Pambazuka News 522: Libya: Neither US invasion nor Gaddafism!
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Dakar World Social Forum 2011, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Pan-African Postcard, 6. Books & arts, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Highlights French edition, 9. Cartoons, 10. Zimbabwe update, 11. Women & gender, 12. Human rights, 13. Refugees & forced migration, 14. Emerging powers news, 15. Elections & governance, 16. Corruption, 17. Development, 18. Health & HIV/AIDS, 19. Education, 20. LGBTI, 21. Environment, 22. Land & land rights, 23. Food Justice, 24. Media & freedom of expression, 25. Social welfare, 26. Conflict & emergencies, 27. Internet & technology, 28. Fundraising & useful resources, 29. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 30. Publications, 31. Jobs, 32. WikiLeaks and Africa
Highlights from this issue
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Civic groups blast exhumations
WOMEN AND GENDER: The food crisis and women of the global South
HUMAN RIGHTS: Crimes against humanity in Cote d'Ivoire; Major Kenyan housing rights decision; Warning over Nigerian violence
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: UNHCR estimates one million displaced in Cote d'Ivoire
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Latest news about China, India and Africa
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland
DEVELOPMENT: The boom and bust of capital flows to developing countries
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Concerns about medicine access under EPA regime
LGBTI: Uncertainty over Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill
ENVIRONMENT: African activists call for action on climate change
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: The great Ethiopian land grab debate
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: On freedom of expression and the right to water
SOCIAL WELFARE: Government suspends Swaziland protests
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Gaddafi forces retreat as rebels take key towns
PLUS…Internet and Technology, e-newsletters and mailing lists, fundraising, courses and jobs, WikiLeaks and Africa…
Opposing Gaddafi’s massacre and foreign intervention in Libya
The Union shall have the right ‘to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity’ – Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
The images of Tomahawk cruise missiles and bombs raining down on Libya from British, French, and US warplanes have ensured that many people now oppose the foreign military intervention in Libya. Yet, the same people were condemning the killing of civilians by the dying Gaddafi regime. On the surface, it may seem to be a contradiction to oppose both the West and Gaddafi, but this contradiction arises from the reality that there is no popular democratic force in Africa capable of mounting the kind of intervention that is necessary to translate Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act (the charter) of the African Union into action. There is no international brigade similar to the period of the Spanish Civil War when anti-fascist forces mobilised internationally to fight General Franco. There is no Tanzanian Peoples Defence Force (TPDF) with its tradition of supporting liberation that had the capabilities to fight and remove Idi Amin who was butchering Ugandans. The emerging new powers such as Turkey, Brazil, Russia, India and China are quite quick to do business in Africa but are quiet in the face of mass killings. In short, the world was willing to stand by as Gaddafi called those who opposed him ‘cockroaches’, ‘rats’, and ‘germs’ and vowed: ‘I will fight on to the last drop of my blood.’ The sight of the array of forces at the gates of Benghazi meant that this was not an idle threat.
Decent human beings who wanted to halt Gaddafi’s massacre welcomed UN resolution for a no-fly zone, especially the language of paragraph 6 which decided ‘to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians.’ France, Britain, and the US quickly used this authorisation for a no-fly zone to give themselves a mandate that is wider than the UN resolution, particularly capitalising on the looseness of the formulation of ‘all necessary measures’. Although the Africa Union issued a statement saying that, ‘the situation in North Africa demands urgent action so that an African solution can be found,’ the AU dragged its feet and gave up its responsibility to prevent the massacre of civilians in Libya, thus giving justification to the Western intervention. After forming a committee comprising of Mauritania, South Africa, Mali and Congo and Uganda, the AU sidelined itself at precisely the moment when clarity was needed to both oppose the Western intervention and to intervene to stop the killing of humans that Gaddafi called ‘rats and germs.’
Opportunistically, France and Britain mobilised to take the lead to intervene and were given the green light by the passage of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. Ten countries voted for the resolution on 17 March, while five (Brazil, China, India, Germany and Russia) abstained. By Saturday 20 March, it was clear that the bombing campaign of the imperial forces went far beyond the letter and spirit of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 whose mandate was to protect civilians. For this reason, even some of those states that voted for the UN resolution now oppose the bombings. All progressive persons must be opposed to any form of Western military intervention in Africa in this revolutionary moment.
In this contribution, we want to reiterate our opposition to the Western bombings. The Libyan people who are opposed to Gaddafi must take the leadership to fight Gaddafi. If they do not own the struggle and clarify how their policies will be different from Gaddafi’s, then we can end up with Gaddafism without Gaddafi being propped up by the West. We will agree with the statement by Peter Falk that, ‘Long ago, Gaddafi forfeited the legitimacy of his rule, creating the political conditions for an appropriate revolutionary challenge.’ This revolutionary challenge is still in its infancy and the imperial forces are acting quickly to ensure that the Libyan revolution is hijacked. The same people who armed and backed up Gaddafi should not be allowed to establish military foothold in Africa in the middle of a revolution.
From Equatorial Guinea to Ivory Coast and from Swaziland to Djibouti, there is an increasing need for a people-based African Union intervention force. One need not look further than the current AU chairman, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, to grasp the reality that the African revolution that started in Tunisia and Egypt and now gripping Libya is a revolution against the current leaders of the African Union.
THE AFRICAN UNION AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
In the past 20 years the experiences of genocidal violence, genocidal politics, and actual incidents of genocide in Rwanda, Burundi, and elsewhere in Africa forced the coming into being of the African Union (AU). The Constitutive Act of the AU as quoted above gave the legal authority to the AU to intervene in situations such as now unfolding in Libya and Ivory Coast. It was Gaddafi who attempted to set himself up as one of the primary leaders of the AU. One of the ultimate tests of the commitment of the AU leaders hinged upon the translation of AU’s responsibility to protect into action by intervening to prevent crimes against humanity in any corner of the continent. It was the energetic work of the progressive movements within Africa that pushed the AU to adopt the principle of the Responsibility to Protect at the General assembly of the UN to the point where this concept was formally adopted by the Security Council of the United Nations in 2006. The very idea of responsibility to protect was aligned to Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union. There are three core pillars of the Responsibility to protect: First, an affirmation of the primary and continuing obligation of individual states to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, as well as incitement thereof; second, a commitment by the international community to assist states in meeting these obligations; and third, acceptance by UN member states of their responsibility to respond in a timely and decisive manner through the UN Security Council.
It was this alignment of the goals of the Constitutive Act of the African Union with the core principles of the Responsibility to Protect that influenced some Africans to support intervention to stop the slaughter of civilians in Eastern Libya.
It is now much clearer that it is only revolutionary changes in Africa that will bring into being the kind of political/diplomatic and military force that can give meaning to the Constitutive Act of the African Union. For a short period after the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela shamed the leaders of the OAU into dropping the clause of the ‘non interference in the internal affairs of member states.’ Yet, after the experiences of the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cote d’Ivoire, it became clearer that the present leadership stand as obstacle to fighting crimes against humanity. As the leadership of the ANC embraced neo-liberal capitalism and entered into business deals with leaders such as Robert Mugabe and Laurent Gbagbo, South Africa lost the moral authority to galvanize forces who wanted peace and reconstruction in Africa.
We can see from Ivory Coast and Libya that many African leaders look the other way because condemning such crimes amounts to self-indictment since most of them are involved in similar crimes in their bid to either perpetuate themselves in power or enrich themselves. That the current leaders of Africa could support the elevation of Teodoro Obiang Nguema to be the chairperson of this organisation pointed to the fact that most of these leaders such as Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Republic of Congo, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan , Paul Biya of Cameroon, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Ali Bongo of Gabon, King Mswati III of Swaziland, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia are not serious about translating the letters of the Constitutive Act into reality. These leaders oversee societies where there is repression of the people’s aspirations to end decades of oppression and dictatorship.
The majority of the current leaders of the African Union have used their greed and insatiable hunger for political power to cause a devastating impediment to the AU’s ability effectively assert itself, whether in Ivory Coast or in Libya. Apart from leaders such as Museveni who have come out lately with disharmonious rhetoric in response to the situation in Libya, there is yet another group. These are the leaders who have maintained a high degree of audible silence about the situation. Among these two categories of African leaders, there are those who are cautious either because they too operate repressive governments or because they have benefitted from Gaddafi’s largesse in his failed bid to become Africa’s ‘king of kings’ or both. Gaddafi’s quest for power and his bid to become king of kings in Africa must be condemned for what it is: a backward thinking that was meant to entrench a crude subjugation and suppression of the African peoples, while posing to be anti-imperialist. When Gaddafi rallied the Mugabes and the Omar al-Bashirs of the continent, telling them that revolutionaries never quit power, true Pan-Africanists stood in opposition to this crude machination.
GADDAFI IS NOT ANTI-IMPERIALIST
Many progressive persons sympathise with Gaddafi because he represented himself as anti-imperialist leader who supported freedom fighters. However, a close examination of the political economy and cultural practices of Gaddafi would show that far from being anti-imperialist, he was like a semi-feudal leader. Gaddafi used Libyan people’s money to try to harness the reservoir of traditional rulers and buy over leaders from across the continent in order to gain support for his aspiration to become the despotic king of kings of Africa. In the process, Gaddafi was also grooming his son in a monarchical tradition to reproduce a semi-feudal political relation inside of Libya. On the international front, while Gaddafi was verbally anti-imperialist, over US$150 billion of Libya’s sovereign wealth fund was distributed between New York, Paris, London, and Geneva to support the speculative activities of international financial oligarchs. At the same time, Gaddafi used billions of dollars to support arms manufacturers in the West.
In a previous article about Gaddafi, I drew reference to his history of mischief making in Africa, noting his support for elements such as Charles Taylor, Foday Sankoh, and Idi Amin. Immanuel Wallerstein in his contribution titled, ‘Libya and the World Left’ spelt out clearly the reasons why Gaddafi cannot be considered as anti-imperialist. Wallerstein was speaking directly to Hugo Chavez and other left forces who have articulated support for Gaddafi. Revolutionaries in Latin America who oppose US imperialism need to be better educated about the real social conditions in African societies.
Even at this moment when the bombs are being rained down on Libya, Gaddafi exposed his true feelings about Africa when he threatened Europeans that he would open the floodgate of African immigrants to Europe. In other words, Gaddafi is playing to the racism and chauvinism of Europeans toward Africans. He was reminding them that he had signed an agreement to be the gate-keeper and immigration officer for Europe in North Africa. This was not the first time Gaddafi was making disparaging and racist remarks to Europeans about Africans. In 2010, Gaddafi demanded US$6.3 billion from the EU to help them forestall what he called the emergence of a ‘black Europe’ by checking the immigration of black Africans to Europe. Gaddafi referred to the migration of black Africans to Europe as ‘this influx of starving and ignorant Africans,’ which would determine whether Europe would ‘remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.’ According to the UK Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/7973649/Gaddafi-Europe-will-turn-black-unless-EU-pays-Libya-4bn-a-year.html ), when Gaddafi made his proposal, one Italian member of parliament, Luigi de Magistris, accused him of maintaining a ‘concentration camp’ of thousands of African migrants in the desert. Progressives who see Gaddafi as anti-imperialist are the ones who ought to be calling for the investigation of this claim.
Gaddafi cannot claim to be anti-imperialist after he and his sons spent Libyan people's money to finance the election of President Sarkozy. This revelation of the funding of Sarkozy was made by no other person than Gaddafi's son, Saif al Islam
This same Gaddafi was busy parading himself as an anti-imperial Pan-Africanist, while refusing to educate his people about the essence of Pan African solidarity. Gaddafi’s regime has been involved in the repression of black migrant workers in Libya. In 2000, workers from Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Ghana were targets of killings in Libya after the Gaddafi regime officials accused these migrant workers of spreading diseases, crimes, and drug trafficking. Accounts of migrant workers from these countries have revealed that Gaddafi’s deportation practices were so inhumane that deportees were packed like animals on aircrafts without seats for several hours of flight to their countries.
Progressive persons who accept Gaddafi’s claim as a Pan-Africanist and anti-imperialist should recall that it was in response to Gaddafi’s racism that the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern over Libya's practices of racial discrimination against dark-skinned migrants and refugees. In 2004 this committee accused the Gaddafi regime of violating Article 6 of the 1969 International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). This accusation states that Gaddafi failed to implement proper mechanisms for safeguarding individuals from racist actions that undermine human rights. And six years after this accusation, Gaddafi went ahead to make his racist remarks about black African immigrants turning Europe ‘black.’
Gaddafi espoused racism and divisiveness, and thus could not pursue true African solidarity in his 42 years of holding onto power. In the spirit of solidarity, we empathize with those Libyans who are opposed to the Gaddafi regime. In this same spirit, we call on those freedom fighters to educate their followers that Libya is an African country. Those fighting as revolutionaries for freedom and democracy cannot be targeting Africans from the south of the Sahara.
Gaddafi’s kind of manipulation of anti-imperialist sentiments while repressing the people’s aspirations is not new. In the past, leaders such as Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Idi Amin of Uganda represented themselves as anti-imperialists. Today, Russian oligarchs who are in bed with the Western oil companies represent themselves as anti-imperialists, without proving it with a people-centered solidarity. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe are other good examples of repressive leaders who are verbally anti-imperialist. Robert Mugabe is so nervous about the people organising for change that his police arrested citizens who were watching a video on the revolution in Egypt and charged them with treason.
Just as the forces of peace and social justice forthrightly opposed Western invasion and occupation of Iraq, we were also opposed to the leadership of Saddam Hussein. So now, we are making it clear: We oppose Gaddafi and his semi-feudal leadership just as we oppose the Western bombings.
African civil society must be more organised at this moment of revolution and counter-revolution. One Kenyan writer captured the call for African civil society to be more active to oppose the present governments in Africa. Onyango Oloo, called on African civil society to stand up and demand action from governments. ‘We have marches in New York City but none in Africa. We need to be part of the global voice against military action. Innocent civilians are being killed we need to put pressure on our governments.’ This pressure on governments must include the support for the forces fighting for social justice in all parts of Africa. It is not too late for the progressives in Africa to learn from the positive lessons of the intervention of Tanzania to remove Idi Amin of Uganda, or the positive lessons of the Cuban assistance to defeat the apartheid army in Angola. In the same vein, it is not too late for those who organise the uprising in Libya to organise a clear political front to be able to build a strong internal political force to resist and remove Gaddafi without imperial complications. The UN resolution that authorised the use of force also explicitly authorised all necessary means to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas, except for a ‘foreign occupation force.’ The West is using the formulation of ‘all necessary means’ to give themselves the right to establish a new military foothold in Africa when revolution is sweeping Africa and the Middle East.
AFRICA IS MORE THAN MINERALS AND OIL
Brazil, China, India and Russia who were aware that Gaddafi was about to carry out massacres in Benghazi are critiquing the bombing by coalition forces. But it is time for members of the UN Security Council such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China to take a more forthright role against dictatorship in Africa. These four countries have expanded their commercial/mining relations in Africa in the past 10 years, but in the main have remained silent in relationship to stopping leaders such as Laurent Gbagbo and Gaddafi. In particular, Brazil represents itself as an emerging power, but seems to see its power as being in competition to sell arms to African leaders. In a country with over 80 million people of African descent and president of the UN Security Council in February, Brazil failed to take the lead in coordinating an international support for an African solution to the massacre in Libya. Similarly, China, India, and Russia have been condemning the bombings, but sat in the Security Council and allowed Britain, US, and France to manipulate the United Nations to start a new war. I agree with Peter Falk who has written elsewhere that, ‘The states that abstained acted irresponsibly.’ These states could have supported the no fly zone without giving the USA, Britain and France the leeway to insert language of ‘to take all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban on flights.’
We want to reiterate that Brazil, Russia, India, and China must realise that the interests and human dignity of the African people must be placed above the prospecting for minerals and oil. It is not enough to stand on the fence and decry Western military intervention; these countries must be able to show people in situations such as Benghazi that there is such a thing as international humanitarian intervention devoid of ulterior motives for oil, minerals, and arms sales. Ultimately, it is the citizens of the US, France, and Britain who must restrain their governments that are implementing austerity measures at home while funding the bombing of Libya.
STRENGTHENING THE AFRICAN UNION
The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have changed the political calculus in Africa. We need not repeat what has already been said about the hypocrisy of the West in intervening in Libya and not Bahrain and Yemen, where similar atrocities are being carried out. Could this Western intervention in Libya have been designed to plant Western military forces on the ground in Africa in order to derail the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions? At this time, the US is seeking to use this intervention to give visibility and credibility to the US Africa Command, a proxy force for private US capitalist forces in Africa.
The Peace and Security Council of the AU has the legal authority to intervene in Libya as well as in Ivory Coast. It is up to the progressive forces in Africa to agitate to remove those leaders and governments that are standing in the way of a strengthened people-centered African Union. The Egyptian revolution has pointed to the possibility for the people to transform the African political process by their self-mobilisation and self-organisation. These forms of self-mobilisation would be called upon to strengthen the African Union for a people-centered intervention force, especially as Western intervention has complicated the struggles in Libya and has opened up new possibilities for counterrevolution which have dire consequences for the wind of revolution blowing across Africa and the Middle East. As noted by one commentator in the British newspaper, The Guardian:
‘The fragile consensus on intervention achieved last week, when the UN security council approved ‘all measures necessary’ to protect Libyan civilians against Muammar Gaddafi's forces, has shattered in the wake of large-scale US, British and French ground and air attacks. The attacks were widely seen internationally as disproportionate, careless of civilian lives, and extending beyond the agreed plan to impose a defensive no-fly zone.’
The present bombings in North Africa have again alerted progressives to the laws of unforeseen consequences. Revolutionaries must coordinate internationally so that counter-revolution will not be the outcome of the present opportunism of the imperial powers.
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* Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
An African solution to the Libyan crisis?
Up Station Mountain Club
On the Up Station Mountain Club collective blog, Lloney Monono writes to Jean Ping, Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission, to expresses his dissatisfaction with the AU’s (mis)handling of the Libyan crisis:
‘It is clear that there could be no misunderstanding as to what a No Fly Zone entailed, since in a widely reported address to a US Congressional Committee, on March 1st 2011, the US Defence Secretary warned that a No Fly Zone would “require first destroying Libya's air defence forces” and went on to call it a “big operation in a big country.”
‘Therefore there was no ambiguity. The UN Security Council Resolution 1973 spelt military action against Libya, a sovereign state and member of the African Union...
‘By choosing instead to put out a press statement on the 17th of March 2011 about an “Ad hoc High Level Committee” which had been agreed a week earlier on 10th March 2011 in the Peace and Security Council's 265th meeting whilst the UN Security Council deliberated and voted in Resolution 1973, the AU demonstrated that it had been dazed into impotence by the crisis. It fiddled at a crucial moment while Libya burned...
‘As the Libyan defences are degraded with each bomb dropped we are witnessing the destruction of a sovereign state with the risk that it becomes a haven to anarchists and terrorists as did happen in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. An eventuality which will further destabilise Libya, bring more insecurity to its citizens likewise worsen the peace and stability of the region, infringing further on the AU's objectives of Article 3 in the Constitutive Act.
‘In the light of this view and other points highlighted herein, I conclude that the AU, with respect to the Libyan situation, has completely failed in managing the crisis; it has failed to prevail in both its diplomacy with Libya and the world beyond Africa's shores. Lastly, and on the point which churns my insides, the African Union has like the defunct Organisation of African Unity demonstrated a complete inability to take ownership of and resolve its problems. It has simply failed to step up to the plate and demonstrate African self-reliance, as mandated by Article 4 subsection (k) of the Constitutive Act, when was most needed. Quite simply and sadly, your excellency it is my view history would record that at this point in time, the African Union dismally failed to provide leadership.’
Jimmy Kainka echoes the same sentiments by expressing disappointment at the AU’s handling of the Ivoirian and Libyan crises:
‘If we move on to the north of Africa and take a look at Libya, we have unbelievable nightmare happening right in front of our eyes. Where is the AU? So many presidents from different nations have spoken on the events in Libya, Ban Ki Moon (UN Secretary General) has made several media appearances to state the stance of the UN on the issue. So what about the AU? If the AU is not in a position to solve African problems, then who will? Libya has moved from having its leader (…and yes, the former AU chairman) killing his own people to having Western troops in the name of saving Libyans – more Libyans may now die in the hands of foreign forces.
‘Where are the Leaders of Africa? Who in Africa has ever gone to kill people in France or USA or UK? Where is the African Union? I heard of the many meetings that happened before the “no fly zone” was imposed on Libya, there was even a consultation with the Arab Leaders. Does anyone know if AU was consulted and what they voted for? While you (AU) are mulling over your existence, why not also consider pulling out of the UN en masse as the UN is really a Western Union. By pulling out AU would stop providing the UN with cover.
‘My biggest question is, if the AU made numerous visits to Ivory Coast, to “try” and resolve the situation there, why are they not helping the people of Libya? I have watched children being killed and everyone keeps saying “there are always casualties when there is war”. Why should a child be sacrificed for democracy or oil or chocolate or whatever it is that is going on there in Libya and Ivory Coast? AU, where are you? Libya needs you, Ivory Coast has not been sorted out, what are you doing? If events like these are too big for you, then why do you exist?’
On the other end of the spectrum, Rosebell believes that the much vaunted ‘African solution’ to the current crises propounded by the likes of Yoweri Museveni is a mirage:
‘The West may be wrong in the way they conduct the intervention in Libya but President Museveni together with his group of mostly African dictators cannot be trusted to bring a solution fast enough.
‘When Gaddafi was declaring genocide on his own people saying he would ‘cleanse Libya house by house’, no one stood up to him. When we heard stories about Gaddafi ferrying young Africans into Libya to work as mercenaries, which escalated racist attacks on African immigrants, no African president came out to call for investigations. So many Africans stuck in Libya including Ugandans have been at the mercy of aid groups and some few government rescue missions.
‘Let’s now forget for the last four months, this group of men who rule the continent have failed to resolve the situation in Ivory Coast which we may as well say has slipped back into a civil war. So far more than 400 people have died in Ivory Coast and all they do is hop on planes meet in Addis Ababa.
‘No wonder we have heard no calls on the AU from Libya’s opposition…
‘Africans want an African solution but current leaders like President Museveni who stifle freedoms in their own borders will not deliver us the much needed African solution. And that’s what North Africa has realized and therefore moved to rid their countries of these leaders. Like Desmond Tutu has stated, Libya wouldn’t be seeing these strikes if African leaders were answerable to their peers and populace. But which of Gaddafi’s peers would have kept him in check? Museveni, Biya or Mugabe?’
The Chia Report
The Chia Report responds to those who are against intervention in Libya on the grounds that this would most likely create a chaotic power vacuum in Libya:
‘I have been asking myself why many oppressors across the world, including miscreants like Gaddafi and Paul Biya of Cameroon, invariably get sympathies from the very ones they oppress. This concern is more often than not encapsulated in the following question: who will fill the vacuum (after Biya/Gaddafi…)? My all time favorite is “what next”?
‘It is pitiful to look at the almighty Gaddafi ranting that “my people all love me”. There are certainly many Libyans who would die for Colonel Gaddafi. But can Gaddafi and the Biyas of the world understand that it is not about love? Better still, can they grasp that love is not a one way street? Can they grasp that walking away from power and having others give a shot at leading is the greatest love there is to share with their kids and other fellow citizens?...
‘It is a false premise to think and act as if every democratic nation on earth was born on the same day. But there is the expectation that younger democratic nations, even as they forge their own democratic cultures, will not slide even further back in excuse and mockery of time-tested universal values of freedom, liberty, and respect of human rights. The biggest democracy of our time (USA) was stretched thin as the Supreme Court stepped in to decide whether it was Al Gore or George Bush. Budding democracies will go through chaotic patches. It is essential that a people go through these times together. Lasting bonds are formed from common struggles. Better yet, from these common struggles, a people emerge with a common vision and purpose. African countries seem to have only one purpose – producing consumers.
‘We are better than that. After the coalition bombs the hell out of Gaddafi’s Libya, (and hopefully take him out) a leader will emerge. It is bound to happen.’
Bantu Politics points out that observers and international journalists are increasingly comparing the situation in Côte d'Ivoire to the ‘Pre-Genocide’ atmosphere of Rwanda in 1994, and explains ethnicity, religion and hate speech are fueling the flames of the political crisis:
‘The question of religious identity resurfaced on December 3, 2010, when the Ivorian Constitutional Council, in opposition to Electoral Commission's results, declared Laurent Gbagbo president by invalidating the votes of some 600,000 people in the northern, mostly Muslim, regions of the country.
‘Laurent Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, are both declared born-again Christians who are not shy about sharing their faith in a political context. On Simone Gbagbo's website, religion is said to have an important place in the former first lady's life and political commitment…
‘One Ivorian native netizen posted a message on American politician Sarah Palin's Facebook page in December 2010, in which he urged American Christians not to let US President Obama standby without supporting the Gbagbos: “Will Americans idly sit on the side and watch their President humiliate Laurent Gbagbo and Simone Ehivet Gbagbo, a Born-again Evangelical Christian couple and throw them out of office or watch some Muslim rebels invade their palace and kill them with the conspiracy of the international community?’
Sacha Project, a blogger who resides mainly in Abidjan, wrote a post… referring to French daily Le Monde's editorial of the same day entitled, ‘The future of Africa is playing out in Côte d'Ivoire’, in which the author compares Côte d'Ivoire to the Spain of 1936 under Franco. Sacha Project believes that the comparison has a lot of merit: ‘Like in the Spain of 1936, a state is threatened by an armed minority which refuses a lawfully elected president (...). Gbagbo is not Franco, Gbagbo is not a fascist. Yet the ideas of the Ivorian Patriotic Front (FPI) are. Franco didn't consider himself fascist, but ‘nationalist’. Gbagbo considers himself a ‘patriot’. Yet the excessive xenophobic nationalism, Ivorian identity and its eulogists, media manipulation, and Simone Gbagbo's religious speech which considers her husband's power as quasi-divine, these are elements of an Ivorian style fascism.’
In a guest post on the Cassava Republic blog, historian Max Siollun challenges Nigerian writers to make Nigerian history more interesting to readers:
‘I was literally heartbroken when not too long ago, a Nigerian acquaintance of mine (born and raised in Nigeria) told me that she thought Herbert Macaulay was a white American. She could recite (in chronological order) most of the post-World War II American Presidents, but she had no idea that Herbert Macaulay was a Nigerian. She was shocked when I told her that Macaulay was to Nigeria, what George Washington was to the United States of America.
‘Why do so many Nigerians know so little about their own country’s history? The federal government must take much responsibility for this. Nigerian history is not intensively taught in schools largely because after the civil war, the federal government tried to brush the country’s past under the carpet in order to foster reconciliation....But the government is not entirely to blame... We writers must also share the responsibility....We writers must present Nigerian history as something more than a mechanical rendering of dates and facts...
‘Dry, ponderous academic style renditions of Nigerian history will not do. In my writing, I have tried to dramatise the historic events I write about and bring the characters to life, so as to capture the reader’s imagination. The reader momentarily suspends the belief that what they are reading is in fact….fact! We must. To interest readers in Nigerian history, we must turn our national characters into “stars” and, in the popular vernacular of the Iraq war, ‘sex up’ Nigerian history. That is the challenge for me and other writers…’
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* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Côte d’Ivoire: Forces behind the crisis and what’s at stake
Since 28 November 2010, the situation in Côte d’Ivoire has been one of two presidents, two governments. This situation would be amusing were the current and future consequences not pogroms, deaths, summary executions, arrests, illegal detentions and economic, social and human devastation. So how are we to make sense of recent developments?
THE CRISIS OF CAPITALISM AND THE WORSENING OF INTER-IVORIAN CONTRADICTIONS
We will settle here to return to the development of the crisis of capitalism, the handling of this crisis by capitalist policy and the resultant consequences, not only for the secondary imperialist powers but also and above all for the world’s dominated capitalist countries, particularly those in Africa. In so doing we will recall that from 1981, the dominant capitalist powers proclaimed, through the voice of President Reagan (supported by his European colleagues), ‘that they know better than the countries of the South themselves what’s good for them’ in dealing with the debt crisis which US policy had plunged them into in the first place. The Washington Consensus and structural adjustment policies were the results of this political stance which have been implemented and executed with such efficiency since this date, and remarkably so in Côte d’Ivoire.
The world’s largest producer of cocoa, with considerable mineral prospects (especially oil), UEMOA’s (Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine) largest economy, ECOWAS’s (Economic Community Of West African States) second largest, the main migrant hub in sub-Saharan Africa, located in the Gulf of Guinea and as a springboard into the hinterland countries (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger), Côte d’Ivoire enjoys a role of undeniable geostrategic and geopolitical importance. The stakes for neoliberal policy in the country are high.
THE DRIVING FORCES BEHIND THE IVORIAN CRISIS AND WHAT’S AT STAKE
The interest of the United States in Africa and its clear will to establish itself in the Gulf of Guinea dictate the importance the country attaches to its presence in Côte d’Ivoire. Its presence in Côte d’Ivoire not only increases competition between imperialist rivals (of the Triad) for the conquest of markets and the control of raw materials but also heightens the greed of the secondary imperialist powers, notably France and its will to doggedly defend its zone of influence and place in the Ivorian market.
Yet in a country where the financial market is limited, privatisations benefit primarily from those with the capacity to mobilise considerable capital to buy up public sector or public–private firms. In the competition that sets American imperialism against the secondary imperialist powers (most notably France) for the control of the Ivorian agro-industrial sector, America wins the day. As American multinationals edge their way into Côte d’Ivoire, the United States is constructing, not in Lagos or in Accra, but in Abidjan, a surveillance centre covering all of sub-Saharan Africa, along with the most significant diplomatic representation in Africa south of the Sahara after South Africa.
In order to preserve its positions inherited from the colonial and post-colonial period and its place in the Ivorian market, France often has to lean on political power. This enables France to protect its interests, with the exception of the agro-industrial sector, notably the coffee–cocoa subsector where American competition is particularly tough, principally from the American multinationals (ADM, Cargill) but also from the Anglo-Suisse (Nestlé, Armajaro). In January 2001, the cocoa war begun in 1987 was essentially brought to an end. Although French interests remain predominant, American interests essentially control the strategic cocoa sector. The presence of such interests means that the United States can from now on use Côte d’Ivoire as a base of support for their policy of expansion in the Gulf of Guinea designed to guarantee at least 25 per cent of their oil supply in the near future. As for the European Union, in which France has fully integrated itself since the Single European Act, in addition to a number of special interests (AIGLON and REINART in cotton, the Belgian group SIPEF for palm oil, DOLE for bananas, PANWELL-GMG for rubber, etc), its interest in Côte d’Ivoire is increasing as the crisis of immigration intensifies. The EU believes that if Côte d’Ivoire proves itself capable of welcoming migratory fluxes to which it has closed its doors, the country would hold a solution to African immigration crisis. Under current conditions, this objective can only be reached if Côte d’Ivoire regains peace and stays open for business.
FORMAL DEMOCRACY AND THE IDIOSYNCRASIES OF THE IVORIAN SITUATION
On 30 April 1990, the freedom of participation in lawful political activity was granted to groups and classes hostile to the one-party system. Meanwhile, Bédié had hauled himself up to power thanks to the death of Houphouët-Boigny, the benefit of the application of Article 11 of the constitution of 3 November 1960 and the help of Paris, only to find himself faced with a fierce competitor in Alassane Ouattara, the former prime minister of Houphouët-Boigny. As he wasn’t certain of winning a free electoral confrontation against Ouattara, he decided instead to oust him. For this he had not only to erase the memory of profiteering which had stuck to him like a leech since his journey to the head of the Ministry of Finance, but also and above all to award a legal dressing to the stripping of eligibility he imposed on those he knew to oppose him. So on 13 December 1994, as the executive authority, Bédié passed, through a national assembly at his complete devotion, an electoral law which under the pretext of reserving the right to vote for nationals only reserved eligibility to the presidency of the republic to people of Ivorian origin. A few months later, this restrictive, reactionary system – which immediately excluded Ouattara and a section of the ruling class from universal suffrage – received the name ‘Ivorité’.
In resorting to such a problematic political distraction, Bédié simultaneously demonstrated his incapacity to achieve the conditions necessary for the collective domination of the ruling Ivorian classes. For this domination depended on the rotation of the ruling classes at the head of the state which was as essential for the concealment of the country’s widespread poverty as it was for allowing the continued pursuit of empty policies and the country’s economic pillage. This explains his overthrow and the indifference in which he made himself part of France yet linked to Côte d’Ivoire by a defence treaty with a secret clause requiring him to save the regime in the case of internal subversion. The same causes produce the same effects: Bédié’s conversion to ‘Ivorité’ and refusal under this same principle to organise open elections to all who condemn General Guei and defend both his fall and the conditions in which it occurred. In offering a constitutional legitimacy to ‘Ivorité’, Guei destroyed the hope of a possible reconciliation of the ruling classes and in so doing a return to the conditions of order indispensable to the pursuit of neoliberal policies. Consequently, he condemned himself and promoted Gbagbo, the only ‘true Ivorian’ still in the race.
On 26 October 2000, Gbagbo was ‘finally recognised as the winner’ by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court after protestors supported by a military and police squadron stormed the palace, forcing General Guei to flee. On 24 October, Gbagbo proclaimed himself head of state of Côte d’Ivoire, had declared the dissolution of the transition government (…) asked all militants to rise up to obstruct the imposter (…) and that (…) Ivorian patriots take to the street until the law is recognised and until Guei backs down.
An electoral victory, a victorious insurrection or a successful putsch? It remains but the taking of power by Gbagbo, which gave place to pogroms, the massacre of more than 300 protestors, of which at least 200 republican militants whom the party had called to challenge the presidential elections, and a mass grave of 57 victims. After Djeny Kobena (general secretary of RDR) had been declared Ghanaian and consequently stateless and ineligible in 1995, after the candidature of Alassane Ouattara had been rejected for ‘doubtful nationality’ in 2000, the ‘Ivorité’ enshrined in the constitution produced these most terrible effects. People didn’t want to see so as to see nothing. In the end, it seems that it was the retreat of Guei that allowed Côte d’Ivoire to avoid a similar scenario to that of today.
October 2000 appears in this way like a dress rehearsal that was paving the way for the current situation. Yet the most likely hypothesis today is that the showdown is a conscious and systematic strategy of the taking or preservation of power by the principal political representation of the Ivorian petty bourgeoisie and of its boss, Laurent Gbagbo. This, along with his political practice, leaves one to think that Gbagbo would not have obtained a majority in an open and transparent electoral process free from violence. From this hypothesis follows that after noisy and principled condemnations, with the self-interest of those involved coming to the fore, the ‘international community’ would end up aligning itself with the opinion of whoever held real power, which in this instance would be Gbagbo. Gbagbo imagined that he could, as in 2000, proclaim himself elected. To do so he was hoping not only to use the weaknesses of his enemy and the opposition to the ‘international community’s’ interests, but also the aspirations of the African people to the freedom and total independence of Africa. This explains the deceptively anti-colonial propaganda and of the pseudo-nationalisations that have been flowing like a flood since 28 November 2010.
Although strange, unsettling and desperate, the situation of the two ‘presidents’ at the head of the same Côte d’Ivoire is not simply the reproduction of a situation already seen in October 2000. The current situation is the immediate consequence of the failure of various efforts to politically neutralise Ouattara, implemented by men and political parties who, for the needs of the survival of their regime and to prolong their own presence at the head of the state, present themselves to Ivoirians dressed in the banner of red, white and blue. As with Bédié and Guei yesterday, Gbagbo today does not represent the interests of the hurting Ivorian people. He is neither anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist nor patriotic in the sense that to be patriotic means to defend national interests. An examination of Côte d’Ivoire’s economic development since 26 October 2000 is enough to realise this.
Even if Ouattara will not resolve all the problems facing Ivoirians as his campaign slogan leaves one to believe, at the least – hope the Ivoirian masses who still believe in a true democracy – his rule will establish the permanent collapse of chauvinism draped in the coat of patriotism, otherwise known as ‘Ivorité’, and a return to peace. The Ivoirian people undeniably aspire to freedom, justice, peace and bread. Ouattara is suggesting to them that they ‘live together’. It’s the belief in this campaign promise, but above all the aspiration to change which explains, for right or for wrong, the popular support he receives. The future will tell us if this support is justified. As for the real question of freedom, justice, peace and bread, the answer remains subject to the recovery of sovereignty and independence, the liquidation of the domination of the ruling classes and imperialist powers and the liquidation of the current semi-colonial state. In today’s conditions, neither Ouattara nor Gbagbo is capable of bringing an adequate response to this question.
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* Translated from the French by Benjamin Radley.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Samir Amin, ‘L’Aide’, The Case of Niger
 According to the Management of External Economic Relations (DREE) of the Ministry of French Industry, Economy and Finance, France is the largest investor in Côte d’Ivoire with 147 listed subsidiaries in 2003 and more than 1000 companies belonging to French businessmen.
 The Reign of Guei
 Rassemblement de Républicains, the party of Alassane Ouattara
 Ado Solutions
Haiti and the endless revolution
On Friday 18 March, President Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti after being ousted in a US backed coup on 29 February 2004. For the past seven years the US has done everything to stop him from returning home. This time they failed as the South African government refused to prevent him from leaving.
Haitian lawyer and blogger, Ezili Danto wrote about Aristide’s home coming and warmly remembered:
‘Father Gerard Jean-Juste and Lovinsky Pierre Antoine and all those who gave their life for this dat of return of the people’s voice’.
A new struggle now awaits the Haitian people and their allies. In this post, Ms Danto asks that we ‘don’t be distracted by Aristide in Haiti’:
‘Keep vigilant for the carnival of violence will be blamed on Lavalas and Aristide. No doubt about this, the chest board is set. The perpetrators will be seen as the peacemakers along with those in white trucks (horse?) justifying over $860million per year for their presence in Haiti. A larger game, in which we anti-Duvalierists Haitians are pawns, is playing out. Supposedly, Obama and Ban Ki Moon called Zuma to ask the South African president to delay the flight. Zuma said he would not. What’s the outcome, an assassination where Obama points to his efforts at stopping the return before the fraudulent US selections in Haiti take place? Who knows, but this effort is the work of unseen hands? Perhaps the universal good will turn their plans around??? As of now at Ezili’s HLLN we see the liberators, Haiti’s peoples, as mere CONSUMERS of this orchestrated “return.” Not a good empowering position at all. Stay tune.’
LIBYA: THE WEST DECLARES WAR ON MUAMMAR GADDAFI
I am confused by the UNSC decision to enforce a No-Fly zone [NFZ] over Libya. I’m not the only one. Yesterday US Congresswoman for the DC, Eleanor Holmes Norton expressed her concern that Congress had not been properly consulted and raised a number of questions: ‘Why was the decision made immediately after Congress went on recess? Is it that Gaddafi must go or is it to protect civilians? Are we involved in a NFZ or is this an all out attack on Libya?’
I search for the right questions as to what is happening and wonder where will it all end? The Libyan people rising up against Gaddafi is right and long overdue. But what appears to be happening is quite different. The US, France and Britain are bombing ground forces, military installations and Gaddafi’s compound. Does it matter that the US/UN are once again displaying their and hypocrisy along with the usual righteous arrogance? What about the millions of innocent civilians who have been killed by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq –and this despite their so-called precision weapons? Their own torture chambers, imprisonment for years without trial and recent photos of yet more US army personal torturing prisoners this time in Afghanistan. Does it matter that the US has chosen to intervene in Libya but not in Bahrain? Will they intervene in Yemen where last week government forces killed 52 unarmed protestors and where the US has supplied US$300 million in military aid? And if uprisings spread to Saudi Arabia and Syria – will they attack them? What criteria is being used to make these military decisions? The British prime minister, David Cameron uses ‘double speak’ in his response to the bombings which I interpret as the Security Council resolution will be applied as we see fit and that might well include getting rid of Gaddafi. In response the British Parliament voted an incredible 557 to 13 in support of the war.
Since the Libyan opposition/rebels/revolutionaries/freedom fighters (depending on who is speaking) called on the West to intervene, do any of the above questions matter, even though their actions immediately went well beyond policing Libya’s airspace? Who are we supposed to listen to? Who are the Libyan opposition leaders and fighters and does their support of the NFZ and bombings make the war legitimate?
@ShabbaLibya – ‘Libyans welcome the NFZ and Libyans also welcome strategic airstrikes #Libya #Feb17 #gaddaficrimes’, so who are we to raise questions?
However, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute of Policy Studies, sees the UN action as a declaration of war on Libya:
‘The legitimacy of the Libyan protesters’ demand does not mean that the decision by the United Nations and the powerful countries behind it was legitimate as well. The Libyan opposition, or at least those speaking for it, asked for a no-fly zone, for protection from the Qaddafi regime’s air force, to allow them to take on and defeat their dictatorship on their own terms. [But] the Security Council resolution went far beyond a no-fly zone. Instead, the United Nations has essentially declared war on Libya…While the UN resolution was taken in the name of protecting civilians, it authorizes a level of direct U.S., British, French, NATO and other international military intervention far beyond the “no-fly zone but no foreign intervention” that the rebels wanted. Its real goal, evident in the speeches that followed the Security Council’s March 17th evening vote, is to ensure that “Qaddafi must go,” — as so many ambassadors described it. Resolution 1973 is about regime change, to be carried by the Pentagon and NATO with Arab League approval, instead of by home-grown Libyan opposition.’
But there is a silence around the British and French bombing of forces loyal to Gadaffi. Once answer is provided by @LibyanThinker:
And to those questioning the airstrikes @ShabbaLibya – ‘Without mentioning any names,a lot of 'political analysts' out there,condemning airstrikes & a NFZ why didn't you put on ur tin hat & fight’
@ShabbaLibya blames pro-Gaddafi supporters for starting the ‘foreign invasion’ by using mercenaries and rolls his eyes at the African Union’s call for an end to the military action.
The African Union is not alone in calling for a stop to military action. The AU’s weakness aside, they are legitimate and are right to point out that diplomatic options have not been given a chance. According to one report the AU had requested permission to visit Libya to try and reach a negotiated settlement but were refused by the UN. Forgive my naivety but why does the AU have to ask the UN’s permission and why is the UN refusing the opportunity for a negotiated settlement?
The Arab League who agreed to the NFZ are now also confused over the lack of clarity and what appears to be a far-fetched interpretation of the UN resolution. Possibly thinking about their own uprisings and potential intervention, they’ve called an emergency meeting on the bombing campaign:
‘“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,’” he said.
‘He requested official reports about what happened in Libya in terms of aerial and marine bombardment that led to the deaths and injuries of many Libyan civilians.’
Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk reminds us that previous ‘Allied bombing campaigns’ have themselves resulted in the death of civilians – if the bombing continues, then it is only a matter of time:
‘The Americans killed Raafat al-Ghosain, puctured above, just after 2am on 15 April 1986. In the days that followed her death, United States officials claimed that Libyan anti-aircraft fire might have hit her home – watch out for similar American claims in the coming hours – not far from the French embassy in suburban Tripoli.’
Like always, there are many sides to this story, many different truths. The mother of Raafat al-Ghosain’s hopes ‘they get him this time’. I am sure her wish will come true sooner than later and the discussion will move to who takes over the country?
The Arabist has some thoughts on this:
‘The Qadhafi regime is over as far as the international community is concerned, and mission creep will ensure that things will swiftly move from imposing a no-fly zone to more direct efforts, including ground missions. This might be good for the insurgents, might split them, and might not be so good for the countries leading the intervention...Although the insurgents have insisted on a united Libya, the fact is that historically there is strong regionalism in the country. A split could perdure, backed by both the regime's control through force and genuine tribal support in its favor. The international community could be moved to escalate the mission to make it officially regime change, or push other actors (some would like that to be Egypt) to intervene directly.’
Amidst the online media discussions there are real war tragedies taking place such as reports from Misrata:
@February17Voices AJA: caller #Misrata: #Gaddafi forces fired on peaceful protests today,also fired (possibly artillery) at buildings in Civilian areas #Libya
And @Libyan4Life calls out those who want to compare Libya to Iraq:
‘I wont b responsible 4 my words/actions if I hear 1 more person say ''#Libya will be the next #Iraq'' When you say that ur stupid is showing’
Lenin’s Tomb’s thoughts on the motives behind the West’s intervention make a great deal of sense:
‘One is to re-establish the credibility of the US and its allies by appearing to side with an endangered population and thus partially expunge the “Iraq syndrome” as well as efface decades of arming and financing dictatorships to keep the local populations under thumb and permanently endangered. But a more fundamental motive can be inferred from the context: the region is experiencing a revolutionary tumult, and the revolution in Libya is no less genuine than those in Tunisia and Egypt (and the uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen). The thrust of this revolution is not just anti-dictatorship, it’s also anti-imperialist, against the IMF and alliances with Israel. So I would hypothesise that the US and its allies have been desperate to find a way to halt this revolutionary process somehow and, where they can’t do that, shape it in a direction more favourable to continued American hegemony in the region. The former regime elements in the leadership of the Libyan rebellion have been more open to an alliance with the US than other revolutionary movements partly because of the particular history and nature of the Qadhafi regime, whose legitimacy continued to rely somewhat on his past standing as a regional opponent of imperialism.’
Maybe there is a price to pay for Gaddafi to go, after all it’s what millions of Libyans wish more than anything. Mohammed Nabbous, the courageous Libyan citizen journalist from Benghazi, who was shot and killed on Saturday is one of the many who paid with their life.
‘Nabbous established Libya AlHurra TV to broadcast online live feeds and commentary from the popular uprising that began last month. Nabbous was killed while reporting on attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces.’
Democracy Now broadcast his clips from his last report and an interview from last month. In his own words – ‘I was not suffering under Gaddafi, but other were’.
SENEGAL UNITED BY ANGER
The promised protests in Dakar took place on Saturday 19 March when between 3,000 and 5,0000 people gathered in Independence Square.
Sahel Blog believes Senegal might lead the way in a ‘Sub-Saharan’ protest movement. The discontent in Senegal is not dissimilar to that in neighbouring Gambia, or other West and North African states: High unemployment particularly amongst youth, corruption, a president who is said to be planning a ‘dynastic’ succession to his son and in February a Senegalese veteran set himself on fire in front of the presidential palace.
‘Demonstrators headed to Dakar’s Independence Square Saturday to protest Wade’s rule on the 11th anniversary of his ascension. The protest appears to have been medium-sized – 3,000-5,000, by various estimates – and drew primarily young men. Significantly, though, one primary organizer was Sidi Lamine Niasse, the editor of Wal Fadjri, a major independent newspaper in Senegal. Niasse’s participation signals a willingness on the part of some elites to participate in a protest movement.
‘Demonstrators and organizers alike seem to agree that the goal is not to oust Wade immediately, but rather to send a message to the government that its current policies are failing to meet people’s needs. The protest also shows that the 2012 race is already underway, though Senegal’s fragmented opposition may find difficulty if it tries to turn the energy of the demonstrators into a united political force for change.
‘The government chose a different set of tactics in response to the protest by announcing it had foiled a coup plot on the eve of the demonstration and arrested 15 people.’
Niger 1 reports:
‘Senegal’s government said it had foiled an attempted coup just hours before anti-government protests were set to begin Saturday by arresting 15 people who had planned attacks across the capital…Justice Minister Cheikh Tidiane Sy announced on state television late Friday that the suspects wanted to target various sites including downtown’s bustling Sandaga Market…“The state prosecutor decided to nip the coup plot in the bud by arresting those individuals identified as members of the plot,” he said.’
MOROCCO: CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM AND OPEN SOCIETY
In Morocco, thousands marched in Casablanca last Sunday in the ‘country’s largest pro-democracy protest’ since the Tunisian uprisings. This was the sixth protest in the past four weeks. Magharebia reports:
‘Protestors held up slogans denouncing tyranny, corruption and bribery. They also demanded that the government and the parliament be dissolved and that the judiciary be reformed.
‘This is a critical juncture in the history of Morocco, a time when we are trying to adopt democracy in our country. The demonstrations aim at supporting the reforms that the monarch announced to ensure they are not switched, and to exercise pressure so that royal instructions would translate into real reform.’
The Moorish Wanderer provides some background to the uprisings and the discussion over Morocco’s constitution…
‘We need to accept that idea of a Constitutional Convention is not a Pandora box. Under conditions of diversity, convention representatives are all set on an equal footing: political parties, unions, human rights charities, civil society, representatives of civil service (including the military and security apparatus), Islamic scholars, intellectuals and academics. The process of constitutional reform or change does need a national census, to be sure, but a consensus that is freely discussed and in perpetually put to the question in a never-ending debate.’
…and argues for an ‘open society’:
‘Living in a strict Islamic society is a nightmare for non-Muslims. Living in an open society is merely an annoyance for the true believer. Political diversity calls necessarily for social diversity too. The Moroccan nations (the plural is not a typo, believe me) do have a strong Islamic identity, but this has turned more into a set of rituals (that merged Islamic beliefs and ancient pageantry the Arab conquerors failed to weed out and had to live with).’
TWEETS FROM ACROSS THE CONTINENT
Fighting continues in the Abyei region of Sudan:
@sudanmonitor Sudanese Militia Kills Five in Abyei Region, Official Says - BusinessWeek http://bit.ly/dIwTe7 #Sudan
@dmsouthasia Darfur: Justice & Equality Movement & Sudan Liberation Army (Minnawi) call for overthrow of govt & creation of a civil, multiethnic state
@Sandmonkey [Egypt] I dream of the day saudis revolt on their governments and stop all the evil shit its doing in the region & the world. #jan25
@UNWatch Mahmoud Salem [Sandmonkey]: the idea of my blog was to be the voice of dissent. We eventually became an info pusher for local media @genevasummit @egypt
A response to news that young men were queuing up to fight for Gbagbo and continued minimal media reports on Cote d’Ivoire
@tweetur #WestAfrica Lurches Toward War, but Is Anyone Paying Attention? http://t.co/dibBQ3V #Libera #CoteDIvoire
@zunguzungu "We know that Washington’s motivation for intervention in any guise is self-interest": http://tinyurl.com/4m6l3pr
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Transnational capitalism or collective imperialism?
IS TRANSNATIONAL CAPITALISM IN THE PROCESS OF EMERGING?
Over the last 30 years the concept of the globalisation of capitalism has been the focus of great debate. For those, like Wallerstein, Arrighi, Franck and me, who have long argued that historical capitalism has always been globalised, at each stage of its development the sole question to ask is whether the latest stage of globalisation presents us with important new characteristics that constitute a qualitative change in the nature of capitalism.
A resounding ‘yes’ can be heard from the majority of economists and conventional political scientists, for whom the relevance of the nation-state, which would have characterised the historical capitalism of the past, is gradually being diminished by the rapid development of ‘transnationalisation’. For them, the connotations of the latest stage of globalisation scarcely warrant clarification, as they are somewhat obvious.
Far more interesting are the responses of those economists who are critical of capitalism. They too give a positive response to the question. However, by basing their arguments on fact they manage to steer away from detailed conclusions regarding the nature of the transformation of capitalism.
To my knowledge, since 1970 Stephen Hymer is the first person to have formulated this positive response (to a question which was far less frequently asked at that time) by stating that ‘an internationalist capitalist class is emerging whose interests lie in the world economy’ (William K. Carroll, ‘The Making of a Transnational Capitalist Class?’, Zed, 2010, p. 2).
Kees Van Der Pijl (‘The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class’, 1984) has always integrated his analysis of transformations within the global economic system with those of the wider global political economy, putting all of his emphasis on the political dimension, as should be expected. He was amongst the first to have proclaimed (and rightly so, in my opinion) that the ‘European project’ was actually born in Washington; ‘European unification was a product of US intervention’ (Carroll, 2010, p. 155).
However, more recent steps towards acknowledging the emergence of an ‘Atlantic transnational capitalism’ that comprises the United States and north-west Europe have been proposed by Leslie Sklair (‘The Transnational Capitalist Class’, Blackwell, 2001), W.I. Robinson (‘A Theory of Global Capitalism’, John Hopkins, Baltimore, 2004) and William K. Carroll (2010).
Robinson has gone the furthest in terms of defining the qualitative transformation of capitalism by defining the new bourgeoisie as the ‘group that owns leading worldwide means of production’ (Carroll, 2010, p. 3).
Leslie Sklair defines the new transnational capitalism by combining the different dimensions of his latest investigation into one reality. The global leading class is therefore made up of the following: ‘corporate executives’; market majority-holders and the politicians at their disposal (‘globalizing bureaucrats and politicians’); the technocrats also at their disposal (‘globalising professionals’); and even the most privileged classes who benefit from globalisation (‘consumerist elites’). The existence of such an association, for Sklair, is hardly worth mentioning. Yet, can we assume that this constitutes a single global class? Or is it a group of associated classes that delineate a globally dominant historic bloc (à la Gramsci)? Or could it be a group of classes (of differing nationalities amongst other things) who are conscious of their shared interests yet are still in competition with each other? The latter response is that of Pijl and it is a view that I share, the reasons for which I will come to later.
The most recent work on the question of the globalisation of capitalism, that of William Carroll (2010), is an empirical study of titanic proportions. Carroll has created an indicator for measuring the interpenetration of capital at both national and transnational levels, in Europe, the North Atlantic and worldwide. This indicator is made up of the number of firms whose directorates are subject to cross-representation. Carroll has therefore recorded each of the instances of exchanged representation for the group of 100, or in this case the 500 largest corporations in the world. The end product of Carroll’s investigation is a system of ranking which ascertains to what degree the interpenetration of capital occurs; this piece of work is, to my knowledge, unparalleled in its precision and magnificent illustrations; his series of graphs (which turn black with higher levels of interpenetration and grey or even white when interpenetration is less frequent) make for an enlightening set of results.
I don’t take issue with the more immediate conclusions that Carroll reaches in this investigation, but I will return later to his less immediate conclusions of which I am not convinced.
Carroll’s immediate conclusions are as follows:
(i) Transnational interpenetration has not diminished the strength of national systems; ‘the transnationalisation of the corporate network has not fragmented national corporate networks’ (p. 24), or a ‘transnational network is a kind of superstructure that rests upon rather resilient national bases’ (p. 34).
(ii) Links between corporations are strengthened, with this initially taking place at the national level (even in Europe). Germany has the most well-integrated national system in comparison with other European countries; following that is north-western Europe (Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Great Britain, who altogether occupy a single position within this network of links); and finally the Atlantic (made up of Europe as set out above, and the United States and Canada). In contrast however, Sino-European and Sino-American links are somewhat stunted. Worse still are the links between the central Atlantic on one side and the rest of the world on the other side (including developing countries, China and others).
(iii) The European network excludes practically the whole of eastern Europe and the Balkans; and is entirely centred upon the advanced capitalist countries of occidental Europe.
(iv) The European and Atlantic integrated networks are principally made up of commercial and industrial corporations, with banking corporations featuring very marginally. The banks are strongly linked to certain areas within the national system of production, but are not linked to each other directly. As such, banks remain broadly ‘national’ in comparison with other corporations; they are not generally considered as European or Atlantic entities.
(v) Western European integration (not simply European, as eastern and southern European countries are typically excluded) is well ahead in comparison with other models of transnational integration.
From his observations, Carroll arrives at two major conclusions:
(i) The western European construction is fully working. I will return to this point, which has been formulated far too hastily in my opinion, and risks instilling an erroneous perspective on the situation.
(ii) National foundations are still important. Carroll illustrates his conclusion using the following points: ‘the notion that the elite is becoming disembodied from national moorings and repositioned in a supra national space underestimates the persistence of national and regional attachments’ (p. 129).
I feel that the term ‘underestimates’ is in itself too ambiguous to accurately reflect the reality of the connection between the national and the transnational in both occidental Europe and in the Atlantic.
NATIONAL CAPITALISMS AND COLLECTIVE IMPERIALISM
Capitalism cannot simply be measured by calculating the number of capitalist companies in existence. Conventional economics places emphasis on the functions of markets while abandoning the global political economy, and in doing so, systematically distorts reality, only providing a misleading picture that is ultimately incorrect.
Capitalism is an historic and a social reality (and not only economic) that ought to be studied by examining a collection of capitalist societies (rather than a collection of capitalist economies, and especially not a collection of capitalist firms). I believe that capitalist societies are national societies and of this I am very insistent. They always have been and they always will be, in spite of transnationalisation, which as it happens has always accompanied the global distribution of dominant national actors.
When analysing these national capitalisms, today, as in the past, the emphasis within research should not neglect to examine the realities presented to us by capitalist corporations. However, the research must go much deeper than that and examine: (i) the nature of social formations; (ii) how the bourgeoisie (the dominant capitalist class) corresponds with these social formations; and (iii) the role of the state responsible for organising the political set-up of these social formations.
I have always claimed – and I stand by this position – that the social formations of central capitalism create autocentric and integrated production systems, even if they are liberal, or even aggressively liberal. The concept of an autocentric system is in itself rather complex and links together several different elements: (i) various technically interdependent sections (shown on input–output tables); (ii) methods for managing the conflicting relationship between capital and labour; (iii) reports linking the dominant monopolies to other sectors within the production of capital (since the end of the 20th century), or integrated within capitalism; (iv) methods for managing money as a means for putting overall capital interests before the conflicting interests of the individual capitalist; and (v) the nature of (aggressive) liberalisation and the methods for managing the asymmetric transnationalisation which accompanies it.
Clearly this type of holistic analysis – specific to the political economy (I prefer to say ‘specific to historical materialism’) – does not give us a one-size-fits-all explanation. We must further analyse history and any transformational developments from one stage to the next.
From this point of view the indicator chosen by Carroll to represent the exchanged representations between boards of directors is incapable of providing answers for any of the questions if it is taken alone. It does not allow us to say that emerging transnational capitalism replaces national capitalism – or that it submits to its logic – nor does it permit us to believe the contrary – that national capitalism is determined by the configuration of transnationalisation. It doesn’t explain whether a ‘transnational capitalist class’ is emerging or not.
There can be no question here of developing the empirical arguments (the emphasis being on ‘empirical’) that we would need to collate and analyse in order to advance with answering the six questions put forward just now. A great deal of what I have written over the course of the last 50 years has gone towards my modest contribution to responding to these questions. However, this type of contribution is sadly becoming more and more rare, the repercussions of placing the ‘markets’ at the centre of our focus being fatal for a realist analysis and critique of capitalism.
Sklair is aware of the impossibility of drawing a conclusion on the emergence of a ‘post-national’ capitalism. He writes, ‘we should speak of a transnational capitalist class only if there are structural conditions that reproduces a transnational corporate community independent of its national home base’ (Carroll, p. 19). And yet these ‘structural conditions’ are far from being reunited, notwithstanding transnationalisation, which has had the wind in its sails for 30 years.
In 1993, UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) proposed methods for measuring this transnationalisation by creating the simple and practically self-explanatory ‘transnationality index’ (TNI). This index links together three related elements: the number of foreign workers contributing to a firm’s total workers; the total number of exports in comparison to a firm’s overall trade; and the amount of work that is sub-contracted externally compared with the total amount of work available. Between 1996 and 2006 the TNI rises visibly (cited by Carroll, ibid, p. 91). Yet is this rise simply a conjectural change or does it reflect a decisive and irreversible transformation? And if the latter is indeed the case, is transnationalisation strengthening itself? Or is it actually serving to strengthen the dominant national capitalisms that it is shaped by? Unsurprisingly, simply measuring transnationalisation alone cannot provide an adequate answer to these questions.
Beyond the narrow conclusions we can draw from Carroll’s recordings of the cross-representation between boards of directors, he does make important observations:
(i) The economies of the global South, including emerging countries (even the most successful among them, China) have been marginalised thanks to the intensifying transnational interdependence of the global North. Carroll goes so far as to say, ‘the network seemed to present one facet of a collective imperialism, organised to help manage global capitalism’ (ibid, p. 55). I note here the return to my thesis concerning the emergence of collective imperialism, a term more appropriate in my opinion, than the extremely vague ‘globalisation’.
(ii) Transnationalisation only truly holds the interest of the economies within the North Atlantic (US, occidental Europe), whereas Japan seems only to participate very marginally in this process.
The first of these observations provokes debate as to what I perceive the collective imperialism of the triad (US, western Europe and Japan) to be.
Globalisation is an inappropriate term. Its popularity is commensurate with the violence of ideological aggression that has prohibited henceforth the utterance of ‘imperialism’. For me, the deployment of true historical capitalism has always been globalised and has always been polarised and to this end, imperialist. Thus, collective imperialism is simply an old and enduring phenomenon in a new guise.
This new form of imperialism is clearly built upon objective foundations and its character is determined by the strong transnationalisation of the leading corporations. It implies a rallying towards a common political project: working together to manage the downtrodden world (global South), and to this end, placing it safely in the hands of the world military, or the US armed forces and their subaltern allies within the triad (NATO, Japan). Yet this new demand does not wipe out the national character of the capitalist components within the triad. It does reduce the contradictions and conflicts but it does not wipe them out completely. Carroll outlines the uncertainties associated with the permanence of these conflicts. He writes, ‘the wave of the international mergers did not lead to stable transnational firms’ (ibid, p. 18).
The analysis of political convergences within the triad and the conflicts that accompanies them are outside Carroll’s field of vision. I have placed it back at the centre of my analysis of the current long and systematic crisis of widespread monopoly capitalisms (I refer here to my book entitled ‘Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?’, 2010).
The national partners within the triad (and I am insistent on this point, even in eastern Europe) are quite clearly unequal.
Debates surrounding hegemony – in the Gramscian sense – and particularly the declining hegemon that is the United States, are important here. Carroll’s analysis cannot simply be constrained to looking at competitive inequalities of the production systems in concern (United States, Great Britain, Germany, Japan and France etc). It must include political, ideological and military dimensions as well.
Debates regarding the spread of financialisation and its effects are equally important. Again I refer the reader to my work on ‘The Crisis’. Financialisation is in my estimation not a product of ‘error’, nor is it the product of ‘ramblings’; it demonstrates how widespread monopolies must manage capital during the crisis. Nevertheless, this financialisation does conflict with the requirements for finance-management at the national level (even in Europe with the euro, as I will explain later on). Carroll’s observation that banks are far less transnational than production companies is testament to this contradiction, reminding us of the autonomy of national systems despite the flow of transnationalisation.
Nevertheless, transnationalisation clearly weakens the coherence of the national production systems concerned, even those of the most powerful partners. Yet it does not substitute the emergence of a coherent transnational production system (not even a trans-European one) to which national systems are forced to submit themselves to. To this end, the global system is instable and will become increasingly so, as remarked in passing by Carroll.
Japan’s position within the triad seems somewhat marginal if we are to believe Carroll’s deductions. I think that there is an error of judgment here and that Carroll’s choice of indicator (the cross exchanges between boards of directors) distorts reality. Japanese capitalism has always been transparent and its main concern, and it is well known, is to remain its own master, even if more for show than anything else. Despite this, in other ways (including of course, political and military plans), Japan’s membership in the triad of collective imperialism is in no doubt, in my mind.
Generally the frontiers of this triad seem to me to be clearly demarcated. I will return later to the boundaries within Europe. But what of Canada or Australia? These two national capitalisms are – for reasons I am unable to develop upon here – what I would label ‘exterior provinces’ of the United States. Japan is in a similar position in its own way, but Mexico, to which I will return later, is not.
Due to the reasons laid out above, major conflict within the global system is divisive and in the foreseeable future it will inevitably continue to divide the ‘North’ (the imperialist triad) and the ‘South’ (in particular China and other emerging countries).
ONE EUROPE OR MANY EUROPES; UNDER CONSTRUCTION OR DECONSTRUCTION?
Add together Europe’s entire working-class population and its entire GDP (gross domestic product) and you will see that it is the most powerful economy in the world. We are told that even if the European project were thought up in Washington at the beginning, it was soon to become a working reality, allowing Europe to be on equal footing with the United States and to assert itself as having the gravitational pull within the world system.
This argument is not logical, simply because the nation-states associated with the European Union (EU) continue to be founded on national capitalisms which when put together are more competitive than they are complementary, or at least, are only complementary in unequal terms; that is to say, only if the weakest players submit to whatever is dictated by the strongest player. The EU is not therefore a stable ensemble like that of the United States, who, in spite of its federal constitution is one nation and one state.
The European Constitution does not allow the EU to go beyond its current set-up; it is not possible to move towards a ‘confederal’ and multinational ‘European state’. This set-up has done nothing more than ratify the desiderata of the national capitalist monopolies. Apeldoor was right in 2002 when he said that the European Round Table of Industrialists had practically drafted the constitution without consulting any elected bodies (Carroll, ibid, p. 155).
And yet the strategies employed by European monopoly-holders lean on a consensus with only one objective: to make it impossible for the elected authorities to question the exclusive domination of said monopoly-holders (as Giscard d’Estaing confessed ‘to make socialism an illegal objective’). The consensus thereby halts the progression towards a transnational state, if it were possible, despite the diversity of national European bodies.
The euro crisis has shattered this reality and brought to light the irregularities that characterise the European construction. Amongst the reasons I gave for ‘the impossible management of the euro’, I emphasised Germany’s objective to ‘dominate Europe’. Just as our Greek friends I mentioned in my analysis may recall, Germany’s objective is to achieve through economic means what they failed to achieve twice through military conquests: a ‘German Europe’.
EUROPE IS STILL CONJUGATED IN THE PLURAL
The ‘first Europe’ consists of the historic core of the most powerful national capitalisms (Germany, France and Great Britain, to which we can add the more modest states that are no less advanced such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden), and despite appearances it is still subject to potentially violent conflicts. The pairing of France and Germany only works as long as the weaker of the two – France – aligns itself with the interests of the stronger of the two – Germany. This is the case whilst Sarkozy is in power; however, in future this may change. Great Britain stands alone, seeking to balance itself between satisfying its new ‘European’ interests and satisfying its North Atlantic preferences.
The ‘second Europe’ consists of the more fragile national capitalisms such as Italy, Spain and possibly even some others (Ireland, Portugal and Greece). This Europe does not have a say in anything. It is obliged to conform to the decisions made by the more powerful, by Germany above all.
The ‘third Europe’ – the ex-Central and Eastern Europe Countries (CEE) – constitute the dominated periphery. Its relationship with the first Europe, particularly with Germany, is similar in nature to that of Latin America and the United States. Eastern Europe and the Balkans serve as the field of expansion for the domination of the monopoly-holders coming from the major European powers; it is nothing more than this, even if there is the strong illusion that that their peoples are in the process of ‘catching-up’ through European integration.
A parallel between the ex-CEE countries and Mexico is drawn here. By adhering to the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Mexico has renounced its independence. In spite of appearances – good GDP growth, although this is highly debatable – Mexico is not en route to a course of development that would permit it to climb the ladder in order to leave behind its ‘semi-peripheral’ position: history shows that the surrendering of the Mexican nation will be difficult to overcome, as will the situations of Eastern European nations. A disaster similar to that which cost Mexico half its territory after it was annexed by the United States in the 19th century could be repeated in the form of the annexation of Lower California and North Mexico, subjecting them to the same conditions faced by their southern neighbours in Central America, Guatemala and others.
Europe is therefore not ‘under construction’, as unfortunately Carroll and others are so quick to conclude, basing their judgments on fragile and limited criteria relating to the interdependence of the short-term interests of ‘European’ monopolies. The ongoing crisis will most likely, in my opinion, inform the ‘deconstruction’ of Europe. In the instance that Germany fails to impose its project of a ‘German Europe’, Berlin could take the initiative to leave the euro and to withdraw to a zone in which the mark can be incorporated – the Netherlands, Scandinavia, eastern Europe and the Balkans (more or less followed by Italy and Spain) – without worrying too much about compromising with France and Great Britain. Could this be a return to the Europe of the 1930s?
FACED WITH THIS CHALLENGE, ARE THE PEOPLES’ RESPONSES EFFECTIVE? UNDER WHICH CONDITIONS?
The people, those from the centres (the triad) and those from the peripheries (emerging or not) are not confronted by the ‘challenge of globalisation’ but by the spread of the collective imperialism of the powers (plural) of the triad. Proper analysis of this challenge requires us to go upstream of ‘globalisation’ in order to examine the major transformations of capitalism that control it.
Here I intend to describe these transformations by connecting the various aspects of their existence into what I have labelled ‘widespread monopoly capitalism’. What I mean by this is a new stage of the capitalism of the monopoly-holders which is characterised by the submission of the set of national production systems that is concerned with the domination of these monopolies, which, by the way, suck up much of the surplus value produced in the dominant sectors. I refer the reader to my book on ‘The Crisis’ again. This virtually complete (and new) domination has inspired within me the idea of moving towards the domination of abstract capital, based on the dispossession of the historical bourgeoisies for their own good. The expression for it is ‘financialisation’.
In his work on the emergence of a ‘transnational bourgeoisie’ (transatlantic in fact), Carroll does not rely solely on the argument (which is both limited and fragile in my opinion) regarding the exchanged representations between various boards of directors; he strengthens his argument by highlighting the institutionalised political instruments that this newly forming class have given themselves. His analyses of the functions carried out by nine of these institutions are worth recalling:
(i) While the International Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1919, its role has become new and considerably more decisive since the recent creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
(ii) The Bilderberg Conference in 1952 (Society of Mount Pèlerin), led by Hayek –; the mentor of liberalism without borders or boundaries – managed to popularise discourse on neoliberalism amongst politicians, media heavyweights and the high-grade militaries of the countries within the triad. The Trilateral Commission, established in 1973, gave the discourse a quasi-official tone, to which governments and major political parties in the triad – from the right and the left – have joined. The World Economic Forum (Davos) then took over by continuing to promote the discourse from 1982 onwards.
(iii) More recently the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, created in 1995, aimed ‘to dress in green’ the strategies for expansion of capitalist monopolies in order to rally together high-riding environmental opinions.
(iv) On the European level, from 1984 the European Round Table of Industrialists took on an important role, becoming the major source of influence for decisions made in Brussels concerning the European Union.
(v) Parallel to this, in 1995 the partners of the triad put in place two instruments to facilitate their long-term dialogues; the Transatlantic Business Dialogue and the European Union/Japan Round Table; meanwhile in 2006, NAFTA established the North American Competitiveness Council.
Although the discourses developed within such institutions are well known and banal to the extreme – simply rather conservative – it is necessary to voice them and to repeat them because these ‘think tanks ‘ benefit from an honourable reputation in terms of bringing into their folds those who ‘know best’ how to tackle certain issues. The Citizen – Spectator base today is largely convinced that no one can understand the economic problems better than the entrepreneurs. We have forgotten that the sole concern of these entrepreneurs is to ensure that their profits are maximised as far as possible; unemployment, for example, is not their problem. As such, economic issues are being studied through a distorted lens.
From these observations, Carroll draws all too easily the conclusion that there is an emerging ‘transatlantic bourgeoisie’. I will not say much more about this, except that the convergence of representation styles is not sufficient evidence of the above. The European royal courts of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were equally populated by characters that shared the same ways of thinking, and this did not preclude any conflict. Today, in the same vein, I claim that the bourgeoisie of the triad share the same way of thinking, yet this does not mean that they are any less ‘national’ – even in Europe. Moreover, they are simply aware that it is necessary for them to put on a united front in the face of their common enemy – the Chinese-led South. Therefore, they constitute the foundations of what I have labelled the collective imperialism of the Triad.
Are we soon to witness the deepening crisis adding to the development of conflicting interests between the collective imperialism’s national partners? It seems that this will likely be the case. It will put to question the already-damaged forms of globalisation that currently exist.
However, faced with this new challenge, Carroll’s proposed new counter-strategies seem to me to be inadequate. The reason for this is due to the fact that Carroll is still caught up in the globalisation bubble; he believes it is possible to build a ‘better globalisation’ than that which exists already and does not see that prior to this what actually needs to be addressed is its deconstruction, in order to reconstruct it later on, on other possible foundations.
Faced with the institutions created by the transnational bourgeoisie, Carroll proposes a counter-strategy, in which four promising new institutions emerge. These are: (i) the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); (ii) the Transnational Institute Amsterdam, itself a branch of the Institute for Policy Studies based in Washington; (iii) Friends of the Earth International (FoEI); and (iv) the World Social Forum (WSF), which was first held in Porto Alegre in 2001.
Beyond the differing nuances and concerns specific to each of these institutions, a single common denominator unifies them as a coherent group. First, these institutions are largely ‘reformist’, sometimes to the extreme, like the ITUC, who no longer even defends the ‘old-style’ social democratic programmes – a compromise between capital and labour worthy of the name – and is satisfied with minor proposals aimed at alleviating the consequences of the most dramatic social and political monopolies. The FoEI is not interested in examining the fundamental relationship between capitalist logic and ecological disaster and as such is able to act as a viable interlocutor for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The WSF charter forbids the research of credible alternative policies and is satisfied with simply recording the spontaneous societal changes that are produced by the ‘resistance’.
In a relentless critical analysis of the practices of a number of institutions labelled as, among other things, ‘anti-systemic’ or ‘non-profit’, Michel Chossudovsky describes the inconsistencies demonstrated by these ‘manufactured’ institutions; he claims that they are in fact destined to serve the system and that they also generously finance these self-described ‘anti-systemic’ finance programmes (‘Manufacturing Dissent’, website Chossudovsky, 2010).
Without necessarily going as far as Chossudovsky, I would say that the general strategy employed by these institutions – and others of a similar nature – is based on the search for a ‘new consensus’ able to effectuate ‘another globalisation’ – better than that which has been shaped by the elite. This strategy is, in my opinion, condemned to failure, because it ignores the lessons of history. I have pointed out that the first long and systemic crisis of the capitalism of the elite only found its ‘solution’ after 30 years of wars and revolutions. It was these power struggles, both social and newly international, that gave rise to ‘les trente glorieuses’ (1945–75). According to my analysis, it was during this period that three families of ‘development models’ (arising from the compromise between social democracy, Sovietism and popular national development) comfortably coexisted with a parallel ‘pluricentric globalisation’.
There is absolutely no reason to think things will be any different in the future. We must question the construction of globalisation and deconstruct it before ‘another globalisation’ becomes possible. This is true for globalisation today (that is to say, the global domination of the collective imperialist triad); it’s true for Europe.
Alternative strategies can only be effective if they are radical. In other words, both by working on the deconstruction of the existing system and by initiating progress towards building an alternative system which, in my opinion, should be socialist-driven, in the sense that it must consciously shake itself free from the shackles of capitalist logic.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Samir Amin is the director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal.
* Translated from the French by Mairi Lockwood.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Successful African alternatives to corporate ‘green revolutions’
Carol Thompson and Andrew Mushita
‘How can a green revolution be achieved in Africa?’ After more than a year of study, the expert panel, commissioned by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, replied as follows: ‘no single technological bullet is available for radically improving African agriculture.’ African agriculture will require numerous ‘rainbow evolutions’ across the diverse African farming systems, ‘rather than a single Green Revolution.’
By 2007, however, Annan agreed to be executive director of the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations. AGRA proposes exactly the kind of agriculture the panel of agricultural experts (from South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, China and more) rejected: Monoculture of one or two crops with the goal of increasing yields through the high use of fossil fuels, chemicals (fertilisers, pesticides) and biotechnology (patented genetically modified seeds). AGRA finances agricultural research and lobbies across the globe (e.g., January in Davos) to extend outdated 20th century industrial agriculture to the African continent.
Current crises in global agriculture affect the African continent the most, from agrofuels replacing food to market failures and privatisation of living organisms. Because of their place in the international division of labour (including South Africa) as primary commodity exporters, with little or no value-added processing, African economies remain vulnerable to the vagaries of both weather and markets.
Given these dire situations, how could Africa possibly offer alternatives to the dominant industrial agriculture of ‘green revolutions’? After briefly summarising the various threats of the global agricultural crises to African food security, this article analyses African alternatives, focusing on their approach to farmers' rights and an initiative to award and disseminate African innovations.
GLOBAL AGRICULTURAL CRISES – THE VIEW FROM AFRICA
As the demand for agrofuels seems to be insatiable, global corporations are noticing Africa for its extensive land masses, while not seeing the hungry. Calling Africa the ‘green OPEC’, they assert that 15 countries in Africa have a total combined land area greater than all of India ‘available’ for agrofuel production, not bothering to explain what ‘available land’ means in the context of a food deficit continent.
Europe and the USA have set ‘green’ targets for agrofuel consumption that they cannot fulfill using their own land. The agrofuel ‘craze’ therefore very much depends on global corporations’ taking command of land in South countries in order to grow agrofuel crops.
To further the problem, the amount of plant material needed is massive. Lester Brown offers the comparison that the amount of grain required to fill the 90-litre petrol tank of a 4 × 4 vehicle once with maize ethanol could feed one person for a year. The grain it takes to fill the tank every two weeks over a year would feed 26 people.
The extent of African land coveted by investors, therefore, expands to tens millions of hectares, involving 20 countries. No matter how the land is allocated – from leasing to contract farming – its use will be overwhelmingly for foreign consumption. Such major tracts of land designated to meet foreigners' energy or food needs signals, once again, the expatriation of African lands.
Exporting crops for overseas consumption while Africans go hungry is a historical pattern all too familiar on the continent. It is certainly not the hope of 21st century African agriculture.
MARKET FAILURES IN AGRICULTURE
The dominance of the ‘willing seller–willing buyer’ market approach to land redistribution dates only from the 1980s. The serious problem of treating land simply as a commodity is best illustrated by the case of Namibia. At independence in 1990, only 4,000 white farmers owned about 50 per cent of all arable land. Abiding by the ‘willing seller–willing buyer’ principle, the rate of land transfers over the first 20 years indicates it will take 100 years to acquire just 25 per cent of the commercial land. And this market approach offers no land use plan nor agrarian reform policy.
By 2002, the Namibian government concluded that the market failed to address land inequities, poverty reduction or environmental conservation. Both Namibia and South Africa are moving towards expropriation of land as a necessary means to correct this economic apartheid. Southern Africa is learning from the negative experience of land grabs in Zimbabwe, yet the commodity market approach can be similarly inequitable and destructive of livelihoods.
Studies from Southern Africa offer data about the additional failure of markets to provide farm inputs and services for smallholder farmers. As one report from Malawi summarises, ‘Ten years on, it is evident that the expected benefits of the liberalization of both input and outputs markets has failed to penetrate the remote rural markets.’ In spite of the World Bank, the history of market failure in agriculture is now reviving African government regulation.
Agreeing with this African reversal, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, this month gave the decisive conclusion:
‘Agroecology [sustainable mixed cropping] is a knowledge-intensive approach. It requires public policies supporting agricultural research and participative extension services. States and donors have a key role to play here. Private companies will not invest time and money in practices that cannot be rewarded by patents and which don’t open markets for chemical products or improved seeds.’
BIOPIRACY OF AFRICAN BIODIVERSITY WEALTH
The agroecology of Africa is characterised by complex agricultural systems mainly dominated by smallholder farmers who grow a range of diverse crops in a single field. There are about 18 recognised farming systems in Africa that can be grouped as a maize-dominated system, a cereal/root crop system, a root crop system and an agro-pastoral millet/sorghum system, all within overall mixed cropping. Part of Africa's food heritage, this genetic wealth offers important contributions towards making Africa a well-nourished continent.
The unspoken but central goal of AGRA is to attain access to African genetic wealth by requisitioning the expertise of African scientists and tapping indigenous knowledge in order to select a few varieties from thousands available. From this African knowledge and wealth, the global corporations will develop new plant varieties. However, these plant materials, instead of being freely shared, will be patented. Such privatisation of genetic material, without recognition of all those who bred the species for centuries, is biopiracy.
Stories of stolen genetic treasures echo across the continent. Like traditional story tellers, when a botanist or agronomist ends his or her account of the latest theft, another joins in to give yet another account, often in voices of anguish and despair. Here we offer a few details of just one current case from Southern Africa.
The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO) warns that the world's livestock production has become increasingly based on a limited number of breeds. Since 2001, an average of one breed per month has become extinct. Searching for a broader genetic base by which to save a livestock industry therefore becomes an impetus for biopiracy. Accessing the gene pool of other animals with favourable characteristics is more crucial than respecting indigenous knowledge or thousands of years of breeding. In addition, if the new breed becomes marketable, the profits are not shared.
Evolving 7,000 years ago from the wild ox, the humpless African cattle differ greatly from those brought to the continent from Asia about 3,000 years ago. Tolerating tropical diseases and surviving on much less water than other breeds, Tuli cattle thrive on low-nutrient grasses; their name derives from the Ndebele word utuli, meaning dust. Custodians of the breed, the communities developed local knowledge and technologies for improving the cattle within the prevailing environmental conditions and social needs (for food and draught power).
In 1987, frozen embryos of Tuli cattle were shipped to Australian cattle breeders. By the 1990s, the US Department of Agriculture found that Tuli proved their merit in withstanding harsh environmental conditions. Today, the North American Tuli Association promotes the breed as follows: ‘NATA intends to expand their activities by spreading the benefits of the Tuli cattle to many countries within the Western hemisphere….the Tuli breed can provide the missing link to bridge the gap in cattle genetics, the gap being adaptation to heat and nutritional stress combined with carcass merit.’
Neither the government of Zimbabwe nor the foreign cattle associations consulted with the local communities or recognised their contribution in any way. NATA has even usurped the name of ‘tuli.’
The current race by industrialised countries to access, research and isolate traits required by the beef industry will soon lead to the patenting of all useful genes of the Tuli cattle, without the involvement of the local communities who nurtured the breed. While Tuli traits are hailed as second to none in countries that abrogated international agreements to access the genetic materials, the peoples who developed the breed in the first place are forgotten.
While research points out that the juicy and tender beef traits of Tuli cattle are transferable to other breeds, no one is willing to ensure the reverse: ‘juicy and tender’ benefits to the custodians and original breeders of Tuli cattle.
AFRICAN ALTERNATIVES WORKING ON THE GROUND
FARMERS' RIGHTS AND THE AFRICAN UNION MODEL LEGISLATION
The international principle of farmers' rights dates from the mid-1980s, propelled by increasing demands for exclusive plant breeders' rights (PBRs) by corporate agriculture. Farmers' rights enable farmers to develop and utilise crop genetic diversity, and thereby, recognises their contributions to the global pool of genetic resources.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) promotes intellectual property rights claimed by plant breeders in laboratories, while minimising provisions for farmers. In contrast, The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) is an international law that binds contracting parties to recognize the contribution made by indigenous communities and farmers for the development of plant genetic resources. Article 9.2 of the ITPGRFA affirms that farmers have the right to:
- protect traditional knowledge relevant to plant genetic resources
- participate in sharing benefits arising from the utilization of plant resources
- participate in making decisions related to the sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
Predating the ITPGRFA, the African Union Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources offers a legislative framework for implementing farmers' rights. The AU Model Law can be used as a sui-generis alternative within the WTO or the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
A major discussion in the process of domesticating farmers' rights will be determining the relationship between individual rights of private property and social rights of farmers. The WTO gives no recognition to social rights, only to private property rights, while the CBD, the ITPGRFA and the AU Model Legislation all recognise the rights of groups (farmers and communities) as equal to those of individuals (persons and corporations). Those promoting GM seeds under the guise of a ‘green revolution for Africa’ would not countenance farmers' rights, and therefore, they violate the priority of the very farmers they insist they are aiding.
The AU model legislation also directly addresses the issue of biopiracy, such as the Tuli cattle case, by adopting the CBD principle of prior informed consent (PIC). The AU implementation of PIC requires that both the national government and the local community give consent before genetic material can be taken. For the Tuli cattle, the local communities were not consulted. Further, the AU implementation would require that benefit-sharing of any profits be returned to the community, a reciprocity not honoured by the Australian or North American cattle industry.
Africans are showing the way to turning international principles into practical policies that benefit smallholder farmers. The unity parliament of Zimbabwe was the first one to pass legislation (2010) implementing the AU model by outlawing biopiracy and honouring community rights over genetic resources.
AFRICAN BIODIVERSITY STEWARDSHIP RECOGNITION AWARD (ABSRA)
The promise and power of Africa's biodiversity wealth are the keys to unlocking African food security and food sovereignty. There are ample indications that little-known local plants of Africa may have outstanding genetic compositions that would help in solving Africa's food challenges, as well as global agricultural problems.
One incentive for enhancing the efforts of promoting indigenous knowledge is to recognise those who have already contributed, and to prepare space for those who will play their role in the future. Such an approach will facilitate the inter-generational transfer of technologies and capacities required to innovatively manage Africa's genetic resource base.
Because the wealth of the existing biodiversity is the basis for the future of agricultural Africa, it is essential that those who care about this wealth, and work toward improving its potential for use, are acknowledged. The ‘African Biodiversity Stewardship Recognition Award’ (ABSRA) proposes to fulfill this goal, as an African initiative for recognizing those who make contributions towards the conservation and sustainable use of African biodiversity wealth.
A component of the award will finance the sharing, across the continent, of the knowledge and processes for which the award was granted. Other African communities learning about appropriate responses to particular agricultural threats will stimulate replication and mainstreaming such practices and systems – successful alternatives to the ravages of industrial monoculture.
ABSRA is a continental response to yet another outsider intervention bringing inappropriate high-cost technology under the auspices of AGRA. The logic, goals, and economic and legal premises of the two could not be more different.
AGRA's approach focuses on increasing yields above any other agronomic characteristic, while ABSRA promotes the idea that food biodiversity can provide more nutrition than monoculture. AGRA works to privatise knowledge as quickly as possible through the patenting of processes as well as end products. Its ‘green revolution’ mentality refuses to honour farmers as plant breeders or scientists, while ABSRA encourages smallholder farmers, recognising both their farmers' rights to exchange and propagate seeds and their scientific innovations for sustaining biodiversity.
Outdated and disproven ways from 20th century agriculture continue, for they profit those with scientific and financial power. African smallholder farmers, however, are already demonstrating what a recent international assessment of agriculture stated in rejecting green revolutions: ‘Business as usual is no longer an option.’ African agronomists and scientists have answers for how to feed growing numbers of people nutritious food, rather than feeding cars or corporate profits. What industrialised countries need is ‘aid’ from Africa, in the form of shared knowledge and technology to preserve global food biodiversity for future generations.
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* Carol Thompson is professor of Political Economy, Northern Arizona University, USA.
* Andrew Mushita is the director of the Community Technology Development Trust, Zimbabwe.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 InterAcademy Council (2003) 'Realising the Promise and Potential of African Agriculture: Science and technology strategies for improving agricultural productivity and food security in Africa', Amsterdam, p. xviii. http://www.interacademycouncil.net
 GRAIN (2007) 'The New Scramble for Africa', Seedling – Agrofuels Special Issue (July), p. 36.
 Brown, Lester (2006) 'Supermarkets and Service Stations Now Competing for Grain', Earth Policy Institute, July. www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2006/Update55.htm
 Goering, Laurie. (2010) ‘African Farmland Deals Need Rules, Grass-Roots Warn,’ Reuters, March 30.
 Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (2007) 'Land and Agrarian Reform in Malawi', Regional Working Paper Series No. 02/2007, January, p.23.
 The ‘Berg Report’ called for the removal of ‘inefficient’ government interventions in agriculture, from grain marketing boards, to research stations, to rural credit schemes and agricultural extension workers. Over the next two decades, this policy was systematically implemented across the continent. World Bank. (1981) 'Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: An agenda for action', Report No. 3358)
 Office of High Commissioner, UN Human Rights. (2011) “Eco-Farming Can Double Food Production in 10 Years,” March 8. For full report: “Agro-ecology and the Right to Food,” Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, UN General Assembly, A/HRC/16/49. www.srfood.org
 For full analysis, see Mushita, Andrew and Carol B. Thompson (2007) Biopiracy of Biodiversity – Global exchange as enclosure, Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.
 Food and Agriculture Organization. Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (2007) The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Rome: FAO, p. 3. http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a1250e/a1250e00.htm
 North American Tuli Association, 2007: 1, http://www.tuliassociation.com
 UNESCO (2008) 'International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)', Executive Summary, April, p. 4.
Social movements, science and the struggle for climate justice
Audio interview with Pat Mooney
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* Gacheke Gachihi is a social justice activist with Kenya's Bunge La Mwananchi (People’s Parliament) and Pat Mooney is director of ETC Group, an advocacy group that supports socially responsible developments of technologies useful to the poor and marginalised and addresses international governance issues and corporate power.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Who said blackness cannot be synonymous with excellence?
A friend of mine, who is a high school teacher, recently invited me to come and speak to his students, all of whom will be voting for the first time in forthcoming local government elections. During the question-and-answer session, one of the students said to me, ‘I hear you and understand the importance of voting as a citizen, but aren’t all black politicians just the same?’
I then asked her what she meant by ‘the same’ and she replied: ‘Aren’t all black politicians just corrupt?’ Disturbed as I was by her question, I nevertheless tried, to the best of my ability, to make her realise that there were many honest and hardworking black people, politicians included, serving South Africa with diligence and loyalty, and who could therefore be regarded as positive role models for students like her.
As I left the school, I was troubled, not so much by the possibility that the youngster might not know any of the black role models to which I was referring, but by the thought that there might be many other black teenagers who thought that black people were inherently corrupt or incompetent.
I then remembered what minister for higher education and training Blade Nzimande had said during the debate on the president’s state of the nation address on 15 February: ‘If the matric results are bad, this is taken as a proof that this government of darkies is incapable. If the matric pass rate goes up, it means the results have been manipulated by these darkies. In either case, the sneering, arrogant tone of this discourse, which is often racist, frankly, is aimed at undermining the confidence of our people in both our education system and our government. And they will not succeed in that.’
While I have some sympathy for Nzimande’s reasoning, I however think it is important that we as blacks take some time to examine our rationalisation on the issue of racism.
There can be no denying that the impact of centuries of colonial domination and racial oppression will continue to shape black life for a long time to come. And this is so because racial oppression, in the South African context, was not just institutionalised, and maintained with the naked brutality of the state apparatus, but it was also intended to ensure that the recipients of white racism sheepishly internalised the racist notion that blacks represent the lowest manifestation of the human species.
This meant that, in their existence and conduct, blacks didn’t have to exhibit the attributes of beauty, intelligence and excellence. Therefore, like Steve Biko, the South African architects of white racism understood that ‘the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed’. And once the oppressor has inflicted sufficient damage on the black psyche, black people were expected to reach a stage where they would willingly become participants in the programmes that were actually designed to dehumanise them.
From this perspective, it is evident that it will take much more to dismantle the system of colonial and racial oppression than it took to set it up (particularly if viewed from the perspective of psychological liberation). However, a history of brutal oppression doesn’t necessarily imply that the oppressed have now been plunged into a state of irretrievable paralysis. In fact, in this connection, the Black Consciousness approach is perhaps more relevant today than it was during the anti-colonial struggle.
For instance, now that the majority of people who manage the post-apartheid state and are in charge of our country’s national planning, budgets and resource allocation are black, there is absolutely no reason for black children to continue receiving their education under trees or for the black elderly to receive their health care in sub-standard public hospitals. This should simply not be happening under a black government.
Blacks are now in charge of the management of higher education and even though black students are the majority at our universities, when compared to their white counter parts, they still have the lowest postgraduate output rates, particularly in the areas of science, engineering and technology. And according to the Academy of Science of South Africa, of our country's 23 universities, only six are responsible for the bulk of our research and development output as a country. These six just happen to be historically white universities. Is this not something that should bother those who manage our national system of innovation?
Some of the state departments and state-owned enterprises managed by us blacks are riddled with internal turbulence and scandals, which have very little to do with the fulfilment of their respective mandates, but have more to do with endemic factional and personality battles. In some cases, this narrow mindedness has crippled the functioning of critical public institutions like the SABC. Does this mean that we have accepted that, as a norm, any institution that is managed by blacks must be characterised by internal turbulence and scandal?
In appointing people to positions at various levels in the public sector, we prioritise all sorts of things, but not the most critical ones, like merit - skills, experience and qualifications. Why should we then be surprised when these institutions collapse? Or do we appoint blacks with inferior skills because we believe it is normal for blacks to dispense or receive poor service?
Does all this perhaps explain why it is that, even though blacks have been in charge of the state for the past 16 years, their own kith and kin continue to have the lowest quality of life compared to other groups in our society?
Whatever the answers to some of these questions, one thing is for certain - there is something terribly wrong with the psychological make-up of some of the blacks that manage our public institutions. Irrespective of their level of education, they seem to serve our people with an attitude that says, ‘Even if I don’t give my best, nobody will complain or do anything about it because that's the norm in my country.’
As in any constitutional democracy, the ruling party must carry the bulk of the blame for the current state of black life. And while this makes perfect sense if viewed through the narrow lenses of bourgeois parliamentarism, the broader objective reality seems to suggest that the nature and complexity of the problems that blacks face will require a much broader and visionary leadership approach - one that will enable blacks, where ever they may find themselves, to work together towards their own development and that of their country, regardless of their various political or ethnic affiliations.
Under the current political climate, this approach is likely to spark a lot of debate and even tension. However as contentious as this approach might be, it seems to be the most logical response to the rapidly deteriorating quality of life amongst blacks.
But most critically, one reality that we blacks must wake up to is that, just as it happens in our own country and in many other parts of the world, other groups continue to dominate us in many critical areas. And this is not so much because their intellect is superior to ours, but mainly because, when it comes to the challenges that face them as a group, they are more willing to put their political and religious affiliations aside and work towards their survival and progress as a group.
Is the current crop of black leaders capable of providing this kind of leadership, or is there a need for a new generation of black leaders to emerge and take up this challenge?
For the realisation of their collective dignity, blacks must reach a level of consciousness where they will be able to work with one another without being bothered by parochial considerations such as political or ethnic affiliation. And once we adopt this approach, then in the long term we will gradually change from being a people that readily consume the ideas and products of other groups. And African countries will cease to be mere suppliers of raw material (human capital included) to Western countries, and become genuine innovators and knowledge producers.
By managing our country and its various social, political, educational and economic institutions in a manner that erodes the dignity of the very people they are supposed to affirm, not only are we making a mockery of the selfless sacrifices of people like Mangaliso Sobukwe, Chris Hani, Onkgopotse Tiro and many others, but we are also sending the message to black youngsters that blackness and excellence do not go together - that blacks are capable of nothing else but mediocrity at best.
It therefore does not matter how much we blame the ‘legacy of apartheid’ or those who continue to hold black people in contempt for the current state of affairs in our country. The fact of the matter is that blacks are supposed to be in charge of the state and to use it to improve the quality of life of the citizenry - especially the black majority - and we are simply not doing so.
If we are really in charge of our country then we must simply take responsibility and manage our affairs in a manner that will make black youngsters believe that blackness and excellence can be synonymous. This is the best legacy that we can bequeath to our children and grandchildren - a legacy of pride in ourselves, and of excellence.
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* Veli Mbele is president of the Azanian Youth Organisation.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Egyptian youth uprising
Jalil A. Muntaqim
The youth movement in Egypt has been defined as a revolution, but to me it resembles more of an uprising against tyranny. This historical uprising in many respects reminds me of the type of black youth uprising that occurred in the United States against the tyranny of Jim Crow segregation. Although the civil rights movement is often referred to as a black bourgeoisie revolution challenging segregation laws and policy, it was not until Kwame Toure (formerly Stokely Carmichael) of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) announced that the struggle is for ‘black power’ that the civil rights movement evolved into a black liberation struggle for young people. As a result of the growing militancy of black youth, the federal government under the auspices of the FBI-Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) began to violently suppress the growing militant youth movement. That movement was mostly represented by the Black Panther Party, which became the principle target of the FBI COINTELPRO activities, actions that included framing members for imprisonment, running them into exile and assassination.
The Black Panther movement evolved out of the political struggles of the civil rights movement to further demand control of the socio-economic and political institutions controlling the oppressed black community in the United States.
To date, the youth uprising in Egypt resembles more the democratic demands of the civil rights movement under the leadership of Dr Martin L. King, Jr. and the united front operations of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Urban League, the Congress for Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, each of which had specific responsibilities in coordinating the civil rights movement. The Egyptian youth movement has yet to evolve into a coordinated leadership of a united front, and because of this weakness the uprising is being defined and motivated as no more than a struggle for regime change.
The ideals of demanding democratic freedoms are laudable, but whether prospects of true democracy will manifest themselves depends on more than simply open elections. This is especially true when the US government continues to sponsor the government, especially the military, which now controls the government. Therefore, any electoral process will result in the selection of a neocolonial representative of US interests in the region. Hence, the Egyptian youth uprising will result in regime change, cosmetic change in government operations and a nominal redistribution of some of the wealth to address the most pressing issues of poverty to appease unemployed youth. In other words, the face of the regime might change but fundamentally oppressive structures will remain intact.
Very similarly, the civil rights movement in the United States initially created conditions for a more representative government that has lead to the election of the first black president. Obviously, the US civil rights movement failed to change the fundamental conditions of oppressed peoples’ of colour in the United States. This is especially significant when considering the economic disparity between blacks and whites. The disparities that existed between blacks and whites during the civil rights movement have been exacerbated by the realignment of wealth continuing to be accumulated by 1 per cent of the American population. The rich are getting richer and the poor are growing in numbers. Ultimately, this means there needs to be a fundamental change in the capitalist system, a system that is being emulated in Egypt, especially through the military’s control of the major industries in Egypt, a military that the US government supports with over a billion dollars in subsidies and payments each year. The ouster of Hosni Mubarak will not end the military’s control of the wealth of the nation nor ensure a clear severance of this insidious relationship between the US and the Egyptian military, the true rulers of the nation.
Given this reality, a good look at what is happening in Egypt can be characterised as a bourgeoisie democratic movement inspired by Egypt’s youth. Although the middle class, as unrepresentative as they may be of the Egyptian population, is supportive of the youth seeking regime change, there is no call for ending the military control over industries, a radical redistribution of wealth or a change in the geopolitical allegiance towards the United States and Israel. Hence, what is happening in Egypt cannot be characterised as a revolution.
What is the potential for revolution? Indeed, if the youth uprising post-Mubarak’s ouster decides to align itself with those who want to end the US neocolonial relationship with the Egyptian government, to control the means of production, and strengthen support for the independence of Palestine, forging a united front similar to what existed in the United States during the civil rights movement, revolution is possible. Naturally, just as happened in the United States, such a development will expect to confront the full force of the government, police and military to suppress the movement, as was done in the United States. Therefore, it can only be hoped that the youth uprising in Egypt builds a popular mass movement that will not be satisfied with regime change, just as disenfranchised youth in the US cannot be satisfied merely with the election of a black president.
In closing, permit me to say I am inspired by the youth of Egypt, Tunisia and Palestine. The struggle is hard and arduous, but from generation to generation our victory is certain. Rise up young people, the future is calling you!
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* To learn more about Jalil A. Muntaqim, please check his website www.freejalil.com.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Another world is possible
Telling the untold story
I was born 1990-27-09 in cape town, in a very big hospital called grooterschuur but i grow up in eastern cape in a small rural area called ediphala in [whittle sea] at that time life was very easy because i was raised up by both parents and both grand parents in both famalies, but things got changed when my parents got divorced and my mother left my father and she decided to leave eastern cape, she went to jhb to work so that me and my brother can have a better life.
She left me with her younger sisters [my aunts] while she was looking for a job. They were treating me very well, but as a little girl growing up without a mother life was not easy for me. When i was in grade 4 she called me to jhb, yes life there was much better because we lived in surbubs in a flat, went to whites school, apparently when i started my high school my mom lost her job and life started to be difficult again but i managed to finish my grade 8.
My aunt told my mother that i must come to cape town and live with her. Life in capetown was horrebly and difficult for me because i was not use to the situation in which she lived under off.
She’s leaving in a small shack with three family members and im the fourth one,in a very small area called qq section on a dirty environment where you could not even go to the toilet,you have to use a plastic because the are no toilets. We throw our dirt in a place where we call [inyhunyhu] a dirty place across the street and we get sick easly because the environment is not clean esepcially for kids because they play next to it cause theres no place for them to play.
I met new freinds they were quit good but most of them they were not going to school but i had a close freind luckly she was still going to school.
We did bad things e.g we used to drink while we were writing our matric exams,go to parties and sometimes dont study,or study on the night before the exam. Sadly i got the drinking results i failed my matric but luckly i got a chance to write the two subjects that i’v failed.
While i was waiting to rewrite my supplementary exam i had nothing to do except for preparing my exams,i use to sit the whole day,unemployed but thanks to abahlali basemjondolo [abm] organisation.
I got involved on this organisation that works on trying to make a better life for people who lives in shacks. They are trying to push government to do the work that people expect them to do,by building them houses with electricity,clean water and toilets in a safe environment and i think thats a good thing for me because im also trying to make a change on peoples lives and my life too, because the government is doing nothing about it.
The only thing that they do is to tell us to vote. So i told my self that im not gonna vote cause i dont see the reason of voting because it does’nt make any difference in my life, instead of making my life better, it’s making it wors. The only thing that they do is lying to us telling us to vote but at the end of the day there is nothing happening they keep on making empty promisess, giving us hopes that will never be true. I told my self that i will never vote in my life while i still live in such a state, not while people of south africa still living in hell because it’s not like the government dont have money,they wasting money on unnecessary things such as bilding new staduim, busses, gautrain and etc.
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* Zimasa Lerumo is a 20 year old unemployed woman living at qq informal settlement without access to clean water, toilet, and electricity.
* Zimasa is coordinating Abahlali baseMjondolo's WC youth project. She spoke at the ‘No land! No house! No vote’ launch held at VE informal settlement on 21 march 2011.
* For comment call Zimasa at: 071 051 2883. For No land! No house! No vote! campaign please call: 073 2562 036.
* To see pictures please visit WWW.KHAYELITSHASTRUGGLES.COM.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Poverty as entertainment: Ending Kibera's slum tours
Apparently, a reality show-cum-documentary called ‘Famous, Rich and in the Slums’, which has been shot in Kibera, has been airing on British TV in the last few days. The film is being promoted as a fund-raiser for the residents of Nairobi’s most notorious slum.
A British journalist, who told me about the film, and who has lived in Kenya for several years, said that she was ‘shocked and appalled’ at the way Kenya was being portrayed to the British public, and wondered why ‘Kibera has become as iconic as the leaping Maasai warrior used to be’.
The two-part documentary shows four British celebrities, including the actor and stand-up comedian, Lenny Henry, leaving their privileged lives behind to spend a week with residents of what the producers of the film describe as ‘one of the most impoverished places on earth’.
The film by Red Nose Day, a charity whose slogan is ‘Do Something Funny for Money’, shows the celebrities mingling, sleeping, eating and defecating with the locals. ‘It’s like being in hell,’ Henry is quoted as saying, minutes after relieving himself at a pit latrine that he shared with hundreds of Kibera residents.
For many Kenyans, the film is the worst form of slum tourism because it turns poverty into entertainment in the name of charity.
Kennedy Odede, a former Kibera resident who is currently a student at Wesleyan University in the United States, says that while he understands the need among foreigners to witness poverty, he believes that slum tourism is largely a one-way street: ‘They get the photos; we lose a piece of our dignity.’
Slum tourism is one of the fastest growing trends in Kenya, particularly since the films ‘The Constant Gardener’ (partially shot in Kibera), and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ won Oscars.
Odede says that, like the Hollywood films, slum tourism has become another source of recreation for people who think they can understand poverty just by hanging around poor people for a few hours.
In an opinion article titled ‘Slumdog Tourism’ published in the New York Times in August 2010, Odede recalls his first experience of a slum tour when he was 16.
‘I was outside my 100-square-foot house washing dishes, looking at utensils with longing because I hadn’t eaten in two days. Suddenly, a white woman was taking my picture. I felt like a tiger in a cage. Before I could say anything, she had moved on.’
In another incident, a documentary film-maker who was interviewing him started to video a man defecating. ‘For a moment,’ he says, ‘I saw my home through her eyes: faeces, rats, starvation, houses so close no one could breathe.’
What has this kind of tourism done to the residents of Kibera, except erode their self-respect further and make them objects of foreigners’ pity?
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of charities operating in Kibera and other slums like it, with few significant results to show for their efforts.
There may be slightly more sanitation facilities in the slums now, but the living conditions have become only slightly less appalling - they have not improved dramatically. And the slum continues to grow.
What’s worse, rather than addressing the bigger issues of social justice and human rights (which slum residents are denied daily by virtue of their dehumanising living conditions), charities and other do-gooders believe that provision of toilets, water and other amenities is the solution to slum-dwellers’ problems.
For instance, a product called Peepoo is being promoted in Kibera as an environmentally safer alternative to the notorious ‘flying toilet’ plastic bags used by slum residents. The product (which is patented by its Swedish inventor) is a biodegradable bag that ‘sanitises the human excreta shortly after defecation’.
Critics say that the bag may be environmentally friendly, but it is hardly a sustainable or permanent solution to the lack of sanitation facilities in slums. Its well-intentioned promoters also gloss over the fact that defecating in a bag is hardly an edifying experience.
But then why blame foreigners when our own government, and the MP for Kibera, Raila Odinga, don’t give a s*** about where Kibera residents defecate?
They should be explaining to Kenyans why so many of the country’s citizens have no choice but to pee and poo in a bag.
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* Rasna Warah is a writer and journalist based in Nairobi. Her email is email@example.com.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
* This article first appeared in the Daily Nation.
* More information on this topic can be found by reading 'Mega-slumming: A journey through sub-Saharan Africa’s largest shanty-town' (2009) by Adam Parsons.
The terror of ‘isms’
A primer on causing terror amongst the terrified
Walasia Noor EL Shabazz
If you want to scare the living daylights out of racist people, there’s a simple way to do it without harming anyone.
First, be a middle-aged woman who is (outwardly) Muslim. Dress in black, taking care to wear some ‘ethnic’ garb from another country that is not America (where all the clothing worn is made in other countries, but is somehow American anyway and therefore okay to wear).
Wearing a black Hijab, Abaya, Burqa or veil isn’t advised (it’s too obvious). Choose a fabulous Fuchsia Hijab to attract more attention - you don’t want to blend in too much.
Wear a pair of earrings made of peacock feathers. These won’t scare anyone, but they will be gloriously beautiful and fun to wear.
Have a stylish yet oversized black leather handbag containing various items such as keys, cell phone, pocketbook, money, a small black notebook, pen, bottled water, a banana, your umbrella or any other completely standard items one would find in a woman’s purse.
For an even more frightening handbag, add a copy of the Al-Qu’ran, which you can take out of your purse at random and read quietly to yourself (all terrorists do this, and you don’t want to disappoint the racists). If armed police are on board the train, combine with Dhikr beads for a truly frenetic terror-causing experience.
Once you’re ready to go, take public transportation such as the bus, train, or subway. That way people will give you plenty of dirty looks when you board, sit down, are riding, and when you disembark.
Once you arrive at the train station, make sure you buy a bottle of water from the vendor parked outside. He must also be a Muslim - that way other commuters will hear him say ‘A Salaamu Alaikum, Sister’. They will know that you are a terrorist because you will answer him, ‘Walaikum A Salaamu Brother, one bottle of water, please?’ For added terror, you may also say ‘Shukran’ when he hands you the water.
When purchasing your ticket, ensure that you have a bit of change left over to leave on the ticket machine in case someone in need comes along. This is obviously not the American way, so you will continue to alert people that you are in fact a terrorist.
After the train arrives, sit quietly in the empty seat by the door. Be sure to drink from your water bottle every now and then so people know that you are carrying a suspiciously clear liquid.
If there are enough racist imbeciles on the train, especially ones who move seats to get further away from your seat, it is an excellent plan to say anything in Arabic under your breath with your eyes closed (or even a gibberish-talk that might be mistaken for Arabic by the ignorant, the racist, and the silly). This makes the racists sit on the edge of their seat with fear, because you are so clearly preparing for your Jihad; and since the train is underwater in a tunnel, they will not be escaping the carnage.
When the train arrives at the other side of the tunnel and doors open to admit new passengers, it is most excellent to make sure the Sikh gentleman with the turban boards the train and sits near to your seat. Because now the racists are sure that this train will self-destruct. He is, of course, a terrorist as well.
After plenty of people have given you both dirty looks, but avert their eyes quickly when you catch them, it’s a wonderful idea a few stops later to have the young Black man with dreadlocks and the Raiders sweatshirt get on the train, see you, and say ‘A Salaam Alaikum!’. Because then you say ‘Walaikum A Salaam!’ and smile.
This is obviously code for something because he is a thug and drug dealer, one to be feared to be sure, but they know he is not a Muslim, because he doesn’t look like a Muslim. Terrorist? Most likely, since they are already in fear of him and the gun(s) he’s obviously carrying.
On your walk to your destination after getting off the train (where you’ve most likely left a suspicious package or other tool of your terrorism), it is important to smile and say hello to the impeccably-dressed, flamboyant and proud-to-be-gay San Francisco man. Not because he smiled and greeted you first, but because he is gay and gays are different and therefore definitely terrorists.
A few blocks later, you should stop to talk to the three young brothers with yellow picket signs protesting outside the non-union pharmacy on behalf of their local workers’ union. They are not only terrorists like you, but also communists. Since terrorism is the new communism, this is doubly frightening to the older racists because they fear and hate both the communists and the terrorists. A triple-whammy because all the terrorists in all those terrorist countries (some of them in - clutch your pearls - Africa) also do protests and things, with signs in that terrorist writing they use over there; and that’s how they start revolutions.
I forgot the most important thing about being a big, bad, evil, scary terrorist Muslim lady. You absolutely have to carry the blossom of a beautiful purple flower in your hand the whole time. Walking, on the bus, on the train, walking again, going home on the train, and on the bus. The flower is very important, because terrorists always carry one. Flowers symbolise death and destruction, as you know, so they make the perfect terrorist accessory.
That’s it! Easy, right?
If you remember to do all of these things, you too will terrify the racists with their isms - racism, fascism, etc. You will be a terrorist, inspiring feelings of intense, overwhelming fear in all (racists) that observe you. It will be totally awesome and all the racists will hate you, which is great because you won’t hate them, fear them, or be under their power.
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* Walasia Noor EL Shabazz is a writer, journalist and student from Oakland, California.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
African Union: ‘Accelerating youth disempowerment for sustainable dictatorship’?
So we’ve just witnessed two big farewell parties in Tunis and Cairo within less than a month’s time. The third party is still going on and it’s not too far to see the fireworks to be staged in the streets of Tripoli celebrating the fall of the giant of the Arab world and African dictators. Parties for freedom and justice! Maybe some of his fellows are still thinking that he’s too big to fall, but time will tell him soon that he is too nasty to stay. Africa is not only endowed and blessed with great natural resources beneath its soil but is also cursed with its antique dictators who even celebrate their senselessness and meaninglessness through a gathering twice a year under the flagship of ‘Pan-Africanism’. The honorary host of the next gathering is another great dictator from the only Spanish-speaking country in the continent, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. He’s been given the chair (2011–12) of the African Union General Assembly and he’s proudly preparing to host the 17th General Assembly under the theme ‘Accelerating youth empowerment for sustainable development’, in the last weeks of June in Malabo. President Obiang has been in power since August 1979 and he always scores an A+ in the dictatorship games. This includes his undying efforts in creating a personality cult for himself, the outrageous corruption and looting of state resources, the unlawful detentions and killings of citizens and of course staging crappy but ‘periodic’ elections like the last one, where he secured 97 per cent of the vote.
Six months after the youth of Carthage and the sons and daughters of the pharaohs put their generational fingerprints into the world and African history, African dictators will be gathering to discuss about their ‘empowerment’ – even how to ‘accelerate youth empowerment’. Wait a minute here! Do they seriously think they have the moral ground to discuss youth empowerment in Africa? If you are telling me how to co-opt and manipulate the youth through job opportunities, economic benefits and the creation of a number of structures – which subdue their interests like the current Pan-African Youth Union and the youth assemblies and associations in their respective countries, which are channels of indoctrination and control – then you can call it ‘Youth disempowerment!’ The Tunisian and Egyptian youth become heroes and heroines of their nation and the continent because they didn’t expect and wait for the moment to be empowered. In fact, both Ben Ali and Mubarak might have tried their best to establish youth structures to ensure the pseudo-representation (numerical) of the youth in their system because they are doomed to see things beyond their personal egos. I feel that there has to be a way to make something out of this coincidence!
You may say that there are others too, but for me the African Union is the most hypocrite institution that I’ve ever heard and seen. I remember in June 2007 when the ‘highly anticipated’ AU General Assembly was held under the theme ‘the grand debate’ in Accra, Ghana, to discuss the political and economic integration of the continent and establishment of the union government, so many weird things were still happening. A group of us who were advocating for freedom of movement for African citizens across the continent and a single African passport find out that Kenya and Senegal are still under the will of their colonial masters for their citizens to travel to either of the two countries. For instance, a Kenyan (for that matter any African who is in Nairobi and needs a visa to Senegal) who wants to travel to Senegal would go to the French embassy in Nairobi and present his files for application. And the British embassy in Dakar does the same thing for a visa to Nairobi. For your surprise the embassies sometimes reject an application. Can you think of an African who wants to travel to another African country but is denied a visa by a British or French embassy officer? I saw a rejection stamp in my eyes on one of my Senegalese friend’s passport. So, how come you stage a debate about establishing a union government in a context where two governments are still in a colonial-period mentality? Actually, the AU just completed its last session under the theme ‘Towards greater unity and integration through shared values’ in Addis Ababa – can you think of the shared values that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni? Yeah, you’re right, this would be ‘winning’ a ‘periodic’ election before the actual election takes place through an extensively stretched, controlling state machine. Of course, the Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and the ex-Egyptian (dude :) ) Mubarak had something in common to share – replacing their sons on their seat. What about the Algerian Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the Eritrean Isaias Afwerki? Of course, they can share a lot about extending the state of emergency decree for an indefinite period of time (though Bouteflika just responded to the call from his people).
So, how should we deal with the upcoming AU summit under the chairing of another antique dictator, President Obiang? Shall we just let them do business as usual? I’m sure it’s gonna be a great show-off for some of them to prove how their egoistic mentality is being reproduced in the minds and souls of their young worshipers. At least I can imagine how the Ethiopian government would ‘represent the Ethiopian youth’. We need to keep the momentum from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya if we want to make something tangible out of this coincidence. There has to be a way to deal with the odds. I can’t just think of the details right now but I feel that it is the time. For now I have a simple suggestion for the African heads of states if they can think of an alternative summit theme, something like ‘Accelerating youth disempowerment for sustainable dictatorship’. I can think of some of our dudes who wish the theme of the summit is this in the back of their tiny but dictatorial mind!
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* Eyob Balcha’s blog is available at www.eyobafrikawi.blogspot.com.
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Can we trust in the African Union?
‘This is an African problem and should be left to Africans to solve’ – Bingu Wa Mutharica. immediate past chairperson of the African Union.
Africa undoubtedly has its own peculiarities, but what are our credible alternatives and justifications for an Africanisation of democratic values?
The advent of the African Union (AU) which was established on 9 July 2002 in Durban, South Africa was largely due to the inability of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to respond to the myriad of challenges facing the continent. Unlike the OAU, the AU has in its Constitutive Act Article 4 (h) the powers to intervene in member states in respect of grave circumstances. The Union also set up a Peace and Security Council in 2004. The council among others is expected to intervene in conflict, replacing the OAU Principle of non-interference with one of indifference.
However, recent decisions and postures taken by the AU make one wonder whether the people of Africa can lean on the continental body to see their hopes for a brighter future come true. Initially, it appeared that the transformation of the OAU into the now African Union was going to be a new beginning for an organisation which claims that integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent is its ultimate goal for the betterment of the African people.
The past two months have seen very interesting happenings in Africa. Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia and Egypt are some of the major spotlights of challenging times for the continental body. In contrast with these challenges though, is the successful referendum in South Sudan for secession from the North as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 between the North and South. In a bid to address these sensitive cases, the AU has made some very interesting decisions and taken some positions that provide some food for thought. The paper discusses three important stands taken by African Union and its leaders in recent times and draws some analysis on the consequences for such actions.
THE SITUATION IN COTE D’ IVOIRE AND THE LIMITS OF THE AU
After several attempts to resolve the civil war that broke out in Côte d’Ivoire since 2002, the Ouagadougou Political Agreement was signed. In fulfillment of the agreement, presidential elections were held on 4 and 28 November with the incumbent president, Mr Gbagbo refusing to step down following the declaration of Mr Alassane Ouattara by the Independent Electoral Commission as the winner of the run-off. This position has been recognised and supported by the international community including ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the AU and the United Nations calling on the incumbent to give up power.
Following the deadlock, the AU sent former South African president Thabo Mbeki to mediate the impasse between the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo (who has refused to respect the verdict but clings to power following the rule by the Constitutional Court that declares him the winner based on the cancellation of votes from 10 districts of Northern Côte d’Ivoire) and Mr Ouattara. Mbeki was followed with a visit by the current chairperson of the commission, Jean Ping, whose mission, like the former, did not yield any fruit for the resolution of the crisis. Then came the appointment of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga as the AU-appointed mediator in the post election crisis.
What was the rationale behind the AU’s appointment of Raila Odinga as a mediator in a situation like this? The circumstances under which Raila Odinga became a Prime Minister of Kenya are still fresh in African’s minds. Was the AU wishing for Côte d’Ivoire the Kenyan and the Zimbabwean scenario, sacrificing the will of the people on the altar of politicians’ cake-sharing ambitions? How on earth was he going to represent a credible, impartial arbiter, taking into account the peculiarity of the situation? The choice of Odinga was a wrong move, given his own situation and the circumstances in which he was to act.
The AU again, after failed attempts by Odinga – which was bound to happen – sent the immediate past chairperson, President Mutharica, to try his luck, but this also did not yield any result. In its latest move, the AU set up a five-member panel, comprising one president from each of the five sub regional groupings. The team of experts was tasked to come up with conclusions which will be ‘binding’ on all parties to the crisis. The hope is that, they would be able to succeed in finding a solution. But realistically, they got it all wrong again. The AU unlike ECOWAS does not have a supra-nationality status in its Constitutive Act or any of its Protocols. So how are they going to enforce the outcome of the decisions of the panel on Côte d’Ivoire which is a sovereign state? Let alone a legally binding decision as the statement claims.
Another issue is about the democratic credibility of some members of the panel in their own countries. What credentials do these leaders have for the citizen of the AU to believe that they will eventually come up with a so-called African solution to an African problem? The AU has at its disposal the panel of the Wise made up of respectable statesmen and women in their own fields. One may suggest in situations like this the AU may want to explore their wisdom and sound judgment. However, it still looks like the club of presidents in their own wisdom with the authority they have vested in themselves in the AU charter, will come up with a solution. Only time will tell what comes out of these talks.
ELECTION OF PRESIDENT TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO AS THE NEW CHAIRPERSON OF THE AU
Another subject of interest is the appointment of the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, as the new AU Chairperson. This is a president who is known to be a dictator and has been in power since 1979. He presides over a government associated with corruption, poverty and repression of its people among others. In the next 18 months, there are going to be about 20 elections due to be held in Africa. What kind of leadership role is the AU president going to show given his own standings and the thorny issue of elections in Africa should they come up during his term of office?
Furthermore, Mr Obiang in his acceptance speech is quoted as saying that, the concept of democracy, human rights and good governance should in his own words ‘be adapted to African culture’. This is a statement that is common in Africa. But what is this so called African culture that we must adapt to? Our leaders, after hiding behind colonial domination for all Africa’s woes and realising that that argument is no more sustainable or sexy enough, have turned to the need for adaptation of democratic values to an African culture. The AU chairman and all others who use this as the basis for their arguments should come clear and tell us all about Africa culture and how to design democracy, good governance and human right in an African way. We need an alternative proposal for their version of a standard ingenious African democracy, for Africa, in Africa or stop this whole claims about African culture.
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC), KENYA AND THE AU
After the post-election violence in Kenya that resulted in the death of close to 1,200 people, a coalition government was formed as part of a peace agreement brokered by Kofi Annan. Among some of the highlights of the peace agreement was the institution of an independent court/tribunal to try alleged perpetrators of the violence by the state. Following the government’s inability to fulfill these requirements, the ICC named six people as a first step to prosecuting them for their alleged involvement in the crisis. Kenyan’s government has now thought it wise to stop the ICC process by seeking support from the AU.
The AU Executive Council went ahead to endorse Kenya’s request for deferral. When asked why the AU wanted to support Kenya to stop the ICC from prosecuting these people, the AU commissioner Jean Ping gave an interesting response. He accused Moreno-Ocampo of bias. Ping highlighted the lack of the court’s action in Gaza, Iraq and Burma as evidence of a double- standards against African states. To what extent does this argument really justify why African leaders who are committing atrocities against their own people should not be made to face justice? How does this argument justify the death of about 1,200 Kenyans in the post-election violence?
There is no doubt that the ICC has so far been focusing its attention on African and Eastern Europeans (leaders) perpetrators of international crimes. But let’s be honest with ourselves. This doesn’t mean that people, Africans are not been killed, repressed and enslaved by their own leaders on a daily basis. The alleged biases of the ICC do not justify impunity in Africa. If the AU has proposals for an alternative to the ICC, then they should come clear or allow the ICC to do its work. Raising objections without providing alternatives only corner Africa and victims of impunity in a state of hopelessness.
Ping has hinted that the AU leaders are considering the establishment of a continental criminal court to prosecute Africans accused of grave political crimes. With, the current powers of African Heads of States who have the authority to set up this so-called independent body, and their profiles, it is vain to envisage a moral and political will from them anytime soon. Knowing very well that they will be signing off to their own indictments sooner or later.
WHAT AFRICA NEEDS FROM ITS LEADERS
International politics and the dynamics of globalisation do exist and are not being overlooked in these analyses. However, African leaders need to also sharpen their negotiation skills to hold their own against their global counterparts. Africa needs to put its house in order and stop justifying their poor performance on external factors.
What Africa and the African Union need are transformational leaders with vision, commitment and a resolve to make Africa a better place for its younger generation and generations yet unborn. It is hoped that the People’s Revolution in Tunisia and Egypt will be a wake-up call for African leaders and the AU. Leaders with the zeal to tackle the myriad of problems with mix policies and actions are what Africa needs now. If the African Union cannot represent its citizens, then the people themselves after years of inequality and injustice will demand accountability for their stewardship through revolt. The time to start making that history is now.
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* Phidelia Amey is a fellow of African Leadership Centre and alumna of King’s College London. She currently is on attachment with the ECOWAS Commission.
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 The Constitutive Act of the African Union, Article 4 (h) the right of the Union to intervene in a Member state pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
Is there a meaning for the African Union?
The present chairperson of the African Union is Teodoro Obiang Nguema. He is (by his own words) a dictator. This single fact is enough to widely discredit the AU. Recently Obiang – who has been in power in Equatorial Guinea since 1979 - tried to sponsor a Unesco prize in an attempt to buy prestige.
The AU was created with the objective of advancing towards a more united Africa. It followed the stagnation of the Organisation of African Unity that was created in 1963. However, since its formation the AU hasn't been capable of solving any of the major conflicts in Africa, notably in Congo, Sudan, Somalia and Cote d'Ivoire.
On 20 March, the AU committee on Libya demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities in the north African country. But in the United Nations Security Council, both South Africa and Gabón voted for an intervention in Libya that allows the bombing of the country.
So, caught in its own contradictions, what is left of the AU? The institutionalisation of Pan-Africanism has long ago demonstrated its futility. This is why many are asking if the AU is instead a way to delay the real African unity, the unity advocated by the real fathers of the Pan-African idea like Du Bois, Garvey and Nkrumah. This idea was really emancipatorary and pursued not only the independence, sovereignty and the unity of Africa, but also the freedom and well-being of all Africans, men and women.
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* Antumi Toasije is a Pan-Africanist historian, director of the Pan-African Studies Center in Spain (www.africologia.org) and the
Pan-African Center in Spain (www.wanafrika.org).
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Human Rights Day march on Durban City Hall
Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA will be marching to the Durban City Hall on
Monday, 21 March which is Human Rights Day. We will be joining other movements,
organizations, communities and citizens and individuals of Durban and
surrounding communities including street traders, flat dwellers, farm dwellers
and shack dwellers. Together we will deliver a clear message to Mlaba,
Sutcliffe and Naidoo that they have corrupted this city for too long and that
their time is up.
We will be marching to end the incredible corruption in this city. We will be marching to force Mlaba and his corrupt and brutal council to vacate their offices pending the investigation into the 3.7 Billion Rand that they are alleged to have corrupted. Our central demand is clear: “They must all go!” We will also be marching for land and housing in our cities. We will be marching for an end to the amatins and to all forced evictions. We will be marching for the right to organise freely and in safety. There has been never any respect for the human rights of shack dwellers and the poor in this city and we will be marching, once again, to affirm our equal humanity and our demand for equal dignity.
For too long our movement has been treated with disrespect and shame. For too long our demands have not been taken seriously. For too long we have been made to live in substandard houses without secure land, electricity and toilets. For too long the politicians have lied to us without conscience and treated us with contempt. For too long we have organised without being able to enjoy the right to free expression in our own city.
The politicians would like Human Rights Day to be just another day on which our human rights are violated by greedy politicians. We have engaged the government at all levels, including the Zuma office, without success. It is clear that we have not earned the respect of the politicians because we cannot buy or their respect. Today we have decided to take it upon ourselves to demand that respect. Today we have decided to take our struggle back to street where our real power lies. We are determined to affirm, assert and defend our dignity.
Today it has become clear why the shack dwellers remain in poverty and in the shacks year after year while Government issues the housing budget every year. Today it has become clear why the eThekwini municipality continues to ignore us. The reasons for the attack on our movement and for the bans our marches each time we raise these issues have become clear. The reasons for Nigel Gumede avoiding meeting with our leadership has become clear. The corrupted 3.7 Billion Rand is the answer.
Today is the time for accountability. Today is the time for rate payers’ money to be returned by those who have corrupted it. Today is the time for corrupted RDP homes to be returned to their rightful owners. Today is the time for an end to all corruption in this municipality. It is the time for free and safe organizing in our settlements to begin. As long as the politicians and officials continue treating us with such brutality we will remain organised in our streets. We are warning Sutcliffe and Mlaba that we will not be intimidated by their police, their lies or the ongoing intimidation of our members by local ANC leaders and business men allied to the party.
Abahlali in Durban, just like our Western Cape sisters who we fully support, remain too proud of our vote to give it to corrupt politicians. We thus say “No Land! No House! No Respect! No Vote!” This is a campaign that we will stand by until radical changes happen. We support the call that Abahlali of the Western Cape will be launching on Monday to ensure that the politicians do not play fouls with our people. Our people can no longer be deceived.
Our march will leave from King DinuZulu Park (formerly Botha Park) and proceed to the Durban City Hall from 9 am to 12 pm.
Contact Mnikelo Ndabankulu (Abahlali spokesperson) on 081 3095485 Bandile Mdlalose (Abahlali Secretary) on 071 424 2815 or at the Abahlali office on 031 3046420.
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On the invasion of the African state of Libya by the imperialist forces
Afreeka in Unity
We, the sons and daughters of Africa, are condemning in the strongest terms, and demanding the immediate end of the imperialist invasion in the African country of Libya.
Africans in the continent and all over the world are shocked beyond words, at the actions of the former colonialist and current imperial powers.
We are aware of the occupation in Iraq by US Forces and the chaos created under the guise of removing a dictator, an action which has ended up with the plunder of Iraqi resources by private US firms. We are further reminded of the killings, rape and plunder of the millions conducted on this continent for over 500 years under slavery, and colonization by French and British governments. We have good reason to fear that their involvement will lead to a new form of colonization of the African continent.
We would like to state that the African people were, and still are, in full solidarity with the peaceful and unarmed uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, which ended in the victory of African people. We would also like to unambiguously state that we are in solidarity with the oppressed people of Morocco and Saharawi, who are rising against the monarchy ruining their country.
We understand that the imperialist forces are only interested in Libya’s oil, which contributes 2% of all oil, and which has the largest known oils reserves in the whole world. In this respect, we would like to raise some critical and fundamental questions.
- Why didn’t they invade Tunisia, when Ben Ali was killing hundreds of innocent youth, women and workers?
- Why didn’t they invade Egypt, when Mubarak had murdered hundreds of innocent and unarmed demonstrators?
- Why have they not invaded Bahrain, where the US-friendly monarch is killing hundreds of unarmed civilians including the sick in the hospitals?
- Why have they not invaded the fascist state of Israel, where thousands of innocent Palestinian people are being bombed by military jets on almost a daily basis?
We would like to remind the world that Libya has the highest Human Development Index in Africa, and we highly suspect that they want to destroy Africa’s best success story. Libya has free universal education up to the university level, where the literacy rate stands at over 94%, this is compared to the U.S where we have over 40 million illiterate adults. Libya’s life expectancy stands at 74 years, which is the highest in Africa. This is due to Libya’s commitment to providing free, high quality healthcare to its citizens.
It is also important to note that Libya has been at the forefront of pushing for unification of Africa, and Gaddafi has for years pushed for this unity which will alleviate all the problems that we have in Africa, and make it the most powerful continent in the world. We feel that the west have bigger interests in jeopardizing these efforts, by bringing instability in Libya.
We are also angered by the silence of the government of Kenya and that of the African Union, on this brazen colonialist attack on the African state of Libya. We are hereby demanding for an immediate reaction from the Kenyan government, and stronger condemnation by the A.U of these military attacks, which will ultimately lead to an occupation, as we have seen in Afghanistan, and Iraq.
As they continue launching operation “Odyssey Dawn”, we wish to remind them of operation “Black Hawk Dawn” in Somalia, which was not only a total failure, but has caused a never ending war in the Horn of Africa up to date. This war has put the whole of eastern Africa region in a quagmire, with constant threats of instability.
Our solution is dialogue. We cannot end civil unrest by bombing innocent civilians. The pan Africanist movement hence supports the Hugo Chavez proposal, of an immediate ending of fighting, and the commencement of dialogue, under the guidance of the AU and other regional bodies.
We know that the U.N resolution 1973 was a mere formality, since the U.S had three weeks earlier, sent three warships, including nuclear carrying USS Keassarge and USS ponce.
We are also condemning veto powered Russia and china, whom have in the past stood for African sovereignty and interests, but who chose to support the Libyan invasion by abstinence in the vote. It is with this respect that we demand, that the A.U, or an African country chosen by the AU be admitted into the U.N Security Council, with full veto powers, so as to protect the interests of the over 1 billion African population.
We are also asking the immediate disclosure and closure of British military and U.S bases on our land. This is to deter any attacks from these foreign forces from within, in the guise of “Bringing Peace” as we have seen in Libya.
In order to avoid a repeat of the 1998 bombings of the U.S embassy, where over 200 Kenyans lost their lives, we are asking that the French embassy be relocated from the CBD of Nairobi, to avoid Kenyan losses as collateral in the war that they are now engaged in.
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* Afreeka in Unity is a consortium/community of Afreekan communities, organizations and individuals sanctified in history and united in destiny. We take responsibility in forwarding the process of Afreekan Unity, Freedom and Prosperity.
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Is Laurent Gbagbo ‘pulling a Kibaki’?
H. Nanjala Nyabola
In 2008, when the fever of Kenya’s post-election violence was running at its highest, an interesting story made its way across the Kenyan blogosphere. The story was that Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika had allegedly during his new year’s party been overhead promising to apply ‘Kibaki tactics’ during the 2009 elections in Malawi. Anonymous sources on the blogosphere claimed that Mutharika felt ‘resigned to do a Kibaki’ in order to hold on to power. It is impossible to test the veracity of these claims, especially because the information was allegedly given anonymously and Malawi, unlike Kenya, managed to avoid a descent into post-election chaos and conflict. Still, given the increasing prevalence of post-election instability, as in Côte d’Ivoire, it would be interesting to interrogate the notion of ‘pulling a Kibaki’ and what this would mean for the future of Africa’s younger democracies.
‘Pulling a Kibaki’ as understood by this author would involve the following process. Firstly, an incumbent leader with a dubious democratic pedigree would dutifully agree to elections in the territory in question, assuming that the power of incumbency, coupled with his control over the instruments of the electoral process, not to mention a dollop of good old-fashioned rigging, would be enough to secure the presidency. Unfortunately for said leader, the people of the country in question at this point have generally received enough of an education or exposure to electioneering locally, regionally or internationally to vote for the opposition in significant numbers. At the same time, as in situations like those in Kenya, the opposition itself usually has enough ways and means to organise its own elaborate rigging machine, thereby nullifying any of the incumbent’s advantages. In the final act, surprised by the vehemence of the people’s rejection of him, the leader then refuses to hand over power to the opposition, and the opposition promptly resorts to violence in order to force his hand. In the resulting stand-off, thousands are killed, thousands more displaced and the international community marshalled in order to negotiate the next round of compromises in the name of peace.
The pattern remains fresh enough in many Kenyan minds to cause concern for our brothers and sisters, first in Zimbabwe and now in Côte d’Ivoire. From his statements and the violence of his reaction, Laurent Gbagbo seems genuinely surprised at the number of people who opted to vote for Alassane Ouattara, in spite of the latter’s falling foul of the poisonous ‘Ivorité’ doctrine. The election broadly deemed free and fair, Gbagbo has resorted to extrajudicial means to hold on to power, including most recently shelling neighbourhoods in Abidjan closely allied to Ouattara, and forcing the latter and his parallel government to seek UN protection in a hotel. In terms of ‘pulling a Kibaki’ however, the most telling moment was Gbagbo’s rejection of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga as a mediator, insisting that he would only speak to President Kibaki himself. How long do we have to wait before Gbagbo calls for a power-sharing arrangement?
Is ‘pulling a Kibaki’ the next phase of the African democratic project, and if so, what can we expect? Well for one, there’ll be more unresolved elections and more power-sharing agreements. Elections are an opaque and unsatisfactory process the world over – just ask Al Gore or Nick Clegg – but whereas in many other regions this has meant protracted courtroom battles and ideological pushing and pulling in the popular press, it seems that when one is ‘pulling a Kibaki’ violence is a first rather than a last resort. After all, ‘pulling a Kibaki’ knows neither right nor wrong – only power – and as the people of Côte d’Ivoire are learning, the fallout from the power struggle is always messy. No nation has ever run the perfect election, and with this knowledge and the prospect for violence, we should expect that more and more elections will end in the kind of violent stalemate that we are witnessing in Zimbabwe or in Côte d’Ivoire. Similarly, as the stakes of losing the leadership become higher and higher due to the threat of domestic or international legal action, we can expect leaders to do more to remain in power until death.
This is hardly inevitable. In fact, it is a product of the manner in which African and international societies deal with the African leader. One of the most fatal assumptions we make when dealing with them, especially leaders of the more villainous variety, is to assume that they are stupid. We ridicule them and talk down at them, forgetting that these are usually highly educated men – check out Mugabe’s degrees – whose decision-making matrix is simply underpinned by different considerations than ours. Wrong, definitely, but certainly not as irrational as we would like to believe. Secondly, we seem to forget that these leaders may be relatively insulated from the excesses of violence or inequality in their own countries, but this doesn’t mean that leaders don’t communicate with each other. Between all the African Union talk-shops, international organisations and bilateral forums, it is inevitable that some kind of network has certainly emerged. The implications are that when we come to the table to talk elections, we routinely underestimate the extent of their personal and economic interests, the extent of their influence over power structures in their countries of origin and their ability to wreak havoc on their societies.
It follows that if leaders are trading notes on ‘pulling a Kibaki’, they could equally be trading notes on doing the opposite, and privileging peaceful transition over a resort to violence. The extent to which this presidential network can be harnessed to do this depends to a great extent on the ability of local populations and figureheads to stop spewing empty platitudes and start keeping our leaders truly accountable.
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Condolences to Libya
Only one person gained from the Japanese disaster. It was Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, whose relentless suppression of the revolt against his regime’s dictatorship, was temporarily bumped off the world’s television screens, while the Japanese tragedy occupied the vacated space. To see Libyan warplanes bombarding combatants armed only with rifles and other ineffective weapons, day after day after day, was sad to behold.
I found it t is amazing that on some Internet forums, many of my fellow Africans who, one suspects, set a great deal of store by freedom and democracy in their own countries, and who would be the first to protest if their governments showed any signs of repressing them, were supporting Gaddafi.
Some said that he was worth supporting, because he is anti-Western. But this is not true. One of his best friends is the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, that hypocritical and unprincipled fruit-case who joined George W. Bush and his Neocons in a brutal and stupid war against Iraq, based on patent lies.
Some of these Africans argue that because Bush and Blair invaded Iraq and unleashed so much suffering on the Iraqi populace, it would be wrong for the Western countries to invade Libya and assist its anti-Gaddafi forces.
The only thing wrong with that argument is that no-one was asking for a Western invasion of Libya. The anti-Gaddafi fighters in Benghazi and elsewhere were only asking for a ‘no-fly-zone’over Libya so that Gaddafi’s Air Force could be prevented from continuing to bombard them and annihilate their struggle for freedom.
The request of the anti-Gaddafi forces was supported – most unusually – by the Arab League, whose representative, Lebanon, jointed the group at the UN Security Council that drafted the resolution that authorised action against Gaddafi – Resolution No. 1973. We may loathe the politics of the USA, Britain or France, but when they go out on a limb to assist people in danger of being incinerated by bombs dropped by warplanes, they ought to be applauded.
The Western ‘rescuers’ must be watched with a wary eye, though, for slimy Western companies will be queuing up to exploit the political confusion in Libya to obtain control of Libya’s oil production – just as they unscrupulously did in Iraq.
I must admit that I fumed with impotent rage, as the Americans, in particular, dithered endlessly over whether to help the anti-Gaddafi forces or not. The Americans always dither when freedom and democracy are at stake. They refused to help the Poles when the Poles fought against their dictatorial Communist Party in Poznan in June 1956. They didn’t even break off diplomatic relations with Poland when Polish soldiers murdered 57 workers who were taking part in demonstrations in favour of improved living conditions.
The Americans also left the heroic Hungarian freedom fighters, who heroically challenged their ruthless Communist Government, in November 1956. And they repeated their mistake when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968.
The annoying thing is that the Americans were all the time carrying out an enormous propaganda effort, through ‘Radio Free Europe’and the ‘Voice of America’, extolling the value of freedom, and human rights to the people of Eastern Europe. They laced this sugar-coated message with ‘Music USA’broadcasts, which consisted of mainly jazz music, which, although jammed by the Communists, managed to attract wide audiences. But when political action followed, the Americans were nowhere to be found. (That did not prevent them, in 1989, from claiming that it was they who caused the Berlin Wall to fall).
When Mikhail Gorbachev risked his life to tear down the totalitarian walls that enclosed the Soviet Union itself as well as its satellites, again the Americans claimed that it was they who’d done it – by making the Cold War too expensive for the Soviets. Not only that – Gorbachev, if a version of the American reading of history is to be accepted, dismantled the Soviet Union to please Reagan and his ‘Iron Lady’friend, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain!
Yet, it was indeed the relatively meagre knocks made by the Poles, the Hungarians, the East Germans and the Czechs, in themselves, ‘insignificant’military forays but in psychological terms, of the greatest consequence, that eventually eroded the concrete core of the Berlin Wall, and shot Communist self-confidence to pieces. And thus, Eastern Europe was freed. Through the heroism of its own people.
Now, here was Libya, trying to free itself of a Gaddafi yoke that had lasted nearly 42 years. Not only did the Americans not help them, but the most senior intelligence chieftain of the US, James R. Clapper, Jr. (a retired lieutenant general in the United States Air Force who is currently the director of National Intelligence) made it a point to tell the Congressional Armed Forces Committee, in open session, that he thought the Gaddafi forces would ‘prevail’! I suppose he expected Saif Gaddafi, the psychotic son of Muammar, to go into his room and weep when he heard that? Obama’s Defence Secretary Robert Gates publicly poured cold water on the idea of a ‘no-fly-zone’, thus embarrassing poor Barack Obama, who was under great pressure to ‘do something’ about the (then) imminent slaughter by Gaddafi’s warplanes, of the populace of Benghazi and elsewhere.
The Obama administration had seemed divided, and had indeed stumbled whilst reacting to every stage of the ‘Arab spring of democracy’ – from Tunisia to Egypt – and now to Libya. Nevertheless, for the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper to so thoughtlessly knock the psychological stuffing out of the anti-Gaddafi forces, will merit a special place in the history of the movement of the world’s peoples towards freedom and democracy.
Anyway, as it is written, ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’. In this case, two men actually – David Cameron, prime minister of Britain, and Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France. Both men pursue policies at home that are seen by their opponents as ‘reactionary’ and they were not supposed to be the type of politicians who would be expected to confront ‘isolationists’ within their own parties and adopt a militant line against a man called Gaddafi who lives in a small country far away.
Yet that is exactly what they did. And when their effort at the UN began to bear fruit, the dragged an unwilling Obama administration along, until they managed to get that all-important Security Council Resolution 1973 passed. The Resolution was notable for the fact that even though the Russians and the Chinese were rumoured to be unhappy about it, they did not veto it. Another remarkable thing about it was that all the three African countries in the Security Council – Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa – voted in favour, as did Lebanon
One of its most compelling paragraphs drew attention to the ‘widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya against the civilian population, [which] may amount to crimes against humanity,’ and authorised the establishment of a ‘no-fly-zone’, as well as other measures, to prevent the ‘crimes against humanity’ from happening.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi became apoplectic. He described his enemies in Benghazi and elsewhere in these intemperate terms: ‘They are rats and drug users. They are Al Qaeda!’ In a radio broadcast on 17 March 2011, in which he fiercely promised to storm Benghazi, a city of 700,000 inhabitants, he declared: ‘We shall show ‘no mercy, no pity‘, he threatened, adding: ‘We will come... House by house, room by room!‘
As he was mouthing these words, did he expect the watching world to stand by unconcerned?
When I was growing up, one of the lessons I learnt was that if you went and played with a known bully, and the bully – as expected – belted you well and proper, your own mother would beat you as well, when you ran home crying to complain.
‘But why at all did you go and play with him? Haven’t I told you that he is no good and you shouldn’t go near him?’ my mother would say. So one got punished twice – first by the bully, and a second time by one’s own mum for allowing oneself to fall into the hands of the bullyboy.
As I watched Gaddafi’s TV tantrums, and those of his sons, I said to myself, ‘These guys are really nuts.’
Yes. In the atmosphere created by the post-Tunisian, post-Egyptian revolutions, it was impossible to threaten fighters for democracy that way and expect the rest of the world not to take notice. As Shakespeare said:
‘There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood…’
The ‘tide’ in the Middle East started with the immense courage shown by Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old vegetable seller in Tunis, who immolated himself rather than continue to tolerate the corrupt dictatorship of the Tunisian authorities. They had been making his life a misery by seizing his stall repeatedly, on the grounds that he was occupying illegal space on a street corner.
His action of impotent rage produced a greater resonance within the Tunisian populace than, perhaps, the mutiny of a unit of the Tunisia army probably could have caused. Self-immolation always catches the eye – as was proved in South Vietnam, to the dismay of that country’s American former occupiers. Now, the Tunisian populace transmogrified Boazizi’s simple act of personal bravery into a national metaphor that went beyond the feeble protest of a single wronged individual, into a symbolic act of resistance by a weak entity against a strong-armed authority.
People began to fill the streets of Tunis, chanting abuse against the corrupt government. Their numbers swelled with each passing day. The police and the army were sent to disperse the crowds, but they had been reading the ‘Tweets’ and Facebook entries uploaded by people in the crowd, and thus understood their motive in staying put where they were, despite being ordered to leave or be killed. The security forces found it more sensible to join the crowd and could be seen on TV, fraternising with the protesters. Ben Ali’s 24-year-old regime was at an end.
The lesson taught by the Tunisian revolution is that when a government makes itself unpopular with its own people, its security forces cannot save it from falling. They may go into the street and shoot at unarmed protestors. But they will return to their barracks and be forced to discuss what they had done. They will watch the reaction of their loved ones towards themselves. When they realise that they have gone against the popular will, nothing can make them stay loyal to the regime that has turned them into unclean murderers. The conscience of a human being is mightier than a gun.
Next, the ‘tide’ turned and rushed its unstoppable waters towards Cairo. Mubarak was receiving over US$2 billion a year from the Americans to beef up his security. But when Tahrir Square filled up with angry crowds, shouting at him to ‘Leave! Leave now!’ because they said he was corrupt and authoritarian, the soldiers Mubarak sent to disperse the crowds, also, like their Tunisian counterpart, joined the crowds! Their solidarity with the Tahrir Square crowd was even more eye-catching than the Tunisian solider-civilian rapport had been.
Who did not marvel at the tanks climbed by ordinary members of the public, who were putting scarves around the necks of the Mubarak-paid soldiers? So Mubarak too fell – in a game that resembled the children’s counting game, ‘ten green bottles standing on the wall.’
Where was Muammar Gaddafi all this time? He thought he was safe, did he? Yes, the self-delusions of men come to haunt them at crucial times. Bahrain was in flames. So was Yemen. In fact, the ‘tide’ of freedom sweeping Arabia had become viral.
But Gaddafi was shored up by his sense of self-deification. He was the ‘Brother Leader’ of the Libyans, who – per his own description – held ‘no post’ and was as constitutionally impotent as ‘the Queen of England’. Ah – yes. Until someone criticised him, in which case, that person would be strung up on a wall, and his fingernails and toenails painfully extracted, or his genitals burnt with electric shocks.
Wasn’t Muammar Gaddafi the uncrowned ‘King of Africa’, who had disciples spread across Central and West Africa – from Chad to Burkina Faso, from Nigeria to Ghana, and from Liberia to Mauritania? Hadn’t traditional rulers from Ghana, Uganda, Zululand other African kingdoms flocked to him to decorate his person with eye-catching traditional symbols, in exchange for millions of dollars?
No wonder, then that when the ‘tide’ reached his shores, he mistook its tsunami power for the rumblings of a wave inviting swimmers to come and surf it.
When it became evident that he was in trouble, he over-reacted and thus fell into the trap his opponents had sprung for him. He would suppress the rebellion with overwhelming military power. He wouldn’t be as ‘defeatist’ or ‘weak-kneed’as Mubarak and Ben Ali had shown themselves to be. He would send jet bombers and huge tanks to mow down those stupid ‘rats’ who thought they could overthrow him with rifles, sticks and stones.
Both Gaddafi and his sons gave wild-eyed TV interviews, threatening the opposition with fire and brimstone. What they did not realise was that what was happening in Arab countries had become world political theatre. Great cries of anguish emanated from the throats of sympathisers all over of the world: ‘Gaddafi and his sons are going to massacre the people of Benghazi!’
Western politicians reacted in different ways. David Cameron of Great Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy of France were among those who ‘seized the tide at the flood.’ They both realised that this was a cause which, if embraced, could provide them with a ‘win-win’ situation. In becoming the ‘tail’ that wagged the American dog, they gained greatly in prestige, despite the post-imperial decline of both countries.
As noted before, the Americans reacted in a pathetic manner. But they did eventually come round: according to the New York Times, the Obama administration was saved by three women – Susan Rice, the US representative at the UN, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton (a late convert) and Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council. Ms Power is a former journalist and human rights advocate; Ms Rice was an Africa adviser to President Clinton when the United States failed to intervene to stop the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Both she and Mr. Clinton have been living with consequences of that failure and she wasn’t going to watch Obama fumble and later express the view that his failure to act on Libya was his ‘biggest regret’.
While all these battles were going on behind the scenes, Gaddafi himself was insouciant. Nothing could touch him. Like Saddam Hussein and his idiotic negotiator, Tarikh Aziz, in 2003, who wouldn’t pause to analyse and find out what they could do, in practical, realpolitik terms, to prevent the dispatching of the awesome forces being assembled against their nation, Gaddafi went on TV to ramble and issue threats.
The West, on the other hand, resorted to skilful diplomacy – they even got the Arab League to help them draft the resolution that became UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
But Gaddafi still did not get the message. He tried to pull a fast one on the Western forces – by announcing an immediate ‘ceasefire’, whilst attempting to capture Benghazi and effect a fait accompli. Where it will all end, only God knows. But the people of Libya deserve all our sympathy – for having been obliged to endure the calamitous rule of a man, apparently destined to inflict so much suffering on them.
Does Gaddafi have a mother? Did she not teach him not to go and court a fight with bullies who are palpably stronger than oneself? Oh God! Please help the innocent people of Libya!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Cameron Duodu is a writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Film screening: 'Inside the Revolution'
February 2009 marked 10 years since Hugo Chavez took office following a landslide election victory, and launced his revolution to bring radical change to Venezuela. While wildly popular with many in the country, Chavez’s policies and his outspoken criticisms of the US government have made him powerful enemies, both at home and abroad, especially in the media.
Filmed in Caracas in November 2008, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Chavez’s controversial presidency, this full-lenght documentary takes a journey into the heart of Venezuela’s revolution to listen to the voices of the people driving the process forward.
‘This is a rare film about Venezuela, a country in extraordinary transition. Watch this film because it is honest and fair and respectful of those who want to be told the truth about an epic attempt, flaws and all, to claim back the humanity of ordinary people’.
John Pilger (Journalist, author and documentary filmmaker).
Running time: 65 mins. Spanish/English with English subtititles. A documentary from Alborada Films. A Film by PABLO NAVARRETE.
Date: Monday 4 April
Venue: Alliance Francaise, Monrovia/Loita Street, Nairobi
The London via Lagos Festival at Oval House Theatre
London via Lagos is a daring festival of new plays by British-Nigerian playwrights offering three radically different visions of the relationship between Nigeria and the UK. Over ten weeks, from London via Lagos brings to the London stage three innovative and contemporary plays; each with its own perspective spanning the political, the personal, and the domestic. All three dramas investigate today’s Britain and all reflect the vigour and passion of Nigeria.
Oval House Theatre
Tuesday 3 May – Sunday 10 July, 2011
by Ade Solanke
On holiday with her streetwise son in Lagos, a British-Nigerian mother is in turmoil. Should she leave her only child in a strict Lagos boarding school, or return him to the ‘battlefields’ of inner London…? A family spanning three generations and two continents meet together in Lagos for the first time in over thirty years. But the joy of reunion also unleashes long-suppressed truths. An
exuberant mix of comedy, tragedy and family drama, Pandora’s Box reveals the heartbreak behind the choices every parent must make.
Oval House Theatre
Tuesday 3 – Sunday 22 May, 2011
Long walk down memory lane
Review of Nelson Mandela's 'Conversations with Myself'
Peter Wuteh Vakunta
Nelson Mandela’s ‘Conversations with Myself’ takes the reader through the meanders in the life of a man widely acclaimed as the world’s longest-serving political prisoner. The story of Mandela’s 27-year incarceration on Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Victor Verster prisons has become the creation myth of the Rainbow Nation. In 454 pages, the author retraces his life from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of power. Born to Nosekeni Fanny and Nkosi Mpakakanyiswa in 1918 in Mveso in the Transkei, the adult Mandela later escapes an arranged marriage and moves to Johannesburg where he finds work in the gold mines as a night watchman. If this book reads like a horror movie it is because it documents the life of a man checkered by vicissitudes. The narrative recounted in this book – the story told by Nelson Mandela himself – is not the tale of an infallible man ordained by the gods for inevitable triumph. As he puts it, ‘In real life we deal not with gods, but with ordinary humans like ourselves: men and women who are full of contradictions…’ (xvi) ‘Conversations with Myself’ is the tale of a man prepared to risk his life for an ideal he believed in; a man who worked very hard to lead the kind of life that would make the world a better place.
‘Conversations with Myself’ is partitioned into four parts on the basis of theme, importance and immediacy. Each section sheds light on a watershed moment in the life of Mandela. In part one, entitled ‘Pastoral’, the writer adumbrates his informal schooling and the impact it had on his adult life. He observes that he was methodically tutored in the ways of his people: ‘Like all Xhosa children I acquired knowledge by asking questions to satisfy my curiosity as I grew up, learnt through experience, watched adults and tried to imitate what they did’ (p. 9). In his informal schooling, culture, ritual and taboo played a crucial role and Mandela came to possess a fair amount of information in this regard. He perceives oral traditions as the bedrock of informal grooming: ‘It is always a great moment when I listen to an expert on our true history, culture, legends and traditions’ (p. 23). Mandela notes with regret the fact that the little progress he made in acquiring indigenous knowledge ‘was later undermined by the type of formal education I received which tended to stress individual more than collective values’ (p. 10).
Part two of ‘Conversations with Myself’, labelled ‘Drama’, sheds ample light on Nelson Mandela’s anti-apartheid struggle. The reader is made privy to the infamous Rivonia trial during which he reiterated vehemently the ideals for which he stood and for which he is prepared to die if need be. This book documents not just the vital role Mandela played in the anti-apartheid struggle but also the crucial importance of the support he got from his comrades in the struggle, namely, Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Ruth First, Albertina Sisulu and more. This section of the book is interesting in several respects but the aspect that captures the reader’s attention the most is the role played in the liberation struggle by the MK (Umkhonto we Siswe), the armed wing of the African National Congress. Mandela became commander-in-chief of the MK after undergoing military training in Morocco and Ethiopia. As he puts it, ‘… the perfection was in Ethiopia because I spent two months there and I was taught now how to fire various guns [at] different targets’ (p. 92).
In ‘Conversations with Myself’ Mandela offers a blueprint for successful revolutions in Africa and beyond (pp. 98–108). What follows is a synopsis of vital matters to be borne in mind in the conception and implementation of a successful revolution:
- Good organisation is critical. There must be an absolute guarantee that all precautions have been taken to ensure success. There must be a network in the country, first and foremost. Many uprisings fail because the idea was not shared by all parties. An uprising that is local must be avoided. A revolution must be organised in such a way as to ensure its continuity. You must have a general plan that governs all daily operations. In addition to the general plan that deals with the total situation, you must have a plan for the next three weeks or even months. There must be no action for the sake of action. Every individual action must be done to implement the strategic plan. Your tactical plans must be governed by strategy, and should cover such things as the political consciousness of the masses of the people, as well as the mobilisation of allies in the international field.
- Timing is of the essence. The date of an uprising must be chosen when it is absolutely certain that the revolution will succeed and it must be related to other factors. Choosing date(s) should be influenced by psychological opportunity. Conception of when you begin the struggle will determine failure or success of the revolution. To start a revolution is easy but to continue and maintain it is most difficult. The duty of revolutionary leaders should be to make a thorough analysis of the situation before a start is given a blessing.
- Take stock of human capital. Plan and provide for replacements. Right from the beginning, you must show the enemy that your strength is inexhaustible. Take into account the fact that the longer the revolution lasts, the more the massacres continue and the more the people will get tired. You must plan and provide for replacements simply because in combat you will lose combatants. You must have the courage to accept the fact that there will be reprisals against the population. But you must try and avoid this by a careful selection of targets. It is better to attack targets that are faraway from the population than those that are near. Targets must be as near as possible to the enemy. You will break the revolution if you do not take the necessary precautions.
- Galvanise the entire population. Seek the support of the entire population with a perfect balance of social classes. The base of your support should be among the common people, poor and illiterate, but the intellectuals must be brought in as well. In all activities and operations, there must be a thorough diffusion of the intelligentsia and the masses of the people – peasants, labourers, workers in the cities and more. There must be perfect harmony between the external delegation of the revolutionary movement and the high command. Both must consist of similar and equally developed personnel. Your plan should be to destroy the legality of the government and to institute that of the people. The underlying objective should be that your forces will develop and grow while those of the enemy disintegrate.
At a time when the global community finds itself in the throes of social uprisings – with two historic revolutions (in Tunisia and Egypt) now events of the past; some ongoing in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, and many more to come, all and sundry are brainstorming incessantly on the ingredients that make or mar a revolution. And who else to turn to for dependable elucidation but Africa’s legendary revolutionary, the illustrious Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela, AKA Madiba? The didactic value of his book resides in the free lessons he gives to world leaders good and bad; people entrusted with the crucial task of governance. To these people in authority, Mandela offers the following sound advice (pp. 402–03):
- A leader should encourage and welcome a free and unfettered exchange of views.
- A leader’s first task is to create a vision. Their second is to create a following to help implement the vision and to manage the process through effective teams.
- The duty of a real leader is to identify those good men and women and give them tasks of serving the community.
- A ruler must work hard to ease tensions, especially when dealing with sensitive and complicated issues. Extremists normally thrive when there is tension, and pure emotion tends to supersede rational thinking.
- A real leader uses every issue, no matter how serious and sensitive, to ensure that at the end of the debate we should emerge stronger and more united than ever before.
- In every dispute you eventually reach a point where neither party is altogether right or altogether wrong, when compromise is the only alternative for those who seriously want peace and stability.
- Men and women, all over the world, right down the centuries, come and go. Some leave nothing behind, not even their names. It would seem that they never existed at all.
- History never stops to play tricks, even with seasoned and world famous freedom fighters. Frequently erstwhile revolutionaries have easily succumbed to greed, and the tendency to divert public resources for personal enrichment ultimately overwhelms them. By amassing vast personal wealth, and by betraying the noble objectives which made them famous, they virtually desert the masses of the people and join the former oppressors, who enrich themselves by mercilessly robbing the poorest of the poor.
In part three of the book entitled ‘Epic’, Mandela discusses his peregrinations from prison to prison. In an attempt to break his moral fibre and thwart his unrelenting fight for the annihilation of the nefarious apartheid system, the apartheid authorities moved him from one prison to another during the 27 years he spent behind bars. First, he was imprisoned on Robben Island (situated in Table Bay, seven kilometres off the coast of Cape Town) from 1964–82. In 1982 he was transferred to Pollsmoor, a maximum-security prison located in the suburb of Tokai in Cape Town. Finally, he was moved to Victor Verster, a low-security prison located between Paarl and Franschhoek in the Western Cape in 1988 where he remained until his release in 1990. Mandela’s life as a prisoner is depicted as an ordeal: ‘Conditions on Robben Island were … very harsh. The food was poor; the work was hard, the summers hot, the winters very cold and the warders brutal… Physical suffering was significant; psychological pain was worse. The petty-mindedness of the authorities was unrelenting’ (pp. 128–29).
Part four, dubbed ‘Tragicomedy’, chronicles Mandela’s life as the first democratically elected black president of South Africa. This section harbours a few surprises for the reader, not least of which is the fact that Mandela never really wanted to become president: ‘My installation as the first democratically elected President of the Republic of South Africa was imposed on me much against my advice… I, however, made it clear that I would serve for one term only. Shortly after I became president I publicly announced that I would serve one term and would not seek re-election’ (pp. 353–54). One character trait of Mandela that stands out in this book – an attribute that has endeared him to people across racial divides – is humility. Nelson Mandela is an extremely self-effacing person: ‘It will probably shock many people to discover how colossally ignorant I am about things the ordinary person takes for granted’ (p. 363).
In sum, ‘Conversations with Myself’ is the story of a living legend, a chronicle of the life of a man who lived by his own ideals. The book does not immortalise the man, Mandela, rather it portrays him as an epic hero. Countless books have been written and will continue to be written about this memorable man, but this one towers above them all on account of the intimacies and intricacies it contains. Written in conversational style, the book is an easy read. It is devoid of verbal sophistry.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Nelson Mandela, ‘Conversations with Myself’, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010, 454pp, hardcover, $31.52, ISBN: 978-0-374-12895-1
* Dr Peter Wuteh Vakunta is professor of modern languages at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey-California, USA.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Billene Seyoum Woldeyes
The blood it flowed
Down an undetermined path
Washing with it
The expressions of a non-violent wrath
The fire it blazed
Over the body of Bouazizi, vegetables he was selling
Igniting a flame
Of global freedom story telling
The fighter planes roared
Through the skies of desert lands
Burying our secrets
Inside shifting Libyan sands
The streets clashed
As the vagina again a battlefield
In an Abidjan struggle of power-ego
Domodedovo airport blasted
Through the body of a disgruntled
That chose harm to self and us
When non-violent expressions became stifled
The bullets fired
Across a disputed border
Where a Preah Vihear temple
Became a construct for Thai-Cambodian disorder
Down a Muslim-Christian solidarity
Of the faithful in Ethiopia
Creating divide inducing triviality
We are a world out of balance
We are a people losing our vitality
Purposely moving off center
And cracking open our human fragility
Flash floods unleashed their fury
In Queensland’s forgotten tomorrow
And rivers open their banks, overflow
Writing a Bolivian sorrow
The earth screamed in Christchurch
Deafening tender ears
As Nature’s personal rhythms
Sounded over our historical years
While Gods and Goddesses fought under the Pacific
We felt their movements all over Sendai
Revealing to us our vulnerability
Beyond our own designed mortality
Amidst a united global cry
Does not the murmur of the earth
And the tears of the lands we rape
Awaken us to give birth
To a life beyond hate
Does not the anguish of our neighbours
And Nature’s notice of eviction
Remind us of the passing
Of what we hold on as friction
We are a world out of balance
We are a people losing our vitality
Purposely moving off center
And cracking open our human fragility
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Billene Seyoum Woldeyes holds an MA in gender & peacebuilding and is an MA candidate in peace, development, security and international conflict transformation. She is an Ethiopian poet, writer, feminist activist and blogger at http://ethiopianfeminist.wordpress.com.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News 182: Le Sénégal au carrefour d'une alternance en souffrance
Gaddafi the bomb
Zimbabwe: Civic groups blast ZANU PF’s careless exhumations
The exhumation exercise being carried out by ZANU PF in the Mt Darwin area has received strong criticism from civic groups, that say the rest of the country has been excluded and the careless handling of bodies is disrespectful. They say the exhumers are also missing the opportunity to collect important information about the victims. Strongly worded statements were issued by the Solidarity Peace Trust, the Crisis Coalition and the MDC. Under the theme of 'healing the dead', ZANU PF has claimed that the bodies they are displaying in photographs and on state television were victims of the liberation war and were massacred by the Rhodesian army. But experts have said the appearance of some of the bodies shows they could have died much more recently.
Zimbabwe: Demo turns focus on African leaders
The name of the man against whom dozens of protesters rallied in London last week was hardly visible on their placards. Zimbabwean exiles were protesting against the excesses of Robert Mugabe’s regime. But the protesters aimed their anger not at Mr Mugabe but at leaders from Africa and the West who they feel have ignored the crisis besetting the coalition in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe: MDC plans action over ZANU PF parliament freeze
The MDC says it is considering all available options, including possible legal action, over Tuesday’s (22 March) unilateral cancellation of the vote for Speaker of Parliament. ZANU PF Clerk of Parliament, Austin Zvoma, unilaterally froze the workings of the House after announcing that the anticipated Speaker vote would not take place. Zvoma, who is now the chief officer in Parliament after the Supreme Court nullified the 2008 election of the MDC’s elected Speaker Lovemore Moyo, said the House would be adjourned indefinitely. He gave no date as to when the election would be.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe gets nod to export diamonds
An international diamond watchdog, the Kimberley Process and Certification Scheme (KPCS), has authorised Zimbabwe to export its gems after years of wrangling. The country had been barred from exporting diamonds from its main mine in the east of the country over concerns of human rights abuses.
Africa: It's still a man's media world
Long known as a 'boy's club', the worldwide media industry continues to struggle with gender equality, with new research showing women are still under-represented in the majority of newsrooms across the globe. The study, conducted over a two-year period for the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF), covered 170,000 people in the news media and involved interviews with 500 companies in 59 countries. On average women are underrepresented in all media positions, in sectors ranging from news media ownership, publishing, governance, reporting, editing, photojournalism, and broadcast production.
Egypt: Women protestors forced to take virginity tests
Amnesty International has called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate serious allegations of torture, including forced ‘virginity tests’, inflicted by the army on women protesters arrested in Tahrir Square earlier this month. After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on 9 March, at least 18 women were held in military detention. Amnesty International has been told by women protesters that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.
Global: The food crisis and women in the global South
'Women farmers have a wealth of knowledge about agriculture and biodiversity and significant contributions to make to debates about food security, food sovereignty and the right to food,' says this paper from Isis International entitled 'Women - Right to Food, Food Security, Food Sovereignty'. 'More than ever, organising women farmers has become an important strategy towards a clearer understanding of the issues, enhanced knowledge and capacities, and stronger solidarity. Many of these tasks begin with making men understand women by providing gender-sensitivity among husbands, leaders of farmers’ organisations, and other members of the communities.'
Nigeria: Kuti's cousin carries on a lonely struggle
The Nigerian woman with a famous last name is now 64 and could be home with her grandchildren, but she is here instead, at a dilapidated police barracks urging officers' wives to take a stand. 'This is time to say enough is enough,' said Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, a cousin of the late Fela Kuti, the iconic Nigerian musician, and a longtime activist for democracy and women's rights. Ransome-Kuti has now decided to take her struggle to the campaign trail by running for senate under an opposition party banner in the economic capital Lagos.
South Africa: Law ‘is failing to advance’ black women
The Commission for Gender Equality says the Employment Equity Act needs to be reviewed. The call came after it emerged that black women had not significantly progressed in occupying positions of executive management in the corporate sector. The latest Women in Leadership Census 2011, which the Businesswomen’s Association (BWA) presented on Thursday (24 March), showed the percentage of female executive managers had increased, but the number of black women appointed had decreased. The census focuses on JSE-listed companies, state-owned enterprises and government departments.
Uganda: Bicycles at the heart of empowerment rural women
The bicycle has become a symbol of hope for hundreds of women who have been trained in repairing one of life’s favorite transport modes. More than two hundred women from around the Bwindi National Park, in the country’s southwest, have been taking part in a two-week course on bicycle repair, organised by the group Ride 4 a Woman. The idea of the workshop is simple: to help disadvantaged women gain new, marketable skills and at the same time promote an environmentally-friendly form of travel, namely, cycling.
West Africa: Women protest Ivorian situation
Hundreds of women from several West African nations converged at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, Wednesday, to demand immediate action from West African leaders holding their summit here 23-24 March. Wearing white T-shirts with the inscription 'West African women demand peace in Cote d'Ivoire', they chanted slogans backing their demand and carried placards seeking urgent action in the West African nation that is now in the throes of post-election crisis that is threatening to push the country into war.
Côte d’Ivoire: Crimes against humanity by Gbagbo Forces
The three-month campaign of organised violence by security forces under the control of Laurent Gbagbo and militias that support him gives every indication of amounting to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch has said. A new Human Rights Watch investigation in Abidjan indicates that the pro-Gbagbo forces are increasingly targeting immigrants from neighboring West African countries in their relentless attacks against real and perceived supporters of Alassane Ouattara, says Human Rights Watch.
Egypt: Allegations of torture and ill-treatment in al-Hadra Prision, Alexandria
The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture action request
The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), a member organisation of the SOS-Torture Network, about the allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention suffered by Mr. Mahmoud Ragab Ibrahim, a 21-years old craftsman from Alexandria, by prison guards of the al-Hadra Prision, in Alexandria. According to the information received, on 1 February 2011, Mr. Ibrahim was passing through the area of Sidi Beshr, in the city of Alexandria, when he was approached by members of the community watches. They considered him suspicious and he was subsequently handed over to the Command Center of the Northern Area of the Armed Forces (CCNAAF), despite having presented his national identification card to the community watches members.
Torture and ill-treatment/ Arbitrary detention/ Release/ Risk of impunity
The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Egypt.
Brief description of the situation
The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), a member organisation of the SOS-Torture Network, about the allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention suffered by Mr. Mahmoud Ragab Ibrahim, a 21-years old craftsman from Alexandria, by prison guards of the al-Hadra Prision, in Alexandria.
According to the information received, on 1 February 2011, Mr. Ibrahim was passing through the area of Sidi Beshr, in the city of Alexandria, around 5:30 p.m., when he was approached by members of the community watches . They considered him suspicious and he was subsequently handed over to the Command Center of the Northern Area of the Armed Forces (CCNAAF), despite having presented his national identification card to the community watches members.
Mr. Mahmoud Ragab Ibrahim was thereafter brought to the al-Hadara prison on no legal grounds. He was never presented before any competent judicial authority during his detention. In al-Hadara prison, he was forced to wear the detainee uniform and allegedly beaten and tortured by the guards. As a consequence of these acts he bore deep wound on his thighs, cut wounds on his back, feet and arms and moreover swelled feet, and arms, and a swelled left eye. To this date, no legal charges were brought against Mr. Ibrahim.
According to the same information, the family of Mr. Ibrahim received, on 10 February 2011, a phone call from an alleged “citizen” informing them that their detained relative had been released next to the al-Mughawreen Mosque, near the al-Hadra prison. When the family went to the mentioned place, they found Mr. Mahmoud Ragab Ibrahim unconscious and in a severe state of fatigue. The days before, the family had been asking for Mr. Ibrahim at the CCNAAF, where they were told that he had been transferred to the Central Military Prison in Cairo, but there was no sign of Mr. Ibrahim. Subsequently his family looked for him in other military prisons and went back to CCNAAF where again they received no satisfactory answer.
Mr. Ibrahim's family reported the incident to the General Prosecution Office of East Alexandria. The family accuses the administration of al-Hadra prison of detaining Mr. Mahmoud Ragab Ibrahim without any legal charges and of alleged torture. The report was registered under number 385 for the year 2011 under the petition of the General Prosecution Office of East Alexandria. The case is reportedly being currently investigated by the Public Prosecutor.
OMCT is gravely concerned about the alleged facts and recalls that Egypt is a State party to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which both prohibit torture and ill-treatment, at all times.
In line with their obligations under these treaties, it is incumbent on the competent authorities to consider seriously any allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and to undertake a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation in this regard in order to identify all those responsible, bring them to trial and apply adequate sanctions.
Finally, OMCT recalls that the victims of torture and ill-treatment must be ensured the right to an effective remedy for the human rights violations suffered as well as the right to full redress, including compensation and rehabilitation.
Please write to the authorities in Egypt urging them to:
i. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Mahmoud Ragab Ibrahim;
ii. Carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the abovementioned facts, in particular the allegations of torture and ill-treatment, the result of which must be made public, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
iii. Ensure that an effective remedy as well as the right to full redress, including compensation and rehabilitation, is granted to Mr. Mahmoud Ragab Ibrahim;
iv. Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights standards.
➢ Vice-President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, HE. Omar Souleiman, Abedine Palace, Cairo, E-mail: email@example.com, Fax: +202 2390 1998
➢ Prime Minister, Dr. Essam Sharaf, Magles El Shaab Street, Kasr El Aini Street, Cairo, Fax: + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
➢ Egyptian Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud Abdel Meguid, Dar al Qadha al-'Ali, Ramses Street, Cairo, Egypt, Fax: + 20 2 2577 4716;
➢ Minister of Interior, General Mansour El-Essaoui, 25 Al-Sheikh Rihan Street, Bab al-Louk, Cairo, Egypt, El-Sheikh Rihan Street, Bab al-Louk, Cairo Email: email@example.com, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
➢ Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohamed El Gendy, Ministry of Justice, Magles El Saeb Street, Wezaret Al Adl, Cairo, Fax: +202 2795 8103, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
➢ National Council for Human Rights, 1113 Corniche El Nil, Midane Al Tahrir, Specialized National Councils Building – 11th floor, NDP Building, Cairo, Fax: +2022 574 7497, Email: email@example.com
➢ Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue Blanc 49, 1202 Geneva, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the embassies of Egypt in your respective country.
Geneva, 24 March 2011
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
Kenya: Major Kenyan housing rights decision
The High Court in Kenya has relied upon the work of Stuart Wilson, the Socio-economic Rights Institute of South Africa's director of litigation, in granting a conservatory order preventing the eviction of thousands of informal settlers in Nairobi. In granting the order, Mr. Justice Musinga held that 'Eviction should not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the State party must take all reasonable measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be is available.' The Judge also urged the Kenyan government to adopt a comprehensive housing policy which includes measure to provide interim relief for desperately poor people facing eviction.
Nigeria: Warning over rising violence
Amnesty International has urged the Nigerian authorities to act to stem a rising tide of political, ethnic and religious violence that risks threatening the stability of April elections. In a short report entitled 'Loss of life, insecurity and impunity in the run up to Nigeria’s elections' highlights how hundreds of people have been killed in politically-motivated, communal and sectarian violence across Nigeria ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls.
Senegal: Accept AU plan for Hissène Habré case
Senegal should accept an African Union (AU) plan for the trial of Hissène Habré during discussions set for 23 and 24 March in Addis Ababa, a coalition of human rights organisations said today in a letter to Senegal's president. The African Union, which called at its summit in January for an 'expeditious' start to a long-delayed trial, invited Senegal to the Ethiopian capital to discuss an AU proposal to try the former Chadian dictator before a special court within the Senegalese justice system whose president and appeals chamber president would be appointed by the AU. The Senegalese delegation to the talks will be led by Justice Minister Cheikh Tidiane Sy.
Sudan: Hundreds remain homeless In Juba demolitions
Hundreds of residents have been left homeless in Juba town following demolitions at Custom Residential Area. The demolitions came following a week long notice given to the residents to vacate the area. Authorities of Central Equatoria State warned the residents that the State government wanted to use the land for constructing a government building.
Uganda: Torture, extortion, killings by police unit
The Ugandan police Rapid Response Unit frequently operates outside the law, carrying out torture, extortion, and in some cases, extrajudicial killings, Human Rights Watch says in a new report. Ugandan authorities should urgently open an independent investigation into the unit's conduct and activities and hold accountable anyone responsible for human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said. The 59-page report, 'Violence Instead of Vigilance: Torture and Illegal Detention by Uganda's Rapid Response Unit', documents the unit's illegal methods of investigation and serious violations of the rights of the people it arrests and detains.
Cote d'Ivoire: At least one million displaced
The UN refugee agency said on Friday (25 March) that up to one million people may have been displaced by the fighting in Cote d'Ivoire as more people fled their homes in Abidjan amid fears of all out war. 'There is escalating insecurity in Ivory Coast's Abidjan, we're seeing a sharp rise in displacement,' said Melissa Fleming spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Cote d’Ivoire: 'My country has two presidents'
This blog post from Scarlett Lion is made up of pictures of some of the more than 40,000 Ivorian refugees who have fled post election violence and insecurity in Cote d’Ivoire. 'Liberians, who had been refugees in Ivory Coast just a couple of years earlier, are hosting many refugees in villages along the border and others are being relocated to camps by UNHCR.
Global: Internal displacement highest in a decade, says report
The recorded number of people displaced within their country due to conflict or violence rose to 27.5 million in 2010, which is the highest in a decade, according to a report by the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). The report was launched by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy, and the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Elisabeth Rasmusson. 'Close to three million people in 20 countries across the world were newly displaced from conflict and violence during 2010, and large scale displacement continues,' Rasmusson said.
Kenya: Hungry for learning in Dadaab camps
In one of the largest and oldest refugee settlements in the world, education is a luxury denied most of the 90,739 children who live there. Set up at the outset of Somalia’s civil war in 1991 to accommodate 90,000 refugees, three camps near the northeastern Kenyan town of Dadaab - Hagadera, Ifo and Dagahaley - are now home to more than three times that number, and persistent conflict in Somalia, from where 95 per cent of the refugees originate, means the population grows daily.
Libya: Fighting in eastern Libya leaves thousands internally displaced
Fighting in eastern Libya between pro-government and opposition forces has left thousands of Libyans internally displaced in recent days. Libyans arriving at Egypt's Sallum border crossing said civilians had been seeking shelter with host families as well as in schools and university buildings.
North Africa: Italy to hold Tunisia talks over migrants
Italy's interior minister is to visit Tunis for talks aimed at stopping the flow of migrants to the Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. More than 15,000 people, mainly Tunisians but including some Libyans and Moroccans, have arrived since January's uprising in Tunisia. The UN refugee agency says tensions are rising between migrants and the local population and there is 'chaos and disorganisation'.
South Africa: Immigration Bill given thumbs down
Parliament this week, has been labelled inhumane, ill-conceived and draconian by lawyers and human rights activists, who say that asylum-seekers and refugees will be hard hit by it. 'The Bill favours the rich at the expense of the vulnerable,' said Fatima Khan, the director of the University of Cape Town's refugee rights project. Khan said the Bill allowed for asylum-seekers to be pre-screened at South Africa's border, in spite of the fact that immigration officials were not qualified to do this.
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...
How we engineered the food crisis
Thanks to dysfunctional regulation of genetic engineering and misguided biofuels policy, the world's poorest are going hungry. Food prices worldwide were up by a whopping 25% in 2010, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, and February marked the eighth consecutive month of rising global food prices. Within the past two months, food riots helped to trigger the ousting of ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. (It is noteworthy that food prices increased 17% last year in Egypt, and the price of wheat, a critical staple there, soared by more than 50%.) For poor countries that are net importers of food, even small increases in food prices can be catastrophic, and recent bumps have been anything but small.
Japanese quake threatens N36tr trade, inflow to Africa- Standard Bank
The implication of last week’s devastation in far away Japan was brought closer home to Africa weekend, as Standard Bank Plc, warned that the continent stands to lose a major part of income from bilateral trade and aid. According to 145-year old Standard Bank, with presence in 17 nations in the continent, include Nigeria’s Stanbic IBTC Bank; as well as Russia, Brazil and China, the total value of bilateral trade between Africa and Japan in 2010 stood at $24 billion (about N36 trillion), representing a 30 per cent improvement over the 2009 level.
Japan impact on SA probably limited – Mnyande
The impact of Japan's nuclear crisis on South Africa's economy is likely to be limited but if it worsens it could hurt, Reserve Bank chief economist Monde Mnyande said on Tuesday. Mnyande said South Africa's economic recovery was continuing and preliminary investigations showed that while Japan was a significant commercial partner, the "near-term negative impact in terms of trade linkages is likely to be limited".
Foreign groups snap up South Sudan farmland: report
Foreign interests have snapped up large swathes of land in strife-riven southern Sudan in just a few years, threatening food supplies and the displacement of local people if left unchecked, a report said. Sudan has emerged as one of the hotspots for the acquisition of African farmland, which has become a target for countries including China and Gulf Arab states, which seek to secure food supplies. Rights groups have warned that what they see as a "land grab" risks worsening hunger and heightening social tensions in poor African nations.
2. China in Africa
Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Holds Talks with Kenyan President
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan held talks with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in Nairobi on Friday, stressing that China would like to make joint efforts with Kenya to further promote the long-term, stable and reciprocal bilateral cooperation in various fields. Wang relayed cordial greetings of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Kibaki. During their talks, Wang expressed his satisfaction with the continuous development of bilateral relations, adding that China-Kenya relations have witnessed fruitful and comprehensive cooperation in economy, trade, investment, culture, science and technology, tourism and media.
Seychellois president meets visiting Chinese vice premier on bilateral co-op
Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan called on the Seychellois President James Michel at State House here on Thursday before winding up an official visit in Africa. Wang highly commended the growing bilateral ties with abundant fruits in trade, investment, tourism, culture and health care sectors, since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1976. He said that President Michel's presence at 2006 Beijing Summit of Sina-Africa Forum, 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2010 Shanghai Expo, is a sound proof of the cordial and continuously improving bilateral relationship.
Zim gets US$700 million from China
China yesterday unveiled nearly $700 million lending to Zimbabwe, in the biggest package of loans from communist Beijing to this land locked but mineral rich southern African state, but demanded that Harare stay away from taking local Chinese businesses under its controversial indigenisation drive. The loans were a huge boost to financially stricken Zimbabwe, which has struggled to attract foreign aid, with Western financial institutions holding out for political and economic reforms before resuming lending to Harare, whose foreign debt stands at $7 billion.
Zimbabwe, China sign $585 mn in trade pacts
Zimbabwe and China on Monday signed a raft of agreements worth $585 million (413 million euros) aimed at reviving the southern African country's health, mining and agriculture sectors. "We acknowledge the efforts by the China Development Bank to engage government in supporting Zimbabwe's most critical areas of energy, mining, transport, agriculture, manufacturing and tourism," said Zimbabwean Vice President Joice Mujuru. "These areas would assist in the growth of our economy."
China calls for stability in Libya after attacks
China wants stability restored to Libya as soon as possible, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday after Western forces launched strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's troops. Expressing regret about the attacks, the Chinese foreign ministry said that it hoped the conflict would not escalate and lead to greater loss of civilian life.
3. India in Africa
AU to work closely with India on summit in Africa
The 53-nation African Union (AU) has assured India that it will work closely with New Delhi to ensure the success of the second India-Africa Forum summit here in May. Top officials of India and the AU met in the Ethiopian capital, the headquarters of the AU, last week and discussed the preparations and agenda for the second India-Africa Forum summit that will be held May 24-25.
India welcomes pro-democracy wave in Middle East, North Africa: PM
India Friday welcomed the pro-democracy wave sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying that 'these are decisions for countries and their citizens to take for themselves.' 'As a democracy, we are happy to see our brothers in West Asia (Middle East) and North Africa taking an increasing role in determining their own future. These are decisions for countries and their citizens to take for themselves, free of outside interference or coercion,' he said at the India Today Conclave here.
Around 30 Mozambican businesspeople attend 7th Africa-India meeting
Some 30 businesspeople from Mozambique are due from 25 to 29 March to take part in the seventh Africa-India meeting due to take place in the Indian capital, New Delhi, a source from Mozambique’s Centre for investment Promotion (CPI) told Macauhub in Maputo. The trip to India is organised by the Mozambican Confederation of Economic Associations (CTA), by the Centre for Investment Promotion (CPI), the Office for Accelerated Development Economic Zones (Gazeda) and by the Institute of Export Promotion of Mozambique (IPEX). Indian companies have several business interests in Mozambique, including in the coal sector (in Moatize, Tete province), industry, telecommunications, light industry and railways.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
SA postpones Walmart, Massmart hearing
South Africa's antitrust watchdog postponed hearings into Wal-Mart's $2,3-billion bid for a controlling stake in domestic retailer Massmart after the government and unions asked for more time to submit additional information. Competition authorities are the last hurdle for the world's biggest retailer to take a 51% stake in Massmart after shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favour of the deal in January. The deal has pitted Wal-Mart against South Africa's trade unions, some of which have threatened to strike against the US giant.
BRIC-Think Tanks Symposium starts in Beijing
The BRIC-Think Tank Symposium kicked off Thursday in Beijing with the theme of "Development, Cooperation and Sharing." The symposium aims to provide advice for the policy-makers who will attend the third summit of BRICS-country leaders in mid-April, Sun Jiazheng, chairman of China's Peaceful Development Foundation, said in remarks at the opening ceremony. BRICS countries refer to the five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. That summit will be held in the southern city of Sanya, Hainan Province.
China's ODI "set to grow" despite setbacks
China's overseas direct investment (ODI) is on a long-term upward trend despite a recent slowdown, partially due to political unrest in some African countries, Yao Jian, Ministry of Commerce spokesman, said on Tuesday. The political upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt and the Libyan situation have taken a toll but China's ODI will surpass foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country in the next five to 10 years, he said. Chinese companies invested in 680 overseas enterprises in the first two months of 2011, with investment growing by 13.1 percent from a year earlier to 5.27 billion U.S. dollars, the ministry announced on Tuesday.
Russian Senator Margelov appointed special envoy to Africa
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has appointed senior senator Mikhail Margelov special presidential envoy for cooperation with Africa, the Kremlin said on Monday. Margelov heads the State Duma's foreign relations committee and has held the post of presidential envoy to Sudan since 2008.
Russia's Renova launches S.Africa manganese mine
Industrial giant Renova, controlled by Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg, said on Tuesday its joint venture in South Africa had launched a manganese mine to speed up tapping the country's huge mineral resources. It said in a statement the venture, the United Manganese of Kalahari, in which Renova holds 49 percent, aimed to supply to the market this year 1.8 million tonnes of the metal, a key element in steel production.
Emerging powers join in opposition over Libya strikes
China said on Tuesday that Western air strikes on Libya risked a "humanitarian disaster", adding to the chorus of criticism from big emerging powers over the U.N.-authorised campaign. China, with Russia, India, Brazil and other developing countries have condemned the U.S.-led air strikes on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as risky and unwarranted overreaching by the West. The shared opposition to the Libya campaign could become a point of diplomatic convergence among the "BRICS" bloc of major emerging economies -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- which hold a summit in south China next month.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
SA’s 'no-fly' vote hits turbulence
South Africa's confused stance on Operation Dawn Odyssey against Libya was the result of bruising by the bad publicity that marked its first stint on the United Nations Security Council, South African diplomatic sources said this week. The South African delegation at the council voted in favour of a no-fly zone over Libya this week fully aware that enforcement of the resolution would entail air strikes. During its last spell as a non-permanent member under Thabo Mbeki, South Africa drew fire for its apparent indifference to human rights concerns in countries such as Burma and Zimbabwe. However, South African diplomats in New York this week insisted that South Africa voted for last week's resolution in the interests of protecting civilians from Muammar Gaddafi's forces in Libya and that the vote was not meant as an implicit approval of military intervention.
Russia turns its attention to Africa
President Dmitry Medvedev has appointed the Chairman of the Federation Council’s foreign relations committee Mikhail Margelov the Russian envoy for cooperation with African countries, enlarging his duties, in contrast to his predecessor Alexei Vasilyev, who was responsible for communication with the African continent only. Constantine Garibov looks at the turning of a new page in Russo-African ties. In an interview for VOR, the new envoy declared that Africa is now a top priority for Russia.
India watchful of threat from China
China’s evolving military profile has come under scrutiny from New Delhi, according to the latest annual report from the ministry of defence for 2010-11. The report states that “India is conscious and watchful of the implication of China’s evolving military profile in the immediate and extended neighbourhood. India’s policy is to engage with China on the principles of mutual trust and respect and sensitivity for each other’s concerns.”
What’s in it for Beijing after the $700m loan?
At a time when the rest of the world has been telling the inclusive government to get its act together with regard to human and property rights violations, China has not found these tenets of democracy to be the yardstick for its investment. The fallout between Harare and the West has presented a unique opportunity for China to venture into Africa. On Monday this week, Zimbabwe and China signed nearly $700 million worth of loan agreements, the biggest package from Beijing since the formation of the unity government. However, many questions have surfaced, in the context of China’s controversial relationship with rogue states on the African continent. Shunned by the West, President Robert Mugabe has increasingly looked East for financial bailouts.
India seeks natural resources in Africa but recognises continent’s development needs
India, today, in purchasing power parity terms, is the fourth-largest economy in the world, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of just over $4-trillion. (In terms of the official exchange rate, India’s GDP is $1,43- trillion.) This is the result of two decades of rapid and sustained economic growth. From 1991 to 2002, this averaged 6% a year, jumping to almost 9% annually for the period 2003 to 2007. The Great Recession slowed this to about 5% in 2008 and some 7,4% in 2009, but it recovered to about 9% last year. This growth stems from a process of economic reform which started in 1991 and which, in turn, was a response to a fiscal and balance of payments crisis. Despite several changes in administration, this reform process has been sustained. Consequencly, the Indian economy is generally expected to grow by 8% or more this year and by between 7% and 9% annually for the next three to five years. Like the Chinese dragon, the Indian tiger has developed a hunger for raw materials from foreign shores.
Benin: Opposition file appeals over vote results
The main challengers in Benin's disputed presidential vote have filed appeals over results showing incumbent Boni Yayi won with 53 per cent, the constitutional court said Saturday (26 March). Tension has risen in the small west African country since the vote, with police firing tear gas to disperse opposition protesters in the economic capital Cotonou on Thursday (24 March).
Cote d'Ivoire: Ouattara rejects AU envoy as Gbagbo supporters rally
Cote d'Ivoire's Alassane Ouattara has rejected the African Union's choice of mediator in the country's crisis. The African Union has appointed former Cape Verde Foreign Minister Jose Brito to mediate the country away from the brink of civil war. And in a later development Mr Gbagbo's camp said it had accepted the choice of Mr Brito as mediator.
Nigeria: Jonathan rivals pull out of TV debate
Nigeria's three main opposition candidates have pulled out of election debates with President Goodluck Jonathan, accusing him of 'arrogance'. The three - Nuhu Ribadu, Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Shekarau - are suspicious that he will take part only in a live TV debate largely organised by state-run media. Mr Jonathan refused to take part in a debate last week, organised by NN24 TV, saying he would participate only in one scheduled for next Tuesday run by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria.
Nigeria: Party youth leader killed in northeast
Gunmen suspected of being members of a radical Islamic sect shot dead a political party youth leader in northeast Nigeria on Sunday, less than a week before elections begin in Africa's most populous nation. The local politician was a member of the opposition All Nigeria People's Party, which has localised support in parts of the north of the country but is not expected to gain the widespread backing needed to win the presidential vote.
South Africa: Hundreds threaten to boycott election
Several organisations used Human Rights Day to voice their dissatisfaction with the eThekwini municipality, accusing it of violating human rights by failing to deliver services to needy communities. Hundreds marched to the Durban city hall, with some threatening to boycott the local government election on May 18. Representatives and supporters of Right2Know, shack dwellers’ organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement SA, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, ratepayers’ associations, the Durban Social Forum and KZN Subsistence Fishermen were among the marchers.
Swaziland: Cosatu to intensify role in Swazi protests
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Saturday (19 MArch) vowed to intensify its role in labour protests in Swaziland calling for an end to the reign of King Mswati III. Cosatu also commended the Swazi people who held protest marches on Friday. Public service workers marched through the streets of the capital, Mbabane, protesting plans by the country's government to cut salaries and jobs in an attempt to get its finances in order.
Zambia: Election alliance in tatters
Zambia's opposition alliance split Friday (18 March) after the minority United Party for National Development (UPND) pulled out due to leadership squabbles with country's main opposition Patriotic Front. The two parties have feuded over whether PF leader Michael Sata or UPND chief Hakainde Hichilema should challenge President Rupiah Banda in elections due later this year.
Tanzania: Tanzania fails to account for mineral revenues
The Tanzania government has failed to comply with requirements that would have made her a compliant member of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, EITI. For a country to qualify for EITI compliant membership, it must exercise transparency and accountability in revenues that accrue from its resources such as oil, gas and minerals.
Africa: African NGOs oppose human rights clause in EPAs
Part of the delay in the finalisation of the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) is due to the so-called non-execution clause that gives the EU the power to take steps against its African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) trading partners if they violate human rights, democracy and good governance principles. 'African governments and civil society resist this clause because EPAs are commercial agreements where the two parties give and take,' explains Cheikh Tidiane Dieye, the civil society representative of the West African EPA negotiating team.
Africa: Capital flows to developing countries - boom or bust?
This paper from the South Centre argues that the policy of quantitative easing and close-to-zero interest rates in advanced economies, notably the US, are generating a surge in speculative capital flows to developing countries in search for yield and creating bubbles in foreign exchange, asset, credit and commodity markets. This latest generalised surge constitutes the fourth post-war boom in capital flows to developing countries. All previous ones ended with busts, causing serious damages to recipient countries.
Africa: World Bank funds mining in Africa
The private finance sector arm of the World Bank Group announced last month that it would invest $300 million to promote mining in Africa. Dr. Aaron Tesfaye, a professor of International Political Economy and African Politics at William Paterson University, said he is not surprised by the announcement because of the economic and security implications mining and strategic metals have for industrialised nations. While the IFC claims to promote poverty reduction through sustainable development in developing countries, it has been criticised because the mining projects it has funded have a track record of causing human rights abuses and massive environmental damage. 'This is bad news for Africans, at least those who aren’t members of the business and political elite,' said Jamie Kneen, Communications Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.
Ghana: Meeting on the global crisis and Africa in Accra
A three-day international seminar on the theme 'The Global Crisis and Africa: Commodity Dependence and Structural Transformation' took place in Accra, Ghana’s capital last week. Forty scholars from Africa and other parts of the world participated in the meeting. Setting out the context and key issues for the meeting, Tetteh Hormeku, head of programmes at TWN-Africa, said the influence and impacts of the crisis in Africa were shaped largely by the nature of the continent’s systemic integration into the global economy as primary commodity export dependent economies.
Somalia: Somali Investment in Kenya
Despite the collapse of the formal economy and of central government in Somalia, a remarkably resilient 'parallel' economy has emerged, notes this briefing paper from Chatham House. Based on traditional clan relationships, a lack of bureaucracy and well-established channels for remittance payments from the diaspora, this model has travelled with Somali émigrés to Kenya. Some businesses that began in the informal sector are making the transition to formal enterprise and Kenyan authorities should seek to encourage this with an enabling regulatory environment, says the briefing paper.
South Africa: Report says World Bank failed to consider coal loan costs
The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), www.ciel.org, a leading non-profit that uses international law to defend the right to a healthy planet, has announced the release of a new report, 'Fossilized Thinking: The World Bank, Eskom, and the Real Cost of Coal'. The report examines the economics underlying the Bank’s $3 billion loan to support a massive new coal-fired plant in South Africa. Specifically, the report evaluates whether the Bank adequately considered the impacts the 4,800 MW Eskom Project will have on human health and the environment and the likely economic costs of these impacts. The Bank’s operational policies require that these ‘externalities’ be taken into account to determine whether a project’s long-term economic benefits outweigh its costs. CIEL’s analysis reveals that, at least in this case, the Bank failed to adequately address and quantify important negative environmental effects, such as water scarcity and quality, air quality, and transboundary impacts.
Côte d’Ivoire: Political gridlock empties pharmacy shelves
Hospital and pharmacy workers have told IRIN that many medicines and other supplies are scarce weeks after the European Union applied sanctions, blocking vessels arriving at Côte d’Ivoire’s ports. About 90 per cent of medical supplies in the country come from Europe - 80 per cent by sea, according to Christine Adjobi, health minister in the cabinet of incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo.
Global: DR-TB a ticking time bomb
Countries with high numbers of people living with HIV, especially where access to antiretroviral treatment is patchy, are sitting on a drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) time bomb, which may have in some instances already exploded. South Africa and other high burden countries are diagnosing the tip of the DR-TB iceberg with the large majority of people who have DR-TB (multi-drug and extensively-drug resistant TB) dying because they are not diagnosed or receive the medication when it is too late.
Madagascar: Applying local resources to sanitation
'We're calling on all citizens,' said Riovoarilala Rakotondrabe, putting the final touches on a giant poster announcing a massive community clean-up for the coming Sunday. 'Since we are in the midst of the rainy season, the city administration has recommended that each fokontany [the basic administrative unit at the neighbourhood level in Madagascar] should carry out collective cleaning,' she said. Rakotondrabe is local head of the association charged with maintaining water infrastructure, hygiene and sanitation.
Southern Africa: Proposed EU economic partnership raises concerns about medicines access
After stalling for some time, negotiations for an economic partnership agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) on the one hand and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Mozambique and Angola on the other have recently restarted. In a letter sent to the South African Minister of Trade and Industry on 7 October 2010, SECTION27 raised concerns 'that South Africa may face undue pressure from the EU to agree to certain provisions [in the EPA] that – if adopted and given effect in domestic law – will undermine access to medicines.'
Southern Africa: Regional activist dialogue on right to health
This year a million people will die of HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa. Hundreds of thousands more will die of easily preventable diseases. To discuss this crisis and to develop campaigns to end it, on 25 and 26 March 2011, SECTION27 will be bringing together 60 activists and experts from 15 countries, mostly in Southern Africa but also India and Brazil to discuss how to strengthen, publicise and unite campaigns for the right to health.
Zimbabwe: Fighting past fears to treat TB
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that because of their weakened immune system, people living with HIV are less able to fight infection and are more likely to develop active TB. In the streets of Bulawayo, this well-known connection is slowing the fight against both diseases. The two diseases are like evil twins. Co-infection rapidly increases the mortality rate and untreated sufferers of both HIV and TB are the most infectious, posing the greatest risk to those around them.
South Africa: Demand for basic school services goes out
Equal Education is calling on the people of South Africa to write to Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga. 'Let’s flood her with letters,' says the blog Writing Rights. 'We are asking all teachers to write letters and to organise time in your classes for learners to write these letters. Spread this e-mail appeal far and wide. Tell the Minister about the need for libraries, laboratories, clean and safe toilets, adequate classrooms, sports fields, and staff rooms.'
Africa: Homosexuality not accepted by Canadian African community
Despite their long stay in western countries where homosexuality is accepted, African people living in Canada have not really accepted the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community and still share the same prejudices with the large majority of those living on the African continent, according to Honoré Noumabeu, a Cameroonian born film director. Une Vie Interdite/The Forbidden Life produced by Noumabeu is a documentary that looks look at how homosexuality and transgender are perceived within Québec’s African community.
Global: UNHRC Statement a major step in the fight against transphobia and homophobia, says ILGA
A joint declaration by 85 member countries of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, calling for an end to violence, criminal sanctions and human rights violations against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is a very significant step forward towards international consensus on LGBTI people’s rights, according to ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. ILGA considers the fact that the amount of countries willing to sign on to a declaration like this is approaching a majority of UN members, is a credit to the increased sensitivity of national governments, and the work of international, regional and local LGBTI human rights activists all over the world, particularly the international coalition of LGBTI organisations that worked together with national governments and provided the information they requested through the process of preparing the declaration.
South Africa: Free gender blog raises awareness on LGBTI issues
Free Gender is a black lesbian organisation based in the Khayelitsha township of Cape Town. Their blog contains news about LGBTI issues and events.
Uganda: Uncertainty over anti-homosexuality bill
Uncertainty and speculation mounts about the future of the pending Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was discussed in parliament on 22 March with some suggesting it might be dropped and its author insisting it will be passed. 'I am very, very confident that if it [the Bill] comes to the house it will be passed, the chair person of the liberal affairs committee has assured us that it is going to be the next on the agenda. He is going to work on it and we are very confident that it will pass,' said David Bahati, the author of Uganda’s Anti Homosexuality Bill in a recent interview with Carolyn Dunn of Radio Canada.
Ethiopia: African activists call for action on climate and poverty at climate gathering
Community representatives from all corners of Africa spoke out last week about their frustration with the slow pace of international action and the urgent need to use local and indigenous knowledge alongside modern science in how we prevent and adapt to climate change.
African activists call for action on climate and poverty at Ethiopia climate gathering
AfricaAdapt media release
17 March 2011
Community representatives from all corners of Africa spoke out last week about their frustration with the slow pace of international action and the urgent need to use local and indigenous knowledge alongside modern science in how we prevent and adapt to climate change.
Last week, AfricaAdapt’s symposium at the United Nations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, brought together 160 researchers, activists, community representatives, international donors and government ministers from 23 African nations to discuss the impact of climate change on Africa and what communities are doing to adapt.
Their messages to African governments are clear:
1. Don’t let governments’ slow response to climate change derail development and agriculture in Africa
2. Indigenous and local knowledge, complimented by
modern scientific research, can help Africans
3. Women, the backbone of the African economy, should
be empowered and supported in their efforts to adapt to a
African vision on the 'road to Durban'
With this year’s international climate change negotiations taking place in Durban, South Africa, it’s a unique opportunity for African governments to crank up the pressure on the world’s largest carbon emitters.
More about AfricaAdapt
AfricaAdapt is an independent bilingual network (French/English) focused exclusively on Africa. The Network’s aim is to facilitate the flow of climate change adaptation knowledge for sustainable livelihoods between researchers, policy makers, civil society organisations and communities who are vulnerable to climate variability and change across the continent.
AfricaAdapt is hosted by Environment and Development in the Third World (ENDA-TM); Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA); IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC); and Institute of Development Studies (IDS). The network is funded through the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Climate Change Adaptation in Africa programme.
High resolution images, interviews and case studies are available.
Emilie Wilson (communications officer, Institute of Development Studies)
Tel: +44 (0)1273 915779
Binetou Diagne, Knowledge Sharing Officer,
ENDA Tiers Monde,
Ghana: Bamboo bikes in high demand
In Ghana, a local bamboo bike industry is emerging to deliver a sustainable and affordable form of transportation that satisfies local needs and suitable for export. Compared to the production of traditional metal bicycles, bamboo bikes require less electricity and no hazardous chemicals.
Ethiopia: The great land-grab debate
Ethiopia has little time for critics of its large-scale land-leasing policy, insisting the millions of dollars of foreign investment will create jobs, improve domestic agricultural expertise and reduce both poverty and the country’s chronic food insecurity. The policy, part of a five-year Growth and Transformation Plan, has led to the cheap leasing of thousands of square kilometres. Detractors complain of forcible relocation of local pastoralist populations, poorly paid work on the new farms, environmental degradation and a failure to deliver on promises of better infrastructure.
Ethiopia: Ethiopia at centre of global farmland rush
It's the deal of the century: £150 a week to lease more than 2,500 sq km (1,000 sq miles) of virgin, fertile land. Bangalore-based food company Karuturi Global says it had not even seen the land when it was offered by the Ethiopian government with tax breaks thrown in. Karuturi snapped it up, and next year the company, one of the world's top 25 agri-businesses, will export palm oil, sugar, rice and other foods from Gambella province – a remote region near the Sudan border – to world markets.
South Africa: Back to land resettlement schemes?
Nobody seems to like the Land Tenure Security Bill, writes PLAAS Senior Researcher Ruth Hall. 'It has raised the ire of both of the constituencies whose interests it sets out to address: those who own commercial farms and those who live and work on them. Contrary to its name, the Land Tenure Security Bill appears to deal largely not with how to secure people’s land tenure, but rather how to manage their resettlement off farms.'
South Africa: Long want for land claimants
Over a thousand claimant families who are claiming in excess of 18,000 hectares of land in the Weenen, Mooi River and Estcourt areas have waited since 1998 for the claim to be settled, according to the Association for Rural Advancement. 'In 1998 three communities (the AmaThembu, the AmaChunu and the Motane) submitted claims for restoration of land in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act (Act 22 of 1994) to the Provincial Commissioner in KwaZulu-Natal. Despite it being in the interests of all parties to resolve this matter speedily, the Commission took three years merely to confirm and gazette two of these claims and a staggering seven years to do so in respect of the third claim. This was the start of a pattern of inaction and delay on the part of the Commission that has persisted until the present.'
South Sudan: Warning over land grabs
Unregulated large-scale land acquisition in south Sudan by foreign companies threatens the rights of the people, with an area bigger than Rwanda earmarked for use by outside businesses, a report warns. Investigations commissioned by Norwegian People's Aid calculated that between 2007 and 2010, 'foreign interests sought or acquired a total of 2.64 million hectares of land (6.52 million acres) in the agriculture, forestry and biofuel sectors alone.'
Ethiopia: Selecting and storing seeds for survival
Communities in Ejere and Gonde, central Ethiopia, are storing their best seeds in local seed banks. These communities are taking steps to be independent of seed companies, and exercise full control over seeds that have taken generations to develop. Many of the world’s original wheat and barley varieties were cultivated in Ethiopia, largely by women farmers. In recent decades, Ethiopian farmers have begun to substitute their own varieties for 'modern' varieties developed with a focus on higher yields. With climate change and new fungal diseases such as UG99, farmers in Ethiopia are looking not only for yield but also for genetic diversity and adaptability. These are traits found in abundance in local traditional seed varieties.
Cameroon: Is Twitter via SMS in the process of being restored?
Reporters Without Borders is having difficulty establishing whether Cameroonian mobile phone operator MTN’s Twitter via SMS service has finally been restored after being blocked for about 10 days at the government’s behest. Contradictory statements are being made. Many Tweets suggested the service had been restored in practice. But an MTN representative said the contrary.
Global: What freedom of expression means for the right to water
On World Water Day on 22 March, ARTICLE 19 issued a statement reminding the international community that freedom of expression, the free flow of information and transparency are central to the full realisation of the right to water. 'Local initiatives and community’s participation, particularly amongst poor and marginalised people, need to be fostered in order to promote transparency, accountability and good governance related to water management,' the statement said.
Libya: Free detained journalists
The Libyan government should release all Libyan and foreign journalists detained because of their reporting and allow them to cover the crisis in Libya freely, Human Rights Watch has said. Since anti-government protests began in Libya on 15 February 2011, the government has harassed, detained, and beaten journalists trying to cover the story. A Libyan journalist and a Qatari cameraman have been killed by gunfire in unclear circumstances.
Libya: Second killing of journalist condemned
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has said the killing of Mohammad 'Mo' Nabbous in the city of Benghazi highlights the increasing risks to the safety of journalists covering the Libyan conflict.
Nabbous, who ran the Voice of Libya channel (Libya al-Hurra), died on Saturday during the attack of forces loyal to Colonel Moammar Gaddafi on Benghazi. The IFJ is also concerned over reports that staff of the AFP news agency and the international broadcaster Aljazeera are missing or in detention. Nabbous became the second journalist killed in Libya after the murder of Aljazeera cameraman Ali Hassan Al Jaber who was shot dead by unknown attackers while returning to Benghazi from reporting on an opposition protest.
DRC: In water-rich DRC, 50 million people lack clean water to drink, says UN
An estimated 51 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - or three quarters of the population - have no access to safe drinking water, even though the country holds over half of Africa's water reserves, the United Nations Environment Programme said in a new study. The country's troubled legacy of conflict, environmental degradation, rapid urbanisation and under-investment in water infrastructure has seriously affected the availability of drinking water, UNEP said in the study, unveiled to coincide with World Water Day.
Swaziland: Government suspends pensions
Swaziland's government, feeling the pinch of a growing financial crisis, has suspended this quarter’s pensions for the elderly and redirected the money to pay the school fees of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). '[Government] will utilise the funds allocated for the elderly grants, since they have R46 million (US$6.5 million) in that account currently, with a view that it shall be reimbursed timeously,' said a finance ministry report to parliament explaining how the R38 million ($5.4 million) bill for OVC school fees would be met.
Algeria: Clashes over housing row
Police in Algeria's capital have used teargas to disperse a crowd of young men who threw stones and petrol bombs to try to stop bulldozers demolishing dozens of illegally built homes. Wednesday's (23 March) riot was unusually violent and took place at a time when Algerian authorities are wary of any sign of contagion from the unrest elsewhere in the Arab world. A police spokesman said 50 officers were injured in the clashes. Reporters on the spot said the demonstrators replied with iron bars and stones.
Libya: Gaddafi forces retreat as rebels seize key towns
Libyan rebels' push westwards towards Tripoli gathered momentum on Sunday as their pursuit of Muammar Gaddafi's forces saw them wrest back control of key oil town Ras Lanuf. Their next target is Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, a central coastal city, and on the way they captured Bin Jawad, a hamlet 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Ras Lanuf, AFP correspondents reported.
Somalia: Kenyan forces 'cross Somali border to fight al-Shabab'
Kenyan forces have crossed into Somali territory to fight al-Shabab militants, an official source has told the BBC. However, the reports were denied by a police spokesman. Twelve militants were killed in the raid near the border town of Liboi, Kenya's Standard newspaper reports.
Somalia: Recruitment of child soldiers on the increase
With the escalation of fighting across Somalia since January, armed groups have reportedly recruited more child soldiers to their ranks, some even forcing teachers to enlist pupils. In a recent offensive against rebel groups in Bulo Hawo town on the border with Kenya, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated on 17 March, '...children were involved as fighters and a significant number of them were killed. According to reports, intense fighting in the area between Dhusamareb and Ceel bur in Galgadud has also resulted in many child casualties.'
Tanzania: SA navy asked to help combat pirates
Tanzania has asked South Africa to send warships into the seas off its coast, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says. International shipping off the East African coast has come under increasing attack from pirates over the past decade. A European Union naval task force currently operates off the Somali coast in an effort to protect vessels passing through that part of the Indian Ocean.
West Africa: Region feels the chill from Ivorian deadlock
The political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire is increasingly having a toll on the country's neighbours, with the spillover effects ranging from the political and social to the economic. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already suggested that growth in the region would be affected this year if the stalemate persists. Many experts have also raised the alarm, saying that it is an example that must not be allowed to take root in West Africa.
Gmail SMS launched in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi
Google has created a way for it’s users to continue chatting with friends via Gmail, even when they’re away from their computers. As a Gmail user, you can send SMSes to your friends for free, and when your friends reply, they will be charged the same as a regular SMS.
Nigeria: Monitoring elections, socially
The ReVoDa mobile application seeks to potentially turn the 87,297,789 Nigerians with mobile phones, 43,982,200 with Internet access and 2,985,680 on Facebook into informal election observers. ReVoDa allows voters to report as independent citizen observers from their respective polling units across Nigeria. Click on the link provided to find out more.
Africa Through a Lens
A new online collection from the National Archives (UK) of thousands of images from the photographic collection of Foreign and Commonwealth Office is now available. The images span over 100 years of African history. The images are all available via Flickr and grouped by country; with opportunities to comment or help with captioning images. The site also includes podcasts and some useful research guides.
Africa: Online open education resources portal
The African Virtual University (AVU) launched the interactive Open Education Resources portal OER@AVU in January this year. The portal can be accessed at http://oer.avu.org and contains quality resources developed together with twelve universities in ten African countries.
Kenya: New blog discusses Kenya and the International Court
Professor James Gathii, Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship and the Governor George E. Pataki Professor of International Commercial Law at Albany (New York) Law School, has launched a new blog - http://afjil.wordpress.com - focusing on Kenya's efforts to defer an International Criminal Court (ICC) case against the six alleged masterminds of Kenya's 2008 post-election violence.
United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund
The 2011 Small Grants Facility (SGF) aims to provide tangible support, through established channels, to victims of trafficking in persons. The 2011 Small Grants Facility will accept project proposals from eligible not-for-profit, non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
South Africa: Second annual gender justice and local government summit
More than 265 participants from ten Southern African countries will converge in Johannesburg, South Africa from 28-30 March 2011 for the second Gender Justice and Local Government Summit. The event showcases examples of local efforts to end gender violence and empower women across Southern Africa. Convened by Gender Links under the banner 365 Days of local action to end gender violence, the summit is being attended by journalists, local government authorities, municipalities, NGOs and representatives of ministries of gender and local government.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Second annual Gender Justice and Local Government Summit
25 March 2011
Johannesburg, South Africa
365 Days of local action to end gender violence:
Halve gender violence by 2015
28-30 March 2011
Press briefing will be held at Kopanong Hotel and Conference Centre on Sunday 27 March at 17.00
For more information contact Mona Hakimi on +27 (0)79 969 1954
More than 265 participants from ten Southern African countries will converge in Johannesburg, South Africa from 28-30 March 2011 for the second Gender Justice and Local Government Summit. The event showcases examples of local efforts to end gender violence and empower women across Southern Africa.
Convened by Gender Links under the banner 365 Days of local action to end gender violence, the summit is being attended by journalists, local government authorities, municipalities, NGOs and representatives of ministries of gender and local government.
The annual Summit this year coincides with Gender Links’ 10th anniversary on 30 March 2011. In line with the target set in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development for halving gender violence by 2015, the specific themes this year are: 'Gender and local elections' on day one and “Leaders speak out on gender violence” on day two.
Dubbed the 'Idols' of gender justice and local government, the 124 good practices entered in seven different categories will be judged by the audience and also a panel of distinguished judges. The Summit’s most exciting highlight will be the Gender Justice and Local Government Awards, to be presented at a gala dinner on 30 March.
Entrants include the Chrysalide rehabilitation programme for former drug addicts and sex workers in Mauritius; a South African support centre for the victims of corrective rape; and a Zambian police victims unit that provides support to victims of gender violence.
Each award will have a winner and a runner-up. They will be presented according to the following eight categories:
Prevention of Gender Violence at local level: how do councils work to end GV? There are 12 entries for this award.
16 Days campaigns, including cyber dialogues: four entries have been submitted.
Response to GV at local level: what do councils do to advance legal literacy, work with local police, etc? This category had 12 entries.
Support around gender violence at local level - how do we support those who have experienced GV? 16 entries have been received for this category. Empowerment of women at local level: How do councils enhance the ability of women to take control of their lives? There were 22 entries in this category.
Centre of excellence: 20 entries have been submitted.
Institutional good practices: 12 entries nave been submitted.
Leadership: two awards will be presented to individuals/leaders who show particular innovation and dedication to ending GV at the local level – 10 entries have been submitted.
The Summit kicks off on 28 March with a panel discussion about local elections in the SADC region. Ahead of elections in South Africa, it will feature an interactive debate with representatives and Permanent Secretaries from SADC countries, including Thoko Mpumlwana, Deputy Chairperson of the IEC and GL Board member.
Following the plenary session parallel seminars on Centres of Excellence and Women Empowerment will convene and run over two days. Sessions on Support; Response; and Prevention will also take place on 28 March.
On Tuesday 29 March, the Gender Links Gender Justice team will launch a groundbreaking research report on how leaders prioritise gender violence. The analysis looked at 1956 political speeches, including 118 speeches delivered by President Jacob Zuma, looking for references to gender violence.
The Enough is Enough Campaign, launched on International Women’s Day this year, will also be presented. This will be followed by parallel discussions on Institutional good practice; the 16 Days campaign; and leadership.
The final day, 30 March, Summit participants will take to the streets of Johannesburg for field visits that will expose them to some of the excellent gender initiatives being undertaken in South Africa. Awards will be presented in the evening at a gala dinner which will also celebrate Gender Links’ 10th Anniversary. GL will also launch Giant Footprints, a 316-page book documenting its achievements over the last ten years.
This will feature video footage documenting some of the grassroots initiatives from the region. Footage can be made available on request.
The Summit will be held at:
Kopanong Hotel and Conference Centre
243 Glengory Road Benoni 1500
Gender Links will host a media briefing at the above venue at 17.00 on Sunday, 27 March.
For more information and a full Summit programme visit the Gender Links website or contact: Mona Hakimi email@example.com
Cell phone: +27 (0)79 969 1954
9 Derrick Avenue
South Africa 2198
Phone: 27 (0) 11 622 2877 x 227
Fax: 27 11 (0) 622 4732
Third Julius Nyerere intellectual festival week
12-15 April 2011
The final program of the Third Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival Week for 2011 is available via the link provided.
Call for Submissions: NOKOKO
The new peer-reviewed journal of African studies
The current special theme is: 'Africa: Front Lines or the Margins of a Global Anti-Poverty Movement?' Within this theme authors could consider the following sub-themes:
1) 'Moving from Charity to Solidarity Models'
2) 'Contours of African Struggles in the Global North and South'
Call for Submissions for NOKOKO The new peer-reviewed journal of
African studies is planning its second issue.
Deadline EXTENDED: May 1, 2011
Interested authors are invited to submit articles in any of the following areas:
Articles related to our current special theme
Articles on matters of contemporary relevance in African studies, that
do not necessarily fall within the theme for the issue
Shorter articles and position papers for our “Agitate” section.
Agitate articles do not need to meet the same standards of primary
research, but can allow authors to engage in debates. Authors may want
to agitate for changes in our research agendas, policy orientation,
advocacy, activism or offer critical examinations of current trends
and issues in African Studies.
The current special theme is: “Africa: Front Lines or the Margins of a
Global Anti-Poverty Movement?” Within this theme authors could
consider the following sub-themes
1) “Moving from Charity to Solidarity Models”
2) “Contours of African Struggles in the Global North and South”
Discussions of poverty within Canada and in a global context must
inevitably confront its racial and regional dimensions. Africa was
central in the constructions of racism that fueled the rise of an
Atlantic capitalist world system. Today, people of African descent,
wherever they reside, carry the brunt of the slave trade and
colonialism. These circumstances have resulted in complex
socio-economic and political situations at the individual, national,
regional and international levels. What are the contours of African
struggles in the Global North and South? How are Africans organizing?
How do we learn from existing struggles of Africans and find
meaningful ways of relating to them on the basis of solidarity? What
are the conditions of African diasporas in Canada and what roles might
they play in resisting or upholding the global economic order? Are
these communities informing struggles in the North and the South and
if so, how do their experiences differ? What roles do religions play
in processes of resistance and domination and how do anti-poverty
activists navigate them? How do we relate to African women in struggle
and recognize and support their actual and potential transformative
roles? These are some of the questions this upcoming issue seeks to
Please submit your electronic paper to Nokoko at firstname.lastname@example.org by
March 31, 2011. Please check our website
(http://www2.carleton.ca/africanstudies/research/nokoko/) for the
Submissions Guidelines and more information about the journal.
NOKOKO - Appel à soumissions: Cette nouvelle revue, avec comité de
lecture, des études africaines prévoit son deuxième numéro.
PROLONGATION Date limite: 1 mai 2011.
Les auteurs intéressés sont invités à soumettre des articles dans un
des domaines d’études suivant:
Des articles liés à notre thème spécial.
Des articles sur des questions d’actualité dans les études africaines,
qui ne font pas nécessairement partie du thème du numéro.
Des articles et des documents plus courts pour la section «Agiter».
Ils n’ont pas besoin de suivre les mêmes normes que la recherche
primaire, mais peuvent permettre aux auteurs de s’engager dans des
débats. Les auteurs peuvent souhaiter mener une campagne pour des
changements dans nos programmes de recherche, dans l’orientation de
la politique, dans la défense des droits, dans l’, activisme ou offrir
des critiques des tendances et questions courantes dans les études
Le thème courant est «L’Afrique: En première ligne ou en marge d’un
mouvement combattant la pauvreté globale?» Sous ce thème les auteurs
peuvent considérer les thèmes secondaires suivants:
«Déplacement de la charité vers les modèles de solidarité».
«Contours des résistances africaines dans le nord et le sud global».
Les discussions de la pauvreté à l’intérieur du Canada et dans un
contexte global doivent confronter les dimensions raciales et
régionales. L’Afrique était centrale dans les constructions du racisme
qui ont contribué à l’essor d’un système mondial de capitalisme.
Aujourd’hui, les gens d’origine africaine, peu importe où ils
résident, portent le choc de la traite des esclaves et du
colonialisme. Ces circonstances ont eu comme conséquence des
situations socio-économiques et politiques complexes aux niveaux
individuel, national, régional et international. Quels sont les
contours des luttes africaines dans le nord et le sud global? Comment
les Africains s’organisent-ils? Comment est-ce que nous apprenons des
luttes existantes des Africains pour trouver des moyens significatifs
d’établir des liens avec eux sur la base de la solidarité? Quelles
sont les conditions des diasporas africaines au Canada et quels rôles
pourraient-elles jouer en résistant à l’ordre économique global ou en
défendant celui-ci? Est-ce que ces communautés influencent les luttes
dans le nord et le sud et si oui, comment leurs expériences
diffèrent-elles? Quels rôles est-ce que les religions jouent dans les
processus de la résistance et de la domination et comment les
activistes combattant la pauvreté y naviguent-ils?? Quelle est notre
relation avec les femmes africaines dans la lutte et comment
pouvons-nous reconnaître et appuyer leurs rôles transformatifs réels
et potentiels? Voilà quelques questions que ce prochain numéro vise à
Veuillez soumettre votre article électronique à Nokoko :
email@example.com pour le 31 mars 2011. Veuillez vérifier notre site
Web (http://www2.carleton.ca/africanstudies/research/nokoko/) pour les
directives de soumissions et plus d’informations sur la revue.
Journal of Peasant Studies
Volume 38 Issue 2 2011
Some of the articles included in this edition are:
- Towards a better understanding of global land grabbing: an editorial introduction
- Challenges posed by the new wave of farmland investment
- How not to think of land-grabbing: three critiques of large-scale investments in farmland
The African Women’s Development Fund USA
The successful candidate will have a strong track record of proven leadership ability and be capable of juggling many priority projects working independently. This individual should possess the capacity to assess, analyse and design strategic organisational structures, programs and processes and handle the organisation’s day-to-day operations.
Executive Director of The African Women’s Development Fund USA
Chicago, IL preferred, but not required
The Executive Director reports to the Board of Directors
The African Women’s Development Fund USA (AWDF USA) is a 501c(3) organization created to raise visibility and financial support in the United States for The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) based in Accra, Ghana. AWDF is a grant-making organization that supports women’s organizations across the continent of Africa. Over the past 10 years, AWDF has made grants totalling more than $16M US to 800 women’s organizations in over 43 African countries. Please see awdf.org for more information.
This is a new position and the first paid position of AWDF USA. Prior to this time, the work of AWDF USA has been done by volunteers and a short-term consultant. This position will be supported by a part-time bookkeeper and administrative assistant.
AWDF USA seeks an Executive Director (the “ED”) that will enable the organization to be strategic and influential in a rapidly changing and demanding global environment. The ED is responsible for creating and advancing AWDF USA’s mission and vision. The ED is also responsible for the overall management of AWDF USA and the implementation of its policies. This individual reports directly to the Board of Directors and is responsible for keeping the Board engaged and informed so that they can fulfill the governance responsibilities entrusted to them. Specifically, the ED will be responsible for Fundraising, Marketing, Finance and Administration, Management and Leadership, Communications and External Relationships, and Board Relations.
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE / QUALIFICATIONS
The successful candidate will have a strong track record of proven leadership ability and be capable of juggling many priority projects working independently. This individual should possess the capacity to assess, analyze and design strategic organizational structures, programs and processes and handle the organization’s day-to-day operations.
The ideal candidate will have an understanding of the challenges facing start-up global organizations and possess the creative vision to address these challenges effectively. The ED must be a strong decision-maker, facilitator, inspiring leader, and passionate advocate who can effect change where it is needed.
Specific previous experiences and qualifications include:
• Passionate belief in the AWDF’s mission, vision, and values.
• Demonstrated commitment to the human rights of women and a global feminist perspective.
• Integrity and high ethical standards with a reputation for fairness and transparency.
• Strong sensitivity and commitment to cultural, racial, ethnic, sexual, and socioeconomic diversity.
• Demonstrated fundraising track record and experience in strategic marketing. The ability to compete for and win philanthropic support from individuals, foundations and corporations.
• Experience working with members of a Board of Directors with a history of strengthening proper governance guidelines and building the consensus necessary to ensure organizational success.
• Creativity and innovation in conceptualizing, identifying, and pursuing opportunities, partnerships, and resource development.
• Proven ability to create constructive partnerships among diverse constituencies, to strengthen consensus building, collaboration, and communication.
• Effective verbal and written communications, including excellent public speaking skills for formal and extemporaneous presentations and the ability to clearly and convincingly communicate the work and vision of AWDF USA.
• Working knowledge of international development, human rights, and the feminist movement internationally.
• Excellent interpersonal skills, including the ability to use diplomacy effectively.
• Ability to travel both domestically and internationally.
An undergraduate degree is required. A graduate degree in a relevant field of study such as global/international affairs or development, women’s/gender studies, human rights, law, non-profit management, international business, or MBA is highly preferred.
A competitive compensation package will be offered to attract outstanding candidates
To apply for this position, please send a letter of interest, resume and contact information for 3 references to secy.awdfusa@gmail or to AWDF USA at 122 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 1850 Chicago, IL 60603 by 5pm CST on April 1, 2011.
Kenya: State Wanted to Arrest Raila
The American Embassy believed in March 2007 that President Kibaki's government planned to arrest opposition leader Raila Odinga over the controversial Artur Brothers, according to Wikileaks. 'Post (the embassy) has various pieces of evidence suggesting that the men are associated with either State House or one of the 'first families' and Kamlesh Pattni, the man behind the Goldenberg scandal,' said the cable from ambassador Michael Ranneberger dated 14 March 2007.
Kenya: US opposed Mau compensation
Kenyan MPs were heavily criticised by the US for voting to have the government compensate Mau landowners. In a cable to his bosses in Washington dated 23 September 2009, US ambassador Michael Ranneberger accused Kenyan MPs of entrenching the culture of impunity by passing an amendment seeking to compensate those evicted from the Mau water tower.
Kenya: US ‘predicted post-election chaos’
The US predicted the outbreak of violence in the 2007 General Election 10 months before Kenyans cast their votes. In a cable posted to Washington on February 5, 2007, ambassador Michael Ranneberger warned that the increasing tribalisation of Kenyan politics could plunge the country into chaos in the run-up to the elections.
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