the majority of traditional people.’
Even though politicians have expressed public commitment to stop the practice, they’ve given it their full support privately by paying huge amounts of donor money for the high costs associated with initiating young girls. They know it will pay dividends at the ballot box, especially in rural communities.
Brima’s initiation was paid for by the former Sierra Leone People’s Party government.
‘Hundreds of us were paid for by the government through the member of parliament in that constituency. The activities were done in four districts of the country and this is done every year,’ says Brima.
In Sierra Leone, FGM is big business, with hundreds of girls initiated annually, especially during school holidays, normally between July and August, and around Christmas season.
However, reporting on it is not easy. I remember when a female journalist was sent telephone death threats for presenting a radio discussion programme about FGM on the day of zero-tolerance to FGM in 2008. These threats were followed by mass protests from members of initiation associations across the country. Later, in 2009, several female journalists in eastern Sierra Leone were stripped naked and forced to walk through the streets because they had reported on the negative effects of FGM. While this was widely condemned by human rights activists, nothing significant was done to bring the perpetrators to book. Politicians greatly depend on members of the FGM society for success in elections.
I now live in the UK, where FGM is illegal. Despite that, many African families here seek traditional initiators to perform the act on their daughters when families find it difficult to send their children to Africa on the pretence of going for holiday.
The UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health considers FGM a fundamental human rights problem with adverse health and social impacts.
Indeed, girls and women must be given sole power to take all decisions regarding any physical action done on their bodies. There is also need for adequate sensitisation so girls can have options rather than being frightened or coaxed into the procedure, as I was.
While efforts in the UK are directed towards preventing the act in the UK, and providing counselling and medical support for women affected by it in the UK, I think the UK Department for International Development and other international donors should do more to help eradicate the practice in countries where it is still legal and acceptable, countries where governments are quite possibly spending donor funds to pay for girls to undergo FGM.
A woman like Brima should be able to run for political office without having to endure FGM; a woman like me should be able to fulfil her familial obligations without going under the knife. Perhaps if more international efforts are put toward prevention and education at the source of the problem, our daughters will have another choice.
*Real names have not been used.
* This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service which brings you fresh views on everyday news.
Côte d'Ivoire: Women bring food to market, against all odds
Vegetable seller Caroline Tibet recently lost about US$420 in aubergines, cassava and okra when gunfire broke out near the truck just loaded up with her goods near the town of Duékoué in western Côte d'Ivoire. 'My investment went up in smoke,' she told IRIN. That has not, however, stopped Tibet and hundreds of other women in the commercial capital Abidjan from braving gunfire, curfews and ubiquitous and often dangerous roadblocks to keep the city's central food market stocked.
Cote d’Ivoire: In Solidarity with the Women of Cote d’Ivoire
On 3 March 2011, hundreds of women gathered to protest peacefully in Cote d’Ivoire to end the political stalemate and the worsening security situation. The Ivorian women took to the streets of Abidjan to put pressure on their leaders to end the stalemate and allow peace to prevail. Seven unarmed women protestors were killed in the process by forces loyal to former president Laurent Koudou Gbagbo.
Egypt: Male domination is only half a revolution
'In addition to ensuring women's participation, there will need to be a strong commitment during the transition period to protecting and promoting women's human rights by abolishing discriminatory laws and practices,' writes Nadya Khalife for www.womensenews.org about the Egyptian revolution. 'That means repealing family law provisions that discriminate against women and instead giving them equal rights in marriage, divorce, guardianship, custody and inheritance. New laws to make domestic violence and sexual harassment crimes should be adopted and enforced as well.'
Ghana: Gender concerns ignored by Constitutional Review Conference
Some women's rights groups have expressed their disappointment at the recent national constitutional review conference organised by the Constitution Review Commission in Accra recently. The women were stunned that all the 25 areas which formed the subject matter for the conference did not feature any gender concerns. They claimed they were at the conference in their numbers to support the cause of women but to their amazement none of the concerns raised by them were mentioned.
Global: 'Women must be part of the peace equation'
Eleven years ago, 192 countries - all the United Nations member states - agreed to step up the integration of women in international peacebuilding and security processes, a promise that has remained largely unmet. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, international coordinator of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), notes that by having specific provisions compelling their members to implement and report progress, regional organisations like the European Union and the African Union 'are a step ahead' of the United Nations, which lacks a regular accountability mechanism.
Lesotho: Has Lesotho bridged the gender gap?
Lesotho sits like pearl in a shell, surrounded by the land mass of South Africa. But this tiny kingdom of 1.8 million people boasts another jewel, which is perhaps astonishing given its size. Lesotho is ranked eighth in the world by the World Economic Forum (WEF) when it comes to bridging the gap between the sexes.
South Africa: Gender, energy and climate change
Forty per cent of South Africa’s 48 million people are poor, and more than half of poor people are female. Around 2.5 million households are still without any access to electricity while four million households do not use electricity for cooking. This could easily mean that 20 million people still rely on dirty, polluting fuels – most of whom are women. This is the background to an Earthlife Africa Jhb report entitled 'Second Class Citizens: Gender, energy and climate change in South Africa'.
South Africa: Lack of reporting on gender-based violence
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has questioned the media's priority in dealing with issues facing women, especially gender-based violence and representation of women in media. It pointed out that the epidemic of rhino poaching has been very present in media headlines and coverage - showing an increase in deaths from 133 in 2009 to 333 in 2010 - but that in the same period, 197,000 cases of crimes against women were reported to police, including murder, attempted murder, common assault, sexual offences and assault to cause grievous bodily harm.
Kenya: Kenya could pay high price over anti-ICC stance
Kenya may be headed for its most significant confrontation with Western allies since the early 1990s if the government persists in its defiant reaction to the International Criminal Court’s requests for cooperation. 'There can be no doubt that the international community shares the desire by the broad majority of Kenyans for justice to be done to end the culture of impunity,' says Kenya National Commission on Human Rights commissioner Hassan Omar. 'If the government continues to block these efforts, it is natural that there will be consequences.'
Kenya: Why ICC judge refused to issue summons
The International Criminal Court judge who declined to issue summonses to six Kenyans suspected of being behind the post-election violence says the cases should be dealt with locally. In his dissenting opinion published on Tuesday (15 March) night, Judge Hans-Peter Kaul said that Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had not convinced him that the crimes committed in Kenya meet the threshold of crimes against humanity.
Libya: Libya undertakes arrests to crush protests, says Human Rights Watch
Libyan security forces have launched a wave of 'arbitary arrests and forced disappearances' in the capital to stamp out protests against Muammar Gaddafi's rule, Human Rights Watch has said. The New York-based group said it compiled evidence from Tripoli residents of scores of people being detained if they helped organise or took part in anti-government protests, or if they were suspected of speaking to foreign media.
Morocco: Rights body reformed
Responding to pressure from citizens, Morocco is taking steps to reform its human rights institutions. The Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH) will become the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), but it is more than just a change of name. The March 3rd royal decree boosts the independence of the council and creates regional authorities for protecting human rights.
Nigeria: Niger Delta communities call for oil industry regulation
Oil bearing and hosting communities of the Niger Delta, Nigeria's main oil and gas basin, and Environmental Rights Action (ERA) concluded a meeting in Effurun, Delta State, resolving to mount pressure on the Federal Government to urgently regulate oil activities in the country. In a communique, the two parties explained why government should regulate the extractive industry. According to them, 'the Nigerian Government should exercise its statutory powers to regulate oil and other extractive industry activities to bring an end to impunity and environmental degradation in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country.'
Somaliland: Assessing the human rights environment
This article from Think Africa Press examines the human rights situation in Somaliland. 'If we compare the brutal, systematic repression that characterises governance in Ethiopia and Eritrea, then yes, Somaliland’s government respects the human rights of its citizens. But, if we try to assess the situation objectively Somaliland’s human rights’ gains are both limited and fragile.'
South Africa: An E for equality
The Centre for Constitutional Rights has presented its third annual Human Rights Report Card on South Africa. 'During the past year South Africans have continued to enjoy most of the constitutional rights to which they are entitled. However, proposed legislation and government initiatives raise very serious concerns with regard to some core rights such as freedom of expression; property rights; important aspects of the right to equality; and freedom of trade, occupation and profession; labour relations; and the right to freedom and security of the person,' the report says.
South Africa: Criminalising the livelihoods of the poor
This report from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa examines the impact of attempts to formalise street trading in the City of Durban since 2000 on the livelihood of traders, particularly female and migrant traders. 'Durban has been at the forefront of developing policies to manage and control informal economy activities; however, as the report notes, the effect of the push for formalisation is exclusionary and mimics the influx control regimes of the apartheid administration, which prevented black communities from pursuing business opportunities in central business districts,' says the abstract of the report.
South Africa: Police brutality on the rise
South African police are becoming more brutal by the day, with civil cases against them pushing the contingent liability budget to a whopping R7.5 billion in the last financial year. The Sunday Tribune has revealed that the sharp spike in brutal action by the police has prompted the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) to investigate three times more severe assault cases last year than in 2001.
Zimbabwe: Are South Africans complicit in Zim human rights abuses?
When it comes to Zimbabwe, tough questions lie ahead, not just for South African foreign policymakers, but for the general South African public, says this article from Free African Media. Langton Miriyoga, a Zimbabwean national working for People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty, a community-based non-profit organisation, said: 'South Africans and Zimbabweans living in South Africa can and should do more to put pressure on the South African government to intervene more decisively and proactively to stop Mugabe’s human rights abuses.' He added that people in Zimbabwe are either too scared to do anything, fearing retribution, or have completely bought into the propaganda that there can be no Zimbabwe without the Zanu-PF.
Africa: African asylum seekers in Israel
This paper from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights analyses Israel's response to a recent influx of African asylum seekers. Since early 2006 Israel has become a destination country for thousands of Africans who are willing to take a long and risky journey to Israel. As with other industrialised countries, Israel has responded with a range of exclusionary and at times contradictory policies which aim to control and limit entrance to its territory. Unlike other such countries, however, until very recently Israel did not have an asylum system, and its ongoing institutional evolution is partly a response to the recent influx.
Africa: AU calls for ratification of IDP mechanism
In order to popularise and create awareness, and promote the speedy signature, ratification and domestication of the AU Convention for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, the African Union has decided to convene regional meetings. The first round of consultations will take place in Lilongwe, Malawi for the SADC region from 17 to 18 March 2011. Since its adoption in October 2009 at the Kampala Special Summit on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP's), seven African Union Member States (Uganda, Sierra Leone, Chad, Zambia, Central African Republic, Somalia and Gabon) have ratified the Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDP's.
Lesotho: Migration, remittances and development
This policy series paper from the Southern African Migration Project looks at remittances in Lesotho. 'Lesotho is one of the most migration dependent countries in the world. Migrant remittances are the country’s major source of foreign exchange, accounting for 25 per cent of GDP in 2006. The majority of households and rural communities are dependent on remittances for their livelihood. Households without access to migrant remittances are significantly worse off than those that do have such access.'
Libya: Italy blocks ferry of Moroccans fleeing Libya
Italy has prevented a ferry carrying 1,800 people, mainly Moroccans fleeing the fighting in Libya, from docking in Sicily. The ship had sailed from Tripoli and asked for permission to refuel on the island after being refused entry to Malta, Italian media said. Meanwhile, 41 people are feared drowned after a boat carrying migrants capsized off Tunisia, UN officials say.
Libya: Migrants pour in
The UN estimates that some 60,000 people could come into Niger from Libya in the coming weeks. As of 10 March, 2,205 had arrived - 1,865 of them Nigeriens and the rest from other West African countries - according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Tanzania: Woman kept as slave in the UK
A pensioner has been convicted of trafficking and exploiting an African woman she used as a slave. While it was the first prosecution of its kind, could there be many more cases behind the UK's front doors? Caroline Haughey, prosecuting, told Southwark Crown Court the Tanzanian woman, from her arrival in England, had been 'made to sleep, work and live in conditions that fall by any understanding into that of slavery.'
Tunisia: Migrant workers from Libya face long wait in transit camp
When violence broke out in the western Libyan town of Zawiyah, Bangladeshi migrant worker Mohammed Nienn, 28, was doing a shift as a steelworker. In a hurry to leave, he persuaded his Libyan supervisor to hand back his passport, but not the wages he was due. Then he jumped into a taxi with four other Bangladeshis and headed for the Tunisian border, where a bus eventually took him to Choucha transit camp, 25km from the frontier town of Ras Ajdir. Ten days later, he was still there, waiting for a flight to Dhaka.
Zimbabwe: Failed asylum-seekers face deportation from UK
Thousands of failed Zimbabwean asylum-seekers face deportation back to their home country despite reports of human rights abuses by the Mugabe regime. The move comes after asylum judges ruled there was no evidence that those being returned would generally be at risk of harm, reports the London Independent.
South Africa: Convention to secure decent work for domestic workers
Despite formal recognition of domestic workers' rights in South Africa, they still face a struggle for fair treatment. In June this year, the second and final reading of an International Labour Organisation Convention on the rights of domestic workers will take place. If it is adopted, it would strengthen legal protection for millions of the most vulnerable workers worldwide.
South Africa: Unions urge tribunal to reject Wal-Mart
The Congress of South African Trade Unions has said that South African workers, together with workers representatives from around the globe, will demand that the Competition Tribunal protects the local economy and reject Wal-Mart's unconditional entry into the country. Wal-Mart in November made a R16.5 billion cash offer to acquire 51 per cent of Massmart at R148 per Massmart share - a smaller stake than the initial 100 per cent offer in September.
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...
1. China in Africa
China's Xinjiang Goldwind targets African growth
China's Xinjiang Goldwind Science and Technology, the world's No. 5 maker of wind turbines, opened an office in Cape Town on Monday with the aim of supplying equipment and project finance in Africa. The company, which since the turn of the millenium achieved an average growth of more than 100 percent a year, listed on the Hong Kong bourse late last year and will use the roughly $900 million raised to help fund debt and equity projects in Africa, the Americas and Australia.
Chinese firm lands US$7 billion Chad railway building contract
Chad signed on Monday a US$7-billion (five-billion-euro) contract with China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) to build a railway in the oil-producing nation.
Ghana's gold rush lures Chinese with illicit mines
The groan of excavators, abandoned pits filled with stagnant brown water and the local chief's expensive off-road car hint at the mine tucked away in a bamboo forest in Dikoto, western Ghana. Its gold rush started well before it was given borders and colonially branded the Gold Coast. But record world bullion prices are luring a fresh wave of fortune-seekers -- this time from China. An increasing number of small mines are owned by Ghanaians on paper but controlled illegally by Chinese entrepreneurs, according to miners, concession-owners and security forces interviewed by Reuters during a trip to Ghana's mines belt.
SPDC JV sponsors China – Nigeria business summit
MORE than 160 Nigerian and Chinese companies met in Abuja recently to explore business opportunities in the oil and gas industry. The one day summit, sponsored by The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) operated Joint Venture involved more than 30 visiting delegations from companies such as China National Oil Corporation and China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, who discussed with Nigerian vendors and contractors areas such as skills acquisition, partnerships and execution of oil and gas projects.
China, Zimbabwe economic ties strengthened
China will continue to assist Zimbabwe and strengthen relations between the two countries. China’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Xin Shunkang said economic co-operation agreements to be signed next week were part of fulfilling that objective. The agreements will be signed during Vice Prime Minister Mr Wang Qishan’s visit to Zimbabwe. Vice Premier Wang arrives in Harare on Monday on a two-day visit.
ZANU PF propped up by controversial Chinese businessman
ZANU PF is reportedly being propped up by a controversial Chinese businessman, who has been supplying the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) with the means to keep Robert Mugabe in power. According to South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper, elusive business magnate Sam Pa and CIO chief Happyton Bonyongwe have struck a deal, which sees Pa financing “a covert operation whose purpose is to sustain President Robert Mugabe's regime.” The newspaper quotes “disillusioned intelligence officers and party officials,” who are said to be “unhappy” about how Zimbabwe’s natural resources are being traded for “personal and electoral gain.”
Report counterfeit cases, China tells East Africa
China has advised East African countries to report cases of substandard and counterfeit products and tighten the monitoring of their import gates. The Chinese government is also fighting to control fake and low-quality products at the source to restore confidence on the quality, safety and reliability of their goods. The Chinese fake and substandard goods have flocked the East African Community (EAC) member states, to the extent that it has become difficult for individual governments to fight the trend.
2. India in Africa
India fails in bid to gain stake in Angolan oil field
India’s biggest energy explorer, Oil & Natural Gas (ONGC), has lost a bid to buy Exxon Mobil’s 25% stake in an Angolan oil field, said two sources with knowledge of the matter. The energy explorer, based in New Delhi, had offered about 2bn for the stake in Block 31 off Angola’s coast, said one of the sources. The state-owned energy explorer is leading a drive by India to secure energy supplies overseas as demand for fuels rises in Asia’s second fastest-growing major economy after China. India has told the energy explorer and Oil India to expedite purchases as competition with Chinese companies for resources heats up, said Indian Oil Secretary S Sundareshan.
India, Nigeria to boost economic, energy ties
India and Nigeria, Africa's largest oil-producing country and the continent's most populous nation, will hold wide-ranging talks Wednesday to boost their economic and energy ties. Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia arrived in India Tuesday afternoon on a four-day visit, during which he will discuss ways to improve economic linkages as well as important regional issues. Ajumogobia will co-chair the fifth meeting of the India-Nigeria Joint Commission on March 16. The Indian delegation will be led by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
3. In Other Emerging Powers News
Mojo to Gain Two New Tanneries
The two new tanneries under construction in Modjo are expected to become operational within the next six months. The tanneries are being constructed by two foreign companies, Baoding Jeronimo Fur Product Co from China and Farida Group from India, in the dusty and sleepy town situated 73km southeast of Addis Ababa. It would be the first in Africa for Farida Group, an exporter of leather and leather footwear. Construction started on three hectares at an estimated cost of about four million dollars, on February 1, 2011.
Bric will be boon for SA trade, exports
South Africa's membership to the Bric group of emerging economies will add value to the country's trade and exports, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday. "(It) will actively promote trade and investment which enhances industrialisation and promotes job creation," said Zuma. He was responding to a question in the National Assembly about the benefits of being a member of the Brazil, Russia, India and China grouping. South Africa joining the bloc would take it from Bric to Bricsa. Brics is an acronym used to describe the five leading economic regions emerging in the global economy.
India abstains from Libya vote, fears it may worsen situation
As the Security Council authorised the use of force in Libya, India abstained from the vote out of a concern that the measures may not worsen the Libyan people's woes. 'We had to ensure that the measures will mitigate and not exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya,' India's Deputy Permanent Representative Manjeev Singh Puri said in explanation of its vote. 'Clarity in the resolution on any spill-over affects of these measures would have been very important,' he said.
China voices "serious reservations" on Libya no-fly decision
China said on Friday it has "serious reservations" about a U.N. decision calling for a no-fly zone over strife-torn Libya, but held back from blocking the resolution because of the demands of Arab and African countries. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu laid out Beijing's worries after the Security Council passed the resolution authorising the no-fly zone over Libya as well as "all necessary measures", a term for military action, to protect civilians against leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces.
MTN says to invest $1bn in Nigeria network
The Nigerian arm of Africa's biggest mobile phone operator MTN said on Friday it plans to invest $1-billion over the next year to expand its network in the continent's most populous nation. Mobile phone operators are boosting capacity to defend market share in sub-Saharan Africa's second-biggest economy as increased competition changes the industry landscape. On Thursday, Etisalat Nigeria said it had sealed a $650-million syndicated loan agreement with eight local banks to expands its mobile phone network.
Go for technology deals from China and India, Africa urged
African countries have been advised to negotiate for technology from China and India in exchange for resources, rather than exporting raw materials to earn foreign currency. The advise was given by Prof Mwesiga Baregu of St Augustine University of Tanzania in a paper titled: “Africa-China Engagement: An Historical Opportunity,” at a two-day ninth Eastern Africa media training under the theme; “Is East Africa ready for China, India and Europe?” According to Prof Baregu, the raw materials which Africa still has are in high demand in China and India. Conversely, the continent suffers from a big deficit in technology which is available in the Asian countries.
Brazil preparing plan to stimulate industry and cut knick-knack Chinese imports
Brazil imports too many knick-knacks from China complained Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who next month makes an official state visit to the Asian giant, according to reports in the Sao Paulo press. President Rousseff concerned over the misbalance in trade with China President Rousseff concerned over the misbalance in trade with China Last Friday President Rousseff met with labour leaders and said she was concerned with the misbalance in trade with China.
India world's largest arms importer, China second
India has emerged as the world's largest arms importer overtaking China which shared the second spot with South Korea followed by Pakistan, according to a report by a Swedish think-tank. "India is the world's largest arms importer," according to new data on international arms transfers published on Monday by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). "India received 9 per cent of the volume of international arms transfers during 2006-10, with Russian deliveries accounting for 82 per cent of Indian arms imports," it said in a comprehensive annual update of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database.
Standard eyes new partnership in Russia
THE body language of Standard Bank group CEO Jacko Maree on Friday was evident even though he was facing the media via a video link while seated thousands of kilometres away in a conference room in Moscow. He appeared tired but seemed relieved to announce Standard has given up on its ambitions to remain invested in Troika Dialog, the investment bank in which it spent $300m in 2009 to buy a stake of 36,4%. He said Standard would get $372m in cash from the sale of its shareholding to Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and also the market leader in central and eastern Europe.
4. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Money, minerals make for Africa-China marriage
China has been Africa's No. 1 investor for years and its newly affluent could soon follow by sending large flows of cash into the quickly emerging continent looking for better returns than in Asia. But any money that comes from private investors in China and other parts of Asia will pale in comparison to the billions of dollars Beijing has sent as it looks to secure the mineral resources it needs to power its hard-charging economy. Zambia President Rupiah Banda said China understands Africa better than most of the world and has proved itself a trusted ally. His country, with a World Bank-estimated $12.7 billion GDP in 2009, is expected to see about $2.4 billion in Chinese investment this year. "They have big, big industries with great appetites for what Africa has to offer," Banda told the Reuters Africa Investment Summit this week. "In the process, they are making it easier for us to achieve what we want. What we want is to rebuild our countries."
The Lure of Brazilian Agriculture
Countries with large territories such as Canada, China, and the United States are hosts to significant levels of inward FDI in agriculture. South American countries attract FDI in grains, sugar, fruits, soy and livestock while for Central American countries it is mostly fruits and sugar can. In Africa, foreign investors have shown a particular interest in staple crops such as rice, wheat and in oil crops whereas FDI in South Asia has targeted production of rice and wheat. Other Asian regions have concentrated more on cash crops, meat and poultry. This recent upswing in domestic private and foreign participation in agricultural industries has come about as a result of several factors.
Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Takes Interview by Zambian National TV
Li Qiangming, Chinese Ambassador to Zambia, accepted an exclusive interview from Zambian National TV (ZNBC), the most important official media in Zambia. In the interview, Ambassador Li answered questions on China’s nature of being a developing country, its status as the second-largest economy in the world, and economic and trade co-operations with Zambia, among others.
Africa: A guide to protests
With the number of protests happening in the Middle East and North Africa, it's sometimes hard to keep track of what is happening. This page from National Public Radio looks at which countries have seen protests and provides details on the state of each country.
Algeria: Protests risk losing momentum
Organisation errors by the protest movement and clever manoeuvres by the government are strongly challenging the pro-democracy protests in Algeria. It is unsure when new protests will be held. In February, a newly formed National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD) took charge of the protest movement, strongly inspired by the successes of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt. One month later, the CNCD shows strong signs of weakness and fragmentation and is unable to gather large crowds to what was supposed to become weekly, or even daily, mass protests.
Angola: Preemptive manoeuver cancels 'revolution'
A week after the date of the revolution supposed to 'dethrone' Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos and his royal court, the situation in the country appears calm. It is as if there had never even been a call for revolution, reports Global Voices. The actions of the State contributed greatly to this. A preemptive manoeuvre involved putting troops at the ready and convened pro-MPLA rallies from Cabinda to Cunene.
Djibouti: Opposition boycotts election
As the deadline to register candidates for Djibouti's 8 April presidential election has passed, no opposition candidates have registered. The boycott comes as further anti-government protests are planned. Sources confirmed that there will be only two names on the ballot paper: the incumbent President Ismaël Omar Guelleh and Mohammed Warsama, the former President of the Constitutional Court and an ally of President Guelleh.
Equatorial Guinea: Transparency and accountability in Equatorial Guinea
EG Justice has released a policy paper titled 'Transparency and Accountability in Equatorial Guinea: Policy Recommendations for the Obama Administration'. The paper outlines the ongoing political and economic challenges confronting Equatorial Guinea, including corruption, a lack of respect for civil liberties, democratic procedures, and the rule of law, and the inability of civil society organisations to operate freely without government intervention.
Nigeria: Scores injured ahead of rally
Police fired gunshots and tear gas on 21 March to disperse a tense crowd that gathered near the site of a leading opposition candidate’s election rally in the volatile Nigerian city of Jos. A number of what appeared to be wounded people were also being taken in the direction of a hospital by police in the city in central Nigeria.
Sudan: South Sudan suspends Khartoum talks
Southern Sudan has suspended talks on independence with the north's National Congress Party, accusing the north of planning to overthrow the south's administration. Pagan Amum, the secretary-general of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), reiterated the accusation on Sunday (13 March), saying that the northern government was arming local tribes to use as proxy forces.
Zambia: Banda warns pro-parallel vote tabulation of criminal charges
President Rupiah Banda has cautioned Zambians to refrain from conducting parallel vote tabulation (PVT) in elections due later this year. Zambia’s main opposition party – the Patriotic Front (PF), other opposition parties, and influential civil society groups are planning to conduct PVT to counter-check the results. The Banda-administration reacted angrily and threatened to file a complaint against US Ambassador to Zambia Mark Storella after the envoy endorsed the PVT system.
South Africa: Constitutional Court rules on disbanded crime unit
The highest court of the land has ruled invalid the law enacted to disband the former elite crime-fighting unit, the Directorate of Special Operations (or 'the Scorpions'). The Court’s two main findings are that: first, the state is constitutionally bound to 'establish and maintain an independent body to combat corruption and organised crime'; and second, that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation ('the Hawks') established after the disbanding of the Scorpions 'does not meet the constitutional requirement of adequate independence' and is 'insufficiently insulated from political influence in its structure and functioning'.
Africa: EU agriculture policy and the tools protecting European farmers
The European Union (EU) uses a plethora of policy instruments to protect its agricultural sector and to ensure that European farmers, despite having higher production costs, are still able to continue production for both the European and export markets. This paper from the South Centre provides a snapshot of these instruments and also gives an overview of the new instruments that are increasingly being used resulting from the on-going reforms in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Africa: Governing development in Africa - the role of the state
Africa has sustained a relatively high growth rate since the turn of the century, averaging more than five per cent per year. This performance improvement, widely shared across countries, raised hopes of a possible turnaround, compared to the stagnation of the previous two decades. Yet this growth did not result in significant creation of employment or wealth or improved welfare for ordinary Africans, says this UNECA issues paper. One of the key explanations for this non-inclusive growth pattern is Africa’s heavy dependence on primary commodity production and exports and limited economic transformation.
Africa: Raising government revenue a way out of poverty
Governments in Africa have a prime objective - to reduce poverty. This costs money. Raising tax revenues is a necessary element for governments to spend on providing more of these essential services and, in turn, reduce poverty. But while African countries have made important strides in boosting revenue collection in recent years they continue to lag behind most other regions.
Africa: UN official urges good management of African resources for economic growth
African governments must ensure transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources, including oil, to generate revenue for growth through diversifying economies, a United Nations official told delegates at an industrial policy conference in Ghana. 'African leaders must have bold visions and good planning,' Kandeh K. Yumkella, the Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), told delegates attending the two-day conference in Accra entitled 'Competitiveness and Diversification: Strategic Challenges in a Petroleum-Rich Economy'.
North Africa: North Africa revolts prompt ADB review
The African Development Bank is reviewing its funding to North African countries to focus on projects that boost jobs and reduce poverty after popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia forced the collapse of governments. 'Like all development partners in Tunisia, we were caught by surprise,' Donald Kaberuka, president of the bank, said. 'We are having now to recalibrate our policies for North Africa, to try and address the issues of poverty and social exclusion.'
Africa: 'We Cannot Leave Lives of Nationals to Development Partners'
As donors retreat from funding HIV prevention and treatment, the vulnerability of national programmes reliant on external funding has become apparent. Without long-term sustainability, the lives of millions could be at risk. In the run-up to this year’s UN High-Level meeting on HIV/AIDS, activists from East and Southern Africa are calling on governments to take increased ownership of these programmes to ensure treatment continues after donor funds have gone.
Africa: UNAIDS, activists urge countries to get clever with TRIPS
UNAIDS has released a new policy brief to help countries make intellectual property rights work for them, amid growing concern that an impending free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and India could threaten the world's supply of generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. The UNAIDS brief, published on 15 March, noted that few developing countries had exercised this right and cited a lack of capacity to deal with the complicated legal paperwork required. Nevertheless, the flexibility afforded by TRIPS has brought increased competition, helping to lower the cost of first-line generic ARVs by as much as 99 per cent in the last decade.
Kenya: Pneumonia vaccine rollout will protect millions
The Kenyatta International Conference Centre resembled one big nursery with parents and their crying babies. 'We’ve started the global rollout of these (pneumonia) vaccines that will save thousands of children’s lives. It is a very exciting day,' said Helen Evans, interim CEO of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI). The vaccine, already available in various private hospitals, has remained out of reach for many children. A full dose costs about 188 dollars, which for the many Kenyans living on less than a dollar a day is too expensive.
Kenya: Testing the integration of HIV and public healthcare
HIV could lose its 'special status' in Kenya's health system if a new pilot programme integrating HIV care and public healthcare proves successful. Traditionally, public hospitals in Kenya have a 'comprehensive care clinic' (CCC) dedicated to people living with HIV; under the new system, these would no longer exist. For more than six months, the Ministry of Health and its partners have been piloting the move in Western Province; senior government officials say it will not reduce the focus on HIV, but will ease pressure on an already overburdened and understaffed health system.
Southern Africa: Glimmer of justice for sick gold miners
Years of working in poorly ventilated mines, inhaling silica dust - present in high concentrations in deep-level gold mines - can lead to silicosis, a crippling and progressive disease caused by scarring of the lungs. A study of former gold mine workers by the Aurum Institute, a non-profit health research organisation, found that nearly 25 per cent had silicosis. The disease has no cure and sufferers are also more prone to tuberculosis (TB). Now, two court cases have thrown a spotlight on the predicament of hundreds of thousands of former mineworkers in southern Africa who have received little or no compensation for occupational lung diseases.
Uganda: ART reduces HIV transmission in discordant couples, says study
Antiretroviral treatment significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission between married couples where one partner is infected and the other is not, according to a recent study in Uganda. The retrospective study, published in the official Journal of the International AIDS Society in February, followed 250 HIV-discordant couples in the central Ugandan district of Rakai between 2004 and 2009. During the study period, 32 HIV-positive partners started ART.
Zambia: Corruption scandal rocks ARV programme
When the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria suspended funding to Zambia in late 2010 it made international headlines and rocked donor confidence, but the stock-outs and drug rationing in the wake of the scandal have received little attention. In March 2009 a whistle blower's allegations of corruption in the Zambian Ministry of Health (MoH) triggered an investigation by the auditor general, and a web of corruption in the health sector began to unravel. The audit found that the largely donor-funded ministry could not account for more than US$7.2 million, about five per cent of which was estimated to have come from Global Fund coffers.
Africa: Research into higher education busts myths
Major research into African universities has been 'myth-busting', says Professor Peter Maassen of the University of Oslo, co-author of a new report on higher education and development on the continent. The study revealed that flagship universities in eight African countries are more similar to institutions elsewhere than is generally perceived, with well-qualified staff, positive student-to-staff ratios, and rising enrolments including in science, engineering and technology.
Madagascar: No more free primary schooling
The burden of paying for education in Madagascar has shifted to the poor after donor funding was frozen in the wake of a coup on 17 March 2009. About 70 per cent of the education sector had been funded by donor countries, but since Andry Rajoelina seized power from former President Marc Ravalomanana with the backing of the military, state financial support to the education sector has become erratic.
South Africa: Cry for better education
About 20,000 pupils from various schools across Cape Town marched on Parliament on 21 March, appealing to the Department of Education to build libraries and to adopt 'norms and standards' for all schools in the country. The huge turnout at the Equal Education event rivalled the government's rally featuring President Jacob Zuma, which took place just 10km away at Athlone Stadium. The march was part of Equal Education's campaign to put pressure on the national education Ministry to build infrastructure, including libraries, at schools.
Africa: Homophobia pervasive in Africa’s media, despite campaigns
The African Same-Sex Sexualities and Gender Diversity conference was recently held in Pretoria. The conference coordinator was none other than Vasu Reddy, co-editor of 'The Country We Want to Live In' and 'From Social Silence to Social Science'. Reddy said at the conference that Africa is a 'continent where, despite some positive changes in a few countries, same-sex sexualities and gender diversity remain deeply steeped in cultural prejudice and stigma'. Ironically, this is revealed in the media reportage of the event.
Mali: Homophobia, stigmatisation hamper HIV fight
Religious practices, cultural beliefs and stigmatisation by the general population hamper access to health care and HIV/Aids prevention for Malian Men who have Sex with other Men (MSM) and force them into bisexuality or underground sexual practices that put them at high risk of Sexually Transmitted and HIV infections, says Dr Dembelé Bintou Keita, Director of ARCAD/SIDA, an HIV/Aids organisation that also provides health care for MSM in Mali.
South Africa: Protests against rape of lesbians
Rights activists are speaking out against rapes targeting lesbians in South Africa. About 25 demonstrators rallied outside Parliament on Monday while their leaders met with government representatives. Luleki Sizwe - which means guide a nation - is a small group of lesbian activists in the townships of Cape Town who also circulated an online petition calling on Justice Minister Jeff Radebe 'to address 'corrective rape'.
Mozambique: Exchange programme addresses xenophobia
Eight South Africans and 10 Mozambicans, aged between 18 to 25, gathered in Maputo in mid-December to give feedback on a pilot exchange programme of volunteers between the two countries. The Southern Africa Trust and AFS Interculture South Africa established SayXchange in response to the 2008 xenophobic violence in South Africa in an attempt to build regional integration and nurture future leaders. The volunteers, who worked with several NGOs during their stay, lived with host families for five months.
Kenya: Community turns garbage into energy source
A community-based organisation in the Kenyan slum area of Kibera set out to clean up garbage and deal with waste water; Ushiriki Wa Safi ended up creating a community cooker that turns waste into an energy source.
South Africa: Is nuclear the way to go?
As the nuclear crisis unfolds in Japan, Democracy Now! reports from South Africa on the government’s plan to triple the country’s nuclear fleet in order to meet rising energy demand. Democracy Now! speaks with South African nuclear expert David Fig, who says, 'We need to really assess as a country whether we want to go down the nuclear road for further energy purposes.' Democracy Now! also speaks to Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa, who says that the country’s significant potential for solar and wind energy should be developed.
South Africa: Customary law, democratic decentralisation and women's land rights
A recent Constitutional Court judgment rendering the Communal Land Rights Act (CLARA) unconstitutional must not be allowed to throw decentralisation policy making into disarray, says this policy brief from Sindiso Mnisi of the Law, Race and Gender Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. 'Decentralisation holds much potential for lively, participatory democratic law making and enforcement, through which rural women can gain greater power and secure more rights. However, there are many challenges in the often fraught context of decentralised law and power.'
Global: Farmers must be weaned off using oil, says UN expert
Reducing farmers' dependence on oil will be key to feeding the world's rapidly expanding population in the face of climate change and rising fuel prices, the United Nations' special rapporteur has said. In an interview to coincide with the release of his report on feeding the world in the 21st century, Olivier De Schutter said promoting natural production techniques is the only sustainable way to guard against future crises and stop food prices increasing in-line with oil.
Malawi: Farmers save time and money by preserving local seeds
Grace Mwalabu lives in Chikalogwe, Balaka District, in southern Malawi. On a warm day, she stands smearing cucumber seeds on the outside wall of her kitchen. She explains, 'It is our tradition. I smear them one or two metres from the ground. The advantage is that the seeds dry quickly, do not rot and survive the dry season.' Hybrid seeds are popular in some areas of Malawi. They often yield more than local varieties. But they are expensive. Farmers need to buy them every year, so they are dependant on seed companies and distributors. They know that saving local seeds from harvest is cheaper and more reliable, reports Farm Radio Weekly.
Mali: Peasant resistance to land grabs
In the face of intimidation and repression, peasant farmers from all parts of the country came together in November 2010 in Kolongo, Mali to publicly denounce land grabs. They also announced a collective plan to: identify and document cases of land dispossession and human rights violations; widely disseminate information about land grabbing at home and abroad; and pursue legal action to defend land and human rights in national, regional and international courts.
Mali: Soaring grain prices worry farmers
From a distance, the mud houses in the village of Gwélékoro appear to sit in the middle of the fields, which are bare in this dry season. Farmers gathered their harvests last November. Now they patiently wait for the next rains, expected between June and July. But despite the apparent tranquility, farmers are worried. Life is difficult this year in this village 60 kilometres south of Bamako, the capital of Mali. Not only was the harvest poor, but cereal prices have jumped significantly, reports Farm Radio Weekly.
Bénin: Media regulatory body suspends nine newspapers for one week
Benin’s media regulatory body, the Higher Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAAC) on 10 March suspended, for a week, nine privately-owned newspapers in the country over false and abusive publications. The newspapers have been barred from publishing since 14 March.They are, however, expected back on the newsstands on 20 March.
Cote d’ Ivoire: Pro-Gbagbo FDS attack media and journalists
The Defence and Security Forces (FDS) loyal to Laurent Gbagbo on 15 March renewed their threats and attack on L’Intelligent d’Abidjan, an independent daily newspaper. The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that the Anti-Riot Squad (BAE) wing of the FDS surrounded the neighborhood of the newspaper’s head office in Angré (Cocody). This affected the operations of the newspaper and movement of the journalists within and outside of the premises.
Global: The new media, revolution and repression
'Although the Internet is certainly used by dissidents, it is also used by the authorities to relay regime propaganda and enforce a police state,' says this report from Reporters Without Borders on the use of Twitter and Facebook in recent popular uprisings. 'The Internet remains above all a tool used for the better or the worse. In the most closed countries, it creates a space of freedom which would not otherwise exist. Its potential to disseminate news irritates dictators and eludes traditional censorship methods.'
Libya: How Small World News captures news on the ground
Armed with a few Kodak Zi8 cameras, 6 HTC Wildfire mobile phones, energy, expertise in training citizen journalists, Small World News is working to share stories from Libya with the larger world. Small World News is on the ground in Benghazi training Libyans to capture and tell video stories of events in this volatile region. Along the way, the team has also captured footage that no other main stream media outlet has been able to get.
Nigeria: Political adverts dominate airwaves
Since the unveiling of the 2011 political campaigns, the Nigerian media landscape has been very busy. Nigeria comprises 36 states and Abuja, and there is at least one television station each, as well as a handful of privately owned television houses. Lagos State, being home to almost every ethnicity in Nigeria, has the biggest share of these stations, more so considering its status as the former capital. To avoid political conflicts in campaign strategies, most politicians prefer to go to the private television stations for their television commercials, otherwise known as TVCs, says this article from Free African Media.
Swaziland: Swazi government bans BBC live broadcast in Swaziland
The government of Swaziland has banned the daily live transmission of BBC Focus on Africa programme after one of the news clips, broadcast through the English channel of the state radio, Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS), was critical of government. The programme broadcast daily in the mornings, mid-day and evenings has been off air for the past week. The state radio has been running apologies to listeners of the programme for its absence, stating that it was due to technical problems.
DRC: Malnutrition in the land of plenty
'There is a critical need for greater investment to support agriculture and livestock production in the area. In particular, policies should promote the local production of food with improved nutritional value, especially among the poorest groups,' says a Save the Children briefing investigating why it is that a fertile and agriculturally productive region like the DRC that can produce a variety of foods is the very same region where child stunting has reached a staggering rate of 50 per cent.
Côte d’Ivoire: Pro-Ouattara forces take fifth town in west
Soldiers supporting Côte d’Ivoire's internationally recognised president-elect Alassane Ouattara seized the western city of Bloléquin on Monday. A spokesman of the New Forces former rebel group Mara Laciné said Bloléquin is under their control after 'fierce fighting' on Sunday night. The New Forces, who mainly support Mr Ouattara, control the north but have advanced on western towns neighbouring Liberia.
Libya: Explosions rock Libyan capital
Loud explosions have rocked the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for a third night as forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi attempt to stop any new attack from an international military coalition enforcing a no-fly zone over the country. Gunfire and anti-aircraft fire lit up the sky late on Monday in and around the capital, where two large explosions could be heard about 10 minutes apart shortly after 9pm, said Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from Tripoli.
Libya: Regional Support Erodes for Air War on Libya
With the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) imposing a no-fly zone in the airspace of Libya by a predicted 10-0, no one stopped to ask what ends the means of military force hoped to achieve. As the United States and its allies, notably France and Britain, enter their third consecutive day of ferocious air strikes against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s ground controls Monday, this vital question remains unanswered, a vacuum that is swiftly filling up with fears that the UNSCR may have left too much wiggle room for powerful Western states with a notorious track record of invasion and occupation.
Nigeria: Militants claim oil strike, army blames youths
A Nigerian militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on an Agip oil facility in the Niger Delta on Wednesday (16 March), but the military said it was an isolated incident carried out by local youths. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in a statement emailed to media that its fighters had carried out the attack on the Clough Creek oil flow station late on Tuesday and warned of more strikes on energy infrastructure.
Somalia: AU claims Somalia operation success
A major offensive by African Union troops in Somalia, in which dozens of peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda were killed, reclaimed 'significant' territory from insurgents, an African Union envoy has said. Burundi has announced that at least 43 of its soldiers were killed, but Uganda has yet to acknowledge any deaths.
Sudan: Deadly clashes in south Sudan
Heavy fighting between rebels and the south Sudanese army in the oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile, has left at least 70 people dead, according to an army spokesman. At least 30 soldiers and 11 rebels died in clashes that broke out on Thursday morning in Mayom county, in Unity state, Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the south's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), said.
Uganda: Museveni attacks West over Libya
President Museveni has hit out at members of the United Nations Security Council who voted in support of imposing a no-fly-zone over Libya, describing their actions as evidence of the 'double standards' that they employ on countries where their interests are threatened. Museveni warned that the habit of the Western countries abusing their technological superiority to impose war on less developed societies 'without impeachable logic' could re-ignite an arms race in the world.
Uganda: Elections deal blow to science-supporting MPs
Many of Uganda's most science-supportive parliamentarians lost their positions in last month's general election (18 February). Ten MPs, all scientists by training, lost their seats. They had been instrumental in influencing policy and financial appropriations for scientific research.
Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation 'Development Dialogue' available
The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation has just published its latest 'Development Dialogue' (no. 55/March 2011) on 'Dealing with crimes against humanity'. It is the third volume in a series with a thematic
focus on genocide and mass violence. Its contributions deal among others with the jurisdiction of the Rwanda tribunal, with sexual violence, the Responsibility to Protect and the Crimes Against
Humanity Initiative. The volume is freely accessible through the weblink provided.
Call for contributions: second conflict trends issue of 2011
African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD)
The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) is presently soliciting contributions for the second Conflict Trends Issue of 2011 (CT 2011, Issue 2). This will be a Special Issue on 'Climate Change, Environment and Conflict' and we welcome submissions on any topic related to this larger theme. Although not a requirement we would prefer articles with an Africa context/focus (specific case/country focus, or through the use of relevant examples or case comparisons). Articles must be 2,500-3,000 words in length. The deadline for submission of fully completed articles is 18 April 2011. Should you wish to submit an article for publication consideration in this Issue please refer to the Guidelines for Contributors (available on the ACCORD website www.accord.org.za) Articles must be submitted to The Managing Editor, Venashri Pillay, at email@example.com Articles selected will be awarded honorariums upon publication.
Legal Defence Fund
Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), with the financial support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, is operating a fund for individuals/groups litigating cases before the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights. The fund covers travel, accommodation and other related expenses.
Legal Defence Fund
Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), with the financial support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, is operating a fund for individuals/groups litigating cases before the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights. The fund covers travel, accommodation and other related expenses. Applicants to this fund must fulfill the following criteria:
• Must be a national/organisation of an ECOWAS state, Cameroon, Chad or Mauritania;
• Must have a communication before the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACmHPR) [cases before the ACmHPR are referred to as ‘communications’].
Applications should consist of the following:
• An application letter;
• Description of the communication including detailed information on the progress of your communication with the ACHPR - approximately 800 words;
• Evidence of nationality [e.g. copy of ID, NGO or company registration document].
Applications should be addressed to:
Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA),
949 Brusubi Layout, AU Summit Highway,
PO Box 1896, Banjul, The Gambia.
Email applications should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject line: “Application for Legal Defence Fund – 49th African
Deadline for applications for the 49th Ordinary Session of the ACmHPR that will take place in Banjul, The Gambia from 28 April-12 May 2011, is Monday 4th April 2011.
Libya: Libya in videos
Visit this multimedia page on www.liveleak.com for the latest videos on the situation in Libya.
Call for papers: International interdisciplinary colloquium on traducture
Windsor, 27 – 29 May 2011
The SIDENSI/IKM/ESAACH international interdisciplinary colloquium on traducture aims to create an intercultural dialogue on the significance of the dynamics of translation as a lever for knowledge management in international development and the question of power. Its purpose is to bring together translation and knowledge management practitioners and networks, researchers, policy makers, advocacy agents, academics, practitioners and end users to share insights, experiences, strategies, knowledge, techniques and the use of traducture, personnel, artefacts, tools and methodologies.
Lesbian and Gay Equality Project/Movement Building Programme Officer
The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project is looking to employ an experienced, highly productive and effective individual as its Executive Director and another as the Movement Building Programme Officer
The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project is looking to employ an experienced, highly productive and effective individual as its Executive Director and another as the Movement Building Programme Officer.
Roles and responsibilities:
The Executive Director is required to implement the strategy and vision of the organisation. In this role, the individual will be required to have the ability and capacity to undertake strategic implementation, high-level planning, programme development, effective implementation, fundraising, financial management, staff management, representation of the organisation in public, alliance building and networking.
The Movement Building Programme Officer will be required to drive the implementation of the LGEP's core programme. This will include education, the building of critical consciousness, social mobilisation, support for LGBTI movement building, alliance building and the mobilisation of diverse resources for movement building.
Minimum requirements for the Executive Director:
- Five to seven years of working experience, at least three of them in a management position, within the NGO/development/union/human rights/public sector or other relevant experience.
- A clear understanding of the socio-political and economic realities of South Africa and, in particular, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sexed communities (Knowledge and understanding of the LGBTI community is an advantage but not a necessity.)
- Knowledge, understanding and experience in policy and law reform, movement building, political education and NGO management.
- Experience in financial management and fundraising
- Excellent leadership, cognitive, writing and presentation skills
- A Bachelor’s level degree or equivalent experience
Minimum requirements for the Movement Building Programme Officer:
- At least five years working with organizations at community level.
- An understanding of a range of communities in a South African context (Knowledge and understanding of the LGBTI community is an advantage but not a necessity.)
- A proven ability to conceptualise and implement a programme that builds solidarity within a community
- Some experience in fundraising for specific projects
For more details, please contact Gabi Jiyane on 011 487 3810/1.
All applications must be submitted by 5pm on Friday, 1st April 2011 to email@example.com and fax: 011 487 2332 or 086 652 9523.
Institute of Peace Leadership and Governance (IPLG) at Africa University
The Institute of Peace Leadership and Governance (IPLG) at Africa University seeks to contribute to a culture of peace, good governance, security and socio-economic development in Africa through research, teaching, networking and community-level action.
A United Methodist-related institution
'Investing in Africa's future'
The Institute of Peace Leadership and Governance (IPLG) at Africa University seeks to contribute to a culture of peace, good governance, security and socio-economic development in Africa through research, teaching, networking and community-level action. IPLG provides a focus for training, research and documentation in the areas of peace, leadership and governance in Africa with a view to developing the skills of students and practitioners in these areas. IPLG invites applicants for the following positions:
A. Lectureship Positions
1. Lecturer/ Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor/Professor in Human Rights
Duties and responsibilities
This position involves a mix of teaching and administrative responsibilities.
• Develop and update curricula in Human Rights and Rule of Law and related fields.
• Teach the theory and practice of Human Rights.
• Contribute to the core research programme in Human Rights and other areas
• Mentor, supervise and train students in Human Rights promotion and policy development.
• Supervise students’ research projects and dissertations.
• Engage in scholarly research academic activities in the broader fields of Human Rights and Rule of Law.
• Promote public and outreach events in the discipline of Human Rights and Rule of Law.
• Facilitate training, workshops, seminars and executive courses in Human Rights and Rule of Law
• Attend IPLG meetings and University Committee meetings.
• Develop and coordinate projects on Human Rights and related areas
• Perform any other functions from time to time as required
Qualifications and Experience
University doctorate degree in Law, Social/Political Science, International Relations, International Law/Humanitarian Law or a related field.
• Demonstration of ability to contribute to the Institute’s research profile and an outstanding record of research and publication in the broader fields of Human Rights.
• Teaching experience at graduate level.
• At least 5 years international experience working in human rights arena will be considered an advantage
• Experience in human rights practice including experience of working with multi-lateral, government or non-government human rights organisations.
Applicants must have strong networking skills in order to work with the local, regional and international, human rights, peace and justice organisations. Be conversant with human rights instruments and institutions in Africa as well as internationally. Ability to work as team and respect for diversity.
2. Lecturer/ Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor/Professor in Leadership and Governance
Duties and responsibilities
This position involves a mix of teaching and administrative responsibilities.
• Develop and update curricula in the discipline of Leadership and Governance.
• Teach the theory and practice of Leadership and Governance.
• Contribute to the core research programme in field of Leadership and related areas.
• Mentor, supervise and train students in Leadership Development and Analysis.
• Supervise students’ research projects and dissertations.
• Engage in scholarly research and academic activities.
• Promote public and outreach activities in the discipline.
• Facilitate training, workshops, seminars and executive courses in Leadership Development and Governance
• Attend IPLG meetings and University Committee meetings.
• Develop and coordinate projects in the area of Leadership Development, Governance and related fields.
• Perform any other functions from time to time as required.
Qualifications and Experience
• University doctorate degree in any of the following areas of discipline Management, Leadership, Administration, Governance, or a related field.
• Proven ability to contribute to the institutes’ research profile and an outstanding record of research and publication in human rights.
• Teaching experience at university graduate level
• At least 5 years experience working in Leadership Development, Management or Governance
• Experience working in a leadership position.
Applicants must have strong networking skills in order to work with the local, regional and international public and private sector organisations as well as civil society. Strong candidates will be conversant with Leadership development in Africa. Other desirable skills are the ability to work in a team and respect for diversity.
Commensurate with qualifications and experience. Lectureship positions are full-time and appointment will be made at an appropriate level based on qualifications.
All positions report to IPLG Director. These Terms of Reference are approximate, and in no case limited to the functions hereby specified. IPLG and the University authorities reserve their right to include the modifications they consider necessary to optimize the implementation of the project.
The following submissions are required:
• 6 copies of a cover letter stating how the applicant meets the requirements of the post and addressing each of the elements of the job requirements and personal specifications.
• 6 copies of full curriculum vitae, including particulars of qualifications, employment history and current salary, and the names and contact details of three referees who may be contacted immediately.
• 6 sets of certified academic and professional certificates and degree transcripts.
Applicants together with CV, 6 copies of certified certificates. Academic transcripts and at least three names of referees with their email and postal addresses should be forwarded to:
Assistant Registrar- Personnel and Administration
Closing date 25 March, 2011
Correspondence will be made to short listed candidates only.
Africa: WikiLeaks' cables spurred Arab uprisings, says Assange
Publishing US diplomatic cables helped shape uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has said. The computer expert, who infuriated the US government by publishing thousands of the secret cables, said the leaks may have persuaded some authoritarian regimes that they could not rely on US support if military force was used on protesters.
Kenya: Kibaki maintained he won elections - WikiLeaks
President Kibaki told the United States Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Fraser at the height of post election violence that he won the disputed 2007 elections squarely. Kibaki maintained he had won the December 2007 elections fairly and since the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya had declared him winner of the presidential elections, only the courts could make him relinquish power in case they ruled otherwise. According to a diplomatic cable dated 29 January 2008 and now released by Wikileaks, Kibaki said this during two meetings he held with former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Jendayi Frazer and US ambassador to Michael Ranneberger.
Swaziland: Why is the Swazi government buying weapons?
Recently WikiLeaks revealed that Swaziland had tried to acquire arms from the UK. It was reported by The Guardian - and later local newspapers - that Britain had blocked a $60 million sale of helicopters, armoured cars and machine guns to Swaziland, fearing the weapons could end up in Iran, at least according to US diplomatic cables.
Tanzania: US role in Liyumba case exposed by WikiLeaks
The United States helped to investigate allegations and prepare corruption charges against a former Bank of Tanzania director of personnel and administration, Amatus Liyumba, according to leaked diplomatic cables. In the latest Dar es Salaam cables released by the whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks, US deputy ambassador D. Purnell Delly revealed how a team of investigators from New York City’s Department of Investigation helped Tanzanian authorities to prepare the groundwork for the high profile prosecution two years ago.
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