Pambazuka News 523: Glossary of greed and discontent
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Announcements, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Pan-African Postcard, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Highlights French edition, 9. Cartoons, 10. Zimbabwe update, 11. African Union Monitor, 12. Women & gender, 13. Human rights, 14. Refugees & forced migration, 15. Social movements, 16. Emerging powers news, 17. Elections & governance, 18. Corruption, 19. Development, 20. Health & HIV/AIDS, 21. Education, 22. LGBTI, 23. Environment, 24. Land & land rights, 25. Media & freedom of expression, 26. Social welfare, 27. Conflict & emergencies, 28. Internet & technology, 29. Fundraising & useful resources, 30. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 31. Publications, 32. Jobs, 33. WikiLeaks and Africa
Highlights from this issue
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: NGOs call for an end to harassment
AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: AU chief off to Europe to meet Nato leaders on Libya
WOMEN AND GENDER: Celebrating 50 inspirational African feminists
HUMAN RIGHTS: African rights court issues first ruling against a state
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Clock is ticking for Côte d'Ivoire refugees
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Latest news about China, India and Africa
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Burkina Faso, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland and Morocco
DEVELOPMENT: LDCs stagnate on ailing policies
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Call to respect the right to health care
LGBTI: Concern over harassment of LGBT members in Zimbabwe
ENVIRONMENT: Will Rio+20 squander the legacy of the original earth summit?
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: The myths of Zimbabwe’s land reform process
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Swazi government threatens Facebookers
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: The latest from Cote d'Ivoire and Libya
PLUS…Internet and Technology, e-newsletters and mailing lists, fundraising, courses and jobs, WikiLeaks and Africa…
Popular protests in Burkina Faso
Political tensions have been rising in the tiny West African nation of Burkina Faso following the death in police custody of student Justin Zongo on 20 February, which sparked widespread student anger. Authorities initially said the death was due to meningitis, a lie that only amplified the protests, which quickly spread from Zongo’s native town of Koudougou in west-central Burkina Faso to the entire country. Are these protests a mere imitation of developments in north Africa?
Burkina Faso has a vibrant civil society that has managed to resist attempts by successive regimes in the post-colonial period to be co-opted into the single party system or the system of trade union representation that continues to dog the country.
Events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya certainly have encouraged mobilisation in Burkina Faso, where people also want the current regime ‘out’. From slogans such as ‘Tunisia is in Koudougou’ and ‘Burkina will have its Egypt’ to caricatures on Facebook, there are echoes of the Arab spring in the country and some youth groups in Koudougou have even compared Justin Zongo to Mohamed Bouaziz. In contrast to Ben Ali’s Tunisia and Mubarak’s Egypt, Burkina Faso has always had a certain degree of freedom of information and expression and the right to organise. It is easier for young people from underprivileged classes to meet and plan their actions in person rather than on the net.
Yet the impact of developments in Egypt and Tunisia can be felt. During a demonstration in front of the regional council in Ouahigouya, an official driver who refused to obey the orders of the demonstrators was forced to flee. Another person who couldn’t force his way through, ‘slammed his brakes, got out of the car, fists up, made a V for victory sign to the applause of those around’.
Echoes of North Africa can also be seen in the relations with the police. Police brutality in the country make police stations a favourite target during demonstrations, yet in Leo some members of the armed forces reportedly apologised to demonstrators, assuring them they understood their desire for justice. ‘This immediately brought down tensions, demonstrators agreed to move on shouting bravos to the soldiers for their solidarity and compassion.’
This relationship between demonstrators and the police - which wasn’t reported from all areas - was even described as a kind of ‘pact of non aggression towards the police’ by the press, which saw the demonstrators as ‘insurgents grouped like a swarm of bees who advanced in front of the police brigade, fists raised, as if they had signed a pact of non-aggression, before taking on the tax authorities.’
Essentially, the resemblance to the uprisings in the north lies in structural similarities - an unequal society, high unemployment, the lack of future perspectives, police violence, impunity, a closed political system, a bourgeoisie tied in with a non-functioning political administration and the longevity of the regime.
The authorities also seem to have learnt something from the events in North Africa. The government did its utmost to calm people down after the violence between 22 and 24 February. On 28 February, the government’s press service announced that the governor and the regional police chief of the west-central area had been sacked.
But the response of two student unions (ANEC Koudougoud and UGEB) to the announcement that police officers guilty of misconduct would be arrested, while continuing to reiterate that Zongo had died of meningitis, was: ‘You announce the arrest of policemen involved without clarifying the circumstances of his death. Who amongst the guilty have been arrested?’ The regime ordered security forces to barracks. Investigations were launched, one on the events in Koudougou, the other on what happened in Kindi and a third to focus on Poa.
Nonetheless, the events in Burkina Faso also have a domestic momentum. They have their roots in local conditions. Indeed, since the end of the so-called revolutionary period after the coup d ‘etat on 15 October 1987, which took the life of Thomas Sankara, there have been several face-offs with the regime of Blaise Campaore, some after violence in schools. In May 1990, medical student and ANEB activist Dabo Boukary was tortured to death at the base of the presidential guard. For years, the authorities maintained he escaped; it was only during the big university strike in 1997 that they hinted that he was in fact dead. On 9 May 1995, Garango students marched in support of their teachers fighting for better working and living conditions. Two students, Emile Zigani and Blaise Sidiani were killed. On 6 December 2000, Flavien Nebie, 12, was shot in the head during a march protesting the invalidation of the academic year by the University of Ouagadougou. The fact that the case dragged on for so long and passed from magistrate to magistrate shows the lack of seriousness in dealing with the death. Till today, Flavien Nebie’s death has not been clarified. The verdicts handed down to the two policemen who assassinated Emile Zigani and Blaise Sidiani eight years later speak volumes - one was given a 12 month suspended sentence while the other was simply let off.
The subservience of justice to political power is evident in these cases, as it was in that of Thomas Sankara and Oumarou Clement Ouedrago and explains partially why far from decreasing, demonstrations are on the increase.
The press was not exempt from such attacks. Norbert Zongo, the director of the weekly ‘The Independent’ and three of his companions were assassinated on 13 December 1998. Zongo was investigating the death of David Ouedraogo, the chauffeur of Francis Campaore, the president’s brother. This event marked a turning point in the mobilisation against impunity.
Unprepared for the scale of public protest which had spread throughout the country and involved all sectors of society, the regime began to waver and the country saw one of its most serious crises since the revolution. Thousands of people came out in the streets of Ougadougou and the provinces when news came that Norbert Zongo had died in a car ‘accident’. People attacked symbols of state, including the headquarters of the presidential party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP). More than 20,000 people turned out for the funeral of the slain journalist on 16 December and public emotions ran high for several months after his death.
The authorities didn’t take long to clamp down on the protests, even if it paid lip service to a negotiated solution, and there were arrests, militias were set up, sanctions were taken against strikers and schools were shut down. Eight years later, all charges were dismissed in the Zongo affair.
The current situation in Burkina Faso, insofar as it is a spontaneous, popular and inclusive movement (school and university students, the informal sector and traders) is strongly reminiscent of that period, but the goals seem to be larger, at least for some demonstrators who want the movement to go much further.
On the other hand, the violent aspect of current protests is not new in Burkina Faso. In 1998, there was the ‘enough is enough’ campaign, and in 2008 riots erupted to protest the rising cost of living. But never has the country seen this kind of rage vented against police stations (burnt down in Reo, Yako, Koupela, Poutenga, Gourcy, Ouahigouya, Dory, Leo). Equally unprecedented has been the storming of prisons by demonstrators in Yako, Ouagadougou and Koupela and the freeing of prisoners.
Not all public symbols were targeted - the anger was reserved for police stations, town halls, and the offices of governors; in short structures symbolic of the repression and lies unleashed during the repression in Koudougou. These were symbols of state - the police as forces of repression, the mayors who rule like potentates in their areas, the governors as representatives of the president. In fact, the governor of the centre-west area told protestors who wanted to meet him that he was there not because of the ‘people’s will but by the grace of the president of the country who nominated him as his representative in Koudougou.’
The bloody repression of the protests in Koudougou and the entire province of Boulkiemde was followed by attempts at appeasement, which suggests that the authorities are seriously worried about the spread of popular discontent. Public anger is already high, first because Blaise Compaore wants to modify the constitution to allow him to stay on as president for life. Meanwhile, negotiations with the Coordination of the National Coalition against the high cost of living (CCVC), which ended in February, have not been endorsed while at the same time prices continue to spiral, a situation not unlike that of 2008. At the same time, the mayor of Ouagadougou, Simon Compaore (no relation to the president) has announced that 31 March is the final date of payment of the local development tax which sparked enormous resentment when it was introduced in 2008. Like in 1998, social and economic rights have combined with the issues of truth, justice and impunity.
The peace overtures by the regime were also timed to coincide with the pan-African film festival (FESPACO) - a major cultural event in the country - which took place from 26 February to 5 March. The Burkinabe government is extremely attentive to its image abroad, which is why during the big student strike in 1997, classes were suspended in all schools in the capital to ‘allow students to benefit from the film festival’, notes the L’observateur Paalga. But at the same time the newspaper wondered whether the measure wasn’t a strategy to prevent school students from linking up with university students who had been on strike for the previous five days. Moreover, government agents had infiltrated the protestors on campus. Classes were suspended throughout the country from 25 to 28 February when the suspension was extended until further notice. Classes were finally due to begin on 7 March (which didn’t happen because of demonstrations). It is worthwhile noting that the African Directors and Producers Guild issued a communiqué on 3 March calling on the international media to devote similar amounts of airtime to uprisings in other parts of the continent as they had to those in North Africa. It said it was the media’s responsibility to report on the aspirations of people wherever they might be.
The regime quickly returned to its authoritarian and military reflexes when demonstrations spread throughout the country and a turning point came on 11 March, the day the student union ANEB had called for a mass demonstration. The capital was completely sealed off by the army, the police and the gendarmes, who put down the protests. It was only that evening that Blaise Compaore deigned to address the nation for the first time since the unrest began. But he only talked about the material damage caused to public and private property.
The regime has stuck to the same tactics it has used since 1997 to deal with the latest crisis, alternating carrot and stick while denouncing the fact that its concessions have failed to reduce tensions. This is the model of the way they dealt with the student unrest - protests, repression, arrests, legal measures, discrediting the movement (subversion), negotiations and calls for mediation. The authorities have always called for a mediator during every student uprising - in 1990 it was the Burkinabe Movement for Human and Peoples’ rights; in 1997 and 2000, it was the Mediateur du Faso; in 2008, it was the national Parliament itself, often in conjunction with spiritual leaders (traditional and religious). This time too, they have set up a six-member ‘committee for initiatives’ headed by the Bishop of Ouagadougou. The justification for discrediting the movement this time was that the students were being manipulated by the UNDD on behalf of an external power, in this case, the Ivorian Laurent Gbagbo. It is extremely unlikely that Hermann Yameogo has much influence with a youth movement that is prepared to put the lives of members on the line in the fight against impunity. This opposition politician, who has sometimes served as a state minister in the Compaore government, is a prime example of political opportunism and how some dissidents alternate between the ruling party and the opposition. But the accusation against him is strange, since normally unrest is blamed on the Volta Revolutionary Communist Party (underground) which was set up in 1978 and is accused of having links with the ANEB, thus justifying the repression.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the regime didn’t point fingers at the communist party this time. The fact that they shut down all national universities and social welfare organisations on 14 March indicates that the government is trying to restrict the unrest to a problem in the education sector. It is equally obvious that this decision, coupled with the frustration that has been rising since 20 February, could lead to more violence during demonstrations which would in turn allow the state to initiate ‘legal proceedings’. This is another constant - arrests take place after each protest, the judiciary enters the game and the students are forced to find ways of supporting their comrades instead of keeping up the pressure.
However, the latest protests are not necessarily part of an organised structure (trade unions, political parties, associations). And when one reads the various commentaries on the failure of the struggle in the wake of the Norbert Zongo affair and on developments in North Africa, one gets the feeling that the youth this time (and the less young who also came out spontaneously) is convinced that a formal organisation isn’t necessary to kick a leader out.
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* Translated from the French by Sputnik Kilambi.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 L’Observateur Paalga, n° 7826 du 23 February 2011, Koudougou - Disturbances after the death of a student.
 San Finna, n° 605 du 28 February - 5 March 2011, Violent demonstrations in Koudougou. Police misconduct, bad communication, unfounded accusations et several dead!. A reminder that Justin Zongo was taken to the police station on December 2011, the day Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire.
 After the 8 March demonstration was cancelled, it seems that there was more use of Facebook, it now helps in access to information and analyses of events and is really useful, also for the diaspora and foreigners who wish to understand what is happening.
 However, and this seems new, though we cannot confirm it, messaging services were cut off on the eve of the march called by ANEB on 11 March. L’Observateur Paalga, n°7838, March 14 mars 2011.
 Le Pays, n°4812, February 25 - 27 2011, Demonstrations spread to Ouahigouya.
 L’Observateur Paalga, n°7831, March 2, 2011, School kids demonstrate in Leo.
 L’Observateur Paalga, n°7836, March 10, 2011, Students demonstrate in Ouahigouya. Tensions at boiling point.
 L’Observateur Paalga referred to 9 dead on March 16 (n°7840, March 16, 2011, Situation nationale. Manifestation violente d’une crise de confiance).
 Letter from Aneb Koudougou to the Governor, 28 February 2011.
 He was a key political figure and was present from the start of the ’Revolution’ alongside Blaise Compaoré et Thomas Sankara. After the coup on 15 October 1987, he backed the new head of state. He was killed in a terrorist attack in a high security zone in the city centre on 9 December 1991.
 Wrongly accused of stealing a large amount of money, he was taken in by the presidential guard and died in the presidential infirmary. The chief doctor noted in the death certificate: ‘died of his illness on January 18, 1998 at 6.50’.
 His remarks were reported thus in San Finna, n° 605, 28 February – 5 March 2011, see note .
 Koudougou is known as a rebel town. It appears that a special police contingent (CRS) was deployed there last December to subdue the population. Cf. Eveil éducation, n° 173, March 7, 2011, Events in Koudougou.
 The article which restricts the presidential mandate to two consecutive terms was first modified on 27 January 1997, and was brought back after the protests in the Norbert Zongo affair. The law isn’t retroactive, and Blaise Compaore has since stood twice for re-election. He won another mandate last November with 80 per cent of the vote, though only 1.5 million people actually voted, but this is supposed to be his last.
 The tax on the owners of two and four wheelers is supposed to fund local development.
 L’Observateur Paalga, 24 February 1997, University crisis: latest developments.
The glossary of greed
This year’s Forbes List of the world’s wealthiest people is out. On the heels of the global financial crisis, with sky-rocketing food prices, climate change already making life even more difficult for poor farmers in developing countries, with conflict and political turmoil around the world and with a billion or so people going to bed (if they have one) hungry every night, the super-rich are doing very well for themselves indeed. The Forbes List of billionaires has swollen this year to a record 1,210 individuals. On a planet with nearly 7 billion people, just 1,210 people (including 14 in Africa) possess $45 trillion, equivalent to 77% of the world’s GDP.
But the Forbes List doesn’t tell the whole story. It includes only billionaires with publicly traded fortunes. While it does include several billionaires who made their vast fortunes by pillaging natural resources and wealth in Africa and elsewhere around the world, it misses their accomplices – the billionaire leaders of a whole slew of African, Middle Eastern and central Asian countries. The list doesn’t include men like Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who controls a stash worth ‘tens of billions’ that he managed to launder over the years using Swiss banks. Nor does it include Egypt’s former ruler, Hosni Mubarak, whose fortune is being estimated – now that he is deposed and no longer being coddled (and financed) by his Western friends – in the tens of billions.
If one could find all of these offshore holdings and add them to the $4.5 trillion net worth of the Forbes List billionaires, the amount would be more than staggering; it would be simply inconceivable. But we cannot track down their fortunes because they are well hidden.
In 2005, wealthy individuals held an estimated $11.5 trillion (about a quarter of the world’s total wealth at the time) ‘offshore’, a euphemism for tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions where it’s possible to stash vast amounts of wealth out of sight, certainly out of the grasp of governments in search of much-needed tax revenue. Some of these tax havens are actually not offshore at all, such as the City of London and Manhattan. The Tax Justice Network’s ‘Financial Secrecy Index’ ranks Delaware in the US as the number one of 60 secrecy jurisdictions, followed by Luxemburg, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. African tax havens include Liberia, Mauritius and the Seychelles. For every aid dollar handed across the table to Africa, ten dollars are taken back, primarily using Western banks and the offshore.
Over the past few decades, financial markets that were once subordinate to the real economy came to dominate it. Institutional investors took over and the search for the maximum profit in the shortest possible time became the only rationale for investment.
Of course, not all the super-rich are created equal. Some are neither greedy nor selfish; some are downright generous and patriotic and acknowledge that they owe much to the society that allowed them to become rich in the first place, and they dutifully pay taxes.
But many at the top of the monetary food chain hide their wealth in tax havens and virulently oppose progressive taxes that would help even out the alarming disparities and curb the dangerous accumulation of so much wealth in so few hands. Many use the power that their wealth affords them to engage armies of middlemen, accountants, lawyers and financial wizards to ensure that no one can get at their money. They fund ‘think tanks’ that fill the media (many of which they own) with propaganda that glorifies the wealthy and demonises the poor, the working people, the public sector, taxation and government itself. They undermine democracy, funding politicians and then lobbying them to block reforms of the financial system and regulations that might impede the growth of their wealth.
In this gilded age, where so few own so much (and can avoid paying taxes by hiding their wealth in tax havens) and the rest suffer or are left to their own devices to merely survive, a new vocabulary – a glossary of greed – has developed around and for the super-rich. It speaks volumes about the new globalised order where disparity and extreme inequality reign supreme, just like the global over-class.
OF HNWIS AND UHNWIS
First, it’s important to know that there are official terms for the very rich. They are known as ‘high net worth individuals’ or HNWIs. These are people who can, at the drop of a hat, put their hands on a million US dollars in ‘liquid assets’, also known as cash.
The HNWIs’ numbers have started to grow again, following the global financial crisis of 2008, which a good number of them helped bring about with their reckless and woolly get-rich-on-bad-debt and derivatives schemes. In 2009, there were 95,000 HNWIs in the world (at least ones that we know of – many crime bosses, despots and dictators would certainly swell this number were their wealth not hidden offshore). Between 2008 and 2009 their net worth rose 18.9 per cent – to $39 trillion.
But all is relative when it comes to wealth. Just as the world’s majority – the average person in Africa, Latin America and Asia – can still be considered extremely poor (monetarily) next to the average person living in Europe or North America, so are the run-of-the-mill HNWIs relatively poor when compared with the UHNWIs. These are the ‘ultra high net worth individuals’, people who can produce $30 million cash at any moment. UHNWIs have also seen their fortunes soar in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. In 2009, their wealth rose 21.9 per cent.
These days, however, given that 1,210 individuals now possess fortunes in the billions – far in excess of the lowly cut-off point of $30 million for UNHWIs – perhaps it’s time to come up with a new term to accommodate the swelling ranks of billionaires. Perhaps RAUHNWIs, ‘ridiculously, appallingly and unbelievably high net worth individuals’?
THE COST OF LIVING EXTREMELY WELL
Since 1976, Forbes has been providing a ‘CLEWI’ – Cost of Living Extremely Well Index’ – for the monetarily well endowed. Forbes earnestly explains that the CLEWI is ‘to the very rich what the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index [CPI] is to ordinary people’. Between 2009 and 2010, the CLEWI showed a 1 per cent inflation rate on the HNWI basket of basics, while the CPI for ‘ordinary people’ rose 1.1 per cent.
But those things in an ordinary person’s basket – a cup of rice or grain perhaps and a couple of tablespoons of oil for the average West African, or a panoply of nutritious foodstuffs and other things average citizens in rich countries consider basics – are a far cry from what is to be found in the CLEWI baskets. Prices for some items have stayed steady: a suite at the New York Four Seasons ($4,650), a Rolls Royce Phantom ($380,000), a Hattaras 80 MY motor yacht ($5,281,600) and a facelift at the American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (still just $17,000).
The CLEWI shows that in 2010 HNWIs had to cough up 5 per cent more for VIP (very important person) care in the Washington Hospital Center. One day with concierge, security, gourmet meals, supplies and specialised nursing care a day set them back $2,421.
But if the high cost of living extremely well and all the stress and mental anguish of being super-rich causes a need for psychiatric care, in 2010 HNWIs could still get a psychiatrist on New York’s Upper East Side for the same rate they could in 2009: $325 per 45-minute session.
For some of the world’s wealthiest, even the standard luxury items in the CLEWI basket may be far beneath them. Last year, Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani moved into a 27-storey home in Mumbai, the first residence valued at a billion dollars. And soon the truly filthy rich will be able to purchase the world’s first billion-dollar yacht. The 500-foot monstrosity is to be called ‘Streets of Monaco’, a floating theme park modelled after Monaco itself – a favourite tax haven for billionaires.
The world’s HNWIs, after a short period of relative hardship and belt-tightening during the worst of the financial crisis, have also been returning now to their ‘passion investments’. Passion investments include expensive self-indulgences (jewellery, gems, watches) and ‘luxury collectibles’ such as extravagant boats, automobiles and jets, art and ‘collectible’ wines.
OF WEALTH CARE AND PRIVATE WEALTH MANAGEMENT
HNWIs are in high demand from ‘private wealth managers’. These are people who make lots of money by making lots and lots of money for the super-rich. Private wealth managers are often HNWIs themselves. They offer ‘wealth care’ services, which may be as much a priority for HNWIs as is health care for ordinary mortals.
The Goldman Sachs Group is big in the wealth care business. A financial behemoth with its tentacles spread around the world in countless subsidiaries, Goldman Sachs is a ‘a leading banking organization’ incorporated, no surprise, into the onshore–offshore tax haven of Delaware. It caters especially to high and ultra high net worth individuals, offering them ‘private wealth management’ (PWM) with a whole range of ‘private wealth products and services’. Most are offshore, safe from taxes.
Goldman Sachs has many friends in very high places, and has even been a useful stepping stone to get them there. Current World Bank president Robert Zoellick is an alumnus of Goldman Sachs where he was vice chair, after his stint as US deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush. Goldman Sachs has been home to a remarkable number of luminaries that have been given key government positions in the Obama White House. The author Dambisa Moyo also emerged from the ranks at Goldman Sachs. Not surprisingly, she argues in her best-selling book ‘Dead Aid’ that wild west-and-east capitalism is the solution for Africa, a thesis that free-wheeling capitalists just love. The billionaire publisher Steve Forbes liked Moyo’s message so much that he threw her a party at the Four Seasons in New York. The current governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, is also a member of the Goldman Sachs economic club.
Goldman Sachs, by virtue of those who have swelled its ranks over the years and the UHNWIs who use its private wealth management services, exerts enormous influence on governments. It is certain that this influence is not being used to push for financial regulations, transparency in the financial sector, the closing of tax havens or a rethinking of the raison d’être behind the global financial system that so favours HNWIs and UHNWIs.
Goldman Sachs is just one such investment bank. There are many, many others up to the same games.
‘GROW YOUR MONEY TAX-FREE’
Another valuable term in the vocabularies of those wishing to make sure that their immense wealth doesn’t have to be shared with the unwashed masses is ‘cloud banking’. This is a ‘new and innovative concept’ that offers tax avoiders and evaders ‘additional layers of privacy’ for their financial information. Privacy is crucial for those wishing to continue to enjoy the benefits of tax havens around the world where wealth is socked away in layers and layers of secrecy in dummy companies, shell banks, hedge and private equity funds, and trusts.
Cloud banking is offered by people such as R. David Finzer, an American now living in Uruguay, a country he chose ‘because of its long-standing investment friendly climate including no taxation on non-local income and very strong bank secrecy laws’. Finzer has a long history of ‘international corporate planning’ and has been chair of the Conservative Action Foundation in Washington DC and on the executive of the World Anti-Communist League.
His Capital Conservator Group helps HNWIs get around regulations that the US Patriot Act and the G20’s ‘targeting of tax havens’ have put in their tax-free way. These include Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries have been bringing in to try to reduce privacy so that two jurisdictions agree to share financial information on individuals they would like to tax. A TIEA can ‘blast a hole in the confidentiality of the jurisdiction where your assets are stored,’ says Capital Conservator. Hence the advent of cloud banking – banking without borders – that hides the information about where assets are stored. Capital Conservator does this by ‘spreading it around the World Wide Web in a disconnected way,’ so vast amounts of money can be rapidly moved to another jurisdiction at the slightest whiff of a TIEA, to another ‘node’. A ‘node’ is a nifty euphemism for tax haven.
Inviting clients to ‘grow your money tax-free’, Capital Conservator explains how it works: ‘To further ensure your privacy, we chose to locate our offices in various countries in the Americas and Europe outside both the USA and the EU. Further, all client records are held in a third country with very strong secrecy laws in trust by a law firm. As such, this private information enjoys a double layer of privacy: strong privacy laws and attorney-client privilege. This privacy can only be pierced if a client is involved in a real, non-tax crime.’ So tax crimes are, well, legal?
FANNING THE FLAMES FOR PROFIT
A final important term is that coined by Naomi Klein, ‘disaster capitalism’, to describe the men and women who may help create disasters, often through neoliberal economic policies and the political turmoil that ensues and then profit from the ‘opportunities’ the disasters offer them.
Disaster capitalism nicely captures the business of alternative investment firms such as Emergent Asset Management, ‘which offers hedge fund and private equity strategies.’  In his book ‘Breaking the Code of History’, Emergent’s chief investment officer David Murrin analyses geo-politics and major risks and trends around the world. He says he wrote the book because he has children and wants them to have a future.
Does Emergent Asset, however, call for a concerted global effort for human beings to try to head off these disasters and solve the problems that will surely cause suffering for children all over the world?
No, anything but. Instead, Emergent offers its wealthy clients a whole new series of funds designed to take advantage of each of the ominous global trends outlined in the book. Funds will be designed to ‘benefit’ from expected growing military spending and be built around both Western and emerging defence contractors, as Murrin says China will be at war with the US within 15 years. He sees great profiteering opportunities in the decline of empires as they tend to suffer from more epidemics, so the fund will buy shares in pharmaceutical companies. And there are also great ways to capitalise on climate change and food shortages, which Emergent is doing by grabbing vast swathes of farmland in southern Africa.
Disaster capitalism. Banking on catastrophe. At least vultures wait until after death to feed on cadavers.
The glossary of greed reveals a great deal about the upside-down values that have created a world where wealth is worshipped, compassion and sharing are disdained, and where greed, vanity, selfishness and cold-blooded ruthlessness are not vices – they have become virtues. They produce and prop up a highly stratified world that has become treacherously top-heavy. So few people now control such a large proportion of the world’s wealth because they’ve reshaped the world for themselves – subverted democracy and laid the groundwork for global turmoil and suffering, laughing all the way to the (offshore) bank.
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* Joan Baxter is a journalist and award-winning author. Her book ‘Dust from our Eyes: an Unblinkered Look at Africa’ is published by Pambazuka Press.
* ‘Tax us if you Can’ by Khadija Sharife is a short introduction on the subject of tax justice, to be published by Pambazuka Press in October 2011.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Forbes: The World’s Billionaires. http://bit.ly/hnZ5RP
 According to World Bank Development Indicators, the global GDP in 2009 was $58.1 trillion. http://bit.ly/fTaXjx
 Risen, James and Lichtblau, Eric. 9 March 2011. Hoard of cash lets Qaddafi extend fight against rebels. New York Times. http://nyti.ms/ejKn1f
 Inman, Phillip. 4 February 2011. Mubarak family fortune could reach $70bn, say experts. Egyptian president has cash in British and Swiss banks plus US and UK property. The Guardian. http://bit.ly/fNiB5n
 Tax Justice Network. March 2005. Briefing paper: The Price of Offshore.
 Shaxson, Nicholas. 2011. Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World. London, UK: Bodley Head
 Tax Justice Network, Financial Secrecy Index. 2009. http://bit.ly/1Dim7m
 Raymond Baker cited in Shaxson, Nicholas. 2011. Treasure Islands – Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World. London, UK: Bodley Head. p 27
 Wahl, Peter. 2008. Superstars in the Emperor’s New Clothes: Hedge Funds and Private Equity Funds – What is at Stake? Berlin: WEED – World Economy, Ecology and Development. p 4
 World Wealth Report 2010. Capgemini & Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. p 4
 Ibid p 3.
 Ibid p 4.
 Decarlo, Scott. 23 September 2010. Forbes Price Index Of Luxury Goods Keeps Pace With Inflation. http://bit.ly/e4L9iV
 Roberts, Laura. 14 October 2010. India's richest man Mukesh Ambani moves into £630m home. The Telegraph.
 O’Connor, Clare. 13 January 2011. Is this the world’s first billion-dollar yacht? Forbes. http://bit.ly/h5XlBy
 World Wealth Report 2010. Op. cit. p 20
 Ibid. pp 20-21
 United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Info. 2 December 2007. http://bit.ly/f5i34M
 Public Notice, US Federal Communications Commission. 23 November 2010. http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1123/DA-10-2230A1.txt
 Goldman Sachs. Private Wealth Management. http://bit.ly/hk7i1i
 The World Bank. Biography, Robert Zoellick, 11th Chief Executive of the World Bank. http://bit.ly/4GEn9Y
 For a list of these key White House and other influential positions, see: http://the-classic-liberal.com/white-goldman-sachs-house/
 Newsweek. http://bit.ly/fuANuQ
 Capital Conservator. http://bit.ly/ggrsJh [accessed 28 February 2011]
 Capital Conservator. February 2011. Banking Without Borders: The challenge to tax havens and financial privacy requires a fresh approach – and ‘Cloud Banking’ provides the answer. [promotion]. BMI In-flight Magazine: Voyager. p 37
 Offshore Business Network. Day, Aaron A. 18 May 2006. R. David Finzer. http://bit.ly/g3Sahy [accessed 1 March 2011]
 Capital Conservator. February 2011. Op. cit.
 Capital Conservator. http://bit.ly/fDDU9b [accessed 28 February 2011]
 Klein, Naomi. 2007. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada
 Mr. Murrin was unavailable for an interview, although several requests were made.
 Emergent Asset Management. https://www.emergentasset.com/
 Apps, Peter. 7 January 2011. Invest in food – and the horsemen of the apocalypse. Reuters. Available at: http://bit.ly/eFWG4L
Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt and Libya: Contested battles for support and attention
CÔTE D’IVOIRE – STILL ON THE BRINK OF CIVIL WAR
According to the UN spokesperson in Abidjan, Hamadoun Toure, 1 million people have fled the capital, many of them migrant workers from other countries in West Africa. In addition, there are 90,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, putting pressure on a country which is itself still in recovery from war. The danger of the conflict spreading to Liberia is made clear in this tweet by Alain Logbognon on pro-Laurent Gbagbo elements taken hostage by Liberian mercenaries.
@ ALAINLOBOG #civ2010 Guiglo : les éléments Fanci pro-LMP pris en otage par les mercenaires libériens qui menacent de les exécuter en cas d'assaut FRCI.
While criticisms of the West’s intervention policy in Libya continues from the left and the right of the political spectrum, lawyers for Alassane Ouattara complained of double standards in the international response to the two countries while Laurent Gbagbo continues to murder civilians. The two sides remain intransigent, with President Ouattara refusing the proposed AU mediator, José Brito, on the grounds that he was not a head of state and has close connections with Laurent Gbagbo, who still refuses to step down.
‘“J`ai l`impression que la Côte d`Ivoire devient le drame oublié ou occulté. On a lancé une opération en Libye craignant que Kadhafi (...) assassine des gens à Benghazi, alors que (le président sortant de la Côte d`Ivoire) Laurent Gbagbo a déjà commencé à assassiner des gens et continue", a déclaré Me Jean-Paul Benoit lors d`une conférence de presse, estimant qu`il y avait "deux poids, deux mesures dans la mobilisation internationale". "La Côte d`Ivoire mérite un intérêt public international" et les populations du pays "une sollicitude au moins égale à celle dont bénéficie le malheureux peuple libyen", a ajouté Me Jean-Pierre Mignard. Les deux avocats de "la République de Côte d`Ivoire" demandent à la communauté internationale "l`usage de la force légitime", comme "on l`a fait en Libye".’
The question of media coverage of Côte d’Ivoire is taken up by the US blog, AfroSphere but the criticism is of the black media rather than the mainstream media. It’s important to note that there are a group of Ivorians tweeting up-to-date accounts on the crisis in their country and these can be found under #civ2010 and #cotedivoire. Unlike in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, these appear to be ignored.
‘In the wake of the enormous media coverage of the uprisings and so-defined “revolutions” in North Africa and the Middle East, I am hard pressed to find any media coverage of the escalating atrocities and impending civil war in Cote d’Ivoire. The “blackout” of this media coverage I am referring to is not within the mainstream media… which is understandable… it’s within the AfroSphere itself. One can read more on Chris Brown… even on Charlie Sheen… on blogs, news sites and webzines within the Black/African blogosphere, than on Cote d’Ivoire.
The sad thing about this is that in this age of the power of social media within the creation of communities of interest, the recent histories of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Kenya are being repeated today in Cote d’Ivoire (here)… and we don’t care. It’s an indictment on all of us, from President Obama … “a son of Africa” … to those of African descent within the continent, the Diaspora and the AfroSphere. We do nothing, then we get pissed and question the motives and sincerity of the Bono’s, George Clooney’s and Mia Farrow’s of the (white) world when they take up the causes of African people.’
Africa News (a news site by African citizen journalists) reports on the growing medical emergency as the country runs out of drugs for the treatment of cholera and HIV.
‘This is a consequence of the EU embargo on the country's ports. Ivory Coast’s supply of medicines and other products is in serious trouble. Support from key donors like the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria took a serious knock by the crisis which arose from the controversial November 2010 presidential elections. These three major donors approved funding worth several millions of dollars towards the fight against AIDS in Ivory Coast. They have even closed their offices in Abidjan.’
African Arguments publishes some background opinion on the back-story to the present crisis in Côte d’Ivoire which speaks to citizenship rights and xenophobia.
‘The anti-Ouattara ball was set rolling after the death in 1993 of Ivorian president and founding father Felix Houphouët-Boigny. Ouattara, then Prime Minister, squared off against parliamentary Speaker Henri Konan Bédié for the succession. Bédié, a southerner from Houphouët-Boigny’s Baoulé ethnic group, won out – thanks partly to backing from former colonial master France – but he was determined that Ouattara should never pose a threat to his position again.
‘To this end, Bédié nurtured a philosophy called ivoirité or “Ivorianness” – the slippery idea of what it means to be Ivorian. Bédié used this murky notion to harness support for a change in the electoral code he had pushed through parliament a few months earlier, with the aim of making Ouattara ineligible for the presidency. A new clause stated that no one with a parent who was not “of Ivorian origin” could stand for president. Bédié and his supporters advanced an array of arguments to prove that Ouattara’s parents were both foreign, and that Ouattara himself was from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast’s poorer northern neighbour. Ivoirité became central to the anti-Ouattara propaganda campaign. Bédié built nationalist fervour around the concept, loudly stating that people should be proud to be Ivorian and should not allow foreigners to rule over them.’
On Wednesday 30 March, the UN passed a unanimous resolution demanding an end to the violence in Cote d'Ivoire and issued a travel ban and freeze of assets on Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and three aides. Whether this will finally force Gbagbo to stand down remains to be seen. President Alassane Ouattara has already requested he be charged to the International Criminal Court [ICC] for his crimes against the Ivorian people and it is hard to see him standing down without giving safe passage. On the other hand it is equally hard to imagine him walking away a free man after committing murderous crimes against his own people.
EGYPT – POST-REVOLUTION
One of the main demands of the Egyptian revolutionaries was the call for changes in the constitution and on 19 March Egyptians were able to vote on a range of amendments. Maha al Aswad is highly critical of both the amendment process and the amendments themselves, such as the lack of ‘gender neutral language’, the criteria for president by default implies it can only be a man because “he shouldn’t be married to a foreign wife”, while the drafting committee did not include a single woman.
‘The process of amending the constitution generally was wrong. We made a revolution. Revolutions make constitutions fall along with all the regime! Maybe the problem is that the regime didn’t fully fall. What happened is a big joke. Before the referendum, we took to streets and distributed fliers and talked with people not only to convince them that the amendments are discriminative and violate the principle of citizenship rights and equality between all Egyptians, but also to say that the whole referendum thing is not correct. As the Higher Council for Armed Forces, I don’t have to go and ask the people if they still want the constitution from which they suffered for the past 40 years!’
The Egyptian Army [AFC] now has an official Facebook page in Arabic which it is using to send out messages to Egyptians. The latest is published by Egyptian Chronicles. President Hosni Mubarak is still in Egypt under house arrest, and the AFC is going to review the case of Egyptian protestor Mohammed Adel Mohammed Ali Fawzy, who was arrested by the military police during the revolution and sentenced to five years in prison, while the council will investigate the incidents of torture of women during the last Tahrir Square sit-in.
Sandmonkey gives a quick breakdown of some leading presidential candidates.
‘One thing to be sure of, the next election in Egypt will be incredibly fun, due to the fact that many US election campaign operatives are now offering their services to the highest bidder, and the egyptian election is a very sexy and important election for them.’
Being politically astute he is in favour of the revolutionaries ending their protests.
“The roof of street legitimacy just got raised. Public Opinion went 14 million for a YES vote and 4 million for a no vote, which means that in order to show we represent the majority we need 14 million to join us, which we won’t be able to produce. Hell, if we manage to produce 1 million protesters, people can dismiss us claiming we were only able to turn out 1/4 of our base. It’s not that impressive anymore, and going every friday to Tahrir means we have totally or about to burn that card. But if some feel the need to still protest, that’s fine, but let’s do it right.”
Jadaliyya, a scholarly e-zine produced by the Arab Studies Institute (ASI) Middle East/North Africa uprisings, broadcasts an interview with one of the leading Egyptian revolutionaries, Hossam El-Hamalawy (Arabawy). They discuss the background to the political and economic elite and how they are trying to reframe themselves, the position of other leading protesters and the alliances the different interest groups are trying to build.
LIBYA – SAVING LIBYA WHILE KILLING IN AFGHANISTAN – WHOSE WAR IS THIS?
Last week US drones killed 40 people on the Pakistan Afghan border. No one is talking about this!
Many of us remain conflicted trying to make sense of Libya. Grand narratives like imperialism, Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism and Marxism are being discussed, burning up hours of email time and with no end in sight. There are those on the left who are buying into the ‘humanitarian’ justification for the no-drive no-fly zone military campaign. But I don’t hear these same voices speak about Côte d’Ivoire or question how an empire which regularly kills civilians in Afghanistan can be trusted to protect civilians elsewhere.
The empires and wannabe empires are busy bickering with each other as they all try to predict the outcome and hope they end up on the right side! There’s the battle of the ‘hypocrites’, with Germany (which abstained from the UN vote) and its allies accusing each other of hypocrisy. Then there’s the battle of ‘NATO’, which is mostly between French President Nicolas Sarkozy – who seems bent on fulfilling his ‘crusade’ fantasies through a massive bombing campaign – and the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is trying to take the lead in brokering peace (though there are different ideas on his motives).
Ali Abunimah [@Avinunu] of Electronic Intifada makes some excellent criticisms of the pro-interventionists and the lack of foresight of both the US and the UK.
‘Alarming that there seem to be absolutely no internal checks and balances preventing US launching ill-conceived, open-ended wars.
‘In this case it seems Pentagon didn't want Libya war, but Obama-Hillary insisted.
‘In UK there was public dispute between PM and Chief of Defence Staff over scope of mission in Libya. Very chaotic and amateurish.
‘If it's assumed rebels couldn't defend Benghazi against massacres without air support, who could possibly think they could take Tripoli?
‘Arguments "there was no alternative" are therefore very illogical.
‘Another fundamental flaw in pro-intervention arguments is assumption that they work as advertised. Recent history shows they rarely do.’
Trying to work through the confusion of the left on who is who in this war, Yoshie Furuhashi [Critical Montages] asks if the Libyan rebels are ‘for us or against us’.
‘Neither side of the Libyan conflict was actually looking for any real solidarity with leftists (least of all Marxists), but somehow one side (the regime) got a lot of gratuitous, undeserved Latin American leftist support and the other side (the rebels) got a lot of gratuitous, undeserved Western leftist as well as (both secular and religious) Arab and Iranian support.
‘As a matter of fact, both the regime and the rebels were looking for Western imperialist support, and they didn't hide it either. The Western imperialists -- unlike the world Left, the Arabs, and the Iranians, who all jumped into the Libyan fray without examining what they were jumping into -- first took a good, hard look at both sides and then decided to back the rebels.
‘The rebels got what they wanted, and that's that.’
Left-Flank is also critical of the pro-interventionist position and again returns to the ‘double standard’ argument put forth by many ‘anti and not so sure interventionists’.
“The disturbing thing for pro-interventionists is that the West’s war effort has so far not produced anything resembling a clear cut advantage for the rebels, apart from obligatory TV footage of them welcoming the fighter jets with cheers. A detailed report from Time suggests that Gaddafi has so far made substantial advances even while the no-fly zone operates, and that cracks are opening inside the revolutionary camp between more grassroots activists and ex-regime leaders.”
So what possible alternatives are there to the no-fly and no-drive zone?
‘How might an anti-imperialist Left define some things “our” governments could do that would really help the rebellion? We could start with the TNC requests that the West refused, but Jamie Allinson has some other suggestions that I thought we should be raising.
‘Release the Gaddafi regime funds to the revolutionaries and allow them to buy weapons…
‘Condemn the Saudi (GCC) invasion of Bahrain, cut ties with both regimes and with Yemen's Ali Abdallah Saleh — removing also the military aid to his regime. Cancel all military contracts with them.
‘Allow Benghazi to become an open port for Arab — or other — revolutionary volunteers to join the fight.
‘Of course these won’t satisfy those on the Left who equate “doing something” with raining death and destruction on MENA countries, but they would be far more useful to both the Libyan rebels and the Arab revolutions more generally.’
Left or right, pro- or anti-intervention, the bottom line is the ‘moral high ground” taken by the empires is inconsistent, and inconsistency cannot be trusted. We don't have to look far because the empires have chosen two very different responses to two countries on the same continent and in the same moment. Even the elite of the left spend their time obsessing over Libya, oil and intervention, writing page after page of opinion and analysis whilst Côte d’Ivoire remains on the margins of their consciousness.
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and the 'Arab Spring'
How are conflicts in different parts of the African continent being related to each other by the press? How does the media square its talk of an 'Arab Spring' with the reality of large African-identifying populations being involved or caught in revolts against their governments?
A great way of illustrating the problem with the 'Arab Spring' narrative is available at Swamppost's YouTube channel. The channel has two time-lapse videos of anti-government protests up to early March (check out the Global Sociology blog  for some explanation). The first video focuses on 'Middle East and North Africa'. You can see protests happening in Tunisia for some time before seeming to spread east and west. By the time you get into February they've moved north into the Middle East and Eastern Europe. If you pause around 16-18 February, the protests look very much like a primarily Middle East-wide phenomena. Now look at the 'Global Protests & Uprisings' video. Right from the beginning the shortcomings of 'Arab Spring' are revealed. South Korea? More significantly, watch as once again protests seem to spread geographically from Tunisia. Throughout January a focus on the Middle East & North Africa seems justified. Head into February, however, and protests are appearing all over the place: Australia, Britain, Western Europe, Afghanistan and the United States. Now pause once again around 16-18 February. The protests seem to have spread right down the eastern coast of Africa. Although it's true to say by March that the majority of protests are at the northern tip of the continent, a narrative of an Arab Spring reserves little space for those protesting in Swaziland, Nigeria, Gabon, Mauritania or Western Sahara.
My point in highlighting this is not necessarily to argue that all protests happening across the world should be understood as developing as part of a homogeneous protest wave – each protest movement has its own particular dynamics and reasons for evolving the way it has. What I am arguing is that the public narrative of an Arab Spring excludes much of the world's population both from public attention and concern and from discussion of what meaningful political change might look like and how it can be supported by people in other places.
A key illustration of this bias in the current discourse over 'Arab revolutions' centres around Libya. According to a LexisNexis search, during February and March over 1,100 articles appeared in UK national newspapers with 'Libya' in the title. By contrast, just over twenty articles appeared with 'Ivory Coast' title. Just over a hundred articles mentioned Côte d’Ivoire in their opening lines; more than 3,000 did so for Libya. The front pages of today's UK national papers are dominated by discussion of whether the United States and Britain will arm those opposed to Gaddafi in what everyone is calling Libya's civil war. Hidden away in the middle of the papers are articles saying rebel forces in Côte d’Ivoire have seized three towns after heavy fighting in what the Guardian now calls a ‘nascent civil war’. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed in Côte d’Ivoire since the beginning of December. While the UN estimates around 390,000 people have fled Libya, it estimates up to 1 million Ivorians have fled fighting in the city of Abidjan alone, with around 116,000 people having crossed borders to get to countries including Liberia, Guinea and Mali.
There is now a lively debate both in the Western mainstream and leftist circles about the justification for foreign intervention in what is happening in Libya. There is no such debate on whether such use of force in Côte d’Ivoire would be justified, or on what could be done to stem the use of violence in that country.
But despite this vast imbalance in quantity of coverage, the events in Libya haven't been entirely separated from the rest of the African continent. What the narrative of the 'Arab Spring' has done is to very effectively stifle public discussion of violence or popular dissent in sub-Saharan African countries on their own terms. Some of those countries have however been mentioned in discussions of Libya. The way these countries have been mentioned is arguably important. Those who read about Libya are being given very particular images of what's happening across the rest of the African continent. An exploratory look at the way the press has linked Libya to other African countries reveals the consequences of the selective imagined geographies of the 'Arab Spring'.
CÔTE D’IVOIRE: RUMOURED MERCENARIES AND FORGOTTEN DISASTERS
Let's assume that people in the UK are bound for the most part to be much more interested in or aware of conflict in Libya than in Côte d’Ivoire. When those people then read articles about Libya that might mention Côte d’Ivoire, what sort of image of the latter are those people going to get? I calculate just over a dozen articles have been published in national newspapers which link Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. This is barely a fraction of total Libya-focused news coverage, so for the most part people reading about Libya are going to form no particular cognitive frame about Côte d’Ivoire at all. The first thing this does, arguably, is to increase the chances of Côte d’Ivoire being seen through apolitical lenses. The political force in vogue right now is the Arab Spring; if you aren't part of that force, your struggle has no political charge.
When articles on Libya have discussed Côte d’Ivoire, they've talked about the latter in three respects. The first is mercenaries. In late February The Times, The Guardian and The Sunday Times all ran articles on ‘widespread rumours’ that Gaddafi was using ‘African mercenaries’, with those mercenaries coming from countries including ‘Ivory Coast, Niger and Chad’. It's crucial to note here that these reports of mercenaries had at that point in time not progressed beyond accusations and rumour. Back on 7 March the emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, warned on Democracy Now! of the danger of this narrative of 'African mercenaries'. He's worth quoting at length:
‘I think the whole story of the African mercenaries in Libya should be a case study for journalism schools all across the United States, because it’s a prime example of irresponsible reporting and just lazy reporting. You know, rather than going out and investigating these incidents and whether they’re true, these rumors, Western journalists from very reputable publications just published the rumors as true. And they talked about African men running wild, raping women and all of these things, which is just about as racist a myth as you can get.’
This of course isn't to say that Gaddafi isn't using mercenaries – the man certainly has a long history of involvement in financing sides in other African wars  – but talk of African mercenaries has only stoked anti-black African sentiment among the rebels, the consequences of which are now becoming horrifyingly clear, with rebels detaining black Africans 'suspected' of working for Gaddafi. Indeed, the United Nations has confirmed reports of racist attacks on black Africans and rapes of black African women.
Then there was British Foreign Secretary's William Hague's speech to a conference of African leaders and businessmen in London, in which he said populist uprisings could spread south. This represented one of the rare times the events of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya were linked to sub-Saharan African countries. The Times quoted Mr. Hague as saying: ‘In Ivory Coast the former President, Laurent Gbagbo, has refused to concede that he lost last year's presidential election and is sanctioning attacks on defenceless civilians in a desperate attempt to cling illegitimately to power’.
Finally, there have been one or two articles arguing that the world's focus on Libya has been to the detriment of Côte d’Ivoire. Most recently, the Daily Telegraph ran an attack 'Forgotten disaster in Ivory Coast' on 24 March, citing the UN's World Food Programme whose spokesman urged the world ‘not to forget the situation in Ivory Coast and Liberia, where many Ivorians are fleeing to. This has the potential to develop into a serious but forgotten humanitarian disaster’.
The overall image given of Côte d’Ivoire fits this last article. For those reading about Libya, Côte d’Ivoire either doesn't exist or, if it does gets mentioned, is the site of a humanitarian disaster, a source of instability. There is no discussion of political dynamics, except when a Foreign Secretary considers them relevant to his own narrative of 'popular uprisings'.
While barely a dozen articles linked Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, more than fifty linked Libya and Zimbabwe. Three ideas have been used to make this latter link: 'Western hypocrisy', 'fellow tyrants' and 'old friends'.
By far the most frequent reason for mentioning Zimbabwe was to talk of Western hypocrisy at choosing to intervene in Libya but not elsewhere. About two-thirds of these were readers' letters: ‘What hypocrisy we have here... Nothing has been done to overthrow dictators in Zimbabwe, Darfur and Burma’; ‘If we have human rights as the motive for action, why has the Government not taken action against the illegal regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe?’; ‘It is extraordinary that one country studiously ignored for years is Zimbabwe’. Many of these letters pointed to one commodity to explain this hypocrisy. ‘Is there any resolution on the table to liberate Zimbabwe,’ asked one reader, ‘or is it only oil-rich countries we have a conscience about?’. Opinion pieces too noted the problem of intervening in Libya but not in other countries. ‘We don't have the luxury of an interventionist foreign policy,’ began one Daily Telegraph writer, arguing that if we tried to have such a policy, ‘how much of the rest of the world [would we have to intervene in]? Zimbabwe?... That Libya should command such humanitarian impulses suggests something more is at stake. Could it be oil?’
Muammar Gaddafi and Robert Mugabe have also been linked (not, of course, unjustifiably) explicitly under the headings 'tyrants', 'strongmen' and 'dictators'. Some articles linked the two men in reference to Britain's arms sales. Just as Tony Blair cosied up to Gaddafi in recent years, the Daily Mail stated, so Blair also sold weapons to Zimbabwe's ‘deranged despot, Robert Mugabe’; this was under the heading 'How can we be so blindly stupid as to sell arms to despots then bleat about democracy?'. Other articles portrayed Gaddafi as the latest in a long line of moral problems for the West. ‘Iraq, the Balkans, Zimbabwe and now Libya,’ said the Independent; ‘[o]nce again the world faces the dilemma: how to halt a ruthless tyrant’. William Hague was widely reported for linking Gaddafi and Mugabe in his London speech to African leaders and businessmen; Hague argued the popular uprisings could spread south and topple other ‘autocratic leaders’, as the Daily Telegraph put it. While Hague mentioned Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire, according to The Times, he ‘reserved his most aggressive remarks’ for Mugabe.
Finally there's been the friendship factor. As rumours spread of mercenaries coming from sub-Saharan African countries to help Gaddafi, reporters were quick to note the support Gaddafi has previously given Mugabe, and of the two's ‘intense closeness’, as one article quoted a Whitehall insider as remarking. The notion of Gaddafi turning to ‘his old friend Robert Mugabe’ for help or, indeed, exile, soon caught on amongst reporters. This narrative has continued up to today.
'PROGRESSIVE' HIERARCHIES OF CONCERN
Virgil Hawkins, author of 'Stealth Conflicts', has argued that the mainstream media have a history of giving vastly more attention to conflict in the Middle East than in sub-Saharan Africa. In a recent blog post Hawkins applied this argument to Côte d’Ivoire, noting that a focus on 'revolution in the Middle East' has excluded Côte d’Ivoire from discussion. ‘Côte d’Ivoire’, Hawkins says, ‘doesn't quite fit into the “big frame” of the times’..
Unlike Côte d’Ivoire, however, the sub-Saharan African country of Zimbabwe has been allowed into this frame, in discussion of the Libyan civil war and the Arab Spring more generally. The reason for this, in the British press at least, is that Zimbabwe has a well-known leader – reported on, as Hawkins rightly notes, by the British media for years – whose 'tyrant' status fits a narrative both of popular uprisings in the face of dictatorial regimes and of posing a moral dilemma for a West who chooses to intervene to help one 'popular movement' at the expense of others (for better or worse). Lacking an attention-seeking tyrannical leader with a well-known historical relationship with the West, Côte d’Ivoire has nothing to help it ride the wave of attention given to 'popular uprisings'.
This poses questions not just for the mainstream media but for Western progressives who want to see themselves as standing in solidarity with these uprisings. If we focus our attention primarily on the affairs of countries where our own governments have shown an interest, even if we seek to criticise our governments' motivations and interests in those places, are we in fact adopting an imperialist mindset by ignoring those places that our media and leaders have, at least publicly, shown little interest in commenting on or involving themselves in?
Talk of an 'Arab Spring' carries with it the potential of essentialising and reifying 'Arab' and 'African' as fixed markers of identity. It also creates hierarchies of concern in our own minds that have no real justification if our aim is, as Michael Albert recently put it, ‘[m]aximal gain in the quality of life, freedom, and future prospects of people in as many countries as possible’. Let us reject the imagined geographies of our elites with its consequences for ordinary people in places that just aren't exciting enough for our media. We should be striving instead to create emancipatory geographies – of a 'Spring' across all continents.
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* Oliver Kearns is a 4th year undergraduate in International Relations & Philosophy at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Democratic uprisings brutally suppressed in many African countries
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Washington. Northern Africa is not the only part of Africa where uprisings are taking place. In countries like Swaziland, Gabon, Cameroon, Djibouti, and Burkina Faso we've seen massive student uprisings and worker demonstrations brutally suppressed in most cases. Now joining us to talk about what's happening in Southern Africa is Firoze Manji. He's the editor-in-chief of Pambazuka News, which involves hundreds of bloggers and journalists across Africa. So, Firoze, how are the people of Southern Africa responding to what they're seeing in Northern Africa and in the uprisings across the Arab world?
FIROZE MANJI: Well, I think what we're seeing is two things. First of all, I think people are inspired by what has been happening in Egypt and Tunisia and Libya. It's been quite extraordinary how there's been a resonance. And what we have seen also, which is being underreported in the Western press, has been the events happening in places like Swaziland, in Gabon, in Cameroon, in Djibouti, where there have been massive uprises. Last week in Burkina Faso there were mass demonstrations of students and of workers there, and the universities have just been closed down. The reason why this is happening is that everyone shares that same experience as the Egyptians and the Tunisians. Yes, most of the focus has been on the dictators and getting rid of dictators. But the real, real thing is and real common thing that everyone faces has been 30 years of structural adjustment programs, 30 years where all social services have been privatized, 30 years where there has been massive accumulation by dispossession. You have the peasantry losing land. You have people migrating to the cities. You have a huge decline in income. And what we have most seriously is not just dispossession of land and of resources and services, but also a dispossession politically. Our governments today are more inclined to listen to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and the international aid agencies than they are to citizenry. So in effect what's happened is that our countries have become much less democratic, and we are unable to hold our governments to account. So I think there's a sense of discontent which is percolating through the continent. It's a phenomenon that we've not seen since the 1950s in the rise of the anticolonial revolution. So I think these are really interesting times. Obviously, in each of those countries, their specific situation will be different, and so it'll be manifested in different ways.
JAY: So, Firoze, go through the different countries and talk about how the protests are manifesting themselves. And also, specifically, are people demanding downfall of a dictator, or like in many of the Northern African and Arab protests, calling for actually the downfall of whole regimes?
MANJI: I think it starts with a sort of focus on a dictator, but it very soon becomes a question of the regime as well. And I think we saw that in Egypt. In Gabon we have seen mass uprisings--and focusing on exactly the same thing. In Swaziland, where you've had a royal family ruling the country, you had mass protests over the years against the despotic behavior of the royal families. But now people are organizing. And it's the same issues that are arising, it's the same thing about decline in income, the same thing about the lack of democratic processes, the lack of accountability of the government through the demands of the masses. In Cameroon you've seen the beginnings of some of the protests, which have been rather brutally suppressed. In Djibouti we have seen also a massive uprising--and took everyone by surprise. And that has been very brutally suppressed. So you're seeing these kind of things happening. And I think we will see in Nairobi, in Kenya, we will see similar things beginning to happen. In South Africa you've already had a number of protests beginning to arise in amongst shack dwellers, who have been marginalized, who've been promised housing, according to the Constitution, but who have never been provided with the housing. So you're seeing protests arising around there.
JAY: President Obama and his administration have been trying to position themselves as being on the side of the peoples movements in Northern Africa and in the Arab world. What have they been saying about the struggles in southern Africa?
MANJI: No, I think there's been more or less silence, at least in public. I'm sure that the US missions in each country are sufficiently anxious about what is going on. But, I mean, I think, you know, one has to be rather skeptical about the sort of military actions that have been taken recently through the UN under the pressure of the US government on Libya. I mean, one has to ask the question: why is it that last year, when Gaza was under siege, when people in Palestine were appealing for international support, that there was no attempt to impose a no-fly zone? So the question is: why is it now for Libya that they are imposing a no-fly zone? The same is happening in Bahrain. There has been huge protests in the streets there, and Saudi troops have moved in. Why has there been no response there? Why has there been no attempt to side with their democratic movement?
JAY: Has the US administration in some way said to countries like Gabon or Cameroon they should at least mitigate what they're doing, not to be so brutal in their suppression? Have they spoken out at all about this?
MANJI: Well, I'm not so sure that that they have an interest in suppressing those or preventing the suppression. I think that the US has very substantial interests, especially amongst the oil-producing countries of Africa, and if they can make sure that these governments stay in power--it is, after all, the US who has been arming them, it is the US who've been backing them with the USAFRICOM forces--then they don't really have a direct interest in seeing any change. But I think the African governments are all quaking, especially as a result of the no-fly zone and military intervention in Libya, because they all fear that the same thing might happen to them. So you can imagine that they, on the one hand, didn't want to protest at Gaddafi to begin with, but now are protesting against the US and UN intervention.
JAY: And what about China? China has major investments in Africa. Have they said anything about the suppression of the protests?
MANJI: Well, unfortunately, China abstained on the UN intervention into Libya, but they have not really said anything at all. I think they still play their role of noninterference in the internal affairs of countries. But I think, you know, we have to get this point clear. The US has far greater foreign direct investments, far greater interests in oil than does China. China, if you look, for example, in Nigeria, it has less than 5 percent of the oil fields there. In Sudan it has quite substantial interest there, but that was because the US government prohibited Excom and others from mining oil there. In Angola, they got a foot in mainly because the IMF refused to give any loans to Angola around their oil infrastructure, and China moved in and said, yes, we'll provide it. So I think while a lot of attention is paid to China's huge interests in Africa, it is small, it is--compared to the US, compared to the UK, compared to France, compared to Germany, it is very small. India is larger in Africa than is China. Why are we not complaining about India?
JAY: Has India said anything about the protests?
MANJI: No. Indeed, they have been rather silent. But I think we can understand their silence as well, because in their own territories, there are now considerable resurgence of--and some of it's turned into armed struggle. But there have been massive protests in India. The Naxalite movement has, you know, resuscitated after many years of being more or less disappeared. And so you are seeing mass uprisings happening there. And I think what we are seeing is that across the global south, people who have suffered the same indignities of the structural adjustment programs, the same indignities of privatization of health care, privatization of education, you know, it's the kind of response that you are seeing in Ohio and in the US. I think, you know, it's beginning to happen here, too. And I think it's very interesting how in some of the demonstrations recently they've been talking about turning their squares into Tahrir Square. So I think what we're seeing is something, a discontent that's happening on a very wide scale. I think that at this stage we're talking, really, mainly about Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. But I think we are beginning to see the stirrings. We've had massive repression of the uprisings in Djibouti, and we don't know exactly what the next phase is. The same thing has happened in Gabon. I think Burkina Faso this last week has had such enormous eruptions, and there is a continuity of something that began in about 2008, 2009. We've had a series of strikes and demonstrations. Actually, the parallels with Egypt are quite remarkable, because in Egypt also for the last two years--again not very well reported, but over the last two years you've seen wildcat strikes up and down the country, you've seen students come out on strikes and workers coming out in solidarity with them and vice versa. So, you know, people forget that actually what happened in Egypt appeared to have happened overnight, but actually was a buildup of discontent that had been happening over many, many years.
JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Firoze.
MANJI: Thank you for having me on your show.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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* This interview first appeared on the Real News Network
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Imperialism and Libya: The real reasons behind the invasion
Demba Moussa Dembélé
Libya has been subjected to intense bombardment by the US, France and their NATO allies since Saturday,19 March 2011. The leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the armed wing of Western imperialism, claim these attacks are aimed at securing a no-fly zone to ‘protect’ the Libyan people from Gaddafi’s army. In fact, the so-called civilian protection was nothing but a pretext to invade Libya.
THE ROLE OF THE AFRICAN MEMBERS OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL
The US and its lackeys needed the fig leaf of the UN Security Council to justify the invasion. Resolution 1973, voted for on 17 March, thus freed the hands of the west to implement their real plan, which has nothing to do with the resolution’s mandate. The concerns and criticism from China, Russia and even some members of the Arab League, like its secretary general, the Egyptian Amr Moussa, show that the US and its allies were only looking for a legal cover for a plan that has been a long time in the making.
By endorsing such an imperialist adventure, the UN has once again shown that it is a puppet of the big powers. What is even more shocking about this resolution is the support extended by three African countries - South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria - against Libya. It is even more outrageous when one considers that Germany abstained and that it was thanks to African voices that the resolution was passed. If even two had abstained, the resolution wouldn’t have seen the light of day. His African peers have little sympathy for Gaddafi, but it is nonetheless unacceptable to see African countries supporting the destruction of another African country by western nations. If the two African states most likely to have independent positions can capitulate so easily to western pressure on such a crucial issue, African leadership clearly leaves much to be desired.
At any rate, this augurs ill should either South Africa or Nigeria ever obtain a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. The vote by these two countries was a slap in the face to the African Union (AU) and renders it even weaker. It is deplorable to see two such influential members of the AU ignore the body’s appeal for a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis and vote alongside western countries against another African nation. At least the AU was able to keep its honour intact by condemning the western attacks, calling for an immediate ceasefire and refusing to attend a meeting called by France on 19 March.
THE REAL REASON BEHIND THE INTERVENTION: CONTROL OF LIBYAN RESOURCES
The statements from Obama, Sarkozy and others are nothing but a pack of lies, a cover for the real aims of this imperialist crusade, whose real objective is regime change and control of the country’s vast resources - above all its oil. Indeed, one can ask since when did Sarkozy and his like care about the fate of the African people, and especially those of Arab origin? Since when did the US president start caring about what happens to people? And if these gentlemen had the slightest ‘humanitarian’ fibre, what were they doing when the Palestinians were being decimated by Zionist cluster bombs? What did they do when Israel imposed its illegal and inhuman blockade against Gaza? In the face of these crimes against humanity, how can Obama, Sarkozy and the others pretend they are acting in defence of the Libyan people?
The truth is that their sole concern is maintaining the hegemony of their economic and political system - imperialism. This is a system that is the sworn enemy of freedom, of the independence and sovereignty of peoples and nations everywhere in the world. It is the main obstacle to the emancipation of people. How could the guarantors of such a system claim to ‘protect’ the Libyan population? The only rights that matter in the imperialist system are the rights of a minority of exploiters and criminals, lawless and without conscience. All the rhetoric on human rights is just that, a facade to conceal the true purpose - the conquest, rape and pillage of peoples.
Western countries, and the US in particular, are being strangled by an unprecedented crisis and they see their world hegemony in decline in the face of the rise of southern countries such as China, Brazil and India. All options are open, to if not halt, then at least slow down the process of their inevitable decline and the redistribution of the geopolitical cards globally. This explains the militarisation of the planet in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention’ or ‘the war against terrorism’ to occupy countries rich in natural resources, principally, oil.
The so-called ‘protection’ of Libya’s people is nothing but a pretext to cover up a purely imperialist and destructive mission. Their aim is replace Gaddafi with a regime more amenable to western interests.
The manner in which the military campaign is being conducted speaks volumes – the destruction of the country’s infrastructure, the bombing of Gaddafi’s compound, the destruction of anything that could be seen as a military target. This savage offensive will have its inevitable corollary of civilian deaths.
SUPPORTING AN AUTHENTIC PEOPLE’S REVOLUTION IN LIBYA
Denouncing the imperialist war must be accompanied by support for an authentic people’s revolution against the Gaddafi regime. The aspirations of the Libyan people for liberty, democracy and an end to more than 40 years of one-man rule are legitimate and must be defended. That is why we were completely behind the uprising.
But our enthusiasm waned when we saw the rebels brandishing flags belonging to the monarchy that was abolished by Gaddafi’s coup d’Etat. This showed that reactionary forces were trying to hijack legitimate grievances for their own ends. Any further doubts were dispelled when those who claimed to be the leaders of the uprising asked for western help - a message that was quickly understood by the Gulf monarchies and western countries. Indeed, Sarkozy lost no time before recognising the ‘National Council’ set up by Gaddafi’s opponents. The Arab League followed the lead set by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states and convened an extraordinary session to back the military intervention.
All this clearly shows that forces and countries whose objectives are very distant from the fundamental aspirations of the Libyan people have hijacked the popular uprising in Libya. Western countries and their Arab allies are not in Libya to back the real demands of the people for freedom and democracy. On the contrary, they are trying to control the movement for their own benefit. While resolutely supporting the legitimate struggle of the true democratic forces of Libya, Africa must continue to denounce this savage imperialist onslaught against a country with the sole aim of controlling its resources to the detriment of its people they claim they are ‘protecting’.
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* Demba Moussa Dembélé is a Senegalese economist.
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US Military and Africom: Between the rocks and the crusaders
The Western bombardment of Gaddafi’s forces in Libya has become an opportunistic public relations ploy for the United States Africa Command (Africom) and a new inroad for US military stronghold on the continent. This involvement of Africom in the bombardment is now serving to expose the contradictions and deceit that have surrounded the formation of this combatant command, which is a front for military humanitarian assistance to Africa in coordination with the US Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Attempts by the US to re-militarize its engagement with Africa is extremely dangerous, given the fact that the US does not have any positive or credible tradition of genuine assistance to freedom fighters and liberation movements in Africa.
The US was complicit in the planning of the murder of Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, after which they propped up the monstrous dictator Mobutu Sese Seko who raped and pillaged the country and established a recursive process of war, rape, plunder, corruption, and brutality which the Congo still suffers from till today. Jonas Savimbi was sponsored by the US to cause destabilization and terror in Angola. The US gave military, material and moral support to the apartheid regime in South Africa while anti-apartheid freedom fighters, including Nelson Mandela, were designated as terrorists. It was only in 2008 that the US Congress passed a bill to remove Mandela’s name from the terrorist watch list). The US has yet to tell the truth about how Charles Taylor escaped from its prison custody in Massachusetts to go destabilize Liberia. Young people who are recruited for the US military and deployed to Africom may not know much about the notorious history of US military involvement in Africa. The military top brass take advantage of this ignorance among the young folks.
Just as the US military carried out psychological warfare against US senators, one of the tasks of Africom is to rain down psychological warfare on Africans. Built in this subtle psychological warfare is the concept of the hierarchy of human beings and the superiority of the capitalist mode of production and ideas of Christian fundamentalism. It is on this front that we find a section of the US military known as the “Crusaders.”
WHO ARE THE CRUSADERS?
In a recent article in Foreign Policy Magazine, Veteran US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh was reported to have revealed that there is a faction of the US military known as ‘Crusaders.’ Hersh asserted that these Crusaders are bent on intensifying a war against Islam, and see themselves as protectors of Christianity. According to the article, Hersh maintained that these neoconservative elements dominate the top echelons of the US military, including figures such as former commander of US forces in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Vice Admiral William McRaven. These crusaders have held American foreign policy hostage. Hersh said, "What I'm really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over."
Back in May 2009, even before the appearance of the article by Seymour Hersh,Harpers magazine carried a lengthy report that placed General David Petraeus at the heart of the Crusaders. The magazine carried a very detailed article on the role of the Crusaders in the military, entitled, “Evangelical Proselytization Still Rampant in U.S. Military.” In this article we are alerted to the numerous fronts of the Crusaders. The information in the magazine article discussed a book published in 2005 by Lieutenant Colonel William McCoy, titled Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel. According to the article this book outlined an “anti-Christian bias” in the US, and sought to counter it by making the case for the “necessity of Christianity for a properly functioning military.” McCoy’s book was endorsed by General David Petraeus, who said: “Under Orders should be in every rucksack for those moments when soldiers need spiritual energy.”
Not only do these Crusaders have control over the US military, they are also linked with a faction of the Catholic Church called “Opus Dei,” an arch conservative order that has links with international banking, finance, militarism, and intelligence formations. Besides Opus Dei, one finds the fundamentalist evangelicals in the US, who are linked to the forces of Islamophobia and corporate elements. One crucial figure in this world of neoconservative militarist was Dick Cheney, former US vice president and chairperson of Halliburton. It is worth noting that it was from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (former Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush) that the idea for United States Africa Command originated.
Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld epitomize the crusaders. They interface with the world of militarist, corporate capital, private military contractors, and dictators. Many of these Crusaders are overt white supremacists.
The careers of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their corporate allies in the Carlyle Group, General Electric and Cerebrus spawn a world-wide web of conservative militarists, politicians, intellectuals and capitalists. These crusaders do not only disdain other cultures and religions, they have little or no regards for people of color. Rumsfeld and Cheney may have been unhappy to have read in Colin Powell’s book, that during a visit to Bunce Island in Sierra Leone he mentioned in a speech that: “As you know, I am an American, I am the son of Jamaicans who emigrated from the island to the United States. But today, I am something more. I am an African too. I feel my roots here in this continent” (Colin Powell, My American Journey, page 534). There are many from the rank and file of the crusaders who believe that President Barack Obama is not fit to be the leader of the United States, and their philosophy trickles down the hierarchy of the military, intensifying the divisions within the differing branches of US military. In 2010, one Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, a winner of medal of honor in the US military refused to take military command for deployment on grounds that he could not take orders from President Obama whom he considers unfit to be president and commander-in-chief. This belief is shared among many Republicans and conservative section of the US society, who are also present in the military and most epitomized by the crusaders. They claim that Obama was not born in the US, and thus was not supposed to be elected president.
Recent polls show that 51% of Republicans firmly believe Obama was not born in the US, and 21% say they are unsure if he was actually born here. Thus, over 70% of Republican constituency do not believe Obama is American and therefore don’t believe they should follow his orders.
The air force training academy in Colorado has received press reports about one faction of the neoconservatives in the air force who have manifested the most racist, sexist, and patriarchal attitude in the US armed forces (see “Christian Fundamentalist Bigotry Reigns at US Air Force Academy”). Those are the forces who have been most gung-ho about war because they simply drop bombs from the sky.
Information on the degree of conservatism at this Air force academy came to light when the Los Angeles Times reported that a Jewish father of two Air Force Academy cadets sued the Air Force, saying that senior officers and cadets illegally imposed Christianity on others at the school. The Air Force Academy is located in one of the most conservative areas of Colorado (Colorado Springs).Colorado Springs is the headquarters for dozens of conservative fundamentalist Christian groups, including Focus on the Family (the best-financed right-wing fundamentalist pressure group), as well as the International Bible Society and the New Life Church. These religious organizations provide the moral support for the racists and sexist ideas of the academy.
For some time, there have been open disagreements within the military between these Crusaders and another section of the military called the “Rocks.”
WHO ARE THE ROCKS?
Originally, the “Rocks” were formed by senior officers in the military who are non-whites. Colin Powell first wrote of the existence of the Rocks in the US military in his book, My American Journey. Although the narrative on equal opportunity in the US military has been part of the public discourse in the US, these officers faced discrimination and felt left out of the “white old boy networks” in the military. This reality is so blatant that even the army journal, Parameter, carried articles such as “Why Black Officers Still Fail”. This article, like some others, mention the “white old boy network” as one cause of the marginalization of black army officers. Once this stamp of failure was placed on these black army officers, they sought solidarity with each other; these black army officers chafed as they saw their counterparts rising to the highest ranks and going through the revolving door of the military industrial complex and private military contractors.
General Joe Ballard of the Army Corps of Engineers was one Rock of the US military who found out the real workings of the old boy networks of the crusaders. Joe Ballard had attempted to break up the stranglehold of the old boy network that privileged Halliburton, but found out that these conservative networks were very strong. Neither General Ballard nor Bunny Greenhouse understood the real powers of the Crusaders until Ms. Greenhouse attempted to expose the improper and blatant corruption in the no bid contracts for Halliburton. For this exposure she was humiliated and a signal was sent to Ballard and Greenhouse about the power of the Crusaders.
Although the Rocks started out among the ranks of officers of color, by the time Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld intensified the politicization of the military, decent officers who were not crusaders identified with one philosophy of the Rocks: that the military should not be used for the interest of private capital. Many of the rank and file who learnt of the treatment of former servicemen after their tour of duty became Rocks, so that today the Army at its core e is dominated by the Rocks.
During the war against the people of Iraq, the differences between the Rocks and the Crusaders came out clearly. There were press reports stating: “The Anger Of The Generals Unprecedented In Modern Times”. The New York Times liberally published the names of retired Generals such as Major General Paul D. Eaton, General Anthony C. Zinni, Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, Major General John Batiste, Major General John Riggs and Major General Charles H. Swannack Jr. These generals were not afraid to have their names in print as being opposed to Donald Rumsfeld. Some of these generals such as General Newbold was opposed to Rumsfeld and the operations in Iraq. One press report from the New York Times noted that, “Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold of the Marine Corps, who retired in late 2002, has said he regarded the American invasion of Iraq unnecessary. He issued his call for replacing Mr. Rumsfeld in an essay in the current edition of Time magazine. General Newbold said he regretted not opposing the invasion of Iraq more vigorously.” Colin Powell lost credibility when he fell prey to the make-believe intelligence cooked up by the Crusaders for the invasion of Iraq. But since realizing his blunder, Powell has become even more outspoken against the crusaders.
Many of the generals opposed to the crusader philosophy were forced into early retirement, and because of the difference in philosophy they were not able to join the gravy train of sitting on the boards of the top military suppliers or enter the revolving door between the private military contractors and the consulting firms in the military industrial complex. From y Bob Woodward’s books we have the profile of the more energetic sectors of the Crusaders such General Jack Keane, the present chairperson of the Board of the Institute for the Study of War. The Crusaders have the platforms of the Murdoch news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and the Fox News. They seek respectability through think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Behind these public policy institutes are the top conservative foundations such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, the Charles G. Koch, David H. Koch and Claude R. Lambe charitable foundations, the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation, the JM Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Henry Salvatori Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation. From among these sponsors and supporters, the billionaire Koch Brothers stand out as a formidable financial backbone of crusade activism.
THE CRUSADERS AND THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
The news on the Koch Brothers, suggests the use of militaristic language by the Crusaders inside and outside the military. In the New Yorker magazine we were treated to a very detailed analysis of the neoconservative war by Jane Mayer, “Covert Operations: The Billionaire Brothers Who Are At War with Obama”.
One other glimpse of the attitude of the Crusaders inside the military towards the Obama administration can be found in the discourse relating to Obama’s plan for Afghanistan. In the book, Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward bares documented facts of the disrespect exhibited from a section of the military (crusaders) to Obama. What is most revealing is how the Secretary of Defense could not take a firm position against the disrespect. The other revelation was the alliance of Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, with a section of the military that refused to be serious about options for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ultimately however, as President and Commander-in-Chief, Obama failed to provide the leadership necessary at a time when American citizens have said that they are tired of war. More than 70% of US population was opposed to further involvement in Afghanistan.
After Gates’failure to rein in the crusaders who were packed in the upper reaches of the military bureaucracy, Robert Gates belatedly placed some distance between himself and the crusaders. Initially, Gates opposed the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya. In a speech at West Point, he had said, “But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it.”
Here, Robert Gates was attempting to put some distance between himself and the crusaders by telling the West Point audience that the US should not lead “a big American land army” into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa. However, once the section of the National Security Council that advocated for war prevailed, Gates was silent. The Crusaders began to place General Carter Ham before the television cameras to claim that the Libyan operation was being carried forth by the United States Africa Command. These public relations spinners expected the world to believe that US Africom with 1,500 personnel stationed in Germany was leading the mission in Libya.
In the Bush years, the Crusaders conceptualized the US as being in a permanent global war, using the phrase, “global war on terror” (GWOT), to justify their link to particular factions of Wall Street and the manipulation of national security for political and capital ends. It is not clear to what extent the philosophy of the Rocks prevailed over that of the Crusaders to influence the Obama administration’s decision to retreat from using the term GWOT. The administration has settled for the term, “overseas contingency operation” (OCO). What is clear is that in the face of resistance from emerging powers, the Crusaders have regrouped to build up their assets in Africa. This regrouping includes a heightened propaganda war with CNN acting as an active accomplice when it reported that, “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) -- has taken advantage of the unrest in Libya to seize SAMs from military stockpiles in rebel-held areas.” This news was supposed to bring back the images of armed terrorists with sophisticated weapons in North Africa.
For a short while when the book, Dark Sahara, by Jeremy Keenan exposed the fabrication of terrorism in North Africa, the Crusaders temporarily retreated. When the Free Officers Movement from Algeria (MAOL) corroborated some of the information that had been outlined in the book by Keenan, the Crusaders toned down the language on Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and instead focused on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. However, with the sweep of revolution across Yemen and the downgrading of the importance of the bogy of terrorism in Yemen, the forward planners inside the Pentagon decided to go all out to rehabilitate Africom in the service of the Crusaders.
US AFRICOM AND THE CRUSADERS
The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established by the U.S. Department of Defense in February 2007 as the United States fifth regional operations base, and as a separate command "to oversee military operations on the African continent." Africom was a brainchild of Crusaders such as Rumsfeld, Bush, and Cheney. Rumsfeld pushed through the concept before he left the Bush administration in December 2006. Bush announced the formation of Africom in February 2007. And just before the election in 2008, this new command was inaugurated. This command is stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, because of the stiff opposition against it in Africa. Even the allies of the United States in Africa understand the strength of African public opinion against Africom. Thus, leaders such as Yoweri Museveni of Uganda in public, oppose the US Africa Command, but embark on joint military exercises with the US military under the banner of Africom. Museveni is a good example of an African politician who has been taken in by the rhetoric of the Crusaders. Sections of his family are in active relationships with the most conservative Christian fundamentalists in the USA.
In the face of the public opposition from African thinkers and opinion makers, the forward planners for the Crusaders moved to spend money among struggling academics to promote an ideological onslaught to legitimize the United States Africa Command. Beside this intense work among social scientists, the forward planners among the Crusaders decided to employ the services of propaganda firms to fan the flames of Islamophobia in Africa. Africom has embarked on a massive public relations campaign to sell itself as a force for humanitarianism and development in Africa. Hence, for the past two years, almost all aspects of the United States foreign policy in Africa have been subordinated to the Pentagon. Essentially, with the force of only 1,500, Africom serves to hand out contract to private military contractors. Space will not allow to give details of this business of mercenary forces vis-à-vis US military. But the activities of Blackwater – now called Xe – are well known and extensively documented in the book by Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. From this book and others we have learned of the mindset behind the top brass of Blackwater (Xe). What is unclear is why the leaders of the Emirates would provide a home for the top honcho of Blackwater after there were calls for legal action against the company, following the shootings of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad. Hundreds of private military contractors with reputation similar to that of Xe are now licensed to train African armies under the rubrics of Africom. These licenses are granted through the State Department so that the US Africa Command gets the contract for training African armies and then there is subcontracting to firms such as Dyncorp, one of the most energetic of the military contractors in Africa. DynCorp, essentially private army is now owned by Cerberus, one of the largest private equity investment firms in the United States. It is Dyncorp that is training the new Liberian army, and Liberia is the only African country whose president has said that Africom could locate its military base in that territory.
The other top military contracting firms are Kellogg Brown Root (KBR) Inc. (subsidiary of Halliburton), operating in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia; Pacific Architects and Engineers Government Services (until recently a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin), operating in Liberia; Protection Strategies Inc., also involved in Liberia; and Military Professional Resources Inc, MPRI which has contracts in Benin Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana,, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda and Senegal. Others are CSC (Computer Scientists Corporation) and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). There are also British private military contractors such as Aegis, but the British could not be relied upon to carry forward the ideology of the Crusaders. From time to time there is cooperation and competition between the British and US Crusaders in their efforts to control oil resources in societies such as Equatorial Guinea.
Equatorial Guinea is reputed to be one of the worst dictatorships in the world and MPRI was able to secure the Maritime Security Enhancement Program that provides nationwide coastal surveillance across Equatorial Guinea. On January 25, 2007, senior members of MPRI, met President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and briefed him on the first three months of a five-year program for training of military and presidential security units (see the report, “Private US Firm Trains Equatorial Guinea Army Units,” Agence France-Presse, January 30, 2007. Read more: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2010/02/25/Equatorial-Guinea-contracts-for-security/UPI-81031267127729/#ixzz1I8t6BdJW The posture statement of the United States Africa Command declares that, Africom “contributes to increasing security and stability in Africa—allowing African states and regional organizations to promote democracy, to expand development, to provide for their common defense, and to better serve their people. “ However, as the relationship with the dictator Obiang exposes, Africom is more concerned with the stability and security of US petroleum interests in Equatorial Guinea than with the democratic rights of the people.
The use of private capitalist armies by the US military crusaders in the Middle East has peaked in Iraq and Afghanistan, hence the consolidation of their market frontier in Africa. The article “Why Contractor Fatalities Matter,” (Parameters, Autumn 2008) states that there were more contractor personnel employed by the US military than there were military personnel on the ground in Iraq as of 2008. According to the article,
Today, the heavily outsourced US military cannot effectively function or sustain itself without an enormous contractor presence. Particularly in Iraq, the US government employs—directly and through subcontracts—more contractors than military. Most experts agree that there are at least 190,000, and as many as 196,000, contractor personnel in Iraq, compared to fewer than 170,000 military personnel (79).
The replication of this neoliberal militarism by using Africom as a front for private armies comes with the fabrication of terrorism and all forms of destabilizing machinations that would increase the market demand for private armies in Africa in order to satisfy the profit motives of the supplies of private military contracts from the West. This is a threat to the transformation of the continent.
The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt shocked the Crusaders and they calculated on how to make a move to gain the support from the US society and consolidate Africom. The debate over saving civilians in Libya provided the best opportunity, and Barack Obama opened the door to strengthening the crusaders – the very forces who do not believe that Obama was born in the USA.
When Barack Obama appointed General Eric Ken Shinseki as Secretary of Veteran Affairs, some sections of the Rocks had anticipated that Obama would do some house cleaning in the Pentagon to weed out the Crusaders and to remove their licenses for their contractors through the State Department. The Crusaders went on the offensive over the plans for expanding US forces in Afghanistan and Dick Cheney became the public spokesperson for them outside the official military and those among the private military contractors. Some observers have claimed that, from time to time Obama called on Colin Powell to rally the Rocks to counter the claims of Dick Cheney but Obama recoiled from a frontal assault on the Crusaders. The Crusader understood that Colin Powell had only little credibility after they manipulated him before the court of world opinion to give false witness before the United Nations harnessed all of their resources against Barack Obama. In the midst of the depression when the workers of Wisconsin demonstrated that the organized workers could isolate the Tea Party, the ideas of white supremacy were needed anew. This is where one must understand the present foray of the United Sates in Libya.
Dictators throughout Africa and the Middle East were shaken by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. Barack Obama dithered on the question of the future relationship with the Crusaders when he should have taken a clear position on the question of a US military intervention in Libya. As the debate raged between the Rocks and the Crusaders inside the military bureaucracy, Robert Gates decided to abandon the Crusaders and gave Obama an opening by saying that any President who placed troops in Africa needed to have his head examined. While Obama dithered, France and Britain energetically pushed so that British Petroleum and ELF could be in the driver’s seat in North Africa in order to play the counter-revolutionary role against the rising tide of revolution. The Crusaders did not want to be left out and were temporarily sidelined until Susan Rice, (Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations), Samantha Power (Special Assistant to President and member of the National Security Council) and Hilary Clinton began to make the vigorous claim for US military intervention. These advisors of Barack Obama presented strong militaristic arguments and never considered serious alternatives to the military intervention. The Crusaders waited for the moment to bring back their public push for Africom. And they seized it.
We are now informed by the United States media that while the decision to support United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 was being debated, Barack Obama signed an executive order to place covert operatives in Libya, returning to the strategy of creeping war that precipitated the Iraq fiasco. The press organization, Reuters, reported that President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert US government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding," within the last two or three weeks, according to four US government sources familiar with the matter. Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency.
One piece of evidence of the struggle between the Crusaders and the Rocks came from the Al Jazeera report that the information on the executive order was leaked from inside the Pentagon. Those inside the Pentagon with the memory of the history of the no fly zone over Iraq understand the implications of regime change and creeping war.
Barack Obama was elected President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. It is within his power to disband the US Africa command because this command was created by presidential decree. It can be disbanded by a presidential decree. It does not make sense that trained military personnel are deployed to dig water wells in Lamu, Kenya or that Combined Joint task force teams were repairing wells in Tanga, Tanzania. For long term peace and transformation the United States must work with the democratic forces in Africa and the African Union.
Obama has the choice to either withdraw from the militarization of Africa or be torn apart by the US military relations with Africa. Obama will either lead or be swept aside in this era of depression, war and revolution. Obama must prove to the citizens that Seymour Hersh was wrong when he asserted that the Crusaders took over the US government.
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* Horace Campbell is professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’. See www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Mass mobilisation, ‘democratic transition’ and ‘transitional violence’ in Africa
The courage, inventiveness and organisation of the people of North Africa, particularly in Tunisia and Egypt as the new year of 2011 was turning, have provided renewed enthusiasm for ‘people power’ and a popularly driven process of mass mobilisation in which people can not only force the resignation of dictators and seemingly the (partial or full) collapse of authoritarian states, but also crucially demand a greater say in the running of their own lives. In standing up against oppression in this manner, people assert that they are no longer victims but full blown political subjects.
Yet the appearance of the masses on such a broad scale on the political scene for the first time since independence cannot be assumed to mean that they will remain there, and not only because coercive military power has yet to be transformed. Given the fact that this process is generally understood as one of ‘democratisation’, it becomes sooner or later systematically accompanied by an invasion of experts on ‘good governance’, ‘democracy’, ‘empowerment’, ‘civil society’ and ‘transitional justice’ inter alia who all purport to provide advice to the struggling people on how to consolidate their hard won gains, via a transitional process of reconciliation between erstwhile enemies, into a functioning democracy.
In particular these experts do so because they and their funders are concerned with the plight of victims of violence. But they rarely see people from the Global South as knowledgeable rational subjects of their own history, but as sad pathetic victims in need of ‘empowerment’ who thus require the benevolent support of the West upheld since the nineteenth century by an ideology of ‘trusteeship’. As experts from Western governments, multinational agencies and international NGOs descend from on high like clouds of locusts, voraciously eating up the new shoots of ‘people power’, it may be important to rethink some of the assumptions upon which such theories of transition – perhaps most explicitly outlined in the notion of ‘transitional justice’ – are founded. These are so common and so pervasive in their apparent ethical ‘goodness’ that they rarely elicit criticism.
Fundamental to this thinking is the assumption that democracy – understood as a form of state of course, and not as a popular practice – must be accompanied by a ‘culture of rights’ which itself is seen as inimical to the deployment of violence. The reason being the belief that democracy implies an acceptance by all contenders for power of ‘the rules of the game’, that a consensual value system based on the mutual respect for each other’s rights and the rule of law excludes violence as a way of resolving differences, and that the commitment to such a consensus, built during a period of transition through the judging of past abuses (gross violations) of human rights through legitimate legal procedures, can lead to (elite) political reconciliation and consequently to (popular) social peace. The core assumption is that ‘transition’ is to be understood as a process of change from a state of authoritarianism and violence to a state of democracy and peace, the idea being that violence should decline as a ‘transition to democracy’ and a ‘culture of rights’ is gradually realised.
A number of characteristics of this form of reasoning are evident even at this stage of the argument. It is manifestly a variant of the old historicist notion of change from the ‘traditional’ to the ‘modern’ made famous by the hegemony of modernisation theory in the immediate postcolonial period in Africa in particular. What appears to be ‘the past’, seen as an undifferentiated whole, is simply defined negatively in relation to an idealised (future) state of affairs. Much as the term ‘traditional’, the predicate ‘authoritarian’ refers here to any form of state – irrespective of its historical location – which deviates from the Western liberal-democratic model, now global in its scope. It includes most obviously the past ‘communist’ states in Eastern Europe, the old militaristic states in Latin America as well as African post-colonial states whose secular nationalism diverged from the neoliberal ideal until around the late 1980s when formal universal suffrage was adopted by elites worried at the prospect of losing their power under democratising pressures from ‘above’ (by the ‘Washington Consensus’) and from ‘below’ (by the popular masses).
African states in particular were seen as having embarked at the time on a ‘transitional’ process of ‘democratisation’ as ‘multi-party elections’, ‘good governance’, ‘civil societies’ and ‘human rights’ were promoted inter alia through the use of ‘political conditionalities’ by the ‘Washington Consensus’ as part of a process of incorporation into the globalised ‘New World Order’ of neo-liberal capitalism and democracy.
When ‘political conditionalities’ proved insufficient, it was (and still is) always possible to enforce such democracy, human rights and incorporation into the global order through the deployment of military might, more or less justified by notions of ‘humanitarian’ intervention. This may simply have lengthened the process of ‘transition’ but was never meant to alter its final outcome. In fact the ‘transition’ is apparently a never-ending one as the ideal of the West is rarely attained. The present then is turned into an ongoing ‘transition’ to an always-receding future, all along guaranteeing careers in the business of ‘good governance’. Moreover, the theoretical foundation of human rights discourse (HRD), on which this whole reasoning was constructed, is that people are seen only as victims, in particular as victims of oppressive regimes, and not as collective subjects of their own liberation. As such the law along with its trustees (governments, transnational and national NGOs, multinational agencies) are understood to be their saviours. The neocolonial relationship here should be apparent, not because HRD is in itself inherently colonial, but because it is a form of state politics which is applied to neocolonial conditions with all the zeal of a ‘democratizing mission’. It is these conditions which require elucidation and analysis.
The construction of indices as measures of democracy and the training by Western NGOs of experts from Africa in the use of these, much in the same way as indices had been constructed in the past in order to measure development, evidently shows how politics has been reduced to a technical process, for only a technique can be quantitatively measured. Democratisation which ultimately has its roots in the struggles of people from all walks of life for greater control over their daily lives – hence in the self-constitution of a demos – is now transformed into a technical process removed from popular control and placed into the hands of experts such as ‘human rights lawyers’, ‘social entrepreneurs’, ‘governance professionals’ and ‘gender mainstreamers’ who together staff an industry whose tentacles hold up the liberal global hydra of the new imperial ‘democratising mission’ on the continent. Rather than a transition from authoritarianism to democracy, what occurred on the African continent during the 1990s can be more profitably understood as a process of systematic de-politicisation, a process of political exclusion.
If we agree with the philosopher Jacques Rancière that ‘politics begins exactly when those who “cannot” do something show that in fact they can’, then it is not difficult to visualise ‘de-politicisation’ as a process whereby those same people are being convinced that they really are quite incapable, that they did not do anything significant, new or different after all, despite what they may or may not have thought, as it would have all happened anyway and that in any case their work is now over. Everyone should return to their allotted place in the social structure and vacate the field of politics, leaving it to those who know how to follow unquestioningly the rules of the game (of the state): The trustees of the excluded. In fact if historicist categories are preferred, this process could be described as a never-ending ‘transition’ from the inventive politics of popular agency to the oppressive technicism of state and imperial power. A core feature of this process in South Africa in particular has been the construction of people as political victims rather than (and after many had been) political subjects, through an emphasis on legal procedures which evidently only recognise juridical agency but not political agency.
The relative success of this process has in the past relied inter alia on people’s lassitude with violence and demands for justice which they have so long been denied, on the physical and emotional exhaustion of daily militancy, and on the fetishism of power. The latter promises a world in which the difficult questions and problems of ‘decision-making’ can and should be left to professionals eminently qualified, and hence paid, to do so. Yet it is apparent that this process, as currently constituted, merely gives rise to political exclusion which is not overcome by the creation of a civil society for the latter’s politics are in harmony with those of the state. The result is that violence does not necessarily disappear along with the construction of a democratic state. A new oligarchy is formed (or the old one is reconstituted) precisely as a result of the de-politicisation of the masses and their political exclusion, so that the authoritarianism against which the people had rebelled in the first place is likely re-created, although now within the context of a somewhat different mode of rule and different forms of political exclusion. Of course such de-politicisation in practice is simply replicated within, as well as enabled by thought and subjectivities, as analysis becomes focussed on visualising the world through state categories. Such categories (governance, civil society, power, democracy, law, reparations, etc) objectify politics by ‘representing’ the social and thereby stress the immutability of given social places, cultures, identities and hierarchies to such an extent that state thinking becomes constructed as ‘natural’ and the immutability of place as an incontrovertible ‘fact’ evident to all. The inevitable conclusion is that there can indeed be no alternative to the politics of the state.
The neocolonial state in Africa exhibits characteristics which, in addition to its neoliberal features much emphasised in the current conjuncture by political economy, give rise to a fundamental contradiction between human rights and the rule of law on the one hand and state nationalism and the current concerns of national consciousness – founded on state-propagated notions of the (often newly acquired) rights of the indigenous – on the other. While democracy is said by the state to be its guiding principle, nationalism is partially collapsed into vulgar nativism and corrupt practices – from which is derived for example the oligarchy’s ‘right to steal’ justified in terms of the national interest [private accumulation is said to be in the public interest] – but it is also manifest in popular struggles against such practices, most clearly in North Africa in the current sequence. This overall contradiction is manifested in different ways in different cases but appears to be a universal feature of the state in Africa in the current period of globalised neoliberal politics. This contradiction, which is a product of state politics in the neocolony, is largely insoluble through elite consensus, partly because national grievances are irresolvable through the medium of human rights discourse and partly because the oligarchy is provided with legitimised forms of enrichment at the expense of the nation. It thus regularly finds expression in forms of violence, which seem largely incontestable within the framework of the neo-colonial state without the deployment of more state (or multi-state) repressive violence. These violent contradictions arguably currently include the repressive violence of the state in Zimbabwe where the state sees human rights as little more than an imperial conspiracy, the current conflict between presidents in Côte D’Ivoire (where one relies on international support for his legitimacy and the other denounces foreign intervention), as well as the ongoing popular upsurge against the compromised nationalism of the North African secular and militaristic authoritarianisms.
They also include the case of xenophobic violence in South Africa – itself the archetype of a successful transition to democracy – which erupted in the public sphere in all its chauvinistic starkness in May 2008. Despite its popular character, this xenophobia was founded on a state politics of fear. South Africa had also experienced a mass popular uprising against an authoritarian regime lasting approximately from 1984 to 1988 which was also referred to as ‘people’s power’. From 1990, this was followed by an explicit and extensive ‘transition’ which systematically depoliticised and closed down popular political agency in favour of state politics, inter alia by transforming political agents into victims of human rights abuses (the now famous Truth and Reconciliation Commission process). In this case, which I have discussed elsewhere at some length, HRD has arguably provided one of the conditions of existence of xenophobic violence as HRD is simultaneously opposed to a resolution of the national question and inimical to the self-empowerment of the politically excluded. This is fundamentally because HRD is not so much concerned with the inclusion in the field of politics of the excluded, as with legal redress. It is not so much concerned with encouraging militancy (or even less radically with enabling an active citizenship) as with producing the passivity of victims: It thus privileges state solutions and through prioritising the law, reduces all political thought to state subjectivity. In this manner, people become transformed from subjects of history to victims of power and subjected to oppression until they re-discover their political agency along with an Idea of freedom and equality.
It follows that to attempt to understand political change in Africa through the medium of a transition from authoritarianism to democracy privileges the thinking of state politics. As a result, it can only fail to make sense of the increase in certain pervasive forms of violence in neo-colonial (post-democratic) African states. Such forms of violence are not an indication of regression to authoritarianism or of loss of momentum in an ongoing democratic transition, but rather are a necessary outcome of the combination of neoliberal capitalism and neoliberal democracy in a context of neocolonialism wherein a dominant form of oppression is national in content.
My critique of neoliberalism and democracy along with its understanding of ‘transition’ thus extends well beyond the usual radical Left critique which consists in stressing that human rights and transitional justice fail to acknowledge the issues of social justice and re-distribution [e.g. of land and other resources] in favour of the historically dispossessed. This perspective ultimately boils down to ‘extending’ the conception of rights to include social, economic or cultural rights much along the lines propounded by T.H. Marshall in the 1960s. This radical nationalist critique is thus limited and fundamentally statist because founded on notions of legal redress, so that it remains well within the terrain of a depoliticised technical process. At best it may advocate a modification of the state and a form of justice which is not founded on the power of victors but which would ensure greater social inclusion in the interest of all survivors. Rather, social justice issues constitute only a part of a much broader national political question which is systematically reproduced in a neocolonial context by the politics of state and empire, and which is thus irresolvable via the deployment of state nationalist thinking. Given the disastrous politics of both state nationalism and state democracy which are founded on the immutability of the social, the solution to this question can only begin to be constructed by bringing affirmative politics back in to thought in order to re-politicise what has become a fundamentally depoliticised subjectivity. In this manner politics can be (re-) apprehended as subjective thought detached from social location and hence as capable of transformation rather than as the objectively immutable ‘truth’ of power and institutions. In other words the lessons of popular mass politics in North Africa must be allowed to percolate into the domain of the subjective so that a politics beyond the state can become and remain the object of thought.
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* Michael Neocosmos is a professor in the Department of Sociology, University of South Africa, UNISA.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 During the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo in February, the TV channel AlJazeera referred to the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as ‘people power’ on numerous occasions.
 See for example Larbi Sadiki ‘The Egypt-Tunisia Freedom Council: Western “democracy promoters” misunderstand the region, now citizens are making their own futures’. AlJazeera 27 Feb 2011 http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/2011226172726443168.html
 See Michael Cowen and Bob Shenton, Doctrines of Development, London: Routledge, 1996.
 The seminal text here is Ruti Teitel, Transitional Justice, Oxford: OUP 200; but see also Richard Wilson, The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa, Cambridge: CUP 2001, and more recently Audrey Chapman and Hugo Van der Merwe, Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: did the TRC deliver? Philadelphia: UPP 2008. There is an extensive bibliography on this topic.
 See Neocosmos, ‘Understanding Political Subjectivities: Naming the Post-developmental State in Africa Today’ Journal of Asian and African Studies Vol. 45 No5 October 2010.
 See Wa Mutua, Human Rights: a political and cultural critique, Philadelphia: UPP, 2002; Chatterjee, The Politics of the Governed, New York: Columbia University Press 2002 and Neocosmos, ‘Can a Human Rights Culture Enable Emancipation?’ South African Review of Sociology, Vol. 37 No.2 2006.
 See Wamba-dia-Wamba, ‘Democracy Today: the Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo’, Pambazuka News No. 295, 2007, http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/40306
 See Neocosmos, ‘Naming....’ The German NGO Inwent for example has specialised in constructing and training in the use of such indices.
 Jacques Rancière, ‘Politics and Aesthetics’, interview with Peter Hallward, Angelaki Vol 8. No 2, 2003, p.202.
 Neocosmos, ‘Can a Human Rights Culture...’
 See Neocosmos, ‘Naming...’; Chatterjee, The Politics...
 See David Harvey A Brief History of Neoliberalism 2005, chapter 3 and also Abu Atris ‘A Revolution Against Neoliberalism?’, http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/201122414315249621.html
 It is significant that the ubiquitous symbol at the protests of Tahrir Square in Cairo was the Egyptian flag which made the evident point that the protestors were affirming a new nation which the regime no longer represented.
 See Neocosmos, ‘The Politics of Fear and the Fear of Politics’, Pambazuka News Issue 380, 12/06/2008 http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/48712; From “Foreign Natives” to “Native Foreigners”, Dakar: Codesria, 2010, and Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, London: Penguin, 1996.
 Neocosmos ‘From People’s Politics to State Politics’ in A.O. Olukoshi (ed.) The Politics of Opposition in Africa, Uppsala: NAI, 1998.
 See Neocosmos, From “Foreign Natives” to “Native Foreigners”.
 Including the more sophisticated versions such as Robert Meister’s and Mahmood Mamdani’s. See Meister ‘Human Rights and the Politics of Victimhood’, 2002a and ‘The Liberalism of Fear and the Counter-Revolutionary Project’ 2002b Ethics and International Affairs, Vol 16 nos 2 and 3; Mamdani ‘Reconciliation Without Justice’ SAPEM 10:6, 1996 and ‘When does Reconciliation turn into a Denial of Justice?’ HSRC, 1998.
 See T.H. Marshall Class, Citizenship and Social Development, 1964, and for a critique in the context of Africa, Neocosmos, ‘Can a Human Rights Culture...
 In a recent lecture, Mahmood Mamdani advocated this notion of ‘survivor’s justice’ as opposed to the ‘victor’s justice’ derived from the Nuremberg model. The former is necessitated by the fact that victims and beneficiaries have to live together. The idea is important but it is not at all clear which social force(s) would have an interest in upholding such a notion and what kind of political practice would enable it. In actual fact this idea seems to suggest the existence of a politics beyond interest (i.e. beyond social location) which is what I am arguing for here.
Nigerian elections: Is anyone talking to the masses?
The start of the 2011 Nigerian elections is just two weeks away and like kids in the playground, arguments over the presidential debates continue. The incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan has refused to debate other candidates in the ‘What About Us’, organised by broadcaster NN24 on DSTV. Three other candidates have chosen to boycott Jonathan’s debate under the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG). Jonathan may regret not participating but Method is Madness (Saratu Abiola) was left ‘cold’ by the exclusion of the masses in the debate. But aren’t all debates like that? Nonetheless the ‘them’ of Nigeria are THE voters, not the ‘good English’, Blackberry carrying, London for summer crowd...
‘Let it be known that there are less of the yuppy Nigerians trooping to Victoria Island than there are them. Yes, them. Those people who weren't there in the debate. Those people who are likelier to own a radio than a TV. Those people who were probably on their okadas looking for passengers during the debate, hawking food or recharge cards, selling tomatoes in the market. Those people whose vote is up for resale because they don't see the difference in the candidates, and are so disillusioned because they don't have the same sense of urgency for their stomachs as they do for the country.
‘Those are the people politicians go to, after all, when they want votes, not us. With our Twitter and Blackberries, our Bella Naija and our good English and trips to London for summer. And I'm not even saying I blame these people. I'm just saying that we do not have the humility to see the smallness of our number. I'm saying that, if we did, we would have had a debate beamed from a market somewhere, with the head marketwoman or Iyaloja moderating, with translators for the Hausa or Igbo presidential candidate.’
It’s not just the politicians who need to take note of Saratu. The many ‘election monitoring’ and ‘vote Nigeria’ groups also need to take note. The majority of Nigerians voting do not have access to your fancy websites and online voting campaigns. The SMS campaigns for monitoring the elections are probably the best bet for getting the masses to participate in preventing fraud – but they have to be reached not just in the major cities but also in the vastness of Nigeria.
Kayode Ogundamisi at Canary Bird also comments on Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to participate in the presidential debate by publishing an open letter by spokespersons for three candidates, Mohammed Buhari, Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Shekarau:
‘We are highly suspicious of the celebrated romance with the BON debate by the president Jonathan’s camp which shunned the NN24 debate without an apology. We can only hazard that since most of the agencies organizing the BON debate are government parastatals, the organizers may not be in a position to resist the request for advance questions being given to the debates in which the NN24 agreed with us because they were independent. This does not mean that the men and women running these agencies lack integrity but the awe some power of the presidency may be too much for them.
‘Our principals being men of dignity with high regard for the people of Nigeria will not be part of such orchestrated charade of a D'Banj's “kokolete” debate.
‘Like millions of other Nigerians, we consider this behaviour of the president as egotistical, condescending and unbecoming of a man seeking a mandate to govern Nigeria. Leadership entails humility and respect for others.’
In neighbouring Benin protesters took to the streets to complain about the re-election of President Boni Yayi, running for his fifth election, and voting fraud.
‘Voting day passed calmly despite chaotic preparations that had caused two earlier postponements of the ballot.
‘The first-time use of an electronic voter register had led to opposition allegations that more than a million people had been left off it - a figure others said was exaggerated.
‘A mop-up voter registration was to be held on Wednesday and Thursday before the election, but was extended into Saturday when crowds mobbed sign-up centres and equipment broke down.
‘Other issues had also led to the two earlier poll delays, including failure to distribute electoral cards on time and designate and train polling station agents.
A string of protests involving several hundred people took place over the electoral roll controversy in the run-up to the vote, and authorities fired teargas to break up another demonstration last month.’
Muthoni Wanyeki writes in African Arguments and questions the position of the African Union on a range of issues including its relationship with Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi:
‘The AU is meant to be slowly moving towards full regional integration on the basis of consolidation of the Regional Economic Communities. In respect of managing political crises, what this means in practice is that, in the first instance, the RECs will act on behalf of the AU. With Cote d’Ivoire—where, unlike Kenya, it was clear that the incumbent had lost the elections and was simply refusing to go, with the support of the constitutional court—it has to be said that the Economic Community of West African States was initially unequivocal about its position. The incumbent was to leave, failing which ECOWAS would intervene militarily. That ECOWAS was serious was signalled by an almost immediate convening of the region’s defence heads to plan the intervention.’
Africa on the Blog reminds us that economic apartheid in the form of ‘forced removals’ is still very much apart of South African life:
‘Raising awareness of human rights violations is something I never thought I would have to consider in the new South Africa. We are after all the bright shiny NEW South Africa are we not? Well no, at grassroots level, this is not the case at all, it takes a long time to undo damage. Sixteen years on and we still find communities suffering, some forced into virtual slave labour, others homeless for all intents and purposes and living with the risk of forced removals, victims of high crime rates and subjected all types of abuse.
‘The term “forced removals” is a term we became familiar with during the apartheid era in South African history when non-white communities were forcibly removed from certain areas to government specified locations.’
Sweet Sierra asks if this is the end of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sierra Leone?
‘For the first time in Sierra Leone's history in observance of 'Zero Tolerance Day Against FGM/FGC and International Women's Day, The National Movement for Emancipation (NaMEP) has launched the 'Bondo Without Cutting Campaign' with the initiation of 66 girls who went through all the traditional bondo rites except for the cutting. A medical practitioner was on site to examine the girls before and after the initiation to ensure that the girls had not been cut. The organization (NaMEP) hopes to initiate an additional 200 girls in Aberdeen, Western Area in the coming weeks.
‘Many are hoping that this will usher in a new era for bondo in Sierra Leone, one in which a creole girl like me will be happy to send her daughter knowing that she will not be traumatized by cutting rather make friends, learn traditional songs and dance, and join a sisterhood of her peers.’
Gay Kenya reports on a new programme to address the security of sexual minorities in the country. The programme is SMS based and will run on the Ushahidi platform.
‘Its mean't to document cases of harassment, violence, threats and other extremes meted out to sexual minorities. People can send in reports and alerts using the same service. It will also help map services and hot spots so that members can visualize them and inform each other better. Its a community service and members are asked to spread information on it to all.’
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
It is all interconnected, why pretend otherwise?
The crises have erupted in our lives at different times, but, most of the time, the specialists although pretending to know, have clearly shown that their understanding was limited by their own training and reliance on data tainted by both the origin and the purpose for which they had been created. It should be possible to examine all of these recent crises (financial, food, land grabbing, climate, nuclear) by asking one single question: Aren’t they all interconnected, and if so how?
Let us keep in mind one axiom: Long before the splitting of the atom was carried out by scientists in the 20th century, the mindset that had been at the root of that process had inaugurated the splitting of humanity. That process of splitting humanity has been carried out, with impunity by one segment over another. At no time during this process was there ever made a call for something even remotely resembling the Truth and Reconciliation process put in place in South Africa at the end of Apartheid. No tribunal was ever thought of as a way of healing from the enslavement and colonising processes that have bled Africa to torture and to a slow, programmed annihilation.
From the genocides perpetrated by the discoverers of the so-called New World to the slow destruction of a way of living, a way of thinking, a way of healing, to today, humanity has been slowly put to death. From those inaugural times of the currently dominant system, the motto has always been identical: ‘Those who must die are those who are perceived as obstacles to the full flowering of a system that has never hesitated to show its murderous intentions to the people it considered as barbarians, primitive, uncivilized’. All of these processes – enslavement, colonisation, apartheid, forced labour, direct, indirect rule swept across the planet with a single minded intention in mind: Make the world fit the goals and objectives of the managers of capitalism determined to imperialise everything into submission.
Nothing but competition for profit has been the banner waved by the destroyers of humanity. Over the centuries, and now, with every year, month, week, one can see with much greater clearly than ever before that the single ruler is the market and its single enemy is anything that does not submit to its rules and regulations, i.e. the vast majority of humanity. A humanity that struggles without even knowing it has been condemned to slow extinction behind words like democracy, constitution, and justice. Face to face with the disappearance of justice, it struggles to appeal to social justice, as if the marketers might be moved by a word they have long learned to abhor because it reminds them of socialism, communism, imperialism etc.
And now, 25 years after Chernobyl, the world faces yet another nuclear disaster, this time in a country that would not fit all of the pejorative prejudices used to describe the Soviet Union. Then, the response of many immersed in the Cold War ideology was ‘well of course, if a nuclear disaster had to happen, it was bound to happen in the Soviet Union, given how recklessly it has treated its population’. Following this crisis in Japan, the fallback position will be that man is incorrigible, forgetting the context in which the nuclear industry for war and peace was born.
From almost all corners come the same words and phrases about how clean the nuclear industry is, how inexpensive it is etc. Indeed, how clean is the nuclear industry when one takes into account the entire process of getting the uranium from the ground and getting rid of the spent fuel? With regard to the latter, the disposing of nuclear waste in a manner that does not endanger life and living has yet to be resolved.
The costs of the uses and abuses of the atom have still not been fully calculated and comprehended. This has followed the pattern inherited from the uses and abuses of slavery and all of the ensuing political and economic processes, from colonisation to today. The nuclear industry has followed the pattern of the banking and financial industry: They have become so big that, as the financiers and their accomplices in governments have declared, they are ‘too big to fail’.
Questions that are raised are either not answered or answered in a way that must only satisfy those with the most unchallengeable power.
Is it enough to denounce the injustices that are erupting with more frequency?
Is it enough to ask for a reform of the UN Security Council?
Can crises be resolved within the framework put in place by those who sewed the seeds of all these crises with the intention of massively gaining?
How long will it take for the privileged inhabitants of the richest countries to face the collective exasperation of humanity, tired of being treated as if it did not exist? Given this pattern of eradication, is it too far fetched to ask what may appear as a horrifying question: Will failures of nuclear power stations be used to deliberately wipe out ‘unnecessary people’?
More and more people are becoming aware of the fact that the issue of nuclear power cannot be framed solely in terms of energy. The process through which it became the most powerful weapon (in the hands of a few) can be compared to a slow unfolding dictatorial coup against the inhabitants of the earth. Most of the dangers to the health of human beings have been systematically censored and/or minimised ever since the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is now being demonstrated that the Chernobyl disaster was much worse than the public was made aware.
In order to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons (of the military and civil kind), should one not look at other processes of abolition which, arguably and contrary to historical consensus, did pave the way to the current state of humanity trapped between a rock and a hard place by the criminal whims of a tiny few?
If we look at the abolition of slavery, or the end of colonial rule, it is clear that both, formally speaking, were brought to an end. But any serious examination of the last 50 years since Independence has been achieved in Africa, it is clear that colonisation by other means has been successfully maintained and reinforced, with the connivance of African governments. The crimes against humanity committed during slavery and during colonial rule were never brought to a tribunal of any kind. The crimes were committed with impunity. And impunity of the most powerful, not just in Africa, but the world over, has become a way of life, almost taken for granted.
It has been said that it is a-historical to speak of crimes against humanity when the notion was not even part of the juridical and political language, back then. Again, how can this be ascertained when those who suffered the crimes were not even heard before any institution? How do we know for sure that the people who were being dragged to the ships did not utter, in their minds, in their own language: ‘How can other human beings inflict this to other human beings?’ One can already hear legal scholars say, with certainty that no one can say for sure that those words can be translated to mean ‘a crime against humanity’.
The mindset that has grown from the impunity that has accompanied so many crimes against humanity has kept humanity on a course of self-annihilation. As a result, other mantras have grown aimed at forgetting history, forgetting humanity and anything connected to keeping them – the commons of history, humanity – alive and well.
The tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes is not just about the excesses of one industry, be it financial, nuclear, oil, etc. It is about the continued and deliberate silencing/sidelining of the majority of humanity by a tiny dictatorial fraction that, for centuries and generations has always gotten away, literally with murder. What has struck me the most about all of the articles I have read about the nuclear/environmental crisis in Japan is how shallow and selective the history is. Invariably they all start with the atom, even though the mind set that has pushed through the informal, full of secrecy, nuclear code can easily be said to have been inspired by Le Code Noir decreed by Louis XIV in 1685 (in place till 1848) to make sure that the slave industry served its profiteers without any moral and/or ethical preoccupation.
This is not the space to dissect the Black Code. It is just a reminder that the mindset at work today, around all of the recent crises, was born during historical processes that current rulers do not like to refer to, at the risk of having to own up to a history of devastation of humanity whose responsibility was not nature but irresponsible, genocidal members of known governments, organizations. It is understandable that rulers should prefer to fudge the historical record; however, where it becomes alarming is when highly respected intellectuals from many parts of the world seem to have accepted the framing and formatting of history according to those who have become too powerful and too rich to be questioned.
The most distressing fact of all is the apparent complete and total absence of African voices articulating how the current mindset was set in motion. These voices should not just come from Africa they should be coming from any corner of the planet that has endured what the African continent and indigenous people the world over, have endured for centuries, to this day.
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* This article first appeared on The Otabenga Alliance For Peace, Healing and Dignity.
* Jacques Depelchin is executive director of The Otabenga Alliance.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 My source, for this essay, was mostly the daily Le Monde from March 11, 2011 through March 27. Even when the word slavery is mentioned, as in the case of March Humbert’s opinion piece (Japon: alerte verte et rouge), the author is unable to see beyond the blinders of Western history, and see that his narrative of how humanity has become enslaved to tools it has invented, is not the by-product of recent developments, but has deep historical roots in the twin genocide of Indigenous people of the Americas and Africa. For fear of quoting him out of context, here is the quote: Une telle banque too big to fail [in English in the text] ne devrait pas exister, disait André Orléan, de telles entreprises géantes, de telles centrales parce que nucléaires et trop grandes et trop dangereuses pour faillir, ne devraient pas exister : alerte rouge.
Cette manière de voir est tout en fait en accord avec l'idée d'Illich (1973) que les outils devenus trop gros ne sont plus conviviaux : *au lieu de nous servir ils nous rendent esclaves*.[my emphasis, jd] Il s'agit de terrorisme, parce que nulle part, pas plus en France qu'au Japon, on a mis en débat le choix du nucléaire.
Le Monde, 23/03/2011. Accessed on March 27, 2011: http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2011/03/23/japon-alerte-verte-et-rouge_1497021_3232.html
March 18-27, 2011
Western Sahara is not a ‘forgotten conflict’
Peter Kenworthy and Konstantina Isidoros
‘I don’t like this phrase “forgotten conflict”,’ Konstantina Isidoros tells me. ‘The primary concern here is that the Western Sahara conflict is very simple to solve but no one is solving it. It simply perpetuates its “forgotten-ness” and major newswires miss the point that the Western Sahara is actually a “hot” geopolitical potato that has the US and France fighting over regional superiority and valuable untapped natural resources, with Spain squirming between the two.’
Konstantina Isidoros is a doctoral researcher at Oxford University, but lives most of the year in the Sahara desert where she does anthropological and political science research, with a special focus on the Western Sahara region.
Morocco has occupied the more fertile and resource-rich three-quarters of the Western Saharan territory for the past 35 years, and brutally clamped down on the indigenous people, the Saharawis, within this occupied territory that dare dispute their rule, however peacefully. Many of those Saharawis that do not live in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara therefore live in the camps near Tindouf in the Algerian desert that they fled to in 1975 when Morocco invaded their country.
Although Konstantina spends much of her time in these camps, she insists that she is not pro-Saharawi or pro-Polisario (the Saharawi national liberation movement). She says she simply accepts the ruling of the International Court of Justice that Western Sahara is not Moroccan and that the Saharawi therefore have a right to return to their homeland, Western Sahara, and do so with full independence from Morocco’s illegal territorial violation.
As to whether Western Sahara is a ‘forgotten conflict’ or not, Konstantina seems to have a point. In fact, last November’s Gdeim Izik events in the Moroccan Occupied Territories – where over 10,000 Saharawis protested against Moroccan occupation – was the first widely covered uprising in the current wave sweeping the Arab world, she reminds me (a point that American author and activist Noam Chomsky has also made in interviews with Democracy Now and with the BBC's Jeremy Paxman).
‘Since Morocco’s brutal dawn raid on Gdeim Izik in November, major news outlets have begun covering the story,’ she says, ‘and with persistent lobbying from the international community, are covering it accurately and compassionately. One disappointing but interesting exception is Al-Jazeera. Its Qatar roots mean that one king is not going to allow damaging coverage of his fellow kings’ countries.’
Konstantina mentions the ‘vast body of respected publications on the Western Sahara conflict, of which all support the rule of international law’ as another example of the worldwide interest in the Western Sahara conflict.
Also, this year’s 35th anniversary celebration of the exiled Saharawi government, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic that is based in the Tindouf camps in the Algerian desert, was a well-visited success.
‘The anniversary celebration in Tifariti was attended by numerous distinguished international dignitaries, NGOs, scholars and many other foreign groups,’ says Konstantina. ‘The Saharawi hold many different anniversary celebrations during every annual calendar, and these form extremely important symbolic and political statements to the outside world. So yes, without question the world is listening.’
THE REALPOLITIK OF THE WEST
But if the world is listening, why isn’t it acting? According to Konstantina Isidoros, this is because those countries that have it within their power to pressurise Morocco and solve the Western Sahara conflict – mainly the USA, France, Spain and the UK – have tended to listen only to the Moroccans, and because these countries benefit from the status quo, financially or strategically.
‘Over the last 35 years, Morocco has built up a sophisticated propaganda machine, and wooed US and French governments [both permanent members of the UN Security Council] to wipe out all criticism of its defiance of international law. To this day, Morocco treats all outspoken challenges with aggressive hysteria. Morocco would never have been able to get away with it without the geopolitical collusion and greed of Spain, the US and France,’ she insists.
The real hope is therefore that the Saharawis and those who sympathize with them, in the West and elsewhere, can muster enough media coverage, sympathy and action in favour of the Saharawi cause to force the governments of these key countries to act.
‘There is actually a vast chasm between what governments and their populations think and do in regards to Western Sahara,’ says Konstantina. ‘The current Spanish leadership has a pro-Morocco stance, while the majority of its population has a long history of compassionate solidarity with the Saharawi struggle. The US is standard – habitual hegemonic interests overseas, although there is a strong tradition of respected US academics analysing the conflict.’
But the media in other of the key countries does not cover the conflict at all, or covers it very one-sidedly. ‘France has an emotional colonial history with Morocco,’ Konstantina says. ‘Leading French politicians and elites have homes and vacations in Morocco and Morocco courts France with avaricious charm so that the majority French population receives little media coverage on any non-Moroccan stance. The UK has little history in the region and takes a refrained stance. The British population are mostly unaware of the conflict although parliamentary, NGO and academic circles are outspoken and growing rapidly.’
THE DIGNIFIED SAHARAWIS
Konstantina believes that if the Western leaders could be bothered to listen whole-heartedly to what the Saharawis had to say, they might change their minds and agree to give Western Sahara its independence, as many ordinary people around the world are calling for.
‘I wish these world leaders would come to visit the Saharawi refugee camps near Tindouf,’ she says, ‘to see how these people resolutely stand by their human right for self-determination, to see that these refugee camps are nothing like the disgusting propaganda websites that Morocco produce. This is why the Saharawi have so many international supporters and why there are so many foreigners who live in the camps all year round – we do so because the people are decent and dignified and because their political cause a just one.’
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* Peter Kenworthy blogs at Stiff Kitten.
* Konstantina Isidoros is a doctoral researcher at Oxford University.
* Africa Contact is a Danish member-based solidarity organisation that started out as an anti-apartheid and anti-colonisation organisation in 1978. After the dismantling of apartheid in 1994, Africa Contact focused on information and campaign work in Denmark, and towards the Danish public and decision makers. In addition to this, the organisation supports democratic movements, mainly in southern Africa. Africa Contact has a rights-based approach and works mostly with social and economic rights. The work of the organisation is mostly carried out by volunteers.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Restitution and recent upheavals in Egypt
‘I believe that people who use the revolution as an argument for not returning artifacts do not even deserve to be taken into consideration. These people are taking advantage of a dramatic situation to justify their point of view, a fact that is unethical and better ignored’. – Fayza Haika
Images of recent disturbances from Tahir Square, Cairo, in January and February 2011, will make anybody who intends to send anything, including cultural artefacts, to Egypt, very hesitant. Also, the looting of artefacts from the Egyptian Museum, Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt makes those interested in the preservation of cultural treasures extremely worried. But the disorder, revolt or revolution in Egypt does not change the nature of the debate on restitution nor does it provide any convincing excuse for the retentionists in the Western world. The determination not to return the Rosetta stone to Egypt has never been based on the security or insecurity in Egypt. Those who are against restitution will use the present situation as an excuse for rejecting the restitution of the bust of Nefertiti to Cairo. Dr. Christina Riggs has correctly remarked:
‘Egyptology websites, discussion lists, even Facebook groups have circulated updates about suspected looting, and several organisations have issued statements calling for the protection of Egypt's antiquities. Ironically, such statements come on the heels of vigorous US and European rejections of Egyptian requests to repatriate objects, including some granted to foreign excavators before the 1920s’.
But what happened in all the previous thirty years in which Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt? There were no reported major disturbances in this long reign but still the retentionists refused to return some of the Egyptian artefacts as requested by Zahi Hawass. However, many other artefacts were returned to Egypt from France and even from Great Britain.
If we look at the other cases of restitution, for example, the Benin bronzes, we note that there is no revolution in Nigeria and yet for more than hundred years, including the period when Nigeria was a British colony, the British Museum refused to return the bronzes though the venerable museum has at times been very willing to sell these objects even to Nigeria. Similarly, the British have been unwilling to return the golden Asante regalia they looted from Asante (Ghana) in 1874 even though the country which was British colony until 1957 has been peaceful without any major civil unrest. Again, if we consider the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles, there is no disorder in Athens but the British Museum is not considering the return of the marbles to Athens.
Clearly, those who argue against returning artefacts to Egypt are using a very convenient but unconvincing argument. They will not convince anyone who has carefully followed the debates on the issue in the last years.
Many Western museum directors may be rejoicing at the resignation and departure of Zahi Hawass from the position of the Secretary-General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. [Note from editor: See Annex – ‘Why Dr Hawass Resigned’] Let them rejoice for the period of respite they have unexpectedly gained will be shorter than they wish. The question of restitution was there before Hawass came and will remain after his departure and after all of us are gone if attitudes in the West do not change.
Whatever happens to Hawass in the post Mubarak period, one must acknowledge that the celebrated archaeologist has rendered to Egypt and to Africa immense services which many others envy. He has made the issue of restitution known to a broader public in the world. Which other archaeologist is as well-know as the famous Egyptian archaeologist? He has made archaeology a lively subject for many persons. He has restored to Egypt, Egyptology, a science dominated for too long by Westerners. Westerners can no longer go to Egypt as if they were going to an archaeological supermarket to take whatever they want. They have to seek permission which may be refused and they may be asked to leave the country. One may not always like his style and tactics but there is no gainsaying that Hawass has been more successful with his approach than many others. The dedication and enthusiasm he brought to the issue of restitution deserve the admiration of all honest people. How many people can bring such energy and dedication to their work? We wish other countries had such worthy and energetic representatives who speak out clearly in the cultural field.
The West, of course, has never liked intellectuals and representatives of non-Western peoples who know their work and articulate their positions boldly. A man like Hawass who mastered modern media and used them effectively was a thorn in the flesh of many. Vernon Silver has rightly stated ‘Western collectors and curators may gain further advantage with the departure of Hawass, who cemented his celebrity by hounding museums for artefacts.’ He also quotes Zahi Hawass as saying; ‘I did fight antiquities robbery everywhere…I’m sure all museums will be happy now that I’m stepping down.’
Hawass may have made mistakes in his work but that is for the Egyptian authorities and people to decide. Many were surprised however that he resigned at the time he did for Egyptian antiquities were in a bad situation: Looting of artefacts from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, more than 20 archaeological sites invaded by robbers, tombs in Saqqara and Abusir, near Cairo, were visited by looters. Was this the right time for the man who has devoted much of his energy and time to preserving Egyptian antiquities to leave? No doubt Hawass knew that some were calling for his resignation as a minister of the former President, Hosni Mubarak whose regime was ousted by popular revolt of January 2011. He probably did not want to wait for a dismissal. Hawass has given the reasons for his resignation largely based on the fact that the Egyptian police were no longer guarding the museums and archaeological sites.
One undoubted achievement of Zahi Hawass was his success in bringing together States with restitution claims in April 2010 to the Cairo Conference on restitution – Conference on International Cooperation for the Protection and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage – in Cairo, on 7-8 April 2010. For the first time, states with restitution claims met for two days to discuss common problems and to develop strategies for recovering/stolen/looted cultural artefacts. In addition to emphasising that ‘Ownership of cultural heritage by the country of origin does not expire, nor does it face prescription’, the communiqué issued at the end of the conference added that ‘The efforts initiated in Cairo should be pursued and expanded upon and there should be continued consultations among the participants as well as with other countries and institutions’. The host of the conference, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) was to liaise with other delegations for the preparation of the next meeting and outlining the future activities of the Conference. The question that is posed now is whether with the departure of Zahi Hawass from the SCA the next conference would take place. Since the conference was not a private matter for the former Secretary-General but an international effort, we assume and hope that his successor and the other participants would continue the useful work started in 2010.
The recent events in Egypt may be analysed and assessed differently but it would clearly be illegitimate to argue that the temporary disorder in that country offers a valid reason for not returning artefacts illegally taken from Egypt. Certainly, we do not expect anybody to return artefacts in the midst of revolts and public disorder. This situation however will improve soon and the retentionists in the West will be exposed for their dishonest arguments which are based on grounds other than the present disorder.
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* Kwame Opoku is an academic and restitution commentator.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Egypt's Museums: 'our open-air museum’, Interview with Faysa Haikal, Almasryalyoum, 17 March 2011. http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/360092
 Egyptian antiquities attacked and under threat
 Christina Riggs, ‘Calls to save Egyptian cultural heritage ring hollow when those making them are blind to the past, argues Christina Riggs’, Times Higher education http://www.timeshighereducation In this connection, it is interesting to note the view of Prof. Barry Kemp, an archaeologist working at Amarna:
‘The most useful thing the international community can do about this is to examine its conscience. The looting of sites is done to satisfy the market in antiquities, which continues to flourish in Europe and the US. It is now a reasonable assumption that any Egyptian piece that is for sale is either fake or was looted.’ http://www.newscientist.com
 Kwame Opoku, ‘Egyptian Season of Artefacts Returns: Hopeful Sign to be Followed by others?’ http://www.modernghana.com
 Martin Bailey, British Museum Sold Benin Bronzes , http://www.forbes.com
BBC News, Benin Bronzes Sold to Nigeria, http://news.bbc.co.uk
Crown Fraud, http://www.modernghana
British Museum sold precious bronzes
 K. Opoku, ‘When Will Britain Return Looted Golden Ghanaian Artefacts? A History of British Looting of more than 100 Objects’ http://www.museum-security.org
 K.Opoku, ‘Shall we learn from Zahi Hawass on How to Recover Stolen/ Looted Cultural Objects?’ http://www.afrikanet ‘Zahi Hawass in His Element: Is it Possible Not to Admire this Man for his Efforts on behalf of Egypt?’
 Vernon Silver, ‘Egypt Is Looted, and Curators Balk’
 ‘ Former Minister Hawass denies having covered up antiquities theft’ http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/351660 for allegations made against Zahi Hawass and his response thereto.
 Bikyamasr, Egypt’s Zahi Hawass and a dark past , http://bikyamasr.com/wordpress/?p=27371
The Assemblage, ‘Will Hawass follow Mubarak? ‘
 See Annex. See also, Paul Barford, Where do You Stand on the Issue of Looting? http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/
 Cairo Communiqué on International Cooperation for the Protection and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage,
K. Opoku, ‘Reflections on the Cairo conference on restitution’,
Why Dr Hawass Resigned
Q: Dr. Hawass, for many years you have been the image of modern Egyptology. Why are you leaving now?
A: ‘I am leaving because of a variety of important reasons. The first reason is that, during the Revolution of January 25th, the Egyptian Army protected our heritage sites and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. However, in the last 10 days the army has left these posts because it has other tasks to do. The group now in charge of the protection of these sites is the Tourist Police, but there are no Tourist Police to do this either. Therefore, what happens? Egyptian criminals, thieves (you know, in every revolution bad people always appear…), have begun to destroy tombs. They damaged the tomb of Hetep-ka at Saqqara, the tomb of Petah-Shepses at Abu Sir and the tomb of a person called Em-pi at Giza. They attacked a storage magazine at Saqqara and we do not yet know how many artifacts are missing; they opened two storage magazines at Giza; one tomb dated to the 19th Dynasty, the only one in the Delta in fact, was damaged at Ismaïlia; and a store at El-Qantara East has been broken into and looted for antiquities. People have begun to build houses and to excavate at night, everywhere, putting heritage sites all over the country at risk. I had to write a report and I sent it to the Director of UNESCO. That is why at the meeting of the Egyptian cabinet yesterday I had my speech prepared already and I said: ‘I cannot stay in Egypt and see antiquities being stolen when I cannot do anything to stop it!’ This situation is not for me! I have always fought to return stolen artifacts to Egypt. I did fight Ahmed Ezz as well, the man in the Parliament, who was the most powerful man, because he wanted to allow antiquities to be sold in Egypt again.
The second reason is that there are two crooks in the Antiquities Department, who have accused me of stealing antiquities and doing other illegal things all of the time. Their files talk about this. A third person started saying similar things, a university professor who was the Antiquities Director for almost 6 years before me, who never accomplished anything in that time. As a corrupt man, he even gave his signed permission to a rich lady from another Arabic country to take manuscripts out of Egypt! These three people encouraged young Egyptians to protest against me personally, to shout outside my office that they needed jobs. Sadly, I cannot give a job to everyone, but I did find funds to provide nearly 2000 training positions. In response to the horrible rumors that I am stealing antiquities. How could this be?! How could a man who has given his life to protecting and promoting antiquities, be accused later of stealing them?! Because of all of these things, I believe that if I stay in my position for another six months, I will never be able to protect the antiquities I love and I will never be able to work during this mess. All my life, I have been excavating, discovering, writing books and giving lectures all over the world. My work is responsible for bringing many tourists to Egypt, which helps our economy. But now I cannot do this! Therefore, I decided to resign’.
Q: Your decision could have a very negative impact on tourism in Egypt and on the image of the post-revolutionary Egypt…
A: ‘I know. I agree with you, but what can I do? I cannot work during this mess. Antiquities are my life. I cannot see with this mess in front of me. I cannot work with these dishonest people trying to tell everyone else that they are honest. I was writing an article before you came about a situation similar to this that happened 4000 ago in Egypt. A nice man, his name was Ipuwer, tells us on a papyrus what he saw when he took a look at the state of the country. He describes chaos - how the poor became rich and rich became poor. The lady who had a mirror before cannot find the mirror now. She looks at her face in the water. People robbed the pyramids, they robbed everything. That is what is happening now too! It is something I cannot stop! I can work if there is discipline and honesty, but dishonest people have begun to appear and to attack the honest people. I can stand against them if antiquities are safe, but at the moment antiquities are not safe!’
Q: What are the conditions under which you would come back to lead the Ministry of Antiquities?
A: ‘I will come back if there is stability at the sites and if there are police, as it was before, to protect the sites, but now people come to them with guns. They stand in front of my security people, who run away, because they are not armed. In the past, the police refused to give them weapons. Therefore, everyday, in the morning, I am waiting for news. What has been robbed today? What has been stolen today? Since I cannot stop this, I cannot come back.
Q: Recently, you issued an urgent appeal to the young Egyptians of the revolution to protect the sites. What was the reason behind this?
A: ‘It was wonderful. This is something that really everyone should know. On Saturday, January the 29th, I went to Tahrir Square at nine in the morning. I walked among the young people there. They came to me and explained how they put themselves in front of the Egyptian Museum to protect it. When I checked inside, I saw that all the masterpieces of the Museum’s collection were still there. That is why I originally announced that the Museum was safe. Sadly, we have since discovered that 18 objects were stolen and 70 were damaged, but the final report is still in preparation and we will know the real result soon. The Director of the Museum has told me that there are more missing artifacts, but none are major pieces. Thanks God, someone found a statue of Akhenaton giving an offering near a garbage can in Tahrir Square and returned it. The Egyptian Museum is open again now. I would like people to go to it and see that it is safe. I have also been arguing with people who are now trying to tell me, ‘How can you ask for the bust of Nefertiti to be returned to Egypt, if your own people are stealing and damaging the monuments?’. I say that if what happened in Egypt, with the police force abandoning the streets for two nights, had happened in Rome, for example, Rome too would be robbed, completely. Their museums would have been robbed as well. Thank God, all that happened that day here was not that bad.’
Q: Frankly, Dr. Hawass, are you encouraging tourists to come back to Cairo and to the archaeological sites, or is this still not safe?
A: ‘Honestly, I have to tell you that if the Ministers of Tourism and of the Interior make a statement to give back the police their power, tourists could come to visit Egypt again. Until now, however, they have not done this. This means that visitors from abroad will have to wait until police officers and Antiquities Police are at every archaeological site once more.’
Q: Until that moment, it is not safe?
A: ‘I can say this, yes.’
Ethiopia: A country for sale
The deal of the century
Alemayehu G. Mariam
Supposing someone offered you the following land deal: would you take it or would you walk away believing it to be too good to be true?
For £150 a week ($245), you can lease more than 2,500 square kilometres of virgin, fertile land - an area the size of Dorset, England - for 50 years, plus generous tax breaks.
If you walked away from it, you would have lost out on ‘the deal of the century’, perhaps the millennium. If you think this is a joke or some sort of wild and crazy exaggeration, see this Guardian (UK) report and video on an incredible international land giveaway that is taking place in Gambella in Western Ethiopia and judge for yourself.
ETHIOPIA ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK
The Indian agribusiness giant Karuturi Global is today the proud owner of the Ethiopian land. Karuturi did not ask for the land and did not even see it when a signed 50-year ‘lease’ was delivered to its offices in Bangalore, India, on a golden platter by Meles Zenawi, the dictator-in-chief in Ethiopia.
Karuturi project manager in Ethiopia Karmjeet Sekhon laughed euphorically as he explained what happened to Guardian reporter John Vidal:
‘We never saw the land. They gave it to us and we took it. Seriously, we did. We did not even see the land. (Triumphantly cackling laughter) They offered it. That’s all. It’s very good land. It’s quite cheap. In fact it is very cheap. We have no land like this in India. There [India] you are lucky to get 1 per cent of organic matter in the soil. Here it is more than 5 per cent. We don’t need fertiliser or herbicides. There is absolutely nothing that will not grow on it. To start with there will be 20,000 hectares of oil palm, 15,000 hectares of sugar cane and 40,000 hectares of rice, edible oils and maize and cotton. We are building reservoirs, dykes, roads, towns of 15,000 people. This is phase one. In three years time we will have 300,000 hectares cultivated and maybe 60,000 workers. We could feed a nation here.’
Ethiopia is on sale. Everybody is getting a piece of her. For next to nothing. The land vultures have been swooping down on Gambella from all parts of the world. Zenawi proudly claims ‘36 countries including India, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have leased farm land.’ This month (March 2011) the concessions are being worked at a breakneck pace, with giant tractors and heavy machinery clearing trees, draining swamps and ploughing the land in time to catch the next growing season. Forests across hundreds of square kilometres are being clear-felled and burned - to the dismay of locals and environmentalists concerned about the fate of the region’s rich wildlife.
Karuturi, ‘one of the world’s top 25 agri-businesses’ plans to ‘export palm oil, sugar, rice and other foods from Gambella province to world markets’.
THE VILLAGISATION OF GAMBELLA AND THE IRONY OF HISTORY
To make way for Karuturi and the 896 other investors, the people of Gambella must be removed permanently from their ancestral lands. Over the past three years, tens of thousands of villagers have been forced to move as part of a so-called villagisation program. Zenawi’s agriculture official said ‘there is no movement of population’ in Gambella. It is the ‘choice’ of the people to move to “villagised” centres where they can get basic services. Once they move, the official said, ‘they have to abandon their previous way of life, and they can’t ever go back to their villages’. Simply stated, Zenawi has imposed a contract on the indigenous people of Gambella: they will ‘voluntarily’ choose to give up their ancestral lands, their culture and their community in exchange for a clinic, a school and a road.
‘Villagisation’(sefera) has a sinister and ugly history in Ethiopia. In the iron fists of the military junta (Derg) that ruled Ethiopia from the mid-1970s until 1991, ‘villagisation’ was a political and tactical counter-insurgency weapon. The Derg ‘villagised’ and ‘resettled’ populations in rebel-controlled areas to deny local support to rebels and create buffer zones. The Derg, like Zenawi’s regime today, justified its ‘villagisation’ program as a ‘development’ and humanitarian effort aimed at providing food, clean water, health and educational services to needy populations.
At the onset of the 1984 famine, the Derg sought to resettle 1.5 million people from insurgent-controlled and drought-affected northern regions to the south and southwest of the country. The Derg said the people were relocating voluntarily. The northern insurgents, who now wield power, told the Derg victims of resettlement that they were being moved to concentration camps and would never return to the land where they were born (‘where their umbilical cord was buried’ to use the local metaphor). It is an irony of history that in 2011 we hear the same old story: the people of Gambella are ‘voluntarily’ leaving their ancestral lands and abandoning their traditional way of life in exchange for ‘clean water, health and educational services’ in villagised centres.
The Derg never asked people if they wanted to be resettled or remain on their ancestral land. Zenawi’s regime did not ask the indigenous people of Gambella if they want to be permanently uprooted from their ancestral lands and be ‘villagised’ or corralled into reservations. The Derg could not have cared less about the people it was resettling as long as the resettlement policy advanced its counter-insurgency strategy. Zenawi could not care less about the indigenous people of Gambella as long it advances his investment strategy. It is all about war or money. The Derg never did an environmental and human impact study before it moved masses of people from the north to the southern part of the country. Zenawi’s regime never did a credible ecological study before uprooting the indigenous people of Gambella.
Tens of thousands of people died in the Derg’s resettlement program from illness and starvation. Families were separated as people fled the ill-equipped and ill-managed resettlement centres. But the indigenous people of Gambella face extinction as a minority in Ethiopian society. So says a 2006 UNICEF field study:
‘The deracination [uprooting from ancestral lands] of indigenous people that is evident in rural areas of Gambella is extreme. It is very likely that Anuak (and possibly other indigenous minorities) culture will completely disappear in the not-so-distant future. Cultural survival, autonomy, rights of self-determination and self-governance are all legitimate issues for these indigenous groups, and these are all enshrined by international covenants and United Nations bodies - but all are meaningless in Gambella today.’
It is true that history repeats itself over and over again.
When the Derg implemented its ‘villagisation’ and ‘resettlement’ programs in the 1980s as a counterinsurgency strategy, it was not only morally wrong, it was criminal. It is no different for Zenawi in 2011 to ‘villagise’ the indigenous people of Gambella and give away their ancestral lands for free to foreign investors who did not even ask for it. If it was a crime against humanity for Derg leader Mengistu to depopulate the northern rebel-controlled regions as part of his counterinsurgency strategy, it is no less a crime against humanity for Zenawi to depopulate Gambella to make way for his ‘investments’. Mengistu was convicted of genocide by Zenawi in substantial part for Mengistu’s use of ‘resettlement’ and ‘villagisation’ as a tool of counterinsurgency.
Mengistu never believed he would be held accountable; and today Zenawi similarly believes he will never be held accountable. But sometimes ‘justice is like a train that always arrives late’. Justice will soon arrive for the indigenous people of Gambella.
THE GAMBELLA GAMBIT
History shows that the indigenous people of Gambella have been neglected, discriminated against and exploited over centuries of successive administrations in Ethiopia. But it was in December 2003 that the public rape of Gambella became known to the whole world. Before taking Gambella’s ‘best farmland’, they took the lives of hundreds of Gambella’s best and brightest over a three-day period that December. As Obang Metho, the tireless and tenacious young Ethiopian human rights advocate who was born in Gambella described it:
‘They targeted those individuals who were the voices of the community and have a say in the exploration and development of oil on their land. The killing squads went through Gambella town looking for the next Anuak to brutally kill [and] they chanted, “Today there will be no more Anuak, Today there will be no more Anuak land.” As they raped the women they said, “Today there will be no more Anuak babies.” Within three days, 424 Anuak were dead.’
When I received the news, it was the darkest day of my life. My world was turned upside down. Among the 424 Anuak killed, I personally knew 317 of them. They were my family, my classmates and many others with whom I had been working to bring development not just to the Anuak, but to the region. Most were educated and outspoken. I have no doubt that I would have been one of the victims had I been living there at the time.
Genocide Watch described this massacre as a ‘major pogrom of terror and repression against the Anuak minority carried out by EPRDF soldiers and Highlander militias.’ Human Rights Watch concluded: ‘Since late 2003, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) has committed numerous human rights violations against Anuak communities in the Gambella region of southwestern Ethiopia that may amount to crimes against humanity.’
The Anuak Justice Council reported ‘genocide and crimes against humanity have continued, raising the death toll to between 1,500 and 2,500, and causing more than 50,000 Anuak to flee.’
ETHIOPIAN DEVELOPERS ARE CRIMINALS, INDIAN INVESTORS ARE HEROES?
A couple of weeks ago, Zenawi condemned Ethiopian developers who were transferring their leaseholds on urban land in Addis Ababa as ‘land grabbers’ and ‘speculators’ who should be ‘locked up’. He said developers were ‘grabbing land that does not belong to them in any legal sense and misusing the land lease rights they were given for personal profit and speculation.’ In Zenawi’s eyes, Ethiopian developers are scammers and profiteers; but Indian investors who are given millions of hectares of the best land in the country are heroes and saviors.
But this is not about Ethiopian developers against Indian investors. It is not about the rights of local against international investors. It is about fairness and equity. It is about official wrongs and the human rights of some of the poorest, historically oppressed, discriminated and exploited indigenous minorities in Ethiopia. It is about a land giveaway of mind-boggling proportions to a foreign company to raise rice, edible oils, maize and cotton for export while millions of Ethiopians are starving and living on international food handouts. It is about making ‘land deals of the century’ without accountability, transparency, public debate, discussion and, above all, the consent of the people who will be permanently displaced from their ancestral lands. It is about how a whole country became the personal investment property of one man and his syndicate.
CRY FOR THE BELOVED COUNTRY
When hundreds of Anuaks were massacred in Gambella in 2003, the international human rights organisations stepped forward to let the world know what happened. In 2011, the Guardian newspaper told the world about the imminent danger facing the indigenous people of Gambella. Over the years, I have tried to offer my voice of support to the cause of Anuak human rights and condemned the giveaway of the ancestral lands. I shall cry for all the people of Gambella. I shall cry for the Anuak because I fear, as does UNICEF, that they are undergoing a slow genocide by cultural annihilation and dispossession of ancestral lands. The indigenous people of Gambella will forever lose their pastoral way of life, and the new generation of young Gambellans will never know the traditional ways of their forefathers. I shall cry for the precious wild life that will never return because their habitat has been permanently destroyed, and for the bountiful forests that are burned to ashes for commercial farmland and the rivers and fish that will be poisoned with pesticide and herbicide to grow rice and cotton for export. I shall cry out to the heavens for Ethiopia, for she has become the personal investment property of Meles Zenawi, just like the Congo was the personal investment property of King Leopold II of Belgium in the late 1800s.
But this is no time to despair and submit to the arrogance of power and the power of arrogance. The trials and tribulations of the indigenous people of Gambella and their 80 million compatriots shall come to pass soon. The bright sun that is lifting the darkness over North Africa and the Middle East is dawning just over the horizon. Let them all stand up, hold hands, march together and cast away their fears into the fiercely blowing winds of change.
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* Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino. Previous commentaries by the author are available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The African Union and African youth: A ‘zero-sum game’?
The African Union will hold its 17th Heads of States and Governments Summit in the last two weeks of June 2011 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. The theme of the summit is ‘Accelerating youth empowerment for sustainable development’. The summit theme is very appealing to convene any kind of gathering at any corner of the world given it has the terms ‘empowerment’, ‘youth’ and ‘sustainable development’ as its major signals. I think people both in academia and activism would find the theme catchy as well, not to mention the interest of government bureaucrats. This short reflection is intended to share my personal ideas towards any planned action to influence the decisions and outcomes of the summit – the advocacy and lobbying efforts, in other words. The June 2011 summit is a culmination point of a decision-making process which will start well ahead of the summit through the ministerial and permanent representative committees meetings. Hence, any effort to influence the decision or communicate a message to the ‘leaders’ in an effective manner needs to consider the timing and the right channels of decision. For the sake of having a structured reflection, I will take the widely circulated concept note document of the 2011 African Youth Forum, planned to be held from 4–6 April as part of the pre-summit event towards the main summit.
As mentioned earlier, the theme of the summit is loaded with very catchy terms (concepts) and can trigger one to have a nuanced insight on it. To start with, the term ‘youth’; though the ‘African reality’ clearly shows that it is a culturally and historically constructed social location/position within the societal system, it is not uncommon to see its simplified categorisation into a mere age and demographic group. Not denying that it has obvious age and demographic features, other elements also require equal, certainly more, focus in addressing issues of youth. The gender element, socio-economic status, generational relations and the like are hardly considered in an age-based understanding and conceptualisation of youth. For that matter, I have also a serious reservation in using the terms ‘young people’ and ‘youth’ as synonymous and interchangeable words, especially if we are considering them in the framework of ‘empowerment’ and ‘development’.
The other catchy concept ‘empowerment’ also needs sober attention. Though I’m not a linguist, I think the word can be divided into its prefix, suffix and the root word: ‘em’, ‘power’ and ‘ment’. As I understand it, the prefix ‘em’ entails an action or effort making/putting/getting (something) into, whereas the suffix ‘ment’ has a connotation of process-oriented action. The root word, ‘power’ has a complex definition beyond its dictionary-based definition, mainly within a social process as well as in a context of (sustainable) development.
Needless to mention the works of big scholars like Michel Foucault and Max Weber, I prefer to understand power as a relational concept whose manifestations and exercise are barely perceptible. Indeed, this does not necessarily ignore the common-sense understanding that it is also a capacity to coerce and influence. Then how is the term/concept ‘empowerment’ understood? What about ‘youth empowerment’? It sounds that there is someone/an actor who will do the empowerment in terms of a lengthy and planned programme or activity. Indeed, there can be also a ‘self-empowerment’ in many instances, but in our case, if we take the terms ‘accelerating empowerment…’ together it doesn’t give enough room for ‘self-empowerment’. Rather, it implicitly conveys a message that there is one who does the ‘empowering’ in an accelerated manner and the other that is being ‘empowered’.
I won’t dare to make a deeper analysis on the discourse of ‘sustainable development’. Briefly as usual, the fact that the African Union is a very mainstream-oriented institution means I can definitely say that it is following the classic definition of sustainable development, i.e., ‘addressing the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. In a continent where a huge tract of arable land – sometimes larger than some European countries – is sold out/leased to multinational companies and other governments at a very cheap price (there is a case in Ethiopia where a hectare of land is leased 99 US cents for 99 years), in a continent where the sea offshore is used as damping site for industrial waste (the real initial cause for the Somali ‘pirates’), in a continent where dictatorial regimes manipulate state and public resources outrageously and in a continent where multinational oil companies exploit natural resources by having a military power beyond a state (the Cabinda region in Angola), talking about ‘sustainable development’ is totally unacceptable!
Coming back to the concept note of the 2011 African Youth Forum (AYF), one can easily see how the age-based understanding of youth is still the departure point in conceptualising the issues of youth. Usually, the age-based categorisation easily leads us to the demographic section where it is easy to set age boundary/cohort and put the number as a percentile. It is a fact that most African countries’ population pyramids are wider at the bottom. But it needs to go beyond this factual observation and look into the nature of the complex reality that can be drawn to address the socio-economic and political challenges and opportunities of African youth. The usual age-based conceptualisation of youth implicitly asserts that the youth are of tomorrow rather than of today and denies their agency to determine their course of action in the actual time and context. It is within such a framework that the ‘holistic approach to youth development’ is taken as a remedy to address the challenges of youth and ‘… the related factors that help shape their behaviors, such as families, communities, schools, media, the legal environment and different established systems of values and social norms’ (AYF 2011, concept note). The actual capacity of the youth in positioning and repositioning themselves within the societal system and using the social context (their families and communities) and other tools like them – media – in their own way cannot be considered within this framework. Just a couple of weeks ago, Egyptian youth achieved a phenomenal historical incident because they exercised their individual and collective agency to reshape their community, nation and, above all, the media into their own desired context.
The other rhetoric in the concept paper is about the increasing importance and consideration of issues of ‘youth development, empowerment and leadership’ to the development agendas of national governments and continental/international institutions. As is argued in the concept paper, this can be justified in the increasing commitment for youth capacity-building efforts, in ensuring youth participation in policy dialogue and decision-making processes, the launching of the year 2008 as the ‘year of African youth’ and 12 August 2010–11 as the ‘international year of youth’, the decade of ‘African youth’ (2009–18) and also the adoption, ratification and implementation of the African Youth Charter (AYC). Of course, all these efforts show the commitment of various actors at different levels, at least at a rhetorical level, and these all would not be achieved if there was not a serious engagement from all concerned actors. And the next assignment is to take the agenda further. These dedications and the AYC are not ends by themselves; they rather contribute further actions to be carried out as enabling legal frameworks. For instance, looking at the inadequate attention given to the issues of youth at the African Union level can be taken as an example.
Regardless of having a binding legal document, the AYC – and dedicating a year and then a decade for the promotion of the agenda of ‘youth development’ and devoting the upcoming summit to youth agenda – the youth division is poorly structured and financed. As far as I know, the youth section of the African Union is under the Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology and the number of permanent staff is very limited (maybe two or three). I personally had a couple of chances to meet the head of the youth division, Dr Raymonde Agossou, who is a very keen and dedicated person but highly constrained by the technical and financial limitations assigned to her mandate. The energetic and inspirational youth volunteers are maybe the real actors that keep the youth division still alive. But institution-wise, as I said before, the top AU officials and the member-state leaders are so hypocritical that their words and actions rarely match. Adopting the African Youth Charter five years ago, dedicating a decade for youth development and discussing youth empowerment as a single agenda on their summit could not even convince them to take practical action. What should we expect from them though?!
To wrap up, the 2011 African Youth Forum concept note needs a broader perspective so as to achieve the stated objectives and outcomes and to become an effective and crucial event contributing to the ‘youth development’ agenda meaningfully. I believe that, once its conceptualisation of youth is realistic enough in problematising the challenges and opportunities of African youth, the rationale, the objectives and the outcomes can be adjusted accordingly. With regard to the summit’s title, I proposed an alternative summit theme last time, given the nature of most African governments and their common behaviour of co-opting, manipulating and marginalising the youth and being dictators for being in power for more than two decades – ‘Accelerating youth disempowerment for sustainable dictatorship’ would suffice. Today, I have tried to show how the mainstream understanding of youth denies their agency of today and locates them in the uncertain tomorrow, as well as how the common definition of sustainable development does not fit into a few realities in Africa. So, how shall we address ‘the deadly equation’ of youth and sustainable development? I can confidently say that it is a zero-sum game! And finally, ‘who is ‘empowering’ whom?’ is also another question which may initiate further insights to be forwarded.
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* Eyob Balcha blogs at http://eyobafrikawi.blogspot.com/2011/03/african-union-and-african-youth-zero.html
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter - March issue
Fahamu’s Refugee Programme is pleased to announce the April issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter, a monthly publication that aims to provide a forum for providers of refugee legal aid. With a focus on the global South, it aims to serve the needs of legal aid providers as well as raise awareness of refugee concerns among the wider readership of Pambazuka News.
You can now also read the newsletter on our a new blog and Facebook page for the newsletter.
Perspectives on Emerging Powers in Africa: March newsletter available
The edition focuses on activities of the 2011 World Social Forum held recently in Dakar. An article by Sanusha Naidu provides commentary on the event and discussions that took place during a panel organised by Fahamu’s Emerging Powers in Africa (EMPA) Initiative. The second article, by Hayley Herman, looks at the second African journalist study tour conducted by the EMPA Initiative, this time to India, in January 2011. It provides a summary of some of the key points discussed during the visit. A third article by Xiao Yuhua emphasises the need for greater civil society cooperation between China and Africa, and opportunities the FOCAC framework can provide in developing this cooperation. Finally, Johanna Jansson and Wenran Jiang provide their review of the recently released Global Witness report titled 'China and Congo: Friends in Need'. The March edition is available here.
Strengthening the Civil Society Perspective
Series II: China and Other Emerging Powers in Africa
The Emerging Powers in Africa Initiative commissioned four research policy reports in June 2010 following the successful completion of the first round of commissioned reports that was undertaken in 2009, culminating in an electronic publication available on the Fahamu website. Understanding that attention towards China’s deepening engagement with Africa should not overshadow the activities of other emerging powers in Africa, including India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa, the four research policy reports sought to develop an African perspective by strengthening the civil society voice in the discourse surrounding the engagement between Africa and these emerging powers. To this end, the research projects were themed around comparative African perspectives on China and other emerging powers in Africa by providing seed funding to African civil society organisations and activists to undertake research that can contribute to the emerging scholarship on the footprint of the emerging actors in Africa. The completed research reports are available here.
Kenyan Nubians: The forgotten people
About 100,000 Nubians live in Kenya. Brought by British colonialists to the area as soldiers from different parts of Sudan, the Nubian community in Kenya now has a shared ethnic identity. While the group retains no ties to Sudan, Kenya has historically refused to recognise this minority.
After Kenyan independence, the Nubian community was denied recognition by the state. Although given a place to stay by the British as a thank you for the work well done by the community, this slowly turned into a curse in disguise. This is because Kibra was next to the capital and hence a lot of other people flooded into this area, in search of greener pastures. At first it was ok since to our great grandfathers it was a way in which they gained their bread. Most of them became landlords.
Kenyan Nubians have been defined as stateless people because their identity is questioned. They are without doubt one of the country’s most invisible and under-represented communities – economically, socially, politically and culturally. This is because they have been silent victims of discrimination, exclusion and violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms for as long as they have been in Kenya.
The Kenyan government uses both ethnicity and territory to establish belonging. Since both Nubian ethnicity and their territory of occupancy are contested by the government, most Nubians live as de facto stateless persons without adequate protection under national and international law, irrespective of the fact that they should be considered Kenyan citizens under the constitution. In Kenya nothing defines your citizenship more than your ethnicity. Nubians face institutionalised discrimination in the issuance of important documents. They are subjected to a vetting process of ethnic determination in order to acquire identity cards or passports.
It was only in 2010 that the Kenyan government recognised this community as one of the tribes and gave the Nubian Council of Elders a letter to show this, but this was after a long, tedious and bitter struggle. Prior to that the government had never had the official figures and records of Nubians in Kenya and never included them in any census reports. There was no official recognition of the community; the Kenyan government has always classified the community as ‘other Kenyans’ or just ‘others’.
This story changed a great deal when the Kenyan government started slum upgrading and the indigenous people – the Nubians in this case – never benefited from this project that other people with political influence gained from this new settlement area. The hustle for the land title deed began and the usual politics are still playing here, with the refusal of the Kenyan government to give this community what is rightfully theirs still leaving a question mark in one’s mind.
During the time of elections the MPs come with all sorts of lies and since they know it’s the sole thing that this tribe wants, empty promises will be given to the members. But after the election process as usual that is when you know how cruel people can be. I still wonder why we live in a place with the area MP as now the prime minister, but still cry for justice. There is nothing he has done to address the Nubians’ grievances. He just comes here only when it’s convenient for him.
Above all, Nubians live in temporary structures (built with mud and dirt) throughout Kenya and often on contested lands. You cannot build a decent structure because it’s against the law, but for how long shall we live like this? Most Nubians’ settlements do not have title deeds and are only occupied on a Temporary Occupational Licence (TOL), leaving the present generations of Nubians as mere squatters.
As I write this the living conditions of our community are in sharp decline and every one of us has a bitter story to tell. Tales of the challenges faced when acquiring identity cards and passports to the stories of life in this well-known slum traumatise us.
This has gone on for a very long time and it is time to put to an end to all this. Our Nubian Council Of Elders stood up and took our case and our pleas to the African Court in Ghana, a move which I second with all my weight. Since I was a little girl the cry has been one – ‘Land! Land! Land!’ It’s time to stand up for what is ours. Everyone is entitled to a better life because we live just once. The case started last year and I believe justice will be served.
‘Without addressing the social acceptability of any community of people, a people like the Nubians will continue to live from one crisis to another.’
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* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Continuing colonialism: 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.
“Mining is a critically important yet challenging sector and [the International Finance Corporation] IFC has a role to play in supporting responsible companies that will bring jobs, related infrastructure and government revenues to Africa,” said Andrew Gunther, IFC's Senior Manager of Infrastructure and Natural Resources in Africa and Latin America.
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 industrialized nations.
"Much has been written about China's voracious appetite for Africa’s mineral resources as it attempts to become a global industrial power. I think the World Bank's investment is a precursor of larger investments on projects, as big and emerging powers engage in the new scramble for Africa," said Tesfaye.
While the IFC claims to promote poverty reduction through sustainable development in developing countries, it has been criticized 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.
According to a 2006 report published by a group of NGO's that include EARTHWORKS and Oxfam International, "Mining does not have a good record of contributing to sustainable development or poverty reduction. The World Bank’s own research has indicated that mineral extraction is neither necessary nor sufficient for sustained economic growth, and that it has not helped developing nations escape from poverty."
Kneen also voiced concerns over human rights, labor rights and environmental sustainability. Sakura Saunders, an anti-mining activist and editor of ProtestBarrick.net, also pointed out the mining industry's horrendous history.
"The extractive industry is not only correlated with high rates of militarism and corruption, but it is also an industry that is inextricably linked to externalized environmental and social costs," said Saunders. "Additionally, these industries traditionally provide very little revenues in terms of royalties and taxes to their host countries."
The EARTHWORKS and Oxfam report, which focused on gold mining, also pointed out that, "These vast industrial operations often irreversibly alter landscapes, displace communities, contaminate drinking water, harm workers, and destroy pristine ecosystems or farm lands."
In January 2006, the IFC awarded Newmont Mining Corporation a loan of $125 million to develop an open-pit gold mine in Ghana. According to the IFC, Newmont's Ahafo gold mine served as a model for "responsible mining and community development." The IFC-Newmont development model ended up displacing over 10,000 people, many of whom were subsistence farmers, while in October 2009 the company was responsible for a cyanide spill which poisoned local water supplies and killed scores of fish. As a result it was ordered to pay $5 million in "compensation". EARTHWORKS, which has been working with local communities against the project through its No Dirty Gold campaign, also noted that: "Security forces associated with the mine have also been implicated in human rights abuses...have beaten and arrested protesters who were demonstrating over unfair Newmont practices. On one occasion protesting workers were shot. Some residents who were displaced have been assaulted by security forces for allegedly trespassing on company property."
Saunders' criticism of paltry royalties and taxes provided to host countries is also supported by a report released in 2009 by the Tax Justice Network for Africa, ActionAid, Southern Africa Resource Watch, Third World Network Africa and Christian Aid, titled "Breaking the Curse: How Transparent Taxation and Fair Taxes can Turn Africa’s Mineral Wealth into Development." The report stated, "Mining companies operating in Africa are granted too many tax subsidies and concessions [and] there is a high incidence of tax avoidance by mining companies conditioned by such measures as secret mining contracts, corporate mergers and acquisitions, and various 'creative' accounting mechanisms."
The report also blamed the World Bank for pushing mining reforms on the continent during the early 1990's that called for deregulation and tax subsidies to attract foreign investment, policies that either created or reinforced these corrupt and harmful conditions plaguing communities across Africa. The report calls for reforms that include more transparency from the mining industry and the creation of a new accounting system and oversight board.
But MiningWatch's Kneen questions whether such policies are attainable, or even advantageous. "Whether a reasonable tax structure could even be implemented in the face of pressure from the industry and the [World] Bank, it's not clear how that money would be used for social investment, compensation, and environmental protection and rehabilitation in the absence of competent agencies to do this. It seems obvious that the independent institutional and governance capacity cannot be created once the extraction is underway – technical capacity can be created but it cannot escape corruption or the more insidious regulatory capture that afflicts even developed countries like Canada."
What all of this amounts to is the continuation of colonialism's brutal legacy through a corporate neocolonialism carried out by transnational mining companies with the aid of international financial institutions working at the behest of developed nations.
"In the division of labor in the international economy, Africa has been relegated to a plantation economy. The primary reason still is the intrusion and present consequences of colonialism resulting in lop-sided development," said William Paterson's Tesfaye. "Today this is evidenced by a highly developed mineral extracting/commodity producing sector for export and a large peasant based rural subsistence economy. It is true of course, that Africans employed in the mineral extraction sector do earn better wages. But neither this minuscule industrial labor force nor the gelatinous and peripheral African bourgeoisie have been able to connect with the larger African population to determine the trajectory of the state and its economy. Thus the colonial model is not a way out for Africa."
Kneen offered a similar analysis. He said, "The colonial underdevelopment of Africa, transformed into a post-independence model of corporate exploitation – for the most part no longer directly run by rich countries – has deprived Africans of not only the capital and resources they need to undertake their own development (fertile land, timber, fish, fresh water), but the democratic and participatory processes by which this could be done."
The underdevelopment of Africa – democratic, social and economic – is not an accident, but rather a strategy to maintain domination over a region rich in resources and cheap labor.
This helps explain why, as Kneen points out, "Investors, governments, and the multilateral institutions don't just tolerate corruption and repression, they eagerly support it."
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* Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at www.UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America.
* This article first appeared on Towards Freedom.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Claiming March for women
One of the most stimulating publications I have recently read was a book called ‘Herstory’, a title that is a rejection of the term ‘History’, which modern feminists view as a patriarchic term.
The book tells individual stories about the struggles and eventual triumphs of women parliamentarians in a West African country. It is a study book that encourages women to seek public office. American poet Maya Angelou is credited with coining the feminist noun ‘shero’ as befitting the description of women - and not ‘hero’, a masculine noun that does not sit well with women activists.
Whereas these two examples could be seen as a struggle by women against male dominance, they in fact prove an underlying spirit inherent in a woman; that of testing the bounds, which is a stark contradiction of the idea that women are supposed to be emotional, tender and submissive to their men. The biblical story of Eve - that this restless woman is the cause of human suffering - has been told several times over, so much so that when Kenyans suffer runaway inflation and unemployment Eve is to blame.
At the risk of being accused of humanising a biblical story of disobedience, I have written elsewhere in an essay titled ‘A male priest is as inspired as a beautiful woman’ that Eve, in testing the power of a higher authority, in wanting to find out, in wanting to know, in desiring to discover at a time when man had been contented and uninspired, that this woman should be celebrated as a forerunner to learning. She and her spouse Adam were eventually punished, but that does not negate the initial notion of enquiry, which is easily discernible.
The UN has a special day, International Women’s Day, which is marked annually on 8 March. In observing this day last year, there was a panel discussion by women professionals and the launch of a documentary titled ‘Burden of Peace’, written by journalist Kwamchetsi Makokha. This documentary highlights the atrocities that were visited on women by the Kenya police in the wake of post election violence in 2008. Many of these women were gang raped by the police and infected by HIV/Aids.
This year Kenyan women observed women’s day by bringing together about 50 mothers whose sons have disappeared or died in extra-judicial killings. Like last year, a documentary titled ‘Dead or Alive’, that captures these unresolved cases, was unveiled. Sophie Dawllar, the national coordinator of the social movement World March of Women and who organised these events, says that ‘in showing this documentary we were opening wounds which many people, afraid of speaking out, would rather leave them to the victims to suffer in silence. It was indeed an emotional day seeing women joining mothers and wives of victims of extra-judicial killings breaking down in endless crying.’
But if Kenyan women in the civil society movement have marked the last two international women’s days in a turbulent moment of sorrow, vocalising issues of social justice, making political statements and providing evidence for action, their colleagues in art unite on SWAN Day, now in its fourth year, which is marked every last Saturday of March. The feminist movement has claimed March as a women’s month.
SWAN is an acronym for ‘support women artists now’. It is a day that is dedicated to women artists. Women artists from all genres (painters, poets, puppeteers, writers, actresses, musicians, designers, beads makers, culinary specialists) assemble in one place on this particular day in cities around the world to showcase artistic expressions produced by women. SWAN Day was marked last Saturday at the historic Wasanii (artists) Restaurant that sits on top of the main auditorium of the Kenya Cultural Theatre. It was a day of poetry and musical performances interspersed with speeches.
Barbra Quantai, one of Kenya’s most talented and celebrated musicians, gave an amazing performance. When she walked on to the stage with a guitarist and greeted by saying ‘let’s celebrate women art’, the crowd went into a frenzy. And she sang just one song and left an agitated crowd crying for more.
Poems were performed by Sharleen Njeri, Sitawa Wafula, Belle Wanjiku (a young Kenyan poet and a great admirer of Maya Angelou, who read the latter’s poem ‘Still I Rise’), Camole K. Gibson from Liberia, budding writer Habiba Ali and photographer Sheida Jaffer. Celebrity musician Idd Achieng, legendary TV actresses Mama Kayai of Vitimbi and Lucy Wanjau (the magistrate in the popular TV drama Vioja Mahakamani), Aduda Seleh (of the comedy drama Papa Shirandula), musicians Lydia Dola and MC Sharon gave stunning performances as percussionists played drums, flutes and trumpets in the background.
MC Sharon read a poem from PEN Kenya president Philo Ikonya’s anthology ‘Out of Prison - Love Songs’, Sophie Dowllar, SWAN-Kenya founder and several human rights activists including King David Wamaitha, Beatrice Kamau, Anne Wanjiku and Erasmus Ndemole Migyikra, director of the Ghanaian based NGO West African Centre for Peace, graced the occasion.
In his brief address Erasmus Ndemole encouraged women artists to use their talents to draw attention to the myriad issues afflicting women especially in conflict areas and during political upheavals.
Well, if on waking up on the morning of a post apocalyptic day one was to find everything around them has a female emblem - poetry, music, painting, books - would that not influence their thought process and their understanding of the world?
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Khainga O’Okwemba is a poet, writer and the treasurer of International PEN Kenya Chapter.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Zenawi regime
Ethiopian Americans Council
President Barrack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
March 22, 2011
Dear President Obama,
THE ZENAWI’S REGIME
Ethiopians are joining the waves of changes that are sweeping Middle East and North Africa. On March 7 and 9, 2011, Ethiopians in Gamu Gofa peacefully protested against political repression as well as depressed economic conditions. The regime’s security apparatus rounded up and forcefully took protesters to the notorious prison in Araba Minch City. Twelve people were shot dead senselessly.
The regime is also intensifying its effort to pursue the opposition. According to Medrek, 217 members of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) and 40 members of the Oromo People's Congress
(OPC) have been arrested in the past one week, and their whereabouts is still unknown.
As you insightfully put it, “When a leader's only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now.” We agree with you completely, and want to see the end of the Meles Zenawi’s regime.
Ethiopians are yearning for freedom and liberty. They are united to challenge the current regime in power, which has more than once resorted to violence, terror, and the rigging of elections to cling to power.
The atrocious human rights’ records of the regime are well documented in the various reports of the US State Department Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Ethiopian human rights groups. By using its rubberstamp parliament, the Zenawi regime passes punitive legislative such like the Civil Society Law, the Anti-Terrorism Law, and the Press Law to severely hamper opposition groups’ ability to organize public meetings, rallies and raise funds in our country.
Since the regime controls both the armed and security forces, it uses deadly force to control and subdue Ethiopian citizens. It is safe to say that Ethiopia is a police state.
The people are not only repressed politically, but also economically. While oligarchs enjoy wealth, access, and influence; millions of Ethiopians, particularly the youth, comprising over 60 percent of the population, are mired in extreme poverty and in a sense of hopelessness and despair. Thousands die of hunger and of diseases every year.
As your foreign advisors certainly can attest, absolute power rests in the hands of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a once secessionist group from the Tigray region. Through the farcical “Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT),” this group controls big business in Ethiopia, and has unfettered access to state-owned assets priced far below fair market price. More and more, small businesses who find themselves outside the protected circle of EFFORT are closing, due to concerted harassment, random tax increases, and relentless extortions.
Ethiopian farmers are the hardest hit by the misguided economic policies of the Zenawi’s regime. Under the current Ethiopian Constitution, farmers are not allowed to own the land they labor, but must lease lands from the federal government, and that government has the autocratic right to expropriate land from the farmers with only 30 days of notice—keeping Ethiopians in a vulnerable state of insecure means and uncertain futures.
Rather than allowing Ethiopians to take charge of their futures by reforming the agriculture polices to empower small scale farmers and entice Ethiopian entrepreneurs to engage in large scale farming, the regime is now adding insult to injury by issuing business licenses to government backed investors from China, India, and Saudi Arabia to harvest foods for export to their respective nations.
Furthermore, in order to clear the millions of hectare of land designated for these foreign multinational companies, the regime is now forcefully dislodging hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians from their ancestral homes without effective resettlement plans or compensation to face a stressful and unknown future.
Many Ethiopians and their supporters are outraged to witness such abhorrent, draconian, neo-colonial practices being instituted in a country that prides itself in having successfully defeated European colonization. The mass polarization of the population—due in part from these insurmountable economic tensions—has generated deep hostility and resentment to the ruling TPLF/EPRDF party.
Unless a swift and viable political solution is found, a popular uprising will continue to escalate. The question is, Mr. President, what can be done to avert further bloodshed? We think the following measures should be implemented to achieve a peaceful transition:
• Legalize all political groups and guarantee their security;
• Release all political prisoners;
• Repeal the Civil Society Proclamation, and the Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation;
• Reform the Electoral Law;
• Establish an independent judiciary at the national, regional and local levels; and
• Establish an independent political commission.
The ruling party will not cede power to the people willingly. However, Mr. President, your administration can play a critical role in turning political situation in Ethiopia for the better by exerting pressure on the government to implement political reforms to lead to a free and fair election.
As you know well, Mr. President, for sometime now different administrations, some for shortsighted and cynical reasons, have supported the Zenawi dictatorship, against the broader interests of the Ethiopian people. This has contributed to the overall impoverishment of the Ethiopian people to the profit of a few, and has contributed to regional instability. As the United States re-evaluates its support of Middle Eastern authoritarian types (Ben Ali, Mubarak, etc), we ask that, at the same time, you begin to re-evaluate similar policies affecting Ethiopia in order to bring about lasting peace in the Horn of Africa. It's time for change, across the globe, Mr. President.
May God bless you and the United States of America!
The Ethiopian Americans Council (EAC)
West Coast Office
90 East Gish Road Ste #
25 San Jose, CA, 95112
Tel (206) 888-2004
East Coast Office
10125 Colesville Rd, Ste 104
Silver Spring, MD 20901
* The Ethiopian Americans Council (EAC) is a grassroots policy advocacy organization.
Urgent action: Zimbabwean activists at risk of arbitrary arrest
Amnesty International USA
25 March 2011
UA 86/11 Risk of arbitrary arrest/Risk of ill-treatment
Jenni Williams (f)
Magodonga Mahlangu (f)
Two leaders of the social justice movement Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, are being sought by police. They are at risk of arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment.
On 12 February, WOZA staged its ninth annual Valentine's Day peaceful protest in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. Since then police officers have paid regular visits to the homes of WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, attempting to find them. Officers have also contacted a human rights lawyer, demanding he bring the two WOZA leaders to Bulawayo Central Police station. The officer reportedly stated that the two 'must prepare themselves for a long detention'. However, police have given no indication of the reasons why they are searching for the two WOZA leaders, causing fears that the two could be arbitrarily arrested and detained. Both have been arbitrarily arrested on numerous occasions in the past following peaceful protests and have been detained for periods of up to 37 days.
Since February police appear to have launched a crackdown in which human rights activists across the country including WOZA members have been systematically targeted. In one incident, on 28 February, seven members of WOZA and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (MOZA) were arrested in Bulawayo and detained for two days. They were allegedly tortured using a method known as falanga, in which victims are beaten on the soles of their feet, while in the custody of the Law and Order section at Bulawayo Central police station. While in custody the detainees were also repeatedly asked for details of the whereabouts of Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu.
On 26 November 2010, the Justice of Appeal at the Supreme Court ruled that Williams and Mahlangu had been wrongfully arrested and detained following a peaceful protest in 2008, and as a result had had their rights and fundamental freedoms violated; and that the state had failed to protect the activists from this abuse.
Since February 2003, members of the Zimbabwean social justice movement WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) have been repeatedly arrested while taking part in peaceful demonstrations against the worsening social, economic, and human rights situation in the country. While in detention, the women have been held in poor and overcrowded conditions, usually for periods ranging from a few hours to several days. WOZA activists have been threatened and assaulted by police officers, who have also obstructed their access to lawyers.
Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
- Expressing concern about the systematic harassment by officers under their command of WOZA members
including Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, and urging them to end these practices by the Law and Order
Section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police;
- Urge them to ensure that the in their conduct, officers are mindful of and respect the ruling by the Supreme
Court of Zimbabwe on 26 November 2010, that in violation of their rights and fundamental freedoms, Jenni
Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were wrongfully arrested and detained over a peaceful demonstration in 2008.
- Urge them to ensure officers under their command respect and protect all human rights in line with Article 1 of
the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operating Organization Code of Conduct for Police Officials.
Deputy Commissioner-General (Crime)
Zimbabwe Republic Police
P. O. Box 8807, Causeway
Fax: 011 263 4 253 212
Salutation: Dear Deputy Commissioner-General
Officer in Charge
Bulawayo Central Police Station
Zimbabwe Republic Police
PO Box 2329
Fife Street/ L Takawira Avenue
Fax: 011 263 9 65763
Salutation: Dear Officer in Charge
Chief Law Officer
Office of the Attorney General
Fax: 011 263 9 66824
Ambassador Dr. Machivenyika T. Mapuranga
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe
1608 New Hampshire Ave. NW
Washington DC 20009
Phone: 202 332 7100
Fax: 1 202 483 9326
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.
Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action office if sending appeals after 6 May 2011.
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE,
Washington DC 20003
Is there too much special pleading in Africa?
They drink the best champagne in the world. They wear monogrammed shirts and make sure that the correct length of sleeve is exposed, at the wrist. Their ties are matched with colourful kerchiefs in the button hole and their whole outfits are finely coordinated.
These are the image-conscious men who bestride the corridors of power in Africa. To go with their outfits, they drive in the most luxurious, bullet-proof cars, and they either fly first-class or by private executive jet. In other words, they are as modern as their American and European counterparts.
Except in their politics. They wouldn’t dream of allowing a chauffeur to drive them who has not been tutored in advanced driving, anti-terrorist techniques. They wouldn’t allow their executive jets to fly a hundred kilometres beyond their next servicing date.
And yet, when it comes to politics, they do not know any rules. A Bill Clinton can move from being the most powerful man in the world to becoming a private citizen, without blinking an eyelid. A Barack Obama can be vilified by right-wing radio commentators as if no one elected him to office. But in Africa, the ‘big man’ in office often brooks no opposition whatsoever. The opposition against him must be ‘crushed’. First with words – the government-controlled radio, television and newspapers condemn the opposition routinely as ‘unpatriotic’, ‘divisive’ or ‘nation-wreckers’. I have even seen the opposition described as ‘recidivist’ – a word I had to look up, and which politicians use to mean seeking to tear up one’s country into the tiny bits occupied by its ethnic groups.
Having verbally demonised the opposition, some of our rulers next set the police and the army – who are paid for with the taxes paid by both opposition and government supporters alike – on the opposition. Men and women are beaten up and thrown into prison. Layers are denied to them. If at all they are taken to court, evidence is sometimes manufactured against them. Worse, many are taken before corrupt judges and magistrates, who gladly hand down heavy sentences – whether of fines or imprisonment – to the ‘trouble-makers’.
It is this sort of politics that has brought Côte d’Ivoire to its knees and threatens to engulf it in a new round of unimaginable bloodshed. Troops sympathetic to Alassane Ouattara, the winner of last year’s election, have taken the capital, Yamoussoukro. They are also at San Pedro, the port from which Côte d’Ivoire’s most valuable export, cocoa, is shipped.
Ouattara’s soldiers will be attacking the commercial capital, Abidjan, next. But that will be a very different enterprise altogether. How many citizens can survive a full-scale civil war fought in the crowded streets of a city like Abidjan? It is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Africa. Because of its people’s ‘modern’ attitude to life, few chose where they wanted to live, with political considerations in mind. Certainly, the majority did not choose their abodes on the basis of their ethnicity. Yet today, houses are being marked and households branded in terms of how their politics are perceived by their neighbours.
What will happen when fighting breaks out in Abidjan? There have already been skirmishes in such suburbs as Abobo, and reports put at about a million Côte d’Ivoire residents who don’t want to find out about what dangers lie ahead. They have already left for Liberia and other neighbouring countries.
This is painfully ironical, for it is Liberians who used to flock to Côte d’Ivoire, where many sought refuge during their own country’s protracted civil war a few years ago. Barely settled themselves on their return home, Liberians are now being called upon to return the hospitality that they enjoyed when they were refugees in Côte d’Ivoire.
And why is Côte d’Ivoire being torn apart? The country’s champagne-swigging political elite decided that they wanted to hold an election. They argued endlessly over the qualifications that would enable voters to get on the electoral roll. The debate was visceral – atavistic instincts were summoned in aid of a poisonous socio-political concept called Ivoirité.
Eventually, however, agreement was reached on the electoral roll. There was also an agreement claimed to have agreed on the electoral date and the modus operandi for the election.
So the election was held.
But as the results were being tallied and announced, it was as if nothing had been agreed upon beforehand. All hell broke loose. Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters decided that since the result was not in its favour, it must not be allowed to stand.
Coming from educated people, this stand of the Gbagbo side shocked many in the world. At school, right from infancy, we are taught that if a race is held at sports time, and the ‘red’ section beats the ‘blue’ section, then the red section are champions, and that if the blue section does not like that, then it must find better runners next time! Yet as adults educated to a very high level in some of the best universities in the world, Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters refused to accept such elementary rules, to the point of seeking to enforce their point of view through the barrel of a gun.
Hundreds of innocent people have already been killed. Scores of thousands more have been injured. Many have fled from their homes and become wandering refugees.
Côte d’Ivoire’s tragedy is not the only one of its kind in Africa in recent years. We have seen it happen in Kenya and Zimbabwe too. Different forms of the same political dysfunction are currently threatening Burkina Faso, and may affect Nigeria, which is a few days away from a presidential election. The acrimony attending the Nigerian election has not been edifying to watch.
While so many people are dying on the altar of the political ambitions of empty-headed egoists parading themselves as statesmen, while so many have had their lives uprooted for no good reason, while misery stalks our continent like a perforated blood-collecting vessel that never fills up, no matter how much blood is poured into it, we find academics and ‘political commentators’ turning intellectual cartwheels, trying to rationalise issues that should be quite straightforward. The murderous idiocies that are turning some of our streets into blood-soaked ‘no-go’ areas are called anything but their true name – which is, of course, stupidity.
For instance, I just read on the Radio France International website (RFI.fr) someone fervently calling on international opinion not to look at the Côte d’Ivoire situation in terms of a ‘devil’ and an ‘angel’. Who is saying anything about devils and angels? What this apologist forgets is that both Gbagbo and Ouattara went into the election on the basis of rules that had been agreed upon beforehand, rules which, of necessity, had been designed to produced two results, namely, that someone wins and someone loses. What has that got to do with angels and devils?
The African populace must rise up and make it unprofitable for egoists to muscle in on African politics. They should demand that those who cause bloodshed, in order to evade defeat in a simple election, are caught and punished – to discourage others from following the footsteps of the cheats.
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.
Ways to deal with global outlaws
As I write, the war – which originally was supposed to take one week – is now in its second week, with no end in sight. This new war with weapons fired from remote locations and from military aircraft continues on military convoys and command and control locations in Libya. It is the fourth conflict in 20 years that modern warfare with the use of updated technology is being tried in the world. Remote controlled missiles are hitting military and command and control locations in Libya. Most recently, pulverising military technology that creates long term and lasting hazards for human life, human society, and the natural world have been used in Iraq, in Bosnia, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now in Libya. Libya is one among several countries of the Arab, Middle East, and African worlds where the citizens are erupting in non-violent and in some cases violent protest against their governments.
Since the popular uprising and eruption which led to the demise of the Ben Ali government in Tunisia in January, the North African and Middle Eastern world has witnessed the toppling of the Mubarak regime in Egypt. The North African and Middle Eastern world has also witnessed large and small popular uprisings in other places: In Libya protests that began on 16 January led to open military conflict between the people of many parts of the country and Gaddafi’s forces. In Syria popular uprisings, which began on 4 February, have now expanded. In response the Assad regime is using live ammunition to put down the protests. In the absence of a free press, social media and Al Jazeera reports that more than fifty people have been killed over the past week. In Jordan protests, which began on 28 January, are spreading.
In Bahrain, the Saudi military was called in to put down protests. It is unclear as to the number of people killed so far in Bahrain, where the minority Sunni kingdom is fighting to maintain its unpopular reign over the majority Shiite population. In Yemen, where protests movements emerged on February 11, the Saleh regime, which is in its last days, has let loose its security forces against the people. This has resulted in the killing of at least 45 people on 18 March, the bloodiest day of the uprising so far. In Algeria, mass protest, which began on 12 February, has been kept outside the international news, while the Free Officers Movement (MAOL) inside and outside of the country seeks to prevent a bloodbath.
In Morocco, protests that began on 20 February forced the monarchy to set in train a constitutional review process, which will culminate in a referendum in June. In Saudi Arabia, protests by the small Shiite population in the oil rich town of Qatif on 10 and 11 March were swiftly crushed by the security forces. In Kuwait, protests which began on 6 February were met with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons on 18 and 20. In Lebanon, protesters took to the streets on 28 February against the sectarian system of government. In Iran, protests are ongoing against the Ahmadinejad administration. In Oman, after three days of protest which lasted from 27 February to 1 March, the government was forced to make some economic concessions but still found it necessary to deploy its security forces to re-establish order.
Popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa in this period have arisen against the backdrop of the wars in Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq; in the shadow of ethnic uprisings in Bosnia; in the wake of genocide in Rwanda where 800,000 people were killed; following the war and reports of genocide by the Bashir government in the Sudan against the people of Darfur. According to many estimates, an unknown number of people (estimates put the figure above 300,000) have been killed, and more than a million displaced in the Sudan since this war began. These upheavals are also taking place against the backdrop of the on-going intransigence of Laurent Gbagbo, who continues to hold on to power in Côte d'Ivoire, despite his defeat in the recent elections, which is plunging the country into civil war.
These places have several factors in common. They share varying dimensions of Islamic, African, Central/South Asian, and Middle Eastern Cultures. More importantly they share the penchant for patriarchal and pseudo-religious backwardness. These patriarchal and pseudo-religious divisions have been promoted through historical cultural influences, which over time have overtaken the human values of equality, fairness, and the promotion of social justice inherent in the original teachings of Islam and Christianity.
Having walked away from the founding values of Islam and Christianity, the teachings and consciousness of the meaning of religion as a meeting point of minds to search for solutions and find common ground gave way to greed and tyranny. Christianity and Islam as faiths of humans were reframed as justification for the capitalist system in particular in the Islamic world, where usury was prohibited. In these countries the top capitalist has turned mosques into meeting places to make deals and to strengthen greed. Greed defines the destiny of these societies today.
In some of them entrenched pseudo-religious beliefs have led to the suppression of large and small minorities and in the case of Bahrain today, the suppression of the majority Shiite population. Based on the varying dimension of the idea of ‘right to leadership’, each country in this region has inherited designated leaders, leaders who present themselves as though they have god-given rights to lead these societies. The end result is autocratic, patriarchal, pseudo-religious, capitalist and corrupt regimes and ruling comprador elements that have nationalised the political and economic space.
As a consequence all political power and control over the wealth of most of the countries of the Arab world, the Middle East, Central/South Asia, and Africa since the end of colonial rule has resided within the sway of such leaders, their immediate families, their cronies, and the military and security brass. The ruling elites of these countries have entrenched themselves in power through diplomatic, technological, technical, and military support from the former colonial masters, multinational corporations and big oil, and cold war relationships with powerful families and business interests in the developed Western nations and in Russia.
Since 1980 the net of relations between the undemocratic ruling elite of these countries with their counterparts abroad has been widening. New countries are now competing for attention of the powerful in these countries and for the resources of this region. Emerging powers such as China and India have been playing an increasing role in these theatres because of the land mass available for agricultural recolonisation, and because of the riches in oil and mineral resources of this region. We are in the midst of the expansion of the alliance between the autocratic ruling class at home and foreign business interests. This expansion has exacerbated the already fragile economic and political divide and vacuum in these societies.
The upheavals now being witnessed across this region are directly connected to the sharp political and economic division between the small ruling class/group/kingdom at the top of the food chain and the majority of ‘commoners’ at the bottom of the society. In the semi-feudal societies these ruling capitalist elements have held on to monarchical traditions and want to entrench a system of inheritance for their families. Hence after the King of Morocco and the head of state of Syria handed power to their sons, both Mubarak and Gaddafi planned to hand power over to their sons.
The people of Egypt rejected the pseudo-democratic system of Mubarak that was preparing his son for political leadership. The demonstrations of Tahrir have shown that the commoners of these societies include professionals, doctors, lawyers, workers, students, religious people, men, women, youth, the poor, the disabled and the infirm, and all those who have been denied their rights to decide on the kind of law which should govern the society, and under which everyone would be able to organise for equity in the political, social, cultural and economic life of their homeland. In an age baptized by the rise of western style democracies, the West is duty bound to act. They have to act. They cannot remain silent. They have to the listen to the clarion call for democratisation now ringing in the houses of their friends, and in the houses of their enemies. Hence, while working people under the austerity measures in a capitalist depression appears to have had no appetite for this war, they are acting as though it is their duty.
The world is now paying close attention. The spotlight is now on the once powerful countries, especially since the imperial overlords failed to act to prevent the genocide in Rwanda and to deal with the claims of genocide in Darfur. They face the reality of global scrutiny for their continued foot-dragging and failure to reign in the Israelis and bring relief to address the plight of the Palestinians in spite of scores of United Nations resolutions. The once powerful cannot shirk responsibility for their failure to properly address the racial and ethnic structural marginalisation that today accounts for the racial and ethnic conflicts especially in Africa, more especially in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Furthermore, the affluent nations of the world cannot ignore the legacies of their past deeds; for their failure to deal with the troubling issue of reparations, and the economic and political divide between human beings constructed by colonialism and imperialism based on the colour line.
The United Nations, the progressives in the former colonial powers, and the international community have a lot of work to do to correct the imbalance between those with and those without freedom and human rights, and between the majority of people at the bottom and the 10 per cent of the world population that controls 85 per cent of the world’s wealth. Failure to act and failure to construct new world institutions that will democratically address and find solutions to the rising tide of divisions between those at the top and those at the bottom will undoubtedly redound in the expansion and globalization of the protest movement.
The answer to the peoples’ cry for human freedoms and human rights cannot be answered in a piecemeal manner. These cries must be answered through concerted action. They must be answered through deliberative discussion to address the root causes of the distress, the disease blighting the lives of those affected through lack of freedom and human rights.
Piecemeal military campaigns, while important to forestall genocidal acts or the threat of genocidal acts can only deal with symptoms of the disease, and not the disease itself. As witnessed in the case of Libya, the disease is the global system that benefits from the way the Gaddafi family has used the wealth of the country to benefit multinational financial institutions and corporations in the West. The disease is the global system that sells military aircraft and military hardware to the Saudis, the Bahraini’s, the Egyptians, the Israelis, the Bashir government in the Sudan. The illness is the military manufacturers and marketing agents that produce and market weapons. The world needs fewer weapons. There must be an international moratorium on the production and marketing of weapons of war. It is time for even-handed action by the United Nations and the international community to restrain governments and groups that use weapons of war against civilians.
It is here where Brazil, India and China will have to show that their goals for the UN and the international community are different from the former imperial powers. The United Nations and the international community must be even-handed; they cannot cherry-pick when they come to decide on the action to be taken against outlaws. As Horace Campbell noted last week, China, Brazil and Russia cannot abstain in the vote in the UN and after the fact denounce he military campaign in Libya. These countries are also using Africa as a political football.
The current military campaign in Libya raises many unanswered questions on the necessity for even-handedness on the part of those with the policing wherewithal in the international community. Judging from the swiftness of the ongoing military campaign in Libya, are we to assume that the world is now entering a new phase in international relations? If so, the UN and the international community have a responsibility to come clean with all the countries and peoples of the world. If military action is going to become the remedy for the intractable problems created through undemocratic political structures, this must be made clear. It should not only be the subject of debate at the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. It should be the subject for debate, ratification, and signature by the parliament and national representative councils of every member nation of the UN. Perhaps the world needs a United Nations where the emerging powers place as much emphasis on diplomacy as they are on developing new export markets.
If the current military actions in Libya represent the beginnings of a new process the world could become a better place. In the same way that the UN and the international community stepped in to ensure that the people of Benghazi were not slaughtered, such action is also required in many other places. The Palestinians have been living in a virtual prison for more than 50 years. Are we to assume that the UN and the international community will now act to rein in the excesses of the Israeli military and other paramilitary forces and bring real relief to the sufferings of the Palestinians? Are we to assume that the UN and the international community will now take a strong position and initiate action against the minority government in Bahrain? Are we to assume that stern action will also be taken soon against the military excesses of the Saleh government in Yemen? Are we to expect immediate action against the outlaw Laurent Bgagbo administration in the Ivory Coast?
Countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Yemen require representative governments. Where is the demand for free elections in Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain? Why should the majority Shiite population in Bahrain be made to suffer because the UN and the international community are afraid of a Shiite controlled government? Everyone should have an equal right to democracy, to human rights, to security, to food, and to shelter. The world is engaged. The world is waiting and watching to see what actions will be taken against other outlaws. Gaddafi is one among many.
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* Wazir Mohamed teaches Sociology at Indiana University East in the USA. He was formerly a co-Leader and political activist of the Working People’s Alliance of Guyana.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Arise, Africa arise
Arise, Africa arise
Let the world see your beauty
Let them note your strength
And know that though brow beaten
You will stand undefeated
Arise, Africa arise
Let yourself soar like an eagle
Let those who stand in your way
Be shattered like glass
So they know that mighty warrior you are
And you can’t be defiled by those who choose to disrespect you
Arise, Africa arise
Gather your children like an eagle
Let them come from the East, West and North
To build the ruins left by colonisation, neo-colonialism, imperialism, corruption, HIV/Aids, conflict, and dictatorships
Arise, Africa arise
Don’t let them steal your shine
Or shatter your self-image
You are unequalled in strength and unmatched in beauty
Arise, Africa arise
(Written on 1 August 2009)
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* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
They come with cheque books
And impeccable suits
Are impressed with their charm
And are happy when they say
“We are doubling aid to Africa”
We wait for their benevolence
Which like Godot never arrives
With a smug look on their face
With lorries, cars, trains, ships and planes
Full of Africa’s resources
They ship them back to us
A few months later
A little value addition
They tell us its civilisation
Impressed with their charm
Care not to know
That they, our benefactors, have been reaping our harvest to feed us
(Written on 9 August 2009. Women’s day. I m so not pro-aid)
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* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News 183 : La nature impérialiste des attaques contre la Libye
Kenyans only tried in Kenya?
Zimbabwe: Diplomatic tiff with SA over newspaper reports
South Africa has angrily rejected attacks on President Jacob Zuma by Zimbabwean official media, which on Sunday labeled him duplicitous and questioned his suitability to mediate between Zimbabwe’s squabbling ruling parties. In the clearest sign yet of growing tensions between Pretoria and Harare, the Zimbabwean government mouthpiece Sunday Mail said Zuma was erratic and an undesirable facilitator in the talks between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Zimbabwe: NGOs call for end to harassment
The National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO), a membership body representing non-governmental organisations in Zimbabwe, has noted with concern the continued harassment of civil society activists by law enforcement agents (ZRP). The harassment of activists is evidenced by a disturbing chronicle of events indicative of a crackdown on civil society organisations, in particular, human rights focussed organisations.
Zimbabwe: Supreme Court readies itself for Maseko's case
The record of proceedings in prominent visual artist, Owen Maseko’s Constitutional challenge, is now ready for the Supreme Court after the Bulawayo Provincial Magistrates Court furnished the Supreme Court with five copies of the record including two DVD’s. The visual artist was arrested in March 2010 for staging an exhibition in Bulawayo depicting the 1980’s Matabeleland massacres carried out by troops loyal to President Robert Mugabe’s previous government. Maseko was accused of undermining the authority of or insulting the President and causing offence to persons of a particular race or religion.
Libya: AU chief off to Europe to meet NATO leaders on Libya
African Union (AU) Commission chairman Jean Ping will be travelling to Europe to discuss the Libyan crisis with the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Before his departure from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Dr Ping said the AU’s position on Libya remains unchanged. He added that the bloc would seek a solution based on its proposed roadmap. AU is opposed to the Western military action against Libya.
Africa: Celebrating 50 inspirational African feminists
The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) canvassed their team and came up with a list of 50 inspirational African feminists. 'We know that there are far, far more women than we could include in our list, but we wanted to at least make a start at celebrating the achievements of some of these great women – and we hope our friends will forgive us our omissions! Take a look and let us know who else you would have added,' AWDF says.
Algeria: Algerian women test the 'Arab Spring' winds
The late-February lifting of the state's emergency powers law hasn't helped the women who keep a weekly vigil here for relatives who disappeared in the country's 1992-2001 civil war. 'We are prevented from demonstrating, we are still under surveillance and each time we try to march police violently shove us around and flood us with vulgarities,' said Amel Boucherf. For years she and other women whose relatives disappeared during the war have convened at the same place: the headquarters of the National Advisory Commission for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights.
Botswana: Women in politics determined to succeed
'The Botswana Caucus for Women in Politics has failed to realise the objectives it was intended for, but we will not give up on it just yet,' says Margaret Nasha. The BCWP is a platform established to enable women from all political parties to converge and support each other in their attempts to make their mark in a male-dominated field. When it was set up 15 years ago, its membership was initially restricted to women in parliament. Nasha, the first woman to serve as Speaker of Parliament in Botswana, explained that four years in, they realised that only women from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party were benefiting from it and they decided to open membership to any active woman member of a political party.
Kenya: Plea to try post-poll rape cases locally
Former truth team deputy chairperson Betty Murungi has called for those accused of sexual violence during the post-election chaos to be tried locally. 'We need to find local solutions to local problems,' Ms Murungi said during a press conference on gender violence in Africa. Ms Murungi joined the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) to lobby for justice for Kenyans who were sexually abused during the post-election violence four years ago.
Liberia: Call to enact law to protect women and girls from FGM
Over 58 per cent of Liberian women have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). The practice is carried out through a politically influential female secret society known as the Sande society as part of an initiation rite into womanhood by the Kpelle, Bassa, Vai, Dan (Gio), Mano, Dei and Gola ethnic groups. Challenging practices of the influential Sande society could have severe repercussions. Women from non-FGM practicing communities in Liberia may also be subjected to FGM either through marriage into practicing groups or by force. Visit the Equality Now website to take action on the issue.
Uganda: Women tricked into domestic slavery in Iraq
The story of Ugandan women recruited to work in Iraq and exposed to appalling labour conditions and sexual abuse while there has been revealed. Some of the women have since escaped, but at least 100 of the Ugandan women who went to Iraq in 2009 remain unaccounted for.
Zambia: Women struggle for representation ahead of elections
Zambians head to the polls sometime before October and civil society groups are working hard to ensure their voices are heard. Groups which were excluded during the 2005 elections and the National Constitutional Conference that began in 2007 are mobilising to ensure they are not excluded. Four years ago, Clotilda Mwale was among those who besieged the Zambian parliament, arguing the National Constitutional Conference would not represent of the interests of all Zambians. Along with church groups and some opposition parties, gender activists were frozen out of the process; with general elections coming up in 2011, they are determined not to let this happen again.
Côte d’Ivoire: West African Immigrants Massacred
Ivorian militias and Liberian mercenaries loyal to Laurent Gbagbo killed at least 37 West African immigrants in a village near the border with Liberia on 22 March, Human Rights Watch says. In response to the intensifying abuses and descent into civil war, the United Nations Security Council on 30 March imposed strong measures on Gbagbo, the incumbent president, who has refused to step down and cede power to his rival, Alassane Ouattara. Witnesses in Côte d'Ivoire told Human Rights Watch that armed men, some in uniform and others in civilian clothes, massacred the villagers, presumed to be Ouattara supporters, possibly in retaliation for the capture of nearby areas by pro-Ouattara forces.
Egypt: Double standards in justice
Egyptian activists are enraged by continued double standards by the judiciary, as strikers and protesters are still sent to military tribunals while an ex-Minister ordering the shooting of protesters is not. Ex-President Hosni Mubarak's Interior Minister General Habib el-Adly, accused of ordering the killing of at least 360 protesters during the uprising, is to stand trial in a civilian court.
Libya: African Rights Court issues first ruling against a state
The Libyan government should immediately comply with the first binding ruling against a state by the newly operational African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights (EIPR), Human Rights Watch, and Interights said. In its pioneering decision, issued on 25 March and published on 30 March, the court unanimously ordered Libya to end any actions that would cause the loss of life or violation of anyone’s 'physical integrity' in violation of international human rights law.
Libya: African Rights Court Issues First Ruling Against a State
Libya Ordered Immediately to End Threats to Life, People’s Security
(London, March 31, 2011) – The Libyan government should immediately comply with the first binding ruling against a state by the newly operational African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights (EIPR), Human Rights Watch, and Interights said today.
In its pioneering decision, issued on March 25, 2011, and published on March 30, the court unanimously ordered Libya to end any actions that would cause the loss of life or violation of anyone’s “physical integrity” in violation of international human rights law. The ruling is binding on Libya, which is required to report back to the court in 15 days on the steps it has taken to carry out the ruling.
“The African Court’s first ruling is a key moment for the protection of human rights in Africa,” said Clive Baldwin, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. “The African Union should now ensure that Libya quickly abides by its first ruling.”
EIPR, Human Rights Watch, and Interights initiated a case against Libya at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on February 28, based on allegations that numerous human rights violations had occurred from February 16 onward. These included killings by state security forces of people participating in largely peaceful protests and efforts to shut down the internet, stifle communication, and exclude foreign journalists from the country.
The three organizations asked the African Commission to impose immediate "provisional measures" on Libya to stop the human rights violations, including unlawful killings, and to ensure that those responsible for crimes are held accountable.
The African Commission, which is composed of experts from across the continent, decided that there had been “serious and widespread” violations of human rights in Libya, such that for the first time it should submit a case to the African Court. The court quickly decided that the situation was one of “extreme gravity and urgency” and therefore ordered, “provisional measures” against Libya, requiring it to end all acts that risked violating the right to life or physical integrity.
“This is an important development within the African human rights system, demonstrating how the African Commission and court can cooperate in taking action against massive human rights violations,” said Rebecca Wright, Senior Legal Adviser at EIPR. “For the sake of its citizens, the government of Libya needs to respect the court’s ruling and prevent further harm to everyone in the territory.”
The African Court was set up by the member states of the African Union to “take final and binding decisions on human rights violations perpetrated by AU Member States.” Although its first judges were appointed in 2006, it has not been able to issue a substantive ruling on a case until now, partly because only four African states have made the declaration allowing their citizens to submit cases directly to the court. The African Commission can submit a case to the court in situations of serious and widespread violations of human rights.
“While the tragic events in Libya continue to unfold and accounts of further human rights violations emerge, the court’s decision to grant provisional measures in this case is a positive step,” said Joanne Sawyer, litigation director at Interights. “This strong action from the African Court is a clear signal to the Libyan government that they will be held accountable for their actions.”
For more information, please contact:
- In London, for Human Rights Watch, Clive Baldwin (English, French): +44-78-0305-9701 (mobile).
- In New York, for Human Rights Watch, Daniel Bekele (English, Amharic): +1-212-216-1223.
- In Cairo, for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Rebecca Wright (English, French): +202-2796-2682
- In London, for Interights, Judy Oder (English, Luo, Luganda, Kiswahili, French): +44-20-794-30479
Libya: Call for investigation into rape allegations
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has expressed its deep concern about the case of Ms. Iman Al-Obaidi, a lawyer, from Benghazi. On Saturday 25 March 2011, Ms. Iman Al-Obaidi declared in the presence of journalists that she had been beaten and raped by security forces agents in Tripoli. She reported that other women who may still be in detention were also victims of rape. Ms Al-Obaidi showed the journalists marks of injury. While she was testifying in Hotel Rixos, Tripoli, Ms. Al-Obaidi was forced into a car and driven away.
Morocco: Rights organisations modernised
Two weeks after establishing the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), Morocco reformed another state body. The Mediator Institution, set up in mid-March to replace the 10-year-old Diwan Al Madhalim, will have greater powers to tackle rights abuses and conduct probes. The institution will have the power to carry out inquiries and investigations, propose disciplinary action or refer cases to the public prosecutor.
Nigeria: President signs landmark human rights bill
A key human rights bill passed by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan can help tackle abuses in the country, Amnesty International has said. It was announced that Jonathan had signed into law The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Amendment Act, which had been pending approval for six years. The bill secures the independence and funding of the NHRC, which works to protect and promote human rights.
South Africa: Using a nomination campaign to identify new constituencies for human rights
This campaign example from the New Tactics for Human Rights website profiles the 5-in-6 program in South Africa, which raises awareness of the widespread problem of domestic violence through a nomination campaign for male role models. By recognising and honouring local male role models, Charles Maisel taught groups of ordinary men to talk about domestic violence and to see that it is an underlying part of the other problems their communities were facing.
Côte d'Ivoire: Clock is ticking for refugees
The clock is ticking to get help to neglected refugees fleeing Ivory Coast, Oxfam has warned. More than 100,000 people have already crossed the border from Ivory Coast to Liberia and are living in dire conditions in border villages. Unless more is done to get people to safe and serviced areas further inland, they risk being cut off as the rainy season approaches.
Côte d'Ivoire: Refugees reach Togo and Ghana
The Ivorian refugee crisis is spreading further across West Africa, with Ghana and Togo receiving a growing number of new arrivals. On Côte d'Ivoire's eastern flank, Ghana has received 3,129 new refugees, mainly from Abidjan and its suburbs. UNHCR has set up a transit centre at the Elubo border crossing, as well as a refugee camp in the town of Ampain that can hold 3,000 people. The agency is providing food and relief items while racing to complete works on water, health and sanitation facilities.
Kenya: Refugees a concern, Kenya tells UN
Kenya has expressed concern over the instability in Somalia as cross-border raids by insurgents increase and a steady influx of refugees cross the porous frontier. Fighting between Somali government troops and al Shabaab Islamist insurgents has forced hundreds of thousands to flee the lawless Horn of Africa nation, with Kenya hosting more than 500,000 in several camps.
Libya: Dirty dealing with Gadaffi
'When we listen to our leaders' vigorous condemnations of the human rights abuses and lack of democracy of Qaddafi's and other authoritarian regimes in the Mediterranean we would do well to bear in mind how new-founded and limited is their concern for human rights, and how likely it is that they will try to co-opt any new governments in the region to their war against sub-Saharan migrants,' argues a leading human rights lawyer on the website of the Institute of Race Relations. 'For in the past decade, as well as cheerfully returning dozens of suspected Islamists to torture under cover of the flimsiest of diplomatic assurances, Britain and Europe have used Qaddafi and other repressive north African regimes as front men for policies causing thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean and beyond.'
Somalia: Deadly Red Sea migrant route now flows both ways
Unrest in Yemen has prompted hundreds of Somali refugees to once again risk a deadly sea crossing, this time to return to their home country, say officials and migrants. This year alone some 89 people drowned or went missing while crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen. The worst single incident took place in late February when some 57 refugees died after their boat capsized, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Since 2008, well over 1,000 people have failed to survive the crossing.
Somalia: Drought-displaced 'in tens of thousands'
With drought spreading to almost all regions of Somalia, officials and aid workers have expressed concern for those affected, saying drought was now a major cause of displacement. 'Drought, not insecurity, is now the main reason for new displacement in Somalia,' the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA Somalia) said in a March update. 'More than 52,000 people have been displaced due to drought since 1 December 2010, many of them moving to urban areas in search of assistance.'
Tunisia: Thousands stranded in 'appalling' conditions on Italian island
Thousands of people, many who left North Africa following recent unrest, are stranded on the Italian island of Lampedusa in appalling conditions, Amnesty International reports. The unequivocal assessment by Amnesty International's delegation on the island came as Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pledged 'to clear Lampedusa within 48-60 hours'. There are currently about 6,000 foreign nationals on the island, mostly from Tunisia.
South Africa: Joe Slovo informal settlement court judgement welcomed
Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape has welcomed the Joe Slovo Constitutional Court Judgement which was handed down on Thursday last week, which set aside an eviction order granted in June 2009. 'While this is a victory for people of Joe Slovo who did not want to be evicted to Delft, we also note that:
1. If the previous Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was not arrogant, and was willing to engage meaningfully with the residents of Joe Slovo the whole dispute between both parties would have been resolved outside the court and a satisfactory decision to both parties would have been reached.
2. People of Joe Slovo who were shot (during the time that they barricaded the N2 for almost eight hours) by Metro Police, SAPS and Law Enforcement would not have been injured.
3. Those who were wrongfully forced out of Joe Slovo would still be residing at Joe Slovo and also those who lost their jobs after being forcefully evicted, today would have been still working.'
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...
US foreign aid faces cuts as China's reach grows
U.S. efforts to counter China's growing influence in the developing world are a likely casualty of the budget battles dominating Washington's politics, as chunks of the foreign aid program face the ax. That could hurt not just the world's poor, but America's reach in emerging markets where China has ramped up investment and provided easy credit. The Obama administration has sought to step up its engagement in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Central Asia and Latin America. Development aid is a key plank of its strategy. The State Department argues it is "as central to advancing America's interests as diplomacy and defense."
Labour and government take on retail giant
Government and the trade unions may have thrown a spanner in the works by getting the Massmart/Walmart merger hearing delayed by almost two months. However witness statements from the proceedings hint at the ideological war that will take place before the Competition Tribunal in May. The unions' objections to the merger have been buttressed by a number of affidavits filed by lawyers, academics and economic advisors from around the world, presenting anecdotal evidence of examples where the entrance of Walmart into a country has allegedly had a negative effect on small businesses and the labour force. Walmart and Massmart, on the other hand, argue that they will bring real competition, efficiency and job creation to South Africa.
Foreign Investors Grab Land in Southern Sudan, Norwegian Aid Group Says
Foreign investors are buying large tracts of land in Southern Sudan that add up to an area larger than Rwanda, threatening food supplies and stability in a region due to become independent in July, a Norwegian aid group said. International organizations have sought or acquired 26,400 square kilometres (10,000 square miles) of land for agricultural, biofuel and forestry projects since 2007, Oslo- based Norwegian People’s Aid said yesterday in a report. When domestic investments, previously established mechanized farms and investments in tourism are included, the total comes to 57,400 square kilometres, about 9 percent of the region’s total land area, it said.
2. China in Africa
Zambia's Chinese-owned copper plant workers strike
More than 600 workers at Zambia's Chinese-owned Chambishi Copper Smelter have downed tools demanding a pay rise, bringing production at the plant to a halt, a union official said on Friday. Chambishi, a joint venture of China Nonferrous Metals Corporation (CNMC) and Yunnan Copper Industry about 370 km north of Lusaka, processes 150,000 tonnes of blister copper per annum. Mundia Sikufele, president of the National Union of Mining and Allied Workers, said the strike started on Thursday after the management offered a 12 percent pay rise, which the workers rejected.
Africa, China relations top agenda at Nairobi meeting
More than 50 African researchers and think tanks have begun a two-day consultative meeting in Nairobi to explore ways of encouraging research and policy on Africa-China relations. The exercise is expected to create an effective Africa-China Research Cooperation and Academic Exchange programme. The conference that was organised under the auspices of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) seeks to identify research priorities, activities and programmes, policy dialogue and advocacy issues.
Tullow in $2,9bn Uganda deal with Total, CNOOC
British-based oil explorer Tullow Oil has agreed to sell stakes in its Ugandan operations to France's Total and China's CNOOC for $2,9-billion, bringing in big partners to develop the oil fields. Tullow said on Wednesday it agreed to sell each company a one third interest in fields around Lake Albert, which Tullow estimates to contain 1-billion barrels of oil, and potentially as much as 3,5-billion barrels. Tullow will retain a third share.
China and Africa to deepen cooperation on intellectual property
China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) signed a memorandum of cooperation and understanding in Cameroon's capital Yaounde on March 28 to further strengthen the bilateral cooperation in the field of intellectual property. Under the memorandum of cooperation and understanding, the two countries will establish a basic framework for bilateral cooperation and launch activities, such as information exchange, recognition of best practices and capacity construction, to improve the management of the intellectual property systems of both parties and to improve efficiency.
Chinese, Cameroon leaders mark 40th anniversary of ties
Chinese President Hu Jintao exchanged congratulatory messages with his Cameroonian counterpart Paul Biya Saturday to mark the 40th anniversary of bilateral ties. In his message, Hu hailed the healthy and steady development of China-Cameroon relations over the past four decades. The two countries had kept frequent high-level exchanges of visits, conducted fruitful cooperation in various fields, carried out programs within the framework of the China-Africa cooperation forum, and maintained close coordination and collaboration on regional and international affairs, Hu said.
3. India in Africa
India-Africa partnership to fight dryland poverty
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) today announced the formation of ICRISAT South-South Initiative (IS-SI) to boost India-Africa partnership on agriculture research aimed at tackling poverty in drylands. Dr Nigel Poole, Chairman of ICRISAT Governing Board, in a statement said IS-SI will build upon ICRISAT's strong India-Africa partnership to scale up its role as the driver of prosperity and economic opportunities in the dryland tropics.
India-Africa business conclave starts Sunday
With booming two-way trade, investment deals worth billions of dollars are likely to be discussed at the three-day India-Africa project partnership conclave that starts here Sunday, organisers said. Some 800 delegates from nearly 35 African countries are scheduled to participate at the seventh such conclave, co-hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Exim Bank, in cooperation with the ministries of external affairs and commerce. India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is scheduled to kick-off the conclave with a special plenary address Sunday evening at the Taj Palace hotel. The theme this year: Creating Possibilities; Delivering Values.
India-Africa businesses discuss $18 b worth projects
Seeking to forge a new economic partnership, Indian and African businessmen, delegates and political leadership went into a huddle discussing investments to the tune of $18 billion covering nearly 204 projects ranging from energy to education. With the seventh edition of the CII-Exim Bank conclave on India Africa Project Partnership coming to an end on Tuesday, over a dozen Ministers, including two Prime Ministers, attended the meet. The conclave witnessed the largest ever participation of 650 delegates.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
Sudan secures US$360 mil. loan to build new dams and airport
Cash-strapped Sudan secured a US$360 million loan on Monday to help finance a new airport in the capital and two dams in the east of the country that will boost power supplies and irrigate farmland. U.S. sanctions, dwindling foreign reserves and a crippling debt burden, of around US$38 billion, have hampered Sudan's ability to secure external financing for new projects.
India, China To Finance Construction of Rail Network Across Ethiopia
India and China have separately agreed to finance construction of a railway corridor across Ethiopia. The proposed 2,395-km national rail track, which is part of the Growth and Transformation Plan, is being seen as quite significant for the transportation system in this east African country. The entire railway network to be constructed across Ethiopia is estimated to cost $6 billion, of which India has pledged $300 million. The country seeks $300 million more from India, which has pledged assistance for the development of infrastructure in Africa.
BRICS committed to the development of entire world: Chinese official
BRICS countries are committed to the development of developing nations and the entire world, a senior Chinese official said in Beijing on Friday. "It is the noble goal and the strong desire for peace, cooperation and development that made the five countries gather together," said Chinese State Councilor Dai Binggu in a meeting with experts and scholars of think-tanks from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. The experts and scholars, along with their Chinese peers, held a symposium in Beijing on Thursday and Friday to provide suggestions for the third BRICS Leaders' Meeting scheduled for mid-April in southern China.
Russia sees BRICS as key element of new global economic model
The BRICS group is a key element of new global economic model and is expected to push on the reform of global monetary system, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. The ministry's spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a briefing that Russia is optimistic of future of the group, which together accounted for 25 percent of the global GDP. He also noted that South Africa's accession to the group will boost the alliance's relation with the African Union and other international organizations.
Anglo’s Kumba Proposes $7 Billion South African Steel Plant
Kumba Iron Ore Ltd., a unit of Anglo American Plc, proposed that South Africa build a $7 billion plant to make steel slab for export to Asia, helping to cut unemployment and boost growth in Africa’s largest economy. The plan would increase the steel industry’s contribution to economic output to about 17 billion rand ($2.5 billion) in 2015, from 12.7 billion rand in 2008, and create as many as 3,000 jobs, Kumba said in a report today. The plant would export to China, South Korea and Japan, countries with surplus rolling capacity and a shortage of iron ore, a raw material, it said.
India trailing other BRIC nations on digital access
India is trailing the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia and China in the drive to get its population connected to digital technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones, a new report shows. The Digital Inclusion Index, provided by risk analysis firm Maplecroft, said India fell into the category of "extreme risk", meaning its population and economy was being stifled by a lack of "digital inclusion". Maplecroft used 10 indicators to judge the level of access to information communication technologies across 186 countries, including mobile and broadband subscriptions, fixed telephone lines and households with a computer and television.
AU seeks roadmap, transitional govt to resolve Libyan crisis
A consultative meeting of the African Union (AU) and word powers on Libya is seeking to develop a roadmap, including a transition period, to be agreed by warring parties in the North African state, AU Chief, Jean Ping, said. The meeting, called by the AU and attended by Russia, China, US and France, opened in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, Friday. The AU also invited Libyan government and the National Transitional Congress (TNC) to the meeting. Ping said Thursday that the Libyan leader, Mouammar Kadhafi, accepted the invitation and had wanted to send his Prime Minster.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Russia’s response to the Libyan crisis: a paradigm shift?
The rapidly changing situation in North Africa and the Middle East (the NAME region) has presented Russia with a number of difficult foreign policy challenges. Russia’s early reaction to the crisis in Libya has not only confused observers, but also allowed them to talk about a split within the country’s top leadership. Yet, hopefully, in the end, a more mature—and ultimately more effective—Russian policy in the NAME region will emerge.
India, no rubber stamp for West
Emerging from the situation two decades ago, when the country was bankrupt and internationally isolated with the collapse of the Soviet Union, India can derive satisfaction from what has been achieved since then. The nuclear tests of 1998 and end of global nuclear sanctions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 led to worldwide recognition of India as a legitimate nuclear weapons power. With a sustained high rate of economic growth and increasing integration with the global economy, India is now a member of the G-20 and the expanded East Asia Summit comprising the members of Asean together with the US, Russia, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand.
Delhi lags behind Beijing in Africa
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh prepares for the second India-Africa Summit later this summer, a reality check on the last such meet held in Delhi in 2008 shows that where Delhi has dithered, Beijing has quickly covered ground. Even as India has sat complacently, counting basically on the presence of a substantial number of prosperous persons of Indian origin in the region, China has been aggressively working on making its presence felt. This is as true in Tanzania, a country in East Africa with which India has historical relations.
Birkina Faso: Compaore to meet army over protests
Burkina Faso president's said he would meet disgruntled army officers and the head of the armed forces announced a curfew after a series of protests, but appeals for calm went unheeded on Wednesday as soldiers continued to protest. Shots were fired into the air in some neighbourhoods and the mayor's residence in Ouagadougou, the country's capital, was wrecked, witnesses said.
Chad: Opposition quits election body, vote in doubt
Chad's opposition parties withdrew from the electoral commission on Friday (25 March), putting at risk a delayed presidential election scheduled for next month. Three major opposition candidates in the oil-producing Central African country already said this week they would boycott the vote on concerns it would not be credible.
Equatorial Guinea: Police troops stop protests
After banning the planned mass protests in Equatorial Guinea, government sent out massive police forces to prevent the opposition from taking to the streets on 23 March. Equatorial Guinea's main cities - the capital Malabo and the mainland's main city Bata - were dominated by heavily armed police troops to prevent any possible gathering of persons opposing the repressive regime of lifetime President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
Morocco: Thousands demonstrate in Morocco for rights, justice
About 4,000 people demonstrated in Morocco's biggest city Casablanca Sunday (3 April) to demand more democracy and reform, an AFP reporter said. Police said about 2,500 people took part in the demonstrations while organisers put the figure at 10,000. Demonstrators chanted 'No to corruption', 'End social injustice', and 'The people want an end to authoritarianism'.
Niger: New parliament inaugurated
Niger inaugurated its new parliament 30 March for a term of five years following an election on 31 January that ended a year of military rule, reports Bloomberg. The parliament has 107 of its full complement of 113 lawmakers after elections in the northern Agadez region were annulled due to irregularities. The vote will be held again on 16 May.
Nigeria: Key issues in Nigeria's elections
Nigeria's elections look set to be particularly unpredictable, but are critical for the future of Africa's most populous country and potential economic giant. This Chatham House paper examines the key electoral issues facing the country and looks at the long-term view of reforms required if Nigeria is to fulfil its potential and avoid the growing dangers stemming from continued corruption and mismanagement.
Nigeria: Parliamentary polls postponed again
The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria has once again postponed the parliamentary polls until Saturday 9 April. This announcement was made on Sunday (03 April) after a meeting with all political parties' leaders in the country’s capital Abuja. Mr Attahiru Jega, INEC chairperson said that all the parties have fully endorsed the new date. As a result, other elections have been moved forward accordingly. Presidential election has been slated for April 16 while governorship elections in the 36 states will now take place on April 26.
Nigeria: What they're saying about the elections
Power transfers from soldiers to civilians, concession speeches, post-poll lawsuits, unprecedented violence - West Africa has seen mixed outcomes in recent elections, and the region’s most populous country and largest economy is up next: Nigerians are scheduled to vote for a president, legislators and state governors in the coming weeks. Various think tanks and rights groups have been examining election-related violence, calling on candidates and new leaders to safeguard Nigerians' rights, suggesting measures for avoiding a repeat of the nearly universally condemned 2007 elections, and recommending what’s needed to seal much-needed reforms. Observers say with these polls Nigeria could either explode or blossom.
South Africa: Independents ‘show middle finger’
The rise of independent candidates emerging from the structures of the ANC and its alliance partners was the biggest challenge the ruling party faced in the run-up to the May 18 general elections, Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi warned. 'These people basically showed the middle finger to everyone. It’s the biggest crisis we are facing and if we don’t stop it we are all doomed,' Vavi told the Pretoria News.
South Africa: Survey shows growing dissatisfaction with local government performance
A new survey by African democracy institute Idasa shows growing dissatisfaction among SA citizens with local government performance, with only one in ten citizens satisfied with the quality of service delivery provided by their district and municipal council. This is a dramatic decline from its previous survey conducted in 2006 which showed four in ten citizens (39.5 per cent) were still satisfied with service delivery by their local government.
Swaziland: Cosatu to invade Swaziland
On the day of the planned mass protest in the totalitarian kingdom of Swaziland, 12 April, the powerful trade union COSATU in neighbouring South Africa plans a protest march to 'invade' the kingdom in solidarity. Swazi youths fed up with the autocratic government have announced a day of national protests on 12 April through social media, in particular Facebook, following the North African model.
Tunisia: Former Tunisian ruling party loses appeal
A Tunisian court has rejected an appeal by the party of former president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali against a ruling that it be dissolved, state media has reported. A judge had previously ruled on 9 March that Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) be disbanded and its funds seized, provoking street celebrations as one of the last vestiges of the ousted leader's rule was dismantled.
Egypt: Post-Mubarak Egypt probes public land contracts
Egyptian authorities have opened dozens of criminal investigations into hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public land contracts that were awarded illegally to real estate developers associated with former President Hosni Mubarak without proper procedures at below market rates. The current probes are the first steps, and perhaps the most obvious, that emerge in post-Mubarak Egypt towards the country's new economic future - one many here say could be less susceptible to cronyism and shady deals by government officials.
Africa: Africa Platform for Development Effectiveness launched
The Africa Union (AU) and the NEPAD Agency in collaboration with regional economic communities and partners officially launched the Africa Platform for Development Effectiveness (APDev) during the IV AU/ECA joint annual meeting of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance on Saturday (26 March) in Addis Ababa. Endorsed by the 15th African Union Summit of July 2010, APDev is a physical and virtual multi-stakeholder platform and organising mechanism. It aims at mobilising African policymakers, practitioners and other development stakeholders toward achieving sustainable development results.
Ghana: Scholars’ seminar on global financial crisis and Africa ends in Accra
Fierce contestations over the African state has weakened rather than strengthened states on the continent when it comes to performing their functions, said Omano Edigheji from the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa. He was speaking at an event held in Ghana to discuss the impact of the global financial crisis on Africa. The neoliberal agenda, he argued, had very little democracy. If anything, it was very supportive of autocracy. In effect, the dominant neoliberal regime supported authoritarianism. The African state has to be both developmental and democratic.
Global: A decade on Doha stumbles again on old snags
Industrial tariffs and the services industry are proving a major headache for trade negotiators attempting to conclude the Doha round of trade talks. After a decade of negotiation, the talks are far from conclusion. Despite attempts by the WTO to breathe new life into the talks, agricultural subsidies, the liberalisation of the services industry, industrial tariffs and non-tariff barriers remain sticking points.
Global: Combating poverty with 'poor economics'
French economist Esther Duflo thinks poverty can be alleviated or even eradicated with the right policies. All it takes is for politicians to 'translate research into action', implementing programmes that have been shown to work. But that is easier said than done. Duflo, who last year won American Economic Association's prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, acknowledges that it is sometimes frustrating to get policy makers to apply the results of research that could improve people's lives. Sometimes they do not know the evidence and so cannot take the right approach, she adds.
Global: LDC's stagnate on ailing strategies
A report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for the Fourth Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) slated to take place in Istanbul, Turkey in early May expressed a strong critique of the snail's pace of development, but stopped just short of calling for radical new policies to be implemented. The report, entitled 'Growth, Employment and Decent Work in the Least Developed Countries', solidified widespread fears that the 'graduation' rate of LDCs was abysmally low, with only three countries out of 51 - the Maldives, Botswana and Cape Verde - moving out of the category since it was created by the United Nations in 1970.
Global: UN report outlines creative industries’ potential to boost development
Trade in creative goods and services has remained robust despite a decline in global commerce as the result of the world financial crisis, reflecting the potential of the 'creative economy' to boost economic growth particularly in the developing countries, according to a new United Nations report. Global trade in services and products of creativity continued to register an annual average growth of 14 per cent even as world commerce declined by 12 per cent in 2008, according to 'Creative Economy Report 2010: A Feasible Development Option'.
Malawi: Cotton farmers happy at high prices
The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) announced in early March that world cotton prices had reached a new record of two dollars per pound (0.5 kg) in February. ICAC is a global body representing governments, which raises awareness and promotes cooperative action on issues of cotton worldwide. In Malawi, farmers are happy about the news, reports Inter Press Services. Malawi’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture, with cotton contributing about 32 million dollars in foreign exchange earnings.
Africa: Call to respect the right to health care
Health campaigners in east and southern Africa want the United Nations to develop a policy framework to ensure that countries honour and implement the right to health care. At a meeting in Johannesburg, campaigners aired their fears that health as a human right was not receiving the attention it deserves. Chairperson of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Nonkosi Khumalo, said this was evident in many African countries, especially given how AIDS has impacted on health service delivery.
Africa: Progress on MDR-TB, but not enough
Gains have been made in stopping multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), a largely undiagnosed killer, but not enough. By 2015 there will be two million new cases, says a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO). MDR-TB is resistant to first-line TB drugs, such as isoniazid and rifampicin, while extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is resistant to these drugs as well as at least half of the mostly commonly used second-line drugs.
DRC: 'Measles epidemic spiralling out of control' according to MSF
Over the past six months a measles epidemic has been sweeping through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is raising the alarm and calling for concerted action to halt the spread of the disease. 'The measles epidemic is spiralling out of control,' said Gaël Hankenne, MSF head of Mission in the DRC. 'Since September 2010, we have vaccinated more than 1.5 million children in response to the crisis, but the disease is spreading like wildfire. All parties involved in health in the DRC must now make this epidemic a national priority.'
Kenya: Condom recycling highlights gaps in HIV prevention programming
Media images of men in northern Kenya washing condoms for re-use have underscored the need to improve HIV communication and close gaps in the supply of condoms in rural areas. Local TV channels recently showed images of men in Isiolo, in rural northern Kenya, washing condoms and hanging them out to dry. The Ministry of Health recently said the country faced an acute, nationwide shortage of condoms; it has appealed to the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, to supply 45 million condoms.
Kenya: HIV clinic targets East African truckers
Kenya opened its first free 24-hour health clinic on Friday (25 March), aimed at driving down the HIV rate among some of the country's most at-risk groups - long distance truck drivers and sex workers. Organisers said the clinic, set up in a trailer park on the outskirts of Busia town on Kenya's border with Uganda, would offer 'moonlight' testing and counselling, as well as free distribution of condoms. Long days on the road means it is often difficult for truckers to visit conventional medical centres.
Nigeria: Village at the frontline of measles battle
With the global effort to eradicate polio seeing major gains, international health agencies have also been highlighting the fight against measles, the highly contagious disease that kills over 160,000 children each year. India is the hardest hit and Nigeria, despite its major oil wealth, is also at high risk, reporting 14,271 suspected cases and 7,754 confirmed last year, resulting in 151 deaths, reports AFP.
South Africa: Breakthrough in TB diagnostics
Tuberculosis is the leading cause of natural death in South Africa and over 10 per cent of all new TB cases are drug resistant. One of the most important measures for controlling the spread of the bacteria is quick diagnosis and treatment. Revolutionary new testing technology may make this possible.
South Africa: Why South Africa's health record is poor
Despite the fact that South Africa spends a higher proportion of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health than any other country in Africa, its health record compares badly against those of many poor African countries. 'As a country we spend 8,7 per cent of our GDP on health in both the public and private sectors, yet we have little to show for it compared with many countries that are a great deal poorer than us and spend much less on health,' says Daisy Mafubelu, chairman of the organising committee for the Department of Health's upcoming Nursing Summit in Sandton from 5 to 7 April.
Algeria: Teachers clash with police
Algerian contract teachers clashed with law officers on Monday (28 March) near the Presidential Palace in El Mouradia, Tout sur l'Algerie reported. At least 15 teachers were injured, according to National Council of Higher Education Teachers (CNES) spokesperson Mériem Maarouf. For more than a week, the teachers had been staging a peaceful sit-in to demand a status change.
Haiti: Needs of LGBT Haitians largely ignored in post-quake recovery efforts
Violence and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has increased since the January 2010 earthquake, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and SEROvie have said in a new briefing paper. The paper, 'The Impact of the Earthquake, and Relief and Recovery Programs on Haitian LGBT People', documents anti-LGBT human rights violations that have occurred since the earthquake.
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director, IGLHRC (New York)
Tel: (347) 515 0330; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reginald Dupont, Program Manager SEROvie (Haiti):
Tel: +509 37569768 Email: email@example.com
(New York, March 28, 2011) Violence and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has increased since the January 2010 earthquake, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and SEROvie said in a briefing paper issued today. The paper, The Impact of the Earthquake, and Relief and Recovery Programs on Haitian LGBT People, documents anti-LGBT human rights violations that have occurred since the earthquake.
“UN Agencies, private organizations, and governments must recognize the horrible impact of the Haiti disaster on LGBT people,” said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC’s Executive Director. “While the needs of some marginalized groups are at least acknowledged, LGBT people are completely ignored.”
Perhaps most shocking, conservative religious leaders in Haiti even blame LGBT for the earthquake, leading to increased stigma and violence.
“In the days and weeks after the earthquake, we were shouted at in the streets…you gay people, take your sin and go, you are responsible for this tragedy’” said Reginal Dupont, Program Manager at SEROvie. “Many masisi were attacked, verbally and physically.”
This irrational blaming of LGBT people for natural disasters is a global phenomenon, with conservative evangelicals like Pat Robertson having blamed homosexuality for the devastation of Hurricane Katrina as well as other natural disasters.
The findings detailed in IGLRHC/SEROvie briefing paper are based on more than 50 interviews conducted by IGLHRC and SEROvie in Haiti in April and September of 2010 with LGBT people and representatives of relief organizations, the United Nations and diplomatic missions in April 2010.
The much-needed security, health and community services provided by organizations such as SEROvie - rare enough before the quake - have been devastated and this has compounded the vulnerability of people whose lives were already characterized by secrecy, isolation, discrimination, and violence.
According to Reginald DuPont, SEROvie’s Program Manager, “Our center was a place for LGBT people to relax, obtain services, and find acceptance. The earthquake destroyed our offices, took the lives of fourteen young men, and deprived the community of a safe haven.”
IGLHRC and SEROvie acknowledge the devastation suffered by all Haitians but it is important to note that LGBT Haitians suffered a range of human rights violations, including those related to their right to security, in particular ways. “LGBT people rely on friends, family and trusted neighbors for security,” said Johnson, “The earthquake disrupted regular patterns of movement, scattered friends, families, and neighbors, and damaged or destroyed the doors, windows, and walls that had previously provided some measure of safety.”
As the briefing paper notes, the basic rights of LGBT Haitians were violated in other ways. Interviews with Haitians and international aid workers show how, for example, the well-intentioned policy of distributing emergency food rations to female heads-of-households had the unintended side-effect of excluding many gay men and transgender people living in families without an adult female. Many lesbian women living without male relatives or friends, although otherwise able to obtain food aid, were discouraged by chaotic and dangerous distribution lines.
This increased vulnerability of LGBT people in disasters and emergency response situations is not unique to Haiti, and IGLHRC and SEROvie draw on similar experiences from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in the US and the 2010 Chilean earthquake in the briefing paper’s conclusions and recommendations.
“While earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes and other natural phenomena will continue to occur, there is nothing natural or inevitable about the ways in which LGBT people are denied equal access to housing, food and security that could mitigate the impact of such disasters,” said Johnson.
IGLHRC and SEROvie urge the government of Haiti and other governments facing such disasters, as well as donors and aid agencies, to base relief and reconstruction efforts on the respect and promotion of all human rights, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to include LGBT organizations in relief and recovery efforts.
* The mission of The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is advancing human rights for everyone, everywhere to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, and has an office in Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information.
South Africa: LGBTI community considers whether to vote in local elections
Despite the 'evident lack of prioritising' by the South African government on addressing issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, in accordance with the constitution, some of the country’s gays and lesbians say voting is a right that citizens should be proud of and have urged the gay community to make their mark in order to hold the leaders accountable on human rights. This, as South Africa gears for local government elections on 18 May, with some in the gay community indicating that they will not vote since, they say, government does not take hate crimes and other issues affecting LGBTI people seriously.
South Africa: Visual activists work recognised
World renowned lesbian photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi has once again been recognised for her work as her award winning film 'Difficult Love' is being screened in local and international film festivals. The film was commissioned by the SABC and is co-directed by Peter Goldsmid and Zanele Muholi. It was first screened last year at the Out in Africa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The film has been described as a portrait of Muholi and her work and a highly personal take on the challenges facing Black lesbians in South Africa.
Zimbabwe: Detention, harassment and intimidation of GALZ members
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe have issued a statement noting with 'grave concern', cases related to arbitrary detentions, harassment and intimidation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members of the organisation by law enforcement agents, family and community leaders.
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe
Detention, Harassment and Intimidation of GALZ members
1 April 2011
GALZ notes with grave concern, cases related to arbitrary detentions, harassment and intimidation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members of the organisation by law enforcement agents, family and community leaders.
On the 23rd March 2011, law enforcement agents stormed the house of a male member who was in the company of four male friends. The law enforcement agents conducted a search of the premises without a search warrant. After the search, the agents took the names of all present and detained them at a Police post. The five were taken to the police station and charged with Disorderly Conduct. Whilst at the police station, the police abused and ridiculed the five. All five individuals were fined US$10 with an extra charge of US$30 to entice the officer into receipting the fines.
On the 25th March 2011, law enforcement agents detained two female members of GALZ after they were taken to the police station by relatives on allegations of practising homosexuality. The two members were interrogated separately and threatened with arrest if they denied the charges. Police officers seized the members’ mobile phones and called people in the contacts list to ascertain the
nature of the two members’ relationship. While at the police station, members were verbally abused and had photographs taken by law enforcement agents who threatened to send the photographs to a local tabloid.
Again on 25 March, two female members were threatened by a local ward councillor who alleged that they were homosexuals. All cases have been referred to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Africa: Bank creates renewable energy fund
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has established a $57-million fund for renewable energy projects across the continent. The Denmark-backed Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa joins two other similar green energy funds in the region worth $6-billion being run by the AfDB and twelve non-African donor countries.
Global: Leaked World Bank energy strategy pushes destructive dams
In a time of climate change, decentralized, adaptable and diversified water and energy projects are best suited to respond to increasingly variable and unpredictable weather patterns. Large dams risk becoming uneconomic due to droughts, and unsafe due to more extreme storms. They will also further degrade freshwater ecosystems which are already reeling under the impacts of climate change. In spite of this, the World Bank’s new Energy Strategy calls for increased funding for large dams. According to International Rivers, a strategy that is based on yesterday’s technologies cannot resolve tomorrow’s problems.
30 March 2011
Contact: Zachary Hurwitz, Policy Coordinator, +1 415 341 5264, +1 510 848 1155, firstname.lastname@example.org
World Bank Energy Strategy: Yesterday’s Technologies a Bad Match for Tomorrow’s Problems
In a time of climate change, decentralized, adaptable and diversified water and energy projects are best suited to respond to increasingly variable and unpredictable weather patterns. Large dams risk becoming uneconomic due to droughts, and unsafe due to more extreme storms. They will also further degrade freshwater ecosystems which are already reeling under the impacts of climate change. In spite of this, the World Bank’s new Energy Strategy calls for increased funding for large dams. According to International Rivers, a strategy that is based on yesterday’s technologies cannot resolve tomorrow’s problems.
Titled, Energizing Sustainable Development, the new Energy Strategy was prepared by the World Bank’s management and will be discussed by a committee of the Bank’s board of directors on April 11. The strategy, which was leaked to the public today, calls for “increasing engagement in hydropower.” It proposes a new focus on large, regional projects particularly in Africa that “can take advantage of economies of scale.” The document states that “the energy sector will seek to increase the average size of its projects to reinforce [World Bank Group] operational efficiency.”
In a critique of the Energy Strategy, Zachary Hurwitz, policy coordinator of International Rivers, states: “Climate change is reducing streamflow in rivers around the world, while increasing storms and siltation due to extreme weather events. These trends make dams a risky and inappropriate solution for the problems of climate change. The World Bank should stay ahead of the curve and support market-ready renewable technologies, such as wind and non-dam kinetic hydropower projects, rather than the large dams of the past.”
Sena Alouka, Director of Jeunes Volontaires pour L’Environnement in Togo, comments: “It’s clear that in the current situation of economic crisis and climate uncertainty, pushing for hydropower can be disastrous for Africa, and can lure the continent in a no-return, debt-prone and miserable situation. Africa has abundant alternatives, and needs to thoroughly assess all options. Africa needs to think small, think close, and think durable!”
Peter Bosshard, policy director of International Rivers, adds: “Decentralized renewable energy projects such as wind, solar and small hydro projects are best suited to expand access to electricity, reduce poverty and strengthen resilience to climate change at the same time. They could also avoid the serious environmental impacts of large dams. The World Bank should support such a win-win approach rather than to promote outdated large dams, which primarily serve the interests of the Bank and the hydropower lobby in big, expensive, centralized projects.”
A copy of the confidential World Bank Energy Strategy is available at www.eenews.net/assets/2011/03/30/document_cw_01.pdf
For more information on hydropower and climate change, please visit www.internationalrivers.org/en/global-warming
Contact for questions on hydropower: Zachary Hurwitz, International Rivers, +1 415 341 5264, email@example.com
Contact for questions on fossil fuels: Steve Kretzmann, Oil Change International, +1 202 497 1033; John Coequyt, Sierra Club, +1 202 669 7060.
International Rivers is an environmental and human rights organization with staff in four continents. For over two decades, International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them. www.internationalrivers.org
Global: Will Rio+20 squander green legacy of the original Earth summit?
'Far from cooking up a plan to save the Earth, what may come out of the summit could instead be a deal to surrender the living world to a small cabal of bankers and engineers - one that will dump the promises of the first Rio summit along the way,' warns Jim Thomas about the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, due to happen next year. 'Tensions are already rising between northern countries and southern countries over the poorly defined concept of a global "Green Economy" that will be the centerpiece of the summit.'
Madagascar: Toward a new regulatory framework for agricultural investment
The 1.3 million hectare agricultural project planned in Madagascar by South Korean company Daewoo Logistics exemplified the risks of large-scale land acquisition for local people, governments, and investors alike. It also highlighted issues associated with agricultural investments of this type in terms of economic growth, equity, and social cohesion. However, despite the failure of this project and the new political context in Madagascar, the flow of agricultural investments continues. What regulations are available to govern such projects? asks the Madagascar Land Observatory.
Tanzania: Arusha to host 2011grassroots women's land economy
Nearly 50 grassroots women's groups from 13 sub-Saharan African countries are convening in Arusha for crucial talks on pertinent issues of women's ownership and control of land and resources to secure livelihoods. Dubbed as the 2011 ‘Women's Land Link Africa (WLLA) Grassroots Women's Land Academy', hosted by Maasai Women Development Organisation (MWEDO), it is facilitated by the Huairou Commission with its base in New York, in the US.
Zimbabwe: Great potential of Zimbabwe land reform limited by violent state?
Myths about land reform in Zimbabwe abound: the process is frequently described as a total failure, favouring political elites and cronies instead of the poor, lacking investment in new settlements, creating chronic food insecurity, and leading to the collapse of the rural economy. But do these media-perpetuated ideas bear any resemblance to reality? In 'Zimbabwe Land Reform: Myths and Realities' researchers found that the international media discourse on Zimbabwe land reform had little substance: the process was not a total failure, land had not all (or even mostly) gone to political cronies, investments were being made in new settlements, significant levels of crop production were taking place, and while rural economies were changing and adapting, they were not in total collapse. The full review is available at the blog Another Countryside.
Cameroon: Cameroonian reporter detained after questioning arrests
Using a vague criminal code provision allowing authorities to detain individuals deemed a threat to public order, a provincial governor in Cameroon threw a journalist in prison for inquiring about the arrests of two employees of a state-run palm oil company, according to local journalists. In a statement, the local press union Network of Journalists of The North said Adamawa Gov. Enow Abraham Egbe ordered a five-day detention for reporter Lamissia Adoularc, a correspondent for the daily Le Jour to 'ensure the protection of the journalist'.
Somalia: Journalists harassed, arrested
Two members of privately-owned Radio Shabelle were arrested 27 March in Mogadishu, while two other journalists have been held in the northeastern region of Puntland and the northwestern region of Somaliland for more than a week. Reported Without Borders has called for the immediately release of all four journalists and a halt to their persecution. 'The transitional federal government is doing nothing to encourage the work of the media in a country in which the constant fighting is already the source of a great deal of danger for reporters and the intolerance of the Islamist militias makes their work even more dangerous if not impossible,' Reporters Without Borders said.
South Africa: Zulu newspapers thrive
Five newspapers line a vendor's makeshift table built from cardboard and sticks but most customers go straight for Isolezwe, one of South Africa's growing Zulu-language dailies. 'I guess people feel comfortable reading in their language,' says Blessings Kupe from his stand at a busy Johannesburg taxi rank where he offers the country's most-read papers, all English titles like Daily Sun and The Star.
Swaziland: Swazi government threatens facebookers
The government of Swaziland has, and continues to threaten with prosecution, people who are expressing themselves using popular social media such as Facebook. The government has accused the Facebookers as being too critical to the government and the ruling elites in Swaziland. On 25 March 2011, the prime minister assured senators in Parliament that his government would track down, arrest and prosecute one Gangadza Masilela whose Facebook wall has been critical of the status quo in Swaziland and the leadership in the country. Masilela, who is believed to be using a pseudonym, has a large following on his facebook wall.
Zimbabwe: High Court appeal in facebook case
On 17 March, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) filed an appeal with the High Court challenging a Bulawayo magistrate’s denial of bail to Vikas Mavhudzi, who is facing charges of attempting to overthrow the government through comments posted on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s facebook wall. Through the facebook posting, Mavhudzi is alleged to have 'unlawfully or suggested' to Tsvangirai the taking over or attempt to take over the government by unconstitutional means or usurping the functions of the government.
Zimbabwe: Reporter attacked as Daily News resumes publishing
Reporters Without Borders has welcomed the return of the Daily News after a seven-year closure but is disturbed to learn that one of its reporters was attacked 24 March. The newspaper has been back on the newsstands since 18 March, boldly proclaiming in an editorial in its first issue its intention to denounce abuse of authority and 'bad governance'. The Daily News reporter was attacked by supporters of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai while interviewing people at the headquarters of Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Mozambique: Food and fuel price increases, subsidies for poor
Mozambique will raise food and fuel prices from April but subsidise food for two million poor, to avoid the sort of protests that have rocked North Africa and the Middle East, a government official said on Wednesday. Planning and Development Minister Aiuba Cuereneia said the decision was taken after this week's cabinet meeting. 'We will review the fuel prices between April and June but the rise will not go over 10 percent,' he told Reuters.
Senegal: Fishermen mobilise against foreign boats
Thousands of Senegalese fishermen and boatowners have demonstrated against the presence of foreign ships, which they said were authorised by the government and pillaging natural resources. Small scale fishermen and boatowners condemned the issuing of 'illegal' licences to some 20 boats that have been in Senegalese waters for several months.
Cote d'Ivoire: 'Hundreds killed' in violence
At least 800 people have been reported killed in one town in Cote d'Ivoire, according to the Red Cross, as fierce fighting continues to grip the country. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the deaths reportedly took place during intercommunal violence in the western town of Duekoue on Tuesday. Dorothea Krimitas, an ICRC spokeswoman, said on Saturday (02 April) that the violence likely erupted the day after the town was taken by fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the country's internationally recognised leader.
Côte d’Ivoire: Residents live in terror as rival forces battle for Abidjan
Heavy fighting took place in Côte d’Ivoire’s main city, Abidjan, for a third day over the weekend as rival forces battle for power. Fighters loyal to the internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara battled for control of the presidential palace and barracks still loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. The battle for Abidjan remains fierce, with heavy fighting reported on Saturday (02 April) around the Agban military base in the centre of the city.
Libya: First shots from the battle for Benghazi
This Al Jazeera video clip covers the first days of the uprising Benghazi. New footage has emerged from this period showing gunmen – who appear to be Gaddafi loyalists – shooting unarmed protesters dead. With armed men dragging people from Benghazi’s mosque, others were left to die on the streets.
Libya: Refugees tell of massacre in Misrata
Bodies are lying in the streets of the besieged Libyan city of Misrata and its hospital is overflowing with the injured, an evacuee has said after arriving in Tunisia. Misrata is the only big rebel stronghold left in western Libya and has been under attack for weeks by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. Accounts from Misrata cannot be independently verified because Libyan authorities are not allowing journalists to report freely from the city.
Libya: Regime exit plan on the cards?
Authorities in Greece say Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi is seeking to negotiate an end to the fighting that has pitted his forces against antigovernment rebels since February. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on 3 April that at least two of Qaddafi's sons backed a plan to remove their father from power and usher in a transition to a constitutional democracy.
Somalia: Seven killed in Somalia clashes
Pro-government forces in Somalia Sunday attacked bases of the Al Qaeda-linked Shebab militants in a southern town sparking fighting in which seven people died, officials and witnesses said. The clashes erupted at noon on the fringes of Dhobley and continued for about five hours. Witnesses said both sides used heavy machine guns, mortars and anti-aircraft guns.
Zimbabwe: What Zimbabwe means for an arms trade treaty
Since 2000, Zimbabweans have suffered from high levels of political violence, human rights violations and intimidation. In response, a number of states and the European Union (EU) have imposed arms embargoes. In contrast, China and Russia have voiced no concerns about the situation and continue to supply arms and military equipment. Zimbabwe thus provides a useful case study that illustrates the diverging opinions among major international arms exporters regarding the circumstances that justify a restriction on the supply of arms and military equipment, says this background paper.
Africa: New website helps transition to digital broadcasting in Africa
African countries have committed to migrating to digital broadcasting by June 2015. A new website developed by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Balancing Act is part of an initiative which aims to help policy-makers and others focus their efforts on how to lower the cost of digital migration and look at how a wider range of benefits can be reaped. The website provides African policy-makers, regulators, broadcasters and civil society organisations with information on the benefits and challenges that come with the process and the policy issues that need to be addressed.
Africa: Twitter slowly returns
Over 2.5 years ago Twitter shut down all operations in Africa. What they had shut down was text messaging, due to non-sustainable business relationships with the mobile operators in each country. But now, three countries have it working; Nigeria, Kenya and Madagascar. The Twitter team is working on relationships for expanding SMS service throughout a lot of countries in Africa, reports the blog White African.
Global: New online guide for using Web 2.0 tools to link research and policy
The 'Impact 2.0 iGuide: New mechanisms for linking research and policy', is a guide designed to help researchers identify the right Web 2.0 tools for establishing links with policy makers, for building their online presence and credibility and for effectively communicating their research.
Centre of Memory launches social media plan
The Centre of Memory at the Nelson Mandela Foundation has announced its online debut on social media platforms Twitter and Facebook. The Centre of Memory is now live and tweeting and has a dedicated Facebook page.
Freedom Fone v2.0 available
Great news, Freedom Fone v2.0 has arrived. The Freedom Fone platform enables automated, interactive, two-way, audio information to be shared through mobile phone networks. The DIY platform is accessible, user-friendly, low-cost, scalable, global and does not require Internet access for users and callers alike.
Global: The Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter
The Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter is a monthly electronic publication that provides news, reflection, and learning on the provision of refugee legal aid. It is aimed primarily to be a resource for legal aid providers in the Global South where law journals and other resources are hard to access. The newsletter now has a blog which can be accessed at http://frlan.tumblr.com/
LGBTI rights funding
An LGBTI Rights Initiative from the Open Society Foundations will provide funding to local rights groups and regional networks in the developing world. It will also support global advocacy initiatives that advance LGBTI rights and complement efforts at the local level. Visit the website provided for more information.
Free e-course on social and economic policies
This programme is a foundational course on economic and social policies to promote equity and child rights. The topics covered include: the human rights-based approach to development; equitable macroeconomic and sector policies; public finance and social budgeting; multidimensional poverty; social protection, migration and climate change. This course is being offered free of charge to ensure maximum outreach.
Invitation: Symposium on 'The Scramble for Africa'
Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa, 25-26 May 2011
There is a need to acknowledge all the positive data both from Africa's suffering and successes to counter effectively either the continuation of the old or the new scramble for Africa. Africa must claim the 21st century as the African century.
Bibliographies on biofuels, land rights in Africa & global land grabbing
A Revised Annotated Guide to the Bibliographies on Biofuels, Land Rights in Africa and Global Land Grabbing, March 2011
Source: Robin Palmer (Mokoro)
Summary: A revised annotated guide to the two bibliographies, which includes some of the main highlights from reports, press cuttings, journal articles, books (on biofuels) and TV, video and radio clips. The last is included as they can be revealing of the attitudes of those engaged in the land grabbing phenomenon.
Date: March 2011
Download the full paper (PDF 504KB)
Select Bibliography of Reports on Biofuels, Land Rights in Africa & Global Land Grabbing NEW
Source: Robin Palmer (Mokoro)
Summary: A new updated select bibliography of reports on biofuels, land rights in Africa and global land grabbing. 100 organizations are cited, with the majority of reports coming from FAO, GRAIN, SCI-DEV NET, Pambazuka News, IIED, and OHCHR.
Date: March 2011
Download the full paper (PDF 568KB)
Select Bibliography of Press Cuttings on Biofuels, Land Rights in Africa & Global Land Grabbing NEW
Source: Robin Palmer (Mokoro)
Summary: A new updated select bibliography of press cuttings on biofuels, land rights in Africa and global land grabbing. It is organised geographically: global, Africa general, 35 African countries and regions, Middle East, Asia, Latin America.
Date: March 2011
[http://bit.ly/g9ABk2]Download the full paper[/url](PDF 1.16MB)
Independent Review Committee panel members
The GAVI Alliance
The GAVI Alliance has already established a panel of potential Independent Review Committee (IRC) members to support their innovative grant proposal process, and progress monitoring and evaluation system. GAVI is keen that this panel should grow and more closely reflect the demographic profile of its low and middle income partner countries. Applications to join the IRC panel are therefore invited from suitably post graduate qualified and experienced health and public health experts with a range of backgrounds. Below are English and French versions of the advert, together with links to .PDF files of the adverts.
Integrity and expertise in public health
Panel Members – Health Professionals
Prestigious part-time positions (2-4 weeks p.a.)
The GAVI Alliance was launched in 2000 to increase immunisation coverage and reverse widening global disparities in access to new vaccines. Governments in donor and developing countries, UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, civil society, foundations, vaccine manufacturers, and research and technical institutions work together as partners in the GAVI Alliance to achieve common goals, in recognition that only through a strong and united effort can higher levels of support for global immunisation be generated.
To support their innovative grant proposal process, and progress monitoring and evaluation system, GAVI has already established a panel of potential Independent Review Committee (IRC) members, and is keen now that this panel should grow and more closely reflect the demographic profile of its low and middle income partner countries.
Applications to join the IRC panel are invited from suitably post graduate qualified and experienced health and public health experts with a range of backgrounds. In particular, and although our selection process is merit based, we would very much welcome applications from suitably qualified and experienced French speakers and women.
For more information about these positions, including the range of backgrounds, please visit our dedicated website which provides also details of the application process.
Closing date for applications is 8 May 2011.
Interested applicants should continue to monitor the website to see if this changes.
To save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in poor countries
Intégrité et expertise en santé publique
Membres du comité - professionnels de la santé
Éminents postes à temps partiel (2-4 semaines p.a.)
GAVI Alliance a été lancée en 2000 afin d'accroître la couverture vaccinale et éliminer les disparités mondiales grandissantes en matière d'accès aux nouveaux vaccins. Les gouvernements des pays donateurs et des pays en développement, l'UNICEF, l'OMS, la Banque mondiale, la société civile, les fondations, les fabricants de vaccins, et les instituts de recherches et d’enseignements techniques travaillent ensemble en tant que partenaires de GAVI Alliance, pour atteindre des objectifs communs, bien conscients que seules l’union et la consolidation de leurs efforts peuvent permettre un meilleur soutient de la vaccination mondiale.
Afin de soutenir leur processus novateur de proposition de subventions, le suivi des progrès et le système d’évaluation, GAVI a déjà formé une équipe potentielle pour faire parti du Comité indépendant de révision (IRC). GAVI souhaite maintenant que ce groupe soit élargit mais aussi qu’il reflète mieux le profil démographique de ses pays partenaires à faible et moyen revenu.
Afin d’agrandir l’IRC, nous sommes à la recherche d’experts de la santé et de la santé publique, ayant suivi des études supérieures et aux profils variés. Bien que notre processus de sélection soit fondé sur le mérite, nous sommes tout particulièrement intéressés par des personnes parlant le français et/ou de sexe féminin.
Pour de plus amples informations à propos de ces postes, notamment les divers types de profils recherchés, veuillez consulter notre site internet où vous trouverez aussi une description du processus de sélection.
La date limite pour postuler à cette offre est le 8 Mai 2011.
Les candidats intéressés voudront bien se reporter au site internet pour toutes éventuelles modifications.
Sauver la vie des enfants et protéger la santé des personnes en élargissant l’accès à la vaccination dans les pays pauvres
Africa: WikiLeaks cables reveal French crimes in Africa
Documents published by WikiLeaks reveal important details about the crimes committed by French imperialism in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Rwanda, and the existing ties between French and African politicians. The cables published by WikiLeaks confirm that 50 years after 'decolonization', corrupt networks - binding together the banks, oil companies, the French armed forces and the African regimes - have continued to function in order to plunder Africa as well as attack French workers by contributing to the maintenance of the Chirac and Sarkozy governments.
South Africa: WikiLeaks exposes ANC election fears
The Tshwane local government election battle has heated up, with revelations from whistleblower website WikiLeaks that the ANC is nervous the DA's 'day dreams' will be realised in the metro. The DA said this confirms the ANC's fears in the capital. According to a WikiLeaks cable which emerged last month, the ANC's Gauteng spokesperson Dumisa Ntuli told an American diplomat that the ANC was bothered that it could possibly lose Tshwane to the DA.
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