Pambazuka News 526: Reflections on uprisings and unrest
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. Highlights French edition, 8. Highlights Portuguese edition, 9. Zimbabwe update, 10. African Union Monitor, 11. Women & gender, 12. Human rights, 13. Refugees & forced migration, 14. Emerging powers news, 15. Elections & governance, 16. Development, 17. Health & HIV/AIDS, 18. Education, 19. LGBTI, 20. Environment, 21. Land & land rights, 22. Food Justice, 23. Media & freedom of expression, 24. Conflict & emergencies, 25. Internet & technology, 26. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 27. Fundraising & useful resources, 28. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 29. Publications, 30. Jobs
Highlights from this issue
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Assessing Zimbabwe’s GPA as a mechanism for change
AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: The United States of Africa – a reality?
WOMEN AND GENDER: Overcoming gender myths in science in Africa
HUMAN RIGHTS: Severe attacks on essential freedoms in Uganda, says human rights group
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: EU states bicker over North Africa refugee crisis
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Latest news about China, India and Africa
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Benin, Chad, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia
DEVELOPMENT: Southern Africa free trade plan may repeat previous mistakes; World Bank to invest in palm oil sector and Congo’s energy divide
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: AU health ministers respond to climate change health threat; Memo issued against HIV bill in Uganda
EDUCATION: New education policy for Kenya
LGBTI: Documentary offers advocacy tools for LGBTI activists
ENVIRONMENT: Developed countries told to put up or shut up on climate negotiations
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Land dispossession as never before, says land rights conference
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Study finds mounting threats to internet freedom
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from Burkina Faso, Libya, Nigeria and South Sudan
PLUS…Internet and Technology, e-newsletters and mailing lists, fundraising, courses and jobs…
Unrest in Algeria: The window is closing fast
‘Algeria is “sitting on a volcano”. We will continue to sift for opportunities to support reform, and should be prepared to offer our frank but private opinion of Algeria’s progress along the way’. This was how David Pearce, the former US ambassador to Algiers, concluded his report to the State Department four days after the April 2009 presidential elections, an election which paved the way for a third term for Abdelaziz Bouteflika, following an amendment of the constitution in November 2008 which removed the restriction on only two consecutive mandates. Algerians and close observers of Algerian affairs did not of course need WikiLeaks cables to know that Algeria has been sitting on a volcano. Algeria has been in a state of paralysis since plans for the third term went ahead two years ago. It was a moment when the Algerian ruling establishment crossed the rubicon.
A general state of government dysfunction manifests in every aspect of Algerian affairs, not least the SONATRACH scandal and several other corruption affairs in various key sectors. As the ruling establishment struggled to reconcile their entrenched disagreements, a state of paralysis gripped the already-blocked channels of communication between state and society. This meant that violent protests and riots have become the only medium of exchange between the top and bottom structures of the state. The genuine civil society in Algeria has been decimated and replaced, over the last two decades or so, by a facade, weak and discredited structure of rent distribution and cooptation. Algeria’s return to the World Cup, after 20 years, galvanised the national spirit and delayed the inevitable explosion of frustration fuelled by the lack of opportunity for the youth in a country which has struggled to take off economically, despite the unprecedented public investment programmes (US$200 billion for 1999–2008 and US$286 billion for 2009–2014) and US$150 billion in reserves. As soon as the World Cup anaesthesia was over, Algerians woke up to the same bitter reality, and as the Tunisian uprising rolled into its third week, Algerian youth were rioting in the streets in early January protesting exclusion and demanding social justice. Those riots were very violent in over 20 provinces and resulted in five killed, several hundreds wounded and over 1,000 arrested. The destruction of public property and damage to private businesses were significant. But because this was Algeria, a country that is no stranger to violent protest, the riots were overshadowed by the uprising next door in Tunisia, whose last revolt dated to the early 1980s. By 10 January calm was re-established while the government rushed in to pass an emergency economic incentive package in order to cap tariffs and grant tax breaks on basic foodstuff imports. The government blamed the riots on lobbies’ plotting in an effort to challenge new commercial regulations, and opted to believe that the problem was a mere consumption one fuelled by hikes in foodstuffs. Witnessing the uprising in one of the neighbourhoods of Algiers from its eruption to the return of calm, I warned at the time that the issue was primarily political.
The spectacular way in which Ben Ali fled and Mubarak resigned increased panic within the ruling establishment in Algiers. A more comprehensive economic package targeted to the youth was deployed, which included almost interest-free loans and subsidies for housing, among other measures. The news of the uprising coming from neighbouring Libya added to the distress of the establishment, while timid but growing calls for genuine reform started to open the debate on an issue which had until then been ignored. Panic was at its peak. The tragic turn of events which had taken place in Libya was a golden opportunity for the regime in that it could revive the fear of Algerians of returning to the bloody civil conflict 1990s decade should they press further for demands for radical reforms. The regime have come to the charge now that it could play on the difficult memory of the tragic 1990s among Algerians. Nevertheless, what remained of the genuine civil society managed to form a broad coalition, headed by the respected human rights militant Ali Yahia Abdennour, aged 90, intellectual Dr Fodil Boumala and columnist Kamel Daoud, to name a few. The National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD) led by Dr Mustapha Bouchachi, the president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, succeeded in breaking the barrier of fear when it managed to stage a march in Algiers despite the unprecedented and disproportionately heavy riot-police blockade. The 19-year long state of emergency was lifted soon thereafter de jure, but it remains in force de facto in that marches are still banned and a new legal framework of security measures has been put in lieu of the state of emergency.
The escalation of violence in Libya suited the regime’s rhetoric in deterring any peaceful mass mobilisation for fear the country might default back to the instability of the 1990s. The regular Saturday marches organised by the CNCD lost momentum and the regime’s bet on the collective tragic memory and fear seemed winning. The government then geared up its campaign to claim that Bouteflika has been in office for only 12 years (unlike Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gaddafi and Abdullah Salah) and that the government has delivered in comparison. In other words, Algeria is not Tunisia, nor for that matter Egypt or Libya.
On those two accounts my counter-argument has been the following: the regime would be making a big mistake to exaggerate the impact of the memory of the 1990s on the twenty and thirty year olds. If fear of returning to the violent and tragic 1990s is so deeply instilled among Algerians then how would the regime then explain the fact that Algerians have been protesting violently almost non-stop, especially over the last two years? How would it explain the 11,000 riots and 70 protests registered in 2010 and last March alone respectively? There is no denying the presence of fear but it is not as profound within this disfranchised young generation as its elders. The lack of opportunity has offset fear below the deterrence threshold. On the argument that the government has delivered then I would say the riots themselves over jobs, public services and housing undermine those claims and anything achieved is dwarfed by the financial means available ($158 billion in reserves) and the duration (two terms and half). The humiliating way in which the constitution was amended to allow a third term tarnished the little achievements of Bouteflika’s rule.
Meanwhile, calls for genuine reform emerged from within the ranks of the regime. Key historic figures like Abdelhamid Mehri and Hocine Ait Ahmed have both addressed open letters to Bouteflika urging him to execute profound political reforms so as to coincide with Algeria’s 50th anniversary of independence next year. There have been similar calls from within the ranks of the military, as well as the intelligence services Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS) in the form of articles in Le Monde diplomatique (and the Algerian daily El Watan). This latter’s dossier of 15 March on the DRS was historic in that for the first time public debate has been opened on the security intelligence services and their role within the affairs of the state. It is clear something is in the making. Now even the coalition parties forming the ruling government have called for profound reforms, including amendments to reinstate into the constitution the two-term restriction and dissolving the whole facade democracy structure (parliament, local assemblies, call for anticipated elections, etc).
This has created the perception that the regime is on the defensive and compelled to buy social peace in order to quell any sign of unrest. It is what I call ‘the now-or-never moment’. Over the last two weeks several sectors have staged sit-ins in Algiers, despite the heavy security presence and curtailment. The list is long but four need be examined to elicit the trend. First, the students went on strike and camped outside the Ministry of Higher Education, as well as the presidency palace, for over a month. Second, paramilitary communal guards, formed in the 1990s to help combat terrorism alongside the regular military and police forces, managed to march in Algiers, in uniform, to protest plans to disband the corps. Third, teachers on temporary contracts for many years maintained a sit-in outside the presidency palace for 10 years despite police harassment aimed at breaking up the protest. Fourth, Sonatrach workers in the gas-rich field Hassi R’mel went on hunger strike on socio-economic grievances for few days, following which the company’s top management has come to meet their demands this week. All four protests managed to have most of their demands satisfied after two weeks of a bras de fer with the regime. This has had an instant domino effect on the other sectors, and right now resident doctors (7,500 doctors) and the powerful independent civil servants union, which comprises the personnel of Algeria’s 1,541 municipalities, have all gone on strike. Meanwhile, protests of neighbourhoods and the jobless have been flaring up here and there more often. This week Mohamed Slmani self-immolated his 19-year-old body and succumbed to his burn wounds several hours later. Over 30 have now gone down that path, among whom six have died.
The regime might have perfected tactics of all sorts (media campaigns, heavy security policing, etc) in order to abort the revived civil society mobilisation in the aftermath of the Tunisian uprising, and one might argue that it has succeeded in that effort. What we are, however, observing now is that the mass mobilisation the regime feared has gone sector-based, making it impossible to discredit it as Islamist, ethnic or subversive. The regime was caught off-guard by the impressive march of 3,000 paramilitary guards, the persistence of palace sit-ins of the students, the resilient teachers and the disarming hunger strike of the Sonatrach workers. Each threatened a nightmare scenario: confrontation with elements that fought terrorism, disfranchising the students and risking pushing them to the opposition movement, a prolonged strike as the high school baccalaureate exam loomed and, finally, paralysing the most sensitive energy sector generating the country’s hard currency.
Having witnessed the results obtained by their fellow active countryfolk in the space of two weeks or so, the ‘now-or-never’ spirit has been spreading like wildfire, reaching every sector; even the journalists of the state’s mouthpiece El Moudjahid and the national radio have staged sit-ins. The state apparatus is chronically dysfunctional but now it is being rapidly paralysed. The regime won’t be able to satisfy all of the ‘now-or-never’ protests. The only way out from this deadlock is for the regime to break this cycle by declaring a roadmap for real reform. A few viable projects have been devised by credible figures such as Dr Ahmed Benbitour’s initiative. It is the other ‘now-or-never’ for timely change, in that the regime might not have another chance to effect profound reforms in the future, should it miss this opportunity.
Should the regime fail to seize this opportunity and introduce profound changes which would address the real political problems in Algeria then I am afraid the following scenario will come into play: the fact that some sectors driven by the ‘now-or-never’ spirit will inevitably be disappointed and not see their demands met – in that the government will arguably not be able to satisfy the socio-economic grievances of protesting workers – would prepare them to forge tacit and ad hoc alliances with those outside the active segment of the society, i.e., the jobless and disfranchised youth who rioted last January. In other words, the disappointed workers who are on strike now would march behind and support the jobless and marginalised youth who have been in the streets for several years now. This possible scenario would give momentum for another widespread uprising, which would in turn focus the minds within the ruling establishment as to the urgency of change.
Should things come to this scenario, then I am confident a fraction of the January uprising in terms of intensity would force the way for real change, probably in a more peaceful and less costly way than the Tunisian and Egyptian experiences. There is still time for the regime to end the ‘now-or-never’ domino effect and go ahead with genuine reforms, but the clock is ticking. Over the next few months new factors will come into play as well: the end-of year exams in high schools and the spectre of a missed year should universities not regain normalcy, followed by summer with Ramadhan in the hottest month this year (August, when domestic demand for electricity because of increased use of air conditioning sets in not only in the south but also in the north and reaches its peak). Either of these factors might become the trigger, especially electricity supply shortages (judging by last summer’s experience, where riots flared up in many towns and villages of the south-east over the issue). There was a region-wide violent precedent to this in the mid-1970s. Let’s hope that the ultimate national interest of Algeria focuses minds and rises, above all because time is of the essence and the window of opportunity is closing fast. The regime would be making a costly mistake to believe that the chaotic situation in Libya and the fragile one in Tunisia and Egypt would make the West favour stability in Algeria for the simple reason that Algeria cannot escape the ripple effects of the geopolitical earthquakes in the region, two of which are on its eastern borders. History is on the march.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Lakhdar Ghettas is a PhD candidate in the International History Department at the London School of Economics and a programme assistant of the LSE IDEAS North Africa Initiative.
* This article was first published by the Centre Tricontinental (CETRI).
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The importance of research in a university
Makerere Institute of Social Research
My remarks will be more critical than congratulatory. I will focus more on the challenge we face rather than the progress we have made. My focus will also be limited, to the Humanities and the Social Sciences rather than to the Sciences, to postgraduate education and research rather than to underdgraduate education.
I would like to begin with a biographical comment. I did my ‘O ‘Levels at Old Kampala Secondary School in 1962, the year of independence. The US government gave an independence gift to the Uganda government. It included 24 scholarships. I was one among those who was airlifted to the US, getting several degrees over 10 years, BA, MA, PhD – and returned in 1972.
Those who came with me divided into two groups. There were those who never returned, and then those who did, but were soon frustrated by the fact that the conditions under which they were supposed to work were far removed from the conditions under which they were trained. In a matter of years, sometimes months, they looked for jobs overseas, or moved out of academia into government or business or elsewhere.
The lesson I draw from my experience was that the old model does not work. We have no choice but to train postgraduate students in the very institutions in which they will have to work. We have no choice but to train the next generation of African scholars at home. This means tackling the question of institutional reform alongside that of postgraduate education. Postgraduate education, research and institution building will have to be part of a single effort.
I would like to put this in the context of the history of higher education in Africa. I do not mean to suggest that there is a single African history. I speak particularly of those parts of Africa colonized after the Berlin Conference in late 19th century. There is contrast between older colonies like South Africa or Egypt where Britain embarked on a civilizing mission – building schools and universities – and newer colonies like Uganda where they tended to regard products of modern education as subversive of the existing order.
HISTORY OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN AFRICA
You can write a history of higher education in Africa that begins a millennium ago. It is now well known that there existed centers of learning in different parts of Africa—such as Al-Azhar in Egypt, Al-Zaytuna in Morocco, and Sankore in Mali— prior to Western domination of the continent. And yet, this historical fact is of marginal significance for contemporary African higher education. This is for one reason. The organization of knowledge production in the contemporary African university is everywhere based on a disciplinary mode developed in Western universities over the 19th and 20th centuries.
The first colonial universities few and far between: Makerere in East Africa, Ibadan and Legon in West Africa, and so on. Lord Lugard, Britain’s leading colonial administrator in Africa, used to say that Britain must avoid the Indian disease in Africa. The Indian Disease referred to the development of an educated middle class, a group most likely to carry the virus of nationalism.
This is why the development of higher education in Africa between the Sahara and the Limpopo was mainly a post-colonial development. To give but one example, there was 1 university in Nigeria with 1,000 students at independence. Three decades later, in 1991, there were 41 universities with 131,000 students. Nigeria not an exception.
Everywhere, the development of universities was a key nationalist demand. At independence, every country needed to show its flag, national anthem, national currency and national university as proof that the country had indeed become independent.
We can identify two different post-independent visions of the role of higher education. One was state-driven. I spent six years teaching at the University of Dar es Salaam in the 1970s. The downside of the Dar experience was that governments tended to treat universities as parastatals, undermining academic freedom. The great achievement of Dar was the creation of a historically-informed, inter- disciplinary, curriculum.
A later post-independence vision was market-driven. Makerere University came to be its prime example. I spent nearly two decades at Makerere, from 1980 to 1996. During the 1990s, Makerere combined the entry of fee-paying students [privatization] with the introduction of a market-driven curriculum [commercialization]. The effects were contradictory: payment of fees showed that it was possible to broaden the financial base of higher education; commercialization opened the door to a galloping consultancy culture.
The two models had a common failing. Neither developed a graduate program. Everyone assumed that post-graduate education would happen overseas through staff development programs. I do not recall a single discussion on post-graduate education at either Dar or Makerere.
A PERVASIVE CONSULTANCY CULTURE
Today, the market-driven model is dominant in African universities. The consultancy culture it has nurtured has had negative consequences for postgraduate education and research. Consultants presume that research is all about finding answers to problems defined by a client. They think of research as finding answers, not as formulating a problem. The consultancy culture is institutionalized through short courses in research methodology, courses that teach students a set of tools to gather and process quantitative information, from which to cull answers.
Today, intellectual life in universities has been reduced to bare-bones classroom activity. Extra-curricular seminars and workshops have migrated to hotels. Workshop attendance goes with transport allowances and per diem. All this is part of a larger process, the NGO-ization of the university. Academic papers have turned into coporate-style power point presentations. Academics read less and less. A chorus of buzz words have taken the place of lively debates.
If you sit in a research institution as I do, then the problem can be summed up in a single phrase: the spread of a corrosive consultancy culture. Why is the consultancy mentality such a problem? Let me give you an example from the natural sciences.
In 2007, the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation decided to make eradicating malaria its top priority. Over the next 4 years, it spent $150 million on this campaign. Even more important were the consequences of its advocacy program, which was so successful that it ended up shaping priorities of others in the field of health.
According to a recent study on the subject, WHO expenditure on eradicating malaria sky rocketed from $ 100 million in 1998 to $2 billion in 2009.
The rush to a solution was at the expense of thinking through the problem. From an epidemiological point of view, there are two kinds of diseases: those you can eradicate, like sleeping sickness or smallpox, and those you cannot – like yellow fever – because it lives on a host, in this case monkeys, which means you would have to eradicate monkeys to eradicate yellow fever. The two types of diseases call for entirely different solutions: for a disease you cannot eradicate, you must figure out how to live with it
Last year, a team of scientists from Gabon and France found that malaria too has a wild host – monkeys – which means you cannot eradicate it. To learn to live with it calls for an entirely different solution. Eradication calls for a laboratory-based strategy. You look for isolated human communities, like islands with small populations and invest all your resources in it – which is what the Gates Foundation and WHO did. But living with malaria requires you to spend your monies in communities with large, representative populations.
The Gates Foundation and WHO money was spent mostly on small islands. A WHO expert called it ‘a public health disaster’. The moral of the story is that diagnosis is more important than prescription. Research is diagnosis.
CREATING AN ANTI-DOTE TO A CONSULTANCY CULTURE
How do we counter the spread of consultancy culture? Through an intellectual environment strong enough to sustain a meaningful intellectual culture. To my knowledge, there is no model for this on the African continent today. It is something we will have to create.
The old model looked for answers outside the problem. It was utopian because it imposed externally formulated answers. A new model must look for answers within the parameters of the problem. This is why the starting point must go beyond an understanding of the problem, to identifying initiatives that seek to cope with the problem. In the rest of this talk, I will seek to give an analysis of the problem and outline one initiative that seeks to come to grips with it. This is the initiative at the Makerere Institute of Social Research.]
THE CONSULTANCY PROBLEM
Let me return to my own experience, this time at MISR, where I have learnt to identify key manifestations of the consultancy culture.
I took over the directorship of MISR in June of 2010. When I got there, MISR had 7 researchers, including myself. We began by meeting each for an hour: what research do you do? What research have you done since you came here? The answers were a revelation: everyone seemed to do everything, or rather anything, at one time primary education, the next primary health, then roads, then HIV/AIDS, whatever was on demand! This is when I learnt to recognize the first manifestation of consultancy: A consultant has no expertise. His or her claim is only to a way of doing things, of gathering data and writing reports. He or she is a Jack or a Jane of all, a master of none. This is the first manifestation.
Even though consultancy was the main work, there was also some research at MISR. But it was all externally-driven, the result of demands of European donor agencies that European universities doing research on Africa must partner with African universities. The result was not institutional partnerships but the incorporation of individual local researchers into an externally-driven project. It resembled more an outreach from UK or France rather than a partnership between relative equals.
Next I suggested to my colleagues that our first priority should be to build up the library. I noticed that the size of our library had actually been reduced over the past 10 years. I understood the reason for this when I looked at MISR’s 10-year strategic plan. The plan called for purchasing around 100 books for the library over 10 years. In other words, the library was not a priority. The second manifestation of a consultancy culture is that consultant don’t read, not because they cannot read, or are not interested in reading – but because reading becomes a luxury, an after-work activity. Because consultancies do not require you to read anything more than field data and notes.
My colleagues and I discussed the problem of consultancy in meeting after meeting, and came up with a two-fold response. Our short-term response was to begin a program of seminars, two a month, requiring that every person begin with a research proposal, one that surveys the literature in their field, identifies key debates and located their query within those debates; second, also twice a month, we agreed to meet as a study group, prepare a list of key texts in the social sciences and humanities over the past 40 years, and read and discuss them.
Over the long-term, we decided to create a multi-disciplinary, coursework-based, PhD program to train a new generation of researchers. To brain-storming the outlines of this program, we held a two-day workshop in January with scholars from University of Western Cape in South Africa and Addis Ababa University. I would like to share with you some of the deliberations at that workshop.
REFLECTIONS ON POSTGRADUATE EDUCATION IN THE HUMANITIES AND THE SOCIAL
The central question facing higher education in Africa today is what it means to teach the humanities and social sciences in the current historical context and, in particular, in the post-colonial African context. What does it mean to teach humanities and social sciences in a location where the dominant intellectual paradigms are products not of Africa’s own experience, but of a particular Western experience? Where dominant paradigms theorize a specific Western history and are concerned in large part to extol the virtues of the enlightenment or to expound critiques of that same enlightenment? As a result, when these theories expand to other parts of the world—they do so mainly by submerging particular origins and specific concerns through describing these in the universal terms of scientific objectivity and neutrality? I want to make sure I am not misunderstood: there is no problem with the reading texts from the Enlightenment – in fact, it is vital – the problem is this: if the Enlightenment is said to be an exclusively European phenomenon, then the story of the Enlightenment is one that excludes Africa as it does most of the world. Can it then be the foundation on which we can build university education in Africa?
The assumption that there is a single model derived from the dominant Western experience reduces research to no more than a demonstration that societies around the world either conform to that model or deviate from it. The tendency is to dehistoricize and decontextualise discordant experiences, whether Western or non- Western. The effect is to devalue original research or intellectual production in Africa. The global market tends to relegate Africa to providing raw material (“data”) to outside academics who process it and then re-export their theories back to Africa. Research proposals are increasingly descriptive accounts of data collection and the methods used to collate data, collaboration is reduced to assistance, and there is a general impoverishment of theory and debate.
The expansion and entrenchment of intellectual paradigms that stress quantification above all has led to a peculiar intellectual dispensation in Africa today: the dominant trend is increasingly for research to be positivist and primarily quantitative, carried out to answer questions that have been formulated outside of the continent, not only in terms of location but also in terms of historical perspective. This trend either occurs directly, through the “consultancy” model, or indirectly, through research funding and other forms of intellectual disciplining. In my view, the proliferation of “short courses” on methodology that aim to teach students and academic staff quantitative methods necessary to gathering and processing empirical data are ushering a new generation of native informers. But the collection of data to answer pre-packaged questions is not a substantive form of research if it displaces the fundamental research practice of formulating the questions that are to be addressed. If that happens, then researchers will become managers whose real work is to supervise data collection.
But this challenge to autonomous scholarship is not unprecedented—indeed, autonomous scholarship was also denigrated in the early post-colonial state, when universities were conceived of as providing the “manpower” necessary for national development, and original knowledge production was seen as a luxury. Even when scholars saw themselves as critical of the state, such as during the 1970s at University of Dar es Salaam, intellectual work ended up being too wedded to a political program, even when it was critical of the state. The strength of Dar was that it nurtured a generation of public intellectuals. Its weakness was that this generation failed to reproduce itself. This is a fate that will repeat in the future if research is not put back into teaching and PhD program in Africa are not conceived of as training the next generation of African scholars.
Someone told me yesterday that Makerere requires every Ph D thesis to end with a set of recommendations. If true, this indicates a problem. A university is not a think tank. A university may house think tanks, even several, but a university cannot itself be a think tank. Think tanks are policy-oriented centers, centers where the point of research is to make recommendations. In a university, there needs to be room for both applied research, meaning policy-oriented research, and basic research. The distinction is this: unlike applied research which is preoccupied with making recommendations, the point of basic research is to identify and question assumptions that drive the very process of knowledge production.
THE POSTGRADUATE INITIATIVE AT MISR
I believe one of the biggest mistakes made in the establishment of MISR as a research institute was to detach research from postgraduate education. The formation of the new College of Humanities that has brought the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences and MISR under a single administrative roof gives us a historic opportunity to correct this mistake. MISR will aim to offer a multi-disciplinary Doctoral program in the qualitative social sciences and the Humanities.
The initiative at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) is driven by multiple convictions. One, key to research is the formulation of the problem of research. Two, the definition of the research problem should stem from a dual engagement: on the one hand, a critical engagement with the society at large and, on the other, a critical grasp of disciplinary literature, world-wide, so as to identify key debates within the literature and locate specific queries within those debates.
Faced with a context where the model is the consultant and not the independent researcher, we at MISR think the way forward is to create a PhD program based on significant preparatory coursework, to create among students the capacity to both re-think old questions and formulate new.
Our ambition is also to challenge the foundations of the prevailing intellectual paradigm which has turned the dominant Western experience into a model which conceives of research as no more than a demonstration that societies around the world either conform or deviate from that model. This dominant paradigm dehistoricizes and decontextualises other experiences, whether Western or non- Western. The effect is to devalue original research in Africa. The global market tends to relegate Africa to providing raw material (“data”) to outside academics who process it and then re-export their theories back to Africa. Research proposals are increasingly descriptive accounts of data collection and the methods used to collate data, collaboration is reduced to assistance, and there is a general impoverishment of theory and debate. If we are to treat every experience with intellectual dignity, then we must treat treat it as the basis for theorization. This means to historicize and contextualize not only phenomena and processes that we observe but also the intellectual apparatus used to analyze these.
Finally, MISR will seek to combine a commitment to local [indeed, regional] knowledge production, rooted in relevant linguistic and disciplinary terms, with a critical and disciplined reflection on the globalization of modern forms of knowledge and modern instruments of power. Rather than oppose the local to the global, it will seek to understand the global from the vantage point of the local. The doctoral program will seek to understand alternative forms of aesthetic, intellectual, ethical, and political traditions, both contemporary and historical, the objective being not just to learn about these forms, but also to learn from them. Over time, we hope this project will nurture a scholarly community that is equipped to rethink—in both intellectual and institutional terms—the very nature of the university and of the function it is meant to serve locally and globally.
Coursework during the first two years will be organized around a single set of core courses taken by all students, supplemented by electives grouped in four thematic clusters:
1. Genealogies of the Political, being discursive and institutional histories of political practices;
2. Disciplinary and Popular Histories, ranging from academic and professional modes of history writing to popular forms of retelling the past in vernaculars;
3. Political Economy, global, regional and local; and
4. Literary and Aesthetic Studies, consisting of fiction, the visual and performing arts and cinema studies.
Translated into a curricular perspective, the objective is for an individual student’s course of study to be driven forward by debates and not by orthodoxy. This approach would give primacy to the importance of reading key texts in related disciplines. In practical terms, students would spend the first two years building a bibliography and coming to grips with the literature that constituted it. In the third year they would write a critical essay on the bibliography, embark on their own research in the fourth year, and finally write it up in the fifth.
Over the 19th century, European universities developed three different domains of knowledge production—natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences—based on the notion of “three cultures”. Each of these domains was then subdivided into “disciplines.” Over the century from 1850 to the Second World War, this became the dominant pattern as it got institutionalized through three different organizational forms: a) within the universities, as chairs, departments, curricula, and academic degrees for students; b) between and outside universities at the national and international level, as discipline-based associations of scholars and journals; c) in the great libraries of the world, as the basis for classification of scholarly works.
This intellectual consensus began to break down after the 1960s, partly because of the growing overlap between disciplines and partly because of a shared problematique. For example, the line dividing the humanities from the social sciences got blurred with the increasing “historicization” and hence “contextualization” of knowledge in the humanities and the social sciences. The development was best captured in the report of the Gulbenkian Commission chaired by Immanuel Wallerstein. As inter-disciplinarity began to make inroads into disciplinary specialization, the division between the humanities and the social sciences paled in the face of a growing division between quantitative and qualitative perspectives in the study of social, political and cultural life. But these intellectual developments were not matched by comparable organizational changes, precisely because it is not easy to move strongly entrenched organizations. Though the number of interdisciplinary and regional institutes multiplied, collaboration rarely cut across the humanities/social science divide.
The challenge of postgraduate studies in the African university is how to produce a truly inter-disciplinary knowledge without giving up the ground gained in the disciplines. The challenge of MISR is how to reproduce a generation of researchers by joining research to postgraduate education. Our incorporation into the new College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and thereby an end to our standalone status, has created this opening for us – one we hope to seize with both hands.
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* © Mahmood Mamdani
* Mahmood Mamdani is professor and executive director of Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR).
* The paper was presented as the keynote speech at Makerere University Research and Innovations Dissemination Conference, Hotel Africana, 11 April 2011.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
We export food to import food
In recent years there has been an upsurge of agricultural investment in the developing world. Its alleged purpose is to curb the recent global food crisis that has seen serious volatility in the global food market system, causing significant price hikes on key global foods, such as rice.
The price hike in global food has prompted certain countries to seek cheap and fertile farmland beyond their borders in order to guarantee food security for themselves. To achieve this goal such states are encouraging their domestic agro-businesses, tied to their national interests, to invest in countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Madagascar, Tanzania and Argentina, to name a few. Capital invested in far-away farms will produce food cheaply, which will then be exported back to the country where the original capital came from. In this way, the volatility of the international food market can be avoided and national food security achieved.
To accomplish this goal, a key step is to convince developing nations to give up their fertile land to foreign investors. One of the baits designed for the purpose of persuasion is the promise of infrastructure and the sharing of information and technology in agricultural science. The other promise made to host nations is of capital gained from food exports, which can then be reinvested in the country. For underdeveloped countries, who face serious food insecurity, and who are often unable to feed their population, this may sound too good to pass by, particularly if host nation governments are too naive, or are otherwise unconcerned.
In Ethiopia, we have had hundreds of foreign investors grabbing fertile land at incredibly low cost. The scale of the spree is unprecedented. Investors are describing the deal as ‘green gold’. Ethiopia’s untilled land, located in some of the most fertile parts of the country, is now being sold to foreign interests for less than its true worth. Foreign investors are given perks, tax holidays lasting years, and essentially they are exempt from any royalties.
The government of Ethiopia promises this process will mitigate the nation’s chronic food insecurity and allow domestic farmers to gain knowledge from the expertise of foreign agro-business. It also says dollars gained form exporting food can alleviate Ethiopia’s endemic food crises. By this analysis, the premise of the EPRDF government seems to be ‘we export food to import food’. Leaving aside the initial absurdity of the claim, it is necessary to note that the inadequacy of this argument has been amply demonstrated in many developing countries.
Although this issue of land-grabbing by foreign interests is new to Ethiopia, it is no stranger to other parts of the developing world. The history of foreign agro-business intrusion in some Latin American and Caribbean countries is enlightening to say the least. In northeastern Brazil, the region was extensively farmed by foreign agricultural interests for centuries. Unfortunately this region has nothing to show for it now. Today the region is the poorest part of the country with the least food security and one of the highest malnutrition rates in Latin America. Contrary to the promises made by companies that farmed Brazil’s fertile soil, the outcome has been very grim. In his famous book ‘Open Veins of Latin America’, Eduardo Galliano, commenting on Brazil’s northeast, says, ‘Naturally fitted to produce food, it became a place of hunger. Where everything had bloomed exuberantly, the destructive and all dominating plantation left sterile rock, washed out soil, and eroded lands.’ Are Ethiopia’s own fertile lands headed for the same fate? What makes the current foreign agricultural adventure in Ethiopia any different?
In fact, the environmental destruction of the land has already begun in this initial phase. Around Gambella region, Karuturi, an Indian company, which owns large swaths of the region, is heavily involved in burning forests and grasslands to make way for potential farmland. It would be unfair to single out Karuturi alone. Other foreign companies who have settled in the region are no more saintly. They are also using slash and burn techniques to clear land. There is no doubt the flora and fauna will be lost forever as a result. Pastureland is fast becoming eviscerated, affecting local herders, who depend on their livestock for survival. This process of pastoral land elimination could have negative consequences for currently inflated meat prices in Ethiopia, which will undoubtedly exasperate existent levels of high malnutrition in the country.
According to the government, these lands given to foreign investors were idle lands, ready to be gobbled up into the global food system without much disturbance. However, this view depends on one’s definition of ‘idle land’. Pastureland may seem idle, but its usefulness is undeniable.
Another key consideration should be about the inevitable damage and cost to future generations. Given the fact that Ethiopia is very much a country of the future, demographically speaking, this should concern us. Intensive farming by foreign agro-business has a history of ravaging the land and turning fertile soil into depleted soil in a short period of time. Other parts of the globe where this has been practiced testifies to the inevitability of environmental destruction. In a land that is potentially the breadbasket of Ethiopia, if not the whole Horn of Africa, such degradation is a real loss for future generations and therefore presents a moral challenge for us today.
Employment offered by these farms is purported to be a benefit for local communities. Never mind that the main reason why locals seek this work is primarily because the agro-businesses have forced them to abandon their old pastoralist way of life.
Take away this option of survival and people are left with no other choice but to accept slave wages working on foreign farms. In a way the agri-business creates the labour surplus for itself and manages to keep wages extremely low. The wage paid to workers, on average about $1.50 (25 Birr) for a day’s work, is nowhere near enough to survive without additional food aid. According to a recent documentary, some farm workers in southern Ethiopia complained they were getting paid seven birr per day, instead of the 25 birr initially promised. That is about 50 cents a day in dollar terms. By these estimates the lives of these workers were considerably better before the introduction of foreign agri-business. Instead of food security, food insecurity is created, perhaps even serious malnutrition.
To add insult to injury none of the produce from these farms will be available to local markets. However, there is talk of selling some of the produce to aid agencies. The World Food Program intends to buy some of this grain in order to assist hungry people. Ironically, this group of intended food aid recipients will include those working to produce it in the first place. Ethiopia’s government is calling this sustainable development.
In an effort to rush through this controversial issue unimpeded, the government has sought to bypass all transparency. It is fully aware that an open discussion on the issue would expose the absurdities of its claim. Deals with foreign investors were approved backhandedly for this reason.
The government expects a few scattered utterances here and there by its officials to be accepted as a national discussion on the matter. The government also knows it has no chance of convincing people because further evaluation of the agreements reveals gaping holes. The people of Ethiopia are being asked to believe absurdities such as ‘we export food in order to import food’ as a viable economic option to guarantee national food security. However, the most basic comprehension of economics tells us this is nearly impossible. Given Ethiopia’s dwindling currency exchange, what sense is there in purchasing grain from the international market, while exporting domestic grain? Can exported grain used as a cash-crop generate enough capital to be able to import food affordably and sustainably? Muddying the waters and diverting the issue under the guise of food security is certainly a cruel way of hoodwinking a hungry population. It is not clear what the benefit will be to Ethiopia. In most instances the harm done is much greater than the gain.
Perhaps the EPRDF government views these deals as solidifiers of its international connections, especially with emerging markets. Gifting land can guarantee political support. As a beleaguered party, EPRDF knows its survival depends on bringing some particularly heavy hitters into the fold. What better way to bring them on board than to give them what they most require and what Ethiopia has to offer, namely land and water?
It is important to point out that some of these excited shoppers include states with dreadful human rights records. One of these, among several, is Saudi Arabia. Surely if the going gets tough for Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Saudi’s can be counted upon to prop up their friend in need, no matter how badly democracy and human rights are trampled. It seems these two are a match made in heaven. Generally, although the loss is great for Ethiopia, the gain has been significant for the ruling party. Is the EPRDF trying to garner vested interest in the country for its own political existence and at the cost of the nation?
Politics aside, there are other alternatives for agricultural development in Ethiopia. If the government was truly interested, Ethiopia’s agricultural output can be developed in a way that is much more sustainable and equitable. For instance, although small, there is a significant amount of capital within the country to boost farming capacity in hitherto unexplored areas of the country.
Perhaps a genuinely interested government can enhance and facilitate the efforts of investors within Ethiopia’s borders to import technology and to train domestically run agro-business interests. The aim here is not to blow the bank, but to increase investment in a sustainable way. After all, isn’t this how major agri-businesses got their start in their country of birth? Another option to boost domestic farm output would have been to invite wealthy Ethiopians living abroad, especially those with interest and knowledge, to invest in the area.
Even though these later approaches were never discussed, for political reasons, there is a strong argument for their viability. Certainly they are much more likely to produce the intended result than the mostly unaccountable foreign companies ever will.
The scale of farming that is based on domestic investment would be smaller and thus friendlier to the local environment and local communities, while simultaneously allowing for a significant increase in domestic farm output. Most importantly, this option would have placed domestic interests in control of national food production, a much more viable and positive proposition for Ethiopia’s prospects. If Indian, Saudi, and Chinese companies are extending their reach beyond their borders to secure national food security for their domestic economy, why can’t Ethiopia do this within her own borders?
In terms of food availability, it seems like we are in a much more dire situation than they are. Moreover, the involvement of global agribusiness in Ethiopia would have been more acceptable if Ethiopia’s own farm industry was given priority. This is not xenophobia; it is how the most food secure nations in the world came into being. However, the guise that the local farm industry will develop alongside major foreign agricultural companies does not make economic sense. It is only a matter of time until they are eaten up. A developmental state does not endorse such an unfair take over of key national assets in this way. It is simply not developmental policy. It is a give away.
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* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Race, class struggle and organised labour in the ‘age of Wisconsin’
Madison, Wisconsin, may have given organised labour – or the labouring classes – a hint at the possibility of resistance in the streets of America. Or should the credit go to the children of Caliban in the streets and squares of Egypt? Can you imagine the role reversal implied by the prospect of the children of Caliban’s teaching those of Prospero, the great civilizer, the art of being human or striving for moral autonomy … collective personhood?
Many commentators have asserted that if there had been no revolt in Egypt, and no forced departure of the pharaoh-like Hosni Mubarak, there would not have been mass protest action in that oh-so-white of a state Wisconsin. It is simply amazing to think that the fair citizenry of Wisconsin would require an external political stimulus to challenge their exploitation; the racialised section of the United States’s working-class has been bearing the brunt of the racist, sexist and capitalist battering of the welfare state structures since the 1980s without much sympathy from their white working-class counterparts.
But predominantly white Wisconsin is up in arms when the chicken comes home to roost in their own backyard! Martin Luther King was quite right when he declared, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’ We can only hope that white workers come to realise that white supremacist beliefs and practices only weaken the working class – to the advantage of the small capitalist elite.
The political and economic elite in the United States is ruthlessly using the after-effects of the Great Recession as a pretext to further weaken the economic, social and political conditions of the working class. It was the actions of the captains of industry and commerce and their politicians that were responsible for the massive job losses, near collapses of major financial firms, housing foreclosures (which largely affected racialised urban communities) and overall ‘bust’ of the capitalist business cycle.
One of the effects of the preceding events was a massive reduction in revenue flowing to the coffers of the different levels of government. It should be noted that prior and ongoing tax cuts – granted by the political class to corporations, wealthy individuals and high-income earners – were also critical factors in the deficits now faced by state governments.
But it is the working class in the public sector and the members of our communities who are dependent on public services that are being called upon to sacrifice their already tenuous or precarious standard of living to slay budgetary deficits across America. From the federal government under the pied-piper leadership of President Barack Obama to two-bit governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin to multi-millionaire Governor Rick Synder in Michigan, tax cuts to the well-heeled, disciplining of the working class and social programme spending reduction are the preferred policy options.
Hopefully, this bitter medicine from the neo-liberal or monetarist black bag will alert workers to their true class identity and interests. The fox (capitalist class) and the chickens (workers) cannot have a community of interest. It is in the nature of the former to desire the latter for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Many members of the United States’s working-class have been mislabelling themselves as middle class as a result of the relentless ideological and social conditioning by the combined forces of the media, school, family, politicians, religious institutions and even union bureaucrats.
The capitalist or corporate elite are also implicated in the mental slavery or false consciousness of workers. According to Funiciello, the capitalist elite, in its capacity as bosses of the wage-slavery regime, plays a critical role in keeping workers distracted or servile:
‘Here in America, it has been difficult for rank-and-file Americans to see their own yoke. That’s how sophisticated is the hand of the very small elite that has controlled how many jobs we will have, where we will live, whether we will have a house or an apartment, how our children will be educated (or mis-educated?) and, even, what and how much we will eat.
’The consolidation of power over the people by that small elite has occurred over several decades, but just now the minions of Corporate America are coming out into the open and trying to administer the coup de grace. The minions are Republicans and, unfortunately, they have had help from many Democrats.’
However, the current state-sponsored legislative initiatives aimed at destroying collective bargaining rights, decent wages, workplace benefits and the ability of unions to financially support political activities – along with union-crippling ‘right to work’ laws – should disabuse workers of their middle-class illusions. If you sell your labour and do not exercise substantive control over the organising, managing and directing of work or the labour process, you are a member of the working class, period!
One may be forgiven for thinking that the pulse of resistance had disappeared from the body of organised labour in the United States. Other than participation in the farce that is electoral politics (politricks?), organised labour has been, for the most part, absent from political struggles against white supremacy, sexism and capitalism.
With the attack on public sector unionism in Wisconsin and other states and the tentative fight-back posturing of the labour movement that has begun to emerge in response, a curious observer may be excused for wondering aloud: ‘Has this Lazarus now risen from its deathly sleep and re-discovered its historical mission?’ Has Lazarus, the working class, finally remembered that its principal role ought to be the battle to free society from social oppression? We will know the answer in the fullness of time. The assault on collective bargaining rights of public sector workers by Governor Walker could be an undisguised gift to social movement activism. It has certainly been a long time since labour and its allies have mobilised tens of thousand of people into the streets over point of production or workplace issues.
Andy Kroll, a writer and an eyewitness at the protest actions against this potentially game-changing legislative attack on public sector unionism, states that ‘within a week there were close to 70,000 protesters filling the streets of Madison.’ The writer was so moved by the spirit of resistance in the occupied Capitol building in Madison and events in the street that he declared, ‘Believe me, the spirit of Cairo is here. The air is charged with it.’
While the protests on the scale in Madison, Wisconsin, may bring into motion forces that represent radical or revolutionary demands, I am not among the commentators who are overly impressed with what I have been seeing and reading. I am reminded of the instructive refrain of the African Jamaican dub poet, ‘A revolt ain’t revolution.’ A revolution ought to be guided by revolutionary ideas and demands. It would be a stretch to even think that the preceding condition exists in Wisconsin, or even Egypt. We are currently at such a low level of movement activism or upsurge that even a ripple of protest may inspire fantastic declarations and expectation.
However, Larry Pinkney of the online publication the Black Commentator has a more sobering assessment of the Wisconsin protest than Kroll, which runs counter to the euphoric pronouncements that I have read in alternative spaces: ‘While it is certainly heartening to see some people making and taking a stand in Madison, Wisconsin, this does not mean that Wisconsin has somehow become Egypt. It has not. There are numerous inherent contradictions that have yet to be forthrightly addressed in Wisconsin, U.S.A., and which strongly impact the most economically and politically dispossessed and despised of people in Wisconsin and throughout the United States.’
Pickney is raising questions about the oppression of the racialised working class, inclusive of those with and without jobs. Their material interest does not garner substantive or broad sympathy from white union bureaucrats and rank-and-file members.
Where were the protests when Reagan and Clinton assaulted the working class by changing ‘welfare as we know it’ and demonised African-Americans and the poor in the process? Where was the howling from organised labour when Clinton proudly declared his intention to put 100,000 additional cops on the streets of America  and dramatically increase the number of Africans, Hispanic and poor whites in the prison–industrial complex or penal colonies? Where was organised labour when affirmative action was being savaged for merely trying to weaken white supremacist employment and other structural barriers in the workplace and the wider society?
Organised labour is willing to move when it is faced with self-evident existential threats. Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary treasurer of Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO, seemed to confirm the preceding assertion when she noted, ‘[o]ur very labor movement is at stake and when that's at stake, the economic security of Americans is at stake.’ I wonder whether her visual image of ‘Americans’ looks like the people on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York. On the contrary, when the ‘slings and arrows’ fired at the racialised working-class provoke even the slightest bit of racial animus, union bureaucrats and white workers, through their inaction or silence, tend to support the initiatives of the ruling class.
White supremacy has been a reliable tool, used to set white workers against Africans and other racialised workers in the United States, from the days of chattel slavery up to our current period of wage-slavery. Marx’s 1867 assertion remains valid today: ‘In the United States of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralysed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded’.
The class struggle and a united working-class movement in the United States (and Canada) will remain ‘paralysed’, deformed and underdeveloped if the commitment to the elimination of white supremacy does not become a strategic goal of organised labour and the general working class. Would the outpouring of solidarity with Wisconsin workers be the same if the target was a group of largely racialised public sector workers?
Ford captures the issue at stake – the role of race and white supremacy in limiting the class struggle in the United States:
‘Wisconsin is, in a sense, a near-ideal terrain for a showdown with the Tea Party brand of Republicanism. The actors in the drama are overwhelmingly white, putting the raw class nature of capital’s aggression in stark relief. With relatively few Black scapegoats to complicate the issue, white folks must confront the bare facts of the way late-stage capitalism tramples ordinary people as it careens from crisis to crisis.
‘Or, maybe not. White supremacy is a dynamic ideology that has always been central to the domestic functions of American Exceptionalism, distorting not just race relations but all other social relations, as well. Once the foundational Nigger has been invented and given life in the public mind, with all his purported logic-bending and society-polluting defects, his[/her] characteristics can be imputed to other targeted groups – a ready-made demonization kit. Public employees in general and teachers in particular now find themselves Niggerized as lazy featherbedders, no-count malingerers, fellow travelers with welfare queens and other human malignancies that must be excised so that the free market can work its wonders.’
The task facing us class-struggle and anti-oppression advocates is to be ‘ruthlessly’ frank and firm in our commitment to challenge and eradicate white supremacy within the labour movement, the general working-class and the structures of wider society. It was encouraging to know that the question of race and centring the interest of the racialised working class surfaced within the conversations of the Madison resistance – albeit in a fairly marginal space. The objective reality facing organised labour and the working class in general is the need for a full integration of a principled anti-racist practice into the heart and mind of the resistance against capitalist domination.
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* Ajamu Nangwaya is a trade union and community activist and a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Caliban is a character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and is the epitome of the demonized Other in the Western literary imagination, political economy and imperialist project. While Prospero is the superordinate, privileged and cultured counterpart, who is the giver or representative of ‘civilization’ and progress.
 Ford, G. (2011, March 2). Wisconsin: The end of Obama-ism. The Black Agenda Report. Retrieved from http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/wisconsin-end-obama-ism; Fletcher, B. (2011, February 21). Modern-day Pirates: Republicans vs. the Public Sector. Classism. Retrieved from http://www.classism.org/modernday-pirates-republicans-public-sector; Moore, M. (2011, March 15). Michigan governor pushing unbelievable anti-democracy measures; Join the fight Wednesday. AlterNet. Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org/story/150264/michael_moore%3A_michigan_governor_..
 Funiciello, J. (2011, February 24. The rising of the American people (or at least some of them). The Black Commentator. Retrieved from http://www.blackcommentator.com/415/415_cover_sa_rising_americans.php  Rogers, J. A view from the battlefield Union busting times!: Public sector workers under attack. (2011 February 24). The Black Commentator. Retrieved from http://www.blackcommentator.com/415/415_view_from_battlefield_rogers_ed_..
 Kroll, N. (2011, February 27). ‘This is a magic moment’: Will Wisconsin change America? AlterNet. Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org/story/150062/%22this_is_a_magic_moment%22%3A_wil..
 Pinkney, L. (2011 March 3). Class struggle: Don’t get fooled again! Keeping it real. The Black Commentator. Retrieved from http://www.blackcommentator.com/416/416_kir_class_struggle.php
 Chapman, S. (2001, November 12). Invisible COPS: How Clinton’s plan to field 100,000 new police turned into pork barrel as usual. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/id/2058553/
 Cited in Kroll, This is a magic moment.
 Wikiquote. Attributed to Capital, Volume I, Chapter 10, Section 7, pg. 329. Retrieved from http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Karl_Marx
 Ford, Wisconsin: The end of Obama-ism.
 Connor. (2011, March 15). Taking stock and moving forward in Wisconsin: Reflections on a struggle. Solidarity. Retrieved from http://www.solidarity-us.org/current/node/3221
Libya: Five principles of war propaganda
Last week Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron resorted to the usual Machiavellian tactics in their joint statement to pursue military action in the removal of Colonel Gaddafi – deception, misinformation, hypocrisy. Three months ago Gaddafi was a friend, today he is the leader of a pariah and failed state. Calling Libya a ‘failed state’ is like the kettle calling the pot black. Libya has the highest standard of living in Africa and unlike the US or UK, it has a high standard of healthcare, education and social infrastructure. As Noam Chomsky comments, the US is fast becoming a failed state – a danger to its own people – as the 45 million Americans living in poverty will attest too. In the US people die from a lack of adequate public services such as healthcare, and a racialised unjust criminal justice system. Homelessness is rampant and millions live in sub-standard housing and with hunger.
True, serious human rights violations and horrible things are happening in parts of Libya. But US forces continue to commit atrocities and massacres in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. In Yemen, security forces kill unarmed people almost daily as President Saleh insists on staying in power – and the US is happy with this. In Bahrain, US-backed Saudi troops shoot on protestors. What makes Libya so special that it needs the ‘three terrors’ to defend it with the aim of regime change?
Given the recent revelations in the UK Independent exposing the link between corporate oil interests and the invasion of Iraq I have a number of questions for Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron: Can you confirm or deny whether you have had any conversations with each other and or with oil company CEOs in the past three years concerning Libyan oil? Can you confirm or deny whether you had any conversations on the deployment of special forces in Libya prior to 1 January 2011, in which oil and regime change were discussed?
Even in those countries where the US and its allies have claimed to support the uprisings such as Egypt and Tunisia, it is notable that to date, although the dictators have gone, the regimes remain in charge – so for the US little has changed. In a recent interview, Michel Collon of InvestigAction discusses US strategies in Africa. One of those strategies is the military occupation of Africa through AFRICOM. From this position it is clear that the propaganda of the ‘theatre of Libya’ has huge significance, as it offers access to a country that intersects with Europe [NATO], the Middle East and Africa – and one that has oil.
‘It is not true they are supporting democracy – it’s a comedy. They like dictators when they obey them and they hate dictators when those dictators want to be independent’.
SWAZILAND: THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Swazi human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko gave a short interview [Video] which goes a long way to understanding the political history of Swaziland and how the country came to this moment.
Writing in the Daily Maverick, Manqoba Nxumalo describes the Swazi uprisings as falling far short of expectations given the nature and sustainability of those in north Africa. I disagree. Uprisings cannot be compared or set against one another but must be seen within their own regional and national politics and history.
Nxumalo criticises the ‘progressives’ for announcing the day of protests, saying this allowed the state to organise and unleash a violent response and for being ‘cry babies’ expecting the world to come to their assistance. I think these criticisms are harsh, but clearly the organisers have much to reflect on and lessons to learn if they wish to continue the change they have started. The Swazi police have been brutal in their attacks on the protestors even before 12 April, which may explain the low turnout on the day – but I doubt that has tempered the will of the organisers.
Stiff Kitten’s Peter Kenworthy reports that Swaziland’s Foundation for Economic Justice ‘aims to build a mass-based democratic force through civic education on democracy and rights.’ From their perspective the protests were a beginning of a change in the country:
‘“People are still seething and calling for regime change. They have been driven back to their places by fear, but are still continuing with activities and programmes aimed at rendering government ungovernable,” Tsabedze insists....The democratic movement has learnt a valuable lesson in the last couple of days, he says, especially about having to expect the worst from an increasingly desperate regime. “I think in the future the democratic movement will have to ensure that the information machinery is well oiled and that people are well mobilized and ready for any challenge.”
‘Maxwell Dlamini, one of the organisers of the protests and President of the Swaziland National Union of Students has been arrested and tortured and forced to sign a statement admitting to the possession of explosives. There is an ongoing campaign for his release. Meanwhile there are rumours that King Mswati is on his way to the Kings wedding in London taking with him 50 people at a cost of some $600 per night.’
In neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, witnesses to some of the massacres are beginning to speak about what happened. One of those cities was Bloléquin where on 30 March, an unknown number of people were murdered. Below is an account from a young man who survived:
‘His father came to Bloléquin from Burkina Faso 20 years ago. The family worked on a cocoa plantation. Seated near Marc were other survivors – all with bandages covering gunshot wounds, including his father and a 10-year-old child who was shot in the face; a bandage covered part of the boy’s mouth but one could see from his eyes he was smiling.
‘“Begging for mercy”
‘“We were sleeping - it was about 4am,” Marc told IRIN. “There was fighting when the Forces Nouvelles [FN, pro-Ouattara soldiers] came to the town, then the FN withdrew and pro-Gbagbo groups took over. They came to the sub-prefecture building [where we had sought refuge from our nearby village weeks earlier]. They were saying they’d heard some foreigners were there and they ordered us all out.
‘“Everyone was afraid and crammed into a hallway. A group of men behind us were forcing us forward towards an exit but people stopped; they were afraid because in front too there were armed men. I and some others slipped into rooms off the hallway to hide. Some of my family members were lying in the hallway and bodies just kept falling on them.
‘“All I heard was gunfire, screaming and crying. People were begging for mercy. Those who were shooting said nothing - they just fired and fired. Those attacking us were Gbagbo’s militia and Liberians Gbagbo deployed in the country.
‘“Once the armed groups left, the FN came to the sub-prefecture building and they hollered: ‘Are there any survivors?’ That’s when we got up and they told us to start walking; they would pick us up in a vehicle. We started to walk. We walked to Toulepleu [65km away]. Our feet, our entire bodies hurt. Then the FN came, put us in a vehicle and took us here to Danané and helped us get medical care.
‘“A number of people survived. Some have returned to Burkina, others to Mali. We are just here, waiting. We’ve got nothing. Everything we ever had we left behind. But we hear that there are Guéré [an ethnic group who survivors say are allied to the attackers] around Bloléquin, in the bush, armed. They are still there.”’
Since the November 2010 elections the conflict has displaced an estimated one million Ivorians. There are at least 100,000 refugees on the western border and Liberia and possibly up to 2000 on the eastern and Ghanaian border. Aconerly Coleman explains on her blog, the economic impact of the conflict on the country and region. Seasonal migrant workers from neighbouring countries, face unemployment which is exacerbated by xenophobic attacks from supporters of Laurant Gbagbo.
68 per cent of Ivorinan workers are in the agricultural sector – bananas, palm kernels, sugar, cotton, rubber, timber, corn, coffee and cocoa make up 40 per cent of GDP.
‘Côte D‘Ivoire is the world‘s number one producer of cocoa. Since the election on 28 November, about 475,000 tons of cacao beans have been placed in storage due to a ban on shipments by Ouattara and European Union sanctions. In the first week of March, Gbagbo nationalized the cocoa industry, imposing an export tax. Meanwhile, smuggling of cocoa beans into neighboring Ghana has continued in spite of the power struggle between Laurent Gbagbo and Allasane Outtara and their respective allies.
‘The cessation of corn exports from Côte D‘Ivoire to Niger would further undermine Nigeriens‘ weak food security – especially if corn harvests and exports from Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso are decreased this year due to drought. Niger‘s food security and high unemployment rates are pre-existing driving factors for transnational immigration within West Africa. The potential food insecurity and food inflation would only exacerbate the food crisis that affects Nigeriens.’
NIGERIA: DESPITE A SUCCESSFUL ELECTION, THINGS BEGIN TO FALL APART
Amnesty International had reported over 100 election related deaths prior to the elections on 11 April, including three children. In Nassarawa State security forces fired at anti-government demonstrators killing two children; the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate for Governor and seven others including one child were killed outside a mosque in Maiduguri, Borno State; a political candidate and MOSOP activist was murdered in Eleme, Rivers State; other political candidates were killed in Niger, Ebonyi and Lagos States. Despite these deaths, the country – as represented on Twitter, Facebook, Nigerian blogs and by pundits – was optimistic and expressed the belief that something significant had changed in Nigeria. For once Nigeria had managed to hold ‘free and fair’ elections. Yes there were reports of rigging and even a video showing one woman in rigging action, disappearing ballot boxes later found in people homes and such, but on the whole both the National Assembly and Presidential elections so far are relatively free of widespread fraud - most of which took place in the Niger Delta including the President’s home state,
For Blogger Akin Akintayo the changes were many:
‘There are so many subtle changes too, godfathers are not delivering their constituencies like before, people are not selling their votes, the one-party state is being rolled back and even INEC; the Independent National Electoral Commission has revamped its website. There is change happening in Nigeria, but not like many had expected to see.’
Tolu Ogunlesi of NEXT described the change as:
‘…an “awareness-transformation” on the part of citizens. Various interlinked factors including technology (mobile phones, social networking, a computerised voter database), the 2008 Barack Obama story (of change, and limitless possibilities), the North African uprisings and a general yearning for good leadership after 12 unimpressive years of civilian rule have combined to enlighten, inspire and empower Nigerians and to transform their understanding of what genuine democracy is all about (power in the hands of the people).’
But not everyone was elated or convinced of any change and rightly so. After all Goodluck Jonathan represents nothing more than a continuum of Olusegun Obasanajo’s presidency, which was in itself a continuation of militarised rule dressed up in a fraudulent democracy. Ike Okonta’s article on Pambazuka on ‘The death of progressive politics in Nigeria’ holds true and we should not be delusional on the basis of a slightly less fraudulent election process.
This 11-year old’s take on one of the major candidates speaks volumes:
In the 24 hours prior to the presidential elections, tweeters began reporting outbreaks of violence in parts of the Niger Delta. 24 hours after the polls closed, reports of outbreaks of violence in the north of the country began to emerge. Supporters of the CPC candidate Mohammed Buhari, took to the streets in Kaduna, Sokoto, Gombe, Bauchi and Kano. Already claims of figures as high as 48,000 people have been displaced in Bauchi and slowly numbers of wounded and dead are being reported. Although Buhari has condemned the actions of his supporters, he has also lodged a complaint stating the results were false and claims he has evidence of rigging which is bound to fuel the violence.
The use of the #NigeriaUprising hastag on Twitter to describe the protests on the street is an interesting one. It marks a departure from previous violence which has been rightly or wrongly depicted as being driven by the violence of poverty in the form of religious and ethnic prejudices. Tatalo Alamu takes an almost biblical approach by warning of the wrath to come which should leave the Northern elite – political and traditional leaders shaking in their sandals.
‘This is not an exultant crowd waiting for a political emancipator. This is a traumatized mob waiting for a messiah. There is a feral frenzy to these fellows; there is the manic glint of the politicized fanatic in their eyes; there is an all consuming raw anger which is implacable in its thirst for vengeance; there is a wild and merciless ruthlessness of resolve which does not recognize the template and rubric of law and order, or its corollary of logic and rationality.......... But the rest of the country must also fear. .... Because of its traumatized antecedents and psychic disposition, this crowd is not rooting for a political saviour but its anointed messiah.’
Blogger Sulieman takes a similar but less dramatic view.
‘…the targets of the uprising are the so-called leaders in the North – the political, military and business elite as well the traditional institutions that have held the region back and truncated any attempt to educate the people and free them from the yolk of illiteracy and poverty. In the same manner that sit tight rulers in North Africa and the Middle East are being toppled by popular movements in the Arab Spring uprisings, the protests in northern Nigeria can be viewed as rebellion against a backward and anachronistic feudal system.’
The north of Nigeria has been living in a political, social and economic wilderness submissive to ancient feudal system of wealth and patronage. “Nigeria: A nation divided” is a visual representation of the inequalities across the country [Via Akin] The masses have had enough and in the minds of many, Mohammed Buhari spelled that hope which is now dashed.
- BURKINA FASO: Army mutiny continues
Police joined army officers in a mass protest against the government of Blaise Compaore. Traders burned down government buildings and ten of thousands of Burkinabes demonstrated in cities across the country.
- UGANDA: Ugandan government closes down Twitter and Facebook following anti-government protests led by opposition leader Kizza Besigye.
- KENYA: Protests against rising food prices.
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Libya: Use of depleted uranium, partition and regional risks
On the night of 17 March 2011, holding its 6,498th meeting, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1973 (UNSCR-1973), approving a ‘no-fly zone’ (NFZ) over Libya, authorising all necessary measures to protect civilians by a vote of 10 in favour with 5 abstentions.
Most interesting to note was the fact that the five abstentions included two permanent veto-wielding member states (China and Russia), and three non-permanent states (Brazil, Germany and India), who coincidentally are vying for permanent seats in the Security Council. Most notably, the fact that the five members of the Security Council who are also members of an economic group of large emerging markets with the acronym BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) all happened to be on the Security Council at the same time is either a coincidence or a very bizarre occurrence.
NATO took on the role of imposing the NFZ over Libya on Thursday 31 March 2011, despite internal divisions among member states of NATO, most notably Turkey and Germany, and the daily flights and bombings continued unabated since then. UNSCR-1973 has provided the political and legal rationale for NATO bombing operations over Libya, with thousands of civilians killed and many more injured as a result of the daily bombings.
The NATO war against the sovereign government of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya proves that this is not a humanitarian war but one that is protecting the West’s interests in and around the oilfields mostly located in the eastern part of Libya, effectively partitioning the country contrary to international law and UNSCR-1973. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has now called for an immediate cessation of hostilities by all sides, including NATO, who are now openly backing the rebels with the sole intention of pushing out the legitimate government in Libya at any cost.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement that the Libyan armed forces had used cluster bombs in Misrata. The Libyan government has denied these charges and challenged HRW to prove them; most interestingly no casualties from cluster bombs have been confirmed in Misrata. Disturbingly, depleted uranium weapons have been used in Libya, both by the USA and subsequently by NATO upon assuming command and control of the NFZ responsibilities. The United States Pentagon’s denial of use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons has been met with scepticism, especially considering USAF A-10 warthog tank-buster aircraft deployed over Libya and given that the United States has a long history of only admitting to deploying DU radioactive material months or years after it has been used. Based on news video footage, it is more than likely that depleted uranium has been used more widely than originally thought since the USA has launched shells, bombs and cruise missiles containing depleted uranium in the past in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The use of DU weapons when the USA destroyed the city of Fallujah in Iraq reveals that there have been horrendous health conditions resulting from the US military deployment of these materials. Fallujah represented a stronghold of resistance to the US forces’ invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003–04. High rates of infections, birth defects and cancers have been reported that are the direct result of the use of DU weapons.
In addition, regionally the conflict in Libya could have a devastating effect in Niger and Mali where the nomadic Tuareg peoples in the Sahara Desert regions of northern Niger and Mali and southern Libya have been involved in a spate of kidnappings and armed uprisings known as the ‘Tuareg rebellion’. This is especially dangerous for northern Niger; this is where the town of Arlit, an industrial town, is located in the Agadez region, where uranium is mined by French companies in two large uranium mines (Arlit and Akouta).
Arlit was the subject of the Niger uranium forgeries when President George W. Bush, in the build-up to the (illegal) Iraq war, in his 2003 State of the Union address stated, ‘[t]he British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,’ when it was alleged that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase ‘yellowcake’ uranium powder from Niger during the Iraq disarmament crisis. These 16 words and the intelligence in this regard were later found to be baseless and rubbished by US intelligence agencies, albeit too late for innocent Iraqis who lost their lives over a lie during the war years.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who travelled to Niger to investigate the Iraq/yellowcake plot, concluded that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place, thus clearing Saddam Hussein of any re-starting of Iraq’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programme. Ambassador Wilson was punished for this by the outing of his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent, allegedly by an official working in the then vice-president Dick Cheney’s Oofice in the White House, which was also the plot of the movie ‘Fair Game’ released in 2010.
What is now very obvious is that the USA, the UK and France are calling for a full-scale and unabated invasion of Libya à la Iraq, or, boots on the ground. This has implications for the civilians in cities who support their legitimate government and Colonel Gaddafi, since it is being seen as a popular uprising when in effect it is confined to a few ‘rebellious types’, in the city of Benghazi. The SAS (Special Air Service) and French Special Forces have been operating in the eastern part of Libya since the beginning and now mercenaries are being recruited at an alarming rate, all being told of imminent deployment and action in Libya, contrary to UNSCR-1973.
The United Nations Security Council mandate has been a dinosaur, originally set up after the Second World War, with five permanent Security Council members (China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA) with veto powers. Until and unless the United Nations General Assembly takes decisive action to abolish the permanent seats structure and veto powers and expand the number of members to reflect the continents, the Security Council will continue to serve the privileged few nations while the rest are increasingly at risk of being ‘legally and legitimately’ bombed, invaded and occupied under the United Nations Security Council auspices.
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* Farouk James is an activist and observer of UN Security Council activities in terms of Peace-keeping Operations and Aid Agencies activities during periods of disasters, famine and conflict. Also monitors the activities of Mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan, having investigated the activities of Custer-Battles LLC, a Defence Contractor who had embezzled Millions of US Dollars in Iraq.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Nigeria: The curse of post-election violence continues
Suleiman’s Blog seeks to put the post-election violence that erupted in (Northern) Nigeria in context:
‘It is easy to construe the violent protests that broke out in several northern states following the April 16th presidential elections as signs of intolerance or do or die politics… If any church or Christian was targeted, it is condemnable and completely uncalled for. It is totally indefensible and can only be explained, but not justified as the result of mindless, directionless mob action.
‘In reality, the targets of the uprising are the so-called leaders in the North – the political, military and business elite as well the traditional institutions that have held the region back and truncated any attempt to educate the people and free them from the yolk of illiteracy and poverty. In the same manner that sit tight rulers in North Africa and the Middle East are being toppled by popular movements in the Arab Spring uprisings, the protests in northern Nigeria can be viewed as rebellion against a backward and anachronistic feudal system…
‘For those seeking to understand the outbreaks of violence, there is another north. There is a north that has nothing to do with the usurpation of political and economic opportunities to the exclusion of other Nigerians. There is a north that is poor, hungry, illiterate and devoid of hope. There is a north that is as much a victim as the south of the corruption and arrogance of these narrow clique of northerners that is often presented as representing the entire region...
‘This is the north that is coming out to fight for its survival. As long as they stick to the objective of forcing out the corrupt and visionless elite, they need our support and understanding, not the usual ‘almajiri’ taunts. Perhaps, a better Nigeria might yet emerge.’
Akin in the City argues that the 16 April presidential election debunked a number of commonly-accepted narratives about Nigeria:
‘Having performed an analysis of the results of the Presidential elections, one is at pains to continually accept this notion of a North-South divide nor is the oft-touted Muslim dominated North as true as we are made to believe else how would there be clashes between religionists…
‘The BBC in a piece about a divided Nigeria some two weeks ago laid out a number of geo-political and socio-economic maps of Nigeria highlighting the divisions in Nigeria. The wealth, health and literacy maps are what seem to define the real divisions in Nigeria.
‘The way it appears, the North has been left behind and successive leaderships in the North have failed to rise to the aspirations of the people as a feudal system appears to thrive making the people a ready mob in the hands of unscrupulous power brokers...
‘There is no doubt that Northern Nigeria needs visionary leadership unhindered by the smokescreens of religious piety masquerading as a society at ease with itself. They need a new political class of selfless people ready to serve their communities and raise all the standards of living that would give Nigeria the better tale of a nation united in purpose and progress.’
A Tunanina… highlights the positive role that the TV network NN24 and new technologies played in mobilising the youth vote during the Nigerian elections, but wonders whether these tools can really make politics more transparent:
‘It is commonly repeated in the media that tweeting and Facebook played a large role in the Egyptian revolution and the social media also seem to be a large part of a ‘youth consciousness’ here in Nigeria. Yet, Facebook and twitter and blogs are still very much limited to an upwardly mobile urban population which has the means to buy internet-accessible phones, or at least browse at an internet cafe. And, passion and commitment to transparency still cannot completely stop those who are determined to cause havoc, as we see in the increasingly worrisome trend of political terrorism throughout the country...
‘That said, I’m an optimistic person, and I do love to see how passionate those I know are about the elections... I love how friends on twitter re-tweet instructions from INEC about the rules for accreditation and voting, and how others campaign for their chosen candidates on Facebook. I love to see the i-reports sent to NN24 by young people from their phones and the democratizing role these new technologies seem to be playing in these elections...
‘The question, of course, is will the politicians who will be voted into power respect the faith the youth are placing in their votes? Or will they, despite the ‘free and fair’ vote, continue on with business as usual? And if that case, will new technologies make any difference in encouraging the youth to challenge the political culture in Nigeria in a more radical way or will it just comfort an elite that “their voices are being heard”?’
Angela Kintu revisits the recent violent crackdown on the Walk to Work demonstration in Uganda:
‘The Police will harp on about legal assembly and written permission for demonstrations, but was permission ever going to be granted? While the walk was in solidarity against high fuel and other prices and could therefore constitute a form of protest, walking by oneself to wherever can hardly be considered a form of assembly or procession...
‘Their error in judgement and so called “intelligence” reports is in thinking that this protest is about Kizza Besigye. It is not… this protest is about reality, frustration and desperate times. I am buying a litre of Ugandan made and grown cooking oil for sh6,500. I am paying sh3,600 for a litre of fuel. A tomato has gone up to sh300 at the very least. I don’t know about you, but that is breaking my budget. No one is paying me any more money for my work – in fact, I am chasing debtors left, right and centre. In one short week, Easter and school holidays will be upon me. Three short weeks after that, I must rustle up school fees and requirements…
‘What the puppet masters are misjudging is how deeply this affects all the Ugandans who do not have their grubby hands in the national coffers. Don’t mock us; help us!’
A World View explains why the international campaign to stop piracy off the Somali coast is not succeeding:
‘The international community's three-year effort to end piracy off the coast of Somalia is a waste of time; that was basically the message presented by the Foreign Minister of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Mohammed Abdulahi Omar Asharq, to an anti-piracy conference in Dubai on Monday…
‘Asharq is echoing a sentiment expressed by a number of military and piracy experts over the past few years (despite what Donald Trump may think): that so long as Somalia exists as a lawless state without a functioning national economy, the lure of the big money to be made capturing and ransoming ships along with the ability for pirates to operate from several port cities along the long Somali coast, piracy will continue in a big way in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. But international anti-piracy efforts have concentrated almost solely on intercepting pirates at sea, not trying to bring order and security to pirate ports like Haradheere and Eyl. The attempt of restoring a national government to Somalia, the TFG, is woefully underfunded and militarily only supported by a mission of African Union peacekeeping troops drawn from a handful of nations. The military of the TFG/AU mission spends most of its time fighting against the al-Shabaab Islamic insurgency, leaving them unable to provide security in the port cities and rout out the pirates. And indications are that there won't be a boost to the TFG coming anytime soon.’
African Moves is pleased with the ongoing unrest in Burkina Faso and hopes for the collapse of the Compaore regime:
‘I was in secondary school in '86 when Thomas Sankara arrived for the Non-Aligned Summit that was held in Zimbabwe. He literally shook the place up. He even upstaged the usual centre-of-attention, Muammar Gaddafi. For the following weeks, his name was on everyone's lips; "Who is this Sankara fellow?" That's how I became a Pan-Africanist, living in a country where few knew (or had heard of) "Upper Volta", or were even familiar with (so-called) Francophone Africa.
‘Now, 25 years later, it appears that me and Blaise Compaore have a rendezvous with history. I've been waiting for this moment, literally, for a quarter of a Century. When the demise of Blaise is announced, I'll savour the moment like no other. The evil conspiracy of French President (Francois Mitterrand) and his official boot-licker (Blaise Compaore), literally shattered one of the greatest experiments in positive upliftment ever attempted on African soil. I hope the gallant people of Burkina Faso bury Blaise Compaore in a shallow grave; the same dog's grave that Thomas Sankara was (initially) buried in. What goes around always comes around.’
Swazi Media laments that AIDS support groups are shutting down in Swaziland due to a lack of funding at the same time that more money is being allocated for the upkeep of the king:
‘But, while money cannot be found to keep the HIV AIDS support groups going, the same cannot be said about money for King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute Monarch.
‘In February this year (2011) the budget for King Mswati and the royal household was raised by E40 million (US$5.88 million) for the coming year. By comparison the US$130,000 for SWANNEPHA [Swaziland National Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS] is a drop in the ocean.
‘But it doesn’t end there. This is for the second consecutive year that the budget for King Mswati Royal increased by E40 million - in the 2010/11 financial year, the royal budget went from E130 million to E170 million.
‘The greed of King Mswati and the royal family seems to know no bounds. The Nation magazine reported this month (April 2011) that the King’s office spent about E13 million ($1. 8 million) on internal decor for three of the royal guest houses.
‘Yesterday was the King’s 43rd birthday and next week is the 25th anniversary of his victory in a power struggle within Swaziland that saw him crowned king.
‘You might therefore be pleased to know that the budget for the Celebrations Office is E12.5 million – roughly 14 times the annual budget of SWANNEPHA.’
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* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Gacaca courts, justice and reconciliation
Challenges for Rwanda
If Phil Clark’s new book can’t be said to be the definitive work on Rwanda’s gacaca, the country’s remarkable experiment in transitional justice, it is only because it is far too soon for such an achievement. It will take years before the impact of the gacaca process can fully be assessed, and we can be confident that even then, consensus – as in all things Rwandan – will be hard to find. Nonetheless, with this new book on gacaca, following his 2008 book of edited essays ‘After Genocide’ (with Zachary Kaufman, reviewed in Pambazuka News issue 443, 23 July 2009), Clark has surely become the universal standard against which all future works must be judged.
Although the gacaca experiment has already attracted a small platoon of academics and other observers fascinated with the vexed issue of transitional justice, I’m aware of no others who have immersed themselves in the subject as thoroughly as Phil Clark. His fieldwork ran from the first trial runs in 2001 to the time gacaca was winding down in 2010, while he interviewed some 450 participants and observed 67 gacaca hearings in 11 communities. From these sources Clark, an Australian political scientist at Oxford University, paints a multifaceted picture of the many diverse objectives of gacaca held by various constituencies in Rwanda and the apparent impact of each.
Of course being Rwanda, we can take for granted that deep divisions will characterise attitudes toward gacaca as it characterises every other aspect of Rwandan life. Gacaca has its inevitable cheerleaders, tied in one way or another to the government, who will brook no criticism, as well as its automatic detractors for whom anything associated with the Kagame RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) government is automatically anathema. Clark repudiates both camps.
One welcome development in the field is the emergence of a group of Rwandan scholars who have been studying gacaca and who have begun writing about it. Clark is familiar with both the Rwandan and non-Rwandan literature on the subject and is excited by the prospect that forthcoming books and articles by Rwandans are likely to offer new insights into the genocide and its aftermath, including the operations of the gacaca courts.
It has been one of the characteristics of the genocide in Rwanda that its history has largely been told by outsiders, specifically muzungu from the west. This is especially true of the literature in English. The limits of what can almost be called the neocolonial view of Rwanda are clear from Clark’s analysis of the writings of Rwandans and non-Rwandans on gacaca. He finds in general that the Rwandan writers are more sympathetic to gacaca, the foreigners more critical. On the whole, his own conclusions place him considerably closer to the Rwandan writers than to other outsiders like himself. While far from uncritical about how gacaca has operated and about certain roles played by the government, his own expansive view of the many dimensions of gacaca, which he argues many outsiders largely ignore, make him by and large a cautious admirer of the entire project.
While all the classic 1948 convention genocides share an overriding characteristic – the planned and organised conspiracy to eliminate an entire identifiable group – each has certain unique aspects as well. In Rwanda, it was the intensity, the very short timespan, the massive number of killers who were ordinary citizens, the fact that killer and victim might have been drinking or attending church together only days earlier and, above all, the extraordinary reality that once the genocide was finally defeated, killers and survivors often went back to living on the same hill. Within a few years the prisons were swollen with accused genocidaires, all Hutu, totalling as many as 130,000 souls living in the most squalid of conditions. It was in the face of this unprecedented phenomenon that all attempts at justice and reconciliation had to be designed. To say the task was daunting does not begin to give a sense of the complexities. These realities, as Clark points out, have often been downplayed by gacaca’s (and Rwanda’s) many harsh foreign critics.
Despite the flowering of so-called truth and reconciliation commissions across the globe, post-conflict goals are in fact not always universally shared. Indeed, as we often forget, many are in conflict or tension with each other. Besides justice, democracy, truth and reconciliation, there are the equally elusive goals of peace, ending impunity, healing, forgiveness, national unity, harmony, short-term relief, longer-term reconstruction and development. And all of these are to be acted on by a new government that, to say the least, does not enjoy universal support and that is dependent on miniscule human and financial resources and barely rudimentary infrastructure. In Mahmood Mamdani’s telling formulation, in the early years after the genocide Rwandans wanted democracy and justice. More precisely, few Rwandans wanted both. Hutu wanted democracy and the Tutsi-led RPF government wanted justice.
Gacaca, Clark learned, had many initiators, and most of the objectives listed above were promoted by one or another of them. For a country with no resources, it was a remarkably ambitious project, unlike anything ever tried before anywhere. And not only were the goals massive, so was the process. Clark notes that by design, gacaca involved virtually the entire population of the country. A huge percentage of Rwandans participated in some way or another over the years, including literally hundreds of thousands who were witnesses or judges elected by the community. The implication of this needs to be spelled out, for it is widely misunderstood: Given these numbers, it is evident, and crucial, that large numbers of Hutu were directly involved.
The challenges confronting the gacaca project seemed all but insurmountable – a shattered, traumatised, exhausted society living in a world of hurt and mistrust. It is against that reality that gacaca must be judged, but often is not.
Among the most severe critics of gacaca, to the surprise of many, have long been Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). In fact their criticisms began even before gacaca was formally launched and has not relented ever since. As Clark observes, these groups could not get beyond their conviction that nothing ever passes muster other than formal, Western-style practices where defendants have access to trained legal counsel and cases are heard by trained, experienced judges. Of course, even the richest of Western countries have trouble meeting these ideal conditions.
According to Amnesty, gacaca ‘fails to meet internationals standards for fair trails and lacks independence, impartiality and transparency’. HRW equated ‘Rwanda’s highly discredited gacaca courts’ with American military procedures in Guantanamo Bay. As Clark shows, many non-Rwandan authors have echoed these criticisms, though few Rwandans agree. Similarly, many of these non-Rwandans, including AI and HRW, strongly criticise the decision to keep the crimes of the RPF out of gacaca’s jurisdiction.
If it were up to these critics, presumably Rwanda would have introduced the entire panoply of international legal processes that has characterised the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) sitting in Arusha, Tanzania. There would be lawyers and judges and registrars and more lawyers and appeals, logically with the same results as the ICTR, where to date about 1,000 staff have completed 52 cases since 1995 at a cost of some US$2 billion. In comparison, total Rwanda government spending on the direct running of gacaca was US$39 million. While Clark criticises the Rwanda government for ‘grossly overstating’ the number of suspects prosecuted at a million, his own estimate is that gacaca ‘certainly has succeeded in prosecuting hundreds of thousands of suspects and probably completed the backlog of genocide cases’. This, by the way, includes the wholly unexpected multitude of new suspects who were identified at the gacaca trials themselves plus thousands of murder suspects who had been transferred to the gacaca courts from the national courts.
Even those who applaud the numerous jurisprudential achievements of the Arusha tribunal are frustrated that so few cases using so many resources have been completed. Yet if Rwanda itself had operated according to the highest international standards, it surely would have heard only a mere handful of cases, given that there were barely any lawyers or judges left after the genocide. And if the mandate had also included accused RPF suspects, as critics demanded, the workload would have been even more ludicrous. Yet none of these practical issues, none of these self-evident constraining realities, ever seemed to interest gacaca’s critics, as they repeated their harsh dogmatic criticisms time after time after time. It has been a troubling mystery for many years.
Clark argues that these organisations never understood what gacaca was really after. The process explicitly excluded lawyers for two reasons. First, as noted, there were hardly any. Second, there was a widespread fear among many Rwandans – the government, the general population and scholars and commentators alike – that lawyers would distort the hearings. Lawyers would be too dominant, they would intimidate participants and formalise the atmosphere and they would lead to impossibly long, drawn-out trials. Following ICTR-like rules meant that the backlog of 130,000 imprisoned suspects would have taken a hundred years, give or take a few dozen, to clear up. Who would that help? On the other hand, the absence of lawyers meant the community could own the trials, which Clark found was in fact the case in many, though by no means all, of the gacaca locations.
To the non-Rwandan observers, greater public participation was nothing less than an invitation to mob justice, which Clark insists was mostly not the case. After all, he points out, about 25 per cent of all cases resulted in acquittal, hardly what one might have expected from vigilante justice. This result might also have reflected the important if neglected reality that the judges actually reflected Rwandan society as a whole, with the majority of popularly elected gacaca judges being Hutu. This also likely accounts for the fact, largely unknown until now, that some gacaca jurisdictions actually allowed open discussion of alleged RPF crimes, though it’s true that no prosecutions were permitted. Still, Clark says, fears by some non-Rwandans that the government really controlled the process was significantly exaggerated. Kigali’s reach was limited; the further from the capital the less its capacity to intervene. There was ‘scope for local communities to direct gacaca in ways that directly contested government policy’.
Clark reminds us that the RPF government that had approved gacaca was in no way a homogenous, united body. Like governments everywhere, it contained different factions – RPF Ugandans, RPF military, RPF political hierarchy, survivors, diaspora returnees, Hutu allies. Many others also had views about and influenced the nature of gacaca – local people, judges, lawyers and non-lawyers, urban elites and rural elites. As a result, gacaca was ‘the product of protracted debates and complex political compromises among different factions of a divided state and disagreements among international and domestic actors over the most appropriate responses to the genocide crisis.’
In the same way, Clark also reminds us, gacaca itself wasn’t run homogeneously nor were its results homogenous: ‘A gacaca jurisdiction in one village may differ in key respects from another less than a kilometer away … local influences are crucial to any understanding of the process.’
Finally, he importantly notes that a proper perspective is needed when assessing gacaca. There are no magic bullets in the pursuit of transitional justice and reconciliation: ‘A major challenge for gacaca has been handling overly lofty expectations about what it can achieve in the post-genocide environment.’ Those with unrealistic expectations include not only survivors and some elements of the government, but those outsiders who began, remained and ended as unforgiving gacaca critics. Many of the latter, Clark persuasively shows, never understood the complexity of many aspects of the gacaca process or the diverse objectives it was intended to serve.
Looking at the actual complexity, Clark isolates nine expressed objectives of gacaca and analyses each of them. These included clearing the backlog of genocide cases, improving prison conditions, economic development, truth, peace, justice, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. (Clark provides a useful introduction to these separate and sometimes incompatible concepts.) All but economic development through gacaca he finds feasible, but the results actually produced, he concludes, were highly variable. He considers that successes include handling the enormous backlog, delivering retributive justice, facilitating crucial processes of truth-telling and truth-hearing (two distinguishable matters, he shows), and providing for positive peace by creating ‘a dialogical space for the resolution of past conflicts, which is critical to sustaining more cohesive relations in the long run’. But results varied in different communities. In some, restorative justice, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation – all of which are long-run in nature – are just ‘distant prospects or have even been undermined by people’s experiences of gacaca itself’.
Clark repeatedly emphasises some of the exceptional aspects of the gacaca courts. Above all, there are the scale and the numbers involved. Clark does not make the point that the genocide itself was unique for its ‘popular’ nature – the huge numbers of ordinary Rwandans who participated. That was then reflected in the huge numbers of low-level suspects left rotting in prison. The ICTR and the national justice system, just getting back on its feet, were dealing, slowly, with what everyone called the ‘big fish’ among the accused genocidaires. How would the 130,000 small fry be handled? Gacaca, a traditional grassroots justice system, became the inspiration, but it was magnified beyond all recognition. No fewer than 250,000 local judges were freely elected to hold court in 11,000 jurisdictions. Even though the number of judges was eventually reduced to 170,000, this was a staggering undertaking for a wrecked state still traumatised and just beginning to meet the challenges of reconstruction. And it didn’t end there. Gacaca, writes Clark, is ‘unique among post-conflict judicial structures around the world in its mass involvement’. From the start it was intended as a popular process, run by citizens at the local level and free from political or legal interference. Clark found that the further the courts from Kigali, the more real this freedom was.
But gacaca’s most remarkable characteristic was also its most controversial – the very mass involvement of the citizenry in hearing and prosecuting genocide cases. Not only were lawyers not involved; they were explicitly barred from all hearings in order to create an environment where the community could feel more comfortable than in the highly formalistic and inherently adversarial nature of conventional courts. Locals could speak more openly of their experiences and engage meaningfully with perpetrators. The upshot would be to maximise the community’s sense of ownership over the process and its consequences. I predict that gacaca’s critics in the international human rights world will dismiss this point as overblown.
Let me record some of the other positive accomplishments that Clark concludes gacaca offered:
- It empowered many who had otherwise been marginalised in national life, especially women, who have played central roles as judges, participants and witnesses. This fact has generally been ignored entirely.
- ‘Evidence from a wide range of communities indicates that gacaca provides a vital dialogical space in which Rwandans tell and hear narratives about the events and effects of the genocide. While challenges … have emerged over time, gacaca has provided a forum for collective decisions that has not occurred elsewhere in Rwandan society. In doing so, gacaca has fulfilled a vital truth function in pursuit of justice, healing and reconciliation.’
- ‘Gacaca has generally succeeded in facilitating peace and justice, although it has faced major obstacles in fulfilling these objectives.’
But readers must not conclude that Clark views everything with rose-colored glasses. He has hopes, but not illusions. He sadly concludes, for example, that ‘reconciliation is at best a distant result in most of the country, although gacaca constitutes an important starting point in this process.’ He bases this judgment in part on the behaviour of the perpetrators. As Jean Hatzfeld also found and powerfully recorded in ‘Machete Season’, only a small minority of confessed killers expressed genuine remorse for their crimes. Most claimed to be either bystanders when crimes were committed or were coerced to kill by their betters. These excuses made many Tutsi more cynical than ever, undermining any possibility of reconciliation. Similarly, the failure to try any accused RPF men angered Hutu. Yet even here Clark finds some rays of hope. His research, he believes, shows that often, over time, even these cynics have forged better relations and developed new forms of dialogue. We have little choice here but to hope Clark is right. The alternative, after all, is unthinkable.
Clark’s views on gacaca and reconciliation suggest the standards by which he judges success. Given the extraordinary circumstances, the puny resources and the absence of any viable models, his expectations are decidedly modest. This seems to me the right perspective for judging gacaca. And who would assert that the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was more successful, or any other of the world’s abundance of TRCs, or the ICTR or ICTY? If we take the context into account, as any sensible observer surely must, almost any successes can be considered a small triumph in a situation where thousands of small triumphs are ultimately needed.
Nor is Clark unaware of the flaws of gacaca, some of them inherent. He believes, as others have argued and has been true of other TRCs, that many accused gamed the system; they confessed to lesser crimes than they actually committed in order to get a lighter sentence. Others baldly lied, denying everything. Accused genocidaires, it seems, organised themselves into ‘syndicates of liars’ who colluded to hide evidence. Survivors have been threatened if they testify, and some witnesses have been killed. All of this is, of course, deeply painful for survivors. But no legal system in the world, not even the most sophisticated, is free of these challenges.
Clark also makes clear that Tutsi were not the only victims. A number of confessed genocidaires had family killed after the genocide by the RPF. Indeed one of Clark’s key Hutu informants had a relative killed. While that murder was raised at gacaca hearings, the judges ruled that it was outside the mandate of gacaca, which was exclusively to try Hutu for killing Tutsi in the genocide. The message this sent to the entire country hardly needs elaboration, though how the system could have handled an even larger caseload is hard to imagine. Significantly enough however, this very informant later joined the RPF out of self-preservation. ‘If you don’t vote RPF,’ he told Clark, ‘you risk yourself’ – another sad reflection on Rwandan society today.
Clark criticises the Rwanda government for the way it distorts the country’s history. The discourse underlying gacaca draws on an interpretation of that history that claims Rwandans have really always been one people. That’s why using ethnic designations, except when speaking about the genocide, is now banned. Colonial rulers and Hutu leaders are blamed for dividing a united country for their own gain.
Now it can’t be repeated too often that there’s nothing about Rwanda that doesn’t excite major differences of opinion, including its pre-colonial history. And insisting, as the government does, that Rwanda was some kind of pre-colonial arcadia before it was spoiled by white intruders is without question a highly idealised, romanticised picture. But it is true that large-scale massacres of one group by another did not begin until the country became independent under Hutu rule. It is true that the German and Belgian colonial rulers rigidified the divide between Hutu and Tutsi. It surely is true that more than three decades of Hutu governments further exacerbated this divide. So it’s not too great a stretch for the government to paint this picture.
As well, isn’t it healthy if Rwandans accepted the notion that they once had been, and therefore might again be, a united people? That no one in Rwanda is an alien? Isn’t that a way to get Hutu to stop trying to get even for the injustices that Tutsi rulers once inflicted upon them, long ago? Isn’t it a way to get Tutsi to end their nostalgia for a blissful past where they were they unchallenged rulers? Of course it is also entirely true that this discourse, if accepted, would be of inestimable benefit to the Tutsi minority today. After all, if all Rwandans are one people, if there are no such entities as Tutsi and Hutu, it means the Tutsi are no longer a minority who rule over a majority of perhaps disgruntled Hutu.
Yet where Clark is surely right is his assertion that the very idea of restoration, of restoring Rwanda to some pristine past, is itself utopian. His research showed that most Rwandans still do not accept the notion of a once-united nation, and why should they? It was never true, above all in the past turbulent 100 years. There’s been precious little unity to which the country can revert. While it’s true that in the first 17 years of Habyarimana's regime, the massive anti-Tutsi violence of the Kayibanda years ended, and that some people got along more or less harmoniously, no one was ever left unaware of their ethnicity or who ultimately ruled the roost. If teachers didn’t remind their students, the quota system for Tutsi always did. And if any illusions had ever been harboured, the genocide ended them forever. So reconciliation, says Clark, cannot happen by restoring anything. Only a new beginning can ever hope to achieve that, in a process that will take many years.
One might go further and wonder whether reconciliation is ever possible in the lifetime of those who were part of the genocide. Many mothers of South African activists murdered by the apartheid government made clear to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that despite all the confessions in the world, they are never going to forgive the people and the system that was responsible. Personally, I’m with them. But Clark is more hopeful. Gacaca, he believes, ‘constitutes an important starting point for reconciliation. It has already reaped significant restorative dividends in some communities.’ We can only hope that he’s reading his evidence properly.
But he has more to say about this, and it’s really one of several major conclusions, or lessons, he draws from his impressive study. The first relates to other societies who are seeking community-based processes to help in recovering from mass atrocities. There are, alas, never a shortage of such societies. Clark mention northern Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the eastern Congo, Darfur and Timor-Leste. Today we can add Ivory Coast. Tomorrow it might be Libya. ‘The gacaca experience highlights that major innovation, including melding customary and modern law, can yield substantial benefits for the population provided those processes can navigate inevitable tensions between issues of elite control and popular ownership, and between punitive and reconciliatory objects.’ These are pretty dramatic ‘ifs’, as his book repeatedly demonstrates.
Clark also has commonsense advice both for Rwanda and countries in comparable situations. ‘As the history of Rwanda after 1959 shows, periods of apparently peaceful co-existence between Hutu and Tutsi have tended to give way to mass violence because … the root causes of conflict were not addressed… If a post-conflict institution such as gacaca aims to build peace, then it must respond to the deep-rooted motivations of the population that led it to perpetrate mass violence.’ Research has shown that among the most reliable predictors of conflict in Africa since independence has been previous conflict. Too many conflicts, both within and between states, have been temporarily ended without the underlying basis for them ever having been properly addressed. Heaven knows that getting at the root cause is profoundly complicated. But as Clark says, failure to do so is an invitation to future conflict.
As for Rwanda itself, he reminds us that ‘[t]he reverberations from gacaca will be felt for many years to come… If engagement between parties ceases at gacaca, however, there is little chance of reconciliation occurring. Reconciliation, and the engagement that is a bridge to facilitating it, are arduous, long-term processes.’ Which means, in my understanding, that it’s not just the justice system that is responsible for assuring the kind of ambience that reconciliation demands. We can say that it takes an entire nation to achieve genuine reconciliation. All aspects of Rwandan society, and above all every activity involving the government, must send the same message. There must be a culture of reconciliation embracing all members of the national community. This needs to include the media, elections, commemorations, education, history, politics and civil society. Who would say that such a culture exists today in Rwanda?
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* Phil Clark, ‘The Gacaca Courts, Post-Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda: Justice Without Lawyers’, Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp 355 + 33.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Spirit of discontent: Uprisings in Africa
Interviewed by Walter Turner, KPFA Africa Today
South Africa: On the murder of Andries Tatane
There are moments when a society has to step back from the ordinary thrum of day-to-day life and ask itself how it has become what it has become. There are times when a society has to acknowledge that it cannot go on as it is and ask itself what must be done to set things on a new and better course.
The historians of our children and grandchildren’s generation will write the history of our failure to redeem the promise of our democracy and the struggles that brought it into being. They will debate the significance of the various moments that have marked the plunge from the soaring language of the Freedom Charter and the Constitution to the stupid, ugly, strutting fascist camp of Bheki Cele and Julius Malema.
We can be sure that they will agree that when we confronted, for the first time, the sickening spectacle of an unarmed man being murdered by the police on the television news, a decisive point was reached. When the police murdered Andries Tatane in Ficksburg on Wednesday they murdered a man who had, with thousands of others, taken to the streets in protest at the unconscionable contempt with which the poor are treated in this country.
All these years after the end of apartheid, abundant rivers of Johnny Walker Blue have been drunk while millions live in shacks without water, electricity or toilets. We still have a two-tier education system that condemns most of us to a precarious, dangerous and difficult life. More than 50% of young black men and 60% of young black women are unemployed. This is an entirely unviable and unjust situation. The protest in Ficksburg, and the ongoing national rebellion of the poor of which it is part, are an entirely legitimate response to the sheer contempt with which the ANC treats the people in whose name its leading members grow richer as their language and the public performance of their power becomes more infused with violence.
Andries Tatane’s sister, Seipati, told reporters that he was ‘forever reading books’ and that he volunteered to help the matrics with maths and science at the local school. He helped, we are told, the Boitumelo High School to improve its pass rate from 38% to 52%. A witness said that he was singled out by the police after asking them why they were targeting an elderly protestor with their water cannon. He had planned, as is his unquestionable right in a democracy, to stand as a candidate in the local government elections next month.
The officers who murdered Tatane were still on duty in Ficksburg on Friday. The day after Tatane was killed Elizabeth Mtshali, due to give birth in a month’s time, was shot in the neck by the police with a rubber bullet while carrying a plastic drum to fetch water. At times like this you’d be forgiven for thinking that the shack settlements of South Africa were in occupied Palestine.
Of course Andries Tatane is not the first unarmed person to have been murdered by the police during a protest after apartheid. In fact he’s not even the first person from Ficksburg to be killed in this way.
More than ten years have passed since Michael Makhabane, a student from Ficksburg, was murdered by the police on the campus of the former University of Durban-Westville during a protest against the exclusion of poor students from the university. He was shot in the chest at point black range and from above with a shot gun.
In August 2004 around four and half thousand young people, many of them school pupils, from Intabazwe in Harrismith occupied the N2 in protest. On the first day of the protest twenty-four children were injured, thirty eight were arrested and a seventeen year old boy, Teboho Mkhonza, was shot dead.
But 2004 was the year in which the rebellion of the poor was just beginning. By 2009 the number of protests was ten times higher than it had been in 2004 and it was still higher last year. There is no record of the number of people that have been killed as this rebellion has spiralled around the country. The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) is, plainly, neither a trustworthy or effective organisation. It has often been deliberately obstructive and has failed to investigate many clear instances of serious police repression including torture. But its 2010 report confirms that, despite its obvious failings, it investigated 1,769 cases of people dying in police custody or as a result of police action last year. Let’s be clear. The state is, cheered on by Bheki Cele’s swaggering machismo, waging some kind of war on its people.
We’re just under a month away from the local government elections and things may well get worse in the coming weeks. Elections are generally a dangerous time for grassroots activists and poor people’s movements but local government elections are invariably the most dangerous time.
On election day in 2004, Landless People’s Movement activists were tortured in the Protea South police station in Soweto. The day after the 2006 local government elections, the police shot Monica Ngcobo dead and seriously wounded S’busiso Mthethwa in Umlazi in Durban. They claimed that Ngcobo had been shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet. They lied, as their spokespeople habitually do. She was shot in the back with live ammunition.
The elections next month will be bitterly contested in many areas with various parties running credible candidates, popular independent candidates entering the fray and boycotts being organised. If decisive action is not taken to persuade the police that their job is to facilitate rather than repress the right to protest, we may have to add more names to those of Solomon Madonsela, murdered by the police in Ermelo in February, and Andries Tatane, murdered by the police in Ficksburg last week.
In 1976 Sam Nzima’s photograph of a dying Hector Pieterson being carried away from the police by Mbuyisa Makhubo planted a clear image of the brutality of apartheid in the global imagination. Events without enduring public images are often only private traumas. But an event with a public image, like the murder of Hector Pieterson, can divide a society into a collective awareness of a time before and after a public trauma.
In October 2005 two teenage boys, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré were killed by electrocution while fleeing the police in Paris. France was wracked with riotous protest for the next two months. In December 2008 Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a fifteen year old boy, was killed by the police in Athens leading to a month long insurrection across Greece. In December last year Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia after enduring one humiliation too many at the hands of the police. The consequences of the reaction to his death are still playing out in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Swaziland.
In the past it has been possible for much of South African society to deny the increasing brutality with which our police repress grassroots dissent. The police have generally had a vastly better capacity for public relations than any poor people’s organisation and so the average newspaper reader is usually confronted with the police spin on events or, at best, two very different versions of what has happened when a body is left battered or broken after a protest. But the video footage of the murder of Andries Tatane leaves no room for doubt about what kind of society we have become.
The ANC likes to pretend to itself that it is a revolutionary organisation that, alone, can claim fidelity to the struggles against apartheid. It likes to pretend to itself that all opposition is motivated by malicious reactionary schemers. It is time that those of us in and out of the party face up to the plainly evident fact that the most dangerous reactionaries are the ones leading the country. The new struggles to ensure that every woman and man in our country is treated with the dignity that every human being deserves are entirely legitimate.
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* Richard Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University.
* This article first appeared on The South African Civil Society Information Service (www.sacsis.org.za).
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Africa: Police brutality and service delivery protests
Mphutlane wa Bofelo
The six policemen arrested for the murder of protestor, Andries Tatane in Meqheleng Township in Ficksburg in South Africa’s Free State are 'political scapegoats'. To put it bluntly, the six are 'sacrificial goats' on the altar of populist, grandstanding and electioneering politics. Their arrest is a quick ploy to take attention away from the systemic factors that inform police brutality. It is aimed at absolving the collective responsibility of South African Police Services (SAPS) and its political principal, the ANC-led government. It is the timing of the incident rather than government's intolerance to police brutality that informs the arrest of the six cops. The number of incidents of intimidation, harassment, torture, arrest and shooting of protestors by police during peaceful protest action in the post 1994, neo-apartheid dispensation is alarming. Families, individuals and organisations that lay complaints to the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) and various state institutions about incidents of illegal arrests and illegal shootings, harassment and torture and ‘disappeared dockets’ often wait forever for any kind of response.
Usually there is hardly a public announcement, let alone a report of investigation of incidents of police brutality. Instead, incidents of harsh repression of protests by the police are often followed by stern pronouncements by the state and government officials amounting to criminalisation of protest action and radical acts of civil disobedience. These statements are often accompanied by warnings to the public that the police will deal harshly with those involved in these acts. As a matter of fact, statements labelling civil disobedience as criminal acts and amounting to threats of harsh police action have featured in the state of the nation addresses of both former president, Thabo Mbeki and the current state president, Jacob Zuma. When you add ‘the shoot-to-kill’ injunction of the police chief Bheki Cele to state indifference to public complaints and public pronouncements that criminalise protest action and justify repressive measures to suppress it, you have a policy and systematic framework that sanctions and fuels police brutality.
As for the protests against lack of service delivery, one does not need to be a rocket scientist to know that public discontent is mainly the result of failure of government policies and programmes to provide sustainable and quality jobs, free and quality public education, health and transport, decent and habitable housing and free water and electricity to all citizens. There is also common agreement that the protests are fuelled by an absence of genuine and direct participation of communities in the design, implementation and evaluation of planning, governance and development; the complete disregard of public opinion; and the capture of ward committees and other public platforms and state institutions and resources by narrow and selfish party and elite interests. This is exacerbated by the allocation of state tenders, jobs and promotions in public administration only to comrades, friends and family members and various forms of cronyism and nepotism, maladministration and corruption including jobs for sex.
There is no doubt that unequal social and power relations and inequitable allocation of resources as well as unequal access to amenities and services has an impact on public participation and on the organisational capacity of communities to engage in effective lobbying and advocacy. This also affects the extent to which different communities and sectors of society can effectively make use of tools and platforms such as research, print and electronic media, public hearings, petitions and submissions on policies. The reality is that success of various forms of lobbying, advocacy and influencing public policy still rely heavily on the quality and quantity of financial, technological, material and human recourses and social capital at the disposal of communities.
A critical factor to also consider is that citizen action and public participation is either aided or disenabled and sabotaged by state agency and state capacity. The receptivity or non-receptivity of government institutions to the voice of communities largely determines the form that public discontent will take. In South Africa the incapacity or reluctance of state and public institutions to respond proactively to public concerns and needs or to take decisive action has diminished their faith in government and state institutions.
Public scepticism has been worsened by the bad state of internal democracy in political parties and by the general impression that politicians and parties only use popular support as a leverage and device to attain power and wealth for themselves. Among other things, this has led to the reduction in the numbers of people who attend public gathering and public hearings, greater mistrust of politicians and political institutions, and a decline in voter turn out. For an example, the voter turnout in the national general election in SA decreased from 19.5 million people in 1994 to just over 16 million in 1999, and fewer than 16 million in 2004.
It is this lack of trust of formal structures and processes for placing demands on the state that drives both peaceful and aggressive expressions of protest action and civil disobedience. Therefore, instead of criminalising protest action and civil disobedience, the government should design and implement a coherent and practical programme of transforming the organisational culture and value system of state bureaucracies and public administrations. Currently the Batho Pele initiative is just words on a piece of paper, without a concrete sanctions and incentive framework that enforces adherence and performance. It is therefore not capable of yielding a service culture, transparency or transformed attitudes of public administration staff and government officials. Clearly the solution to these problems is processes and platforms that locate people and communities at the centre of designing, planning, implementing and evaluating policy, governance and development. This would include effectively making people to be at the centre of designing protocols, systems and structures of security and policing in their communities and transforming SAPS into a police force that protects communities rather than one attacks them.
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* Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a cultural worker and social critic.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Protect our children: Stopping the sexual abuse of children
The controversy over sexuality in Africa today rests essentially on the legality or acceptability of sexual practices that deviate from the norm. Academics now use the term ‘heteronormativity’ to describe those views that see gender purely in the binary categories of men and women and sexual acts as normal only if occurring in a heterosexual relationship. One could argue that, in some African societies, hegemonic voices are trying to assert heteronormativity as naturally African – as homosexuality is represented as deviant, criminal and punishable by death. There is now a vigorous campaign against homophobia by activists and academics – challenging the continued use of colonial laws that criminalise same-sex relationships and the trend towards denying the human rights of homosexuals by contemporary regimes.
Some argue that this campaign has become a cause célèbre in the West. Concurrently, there is another vigorous campaign going on against the sexual abuse of women in conflict and post-conflict countries. In this respect, the Congo is now dubbed the ‘rape capital of the world’. Numerous studies have been commissioned by a range of policy-makers from the UN, NGOs, development agencies, British parliamentarians and the American military – that is, AFRICOM (HRW 2009; APPG 2008; NAI/SIDA 2010). Some of us welcome the attention to this grave problem, but, nevertheless, question the motives of some of those who intervene.
While condemning homophobia and championing the rights of consenting individuals to privacy in their sexual relations, as well as calling to action efforts to prevent the destruction of women’s lives caused by rape in the eastern Congo, we need to understand that there is another aspect to this problem which is not sufficiently pursued by scholars and activists. For me, this is the sexual abuse of children, which is often termed ‘defilement’ in civil codes. The fact that in some cultures young girls are forced to marry below the age of majority is no justification for the lack of attention.
Most African newspapers will report the rape of babies often committed by a community member, a relative or even a parent. The statistics in some countries are quite shocking. However, we have not fully addressed the sexual abuse of children placed in institutions such as schools, seminaries and orphanages. In the West, paedophilia has taken on the form of a witch hunt, with many states having a sex offender registry and those found guilty having to go into hiding. While I am against the hysteria that follows such cases in the West, and would be concerned if paedophilic homosexual activities are conflated with the practices engaged in by consenting adults, I am of the view that the sexual abuse of children in Africa is not given the serious consideration that it deserves. I hope activists reading this can prove me wrong.
There is so much rhetoric against abortion in many African societies – as exemplified in July 2010 constitutional debates in Kenya – yet those campaigning against women’s right to choose do not stand up against the abuse of young girls by senior men in their community, whether school teachers, uncles, fathers or religious leaders. Individual men can be prosecuted; this is often only possible if the victim is female. However, as shown in cases in Europe or America, where the perpetrators are adult authority figures in established institutions, victims are cowered and take years, often until adulthood, to reveal their experiences. This is also the result of an enabling environment in the society, a willingness of the state and the society to openly deal with such issues. In Africa, the hysteria around homosexuality has not helped such victims.
So, what of institutions? The Catholic Church in Europe and America has recognised the possibilities of children in seminaries and churches in the West being abused by priests, and has pledged to investigate such cases – even historical ones (BBC News 2010). However, there was no reference to the experience of young people in mission and boarding schools in Africa. It is, of course, difficult to research, due to the lack of documentation, and when such abuses are committed by foreigners, say Europeans, and come to light, they are hushed up and the culprits are quickly sent home. Newspapers may report conjectures, but neither the state nor the governing bodies of these institutions appear to have interests in pursuing these cases in a way that would enable victims to come forward. In my travels across the continent, I have collected numerous anecdotal evidence of abuse of local children by aid workers, priests and others, who when caught are simply relocated to another country or continent so as not to discredit the institution or its donor organisation. We know Africa is a location for sex tourism and, in the colonial past, for those fleeing the strictures of European society. We are also aware that large numbers of African children are caught up in child-trafficking to destinations where they suffer all forms of abuse.
Paedophilia is a crime irrespective of where it is committed. Institutions that take our children should provide a safe environment for them to grow. It would be interesting if the Catholic Church were to set an example in Africa by showing a commitment to investigate and make public such cases rather than seeing such acts as private to the individual (Menya & Liguorip 2011). A start has been made by Bishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, who was reported to have said: ‘I know that the Church in Africa is inflicted by the same scourge’ (Tostevin 2010).
I would not like to focus this discussion purely on Catholic priests, since school teachers, Anglican and Pentecostal pastors also abuse their powers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many such moral authorities avoid penetrative sex, believing that other forms of sexual activities do not break their moral codes. Newspaper and NGO reports suggest that sexual abuse of school girls is institutionalised in Africa (Katerere 2010; Museka 2010; Foran 2010; Quaicoe & Dibando 2009; Plan-international.org 2008). This is a consequence of the lack of concerted efforts by governments to protect the vulnerable in their institutions.
With respect to those charged to protect the vulnerable, in 2008, the Save the Children Fund published a report on the sexual abuse of children by aid workers and peace-keepers – placed in positions of authority and parading vast material resources amidst the destitution and despair of the locals. According to the report:
‘Significant levels of abuse of boys and girls continue in emergencies, with much of it going unreported. The victims include orphans, children separated from their parents and families, and children in families dependent on humanitarian assistance’ (p. 1).
The multi-country research project revealed abuse conducted by ‘23 humanitarian, peace-keeping and security organizations’ (p. 8). The report noted the efforts being made by the UN to stamp out such practices and argues that a major constraint to further action is the under-reporting of such cases by children and adults. It claims that under-reporting is due to several factors, such as stigmatisation, loss of material assistance provided by perpetrators, threat of retribution and retaliation, lack of effective legal services and lack of faith in response, and not knowing how to report such abuse. There is also the normalisation of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict contexts, such that despite the reported horrors of the rape of women in the DR Congo, there is still an implicit assumption in some quarters that African girls, even in such vulnerable circumstances, have heightened sexuality and are exercising choice and thus power – since they may nab a peace-keeper or NGO worker as a husband.
Orphanages, churches and schools, especially boarding schools, are institutions catering for vulnerable young people. There should be more effective mechanisms whereby those in positions of authority, who violate their responsibility to protect minors, are brought to justice.
The academic and activist debate on sex and sexuality in Africa has to widen to protect the rights of the vulnerable – those who are forced into non-consensual sex – whether adults or children, as well as those adults participating in consensual same-sex relationships. To date, there is a glaring gap in academic research on the sexual abuse of children, whether historical or contemporary (Lalor 2004). Such research is needed urgently, especially when more and more children are abandoned and the phenomenon of street children has grown rapidly in post-conflict and post-adjustment contexts. Scholars and activists need to challenge claims of heteronormativity at the same time as articulating how we should interpret what constitutes deviant sexual behaviour in African societies. There is ample evidence in the West that abused children, without support, often end up becoming abusers themselves. If, as newspapers suggest, sexual abuse of children is on the rise in Africa, then we will end up with societies in which a significant proportion of individuals have perverse and damaging views of the sexual act. This can only lead to greater inter-personal violence.
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* Dr Patricia Daley is a lecturer in human geography at the University of Oxford and the chair of Fahamu Trust.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
All Party Parliamentary Group for Africa (APPG) (2008) The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo. London. UK.
Erikson Baaz, M. & M. Stern (2010) The Complexity of Violence: A critical analysis of the Complexity of Sexual violence in the DRC. Nordiska Afrikainstitutet/SIDA.
Foran, S. (27 August 2010) ‘Africa Views-addressing the problem of sexual relations between teachers and students in Kenyan schools’. AlertNet. [accessed 13.4.2011].
Human Rights Watch (HRW) (2009) Soldiers Who Rape, Commanders Who Condone: Sexual Violence and Military Reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Katerere, F. (21 September 2010) ‘Africa: sexual abuse preventing progress on education targets’. AllAfrica.com [accessed 13 April 2011].
Lalor, K. (2004). ‘Child sexual abuse in Tanzania and Kenya’. Child Abuse and Neglect, Vol. 28 (8), 2004 pp.833-84
Menya, W. & G. Liguorip (2011) ‘Sex abuse bishop was quietly retired’, Daily Nation, Nairobi, Kenya, 27 February 2011. [accessed 13 April 2011].
Mutesa, L. (11 November 2010) Zambia: child sex abuse on the rise’, accessed at http://newsfromafrica.org./newsfrom africa/articles/art_12098.html
Plan-international.org. (2008) Learning without Fear- the global campaign to end violence in schools, [accessed an 13 April 2011].
Quaicoe, B. & Dibando, N. (2009) ‘Education: The Shocking reality of sexual abuse’, The Africa Report.com [accessed 13 April 2011]
Save the Children Fund (2008) No one to turn to’: the under-reporting of child sexual abuse by aid workers and peace-keepers. London, UK.
Tostevin, M. (2010) ‘Africa also suffers sex abuse by priest: bishop’, Reuters. 8 April 2010.
UN News Centre (2005) ‘Peacekeepers' sexual abuse of local girls continuing in DR of Congo, UN finds’. 7 January. [Accessed 13 April 2011].
BBC News: ‘Catholic Church sex abuse scandals around the world’. 14 September 2010 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10407559
Occupation and the African uprisings
Memoirs of a Pan-African Fellow
There is much to say about my first hundred days placement since October 2010, in the Fahamu Pan African Fellowship Programme. If it was easy to pen it all down – or open up my heart to pour out all my emotions, or to even play out everything I have recorded in my soul and achieved in my thoughts to touching with my spirit – everything would define itself as heaven and hell all at the same place. There were days I wished morning would come first so that I could go out there and be the rogue activist who questioned and fought everything ‘bad’ she found on her path.
Yet, with the dawning of each day and the realities of capitalism, imperialism and oppression staring right into my face – from the everyday news that I quickly was gaining interest on, to observations and the assignments I had, and the information gathered from the books I read – which explained the history of the black people, from the time of black man’s paradise and slavery years, that lasted for over 400 years till this modern age slavery of ‘Aid in Africa.’ Doubt daunted me. Then that doubt was proceeded with the challenges faced by fellow activists and comrades in their field of work to their placements where ‘change,’ ‘solidarity’ ‘egalitarism’ and ‘social justice’ was aimed at, yet people there were overwhelmed by their own bureaucracy and hierarchical settings in the organizations they worked in, blinded by their own titles and self interests to a point oppressing one another had become their daily bread.
During the induction process in October 2010, I would be lying if I said there was anytime I felt moved, apart from when I meet the fellows for the first time and after they showed us a clip of the post election violence. I haven’t forgotten it; it was labelled ‘Painful Memories.’ I had churned up feelings after that tightened into a huge pang in my chest and a stream of tears from my eyes.
That week when the FAHAMU team asked us to have an interview to say what were our expectations were. I didn’t have any. I hated putting my hopes too high, so I opted to say what I wished for most. And that was friends to help me in my queer revolution (as I would in theirs) and networks. In the end I just remember insisting in uniting together, in solidarity during this workshop. Learning was smooth with a couple of very thick huddles when it decided to have some, but the hearing of the somewhat hidden thoughts of my fellow comrades was inevitable. By the end of the exhausting induction process, one of the comrades – who had openly stated that he was homophobic – got to understand where all we, queer folks, were coming from and at last I saw a dim light at the end of the train tunnel.
To me, aside from a lot of knowledge – that was so hard to stomach all at the same time – was the biggest achievement I had made in the 9 days of induction!
Work commenced at Fahamu in November, taking each day as a learning experience. I started loving to read. I would open different sites gathering insights on world news, the LGBTI struggle, AU Monitor, climate change and food sovereignty. Time came I had to work on an LGBTI boot camp logistical plan, the agenda for an AU summit – on women in the rural areas of Ethiopia (that greatly saddened me), the Seven Sisters’ study group interviews, the training of trainers programme at Gay Kenya and to travel to Ghana for a Gender Equality Workshop, that was exciting yes but left me petrified. Workshops with fellows came in, with the likes of Willy Mutunga’s with exciting sessions on social movements in Kenya.
In late November 2010, Kenya’s Prime Minister’s made this scathing attack that all gay people should be arrested, two of our comrades suggested that we should march to his office in protest during the World AIDS Day on December 1st. We wrote a slogan “Human rights for all in the new constitution” and stated, that the PM’s Statement to arrest all gay people meant more discrimination and stigma hence the spread of HIV.
During this day we had to share a tent with another organisation because we had not been given a tent, Curious Kenyans flocked in the tent, some to earnestly to get insights in our lives and the preventive measures we take in our sexual activities and others were there to take us down the morality lane, of what is wrong and right, unnatural, un Africa, un godly and beastly, the list was endless. I had heard enough but I…
-To read this story in full, please download the Adilisha Newsletter Issue 1 April 2011.
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* Blessol Gathoni is taking part in the Fahamu Pan-African Fellowship Programme.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Adilisha: Emancipating communities
Analysis and commentary from Fahamu’s Education for Social Justice programme
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: You have launched the first Adlisha newsletter: What's the significance of this initiative and why you launched it now?
GEORGE MWAI: The newsletter launch is at time that the continent is going through a wave of popular action towards popular democracy. One of the contributing factors, though it may be seen as remote, is human rights and social justice education by individuals in the last few years. The newsletter follows the work of Fahamu's educational activities alumni, and how Adilisha is contributing to emancipating communities.
The initiative celebrates the individual efforts by the alumni and is intended to be an inspiration to upcoming leaders in social justice like the fellows of the new initiative by Fahamu called Fahamu Pan African Fellowship Program in Africa and beyond.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Explain what Adilsiha means and why you chose that name.
GEORGE MWAI: Adilisha in Fahamu's context is educating social justice morality. The name was chosen to represent the aspirations of building a values and principled system that guides societal behaviours and actions in relation to justice.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Give us the highlights of what's in the newsletter.
GEORGE MWAI: The newsletter features the following:
- An introduction of a new education strategy by Fahamu: Use of a leadership fellowship to nurture young leaders in social justice
- Learning from the 2011 World Social Forum from the Fahamu Fellows’ perspective
- Alumni testimonials
- New approaches to addressing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – enaging boys in curbing this practice among the Kuria community in Kenya
- Upcoming courses that are aimed at upscaling the skills of social activists, informed by the realities of the 21st century
- Upcoming events relevant to Adilisha
- Useful links and recommended reading on education for social justice in Africa.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: How would you like our readers to respond to this initiative - and when do we expect the next issue?
GEORGE MWAI: Readers with comments can respond to firstname.lastname@example.org
The next issue is expected first week of July 2011
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Is there anything else you would like to add?
GEORGE MWAI: Contributions by Adilisha alumni are welcome in the form of stories, analysis of human rights and social justice education in African, poems, photos , etc,
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What are plans of Adilisha alumni for organising as a community for social justice?
GEORGE MWAI: We have started this conversation with the alumni on linking up as a community and the distribution of the next issue will have a deliberate request for them to consider this possibility.
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* George Mwai is the programme officer for Education for Social Justice, Fahamu.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Libya: ‘The destruction of a nation’
Libya as a country supposedly freed from European colonisation has existed for quite some time. The country had particularly shaken off the shackles of Western colonialism and influence since 1960s. With the closure in Libya of the British military base, and the closure of the biggest American military base outside the USA at that time by the Gaddafi regime, Libya could have angered the West, who never gave up the hope of regaining that country for imperial purposes. So fierce was this independence, certain books promoting Western values above those of Libyans were seen as undesirable and burned to decolonise Libyan children’s education. Gaddafi’s role in decolonisation was also his contribution to end apartheid in South Africa, as other people have written about. A pan-Africanist will not want to leave the African soil or their country for exile for good. Libya needs reforms, but first the end of the war.
Currently, since the implementation of the ‘no fly zone’ in Libya, Africa has seen American tomahawks spewing missiles over Libya. So many were the missiles aimed at Libyan targets that the Telegraph reported that the navy could run short of tomahawk missiles because one-fifth of the navy stockpile had already been used up against Libya within only a few days. It is a ‘miracle’ that Libya has survived the assault and that there are still people alive in Libya today after such an aggressive campaign. The embarrassment that the alliance’s navy could be talking about now is not about civilian deaths, but rather the running-out of the missiles before accomplishing the unpopular mission.
Who knows? It is not likely that the tomahawks could not have killed women, children and babies along with their military targets. The airstrikes are tearing up the infrastructure in Libya, built over many years. The reconstruction of Libya will, no doubt, come after this country’s immense destruction. Then, of course, the Western contractors will come over to do some booming business.
The UN Security Council resolution that gave the opportunity to NATO to implement the ‘no fly zone’ has largely failed to ‘protect’ civilians. The ‘no fly zone’ over Libya has given way to infantry fighting that has seen the incompetent rebels largely defeated each time they tried to gain territory. The people of the Maghreb are seeing the return of the former colonial powers, notably France since its expulsion during the Algerian revolution.
The unclear UN mandate that the NATO alliance seized seems to have backfired, resulting in a stalemate. And Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, who joined and promoted this campaign, have gone silent. Libya is now seeing itself as a victim of Western aggression. In an interview, Gaddafi admitted to feeling betrayed by the West whom he had supplied with oil while investing heavily there. The US alone has a population of more than 330 million people. Its bombing of Libya, together with other NATO alliance countries of Canada, the UK, France and Italy, makes this campaign a case of ‘Goliath attacking David.’
NATO is now not used for defence purposes or to ensure peace for its members, but to wage war in Libya and to test all their heavy weaponry, civilian deaths notwithstanding. One thing is clear: Libya did not attack any of these countries for this mighty alliance to bring out its entire arsenal against this small country and its traumatised people. The bombing of Libya, therefore, cannot be totally justified as the best way to protect civilians.
NATO’s involvement in trying to impose a kind of gun-point democracy should be blamed for fuelling a vicious civil war in Libya. France strategically recognised the ‘Libyan National Council’ in Benghazi, knowing very well such a hasty move was likely to divide the country. In fact, they exploited the traditional rivalry between Benghazi and Tripoli. France must be after something more than just taking a leading role in policing Libya. Recently, the Francophonie has lost some of its members. For example, in Rwanda and even parts of DR Congo, French as ‘the official language’ has largely been substituted. France may then have to recover from some of that loss by involving itself in some warlike activities in Africa to regain some ‘power’.
Moreover, Saif el Islam’s claim that Libya funded Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign could have humiliated him, and hence the haste in wanting to be seen as playing the major role in implementing the ‘no fly zone’ in Libya in order to fix things at home, with an impending presidential election round the corner. Africa can remember that when the Portuguese colonies of Africa were lost, it caused a revolution in Portugal itself. Western leaders use their ‘victories’ in Africa to promote themselves at home. Molefi Asante writes that some people in the West believe that ‘Africa is a continent that must be acted on’.
Again, nobody should believe that Sarkozy as France’s head is supporting a genuine revolution in Libya. France is better known for helping put down revolutions in Africa. For example, in 1976–77, France helped Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko put down a revolt in Kolwezi in Katanga province. In addition, it is now known that France was about to help put down the revolt in Tunisia, as its foreign minister was holidaying there. And French-speaking Tunisians of Arab origin are now being denied entry into France.
During the previous ‘peaceful’ years, France was a country better known for its ‘diplomacy’, so that if anyone was planning to become a ‘diplomat’ it was necessary to learn French. But even that tradition informed its colonial policy of assimilating the colonised. However, not even that assimilation is genuine, because in 2010 the world saw France cracking down on non-European citizens of France for rioting and burning cars due to perpetual unemployment for some of them in the country. Rioters, especially, descendants of African immigrants were called obnoxious names by the right-wingers in France.
Again, right now the archaic tactic employed by some of the Western powers is that of the colonial era of ‘divide and conquer’. Apparently, the colonial ideology is being revived and recycled for the purpose of intervention in Libya. Meetings held in London and Berlin excluded the AU (African Union) representatives. Perhaps the AU purposely boycotted such meetings. The African Union Chair Jean Ping has separately voiced his concern over the ignoring of the organisation when action was taken against Libya or where it was discussed. But does the AU want to be ‘included’ or coopted by the EU or NATO and be appointed or authorised by them to sort out Libya’s problems, where the West will take credit?
The call that the West makes to Gaddafi to depart from his country is reminiscent of previous methods of deportations of African kings who resisted foreign intervention in their countries. The alliance leaders have repeatedly called on Gaddafi to ‘quit and go’ though it is not really clear if such a call will be heeded. Such a call, in itself, could be seen as dictatorial.
Earlier on in Uganda, the British dethroned and deported kings to the Seychelles islands to get their resistance out of the way. One of them, Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda, died in exile. Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro too was deported to the Seychelles where he lived for over 23 years in captivity before returning unceremoniously and tragically dying on his way back to his kingdom.
What the West did to the rest of Africa before is being repeated in Libya right now. Unfortunately for Libya today, its proximity to Europe and its immense oil wealth has become a curse for it, which should not have been the case. Libya should be free to export its oil to whomever it wants, even to China. The world is now witnessing a new scramble for Africa over oil. There is also this new rivalry over African oil between the West and China.
For example, what are French troops doing in Gabon, an ‘independent’ country? Gabon is oil-rich, but small. Moreover, the West’s efforts, in trying to delink Libya from Africa, can be read as racial prejudice towards Africans. This prejudice is apparently ‘out in the open’ where Africa is portrayed as poor, wretched and infantilised as not mature enough to have a voice to be heard, or mature enough to give a free hand in mediation in a place like Libya. Western leaders in the Libyan conflict have shown a preference for the Arab League, exalting and glorifying it over the AU. Some hidden agenda is apparent by the Western leaders in trying to pit Arabs against Africans on the continent. But Arabs in North Africa are African Arabs and cannot be delinked from Africa. Moreover, Arabs, even those in the ‘Middle East’, just like Africans, had been colonised by the West.
The purpose and urgency of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resuscitating the recently quiet Arab League, headquartered in Egypt with an Egyptian secretary general, was to try to use this organisation as a junior partner that would comply with the Western agenda of dividing up Libya for its oil wealth. But Egypt, where the Arab League is based, remains in Africa and drinks from the same water source of the Nile originating in Uganda and Ethiopia. Egypt and other North African states stand to gain more by remaining united with the rest of Africa. Moreover, there is nothing like ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ because it is a creation by the West in trying to delink the northern part of Africa from the rest of the continent.
The massacre of innocent people, including women and children, is of course undesirable. Moreover, the war situation created by the West in Libya is not particularly good for all Libyans, including women and children. What the world saw in the former Yugoslavia does not qualify European powers as the most humanitarian to justify their intervention in Libya to protect civilians. They did not do this in time to save women in Yugoslavia during ethnic cleansing.
Calling off this apocalyptic military campaign and leaving Libya to seek a political solution, or better still an African solution, is the best idea. This war over Libyan oil is egoistic and imperialistic. The terrain is Libya and it is precarious, as more Libyans are being killed by the airstrikes from the sea and from the Libyan skies above. What we have seen is that it is a war that is senseless and needs a political solution. Already there is the so-called stalemate in the Libyan civil war and the West could be blamed for its role in the destruction of that country. With many wounded and maimed, as well as many dead since this unfortunate war, the UN has been misused.
NATO leaders, especially the respected secretary general and former prime minister of Denmark, Andes Fogh Ramuseen, should tell the world whether they alone have ‘the perfect solution’ for Libya or let the AU mediate an end to this war. Watching Ramseen on CNN, it appears that NATO is too big to be in Libya. In the US, Michael Moore, the film director who gave former president George W. Bush a run for his money for invading Iraq, has been tweeting and suggesting that ‘President Obama should return the Nobel Peace Prize for leading his country to bomb Libya’. And bloggers have suggested that President Obama could have lost the support of African-Americans by 26 per cent because of the US role in the NATO bombing of Libya, a country in Africa.
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* This article’s title was adopted from George Wright’s ‘Angola: The Destruction of a Nation’.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Invitation to shack fire summit
Life, death and driving in Nairobi
H. Nanjala Nyabola
It is said that when Sir Isaac Newton watched an apple fall while ‘pensively meandering’ through a garden he used this observation as the basis of his theory of gravity. Since then, Newton’s formulation is a cornerstone of the mathematical and physical knowledge that we hold about the manner in which matter behaves in the universe. With this in mind, this week, I’d like to step off the politics bandwagon and propose a humble proposition of my own regarding human nature - call it Nanjala’s Law of Transportation.
The law is simply this - you can tell a lot about a nation by the way its people drive. Some weeks ago, I wrote about Egypt and the way in which the streets of Cairo provided an apt analogy of the country’s socio-political make-up at the time. Plunging into traffic at 2am was a reminder that this was a vibrant and thriving nation with a promising economy and little time for sleep, while the flagrancy with which even the most basic rules were bent and broken was a jarring reminder that underneath the gloss was a nation choking under the weight of a collapsing infrastructure and hollow state. Still, in all this mania there remained a palpable respect for human life; a Cairene driver may blast down the wrong side of the road at 80kph, but would generally stop for pedestrians crossing at a junction.
In the same breath, the madness of driving in Kenya, and specifically in Nairobi, bears witness to the contradictions of the society at large. Something about getting behind the wheel anywhere in the world tears away any pretexts of civility, and it is on the road that we see individuals at their most raw. In part, it is because getting behind the wheel or walking across a highway is the only life or death decision that we consciously yet repeatedly make, and therefore we often resort to operating with our most base instincts rather than a reflective appreciation for what it is we are actually doing.
Kenya has one of the highest road accident rates in the world, and indeed the world was robbed of the genius of my illustrious predecessor on this column on one of our most notorious roads. It’s not because Kenyan cars are significantly less roadworthy than in many other developing countries. It is simply because Kenyans don’t respect the road and they don’t respect each other. Indeed, driving in Kenya, and in Nairobi specifically, is probably the world’s longest running game of Chicken.
When a Kenyan crosses the street, you get the sense that it is only in part to get to the other side. The majority of his or her sentiment is dedicated to smiting drivers and daring them to run him or her over. How else do you explain why on Valley Road and Mbagathi Way, two major feeder roads into the city on steep inclines, pedestrians routinely sprint across the road, under the shadow of a fly-over bridge that was expressly constructed to avoid this kind of insanity? It doesn’t matter if the driver is forced to briefly dive into oncoming traffic to avoid said pedestrian - a warning hoot will get you a dismissive wave, as if to say, ‘It sucks to be you.” Pedestrians seem to believe that drivers would have to be completely evil to run them over, not realising that especially when careening down a bend on a steep hill the car is more in control of the driver than the other way round.
Which is not to say that drivers are entirely blameless in this schema. Nowhere else to my knowledge do drivers get hooted at impatiently for stopping at pedestrian crossings or at red lights. Kenyans drive with a disproportionate sense of entitlement, expressing frustration when others break the rules or take shortcuts while eagerly taking every opportunity presented to do the same. Anything goes as long as it gets you where you are going and fast. We love to lay the primary blame for accidents on matatu – minivan - drivers but the reality is that 90 per cent of the drivers in this country would never pass a drivers’ test in another country simply because driving in Kenya is a manic free for all with no rules and, most importantly, no respect.
How does this translate to the broader society? Well for one, it speaks volumes of the hypocrisy with which society functions here. Clearly there is a thirst in this nation for people to get ahead and go places, but the way we conduct ourselves on the roads speaks to the extent to which we are prepared to compromise basic human values to get there. Kenyans cry foul at corruption from the police and other organs of state, but the majority will not bat an eyelid at taking every opportunity open to get ahead, whether it’s illegal or at the expense of others. Scapegoating is another thing - better to blame matatu drivers and the police for failure to maintain order on the roads than to realise that if you are mature enough to drive you should be mature enough to follow the rules without a policeman hovering over your shoulder.
I mentioned respect for human life - the lack of basic courtesy at junctions or in traffic jams speaks volumes of the lack of respect that Kenyans have for each other. Similarly, respect is nothing if not bound with some sense of responsibility and in Kenya the way that pedestrians and drivers forgo their responsibility to do everything in their power to protect the lives of others is reflective of the way in which we are prepared to do nothing while armed gangs terrorise the countryside, IDPs continue to sleep in tents and politicians make a mockery of national and international judicial processes. Of course we complain - loudly. Newspapers and radio stations alike are replete with members of the public railing at our awful roads. However, when it comes to actually doing something - being that guy who does the right thing even while everyone else is impatiently hooting for them to keep it moving - that’s another story altogether.
Roads anywhere are a matter of life or death. Maybe if we learnt to drive with respect we could learn to treat each other with respect in life and death.
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* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Let's have a vigil for Andries Tatane
Malawi Civil Liberties Committee
Yesterday South African e-news TV showed the worst police brutal killing of an activist in a province at a peaceful rally. Anybody who watched it had nightmares. I am sure even our IG or president if they watched that they would have had one nightmare if they had none.
Please in solidarity with grassroots and CSOs in RSA, please let us
Even if they have arrested the police involved, we would wish to start a process in SADC and African UN, if not the whole world, that seniors should also be answerable for the action of the juniors.
Some observer said, that killing surpassed the Apartheid regime brutality as it was a police unit against one person and that after beating him, they shot him in the chest and he was talking, asking them what wrong he had done when he fell down, twitched and died.
If we cannot do anything, at least let us have a vigil.
A postcard from Canada
Dear friends from the Nyeleni Forum for Food Sovereignty,
We left Mali in February 2007 with a commitment. All of us, from all over the world – family farmers, fisherfolk, rural workers, landless people, Indigenous peoples and other food movement activists from more than 80 countries - would go home and work hard to build food sovereignty in our respective areas and regions.
We wanted to let you know that we have taken our commitment seriously. Yesterday, in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, we launched “Resetting the Table: A People’s Food Policy for Canada”. The People’s Food Policy is the result of two years of work by hundreds of people who devoted thousands of volunteer hours to create a food sovereignty policy for Canada. The policy is based on ten detailed discussion papers covering subjects from agriculture, health, the environment, fisheries, Indigenous food sovereignty, science and technology and international food policy. Each one of these areas is analyzed from a food sovereignty framework, and concrete recommendations for ways forward are proposed. As a result, the People’s Food Policy is the most comprehensive food policy being advanced in Canada today.
The People’s Food Policy has dozens of policy recommendations to lay the groundwork for a Canada with zero hunger, decent livelihoods for producers, and a sustainable environment for the future. Among the key ones are:
- Food should be eaten as close as possible to where it is produced. This would ensure that more Canadians are able to eat fresh and healthy home-grown food, and bring more resilience to the livelihoods of Canadian food providers. This includes not only increased support for well-known local food approaches such farmers markets, urban agriculture, and community-supported-agriculture, but a more systemic shift towards support for Canadian food. A key example of this would be the creation of legislation where institutions and retailers would include a set percentage of Canadian food in what they serve and sell.
- The food system is a leading contributor to climate change, responsible for between 30-57% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In order to ensure food for the future, a key priority for the People’s Food Policy is supporting food producers in a widespread shift to ecological food production. This would include increased support for initiatives such as organic agriculture, community-managed fisheries and indigenous food systems, as well as the creation of transition plans for existing farmers and fishers to move to more ecological ways of producing food.
- Close to two and a half million Canadians are regularly concerned about having enough food to eat. The People’s Food Policy calls for the creation of federal poverty elimination and prevention programs, with measurable targets and timelines, to ensure Canadians can better afford healthy food.
The launch of the People’s Food Policy has been very well-received, with lots of media coverage and interest from the political parties. It has been a very exciting time for us, and we often find ourselves thinking of all of you – our fellow travelers on the road to global food sovereignty.
We wish you were here.
The People’s Food Policy
PS: If you would like to read the full policy, and to sign our Pledge, please visit: www.peoplesfoodpolicy.ca
Refugee newspaper staff receive death threats
We are facing insecurity in the matters in which problems escalate
from some individuals within Ethiopian - Oromo community whom have
grown powerful to be stopped which made us to worry of what is behind
this Notion all year round and there is no solution?
Since, the last phone death threats from Australian, similar unfolding
incidents goes round in Kakuma from my perpetrators and some
individual inciters within Oromo’s and its local security and leaders
who have so far managed to write false accusations against myself in
the several Humanitarian Agencies including the police station here,
they behavoured in more close ties with the police and their
motivators whom are both from Australia and at Kakuma level.
We are so much afraid about this situation and takes liberty to let
you all know just in case of further likely troubles;
This has haltered the smooth operation for the continuation of a
Refugee Free Press at Kakuma Camp and traumatizing scenarios.
Pambazuka News 186 : Chine-Afrique : Espoirs et craintes d'une coopération
Pambazuka News 185 : L'Afrique face aux nouvelles guerres coloniales
Pambazuka News 37: Violência policial e desobediência civil em Moçambique
Zimbabwe: Another Zimbabwe Minister arrested
Healing and Reconciliation co-Minister Moses Mzila-Ndlovu (MDC) has been arrested on allegations of failing to notify police of a meeting held on Wednesday at a primary school in Lupane. Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed Mzila-Ndlovu’s arrest. 'He has been arrested for failure to notify the police in terms of the Public Order and Security Act over a meeting they held at a primary school in Lupane on April 13,' he said.
Zimbabwe: Assessing Zimbabwe’s GPA as a mechanism for change
Zimbabwe’s current Inclusive Government, more commonly referred to as a Government of National Unity (GNU), was established pursuant to an Interparty Political Agreement, itself more commonly referred to as the Global Political Agreement (GPA), states this legal analysis from the Research and Advocacy Unit Zimbabwe. 'Rather than simply containing clauses which are subject to legal interpretation and enforcement, the larger part of the agreement comprises rhetoric and ideological bombast designed to facilitate political posturing and little else,' the authors state.
Zimbabwe: Mugabe vows he would force elections
Mugabe has vowed that he would force elections to be held by June, without the consent of his partners in the country's shaky coalition government, stirring widespread fears that the vote would bring another wave of violent mayhem against his pro-democracy opponents. However, the latest development shows that Mugabe has been pushed further into a corner, Western diplomats say, after his Southern African neighbours, led by South Africa's president Jacob Zuma, last month ordered Mugabe to end the repeated cycles of violence and to carry out the democratic reforms he agreed to at the inception of the coalition government in February 2009.
Zimbabwe: UK, US relent on Zim ‘blood diamond’ ban
Western calls for an international ban on trading in Zimbabwe’s controversial Chiadzwa diamonds appear to have been silenced, after a reported agreement on the country’s trade future was met in Dubai last week. It’s understood that officials in China and India have managed to persuade the European Union (EU) and the United States to soften their stance on the export of the diamonds. The Western states had been resisting growing pressure to allow Zimbabwean exports to resume, amid ongoing human rights concerns at Chiadzwa, where its feared that at least 20 people are killed a month.
Africa: 'The United States of Africa' may become reality
As Libya's leader struggles to keep his grip on power, one of his pet projects appears to be moving ahead at the African Union, which took initial steps Tuesday toward creating his grand plan: the United States of Africa. AU officials met Monday and Tuesday at the organisation's Ethiopia headquarters to discuss the formation of the African Union Authority, an institution that would replace the existing AU Commission with the aim of eventually bringing Africa's countries under a single unity government.
Africa: Overcoming gender myths in science
Men in sub-Saharan Africa still dominate science, technology, engineering and maths and this gender imbalance starts from the earliest schooling years, Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf) says in the publication it launched on Wednesday in Pretoria. Aimed at policymakers in the sub-Saharan region, the booklet - Inquiry-Based Science Education: Increasing Participation of Girls in Science in sub-Saharan Africa - says governments must 'increase the participation of girls in science and maths', writes Professor Rosanne Diab, Assaf executive officer, in her foreword.
CAR: Supporting women’s rights in remote areas
Violations of human rights are on the increase in northeastern Central African Republic (CAR), with aid workers expressing concern for protection of civilians amid renewed clashes between government troops and the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) rebels - one of the few groups that has not signed a peace agreement with the government. 'Killings, arbitrary arrests, burning and looting of villages, forced disappearances and abductions are frequently reported, in particular in conflict-affected areas in the north and in regions where CPJP and LRA [Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army] are present,' Fornelle Poutou, the secretary-general of the Association of Women Lawyers of Central Africa (AFJC), told IRIN.
Malawi: Women breaking down trade barriers
The Malawian government is working on assisting women enter the trading system: at the end of March 2011, the country hosted a regional consultative meeting aimed at integrating women into trade activities in the agriculture sector as a way of improving production and enhancing food security within the region. The Federation of National Associations of Women in Business in Eastern and Southern Africa (FEMCOM), an umbrella body of businesswomen, and the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) organised the meeting.
Mauritius: The little red book
Mauritius: The little red book
No, it is not the Little Red Book of China’s late Mao Zedong, published in 1966. This little red book was launched in February 2011 by the Association of Advertising Agencies (AAA) on its Code of Advertising Practice for Mauritius.
Mao’s Little Red Book owed its popularity to the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s: let us hope that the Mauritian little red book will gain similar popularity for being proactive in trying to put an end to sexism in advertising.
For too long women have been the main image in advertisements; usually for products that have nothing to do with them. I have often struggled with the fact that I was living in a democracy that allowed women’s naked bodies to be used to advertise everything from alcohol to foreign monetary exchange.
Three years ago I fought tooth and nail for the removal of an alcohol advertisement. A woman was dancing in a vodka bottle with three ‘randy’ men in provocative positions on the outside of the bottle. The advertisement said ‘Intelligent Nightlife’. These ads are ubiquitous, in Mauritius and elsewhere: So much so that many have stopped paying attention. But what are we telling young people with this kind of advertisement?
The fight to change advertising standards in my country has been a long one. I twice went to the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) for hearings. Fortunately the third time I was called and the former Director General of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation wrote to tell me that a beer advertisement would be removed. Immediate action was taken but it was difficult to understand how our national broadcaster could do such a thing to women in the first place. The advertisement showed two girls in hot pants carrying jugs of beer to a man sitting on a throne. They sat on his lap and later joined him for a spin in his car.
Of course the worst ad I remember was for a t-shirt company. The advert showed only the large breasts of a woman beneath a white t-shirt on which was printed: ‘I wish these were brains’. Thankfully the Sex Discrimination Division was quick to take action and their flying squad went all over Mauritius removing the advertisement.
For my efforts to empower women and help our children grow up in an equal society I received hate mail. One read: ‘Look at yourself in the mirror and think whether you are worth putting up in an advertisement. Is it jealously that makes you behave so disgustingly. Do you want to spoil our beautiful Mauritian society?’ I have never been able to understand how this kind of advertisement can enhance the beauty of Mauritius.
In October 2007, Gender Links, with the collaboration of Media Watch Organisation, launched its research on Gender and Advertisements. The launch was followed by a workshop with members of the AAA. They were given guidelines on how to create their own Code of Ethics on gender.
One year later, Pria Thakoor, Former Chair of AAA gave a great presentation on women and advertisements at the 2008 Gender and Media Summit in Johannesburg. She condemned sexism in advertising and told how Gender Links and Media Watch Organisation had helped open her eyes to the problem.
Although the AAA does not yet have a Code of Ethics on Gender, their little red book is definitely an achievement. Article 21 reads: ‘Advertising must take in consideration the evolution of the respective roles of women and men in society…It must represent women as equally capable, responsible and independent in the conduct of their activities. In addition, neither the picture of a caricature denigrating the role of any person in a couple, nor the representation of an excessive dependence of the character with respect to the products promoted must be displayed. Advertising must respect the dignity of women and men.’
I thought that this little red book might herald the end of sexist advertisements in Mauritius. But alas, how wrong and naive I am. Billboards are currently displaying a giant advert for Stag Malta beer. The advertisement shows a bottle opener on the breasts of a woman. I am left wondering what the breasts of a woman or a can opener on the breasts of a woman has to do with beer?
Yes, the little red book does mention that ‘women must not be treated as objects in advertising especially when her image has no direct relation with the promoted product or service.’ But the little red book will only become popular when, like its Chinese predecessor, it becomes a visible and much-used guide. Hopefully the death of sexist advertising will not be far behind.
* Loga Virahsawmy is the Director of the Gender Links Mauritius and Francophone office. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.
South Africa: Probe into sex syndicate under wraps
Police have closed ranks about the investigation into the sex slave syndicate operating in northern KwaZulu-Natal. This after it was revealed that the police missed an opportunity to rescue the girls on Good Friday. The girls were believed to be held by a Nigerian and South African-run syndicate operating a brothel on a farm outside Paulpietersburg in KwaZulu-Natal. The girls are allegedly being trafficked from Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe to South Africa to work as sex slaves.
Uganda: Women, marriage and asset inheritance
Using a unique dataset from Uganda, which collected individual-level asset ownership data and women’s life histories regarding assets, this paper examines the relationships between inheritance, marriage and asset ownership. Land is the most important asset in rural Uganda. The majority of couples (both married and those in consensual unions) report owning land jointly. Men who report owning a parcel of land are much more likely than women to say they inherited the land. Inheritance is not an important means of acquisition of other assets, including livestock, business assets, financial assets and consumer durables. These items are acquired through purchase, for both men and women.
Zambia: Refugee women share concerns
Gender-based violence and the quality of health care and schooling were among the top concerns raised by refugee women in the latest round of UNHCR consultations that ended over the weekend in Zambia. The UN refugee agency's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller, joined donors and other stakeholders in reaffirming their commitment to support and empower refugee women, at the Fifth Regional Dialogue with Refugee Women and Girls held in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.
DRC: Mobile gender justice court in operation
In many parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a rape victim has to walk for days or travel more than eight hours by car to get to the nearest court. In response, the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa partnered with the International Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative to establish a mobile court program focused on gender crimes. In its first six months of operation, the mobile gender justice court tried 115 cases in five different remote locales. Of the 68 people charged with gender-based violence, 51 people were convicted, receiving sentences ranging from three to twenty years.
Kenya: Plea to ICC over forced male circumcision
A global advocacy group for gender-based violence survivors has called on the International Criminal Court to reconsider its refusal to recognise forced male circumcision as a form of sexual violence in a case against alleged organizers of Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election crisis. Brigid Inder, executive director of The Hague-based Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, said the judges’ decision to classify forced male circumcision under 'other inhumane acts' was 'a misstep' that failed to take into account the element of force and purpose of the crime.
Libya: African Court institutes proceedings
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has welcomed the decision taken by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on 3 March 2011 to institute proceedings against Libya before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court). 'It is the first time since its creation that the Court has been seized of an application lodged by the ACHPR on the basis of NGO communications. This is an historic step taken by the African regional human rights instruments which gives hope to any individuals whose rights are violated by a State. We are glad to have facilitated such important procedure,' said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.
Mauritania: Child maids ignite social debate
In January, a Nouakchott court sentenced Oumoulmoumnine Mint Bakar Vall to six months in prison for enslaving two girls, ages 10 and 14, in the city's Arafat neighbourhood. Last month, two men and three women were arrested for keeping three young female slaves in Nouakchott. The arrests came after anti-slavery NGO chiefs Boubacar Ould Messoud, Biram Ould Dah Abeid and Aminetou Mint El Moctar launched a hunger strike to compel authorities to press charges in the case.
South Africa: Additional charges against Okah
Additional charges are being brought against a Nigerian being held for an alleged terror attack in his country last year, the Johannesburg Regional Court heard on Monday (18 April). Henry Okah, who was living in Johannesburg at the time, was arrested the day after the twin car bombing in Abuja, Nigeria, in October, in which 12 people died and 36 were injured. The State prosecutor on Monday said additional charges of terrorism and terror financing were being added to the charge sheet.
South Africa: Police under fire after Ficksburg
The death of Andries Tatane at the hands of police officers has forced South Africans to question the direction in which the nation's law-enforcement body is moving. Tatane, a teacher, activist, husband and father of two young sons, was among a group of about 4 000 Meqheleng township residents who marched on the Ficksburg municipal offices. Observers have noted the increasing brutality of the police force over the past few years. In 2009, the police chief raised eyebrows when he called for a change to legislation that would allow police offers greater freedom to shoot at suspects.
Uganda: Severe attacks on essential freedoms
Human Rights Network Uganda says it is gravely concerned about the unjustified and excessive use of violence in recent protests in Uganda. Demonstrations throughout the country, from the southwestern town of Masaka to Gulu in the north, all reported excessive aggression and violence on the count of the police.
Congo: Reporting Congo's refugee crisis
Their government has urged them to come home. But despite dire living conditions on the other side of the Ubangui River, 114,000 people who have fled fighting in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Equateur province since October 2009 have no plans to return soon. The UN Refugee Agency agrees it is unsafe to do so now. The wider humanitarian community reckons they will stay in Republic of Congo for the rest of this year at least and has appealed for US$60m to meet their most rudimentary needs. These are legion. Likouala province, where the refugees live in about 100 settlements dotted along the river, lacks basic services to provide even for its own residents, let alone for an influx that has more than doubled the local population.
Ethiopia: Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia call for democratic rule
Hundreds of Eritrean refugees gathered in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday (20 April) to call for democratic rule in Eritrea, which thousands have fled in recent years citing rights abuses. Under banners that read 'Yes for democratic change', around 1,600 Eritreans met to decry what they described as repressive rule under President Isaias Afewerki, who has led the country since it won independence from Ethiopia in 1991.
Global: Using text messaging to protect maternal health in times of crisis
Approximately 25 per cent of women of reproductive age in any displaced population are likely to be pregnant at any given time. The stress of being displaced coupled with the lack of skilled care heightens the risk these women face. The Women’s Refugee Commission has identified an important information gap for maternal health workers in emergencies. To address this problem, a unique community of practitioners will be launched on Facebook. Mama-Together for safe birth in crises is a platform for health workers to identify themselves as champions within humanitarian organisations or in the field and to join a community of practice.
North Africa: EU states bicker over refugee access
Europe's internal dispute about what to do with the thousands of immigrants from North Africa arriving on southern Italian islands is heating up. German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has sharply criticized the Italian government for planning to issue immigrants with temporary visas that would allow them to travel to other European nations.
Tunisia: Tunisia bears the brunt of a biblical exodus
Some people arrive with only a pair of worn out flip flops on their feet, because they couldn’t get anything better. Some drag suitcases and bundles filled with the little they were able to take away with them. All the languages of the world are spoken at Ras Ajdir, the frontier, on the border between Tunisia and Libya. Since the beginning of the Libyan crisis, more than 230,000 people fleeing war have crossed this checkpoint in an endless flow, 85,000 at the start of the conflict alone.
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...
"A Doha Round Collapse Is a Betrayal of Poor Countries"
"It would be bad news for poor countries in Africa if the Doha Round of trade talks fails. This round was meant to rebalance the rules of world trade in favour of developing countries. We have put a lot of resources and hopes into this process and a collapse would be a big betrayal for us." This is the position of Abdoulaye Sanoko, counsellor at Mali’s mission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, speaking to IPS in an interview. "However, we don’t want to conclude the round at any cost, but rather to emphasise its developmental aspects. In contrast, the big stakeholders are stressing market access."
2. China in Africa
China risks civil strife with support for foreign dams-activists
Chinese support for controversial dam-building schemes around the world risks a backlash from affected communities and even violence due to a lack of transparency and the ignoring of residents' wishes, activists said on Wednesday. Chinese companies and banks are becoming deeply involved in such projects in Africa and Asia, and despite a growing awareness they have to be more transparent and accountable, this frequently does not happen, the activists said.
Analysts dismayed at China's Zimbabwe 'invasion'
Economic analysts in Zimbabwe have expressed dismay at the manner in which the Chinese and their Asian cousins from India have been allowed to take up major businesses in the country. Chinese companies have also entered the property sector, where they have reportedly been pushing up office and other property rentals in Harare. At it stands, Chinese companies command a significant presence in Zimbabwe's mining, retail, manufacturing, construction and other sectors of the economy, and this trend is set to continue as the embattled country continues to get shunned by western and other international investors.
China puts its mark on Malawi
Driving through Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, it is difficult to miss the imposing building under construction in the city centre. It’s the country’s first five-star hotel, $90 million worth of well-appointed rooms, a state-of-the-art conference centre and 14 opulent presidential suites. The hotel is being built by the Shanghai Construction Company, a Chinese firm, and is one of numerous projects funded in line with a pledge of $260 million of concessionary loans, grant and aid from China to Malawi to support development, including infrastructure.
Kenya signs 10 bilateral deals with China
Kenya and China signed on Thursday 10 agreements, including 8 billion shillings for a medical university, signalling the Asian nation's increased interest in enlarging its diplomatic and economic footprint in Africa. China said it would fund the building of a 500-bed hospital to teach medical students at the Kenyatta University.
Mesfin Industrial to Assemble “Addis” Sedans
Mesfin Industrial Engineering Plc is set to embark on assembling sedan automobiles over the next two months with the launch of its assembly car, called “Addis,” in collaboration with Geely International Co, a China based manufacturer of Geely cars.
China vows to increase government scholarships for African students
China announced on Wednesday to largely increase the number of government scholarships to African students, in a bid to step up youth exchanges and lay a solid foundation for future China-Africa friendly ties. The pledge was made by Li Changchun, a senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC), while he was addressing hundreds of students and teachers at the University of Nairobi. In his keynote speech entitled "Strengthen China-Africa Friendship and Cooperation to Build a Better Tomorrow", Li said the Chinese government is to double government scholarships to Kenya, from previous 32 every year to 64 starting from this year.
Media cooperation gives world clearer picture of China, Africa
China-Africa media cooperation has helped show the world a true picture of China and Africa in the face of some Western media's biased reports. In the latest example of strong China-Africa media cooperation, Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, held a seminar with Chinese and African journalists based in Nairobi on Thursday to seek ways to further boost China-Africa media exchanges and collaboration.
China Gives Almost Half of Foreign Aid to African Countries
China gave 45.7 percent of its total donor aid to countries in Africa in 2009 to help construction of infrastructure projects and the development of resources including oil and mines. The nation has given out a total of 256.3 billion yuan ($39.3 billion) of cumulative foreign aid as of the end of 2009, according to a document distributed by the State Council’s Information Office. The report didn’t provide annual or country- specific aid figures.
3. India in Africa
'India to provide EVMs to Egypt'
Expressing the desire to provide electoral assistance to Egypt, Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi has said India will provide EVMs to the North African nation, which is gearing up for a democratic process after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak's regime. Quraishi, accompanied by a five-member team, is on a five-day visit to Egypt to apprise top officials in the country about India's electoral system and the usage of EVMs.
India provides soft loans to West African businesses
India has provided subsidised loans to businesses in West Africa through the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), says a top official of the 15-member regional grouping that is keen on joint investments in pharmaceuticals, technology and agriculture. Indian business interest to invest in the region increased following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Ecowas and the Indian government in 2008, Alfred Braimah, director of private sector development, Ecowas, told IANS here.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
China provides 256.29 billion yuan in foreign aid
China has provided a total of 256.29 billion yuan in aid to foreign countries by the end of 2009, a white paper on foreign aid says. According the white paper issued by the Information Office of the State Council, the aid includes 106.2 billion yuan in grants, 76.54 billion yuan interest-free loans and 73.55 billion yuan in concessional loans.
Textiles, leather exports to gain from Chinese policy: Montek
Seeking to change the focus of the country to manufacturing, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Thursday said textile and leather exports would be at advantage of the shift in Chinese policy towards boosting domestic consumption. “In China's XII Plan, exports do not hold the same place. Besides, the Chinese will be vacating the lower-end of the value spectrum like textiles and leather. So who will replace them? Are we going to step in or will it be Vietnam or Turkey or Indonesia,” Mr. Ahluwalia said here.
Doha round of negotiations unlikely to be concluded this year – Davies
While the World Trade Organisation (WTO) continues to push for the conclusion of the Doha development round of negotiations in 2011, South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies does not think this is likely to happen. “I think there are basically two choices. Either [the Doha round] doesn’t go anywhere, which I think is probably the most likely scenario or, if it does, then [South Africa is] going to be asked to pay a packet more. That’s basically it,” said Davies.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Strategising on Indian Ocean
India, uniquely positioned at the centre of the Indian Ocean rim, opted for non-alignment as its foreign policy. It stood for making Indian Ocean a ‘Zone of Peace’. On the other hand India, started forging new relations with the littoral states of the Indian Ocean. Over the last 60 years, India is more engaged than ever in the region through trade, aid and financial assistance. In spite of the efforts made in this regard, a lot needs to be done and that can happen only if India encashes the needs of development-starved countries of the region.
Locals indifferent to all-Chinese investments
Aiding African development has already become China’s principal overseas investment strategy. From January 2007 to June 2009, China reportedly signed $16.15 billion worth of contracts with Libya. Even as early as 2008, the contracted value amounted to $10 billion, more than anywhere else in Africa and the second biggest partner for investment by Chinese firms anywhere in the world. China has suffered a substantial loss in the unexpected massive Libyan chaos. Amid the turmoil, 27 Chinese construction sites were robbed and a number of Chinese workers were injured, causing considerable direct economic losses.
[url= ]http://opinion.globaltimes.cn/commentary/2011-04/647390.html] Read More [/url]
Africa: Why Nyerere looks so good today
With the the third Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival taking place recently at the University of Dar es Salaam and the participation of many eager people, young and old, from the region and beyond, the question many people were asking at this festival was: How is it that Nyerere, so long after his death, still exercises such influence on young people? Jenerali Ulimwengu, in this article on the East African website, says it speaks to the absence of an heir, a leader who would have emerged from the current crop of leaders to take over the mantle of Nyerere or Nkrumah.
Benin: Electoral reform, flood preparedness, challenges facing president
Following weeks of disputed election results, Benin President Boni Yayi has re-settled into office, leading analysts and citizens to push him to address what they see as the country’s most pressing challenges: electoral and economic reform, forging links with opposition parties, and preparing the country to face the threat of floods as the rainy season approaches.
Chad: Opposition boycotts poll
Chad went to the polls on Monday in the first round of its presidential election with incumbent Idriss Déby Itno virtually assured of extending his 21-year rule after his main rivals boycotted the vote. Key opposition leaders have withdrawn from the vote after claiming that his Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party stole February parliamentary elections and the start of Monday's vote was marred by hitches. Opposition leaders Saleh Kebzabo, Wadal Abdelkader Kamougue and Ngarlejy Yorongar say they will not recognise the poll amid demands for reforms including the issuing of new voters' cards.
Mauritania: Police break up youth rally against government
Anti-riot police Monday broke up a 'Day of Anger' rally by Mauritanian youths demanding the ouster of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, detaining about 20 protesters. As the tide of Arab uprisings swept to the west of Africa, police used tear gas on hundreds of demonstrators who sought to enter a square in downtown Nouakchott that has been declared off-limits for protesters since rallies began in late February.
Sierra Leone: Renewed commitment to local government
The re-establishment of local councils in Sierra Leone in 2004 was intended to give people a greater voice in their government, reversing long years of marginalisation for rural districts in particular. But nearly seven years later, it has still not been fully implemented. A local NGO, Campaign for the Voiceless, is working to strengthen the performance of this most accessible tier of government. The campaign is working on a project intended to improve social accountability in local government.
South Africa: Pressure on Zuma over Shiceka
Jacob Zuma is facing pressure to clarify the situation of a close ally, Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka, against whom there have been serious allegations of wasteful and possibly fraudulent use of state resources. The public protector has been asked to probe Shiceka’s spending of R335,000 on a trip to Switzerland, R640,000 in one year to stay at the One&Only Hotel, and R160,000 in eight months flying his extended family round the country. The Sunday Times has reported that there is deep unhappiness in Shiceka’s home village of Ingquza Hill in the Eastern Cape, where water has been laid on for the building of a house for the minister and a R32m tarred road is being routed past this house, which would be among the first in the area to be electrified.
Swaziland: Youth leaders tortured and forced to confess during mass protests
This post contains two short articles by Peter Kenworthy from African Contact. One is on the charging of two Swazi youth leaders for allegedly possessing explosives that Swazi police claim were to be used for acts of terrorism during the recent mass demonstrations for democracy, rule of law and socio-economic justice in Swaziland. The other article is about the general environment of insecurity for pro-democracy activists protesting against the government.
1. Swazi youth leaders tortured and forced to confess during mass protests
Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
Two Swazi youth leaders have been charged for allegedly possessing explosives that Swazi police claim were to be used for acts of terrorism during the recent mass demonstrations for democracy, rule of law and socio-economic justice in Swaziland. But the confessions to this alleged crime were made after they had been tortured, according to the Swaziland Solidarity Network.
Maxwell Dlamini is president of Swaziland’s student organization SNUS, and had already been arrested prior to the main day of protest, April 12, but was released before being re-arrested and charged. Musa Ngubeni, is a member of the youth wing of Swaziland’s largest banned opposition party, PUDEMO.
The two were arrested in Zakhele, a township in the outskirts of Swaziland’s industrial hub, Manzini, together with three others who were later released without charges, spokesperson of the Swaziland Solidarity Network, Lucky Lukhele said yesterday (15 April).
'The police claim they found all five of them in possession of detonators and cables for detonators but did not show them any of this material that they claim to have found. The police claimed that they were following a tip from an unknown person,' Lukhele further said.
'Further information provided by our sources is that the two who were charged were first tortured and then forced to write a report of what they had been doing between Friday and Wednesday, when they were released from being detained on Sunday. These reports were dictated to them and they were forced not to include anything that the police did to them – including the torture.'
According to Amnesty International, who has sent out several press releases expressing concern for the well-being of the many detained activists during the recent days of mass protest in Swaziland, they are not to be charged with the controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act, however.
'I understand that they are charged with a contravention of the Explosives Act No.4 of 1964, not the Suppression of Terrorism Act,' says Mary Rayner from Amnesty International, who could also inform that they have been remanded to Matsapha Central Prison.
Their legal representative was not present in court when they were charged because of incorrect information provided to the lawyer. Swaziland Federation of Labour Secretary General, Vincent Ncongwane, saw this irregularity as hinting at the real reasons for the charges, which Ncongwane called 'unconvincing', according to the Swazi Observer. He said that the allegations had been made 'to cover up for the heavy-handedness the police applied against innocent citizens' during the mass protests.
Apart from being an incredibly economically unequal country, where two thirds of the population survives on less than a dollar a day and on food aid from the UN, whilst the elite close to the absolute monarch lives in luxury, Swaziland has an extremely bad track record of human rights abuses and lack of civil liberties. Amnesty International speaks of the Swazi regime’s continuous arbitrary detentions, assaults, ill-treatment and intimidation of human rights defenders and Freedom House gave Swaziland a political rights score of 7 in 2010, their lowest possible ranking.
2. International community must act now to stop Swazi regime’s brutality
Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
'We will not give in; but our just cause does not benefit from an international community that sacrifices the Swazi people on the altar of silence and shameless indifference,' says Sikelela Dlamini, Project Coordinator of the Swaziland United Democratic Front.
Sikelela Dlamini is talking about the general beatings, injustices and intimidation that are a daily feature of the absolute regime that is Swaziland. But he is also talking specifically about the brutal clamp-down on the last weeks mass protests, that saw peaceful democracy advocates indiscriminately detained and brutalized.
And Sikelela is particularly incensed about the torture of, and charges [for possession of explosives] brought against, Maxwell Dlamini, President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, and Musa Ngubeni from PUDEMO’s youth movement – charges that people in the democratic movement in Swaziland say are ludicrous - and the brutal beating of Swaziland Democracy Campaign’s Mary Da Silva.
'I'd like to appeal to the international community to put immediate pressure on Swaziland’s Tinkhundla [a system that allows the King to control government and land allocation] regime to unconditionally release Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni. They have committed no crime other than unapologetically demanding their constitutional right to politically associate and assemble freely. They demand multiparty democracy like all of the pro-democracy movement in Swaziland,' Sikelela Dlamini tells me.
'Tinkhudla should not be allowed to become a comfortable oasis of brutal dictatorship in a sea of democracy all around us. The security apparatus is framing Maxwell and Musa in a desperate effort to justify to the international community their unprovoked brutality on unarmed protesters peacefully demanding their God-given right to self-determination.'
Mary Da Silva, who was viciously beaten and detained while conducting a live interview with a South African Radio station, is a clear-cut example of the lengths that the Swazi regime will go to in order to stop the inevitable democratization process, says Sikelela Dlamini.
'The brutality that Mary Da Silva of the SUDF's campaign wing, Swaziland Democracy Campaign, was subjected to just before lunch on the 12th of April, convinces me that the cops are ready to kill for Tinhundla. The world must not wait for this to happen. But it will unless the world shows Tinkhundla its firm disapproval. King Mswati III publicly condoned brutality when he praised the police for ‘protecting’ the country from us. They must now feel that it is OK to kill for Mswati.'
And Sikelela Dlamini fears that the Swazi regime wants him dead. 'I'm still on the police's wanted list and fear for my life and for the members of my family. The police who brutalized Mary in my office made it clear I was their prime target. Why is the world watching from a disinterested distance when Mswati and Tinkhundla run roughshod over our innocent lives? The Swazi people have continued to express their desire to be free. But the world must now lend a helping hand in the face of Tinkhundla's open brutality,' he insists.
Tanzania: Ruling party leadership resigns
The top leadership of Tanzania's ruling party has resigned and been replaced by a set of politicians with a cleaner image, amid infighting over President Jakaya Kikwete's succession. The Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) old guard had been under pressure since the October 2010 general elections, which were marked by a record low turnout and saw the opposition gain ground in parliament.
Tunisia: RCD election ban stirs Tunisia debate
Tunisian activists were unanimous in calling for the abolition of the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD). However, last week's decision to bar representatives of the former ruling party from political life altogether is raising doubts among some activists and politicians. The High Commission for the Realisation of Revolutionary Goals on 11 April prohibited senior RCD members from participating in July's constituent assembly elections.
Uganda: Opposition leader vows more protests
Uganda's opposition leader has vowed to continue protests against spiralling fuel and food prices after being charged with riotous behaviour. Kizza Besigye, whose right hand is heavily bandaged after he was hit by a rubber bullet last week as police quelled his first protest, was arrested on Monday after a scuffle with security forces. Appearing in a court in Kampala, the capital, the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) remained defiant, saying he saw nothing wrong with the 'walk to work' protest, which is highlighting the plight of people who cannot afford fares for public transport.
Zambia: Mixed feelings over constitutional review
Some people in rural Zambia are more interested in the education of their children than talk about the failed constitution-making process. 56-year-old John Siamwinde, from Chakanda Village, east of the capital Lusaka, says he has heard almost nothing about the constitution. 'I have heard about the elections coming up later in the year, but I don't know anything about the failed constitution. What we need here are schools and health facilities for our children and ourselves. Look at this school, surely our children deserve better!' he says as he points at a grass thatched shelter which is used as a school for children.
Africa: Tripartite Free Trade Plan May Repeat Previous Mistakes
With regional wheels rolling to put in place the envisaged grand tripartite free trade area (FTA), questions have arisen about whether it would be viable and increase competitiveness. 'Free trade areas by themselves are not an engine for growth,' remarked SADC trade policy advisor Paul Kalenga at a public trade dialogue in Windhoek, Namibia, organised by the Agricultural Trade Forum and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. 'Trade between the region and China, for instance, shot up with 500 percent in the past few years, but intra-regional trade is still proportionally low, despite all the efforts around a Southern African Development Community (SADC) FTA,' he said. Experts from different countries in the envisaged tripartite FTA gathered on 20 April in the Namibian capital to discuss the readiness of smaller nations in the region to engage in the scheme.
Africa: World Bank to reinvest in palm oil amid criticism
Early April saw the launch of the new World Bank Group strategy for engagement in the palm oil sector, which failed to resolve civil society concerns over several issues, including the rights of indigenous peoples and how performance standards will be applied across supply chains. The strategy outlines the conditions and standards under which the Bank will invest in the controversial palm oil sector, and brings to an end the moratorium on investments in palm oil announced by Bank president Robert Zoellick in September 2009. The original suspension followed years of pressure from civil society and indigenous peoples groups over the negative social and environmental impacts of palm oil plantations.
DRC: Congo's energy divide
The Democratic Republic of Congo is rebuilding its power grid as part of the war-torn country's reconstruction. Originally built to power copper mines, the grid reaches just 6 per cent of the nation's people and bypasses some of its biggest cities. Rather than improve its citizens' access to electricity, the government plans to provide electricity from the rehabilitated power grid and new dam projects for mining and exports to South Africa and other countries. The rehabilitation's slow pace, ballooning costs and emphasis on energy exports raise serious concerns that it will only perpetuate Congo's great energy divide, says this page on the website of International Rivers.
East Africa: Consumers, traders feel the burn as prices skyrocket
Low- and middle-income earners across eastern and central Africa are reeling from the mounting cost of living brought on by a sharp increase in commodity prices in the past few months. Protests and demonstrations against the rising cost of food and fuel have swept across several towns in Kenya and Uganda; violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces have been reported on several occasions in Uganda. At least four Ugandans have been killed in countrywide demonstrations, while hundreds have been arrested and several hospitalized with gunshot wounds and the effects of teargas.
Global: Doha trade round faces risk of collapse
Make-or-break talks will be held in Geneva this week to rescue the troubled Doha international trade round, amid fears that a deepening rift between rich and poor countries will see the collapse of almost 10 years of negotiations. After months of stalemate, the World Trade Organisation has set a deadline for the leading players to cut a deal in the key area of industrial tariffs. Pascal Lamy, the WTO's director general, described the situation as 'grave' after seeing no signs of a breakthrough since the start of 2011.
Kenya: A barrel of economic shocks in 2011
Billed as the year when the Kenya would consolidate economic gains made during recovery from the 2008 post-election chaos and the global financial crisis, a combination of factors is turning 2011 into a nightmare year for the economy. Rising oil prices driven by the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East and the current drought – which have affected commodity prices and food supplies respectively – are fuelling fears that the country’s economic growth could lose steam.
Southern Africa: EPA negotiations on backburner
Negotiations for a new economic partnership agreement (EPA) between SADC members and the European Union appear to have been shelved with no fixed date for resumption of the protracted trade negotiations. The SADC and EU negotiating teams last met in November 2010 in Mozambique. Instead, the Southern Africa bloc seems more concerned with talks on coalescing SADC, the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa into what has become known as the trilateral free trade area (T-FTA).
Africa: AU ministers of health expected to formulate clear response to climate change to protect human health
A two day ministerial meeting of the 5th session of the AU Conference of Ministers of Health (CAMH5) started in Windhoek Namibia on 21 April under the theme 'The impact of climate change on health and development in Africa', with the expectation that they will formulate a clear response to climate change in order to protect human health and ensure that it is placed at the centre of the climate debate. The meeting is concerned that Africa is already experiencing the effects of climate change, which are likely to be more severe than originally anticipated. The Ministers are also concerned that the rising frequency of extreme climate events renders African countries vulnerable to increasing prevalence of and mortality from infectious diseases that have several negative consequences such as decreasing economic productivity, increasing medical costs, and further pressurizing already tenuous health care systems.
Global: Global switch needed on severe malaria drug
Up to 200,000 deaths from severe malaria could be averted each year if malarial countries were to switch to a more expensive but more effective drug, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said. In a report on the mosquito-borne disease, MSF said data from recent trials in Africa had shown that the drug, called artesunate, was more effective and easier to use than quinine, a cheaper malaria medicine often used in poorer countries.
Kenya: HIV prevention trial stopped after it fails to make progress
A clinical trial aimed at investigating whether an antiretroviral pill a day could prevent women from getting HIV was abandoned on 18 April. There were high hopes for the trial. But after the women had been on the pill for a year, there were no differences in HIV infection between women getting it and those getting a placebo, so the trial’s review panel recommended that it be abandoned.
Kenya: Management of sexually transmitted infections lags behind PMTCT
Failure to diagnose and treat syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among pregnant women in Kenya means thousands of mothers risk losing their children or passing on the infections to their unborn children. While prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) has expanded, with more than 1,000 sites offering the services across the country, STIs - which raise the risk of contracting HIV and can lead to congenital STIs, low birth weight and stillbirths – are often missed, even when women visit antenatal care centres; an estimated 92 per cent of Kenyan women will seek antenatal care at least once during pregnancy.
Senegal: Local health posts a qualified success
'We no longer need to go to Hanène, three kilometres away, for vaccinations or for a check-up for our children,' said Maguette Niang, a 40-year-old mother from Keur Madaro, a village in the west of Senegal. Keur Madaro is one of many Senegalese communities that now has staff watching over the health of the village from a community health post – a simple two-roomed building right in the heart of the village. This is thanks to a five-year project launched in 2006 under the title Wër (meaning 'good health' in Wolof) being carried out jointly by the Senegalese Ministry of Health, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the non-governmental organisations Plan International, Child Fund, World Vision and Africare.
Uganda: As food prices bite, HIV-positive people turn to kitchen garden
The small 10m by 15m garden behind Agnes Oroma's house in northern Uganda's Gulu district is much more than a hobby garden; according to HIV-positive Oroma, it is one of the main reasons she is in good health. She grows indigenous vegetables and tomatoes to supplement her daily diet of beans, maize meal and silver fish; Oroma also proudly shows off a sisal sack in which she grows onions. 'Do not ignore that little space behind your house, it can do a lot to feed you cheaply and lessen your financial burden that would enable you to spend on other essentials to keep you healthy on your daily ARV treatment,' 31-year-old Oroma told IRIN/PlusNews.
Uganda: Memo issued against HIV bill
A joint statement calling for the Ugandan Government to amend discriminatory clauses contained in the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Bill which is set to be passed by the government, was presented on 8 April 2011 by the Uganda Health and Science Press Association (UHSPA-Uganda). 'It is impossible to prevent and control HIV and AIDS without addressing the needs and concerns of LGBTI persons. Such a law would be doomed to fail from the very start since, criminal laws such the Ugandan Penal Code hamper HIV and AIDS prevention efforts, as do provisions of the HIV and AIDS Bill,' states the memorandum.
Kenya: New education policy on the way
A new policy on education will be in place before the end of next year, the Ministry of Education has pledged. The number of those in need of basic education, both young and old, has ballooned. The new policy is expected to tackle ways of improving access of education to this number (about 10 million children), fight cultural barriers to education such as female genital mutilation and how to keep children in school even in the worst climatic conditions like drought.
Global: Courage unfolds
The Courage Unfolds Campaign and video highlight the issues faced by LGBT people in Asia and encourage the use of the Yogyakarta Principles as a tool to promote LGBT human rights. The film can be a powerful tool to complement activism and advocacy. Click on the link for more information.
Nigeria: Newspaper warns gay asylum seeker that 'jungle justice' awaits if UK returns him
A gay asylum seeker, Uche Nnabuife, which the UK plans to return to Nigeria, has been directly threatened with death according to an article in a Nigerian newspaper. The newspaper 'National Times' is published in Makurdi, capital of Benue State in North-central Nigeria, but circulates nationally. According to Rev Rowland Jide Macauley, a gay Nigerian priest and activist based in London but who travels to Nigeria, the threat 'will circulate'. The article said that Nnabuife would be subjected to 'jungle justice' if returned and 'his body would not be found'.
Africa: Developed countries told to put up or shut up in climate negotiations
African civil society leaders have criticised the role of developed countries, particularly the European Union (EU) in UN climate negotiations. At a press conference hosted by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a network of over 300 organisations from over 45 countries, civil society leaders stood in solidarity with African negotiators. These negotiators were continuing to fight against the EU’s refusal to sign up to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and against the United State’s blocking tactics over the adoption of a comprehensive work plan for the negotiations for 2011.
South Africa: Farmers say 'no fracking way' to Shell
Shell's plans to drill wells for natural gas across a large swathe of the Karoo are fatally flawed and should be rejected, according to lawyers representing local landowners. Derek Light Attorneys criticised Shell's environmental management plan submitted to the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (Pasa) this week, describing it as 'a worthless paper exercise' that was misleading, biased, unprocedural and unconstitutional. Shell's plan has set the stage for a possible legal battle over its ambitions to drill for natural gas in shale formations that cover about 90 per cent of South Africa.
Africa: Sharing agricultural knowledge in Africa 'vital for food security'
African countries have been told that they need to do more to share agricultural knowledge and information - including the wider dissemination of research results - if they are to drive the continent's economic growth. The recommendation is included in a four-year strategic plan, launched by the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) at its General Assembly in Accra, Ghana (12–14 April 2011). According to the AFAAS, advisory services are critical to boosting food security.
Ghana: Opportunity in organics
Ghana’s investment in organic farming could transform the country’s agriculture sector and improve the country’s economy dramatically, reports Journalists for Human Rights. One small organic project is called the Abusua Sustainable Organic Farm (ASOF) is attempting to tap into the organic industry and convince the country of the benefits in organic farming.
Global: Land dispossession as never before, says land grab conference
Participants at the International Conference on Global Land Grabbing overwhelmingly found that land grabbing is occurring at a scale and speed as never before, and resulting in widespread displacement and dispossession of rural and urban communities, especially smallholder agricultural producers. Held on 6-8 April at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, the Conference was organised by the Land Deals Politics Initiative (LDPI) in collaboration with the Journal of Peasant Studies and hosted by the Future Agricultures Consortium at the IDS.
Landmark conference on land grabbing: large-scale agricultural investments do undermine food security
International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty
Participants at the International Conference on Global Land Grabbing overwhelmingly found that land grabbing is occurring at a scale and speed as never before, and resulting in widespread displacement and dispossession of rural and urban communities, especially smallhold agricultural producers. Held on 6-8 April at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, the Conference was organised by the Land Deals Politics Initiative (LDPI) in collaboration with the Journal of Peasant Studies and hosted by the Future Agricultures Consortium at the IDS.
Over 100 papers presented in 32 panels during the conference showed how land, water and natural resources are appropriated by national and transnational corporations, elites and governments through agricultural investments, special economic zones, tourism, conservation programmes, climate change mitigation projects and financial speculation. Not a single case of positive outcomes for local communities, food security, employment and environmental sustainability was found. Instead, participants, who were mostly academics and students, but also from the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, civil society and peasant movements heard that finance and agribusiness corporations were worried about the impacts of bad press on their reputations.
“Land grabs, which aim at 20% profits for investors, are all about financial speculation,” said Andrea Ferrante of la Via Campesina. “This is why land grabbing is completely incompatible with food security: food production – or any other legitimate economic activity - can only bring profits of 3-5%. So land grabbing simply enhances the commodification of agriculture whose sole purpose is the over-remuneration of speculation capital”.
Sofia Monsalve of the FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN International) reiterated the CSO's critique to the Principles on Responsible Agricultural Investment to discipline land grabbing in an attempt to legitimize something which is absolutely unacceptable. “The concluding remarks of the conference were very clear: there is overwhelming evidence of the destructive force of land grabbing, for peasant livelihoods and for the environment. As one participant put it, the burden of proof is now on the supporters of large-scale land investments”, she added.
Yulian Junaidi Jasuan from the Federation of Indonesian Peasants (SPI) said that, “Land grabbing is a global crime” and exhorted conference participants to build a global moratorium on land grabbing. The International Planning Committee for Food Security and the Land Research Action Network support this view.
According to Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, trying to make large-scale investments more “responsible” is not enough."The real concern behind the development of large-scale investments in farmland is rather that giving land away to investors will result in a type of industrial farming that will have much less powerful poverty-reducing impacts than if access to land and water were improved for the local farming communities. Accelerating the shift towards large-scale, highly mechanized forms of agriculture will not solve the problem of hunger: it will make it worse."
It is time for Food Sovereignty!
Land working group of the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (http://wgart.foodsovereignty.org/)
Land Research Action Network (http://www.landaction.org)
Conference papers can be downloaded at www.future-agricultures.org
Sign the Dakkar Appeal against the land grab at http://www.petitiononline.com/dakar/petition.html
Global: People’s Food Policy challenges Canadian federal parties
Canada’s first citizen-driven food policy was unveiled today (18 April) and calls on the next federal government to address crucial gaps in the nation’s food system. The People’s Food Policy (PFP) is a comprehensive plan to address some of the most pressing health, hunger, climate and agricultural-related issues facing the country.
People’s Food Policy Challenges Federal Parties
People’s Food Policy Project
18 April 2011
(OTTAWA, ONTARIO)- Canada’s first citizen-driven food policy was unveiled today and calls on the next federal government to address crucial gaps in the nation’s food system.
The People’s Food Policy (PFP) is a comprehensive plan to address some of the most pressing health, hunger, climate and agricultural-related issues facing the country.
'Our food system is failing us,' said Amanda Sheedy, PFP coordinator. 'Close to two and a half million Canadians regularly don’t have enough to eat, thousands of family farms are disappearing, one in four Canadians is considered obese, and the environment is being pushed to the limit. The status quo is no longer an option.'
Sheedy called on candidates in all parties to say what they would do to address the problems and put a food policy in place that reflects the realities of the average Canadian.
'The People’s Food Policy embodies a wave of concern, interest and action by citizens who are increasingly questioning how our current food system is organized,' said Cathleen Kneen, chair of Food Secure Canada, the national voice of the food movement in Canada, who is co-launching the Policy.
While plans to develop national food policies are being advanced by many sectors, the PFP represents the first time that regular Canadians, farmers, fishers and organizations that deal directly with food security have come together to put forward a national food policy proposal.
'The PFP goes beyond the standard "agri-food" framework,' said Anna Paskal, Policy Lead. 'It addresses issues such as health, hunger, fisheries, children’s nutrition, farming, and Indigenous food systems.'
Key recommendations include:
● Localizing the system so that food is eaten as close as possible to where it is produced.
● Supporting food providers in a widespread shift to ecological production, including programs to support new farmers getting on the land.
● Enacting federal poverty elimination and prevention programs to ensure Canadians can better afford healthy food.
● Creating a nationally-funded children and food strategy.
● Ensuring that the public, is actively involved in decisions that affect the food system.
'We’ve laid the groundwork for a national food policy that serves people and the environment,' Sheedy said. 'We are asking citizens to sign our online pledge to call on the next government to take this forward and make it national policy.'
Contact: Amanda Sheedy - Coordinator (514) 654-3529 - firstname.lastname@example.org
or Anna Paskal - Policy Lead (514) 889-2533 - email@example.com
For the full policy: www.peoplesfoodpolicy.ca
Malawi: Subsidies not the only answer for Malawi's farmers
The Malawian government's farm input subsidy programme was first implemented in 2005 after several years of drought and chronic food shortages left nearly a quarter of the population in need of food aid. President Bingu wa Mutharika hoped to avoid the need for future food handouts by distributing coupons for maize seed and fertilizer to the poorest 50 per cent of farmers. But the cost of fertilizer and transporting it to farmers all over the country has risen steeply in recent years and by 2008/09 the programme was draining 16 per cent of the national budget and nearly 7 per cent of GDP.
Burundi: Prosecutor requests life imprisonment for online newspaper editor
Reporters Without Borders says it is 'deeply shocked' to learn that deputy prosecutor Marc Ndabakeshimana has asked a Bujumbura court to sentence detained journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu to life imprisonment on charges of treason and defamation. The court has 60 days to render its verdict. The editor of the online newspaper Net Press, Kavumbagu has been held since 17 July 2010 because of an article about a terrorist bombing in the Ugandan capital of Kampala with a toll of 76 dead, in which he questioned whether the Burundian armed forces would be able to deal with a similar threat in Burundi.
Global: Freedom House study finds mounting threats to Internet freedom
Cyberattacks, politically motivated censorship, and government control over internet infrastructure are among the diverse and growing threats to internet freedom, according to 'Freedom on the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media', a new study released on 18 April by Freedom House. These encroachments on internet freedom come at a time of explosive growth in the number of internet users worldwide, which has doubled over the past five years. Governments are responding to the increased influence of the new medium by seeking to control online activity, restricting the free flow of information, and otherwise infringing on the rights of users.
Libya: Two photojournalists die in Misrata
The International Federation of Journalists says it is mourning the tragic death of photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, killed by a mortar attack in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata, on Wednesday 20 April. Two other photojournalists, Guy Martin and Michael Christopher Brown, were both seriously injured by the same mortar fire along Tripoli Street at the heart of the fight between pro-Gaddafi forces and the rebels for control of Misrata.
Malawi: Court adjourns hearing of Section 46 case
Malawi's Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo adjourned to 11 April hearing of a case in which the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) is challenging the constitutionality of Section 46 of the Penal Code. The section, which was amended by parliament in November 2010, empowers the Minister of Information to ban either importation or publication of materials which, according to the minister, are not in the public interest. MHRC took the matter to court arguing that the section was inconsistent with the Constitution and therefore invalid.
Senegal: Heavy fine and suspended jail sentence for investigative journalist
A Dakar court has given Abdou Latif Coulibaly, the editor of the weekly La Gazette, a three-month suspended jail sentenced and fined him 10 million CFA francs (15,267 euros) for allegedly defaming a Senegalese businessman close to President Wade by accusing him of acting fraudulently in his dealings with the government. Reporters Without Borders condemns the way the Senegalese authorities and several leading figures close to the government are hounding Coulibaly, one of Dakar’s most respected journalists. The lawsuits that keep being brought against him constitute an unacceptable form of harassment
Swaziland: Editor challenges PM on radio censorship
An editor who openly challenged the Prime Minister on government's tendencies to censor the state radio station, the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Services (SBIS), was covertly told to resign if he was not happy with the government policy. Welile Dlamini, a long-time news editor of SBIS, had challenged the Prime Minister, Sibusiso Dlamini on why the station was told by government what and what not to broadcast. This was during a monthly breakfast meeting between editors and the PM, which is also attended by cabinet ministers.
Burkina Faso: Soldiers' grievances to be heard
Burkina Faso's government will hold talks with soldiers to discuss issues which led to a military mutiny and days of unrest across the West African nation. The mutiny, which began with shooting near the presidential palace, triggered riots and looting in the capital, Ouagadougou, and in other towns and cities.
Libya: Blood bonanza for contractors
Libya might soon turn into a goldmine for private security firms. Reports say that the UK is already hiring mercenaries to protect the interests of the big corporations there, once Colonel Gaddafi goes. But the fresh history of the previous NATO-led interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan give a pretty clear picture of how exactly the big men with guns could turn this civil war-torn country into a proper Wild West.
Libya: China's interests in Gaddafi
In energy terms, China's top African oil suppliers are Angola, Sudan and Nigeria – all ahead of Libya. Around 80 per cent of Libya's oil reserves, of roughly 44 billion barrels, are in the Sirte basin – spread out between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, a great deal of it under on and off rebel control. Beijing would hate to contemplate a balkanisation of Libya along Korea's lines – an impoverished, oil-less, Gaddafi-ruled west/North Korea opposed to an affluent, oil-rich, Western-aligned Cyrenaica/South Korea.
Libya: Evacuees describe Misrata horror
Civilians evacuated from the war-ravaged western Libyan city of Misrata have described the humanitarian situation there as grim, saying families are barely able to find enough food and water, that medical treatment is hard to come by, and corpses are lying in the streets. 'We could hear the snipers picking people off in the street outside,' said Mariam Doua, a teacher in the city. 'Eventually some [rebel fighters] came to lead us to safety in the middle of the night when the militia were dozing. We covered the mouths of the children and ran out into the street, barefoot.'
Libya: UK soldiers to advise Libyan opposition
Britain will send a team of experienced military officers to Libya to help support and advise the country's opposition council, the UK foreign minister has said. William Hague said that military advisers would join a group of British diplomats already co-operating with the Libyan National Transitional Council, based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. 'They will advise the National Transitional Council on how to improve their military organisational structures, communications and logistics, including how best to distribute humanitarian aid and deliver medical assistance,' he said.
Libya: UN says 20 children killed in Misrata, wants truce
The United Nations has appealed for a ceasefire in the Libyan city of Misrata, saying at least 20 children had been killed in attacks by besieging government forces on rebel-held parts of the city. Libya's third city, where hundreds are believed to have been killed by shelling and sniper fire by Muammar Gaddafi's forces, is the main focus of efforts to protect civilians caught up in the Libyan leader's bid to put down an armed rebellion.
Middle East: Bahrain's secret terror
The intimidation and detention of doctors treating dying and injured pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain has been revealed in a series of chilling emails obtained by The Independent. At least 32 doctors, including surgeons, physicians, paediatricians and obstetricians, have been arrested and detained by Bahrain's police in the last month in a campaign of intimidation that runs directly counter to the Geneva Convention guaranteeing medical care to people wounded in conflict. Doctors around the world have expressed their shock and outrage.
Namibia: Flooding kills at least 65
Heavy flooding in Namibia has killed at least 65 people and displaced 60,000, damaging crops and infrastructure in the southwest African state, a UN report said. 'Sustained high water tables over the past three years mean that it may take months for the floodwaters to subside completely,' said the report by the office of the UN's resident disaster coordinator.
Nigeria: Election violence 'left more than 500 dead'
A Nigerian human rights group says more than 500 people died after presidential elections earlier this month. Rioting broke out when it emerged that Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian - had defeated a Muslim candidate from the mostly Islamic north. Correspondents say Nigeria is braced for possible further unrest over governorship elections on Tuesday (26 April) in most of Nigeria's 36 states.
South Sudan: Army, militia clash kills 31
At least 31 people were killed in a clash between south Sudan's army and rebel militia fighters, the army said on Wednesday (20 April), the latest violence to unsettle the region ahead of its independence in July. Twenty southern army soldiers were killed on Tuesday in a clash in the oil-producing Unity state with fighters loyal to Peter Gadet, a former senior southern army (SPLA) officer who rebelled this month, the military said.
Africa: Moving pictures, the next step for Africa’s mobile Internet users
The speed with which Facebook has taken off on the African continent in the countries that are a bell-weather for early take-up has been impressive. Twitter is trotting behind but with much smaller number. MXit has impressive up-take in South Africa. What has been missed in this social media explosion is the significance of moving pictures through things like You Tube and Vimeo. Russell Southwood from Balancing Act argues that this surge will happen on mobiles and is not far around the corner.
Zambia: Libyan telecom shares frozen
Zambia has frozen LAP Green Network’s 75 per cent shares in Zamtel in conformity with the international community’s decision to freeze all assets belonging to Libya following the unrest in the Arab country, Zamtel managing director Hans Paulsen said in Lusaka on 15 April. The international community has been freezing some Libyan assets dotted across the globe. Mr Paulsen said Zamtel will not be affected by the new development and there is no need for customers to worry.
African Press Organisation (APO) alerts
APO distributes thousands of press releases related to Africa. Their mailing list and RSS feeds allows you to receive information about the country(ies), topic(s), and institution(s) of interest - whether your area of interest is South Africa, Agriculture, Women-related news, or the African Union Commission. Visit http://www.apo-opa.com/subscribe-form.php
Global: Six point checklist for justice on gender-based violence
This document from Amnesty International is a checklist for identifying obstacles to justice for women or girls who are victims and survivors of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence. The checklist is intended to help activists and advocates to identify laws, policies and practices which still need to be reformed and obstacles to the successful implementation of laws and policies. It is based on international human rights law and standards and is based around six key questions which are interrelated.
Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for International Photography
Call for applications for grant program
The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for International Photography is currently seeking to award one social documentary photographic project produced in the journalistic tradition of Manuel Rivera-Ortiz. One project based on pressing social issues in the developing world will receive a grant of 5,000 USD to be utilised for the production or completion of a pre-approved project.
Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship Programme
The Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship Programme supports individuals to implement their own innovative ideas for social change in the world. Apart from the individual Fellowship grant, it offers an enabling support structure and an existing network of social change agents. This includes technological, financial, and legal support.
Women PeaceMakers Program
Applications now open
The Women PeaceMakers Program documents the stories and best practices of international women leaders who are involved in human rights and peacemaking efforts in their home countries. The program offers an opportunity for women leaders who want to document, share and build upon their unique peacemaking stories.
African Women’s Land Rights Conference 2011
30 May to 2 June 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya
Oxfam, ActionAid, and ACORD with support from others are convening the African Women’s Land Rights Conference, to be held from 30 May to 2 June 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference will bring together women’s and land rights activists and organisations including farmer associations, pastoralist groups, women survivor groups, lawyers, parliamentarians and academics that are committed to strengthening women’s rights in Africa.
African Women’s Land Rights Conference – 2011
'The Right to land and justice for women in Africa'
Oxfam, ActionAid, and ACORD with support from others are convening the African Women’s Land Rights Conference, to be held from 30 May to 2 June 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya.
The conference will bring together women’s and land rights activists and organisations including farmer associations, pastoralist groups, women survivor groups, lawyers, parliamentarians and academics that are committed to strengthening women’s rights in Africa.
The purpose of the event is to re-energize the struggle for women’s land rights and access to justice and reparation as fundamental human rights and the basis for women’s empowerment, and improved food security and social justice in Africa. Amongst other specific issues the conference will address access to justice and reparations related to conflicts, sexual gender based violence (SGBV) and land.
Land is resurfacing as a contentious issue in the face of increasing global interests in land, water, food, and fuel security. Violence against women continues to undermine women’s rights including land and property rights. More competition for land, as seen in large land grabs, has immediate impacts on women’s land tenure security and food security in a situation where the achievement of women’s land rights remains a challenge in Africa.
Recent initiatives to address land issues in Africa include new land laws and titling projects in a number of countries and the African Union Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa. Many organisations continue to work on practical projects and advocacy to address land issues.
We need to learn from these experiences and understand the new challenges and opportunities for women’s land rights and land use. African women and girls face increasing violence due to conflicts and a culture of violence and patriarchy in many countries. Accessing justice for victims of SGBV has never been easy and needs clear policies and actions to end impunity and protect women.
The conference will therefore focus on sharing new information on the situation of women’s land and food rights as well as access to justice and reparations in order to devise actions to improve these rights. This will be achieved through the sharing of case studies and research and engaging in discussions drawing on the experiences of the wide variety of participants at the event. The programme will cover:
- Learning from recent land reforms and their impact on women
- Agricultural policies, programmes, investments, and appropriate farming models.
- Land grabs, land conflicts, and women’s already fragile rights to land
- Linkages between land rights, SGBV, conflict, and compensation for women
- Women’s right to access justice and reparations
- Women’s land and natural resources rights struggles that can inspire further action
- Climate change and impact on woman farmers and pastoralists
- Field visits to learn about women asserting their rights and challenges still faced
- What needs to be done and developing a plan of action to advance women’s rights
If you are interested to attend; If you are working to advance women’s land rights; If you have a paper or case study that you would like to share at this event; or just want further information please send your details to www.landforafricanwomen.org or call Wilkister Oluoch at +254 20
272 11 72/85/86.
At this time of continued challenges and threat, but also new opportunities, let us join in finding ways to ensure that African women can assert their fundamental rights to land and are able to use this as a basis for achieving food rights. We must ensure that crimes of SGBV and seizures of land do not remain unpunished and women survivors are recognized by judicial systems, protected and compensated.
Send reply form to or get more information from: firstname.lastname@example.org
or call Wilkister Oluoch at +254 20 272 11 72/85/86
Africa’s Odious Debts
Africa’s Odious Debts documents the flight of $735 billion (in constant 2008 dollars) from sub-Saharan Africa from 1970 to 2008. Most of this disappeared into financial sinkholes; recorded African deposits in Western banks amounted to less than 6 per cent of this amount. To put Africa’s capital hemorrhage into perspective, the total foreign debt of the same countries stood at $177 billion at the end of 2008. In this sense Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world: its external assets far exceed its external liabilities. A crucial difference, however, is that the assets are private and hidden, whereas the liabilities are public, owed by the people of Africa through their governments.
Forced Migration Review (FMR) 37 now available
Armed non-state actors and displacement
The 20 articles in the feature section of the latest FMR look at a variety of actors defined as armed and ‘non-state’, their behaviours and efforts to bring them into frameworks of responsibility and accountability. Contents include:
- 'Catch me if you can!' The Lord's Resistance Army, written by
Heloise Ruaudel at the Refugee Studies Centre
- Community-led stabilization in Somalia
- Al-Shabaab's responsibility to protect civilians in Somalia
- The Kampala Convention and obligations armed groups
- Militia in DRC speak about sexual violence
Director: Middle East and North Africa Programme
Director – Middle East and North Africa Programme
£55,560 per annum + benefits if based in London; package for other locations will be confirmed at offer London or other location in the MENA region
At Amnesty International (AI) we fight injustice on a global scale. To do that well, we need strong and coherent leadership across each of the regions in which we operate. Developing and rolling out our programme strategy for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), that’s exactly what you’ll provide.
About the role
In this high profile role, you’ll lead both the day-to-day running and strategic development of our programme in the MENA region. Managing a substantial budget and a dedicated 30-strong team split between London and our regional office in Beirut, you’ll provide the strategic and political analysis that shapes and drives our human rights agenda across the region. In doing so, you’ll make sure that our work – from the way we approach research and membership campaigning to government lobbying and the content of our own publications – meet the organisation’s standards and are closely aligned with its wider objectives.
You’ll need an expert knowledge of the political landscape and human rights issues in the region. You must be familiar with the international legal framework around human rights and the requirements of our campaigning work. A strategic thinker with excellent political judgement, you’ll be a powerful communicator. You should be able to get your message across in English and Arabic and, ideally, French. Most important, will be the inspirational leadership skills you bring to the role that enable you to bring out the best in a diverse and geographically widespread team.
Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent and impartial, we campaign for freedom and justice wherever they’re denied. Already our network of almost three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.
For more information and to apply, please visit www.amnesty.org/jobs
Closing date: 22nd May 2011
Fahamu Refugee Programme (FRP)
Volunteer Interns are needed to work for the Fahamu Refugee Programme (FRP), hosted by Fahamu Trust (www.fahamu.org), to undertake extremely varied work associated with completing the www.srlan.org/beta website, contributing to the FRP's monthly legal aid eNewletter and assisting in responding to requests from our listserv. The FRP is directed by Dr. Harrell-Bond, the founder/director of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford (1982/96).
Potential interns must have knowledge of, or a very strong interest in learning about refugee issues, refugee law and statelessness, developing research or fundraising skills; live in or be able to work in
Oxford; and have good English writing and computing skills. Individual projects within this work include family reunion, deportation, and providing instruction for writing shadow reports. Send cover letter and curriculum vitae to (email@example.com).
West Africa: Researcher
Temporary contract of five months in duration
About the role
We’re looking for a Researcher to join our West Africa team, specifically focusing on Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia, to help the work of the team by providing country and thematic expertise, excellent research skills and sound political judgement. Your task will be to monitor, investigate and analyze political, legal and social developments and human rights conditions, give authoritative advice on these areas and prepare human rights action materials. You’ll take the lead responsibility for initiating strategy and a programme of human rights research and action by providing country expertise, research skills and sound political judgement.
You’ll have excellent writing and research skills and are comfortable working as part of a large and diverse team. You will have first hand experience of the West Africa sub-region, including specialist knowledge of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia and an understanding and awareness of the cultures of the sub-region. You will have proven research and writing skills, and the ability to be impartial and think strategically. Fluency in English is essential while French language skills are highly desirable.
Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, fairness, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of almost three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.
For more information and to apply, please visit www.amnesty.org/jobs
Closing date: 2nd May 2011.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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