Pambazuka News 532: Time to bury the IMF
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
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Highlights from this issue
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: AU credibility questioned as Zim chairs peace organ
WOMEN AND GENDER: Gender equality in the Arab region
HUMAN RIGHTS: Kenyan testimony about post-independence abuse claims
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: 150 bodies of Tunisian refugees found
AFRICAN LABOUR NEWS: South Africa approves Wal-Mart deal
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Latest news about China, India and Africa
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Angola, Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa
CORRUPTION: Former Egyptian minister sentenced to 30 years
DEVELOPMENT: Arab spring wary of economic lifelines
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Poor states urged to start campaign on patent rights
LGBTI: Ugandan envoy Qwelani guilty of hate speech
ENVIRONMENT: Chevron feels the heat
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: British firms lead rush on Africa’s land
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Angola backs down on cyber legislation
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from Libya, Somalia, Sudan
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: Technology for transparency online map
PLUS: eNewsletters and mailing lists, Fundraising and useful resources, Courses, seminars and workshops and Jobs…
Time to bury the IMF
Towards an International Bank for Reconstruction and Reparations
It was a fitting metaphor as Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was arrested on charges of assault, attempted rape and sexual abuse. The charges were brought after Strauss-Kahn allegedly assaulted an African woman from Guinea, who worked as a housekeeper in a hotel in New York City. The image of Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs was fitting insofar as this is the image that should be presented of the entire international financial system that is anchored in the Bretton Woods Institutions. For over 60 years, these institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) raped citizens of the world, especially the citizens of the poor countries, on behalf the United States and the top capitalist nations in Europe. The IMF has been a front for the lords of finance of Wall Street in the USA, and the linkages between the IMF/Wall Street and the US Treasury ensured that the poor of the world subsidised the US military. As junior partners in the imperial chain of domination, the Europeans worked with the Wall Street-Treasury alliance to ensure that despite presenting arguments about free market competition, agriculture in Europe and the USA was subsidised. In pursuit of the alliance of financial rapists and economic terrorists, it was an unwritten rule that the managing director of the IMF should be a European.
The current French finance minister is campaigning hard to becoming the next managing director and has received the support of an institution that is as moribund as the IMF, the Group of 8 (G8). It is a measure of the disrespect that the capitalists have for Africa that they could propose Christine Lagarde as the candidate to be the next managing director. France has been at the forefront of the massive plunder of Africa by European states, and the IMF has been complicit in this plunder. France continues to be a safe haven for the money stolen from Africans by African kleptocrats and Western elites and corporations. The IMF has assisted in granting immunity to Europeans and North Americans for crimes of economic rape against Africans.
Many in France who call themselves socialists have been in denial about the rape of Africa. Instead of supporting activists such as Eva Joly who have been exposing the fraud and corruption of France in Africa, these ‘socialists’ are claiming that Strauss-Kahn was set up. A former culture minister Jack Lang described the treatment of Strauss- Kahn as a ‘lynching’ that had ‘provoked horror and aroused disgust’. Clearly, these members of the French socialist confraternity do not understand the real lynching that is part of the racist structure of western capitalism. Indeed, this moment of the prosecution of the French-born high priest of the IMF over the allegations of physical sexual assault of an African is an opportune moment for persons who have been affected by the decades of economic rape perpetrated by the IMF around the world to call for the dismantling of the Bretton Woods system and set about the establishment of a new international financial architecture dedicated to repairing the planet earth and for the reconstruction of livelihoods.
There were some commentators in parts of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries who were calling for the new managing director to be recruited from the ‘developing’ countries. Such a proposal is only one expedient for prolonging the life of the IMF when regional institutions are springing up in Asia and Latin America to disengage from the Bank. In fact, the pervasiveness of regional currency projects and the moribund stature of the Bretton Woods global financial architecture challenge Africans to remove the present crop of wheeler-dealers who pose as leaders, and to create a new leadership in order to get serious about the consolidation of the African Monetary Fund. Such seriousness will strengthen the local forces all over the world that have been campaigning against the IMF and for the creation of a new financial system.
SLOW DEATH OF THE BRETTON WOODS SYSTEM
The Bretton Woods financial architecture, which gave birth to the IMF and the World Bank, is predicated on the strength and dominance of the US dollar, the US financial system and capitalist ideology of free market. But the slow death of the IMF began after the ending of the fixed rate regime that had been established at Bretton Woods in 1944. When the system of fixed exchange rates ended in 1971, the US dollar was no longer backed up by gold but by the military might of the USA. Previously, the US hid behind the idea of trilateralism, meaning cooperation in the management of the global system with Europe and Japan. It was in this period when the US established the meetings of the G-7 in 1976. After the rise of Ronald Reagan, the US capitalists opted for the military management of the international financial system. This was most graphic after the Plaza Accords of September 1985, when Ronald Reagan literally told the Germans and Japanese that they had to support US financial hegemony because the US had troops stationed in their countries. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russians were invited to these G-7 meetings and the group was then called the G-8. The US capitalists moved in to dismantle the Soviet economy and paved the way for a new regime of looters and money launderers in Russia. These barons of Russian capitalism were integrated into an international system that supported the dollar.
The Russians opted to join the international capitalists instead of joining voices with the G-77 (Brazil, India, China, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea and other countries) to change the rules of the system where the US dollar had a preeminent place in the international political system as a reserve currency. A major concession was made in 2008 after the fall of the US investment houses and the details of the depression had become too obvious to be covered. A hastily convened meeting of the G-20 was held in November 2008, following the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank and subsequent daily fear of an international financial collapse.
Throughout the years of the Bush administration (2001-2009), the principal questions related to the future of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the special status of the dollar was placed on the back burner by the brazen military adventure of the US. At the start of the Bush administration the crisis of the US economy had become a threat to the IMF itself, to the point where the IMF cautioned the US on the unsustainability of the debt and deficit. During the Bush administration, the New York Times published a report on 8 January 2004, revealing that the ‘IMF Warns That U.S. Debt Is Threatening Global Stability.’
15 September 2008 exposed to the world the hollowness of the US financial system and the duplicity of the neoliberal ideologues that have been campaigning for free markets. When Lehman brothers collapsed and there was the meltdown of the system, the US government did not go to the IMF but unilaterally pumped more than US$25 trillion into the financial system to maintain US imperial hegemony. Today, as the figurative rape of Third World economies is now reinforced by the actual rape and sexual assault from the high priest of the IMF, capitalist forces inside the United States of America nervously balance at the apex of this international political crossroads with a mode of economic organisation and a consumer led form of economics which is creating insecurity in all parts of the globe.
The international contamination from this crisis in the United States has elicited anxiety in all parts of the world. Whether it is the ruminations of the oil producing states of the Gulf Cooperation Council on the creation of a single currency, or the energetic efforts to establish the Bank of the South in Latin America, there are differing measures by states who seek protection from the volatility of the depression and possible impact on the dollar as the currency of world trade. The rising competitors of Asia are seeking ways to reduce their deposits held in dollars in favor of the new financial arrangements in order to limit their exposure to the toxic economic conditions of the USA. Chinese leaders, in particular, have been organising currency swaps to limit their exposure to the dollar while some sections of the Chinese leadership are calling for a tricolor currency system anchored in the Dollar, the Euro, and the Chinese Renminbi (Yuan).
Under the subtle yet clear dominance of the German bankers and the German rulers, the European Union has sought to strengthen the economic integration of Europe as one pole of the competition with the US-based capitalists. However, the crisis of the financial system has intensified resistance from European workers who are opposing the austerity measures proposed in order to pay banks while people suffer. In the midst of these protests in Europe, US strategists are wishing for the collapse of the Eurozone so that the Euro does not immediately become an alternative to the collapsing dollar.
Of all the regional initiatives to challenge the US economic dominance, it is in Latin America where there is an explicit statement that the initiative of the Bank of the South contains a vision ‘to liberate the region's countries from IMF, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IBD) control that condemn millions to poverty.’ The region of Latin America was one space where the crystallisation of popular forces (women, youth, shack dwellers, environmentalists, peace activists, indigenous persons and anti- racist forces) forced through counter proposals to begin to break with dollar hegemony. Within Latin America, the radicalisation of the electorate brought to the centre of power parties and leaders who see the Bank of the South as one step towards economic and political integration in that region. This vision is articulated in the creation of the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean. It is not by accident that France’s candidate to head the International Monetary Fund travelled to Brazil to drum up support for her bid, but her hosts are still on the fence about whether to back the European candidate or throw their weight fully behind alternative proposals, including supporting a contender from the developing world.
In terms of regional alternatives to the IMF, the area where the break is most urgent is in Africa where there is tremendous wealth in the midst of appalling pauperization. Like the ruminations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, there is currently an effort by the African Union (AU) to establish a single currency. In Africa, there had been a long tradition of opposition to the policies of the colonialism and neocolonialism, crowned with the end of apartheid in 1994. Though outnumbered by a class of complicit leaders, African spokespersons such as Julius Nyerere had called for a dismantling of the institutions of international capitalism. Nyerere was quite outspoken when he asked, ‘Must we starve our children to pay our debts?’ It was in Tanzania where there was the most determined opposition to the policies of the IMF.
From ordinary folks in Bamako in Mali to the shack dwellers of South Africa, there are social forces opposing the looting of African resources and calling on the working poor to ‘fight against all manifestations of injustices, and protect their human dignity by direct action.’ Scholars who have been theorising the interconnections between gender, care and economics have been able to shatter neo-classical, Marxist and liberal understanding of economic relations that excluded the labour power of women. These challenges from the grassroots women are most evident in the rapidly growing societies that have internalised the idea that neoliberal economic practices form the basis for prosperity. Women of the global South have however been the most forthright in their articulation of the multiple forms of oppression that emanate from the structural adjustment policies of the IMF. Gloria Thomas-Emeagwali’s book, ‘Women Pay the Price of Structural Adjustment in Africa and the Caribbean’, represented an explicit exposure of the interconnections between racial, economic and gendered exploitation. Her work and those of other African women could be drawn upon to contextualise the actions of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
The metaphorical economic rape that the peoples of Africa and the global South have endured for decades is now not only manifesting in the literal sense with Strauss-Kahn’s actions; it is also no longer limited to the Third World as it spreads across Western societies, in form of austerity measures that have sparked off resistance. By the start of 2009, the demonstration effect of the youth rebellion in Greece was inspiring strikes and protests from Guadeloupe in the Caribbean to Iceland and Ireland. By the time of the outbreak of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, international capitalism was on the defensive. With Strauss Kahn caught, literally, with his pants down, the nervousness of capitalism has led to a closing of ranks behind the French candidate to pre-empt serious discussions of the restructuring of the IMF.
This is the current climate of opposition to neoliberalism and to the Bretton Woods austerity measures in which there is the discussion on the successor to Strauss Kahn. The British Guardian had summed up the new developments on 31 January 2009: ‘Europe’s time of troubles is gathering depth and scale. Governments are trembling. Revolt is in the air.’ No less a person than Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England encouraged workers in the United Kingdom to rise up and protest against the bankers. He said that he was surprised the ordinary people were not angrier with the banks. King said that people made unemployed and businesses bankrupted during the crisis had every reason to be resentful and voice their protest. He told a Treasury select committee that the billions spent bailing out the banks and the need for public spending cuts were the fault of the financial services sector.
We will add that behind the financial services industry is the IMF.
EUROPE FEARS THE DEATH OF THE SYSTEM
With each passing day there are clear signs of the depth of the international capitalist crisis. Austerity measures to save banks in Europe have intensified resistance by workers, youths and students. Inside the USA, the debt ceiling has now placed the US system in a precarious state while the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner (a member of the Board of Governors of the IMF) fiddles the books to postpone the need for tough decisions to rein in the system where the US can spend a trillion dollars on the military while schools and hospitals are starved of funds. Economists, financiers, journalists, policymakers, politicians and speculators draw attention to the fact that the entire international financial system is now in its death throes. Whether it is the warnings of George Soros who continuously cried that, what we are going through is the crisis of the ‘gigantic circulatory system’ of a ‘global capitalist system that is … coming apart at the seams,’ or economists and activists from the south, there are voices that have made it clear that capitalism is going through a defining moment.
A former chief economist of the IMF, Simon Johnson, argued that the financiers are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed. Johnson, who wrote about the ‘Quiet Coup’ in relation to the political power of the bankers and financiers in the United States, observed later in his book, ‘13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown’, that the financial oligarchs cannot halt the rush to a new financial meltdown. The question is whether societies all over the world, especially Africa are ready for alternatives when this meltdown takes place.
According to Johnson, ‘What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression—because the world is now so much more interconnected and because the banking sector is now so big.’ On the complexity and depth of the crisis, Simon Johnson is not alone. Writing in the London based Financial Times on 8 March 2009, Martin Wolf held that:
‘It is impossible at such a turning point to know where we are going. In the chaotic 1970s, few guessed that the next epoch would see the taming of inflation, the unleashing of capitalism and the death of communism. What will happen now depends on choices unmade and shocks unknown. Yet the combination of a financial collapse with a huge recession, if not something worse, will surely change the world. The legitimacy of the market will weaken. The credibility of the US will be damaged. The authority of China will rise. Globalisation itself may founder. This is a time of upheaval. Technical arguments abound in relation to the necessity for regulation of the financial markets but these interventions fail to grasp the political nature of the depression and the need for a fundamental break with the social production of wealth by the majority and the accumulation by a few.’
These warnings from mainstream commentators seek to divert attention from those in the oppressed South who are calling for the dismantling of the Bretton Woods system and plan for increased taxation of the bankers, especially in the short run with a financial transaction tax.
TIME TO BURY THE IMF
From both sides of the Atlantic there are calls for the breaking up of the big banks to make them more accountable. These calls must be linked to the popular power in the streets to connect the opposition to the banks to opposition to the IMF. During the anti-globalisation protests, connections were made between all forms of oppression. The United Nations World Conference against Racism (WCAR) held in Durban in September 2001 brought to the forefront the need for a repair of the human relations in the process of combating racism in the world economy. In the programme of action, this conference proposed legal measures, educational measures and reparations as one component of a phased program to halt the inequalities and the iterations of warfare. In so far as the proposals of the WCAR challenged the power of the leaders of NATO, the ideas were shelved while the leaders of the USA intensified the militarization of the planet.
Samir Amin grasped the limits of the technical responses to this crisis and correctly grasped the reasons why the Unites States and the NATO powers (called the international community) supported a G20 meeting but opposed the reconvened Durban 2 conference in Geneva at the end of April, 2009. It is in Latin America among African descendants where there is now a movement to link racism clearly with the crimes of capitalism to racism.
The Barack Obama administration in Washington recognised the limitations of the ‘total war’ concept that was embedded in the ‘war on terror’ and has sought a more conciliatory relationship with the rest of the world. This conciliatory approach has not, however been backed up a demilitarisation of the globe; and it has not addressed the fundamental inequalities in the international system. In fact, the conciliation, is, in part, aimed at finding new ways to extend the life of the IMF and to maintain the hegemonic position of the dollar. The Obama administration supports a strong military and is therefore committed to supporting the financial oligarchy, irrespective of the social costs to the rest of humanity.
Sixty-five years after the formation of the Bretton Woods institution and in the midst of a new depression, the challenging question for most people, especially those in the exploited world is the issue of whether we have come to the end of the Bretton Woods system. Is it now time for the establishment of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Reparations? This question must be placed on the table in order to reorganise the priorities of activism and to define new goals for the reconstruction of humanity, so that the diminution of the dollar does not engender ‘abrupt, agonizing and brutal change.’
Investment in humans at this period in human history is not an intellectual question that comes out of the right or wrong analysis. It is a fundamental requirement, so that the majority of the 6.9 billion persons on earth can have access to health, food, clothing, shelter and the conditions for generating wealth in a way that will increase the quality of life for all the peoples of the planet.
The collapse of some of the US speculative companies and the current decomposition of the hedge fund and derivatives traders point to the fact that the financial meltdown and bank failures in the USA were not conjunctural or episodic events but reflections of the deep contradictions of the capitalist system. The crisis of the capitalism is systemic and cannot be reformed. Among some South Africans who supported the call for a new managing director from the developed nations, there were calls for Trevor Manuel to be named head of the IMF. Such a proposition diverts attention from the need for a rigorous discussion on the timetable for dismantling the IMF. In this death pang situation, one US strategist called for the Chinese to be co-imperialists with the USA. Zbigniew Brzezinski called for the establishment of a G2 between the USA and China.
Radical environmentalists, feminists and the peace activists are building a movement where the needs of humans come before profit and the wellbeing of a small minority. I will agree with those who argue that the IMF and the World Bank should be abolished. There has been a reform discourse for the past ten years but the reform has simply strengthened the position of the Anglo-Saxon capitalists. Strauss-Kahn had been called a reformer and now the world understands what reform looks like for the IMF. It now time to bury the IMF with the leadership of Strauss-Kahn and build a new financial architecture that invests in the repair and reconstruction of livelihoods and the planet, away from the destruction, dehumanisation, exploitation, and rape that have been the hallmark of the extant architecture.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article was amended on 3 June to 'The charges were brought after Strauss-Kahn allegedly assaulted an African woman from Guinea, who worked as a housekeeper in a hotel in New York City.'
* Horace Campbell is professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’. See www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
International Finance Institutions and Egypt: An ‘orderly transition’?
Although press coverage of events in Egypt may have dropped off the front pages, discussion of the post-Mubarak period continues to dominate the financial news. Over the past few weeks, the economic direction of the interim Egyptian government has been the object of intense debate in the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). US President Obama’s 19 May speech on the Middle East and North Africa devoted much space to the question of Egypt’s economic future - indeed, the sole concrete policy advanced in his talk concerned US economic relationships with Egypt. The G8 meeting in France held on 26 and 27 May continued this trend, announcing that up to US$20 billion would be offered to Egypt and Tunisia. When support from the Gulf Arab states is factored into these figures, Egypt alone appears to be on the verge of receiving around $15-billion in loans, investment and aid from governments and the key international financial institutions (IFI).
The press releases accompanying the announcement of these financial packages have spoken grandly of ‘the transition to democracy and freedom’, which, as several analysts have noted, conveniently obfuscates the previous support of Western governments for the deposed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. This article argues, however, that a critique of these financial packages needs to be seen as much more than just a further illustration of Western hypocrisy. The plethora of aid and investment initiatives advanced by the leading powers in recent days represents a conscious attempt to consolidate and reinforce the power of Egypt’s dominant class in the face of the ongoing popular mobilisations. They are part of, in other words, a sustained effort to restrain the revolution within the bounds of an ‘orderly transition’ - to borrow the perspicacious phrase that the US government repeatedly used following the ousting of Mubarak.
At the core of this financial intervention in Egypt is an attempt to accelerate the neoliberal program that was pursued by the Mubarak regime. The IFI financial packages ostensibly promote measures such as ‘employment creation’, ‘infrastructure expansion’ and other seemingly laudable goals, but, in reality, these are premised upon the classic neoliberal policies of privatisation, de-regulation and opening to foreign investment. Despite the claims of democratic transition, the institutions of the Egyptian state are being refashioned within this neoliberal drive as an enabling mechanism of the market. Egypt is, in many ways, shaping up as the perfect laboratory of the so-called post-Washington Consensus, in which a liberal-sounding ‘pro poor’ rhetoric - principally linked to the discourse of democratisation - is used to deepen the neoliberal trajectory of the Mubarak-era. If successful, the likely outcome of this - particularly in the face of heightened political mobilisation and the unfulfilled expectations of the Egyptian people - is a society that at a superficial level takes some limited appearances of the form of liberal democracy but, in actuality, remains a highly authoritarian neoliberal state dominated by an alliance of the military and business elites.
ACCELERATING STRUCTURAL ECONOMIC REFORMS
The most important point to note about the aid packages promised to Egypt is that they do not in any way represent a break from the logic encapsulated in previous economic strategies for the region. In a report to the 26-27 May G8 Summit, the IMF clearly summarized this logic, noting that:
‘Overcoming high unemployment will require a substantial increase in the pace of economic growth…Achieving such growth rates will entail both additional investment and improved productivity. While some increases in public investment may be required, for instance to improve the quality of infrastructure and services in less developed rural areas, the key role will have to be played by the private sector, including by attracting foreign direct investment. Thus, government policies should support an enabling environment in which the private sector flourishes.’
The core argument expressed in this statement is essentially the same message that the IMF and World Bank have been pushing in decades of reports on the Egyptian and Middle East economies.
Egypt’s problems stem from the weakness of the private sector and the ‘rent-seeking’ of state officials. The solution is to open Egypt’s markets to the outside world, lift restrictions on investment in key sectors of the economy, liberalise ownership laws, end subsidies to the poor for food and other necessities, and increase market competition. By allowing unfettered markets to operate freely, the private sector will be the key engine of growth and, through this harnessing of entrepreneurial initiative, lead to the creation of jobs and prosperity.
Of course these ideas are simply a restatement of the basic premises of neoliberalism, but it is imperative to acknowledge their continuity with earlier plans - the promised aid to Egypt consciously aims at achieving a specific outcome in line with the previous neoliberal strategy. The concrete policy implications of this were most clearly spelt out in a flagship World Bank report published in 2009, ‘From Privilege to Competition: Unlocking Private-Led Growth in the Middle East and North Africa’. The report prescribes steps to be taken by all governments in the Middle East, including:
‘(1) opening protected sectors such as retail and real estate, which have barriers to foreign investors…(2) reducing tariff bands and nontariff barriers; (3) removing protection of state-owned firms by enforcing hard budget constraints and exposing them to open competition; and (4) eliminating anti-export biases.’
In order to encourage foreign investment, governments should eliminate ‘high minimum capital requirements and restrictions on foreign ownership’ and, in countries where state-owned banks exist ‘engage in open and transparent privatization’.
These are the types of policies that we can expect to see in Egypt as this aid begins to flow - in fact, they are the essential pre-requisites for the receipt of this financial support. The mechanisms of this conditionality are discussed further below, at this stage, it is simply important to note that there has been an unassailable link established between aid and the fulfillment of neoliberal reforms. As the Institute of International Finance (IIF), a policy and lobby organisation that brings together the largest financial institutions in the world, noted in early May: ‘As momentous as the current security and political restructuring challenges may be, it is absolutely critical that the transition authorities…place a high priority on deepening and accelerating structural economic reforms…transition and subsequent governments must articulate a credible medium-term reform and stabilization framework…[and] need to focus on creating the legal and institutional environment for fostering entrepreneurship, investment, and market-driven growth.’ The IIF went on to bluntly identify this acceleration of structural adjustment as the ‘context’ in which aid to Egypt would be provided.
RED TAPE AND INSTITUTIONAL REFORM
In addition to these standard neoliberal prescriptions, the other element to the policy logic guiding IFI financial support concerns institutional reform. This reflects a wider shift in the developmental strategy of the IFIs since the 1990s, in which more emphasis has been placed on linking the function of markets with their institutional governance. Within this context, the World Bank and other institutions have emphasised notions such as the ‘rule of law’, ‘decentralisation’, ‘good governance’, ‘separation of the legislative and executive’ and so forth, which supposedly aim at reducing the rent-seeking capabilities of state officials and guarantee greater transparency in economic affairs.
This emphasis on institutional reform partly reflects a problem of perception faced by the IFIs. The embrace of issues of ‘governance’ and ‘democracy’ is explicitly designed to ensure greater legitimacy for neoliberalism, particularly in the wake of the disastrous decades of 1980s and 1990s where the open advocacy of structural adjustment wreaked havoc on much of the South. This policy shift, however, does not represent a turn away from the logic of neoliberalism. Rather, it actually serves to reinforce this logic, by tailoring institutions to the needs of the private sector and removing any ability of the state to intervene in the market. In the Middle East, where authoritarian regimes have been the norm, these calls for institutional reform can be easily portrayed as democratic (and, indeed, they are explicitly framed within a discourse of democratisation). In reality they are profoundly anti-democratic. By limiting democracy to the ‘political’ sphere and expanding the notion of freedom to include ‘markets’, they obfuscate the necessary relations of power within the market, and explicitly block the ability of states to determine the use, ownership and distribution of their economic resources. Democratic control of the economy is thus precluded as a violation of ‘good governance’.
In the case of Egypt, the discourse of institutional reform has allowed neoliberal structural adjustment to be presented not just as a technocratic necessity - but as the actual fulfillment of the demands innervating the uprisings. In this sense, neoliberal ideology attempts to reabsorb and fashion dissent in its own image, through rendering Egypt’s uprisings within a pro-market discourse. This fundamental message has been repeatedly emphasised by US and European spokespeople over the last weeks: this was not a revolt against several decades of neoliberalism - but rather a movement against an intrusive state that had obstructed the pursuit of individual self-interest through the market.
Perhaps the starkest example of this discursive shift was the statement made by World Bank President Robert Zoellick at the opening of a World Bank meeting on the Middle East in mid-April. Referring to Mohammed Bouazizi, the young peddler from a Tunisian market place who set himself on fire and became the catalyst for the uprising in Tunisia, Zoellick remarked: ‘the key point I have also been emphasizing and I emphasized in this speech is that it is not just a question of money. It is a question of policy…keep in mind, the late Mr. Bouazizi was basically driven to burn himself alive because he was harassed with red tape…one starting point is to quit harassing those people and let them have a chance to start some small businesses.’
In this discursive reframing of the uprisings, the massive protests that overthrew Mubarak and Ben Ali occurred due to the absence of capitalism rather than its normal functioning. In an ideological sense, this reframing directly confronts the popular aspirations that have arisen through the course of the struggle in Egypt. The political demands heard on the streets of Egypt today - to reclaim wealth that was stolen from the people, offer state support and services to the poor, nationalise those industries that were privatised, and place restrictions on foreign investment - can be either disregarded or portrayed as ‘anti-democratic’. Precisely because Egypt’s uprising was one in which the political and economic demands were inseparable and intertwined, this effort to recast the struggle as ‘pro-market’ is, in a very real sense, directly aimed at undercutting and weakening the country’s ongoing mobilisations.
THE MECHANISMS OF STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT
This understanding of the basic logic presupposed in the IFI financial packages allows us to turn to the precise mechanisms through which structural adjustment is unfolding. There are two common elements to all the financial support offered to Egypt to date - an extension of loans (i.e. an increase in Egypt’s external debt) and promised investment in so-called Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). Both these elements are tied to Egypt’s implementation of structural adjustment. Strategically, it appears that the initial focus of this structural adjustment will be the privatisation of Egypt’s infrastructure and the opening of the economy to foreign investment and trade through PPPs (these are discussed below). In addition to the US government, World Bank and IMF, the other main institutional actor in this process is the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Currently Egypt’s external debt runs at around US$35-billion and over the last decade the country has been paying around US$3-billion a year in debt service. From 2000 to 2009, Egypt’s level of debt increased by around 15 per cent, despite the fact that the country paid a total of $24.6-billion in debt repayments over the same period. Egypt’s net transfers on long-term debt between 2000 and 2009, which measures the total difference between received loans and repayments, reached $3.4-billion. In other words, contrary to popular belief, more money actually flows from Egypt to Western lenders than vice versa. These figures demonstrate the striking reality of Egypt’s financial relationship with the global economy - Western loans act to extract wealth from Egypt’s poor and redistribute it to the richest banks in North America and Europe.
Of course, the decision to borrow this money and enter into this ‘debt trap’ was not made by Egypt’s poor. The vast majority of this debt is public or publicly guaranteed (around 85 per cent), i.e. debt that was taken on by the Mubarak government with the open encouragement of the IFIs. Egypt’s ruling elite - centered around Mubarak and his closest coterie - profited handsomely from these transactions (estimated in the many billions). This is indicative of the fact that much of Egypt’s debt is what development economists call ‘odious debt’ - debt that has been built up by a dictatorial regime without regard to the needs of the population. Mubarak does not hold sole responsibility for this process. The World Bank, IMF and many other lenders continued to encourage this borrowing (and to praise Egypt’s economic direction under Mubarak) precisely because it was such a profitable enterprise.
This is the essential background context to the discussions around Egypt’s foreign debt. In his 19 May speech, Obama made much of a promise to relieve Egypt of up to $1-billion in its debt obligations. Obama described this as the US government’s attempt to support ‘positive change in the region…through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that are transitioning to democracy’. In addition to this monetary support, Obama also promised to urge the World Bank, IMF and other countries to help ‘stabilize and modernize’ Egypt and ‘meet its near-term financial needs’.
Putting aside the hubris of this speech, Obama’s offer needs to be understood accurately. Contrary to what has been widely reported in the media, this was not a forgiveness of Egypt’s debt. It is actually a debt-swap - a promise to reduce Egypt’s debt service by $1-billion, provided that money is used in a manner in which the US government approves. This debt-swap confirms the relationship of power that is inherent to modern finance. The US is able to use Egypt’s indebtedness as a means to compel the country to adopt the types of economic policies described above. Obama was very explicit about what this meant - stating that: ‘The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness, the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability, promoting reform, and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy.’
This same policy language has been clearly articulated alongside the loans promised to Egypt by the World Bank and IMF. On 12 May, Caroline Atkinson, director of the External Relations Department at the IMF announced that the IMF was studying a request from the Egyptian government for US$3-4-billion of loans and would ‘visit Cairo shortly to begin discussions with the Egyptian authorities on an arrangement’.
Indicating that these loans would come with conditions, Atkinson noted that: ‘The size and scope of Fund support will be defined as discussions progress.’ An advisor to Egyptian Finance Minister Samir Radwan confirmed this, declaring: ‘How the money will be spent will undergo a process of negotiation.’ On 24 May this conditionality was set out following an announcement by the World Bank and IMF that they would provide $US4.5-billion to Egypt over two years. Noting that ‘reforms were as important as money’, World Bank President Robert Zoellick explicitly linked the initial $1-billion ‘to governance and openness reforms with a further $1 billion available next year dependant on progress.’ The remaining US$2.5-billion would be invested in development projects and private sector loans (see below).
Unless these loans are refused and the existing debt repudiated, Egypt will find itself in a cul-de-sac from which there is little chance of escape. Foreign debt is not a neutral form of ‘aid’ but an exploitative social relation established between financial institutions in the North and countries in the South. Trapped in this relationship, countries become dependent upon a continuous stream of new loans in order to service previously accumulated long-term debt. It is a means to deepen the extraction of wealth from Egypt and - precisely because of the continued dependency on financial inflows - serves to chain Egypt to further structural adjustment measures. The Egyptian people are being punished for an indebtedness that they did not create, and that punishment consists of being locked into even greater indebtedness by the institutions that put them there in the first place.
FOREIGN INVESTMENT AND PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS
Also in his 19 May speech, Obama pledged $1-billion in investments through a US institution known as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). OPIC’s mandate is to support US business investment in so-called emerging markets; it provides guarantees for loans (particularly in the case of large projects) or direct loans for projects that have a significant proportion of US business involvement and may face political risk. Perhaps emblematic of OPIC’s activities was its first investment in Afghanistan following soon after the invasion of that country by NATO-led forces in 2001 - a new Hyatt Hotel in Kabul that would be used as ‘a platform for business persons’ visiting the country. OPIC was also a key partner in encouraging the free-market ideology that underpinned the economic policy of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq following the US-led invasion of 2003. The US government openly asserts the link between OPIC and US foreign policy objectives. This is well encapsulated in the organisation’s slogan - ‘support[ing] U.S. investment in emerging markets worldwide, fostering development & the growth of free markets’.
Because OPIC’s investment depends upon reducing barriers to foreign capital and accelerating the privatisation of state-owned enterprises, its activities are predicated upon, and help to reinforce, the extension of the neoliberal program described above. In the case of Egypt, this is likely to take place primarily through the use of US government funds to establish Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). A PPP is a means of encouraging the outsourcing of previously state-run utilities and services to private companies. A private company provides a service through a contract with the government - typically, this may include activities such as running hospitals or schools, or building infrastructure such as highways or power plants. For this, they receive payments from the government or through the users of the service (such as highway tolls). PPPs are thus a form of privatisation, which, in the words of one of their foremost proponents, Emanuel Savas, is ‘a useful phrase because it avoids the inflammatory effect of “privatization” on those ideologically opposed.’
OPIC’s intervention in Egypt has been explicitly tied to the promotion of PPPs. An OPIC press release, for example, that followed soon after Obama’s speech, noted that the $1-billion promised by the US government would be used ‘to identify Egyptian government owned enterprises investing in public‐private partnerships in order to promote growth in mutually agreed‐upon sectors of the Egyptian economy’.
The focus on PPPs, however, is illustrated even more clearly in investment promised by another international financial institution, the EBRD. The EBRD was established at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union, with the goal of transitioning Eastern Europe to a capitalist economy. As the EBRD’s President Thomas Mirow put it in the lead up to the Bank’s discussions on Egypt: ‘The EBRD was created in 1991 to promote democracy and market economy, and the historic developments in Egypt strike a deep chord at this bank.’
The EBRD is shaping up to be one of the lead agents of the neoliberal project in Egypt. On 21 May, EBRD shareholders agreed to lend up to $3.5-billion to the Middle East, with Egypt the first country earmarked for receipt of loans in the first half of 2012. This will be the first time since its establishment that the EBRD has lent to the Middle East. Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, has remarked that the EBRD could provide 1-billion euros annually to Egypt, which would give the institution an enormous weight in the Egyptian economy - as a point of comparison, the total investment value of all PPP projects in Egypt from 1990-2008 was $16.6 billion.
Anyone who has any illusions about the goals of the EBRD’s investment in Egypt would do well to read carefully the EBRD 2010 Transition Report. The report presents a detailed assessment of the East European and ex-Soviet Republics, measuring their progress on a detailed set of indicators.
These indicators are highly revealing: (1) Private sector share of GDP; (2) Large-scale privatisation; (3) Small-scale privatisation; (4) Governance and enterprise restructuring; (5) Price liberalisation; (6) Trade and foreign exchange system; (7) Competition policy; (8) Banking reform and interest rate liberalisation; (9) Securities markets and non-bank financial institutions; (10) Overall infrastructure reform. Only countries that score well on these indicators are eligible for EBRD loans. A research institute that tracks the activity of the EBRD, Bank Watch, noted in 2008 that a country cannot achieve top marks in the EBRD assessment without the implementation of PPPs in the water and road sectors.
The EBRD intervention thus likely augurs a massive acceleration of the privatisation process in Egypt, most likely under the extension of PPPs. The current Egyptian government has given its open consent to this process. Indeed, at the EBRD Annual General Meeting on 20-21 May where Egypt was promised funds, a spokesperson of the Egyptian government remarked: ‘The current transition government remains committed to the open market approach, which Egypt will further pursue at an accelerated rate following upcoming elections.’ The statement noted ‘that public-private partnerships have much potential as an effective modality for designing and implementing development projects, particularly in infrastructure and service sectors (transport, health, etc.). Therefore we will encourage PPP initiatives.’ Moreover, fully embracing the pro-market ideological discourse discussed above, the Egyptian government promised to relax control over foreign investments through committing ‘to overcoming the previous shortcomings of excessive government centralisation. In addition, we will build on existing initiatives to achieve a greater level of decentralisation, especially in terms of local planning and financial management.’
The projects and investments mentioned above are not the sole aspects of the IFI-backed neoliberal project in Egypt. But at the most fundamental level, this financial aid confirms a conscious intervention by Western governments into Egypt’s revolutionary process. In the very short term, large infrastructure projects and other economic schemes may provide some employment creation, housing, educational training and perhaps the appearance of a return to stability given the prevailing sense of ‘crisis’. This investment, however, is premised upon a profound liberalisation of the Egyptian economy. They will only be undertaken concomitant with measures such as deepening privatisation (undoubtedly in the form of PPPs), deregulation (initially likely to be connected to the opening up of more sectors to foreign investment), the reduction of trade barriers (connected to access to US and European markets), and the expansion of the informal sector (under the banner of cutting ‘red tape’). They will necessarily involve, furthermore, a rapid expansion in Egypt’s overall indebtedness - tying the country ever more firmly to future structural adjustment packages.
If this process is not resisted, it threatens to negate the achievements of the Egyptian uprising. As the decades of the Egyptian experience of neoliberalism illustrate all too clearly, these measures will further deepen poverty and an erosion of living standards for the vast majority. Simultaneously, the financial inflows will help to strengthen and consolidate Egypt’s narrow business and military elites as the only layer of society that stands to gain from further liberalisation of the economy. The expansion of PPPs, for example, will provide enormous opportunities for the largest business groups in the country to take ownership stakes in major infrastructure projects and other privatised service provision. Alongside foreign investors, these groups will gain from the deregulation of labour markets, liberalisation of land and retail activities, and the potential access to export markets in the US and Europe.
These measures also have a regional impact. Their other main beneficiary will be the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman) who are playing a highly visible and complementary role alongside the IFIs. Saudi Arabia has pledged $4-billion to Egypt - exceeding the amounts promised by the US and EBRD. The Kuwait Investment Authority announced in April that it was establishing a US$1-billion sovereign wealth fund that would invest in Egyptian companies. Kuwait’s Kharafi Group, which had won PPP contracts in the power sector in Egypt in 2010 and is estimated to have $7-billion invested in Egypt already, announced that it was taking out an $80-million loan for investments in Egypt. Qatar is also reportedly considering investing up to $10-billion, according to its ambassador in Egypt.
As with the investments from Western states, these financial flows from the GCC are dependent upon the further liberalisation of Egypt’s economy, most likely through the mechanisms of PPPs. Indeed, Essam Sharaf, Egypt’s interim prime minister, and Samir Radwan, finance minister, have both travelled frequently to the GCC states over recent months with the aim of marketing PPP projects, particularly in water and wastewater, roads, education, healthcare, and energy. One indication of the direction of these efforts was the announcement by the Dubai and Egyptian Stock Exchanges to allow the dual listing of stocks on their respective exchanges. This measure will allow privatised companies or investment vehicles to be jointly listed on both exchanges, thus facilitating the increased flows of GCC capital into Egypt.
In essence, the financial initiatives announced over recent weeks represent an attempt to bind social layers such as these - Egypt’s military and business elites, the ruling families and large conglomerates of the GCC, and so forth - ever more tightly to the Western states. The revolutionary process in Egypt represented an attack against these elements of the Arab world. The uprising cannot be reduced to a question of ‘democratic transition’ - precisely because the political form of the Egyptian state under Mubarak was a direct reflection of the nature of capitalism in the country, the uprising implicitly involved a challenge to the position of these elites. The inspiring mobilisations that continue on the Egyptian streets confirm that these aspirations remain firmly held. Western financial aid needs to be understood as an intervention in this ongoing struggle - an attempt to utilise the sense of ‘economic crisis’ to refashion Egyptian society against the interests of Egypt’s majority, and divert the revolution from the goals it has yet to achieve.
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* Adam Hanieh is a lecturer in the Development Studies Department of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. He is author of the forthcoming book, Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
* This article was first published by Jadaliyya, an independent ezine produced by ASI (Arab Studies Institute), a network of writers associated with the Arab Studies Journal
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 For a detailed critique of these notions, see ‘The New Development Economics: After the Washington Consensus’, edited by Jomo. K.S and Ben Fine, Zed Books. 2006.
 This clear message of conditionality makes a mockery of the claim by Egyptian Finance Minister, Samir Radwan, that: ‘We have an Egyptian programme…I am not accepting any conditionality - none whatsoever.’
 A fundamental part of this process - likely to be replicated in the case of Egypt - was a focus on encouraging Iraqi business to become increasingly dependent upon US-owned finance capital through the support of US bank and finance lending to small and medium-enterprises in the country.
 ‘Privatization in the City’, Emanuel Savas, CQ Press, Washington DC, 2005 p.16.
 Belarus, for example, was rewarded for its ‘removal of price and trade restrictions on many goods and reduction of list of minimum export price’ by a rise in its price liberalisation indicator from 3 to 3+. Likewise, Montenegro received the same increase for privatising parts of its power and port sectors.
 For example, another important vehicle is The Arab Financing Facility for Infrastructure (AFFI), established by the World Bank, International Finance Corporation and the Islamic Development Bank earlier this year to promote investment in the Middle East region. The AFFI aims to raise $1-billion and will focus on infrastructure, explicitly around PPPs. The AFFI focuses on regional integration projects, and is thereby being used to promote the reduction of trade and tariffs within the region. It is as yet unclear what the AFFI involvement with Egypt will be, but it has been highlighted by the World Bank as a major component of its future activities in the country.
World Bank’s Africa Strategy remains in rutted comfort zone
Drunk on their own neoliberal rhetoric, the multilateral establishment swoons over the continent’s allegedly excellent growth and export prospects, in the process downplaying underlying structural oppressions in which they are complicit: corrupt power relations, economic vulnerability, worsening resource curses, land grabs and threats of environmental chaos and disease.
These are merely mentioned in passing in the World Bank’s Africa Strategy – the most comprehensive of these neoliberal-revival tracts – but a frank, honest accounting of the author’s role is inconceivable, even after an internal Independent Evaluation Group report scathing of mistakes the last time around. That effort, the 2005 Africa Action Plan (AAP), was associated with the G8’s big-promise little-delivery summit in Gleneagles.
The bank admits the AAP was a ‘top-down exercise, prepared in a short time with little consultations with clients and stakeholders’, and that the ‘performance of the bank’s portfolio in the region’ was lacking. Tellingly, the bank confesses, ‘People who had to implement the plan did not have much engagement with, and in some cases were not even aware of, the AAP.’
TYRANTS AND DEMOCRATS
Though in 2021 the same will probably be said of this strategy, the bank claims its antidote is ‘face-to-face discussions with over 1,000 people in 36 countries.’ However, as quotes from attendees prove, the bank could regurgitate only the most banal pablum.
Nor does the strategy propose grand new alliances (e.g. with the Gates Foundation). There is just a quick nod to two civilised-society partners, the Africa Capacity Building Foundation (Harare) and African Economic Research Consortium (Nairobi) which together have educated 3,000 local neoliberals, the bank proudly remarks.
Embarrassingly, the bank hurriedly stoops to endorse three continental institutions: the African Union (AU), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (founded by former South African president Thabo Mbeki in 2001) and African Peer Review Mechanism (2003). The latter two are usually described as outright failures.
As for the former, there were once high hopes that the AU would respond to Africa’s socio-political and economic aspirations, but Muammar Gaddafi exercised a strong grip as AU president and was a source of no small patronage.
Horace Campbell pointed out other leadership contradictions in Pambazuka News in March: ‘That the current leaders of Africa could support the elevation of Teodoro Obiang Nguema to be the chairperson of this organisation pointed to the fact that most of these leaders such as Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Republic of Congo, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Ali Bongo of Gabon, King Mswati III of Swaziland, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia are not serious about translating the letters of the Constitutive Act into reality.’
These sorts of rulers are the logical implementers of the bank strategy. No amount of bogus consultations with civilised society can disguise the piling up of odious debts on African societies courtesy of the bank, the IMF and their allied strongmen borrowers.
Yet these men are nowhere near as strong as the bank assumes, when reproducing a consultancy’s map of countries considered to have ‘low’ levels of ‘state fragility’, notably including Tunisia and Libya – just as the former tyranny fell and the latter experienced revolt.
In contrast, the Africa Strategy makes no mention whatsoever of those pesky, uncivil-society democrats who are opposed to bank partner-dictators. Remarks Pambazuka editor Firoze Manji, ‘Their anger is being manifested in the new awakenings that we have witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Côte d’Ivoire, Algeria, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Djibouti, Botswana, Uganda, Swaziland and South Africa. These awakenings are just one phase in the long struggle of the people of Africa to reassert control over our own destinies, to reassert dignity, and to struggle for self-determination and emancipation.’
UNSOUND AFRICAN ARCHITECTURE
The bank will continue standing in their way by funding oppressors, leaving the Africa Strategy with a structurally unsound, corny architectural metaphor: ‘The strategy has two pillars – competitiveness and employment, and vulnerability and resilience – and a foundation – governance and public-sector capacity.’
Setting aside hypocritical governance rhetoric, the first pillar typically collapses because greater competitiveness often requires importing machines to replace workers (hence South Africa’s unemployment rate doubled through post-apartheid economic restructuring). And bank advice to all African countries to do the same thing – export! – exacerbates mineral or cash crop gluts, such as were experienced from 1973 until the commodity boom of 2002–08.
The bank strategy also faces ‘three main risks: the possibility that the global economy will experience greater volatility; conflict and political violence; and resources available to implement the strategy may be inadequate.’
These are not just risks but certainties, given that world economic managers left unresolved all the problems causing the 2008–09 meltdown, that resource-based conflicts will increase as shortages emerge (oil especially as the Gulf of Guinea shows) and that donors will be chopping aid budgets for years to come. Still, while the bank retains ‘some confidence that these risks can be mitigated’, in each case its strategy actually amplifies them.
It is self-interested – but not strategic for Africa – for the bank to promote further exports from African countries already suffering extreme primary commodity dependency. Economically, the strategy is untenable, what with European countries cracking up and defaulting, Japan stagnant, the US probably entering a double-dip recession and China and India madly competing with Western mining houses and bio-engineering firms for African resources and land grabs. Nowhere can be found any genuine intent of assisting Africa to industrialise in a balanced way.
The bank’s bland counterclaim: ‘While Africa, being a relatively small part of the world economy, can do little to avoid such a contingency, the present strategy is designed to help African economies weather these circumstances better than before.’ But these are not ‘circumstances’ and ‘contingencies’: they are core features of North-South political economy from which Africa should be seeking protection.
NEOLIBERALISM, POVERTY AND ECOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION
A poignant example is the bank’s warm endorsement of the Kenyan cut-flower trade in spite of worsening water stress, commodity price volatility and inclement carbon-tax constraints. Nevertheless, ‘Between 1995 and 2002, Kenya’s cut flower exports grew by 300 percent’ – while nearby peasant agriculture suffered crippling water shortages, a problem not worth mentioning in bank propaganda.
Where will water storage and power come from? Bank promotion of mega-dams (such as Bujagali in Uganda or Inga in the DRC) ignores the inability of poor people to pay for hydropower, not to mention worsening climate-related evaporation, siltation or tropical methane emissions.
Other silences are revealing, such as in this bank confession of prior multilateral silo-mentality: ‘Focusing on health led to a neglect of other factors such as water and sanitation that determine child survival.’ The reason water was underfunded following Jeffrey Sachs’s famous 2001 World Health Organisation macroeconomic report was partly that his analysts didn’t accurately assess why US$130 billion in borehole and piping investments failed during the 1980–90s: insufficient subsidies to cover operating and maintenance deficits.
Lack of subsidies for basic infrastructure is an ongoing problem, in part because ‘the G8 promise of doubling aid to Africa has fallen about $20 billion short.’ So as a result, ‘the present strategy emphasizes partnerships – with African governments, the private sector and other development partners,’ even though public–private partnerships rarely work. Most African privatised water systems have fallen apart.
South Africa has had many such failed experiments, in every sector. The latest bank loan to Pretoria, for US$3.75 billion (its largest-ever project loan) is itself a screaming rebuttal to the strategy’s claim that ‘the Bank’s program in Africa will emphasize sustainable infrastructure. The approach goes beyond simply complying with environmental safeguards. It seeks to help countries develop clean energy strategies that choose the appropriate product mix, technologies and location to promote both infrastructure and the environment.’
That loan also caused extreme electricity pricing inequity and legitimation of corrupt African National Congress (ANC) construction tenders. This generated condemnation of the government by its own investigators and of the bank, even by Johannesburg’s Business Day newspaper, normally a reliable ally.
South African workers would also take issue with a bank assumption: ‘The regulation of labor (in South Africa, for instance) often constrains businesses… In some countries, such as South Africa (where the unemployment rate is 25 percent), more flexibility in the labor market will increase employment.’
This view, expressed occasionally by the bank’s aggressively neoliberal Africa chief economist Shanta Devarajan, is refuted not only by 1.3 million lost jobs in 2009–10 but by the September 2010 International Monetary Fund Article IV consultation analysis, which puts South Africa near the top of world labour flexibility rankings, trailing only the US, Britain and Canada.
There are other neoliberal dogmas, e.g., ‘Microfinance, while growing, has huge, untapped potential in Africa.’ The bank apparently missed the world microfinance crisis symbolised by the firing of Muhammad Yunus as Grameen executive (just as the strategy was released), the many controversies over usurious interest rates, or the 200,000 small farmer suicides in Andra Pradesh, India, in recent years due to unbearable micro-debt loads.
The bank also endorses cellphones, allegedly ‘becoming the most valuable asset of the poor. The widespread adoption of this technology – largely due to the sound regulatory environment and entrepreneurship – opens the possibility that it could serve as a vehicle for transforming the lives of the poor.’ The bank forgets vast problems experienced in domestic cellphone markets, including foreign corporate ownership and control.
And as for what is indeed ‘the biggest threat to Africa because of its potential impact, climate change could also be an opportunity. Adaptation will have to address sustainable water management, including immediate and future needs for storage, while improving irrigation practices as well as developing better seeds.’ Dangers to the peasantry and to urban managers of the likely seven degree rise and worsened flooding/droughts are underplayed, and opportunities for wider vision for a post-carbon Africa are ignored, such as the importance of the North (including the World Bank itself) paying its vast climate debt to Africa.
‘AN AFRICAN CONSENSUS’?
Compared to bank funding for insane mega-projects such as the US$3.75 billion lent to South Africa to build the world’s fourth largest coal-fired power plant last April, not much is at stake in the strategy’s portfolio: $2.5 billion a year over the decade-long plan.
Nevertheless, the Africa Strategy hubris is dangerous not only for diverging from reality so obviously, but for seeking a route from bank strategy to ‘an African consensus’. The bank commits to ‘work closely with the AU, G20 and other fora to support the formulation of Africa‘s policy response to global issues, such as international financial regulations and climate change, because speaking with one voice is more likely to have impact’.
Does Africa need a sole neoliberal voice claiming ‘consensus’, speaking from shaky pillars atop crumbling foundations based on false premises and corrupted processes, piloting untenable projects, allied with incurable tyrants, impervious to demands for democracy and social justice? If so, the bank has a strategy already unfolding.
And if all goes well with the status quo, the strategy’s predictions for 2021 include a decline in the poverty rate by 12 per cent and at least five countries entering the ranks of middle-income economies (candidates are Ghana, Mauritania, Comoros, Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia).
More likely, though, is worsening uneven development and growing bank irrelevance as Africans continue courageously protesting neoliberalism and dictatorship, in search of both free politics and socio-economic liberation.
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* Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Civil Society in Durban.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Imperial neurosis and the dangers of ‘humanitarian’ interventionism
In the last two columns on Libya I made a distinction between colony and neo-colony, going beyond Nkrumah’s initial analysis of neo-colonialism to show that in our times, the contradictions between the neo-colonies and the Empire are increasing in intensity. I argued that the ‘Arab Spring’ is, in essence, not just a challenge to the Arab dictators, but it is, above all, a challenge to the Empire itself.
When the streets revolted against the neo-colonial regimes of North Africa and the Arab world, they were revolting, in effect, against the imperial order that is suffocating their democratic aspirations. In other words, in a larger and indeed more fundamental sense, the Arab Spring is part of a widening and deepening imperial crisis, which includes other aspects of its global economic crisis and the crisis of its legitimacy and moral authority.
A nightmare scenario for the Empire in the Arab region involves three basic ingredients. One is the rise of Iran and what the Empire ‘perceives’ as the Islamic ‘fundamentalist’ threat (the inverted commas are explained below). The second is a change in the balance of power in the region that in the long run is most certainly going against the security and wellbeing of Israel, unless the Empire and Israel make fundamental changes in their dealings with the Palestinians. And the third is the deepening economic crisis within the capitalist system.
The Empire’s understanding and responses to the above triple challenges is neurotic. Neurosis is a condition of mind that is based on an irrational phobia and what is recognised in the medical world as an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This applies to nations as well as to individuals. With nations, the phobia is real; it has real-time effects, especially if it affects powerful countries, as is the case with the present day Empire.
The triple causes of imperial OCD go back to 1979. That is the year when the Iranian revolution ushered in the era of the Ayatollahs. That was also the year of the beginning of deep recession in the global capitalist system.
Let us, first, take the economic crisis and the Empire’s neurotic response to it. The crisis forced the Empire to review its global economic strategy. Its ‘resolution’ around 1985-86 was the neo-liberal agenda ushered in under the leadership of Thatcher and Reagan, and then ‘globalised’. The question is: what is it about this response that classifies it as neurotic? What made the neo-liberal agenda a neurotic response to the economic challenge? The short answer is that the response is neurotic because it is based on a fierce defence of the capitalist system which has lost its historic justification.
I shall leave a detailed analysis of this complex evolution of the capitalist system for another occasion. Suffice to say here that this particular neurosis has several consequences, two of which are crucial to our analysis here. One is the tightening of control over the political economies of the neo-colonies in the third world. And the second is the emerging disintegration of the Euro-American system. On the second we shall not dwell here, except to say that the 2007/08 crisis was inherent within the very dynamics of the capitalist system. In other words, it was inevitable; given the system’s internal dynamics, the crisis was unavoidable. It is wrongly identified as a ‘financial’ crisis, because in fact it is much deeper. The crisis that the Eurozone faces today, for example, is one of its latest manifestations. It requires no genius to understand that what is taking place in Europe is an increasing control of the German, French and British finance capital over the peripheral nations of Europe such as Greece, Iceland, Portugal and Spain, leading, inevitably, to their own ‘Arab Springs’, i.e. popular revolts against the Empire of finance capital.
As for the first neurotic response - namely, the tightening of control over the political economies of the neo-colonies in the third world - it is more central to our concerns here. For some 30 years, from the 1980s to 2010, the Empire of Finance Capital (EFC) imposed on these countries an economic structural readjustment. This is a vast subject, but its essence consisted of a harsh regime of budgetary controls; trade liberalisation; centralisation of corporate control over the production, financing, marketing, technology and management of the natural resources of the neo-colonies; and monopolisation of scientific knowledge in the form of intellectual property rights (IPRs) vested in the control of transnational corporations. These measures were forced on the recipients of ‘donor funds’ through debt bondage; the so-called ‘development aid’; and the penetration by foreign direct investments (FDIs) through forced capital flow liberalisation.
But why was this ‘neurotic’? What qualifies this action of the Empire as neurotic? It was (and is) neurotic because it was an outcome of an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in the system, a knee-jerk ‘one solution fits all’ kind of ‘remedy’ imposed on all countries that had become victim to financial and economic distress. It was an illusory attempt to bolster a system of global production and distribution that, as earlier mentioned, had become historically irrational. Secondly, it was principally aimed at resolving Empire’s own internal crisis of decreasing rates of profitability, increasing threats to accessing global natural resources, and, resulting from these, deepening social and class divisions within the imperial countries. It was neurotic, thirdly, because in time, it was to produce, inevitably, a strong counter reaction from millions of people who were thrown into the pitfalls of poverty, unemployment, crime and mass emigration. The ‘Arab Spring’ was inevitable, and has its roots directly linked to this neurotic response of the Empire to try and resolve its deepening internal contradictions.
Equally neurotic is the Empire’s knee-jerk reaction to the challenge of Islamic ‘fundamentalism’, worsened by ‘nine-eleven’. This, too, is a vast subject. It has spawned a vast amount of literature, films, talk-shows, conferences, and popular discussions. The fact is that in terms of realpolitik only Islam is considered as ‘fundamentalist’, and not for instance the extreme expressions of Christianity. This too is a neurotic and irrational response to a phobia that is deeply ingrained in the Empire’s history and culture. This has led to the many ‘wars against terror’ in which the Empire is currently engaged, for example, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Indonesia.
One of the major ideological tools of imperial wars is the ‘humanitarian’ shroud, to which I now turn.
THE DANGERS OF ‘HUMANITARIAN’ INTERVENTIONISM
It might sound cynical to say that if there was no good reason to ‘justify’ imperial wars in our times, the Empire would have invented the ‘humanitarian’ excuse. The truth is that whilst the word ‘humanitarian’ has a good quality ethical sound bite, the Empire has been utterly cynical in abusing it to legitimise its wars and interventions in the sovereign affairs of other nations. It defies reason to explain its ‘humanitarian’ intervention, for instance in Yugoslavia, Somalia and Libya and not, for example, in Yemen or Bahrain. Of course, imperial ideologists and ‘legal experts’ might provide rationale for these aberrations. Nonetheless, the downright cynicism with which the Empire uses the humanitarian excuse to ‘legitimise’ its wars and interventions cannot be explained away by ideological or legalistic obfuscations.
Equally cynical is the Empire’s abuse of the United Nations, especially the Security Council (SC) where it has disproportionate power and influence, in this instance, SC resolution 1674 of 28 April 2006. This resolution reaffirms paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document containing, among other things, the controversial concept of the ‘responsibility to protect’, or R2P. However, at the September 2009 session of the General Assembly (GA) the SC resolution and the idea of R2P were strongly challenged by the president of the GA, the member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and also by Germany and Switzerland. What, then, is this beast or virus that has crept into the UN system?
Briefly, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had recommended, it is based on a three pillar approach: 1) the protection responsibilities of the state, 2) international assistance and capacity building, and 3) ‘the responsibility of member states to respond collectively in a timely and decisive manner when a state is manifestly failing to provide such protection’. The third pillar is the most controversial, because it includes coercive action under Chapter VII of the Charter.
But the real question is: how did this virus penetrate the UN system? It is a long story, but the gist of it as follows.
The origins of this ‘doctrine’ goes back to President Bill Clinton’s time (1993-2001) when his advisers, especially Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, were looking for a proper ideological cover for what looked like an increasing need for the US to intervene in the collapsing communist regimes in eastern and central Europe, and the volatile neo-colonial third world.
However, the actual phrase, ‘responsibility to protect’, is traceable to the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty set up in 2000, co-chaired by Gareth Evans of Australia and Mohamed Sahnoun of Algeria. In 2004, the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan set up a high-level panel on ‘Threats, Challenges and Change’ which incorporated this phrase among its recommendations which were debated at the 2005 World Summit. On 16 September 2005 the UN General Assembly (GA) adopted a resolution that incorporated what looked like a legitimate function of the UN, namely, the ‘responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’ (Paragraphs 138 and 139). The final step in the evolution of this ‘doctrine’ was taken on 28 April 2006 when the SC, in its resolution 1674, reaffirmed ‘the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document’.
At least one had thought that this was the final step, until Ban Ki-moon, in his report to the GA on 12 January 2009, elevated R2P into a principle that he wrongly claimed was ‘firmly anchored in well-established principles of international law’. He asked rhetorically whether sovereignty can ‘be misused as a shield behind which mass violence could be inflicted on populations with impunity’. But, and this is significant, the third world challenged Ban Ki-moon during the GA debate in July 2009. Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed serious concern that the R2P would undermine the sovereignty of smaller countries - a sentiment echoed by many, among them India, Pakistan, Cuba and Venezuela. Germany too warned against its possible abuse, and Switzerland challenged the legal basis of the R2P idea.
Following the debate, the president of the GA wrote the ‘Concept note on responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’ for the regular September 2009 GA session in which he drew attention to the ‘four qualifiers to paragraph 139’, and asked the important question: ‘Can any troops wage a war for human rights without causing more harm than the violations they set out to correct? In terms of the suffering of the population would this also not be true of sanctions that cause the deaths of the most vulnerable -women and children - from malnutrition and lack of medicines? Will not an association with the use of force also compromise and weaken International humanitarian law?’ (http://www.un.org/ga/president/63/interactive/protect/conceptnote.pdf)
CARICOM argued that ‘a reformed UN Security Council is an important precondition for the implementation of Pillar III’. Eventually, GA resolution 63/308 - ‘The responsibility to protect’ - was unanimously passed and simply took ‘note of’ the SG’s report, and decided ‘to continue its consideration of the responsibility to protect’. In other words, nothing decisive came out of the crucial GA 2009 regular session, and the SC resolution 1674 of 28 April 2006, and the GA debate and resolution of September 2009 remain contested sites on the R2P doctrine.
The most questionable development of the R2P doctrine, however, was during the Libyan crisis. When Western media alarm was raised that Qaddafi was approaching Benghazi around 15 March 2011, and that he might unleash a reign of murder and terror, the Empire brought the matter before the SC of the UN, and R2P was quickly resurrected from its previous controversial terrain (see above) to allow a limited ‘No-fly zone’ military intervention. The rest of the story is well known, and analysed in my previous two columns on Libya. In the name of ‘protection of the civilians’, NATO has overextended the remit of its authority and has been pounding Libya with bombing raids (over 6,000 sorties in the last two months), and a full-scale civil war is raging in the country, with one side backed, overtly and covertly, by the Empire. This is illegal under the SC resolution.
This, then, is the danger of ‘humanitarian’ intervention. It has a broad good quality ethical appeal about it. This can easily beguile even well-intentioned humanists and ‘left’ intellectuals, not just from the Empire but also from the neo-colonies, to rally behind a military action that is based, essentially, on realpolitik considerations and cynical manipulation of the doctrine of R2P by the Empire to ‘legitimise’ imperial wars and gross interference in the sovereign affairs of smaller and vulnerable nations.
The humanitarian interventionist doctrine is based on the dubious credentials of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) resolutions within the UN system. But R2P is still a contested terrain. The bulk of the third world has expressed strong opposition to it in the General Assembly and against its endorsement in the Security Council where the Empire has disproportionate power and influence. The real danger of humanitarian intervention is that its underlying feel good sound bite can beguile well-intentioned humanists and ‘left’ intellectuals to unwittingly support imperialist wars in our times. Libya is a good example of how the Empire used scare tactics to resurrect R2P to obfuscate its real intentions. The Empire is now bombing and supporting one side in a civil war which is a total violation of its remit even under the SC resolution. These militaristic ‘solutions’ by the Empire are part of its knee-jerk and neurotic OCD reactions to a range of crises the Empire has been facing since 1979. The Empire’s military adventurism must be opposed, and the R2P basis of the doctrine of human interventionism must be questioned, or else in the years and decades to come the world will witness a precipitous erosion of the essential ethical foundations of the global community.
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* Yash Tandon is a writer on development theory and practice, chairman of SEATINI and senior adviser to the South Centre.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Illicit financial flows from the Least Developed Countries: 1990–2008
UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME: DISCUSSION PAPER
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This Discussion Paper has been commissioned by UNDP as a contribution to the United Nation's IV conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Istanbul, Turkey in May 2011. UNDP warmly welcomes feedback from interested stakeholders on any aspect of the research and conclusions drawn. It has been written by Dev Kar, formerly a Senior Economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and now Lead Economist at Global Financial Integrity (GFI), Center for International Policy.
This paper explores the scale and composition of illicit financial flows from the 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Illicit financial flows involve the cross-border transfer of the proceeds of corruption, trade in contraband goods, criminal activities and tax evasion. In recent years, considerable interest has arisen over the extent to which such flows may have a detrimental impact on development and governance in both developed and developing countries alike.
This issue has been recognised by the UN as important for development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Illicit capital flight, where it occurs, is a major hindrance to the mobilisation of domestic resources for development. In many cases, it significantly reduces the volume of resources available for investment in the MDGs and productive capacities. Through the United Nations, the international community has committed to strengthen national and multilateral efforts to address it. As the deadline for achievement of the MDGs draws closer, it is vital understand more about the nature of this problem and to explore possible policy solutions, especially for those countries furthest off-track towards the MDGs.
The study's indicative results find that illicit financial flows from the LDCs have increased from US$9.7 billion in 1990 to US$26.3 billion in 2008 implying an inflation-adjusted rate of increase of 6.2 percent per annum. Conservative (lower-bound) estimates indicate that illicit flows have increased from US$7.9 billion in 1990 to US$20.2 billion in 2008. The top ten exporters of illicit capital account for 63 percent of total outflows from the LDCs while the top 20 account for nearly 83 percent. Trade mispricing accounts for the bulk (65-70 percent) of illicit outflows from the LDCs, and the propensity for mispricing has increased along with increasing external trade. Empirical research on illicit flows indicates that there are three types of factors driving illicit flows — macroeconomic, structural, and governance-related.
The ratio of illicit outflows to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averages about 4.8 percent but there is wide variation among LDCs. Of the top 10 countries with the highest illicit flows to GDP ratio, four are small island countries, two are landlocked, and four are neither. In some LDCs, losses through illicit capital flows outpace monies received in official development assistance (ODA).
Estimating illicit flows from some LDCs is problematic because the underlying macroeconomic or partner-country trade data are either non-existent or spotty due to widespread on-going or recent conflict and/or weak statistical capacity. Complete macroeconomic and partner-country trade data were available for 34 LDCs, while 11 report partial data to the IMF and 3 are non- reporters. The report thus presents an estimate of illicit flows from some of the non-reporting and partially reporting countries based on the assumption that illicit flows from these countries are in the same proportion to GDP as are outflows from other reporting LDCs with complete data.
The results of this study are indicative but demonstrate a clear need for further research in this area given the scale of the development challenges which currently face the Least Developed Countries and the need to 'think outside the box' and find innovative development solutions.
The paper presents a number of useful measures LDCs may wish to consider to curtail the generation and transmission of illicit financial flows. The international community must also play its part. However, even where policy measures are well designed and targeted, lasting improvements in this area can only be achieved when there is the sufficient political will and leadership to tackle corruption and some of the root causes of illicit financial flows.
For the Least Developed Countries, policy recommendations include measures to address trade mispricing through for instance systematic customs reform and the adoption of transfer pricing regulations with commensurate increase in enforcement capacity. The implementation of specialised software which helps governments to identify possible incidences of transfer pricing may also be useful to some governments. Measures to reform the tax base through the progressive strengthening and widening of the tax base in order to reduce dependence on indirect taxes which are more difficult to manage and have built-in incentives for tax evasion may also be beneficial. Ultimately tax is the most sustainable source of finance for development and the long-term goal of poor countries must be to replace foreign aid dependency with tax self-sufficiency. However taxation reform must be seen as equitable and fair and must not unduly burden the poorest.
The international community must also support LDCs' efforts to curtail the illicit outflow of capital. This includes specific measures to support LDCs to improve the systematic exchange of tax information between governments on non-resident individuals and corporations while the adoption of globally consistent regulations for transfer pricing could encourage multinational companies to modify their behaviour towards more transparency and accountability. The UN's Model Income Tax Treaty refers to the importance of automatic exchange of information between national tax authorities in different jurisdictions. In order to stem tax avoidance by multinational corporations, the international community could support the development of an international accounting standard requiring that all multi- national corporations report sales, profits, and taxes paid in all jurisdictions in their audited annual reports and tax returns.
UNDP stands ready to support LDCs and other developing countries in their efforts to curtail illicit financial flows in support of the MDGs. In particular, it can support countries to exchange practical information, experience and lessons learned on ways to tackle this problem.
This paper explores the possible scale and composition of illicit financial flows from the 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Illicit financial flows involve the cross-border transfer of the proceeds of corruption, trade in contraband goods, criminal activities, and tax evasion. In recent years, considerable intellectual interest has arisen over the extent to which such flows may have development, governance or other consequences for both developed and developing countries (e.g., Baker (2005); Ndikumana and Boyce (2008), among others).
The paper has been commissioned by UNDP as a contribution to the United Nations IV High Level Conference on the LDCs in 2011. Its objective is to assess the extent to which illicit financial flows may represent a significant problem in some LDCs, and if so, to consider more broadly the policy options available to governments and the international community to curtail such flows. It is intended to stimulate further public policy discussion and its results are indicative only given numerous difficulties associated with robust data collection and divergent views over which methodological approach best captures the true scale of illicit financial flows.
The outcome document from the United Nations 2010 Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) recognises the importance of this issue for development and the MDGs and commits the international community to “implement measures to curtail illicit financial flows at all levels, enhancing disclosure practices and promoting transparency in financial information.” The recommendations made in the outcome document of 2010 are in line with the UN's Monterrey Consensus and Doha Declaration, which recognise the importance of domestic resource mobilisation in countries' efforts to raise more resources for the MDGs and commits governments to address the problem of illicit financial flows through multilateral and national efforts.
Since the 1960s, the UN has recognised the particular weaknesses, vulnerabilities and development challenges faced by the LDCs. There are currently 48 countries classified by the United Nations as LDCs, 33 of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa, 14 in Asia and one in Latin America and the Caribbean. Many LDCs share similar structural characteristics, for instance 16 LDCs are landlocked, 10 are small islands, while 22 are neither (Appendix III, Table 1). LDCs satisfy three separate criteria: (i) an income per capita of less than US$905 per annum (ii) a low level of 'human assets' based on indicators of nutrition, health, education and literacy (iii) and a high degree of economic vulnerability measured in relation to population size and remoteness, dependency on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, exposure to natural disasters, export concentration and instability in exports.6 The three criteria together seek to capture the multifaceted nature of development and underscore the many diverse challenges faced by the world's poorest governments to develop their economies and improve the lives of — and opportunities for — their citizens. For several reasons, many LDCs are lagging behind in achieving the UN's MDG targets.
Intuitively, one can argue that the outflow of illicit capital may hamper governments' abilities to marshal resources for economic development, to fund important social programmes, and to bring better balance between government expenditures and tax revenues. In addition, illicit flows are typically absorbed into developed country banks and offshore financial centres. This paper also explores the issue of potential net resource transfers out of LDCs — the very same group identified by the United Nations as most in need of special support measures from the international community to develop. While the magnitude of the problem of net resource transfers varies from one LDC to the next, there is strong evidence that net transfers from the group are significant and present a serious challenge for fostering economic development.
2. WHY LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES ARE VULNERABLE TO ILLICIT
In his Keynote Address at a senior Policy Seminar on Implications of Capital Flight for Macroeconomic Management and Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, South African Reserve Bank, October 2007, Prof. Njuguna Ndung'u, Governor, Central Bank of Kenya noted that:
Paradoxically, the accumulation of external liabilities in the region is mirrored by massive outflows of resources in the form of capital flight — the voluntary exit of private residents' own capital for safe haven away from the continent. The latest estimates published by UNCTAD suggest that capital flight from Sub-Saharan Africa is fast approaching half a trillion dollars, more than twice the size of its aggregate external liabilities.
While Governor Ndung'u was referring to developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, most LDCs share certain characteristics which may be facilitating the cross-border transfer of illicit capital. A lower domestic savings rate relative to more developed emerging market countries mean that they are even more dependent upon external sources of capital to finance economic development and to fund poverty reduction efforts. Some researchers have also found a significant link between the growth of external debt and capital flight — the so-called revolving door effect.
On the one hand, most LDCs have poorly diversified economies and rely extensively on a few commodities to generate revenues, which are in turn subject to large price fluctuations internationally. On the other, LDCs tend to import a wide variety of goods due to the poor diversification of domestic industry. Customs duties on imports and on extractive mineral exports (where applicable) therefore contribute significantly to government revenues particularly given that direct income taxes are low due to a narrow tax base. This has led the IMF to conclude that: “For the foreseeable future, in any event, the central lesson is clear: for many developing countries, and especially the poorest of them, tariff revenue will continue to be a core component of government finances for many years to come”.
The IMF report notes that smuggling, defined as importation or exportation contrary to the law and without paying (or underpaying) applicable duties, will continue as long as tariffs are levied. The continuing importance of trade taxes in developing countries, particularly in the LDCs, thus creates a significant risk of smuggling.
Furthermore, LDCs typically have limited fiscal space to mitigate the impact of crises on the poor (such as increasing joblessness), nor the resources to launch large-scale new investments in infrastructure to stimulate the economy when there is an economic downturn. Additionally, significant fiscal deficits may spur the tax evasion component of illicit financial flows because higher deficits signal to private markets and high net worth individuals that taxes would probably have to be raised to close the revenue gap in the near future. The threat of higher taxes may result in larger tax evasion through illicit financial flows from LDCs into tax havens. However, as Sheets (1997) and others have noted, the empirical evidence on the adverse impact of fiscal deficits on illegal capital flight is not very clear.
There are other drivers of illicit financial flows from LDCs that are by no means unique to them. Kar (2011) found that a skewed and worsening distribution of income can drive illicit flows because of the expanding number of higher net worth individuals in economies with a relatively narrow tax base and weaker or more corrupt tax collection agencies compared to those operating in developed countries. The high net worth individuals then resort to the cross-border transfer of illicit capital in order to not only shield their growing assets from applicable taxes but to accumulate, in a clandestine manner, wealth far in excess of what declared incomes could have generated.
The other important driver of illicit flows is the size of the underground economy. A recent comprehensive study of the underground economy by the World Bank found that it is quite large in many LDCs. These estimates are likely to be understated because they typically do not include criminal activities such as burglary and robbery or trade in contraband goods such as drugs. Nevertheless, available empirical evidence point to the fact that the underground economy in LDCs can be a significant driver of illicit financial flows.
4. ILLICIT FLOWS AND THE LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
(To view entire selection of charts, please see the full report at
Global Financial Integrity)
EXCERPT FROM CHART 4: TOP 20
CUMULATIVE IFFS FROM LDCS BY COUNTRY, 1990-2008 (US$ MILLION)
1. Bangadesh 34,790
2. Angola 34,046
3. Lesotho 16,823
4. Chad 15,436
5. Yemen 11,979
6. Nepal 9,128
7. Uganda 8,757
8. Myanmar 8,535
9. Ethiopia 8,354
10. Zambia 6,800
11. Sudan 6,732
12. Equatorial Guinea 6,503
13. Laos 6,062
14. Liberia 5,863
15. Guinea 4,928
16. Malawi 4,171
17. Djibouti 3,885
18. Mozambique 3,773
19. Madagascar 3,746
20. Congo (DRC) 3,499
4.11. Chart 6 analyses the net cumulative resource transfer from LDCs to the rest of the world over the period 1990-2008 by estimating the relevant capital inflows and outflows from LDCs as recorded in countries' balance of payments. The totality of net recorded transfers (inflows and outflows) is then compared to unrecorded outflows of illicit capital.
Cumulative inflows and outflows from LDCs vis-à-vis the rest of the world (keeping signs intact) can be estimated as:
Net recorded transfers = Net Financial Account Balance, FDI, New loans, Repayments of principal (+US$94 billion)
+ Remittances (+US$118 billion)
– Debt Service payments (US$162 billion)
= +US$50 billion (inflow)
4. 12. If illicit outflows of US$246 billion are 'netted-out', LDCs show a net resource transfer of about US$197 billion into the rest of the world (mainly developed countries) over this period. This is a serious loss of resources which may be accentuating the development challenge in many LDCs.
5. THE DRIVERS AND DYNAMICS OF ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS
The policy recommendations for curbing illicit financial flows from a country must necessarily flow from an in-depth study of the drivers and dynamics of these flows that are specific to each individual country. This section analyses the broad drivers and dynamics of illicit financial flows based on empirical research and is followed by an overview of policy measures governments may wish to consider in order to restrict the generation and cross-border transmission of such capital.
Empirical research on illicit financial flows (see Appendix II) indicate that the factors that drive such flows can be broadly classified into three categories — macroeconomic, structural, and governance-related.
5.1 MACROECONOMIC FACTORS
Owners of illicit capital, which comprise of the proceeds of crime, bribery, kickbacks, asset stripping, tax evasion, and illegal activities such as drug trafficking, are typically more interested in hiding their wealth than in maximising rates of return. They are also not likely to be worried about future taxation implied by a rising government budget deficit. That said, overall macroeconomic conditions do impact a country's overall business climate which prompts domestic businesses to retain more capital at home while attracting foreign direct investment into the country. Ultimately, whether macroeconomic factors drive illicit flows is an empirical question which needs to be settled within the context of specific country case studies.
5.2 STRUCTURAL ISSUES
Illicit flows are much more likely to be driven by structural factors like rising income inequality, faster rates of (non- inclusive) economic growth, increasing trade openness without adequate regulatory oversight, etc. Where economic growth in non-inclusive, it may worsen the distribution of income and the resulting larger number of high net worth individuals may seek to evade higher taxes if overall governance does not improve.
Hence, fiscal policy measures to fund a social safety system, combined with investment in health, education and infrastructure need to be implemented so that growth benefits all income groups and not just a privileged minority. At the same time, tax reform needs to focus on widening the tax base and improving compliance (with an eye on equity) in order to reduce the tax evasion component of illicit flows. However, tax reform alone will not succeed in curtailing tax evasion if the quality of government services does not improve, that is if tax payers feel that they are not getting their money's worth in terms of better infrastructure and better access to health, education, and social services.
5.3 GOVERNANCE AND CORRUPTION
Corruption distorts public policies in that resources are allocated not based on efficiency or internal rates of return but in favor of those who are willing and/or able to bribe or pay kickbacks to public officials. Weak governance spawns public corruption and encourages corporate malfeasance. Public corruption typically involves the abuse of authority or trust for private benefit. But this is a temptation indulged in not only by government officials but also by rent-seekers in private enterprises and nonprofit organisations. In general, poor governance provides greater latitude for corruption, both in the public and private sectors, so long as the corrupt are convinced that they are likely to get away with the loot. The misallocation of resources also hurts the private sector because infrastructure tends to get neglected even as the corrupt enrich themselves at the expense of the state. The impact on the poor is particularly harmful because the siphoning of funds reduces resources for social programmes and investments in the MDGs.
The state of governance and the extent and type of corruption will vary considerably from one LDC to the next depending upon institutional weaknesses, cultural and historical propensities, economic structure and policies, state of bureaucracy, etc. Hence, the policies needed to strengthen governance and curtail the generation of illicit funds would also vary depending on these factors.
7. CONCLUDING REMARKS
This paper argues that certain structural characteristics such as low domestic savings and the resulting aid dependence and growth in external debt may be driving illicit flows in some LDCs. The poorest developing countries will continue to rely on tariff revenues as a major source of revenues given weak domestic taxation, and as long as such duties are levied, smuggling will continue. In addition, the significant fiscal deficits in many LDCs may well be driving tax evasion as higher deficits signal to private markets that direct and indirect taxes may have to increase in the medium term in order to close the gap. Even higher rates of economic growth achieved by some LDCs in recent years could act as a driver of illicit capital if growth is not accompanied by a better distribution of income.
The method used to estimate illicit financial flows from LDCs is based on the World Bank Residual model adjusted for trade mispricing — a methodology widely used among economists. This approach was modified in two important ways. First, illicit inflows are not netted out of outflows. Second, a higher and lower estimate of illicit flows for each LDC was derived corresponding, respectively, to those that do not meet certain conditions and those that do.
Based on this methodology, the study found that illicit financial flows from many LDCs are significant, both in US dollar terms and as a percent of GDP. In some LDCs, illicit financial flows outpace ODA. The results are indicative given difficulties associated with reliable data collection and the fact that various methodological approaches exist to measure and quantify illicit flows. Nevertheless, given the scale of the development challenges which face the LDCs, these preliminary results demonstrate a clear need for further work in this area, especially by the LDCs themselves in collaboration with relevant multilateral bodies. UNDP stands ready to support LDCs and other developing countries in their efforts to curtail illicit financial flows in support of the MDGs. In particular, it can support countries to exchange practical information, experience and lessons learned on ways to tackle this problem.
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* The report was first published on Global Financial Integrity (GFI).
* Dev Kar, formerly a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is now lead economist at Global Financial Integrity (GFI), Center for International Policy.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
‘Defiant in the face of brutality’
Uprisings in East and Southern Africa
Recently the Dar es Salaam Citizen published an OpEd piece, “News is not coming out of Africa” in which it criticised African media for the focus on reporting ‘events’ and failure to follow through with informative opinion and commentary. Instead African media continues to rely on western media for in-depth analysis of African affairs. Events such as the Nigerian elections, the political crisis and conflict in Cote d’Ivoire, uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and the International Criminal Court hearings on Kenya’s 2008 post election violence were reported only as ‘news events’:
‘I could cite other examples to make the point that our media has such an event focus that it fails to follow developments in ways that would make Africans knowledgeable and interested about Africa as Africans. In this it fails its core mission of educating Africans about their own contexts and situations. A major reason for this apparent amnesia and what comes across as disjointed coverage is the fact that most South African media do not have sustained coverage of the continent of their own. For a start, South African media houses have no regional bureaus of their own with journalists conversant in languages other than English.
‘When the international media cease or reduce coverage there is an automatic effect on our own media even if we might still be interested in the issue. In this regard it could be said that our media are an appendage of Western media.’
The article highlights the importance of Pambazuka News in providing exactly what the rest of Africa’s media is either ill-equipped or just too lazy to do. The purpose of the ‘uprising’ reports is not just to inform readers of events as they happen but also to give a sense of the continuing struggle and a broader view of the continent-wide discontent with the status quo regards democracy, the lack of adherence to all areas of human rights and the primacy of western governments and corporate interests over that of African people.
UGANDA: LET’S SHOOT THE PEOPLE!
In February’s elections President Museveni’s 25 year rule was extended for a further five years, amidst [http://www.polity.org.za/article/a-case-of-electoral-fraud-the-2011-uganda-elections-2011-04-07]accusations of widespread fraud[/url]. Why bother to vote when the outcome has already been arranged? Makerere University law professor Joe Oloka-Onyango, described Uganda’s political system as ‘yet to become a functioning multiparty democracy’, adding that:
‘…the fact of incumbency guaranteed President Museveni unfettered access to state coffers, such that the NRM reportedly spent $350 million in the campaign. Whether or not this is true, we have not yet received a proper accounting of how much the NRM [or indeed any other party] spent and from where they received this money; already, this means that we are being held hostage to the lack of transparency and the underhand nature of politics that we thought we had long left behind.
‘Indeed, the enduring image of the past several months has been that of the President handing out brown envelopes stashed with cash for various women, youth and other types of civic groupings. I don’t know if religious leaders were also beneficiaries of this largesse. If you were, then you must acknowledge that you have become part of the problem. For in those envelopes lies a key aspect of the problem: the phenomenon of institutionalized corruption that has become the hallmark of this regime.’
Whilst voters may have been apathetic during the elections, they have shown their dissatisfaction with the government and it’s policies in the Walk to Work (Twitter hashtag #walk2work) protests which started on 11 April following the arrest of a group of opposition leaders including Dr Kizza Besigye and his supporters, for inciting violence as they walked to work in protest against rising prices and job losses. Although the protests have met with a violent response from the security forces, as one Ugandan reporter pointed out:
‘…many Ugandans are now aware of their rights to speak out. This right is provided by the state through the constitution that guarantees freedom of speech. So this time many Ugandans are supporting what the opposition is doing because they want the government to listen to their pleas.’
The government has blamed inflation on external factors out of their control, obviously believing Ugandans are so ill-informed as to not make the connection between the $740 million spent on fighter jets and tanks – plus of course the maintenance costs ‘to protect oil....territorial integrity and wealth’ – and the price of bread and fuel. Even Nigeria – another highly militarised state, with nearly 20 years of conflict over oil in the Niger Delta – has thankfully not deployed fighter jets to bomb militants in the forests and rivers of oil production!
Museveni who, in a show of militarism, chose to wear military fatigues during the recent swearing in of MPs complained that his guests, President Kabila of the DRC and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria were pelted with stones by people. In typical dictator fashion, which tends to be accompanied by a good helping of paranoia, Museveni went on to describe the local and international media as ‘enemies of Uganda’. Possibly he has been too busy brutalising Ugandans to watch much TV and hasn't seen what is happening in other parts of Africa and the Middle East.
Rosebelle Kagumire described the protests of 29 April in her blog as follows:
‘In today’s protests the police used live bullets again leaving horrific pictures for the media. One of man was lying down with a bullet hole right through his eye. Reports say about four people died today, over 100 were injured and over 300 were arrested. Since the election campaigns and the North Africa protests, the government here has grown intolerant to criticism … In many areas there were reports of abuses against journalists mainly by forces. TVs and Radios have been threatened over live broadcasts and today they obliged … Besigye’s health is still not good but whatever happens, Ugandans are becoming more and more defiant in the face of brutality and his homecoming will probably see us go into another protest.’
Rosebelle also discussed the ongoing protests on Al Jazeera’s stream on 23 May. The strategy behind Hoot4Change in which people honked and hooted in support of Walk2Work, is to widen the protests. She made the point that whilst food prices had risen locally, Ugandan farmers were getting very good prices for their food being sold in South Sudan and the DRC.
Echwalu Photography has an excellent photo essay of the protests and subsequent arrests and violence on the streets.
Finally Julius Barigaba reports in The East African on the deployment of tanks around Kampala’s Constitutional Square. According to Barigaba, this is not because there might be another ‘Tahrir Square’ but more like another Tiananmen Square:
‘Tahrir collected a million anti-Mubarak protestors over three weeks, leading to the dictator's fall in February this year. In Beijing, however, Tiananmen was the scene of a massacre by a military whose mindset is that of anarchy, akin to that of Uganda's armed forces, according to political analyst Mwambutsya Ndebesa, professor of history at Makerere University.’
‘The Square has become a no-go area, barricaded by blue Mamba APCs, tear gas trucks and anti-riot police. To dare to go there is to court arrest, unlimited doses of teargas, gunshot wounds, and possibly, death.
‘On May 10, former presidential candidates Norbert Mao, Olara Otunnu, Sam Lubega and Mohammad Kibirige Mayanja attempted to access Constitution Square and stage a rally there. Somewhat Mao and Mayanja sneaked through the first line of police cordon but could not go past the next:
‘“We want to hold a rally in the Square that is named after our (1995) Constitution. It is our right," Mao yelled at the police as they pushed him back.
‘But Otunnu, Lubega and others were not lucky. A police truck spewing pink liquid pushed them 200 metres away, bathing them in a deluge of crimson -- police's latest anti-riot innovation.
‘That is the norm in Kampala these days -- people wake up to a menu of live bullets and teargas. Access to some roads is blocked, as boda boda cyclists, unemployed youths and Kisekka Market traders engage the military and police in running battles. Occasionally, a military chopper eerily monitors the action. Files of military men, with guns held combat style, patrol the streets; APCs are at entry points into the city.’
KENYA: REVOLUTIONARY IDEALS OVER NARROW NATIONALISMS!
Back in February, while Tunisia was celebrating the removal of Ben Ali and Egypt was bathing in the warmth of Tahrir Square revolutionary love, a group of online Kenyans decided to celebrate ‘Kenyan nationalism’ day on February 28th. Along with a show of badges and 12 reasons to be ‘proud’, Kenyans were asked to stand united and speak with one voice at 1pm on the day:
‘…wherever you are, at work, in the supermarket, in traffic, in school, on campus, in hospitals, in churches, in mosques, in temples, in synagogues, on sports pitches, in court, on your farm, at police stations, at armed forces barracks, in matatus, in buses, on the beach, in the game parks, at the airport, in parliament, in State House, in your homes…’
The hope was the ‘world would watch’ but in the end, the world was too busy watching and tweeting the televised revolutions to care much about Kenyans saluting flags.
Wambui Mwangi didn't feel there was much to be proud about and as inspiring as these declarations might be they are hardly transformational. Nationalism, patriotism and notions of rule based belongings are exclusionary and counter-revolutionary:
‘Six of our leading representatives and public figures are under grave suspicion by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity, but this apparently does not perturb us. Our internally displaced citizens continue to languish in refugee camps, which disturbs our comfort not at all. Millions of young people are unemployed and frustrated but we would rather not discuss it. Ethnic militias gather force and virulence: still, we are content. A vulgar misogyny accompanied by a homophobia as vile as it is pervasive finds extensive purchase in our collective psyche: we are unflappable. We seem to enjoy all these, or at least not to mind them enough to engage with their implications.’
Instead of the call for a nationalism based on denial Wambui suggests ‘singing’ to remember those ‘collective issues waiting for our attention’, and to re-organise and ‘align principles with practice’:
‘We should sing to acknowledge that we are responsible not only for the current state of affairs but also for its multiple necessary modes of resolution. As we sing, “we the people” should remember that sovereignty comes with responsibilities as well as rights, obligations as well as freedoms.’
The beauty of these songs is they are not just for Kenyans but for every African and recently her final two questions ‘So what?’ and ‘Now what?’ have been answered in what appears to be a new awakening in Kenya. Grassroots movements such as Bunge La Mwananchi (The People’s Parliament) and the ‘Unga Revolution’ (a collection of civil society groups including Bunge La Mwananchi) campaigning for economic and social rights have been formed in response to the rising cost of living and loss of social benefits. On 1 May a planned rally organised by Unga Revolution was illegally cancelled by the Kenyan police. The organising committee said:
‘This action is a relic of the old constitution and reminiscent of the dark days when peaceful gatherings were violently dispersed. It can also set a bad precedence for future engagements between peaceful citizens and law enforcement officers; in as far as exercising of democratic rights is concerned.
‘Since our campaign to petition the government to implement article 43 is nationwide in scope and grassroots in nature, we are hoping that your forces will allow Kenyans all over the country to assemble, discuss and push for the implementation of their rights and that you will accord them ample security as we all strive to work within our rights and responsibilities as set out in the supreme law of the land.’
The Swazi pro democracy uprisings which began on 12 April were met with beatings, teargas and hundreds of arrests. Many of the protesters were driven 100 miles into the country where they were dumbed by the police. Student leader Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngubeni of the SWAYOCO movement were arrested, tortured and remain in detention. The national coordinator of the International Research Academy for Labour and Education (IRALE), Percy Masuklu was one of those driven and dumped in the countryside. He gives his account below:
‘On 12 April 2011 leaders of the labour movement, political formations, youth and student organisations, civil society organisations like the Swaziland Democracy Campaign and ordinary Swazis were all arrested and treated to the 'hospitality' of the police of the ruling royal Swazi regime by means of torture and other dehumanizing elements characteristic of this corrupt regime.
There were running battles between the various organisations and the police and armed forces in which the forces prohibited the workers, students, youth, democracy activists, faith-based organisations and women's organisations from marching into the city centre in Manzini. The main intention of the march was to raise high the issues that the government of Swaziland has failed to deliver; these demands had been raised earlier by, largely, the labour formations. The city centre was turned into a battle field where workers were tear gassed, baton-charged and pursued into various directions by the heavy-handed police who understood nothing but the language of violence.’
Six weeks on from 12 April and the Swazi pro democracy activists and their supporters continue to protest in the adminstrative capital, Mbabane, South Africa and the UK:
‘The recent spate of pro-democracy demonstrations against the regime in Swaziland, which so far culminated in the mass demonstrations in March and April of this year, shows the increasing willingness of Swazis to face intimidation and police brutality to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the regime. The reason for this dissatisfaction, says Sikelela Dlamini, is the monarch’s spending on prestige projects and personal luxuries, and the regime’s financial mismanagement and corruption. “Mswati III’s major handicap has to be his continuously lavish lifestyle when the majority of his people languish in untold suffering.”’
On June 1st hundreds of members of The Swaziland Teachers Association closed schools and marched through the capital to the South African and US embassies demanding the latter freeze the Kings assets. Some of the tweets of the day were in response to a SABC2 Special Assignment on Swaziland …showing both the hope and frustration amongst Swazi people.
@msi_001: The people of Swaziland will be liberated sooner or later.......AMANDLA to my jailed comrades
@presciousestevao: please focus and try to create some sort of movement when it comes to our comrades being killed in Swaziland.
@specialassign: Swaziland is under financial struggles, who funds the monarchy? Since many people there are living below the poverty line."
@SpecialAssign: Democracy in Africa's last standing monarchy? Political prisoners or criminal terrorists in Swaziland's jails? Watch tonight 21h30 on SABC3
COUNTRIES TO WATCH
In neighbouring Botswana, much revered in the west as ‘Africa’s success story’, public sector workers – transport, schools, clinics and government staff – began striking on 18 April. The ruling party has been in power for 45 years and people are calling for a change. The leader of the opposition, Duma Boko has called for an ‘Egypt’ style uprising, though I doubt this will happen. The strikes and protests have been peaceful with none of the violence seen in neighboring countries.
‘There are different ways to take over governance, and that includes by force,’ he said at a recent press conference in support of the strike held by the opposition parties, ’If we can come together we can take our government as it happened in Egypt and Tunisia.’ For the Botswana Movement for Democracy, a breakaway party from the BDP, the strike undermines the ruling party’s contention that Botswana is a model democracy. ’This is clear from the government’s refusal to accept workers’ demands for a pay hike, under the pretext that the economy has not yet recovered from the recession,” said its leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi.
The government has now ordered the some 90,000 workers back to work after offering a 3 per cent pay rise rather than the 16 per cent demanded.
Pro democracy activists had called for a ‘Day of Rage’ on Saturday 28 May. An online campaign ‘Beka‘ meaning ‘Enough’ in Amharic had hoped to mobilise thousands. In the end it was Meles Zenawi’s supporters who turned out in their thousands.
Like uprisings taking place in other parts of the continent, Uganda, Swaziland, Kenya, and Botswana actions are in response to concerns over food security, rising unemployment particularly amongst youth, political marginalisation, corruption of government officials and a push back against the entrenched leadership of the circle of ‘rulers for life’. Military dictators have been replaced by democracy dictatorships under militarised states.
Despite the transformational actions taking place across the country, one particularly marginalised group remains invisible. The LGBTIQ movement continues to be largely isolated and it remains to be seen if the new struggles for social justice will be wholly inclusive. At the same time it is up to the LGBTIQ movement itself to grow in visibility and to enter into dialogue with other movements at the crucial time of change. This is especially true in countries such as Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa where established LGBTIQ groups have existed for many years.
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at the award-winning Black Looks.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Copper in Zambia: Charity for multinationals
During the 1970s, Zambia was one of the world's leading copper producers, extracting over 700,000 tonnes per annum. These days, Zambia leads the ranks as a top copper producer at more than 800,000 tonnes (2010). Much of the success has been credited to the privatisation of the copper industry. It has been almost two decades since Zambia's ailing copper industry, beset by low commodity prices and skyrocketing debt, was privatised. The process was described by the New York Times in 1996 as, 'Westerniz[ing] the economy with a combination of help and arm-twisting from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the lead lenders for the $6.3 billion in external debt the country is carrying.’
The article went on to describe how, ‘All exchange controls, tariff barriers and food subsidies have been dropped in the shock-treatment switch-over to rampant capitalism… Virtually everything the state owned is for sale, from the national concrete industry to corner grocery stores to antique steam trains to leases on camps in the national parks.’ Within two years, over 140 entities had been sold, eventually expanding to 282 entities. The World Bank credited the privatisation of Zambia as the most successful in the region largely due to the 'limited interference' of the government. The article further noted, crucially, the process through which the 'crown jewel', the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) was auctioned. ‘The privatization agency has five Wall Street investment bankers on staff, their salaries paid by the United States Agency for International Development. The copper deal is so big that the World Bank brought in the investment bank N. M. Rothschild & Sons and the London law firm Clifford Chance as consultants.’
The ZCCM was split into seven units and cumulatively sold for just US$627 million, accompanied, according to Professor Mpanda, by bribes. Until 2006, the 'development agreements' privatising Zambian copper were accorded a legal confidential status equivalent to the Zambian constitution. Even relevant ministries and members of parliament were not allowed access until a copy of the agreements were leaked: the agreement disclosed that multinationals were exempt from most of ZCCM liabilities. The Investment Law and the Mines and Minerals Law of 1995 created a 3 per cent royalty fee that companies evaded (demanding and achieving a 0.6 per cent royalty structure instead). But this in itself is vastly differed from royalties rates in other copper-producing countries: 5–14 per cent in Chile and 5–10 per cent in developing countries all over the world.
According to an official in the Department of Mining, ‘The private sector wanted concessions … so in the Mining Act you find provisions for these concessions.’ The legislation deliberately included vacuums that shifted articulation to individual development agreements. Royalties were reduced to 0.6 per cent as opposed to the 3 per cent established. Provisions granted to multinationals included stability periods extending for up to 20 years, rendering multinationals exempt from legislation implemented by parliament and other national and legal alterations; the right to carry over losses throughout the 'stability periods'; 100 per cent foreign currency retention, remittance and provision for capital investment deductions; zero withholding tax; and various other fiscal and para-fiscal exemptions ranging from customs duty to environmental pollution and penalties; pension schemes, and contracting of casual workers – accounting for 45 per cent of the workforce, amongst others.
Companies were exempt from paying pensions to employees, from many laws (including environmental pollution, etc). Stated former finance minister Edith Nawakwi: ‘We were told by advisers, who included the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that … for the next 20 years, Zambian copper would not make a profit. [Conversely, if we privatised] we would be able to access debt relief, and this was a huge carrot in front of us – like waving medicine in front of a dying woman. We had no option [but to go ahead].’
The first consortium to approach the ZPA (Zambia Privatisation Agency) was the 'Kafue' consortium, composed of the Commonwealth Development Corporation – Noranda, Phelps and Anglo-Vaal Mining Ltd (USA) offering US$131 million in addition to an investment package of US$1.1 billion. Zambian president Frederick Chiluba refused, claiming ZCCM should not be 'sold for a song'. After transferring the responsibility of privatisation to the former executive director of ZCCM (1973–91), Anglo-American, present in Zambia since the early 1930s, emerged the winner and exercised the company's pre-emptive rights by purchasing 65 per cent of the Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) – Zambia's best untapped reserve – via Zambia Copper Investments (ZCI) at a cash price of US$90 million, with promised investment of just US$300 million.
Peter Sinkamba of NGO groups Citizens for a Better Environment claimed that Anglo used their position on the board of ZCCM to sabotage negotiations with the Kafue consortium. 'Anglo’s package included a bundle of mines such as Nkana and Nchanga, producing over 50 per cent of Zambia’s copper, and ZCCM’s glory – the Konkola mine. Previously, Paris Club donors refused to release US$530 million balance of payments until the sale of Nkana and Nchanga mines. Two years after acquiring KCM for ‘a song’, Anglo sold the mine.’
‘The coming of Anglo to Konkola Deep was like a sinking man clasping at a serpent … not that Anglo is a serpent,’ said Anderson Mazoka, former Anglo head in Zambia. 'Prior, the Mineworkers' Union of Zambia, previously holding a representative position on the board via head Ernest Mutale was removed and no longer privy to the bidding process. The move by Anglo to acquire the mine was allegedly to lock up resources in Zambia, given Konkola's status as the largest copper mine in Zambia. Anglo’s move was described by Abel Mkandawire then-chairman of Zambia’s Chamber of Commerce, [as] “as good as closing Zambia”.’
In 2004, UK-based corporation Vedanta Resources acquired 51 per cent of shares in KCM, known as the largest copper mine in the world, for $48 million cash. In the three-month period that followed, the company registered profits of $26 million from KCM. A call option secretly negotiated in 2004 also allowed the company to exercise the right to purchase ZCI’s 28.4 per cent shares, effectively granting Vedanta a 79.4 per cent monopoly. The Zambian government aided in the process, by removing the Competition Commission (ZCC) to enable Vedanta to become the majority shareholder. According to MP Given Lubinda, ‘The decision government took to invoke section 3 of the Competition and Fair Trading declared the ZCC totally irrelevant in the governance of Zambia which is really sad.’ The World Bank's IFC (International Finance Corporation) reported that, thanks to corporate incentives, effective tax rate for mining companies was 'effectively zero'.
Despite being the world's copper powerhouse, Zambia is now one of the world's 25 poorest nations. Though copper provides about 80 per cent of foreign exchange earnings, mining employs just 10 per cent of salaried workers, contributes just 2.2 per cent of revenue to the government's tax agency (ZRA – Zambia Revenue Authority) and 9.7 per cent to GDP (gross domestic product). The drastic increase in price was primarily due to China's increased copper needs, rising to US$10,000 per tonne. The bulk of copper in Zambia is exported to Switzerland – on paper, that is.
Glencore International AG, based in Baar, Switzerland (the world's leading secrecy jurisdiction), controls over 50 per cent of the world's global copper market. In Zambia, the company owns Mopani Copper Mines encompassing mining sites of Mufulira and Nkana, one of the main producers of copper and cobalt in Zambia. MCM, incorporated under Zambian law, is owned by the British Virgin Islands-based company called Carlisa Investments Corporations (73.1 per cent), which itself is owned by the Bermuda-based Glencore Finance Ltd (81.2 per cent), which is a fully owned by Glencore Switzerland. First Quantum constitutes an owner alongside Glencore indirectly via Skyblue Enterprise Incorporated (18.8 per cent), 100 per cent owned by First Quantum Minerals Limited; the company also directly owns 16.9 per cent of MCM. The ZCCM owns 10 per cent.
According to French advocacy attorneys Sherpa, in 2000 Mopani signed a 'development agreement' with the Zambian government obtaining a royalty rate of 0.6 per cent, corporate tax of 25 per cent, exemptions on customs duty and a 'stability period' of 20 years written as a legal clause. Mopani, however, like many others mining copper in Zambia, reports no profits and is therefore able to diminish taxes owed. In 2008, the ZRA contacted two Norwegian accounting firms (Grant Thornton and Econ Poyry) to conduct an audit on mining companies. MCM was amongst the mines. The report included in-depth analysis of documents made available as well as interviews with company executives in 2009.
Sherpa discloses the various means used by MCM to avoid taxation, noted by the firms:
'Overestimates of operating costs:
Comparative analysis reveals that Mopani’s costs are much higher than those of comparable mining companies operating in Zambia. Mopani’s operating costs in 2007 stood at $804.91 million, a full $381.21 million higher than the auditing team’s previsions. No single factor appears capable of justifying such a discrepancy, since Mopani’s activities had gone on normally between 2005 and 200[figure missing], without significant change or development. Production didn’t go up, and actually remained relatively steady.
'Underestimates of production volumes:
Extensive revenue analysis revealed cobalt extraction rates twice inferior to other producers of the same area - a difference deemed unlikely by the auditors and which indicates that some of the ore extracted by Mopani could remain undeclared.
'Transfer pricing manipulation and breach of the Arm’s Length principle:
The company’s production is sold, both locally and internationally, via its main buyer Glencore International AG, who also happens to be Mopani’s parent company. After careful revenue analysis, it appears that the sales from Mopani to Glencore fail to comply with the OECD “Arm’s Length” principle: minerals are sold to Glencore under conditions that would not apply to a third-party buyer… According to the audit, Mopani seems to prefer selling its production to Glencore whenever prices are at their lowest, something a buyer, not a seller, would be likely to do.'
The findings of the report came to light only after it was leaked to the public. In the past, Christian Aid has highlighted the vast difference in pricing between copper exports to Switzerland and the drastically increased price that Switzerland (chiefly via Glencore) receives when exporting almost identical copper products. The group claims that the total value received in 2008 would have been six times higher than it was, adding $11.4 billion to Zambia's GDP which in that year totalled $14.3 billion. Further, the organisation notes that while half of Zambia's copper exports were earmarked for Switzerland (2008) as they left the country's customs, Swiss import data claims it never arrived, prompting Christian Aid to inquire about who actually receives these goods.
This is, of course, a common script for Africa: the bulk of the illicit flight (estimated by Global Financial Integrity at 60 per cent) is often siphoned not by rogue regimes but instead by corporations through 'underpricing, overpricing, misinvoicing and making completely fake transactions, often between subsidiaries of the same multinational company, bank transfers to offshore accounts from high street banks offering offshore accounts, and companies formed offshore to keep property out of the sight of the tax collectors. According to a survey assessing the economic practices of 476 multinational corporations, 80 per cent acknowledge that transfer pricing remains central to their tax strategy. And another study into the largest quoted companies in the Netherlands, France and the UK, notes that 99 per cent of those for which information was uncovered operate through secrecy jurisdictions.
As previously mentioned, tax havens play a considerable role in Africa. The ZCI (involved in the Vedanta case) was Bermudan registered. Vedanta Resources, known as Zambia's largest copper producer (and allegedly largest employer following the government), is majority-owned (53.29 per cent) and controlled by Anil Agarwal and family through a trust (Volcan Investments Ltd incorporated in the Bahamas), which owns the Mauritian-based TwinStar Holding Ltd, as well as four different financial companies operating from the UK's tax haven island of Jersey.
Other mining companies include First Quantum (Kansanshi Holdings Limited, owns the Kansanshi mine, allegedly the world's eight-largest mine. Kansanshi Mining PLC owns 80 per cent; ZCCM owns 20 per cent). Though Kansanshi Mining PLC is incorporated in Zambia, the finance arm (Kansanshi Holdings Ltd – 100 per cent owned) is incorporated in Ireland, another tax haven. Metorex, a copper/cobalt company, owns assets in Zambia as well as neighbouring DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo); the company owns 85 per cent of Chibuluma Mines plc, a subsidiary company, and holds another subsidiary company called Copper Resources Corporation (100 per cent owned) based in the British Virgin Islands, another tax haven.
The audit revealed that Glencore, the purchaser determined the prices that copper from Mopani was to be sold, with some copper sold under an 'old' contract to the LME. While the copper from Mopani was grade + 1, Glencore consistently purchased it at below market value.
Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) are being signed between host/home and 'tax haven' jurisdiction. But these TIEAs require probing authorities to present the identities of people under examination, the information that is sought, the tax purposes for which the data is being sought, proof that the information is held in the jurisdiction etc – all of which legally prevents any 'fishing', and all of which is deliberately concealed by the laws of the secrecy jurisdiction. This was unpacked by the Unilever v. Kenya tax authorities case (Unilever Kenya Ltd v. Commissioners of Income Tax 2003), evidencing that while tax authorities may document mispricing, the lack of mandatory multilateral corporate country-by-country reporting renders transfer mispricing – as articulated in the Mopani scandal, incidents that cannot be proved.
Tax competition, such as the lowering of royalty rates, is often proposed by the IMF and World Bank as the primary means of attracting foreign investment to developing countries. But as global consulting firm McKinsey reveals, ‘Popular incentives such as tax holidays, serve only to detract value from those investments that would likely be made in any case’ (2004).
Bank Watch estimates that Vedanta via KCM remitted just 0.6 per cent of royalties to the government instead of the usual 5–10 per cent developing countries should receive. As such, Vedanta remitted just US$6.1 million from KCM despite the company extracting ore valued at US$1 billion, raking in over US$310 million in 2007 – the equivalent of the Zambian health budget. In addition to the fact that allegedly 50 per cent of taxes remitted to the government were derived from PAYE (pay as you earn), sub-contracted labourers are paid just £37 per month instead of £150 they require for a living wage.
In April 2008, the last year of the five-year commodity boom, when copper hit US$9,000 per tonne, then-Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa exclaimed that Zambia must no longer accept the pennies from copper mines. And though prices increased, Zambia’s revenue actually decreased, by 50 per cent from 1.4 per cent (2003) to 0.7 per cent (2004). The government introduced a 25 per cent windfall tax, raised mineral royalties to 3 per cent and corporate tax to 30 per cent. But soon after, mining houses engaged in intensive lobbying. Current Zambian President Rupiah Banda claims that the windfall tax will not be implemented again. In fact, soon after introduction, it was scrapped. The government has since agreed to a new 10-year tax stabilisation regime. According to an article in the Guardian dated May 2011 (quoting Andreas Missbach, managing director of Berne Declaration, a Swiss-based NGO), Glencore continues to pay just 0.6 per cent in royalties. As Mines Minister Maxwell Mwale stated in December 2008, mining companies asked the government 'to help them survive a commodities downturn' by removing inconvenient and costly taxes.
And yet, after this considerable charity has been provided to the world's richest companies, the question remains: who will help the Zambians?
INCENTIVES FOR MINING
Mining companies have additional incentives as follows:
- Period of carry forward of mining losses has been extended from 5 to 10 years
- Withholding tax on interest, rent, consultancy, royalties and dividends is only 15 per cent
- The restriction of offsetting losses against profits, which is limited to 20 per cent for mines with a common owner, has been removed so that 100 per cent of the losses can be offset
- Duty-free importation of capital equipment and utility vehicles
- Input tax claim for five years on pre-production expenditure for exploration companies in the mining sector
- Zero rate on mining products for export.
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* Khadija Sharife is southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The situation of Africa
Declaration of the Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa (GRILA)
Since the beginning of the year, several major events have occurred in Africa within a particular global context. Africa has long endured unfavourable integration into the global system. Over the last couple of decades, the continent has suffered the ravages of neoliberal austerity measures, the pillaging of its resources and the logic of privatisation of war. Today, more than ever, Africa sits at a crossroads, with the failure of the neoliberal model, the crisis of capitalism and the collapse of the neo-colonial model of growth.
Post-independent states have managed the crisis over the last few decades with a constantly shrinking sovereignty, induced by globalisation. The comprador models of countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Egypt and Burkina Faso, cited below, are in decline and in the grips of wheeler-dealer hucksterism. The local autocracies, emboldened by outrageous enrichment and the reign of arbitrariness and impunity, respond with repression to the legitimate and increasingly desperate demands of their people.
In Tunisia, resistance against the Ben Ali regime over the last 20 years was courageously led by several opposition figures who were forced to work underground, in exile, in destitution and under repression. GRILA supported their efforts. With the Ben Ali regime’s attempts to perpetuate its hold on power, these dissidents worked to sow the seeds of citizen and worker revolt. Mohamed Bouazizi’s sacrifice triggered a popular awakening, particularly among youth who, despite the repression, swept the elite from power. There was an immediate domino effect throughout the Maghreb and Arab Middle East, as protesters set forth their democratic demands and rejected unpopular and illegitimate regimes subservient to the dominant order. Tunisia resuscitated on a continental scale the revolutionary imperative of earlier anti-colonial struggles that were impeded by imperialism.
The challenge now for Tunisia is to concretise these popular aspirations, to conduct an audit of the debt and to recover embezzled funds. Above all, the challenge will be to prevent reactionary or conservative forces, in league with external actors, from impeding or high-jacking the democratic process with arguments around paying down the debt, restoring economic growth, attracting foreign investment, meeting election deadlines, or playing their role in the ‘war on terror’.
In Egypt, popular pressure - symbolised by Tahrir Square - managed, despite brutal repression, to vanquish an autocratic and failing regime that had served as a showcase for neoliberalism under structural adjustment. Its historic nationalist legitimacy had long crumbled and had survived thanks to lifelines thrown to it by imperialism; its strategic importance and the ramifications of racketeering and military and police power; and the integration of conservative Islamist trends in the social realm, despite the rhetoric of security and anti-terrorism.
The old regime’s desire to hold onto power persists, despite efforts toward a popular transition which itself is largely controlled by the military. The struggle against impunity and a more independent judiciary could serve as guarantors of a democratic transition despite the pressures of conservative and extremist forces. The outcome of the constitutional referendum on 19 March and legal proceedings against supporters of the regime have opened a space for revolutionary change. However, the risk remains that this could be compromised by the reactionary fringe (comprador bourgeoisie and affluent peasantry), culturalist challenges and religious tensions.
These political and social upheavals have everywhere kindled new hope for political rights and freedoms, particularly in Algeria, Morocco and Western Sahara. The Libyan Jamahiriya, an atypical country in the sub-region, long resisted the dominant order when it came to issues of sovereignty and, despite its repressive autocratic rule, saw to the social redistribution of its oil wealth. However, the frenzied opening up and liberalisation of the economy over the last decade, under the dictates of anti-terrorism and security, and the control of migrant flows to Europe, brought an abrupt end to this populist experiment and led to a shift toward wheeling and dealing and racketeering within the leadership’s inner circle. While Kadhafi financed a pan-African project - a laudable albeit self-interested undertaking - he neglected certain restive regions in his own country, which took advantage of the regional revolutionary spring to rise up against him. Imperialism instrumentalised these legitimate demands for political freedom, leading to the partition of the country and civil war. France, which had offered its expertise to put down the Tunisian revolution, chose to lead a punitive force against the Libyan regime. Resolution 1973 was based on the imperative to protect civilian populations, yet no serious investigation ever found any evidence to support the claims of widespread abuses. In fact, the resolution was a ploy to allow NATO to overthrow the Jamahiriya regime despite the fact that the UN - which has had an ambiguous agenda in Africa ever since its role in Lumumba’s Congo - forbids intervention in the internal affairs of a country, unless international peace and security are threatened (UN Charter, article 2).
A double standard is clearly at work here. There has never even been any talk of a no-fly zone in order to rescue the millions of civilians who have died over the last decade of pillage and war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Brushing aside the humanitarian smokescreen, what is occurring in Libya today is a dogged attempt by the dominant order to assert its control over Libya’s oil, and to seize over $96-billion in sovereign funds - not Kadhafi’s fortune, but rather money that is held in the Libyan Investment Fund - invested in several European and US multinationals as well as investment and integration projects (including those in Africa totalling $6-billion). Western support for the insurrection led by the National Transitional Council of Libya, which itself has links to foreign intelligence services that have a long history of supporting repressive African regimes, is threatening legitimate popular demands for the democratisation of Libyan society. The insurgents will be indebted to their imperialist sponsors. Given the petroleum lobby’s lust for Libya’s vast oil reserves, pan-Africanists must be alerted to the risks of implosion in this country.
Côte d’Ivoire provides another clear example of the instrumentalisation of the multilateral order. Over the last 20 years, this country has undergone a profound destructuring of its neocolonial and clientelist plantation model through World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs. The inability of the Boigny-Bédié regime to reproduce the model, Guei’s interlude and his instrumentalisation of the concept of Ivoirité, supported during the election of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), opened a Pandora’s box. While the FPI’s model of radical reform sought to break with neo-colonial dependency and the authoritarian liberalism forged by Houphouët Boigny, it fell into the trap of exclusive nationalism with its failure to distance itself from Ivoirité. The supporters of Françafrique, in collusion with Compaoré’s regime in Burkina Faso, used Ivoirité as a pretext to fight the FPI’s radical reform, and embarked on a campaign to destabilise the country in 2002. This prevented Laurent Gbagbo’s regime from implementing its plans to achieve true sovereignty and redistribution. The FPI was forced into cohabitation with the rebels and external economic interests, and subsequently into elections, even though the perpetrators of the violence were never disarmed. The disputed outcome of the election results should have led to a recount or new elections. Instead, the UN took sides in the dispute, while both parties, contrary to electoral and constitutional arrangements, imposed their own leaders as president. Tensions continued to increase, as did abuses committed by both sides. In the midst of this chaos, most of the African comprador regimes aligned themselves according to the wishes of the world order, in favour of Resolution 1975 and the economic strangulation of the country.
The Sudanese case is instructive with respect to the danger of implosion that comes with partition. Well before Darfur made headlines, Sudan was ravaged for more than 20 years by a civil war between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), until the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9 January 2005. However the Naivasha negotiations (in Kenya) where the CPA was signed were preceded by a public mobilisation campaign, particularly in the United States, with support from European civil society organisations. While this takes nothing away from the democratic and virtually unanimous outcome of the referendum among the population of South Sudan, who were legitimately weary and aspiring to another national option, the way in which this conflict and the Darfur conflict have been placed on the international agenda clearly illustrates the instrumentalisation of the Sudanese conflicts by the oil lobby, in concert with American and Zionist evangelical movements. Media coverage, which largely ignored the deeply political nature of the conflicts, has painted a unilateral and simplistic portrait around religious and ethnic issues. Meanwhile, the sabre-rattling in Abyei is cause for deep concern, as are the calls on the so-called ‘international community’ to restore peace. These calls are in stark contrast to the response to the bloody fate of the populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the repeated deferral, since 1994, of the referendum for self-determination in Western Sahara. In Sudan, as elsewhere on the continent, the evidence suggests that the true issue at stake here is the appetite for oil and growing Chinese competition.
The year 2011 has been marked by other events. In Burkina Faso, the comprador regime of Blaise Compaoré, still pursued by the International Justice for Sankara Campaign, was shaken by an unprecedented and broad-based wave of social revolt. For the time being, repression and patronage have managed to snuff out popular pressure. In Chad, the regime held onto power through fraudulent elections, without any critical light being cast on the role of major oil interests. Meanwhile the democratic transition in Niger is cause for optimism, but the French monopoly on the country’s uranium wealth persists. The same challenges exist in Nigeria where a more equitable distribution of oil wealth is still elusive. In Benin, the opposition’s denunciation of fraud continues to fall on deaf ears. The continent is gearing up for a number of contentious elections, in the context of heightened resource extraction and growing productivity, but in the absence of any equitable social redistribution.
The situations described above are just a few of the upheavals that have marked the continent. GRILA:
- calls on the African Union, on this solemn day of 25 May, to cease being a syndicate of heads of state, and to assume its responsibilities and take a clear leadership role on issues of sovereignty and the total liberation of the continent on all of the fundamental issues (resource pillage, land grabbing, liberation of Chagos and Mayotte, referendum in the Western Sahara, effective continental integration, etc.).
- calls on the peoples of Africa and its diaspora to ramp up resistance, both locally and globally, and to unite on the basis of internationalism and pan-Africanism, despite any presumed differences. It calls for an end to xenophobic attacks against Africans from other countries, not only in Côte d’Ivoire, but in South Africa, Libya and many other countries where these attacks are carried out in the context of economic crisis and in the name of nationalistic intolerance. Imperialism fans the flames of these forms of exclusion and it is up to us to bring them to an end.
- condemns the role of the ‘international community’ in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. It demands the withdrawal of imperial forces and their subordinates from our countries.
- denounces the instrumentalisation of multilateral organisations and the role of new forms of hegemonic regulation, such as the G20 and NATO. It supports efforts to democratically reform the UN, the Security Council and the Bretton-Woods institutions.
- denounces the attempts to anchor AFRICOM and private mercenary companies on the African continent and the subordination of our national armies to the large powers, under the false pretext of logistics and training. It demands the dismantlement of US and French bases on the continent (including its Indian Ocean components).
- calls on the forces of the revolutionary process in Tunisia, in the run up to the constituent assembly and elections, to pay careful attention to the cancellation of the odious debt; conduct an audit and ensure the return of illicitly obtained wealth; end impunity by dismantling the repressive structures of the Ministry of the Interior and mafia networks; and be particularly careful to avoid falling under the tutelage of the World Bank and IMF.
- encourages the Egyptian people to show wisdom, to finish the fight against impunity and to prevent conservative religious forces from derailing the revolutionary process. The national army must allow the people and their representatives the latitude they need to complete their revolution.
- demands a ceasefire, the withdrawal of NATO and other mercenaries from Libya and the formation of a government of national salvation, to ensure a transition toward reconstruction and popular democratisation. It recommends that a clear distinction be made between national funds invested overseas and the wealth of the Kadhafi family and regime, which must be the subject of a rigorous audit. It demands transparency and respect for national sovereignty in the management and exploitation of the country’s oil resources. It demands that no foreign bases be built as a result of this conflict.
- demands an end to abuses and revenge in Côte d’Ivoire; the liberation of President Laurent Gbagbo; and the creation of an impartial African commission of inquiry into the abuses committed by all sides. It recommends a government of national unity that reflects the fairly equal balance of forces across the country. It denounces the role of Françafrique as well as the chocolate and oil lobbies in the economic recovery of Côte d’Ivoire.
- demands that African leaders and the African Union undertake, once and for all, a continental integration plan that will replace NEPAD, and a proactive policy to replace Libyan voluntarism, by creating a continental fund to finance all continental projects (continental army, infrastructure investment fund, currency, etc.).
- encourages networking using social and citizen media and recommends greater vigilance with respect to externally imposed slogans designed to control our struggles, or to reorient them to meet ends that are not our own; advocates that sensitive information from popular organisations and citizens circulates as little as possible in order to ensure effectiveness and discretion.
- demands that all forces of goodwill support, by all means necessary, the popular movement in the Maghreb; and draw inspiration from it in order to democratically re-politicise our masses.
- advocates a shift away from a consumerist and alienating worldview that is affecting our youth, to be replaced by relations of solidarity that promote national and pan-African construction on the basis of autocentric, progressive, non-sexist and ecologically sustainable development.
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Tshwane Declaration on Africa Liberation Day
Africa Institute of South Africa
 25 May 2011 marks the 48th anniversary of Africa Liberation Day since the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963.
 The OAU had the mandate to achieve two main goals: to end colonialism and apartheid and to create a strong, free, independent, dignified and united Africa.
 Colonialism and apartheid formally ended in 1994, some 34 years after formal decolonisation took place and many of the current existing states came into being in the 1960s.
 The unity of Africa has remained a big challenge despite the fact that nearly all the states in Africa if asked will concede unity of Africa is important and it should take place.
 But to date the unity of Africa remains elusive and the aspiration by Africans for full dignity and the end of humiliation have not been realised.
 After half a century of African decolonisation, the former colonial powers such as France and Britain have managed to persuade the USA and even African states to pass a UN resolution to intervene militarily in Africa on several occasions. This demonstrates the increasing weakness of African states.
 Whatever the merits or demerits for their intervention, the fact that Africa is in a state of disunity, to be so ignored as to let once more the former colonial powers intervene militarily, compellingly brings home how much the lack of African unity is costing Africa by continuing its historic humiliation. It is important to recognise that the weakness of the African states lies in their artificial borders which ignore the cultural and linguistic characteristics of the peoples of Africa.
 African unity may not make Africa rich quickly, but it will certainly bring the benefits that others will find it difficult to violate African dignity as they have continued to do to this day, based on their authentic reconstitution. A call for Africa unity, therefore, calls for the removal of these artificial boundaries. Cross-border integration that violates the borders others drew for divide and rule thrives in every region of Africa. Though the existing artificial boundaries are violated in the process, in many ways it is more real than the elite driven regional integration schemes that overlap and make the emergence of a genuine African national learning and innovative economy difficult.
 Currently Africa and the African Union are being ignored and former colonial powers do not feel any reason to restrain them to take military action to pursue whatever interests they prefer by using any means necessary.
 It is clear Africa’s problems cannot be solved within the current colonial, neocolonial and post-colonial frameworks in which they are being recreated, enacted and re-played. Colonialism left structures that did not bring an end to the colonial structures which continue to make African economic and social development to remain complicated since the 1960s. The colonial structures left behind have given rise to rent-seeking behaviour by elites who seem unable to develop social economic strategy that can eradicate poverty and increase the well-being of the people. There is a real need to go beyond the post-colonial state framework and bring unity now and not later in the future by firmly putting African unity first through the termination of colonial boundaries.
ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN
 There is a need not only to dwell on problems, but also strive to find solutions in order to accelerate African unity. When solving Africa’s problems, we must excavate the roots and not dwell superficially at the surface.
 The goal of a united Africa dwells where Africans engage first and foremost with each other before they deal with and respond to major challenges coming from elsewhere. This is yet to be achieved.
 Africa must unite now. If not now, when can Africa unite over 125 years after the European scramble for Africa, over 50 years of decolonisation and nearly 20 years of the end of apartheid.
 Unity can start by making sure that all that the 53 states learn to communicate with each other and share decisions that affect Africa, such as the current NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) invasion of Libya. Africa should not be in a position where the AU decides to go for dialogue and a few states that are members of the AU sign up to the UN resolution 1973, which sanctions: ‘to use any means necessary to protect civilians’. Unity means to stand either for dialogue together or for the UN resolution, but not to prevaricate picking one or the other as time goes by.
 The AU must practise and not merely pronounce Pan-African values, including ensuring full participation of the diaspora, defined as Africa’s sixth region. Above all, African leaders who come to power must learn how important it is to do what the first democratic president Nelson Mandela did in South Africa to leave power while ‘there are one or two people that still think well of me’.
 This means that term limits for power transition that the AU proposed should be enforced and those that wish to continue beyond 10 years should not be allowed to enjoy support as if they are building institutions by staying longer when they are in fact undermining the opportunities to create sustainable institutions. Examples of success from South Africa and others must be promoted. 10 years is more than enough for a person to stay in power and have the right to do both wrong or right. If the person cannot do all that is to be done, adding more years is not going to make a difference. In fact it can bring diminishing returns.
 As researchers and activists gathered from all over the world, we wish to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
 In our research, education and training, we need to bring back at the centre the ideal of Pan-Africanism that inspired the liberation of Africans. This is necessary in order to ensure that the 'Africaness' or the African identity of the billion Africans living in Africa and those that have been forced out the continent from the times of slavery and the current difficulties of despotic rules achieve paramount significance in shaping the future of Africans.
 The education systems after decolonisation have not fully developed Pan-African education. It is incumbent upon all those involved in science to develop learning materials at various levels to wean the younger generation with strong Pan-African (from Africa and its diaspora) values, norms and ideals to overcome the pettiness of political tribalism and vernacular divisive blocks to the realisation of the fullest expression of the African identity.
 The education system must recognise indigenous knowledge systems and include them in the curriculum from primary to higher education in Africa. Building knowledge and learning economy in Africa requires harvesting the existing grassroots knowledge processes within the indigenous communities in Africa by identifying, using and applying the existing knowledge that exists within the communities. This requires a willingness to be open by combining indigenous and scientific knowledge, creating a two-way dialogue and communication between them.
 We need to re-define Pan-Africanism for the 21st century and implement a practical building on and improving on the AU sixth region concept as we prepare for the ‘Africa and its diaspora summit’ in 2012 in South Africa.
 We strongly recommend that Africa Liberation Day should be celebrated with both intellectual and popular education and other exhibitions so that Africans can engage with one another, network and build trust and spread the Pan-African logo and message to all sectors of societies by going deep into the places where younger generations live.
 The start of this Africa Liberation Day and the conference should become an annual event and the current partnerships (e.g. AISA, NRF, TUT and other universities, DST etc) should be entrusted to plan ahead by starting now preparing for the second and subsequent annual Africa Liberation Days and conferences to disseminate widely into the communities and townships pan-African knowledge and unity.
 25 May every year has been recognised as Africa Liberation Day. Like the Black History Month, the whole of May must be dedicated by all the African states as Africa Liberation Month, turning the whole month for spreading Pan-African education to find various ways of making Africans engage with other Africans a number one priority.
 South Africa should play a leadership role in promoting the African Renaissance. Its African policy need to be clear and should be the leading advocate of Pan-African unity.
 The African Institute of South Africa and partners should bring together a group of Pan-African thinkers to start work to revisit Pan-Africanism for our time by demonstrating how it can be implemented by all Africans in the 21st century.
 TUT and AISA, with the support of the DST and the NRF, should establish a suite of research chairs to be named for leading pan-Africanists. These chairs will encourage intra-African higher education teaching, training and research cooperative arrangements to foster Pan-Africanism in the 21st century.
 Post-graduate short courses and even master’s degrees, doctoral and post-doctoral research to create a Pan-African research area must be formed.
 Funding for this initiative should be provided by the leading African governments such as South Africa, Nigeria and others, including the African diaspora.
 A strong Pan-African academy should be created with AISA forming a working group to plan and work out how it can be realised.
 There is a need to produce, after a few years’ work, by engaging all sectors of African society to design and craft the African Unity First Manifesto (AUFM) that all Africans must be exposed to. The leadership to provide this must come from South Africa. The AUFM must involve all sectors of society, women, the youth, workers, farmers, communities and other stakeholders from civil society, the private sector, education and governments across Africa and the diaspora.
This Tshwane Declaration from South Africa should be communicated widely to reach all Africans and friends of Africa across the world.
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* This article comprises the draft statement from the African Liberation Day and the ‘Africa in the 21st Century and the Quasquicentennial of the Scramble of Africa Conference’, 25 – 27 May 2011. The text was drafted by Mammo Muchie, edited by AISA, NRF, Dan Nabudere and Kimani Nehusi and approved unanimously by all the scientists and participants from all over the world at the international symposium on 27 May 2011 (http://www.nesglobal.org/symp125/).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Congo and Ghana: Early examples of inter-African co-operation
The recent commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Congo, has touched off a series of reminiscences in my mind, which I’d like to share with those interested in the modern history of our continent.
Ghana’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was an ardent Pan-Africanist who sought to promote African unity and began to work for it just one year after Ghana achieved its independence in March 1957. In 1958, Guinea was left penniless by its coloniser, France, for opting for independence. Guinea had been the only French African colony to vote ‘Non’ in a referendum called by the French president, General Charles de Gaulle, ostensibly to determine which of the French colonies wanted to be independent or continue their association with France.
Guinea exercised its right to opt out of the ‘French Community’, and in revenge, the French packed up and left Guinea with immediate effect. They emptied Guinea's treasury as they left, flew away all their doctors and technicians, vandalised offices of state and even went as far as tearing telephone wires off the walls.
When Nkrumah heard of this, he immediately offered Guinea a ‘loan’ of over £10 million (US$28 million at the exchange rate of those days). Everyone knew it was a gift, as Guinea had no money to repay such a big sum.
On 23 November 1958 Nkrumah and the Guinean president, Sekou Toure, formally announced that Ghana and Guinea were to form a ‘union’. This was in spite of the fact that the two countries were separated by the Ivory Coast, another French colony that had voted in exactly the opposite manner to Guinea, and was more than happy to remain in the pocket of France.
The objective of the Ghana-Guinea union, as envisaged by Nkrumah and Toure at the time, was to demonstrate that culture and distance need not separate African countries politically. Indeed, political union would open the doors to wider co-operation in the economic and social fields.
The practical difficulties that faced the Ghana-Guinea union turned it into a laughing stock for the Western media, especially Time magazine, which imagined a ‘Cabinet meeting’ of the union, at which no minister from English-speaking Ghana would understand a word of what his counterpart from French-speaking Guinea was trying to say! (As if simultaneous translation had never been invented and wasn’t already in use at the United Nations…)
The union was in fact joined by Mali in April 1961. Mali received £5 million (US$14 million) from Ghana on acceding to the union.
When Patrice Lumumba, who had attended the All-African People’s Conference in Accra, Ghana, in December 1958, emerged as prime minister of the Congo in June 1960, Dr Nkrumah was anxious to get him to join the union. On a visit to Accra, Lumumba did sign a secret agreement of union with Dr Nkrumah. But the agreement was not publicised, because the two men were aware that the Western powers had lucrative economic interests in the Congo and would therefore try to bribe the Congolese parliament to oppose a Ghana-Congo union.
But when Lumumba’s army, the Force Publique, mutinied soon after independence, Dr Nkrumah pulled out all the stops to try and help Lumumba restore order. He was clever enough to provide all his assistance to Lumumba under the aegis of the United Nations. He first got the UN to prevail on the British government and the government of Egypt to provide transport planes to ferry more than 2,000 Ghanaian soldiers to the Congo in a matter of days.
Dr Nkrumah also sent policemen, nurses, doctors, engineers, electricians and other artisans to replace Belgian personnel, who had left the country as a result of attacks they had endured during the army mutiny.
Ghana was also quick to open an embassy in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). It obtained Belgium’s co-operation in doing this, by allowing the Belgians to open an embassy in Accra, headed by an ambassador called Gerard Walravena.
Ghana’s first ambassador to the Congo was a businessman, Mr A Y K Djin. He discreetly assisted Lumumba with financial resources at crucial moments. But he was later replaced by a far more flamboyant figure, Nathaniel Azarko Welbeck, propaganda secretary of Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP).
Welbeck had been extremely good at the job of spreading propaganda on behalf of Dr Nkrumah. First of all, he created an excitement around the CPP that other parties could not match. He used what was, in the 1950s, ‘new media’. Instead of gathering people into assembly halls or open grounds, and bombarding them with speech after speech, Welbeck’s outfit made the day it held a ‘rally’ in any locality, an occasion for partying.
The CPP had propaganda vans, mainly Peugeot 203s, each brightly painted in the party colouirs – green, red and white – and each equipped with an ear-splitting public address system. These cars would drive round and round the streets of the town or village where a ‘rally’ was to be held, playing special songs commissioned from the best popular band in the Gold Coast of the time – EK’s Band. The songs were full of catchy encomiums of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, and all the kids and even people who were not politically inclined but liked the music, sang along. The partying had begun.
Welbeck & Co. also invented ‘dramas’ for concert parties to perform at ‘concerts’ on the stage. In one such drama, Welbeck got an actor to dress himself up unmistakably – streak of grey hair and all – like Nkrumah’s most notable opponent, Dr J B Danquah, and represented him as taking a bribe from the British. Some people bought into this infantile libel! Welbeck believed, correctly, in the Goebbels dictum that ‘The greater the lie, the greater the possibility for its belief’.
Once, I saw Welbeck operating, close at hand, when he and Dr Nkrumah came to address a rally at Asiakwa, my home town. I ran away from school in nearby Kyebi to go and attend the rally. Three die-hard anti-Nkrumah guys in Asiakwa prepared some questions and when Dr Nkrumah had finished speaking, they gave the questions to one of their number, who walked up boldly to the podium and gave it to Dr Nkrumah to answer.
Dr Nkrumah politely took the questions from the man's hand, read them and immediately burst out laughing.
‘I have done politics in America,’ Nkrumah said, ‘And I have done politics in Great Britain. But nowhere have I seen such silly politics as this!’ And he tossed the piece of paper over to Welbeck.
Welbeck read the questions and then began to answer them. ‘Ha –’, Welbeck said, ‘listen to this! The people who brought these questions want to know whether Kwame Nkrumah stole anything and was jailed for doing so, when he was a student in America!’ He made sure that his voice fully conveyed the contempt with which he viewed the question.
‘All right,’ said Welbeck, ‘let me also ask them – even if Kwame Nkrumah had stolen anything in America, and I mean “even if” – have you heard that, since he came back home, he has stolen anything from any of us?’
‘NOOOOOOOO!’ the crowd shouted.
‘Ahaaaah!’ Welbeck yelled back.
He went on: ‘They also want to know whether Kwame Nkrumah stowed away to go to America.’
Some in the crowd groaned audibly.
WELBECK: ‘Even if – and remember the big “if” – Kwame Nkrumah did stow away to America, did the ship on which he stowed away belong to anybody from the Gold Coast?’
WELBECK: ‘How many Gold Coasters have enough money to buy a ship? Could he have stowed away on a ship owned by somebody from the Gold Coast?’
‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ roared the crowd.
Welbeck rolled the piece of paper up contemptuously and threw it away. The men had no choice but to beat a quick retreat. They had been disgraced, for the subtext of Welbeck's explanation s had been that these anti-Nkrumah men were preoccupied with things that did not strictly concern us, a people whose wealth had been pilfered for decades by imperialists in America and Britain.
It was this formidable agent provocateur that Dr Nkrumah dispatched to the Congo to replace the sedate businessman, A Y K Djin.
Not long after Welbeck had arrived in Leopoldville, I was working as an editor on the news desk of the Ghana Broadcasting System, when our monitoring section brought me an item from Radio Leopoldville announcing that the Ghana Charge d’Affaires in the Congo, Welbeck, had been ‘expelled’! No one who knew Welbeck's character would have been surprised by that.
Welbeck had been behaving in Leopoldville as if he was unmindful of the ‘diplomatic hat’ he was supposed to wear in his new job. Instead, he went into full propaganda mould, using his eloquence in French to denounce Lumumba’s enemies – especially President Joseph Kasavubu and army chief of staff, Joseph Mobutu – as Belgian stooges. He even allowed himself to appear at a press conference, seated beside Lumumba, interrupting and correcting Lumumba on occasion!
Mobutu didn’t need a copy of the ‘canon of diplomatic practice’ in order to use these lapses on the part of Welbeck as a reason to declare him persona non grata. For good measure, Mobutu produced evidence of speeches Welbeck had been making to Congolese politicians and soldiers, as well as $600 – plus (so Mobutu’s officials alleged) a plan for Lumumba to end Katanga’s mooted secession – which Mobutu claimed Welbeck had been trying to smuggle to Lumumba after Mobutu had placed Lumumba under arrest. In other words, the Ghana charge d'affaires had been engaging in interfering in Congolese affairs to an intolerable degree.
I received the news on 14 November 1960. I realised immediately that it was political dynamite. If I broadcast it, it would cause panic all over Ghana, because Ghana did not only have the thousands of soldiers we had placed under the UN in the Congo, but also the many civilian workers we had dispatched to be of service to the Congolese in their work places. Their relatives back in Ghana would be struck with fear that the Congolese, who were known to be unruly when aroused, might turn on their benefactors and harm them.
So I sent the news, instead, to the office of the president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. I thought his office might not have received the news yet, because we were one of the few institutions that were equipped to receive news direct from Leopoldville.
On receiving the news, Dr Kwame Nkrumah sent for me. I’d never been to his office before – he never dealt with relatively junior people like news editors but the heads of their organisations. So I was nearly thrown into a near-panic. But I remained outwardly calm, as I was convinced I’d done the right thing.
‘Why did you send this news to this place?’ Dr Nkrumah asked me.
I calmly explained to him that because of the lack of good communications between Ghana and the Congo, I thought that maybe the charge d‘affaires had not been able yet to contact him with the news himself.
Dr Nkrumah expressed his disbelief at the news about Welbeck. He said he had been receiving letters from Welbeck assuring him that everything was going on all right! He dismissed me with an impatient wave of the hand and told me, ‘Don’t send such news to this office again. This is not a news agency!’
I did not feel sorry for myself. I had done my patriotic duty by alerting our president to the fact that trouble was brewing in Ghana-Congo relations. If he was treating my effort with contempt, that was his business. I mean, to tell a news editor that your office was not ‘a news agency’! I ask you…
Some days later, after the incident had been driven out of my mind, I was thrilled to bits to hear the BBC and other news sources report that Congolese soldiers had surrounded the Ghana embassy in Leopoldville, and were threatening a shootout with the Tunisian troops guarding the embassy. Against diplomatic practice, they were trying to implement their government’s decision to expel Welbeck! They wanted to arrest him and put him on a plane to Ghana straight away.
For three days, Welbeck refused to come out of the embassy. The Congolese troops opened fire at one stage, whereupon Welbeck went to hide inside a freezer to avoid being killed. During the shooting between the Congolese troops and the Tunisians guarding the Ghana embassy, a Congolese colonel was killed by the Tunisians. This turned the affair into a major international fracas.
When I heard of the bloodshed, my respect for Dr Kwame Nkrumah diminished considerably. If he had been on the same wavelength as myself – an idealistic young patriot who wanted to safeguard Ghana’s interests – he would have acted on the information I had sent to him and he could have withdrawn Welbeck discreetly. But he had disregarded the news because it showed that his policy in the Congo was in tatters. And it was politically inconvenient for him to acknowledge that.
Welbeck was eventually taken out of the embassy and put on a plane back home, personally by the Briton who was then chief of Ghana’s defence staff, Major-General H T Alexander. It was done in the full glare of publicity (Time Magazine made a meal of it.) Yet this was a humiliation which Ghana could easily have avoided.
From then on, Ghana could not influence events in the Congo, and stood helplessly by, as Lumumba was imprisoned and later murdered.
The Congo itself never regained its balance after that first year of independence. Its bad beginning foretold years of endless trouble, most of it caused by Mobutu (who later renamed himself as ‘Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga’). He stole most of the Congo’s wealth and established a corrupt and inefficient kleptocracy that was to last for nearly 40 years.
Mobutu died in 1997 after being driven out of the Congo by forces led by Laurent Kabila. Kabila was himself killed after ruling for a few years, and was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila in January 2001.The optimism and excitement with which we had received news of the Congo’s independence in June 1960, and Ghana's attempt to assist a sister African state harried by the imperialists, have, meanwhile, become a very distant memory. But we know one thing for sure: In those days, some African states did not want to stand by, helplessly, as their people read constantly about strife, rape and economic pillage, in other African states. The African Union (AU) would do well to rediscover the spirit of those days, when Africans knew what was good for their continent, and what was not so good.
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* Cameron Duodu is a writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Reporting Sudan: Domestic repression and distance in exile
Muhammed Osman and Ron Singer
Muhammed Osman is a new member of the corps of journalists who have fled repressive regimes to work from the region’s primary press haven, Nairobi. I was put in touch with him by a friend working in the region for the UN.
Muhammed is an associate editor of The Sudan Tribune, a major news website based in Paris. One highlight of our interviews was his summary of his paper’s coverage of the emergence of South Sudan, which is scheduled on 8 July 2011 to become the world’s newest nation. He also spoke about his life and career, raising issues of ethnicity and racism, and about the history and current state of Sudanese journalism. In the middle of the first interview, we were interrupted by a phone call inviting him to a celebratory dinner for South Sudan that evening.
CHILDHOOD AND CAREER
RON SINGER: Where, in Sudan, are you from?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: The north – born in Omdurman [which is across the Nile from Khartoum]. I grew up in Saudi Arabia, where my father used to work as a translator for the US Navy.
[After some years in Saudi Arabia, his parents separated, and his mother took him back to Sudan.]
MUHAMMED OSMAN: I attended intermediate and secondary school in Omdurman. My father and mother didn’t tell me what was going on, but I sensed something.
RON SINGER: That they were getting divorced?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yah. By then, my father was working for a private company. After one year of secondary school, we went back to Saudi Arabia, where I did the last two years of secondary school. It was really terrible.
RON SINGER: What was terrible?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Everything. The society. Even back in my days, especially the education. When I was eight, I still remember, before Eid, the Islamic holiday where they slaughter the sheep, they called for a meeting of our parents. The religious teacher told our parents that the next day we should take our children to the slaughterhouse to see how sheep are slaughtered so that, when they grow up, they know how to slaughter Christians and Jews.
RON SINGER: Was that a school with Saudi students, also?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes. And they wonder where terrorism comes from. Not from Afghanistan, from Saudi Arabia. Textbooks taught us that we shouldn’t tolerate other people. They should be slain, shouldn’t live in this world. In Sudan, they don’t teach you stuff like that. The war on terror should be fought where it comes from.
RON SINGER: So you finished school there. Did being from Sudan matter?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes, I was subjected to some … racism from fellow-students. These people are very racist. They kept calling me a nigger. Once, I came back to my room to find my desk full of faeces. I went and complained to the religious teacher, and he promised to do something about it, but he didn’t.
RON SINGER: Any idea why not?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: I think he was genuinely unhappy, but he couldn’t do anything to rich Saudi students. To some extent, I was glad when the truth between my mother and father … when it ended again.
RON SINGER: Oh, God, again! How old were you?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Seventeen. I was happy to go back to Sudan. Although, at first, I had not liked Sudan, I had grown accustomed to it. I had made friends.
RON SINGER: And nobody called you names.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yah. But, unfortunately, people call other people names. But that’s why I make sure I stand up to racism wherever I find it.
RON SINGER: To which ethnic group do you belong?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Me? I belong to the same people who ruined everything, the Jaliya tribe, the one from which Bashir comes.
RON SINGER: Is there some pressure to keep group solidarity?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Of course. People will say, ‘How come you are betraying your own kind?’ I’m not ‘betraying my own kind.’ Racism is racism… So I went back to Sudan, to university.
RON SINGER: Did you like university?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: I wasn’t there long enough to like it or not. I just took the classes, I didn’t know people. In 2000, I saved enough to go to university without working. This is where I began to develop some interest in politics, to become politically active.
RON SINGER: Which university?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Nileean University. It had been Egyptian… Everyone in Sudan does military service, but I was excused from full military because of my physical condition – I was asthmatic. Instead, I worked as a doorkeeper at the Ministry of Culture for a year. Imagine spending your life watching the door!
RON SINGER: So you were a journalist in Sudan before you came here?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes. I graduated from university in 2004. I worked for two years for a British charity in Sudan, in education. Then, I drifted into journalism in 2007. I’ve always been interested in news, media. So I started working for a local newspaper, Al Ahdath [confiscated by Sudanese security forces in 2008]. After a year, I worked for an English newspaper called The Juba Post [the first independent newspaper in South Sudan]. Then I got a job with BBC, monitoring local news, radio.
RON SINGER: What was the job, exactly?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: I read all the local papers for them. It was a good job, I learned a lot, worked with very professional people. I did that for four years while I was also freelancing with other newspapers. Then I got offered the Sudan Tribune job. I was unable to work in Khartoum, since Sudan Tribune is not welcome there, because they consider our reporters to be hostile to the government.
RON SINGER: Who offered you the job?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: The head of the Sudan Tribune, this guy in Paris.
RON SINGER: Do you know him?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes, we met in Khartoum, we had a conversation. Then, he called me and said, ‘I want you to work for me.’
REPORTING FROM AND ABOUT SUDAN
RON SINGER: What do you report on?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Things they don’t allow the local press to report on. Because we are not based in Sudan, they can’t censor us.
RON SINGER: What about foreign reporters operating in Sudan?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: They are relatively free. But they are also very cautious. Sometimes, they have to tip toe to avoid getting in trouble. Two years ago, two foreign journalists were expelled. For the government, their presence is good, as long as they don’t report any anti-government activities. The government doesn’t really worry about them, because they write in English.
RON SINGER: If they write in English and people read them in other countries, the government can say, ‘See how open we are!’ – same as in Ethiopia.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes, exactly. English has a narrow readership in Sudan. The government don’t want people to read the truth. Sudan Tribune has been reporting in English since 2006. But, recently, we launched an Arabic website.
RON SINGER: Were you harassed by the government while you were still in Sudan??
MUHAMMED OSMAN: No. I kept a very low profile, I didn’t do a lot of public reporting. I did a lot when I went outside the country. I didn’t apply [for a permit]; I just went to some neighbouring countries. I went to Ethiopia first. I liked Ethiopia, I still think about it a lot. The good thing about my work is that I have the freedom to work from anywhere I like, wherever I have my internet, my laptop. I thought I’d do a year in every country. Maybe, next time in Kigali [capital of Rwanda], then in Ethiopia.
RON SINGER: So, when you left Sudan, did you come directly to Nairobi?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes.
RON SINGER: When, exactly?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: About three months ago.
RON SINGER: Are you now pretty well established here?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Not yet. Just last month, I obtained my journalist’s card here.
RON SINGER: How do you work from here?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Most of my work is related to Sudan. So I phone people, I send emails. I’m an editor. I edit stories by other reporters. Sometimes, their English is not very good. So you have to clean it up, add a few details. Sometimes, I do reporting, whenever it’s possible.
RON SINGER: What kind of stories can you report on, long-distance?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Whatever happens, because I still keep many contacts in different parts of Sudan. I haven’t severed my connections.
RON SINGER: But will you be able to do that over time?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: That’s the question. But the thing is, we have a network of contacts. It’s not only me working, I have two other editors. We’re very confidential, which is one of the reasons people trust us. We make sure we’re very accurate and that we don’t endanger people. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep these contacts for long, but I hope so, because these are people I know, my friends.
RON SINGER: I don’t know. In my culture, if someone is a good friend, but you haven’t seen him for 10 years …
MUHAMMED OSMAN: First of all, I believe people are the same. Across different oceans, people are the same.
RON SINGER: But that’s a half-truth. We’re all people, and we’re all from our cultures.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes, but I have friends from other cultures, from your culture, and I can tell they are there, they are going to be there, always. There are also people I know from my own culture, who I know will not be around for long. It depends on the individual.
RON SINGER: Are things intercepted?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: No. Usually, I go for people I trust.
RON SINGER: They don’t listen in?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: They do, sometimes. But not to everyone. I know who they might listen in to.
RON SINGER: That’s a big thing in Ethiopia.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: I know. The amount I had to do to get a sim card there!
RON SINGER: The same with me. I wound up borrowing one from a friend of a friend.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: They only have one company, state controlled. In the US there’s competition, free market. A free market means a freer communication environment. It’s very strict in Ethiopia, compared to Sudan. In this regard, Sudan is much better…
Personally, my view … on [Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al] Bashir’s indictment by the ICC [International Criminal Court] for war crimes, etc. in Darfur...
RON SINGER: On the record?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: [He sighs.] Yes, on the record. I should tell you that I have no intention of going back to Sudan again.
RON SINGER: Unless the government changes?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes. But I don’t see myself going back anytime soon. So … enough of being afraid. The arrest warrant was a really big thing. I personally believe that African leaders need to be held accountable. You can’t launch a counter-insurgency campaign that kills hundreds of thousands, displaces so many, causes so much misery, and expect to get away with it.
Inside Sudan, this is a taboo issue – you don’t get to report it. I worked for a local newspaper when the indictment was handed down [in July 2008]. Since 1997, the government has imposed what we call pre-printing censorship. Agents of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services visit newspapers at night and delete any articles, columns, that are deemed anti-government or reporting on controversial issues.
This is one of the reasons I quit my job at that newspaper. It was so frustrating to spend so much effort, so much time – even a week – and then comes this security agent who’s not even educated, and says, ‘No, it’s not possible.’ So I decided, I’d rather work free or not work at all.
RON SINGER: You’ve been covering Bashir’s indictment?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: We’ve had a few interviews with the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo – an Argentinian. [e.g. www.sudantribune.com/INTERVIEW-ICC-prosecutor-may-open,37210 - Cached]
RON SINGER: Let’s suppose Bashir does get tried and convicted. What would that mean to the country?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Personally, I don’t think it would cause any radical change. Bashir is only a person, an individual, and this government is not really surviving on people. It’s a system, and the system is not going to change if he goes. It will be a big thing, but it will not be enough to bring about radical change.
RON SINGER: Tell me more about the history of the press in Sudan.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: The government controls the media, especially radio and television. Newspapers have relative freedom. There were times when we had more, but we deteriorated.
RON SINGER: When?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: July 2008. The Sudanese government made an attempt to topple the government of Chad by arming rebel groups. The government was thinking that was the only way to stabilise Darfur [whose people had been] supported by Chad’s president. Those Chadian rebels made it all the way from the Sudanese borders to N’Djamena, the capital, to the presidential palace. Then, France intervened, and the rebels suffered in-fighting. So when Sudanese journalists started objecting…
RON SINGER: You, included?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: No, at that time, I couldn’t write that. But a few journalists questioned the government’s right to spend all this money to overthrow the ruler of another country. They asked what we gained from this. So the government started to silence the press.
RON SINGER: Those journalists were also presumably against what was happening in Darfur.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes, a lot of them.
RON SINGER: So it wasn’t just the money.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: I personally think that policy was never going to help the Darfur situation. Even Déby, the president now, was bought by Sudan, and look what happened: he turned against them. Once you bring someone to power and topple someone else, that person will be very suspicious of you.
RON SINGER: Plus he has to deal with all the displaced persons, a big economic issue.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes. Ever since that point, we’ve had the pre-printing censorship system. A lot of people quit journalism over that.
RON SINGER: Did you do stories on the referendum?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes.
RON SINGER: Did your paper have a line they took, a view of what was going on?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: We intensified our coverage of the south in the run-up to the referendum. Also, the north. Of course, for us, as for anyone who was following Sudan, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. My opinion was that we shouldn’t invest our forces in covering the election, since it was a foregone conclusion. What we need to focus on is the aftermath.
RON SINGER: There are also trouble spots.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Exactly, flash points. We focused our reporting on the Abyei area. [e.g. http://www.sudantribune.com/South-Sudan-reports-mass,39035]
RON SINGER: Excuse my ignorance, but is that the disputed area?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Exactly.
RON SINGER: Because that’s where the oil is?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: No, not the oil. That’s a common mistake in journalistic shorthand. The area produces less than 1 per cent of Sudan’s annual output. The major reason behind the dispute is because Abyei is an area of tribal overlapping.
RON SINGER: So the Khartoum government wasn’t trying to keep the South from seceding to save the oil.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Not over Abyei. Actually, they coveted the oil in the south, most of Sudan’s oil is from the south. But Abyei is sensitive because there are tribes from north and South Sudan. Because the borders are not demarcated, it increases the volatility of the area.
RON SINGER: So what happens now? The north is going to have to buy the oil from the south like anybody else?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: No, what’s happening is, the oil is in the south, but the infrastructure, the pipelines, are all in the North. The south’s government has no way of exporting its oil at the moment. South Sudan is landlocked. They have the option of building a pipeline through Lamu, in northern Kenya, on the Indian Ocean.
RON SINGER: Is that the closest way?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes. But the option of constructing a pipeline to Lamu is less economically viable. It would take ages to do it.
RON SINGER: And meanwhile…
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Meanwhile, the economy is completely dependent on oil. What they’re doing now is working out an agreement to use the infrastructure in the north, and the north will get something out of it. Not as much as it is currently getting, which is 50–50. They will process the crude and take it to the export terminals, also in the north. We don’t have the details yet.
RON SINGER: It’s in both sides’ interest to have such an agreement?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes. Forty-five per cent of the north’s budget is dependent on oil. The oil has turned from a curse into a blessing.
RON SINGER: A basis for cooperation.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Exactly, that’s the case now. That’s the reason they averted a return to war. Both sides knew very well that war would be very costly and that they can’t afford to go to war.
RON SINGER: And they know what it’s like.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Exactly. You don’t benefit from that. In the north, there’s indifference to the south’s secession. Many say, ‘Good riddance!’ Their own [the north’s] government is weak, and they blame it. We focus on the south because this is where people are excited. We are focusing on the ongoing post-referendum talks to see how they resolve the contentious issues, like Abyei, refugees, currency, especially the economic stuff.
RON SINGER: What about the factions in South Sudan? Will they be able to form a viable coalition?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes, yes. Some people in the north, especially the government, are saying that Southerners are not going to be able to run their own state because of the ethnicity. Like Sudan, itself, because, to be honest, they weren’t successful, either. There’s a little bit of hypocrisy there. The country’s falling apart, actually. The root cause of all Sudan’s problems is the concentration of power in certain areas and in the hands of certain people, the main ethnic groups in north Sudan. They dominate wealth, power, even culture. They define this country as an Arab-Islamic country. The reality is that there are people who are not Arabs, who are not Muslims. Sudan is a diverse country, and now we have lost this country because we lost an important part of that diversity – people from the south. Because we mistreated, excluded people who do not fit the definition of the country as Arabs…
RON SINGER: It’s like the US preaching about fair elections after what happened to Al Gore.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes. The last few days, there were a few disturbing incidents in the south, clashes of ethnic groups. A minister in the new government has been assassinated. This is giving some South Sudan detractors an opportunity. It is too early to judge South Sudan.
RON SINGER: Ethiopia probably hopes it will succeed.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: It is in everyone’s interest that the south becomes viable.
RON SINGER: The US too.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Exactly. Nobody needs another Somalia.
RON SINGER: We need all the stable, hopefully democratic, countries in the region we can get.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Well, it doesn’t even have to be democratic. Stable.
RON SINGER: If it’s stable, we’ll call it ‘democratic’. Does your paper talk about the political future of South Sudan?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: We do write analysis.
RON SINGER: So when you write, say, an editorial on South Sudan, do you write in a way to try to encourage them? A basic question: advocacy versus objectivity.
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes. We don’t actually write editorials. I write analysis: I display facts and draw conclusions.
RON SINGER: If the conclusions would hurt the stability of South Sudan, would you still draw them?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes, I would. It doesn’t matter to me, the stability – if it pisses off some people. I would just speak my mind.
RON SINGER: Isn’t the idea that, in the long run, you can’t have stability based on lies?
MUHAMMED OSMAN: Yes. Exactly. You need to tell people what to expect, this is most important to all journalism.
The practice of journalism under repressive regimes raises the question of neutrality (which is not the same as ‘balance’) versus advocacy. As he said, Muhammed Osman’s position is to lets the chips fall where they may. Obviously, this is only one of several possible positions.
Muhammed’s affection for Ethiopia calls attention to the hierarchy of repressive regimes in the Horn of Africa. In my own opinion, Sudan and Ethiopia are neck-and-neck, both of them trailing Somalia and Eritrea.
Since he had left Sudan for Nairobi only three months before these interviews took place, Muhammed had yet to run up against the problem faced by many journalists in exile from repressive regimes: as their sources dry up, they become increasingly unable to report news, so they turn increasingly to analysis. This might not be so bad if there were other sources of hard news from these countries. Of course, analysis has its own uses, notably sorting out the mass of disinformation and confusion spawned by media suppression in repressive nations.
‘Sudanese journalists faced a familiar, toxic combination of censorship, legalistic harassment, and intimidation … Self-censorship was widespread among Sudan's beleaguered press, while security agents regularly prevented coverage of topics deemed sensitive, including Darfur, the International Criminal Court (ICC), human rights issues, official corruption, secessionism, and state censorship itself.’
CPJ, ‘Attacks on the Press 2010: Sudan,’ 10 December 2010, www.cpj.org/mideast/sudan/
In recent months, dramatic developments have begun to test Muhammed’s optimism about the future of South Sudan and its relations with Sudan. On 23 May 2011, owing in part to power struggles within the ruling party, the northern army occupied Abyei. A week later, after the south appeared to accept this incursion, northern forces threatened two further border areas, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Like Abyei, both of these areas have long been contentious, but, unlike Abyei, Southern Kordofan is bristling with former liberation fighters. Since there is no easy way for them to flee south, and since they would be loth to surrender to the northern army, renewed fighting seems possible. To make matters even worse, in recent months, internal ethnic and factional violence has broken out in several parts of South Sudan. Whether these developments will undermine the bases for ultimately amicable relations between the two nations remains to be seen.
(Jeffrey Gettleman and Josh Kron, 'Sudan threatens to occupy 2 more regions in dispute with south,' The New York Times, Monday 30 March 2011, pp. A4 & A6; Muhammed Osman, 'North Sudan’s ruling party risks implosion as internal rifts come into view,' Sudan Tribune, 25 April 2011; and “South Sudan army clashes with rebel group, over 100 dead,” Sudan Tribune, 9 March 2011)
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* These two interviews – conducted on 11 and 23 February 2011 – with Muhammed Osman will be incorporated into a chapter about the press in countries in and around the Horn of Africa in Ron Singer’s book, ‘Uhuru Revisited’ (Africa World Press/Red Sea Press).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Africa: Election triumph for ANC, despite inequality
Outside of death and taxes there are few things in life as certain as the outcome of an election in South Africa with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) on the ballot paper – as democratic South Africa’s third round of local government elections, held on 18 May, again confirmed.
Ahead of the vote there had been much speculation about a massive protest vote or abstentions, but the ANC’s 63.7 per cent of votes almost matched the 65 per cent it had netted in the 2006 local government election. And more voters turned out than for any previous local government poll.
The ANC still controls the vast majority of cities, towns and villages in the rest of the country – including in KwaZulu-Natal, where it trounced its long-time foe, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and the latter’s splinter party, the National Freedom Party (NFP). (The ANC’s 57 per cent of votes in that province eclipsed the 28 per cent captured by the IFP and NFP together.)
The centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) made its strongest showing yet, attracting 22 per cent of total votes cast and beating the ANC across most of the Western Cape province. It is attracting a trickle of support from black South Africans, but it is yet to shed its image as a political refuge for nervous, disaffected minorities.
Spot lit again is the question, How does a political party that presides over one of the most unequal societies in the world, where one third of workers are jobless, and close to half the citizens live in poverty, triumph so emphatically in election after election?
In national elections, the last time the ANC won less than 66 per cent of votes cast was in 1994, when it netted 63 per cent. In 1999, it captured 66 per cent of votes, in 2004 it got almost 70 per cent, and in 2009 it won 66 per cent (and that was mere months after the split that spawned the breakaway Congress of the People party).
It’s at local government level that citizens’ woes and discontent seem most easily translatable into protest votes aimed, at a minimum, to ‘send a message’.
Many dozens of community protests every year attest to widespread disgruntlement at the performance of the state, and at the indifferent conduct of many local politicians and officials. These protests are symptomatic of the troubled domain of the local state, and of the intense contests for power, resources and entitlements being waged there.
Financially hamstrung, local councils’ stock of experience, management capacity and warm bodies is hardly bountiful. Management skills are often lacking, and poor political and managerial leadership are common problems. Infrastructure and services are introduced unevenly and at fitful pace, which magnifies the often-merited impression of favouritism and a stinging sense of unfairness.
When polled in late 2010 for the Independent Electoral Commission, only 38 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with their local government – down from 55 per cent six years earlier. Slightly more than a quarter of respondents said they even trusted politicians.
Yet, consider Mpumalanga, a province that periodically convulsed with community protests in recent years. In the May 18 election, 78 per cent of voters picked ANC candidates and more than 500 000 more voters turned out for the party than had in 2006.
These sorts of phenomena tend to flummox analysts.
Part of the explanation lies in the fact that things have changed since 1994.
Access to schooling and healthcare, and provision of water, sanitation and electricity has broadened for black South Africans, even though very many households struggle (and fail) to afford those services. A smaller share of South Africans now goes hungry compared with 15 years ago.
And South Africa’s social protection system now benefits some 14 million people; a large proportion of low-income households would probably be unviable without these grants and pensions.
Such gains are tempered by other factors – not least punishing levels of joblessness, the AIDS and tuberculosis epidemics that kill upwards of 200,000 South Africans each year, and the stringent cost-cutting and cost-recovery policies that ration access to basic services in poor communities.
Those are the kinds of paradoxes that especially provoke rancour: There is change, but it’s not seen to be quick, fair or democratic enough.
Much as this exasperates, it does not yet spark outright rejection of the ANC.
Instead it seemed to encourage a drift away from electoral politics; decreasing numbers of voters having been turning up at the polls. The percentage of eligible voters who voted for the ANC shrank from 54 per cent in 1994 to 39 per cent in 2004.
But in the 2009 national poll, the decline in voter turnout reversed. And last week, it did so again. Voter turnout rose to 57.5 per cent (up from 48.4 per cent in 2006), and a million of them were voters who had not been registered in 2006. So apathy doesn’t explain the ANC’s winning streak.
In last week’s election, the ANC actually netted more votes in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape than it had in the previous local government poll, in 2006.
The fanfare about the opposition DA’s gains ignores the fact that they occurred mainly in two provinces, Gauteng and the Western Cape. Elsewhere it made marginal inroads, if any.
The typical explanation is that voters lack a credible alternative. But that argument neglects the complex bonds that exist between the ANC and its supporters. Those relationships are not binary (on/off, for/against); they are shaded, they shift over time, and they can lead to ‘contradictory’ actions.
In one respect, the ANC’s electoral supremacy is an index of its knack at preserving its stature and appeal, even in inauspicious circumstances. It does this primarily by positioning itself credibly within a narrative of struggle, liberation and deliverance, a narrative that spans generations.
Supporters know the ANC in several incarnations. One is that of an abstraction, where the ANC represents a repository of ideals, values, and a distillation of a history of struggle. This is embodied in an organisational entity, and it is entrusted to the custodianship of its leaders and officials. Think of it as the ‘metaphysical’ dimension of the ANC.
The mystical overtones are obvious, with secular structures and activities operating in service of virtually ‘sacred’ ideals. It is in this sense that the ANC is seen to transcend the individuals that constitute it.
A community protest does not automatically imply condemnation of the ‘metaphysical’ entity – the idea of the ANC – or even of its leaders. Rather, it can be an appeal for intervention to uphold those values and ideals, and call to order individuals and structures that are seen to be desecrating the organisation and its history.
When Jacob Zuma told supporters in Cape Town in 2008 that the ANC would rule until ‘Jesus comes back’ he was not only hyperbolising; he was tapping into the mystique of an organisation that is invested with millenarian duties.
Often a central demand of protestors is for the President to meet with the community and hear their grievances first-hand. The assumption is that the ANC leadership, once alerted to the facts, will call the transgressors to book, and act promptly and fairly.
Paradoxically, a protest can also be a backhanded vote of confidence in the organisation – as long as the organisation takes up the grievances, and acts to resolve them.
It is in that respect that the ANC has become increasingly vulnerable. Its capacity to serve the public with consistency and to address the causes of discontent – even its inclination to do so – is taking severe strain.
And it’s highlighting the increasing dissonance between the ‘idea’ of the ANC and its secular reality.
This week’s outcome presents the ANC with little more than temporary respite. Disgruntlement and community protests will continue, and the party’s authority will be tested, not least by its own supporters.
These are not mere teething problems. They are anchored in deeper economic and social crises that date back to the 1970s, and which the ANC government has not been able to resolve.
The party has worked to improve the lives of the black majority, yet close to half the population lives in poverty, jobs are scarce, the country is more unequal than ever, and insecurity is rife.
More jobs are vital, but even the most hopeful pledges envisage 15 per cent unemployment in 2020 – and that’s if one counts beggars, parking attendants and buskers as ‘employed’ (as the official unemployment statistics do). Ignore such generous tallying and the current unemployment rate stands at 35 per cent.
Meanwhile, the ANC has come to host a more disparate assortment of interests, ideologies and ideals than ever.
The organisation itself (via its investment arms) and significant proportions of its leaders and office bearers are entangled in profit-making business ventures. Powerful sections of the ANC have developed a reflexive sympathy for policies that put the market ahead of society.
This places a huge premium on retaining power – not for any single goal, but in order to facilitate the pursuit of disparate objectives and ambitions.
These realities – the deprivation amidst abundance and the rampant sense of unfairness this stokes – will keep generating insubordination, and eventually will spark instability. With the scope for material change seemingly cramped, others ways of bolstering authority and building consent have to be found.
One tried and trusted way of defusing uproar is to affirm and valorise bonds that can muffle discord, or channel it in diversionary, more manageable directions.
The bonding and disciplinary force of African nationalism remains the cardinal ideological turnkey of South Africa’s transition. The versions of nationalism deployed until now have been largely embracing, and mostly undemanding.
But exclusionary interpretations of belonging, entitlement and rights might soon prove to be politically rewarding – even, or perhaps especially, in a society that was split asunder by apartheid.
More profane and resonant varieties are available – ones inflected with racial and ethnic chauvinism, for example, or with narrow, exacting interpretations of culture and tradition.
There is a real danger of recourse to rousing affirmations of identity and entitlement, and to populist discourses of authenticity – who is ‘really’ South African, African or black, what is a man, and where do women fit into all this.
Antipathy toward the ‘alien luxuries’ of liberal constitutionalism might gain support; indeed, heartfelt misgivings about ‘hollow rights’ and a ‘paper Constitution’ already circulate.
Left unchallenged, this might well develop into a form of populist nationalism.
Some in the ANC seem willing to risk such an experiment, in which social conservatism can be combined with licence for acquisitiveness and immoderation, with targeted largesse serving as lubricant.
Some recognise in the lurid spectacle of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema the prototype of such a ‘project’.
The outcomes are difficult to predict. No doubt such moves will be hotly contested, from both inside and outside the ANC. But it would be foolish to assume a progressive outcome.
Too many coarse tendencies and brazen interests now rub shoulders with power.
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* © Hein Marais
* This article was originally published by the Royal African Society.
* Writer and political analyst Hein Marais’ new book ‘South Africa Pushed To The Limit: The Political Economy Of Change’ (UCT Press and Zed Books) has been praised as ‘an extraordinary achievement’ and ‘by far the best overview of political, economic and social change in post-apartheid South Africa’. Gillian Hart, Professor of Geography and Chair of Development Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, calls it ‘essential reading for anyone trying to understand one of the great social experiments of our time’, while John Sender, Emeritus Professor of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, deems it ‘by a considerable margin, the best book yet on the political economy of South Africa’.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The struggles of Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa
‘It’s dangerous out there.’
In the April issue of The Africa Report, we investigated how Zimbabwean casual workers, excluded from applying for residency via the official channels, were resorting to ‘purchasing’ South African identities through ‘late registration’ birth certificates arranged through intermediaries. With the moratorium on deportations now over, many Zimbabweans fear being sent back to the economic hardship they fled. We now look deeper into the desperation and dangers faced by these immigrants in their bid to seek work in South Africa.
According to one source, as the majority of Zimbabwean immigrants do not hold official travel documents and cannot use asylum permits, money is placed aside for informal purposes, in other words ‘bribing immigration officials and police on the way’. The source claimed that bribery figures escalate when bus drivers are also go-betweens in the market, charging a fee.
Interviewees claimed they traversed borders either through expensive organised syndicates, or via illegal routes, where robbery and rape was common. ‘On many occasions, even before reaching the border, buses are stopped by the police and everyone is asked to produce a passport. Those who do not have would have to pay the requisite bribes,’ claimed the source.
Of course, while the influx of Zimbabwean migrants hoping to find work as manual labourers and domestic workers has depreciated the cost of labour in South Africa, many of these immigrants are socio-economic refugees, anxious to source income for their family’s basic needs. As a former school teacher stated, ‘By the time I left Zimbabwe, my monthly salary could not buy two litres of cooking oil. I had to leave rather than face the possibility of becoming destitute.’
My source informed me that large numbers of male Zimbabwean immigrants go to major roads and other high-density pick-up points, hoping to be hired as casual workers, rushing to the cars of interested employers that slow down. ‘Who gets hired depends on the kind of work there is. For example, if the work is heavy, those who are stronger stand a better chance,’ he said.
Trusted workers on farms, construction and other projects are often asked to bring their friends to prospective employers. The wage for a single day is estimated at R80-R120 ($12-$18), though targets are sometimes proposed and agreed upon. Other forms of employment include waiting tables in cafes and restaurants, where average pay is R100 per day plus tips from clients. Many of the more educated and well spoken Zimbabweans opt for this type of employment in Durban as well as Cape Town, if they can obtain it. Road hawkers sell pirated CDs. Domestics are most often women, earning between R80 and R130 per day, while males work as cleaners and gardeners for a similar wage. The influx of immigrants, however, means that jobs are hard to come by and wages cannot be negotiated upward.
While many South Africans, particularly those in the low-income groups, expressed sympathy to me about the predicament of Zimbabweans and the pogroms that infamously symbolise xenophobia against the makwerekwere (used by interviewees to describe foreigners in a derogatory sense), xenophobia and racism is nevertheless frequently expressed: ‘See that one,’ I was informed by one vendor pointing at a DRC car guard, ‘he is no better than a monkey, an animal.’ However, set against the backdrop of South Africa’s violent, veiled and subconscious resistance to the framework of the political economy, xenophobia is undoubtedly a desperate and ruthless reaction to socio-economic stresses.
As one former government official informed me, ‘The situation in squatter camps and townships - it is like a tinderbox - anything could set it off. People are desperate.’ But even though xenophobia is clear to see in the ‘event’ of the pogroms - nameless, faceless immigrants, murdered, burnt, beaten and driven out by enraged masses, it also lurks beneath the reality of daily life for the ‘rightless’, penetrating and informing every choice, claim and opportunity.
Take the exploitation of immigrants by landlords. According to sources, most immigrants in Khayelitsha’s ‘Harare’ and Kraaifontein’s Wallacedene are forced to live in trying and dangerous conditions, most often in corrugated iron shacks - roasting in summer, and freezing in winter.
‘The most common form of accommodation in these areas is shacks (wood or tin) that are filthy, crowded and very uncomfortable,’ said Tyanai Masiya, a Zimbabwean civil society activist based in Cape Town. ‘Since most are either unemployed, temporarily employed and underpaid, living in small crowded shacks becomes the only option. These shacks, made up of old and rusty zinc and rotten boards picked up at the dump sites, are the worst kinds of shelter for human beings,’ he said.
Immigrants unable to meet lease requirements - such as legal status, stable employment and funding for deposits - may pay as much as R350-R400 per room monthly for accommodation costing South African citizens R150. Where immigrants cannot finance the cost, they are allowed four to a shack room at R150 - R200 per head.
‘For an average normal room (on a properly constructed and approved house), Zimbabweans are paying between R600 and R1200 per person per room while locals are paying R150-R300 per person per room,’ said the source.
Immigrants were not aware of any legal or other recourse and feel helpless as they are subject to evictions and drastic rent increases without notice. ‘I am trapped,’ said one car guard in South Beach, Durban. ‘There is nobody I can appeal too.’
According to multiple sources, immigrants in the Kraaifontein area have been repeatedly robbed and stabbed, primarily by males between 15 and 35 years old. ‘These people do not give you time to surrender what you have, they just pounce on you and begin to stab you all over. It is up to you to ask for forgiveness and pledge to give them all you have. If they feel that you want to resist they can easily stab you to death even in broad daylight. It’s dangerous out here,’ said one interviewee.
The sources claimed that language, dress code and physical features were used to identify immigrants. ‘When the robbers are not very certain if one is an immigrant, they get one into a dialogue, for example, through just greeting him/her. From the response they can detect if one is an immigrant. Those who are fluent in local languages such as Xhosa sometimes mistakenly get spared,’ he said.
Immigrants were presumed to wear loose clothing, with Zimbabweans perceived as ‘being neat’, and tucking in their shirts. Attacks, I was informed, are often in broad daylight - observed and witnessed by people on the streets and within homes. Lack of intervention, the sources claimed, was chiefly because people feared a) they would be seen as allies of immigrants, b) the attackers would turn on them, c) few wanted to get involved for several other reasons. While interviewees claimed that at least 40 per cent of attacked immigrants had to seek medical attention, and that the perpetrators were known, often operating along the same routes, the police were allegedly reluctant to search for the attackers. According to one interviewee, ‘I suspect that these police get bribes from the robbers. Even if you tell them (the police) that you have seen your attackers somewhere, they will not go there. Yet you have taken a risk to go and report, because some who are seen reporting to the police are attacked again for reporting.’
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* This article was first published in The Africa Report. Field work for this article was made possible by the funding and support of the Centre for Civil Society, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
* Khadija Sharife is southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Summer University of Palestine: A new Middle East
People power, democracy and Palestine
Viva Palestina Arabia is organising a seven-day summer university in Beirut, Lebabon, at the end of July with internationally known academics, writers, political figures and activists to discuss the unfolding revolutionary events in the Middle East and what they mean for Palestine and the international solidarity movement.
A message from George Galloway:
"Viva Palestina Arabia gathered together academics, politicians and activists last year in the Bekaa Valley in our first Summer University of Palestine to discuss and coordinate the struggle for Palestinian rights. Now, after the heroic Egyptian revolution has overthrown the pharaoh Mubarak, this year's Summer University of Palestine has been reorganised to address the questions thrown up by the extraordinary events in Tunisia and Egypt, which are now rolling through the region.
"Book your time off work or college now - 23 to 30 July, just before Ramadan. The university will be in Beirut, upgraded and bigger than last year. It will again have world renowned speakers. This advance notice is to ensure that if you are making plans for summer now, you know to be in Beirut from the 23 July." The university will be hosted by the Palestinian social and cultural society at the American University of Beirut. Click [url=http://www.vivapalestinaarabia.org/en/component/content/article/129]here[/url to download the leaflet for the Summer University of Palestine.
This year's Summer University of Palestine takes place amidst a dramatic transformation of the political situation across the Middle East. It also takes place in the aftermath of the Naqba Day demonstrations across the world on 15th May, which are reasserting the Palestinian Right of Return, and the Gaza flotilla, due to sail in the third week of June, which is both commemorating the Israeli massacre of Turkish human rights activists aboard the Mavi Marmara and demanding an end to the siege of Gaza.
The Revolution in Egypt has helped to bring about a unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas and opened the Rafah crossing. We are bringing together academics and political figures from the West with those of the Middle East, including Leila Khaled, George Galloway and Ronnie Kasrils, in an unprecedented exchange of views and ideas about the impact of the rapidly changing situation in the Middle East. There will be speakers from both Fatah and Hamas - the principal Palestinian organisations within the PLO forming the new Unity government - as well as political organisations supporting Palestinian liberation from the Lebanese Muslim and Christian communities.
The University is going to be much bigger than last year, attracting participants from the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Malaysia, India And Iran, South Africa, North Africa and France, Germany, Spain and the UK. They will be joining may young people from Lebanon from both the Palestinian and Lebanese communities in a unique opportunity to engage in an open dialogue.
The University takes place in the beautiful, tree lined, tranquil grounds of the American University of Beirut. This is located in Hamra, a "happening" area of Beirut. It overlooks the Mediterranean sea and the Corniche which runs along the coastline is just a coup,e of minutes walk away. A welcoming and sandy beach is just a short taxi ride.
We are not providing food this year, which is reflected in the price, but the AUB is surrounded by cheap eating places. For those who like international American cuisine, Macdonalds and Burger King, not to mention Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins ice cream are immediately outside the AUB gates. But there are plenty of other cheap places to eat which offer excellent Lebanese food. There are also coffee houses nearby offering free Wifi, so bring your laptops and I pads.
We are also pleased to announce that we have been able to upgrade the accommodation with not extra cost to you. Instead of very good dormitory accommodation, we have now secured excellent apartments with two sharing per apartment. This is located on the airport road near the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila, a short drive to the AUB. We will provide transport to the AUB and back. We will also provide more information about the accommodation in the next couple of weeks.
One of the highlights of the University last year was the tour of Southern Lebanon. This took us to the southern border where we were able to see both occupied Palestine and the occupied Golan Heights in Syria. We are pleased to announce we have organised a similar tour this year, as well as a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut
Finally, we are negotiating with airlines to see if we can arrange discounts for those who have registered for the SUP. We will provide an update on this as soon as we have it. We will also be providing more information on the programme of events shortly. Register now to ensure you have a place on the Summer University - http://www.vivapalestinaarabia.org/
Syria: Pinkwashing Assad?
I’ve always feared that this day would come, when I found myself dragged as evidence into an argument against freedom. But it did. A while back, I received a request from a reporter at CNN who was preparing an article on gays and the Arab Spring. I had been told to be leery as it would likely be bad but I went ahead. It’s out now:
Thankfully, I don’t regret what I myself am quoted as saying. But the others … well, they provide the sort of pinkwashing that the enemies of Arab freedom have come to rely on increasingly in recent years. We’ve gotten used to being used rhetorically by the advocates of war, occupation, dispossession, and apartheid as ‘evidence’ that the primitive sand-people don’t deserve anything other than killing by the enlightened children of the West; we’ve seen this story used to advocate murder of Afghan villagers, Palestinian refugees, Iraqis and so on. It’s given as justification for genocide by the ranting bleach-blond buffoon in the Dutch parliament and as reason for reviving the worst of the Third Reich by neo-fascists across Europe and America. Now, it’s being used as an argument against democracy.
Those evil primitive Moozlims and Ayrabs, see, unlike the brilliant stars of tolerance who want to indiscriminately bomb any worshipper of Allah, are ho-mo-phobes … ‘cause there aren’t San Francisco style Gay Rights parades in Teheran or Damascus … and since religious conservatives here preach against same sex marriage (and of course no one opposes that in Antrim or Alabama save for Moozlims!), the whole religion be damned, nuke’em, gas’em, it don’t matter ….
Or so one would gather from some of the rhetoric. Reality, of course, is different. Having lived in both worlds, I can tell you this in all honesty; I have never once encountered any problem here on account of my sexuality that I would not have encountered were I straight as an arrow. I have never once been attacked or beaten or even screamed at for being a lesbian in an Arab land. On the other hand, I have had dung thrown at me in America for wearing a hijab, been attacked and struck by strangers for being an Arab …
So why pinkwashing? Others have brilliantly dissected the way this rhetoric has been used to turn gay rights into a weapon of imperialism, specifically in Palestine. (For those interested, read here http://www.pinkwatchingisrael.com/ or http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2011/02/16/queer-palestinian-activists-discuss-pinkwashing-and-more There’s a lot of great work being done on this). Liberals in the West are told not to criticize imperial wars or apartheid on account of those who are suffering ain’t as gay friendly as those who do the oppressing ….
Which of course is crazy. And like any tool of oppression needs to be opposed.
And now, the rhetoric is that democracy is BAD; earlier this year, John McCain proclaimed democracy a virus that needed to be stopped, because, of course, it would be terrible if Those People ever started determining their own futures. Now, we see it being disseminated in a liberal lavender guise: the wicked evil Muslim Brotherhood and the wicked evil sheikhs of al-Islam will get elected if the people are allowed to decide! Oh my! And then … well, there won’t be any freedom for party boys in Cairo to go cruising ….
Of course, such politics show a fundamental hatred of democracy, at least when it comes to US. (As a friend once aptly put it, ‘we don’t hate you for your freedom, we hate you because you hate our freedom’). The Arabs might decide how they want to live for themselves, they might stop living on their knees … and anything, anything at all to avoid that!
These pinkwashers loved Assad just as they loved Mubarak. They didn’t love them for what they did for LGBT Egyptians or Syrians but rather for the aid they gave to states bent on apartheid and imperialism; they know that, once the government that lost the Jaulan is gone, a democratic Syria won’t look kindly at the theft of Syrian land. They know that a more democratic Egypt already means the end of their siege of Gaza.
They want to pretend that us homos and queers will all come to forget that we have fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and so on. We’ll forget that we have been oppressed not solely or even primarily as faggots and dykes but, instead, as Arabs, as Muslims, as Middle Easterners, as Palestinians and Iraqis and Syrians and so on. They want us to shed all those aspects of ourselves and embrace the oppressor if the oppressor lets us dance in his disco or make out in her coffee house.
It isn’t like that. I cannot speak for anyone else but I can speak for me. I will not be used as an excuse for oppression. I will not be used as a propaganda piece to undermine democracy. I for one believe in my people and, rather than condemn them, I want them to be free. Some will hate me. Some will cast aspersions on me. Far more will ignore me. But they will be free. No more dictators, no more occupiers. Free.
I do not fear the Ikhwaan; I have sat and drunk tea and coffee with their sheikhs and I fear them no more than I fear anyone else in this country. If, when the dictators are gone and elections are held, they win, I will work to beat them the next time around. Or maybe not. I will work to change this society from within but I will not work to bring any so-called ‘freedom’ that must be imposed at gunpoint or surrounded by barbed wires and mines to preserve it. That is not freedom.
Nor will I let myself be used as propaganda for the enemies of democracy. I do not want personal freedom if it comes at the cost of the oppression of millions. Freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by all.
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* This article is republished from A Gay Girl in Damascus.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Securing rights for domestic workers
Review of ‘Myths and Realities About Domestic Workers’
Paul Mwangi Maina
The following is my take on the booklet ‘Myths and Realities About Domestic Workers’. The booklet argues a case on strong regulation for the rights of domestic workers to be adopted internationally. In reviewing the booklet I have tried to interrogate my own myth on whether regulation is really a viable solution to the oppression faced by domestic workers, in the current global realities, but first I will assess the merits of the arguments in the book outside the global context.
Aimed at convincing the general public on the need to regulate domestic workers rights, the booklet identifies some common myths, presented by employers and governments against setting up strong detailed international minimum standards on domestic work.
The International Domestic Workers Network sets out eight myths that have been used by governments and employer groups to campaign against stronger regulation of those rights:
- Domestic work isn’t really work
- Most domestic workers are not mistreated anyway
- Strong regulation would lead to rejection of those regulations
- Raising the minimum wage will lead to loss of jobs
- Legislating over working time in the domestic context is very complicated
- If working conditions become too good, this will only attract more migrants (in western countries)
- How would such regulations to protect domestic workers be enforced?
- Stronger regulation would actually be counterproductive.
The booklet then goes ahead to dispute all these myths by providing examples, arguments and evidence on why they do not stand. For example on the issue of working hours, the booklet argues,
‘… the basic point is that domestic workers have the human right to be included in working hours legislation, not treated as slaves and servants who are endlessly available to our employers.’
This is quite a valid and compelling argument. Who would argue for any category of workers to work for unspecified and unregulated periods of time? Such arguments are only brought about when domestic work is concerned.
On the issue of ‘Minimum pay to be included in international minimum standards for domestic work’, they argue:
‘…the bottom line is that ILO conventions exist to define minimum standards beyond which there should be no employment – because otherwise it would be slavery or forced labour, and we know that domestic work is one of the main locations of slavery, as well as child labour, in the world today.’
On enforcement of regulations regarding domestic workers, the booklet argues:
‘In many cultures, inspection of households is not particularly a problem. In Sweden, the occupational health and safety (OHS) law was amended to include domestic work in households, and OHS inspection in a household can now be done at the request of one of the parties. Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Uruguay and the USA also have systems of labour inspection in homes.’
Again very compelling arguments, enforcement of regulation on domestic work would be challenging given their large numbers in any given setting and that they work in private homes and that their work ‘stations’ are very decentralised. However the booklet demonstrates that through innovative and creative means it can and has been done with some level of success.
Clearly the international domestic workers network is very conscious of the pertinent issues surrounding domestic work as well as the legislation needed to guarantee minimum standard for domestic workers. The minimum standards as expressed in the booklet, have been proposed by domestic workers themselves, they have demanded for them and are fighting hard to have them adopted. Naturally the role of International Domestic Workers’ Network should be to ensure that these standards are adopted.
Professor P.L.O. Lumumba  once said with regards to the rate of corruption in Kenya and if more laws were needed to fight the vice, ‘Kenya has never suffered from a shortage of laws’. Indeed using Kenya as a case study there have been various protocols, conventions and policy changes at national, regional, continental and international levels aimed at promoting and protecting the right of workers signed by the government. Further, part two, article 41 of the bill of rights in the new constitution of Kenya guarantees fundamental rights to workers including; right to fair labour practices, fair remuneration and reasonable working conditions. Other constitutional rights include; the right to be in a trade union, to strike or have industrial action and on collective bargaining.
In my opinion therefore, the number one myth to be busted by the booklet should have been: How helpful is it for domestic workers when their governments adopt internationally, continentally, regionally and locally agreed upon minimum standards?
National Labour unions have traditionally played key roles in shaping the political, social and economic realities of their societies. Some have been involved the struggle against institutionalised oppression for example the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, while others have been deeply involved with political movements in their quest for workers rights.
Therefore, given the huge potential of labour unions in transforming society, it is very curios that International Domestic Workers’ Network have decided to completely depoliticise domestic workers. They have gone as far as arguing in this booklet that minimum wage laws can be a viable solution to economic oppression of domestic workers. Further, they have completely ignored the patriarchal power dynamics at play in domestic work, which in most cases performed by women.
Economic oppression of domestic workers is not simply about setting up laws on minimum wages. It is about a global social economic system that allows for massive accumulation of profits by a few multinational co-operations and concentration of those resources among a few individuals. This system has permeated every aspect of society and has brought about the continued widening of the gap between the rich and economically oppressed. In addition one cannot ignore the role of patriarchy with regards to domestic work and how this then feeds in to the myth of ‘domestic work not really being work’ but rather ‘help’ and subsequently not payable, the sexual, emotional and physical abuse that domestic workers face also play in to this power dynamics.
Even in a perfect society of fairness, harmony and equality, minimum standards will be needed. However the current global realities require domestic workers and all workers in general to acquire the political consciousness that will enable them mobilise into strong workers’ movements that will bring about a new world order where human dignity supersedes the shameful, exploitative and obscene accumulation of profits which is currently viewed as success. Only then can workers realistically create standards.
How can workers mobilise to create a new world order? This is still open for debate, however it is my view that the starting point needs to be at a grassroots/local level. Once workers have mobilised in to strong local movements, they can be able to build strong networks of movements that will bring about their liberation.
Domestic workers should form alliances with progressive movements and groups (not necessarily of workers) to position themselves and their issues at the top of the agenda in the struggle for a new world order.
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* Paul Mwangi Maina is programme assistant in Fahamu’s Kenya office.
* ‘Myths & Realities about Domestic Workers: Why Domestic Workers need Strong Regulation for our Rights’ [PDF] is published by International Domestic Workers’ Network.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 An advocate of the High Courts of Kenya and Tanzania and the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission Director
'Kilio Cha Wamama': Treat us like human beings
Kenya’s Unga Revolution: Protesting rising food prices
As Kenya today celebrates Madaraka Day, yesterday’s street events, dubbed ‘Unga Revolution’, should be a reminder to the government that this phenomenon is not over.
Things aren’t working in the food sector and there are serious underlying currents that should not be underestimated by any concerned citizen. This is not the first time Kenyans are coming out to express their concerns on the escalating costs of living. At least these were speaking for the silent majority.
But globally, concern is being expressed on the increasing cost of basic commodities. The world appears headed for major food crises if attention is not focused on the stable foods and the high demanding agricultural productive sectors that link with these sectors.
In developing and fragile states like Kenya, there is call for shifting attention towards addressing the concerns of those who have been assumed for a long time and their role in economic development – the peasants, the small farmers, the pastoralists, the landless and the peasant fisheries. This is a local productive sector and population that has been assumed and the role they could play in mitigating the harsh economic conditions through small-scale food production.
Assumedly, half of the world population are in this category and they grow almost over 60 per cent of the world's food. But how many governments care about how they produce foodstuffs? What support and incentives do they have to grow these foods? Who even classifies what they have and the facilities or equipment they need to boost their small productions that can cushion the high costs of living?
Increasingly there is a shift to focus on climate change and the effects this is having on food production globally. While this focus is real and life threatening, humanity all over was creative enough to develop mechanisms for survival when faced with these kind of harsh realities. The harsh environments did not mean the end of livelihoods although humanity suffered.
Creativity, support, innovations and inventions all over the world happened during times of hardships. This is what the Kenyan government needs to appreciate and put measures in place urgently, mobilising and engaging the stakeholders involved.
In rural Kenya, for instance in Ukambani, there is very little visibility on the public scene on what happens there, in terms of food production and the challenges small-scale farmers face. The rain-fed agriculture has become a nightmare to all. The peasant farmers are always being looked down on and often considered ignorant, backward or underdeveloped, with very little or no government support. When the rains fail as they will always do, the option is only drought, famine, starvation and relief food, but for how long?
The contempt peasant and small scale farmers face might be seen in lighter ways but seen in the macro-perspective, it is a big a challenge to the entire world. The much-glorified large-scale farming so far has not been the answer to feed the ever urbanising population that is largely less involved in food production but consumption.
While liberalisation has caught up with everyone, there haven’t been enough mechanisms put in place to manage the huge demands it has come up with. The free-market policies in force have favoured the plantation owners who target the large markets and always shift with the market and where the money is, with the big economies ending up demanding and paying for more to ensure food sustainability.
With governments having liberalised food production, progressively there has been almost a disappearance of peasants' and small-scale agriculture in most of the developing economies. What happens when peasants and small-scale farmers can’t afford the farm equipment and supplements with which they are supposed to compete equally with the corporations?
Further, in the most recent Human Rights Council session it was interesting to note that globally there is disagreement on the use of the word ‘peasant’. This was seen as a politically sensitive issue and many actors preferred the use of ‘people working in rural areas’. But who are these people? What makes their economy and livelihood to be called people working in rural areas? This tells you the dilemma the world has got itself in on politically weighty matters, affecting the large number of people whose business or work has largely remained outside the liberalised economy.
So what is happening in the streets of Nairobi, as they will happen anywhere else, should be seen in a wider context. The economic patterns for the last two decades have seen the peasants, the landless people and the small-scale farmers being pushed to the wall. They are slowly being forced to organise themselves and reclaim their right to livelihoods, right to survival and to defend small-scale agriculture and to have their voices heard at all levels.
As the search for answers to the escalating food crisis, Kenyans should not feel alone on this war. The recognition of peasants and small-scale food producers is a global search and the international farmer’s movement Via Campesina has been in this for a while uniting at the global level and through national organisations, unions and individuals that have been active for years in the fight for human dignity around the right to food and food sovereignty. The movement held the International Day of Peasants' Struggles on 17 April 2011.
With the increasing number of hungry people in the world, the tide is slowly starting to turn and the promises that large-scale plantations and productions would feed the world appear somehow doomed and a fiction. More and more people, governments and institutions are recognising that there will be no solution to the current food crisis without the participation of the peasants and small-scale farmers.
The big questions is whether the Kenyan government will change tact and ensure the peasants’ and small-scale farmers are supported with equipment, skills, facilities, capital and all other facilities towards sustainable food production, even with a climate change focus?
It is time we moved and had sustainable agriculture in Kenya with the clarity that local food productions and markets have showed a remarkably positive impact on climate and climate changes with people’s survival when they have happened. This is the very basic struggle for food, land, economic opportunities and human rights, with innovations and creativity for survival required.
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Tunisia: Regueb sustains mobilisation
Since the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali was ousted by mass unarmed demonstrations, successive waves of protest and self-organisation have dismantled many of the old structures of that dictatorship. Earlier this month the old regime showed that it could strike back. The prospect of a coup plot by the old dictator's party (which had 1 million members) to take over the country after July's elections led to further demonstrations in May. This time protesters were beaten and journalists – male and female – singled out for disabling attacks. It emerged that a censorship law had been secretly rushed through by the interim government. News from the Tunisian heartland, which started the democratic revolution, is not getting through, even inside the country.
‘La Tunisie profonde’ is the interior where the uprisings began. The revolution in Tunisia is seen as bloodless, but not when you reach small towns where almost everyone knows someone who died, and almost everyone marched and organised against the regime. Since then they have been setting up their own local councils, been central participants in the independent trade unions, made organisations for the graduate unemployed whose plight kicked off the uprising, held women's marches and begun court proceedings to prosecute the snipers who killed young men and women demonstrators.
Regueb, with just 7,000 inhabitants, is one of the most fully mobilised places. High on a hill outside the town is a message in Arabic spelled out in white stones: 'Welcome to Regueb, the land of free people'. Its tiny trade union hall is filled with the spirit of early trade unionism. Hand-painted portraits of past labour heroes flank the image of linked hands inside a red crescent, logo of the UGTT or General Union of Tunisian Workers. Over the ceiling and walls are dotted more recent CGI collages inspired by the youth uprisings.
In February Regueb women from all ages and backgrounds filled the streets under banners spelling 'Je suis femme, ne touche pas ma liberté'. In April Regueb's citizens came together and created a new town council to represent them in this dangerous gap between the fall of the old dictatorship in January and contested new elections in July.
Mohamed Abidi is a schools inspector from Regueb, whose son Chady used his graduate IT skills to organise and publicise the resistance. When Chady went to the streets, 'armed with nothing but his voice', he was shot and paralysed by a police sniper. Mohamed Abidi sent a bulletin this week, with a call for 'papers in London to know about the latest events in our town if possible'.
'On Tuesday morning a delegation of representatives of the inhabitants of Regueb attended a meeting in the provincial governorate of Sidi Bouzid [the nearby city which sparked off the Arab revolutions after the death of street trader Mohamed Bouzizi].
'Several ministers oversaw the meeting: the ministers of regional development, of health, of social affairs and higher education.
'Given the fact that not one developmental project, or health or industrial project, is being brought to the town of Regueb, the representatives have called for a popular peaceful demonstration in the streets of the town followed by an information meeting.
'The inhabitants of Regueb have decided that their town will be independent from the governorate of Sidi Bouzid till the government satisfies the urgent needs of the area:
- A regional hospital for the population of 73,000
- A local covered market square for the fruits and vegetables produced in Regueb
- The removal from power of all the groups of people connected to the regime of Ben Ali.'
This last demand remains critical. Many of the former officials and security apparatus remain in place until at least the election. With waves of returning migrants from Libya and continuing mass unemployment, Regueb and its sister towns are making heroic efforts for a peaceful, democratic and popular transition. They need twinning, trade union solidarity actions and to keep communications open.
They can be contacted via: amseb[at]blueyonder.co.uk
Often these towns feel they have been left alone. In the words of Taoufik Ben Abdallah of the Tunisian League of Human Rights: 'The people who made the revolution are waiting for an answer and getting none. There is a vital need for justice for the killed and injured; for work, salaries, enterprises; there are so many social injustices and such a lack of security, with the people confronted by vengeful police. We need to bring this message back forcefully to Tunis.’ And Britain.
One way for voices of the Tunisian revolution to reach us is to help them build their own community media, not subject to the mainstream globalising agenda. The unemployed graduate association Elkarama is asking for international support from journalists to set up a community radio station, and to donate computers and office equipment. For contact emails, get in touch on amseb[at]blueyonder.co.uk.
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Why Canada shouldn't host WSF 2013
National Coordination of the World March of Women in Quebec
May 23, 2011
RE: THE LOCATION OF THE NEXT WORLD SOCIAL FORUM
To the members of the International council,
We are writing to you today to ensure that the members of the International Council of the World Social Forum are aware of the women’s movement perception of the candidacy of Montreal as a potential host for the WSF in 2013.
Invited by the Québec social forum to consider the possibility of hosting the WSF in 2013, the National Coordinating Body of the World March of Women in Québec held a meeting on May 5 with its members to discuss the idea. Members were presented with the political objectives of the WSF, the goals of the Québec committee, the process that the WSF requires as well as the financial and logistical considerations of such an undertaking.
During the discussion that followed, it became clear to all that the conditions are unfortunately not ripe, at least in the eyes of the women’s movement, for Montreal to host the World Social Forum in 2013. Firstly, Canada’s minority Conservative government has been making visas difficult to obtain for many activists from the South. Now with a majority, we believe that visas will be even more difficult to obtain. As a result, the WSF would be dominated by people from the North. Our sisters from the World March of Women from many countries would in all likelihood be excluded. We remain more comfortable with the idea that the WSF ought to be held in the South where visas pose less of a problem.
Secondly, one of the objectives for hosting the WSF is to solidify social movements work in the host country. From our perspective, the event would not contribute to strengthen the movements but simply sap our energies away from the already extensive alliance work that is underway and that needs to be done to counter on an on-going basis the significant shifts in the political climate in Canada. To the already active neoliberal agenda, we must now struggle against a conservative, antifeminist, antidemocratic, religious fundamentalist government who is attacking women’s equality rights. Our organisations are under attack. The last thing we need is for all of the available resources to go to a one-time event while our organisations who will ensure the long-term goals of the women’s movement struggle to survive in a changing and hostile economic context.
Thirdly, we believe that the political goals would be better served by possibly organising a North American Social Forum. The lack of coordination of social movements in a North American context undermines our potential to create a different, better kind of world for women and for peoples, here and around the world. The recent struggle by workers in Wisconsin shows that we need to establish stronger ties in North America. The hosting of the WSF seems premature. Furthermore, were we to pursue this avenue, it would have to have a different horizon than the 2013 date presently discussed for the WSF and would have to entail a grassroots consultation.
Also, the women’s movement in Québec has just initiated a grass roots process to undergo a deep and broad revision of its orientations, strategies and actions that, combined with the struggles against conservatism and neoliberal policies, will keep us extremely busy. We’re holding the “estates general of feminist action” that will unfold between now and the fall of 2013.
For all these reasons, we ask that the International Council of the World Social Forum consider other cities to host the next meeting. Of course, our commitment to the struggles embraced by our sisters and brothers of the WSF remains steadfast. And it is exactly because we wish to be able to pursue our common struggles that the hosting of the WSF in Montreal at this time is premature.
For the follow-up committee
Coordination du Québec de la Marche mondiale des femmes
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The inspiration of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem
ANC threatens attack on the Makause settlement
Makause Press Statement - Sunday 29 May 2011
Primrose ANC Branch Threatens Attack on the Leadership of the Makause Shack Settlement in Ekurhuleni
The ANC in the Primrose branch in Ekurhuleni on the East Rand has planned something like a protest or attack on the leadership of the Makause informal settlement this weekend or during the week. The leadership heard this from the grandfather of the failed ANC councillor (the Primrose ward again went to the DA), who is in the Makause leadership. The Makause leadership is non-party political. The ANC’s mobilisation campaign before the elections was about promises of creating jobs. This involved members forming CCs and securing contracts and tenders to benefit members. The person behind this is Absalom Budeli, the failed ANC ward councillor candidate, and his branch leaders.
The ANC branch leadership is accusing the Makause leadership of supporting the DA and of being paid to stop the community from voting, and they see ‘General’ Alfred Moyo (who is part of the Makause leadership) in the forefront of these assumed campaigns. On election day the Municipality’s contractor started implementation of the municipality’s high mast lighting project to install 5 lights owed to the Makause community since 2008. This involved employing 20 community members from Makause. This group (coordinated by General, who himself is not employed in this project) was labelled by the ANC as DA supporters. In the last week, there were 4 attacks on Somali shop owners in Makause. The Makause leadership structure represents local and foreign shop owners in the settlement. The leadership expects that these 4 attacks are connected to the ANC’s campaign to overthrow them.
Today the ANC called a meeting to elect their committee to overthrow General and the Makause leadership by force or attack them if they resist and don’t give up leadership to them. The Makause leadership is expecting riots in the area. They await the outcomes of the ANC branch meeting today, and are unsure of what might happen later.
For further information:
Alfred Moyo 0734307006
High Court: Anti-eviction communities with Mitchell's Plain Backyarders
Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign
Anti-Eviction communities who are facing eviction and whose homes have been flooded by the recent rains (more on this soon), are joining backyarders from Tafelsig who are at the Cape High Court today.
Hundreds of backyarders who have set up a new settlement in an open field in Tafelsig which they have aptly called New Horizons will be at the High Court today. They will be defending themselves against eviction by the City of Cape Town which has decided that the poor shall have no right to security of tenure in the entire Metropole – even though there is plenty of unused and misused land all over the City.
Joining them will be communities from Gugulethu, Newfields Village, Blikkiesdorp, Site B (Khayelitsha), Joe Slovo and others. These communities are demanding land and housing for the poor in the City and an end to evictions.
Tafelsig is the new Hangberg. The land of the people is being taken by government for 'development' which will benefit those who don't actually need it. And the government takes this land by force destroying people's property and their lives.
We demand land for the poor in the Western Cape. The poor will build a strong front in the near future. The struggle of the poor will continue until 87% of the land is returned to the majority.
For comment, contact Mncedisi at 0785808646
Changing guard at the IMF
H. Nanjala Nyabola
When a young Guinean maid allegedly fought off the advances of a naked man in an upscale New York apartment, it is highly unlikely that she knew that her bravery would set off one of the most interesting power struggles in the international system. Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s (DSK) resignation from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) on 19 May inadvertently opened the door for a seismic shift in the organisation of the international financial system, with many analysts seeing it as a chance to end the white, European, male domination of the organisation. Yet with Christine Lagarde so far being the only candidate to offer herself up for the post, countries of the global South led by the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations are suggesting that it is more important to address the ‘European’ part of that description than the ‘male’. African countries, with the exception of South Africa, have been interestingly silent on the issue of the IMF succession, although it is likely that they will go with South Africa.
The IMF succession comes at an interesting time for Africa. In the last three years, questions of sovereignty and independence have come under even greater scrutiny than that to which they were subjected earlier, in part due to the actions of the International Criminal Court. Warrants of arrest against Omar al-Bashir and members of his government prompted a flurry of protest within the African Union (AU) in defence of Bashir, even as evidence of serious crimes committed against the people of Darfur was in plain sight. It didn’t help that in the wake of the post-election violence in Kenya the prosecutor successfully sought out warrants of arrest against key government officials in Kenya, sparking of another wave of protest and complaint. The Kenyan government has looked to pass acts of parliament to annul the ratification of the Rome Statute, while other AU nations have promised to look into implementing similar legislation.
I bring up the ICC because I think it throws up an interesting contrast to the IMF. On the one hand you have an institution that was wholeheartedly supported by Africans through its development and implementation that ostensibly exists to protect ordinary Africans from the excesses of their own governments. As a region, Africa represents the highest number of states that have ratified the Rome Statute, the deputy prosecutor is an African woman, and many Africans work within the institution (full disclosure: I was once one of them). In the shadow of the Rwandan and Burundian genocides, not to mention the crisis in the Balkans, the ICC was set up as a permanent institution to address some of the legal obstacles to holding people in power accountable for violence against civilians. To be sure, it is an institution with its fair share of problems, but if African governments had concerns, they had ample time in Rome to air them, and one imagines that the final statute represents the consensus of representatives in the room on the day on what breaches of institutional law are so grave as to merit international attention.
On the other hand, you have an institution that was founded after a European war, explicitly to help European nations rebuild, and which only through mission creep rather than internal reform began implementing policy in the global South. The IMF throughout its existence has quite literally taken food off the plates of poor people, through austerity programmes that crippled agricultural infrastructure in the name of structural adjustment programmes (SAP). Beyond agriculture, SAP programmes have been blamed in part for the sad state of African universities, for crippling public healthcare by forcing governments to cut spending and for unabashedly challenging state sovereignty through conditionalities that favoured neoliberal, privatised economies.
Yet while African leaders are falling over themselves to urge each other to withdraw from the ICC, no one seems to be raising the same issues about the IMF. Instead of taking this opportunity to once and for all condemn the infamous power inequalities in the organisation, nations of the global South are pushing to have one of their own head up the organisation. Note that changing the leadership is no guarantee for changed outcomes – unless the incoming leader can revolutionise the way in which the IMF conceives of problems and their solutions, while challenging the manner in which neoliberal economics is taught across the West, chances are we’re looking at more of the same. At the same time, while it’s true that the cases and situations before the ICC seem to be disproportionately African, shouldn’t more of us should be questioning why instances of governments committing atrocities against their own people are disproportional in African states, instead of pushing for withdrawal that will ultimately give protection to Bashir et al?
Similarly, it is worth recalling that one of the key strategies employed by Asian nations to gain protect their economic autonomy and ensure recovery after the Asian economic crisis in 1997 was to threaten the formation of the Asian Monetary Fund. Asian countries proved that the IMF’s greatest vulnerability is in finding itself no longer needed by those it imposes itself upon. Instead of falling into misguided allegiances with BRIC nations that have yet to prove that they would handle African interests any differently, perhaps we should be considering making our own stand in this time of change. DSK’s arrest has revealed once and for all that European nations would not hesitate to stomp over the global South to protect their interests. In the spirit of our Guinean sister, isn’t it about time that African nations stood up to the IMF and demanded respect from our neighbours to the north?
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Abdias do Nascimento: In memoriam
Molefi Kete Asante
Seven years ago I went to Rio de Janeiro to speak on the occasion of Abdias do Nascimento's 90th birthday. He repaid the honor by coming to my 65th birthday symposium three years ago at the age of 94. It was an emotional meeting captured on camera as I cried like a baby that this great man had come to Philadelphia for the occasion of my birthday. So today I pay homage to this brother genius who has cherished our history and culture and who has made the life and struggle of the African Brazilian people his personal mission. And yet I know that the imperishability of his career, the elevated nature of his commitment to humanity, the sacred ceremony of his love for the orishas, and his devotion to art and literature mark him as one of the greatest humans of his time. Indeed, I have been struck by the way he managed to carve out his persona in the midst of a multitude of illusions, images, and situations.
It is rare for a human being, without the control of the media and its popular diversions, to rise above all of the noise of his or her time and stand out as a unique human being.
Abdias do Nascimento defended the oppressed, advanced creativity, sought human community and made our lives better by his art, reason, emotion, and laughter. I danced with him when he was in Buffalo and I ate his Brazilian dishes when he lived as an expatriate.
For nearly forty years Abdias was my teacher. That is why when I received the news of his transition there was nothing more for me than to write in my own voice about the works of this marvelous man. Abdias was Brazilian, but he belonged to the African world. We claimed him in the United States; they claimed him in Mexico; he was claimed in Nigeria; they spoke of him as belonging to them in Ghana; the Angolans and Mozambicans called his name fondly as one of theirs. All over the African world his name was written in the bosom of the people. Abdias' name must be included among the most eminent of Africans, alongside those of Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X, and Cheikh Anta Diop. Brazil has been alert enough to honor him in a way that projects Brazil into leadership in the African world.
I met Abdias do Nascimento, son of Brazil, son of Africa, son of the world, when I took a professorship at the State University of New York in Buffalo in l973. One could not miss his grand character, his immense popularity as a professor, and his enormous smile. When I stood in his presence I knew even at that time that I was in the presence of magnificence. What is it to be warmed by the sun but to feel a sentiment of comfort and security that everything will be allright now that you are touched by the radiance of its brightness.
All people, in every country and of every nation, have identified individuals who deserve to be celebrated and praised for the work that they are doing and have done. The names of Toussaint L'Ouverture, Dessalines, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Amenitoshaka, Yanga, and a thousand others sing out from the panoply of heaven in witness to Abdias' life.
We elevate ourselves and commemorate the illustrious creativity of our most shining star when we bathe in Nascimento's halo. . If you call it self-love, because we celebrate ourselves when we celebrate the best of us, then it is a type of self-love that makes us honor a sharp mind and a constant activist. Whatever our attributes, our desires, our ambitions for ourselves and the world they all come together in the character of Abdias, a monument of brilliance, and an icon of victory.
In my judgment there has never lived an African in the Americas with a more instinctive understanding of the nature of our African culture. In that, Nascimento was alone, among the likes of Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, Aime Cesaire, Leon Damas, Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Robeson, Jacques Roumain, Nicolas Guillen, and Langston Hughes. No male leader has captured the essence of our history and culture so plainly and powerfully as Nascimento. Of course, we know that Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus, Zora Neale Hurston, and other women, may have been much more attuned to the intricacies of culture than many men. However, Nascimento brought his strong passions to his love for our culture and our creativity. This was one of his greatest gifts to us. When I have seen him talk at Lagos, in Washington, in New York, and other places I always left his presence thinking that there was no need to worry because Nascimento knew that we walked the way of a revitalized world and with his leadership we could truly find ourselves.
Abdias do Nascimento was not only a major force in African Brazilian culture and politics; he was a world figure who started his career in the 1930s. When he founded the Black Experimental Theater in l944 he immersed himself in every aspect of the history and life of the African in Brazil. But he wanted to know more, to do more, and therefore his interests expanded to other countries where blacks lived as he made alliances with the writers, artists, and intellectuals in other South American countries. Soon he was to take his wisdom, dramatic arts, and cultural knowledge and practice to North America where he made a significant impact on the African community in the United States. But his first love was always his Brazilian family, his community, his people who had been so violated by history and circumstances that they had often forgotten their own history and their own need to gain their victory over the degradation of the West.
Abdias' life is the victory.
I believe that Africa spoke to him like an oracle. Why do I believe this? If a continent could speak, if it had its voice, it would say that African Brazilians had to find their way back home in their minds and souls. Nascimento heard what the continent wished to say. He interpreted the voice of the continent through his essays, paintings, and poems. He became for thousands of people outside of Brazil the purest voice of the African Brazilian. In this, we were lucky. Yes, because Abdias' voice was the dynamic voice at international gatherings of Africans in Quagadougou, in Lagos, in Dar es Salaam, in New York, the black people of Brazil had an eloquent and dramatic voice on the stage of African history.
What is the place of Nascimento in the African world? If you were to look at Nascimento in the continuum of African giants where would you put him? How would you articulate his importance to the global discourse on the question of African consciousness? In the world of ideas we are often confronted with new theories but the enduring quality of Abadias' work is its ability to anticipate every turn, every nuance of the African world.
There is something universal in Nascimento. He traveled to any society and was immediately at home. He was Nigerian, Senegalese, North American, but he was really Brazilian. Actually, it was the human quality that made him so much a part of the rest of the world. He did not come with the calling cards of capitalism, imperialism, or globalization. Rather Nascimento approached the world with human rights, equality, and mutual respect for all cultures.
He was our champion. There was no one in Brazil or the United States like him. His spirit stood out from the pack, undaunted, unbowed, and straightforward.
Who was Abdias do Nascimento? Asked a young Salvadorean. He was a playwright and dramatist, said one who had read and seen Sortilege. This play which Nascimento wrote and produced at the Black Experimental Theater in Rio de Janeiro in the l940s "as an exigency of the lamentable situation in which black people found themselves in Brazilian society" (Nascimento, Sortilege, Chicago: Third World Press, 1978, p. 1) is still seen as one of the most creative works ever done on the modern stage. Indeed, the theater itself was a center for the affirmation of African cultural values, and in that regard, it was an institution that forced a progressive stand in relationship to the condition of the people. So it is true that Nascimento was a dramatist. But who is Abdias do Nascimento?
He was a poet, said a young lady from Sao Paulo. This son of Dona Josina Georgina and Jose Ferreira do Nascimento was the author of Axes Do Sangue E Da Esperancs, orikis. Yes, he was a great poet, one who memorialized the orishas: Exu, Ogum, Yemanja, Oya, Shango, Oshun, Obatala, Ochosi. He named and honored his parents, his wife, the women in his life, his children, his comrades, and his close friends. He was a poet who celebrated the iconic value of Ausar and Auset. He was one who elevated the masses of Angola, South Africa, and Mozambique and in his poetry willed them to overthrow oppression. But who was Abdias do Nascimento?
He was a historian who chronicled his own time. Nascimento was always an advocate for African Brazilians. He wrote Sitiado em Lagos and Povo Negro as political history and as political philosophy. But these were only two of the more than 30 publications of this artist who was a man of science, this social scientist and historian who was a creative artist, this chronicler who reached back and found in our past the necessary principles for our future. Perhaps Mixture or Massacre: Essays in the Genocide of a Black People was one of the most penetrating works ever done on racial politics in Brazil. It introduced Nascimento to the North American audience as a thinker with a passion for truth. We are presented with the heroes of Brazilian history: Luis Gama, Jose do Patricinio, Joao Candido, and Luisa Mahin. There were others and Nascimento never tired of telling the world about them and the heroic deeds they did in the interest of black freedom. Protests against discrimination in employment, housing, schooling, hotels, the military and diplomatic services, fueled Nascimento's eagerness to become a voice for the people without a voice. So, who was Nascimento? He was a political leader, a force for social justice and peace, a senator and a minister.
Who was this man born in Franca, Sao Paulo on March 14, 1914?
If we write the history of resistance to oppression in Brazil we must write the names of Abdias do Nascimento, Leila Gonzales, Guerreiro Ramos, and Nelson Rodrigues as compatriots in the struggle for cultural, psychological, and economic liberation for the African Brazilian people. Nascimento headed the list.
Nascimento claimed the history of the African Brazilian people when he took the Quilombos and made them models of an African Brazilian response to the human condition. This was an Afrocentric thrust into the meaning of our presence in the Americas. It was a statement, a position, a proposition of resistance and victory. He taught us that the Portuguese and Spanish slave owneers were just as harsh, just as brutal, and just as wicked as the English enslavers.
The magnificent literary and artistic career of Nascimento remains the standard by which we will always compare geniuses. My big brother, and dear friend, stood with and by Wole Soyinka, C. L. R. James, Maulana Karenga, Paulo Freire, John Henrik Clarke, Leila Gonzales, Rodrigo Alves, and Guerreiro Ramos. They are some of the key figures in the resurgence of Africa, but Nascimento is not lost in that list of greatness.
If I were asked to name a great artist, Nascimento would come to my mind. If I were asked to identify a man who dedicated his life to the liberation of the oppressed, I would have to put Nascimento on the list of names at the very top. If I were asked to name a great creative dramatist and founder of theatre, no one would come before the name of Nascimento.
What Abdias taught was that we carry our own weight. There is no universality that obliterates our identity; true universality builds upon identity until it incorporates all identities. Only in this way do we find our own singularity. When I think of the rise of African consciousness in the world, I think, of course, of the Negritude poets, of Bantu Steve Biko, of Maulana Karenga and Kawaida philosophy, and the apostle of Quilombismo, Abdias do Nascimento.
I did not arrive at the conclusion that it was necessary for all Africans everywhere to have a sense of agency without the advise, the knowledge, and the encourage of those who had already claimed African consciousness. Abdias do Nascimento demonstrated to us that it was essential to have a cultural revolution before there could be a moral revolution. Indeed, in his writings Abdias was the Shaka and the Zumbi of the most important truths in the world.
Hotep to the Almighty whose name is sometimes Ptah, Ra, Atum, and Amen.
Hotep to the orishas Eshu, Obatala, Ogun, Ochosi, Shango, Yemanja, and Oshun.
Hotep to the great ancestors of Palmares!
Hotep, Abdias do Nascimento, eternal spirit of African resistance and victory!
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Germany's genocide of the Herero
Germany’s colonial genocide at the beginning of the twentieth century against the Herero of then German South West Africa, today Namibia, ranks among the most egregious human right catastrophes. An extermination order (Vernichtungsbefehl) was issued in 1904. In a very short time between 60 000 and 100 000 people; almost all civilians, many of them women and children, were killed by means of German bullets and clubs, by hanging, or by burning the huts where they lived. Many were forced into the desert to die of starvation and thirst or by drinking water at poisoned water wells. Thousands, including women and children were condemned to slavery in the German military and civil institutions, as well as for private companies and on German farms. In the concentration camps the mortality rate was more than 45 percent. Surviving Herero women were forced to become ‘comfort women’ for the settlers and soldiers. German geneticists came to the country to perform racial studies of alleged Herero inferiority. Herero skulls and skeletons were shipped to Germany, supposedly for further study. The book argues that the genocide was not the work of one rogue army general or the practises of the German military in general, but that German colonial policy at the turn of the twentieth century laid the foundation for the Herero genocide; GSWA’s status as ‘new Germany’ precluded the option of military, economic or social failure in the colony; international and domestic political pressures fuelled the Herero genocide; Germany conducted the Herero genocide in order to acquire Herero land, rebuild German pride and fulfil Germany’s racist ideology; the Kaiser ordered the genocide; and Germany’s actions in GSWA provided it with relevant experience to the orchestration of the Holocaust a few decades later.
Nigeria: Jalaa writers' collective
Jalaa Writers’ Collective was created in 2009 by ten Nigeria-based writers who came together in an effort to tackle the book production and distribution challenges of the local publishing industry. The business model of Jalaa is based on the premise that there exists 'a gap between professional, traditionally published books that sell in the thousands and amateurish subsidy and self-published books that sell in the hundreds'. As such, the collective aims to engage the weaknesses of the industry by pooling the talent, resources and experience of its members in a systematic and profit-oriented manner.
Understanding Africa's exploitation and plunder
I read an article on your website titled 'Beyond the privatisation of liberation' written by Horace Campbell a while ago. It was an insightful piece and the writer said that 'the structural basis of apartheid was never dismantled'.
Pondering on that statement, I want to know how the Apartheid economic system works, such that dismantling it in 1994 would have made Africans better off today or is the economic model of liberalisation and privatisation the West sell to or impose on African countries different from the Apartheid economic system?
I will appreciate any response from you in helping me to better
understand this economic system of exploitation and plunder of Africa
human and material wealth.
Thanks in anticipation.
Dennis Dancan Mosiere
am using my ammu-diction
to kill your lexicography
poetry is not for braggarts
so don't go gaga and brag-a
you cease to be a poet
but just a brag-art
you brag-a a tete
don't go brag-a
be cautious pal
before you meet my poetic dagger
chop you with my rime-ricks
that leaves you with flea-ks
and if your flea-ks kick about in your cerebrum
compose them into sputum
and let your handkerchief lick them
bragging is for unwise flea-ks
poetry is for thinkers
and not brag-arts
pBitek did not brag
neither is Mazisi Kunene
nor Dennis Brutus
poets are just people
from their justice we get poetic justice
a Che t-shirt doesn't make you a poet
study the revolutionaries
start with the Mau Mau
and learn the poetricks
of words and verse
poetry is a serious profession
and not apart time hobby
it is for the anointed natural ones
and talented in the art of syntax-diction
be a poet for reason and caution
not a poet for a season who ceases to reason
ask Tony Mochama
real poets make mullah outta shit
and them no copycats
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* A diss-cursing verse to one Alflicks Asiago who was challenging my verse.
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Dennis Dancan Mosiere
Pambazuka News 191: Africa: Tsunamis sweeping the post-colonial state
AFRICA: SOCIO-POLITICAL UPHEAVALS AND HOPES FOR POLITICAL FREEDOMS
Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa (GRILA)
Several major events occurred at the beginning of 2011 on the African continent, particularly from a global perspective. Already weakened by its unfavourable historical insertion into the world system, Africa has endured, in the past two most recent decades, the pangs of the implementation of neoliberal austerity measures, the plundering of resources and the logic of the privatisation of war. The continent is now more than ever at a crossroads because of the failure of the neoliberal model, the crisis of capitalism and the exhaustion of the neocolonial mode of growth.
2011: ARAB SPRING?
The year 2011 started with a series of crashing explosions of anger of the Arab people. Will this Arab spring start the second phase of ‘the awakening of the Arab world’? Or, will these revolts trample and finally fall through – as was the case of the first phase of this awakening evoked in my book ‘the awakening of the South’? In the first hypothesis, the developments of the Arab world will necessarily fit in the movement of going beyond capitalism/imperialism on a worldwide scale. The failure to do so would maintain the Arab world in its current status at the periphery of domination, prohibiting it from playing an active role in shaping the world.
VIS-A-VIS THE DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT: THE REACTIONARY BLOCK
Part 2: 2011: Arab spring?
Just like during the time of a string of struggles in the past, the anti-imperialist and social democratic movement in Egypt runs against a powerful reactionary block. This block can be identified in terms of its social components (of class, obviously) but it also owes its being to all those who define it by means of political intervention and ideological speeches in service to the followers.
EGYPT AND THE STRATEGY OF THE UNITED STATES: THE PAKISTANI MODEL
Part 3: 2011: Arab spring?
The three powers which dominated the Middle Eastern scene during the entire period of decline (1967–2011) are the United States – the master of the system – Saudi Arabia and Israel. Three close allies. The three share the same obsession for the emergence of a democratic Egypt. Because a democratic Egypt could only be a social anti-imperialist which would keep its distance with regard to globalised liberalism and would condemn Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to insignificance, while reanimating the solidarity of the Arab people and demanding the recognition of the Palestinian state by Israel.
Zimbabwe: AU credibility questioned as Zim set to chair peace organ
The credibility of the African Union (AU) is being questioned, after news that Zimbabwe will assume the chairmanship of the bloc’s Peace and Security Council. The rotational chairmanship passes from South Africa to Zimbabwe in June. The Peace and Security Council, in theory, is meant to promote peace, security and stability across Africa, while promoting democracy, good governance and the rule of the law. It is also meant to uphold the protection of human rights.
Africa: Gender equality in the Arab world
Civil society organisations from across the Arab region met in Kuwait, from 4 to 5 May, within the framework of the Forum for the Future 2011, and unanimously adopted a declaration calling for the governments of the region to take urgent measures to eliminate discrimination against women. Based on universal standards and international law, the declaration calls on governments to abolish all discriminatory legislation within the next two years; to adopt laws to fight discrimination, violence and trafficking of women; and to withdraw all the reservations they have entered to the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW Convention).
Africa: Grassroots women take the initiative in HIV/AIDS struggle
Global efforts to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS and improve the lives of people living with and affected by HIV are abundant, ranging from government initiatives to the multi-stakeholder Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria to NGO projects of all sizes. Much of this international body of work focuses on technical, bio-medical approaches to HIV prevention and treatment and fails to recognise the value of grassroots women's work in breaking silence, raising awareness and expanding access to testing and care - a crucial component in linking marginalised communities to testing and available treatment. Increasingly, grassroots women's groups are taking leadership within their communities by creating local programs for HIV/AIDS care and prevention that incorporate and respond to local contexts and needs.
Egypt: General admits to 'virginity tests' on women protestors
A senior Egyptian general admits that 'virginity checks' were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities. The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the 9 March protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks. The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.
Kenya: Sex abuse in Kenyan schools
Since discovering that her 13-year-old daughter was pregnant about a month ago, Juanita* has paid several visits to the local chief in her village in western Kenya, seeking justice for her daughter and punishment for the man who abused her. 'She told me it was her teacher who did it. I confronted him and he admitted [he was the father] - he told me we could just settle it as adults,' Juanita, 47, told IRIN at her home in Migori District. 'We have been going to the chief because the teacher tells me he wants to marry my daughter and take care of the child, but I don't want that. Let him take care of the child who is a result of his bad behaviour, but leave my daughter alone because I want her to go on [with her education],' she added.
Nigeria: Elections reflect slow progress for women
From 9-26 April, Nigeria held parliamentary, presidential and governorship elections. During the last parliamentary term, only 7.3 per cent of the representatives in Nigeria’s upper and lower houses were women. In this year’s election, 200 out of 2400 (8.33 per cent) candidates for the House of Representatives and 80 out of 720 (11.11 per cent) candidates for the Senate were women. Abiola Akiyode of the Lagos-based Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC) says that overall, 909 out of 10037 (9.06 per cent) candidates for all elective positions were women. These positions include the Presidency, governorships and parliamentary seats. There has been an overall regression in women’s representation in political decision-making positions.
Nigeria: Police close 'baby factory'
Police in Nigeria freed 32 teen girls from an alleged 'baby factory' used to feed the region's exploding sex trade and human trafficking markets, authorities said. Cops in the southern Nigerian city of Aba raided the clinic, known as The Cross Foundation, Monday after receiving a tip that the owner was harboring pregnant girls and selling their babies, Nigeria's Daily Champion newspaper reported.
Southern Africa: Meeting assesses gender equality in SADC
The four-day Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) meeting of ministers responsible for gender and women’s affairs ended in Windhoek on Thursday, 2 June. Issues on the agenda included the SADC regional gender programme and review of progress made by member states towards promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Progress made in the signing and ratification of the SADC protocol on gender and development was also on the agenda. Thus far 13 member states have signed the protocol, while seven have deposited their instruments of ratification with the SADC Secretariat.
Guinea: A human rights approach for new government
This Human Rights Watch report calls on the government to bring to justice those responsible for massacres in 2007 and 2009. It says that the government should strengthen the judiciary and provide it with adequate resources, rein in and reform the security sector, and ensure that Guinea’s population can benefit from the country’s abundant natural resources. Human Rights Watch also recommended establishing a truth commission to uncover the causes of Guinea’s violent past and an anti-corruption commission to end the misuse of its wealth.
Kenya: Kenya pledges support for chaos probe
The Kenyan government has pledged to support ongoing investigations into post-election violence, a senior official of the International Criminal Court said. Mr Phakiso Mochochoko, the head of Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division at the court, spoke after a meeting with the Cabinet committee on ICC. Mochochoko said his trip was triggered by government attempts to defer the ICC cases. 'We have received reassurance and recommitment from the government but we will see whether they will change,' he said.
Kenya: Victims testify about abuse in post-independence camps
'Iman Tari,' a voice calls forward. Tari, a stout woman wearing a black burqa and white headscarf, rises from her seat. A young man in his late 20s stands up beside her and supports her as she walks. Her feet step slowly and steadily across the cement floor to a table laden with microphones and earpieces. Tari inches closer to the microphone and begins her testimony to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, TJRC, established by Parliament in 2008 to investigate the gross human rights violations and other historical injustices in Kenya committed between 12 December 1963 and 28 February 2008. The TJRC spent 32 days in April and May holding hearings in the Eastern and North Eastern provinces.
Rwanda: Mixed legacy for community-based genocide courts
Rwanda's community-based gacaca courts have helped communities confront the country's 1994 genocide but have failed to provide credible decisions and justice in a number of cases, Human Rights Watch said in a report released 31 May. As the gacaca courts wind down their work, Rwanda should set up specialised units in the national court system to review alleged miscarriages of justice, Human Rights Watch said. The 144-page report, 'Justice Compromised: The Legacy of Rwanda's Community-Based Gacaca Courts', assesses the courts' achievements and outlines a number of serious shortcomings in their work, including corruption and procedural irregularities.
Somaliland: Ten seized in crackdown
More than ten people were on Friday night (27 May) rounded up by authorities in Las Anod town in the self-declared republic of Somaliland. Although no statement has been made on the seizure of the civilians in Sool region, some 1,150 km northwest of Mogadishu, the crackdown appeared to have been related to insecurity.
South Africa: Cape Town anti-land invasion unit acting illegally, say rights lawyers
The City of Cape Town’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit established to prevent the illegal occupation of city and provincial land, is acting unlawfully says Lawyers for Human Rights. The announcement by the LHR comes after violent clashes between backyarders and police recently after over 4,000 backyarders occupied city-owned land in Tafelsig, Mitchell’s Plain. The Anti-Land Invasion Unit, established in 2008, demolishes about 300 illegally erected informal housing structures per month, according to the city.
South Africa: Justice grouping slams apartheid reparations offer
On 11 May 2011, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD) gazetted regulations for the payment of educational assistance and health benefits exclusively to victims identified by the TRC. The regulations were gazetted after only a very superficial consultation process with victims and other stakeholders and do not address the key concerns expressed by these stakeholders, says this press release from the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice (SACTJ). 'The organisations comprising the SACTJ reject these regulations which fail to provide the full gambit of reparations needed by individuals who remained severely harmed as a result of apartheid atrocities. In rejecting the proposals, the SACTJ points to the actions of the post-apartheid state over many years in prioritising the needs of perpetrators over the needs of apartheid human rights violations victims and survivors. Measures to achieve political reconciliation in South Africa have not been balanced by redress measures for these severely harmed individuals. This represents the betrayal of a compact forged at the transition with victims of the anti-apartheid human rights struggle in South Africa.'
Sudan: Satellite proof of Khartoum's war crimes
An advocacy group has said new satellite images provide evidence that northern Sudanese troops have committed war crimes, including ethnic cleansing, in the contested border town of Abyei where the forces took over more than a week ago. The Satellite Sentinel Project said in a statement that satellite images by DigitalGlobe show that the Sudanese army burned about one third of all civilian buildings in the north-south border town, used disproportionate force and indiscriminately targeted civilians.
Uganda: Call for East Africa to discuss Uganda's human rights record
ARTICLE 19 has called on the East African Community (EAC) to hold a special session on Uganda to discuss the country’s ongoing grave human right violations, including frequent attacks on freedom of expression. 'ARTICLE 19 believes that the seriousness of the current situation requires the East African Legislative Assembly to immediately convene a special session to address attacks on journalists, human rights defenders and the media in the country. During May 2011 alone, at least nine people have died in Uganda following brutal attacks by state security agents, and many more were injured, including journalists.'
Uganda: Uganda sued at East African court over protests clampdown
Lawyers from the East African region have sued the Uganda government, accusing its security agencies of human rights violations and breach of the Constitution during the recent walk-to-work demonstrations. The East Africa Law Society sued the Ugandan authorities at the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania, in a case filed by the vice president of the regional law body, Mr Aggrey Mwamu.
Africa: European responses to migration from North Africa
The recent revolutions in Tunisia and Libya have brought the issue of trans-Mediterranean migration to the forefront of popular discussions about Europe’s relationship with its immediate neighbours in the Middle East and North Africa, writes Polly Pallister-Wilkins on www.jadaliyya.com 'It was on the back of hyperbolic and cataclysmic predictions of Europe being “swamped” by migrants that the case for intervention in Libya was partly made and following this, a number of EU member states have agreed on a temporary suspension of the Schengen Agreement. Schengen is an agreement that deals with the free movement of people throughout the European Union and was first signed on 14 June 1985 by five out of the ten members of what was then the European Economic Community (EEC).'
South Africa: NIA probes xenophobia links
The state security agency is probing links between various loose-knit 'business forums' fomenting xenophobic violence across the country. The move comes as momentum builds in the number of attacks against foreign-owned businesses across the country and follows violence directed at Somali business people in Port Elizabeth. On Wednesday 1 June, police held back a crowd of more than 100 – including members of the Greater Gauteng Business Forum (GGBF) – in Ramaphosa informal settlement near Germiston, east of Joburg, as they attempted to forcibly close foreign-owned businesses there.
South Africa: Plans for refugee camps on SA borders
Plans are underway to establish asylum reception centres on the country's borders. Home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni said this would also ensure that fewer foreigners entered the country. The department was recently ordered to relocate a reception centre in Crown Mines, Johannesburg, after the business community went to court claiming the large presence of refugees rendered conditions intolerable for business.
South Africa: Refugee reception centre shut down
The South African government has announced the closure of the only refugee reception centre in Johannesburg, amid warnings that this will have a serious impact on the thousands of refugees flocking across the border every week. 'It is unacceptable that poor and marginalised refugees will have to travel to Pretoria, at great personal cost, to receive permit extensions and other services,' said Sicel’mpilo Shange-Buthane, the Director of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa.
South Africa: Somalis claim soldiers, cops helped get rid of foreigners
The army and Ekurhuleni metro cops helped the police in 'unlawful raids' on shops owned by Somali nationals in Ramaphosa, east of Joburg.Details of the SANDF’s alleged actions are contained in an affidavit filed by the Somali Community Board’s (Scob) national secretary Amir Sheikh at the South Gauteng High Court. Scob, the representative organisation for Somali nationals in South Africa, successfully applied for an order to stop Greater Gauteng Business Forum (GGBF) members from 'intimidating, harassing, hindering and interfering with businesses owned by people of foreign extract'.
Tunisia: Bodies of 150 refugees recovered off coast
The bodies of 150 African refugees fleeing turmoil in Libya have been recovered off the Tunisian coast after vessels carrying them to Europe got into difficulty. The boats ran into problems about 12 miles off the Tunisian island of Kerkennah, en route to Italy. Tunisian coastguard vessels aided by the military rescued 570 people, but many others went into the water when a stampede to get off the small fishing boats caused some of the vessels to capsize.
Western Sahara: Refugees hold film festival
Western Sahara’s eighth Sahara International Film Festival (known as FiSahara), the world's most remote film festival, took place in early May this year deep in the Algerian desert. The festival is located in a refugee camp 130 miles from the nearest town in the Algeria desert and aims to offer entertainment and educational opportunities to the refugees as well as raise awareness of a forgotten humanitarian crisis. The refugees are Saharawi’s from Western Sahara - occupied unlawfully by Morocco in 1976 - and an estimated 165,000 of them have lived in four camps for over three decades.
Africa: Uniting formal and informal economies
Charles Dan is Africa Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN agency responsible for promoting and supporting worldwide labour rights. In a debate on job creation at the World Economic Forum on Africa, Dan called for a breaking-down of barriers between formal and informal economies. In a similar line of thinking, when other panelists fell silent on the problem of large levels of structural unemployment on the continent, Dan offered as a solution the growth of the social and solidarity economy. Read this interview with Dan on www.thinkafricapress.com
Botswana: Breakthrough in state strike
Botswana public sector unions said on Monday (30 May) they had conditionally accepted a three per cent pay rise but a six-week strike that has shaken the ruling party's 45-year grip on power would continue until all demands were met. A spokesman for the Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) said the government must reinstate 1,500 sacked workers as part of a final settlement, and lift a 'no work, no pay' policy. The agreed average pay rise is a fraction of the 16 per cent first demanded by the 90,000 state workers, and less even than the five per cent on offer from the government of the landlocked southern African country, the world's biggest diamond producer.
South Africa: SA approves Wal-Mart deal
South African competition authorities approved Wal-Mart's $2.4 billion bid for Massmart on Tuesday (31 May), saying the retailer must not fire workers for two years. The conditions imposed on the deal - including a programme for developing local suppliers - will likely be seen as a win for the world's largest retailer, which said it would walk away from the deal if targets were put on local procurement.
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...
Investors need to carefully manage issues around land ownership
Speaking during a session on agriculture at this month’s World Economic Forum on Africa, Tanzania’s agriculture minister, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, said that land is a worry for many people and that it needs to be managed properly. Standard Bank recently warned that investors buying farmland in Africa need to do their homework before making purchases in a sector potentially fraught with political and emotional risks.
Biofuels boom in Africa as British firms lead rush on land for plantations
British firms have acquired more land in Africa for controversial biofuel plantations than companies from any other country, a Guardian investigation has revealed. Half of the 3.2m hectares (ha) of biofuel land identified – in countries from Mozambique to Senegal – is linked to 11 British companies, more than any other country.
2. China in Africa
ZCTU warns against Chinese plunder of Zim
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has warned against the ongoing plunder of Zimbabwe by foreigners, especially the Chinese, saying the country’s natural resources should benefit the people. ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo told journalists at the commemoration of Africa Day in Harare that Zimbabwe’s resources “are not for Chinese or any other foreigners to enjoy for a song.”
Chinese company CAMCE to build rice, maize and cotton processing factories in Mozambique
The China CAMC Engineering Co., Ltd. (CAMCE) plans to build three factories in Mozambique. One for husking rice, another for processing maize and a third for cotton, the chief executive of Sociedade de Gestão Integrada de Recursos (Sogir) said Monday in Maputo.
China to fund building of agricultural centre in Mozambique
The Chinese government has promised to donate US$185,000 to fund the construction of the Umbeluzi Centre for Research and Technology Transfer (CITAU), in Mozambique´s Boane district, about 40 kilometres west of Maputo province, the official Mozambique news agency (AIM) reports here Saturday.
China interested in building nuclear plant in East Africa
China wants to help build nuclear power generation in East Africa, uranium mining and investment company IBI Corp said in a statement after meeting Chinese officials in Beijing, revealing China's undimmed appetite for overseas nuclear expansion despite the Japanese nuclear crisis this year. IBI, which has uranium-prospective land in Uganda, said its director, AJ Coffman, held an "encouraging meeting... with the relatively new umbrella organisation overseeing China's research and development of Generation 3 and Generation 4 nuclear power plant designs."
China's ICBC to lend Zambia $285 mln for power line
China's largest lender Industrial and Commercial Bank (ICBC) will loan Zambia $285 million for an electricity line linking southern and eastern Africa, Zambia's state-run power utility said on Monday. Construction of the power line will start in November 2011 and will be done by China's TBEA, said Ernest Mupwaya, managing director of Zambia's power company Zesco.
Congo Starts $600 Million Rehabilitation of Railroad Network
Democratic Republic of Congo started a five-year, $600 million renovation of rail lines in the south- east of the country to boost trade, lower prices and develop its mining industry, Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu said. The project is being funded by the World Bank and the government, with $200 million coming from a minerals-for- infrastructure accord signed with China in 2009.
China to expand investment in South Sudan after independence
The Peoples Republic of China - the world’s emerging second largest economy - has expressed its readiness to invest in South Sudan after its declaration of independence in July. The announcement came in a meeting this week between the vice president of the Government of Southern Sudan, Riek Machar Teny, and a visiting delegation from China’s ministry of Foreign Affairs.
China calls for peaceful solution to conflicts in Sudan's Abyei area: FM spokesperson
China is paying attention to recent conflicts in Sudan's Abyei area, and urges north and south Sudan to solve their differences through negotiation and consultation, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu said Monday in a statement. "China hopes the two sides can adhere to peace and restrain themselves to solve their divergence through negotiations and consultations on the basis of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation and implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," Jiang said.
Busa calls for new trade relationship between Africa and China
Business Unity South Africa (Busa) has called on Chinese companies to shift their approach to doing business in Africa away from raw materials exports to China to the creation of productive capacity and value-adding enterprises. “The solution to Africa’s high levels of unemployment and poverty, lies in us finding and agreeing on a new way of doing business through investing in value-adding enterprises in the continent,” said outgoing Busa CEO Jerry Vilikazi at a Business Forum in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Police co-operation between SA and China
Criminals thinking about committing crime in South Africa and then escaping to China have been warned that they will not be successful, the police ministry said on Monday. "If criminals contemplate committing crime in South Africa with a hope of escaping to China as a hideout and vice versa, they have been strongly warned," said deputy minister of police, Maggie Sotyu.
China invites South Africa to jointly develop clean, renewable energy
China voiced the call for South Africa here on Thursday to jointly develop clean energy and renewable energy. The invitation was addressed during a meeting between visiting Chinese top legislator Wu Bangguo and Chairman of South African National Council of Provinces Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu. Wu, Chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, the country's top legislature, told Mahlangu that the successful experience China obtained in regard of energy-saving and renewable energy during its national development campaign could well serve to South Africa's newly-launched New Economic Growth Path.
China-SA partnership to address poverty
The Comprehensive Strategy Partnership (CSP) between South Africa and China could positively address poverty and unemployment in the country, the department of trade and industry (DTI) said on Saturday. “The CSP that was signed by President Jacob Zuma last year and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jinato could contribute positively in addressing poverty and unemployment (in South Africa),” said acting minister of the DTI, Ebrahim Patel.
Top Chinese legislator meets South African president on bilateral cooperation
Visiting Chinese top legislator Wu Bangguo met here with South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday. The two sides both voiced call for all-round cooperation and richer content of the comprehensive strategic partnership and strengthened bilateral coordination.
Chinese may invest in DRDGold as well
DRDGold ‒ South Africa's fourth-largest gold producer ‒ may follow the lead provided by Gold One International by attracting investment from China, following meetings between DRDGold CEO Niel Pretorius and some eight companies in Beijing earlier this month. Miningmx reports that at least two Chinese companies are interested in taking discussions forward, initially with a view to buying a stake in Blyvoor, the group’s highly marginal underground mine. Pretorius is not blind, however, to the possibility that discussion could be broadened to DRDGold as a whole.
UNIDO, China sign agreement to promote tech transfer, investments
A US$1 million agreement signed on Tuesday, 1 June 2011, between the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and China will aim to help promote the inflow of foreign capital to Shanghai as well as the outflow of Chinese investments to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, in particular to Africa.
First Africa-China Young Leaders Forum concluded, declaration reached
The first Africa-China Young Leaders Forum concluded here Sunday, with the Windhoek Declaration reached at the end of the day, calling on young leaders in Africa and China to take their responsibilities in national development and China-Africa cooperation. The forum, the first of its kind, brought together around 180 youth leaders from Africa and China, with 60 delegates from China, 60 delegates represent Namibia, and a further 60 from another 17 African countries.
Sino-African fund set to swell in 5 years
The China-Africa Development (CAD) fund, the country's biggest equity fund targeting African investments, is set to expand to $5 billion in the coming five years, said Chi Jianxin, president of the fund. "We expect to finish raising the fund's second phase of $2 billion by the end of this year and will kick off the third phase afterwards," Chi said in an exclusive interview with China Daily. Based on current operations, the size of the fund may eventually exceed $5 billion, even though several conditions, such as an efficient exit channel, are required, he said.
China-SADC investment forum held in South Africa
China, South Africa's leading trade partner which has been in the past focusing its investment interests in the country's mining and manufacturing sectors will soon "diversify" to other economic sectors and industries promoting job creation in South Africa, the Chinese investment body revealed Thursday. "South Africa is increasingly becoming China's investment focus and China wants to diversify its investments in South Africa to other sectors of the economy such as information technology, biotechnology, human resources and other industry services," China Industrial Overseas Development and Planning (CIODP) Vice President and Secretary General Fan Chunyong said at the China and SADC Investment Conference held at Sinosteel Plaza in Johannesburg.
3. India in Africa
India gives Tanzania $190m aid, to boost trade
India said on Friday it would give Tanzania USD 180 million to upgrade water supplies in the East African nation, and the two countries agreed to remove tax hurdles and boost bilateral trade. New Delhi earmarked a further USD 10 million of aid for the education sector. The two countries also signed a deal for the construction of a USD 150 million hospital specialising in heart surgery in Dar es Salaam, helping Tanzania save millions of dollars spent each year sending patients for referral treatment in India.
Kamal Group of India Plans to Invest $213 Million in Tanzanian Steel Mill
Kamal Group of India plans to spend 327 billion shillings ($213 million) establishing a steel mill in Tanzania, Indian High Commissioner Kocheril Velayudhan Bhagirath said. The facility will have the capacity to produce 700,000 metric tons of metal a year and will be the biggest in East Africa, Bhagirath said in an interview today in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital. The investment is part of a package of accords being announced by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is scheduled to arrive in the country later today for a two- day state visit.
India, Africa call for end to Libya bombing
Amid growing regional and international concerns about the conflict in Libya, where NATO has intensified its bombing campaign in recent days, India joined Africa in calling for an immediate ceasefire and for a negotiated end to the violence there. The Addis Ababa declaration issued here on Wednesday at the end of the Second Africa-India Forum Summit took note of the U.N. resolutions under which the NATO is using military force against Libya and stressed that “efforts to implement them should be within the spirit and letter of those resolutions.”
Africa to back Indian push for U.N. reform in September
If the views of the 15 countries taking part in the Africa-India Forum Summit here this week are indicative of the overall mood on the continent, the biggest political payoff for New Delhi from its renewed engagement with Africa could well be an accelerated process of reform at the United Nations, when the 66th session of the General Assembly starts in September.
India inks trade and investment deals with Africa
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed trade and investment deals on Wednesday to expand India's economic footprint on the African continent, where China has made huge advances. The Indian premier offered a $5-billion credit line for its trade partner at the start of a two-day summit with some 10 African leaders in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Singh also signed the Addis Ababa Declaration, a political agreement calling for a comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including an expanded Security Council in which Africa and India have pledged each other's support for a permanent seat.
All the way from S Africa to teach India about safe motherhood
Rarely do we come across youngsters who are both willing and courageous to dedicate their lives in the service of society. Meet Hellen Mammeja Kotlolo, a 27-year-old nurse and midwife from South Africa, who is one such youngster who spent nine months educating Indian women about maternal health. Kotlolo, who participated in Ashoka young championship of maternal health, was chosen as one of the 15 international champions who got an opportunity to represent their country on an international platform.
Cairn India eyes expansion into east Africa
Cairn India, majority held by Cairn Energy is interested in expanding into east Africa, a senior company executive said on Wednesday. "We are looking to grow our business elsewhere and east Africa is an obvious place to consider," David Ginger, Cairn India's director of exploration and new ventures, told a regional oil and gas conference in Nairobi.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
BASIC Meet Demands Developed Countries Commitment to Kyoto Protocol
Ministers discussed the work required to achieve a comprehensive and balanced outcome in COP17 and CMP7 in Durban. Ministers indicated that COP17 and CMP7 must continue to work within the framework agreed in Bali, and in this context address the work programme agreed in Cancún, following the agenda agreed in Bangkok, with a view to complete the mandate of the Bali Road Map. They considered the challenges and possible priority elements on the road to COP17 and CMP7 in Durban.
Brics: scrap 'obsolete' IMF deal on European chief
International Monetary Fund (IMF) directors for five key emerging market economies on Tuesday said it was time to scrap an "obsolete unwritten convention" that requires the head of the IMF to be a European. In a joint statement, IMF directors for China, Brazil, India, South Africa and Russia, or Brics countries, criticized European officials for implying that the successor to former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn should continue to be a European.
Medvedev commits Russia’s support to Africa
In his message sent to The New Times, Medvedev said that Africa Day is important for the continent to reflect on its aspirations for freedom, unity, peace, stability and sustainable development. “In the recent years African countries have been steadily moving on the way of fundamental transformations and modernisation. A lot has been done for acceleration of growth rate, strengthening of political, economic and cultural unity on the continent,” the Russian leader said. The Russian President said that Russia would continue to render the most active assistance to Africa and initiatives by the African Union as well as sub-regional communities towards peace and security and creation of their own peace keeping potential.
The rebirth of Russian foreign aid
Russia spent $472.32m on foreign aid in 2010, according to the Russian ministry of finance's report released in advance of this week's G8 summit in Deauville, France. The country's aid spending, according to the report, dropped from $785m in 2009 to $472.32m in 2010 – a decrease of 40%. However, Russia had only temporarily increased its aid budget in 2009 to soften the blow of the global financial and economic crises, particularly in the neighbouring former Soviet republics, the report says.
Huawei's Bharti Africa contract worth $400m, sources say
Bharti Airtel has awarded a contract to Chinese telecoms gearmaker Huawei Technologies to expand and manage its mobile network in Africa, the companies said, in a deal that two sources said was worth about $400 million. Bharti said in February that Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei would be its network partners in Africa.
SA lags behind other Brics in Angola deals
SA LAGGED behind Brazil, Russia, India and China, its fellow members in the Brics emerging market bloc, in using its political and commercial capital to clinch significant contractual agreements in Angola, research published last week by financial services group Standard Bank found. Angola is the continent’s second- largest producer of crude oil and accounts for 6% of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP), 10% of its trade and 5% of investment flows. Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba warned last week that SA would lose out to the other Brics members on deals on the continent if an innovative plan was not in place to conquer these markets.
India working on new manufacturing policy
India will formulate its new policy for increasing share of manufacturing in its gross domestic product with a view to create additional jobs in the country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for a meeting on June 2 of senior ministers to give direction for firming up the policy. Its draft prepared by the Industry Ministry has suggested flexibility in labour laws and changes in environment norms in big industrial enclaves.
Culture clash complicates China's Brazil push
Stocking shelves in a Chinese grocery store, Thiago warned that he didn't want to be caught chatting during working hours. Within seconds, however, the Brazilian unleashed a pent-up flood of complaints about the owners, who lingered just beyond hearing distance. "My bosses have never heard of a day off," said the 20-year-old, who would only allow his first name to be used, for fear of losing his job. "Vacations? Forget it. They pay well and they pay for extra hours, but they don't understand that some things are more important to Brazilians than money.
Sarkozy calls for new rules on emerging powers
It is time to impose rules on China and India on issues such as climate change and trade as emerging powers can no longer be classified as poor countries, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday. Emerging economies have now become a third category of countries between the rich and the poor, Sarkozy said during a press conference at the ongoing G8 Summit in the French coastal city, Deauville.
India, Russia to help boost democracy in Nigeria
India and Russia have congratulated Nigeria on a smooth presidential inauguration with a pledge to help strengthen democracy in the country. India’s Minister of Water Resources and Minority Affairs, Salman Khurshid, made the pledge on Sunday in Abuja, in an interview with newsmen. Khurshid, who is also the Head of the India delegation to the inauguration ceremony, said the smooth inauguration was a sign of healthy political growth and development in Nigeria.
Malaysia Smelting Signs Mineral Concessions Agreement With Congo
Malaysia Smelting Corp., the world’s third-biggest tin producer, signed a confidentiality agreement with the Democratic Republic of Congo to develop mineral concessions in the war-torn east, Congo’s mines minister said. The company will take over mineral concessions in Maniema, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces from the government-owned miner Sakima, Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu said today.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
South Africa is not alone in having to face rising labour costs and a critical skills shortage. It shares these unpleasant scenarios with China and India, the world’s two fastest-growing large economies. India's wage and salary costs are forecast to rise by 13% this year as its reserve bank battles to control inflation. Chinese wage costs are predicted to rise by 9% and it risks losing jobs to other low wage and high productivity countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. There are also shifts – chasing comparative advantage – from China to India.
Bidding to green the grass more
“When elephants fight,” Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi told Business Standard in Addis Ababa recently, “the impact is felt by the grass.” Zenawi’s comment, accompanied by a knowing smile, came in answer to questions posed by visiting Indian journalists on the “new scramble for Africa” clearly underway across the vast continent between Asia’s largest nations and rising economic powers, India and China. Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh completed a four-day trip to Ethiopia where he attended the second India-Africa Forum summit – he travels to Tanzania for the next two days – and unveiled a series of dazzling initiatives, New Delhi seems to have clearly made its most impressive bid yet for influencing hearts and minds across Africa.
India-China competition benefiting Africa: Diplomats
Growing competition between India and China is helping African countries get quality expertise and investments from two of Asia's fastest growing economies, say African diplomats. "We are happy that there is intense competition between India and China to gain African markets. It is very good for us," said Katureebee Tayebwa, counsellor at the Ugandan High Commission in New Delhi. "These countries are ready to make huge investments in various African nations without any conditions. They are obviously giving stiff competition to the US and European countries," Tayebwa told IANS here.
India can earn goodwill by helping Africans in their real needs
The second India-Africa Summit in Ethiopia comes at a moment when average economic growth in the African continent has returned to the decadal average of 5%. A growing Indian economic juggernaut and an upwardly mobile African economy are natural counterparts with more complementarities than competition in their product mixes. Cognisant of the fundamental economic interests at stake, India and the 16 African states, whose heads of government and business delegations are attending the summit, are prioritising concrete trade, investment and technology transfer issues at the top of the agenda. There is a palpable sense across Africa that India's dynamic private sector can bring tremendous benefits to the continent's poor without the accompanying political bossiness characteristic of the EU and the US.
IDC takes lessons from Brazil
The idea that South Africa would look to a development bank in Brazil is even more significant when one considers that for years economists repeatedly wrote off the South American country as one of all talk and no action. But in the last decade or more, things have begun to change. Last year, Brazil grew 7.5% and this year it overtook Italy to become the world's seventh-largest economy. Much of this growth is being driven by loans to businesses and infrastructure projects by Brazil's development bank, BNDES. The bank has more than tripled its lending over the last five years, so much so that it is now one of the biggest development banks in the world exceeding even the mighty World Bank.
Statement by Ambassador Mandisi Mpahlwa of South Africa, Peoples’ Friendship University, Moscow, 18 May 2011
I would like to start by highlighting the importance South Africa attaches to BRICS. From the outset, South Africa saw more in this mechanism than had most commentators. For us, it was never about the size of the economies, populations or landmasses of the BRIC member countries. Rather, South Africa sensed that BRIC was no longer an economist’s forecast or an academic prediction of which developing countries would first emerge to share centre stage with the leading economic powers. BRIC in a sense already existed in reality as an association of like-minded countries with a reputation for being independent and committed to reforming global decision-making structures to make them more balanced, representative and hence better able to address contemporary realities.
The Global Fund, China, and Civil Society
Last week, I went to Beijing to attend a conference on “China’s Emerging Global Health and Foreign Aid Engagement” co-hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies and the China Institute of International Studies. My presentation focused on the evolution of Chinese domestic decision-making on global health and foreign aid programs in Africa. Prior to my departure, news came out that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria had frozen payments of grants to China worth hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the New York Times, the Fund’s decision seemed to be “rooted in a collision between the fund’s conviction that grass-roots organizations must be intrinsically involved in the fight to control diseases like AIDS, and the Chinese government’s growing suspicion of any civil-society groups that are not directly under its control.” The Times’ speculation was later confirmed by the Chinese Ministry of Health officials.
Angola: Police put down anti-poverty protests
Police arrested more than 20 people to break-up rare protests in the Angolan capital but released all of them the following day, police and activists said Thursday (26 May). An anti-poverty protest near downtown Luanda was organised by the 'Revolutionary Intervention Movement', a gathering of rights activists, they said. About 100 protesters called on President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to improve living conditions in Angola, where UNICEF estimates that 87 per cent of the urban population lives in shantytowns, often without water supplies.
Egypt: The second revolution dawns
Two-and-a-half years into the financial crisis that began in the fall of 2008, workers have begun to fight back on a mass scale, says this World Socialist Web Site article. 'The ruling class and its political representatives are engaged in a worldwide drive to turn back the conditions of workers gained through struggle over generations. The war in Libya and the efforts of the US to bolster the military regime in Egypt are part of a global process that includes historic cuts in social programs in Europe and the United States. The February events in Egypt and the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa were the beginning of a working-class counteroffensive.'
Ghana: Claims and counter claims ahead of elections
Ghanaians are being treated to fascinating intrigue and allegations of chicanery and underhand dealings as the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) scrambles to regain its grip ahead of an anticipated election primary. A few weeks ago former President Jerry Rawlings used the broken English language proverb of 'Who born dog' to support his claim that incumbent John Atta Mills was allowing his appointees to get away with poor performance, and that this would not have happened when he was in power. But Rawlings, considered the strongman of Ghanaian politics, is finding batting from the other side a tad unfamiliar, with an aide alleging that his boss's phone has been tapped by the country's intelligence service.
Liberia: Opposition unites to oust President Sirleaf
Six opposition political parties have launched a coalition in Monrovia in a bid to oust President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the October polls. Johnson-Sirleaf is seeking re-election for a second five-year term, which she has promised to win against all odds. Several interest groups have also signed up with the coalition, arguing that they were supporting the coalition because of the ideals it stood for.
Malawi: Malawi to hold tri-partite polls in 2014
Malawi will, for the first time since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1994, hold tripartite elections in 2014. This follows the cancellation of local government elections that were scheduled to be held this year. 'This means voters will be voting for the president, members of parliament and councillors at the same time,' Local Government and Rural Development Minister Anna Kachikho said. Kachikho said a bill had been prepared to amend the Constitution to allow for the holding of the tripartite polls.
Morocco: Police disperse Casablanca, Tangier protests
Moroccan anti-riot police have broken up a series of protests recently, drawing international criticism. The European Commission on Monday 30 May expressed concern at 'the violence used during the demonstrations'. 'We call for restraint in the use of force and respect of fundamental freedoms. Freedom of assembly is a democratic right,' spokesperson Natasha Butler said. The demonstrations, organised by the youth-led February 20 Movement, took place in 40 cities and left dozens wounded in Casablanca and Tangier.
Nigeria: Blast kills a dozen
A bomb blast rocked a popular drinking spot by an army barracks in northern Nigeria on Sunday 29 May, killing a dozen people hours after President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in for his first full term, officials said. A rescue worker who asked not to be identified told Reuters his colleagues had counted 12 dead bodies and that about 25 people had been wounded by the blast.
South Africa: ‘SA may have another 1976 uprising’
Unless drastic action is taken to reduce unemployment, South Africa may face another 1976 uprising, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said. 'I have already over and over again pointed out the danger of a ticking bomb, that unless we can do something drastic about the crisis of unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, we risk another 1976 uprising,' he said in a speech delivered in Johannesburg. He was speaking at a discussion themed 'Critical conversations on prospects for a non-racial future in SA'.
Swaziland: Sweeping aside Mswati
Statement of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Swaziland on the economic crisis in the country
'Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sent another of its missions to Swaziland to try to put the Mswati autocracy on track to getting a cash bailout to try to stave off its financial meltdown. The IMF mission revealed that the government has only about a month of spending power left. And it issued stern warnings and rebukes to the king’s puppet Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini about the government’s failure to change its wasteful spending habits.'
Statement of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Swaziland on the economic crisis in the country
The CC of the CPS notes with concern the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in Swaziland.
Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sent another of its missions to Swaziland to try to put the Mswati autocracy on track to getting a cash bailout to try to stave off its financial meltdown.
The IMF mission revealed that the government has only about a month of spending power left. And it issued stern warnings and rebukes to the king’s puppet Prime Minister SibusisoDlamini about the government’s failure to change its wasteful spending habits.
The CPS has no affection for the IMF, as it is only keen to hamstring developing poor countries through indebtedness and force them to favour capitalist privatisation at the expense of human development.
In Swaziland the IMF recognises a country on the brink of collapse, and the Fund is unwilling to contemplate supporting a loan to Mswati’s regime. Swaziland is a bad bet for the time being. But the IMF would like to turn things around and see Swaziland receive its money (or through the African Development Bank). This would give the IMF a greater foothold in the country to pursue its support for the expansion of private capital and ownership.
This is a strategy the fund, as one branch of the treasury of imperialism, applies wherever it uses loans. It is one mechanism in expanding and entrenching capitalism, and in rolling back pro-poor strategies run as integrated government programmes.
The IMF is correct to point out the hopelessness of the situation in Swaziland. It is also correct when it says that bold steps are needed to tackle the situation. The Fund was too scared to openly attack the massive waste of money and resources in Swaziland on sustaining the Mswati royal household – even though this spending is one of the main reasons the country is in such a mess. Bogus salaries are drained from government by prince and princes who fraudulently occupy senior positions in state administration, army, and police. But the IMF did indirectly propose that the government should use royal-owned companies to raise cash.
Clearly, the IMF does not want to rock the political boat in Swaziland. It fears any form of popular uprising that might disrupt the chances of creating a space for capitalism to once again flourish under the autocracy. Together with other imperialist interests, it would like to see Swaziland have a more liberal-democratic face that would give capitalism an easier ride.
The CPS warns that IMF designs on Swaziland are inherently harmful and against the interests of the Swazi people. The Fund has no interest in the development of the country, of having a government able to bring about a planned reconstruction of our country. The fund cares nothing for the 70% poverty levels that afflict our country or that the 26% HIV-AIDS rate has already destroyed much of the productive capacity and potential of our population. The IMF is no friend of the Swazi people. It is a harmful and potentially disastrous influence. As elsewhere in the world, it is only interested in securing investments through its loans and promoting capitalist exploitation.
The pro-democracy movement must use the financial crisis in Swaziland as a crucial lever to bring down the Mswati regime. The crisis and bankruptcy of the government offer an improved environment to turn popular protests into more strategic action. The crisis is causing our people hardship, but we must show that it represents a point of change, a great opportunity to force the government out and to strip the king and the royal household of all their powers.
The CPS calls for concerted strategic planning and action by the broad pro-democracy movement, especially PUDEMO and the trade union movement, to exacerbate the crisis of the regime.
The CPS is devoting all its energy to mobilising its growing membership on the ground in Swaziland and its allies inside and outside the country to force the direction of the crisis. All action and planning must be geared towards reaching a point of change that will benefit the workers and poor – the majority of our country – by creating a democratic dispensation that puts their interests first.
We call for the resignation of the government, the stripping of all executive and judicial power from the monarch, and the formation of an interim government drawn from all democratic and progressive forces to plan the creation of a democratic dispensation. Whose interests do the highly paid puppet members of parliament serve? It is this legislature that the so called Swaziland Terrorism Act and the Public Service Act was passed into law. All these legislative pieces are instruments of oppression that reinforced to the mass underdevelopment of our country. All the MPs must resign in favour of the struggle of the workers and poor. This will be the start of Swaziland’s national democratic revolution.
The Mswati regime is morally, politically and financially bankrupt. We must sweep it aside.
*Issued by Central Committee *
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Egypt: Former Egyptian minister of finance sentenced to 30 years
A former Egyptian minister, Youssef Boutros-Ghali has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for squandering public funds and abuse of power. He is also expected to pay a fine of approximately $11 million. The ruling delivered in his absence indicates the country's determination to deal with past mistakes as it prepares for a new dispensation. Youssef Boutros-Ghali, the nephew of former UN Chief Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was a finance minister and a close confidant of Gamal Mubarak, son to the ousted president Hosni Mubarak. Reports that we couldn't verify independently indicate that he is in currently living Beirut. An arrest warrant has been issued by the International Police, the Interpol.
Tanzania: Outburst over BAE charity payment
Tanzania’s foreign affairs minister, Bernard Membe, is up in arms over the decision by BAE Systems to pay 29.5-million pounds in settlement of the controversial sale of a radar system. He told a press conference in Dar es Salaam that apart from the decision being unfair, the British company’s move was aimed at tarnishing the image of the Tanzania government before the international community. He warned that if BAE Systems went ahead and paid the money to a charity organisation, such an organisation would not be allowed to operate in Tanzania.
Africa: Doha trade talks 'will not be finalised in 2011'
South Africa believes that the Doha round of trade talks will not be finalised this year and that 'the 2011 window of opportunity is closed', according to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Davies said that the round would focus on delivering a plan b, which would focus on the less controversial issues with the prime aim of delivering something substantial to less developed countries. Davies said that, at a recent ministerial conference, attendees focused on what part of plan b could be delivered, even if on a smaller scale. This included some subjects that were less controversial in terms of the World Trade Organisation's talks, such as trade facilitation issues, customs cooperation, the abolishment of subsidies on exports, non-tariff barriers in industrial tariffs, rules about regional trade agreements, as well as fishing subsidies.
Africa: G8 commitment shifts to Arab spring
The Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations are posed to put aside the pledge on fighting poverty in developing nations. Their attention has now shifted to supporting the aspirations of ‘Arab up spring’ through a new commitment called ‘Deauville Partnership’. The world leaders said in a statement that the international development banks could give more than $20 billion to Egypt and Tunisia as they seek to support countries that overthrew dictators this year and are trying to establish free democracies.
Angola: The rise of Angola
Figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show that during 2011 Angola will leapfrog Morocco to become Africa’s fifth largest economy. Although growing, Angola's immediate influence on African affairs will not supercede that of the region's giants, South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, says this article by Dominic Wall on www.thinkafricapress.com 'The gap between the trio and the rest in economic size, demographics and political clout is considerable. ECOWAS, by far the most sophisticated and active regional bloc, is dependent upon Nigerian funding and manpower, while Southern Africa - besides Angola itself - relies heavily on South Africa. These and other factors mean the traditional giants will continue to dominate. But Angola’s rise has been, and is likely to remain rapid, despite a number of economic weaknesses. And the ability of the Dos Santos regime to influence events on a regional scale cannot be ignored.'
Egypt: Alarm sounded on economy
Egyptian officials are warning that the country, just emerging from a popular uprising that ousted the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, could be facing a major economic crisis with lagging international aid and foreign investment. General Mahmoud Nassr, a member of the Supreme Military Council, which is running the country’s interim government, told an economic conference in Cairo last week that foreign direct investment (FDI) has come to a standstill while Western rating agencies race to downgrade the country’s sovereign credit rating. The poverty rate has also worsened to 70 per cent, Nassr added.
Global: NGOs to Zoellick - open up the energy strategy consultations
A wide-ranging group of civil society organisations from around the globe has sent a letter to World Bank president Robert Zoellick urging him to open up the proposed Energy Strategy to another round of consultations. 'The Energy Sector Strategy has the potential to serve as a blueprint for low carbon, low impact clean energy scale up, while addressing the need of energy poor populations, which is an area of significant expertise and interest for a number of civil society organizations. Given that the
Energy Sector Strategy document will be significantly changed from the Approach Paper that previously underwent consultation, we believe it would be a mistake to not post the full Energy Sector Strategy document for consultation.'
North Africa: Arab spring wary of economic lifelines
Governments and international institutions that once bankrolled the authoritarian regimes of Tunisia’s Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak have begun floating aid packages to speed up the economic recovery and transition to democracy in these countries. Arab revolutionaries have reason to be wary. 'Very few details have been offered about the form this aid will take,' cautions Amr Hassanein, chairman of MERIS, a regional affiliate of Moody’s credit ratings agency. 'But as generous as the packages may seem, you can be sure there are strings attached.'
Global: New push aims to find cure for Aids virus
More investment is needed to find a cure for HIV, the new head of the International Aids Society has said. Bertrand Audoin admits this might take as long as 25 years, but he says a cure is the only way to keep ahead of the HIV epidemic in the long term during tough financial times. Sunday sees the 30th anniversary of the first medical reports of a new illness.
Global: Poor states should start campaign on patent rights
Pharmaceutical industries in emerging markets are shifting their focus away from poor to developed countries, which will affect access to cheap generic medicines. Poor states should tackle this development by capitalising on the international trade exemptions they still enjoy regarding medicines as 'intellectual property'. These comments come from a new report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), titled 'Investment in Pharmaceutical Production in the Least Developed Countries', or LDCs.
South Africa: Call for renewed commitment going into the UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS
On 8–10 June 2011, key stakeholders from all over the world will gather in New York to review progress of the global response to HIV/AIDS and to plan the way forward. This forum has the potential to reinvigorate the commitment to HIV/AIDS nationally and internationally. In light of this, on 20 May, SECTION27, TAC, Médecins Sans Frontières, the World AIDS Campaign and the AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa sent a letter to the Director General for Health calling on the South African government to take the lead in setting ambitious and measurable targets, and encouraging similar commitments from other UN member states.
Tanzania: Lack of sanitation, sports at Dar es Salaam primary schools
Since 2002, the Government of Tanzania has been implementing the Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP) with two specific aims: making education more accessible and improving its quality. While significant success has been made in extending access, improving quality remains a challenge, says a May 2011 brief from Uwazi monitoring. 'This brief is the second in a series about the quality of public schools in Dar es Salaam. The results show that many public schools in Dar es Salaam lack proper playgrounds and face debilitating sanitary conditions.'
Africa: New blog on LGBT issues
A new blog known as Society's Perfection aims to bring issues affecting the LGBT community worldwide to the fore, although it has a focus on Africa.
Kenya: Mombasa’s gays vow to fight damning laws
Members of the gay and lesbian community have said they will lobby for the abolition of laws which criminalise their sexual orientation. Speaking at a dinner to mark the international day against homophobia and the minority groups, they said they will seek to have sections 162 to 165 of the Penal Code repealed. It was hosted by the Coast regional office of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals,Transgender and Intersexuals.
South Africa: Uganda envoy Qwelane guilty of hate speech
The South African ambassador to Uganda, a former columnist for South Africa's Sunday Sun paper, has been found guilty of hate speech for an anti-gay article. South Africa's Equality Court fined Jon Qwelane $14,450 (£8,920) and ordered him to apologise for promoting hatred in the column published in 2008. Headlined 'Call me names but gay is NOT OKAY', it caused an uproar at the time. Mr Qwelane, who was appointed last year to Uganda where homosexual acts are illegal, did not mount a defence.
Africa: Chevron feels the heat
Chevron's Annual General Meeting of shareholders kicked off at the San Ramon headquarters of the California-based oil giant in late May. Chevron's CEO John Watson, its Board of Directors and shareholders were greeted by over 150 activists, who had traveled to San Ramon from regions the world over, from Angola to Indonesia, from Alaska to Ecuador, to share the stories of the human and environmental degradation Chevron had unleashed in their communities.
South Africa: Green energy roll-out stalled
There is growing unease among green energy developers that there will be even more delays to the procurement of green power - the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) announced it would release its revised tariffs for renewable energy only in mid-June. They were expected by the end of May. Besides having to wait for clarity about what they can expect to be paid for their power, broader policy uncertainty and other bottlenecks are contributing to unhappiness over the roll-out of green power, despite the government's commitments to boosting the development of renewable energy.
South Africa: Sound policy key to renewable energy future
A radical rethink of current energy policy can cut South Africa's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent in 2050 compared to 1990 levels. More than that - after an initial spike in investment - South Africans four decades down the line would pay 23 billion dollars per year less for their electricity compared to business as usual. This scenario is presented in a report titled 'The Advanced Energy [R]evolution: a Sustainable Energy Outlook for South Africa', presented on 25 May in Johannesburg by the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) and Greenpeace.
Africa: Biofuels boom in Africa as British firms lead rush on land for plantations
British firms have acquired more land in Africa for controversial biofuel plantations than companies from any other country, a Guardian investigation has revealed. Half of the 3.2m hectares (ha) of biofuel land identified - in countries from Mozambique to Senegal - is linked to 11 British companies, more than any other country. Liquid fuels made from plants - such as bioethanol - are hailed by some as environmentally-friendly replacements for fossil fuels. Because they compete for land with crop plants, biofuels have also been linked to record food prices and rising hunger. There are also fears they can increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Africa: Land grab could lead to future water crisis
China, India and Saudi Arabia have lately leased vast tracts of land in sub-Saharan Africa at knockdown prices. Their primary aim is to grow food abroad using the water that African countries don't have the infrastructure to exploit. Doing so is cheaper and easier than using water resources back home. But it is a plan that could well backfire. 'There is no doubt that this is not just about land, this is about water,' says Philip Woodhouse of the University of Manchester, UK. Take Saudi Arabia, for instance. Between 2004 and 2009, it leased 376,000 hectares of land in Sudan to grow wheat and rice. At the same time the country cut back on wheat production on home soil, which is irrigated with water from aquifers that are no longer replenished - a finite resource.
Africa: Let’s put an end to the media’s gender blackout
On 3 May journalists the world over commemorated World Press Freedom Day with gusto and pomp. They used the opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future events that have shaped the profession. But as the world commemorated, there were concerns in a Declaration issued by a Namibian conference about the lack of gender equality in the media.
Africa: Let’s put an end to the media’s gender blackout
On 3 May journalists the world over commemorated World Press Freedom Day with gusto and pomp. They used the opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future events that have shaped the profession.
But as the world commemorated, there were concerns in a Declaration issued by a Namibian conference about the lack of gender equality in the media. Indeed, the findings of the Africa regional report of the 2010 Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) shows that women are underrepresented in news content and in media structures. Women account for only 19% of news sources in African media, unchanged since 2005.
In his analysis of African media 20 years after the Windhoek Declaration, Rhodes University Professor Guy Berger argues that in 1991 the Declaration focused mostly on print media. During the Windhoek +10 review, it was expanded to deal with broadcasting.
Berger poses the question: ‘Can we do the same as with Windhoek?’ in reference to the upcoming Cape Town Conference dubbed Windhoek+20, to be held in September 2011. The conference will focus on access to information.
There appears to be a very real need to once again expand the Windhoek Declaration, this time to include gender.
Many media and gender experts are arguing that in this era of enormous change, the media can only play a critical role in the lives of Africans – a majority of whom are women – if the following questions are tackled: Information for what and for whom? Why are we collecting this information and what difference is it making in the lives of women? What do we do with the information once it is collected?
Media development scholars generally agree that information can empower women and enable them to forge links for gender equality. The Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies and the Beijing Platform for Action recognise media as one of the fundamental tools for achieving gender equality and the economic empowerment of women.
Yet women continue to be underrepresented and portrayed in a narrow range of roles in the mainstream media: most often either as victims of violence or as sex objects.
During the conference in Namibia, concerns were raised about the fact that African media has failed to commit itself to ensuring that the gender question becomes a standard of measure for press freedom and access to information on the continent.
Meanwhile, many media practitioners have been content to argue that since society is male-dominated, it is this reality they convey. There has been little willingness to grapple with what is meant by freedom of expression when half the population is virtually mute – nor the more philosophical question of the role of the media in a democracy: to project only what is, or what could be?
Another important discussion revolves around media ethics and codes of conduct. For instance, why do women continue to be objectified and portrayed as sex objects and why are their voices and opinions ignored. If this approach is considered unethical, then which codes are African media houses using?
Therefore, as the Windhoek Declaration is expanded to embrace access to information, there is also a need to develop a gender addendum which takes cognisance of the context in which media is produced.
What this means is that an ‘engendered’ Windhoek Declaration can help media managers to address these problems, making it a duty to increase representation of women, and give women space and visibility on issues of national importance.
The main areas of focus should be to increase women’s access to, and use of, the media; improve the portrayal of women in the media; increase women’s representation in decision-making structures in media houses and develop structures and frameworks for gender mainstreaming based on laws and policies.
If the Windhoek Declaration is to continue to be a guiding, constructive document in this era of intense media transformation, any expansion must include the issue of gender justice in the media.
* Rosemary Okello-Orlale is the Executive Director of the Africa Woman and Child Feature Service based in Nairobi. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service special series on gender and press freedom.
Angola: Victory for cyber activists?
In a rare climbdown, the Angolan government has withdrawn controversial legislation severely restricting how people use the internet. It was scrapped when the government removed it from parliament moments before it was due to be voted into law. Under the proposal, which had already passed a first round of voting, it would have been illegal to share information electronically that could 'destroy, alter or subvert state institutions' or 'damage national integrity or independence'.
Global: Sarkozy's internet restriction comments slammed
ARTICLE 19 is very concerned by apparent efforts by the G8, led by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, to impose tighter controls of the Internet. ARTICLE 19 once again calls on all states, including G8 member states, not to violate their freedom of expression obligations by imposing unjustifiable restrictions on the Internet. They should instead follow the recommendations in the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom expression’s new report, which emphasise the applicability of international human right standards to the Internet.
Mauritania: Journalists form rights group
A group of Mauritanian media professionals and bloggers last week announced the creation of a new club aimed at protecting journalists' rights. The club, whose vision is inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, seeks 'to encourage journalists to write about topics on human rights in their press reports', according to its founding statement released 22 May.
Somalia: Daring to report from Mogadishu
Somalia, which has not had a functioning government in almost two decades, is listed as Africa's deadliest country for journalists with 34 journalists killed since 1991, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Despite these killings and daily death threats, a few reporters remain in the country to provide the world with an inside view of the fighting that plagues Somalia.
South Africa: MPs clash on secrecy bill
Rights activists are mobilising to unleash a fresh wave of protests against the Protection of Information Bill, accusing the ANC of trying to bulldoze the contentious legislation through Parliament using its majority, without making any concessions. The Right2Know campaign said it believed the ANC’s position on what it has dubbed the 'Secrecy Bill' had hardened. Some opposition MPs agreed, suggesting that with the local government elections behind it, the ruling party was now determined to have its way.
Sudan: Media freedom worsens steadily in south
As South Sudan prepares to become officially independent in July, Reporters Without Borders says it is appalled by recent developments affecting press freedom and appeals in particular to the new country’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, to release the Darfuri journalist Mohammed Arku without delay. Employed by Sudan Radio Service, Arku was arrested by South Sudan’s security services in Wau on 11 May for taking photos without government permission, although the area where he was arrested is not a militarised one.
Libya: Libya says Nato air raids 'killed 700 civilians'
The Libyan government says Nato air raids have killed more than 700 civilians since bombing began in March. Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said more than 4,000 people had been wounded, but gave no evidence to confirm his figures. Nato has denied killing large numbers of civilians, saying its air strikes are to protect Libyans from Colonel Gaddafi's forces.
Libya: NATO air raids shake Libyan capital
Six powerful explosions have been heard in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, as warplanes flew over the city. A powerful but distant blast was felt in the centre of the city at around 1900 GMT on Sunday 5 June, followed by stronger explosions a few minutes later, an AFP correspondent said, unable to immediately determine the targets. NATO fighter jets earlier launched intensive air raids on the capital and its eastern suburbs.
Libya: Zuma flies in for talks
South Africa President Jacob Zuma arrived in Tripoli on Monday (30 May) for talks on ending the Libyan conflict as Nato said Muammar Gaddafi's 'reign of terror' was near its end. The South African presidency said Zuma is seeking an immediate ceasefire, to boost humanitarian aid and bring about the reforms needed to eliminate the cause of the conflict. But it rejected reports the talks would focus on an exit strategy for Gaddafi, saying the visit is part of African Union efforts to end the conflict between his forces and rebels fighting to oust him.
Somalia: Child casualties rise dramatically in latest fighting
Violence in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has driven the number of child casualties to a new high, the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) said, noting that the main cause of children’s deaths were burns, chest injuries and internal haemorrhage resulting from blasts, shrapnel and bullets. Of the 1,590 reported weapon-related injuries in May alone, 735 cases or 46 per cent were suffered by children under the age of five, compared to only 3.5 per cent in April.
Sudan: Sudan agrees to demilitarise north-south zone
North and south Sudan have agreed to set up a demilitarised zone along their shared border, as the south moves closer to independence. The announcement, made by the African Union (AU) on Tuesday, comes 10 days after the north seized the disputed Abyei region, prompting tens of thousands of people to flee. Alex de Waal, an AU adviser who has facilitated negotiations on security issues between Sudan's north and south regions, said the parties agreed to the move on Monday during talks in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.
Sudan: UN urges Sudan's immediate pullout from Abyei
The UN Security Council has called on the Khartoum government to withdraw its forces immediately from the Abyei region, a key area of dispute in the north-south division of Sudan next month. There has been no agreement on which country the oil-producing region should belong to when south Sudan becomes independent on July 9, but the northern military seized it on 21 May 21, sparking fears of a renewed civil war. 'The council demands that the government of Sudan withdraw immediately from the Abyei area,' said a unanimous formal council statement.
Africa: Technology for transparency online map
This map available on the Global Voices website documents the use of online and mobile technology to promote transparency and accountability around the world and includes several entries from Africa.
Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter - June issue
Fahamu’s Refugee Programme is pleased to announce the June issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter, a monthly publication that provides a forum for providers of refugee legal aid. With a focus on the global South, it aims to serve the needs of legal aid providers as well as raise awareness of refugee concerns among the wider readership of Pambazuka News. You can also read the newsletter on our new blog and Facebook page.
Fahamu’s Refugee Programme is pleased to announce the June issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter, a monthly publication that provides a forum for providers of refugee legal aid. With a focus on the global South, it aims to serve the needs of legal aid providers as well as raise awareness of refugee concerns among the wider readership of Pambazuka News. You can also read the newsletter on our new blog and Facebook page.
Subscribe to Farm Radio Weekly
Farm Radio Weekly is aimed at broadcasters but the feature and news stories are relevant to anyone interested in agricultural development in Africa. The stories are written ready to be read out on radio. They deliberately focus on small-scale farmers, looking at how their lives and livelihoods are affected by innovation and change. Anyone interested can sign up online:
http://farmradio.org/english/partners/fr_weekly_subscribe.asp (English form)
http://farmradio.org/francais/partners/fr_weekly_subscribe.asp (form in French)
Commonwealth Commission/Chevening Scholarships for African human rights advocates
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is pleased to announce five scholarships for candidates from African
Commonwealth countries to study for the part-time Masters in International Human Rights Law, starting September 2012. The Master’s degree in International Human Rights Law is offered jointly by the Department for Continuing Education and the Faculty of Law. It is taught over 22 months and consists of two periods of distance learning and two residential sessions in Oxford. The degree programme is designed in particular for lawyers and other human rights advocates who wish to pursue advanced studies in international human rights law but may need to do so alongside work or family responsibilities.
Opportunity for young African journalists
It is the time again when we seek entries for the prestigious FitzGerald prize for young African journalists. This offers a scholarship for a promising, young (under 30) African journalist or aspirant journalist to do a post graduate BA hons degree at the University of The Witwatersrand ’s Journalism Programme in Johannesburg, starting in early 2012, and to join Reuters thereafter for a period of work experience.
PhD scholarship in climate science for African scientists at the University of Sussex, UK
The University of Sussex invites applications for a fully funded PhD scholarship for research into climate change and the African climate system.
The ‘The Peter Carpenter Climate Change Scholarship’ is open to citizens of African countries only, and has a start date of October 2011. The scholarship covers 100 per cent of tuition fees and provides a stipend for living expenses of approximately £13,400. The scholarship is one component of the African Climate Initiative at Sussex, which aims to better understand the nature, causes and consequences of, and responses to climate change in Africa. We invite applications from those with an exceptional academic record including a first class degree in a relevant discipline (e.g. meteorology, physics, environmental science, geosciences, geography). Candidates with the equivalent of an upper second class degree and relevant professional experience may be considered.
Closing date for applications is 8 July 2011.
The PhD programme
The PhD will be supervised within the department of Geography, where there is a vibrant research programme into the climate of Africa (www.sussex.ac.uk/geography/research/clusters/climateresearch). The PhD will be focus on one of the major research themes in the department; Climate change and the water cycle, atmospheric aerosols; land-atmosphere interaction. Potential topics are provided on the webpage. Depending on qualifications the successful candidate can undertake a one year MSc in either ‘Climate Change and Development’ or ‘Climate Change and Policy’ prior to the 3-year PhD research programme (www.sussex.ac.uk/climatechange/mscprogrammes).
Climate Change research at Sussex
The cross campus Sussex climate change network (www.sussex.ac.uk/climatechange) is a virtual centre for multi-disciplinary research and teaching into the causes, consequences of, and responses to climate change. The network brings together world leading researchers from the University of Sussex and the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) in a multi-disciplinary programme of research and teaching to improve our understanding of how climate change is developing, the impacts on people and the implications for mitigation and adaptation policy and action. Within the context of Africa, the network facilitates multi-disciplinary research to improve the quality of climate information available and its use in sustainable climate adaptation practice, for example in water management and agriculture. The University offers state-of-the-art computing facilities for climate research. Contacts For further information email firstname.lastname@example.org Or informally email email@example.com How to apply Candidates should apply on-line at http://www.sussex.ac.uk/study/pg/applying/
Candidates should ensure that they clearly state on the application form that they are applying for the Peter Carpenter Climate Change Scholarship
Applications should be submitted by 8 July 2011
Africa and the challenges of the 21st Century
Rabat, Morocco, 5-9 December 2011
The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA, will hold its 13th General Assembly on 5-9 December 2011, in Rabat, Morocco. The triennial General Assembly is one of the most important scientific events of the African continent. It provides the African social science research community with a unique opportunity to reflect on some of the key issues facing the social sciences in particular, and Africa and the world at large.
XIIIth CODESRIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Rabat, Morocco, 5-9 December 2011
AFRICA AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY
The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA, will hold its 13th General Assembly on 5-9 December 2011, in Rabat, Morocco. The triennial General Assembly is one of the most important scientific events of the African continent. It provides the African social science research community with a unique opportunity to reflect on some of the key issues facing the social sciences in particular, and Africa and the world at large. The theme of the scientific conference of the 13th CODESRIA General Assembly is: Africa and the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century.
The 21st century, like the preceding one does not seem capable of breaking from the paradigm of the complex and the uncertain. Instead, it is confirming that hastily and carelessly proclaiming ‘’the end of history’’, as Fukuyama did, was not enough to legitimately dispose of issues and challenges such as those of how to understand the presence of Africa in a world where emerging powers (South Africa, Brazil, Russia, India and China) are increasingly upsetting traditional global geopolitics. The financial crisis and its social implications in some countries of the North and the increasingly global nature of many problems have raised awareness about the vital and imperious need for Africans to theoretically tackle the issue of Africa’s future in this new century. This underscores the legitimacy of an approach that is founded on a rupture: a clean break with Afro-pessimism from outside and from within to show that the new global political and economic order is not a fatality but one that calls for a breaking off with a theoretical construction of Africa which led to the posing of questions like that asked by the World Bank in 2000: ‘’Can Africa claim its place in the 21st century?” It is about understanding why and how Africa is still at the heart of the new global political and economic strategies, and what opportunities there are for our continent to reposition itself in the world, and reposition the world with regard to its own objectives, perhaps the most important of which still remains that of bringing development (also to be understood as freedom, as Amartya Sen has argued) to its people. It is also a question of deconstructing what some have called "the confinement of Africa in a rent economy" in order to more critically understand the opportunities available to the continent but also the constraints facing it, because the basic question is how, in the course of this 21st century, to oppose to the "invention of Africa" an "invention of the world" by Africa.
Global Issues, Global Challenges
Increasingly complex neoliberal globalisation, changes in intercultural relations at the global level, climate change, poverty, rapid urbanisation , the ICTs revolution, the emergence of knowledge societies, the evolution of gender and intergenerational relations, the evolution of spirituality and of the status and the role of religion in modern societies, the emergence of a multi-polar world and the phenomenon of emerging powers of the South are some of the realities of our world that are widely and extensively discussed by both academics and policy-makers. Some of these challenges have been identified in the 2010 edition of the International Social Sciences Council’s World Social Sciences Report, as major challenges of the 21st century.
Discussions on climate change, like those on the so-called emerging powers, are much more important today than they were 30 to 40 years ago. If the Rio Summit on global environmental change was a key moment in the mobilisation of the international community to face the challenges arising from global warming, such summits were rare. However, in less than two years, two summits – the Copenhagen Summit and the Cancun Summit on Climate Change – have been organised, and another summit will be held soon on the same issues in Durban (South Africa). Major international programmes on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as REDD and REDD+, have also been launched. Furthermore, the creation of the Euro Zone as well as the rise of countries like China and India, have had repercussions worldwide.
The questions one must ask are: How does all this affect Africa? And how prepared is the continent to face these challenges as well as those that will arise in the future? It is nowadays rather difficult to keep pace with advances in science and technology, including among others, in the areas of biotechnology and nanotechnology, genetic engineering. The challenge that Africa is facing is not only that of understanding how new scientific discoveries may have an impact on our societies, but also that of how to become a "continent of science" itself.
The rapidity of the pace of change in virtually all spheres of social life at the local, national, continental, and global levels make it difficult to identify the challenges that Africa will be facing in the coming century beyond a few decades. Science itself is changing as a result of changes occurring in nature and in society. Moreover, science and technology, far from being neutral, have become key players in the evolutions that occur in production systems, trade, and intercultural relations, as well as in research and the formulation of responses to environmental change. The ability of science to anticipate, read and interpret the processes of change has increased over the years. The ability of humanity to follow developments taking place in nature, and to capture the major trends taking place within society, is likely to increase as science itself develops. Therefore, the list of questions that can be considered as major challenges for the 21st century is likely to change over time.
Africa of the 21st Century
Africa has entered the 21st century with huge unresolved issues, such as poverty, rapid urbanisation, the national question, regional integration, gender inequality, food insecurity, violent conflict, political fragmentation, and the fact that it occupies a subaltern position in the global community, and in global governance. The weight of the past is a major handicap for Africa. The effects of the slave trade, colonisation and neo-colonialism that Africa has suffered from are still being felt, as they have each and together resulted in the suppression of freedoms, the violation of human rights and dignity of the peoples of the continent, as well as the looting of human, natural and intellectual resources and what the pan-Africanist historian Walter Rodney called the "underdevelopment" of Africa. Among the major disadvantages of the continent at the dawn of the twenty-first century are also the low level of education of many Africans, the lack of modern techniques of production, transport, etc.., a fragmented political space and the extrovert structure of the economies. The institutions of higher education and cultures of the elites are strongly marked, not by a philosophy and development strategies guided by the interests of African peoples, but by influences coming from the North, influences that are more alienating than liberating.
Nevertheless, the Africa of the end of the first decade of the 21st century is not exactly the same as the Africa of the early sixties which had just got freedom from colonial rule. The challenges the continent faces today are not exactly the same as those of the sixties. Although there still are issues dating back to the early years of independence, these are of a different order, and are today discussed with a particular focus and a sense of urgency. This is particularly true of the issues of governance and development, most of which are yet to be resolved.
Yet by all indications, these issues have gained particular relevance and magnitude. The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the independence of many countries in 2010 has provided an opportunity for African researchers to review the continent’s performance in 50 years of independence, a mixed record after all. There have been many achievements in terms of social and economic development. Enormous progress has been made in education and health, and some countries have managed to establish democratic governance systems, especially after the wave of national conferences (in West and Central Africa) at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. The fall of authoritarian regimes, the end of apartheid, the change of ruling parties in countries like Senegal, and the recent profound changes in Tunisia (the Jasmine Revolution), Egypt and elsewhere in North Africa have made the promise of democratisation and development of Africa much more real. Yet even with the recent political transformations, governance issues are still part of the great challenges facing our continent. Africa is still beset by the paradox of poverty in plenty: most people of the continent are poor despite the fact that the countries they live in are rich in human and natural resources.
Poverty is still massive and deeply rooted, and the processes that lead to exclusion and marginalization of large segments of African societies are still ongoing. Exclusion and political marginalization of individuals, groups and entire social classes are, as we know, among the root causes of many of the violent conflicts that have ravaged several African countries, while aggravating underdevelopment and international dependence.
Some of the "remedies" to the economic crisis and, more generally, to the problems of underdevelopment and widespread poverty that have been proposed or imposed on Africa have, in some cases contributed to the worsening of problems that they were supposed to solve. Others, like the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as an antidote to food insecurity, or large scale land alienation in favour of multinational companies producing food crops or crops to obtain bio-fuels, raise significant political, ethical and health concerns, making the land question more complex. Commodification, and attempts to subject almost all spheres of nature and society, including human organs, forest resources, and the social sciences themselves, to a market logic pose enormous challenges for science and for society, even if in some respects, the process has directed the flow of precious financial and human resources to some key issues and led to major discoveries that could enhance social progress. However, by all indications, with the exception of a few, the countries of the South are still at the level of receivers / consumers in the overall relationship that is behind these processes, or at best in the role of "passengers" rather than "drivers" of the process of globalisation.
Reflections should also focus on issues such as the high mobility of African people, both within and outside of the continent, and its consequences in terms of citizenship rights, and its impacts on gender relations; the issues of climate change, natural resource management and food security; the recurrent problem of African integration with a focus on the issue of a common currency and common borders; or yet again the governance of African cities, since a number of prospective studies have identified urbanization as a major trend in the evolution of the continent. These issues are likely to continue to determine the evolution of the continent.
Special attention should be paid to higher education, given the importance, and the uniqueness of the role that knowledge plays in development, and its ability to influence the whole system. Isn’t the "vulnerability” of Africa the result of its marginal position in the world of knowledge? With the ongoing changes in higher education around the world and the weakening of many African universities as a result of both deep crises and twenty years of structural adjustment, brain drain and sheer negligence on the part of the State, African research has encountered considerable difficulties in its attempts to study and interpret these events and more.
New technologies, especially ICTs play one of the most crucial roles in social, economic and political developments of the continent. For instance, the mobile phone and FM radio stations played an important role in the political and social movements in Senegal at the turn of the Millennium. Faced with restrictions on political debates in many countries such as Tunisia, we saw the importance of the Internet, including social media and Internet-based sites such as Facebook and Twitter as spaces for democratic struggles involving thousands of highly educated but unemployed urban youth. Meanwhile, the governance of the Internet, a space managed mainly by private multinational companies of a new type (Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, etc...), remains an unresolved issue.
Therefore the question is: Will this be Africa’s century, as it is sometimes claimed? A better way to put more or less the same question is to ask: How can Africa take charge of its future and make this century the one of its renaissance? But what does it mean to make the 21st century the century of Africa and what does that imply? How could the social sciences and humanities address the challenges that we already know, and what types of improvements are required in the African higher education and research systems in order for them to better prepare Africa to face the challenges of the coming decades of this century?
What is the role of intellectuals in general and CODESRIA in particular in addressing these challenges? The theoretical issues are very important. The production of knowledge informed by and is relevant to the social realities in Africa has always been the ambition of CODESRIA and of all the great intellectuals of the continent. The intellectual struggles of Africa and the global South against the consequences of Western domination are far from having been won. The scientific division of labour in which Africa is still mainly seen as a purveyor of raw materials of little use to the transformation of African societies is still in force. The epistemological agenda of the continent must continue to include the transformation of the dominant epistemological order which favours the West and penalizes the South, and Africa in particular. The valorization of the intellectual heritage and contributions of great thinkers from Africa and its Diaspora, such as Ibn Khaldoun, Ibn Battuta, El-Bakri, Ali Idrissi, Ahmed Baba, Marcus Garvey, WEB Du Bois, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Cheikh Anta Diop, Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ruth First, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Wole Soyinka, CLR James, Abdul Rahman Babu, Sembene Ousmane, Fela Kuti, Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Archie Mafeje, Bernard Magubane, Samir Amin, Claude Ake, Ali El-Kenz, Fatima Mernisi, Mahmood Mamdani, Amina Mama, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Paulin Hountondji, Jean-Marc Ela, Thandika Mkandawire, Fatou Sow, Issa Shivji, Ifi Amadiume, Oyeronke Oyewumi and Omafume Onoge (the list is long), must continue to be a part of our priorities. So must be the South-South and South-North dialogue.
The Casablanca Conference, 50 Years On
The 13th CODESRIA General Assembly takes place shortly after many African countries have celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their independence. It is also being organised, 50 years after the holding of the 1961 Casablanca Conference that brought together Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Ahmed Sekou Toure (Guinea), Modibo Keita (Mali), Ferhat Abbas (Algeria) and other leaders of newly independent African states and national liberation movements, to discuss the future of the Africa. The “Casablanca Group”, as they were known, formed the progressive camp. The Casablanca Conference which was hosted by King Mohammed V of Morocco, was a very important milestone in the process that led to the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. The holding of the 13th CODESRIA General Assembly in Morocco provides an opportunity for the African social science community to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of this conference, and to pay tribute to the founding fathers and mothers of the OAU that later became the African Union (AU) a few decades later, and ask the question as to how to reinvigorate the African integration process, as well as that of how to renew our collective commitment to realise the continental integration project.
The Organisation of the General Assembly
The General Assembly of CODESRIA will be organised in three parts: the first part is a scientific conference on the theme Africa and the Challenges of the 21st Century. This part will be organised in plenary and parallel sessions. A number of leading scholars from Africa, the Diaspora and other parts of the global South, as well as representatives of partner institutions in the North will also be invited to participate in the conference. Provision will be made for autonomous initiatives of individuals and research institutions who are interested in organising panels to do so if they are able to mobilise the resources required for that. The second part is the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Casablanca Conference, and the third and last part is the business session devoted to discussions on the institutional life of CODESRIA: presentation and discussion of the reports of the President, the President of the Scientific Committee, and the Executive Secretary of CODESRIA; the new strategic plan and research priorities for the coming years; amendments to the CODESRIA Charter; and election of a new Executive Committee as well as a new President and Vice President of CODESRIA.
Below is an indicative list of sub-themes around which the scientific conference will be organised:
• Thinking the future, reinventing our future;
• Renegociating Africa’s place in the world;
• African integration;
• Africa and the scientific and technological revolutions;
• The future of the social sciences and humanities;
• Strengthening African higher education and research systems;
• Climate change, adaptation processes and governance;
• Population dynamics and population policies for the future;
• Living together: local and pan-African citizenship;
• Making governance work for all Africans;
• Migration, citizenship and identity;
• The African Diaspora and global African presence;
• Governing African cities;
• Keeping the public sphere open and democratic;
• Transforming African agriculture;
• Industrial development in the era of neoliberal globalization;
• Managing Africa’s natural resources in democratic and sustainable ways;
• Africa and emerging powers: possibilities for an African strategy of engagement;
• Transforming gender relations;
• Law, ethics and society;
• Human rights and human security in the 21st century;
• New security challenges and peace;
• New religious movements in Africa and freedom of thought and expression;
• African languages, cultures and the arts, and globalization;
• Africa and the promise of a new democratic revolution;
• New forms of hegemony, new forms of solidarity.
CODESRIA invites abstracts and panel proposals on any of these or other themes related to the main theme of the scientific conference of the General Assembly.
The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31st May 2011.
Those whose abstracts have been selected will be notified by 30th June 2011 at the latest. The deadline for submissions of final papers is 15th September 2011.
Abstracts and panel proposals should be sent to the following address:
CODESRIA General Assembly
Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop X Canal IV, BP 3304, CP 18524, Dakar, Sénégal
Tel. : +221 33 825 98 22/23 or +221 33824 03 74 - Fax : +221 33 824 12 89
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org - Website: http://www.codesria.org
Twitter: http://twitter.com/codesria - Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/pages/CODESRIA/181817969495
Constitutions and Constitution Making in Eastern Africa: The Role of Law in Development
Three-day event starting 9 June 2011
Reflecting on the new era of constitution making in East Africa, the Katiba workshop will focus on: the history and legacy of postcolonial constitution making in the East Africa region, the social, political and economic considerations in drafting contemporary constitutions and the problems and challenges of implementing new constitutions. Speakers and Panel Chairs: Dr Willy Mutunga, Prof Yash Pal Ghai, Prof Goran Hyden, Prof Jill Cottrell Ghai, Dr Ambreena Manji, Prof Patrick McAuslan, Dr Linda Musumba, Prof Wanjiku Kabira, Prof Patricia Kameri-Mbote, Dr Ben Sihanya, Abubakar Zein.
Institute for African Transitional Justice
Call for Applications
The Refugee Law Project (RLP), Faculty of Law, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, in collaboration with the African Transitional Justice Research Network (ATJRN) is accepting applications to its 2nd Institute for African Transitional Justice (IATJ), an annual week-long residential programme with a focus on Transitional Justice issues in the context of Africa. The Institute, which is scheduled to take place from 20th – 27th November 2011, in Kitgum, Northern Uganda has as its theme: 'Whose Memories Count and at What Cost?'
The Struggle for Justice in Kenya
AwaaZ is a magazine published tri-annually out of Nairobi, Kenya, under the Institute of Kenya South Asian History and Culture (IKSAH). The latest issues contains articles on:
- Judicial reforms and the difficulties ahead.
- Evictions, social justice and the constitution.
- Marginalisation of the Lamu people.
- Justice or the LGBTI community in Kenya.
- Making the constitution of Kenya the constitution for Kenyans.
New Field Foundation
Taking a senior role in the organisation, the Associate Director provides operational leadership in the programmatic and administrative realms. Specific areas of responsibility include organisational leadership and development, program development and implementation, as well as financial and administrative oversight. The position is based in San Francisco.
La Directrice Exécutive est responsable de tous les programmes et projets du Réseau de Développement et de Communication des Femmes Africaines (FEMNET), notamment de leur conceptualisation, de leur mise en oeuvre suivant les obligations contractuelles et les politiques internes et de faire rapport là-dessus. La Directrice Exécutive rend compte au Comité de gestion et au Conseil d’administration et elle assure quotidienne des ressources humaines et financières de FEMNET et elle est à la tête du Secrétariat régional à Nairobi, Kenya.
Editorial assistant, Pambazuka News
Are you able to work under pressure and to tight deadlines, and still come up smiling? Do you have a sharp eye for detail? Are you able to help writers turn their articles into clear English. Are you highly organised and efficient? And do you have excellent access to the internet? Are you a team player? Do you want to work for Africa's leading social justice newsletter? If so, we'd like to hear from you.
- Job description (Word, PDF)
- Application form (Word, PDF)
- Guidance notes (Word, PDF)
Please send completed applications to: email@example.com
DEADLINE: 9AM (BST) 27 JUNE 2011
The Executive Director is responsible for all programmes and projects of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) including their conceptualisation, implementation according to FEMNET’s contractual obligations and internal policies and reporting on them. The Executive Director is responsible to the Board of Trustees and Executive Board and manages on the day to day basis the human and financial resources of FEMNET and is the Head of the Regional Secretariat in Nairobi, Kenya.
Malawi: Could a leaked cable lead to hunger?
A leaked cable that has sparked a row between Britain and Malawi could give rise to rural hunger in the impoverished southern African nation. That is the upshot of the spiralling row that has seen Britain suspend aid including its support for a support for a highly successful seed and fertiliser programme in Malawi - and the government in Malawi stick to its guns despite the possible consequences for its people. The row, which we have been reporting on, stems from a leaked diplomatic cable that described Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika as 'autocratic and intolerant of criticism'.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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With around 2,600 contributors and an estimated 600,000 readers, Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan-African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.
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