Pambazuka News 535: From aid and humanitarianism to solidarity
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
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From aid and humanitarianism to solidarity
Discourses on development and the realities of exploitation
January 2011 marked 50 years since Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was assassinated. This assassination represented one of the many examples of efforts to destroy the African self-determination project. In his book on The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Ludo de Witte noted that,
“The murder has affected the history of Africa. The overthrow of Congo’s first government, the elimination of Lumumba, the bloody repression of the second resistance to the neocolonial regime of Joseph Kasavubu, Mobutu and Moise Tshombe and finally the creation of the Second Republic in this vast strategic country: the repercussions of all these events had disastrous consequences throughout Africa as a whole. If Africa was a revolver and the Congo its trigger, to borrow Frantz Fanon’s analogy, the assassination of Lumumba and tens of thousands of other Congolese nationalists, from 1960-1965, was the West’s ultimate attempt to destroy the continent’s authentic independent development.”
Fanon had written on the continued efforts to destroy transformations from colonialism and in June 2011, fifty years after this assassination and the murder of numerous genuine freedom fighters in Africa, it is now possible to fully chronicle all of the efforts to pre-empt Africa’s reconstruction. Ludo de Witte used the metaphor of the revolver with the trigger to connect the militarism that is linked to the plunder that has been going on for the past fifty years with the massive propaganda on “development” and “progress” to cover up the role of the international mining houses and pharmaceuticals in Africa. As a scholar, I have been very cautious in using the formulations of progress and development. I am conscious of the genocidal activities that have been carried out in the name of progress and am always aware of the extermination of the First Nation peoples of the Americas in the name of progress. When writers and those who suffered from slavery and genocide draw attention to this history, then we are told that such events as the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans are unfortunate by products of progress and development.
Throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America the forces of international capitalism plundered the resources of the planet as the imperial reach of capital covered the globe. Today, these international plunderers work with local African allies and in the particular case of the DRC, they work in collaboration with the government of Rwanda in looting the DRC. Rwanda is presented as a serious development partner for Western companies, while the role of the Rwandese leadership in looting the DRC is overlooked.
Since that assassination of Lumumba, there have been numerous wars and peoples of Africa have had to contend the centrality of the role of force in production. In many respects the unique history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) formerly known as Zaire is a microcosm of the historical and contemporary political, economic and social forces that relate to exploitation on a world scale. It is most apt that this conference on Development carries the theme of Africa: Exploitation and Resistance. Pambazuka News has been involved in a major effort to expose the new forms of exploitation, and the challenge for activists will be to grasp the need for transformation of the past models of exploitation in Africa. The forms of economic organization that have been imposed on African societies since the partitioning of Africa in 1885 reproduce iterations of plunder, war, militarism and genocidal violence. The DRC country in the heart of Africa is one with seemingly endless natural resources yet the forms of economic management that were established by Belgium perpetuated militarism as a mode of politics and economic conditions that are conducive to warfare. Liberal ideas of modernization, development and capital accumulation have consistently been deployed to legitimize forms of wealth extraction that impoverished the African peoples.
Africa as a whole has long been the epitome of the wealth-poverty dilemma in economic development policy circles. The literature on the politics of plunder and looting is quite extensive even though this material is dominated by the view that the Western capitalist states intervened in the period of the cold war to prevent chaos and communism. Numerous writers from the West provided books and tracts on Mobutu or Chaos. After this period, development experts then compare the DRC to Malaysia and Ghana to South Korea to indicate the inability of Africans to initiate development
Hence, the support for the militarization and destruction in Africa from 1960 till date is glossed over when an understanding of the past engagement with Mobutu Sese Seko and the apartheid government by the Western governments marked one of the key aspects of international politics in the period 1965-1996. Military support for Mobutu and the numerous dictators in the networks supported by imperial overlords were always based on models of development, with the promises of globalized liberalism. The same supporters of Mobutu that financed his repression and brutality are the ones now promoting the orthodoxy of stabilization, privatization and liberalization. This current push for neo-liberal capitalism comes against the background of the voluminous writings by African scholars who have documented the reality that the continent of Africa has been one of the areas of the world where the impact of the structural adjustment policies of the international financial institutions have been most devastating. After decades of structural adjustment, insiders from the bank are now joining the forces that pointed to the reality that the policies of the World Bank and the IMF condemned the poor to early death.
Professor Adebayo Adedeji, (former head of the UN Economic Commission For Africa) noted that all of the home grown plans of the Africans from the period of the Lagos Plan of Action in 1980, through to the Africa’s Priority Programme for Economic Recovery 1986-1990, African Alternative Framework For Structural Adjustment (1989) to the African Charter for Participation and Development to the African Union had been opposed and sabotaged by the International Financial Institutions and the leaders of the USA and the European Union. Adedeji drew attention to the fact that “all of the plans for self-reliant development in Africa had been opposed, undermined, and dismissed by the Breton Woods Institutions and Africans were thus impeded from exercising the basic and fundamental right to making decisions about their future.”
After the Lagos Plan of Action, Elliot Berg, one of the Principal functionaries of the World Bank authored the famous report on Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Agenda for Action. In the period after apartheid and in the face of the devastation unleashed by structural adjustment, Africans came together to form the African Union. International capital has responded by creating a military command, the US Africa Command to divert African energies from economic integration and structural transformation. This new military command has been justified on the grounds of fighting terrorism, safeguarding African resources, protect civilians and provide security for Africans. From time to time the less sophisticated will expose the real objective of the US Africa Command in relationship to the strategic importance of African petroleum resources and the long term plans to challenge Chinese influence in Africa. Behind and beside this remilitarization of Africa are the conservative Christian fundamentalists who want to embark on a new Crusade against Islam. I am gratified that this conference on Exploitation and Resistance is taking place in a space where there are Christians who are not party to this fundamentalism and conservatism.
As we speak today, NATO and the US Africa Command are involved in the bombing of the people of Libya. The leaders of Britain, France and the United States are so cynical that they do not expect decent citizens to challenge their military attacks on Libya, especially in the face of the reality that these same countries support the government of Algeria while the very same government of Algeria is supporting the Gaddafi leadership. This cynicism of the very same leaders who supported the Gaddafi family and held billions of dollars in foreign accounts is reinforced by a new and intensified racist campaign against Africans in Europe. Decent citizens who followed the close relationship between the Gaddafi family and leaders such as Nicholas Sarkozy and Tony Blair marvel at their crude advocacy on behalf of oil companies. The same Sarkozy who is the cheerleader of the bombing campaign was supported financially by Gaddafi. We are seeing a desperate attempt by a French politician Nicholas Sarkozy to regain his own glory and the glory of France by military interventions that will prop up France as a key player in the changed world economy. French writers will justify these actions in the name of development.
Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Britain, is another politician from Europe who sought to present himself as a friend of the African people. His Commission for Africa had been trumpeted with a lot of fanfare about increased aid to Africa. It is important for activists from the World Development Movement to make an assessment of this Commission as with the numerous plans to “make poverty history” in Africa. Today, this same Tony Blair is now calling for a more united Europe with a European President to meet the challenges of a changed global system. Blair specifically mentioned the rise of China, India and Brazil and the need for Europeans to unite in the face of these emerging powers. It is noteworthy that Blair called on the EU to forge closer links to “make us more powerful as a unit” included tax policy, creating a single market, better energy and defence policies, and a single immigration and organised crime policy. Africans are paying close attention to the debates on immigration in Europe and intensified climate of racial hatred that is being stoked by European leaders. In the USA, politicians used the code of “organized crime” to send racist messages to voters.
Thus far, the leaders of Africa who have been compromised by their “development partners” have been silent in the face of intensified racism. Many of these leaders hold millions of dollars in bank accounts in Switzerland, Britain, France and the USA while travelling constantly to seek aid. Yash Tandon has written extensively on fifteen ways to draw surpluses from Africa through Foreign Direct Investment and he will speak to this conference on the themes of his book on Ending Aid Dependence. Other scholars such as Professor Patricia Daley of Oxford University have written on Humanitarian Bondage. Scholars such as Samir Amin, Patrick Bond, Patricia Daley, Yash Tandon and numerous others have documented the ways in which the poverty and humanitarian discourses conceal real relations of exploitation.
The World Bank and the IMF as development partners in Africa have been complicit in the chain of exploitation and plunder in Africa. In the example of the DRC, the record of the ways in which the so called leaders were able to manipulate the IMF to plunder the country should have been the basis for a fundamental departure from the policies and the ideas of the IMF and the World Bank, yet in the aftermath of the international financial crisis, the functionaries of the World Bank are busy seeking new ways to provide legitimacy for the Bank and Fund. Jimi Adesina and Bayo Olukoshi have been writing on the impoverishment of Africans in the period of structural adjustment. These authors have exposed with empirical work on the experience of Africa with social development in the period between 1981 and 2005 to point to increased impoverishment. The record has been grim. Using the World Bank line for severe poverty (US $1.25 in 2005 PPP prices) Adesina pointed out that an additional 176.1 million people fell into severe poverty, even as the proportion of the population fell from 53.4% to 50.9%. In the wake of the global crisis, we are confronted with even more grim predictions. In its 2009 World Development Indicators, the World Bank (2009) estimated that an additional 46 million people will fall into severe poverty, and an additional 53 million people will fall into poverty as a result of the economic crisis. It estimated that between 200 000 and 400 000 children will die annually if the crisis persists; that is anything between 1.4 million to 2.8 million new cases of child mortality between 2009 and 2015 (World Bank 2009: 11).
African scholars are also opposing the entire discourse of poverty alleviation and poverty reduction exercises. These scholars have drawn attention to the reality that no society has been able to transform social relations on the basis of fighting poverty. Transformation involves building up resources for wealth creation including the transformation of the knowledge, skills and well-being of human beings in society. Adesina rightly observed in his analysis of the Social Protection strategies: “The poverty discourse seeks to reproduce old imagery of poverty; ignorance and disease in Africa without bringing out the active relations of exploitation. The dominant discourse results in a problematic treatment of the poor as a demographic category: largely unproductive, destitute, and in need of handouts; it inadvertently sets the poorest against the poor. It is a vision of society that is far from the successful ‘encompassing’ vision of mainstream society which builds on altruism, social cohesion, and equality. Further, in much of Africa, and South Asia, for instance, the proportion of the working poor within the total employment remains quite high.”
The opposition in Africa to this denigration of humans demand new actions by those who want to stand in solidarity with the people of Africa. Recent articles in Pambazuka have pointed to the February launch of the World Bank's ten-year Strategy document, "Africa's Future and the World Bank's Support.” Patrick Bond who has written an important book on Looting Africa has drawn attention to the energetic efforts to dominate spaces of development with the International Monetary Fund's Regional Economic Outlook for SubSaharan Africa, the Economic Commission on Africa's upbeat study, the African World Economic Forum's Competitiveness Report, and the African Development Bank's discovery of a vast new "middle class."
Bond’s clear critique draws from decades of writings by Africans in CODESRIA and other fora in Africa who have delegitimized and exposed the World Bank Development strategies of “poverty reduction and alleviation." Today, many of the speakers in this conference on “exploitation and resistance” will expose the intensified exploitation in the era of financialisation where international capitalists are converging on Africa like vultures. Elsewhere I have called for the abolition of the IMF and the establishment of the International Bank for Reparations and Reconstruction. While we campaign against the Bank and Fund, it is our task to motivate young scholars who do not want to be accomplices of the plunder of Africa under the guise of development.
How can an exploration of the conceptualisations, theories and models of the political economy of economic development and their subsequent policy applications in Africa, be a source of new thinking about the relationships between conflict and development? Can there be a self-reliant strategy of economic transformation that breaks the traditions of brute force and imperial militarism as we are now witnessing in Libya? Are Africans considered human beings or simply a mass of inert energy similar to rocks? What is the nature of the continued colonial economic relations of extraction of raw materials and minerals? Do qualitative differences exist between the past and present approaches to development and the presence of war and imperial intervention? Does the current era of imperial nervousness offer new opportunities or challenges? Could such an exploration be valuable in creating an alternative socio-economic paradigm that would be superior in fostering the necessary conditions in society conducive for sustainable peace and transformation in the Africa?
These questions arise in the context of the search for reconstruction in the period when there are social movements in all parts of the global South seeking a new social project away from the priorities of the hegemons of international capital. The present revolutionary outpourings across North Africa and the Middle East call for new forms of solidarity and support for those resisting imperial exploitation in the name of development. In societies such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, the working peoples and the youth have been mobilized to defend their basic rights. The centralization and concentration of capital has reached a point where even the limited gains of social democracy for European workers are being challenged. At the same time racist images and a psychological war against European and US “white workers” is being waged to mobilize support for militarism and continuous warfare. To further this psychological and information warfare, the high priests of development from the institutions of higher learning reproduce continuous reams of papers on the relationships between conflict and resources. What is most revealing from the analysis of the development pundits is absence of an analysis of the relationship between primary commodity extraction and warfare is the extent to which questions of democratic participation on the one hand and the global armaments culture on the other are excluded from the policy alternatives offered for peace. More than ten years ago Paul Collier, then, the Director of the Research Group of the World Bank argued that, “the most powerful risk factor is that countries which have a substantial share of their income (GDP) coming from the export of primary commodities are radically more at risk of conflict. The most dangerous level of primary commodity dependence is 26 % of GDP. At this level the otherwise ordinary country has a risk of conflict of 23 %. By contrast, if it has no primary commodity exports (but was otherwise the same) its risk would fall to one half of one per cent. Thus, without primary commodity exports, ordinary countries are pretty safe from internal conflict, while when such exports are substantial the society is highly dangerous. Primary commodities are thus a major part of the conflict story.”
The conflict paradigm without historical reference to the experiences of the Western mining companies and the role of foreign corporations under Mobutu was represented with the full authority of the name of the World Bank to argue that countries “with Congo like geography” and reliance on primary exports are prone to “Civil Conflict.” What was also missing was clarity on the differences between wars of liberation and just struggles against domination as opposed to the militarism of Mobutu and elements such as Jonas Savimbi. In the World Bank development model there is no room for the explanation of the anti-apartheid struggles in Africa and the wars against genocide and genocidal violence. Without this kind of interrogation of the role of the World Bank the West can continue to think of the World Bank as an institution that can formulate development plans for the reconstruction of Africa for a new era. I do not support the Afro-pessimists who wax in theories of “failed states” in Africa while writing as consultants for governments who are in the service of the banks and the oil companies.
REDUCTIONISM AND DEVELOPMENT DISCOURSES
The continued plunder of resources by oil companies and others have intensified in this period and the more perceptive persons from the West have pointed to the constant interconnections between wars, violence and economics. This is one of the enduring aspects of Africa’s integration into the global economy but the past discussions on development have obscured this reality. Similarly, as Africans move into the twenty first century there is increased interest in the genetic resources and fresh water of Africa, especially the water resources of the Congo River and its tributaries. These resources are all important in the context of what is now called the biotech century. Jeremy Rifkin devoted a great deal of his study of the Biotech Century to outlining how the patenting of life forms and the impressive new tools being developed by scientists for manipulating the biological world will impact of life in general. Thus far there is not enough work on how this century will impact the lives of Africans, especially in the context of the eugenic thinking that is manifest in the international response to AIDS pandemic.
Genetic engineering is the application of engineering standards to the manipulation of genes. In many ways we are still in the embryonic stages of grasping the implications of these new technologies for the emerging bio-economy. The long-term impact of the new biotechnologies will be to profoundly transform the relations between humans and nature. These changes at the technological level are taking place in a period when the consciousness of scientists is still governed by the mechanical notions of the scientific method that were elaborated by Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, and numerous scientists in the tradition of the European enlightenment. The enlightenment also embraced the idea of triumphant liberal ideology that reduced society to a collection of individuals, and through this reduction, asserted that the equilibrium produced by the market constitutes the social optimum and guarantees, by the same token stability and democracy.
This reductionism was elaborated by Adam Smith and the promises of the liberal free market became the standard recipe for all societies. In this rendition of social reality, Africans were poor because they were not rational and were in reality from a lower breed of the human species. It is not by chance that the ideas of the Wealth of Nations were written at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Numerous European scholars internalized the view that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was necessary to lift Africans from savagery. It is a consciousness that renders Africans as second-class human beings. This belief in Africans as second class human beings continues to be the basic orientation of those who work on development and progress.
The history of the treatment of Africans as second class citizens is long and linked to the ideas of inferiority and superiority of humans. Adam Smith as a major thinker of the Western economic paradigm of markets continues to be the reference point for the thinking of economic development and one of the arguments of this presentation is that the economics of warfare is inextricably linked to the Western paradigms of economic development, especially the paradigm of neo-liberalism. The social project of neo-liberalism is predicated on the requirements of the short term profits of the dominant segments of transnational capital. At the level of the planet earth, the inequalities between nations and regions are intensified by geometric proportions as the monopolies from the capitalist centers organize forms of economic, social and political exploitation to ensure the plunder of the natural resources of the planet. It is this same neo-liberalism that justified plunder and war as pacification and bringing civilization to Africans.
It is from this perspective where I am presenting the argument that the aid, development and humanitarian industries are components of the armaments culture. Western Non-Governmental Organizations and private military corporations are as important to Western warfare in Africa as the guns wielded by NATO or their African clients. Sustainable peace in Africa will require radical departures from the concepts of peace of the 19th century that required the pacification of the African continent for the purposes of allowing the free movement of capital. The DRC was at the epicentre of this conceptualisation of the peoples of Africa. The plunder of this society and the destructive modes of economics unleashed by King Leopold are now legendary. Many of those attending this conference will have read the important book by Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost on the massacre of 10 million Congolese in the name of civilizing Africans. Others will have read the book by Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
One of the major challenges for the activists and scholars of the twenty first century is to be able to think through concepts of economic planning in a period that is now driven by the knowledge economy. This is an economy where knowledge and scientific inquiry will be a major basis for wealth creation.
I am starting from the premise that Africa as a region is not mere geography. It is above all, people who are human beings who live in the continent of Africa with a long history and an ideation system that protected the biological resources that are presently coveted by bio-prospectors. Recent scholarship on the knowledge systems of Africa has shed light on the relationship to the ideas that preserved the natural environment. It is the same knowledge that was considered backward by those who believed in the dominance of humans over nature that is now the platform for appropriation by transnationals who believe in privatizing nature as intellectual property.
It is the argument of this presentation that reconstruction and renewal in Africa will not be possible without a fundamental break with the economics of warfare and the reductionist ideas of neo-liberalism. These two forces, the economics of war and the mechanical thinking of the enlightenment have led to genocide and massacres and numerous wars since independence. This presentation is linked to the following propositions:
(a) Western concepts of peace, development and pacification generated wars, genocide, militarism and violence in the Africa.
(b) Liberal ideas of the primacy of the short term demands of profit perpetuated conditions favorable to plunder. It was a model of economics that separated people from their natural environment and a model of crude resource extraction that required very little infrastructural investment.
(c) Models of economic management since the assassination of Lumumba in 1960 deepened the traditions of warfare and violence. The World Bank and the IMF were active partners in this model of resource extraction and rent seeking forms of economics.
(d) The failure of the African educated to create an alternative social project deepened the traditions of warfare and culminated in massive deaths of genocidal proportions.
(e) The alternative for economic reconstruction lay in new modes of thinking and new modes of economic planning that centers Africans as human beings.
The elementary basis of the ideas for reconstruction in Africa for reclaiming the independence of Africa were spelt out by Cheik Anta Diop in the book, Black Africa: the Basis for a Federated State. In 2002 the African Union took a major legal step towards the project of African independence. In the short run, the African Union has been organized as a Union of states and governments but there are numerous social movements in Africa that conceptualize African unity on the basis of health, dignity, prosperity and decency. These social movements exist at all levels and seek to repair the history of plunder by setting in motion institutions of transitional justice to the point where an alternative can be crystallized away from the predatory forms of economics that are dominant. It is this new direction that calls for solidarity from those who want to break with the ideas of development, white supremacy and the logic of the capitalist mode of production.
An alternative socioeconomic paradigm could produce transformation models based on the empowerment of Africans to acquire and accumulate skills, knowledge and the capacity to innovate such knowledge in relationships with their environments to improve their standards of life in a sustainable manner. African music and art have been known for centuries for their richness and its depth. How can this spiritual and creative energy be mobilized for peace and reconstruction? It is this creativity that has kept the peoples alive and can be the foundation for the right of African peoples to live as human beings with dignity. It is this same creative and spiritual energy that could be catalysts for the development of African human capital and knowledge based competitive factor advantages to support wealth creation, growth and development in the 21st century.
WAR AND MODERNIZATION
Time will not permit for me to draw lessons of transformation in other societies but I want to reinforce the argument of the linkages between war and development by citing the experiences of the peoples of Asia and Latin America. I want us to draw lessons from the peoples of Vietnam. These peoples opposed US development strategies that were based on destruction. Robert McNamara epitomized the intellectual modernizer who supervised the Pentagon during the war against the Vietnamese people. McNamara went on from the military war against the Vietnamese to supervise the intellectual war when he became head of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) or World Bank. This institution had been created in 1944 as one of the sister arms of the international financial institutions to support US military and financial dominance. At the intellectual level, the ideas of economic planners who believed in the superiority of the capitalist mode of production supported the US military campaigns. In the present era, conservative scholars such as Andrew J. Bacevitch are writing on the failures of the US military project and what he has described as The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. Writers such as Bacevitch do not link the limits of power to the failed strategies to derail economic transformation and self-determination in societies such as Malaysia and Vietnam.
The development propagated by the World Bank emanated from the ideas of political scientists such as Walt Rostow who later graduated from the academy to become the Special Assistant on National Security Adviser for to President Lyndon Johnson. US cold war warriors were advocates for war and development. Rostow had written two anti-communist tracts on development, The Process of Economic Growth (1952) and The Stages of Economic Growth (1960). These books elaborated a vision of development rooted in American history and national interest. In fact the subtitle of the Stages of Economic Growth was a non-communist manifesto. The book was written to oppose the kind of socialist ideas that had inspired the Vietnamese to oppose French and US imperialism.
Rostow and a bevy of modernization theorists supplied the working concepts through which the United States understood its obligations to combat the self-determination project of the Vietnamese people. Clothed in the language of development, modernization became the anti-communist doctrine to motivate the US troops. Described as both an ideology and a discourse, modernization comprised a changeable set of ideas and strategies that legitimized imperial policies disguised as foreign aid, and trade but revealing its core element in the doctrines of counterinsurgency in Asia. Among the core precepts was the idea that the state of economic and political relations enjoyed by the United States and the other former colonial powers in Western Europe was normative, and that it was in the U.S. national interest, as well as the general interest of all people, that steps be taken to bring the other two-thirds of humanity up to a comparable level. Social science theories explained the causes of Asian, Latin American, and African “backwardness” and suggested appropriate remedies. Technocrats and theoreticians such as Rostow and McNamara redefined the Cold War as a contest fought on the terrain of development with military, ideological and economic components.
Guided by the ideas of modernization and development the US military mobilized the Western forces to crush the independence of Vietnam. By 1975 the Vietnamese had successfully resisted modernization and the US bombs that came with development theory. Since the consolidation of independence and attempt to build a new society, the Vietnamese nationalists have transformed the society from a poor underdeveloped state to an integrated, self-reliant economy whose rapid transformation points to the positive possibilities from socialist planning. The relevant point for the African people was the fact that the development discourse was based on the attempts to depoliticize the Vietnamese and if they could not be depoliticized, then they should be bombed back to the Stone Age.
This presentation is drawing attention to the need for solidarity by those in Europe, Africa and other parts of the world who grasp the full implications of the drain of resources from Africa. Pambazuka News, one of the co-sponsors of this conference has been bringing attention to this reality. Third World repayments of $340 billion each year flow northwards to service a $2.2 trillion debt, more than five times the G8's development aid budget. At more than $10 billion/year since the early 1970s, collectively, the citizens of Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, the DRC, Angola and Zambia have been especially vulnerable to the overseas drain of their national wealth. As Brussels-based debt campaigner Eric Toussaint concludes, “Since 1980, over 50 Marshall Plans worth over $4.6 trillion have been sent by the peoples of the Periphery to their creditors in the Centre.”
Research by the Tax Justice Network estimated that a staggering $11.5 trillion has been siphoned “offshore” by wealthy individuals, held in tax havens where they are shielded from contributing to government revenues. “Around 30% of sub-Saharan Africa's GDP is moved offshore.” “As several studies have suggested, this rate of capital flight means that Africa - a continent we are continually told is irrevocably indebted - may actually be a net creditor to the rest of the world.”
It is this reality that Africa is a net creditor that inspires us to call for collective actions in Africa and in Europe to Repatriate stolen wealth. There are very few in the development agencies that support the UN Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative. Western non-governmental organizations and the sub-contracting institutions of development studies and overseas aid work actively to divert attention from this Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative so that Western banks continue to work to create new ways for African predators and their external allies to drain resources from Africa.
Michael Hudson, David Harvey, Samir Amin and numerous scholars have been writing on the forms of warfare against the entire planet by the lords of finance. While one understands the radical scholars and their critique, it is now so much clearer that mainstream writers such as Simon Johnson has been writing on the grab of power in what he called a “Quiet Coup.” He later elaborated on the crisis of financial capital in the book, 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown.
Today, the clarity that governments are in the service of the bankers and financiers has led to authorities such as the governor of the Bank of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury to call out the government and oppose the austerity measures that promise super exploitation of the working class. In the particular case of the Governor of the Bank of England, he is calling on the people to demonstrate and rise up against the banks.
Both the Governor of the Bank and England and the Archbishop have presented themselves to the left of the so-called development experts. Instead of dealing with looting we are lining up to be consultants for the looters. This intervention on the discourses on development is one more effort to move from pseudo humanitarianism to solidarity. During the Spanish Civil War against fascism 1936-1939 international brigades supported those fighting for social Justice. Similarly, during the struggles against apartheid, international solidarity isolated those supporting the mining houses and the racists. Today the revolutionary forces of North Africa and the Middle East is calling for solidarity to confront Western militarism and development experts.
I will conclude by calling on young people of the West to retreat from becoming cannon fodder for the militarists. At a moment when the global Pan African Movement was working to educate Western NGO’s on their role in the imperial chain of command, Tajudeen started a publication called the NGO Monitor. This was designed to educate those who did not want to be accomplices to imperial crimes. One of the efforts was to popularize a code of conduct for international non-governmental organizations. The following were some of the ideas that the Pan African movement have been mooting as a Code of Conduct.
1. Do they respect the laws of the host country that they work in?
2. Are they involved in Bribery and Corruption?
3. What percentage of their operating budget is spent on administration?
4. Do they submit annual reports to the host government and are they accountable?
5. How do they procure their goods?
6. At what exchange rate do they operate?
7. And, if they operate on the parallel market, do they report to Headquarters?
8. What is their attitude towards racism? Do they have a history of belonging to anti-racist organizations?
9. Are the workers sensitive to issues of the rights of women and young girls and the rights of persons of fluid sexualities?
10. Are they involved in Child prostitution or paedophilia?
11. What kind of training do they establish for local personnel?
12. Do they work to facilitate the deployment of foreign military mercenary organizations and private military corporations to undermine the sovereignty of African states and societies?
13. Do they undermine the health and welfare of the people?
14. Do they collect information that could be used for warfare and violence; specifically do they knowingly work for Western intelligence organizations?
15. Do they do essential work that could be carried out by local personnel?
I started this presentation with reference to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and the sustained efforts to destroy and undermine efforts to transform the colonial relations in Africa. Western development agencies have supported the military and military dictators to roll back the self-determination project in Africa. African people fought against all forms of domination and called for a world development movement that recognized the dignity of Africans and recognized Africans as human beings. This resistance has now reached a point of revolutionary proportions where the youths in all parts of Africa are standing up for their rights. The youths of Egypt and Tunisia by their actions have inspired us to reflect on exploitation and resistance. They are calling on the World Development Movement to move from charity and pseudo humanitarianism to solidarity in the worldwide fight for peace, social justice and transformation to build a new social system.
I want to thank you for your attention.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* 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.
* This article comprises remarks delivered to the World Development Movement and Pambazuka News ‘Africa: Exploitation and resistance’ conference on 11 June 2011 at Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, Oxford, UK.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Michele Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo, Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2001.
 Paul Collier, “Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and Their Implications for Policy,” page 7.
 Ron Eglash, African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design, Rutgers University Press, 1999.
Tinpot bombardiers: NATO in Libya
The alleged purpose of UN Security Council resolution 1973, passed on 17 March, was to seek to protect Libyan civilians from violent attacks by both sides. In NATO’s (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) eager hands, cosseted by uncritical Western press coverage, it has rapidly mutated into an overt bid to destroy Gaddafi’s regime, specifically to murder Gaddafi, by missile or bombardment with land-based teams of Special Force assassins doubtless deployed in the desert, assigned the same task.
NATO says more than 10,000 sorties have been flown over Libya since operations began. This includes 3,794 ‘strike’ bombing raids across country. In the heaviest strikes yet, concentrating on attacks in Tripoli, NATO launched 157 strike missions on Tuesday, more than three times the previous daily average.
In fact, in NATO's first 30 days they flew about 5,000 sorties. Since then, nearly another two months, they have flown another 5,000, so despite the trumpeting about intensifying the campaign, the tempo of operations has actually been falling over time. This, as one seasoned observer remarks, is ‘not a surprise, considering what we know about readiness, spare parts inventories, and the capacity to ramp up spares production’.
Pierre Sprey, one of the design team that produced the F-16 and A-10, remarks acidly that ‘the flea bites inflicted on Gaddafi's army by the all-out efforts of the entire NATO air armada are a lovely demonstration of the fruits of our overarching strategic principle of pursuing Unilateral Disarmament at Maximum Expense.’
Sprey continues: ‘Libya also provides empirical verification of the most expensive component of the Principle of Unilateral Disarmament at Maximum Expense: bombing the enemy's homeland lengthens every war in which it is attempted. There have been no documented exceptions in the hundred years since Sottotenente Giulio Gavotti's heroic first bombing of a Libyan oasis in 1911. Clearly, 2011's equally heroic bombing of Tripoli is no exception.’
It is clear that despite Homeric paeans by Western journalists to their zeal and prowess, the rebels headquartered in Benghazi are an ineffective rabble, whose prime activity is to complain that NATO is not fighting the war hard enough on their behalf. Gaddafi faces NATO’s tinpot bombardiers acting with no legal mandate and with barely a whisper of criticism in the Western press about the absurd pretence that they are operating within the terms of UN Security Council resolutions. The rebels have been unable to make any effective military showing.
On 6 June the independent International Crisis Group (ICG), stocked with well-informed regional experts and former diplomats, issued a report ‘Making sense of Libya’. It stated forthrightly that NATO was in the business of ‘regime change’ and was strongly critical of NATO’s refusal to respond to calls for ceasefire and negotiation, a stance which the ICG says is guaranteed to prolong the conflict and the tribulations of all Libyans.
The ICG then address the topic of Gaddafi’s alleged ‘crimes against humanity’, even genocide. Remember that the relevant UN resolutions that led to NATO’s current onslaughts were rushed through the Security Council powered by fierce rhetoric about Gaddafi’s ‘massacre of his own people’, and his ‘crimes against humanity’, even genocide. The diffuse and mostly vague allegations were usually studded with adverbs like ‘reportedly’.
On the issue of Gaddafi’s alleged war crimes the International Crisis Group notes reports of mass rapes by government militias, but declares that at the same time:
‘much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no real security challenge. This version would appear to ignore evidence that the protest movement exhibited a violent aspect from very early on … there is also evidence that, as the regime claimed, the demonstrations were infiltrated by violent elements. Likewise, there are grounds for questioning the more sensational reports that the regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators, let alone engaging in anything remotely warranting use of the term “genocide”.’
In this context, since the International Criminal Court’s record of ductility to NATO’s requirements is one of near 100 per cent compliance, one can view with reasonable cynicism its timing in issuing accusations of mass Viagra-assisted rape against Gaddafi’s militias immediately in the wake of NATO bombing onslaughts on Tripoli on Tuesday. On the issue of systematic mass rapes, Amnesty International said on Thursday that its researchers in eastern Libya, Misurata and in refugee camps along the Tunisian border ‘have not to date turned up significant hard evidence to support this allegation’.
A hundred years down the road the UN–NATO Libyan intervention will be seen as an old-fashioned colonial smash-and-grab affair. There may even be a paragraph or two about the collapse of the US left in mounting any powerful show of protest.
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* Alexander Cockburn edits CounterPunch.
* This article was first published by CounterPunch.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 A footnote here from Sprey: ‘Amateur historians and think tank pundits love to quote Hiroshima as the first and most obvious exception. Far from being an exception, the nuclear bombing of Japan actually confirms that bombing lengthens wars. The historical record shows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Truman and Byrnes deliberately delayed the acceptance of the urgently-proffered Japanese surrender offer (and of the Potsdam Peace Conference) by at least a month in order to make sure the war would not end before we had impressed the world (mainly the Russians) with the power of a nuclear bomb unleashed on Japanese civilians. Thousands of American soldiers, sailors and airman died unnecessarily because of that profoundly stupid--and profoundly immoral--strategic blunder.’
Mauritania: ‘A simple citizen demanding his rights’
On 17 January 2011, a 41-year-old Mauritanian businessman, Yacoub Ould Dahoud, burned himself in front of the presidential palace in Nouakchott. He later died in Morocco where he was sent for medical treatment.
‘Dahoud was not a poor man, nor was he unemployed like his Tunisian counterpart. His Facebook profile accessed today by this blogger shows Dahoud followed very closely the events unfolding in Tunisia culminating with Ben Ali’s ousting by his people. He came from a prominent family and many Mauritanians I spoke with agree that he was driven by the same motivation as Tunisia’s Bouazizi: making a statement about tyranny and the lack of freedom in their societies. .............Contrary to initial reports from Reuters claiming Dahoud committed this act to protest tribal grievances, his was a genuine political act of pre-planned and meditated dissent, in fact his suicide note states clearly that he sought peaceful constitutional reform and a functioning democracy.’
Dahoud’s death was overshadowed by events in Tunisia and Egypt at the time. This is unfortunate because his manifesto and demands lie at the heart of the uprisings, large and small, across the whole continent. To highlight the significance of Dahoud’s action and to give it the prominence it deserves I publish those sections which speak to the continent as a whole:
Manifesto (Published by Nassar Weddady on Dekhnstan)
‘Extremism and terrorist groups are a result of 50 years of poverty and the loss of hope that rulers’ oppression will end.
‘Enough corruption, enough oppression. Mauritania belongs to the people, not to the Generals and their entourage.
‘To get the corrupt army band from power, enough with corruption, enough oppression. We suffered fifty years of corruption and oppression. Do we and the future generations not deserve one month of steadfastness to dash out of oppression, intellectual, material and physical oppression.
- The release of human rights activists in prison [Biram Ould Dah] who are fighting against slavery
- Eliminating all taxes and tariffs on rice, wheat, cooking oil, sugar, milk and monitoring their obscene price hikes
- Replacing taxes and tariffs on basic goods through more taxation on cigarettes, luxury cars and tariffs on European ships that are pillaging our maritime wealth, as well as taxing telecom companies or Mauritania’s income from gold mining stolen by the Army commanders’ band.’
To emphasise that he is not just ‘speaking’, Dahoud goes on to warn the government that if the demands are not addressed then Mauritania will face the wrath of the people, and to ensure he and the people are taken seriously he begins the process by self-immolation. Also noteworthy is his ‘reference to the grubby little colonial power - France with its imperialist fantasies’ to end its support of the regime. Here we should ask why Mauritanians are less worthy of freedom than neighbouring Libyans? He ends by stating who he is, and this is particularly important. He is ‘a simple citizen demanding legitimate rights’.
‘If you do not accept this offer, then you should face the people’s wrath and be forced out as Ben Ali was.
‘I take this occasion to beg the people of France to force its rulers to accept the Mauritanian people’s right to self-determination.
‘Our lives are a small price to pay for Mauritania so that our sons can live in a country with social justice, liberty and democracy.’
In a recent interview on Africa Today, Congolese historian and co-founder of Ota Benga Alliance for Peace Jacques Depelchin puts Dahoud’s actions in a historical and specific African context when he speaks of the ‘conscience of humanity’ which can no longer accept the unacceptable. The history of Africa is central to starting the process of correction and healing and who are better situated to talk about reclaiming the commons than the ‘specific and the generic Africans’ – those whose voices have never counted. Now we are saying we count – our history counts, a history which is at the centre of humanity in its broadest sense.
Organisers of the Mauritanian protests later published a further set of demands on Facebook titled ‘Seven cardinal points for building a modern state’. Numbers 1 and 3 have wider implications for the continent. The first point deals with the militarisation of African governance and political power: ‘The evacuation of the military [back] to its noble mission and its removal [withdrawal] from politics’. Mauritania remains under military control, but there are endless examples of pseudo-democracies, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Swaziland, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, to name a few, which are highly militarised states where the armed forces are used against their own people. Kal of the Moor Next Door [TMND] – (I do hope he really is what he says he is and not a white American from Ohio – such is the mistrust of anonymous bloggers after recent revelations) comments that in the case of Mauritania militarisation is more overt than say Egypt or Tunisia.
‘the military has been more conspicuously and overtly involved in Mauritania’s politics than the better concealed military-industrial complex of Egypt’s military or Tunisia’s more professional one.’
However, there is nothing concealed about the militarisation in the above-mentioned countries. The third point – ‘The strengthening of national unity and the establishment of a national agency to fight against slavery and its legacy’ – is significant in that it mentions ‘unity’ and ending ‘slavery’ in the same sentence, which is a reminder of both the difference between what Depelchin describes as technical language (politicians) and political language (people) and between ‘a unity fostered by governments and politicians versus unity fostered by people’ - a unity which is exclusive versus one which is inclusive and derived from the commons and based on a conscience of humanity.
ARCHIVING THE REVOLUTION
On 24 May – the ‘day of rejection’ – Mauritanians held demonstrations in Nouakchott, which included the ‘mock funeral of Mauritanian democracy’. TMND quotes the Arabist [Issandr el-Amrani] as once writing ‘Nobody cares about Mauritania’. I think we should all take a closer look at this country and care more about what is happening at the commons.
If we agree with Depelchin that the history of Africa is central to starting a process of correction and healing – that it is the conscience of humanity – then we must take our history more seriously because how else do we know how we arrived in these moments?
‘history as history of humanity is being wiped out deliberately. Because from the point of view of those in power why do you need history? History means you will have to keep thinking [and ask] how did the history get started? [How will we know that the system being forced on us is one which “has taken roots in genocide and can [therefore] only be genocidal?”]’
Who will document the history we are witnessing at this moment in Africa and the Middle East? This is a huge task and one which requires serious consideration and organisation and must be located in Africa and the Middle East and needs to start from now.
Issandr el Amran, [The Arabist] comments on a ‘groundbreaking’ initiative by Egypt’s National Archive (ENA) and historian Khaled Fahmy to create a ‘digital, accessible archive’. The ENA is calling for volunteers to collect oral testimonies.
‘To understand how groundbreaking this could be you have to realize to what an extent all official archives in Arab countries are treated like secrets of state, accessible only to specialists (if and when they pass an endless security clearance process). And that official documents about the most important decisions and events of the 20th century have simply never been made available.
‘A shift towards greater openness -- a move away from a police state's paranoid, bureaucratic and hierarchical attitude to information -- could be an important part of the intellectual legacy of the revolution. But as Fahmy notes, in these uncertain times, it is hard to persuade people that their security will be enhanced by being more transparent and less guarded about official documents. (When the Chronicle's photographer went to take portraits of Fahmy at the National Archives last week, with the permission of the archives' director, security guards there hovered nervously and one of them caused a scene when he thought the photographer had taken a shot of the building's entrance.)’
How else will we know that (and learn from) the freedom fighters from yesterday have become the dictators of today.
WEB OF DECEPTION
In the past week two bloggers have been exposed as fakes. Gay Girl in Damascus (GGiD) and Lez Get Real turn out to be straight white males, one from Scotland the other from the US. GGiD, who developed hundreds of followers like many whose egos become over bloated, went too far. Last week ‘her cousin’ wrote that she had been detained by the Syrian police, setting off a mass flurry of tweets, blog posts and online campaigns. However, very soon suspicions were aroused when no one could be found who knew who she was, no relatives – nothing but complete silence. On Monday, NPR journalist Andy Carvin exposed the deception in a series of tweets. The response to the outing of MacMaster has been scathing, particularly by gay Syrian bloggers and activists. Sami Hamwi, whose activism and life may have been severely compromised, wrote.....
‘To Mr. MacMaster, I say shame on you!!! There are bloggers in Syria who are trying as hard as they can to report news and stories from the country. We have to deal with too many difficulties than you can imagine. What you have done has harmed many, put us all in danger, and made us worry about our LGBT activism. Add to that, that it might have caused doubts about the authenticity of our blogs, stories, and us. Your apology is not accepted, since I have myself started to investigate Amina’s arrest. I could have put myself in a grave danger inquiring about a fictitious figure. Really… Shame on you!!!
To the readers and the western media I say, there are authentic people in the Middle East who are blogging and reporting stories about the situation in their countries. You should pay attention to these people.’
This was followed by Daniel Nassar:
‘I am so outraged........Because of you, Mr. MacMaster, a lot of the real activists in the LGBT community became under the spotlight of the authorities in Syria. These activists, among them myself, had to change so much in their attitude and their lives to protect themselves from the positional harm your little stunt created. You have, sir, put a lot of lives, mine and some friends included, in harm's way so you can play your little game of fictional writing.
‘You took away my voice, Mr. MacMaster, and the voices of many people who I know. To bring attention to yourself and blog; you managed to bring the LGBT movement in the Middle East years back. You single-handedly managed to bring unwanted attention from authorities to our cause and you will be responsible for any LGBT activist who might be yet another fallen angel during these critical time.’
Ironically one of the blogs which published GGiD aka Tom MacMaster was Lez Get Real, whose co-founder ‘Paula Brooks’ has also been outted as an impostor and liar. She turns out to be a straight white male from Ohio. Right up till Monday evening ‘Bill Graber was still pretending to be deaf lesbian “Paula Brooks”’. The comment below was left on the Electronic Intifada site by Graber’s colleague at Lez Get Real, in response to the outing of Tom MacMaster (note the tone of indignation):
‘We are both very real [Paula Brooks and Linda Carbonell]. But there is a reason neither of us gets terribly ‘traceable’ in our on-line personas. We have family members who work for the government. We have jobs that would be in jeopardy if our blogging were ever linked to those jobs. More importantly, Paula has encountered the same situations that my daughter has - physical threats because she is gay. Being deaf, Paula is more vulnerable than most people under any circumstances. She is afraid of something happening to herself or to her children. Just in case you hadn't noticed, it's open season on gays, Hispanics, Jews and Muslims in some parts of this country [US].’
The indignation gets worse as Linda Carbonell expressed her disgust at MacMaster’s deception when in fact her colleague, Paula Brooks, was also a member of the impostors club…
‘We were a voice for the people of the Middle East and you have nullified our voice. Worse, [the site that unveiled MacMaster's hoax] is accusing us of not existing. They accused our executive editor of being an avatar, called into question her qualifications and entire life experiences…’
They were right – Paula Brooks was indeed an avatar. Again hear the arrogance: WE were the voice for the people of the Middle East and OUR voice has been nullified. The concern over these callous and arrogant deceptions from self-righteous individuals who cannot even bring themselves to apologise with any sincerity is not limited to those on the frontline in Syria and other Middle Eastern and African countries. For example, Lez Get Real has been one of the main US blogs reporting and commenting on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In fact I had written to them at the time of David Kato’s death complaining about the posting on their blog of a photo of a Ugandan tabloid which referred to David in an extremely derogatory way. This was on the day of his funeral.
For those of us with an online presence and who engage with bloggers and tweeters (many of whom we do not know personally), these two betrayals of trust leave me feeling violated in a profound way. They undermine bloggers and blogging, undermine those activists who have to blog anonymously in order to genuinely protect themselves. Now I am left wondering about the reliability of some online sources. How much of the gains we think we are making or have made are really just an illusion? Are these the kind of blogs and reporting we in Africa and the global South should be referring to on issues that concern us and take place in our countries? In the uprisings reviews I have made a point, where possible, of using blogs and Twitter as the main source rather than mainstream media, but if there are doubts on the reliability and honesty of these publications then that raises some very uncomfortable questions. The importance of blogs is that they are written by ordinary people, many on the frontline or in direct contact with that space. While it’s great that we can all communicate across borders with knowns and unknowns, it’s disconcerting to discover the person you believed to be genuine turns out to be so far from that reality – that person is nothing but a mockery of the truth. Both of these impostors claim they faked their identities so they would be taken seriously - one as a gay Syrian activist the other as a white disabled lesbian. Both are white heterosexual males who chose to steal the voices of LGBTI persons and lie about it.
The last word goes to The Angry Arab:
‘I am not done with this intruder/impostor. It is not only his bad deed: it is arrogance and self-righteousness as the unrepentant liar that he has proven himself to be. He dares invokes Orientalism, posing--yet again--as a critic of Orientalism, when his manipulation of a Syrian ‘girl’ and her sexual identity connotes all sorts of historical reference to sexual Orientalism. But MacMaster--in his defense--may be just pleased to titillate himself in public. But it is also bothersome that MacMaster is also posing as a progressive who supports Palestinians. I argue that this is another lie and fabrication by MacMaster and that his political agenda is not as innocent as he pretends it to be. Remember the post he wrote back in May? He pretended that the dream of the Syrian “girl” is to learn Hebrew and to live in Israel, representing Syria in the Zionist entity--in an “ideal” state of peace between Israel and Syria. This post betrays a Zionist agenda, I believe. He pretended that his posts were rather not incongruent with reality--whatever that means--but try to find a Syrian “girl” whose dream is to live in Israel?’
Electronic Intifada exposed the lie.
Pages have already been written on this and I am not minded to dwell on Tom MacMaster (GGiD) longer than a few words.
Who would best know about freedom but the ones who would die for it. Those who are at the receiving end of marginalisation of destruction are the ones who have the mission to save humanity.
Africans to abandon authoritarian rule - Africans have been doing this for past 6 months
Germany officially recognises the Libyan rebel government
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Face to face with the Congo
Immokasai, the building in which we were accommodated, was not a ‘hotel’ in the normal sense, but a huge block of self-contained flats, organised in the manner of a hotel, with a reception and maid service. It appeared fairly secluded from normal Luluaborg life, so I was quite surprised when I got a message one day that a Congolese man wanted to see me.
A Congolese? The Congolese spoke French and did not read my magazine, Drum. So how could a Congolese know about me and want to see me? I’d forgotten that ‘walls have ears!’ Gossip about our arrival had already hit the town and someone had bruited it about that the editor of a Ghanaian paper was around. I found the situation funny: I had not insisted on getting a UN uniform which could have helped me to move about Luluaborg more safely, and so had kept my movements largely within the Ghanaian community. But, apparently, if I wouldn’t go to the Congolese, they would come to me.
I said I would see the guy, and he turned up. He was a young man of about twenty-plus. He looked a bit uneasy.
I put him at his ease and offered him a drink.
After taking one sip of the drink, he looked straight into my eyes and announced: ‘I am the son of Joseph Okito!’
Goosepimples broke out all over me when I heard the name ‘Joseph Okito’.
I had been determined not to do any political stories whilst I was in the Congo because I didn’t want to create any problems for the Ghana army. They had sent me to the Congo purely to cover the performances the Heatwaves Dance Troupe were giving to entertain the Ghanaian troops, and if I began to use the opportunity to delve into the aspects of Congolese politics that interested me – how Lumumba had been murdered, what had happened to his family and who had taken over his MNC party after his murder – I would immediately attract the unwelcome attentions of the secret agents of the Leopoldville government.
To Congolese security, a Ghanaian journalist pursuing such enquiries would automatically appear to be a spy, or an agent sent by the ‘interfering’ Dr Kwame Nkrumah, to assist in subverting the Congolese government, which everyone knew he didn’t like, because it had murdered his friend, Patrice Lumumba. If the Ghana army was suspected of bringing such 'undesirables' into the country, while ostensibly operating as a neutral body under the command of the United Nations, all manner of problems could arise.
As a result of my former position as an editor in the newsroom of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, I was fully aware of the delicate relationship between the Ghana Army, the Congolese Government and the UN, and I didn’t want to do anything to upset it.
Yet when I heard the name ‘Joseph Okito’, all my resistance to Congolese politics evaporated. For the name ‘Joseph Okito’ was powerful in Congolese history – he was a staunch supporter of Lumumba and the vice-president of the Congolese Senate. He, together with the Minister of Youth Affairs Maurice Mpolo, had been arrested alongside Lumumba, had been tortured in the same manner as Lumumba and had been in the truck with Lumumba and Mpolo when they were driven from Elisabethville airport in Katanga and murdered in cold blood in the bush by the Belgians and their Katanga allies on 17 January 1961.
There were tears in the eyes of Okito’s son as he told me the sad tale of how he and members of his family had gone into hiding after his father’s arrest, how they had waited for news of his fate and how they had heard, from the Katanga government, the lie that the prisoners had been brought to Katanga under guard but had ‘escaped’ and had been murdered by ‘villagers’ who had recognised them and killed them because they didn’t like their politics.
‘We don’t believe Tshombe’s government’, the young Okito told me. ‘But we still don’t know the full truth of what happened to my father, Mr Lumumba and Mr Mpolo.’
Okito then asked me whether I would please take a letter to President Kwame Nkrumah for him.
I remembered my last encounter with Dr Nkrumah about the Congo (I had sent him news about the Congolese government’s expulsion of his chargé d’affaires in the Congo, Mr Nathaniel Welbeck, and the news had not exactly pleased him!) and I didn’t want any repeat encounter. But obviously the young Okito needed help and if he could get in touch with Dr Nkrumah, he might be able to receive assistance that might enable him to look after his widowed mother and his siblings.
So I asked him to write a letter but not to put Dr Nkrumah’s name on the envelope. He understood what I was saying: if I was ever searched by Congolese security agents and was found with a letter addressed to the president of Ghana on me, it would be read, and that would make matters difficult for the young Okito. I suspected, in fact, that he had tried to communicate with President Nkrumah through other Ghanaians in the Congo, and that they had all turned him down, for reasons similar to what I had deduced about what would happen if the letter was intercepted.
The young Okito went home, wrote the letter, and brought it to me in a plain envelope. When I got back to Accra, I didn’t take the letter directly to Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s office, but to the office of the Bureau of African Affairs, the outfit that had taken over the work that had previously been done by my friend, George Padmore, before his premature death in September 1959.
George Padmore had run the African and black affairs section of the world communist movement, known as the ‘Comintern’, in the 1930s, and knew more about the anti-colonial struggle in Africa than anyone alive. He had broken with the Russians when they tried to get him to tone down his attacks on the Western colonisers, as Russia allied itself to them in their common hostility towards Hitler’s Germany.
Padmore went to live in London after his split with the Comintern, and organised the 5th Pan-African Congress, held in Manchester in 1945. He and Dr Kwame Nkrumah were joint-secretaries to the conference, which brought together such prospective African heads of state as Jomo Kenyatta and Kamuzu Banda, as well as many other politicians who were to feature in the history of Africa’s liberation.
Shortly after Ghana’s independence in March 1957, Dr Nkrumah brought Padmore from London down to Accra to become Nkrumah's advisor on African affairs. Padmore immediately set to work to organise African countries into a body that held a similar objective as regards its own unity and economic cooperation, and was dedicated to the eradication of colonialism from African soil.
The new director of the Bureau of African Affairs was Mr A.K. Barden, who had been secretary to George Padmore. He was pleased to see me and listened with interest when I described my encounter in Luluaborg with the young Okito. He took Okito's letter and said he would pass it to the president. I never went back to ask him what assistance they had been able to give to the young Okito, but I was confident that Okito would receive a scholarship to study abroad, or a monthly stipend, or both. For in those days, Dr Nkrumah awarded scholarships to young people from every corner of the African continent – so long as he was convinced that they were taking part in their countries’ struggle against their colonial oppressors.
President Nkrumah also sent money to exiled students who were in financial difficulties. He was always careful to ask the liberation movement of the country concerned whether they knew of the individual before sending money. In that way, he recruited many students for organisations like the Zimbabwe African People’s Union – led by Mr Joshua Nkomo. One current president of an African country was, to my knowledge, the beneficiary of Nkrumah’s generosity to students of other African countries then under colonial rule.
Once installed in Accra, George Padmore, a Trinidadian, started to assist African politicians all across the continent fighting for their independence. He and Dr Nkrumah had been joint-secretaries of the 5th Pan-African Congress held in Manchester in 1945 and they now organised in Accra a Conference of Independent African States (April 1958) and followed it with one for Africans fighting against colonialism, the All-African People’s Conference (December 1958).
These conferences were in pursuit of the programme which the 5th Pan-African Congress had drawn up for the total liberation of the African continent. The brilliant idea, conceived by Padmore and Nkrumah, was to unite the independent African states, most of which were then Arab countries, with their black brothers, under the slogan ‘The Sahara unites us!’
The two men did not accept the notion that closer contacts with the Arab Africans would not help to dispel any racial prejudice they might harbour against their black brothers, given their own anti-colonial history. And indeed Habib Bourguiba (Tunisia) and Gamel Abdul Nasser (Egypt) in particular – and even the king of Morocco – all contributed a great deal to the training of African freedom fighters, using the experience they had gathered whilst helping to train their Arab brothers in the FLN, fighting for independence in Algeria.
The ‘All-African People’s Conference’ for Africans still living under colonial rule was chaired by Tom Mboya of Kenya, who coined the memorable phrase: ‘The colonialists scrambled for Africa in 1885. We are now telling them to scram from Africa.’
Among the participants of the conference was Patrice Lumumba, and one of its key moments was an address by Frantz Fanon, author of the famous book ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, who made a clinical analysis of why Africans under colonial rule must jettison the illusory idea that their independence could be handed to them on a silver platter, whether they used violence to fight for it or not.
Through the relations forged at the two Accra conferences, some of the independent African countries opened their doors to guerrilla trainees from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau. Ghana itself established guerrilla camps at which freedom fighters received training not only from Ghanaian military experts but also from technicians from Eastern countries. The late President of Mozambique Samora Machel as well as the late commander of the Zimbabwe Liberation Army (ZANLA) Josiah Tongogara both confirmed to me, during personal encounters I had with them in the 1970s, that it was Ghana that offered their movements ‘the first’ training facilities to acquire expertise in guerrilla warfare.
The death of George Padmore in September 1959 could not have come at a worse time in Africa’s history, especially that of the Congo. For by then the Belgians had just begun to bow to the pressure exerted on their horrible colonial system in the Congo, as well as Rwanda–Urundi (as Rwanda and Burundi were then called) and were allowing the African populations to be involved in municipal and local government. Lumumba was using the experience he had acquired in Ghana in 1958 to good use, and was soon imprisoned by the Belgians. By the time the Belgians called a conference in Brussels to write a new constitution for the Congo in the early months of 1960, Lumumba was still in prison and his party, the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), which had shown itself to be one of the strongest parties in the elections, refused to attend the constitutional conference in Brussels unless its leader was released and allowed to attend. The Belgians had no choice but to release Lumumba and fly him to Brussels.
Had Padmore been alive when the Congo achieved its independence on 30 June 1960, he would have been so excited he would have devoted most of his time trying to tele-guide Lumumba to anticipate and survive the intrigues unleashed on him by the Belgians and their Western allies. Some of the mistakes made by the men sent to the Congo by President Kwame Nkrumah – Mr A.Y.K. Djin and his successor, Mr Nathaniel Welbeck – would most probably not have occurred, for they would have had to pass George Padmore’s personal assessment of their prudence before being unleashed on a Congo infested with international espionage and agent provocateur activities of all sorts.
For George Padmore was himself a master of intrigue: While working for the Comintern (as mentioned earlier) he used, successfully, to make secret trips to British colonial territories such as the Gold Coast (now Ghana), Nigeria and Sierra Leone, using false identities, so he could have set up a network of agents in nearby Brazzaville and even Leopoldville – or probably gone to ground himself somewhere in the region – with his pockets full of cash, and armed with Belgian telephone numbers. And the ex-Comintern ace operator would have played political poker with the Belgians and the Americans, card for loaded card, and agitprop operation for agitprop operation.
Certainly, he would have been able to finger Sergeant Joseph Desiree Mobutu, who had attached himself to Lumumba during the Brussels conference, pried him away from Lumumba early on, and thus pre-empted the treacherous role that Mobutu was to play later in the affairs of the Congo that was to cost Lumumba his very life, and the Congo, its independence and national wealth.
One or two more years on earth and George Padmore would have seen the Congo through. For alas, in 1960, President Kwame Nkrumah was burdened with Ghana’s own internal troubles, and it would have taken a super-human effort for him to be able to devote as much time to the Congo as he desired in order to guide Lumumba to evade successfully the Belgian and American traps laid for him.
So, whoever mourns Lumumba must also mourn George Padmore – and the circumstances that denied Lumumba the benefit of the political skill and diplomatic mastery that would have helped him to detect and overcome the treachery of people like Joseph Kasavubu. The inimitable George Padmore would have made political mincemeat of them all.
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* Cameron Duodu is a writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Frantz Fanon 50 years on
On 6 December 2011, 50 years will have passed since the death of Frantz Fanon. Around the world people are getting together in universities, trade union offices, shack settlements, prisons, church halls, and other places where people try to think together, to reflect on the meaning of an extraordinary man for us and our struggles here and now.
Fanon was born in Martinique in the French Caribbean in 1925. The island had been colonised by the French who exterminated the indigenous population and brought in slaves from Africa and indentured workers from India to grow sugar cane. Fanon’s political awakening began as a 14 year old when, in 1939, he had the astonishing good fortune to have Aimé Césaire, a great poet and anti-colonial intellectual, as a high school teacher. The next year 5,000 French sailors loyal to the pro-Nazi Vichy regime in France descended on the island and black Martinicans, who had often thought of themselves as French, had to confront their sudden envelopment by an aggressive, crass and often drunken racism. The teenage Fanon surprised his friends by leaping into action when he came across French sailors beating one of his countrymen and he surprised some of them again when, at the age of 17, he escaped the island to join the Free French Forces in their fight against fascism. One of Fanon’s teachers had warned the boys in his class that a war between whites was not their struggle. Fanon dismissed him as a bastard and told his friends that ‘in any time and in any place that liberty is threatened, I will commit to it.’
But the Free French Forces did not offer the same commitment to its black soldiers. Fanon was awarded the Croix de guerre for heroism in battle but black soldiers were always treated as second class and were even denied their place on the field of final victory.
After the war Fanon studied medicine in France where he specialised in psychiatry. He published his first book, ‘Black Skin, White Masks’, in 1952, at the age of 27. The book deals with the lived experience of being black in an anti-black world. It begins in Martinique and moves to France examining language, sexual desire, embodied presence in the world, psychology and the politics of recognition in the light of the social fact that blackness assumes in a racist society. It is an extraordinarily book, simultaneously beautiful and searing, that sustains an absolute fidelity to an idea of humanity as freedom. Fanon submitted the text to his university examiners. But academics are often more committed to the organised stultification of the intelligence of young people than to any real attempt at encouraging its free flourishing and the work was rejected out of hand. His publishers were concerned about some aspects of his declarative poetic style but, when challenged on a particular point, he famously retorted that ‘I cannot explain the phrase more fully. I try, when I write such things, to touch the nerves of my reader. That's to say irrationally, almost sensually’. It’s now widely recognised amongst serious academics that racism has been fundamental to the constitution of the modern world and that ‘Black Skin, White Masks’ is one of the great books of the modern world.
In 1953 Fanon took up a post at a psychiatric hospital in colonial Algeria. His colleague Alice Cherki, who would become his comrade and biographer, recalls that the racism of white Algeria was ‘habitual; it was unperturbed, understood, and viewed as entirely natural.’ Moreover the hospital was run more like a prison than a place where people were healed. Fanon immediately had the patients unchained and he tried to organise the hospital as a therapeutic community. In November 1954 an anti-colonial insurrection began and Fanon began covertly working with the Algerian national liberation movement, the FLN, early in the following year. Two years later he wrote a letter of resignation from the hospital declaring, in effect, that colonial society was more insane than his patients. He was given 48 hours to leave the country and went into exile in Tunis where he edited the newspaper produced by the Algerian national liberation movement and continued to work as a doctor. In 1959 he wrote ‘A Dying Colonialism’, a book that examines the way in which struggle renders culture dynamic. The best-known chapter in the book looks at the changing role of the veil in the struggle against colonialism.
In 1960 Fanon was appointed as the ambassador of the FLN to Ghana and he travelled to many of the newly independent countries south of the Sahara to represent the Algerian movement. At the end of that year he was diagnosed with leukaemia. He immediately decided to write a new book, his last. That book, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, was written in ten weeks. It begins with an account of the colonial city as ‘a world divided into two’, moves on to describe what he called the mutations of consciousness that develop as struggles against colonialism unfold, and then examines the crisis of post-colonial states in which the people that bought new regimes into power are expelled from active political life as former liberation movements become an instrument to contain popular aspirations and to organise and legitimate the machinations of an new elite more predatory than redemptive.
In Fanon’s view the promise of national liberation struggles could not be redeemed if national consciousness did not give way to social consciousness. He saw a second struggle, a struggle to realise what he called a human prospect, as essential. In his last book, as in his first, he retains an absolute fidelity to the value of human freedom. It was immediately banned on publication and Fanon was dead within weeks. He was buried amidst the last battles of the war for Algeria in a forest in the mountains that separate Tunisia from Algeria.
Fanon’s work inspired the black consciousness movement in South Africa, prison intellectuals in America and people around the world who wanted to think the struggles against racism and colonialism as well as the resistance to the new elites that captured and distorted these struggles for their own narrow purposes.
Fanon would certainly not have wanted to be canonised as an authority outside of the context in which he wrote and struggled. On the contrary he constantly stressed, from his first book to his last, that a living thought must always be an engagement with a particular situation.
But 50 years after his death our world is both strikingly similar and strikingly different to the world in which Fanon lived and struggled with such an incandescent passion. His remarks about the oil of Iraq having ‘removed all prohibitions and made concrete the true problems’ and the ‘marines who periodically are send to re-establish “order” in Haiti’ are hardly strange words from another time. His account of the degeneration of national liberation struggles into organised plunder is routinely described as prophetic by new readers in Southern Africa.
But while the political spring in North Africa and the Middle East, and earlier stirrings in Latin America, have certainly called some of the global quiescence of the last 30 years into question, we are far from the Africa in motion from within which Fanon wrote. It seems a long time since the likes of Fanon and Patrice Lumumba thought it perfectly reasonable to see themselves as part of a broad struggle to call a new Africa into being. Here in South Africa our great generation is passing on to be replaced by a mixture of ruthless buffoons presiding over an increasingly violent and predatory state and stolid technocrats who might commit to a policy review but never to liberty.
But struggle goes on and 50 years on Fanon still calls us to be present in struggle, in that social space in which ordinary women and men can call things into question and assume the force and reason of real political agency.
Since the passing of Édouard Glissant in February this year it seems fair to say that Patrick Chamoiseau, the extraordinarily inventive novelist, is probably the most highly regard contemporary Martinican intellectual. In his best-known work, Texaco, he writes of a ‘proletariat without factories, workshops, and work, and without bosses, in the muddle of odd jobs, drowning in survival and leading an existence like a path through embers.’ It’s on this path, a path that is often literally made through embers, along with bullets, bullets fired by the state, and plastic bags full of diarrhoea, that Fanon’s fidelity to humanity, to all of humanity, must be reasserted by our generation with most urgency.
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* Richard Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University in South Africa.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Genuine partnership or a marriage of convenience?
India–Africa relations in the 21st century
Fantu Cheru and Cyril Obi
From most indications, India and China, two leading emerging economies in the world, are competing with each other, as well as Africa’s traditional western trading partners, to build a stronger relationship with Africa. Both Asian giants have contributed to the increase in the volume and value of African exports, bringing in more revenue to resource-rich African countries. This has provided African countries with an opportunity also to diversify the destination of exports, creating some room for greater flexibility, as well as an alternative to the condition-laden, asymmetrical relations into which African countries had been hitherto locked with their western trading partners and financial institutions. By the same logic, India and China have provided Africa with cheaper imports, investments and low-cost technology, while their resource diplomacy has provided the continent with new and visible forms of development cooperation and aid that are largely free of the terms imposed by western partners. It would appear that this competition between India and China is underscored by the quest for oil, markets, minerals, raw materials and influence. Although the growing presence of India and China in Africa is creating some concern in western capitals, particularly in the context of a ‘new’ scramble for Africa’s resources and the implications of such ties for democracy and accountability in Africa, it is rather too early to tell whether this renewed interest in Africa by China and India will constitute a new dimension of South–South relations, or alternatively, if it will produce new forms of asymmetrical relations. What is clear, however, is that the rise of both India and China in Africa certainly will have significant implications for the future of Africa’s development and its international relations. Trade between China and Africa grew from $20 billion in 2001 to more than $120 billion in 2009. Similarly, India’s trade with Africa (excluding oil) also surged from $914 million in 1991 to between $25 billion and $30 billion in 2008.
Despite official Indian denial that there is no competition between the two Asian giants (The Economic Times 2010) in Africa, India’s foreign policy swings between attempting to catch up with the Chinese, who have made major inroads in Africa over the past decade, and accommodating the aspirations of China, India and the western world in the context of India’s enduring relations with the continent. Thus, we argue that what we see is an emerging trend of competition sometimes moderated by accommodation. This competition centres on three major issues: energy security, access to Africa’s untapped markets and diplomatic influence (National Intelligence Council 2004; Martin 2008).
Also of note is the reality that India cannot match China’s ‘deep pockets’ when it comes to resource diplomacy, state backing for private sector investments, and the provision of credit and aid to African countries. India compensates for this with its rhetoric of being a true friend and equal partner of Africa that is keen to facilitate development on the continent, as defined by Africans themselves, in the spirit of solidarity and mutual benefit. However, India’s policy toward Africa is different from China’s more in terms of its form/degree than of its intent (Mawdsley and McCann 2010). It is important to note that when stripped of its rhetoric, it is hard to ignore the similarities between the African strategies of India and China, which Naidu rightly observes is found in ‘their demands for resource security, trade and investment opportuni- ties, forging of strategic partnerships, African–Asian solidarity and South–South solidarity’ (Naidu 2010, p. 34).
The other aspect that relates to the expansion of Indian influence in Africa is framed in the context of an Indo-Africa renaissance, which can act both for economic partnership and a voice in shaping the emerging world order (Sharma 2009). In this regard, India has doubled its lines of credit (LOC), opened up niches in the areas of human resource development, technical training and capacity building, energy cooperation, investments, a pan-African e-network and the transfer of low-cost appropriate technology. Although the evidence strongly indicates that ‘India has lagged behind China’s aggressive courting of African nations to secure rights to energy as well as raw materials’ (Redvers 2010), India’s competition with China in Africa will serve as an interesting window on the way in which these three issues affect Indian policy.
INDIA’S RACE TO CATCH UP WITH THE CHINESE
It is important to establish from the outset that India is not a new- comer to Africa and the relationship dates back to the pre-colonial period. It became stronger during the period of anti-colonial struggle and later, at the height of the cold war, when India, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, took an instrumental role in the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to demand for a just international order. The principle of non- alignment and South–South cooperation became the centrepiece of Indian foreign policy until the late 1980s.
With the economic liberalisation in the 1990s, India’s foreign policy objectives became more pragmatic, with the aim of promoting India’s economic ambitions on the world stage. Just as China had done under Premier Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s, India began to strengthen its external relations with Europe, the United States and its closest neighbours in Asia to fully realise its political and economic ambitions. Among India’s more recent foreign policy initiatives were the decisions to enter into a strategic dialogue with the US, open new economic relations with the countries of Latin America and Asia, ease tensions with China and pursue a deliberate policy to collaborate with them in key international organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation. Yet, engagement with the African continent did not peak in India’s ambitious globalisation strategy until 2008, almost a decade after Beijing’s well-coordinated penetration of the African market.
There are a number of reasons why New Delhi is increasingly courting the African continent. At the forefront of India’s foreign policy priorities is energy security (Patey, Chapter 9 in this volume; Obi 2010; Vines and Campos 2010). The Indian economy has grown rapidly from the 1990s, and securing cheap energy and other strategic raw materials from the African continent on a long-term basis has become an economic and political imperative. It is projected that by 2030 India will be the world’s third-largest consumer of energy (Madan 2006). Currently, 75 per cent of India’s oil imports come from the politically volatile Middle East. Because India possesses few proven oil reserves, diversifying the sources of its energy supply by developing stronger economic ties with the African continent tops the political agenda (Sharma and Mahajan 2007). With projections suggesting that India will depend on oil for almost 90 per cent of its energy needs by the end of this decade, it is little wonder that energy security through the diversification of supplies is a key priority. Given Africa’s position as the last oil frontier, it is only strategic that India engages the continent in pursuit of its energy security interests. This urgency is further elevated by the increasing scramble for African resources by both China and the industrialised countries. Second, Africa has emerged as an important market for Indian goods and services, as well as a vital element in India’s quest for strategic minerals and other natural resources needed to feed its burgeoning economy. In this regard, the Indian private sector, with some government support, has been active in expanding trade and investment in Africa and to capture Africa’s untapped market potential. Accordingly, India’s trade with Africa expanded by 500 per cent, from $5.2 billion in 2003 to an estimated $26 billion in 2008. The most recent figures for 2009 indicate that India’s trade with Africa has grown to an estimated ‘US$39 billion, com- pared to China–Africa trade of US$109 billion’ (Indiainteracts 2010), showing a continuous growth in Indo-African trade, but also indicating the gap between India and China’s trade with Africa. India is working hard, however, as suggested by agreements reached at the March 2010 India–Africa Conclave meeting in New Delhi attended by 400 African delegates from 34 countries, ‘to scale up its bilateral trade with Africa to US$70 billion by 2015’ (Thaindian News 2010).
Similarly, African countries have been interested in acquiring cost effective and intermediate technology from India in the fields of information technology, agriculture, health and pharmaceuticals (Modi 2010). Only half a million Africans have access to the internet, and there is thus a pressing need to narrow the digital divide. Africans also want to gain more knowledge and expertise from India’s successful green revolution experience in order to attain food self-sufficiency. In the field of health, African consumers are interested to have access to affordable drugs as well as treatment in India’s highly sophisticated health delivery system (Beri 2008). Third, as its economic power grows, India also has decided to project its military power in the Indian Ocean region, which it has long considered to be within its sphere of influence. Given the existence of extremist organisations and criminal syndicates that traffic drugs, arms and people, as well as pirates in the Indian Ocean region, India has begun to dramatically expand its military presence in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean, through which the oil tankers that carry nearly all of India’s oil imports must travel (Volman 2009).
In October 2008, Indian warships began conducting patrols off the Somali coast to protect ships from pirate attacks. India has also established a listening post in northern Madagascar, which consists of a radar surveillance station equipped with a high-tech digital communications system and which is intended, at least in part, to monitor Chinese activities. In 2003, India signed a defence cooperation agreement with Seychelles and in 2006 signed a defence agreement with Mozambique to provide arms and to conduct regular naval patrols off Mozambique’s coast (Vines, Chapter 11 in this volume; Vines and Oruitemeka 2008).
The Indian government has launched a number of initiatives to strengthen economic cooperation between Africa and India. This engagement takes three forms: development assistance, foreign direct investment and trade, and diplomacy. There are two instruments through which India extends development assistance: the LOC extended by the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of India and the traditional technical assistance predominately managed by the country’s ministry of external affairs. Overall, Indian development assistance has grown from Rs.9.2 billion in 2000 to Rs.25 billion in 2009 (Ministry of Finance 2009). Needless to say, it is difficult to ascertain precisely the volume and types of India’s development assistance to Africa because complete and disaggregated data is hard to find (Jobelius 2007; Kragelund 2008; Rowlands 2008). The available data does not make a distinction between what the OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) development action committee would define as aid and what is export credit, a problem that also holds true to Chinese aid to Africa (Brautigam 2009). As will be made clear later in this chapter, a large part of what India spends on development assistance in Africa is nothing more than an export subsidy scheme for surplus Indian goods (Agrawal 2007; Mawdsley and McCann 2010).
The share of India’s official development assistance going to Africa is relatively small compared with aid going to India’s Asian neighbours (Mawdsley 2010). In the fiscal year 2009–10, a mere Rs.20.53 billion was allocated to the whole of Africa, compared to the Rs.400.00 billion allocated to Afghanistan. The bulk of Indian development assistance to Africa is devoted to training, capacity building, project-related consultancy services, deputation of experts, study tours and other ‘soft’ investments, although the country also supports a number of capital projects financed by export credit extended through the Exim Bank (Katti et al 2009; Sinha 2010).
Among the most important technical assistance programmes are the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme and the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme for Africa (SCAAP). Under ITEC and SCAAP, some 1,000 African experts are given short-term training in India every year in a number of technical fields — from public administration to agricultural research and computer literacy. In addition, the ITEC programme provides scholarships to African students who take regular academic courses in India (Katti et al 2009).
Increasingly, however, commercial interests have become embedded in India’s foreign policy. As India faces a potential energy crisis, Africa has entered centre stage in India’s foreign policy priorities and development assistance is channelled to achieve this goal (Mawdsley and McCann 2010; Obi 2010; Vines and Campos 2010). Currently, about 24–30 per cent of India’s crude oil imports is sourced from Africa (Obi 2009). Consequently, India has stepped up its diplomatic offensive in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, where 70 per cent of African oil is extracted. Indian oil companies, such as the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Limited (OVL), have invested heavily in equity assets in Sudan, Ivory Coast, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Gabon and Angola. India has also recently completed a $200 million project to lay pipeline from Khartoum to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Indian companies have invested in exploration and production blocks in Madagascar and Nigeria (the latter currently accounts for between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of India’s total oil imports, estimated at 400,000 barrels per day and is the second largest source of Indian imports).
During a visit to Abuja the Nigerian capital city, as part of a four-nation Africa tour in January 2010, Murli Deora, India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, announced the country’s commitment to invest $360 million to develop two oil blocs (Oil Prospecting Licenses 279 and 285). Also included in the package was a deal between ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) Mittal and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to establish a refinery and explore the possibility of cooperation between GAIL (India) and India Oil Corporation in the Nigerian liquefied natural gas sector (Ezigbo 2010). Deora’s tour marked the latest endeavour of India’s burgeoning African petro-diplomacy. For example, it represented a follow-up to the second India–Africa Hydrocarbon conference in New Delhi in December 2009, and underscored the industry of the Indian state in pursu- ing India’s energy security interests in Africa in the face of com-petition from China and western oil-import dependent countries.
The Focus Africa Programme launched in 2002 by the Ministry of Commerce and administered by the Exim Bank of India aims to provide financial assistance to various trade promotion organisa- tions and export promotion councils. The programme now covers some 24 African countries and has been instrumental in encouraging and assisting the tremendous growth in Indian exports to sub-Saharan African countries. The programme has particularly targeted regional economic blocks, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa as critical nodes to expand Indian exports to the sub-regions by extending to them LOC.
Two years later, the Techno-Economic Approach for Africa- India Movement (TEAM-9) for cooperation between India and eight West and Central African countries situated in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea was initiated to promote trade and investment (Beri 2008). This is essentially a credit facility with a volume of $500 million for Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal. The aim is to promote economic development in these countries through access to Indian technology. Some of the projects established under this initiative include $30 million for rural electrification in Ghana, a $4 million bicycle plant in Chad, a $12 million tractor assembly plant in Mali and a $15 million potable drinking water project in Equatorial Guinea (see Vittorini and Harris, Chapter 12, this volume).
Another novel initiative by India has been the launch of the Pan-African e-Network in February 2009. The aim of the project is to bridge the digital divide and accelerate development on the African continent. The project, which is expected to cost $1 billion, supports tele-education, tele-medicine, resource mapping and e-commerce. For example, major hospitals in many African countries are now connected through the e-network with the leading Indian hospitals and receiving real-time instructions and assistance to provide advanced medical services to their patients (Modi 2009). State-owned Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd will implement the network, which India will manage for five years before turning it over to the Africa Union (AU).
In April 2008, the first official India–Africa Summit was held in New Delhi, indicating the coming of age of India’s relations with the African continent. Among the many initiatives that India announced at the summit were:
- An increase of the existing level of credit to Africa from about $2 billion to $5.4 billion by 2013.
- A duty-free tariff preference scheme for 34 least developed African countries. The scheme will cover 94 per cent of total tariff lines and products, such as cotton, cocoa, aluminium ores, copper ores, cashew nuts, cane sugar, clothing and non- industrial diamonds.
- The doubling of trade from $25 billion to $50 billion by 2011.
- A $500 million budget allocation for capacity building and human resource development, expanding existing training programmes for African students and technocrats.
- Support to Africa’s regional integration efforts and provision of financial support to the AU and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). This includes a $200 million line of credit to NEPAD.
The second India–Africa Summit will take place in the spring of 2011 and is expected to review implementation of the agreed goals of the first summit and promote new initiatives to expand the economic and political relationship between Africa and India. The picture emerging thus far is that, despite a slow start, India’s strategy toward Africa is becoming more focused, and policy coherence between the activities of various Indian economic agents and the Indian state has improved significantly during the past three years. With a huge Indian diaspora in Africa, English as the principal working language for the Indian private sector and the government bureaucracy, and given its proximity to the continent, India is steadily consolidating its expanding and much closer ties with Africa. In the medium to long term, it could conceivably close the gap with China on the continent.
THE INDIAN PRIVATE SECTOR
Unlike the predominantly state-driven approach of China, India’s entry into Africa is spearheaded by private companies covering sectors such as telecommunications, agriculture, hotels, mining, rail and road infrastructure and pharmaceuticals. Buoyed by the economic boom in India, the easy availability of capital and the search for new markets, Indian companies such as Kirloskar Brothers Limited, the Tata Group, Mahindra and Mahindra, Fortis, Escort and Apollo have begun looking to the continent of Africa as a source of raw materials and markets. There are long- established trade relations between Africa and India, yet according to many commentators and businesspersons African nations are interacting with a renewed wave of Indian exporters in sectors in which Indian light engineering products, consumer goods and intermediate products can compete on price and are well adapted to local conditions. Indian companies are also seeking to mine gold, diamonds, manganese, bauxite, iron ore and chrome, either by operating new mines or by forming local partnerships with local firms to exploit existing ones.
The dramatic growth of the Indian private sector in Africa has taken place under the stewardship of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the publicly owned Exim Bank of India and the captains of major Indian companies. Between 2004 and 2011, the CII and Exim Bank have jointly organised seven major meet- ings that brought together key Indian and African private sector organisations and government representatives to discuss and review the progress made in deepening economic engagement between India and Africa (Bhattacharya 2010; Modi 2010).
In addition to the Indian private sector, Indian state-owned corporations, such as the Indian Telecom Industries, Rail India Technical and Economic Services (Rites), Konkan Railways, the ONGC and many others are also very active in the extractive sec- tor as well as in large-scale construction projects, such as roads, railways, telecommunications and the building construction sectors. For example, although Rites and IRCON, the two large state-owned infrastructure and engineering companies have been engaged in construction of rail networks and the leasing of locomotives in Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique, companies such as Kalapaaru Power Transmission Ltd have secured major contracts to build power transmission sites. In general, the state-owned enterprises work very closely with the Indian private enterprise and operators in both sectors draw a great deal of support from the Exim Bank through its LOC programme.
The Exim Bank has been a key institution and has played a critical role in facilitating the entry of Indian private sector companies into Africa, including the financing of major capital projects on the continent (Mawdsley and McCann 2010). It has done this through its LOCs to African governments, parastatal boards, regional entities such as the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank, the West African Development Bank, and the East Africa Development Bank to promote Indian exports and consultancy ser- vices to Africa. According S.R. Rao, the Chief General Manager of the Exim Bank of India, some 30 LOCs were in operation in Africa in 2006 alone, totalling about $1 billion (Rao 2006, p. 21).
At the end of March 2009, almost $2.27 billion (or 60 per cent of total Exim LOCs of $3.75 billion) went to African countries. In the financial year 2008–09 alone, the Exim Bank extended 25 LOCs worth $479 million to Africa (Exim Bank 2008). Total LOCs are expected to reach $5.4 billion over the next five years. Examples of funded projects in Africa executed by Indian companies include: supply of pharmaceuticals (Uganda, Ghana); building of transmission lines (Kenya); telecom projects (Malawi); a rail- way construction project (Tanzania); the erection of a sugar plant (Nigeria); and a sewerage study (Ethiopia) (Rao 2006).
Although the increasing volume of LOCs to individual African countries, regional multilateral bodies by the Exim Bank is a good indication of the private sector-led thrust of India’s Africa policy, there is a risk of adding to Africa’s debt burden. Great care must be taken to balance credits destined to promote mere consumption of Indian luxury goods versus credits to support investment aimed at raising African productivity, increasing income and reducing poverty in the long term.
Furthermore, the OECD has been extremely critical of both India and China’s approach to trade with Africa, arguing that both the Asian giants are mainly interested in securing raw materials and energy from Africa and finding new markets for their cheap goods and services. Because this could lead to ‘Dutch disease’ in African countries, it is not to their advantage in the long term (Goldstein et al 2006). This conclusion has already been assigned to Chinese investments in Africa and India will not be able to escape the same criticism if it fails to heed African concerns.
In addition to providing export credits, the Exim Bank has bought equity stake in the Africa Export-Import Bank (Afrex- imbank), the West African Development Bank and the Development Bank of Zambia. It also has a strong relationship with the African Development Bank (AfDB), and as a non-regional member of this bank has been able to assist Indian companies to bid successfully in AfDB-financed infrastructure projects in Africa. It also influences private sector development in Africa through its consultancy and advisory services to numerous African governments and the World Bank Group, resulting in the participation of Indian companies in projects financed by the International Finance Corporation under its Africa project development facility, the Africa Enterprise Fund and the Technical Assistance and Trust Fund in a number of African countries (Rao 2006).
On the diplomatic front, both India and China compete fiercely to win the hearts and minds of African leaders for their respective foreign policy goals. The big prize for China is winning the support of Africans for its ‘one China’ policy over Taiwan; for India, the big prize is securing a seat at the UN Security Council (Schaffer and Mitra 2005; Suri 2007). As noted earlier, India’s pitch has been to underscore its long-standing relationship with the continent, its track record of solidarity with Africa in struggles of decolonisation and the quest for development. Indian diplomats and government officials are quick to emphasise that far from being a fair-weather friend, India offers a unique model of engagement with the continent based on equality, mutual respect and benefits. As Tharoor recently asserted, ‘we do not wish to go and demand certain rights or impose certain rights or projects or impose our ideas in Africa. But we want to contribute to Africa’s development objectives’ (Indiainteracts 2010). However, like China, India has hosted African summits, which have been (at least partially) concerned with the promotion of Indian business and hydrocarbon interests.
There is also the fact that India is a multiparty democracy, which acts as a form of leverage and legitimacy in its dealings with Africa but also constitutes a bureaucratic bottleneck preventing quick and timely decisions with regard to its interests in a rather competitive African scene. But the recent upsurge in visits by Indian high-ranking officials to strategic African countries and the engagement of Africa’s regional organisations point to greater Indian presence and influence on the continent. By seeking to differentiate its model of engagement with Africa from that of China and the western powers, India is no doubt attempting to carve an image for itself as an alternate and beneficial partner as it seeks to out-manoeuvre a more endowed and aggressive China that has so far outpaced it in the ‘new’ scramble for Africa.
Another aspect of India’s Africa diplomacy that deserves some attention is its role in the training of Africa’s militaries and peace- keepers. India continues to be one of the largest contributors to peacekeeping missions in Africa (Singh 2007). According to Singh (2007), India has been a part of all UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. Although Indian peacekeepers had to be withdrawn from Sierra Leone, reports of India’s involvement in peacekeeping operations on the continent have been largely positive. India is also the third-largest troop contributor to UN African peace operations (Singh 2007), and its efforts in supporting peace operations on the continent cannot be separated from its efforts to promote peace and its influence in Africa, while also playing a positive role in world affairs.
Following the lead of many European donors, India has also been supporting African regional institutions, such as the AU and NEPAD, ECOWAS and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as stated above. Indeed, the India-South African relationship was formalised through the formation of the SADC-Indian Forum in 2003, and within the context of the tripartite India-Brazil-South Africa institution. India has contributed $200 million for the implementation of various projects under NEPAD. Also the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) have signed a memorandum of understanding with ECOWAS on trade relations (Afrique en ligne 2010).
To underscore its strategic partnership with Africa, India and the AU have recently ‘finalised a Plan of Action of the Framework for Cooperation of the Indian African Forum Summit’ (NetIndian 2010). The framework is both to guide the implementation of the agreements reached at the first India–Africa Forum Summit and set the stage for the second summit planned for the spring of 2011. In this regard, the programme sets out the details for establishing several institutions to promote Indo-African relations. These include the India Africa Institute for Foreign Trade, India Africa Diamond Institute, India Africa Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, India Africa Institute of Information Technology, and the Pan African Stock Exchange (NetIndian 2010).
PROSPECTS FOR INDIA–AFRICA RELATIONS
India is moving fast to consolidate its growing footprint in Africa as it competes with China and with developed countries to secure energy, raw material resources, and markets to fuel its growing economy and export its manufactured goods and services. India’s active engagement with Africa is motivated by a general desire to exert greater influence in global affairs and more specifically to secure African diplomatic support in New Delhi’s quest to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Although China currently dominates the African market, India will more likely gain the comparative advantage in the medium to long term: its strong diasporic community on the ground in Africa, its proximity to the continent, its use of historical ties and special niches to promote its cause of African friendship, its first-class education system and its enduring democratic tradition will contribute towards making it more competitive than China (Modi 2010).
For the Indian private sector to succeed in doing business in Africa, it requires elaborate and proactive state guidance. At the moment, such guidance does not exist in a coordinated way and is only just being constructed. The democratic setup of India, which will be an advantage in the long term, can in the short term also fetter business process because of the bureaucratic state machinary. Furthermore, with an aggressive free press, transparency in business contracts needs to be maintained. The challenge for the government is how to actively support India’s private business in Africa while staying firm on the need to uphold the principles of democratic practice and corporate social responsibility in the areas of labour standards, environment sustainability and respect for human rights.
Needless to say, there is a growing concern in Africa that the increasing engagements of the Asian giants in their search for energy, minerals, markets and influence, if not managed properly could turn out to be just as bad as the scramble for resources that led to the colonisation of the continent during the second half of the 19th century. Some of the risks include:
- Increasing ‘securitisation’ of African international relations (Volman 2009)
- Weak governance standards and misallocation of receipts from high raw material prices
- A weakening of the still low local standards and regulations on environment and labour
- The destruction of local economies unable to compete with China and India’s hyper-competitive manufacturing sectors
- Political support to African regimes that are not open to democratic governance (Goldstein et al 2006; Cheru and Obi 2010).
Unless India is prepared to address these critical African concerns, the red carpet rolled out to welcome it to the continent will quickly be rolled up and taken away, and the stigma of India as a new coloniser will take decades to erase. In the final analysis, the prospects for India–Africa relations contributing positively to African development ultimately lie in the hands of Africa’s political and economic elites, their fulfilment (or betrayal) of the visionary and transformative potential that the diversification of African production and exports represents in the context of an emergent shift in post-cold war global power from the West to the East.
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* This essay is an extract from 'India in Africa: Changing Geographies of Power', edited by Emma Mawdsley, Gerard McCann and published by Pambazuka Press (ISBN: 1-906387-65-6).
* Fantu Cheru is research director of the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala. and Emeritus Professor of African and Development Studies at American University in Washington, DC.
* Cyril Obi is a senior researcher and leader of the research cluster on Conflict, Displacement and Transformation at the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
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This Day, 26 January, http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview php?id=165081, accessed 19 March 2010
Goldstein, A. et al (2006) The Rise of China and India: What’s in it for Africa?, Paris: OECD.
Indiainteracts (2010) ‘Tharoor unveils Indian model of engagement with Africa’, 15 March, http://indiainteracts.in/news/2010/03/15/Tharoor- unveils-Indian-model-of-engagement-with-Africa.html, accessed 19 March 2010
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Katti, V., Chahoud, T. and Kaushik, A. (2009) ’India’s development cooperation: opportunities and challenges for international development cooperation’, briefing paper, no. 3, German Development Institute
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Mawdsley, Emma (2010), ‘The non-DAC donors and the changing landscape of foreign aid: the (in)significance of India’s development cooperation with Kenya’, Journal of Eastern African Studies, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 361–79
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Modi, Renu (2009), ‘Pan-African e-network: a model of South–South cooperation’, African Quarterly, vol. 49, no. 1 –––– (2010) ‘The role of India’s private sector in the health and agricultural sectors of Africa’, in Cheru, Fantu and Obi, Cyril (eds) The Rise of China and India in Africa, London and Uppsala, Zed Books and The Nordic Africa Institute
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Research, Frankfurt, 16 December
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Vines, Alex and Campos, Indira (2010) ‘China and India in Angola’, in Cheru, Fantu and Obi, Cyril (eds) The Rise of China and India in Africa, London and Uppsala, Zed Books and The Nordic Africa Institute
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Volman, Daniel (2009) ‘China, India, Russia and the United States: the scramble for African oil and the militarisation of the continent’, Current African Issues, no. 43
India in Africa: Changing Geographies of Power
Edited by Emma Mawdsley and Gerard McCann
Major changes are taking place in the global economy and polity. While China's relationship to Africa is much examined, knowledge and analysis of India's role in Africa has until now been limited but, as a significant global player, India's growing interactions with various African countries call for detailed analysis of the Asian giant's influence and its relations with the African continent.
In this original book, which enables readers to compare India to China and other 'rising powers' in Africa, expert African, Indian and western commentators draw on a collection of accessibly written case studies to explore inter-related areas including trade, investment, development aid, civil society relations, security and geopolitics.
If you're an African non-governmental organisation of limited funds, please email email@example.com to arrange a complimentary copy of this ebook (Adobe PDF).
Ebook orders within the United Kingdom include VAT.
A FAHAMU BOOKS AND PAMBAZUKA PRESS PUBLICATION
(Please be advised that prices of future publications are provisional and may be subject to change.)
Audience Academic, civil society, policy and student readerships.
Publication Date September 2011
List Price £16.95
Format Adobe PDF
Publication Date September 2011
List Price £16.95
Cameroon: Propping up a dictator
Writing in the Up Station Mountain Club blog, Professor Emmanuel Konde of Albany State University in the United States, joins a bewildering list of Cameroonian academics and intellectuals at home and abroad who have recently been throwing their full support behind President Biya and the ruling CPDM party:
‘Having devoted some time studying the major actors and political parties of Cameroon, I have decided to lend my weight on the side of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) and its leader, President Paul Biya. I do so at this particular juncture because Cameroon is in the throes of fundamental social change, the 2011 Presidential Election, whose result might either derail the progress that has been registered over the past half century or push us forward to greater achievements especially in the realms of respect for human rights and the fashioning of a democratic political culture.
‘The numerous opposition parties in Cameroon have proved themselves unruly, disorderly, and disorganized. Given this state of affairs, it is unlikely that any one of these will pose a formidable opposition to the highly organized ruling CPDM. As a point of fact, many of those who aspire to challenge Mr. Paul Biya for the presidency of the republic are neophytes, inexperienced, and often resort to propounding lofty ideas that some would aptly consign to demagoguery. In as much as some may want to deny the obvious, governing a country in which more than 85 per cent of the population has no inkling about what democracy entails—let alone understand the issues at stake, changing course at this juncture will not but plunge Cameroon into a deluge. Slow but steady progress is much better than retrogression. A different kind of change is required in Cameroon, which must come on the heels of a well contrived and executed policy of education designed to transform the populace from tribal subjects to national citizens. There is no other party in Cameroon that is ready to execute this task than the ruling CPDM.’
Drogba’s Country writes about the challenges in trying to create a model national army out of the ex-northern rebel forces in Cote d’Ivoire:
‘One the biggest challenges for the new government of Ivory Coast is the formation of a new army. On paper, this has been done and the new force is called the FRCI (the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast). The force was created by the Ouattara government during the Golf hotel blockade. The new army was little more than the former rebels from the north, the New Forces, plus a growing number of elements from the former state defence forces….
‘Officially the FRCI are supposed to be heading back to “barracks” and they’ve been told from on high not to get involved in police work, for which they have never been trained. But they’re still very much in evidence on the streets in their “requisitioned” vehicles, even if the former forces of law and order are gingerly making a comeback. I’ve seen frequent cases where people have used their contacts to call on the FRCI to settle personal disputes; an argument over unpaid rent, a housing contract and even the destruction of a one foot high avocado tree.
‘President Ouattara will need to work fast; even his supporters are frequently disparaging when referring to the FRCI, and their presence on the streets only adds to sentiments in some quarters about a northern takeover. After the chaos that followed last year’s election, Ivorians may be reluctant about thinking about 2015′s presidential election, but the fact is that president Ouattara will need to work hard to build a strong, broad-based, case for re-election against a PDCI party that will almost certainly have a stronger candidate next time round and may not play ball in allowing Ouattara a second term.’
Ken Opalo reacts to Clinton's admonition to African countries not to fall victim to the new colonialism from China:
‘But Mrs. Clinton’s statement conveniently left out Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, among others. In these states the US government and American multinationals continue to cooperate with regimes that are obscenely corrupt and/or repressive for “constructive reasons.”
‘Chinese involvement in Africa is not clean, no doubt about that. Beijing’s support of the murderous regime in Khartoum is despicable. But this is nothing new. The US, Western Europe and Russia have done worse….
‘I must say that Africans who are suffering under oppressive regimes still need western pressure on their governments to allow for more political space (however Janus-faced this pressure might be). That said, Africa needs more options. A globally conscious China with lots of money to throw around will – in the long run – do more good than harm in Africa…
‘And as has been the case with shady Western involvement in Africa, whenever the Chinese make deals that are bad for the locals the blame should be directed at the African governments who take side payments and look the other way.’
Farm land Grab republishes an article from the Guardian newspaper on an ongoing campaign by major US universities to take control of vast parcels of land in Africa:
‘Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land, according to a new study.
‘Researchers say foreign investors are profiting from "land grabs" that often fail to deliver the promised benefits of jobs and economic development, and can lead to environmental and social problems in the poorest countries in the world.
‘The new report on land acquisitions in seven African countries suggests that Harvard, Vanderbilt and many other US colleges with large endowment funds have invested heavily in African land in the past few years. Much of the money is said to be channeled through London-based Emergent asset management, which runs one of Africa's largest land acquisition funds, run by former JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs currency dealers.
‘Researchers at the California-based Oakland Institute think that Emergent's clients in the US may have invested up to $500m in some of the most fertile land in the expectation of making 25% returns.’
Sahel blog writes that support for Moammar Qadhafi seems to be waning among the Sahel states that were hitherto with the Libyan leader’s sphere of influence:
‘During his long rule Colonel Moammar Qadhafi has exercised substantial influence over Africa. The Colonel has aided client regimes, helped bring rulers to power or ruin, and intervened in conflicts as participant or peacemaker. As this map shows, his influence has been particularly pronounced in Sahelian countries like Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad.
‘The civil war in Libya has dramatically affected the Sahel: Niger and other countries are absorbing thousands of refugees, Sahelians are being accused of serving as pro-Qadhafi mercenaries, Libyan weapons have reportedly traveled south, and money flows have been disrupted or altered…
‘Given all that, it is significant to see several Sahelian leaders begin to speak about – and act to bring about – a post-Qadhafi Libya. Senegal appears to have led the trend, with President Abdoulaye Wade establishing relations with the Libyan rebels in mid-May. Last week, Wade met with rebel leaders in Benghazi and said that Qadhafi should step down. Gambia also recognizes the rebels. Wade’s call for a transition was seconded last week by Mauritania’s Abdel Aziz, who said that Qadhafi’s “departure has become necessary...’
No Longer at Ease argues that the international community’s involvement in Somalia is an important factor in sustaining the conflict for so long:
‘Of course, the Somali people have no say in what government is created for them and whether its mandate is ended or extended: this is decided by Somalia’s neighbors (all of them borderline failed states), the UN Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and the West.
‘For the past 20 years, Somalia had more than a dozen pseudo-governments, all of them created in a neighboring country (Djibout, Kenya, Ethiopia … etc) and all of them paid for by the UN and the West. All these governments came to Mogadishu, millions of dollar were sank into them until their mandate ended…
‘Instead of pausing and reflecting on the fact that this formula isn’t working, the “international actors” continue to do the same thing over and over again… it seems to me the goal is to contain the problem in Somalia and not to solve it. This way everyone wins, except the Somalis…
‘The UN Office for Somalia employs hundreds of staff but they operate out of the comfort of Nairobi. Millions of dollars designated for the people of Somalia never reach Somalia. Ethiopia and Eritrea have both been fighting a proxy war in Somalia since 1998 each supporting an opposing side, and neither of them is keen on a united strong Somali state.
This has created a Somali political elite who seek office and legitimacy from the UN, neighboring countries and the West and not from their people.”
Thoughts from Botswanareflects on the outcome of the recently suspended seven-week civil service strike in Botswana:
‘And so with one announcement from the unions, the strike is over... They got none of their demands.
‘In the meanwhile, workers lost almost two months pay. Essential workers who were striking were dismissed… The cost to the public of this strike is hard to know but likely huge.
‘And what about the fighters? President Khama wins. He has pushed the labour movement in this country back to the dark ages. A place where his rich friends in and outside of the country will be pleased to find it. If reports in the private media are to be believed, the IMF had been advising him not to give in to the unions' demands. No surprise there.
‘The union leaders? They still have their jobs, never lost a thebe of their salary. Hopefully they learned a lesson about hubris. They got excited by the support they had during the first ten days of the strike, and, without planning for the outcomes, extended it indefinitely, to their detriment. One can wonder which worker will put their faith in them again?
‘In the end, like always, the ones most unable to withstand the pain, must be the ones that bear it completely.’
Heather Faison argues in TechChange that what Africa desperately needs is investment in technology and not ill-conceived ‘aid fail’ investments:
‘World Vision sending unwanted NFL t-shirts with congratulations for the losing Super Bowl team to Zambians is a dumb aid fail. The World Bank blindly giving $133 million to the Cameroonian government for free antiretroviral drugs that ended up being sold on the black market and never reaching dying AIDS patients, is an epic aid fail. Even the wildly-popular TOMS Shoes — a for-profit company whose “One for One” campaign donates a new pair of shoes to children in developing countries for every one pair sold — was guilty of aid fail after the writers of Good Intentions pointed out that the company’s give-aways undermine local merchants who sell and make shoes in those countries (not to mention shoes are the least of people’s problems in Ethiopia).
‘After Good Intentions launched their counter campaign to TOMS’ “A Day Without Shoes,” I posted on my Twitter: If you want to help Africa, send faster Internet not shoes or loser-NFL T-shirts. Most of my friends sent “LOLs,” but one messaged me with a sincere question. “Ok, then” he asked, “how can I help?” This question bounced in my mind like a ping-pong ball for weeks until I had an “Aha” moment: Techvest (taken from technology and invest). Investing in technology start-ups and funding ideas from tech entrepreneurs in Africa is a form of aid the continent needs most right now.. Techvest would give promising developers the capital to foster their ideas and lead the way for Africa to have the totem of economic progress: A stable middle class.’
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* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Secrecy Bill: Speak now or forever be gagged
Dale T. McKinley
I have no doubt that there are many people (besides myself) who have temporarily entertained the thought of publicly expressing their opposition to the marriage of certain acquaintances/friends/family members at that point in those ceremonies when the officiator asks if there is ‘anyone who has reason…to speak or forever hold your peace’. Of course, regardless of how convinced we might be that the marriage is not a good idea such an inclination is quickly buried, our mouths remain firmly shut and things proceed as normal.
Even if it is not a marriage ceremony involving those close to us, the present parliamentary process around the officially named Protection of Information Bill (POIB) - otherwise popularly known as the ‘Secrecy Bill’ - presents us with a comparable situation. A sizeable number of civil society organisations, political parties and ordinary people have already publicly voiced their opposition to the Bill, effectively forcing the ANC as officiator to temporarily extend the timeframe for the Bill’s passage by two more months.
Despite this, it is clear that unless many more speak out now, the ANC will use its parliamentary majority to pass a Bill that will ‘normalise’ the gagging of the very democracy that so many inside and outside this country struggled and sacrificed to realise. Simply put, we are at a point when the people of South Africa should put aside political party competition/loyalty, historic ideological divisiveness and personal interest. Everyone needs to stand up, speak out and put a stop to what now represents an enforced ‘marriage’ of elite convenience.
One of the main reasons why governments and ruling party’s tend to get away with passing legislation that so patently violates both their own pronounced politico-moral principles and basic human (and in our case, constitutional) rights is because the majority of the citizenry remain silent. Such silence is all the more deafening in a democratic society where freedom of expression and freedom to access information are two of the foundational principles. Given that it is these two principles, these two fundamental rights that are now under serious threat from the Secrecy Bill it would be a tragic irony if they were not exercised to their fullest as part of the very struggle to prevent their demise.
Here’s the ‘catch’ though. The majority cannot fully exercise the freedom to express themselves without having access to the very information needed to inform that expression. In the case of the Secrecy Bill, the fact is that the majority of those who live in South Africa do not know what it actually says. Without such information, the connections that people can then make to how the Secrecy Bill will impact directly on their own lives, organisations and communities will be limited. While the Secrecy Bill is certainly no longer a secret in itself, its key contents remain largely in the shadows. So, what is it in the Secrecy Bill that everyone needs to know?
Clause 1 of the Bill defines ‘national security’ (which is the base term of reference for related information that the Bill seeks to ‘protect’) as: ‘the resolve of South Africans as individuals and as a nation to live as equals, to live in peace and harmony, to be free from fear and want, and to seek a better life and includes protection of the people and occupants of the Republic from hostile acts of foreign intervention, terrorist and related activities, espionage and violence whether directed from or committed within the Republic or not…’
This definition is cast so broadly that virtually any information might fall under its net and most notably for ordinary citizens, information that has to do with policy and activity centred on struggles for socio-economic equality, human dignity and a crime-free society.
The Bill applies (in clause 3) to all organs of the state. As per section 239 in the Constitution this covers ‘any department of state or administration in the national, provincial or local sphere of government or any other functionary or institution exercising a power or performing a function in terms of the Constitution, provincial constitutions [and] any legislation’ in addition to all ‘national key points’ (such as private oil refineries). This means that your local Municipal Council or Community Development Forum, the National Energy Regulator, the Human Rights Commission and the national Department of Human Settlements could all be given the power to classify (‘protect’) information. It doesn’t take a legal or governance expert to figure out what this might mean for societal transparency and public accountability. Better dust off those copies of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984.
Clause 7 which covers the standards for managing state information gives the Minister of State Security virtual carte blanche power to ‘prescribe broad categories and sub-categories that may be classified, downgraded and de-classified…’ Further clauses provide for these powers to be delegated all the way down to relatively junior officials in every organ of state. Besides the absence of any requirement for there to be written reasons for classification though, these provisions also allow for the various ‘heads of an organ of state’ to be the ultimate arbiters of any declassification appeals that any brave soul might instigate. Such appeals however, are highly unlikely since anyone possessing or having knowledge of classified information in the first place would, according to the Bill, be in violation of the law and thus in all probability, have to file the appeal from the comfort of a jail cell.
No doubt sensing that such self-contained provisions for appeal would dismally fail a constitutional test, the ANC has recently added two clauses (21 and 22) that would set up a classification review panel. However, given that panel members are to be appointed by the Minister of State Security and would report to parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (which most often has closed door meetings) it would take an extremely naïve optimist to imagine there would be any meaningful degree of independence and transparent oversight. So much for our constitutionally enshrined right to ‘just administrative action’.
And lastly, from clauses 32-45 the Bill sets out a range of offences that cover everything from obtaining, possessing, intercepting and disclosing classified information as well as aiding and abetting a person to do any of the above. The penalties, which for almost all these offences range from a minimum of five years to a maximum of 25 years in prison and in many cases without the option of a fine, will be determined by the level at which the information is classified (i.e. confidential, secret and top-secret) and the nature of the offence committed. Since there is no public interest defence clause - something the ANC has flatly refused to include - the Bill makes it virtually impossible for any worker, community member, government official or ordinary citizen to independently possess and disclose any classified information in the public interest without being a criminal. We all know what this means; increased self-censorship, a death knell for whistle-blowing and a generalised climate of fear. The various South African Mafiosi couldn’t have asked for a better legalised protection racket.
No, the Secrecy Bill is neither a cruel joke nor political play-making fiction. A little over a month ago during a sitting of the parliamentary ad-hoc committee tasked with processing the Secrecy Bill, there was a discussion about international examples of information classification. ANC MP Vytjie Mentor energetically argued that Zimbabwe was a good example of how information could be successfully kept secret and thus was worthy of the committee’s closer attention as it fashioned South Africa’s own secrecy legislation.
It is all very real and even more dangerous. None of us can afford to keep our mouths shut or else they will be shut for us.
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* This article was first published by the The South African Civil Society Information Service.
* Dr. Dale T. McKinley is an independent writer, researcher and lecturer as well as political activist.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Prevention of Scholarship Bill
Christopher McMichael is a PhD candidate in the politics department of Rhodes University in South Africa. His research investigates the ways in which the international governing body of football, FIFA, used the security arrangements for the 2010 World Cup to cannibalise public funds to the benefit of the Association and its sponsors.
South Africa had to develop complex security plans and invest in state of the art security equipment to meet FIFA requirements, at huge expense to the taxpayer. Policing culture also became more militaristic in the preparations for the mega-event, resulting in the introduction of the military ranking system in the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the ‘shoot to kill injunction’.
In his research, McMichael asks whether the fact that no major security incidents took place during the event be attributed to the ‘success’ of the security measures, or whether ‘mega-event security has become increasingly decoupled both from proportionality and perhaps even reality?’
South Africa is now living with the legacy of having hosted a successful World Cup. But the downsides have become increasingly apparent, with the Nelson Mandela Bay facing a massive debt crisis, and Johannesburg commuters being faced with the prospect of having to pay for the upgrading of highways through toll fees. The militarised policing style remains, and has led to several civilians being shot dead needlessly.
McMichael’s research is important as it should make South Africans think about the costs of hosting mega events relative to the benefits. In the course of undertaking his research, McMichael attempted to interview the police, but without success.
As a result, he has to rely on documentation. He managed to access the Bid Book before the document was embargoed, which outlined, amongst other things, an assessment of the government’s capacity to meet the expected standard required of FIFA.
Then McMichael struck a researcher’s version of gold. A SAPS office in one host city refused an interview, but instead sent him a copy of their final security plan, in spite of the fact that the document was marked ‘confidential’.
This document helped McMichael show how the safety and security measures were implicitly designed to benefit FIFA, while ostensibly being about guaranteeing public safety. For instance, it showed how airspace restrictions were developed to prevent both ‘9/11’ style attacks and skywriting by non-affiliated brands, thereby revealing the extent to which ‘national security’ converged with corporate interests.
If the Protection of Information Bill is enacted in its present form, McMichael could face a jail term of up to five years merely for having the document. He will be unable to continue with his research, as he will be unable to access the documents needed. This is because in terms of the Bill, classification exists to protect national security, which is defined so broadly that any document that ‘creates disharmony’ by, for instance, raising critical debate about the costs versus the benefits of mega-events, will be declared secret.
McMichael’s source would probably be guilty of an espionage offence as this document - the contents of which could be extrapolated from McMichael’s research - could directly or indirectly benefit other states that are hosting similar mega-events. As a result s/he could face a jail term of between three to 25 years.
If McMichael is promised other documents, he will be harbouring or concealing a person that is about to commit an espionage offence, and is liable to a prison sentence of between five and ten years. His supervisor will be guilty of inducing another person to commit an offence if s/he identifies empirical gaps in the research and counsels McMichael to source other documents that turn out to be confidential. S/he will face the same jail term as the person who actually committed the offence. Presumably the same provision will apply to McMichael’s examiners.
McMichael must report possession of the documents to SAPS or the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), or face a fine or imprisonment of up to five years. But even if he does so, he still opens himself and his source up to prosecution. He could also request the organ of state concerned to declassify the documents, which the Bill allows him to do ‘in furtherance of a genuine research interest or a legitimate public interest’.
But the organ of state concerned has the right even to deny the existence of the documents, which means that in order to pursue the matter, McMichael would have to expose his knowledge of the documents’ existence, which would invite a security investigation into whether he already had access to the documents. Also, the government decides what constitutes a genuine research interest, which conflicts with a fundamental tenet of academic freedom, namely the freedom to decide what to research and how. In any event, the Bill makes it clear that national security should take priority over academic freedom when the two come into conflict.
Granted, the Bill has a safeguard preventing organs of state from using classification for nefarious purposes, including to avoid criticism or to prevent embarrassment. But the penalties for inappropriate classification range from a fine to up to three years imprisonment, and for an organ of state intent on evading public scrutiny, the benefits of secrecy may well outweigh the penalties. Furthermore, there is no provision for written justifications for declaring particular information secret, which makes review even more difficult.
However, a major advance took place in a recent Parliamentary hearing on the Bill, where the ruling African National Congress (ANC) conceded a civil society demand for the establishment of a Classification Review Panel. This panel is needed because the provision around inappropriate classification is virtually impossible to police practically, as there is no independent mechanism other than a costly court procedure to review decisions. But the panel envisaged by the ANC will not be independent of the Minister of State Security, and will report to a Parliamentary body that meets behind closed doors regularly.
The Bill appears to have an additional safeguard for researchers, in that scientific or research information not clearly related to national security may not be classified. But this will not get McMichael anywhere, given the overbroad definition of what constitutes national security. The fact that the Bill lacks a public interest defence, which researchers could use to justify their possession of documents, does not stand in his favour either. Neither does the fact that the Bill does not consider documents declassified, if they find their way into the public domain. All these problems tilt the Bill towards secrecy and away from openness, in spite of statements to the contrary in the principles.
Other research on the state’s activities will also become impossible. Consider the case of the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), affiliated to Rhodes University. The body monitors implementation of social accountability processes, and draws to public attention any abuses of public resources generally.
Because of the profile the PSAM has built as an anti-corruption monitor and advocate, government and other whistleblowers send it unsolicited documents. Once the Bill is enacted, the PSAM will be guilty of a crime merely for receiving these documents if they are classified. The PSAM will probably not be able to access again documents like the Eastern Cape Provincial Government’s Rapid Assessment Survey on service delivery to 12,000 households in the province. This document revealed what the PSAM suspected, namely that the treatment rollout for HIV/ Aids was inadequate, leading the Monitor’s Head of Advocacy, Derek Luyt, to accuse the government of ‘unplanned genocide.’ In fact, once the Bill is passed into law, the PSAM may as well close down, as it will be unable to undertake its core business.
Apart from circumscribing freedom of research (which will have an inevitable negative impact on freedom of teaching), another implication of the Bill for Universities is that - assuming they are defined as organs of state - they will themselves be required to classify documents. The vice chancellor as head of the organ of state will ultimately be responsible for classification. This would mean that McMichael’s thesis (if he was lucky enough to complete it), as well as his supervisory and examination reports may all need to be classified, as well as PSAM research documents, which would make them inaccessible to the general university community and the public.
Furthermore, in the Bill, the Minister may declare one organ of state part of another organ, which will allow the executive to decide which documents held by universities should be considered secret. Furthermore, according to the Bill, the Agency is responsible for ensuring the implementation and protection of information practices in all organs of state, which includes on-site inspections and reviews. These measures will be patent violations of universities’ institutional autonomy as a condition for academic freedom.
Universities could apply to the Minister for an exemption, which may get them off the hook in terms of having to apply the Act, but the broader problems researchers will face will remain. Universities must not abdicate their role to secure conditions for freedom of expression in society generally. In any event, the Minister has the final say on whether an exemption is granted which, dangerously, makes the exercise of academic freedom subject to the whim of the executive.
The bottom line is that the Protection of Information Bill will make the government the arbiter of what can and cannot be researched, which is unconstitutional. The government cannot be allowed to enjoy the power to block research that may reveal inconvenient truths, as this will lead to irrelevant scholarship that steers away from critical scrutiny of the state. It will lead to a society that is unable to resolve its most pressing problems.
Progressive, socially engaged scholars will be the biggest losers, and these are the very scholars who are in short supply in an increasingly timid and inward-focusing South African academy. The Bill represents the single biggest threat to academic freedom since 1994. While the media and civil society have mobilised admirably against the Bill, universities have been largely missing in action. Now is not the time for silence.
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* This article was first published by the South African Civil Society Information Service.
* Professor Duncan is Highway Africa Chair of Media and Information Society, School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Africa: Bring back the truth and dignity from 1976
Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League
On Youth Day this year the nation will be celebrating 35 years since the struggle of the youth that died for Freedom, Democracy, Justice and Equality in 1976. We as Abahlali youth agree that the courage of the youth of 1976 must be celebrated. But we also wish to bring back the truth and the dignity of those youth that sacrificed with their lives in 1976. We need to make that truth and dignity a living force now. The struggles of the past must not be misused to silence the struggle of the present. The struggles of the past must be used to support the struggles of the present. Every generation must be free to take their own struggle forward.
We as Abahlali youth league have noticed the difficulties that we are facing at a grass root level while our parents are struggling for us for a living. On 16 June 1976, the youth died for Freedom, yet today while we are told that we are free it is clear that we are not free. We are not yet free while there is youth that is suffering from poverty, from child abuse, while we are still living in shacks, while we are still losing our lives due to shack fires. We are not free while we cannot get good education and so few of us can find any work. When we do find work we are usually working temporary for the labour brokers. If we want to raise these issues we are not given the freedom of expression where we should be free to raise up our voices and express our grievances. Instead we get arrested and beaten.
We are the future of the nation. We are the driving force of this nation. But because we are still unrecognized, we are still unemployed, poor, and living in shacks we are still going to fight for our dignity. This is our lives; our future. If we do not fight for ourselves, for our generation, no one else will do it. Those youth of June 16, 1976 died for the truth and yet it is not revealed. We will carry on from where the 1976 youth left off.
But this time we will not let anyone tells us that freedom on papers is real freedom. We are fighting for real dignity, not just for lousy freedom on papers or a revolution that we are told about but that is not reaching us. We are struggling for a freedom that everyone can experience for themselves in their every day lives. That means decent education, decent work, a decent guaranteed income for those without work and a decent place to stay for everyone. It also means the freedom to organize as we want and to say what we want in safety.
We acknowledge comrades like Hector Peterson, Steve Biko and Chris Hani who died before we were told that we are Free. But we do not want to acknowledge those who go around telling us that we are free now. The biggest Question for us is if Steve Biko was still alive would he be in the Government that neglect the shack dwellers or with the poor, particular the excluded?
For us June 16 is also a day that brings painful memories. We remember our Hero comrades Thembinkosi Mpanza and Vukani Shange who were brutality killed by the farm watchers who shot them dead while they were coming from school in June 17, 2006 happily singing the National Anthem. They felt hungry and decided to eat two sticks of sugar cane and the farm watchers killed them. These farm watchers were working in the farm which is owned by Channel, a white male with no mercy.
Today is making us raise questions how is it possible that we have arrived at the point where people have to take a people's government to court for such basic things as water and housing, which the constitution fully enshrines? These things are so basic that they should just be obvious. We shouldn’t even have to talk about such basic things. Just recently a South African court ruled in favour of the people for their right to water. Guess who took the people to the appeal court to tried and overturn the decision of the judge? The government! The appeal court ruled in favour of the people. Guess who is thinking of appealing the decision through the constitutional court? The government! Who stood against the decision of the victims of the apartheid-capitalism to take the big corporate that benefited from this system to the international court? Who? The government!
Those boers and their vigilantes who killed Biko and Hani and Solomon Mahlangu and Hector Peterson and Muntu ka Myeza and Masabata Lwate and many others only killed the flesh. Their spirit lived on in the people’s struggle. But today the spirit of Mahlangu, Biko, Hani, Peterson and all the others is being killed by the current black boers. Lwate is being killed here and now by our today’s oppressors. The Boers failed to kill Biko and Hani’s spirit because their comrades kept their spirit alive and so it is the challenge of our generation to ensure that today’s black Boers are failing to kill our spirit and the spirit of the heroes of the past. But it is hard. In this country we kill the spirit of Tambo and Biko everyday. Some of us hate other people instead of struggling against oppression. There is rape, xenophobia and hatred of LGBTI people. Some of us love beautiful things for ourselves but ask our brothers and sisters to endure conditions such as the Kennedy Road shack settlement. Yes that hate must come to an end. Yes the truth and justice must be told and fulfilled.
Today the government is busy wasting money to pass the so called, ‘Secrecy Bill’ to hide their corruption that is making the poor became more poor and turning so many politicians into predators eating off on the suffering of the people. The challenges that the youth of 1976 went through was understandable because it was done by the government of the Apartheid. Today our own mothers and father are now in power yet they are not doing anything to uplift the Youth. They say the youth of today are lazy where as there are no jobs for us. We are not being assisted. We call upon the investigation on the millions that were spent by NYDA on the event that they say it was for the youth.
It is not just us who are struggling. People are struggling everywhere aroundSouth Africa. We are not alone.
On the 16 June 2011 we will gather at Motala Heights shack settlement to commemorate the youth of 1976 and to discuss the challenges that the youth of today are facing. We will be joined by comrades from the SNI and comrades from R2K. We call upon all the youth who feel neglected to join us on this day.
The struggle shall continue! A luta continua!
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* Abahali baseMjondolo is the South African shackdwellers movement.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Re-examining the meaning of 16 June
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the student uprising of 16 June 1976. Since the dawn of democracy in 1994, this day has been commemorated in a number of interesting ways.
Some reflections on 16 June have created the impression that the primary fight of the student activists of 1976 was merely against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, while others perpetuate the absurdity that the events that precipitated this epoch-making uprising were engineered by underground operatives of the African National Congress.
However, besides these contending histories, there are more fundamental philosophical and ideological questions about this uprising, which remain unresolved today. One of them relates to the content and character of the education that our young people were supposed to receive in a liberated Azania (South Africa).
In the era of imperialism, the education systems of both developed and developing countries are part of the broader ideological apparatus of the ruling classes within these countries, and invariably serve the interests of these classes. Therefore, regardless of the ideological orientation that a government claims to follow, or the policies it proclaims, the philosophical basis, relevance and impact of its educational policy should always be questioned.
Today, one of the key questions with which we should pre-occupy ourselves is whether the kind of education we have brings us any closer to the kind of society that was envisioned by Tsietsi Mashinini and his peers.
To come to an objective answer we must first understand the motives of those who designed and maintained the system of Apartheid. In 1945, a senior National Party politician by the name of J.N. le Roux made the statement that:
‘We should not give the Natives any academic education. If we do, who is going to do the manual labour in the community?’
A few years later, the newly appointed Minister of Native Affairs, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, added to Le Roux’s statement, saying:
‘There is no place for the Bantu in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour…What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.’
At a philosophical and ideological level, both Le Roux and Verwoerd believed that blacks represented the lowest form of humanity and that all aspects of black life should therefore reflect this.
Le Roux and Verwoerd also understood that in modern society education is the primary instrument for the development of young people and therefore, to retard the development of current and future generations of young black people, you should deny them education, or make sure their education is of an inferior quality.
Thanks to people like Le Roux and Verwoerd, today the black community has the highest number of people who survive on manual labour and intergenerational poverty continues to be a feature of black life.
Like all systems of oppression, the Bantu education system was designed in such a way that it continues to achieve its objectives even long after its architects have passed on. The irony is that it even retards even the development of those young black people who believe themselves to have been born into freedom.
Because they understood Le Roux and Verwoerd’s motives, the architects of the 1976 student uprising replied with a potent statement: ‘We reject the whole system of Bantu education, which aims to reduce us to “hewers of wood and drawers of water”.’ And although they were only teenagers in 1976, Tsietsi Mashinini, Kgotso Seatlholo and their peers in the Soweto Students Representative Council and South African Students Movement didn’t just understand the structural and policy imperatives of the Bantu education system - they also had a firm grasp of its ideological and philosophical motives.
Sadly, though, one of the deficiencies of the post-1994 education policy discourse and practice is the superficial manner in which it seeks to reverse the legacy of centuries of racist minority white rule. In applying this policy approach, those who have managed our education since 1994 have inadvertently entrenched the outcomes of Le Roux and Verwoerd’s Bantu education policy.
To illustrate this, 17 years into democracy and under a government elected by the majority, the socio-economic situation of young people, especially the black section, is very depressing. According to a survey by the South African Institute of Race Relations published earlier this year, one in two young South Africans - and two out of three young African women - are jobless.
The survey also found that the unemployment rate among all 15 to 24-year-olds is 51 per cent - more than twice the national unemployment rate of 25 per cent. And that an increasing number of South Africans were relying on grants, with the number of beneficiaries increasing by more than 300 per cent in the past nine years.
The survey also reveals that at 63 per cent, unemployment is highest among African women aged 15 to 24 years. The youth unemployment rate varies considerably between the races: it is 57 per cent among Africans, 47 per cent among coloured youths, 23 per cent among Indians, and 21 per cent among young white people.
Equally concerning is the finding that the longer young people were unemployed, the more unemployable they became, and that the average job created by a government programme lasted a mere 46 days.
In addition to this, of the 160,000 South Africans in prison, a staggering 130,000 are black, male and under the age of 35.
Various other studies by credible bodies suggest that not only do a considerable number of learners struggle with basic literacy and numeracy when they enter university, but our learners also rank far below countries with the same development attributes as South Africa, in the learning areas of mathematics and science.
Why is it that the policies of a government that is led by a party that fought against all that Verwoerd stood for have shown results similar to those of Verwoerd’s Nationalist Party?
The reality of our situation is that while education and youth development appear to be top priorities in the key policy documents of our government and the speeches of our country’s ruling elite, in practice this is far from the case.
In fact, if there is one area in which the current government has failed our country’s young black people, it is education. The situation is so dire that it gives credence to the theory that it serves the political interests of the ruling party to keep a huge section of the population uneducated and trapped in poverty and ignorance.
In order to build the kind of society that Tsietsi Mashinini and others fought and died for, we first have to understand that the problems besetting our education system are intricately linked to the problems facing the black community. Therefore, we will have to rethink our entire approach to resolving the education crisis in our country.
Firstly, black parents must realise that the education of their children is not solely the responsibility of the State, but theirs too. At a community level, we must find creative ways of ensuring that parents, community-based organisations and businesses become more involved in local schools. This is particularly urgent in impoverished communities in which most of the adult population has very low levels of education and therefore a limited capacity to help their own children with such basic things as homework.
Secondly, there is a need to increase the number of libraries, science centres and youth and recreation centres in the townships and rural areas, with a view to making education and knowledge acquisition an integral part of community life. The state should provide youth development facilities with the same speed and enthusiasm with which it provides liquor licences in poor areas.
Thirdly, the quality of the infrastructure of many township and rurals schools is far from satisfactory and a deliberate effort should be made to ensure that all our schools resemble the centres of excellence they should be. It may also be prudent to consider amending the state tender policies to state that for every tender of a specific value issued by the State, a certain percentage should go to some kind of an education infrastructure fund. The state tender system has produced many instant millionaires, some of whom contribute nothing to the development of our country.
Fourthly, there is causal link between the quality of teachers in our schools and the quality of learners that emerge. Therefore, the quality of teacher training and the levels of remuneration for teachers should be greatly and urgently improved.
Fifthly, South Africa’s basic education policy wisely emphasises the production of a targeted number of learners who should achieve quality passes in mathematics and science at high school level. This is a progressive policy which, if properly implemented, could ensure that in the long term, our universities produce the number of science, engineering and technology graduates required to enable our country not only to achieve higher economic growth rates, but also to use our knowledge for purposes of social transformation.
Considering the urgent need for a critical mass of black engineers, researchers and scientists, and the arduous progression from an undergraduate degree to PhD, we definitely need to review the current funding model for undergraduate students with the view to ensuring that those from economically needy backgrounds have a seamless transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level.
Lastly, the various Ministers of Education that we have had since 1994 have apparently not tried to build on their predecessors’ work, but have focused more on leaving a personal legacy and inadvertently become entangled in countless policy reviews instead of implementing existing policy. No education system can functional optimally if it is managed in this manner.
To achieve all this, our country needs leaders who truly believe that our youth are indeed our country’s most valuable asset. Leaders who will eschew mediocrity, tenderpreneurism and the wanton looting of state resources. A leadership that will promote excellence, initiative, equal opportunity and the acquisition of knowledge.
16 June was not only a protest against the imposition of Afrikaans and inferior education. At a deeper level, 16 June was also about restoring our humanity as a people and ushering in a society in which all people live a dignified life irrespective of their race, colour or creed.
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* Veli Mbele is president of the Azanian Youth Organisation.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Africa: Where is the Freedom Charter?
Lindela S. Figlan
Before the government can use its muscle to pass the Protection of Information Bill, let me ask a question. It is a very good question and all those who are unhappy have got this question in their mind. Where is the Freedom Charter?
I remember that when I was still young, the comrades used to make me understand it line by line. We were expecting our government to implement what is in the Freedom Charter. But is this society the free society that we were fighting for? If the answer is yes then why are the people that we are referring to as our leaders deciding to ignore the Freedom Charter?
The Freedom Charter is not a difficult thing to understand. Everyone can feel it as a human being. It is the foundation for eliminating and eradicating human suffering. But in our days when you talk about the Freedom Charter you are made to seem like a traitor to a newly freedom. If you ask someone about the implementation of the Freedom Charter you are told ‘no comrade, we are getting there.’ You are told that you must trust your leaders. But where is the leader who strongly believes in the Freedom Charter? If there are leaders who do believe in the Freedom Charter why do they keep their mouths shut? Why is the Freedom Charter not printed in every ID book? If the government is really implementing the Freedom Charter why are people complaining everywhere? Why are they on the streets everywhere? Why are they struggling everywhere? Why are they being repressed everywhere? Why are they being locked behind bars like before? Why are they being killed by the police as used to happen in the past?
People are complaining about leaders that are being imposed on them from above. People nominate their preferred candidates but later they see other people in these positions. People are complaining about the lack of basic services. People are complaining about forced removals and evictions. People are complaining about development by force and not participation. People are complaining because they have no work.
Yet these protests are being treated like the protests against apartheid.
It was good that there was a bold promise to remove those who got councillor’s nominations fraudulently. But now they are talking about all the processes and procedures that they must follow. It seems that those who are making their luxury through exploiting the poor physically and mentally have ways to stay in their positions. They will keep their positions and their tenders. They will keep their bright futures and their children in goods schools. But what will happen to us and to our children?
How are the poor going to make sure that our voices count? In fact how are we going to make sure that our lives count? One thing is for sure. We cannot rely on other people, like politicians and NGOs, to speak for us. We have to organise ourselves and we have to speak for our selves. We have to organise to build our own power. A voice without power behind it does not change the world.
If the ruling party was on the side of the poor it would encourage us to organise ourselves and to speak for ourselves. It would understand that it needed our power from below to go against the power of the rich from above. But instead it is always repressing the struggles of the poor.
The government is even planning to use its muscle, most of it given to the government by the poor, to lock away our right to know by passing the Protection of Information Bill. When we are evicted as the poor we are forced out of the cities and into the human dumping grounds. We have called this forced ruralisation. When we are denied access to information we are forced out of the real discussions of the country. This is another kind of forced removal. It is also trying to keep us in our place. In the place where the politicians think that we should be kept.
Our Ministers when they address the people they say that the people on the ground form part of the government. Now if we are forming part of the government then who is this information going to be protected against?
Also our governments say that together we can do more. How can they say this when the people want to know whatsoever is happening and the government wants to lock them out from knowing? We all know that they want to do more corruption and that they don’t want the people to interfere with their corruption. Anyone who exposes it will be locked and the keys will be thrown away.
Maybe this is what we were really fighting for? Maybe the Freedom Charter was only a way to bluff us? Maybe now they are showing their true colours? I am worried because some people are deciding to vote otherwise and so maybe we can go back where we came from. What must we do? This bill is bringing something very bad over our future. I wonder what Biko, Hani, Sisulu and all the others would say about this? I remember how it was always said that the blood of the people that died in the struggle would water the tree of freedom. This is not freedom. That blood is watering something else. It is called oppression.
Those who have been oppressed know all the tricks to oppress other people. They know that when you are oppressing the people then information is dangerous in the hands of the people. The Slums Act was aimed at forcing us out of the cities. This Bill is aimed at forcing us out of democracy. We opposed the Slums Act and we must opposed this Bill too. We defeated the Slums Act and we can defeat this Bill too.
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* Lindela Figlan is the former vice-president of Abahlali baseMjondolo. He works as a security guard.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
A better life for all: a dream for poor and unemployed
The eThembeni informal settlement was erected in 1992, before the dawn of our democracy. It was called eThembeni, ‘place of hope’, because the birth of a new nation, the birth of democracy was inevitable. But today people remain unemployed, living without income in mud houses.
Horizontal to the place of hope, 3km away, another informal settlement stands. It is called Phaphamani, a place of vigilant people. Phaphamani was erected in 1992. In both informal settlements there are no human basic services like electricity and sanitation.
The recent floods in Grahamstown left so many people, in particular in informal settlements homeless. The Unemployed People’s Movement were running up and down helping comrades during the flood. I was deployed in Phaphamani and eThembeni. As the rain was pouring I was with a senior citizen, an old woman who is in her late fifties. The house was just full of water. We were moving furniture to the other room, using buckets to evacuate the water that was threatening to form a swimming pool inside the house. It was so quiet, only sounds of water and our buckets. It was hectic, the whole community was just evacuating water non-stop.
As we were busy, the old woman stopped for a moment, looked at me, a smile crawling out of her mouth. Yet I could see the tears making the way through the corners of the eyelids. I then stopped and stared at her. She made a sound, trying to remove a lump in her throat and finally broke the silence. She said ‘Vote ANC, Vote for Better Life, Vote for Heaven and Vote for Jesus. Better life in heaven indeed not under ANC’.
I was so overwhelmed with emotions. I felt as if something heavy was placed on my shoulders, the muscles were just contracting and my neck became stiff instantly. I immediately thought of a woman, in her late fifties as well, whom we buried recently. She was living on the foot of a hill and when the sewerage pipe burst at the hill, shit would fill her house. It would take weeks before the pipe was fixed. She died because of TB related diseases. Her story was on SABC, in a report by Nomawethu Solwandle. The officials did nothing. A week after her story was on SABC, she died. How does one go to sleep?
One of our mentors, Professor Pedro Tabensky, a protagonist of Black Consciousness, came to my mind. He says that UPM must resurrect hope in our communities and collectivism. As things are at the moment people have lost hope. It is no wonder that there is such brokenness. Reclaiming hope is the first step to action. Another mentor by the name of Richard Pithouse would also quote Frantz Fanon: ‘Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it.’ The time has come for our generation to invent our own politics and to take our own stand. People are struggling and thinking and discussing all over the country. These rivers of struggle will join soon. We are already getting a good sense of the new politics. It is a politics that is firmly in the hands of the people. A politics that begins from our daily lives.
I think hope is important. It was hope that brought the generation of 1976 together. They discovered their mission and they were determined to fulfil it at all costs. Just like the Tsietsi Mashinini generation, we will not betray our mission.
In Makana Municipality, there is a backlog of over 13,000 houses. The RDP house that have been built are crumbling down and people are deserting them. There is an unemployment rate of nearly 70 per cent. This woman in eThembeni forms part of the backlog of 13,000 houses. She forms part of the 70 per cent without work. Because of her age, she is at her late fifties, she does not qualify for an old age income grant. All that she is, in her country of her birth, is statistics. She is like many South Africans. She matters the most during Statistics South Africa surveys and Elections. Her ID is also a constant reminder that she is a South African.
But a country so rich cannot afford her, being a senior citizen, a house nor a job. She watches helplessly as our municipality cannot account for R19 million, the mayor who is indebted to the municipality an amount of not less that R60,000, for dining and wining with the girlfriend. Every time she turns on her radio all she is hearing is the plundering of our resources by the elite, the president who will be taking the next wife to be maintained by the tax payers and his friends with their tenders.
Yes, a country so rich, a country that could afford R70billion to purchase arms deal, not for the nation, for the benefit of the elite, and the nation is not even allowed to get the details of how their money was spent. Yes a country so rich, that it could spend R60 billion on hosting a World Cup, when the majority of its senior citizens don’t have a shelter. A country so rich that it can only produce billionaires and millionaires, while the senior citizens are dying because of poverty related diseases. Rushing to take the water out of their shacks in the floods. Rushing for water when their shacks are burning.
There is a simple lack of care for us by those who rule us. To them we are just lazy buds who do want to do anything but expect government to do everything for us. Their perception changes during election time. We matter the most during elections time. After that we must go back to our shacks, to our life without an income.
The better life for all remains a dream. To Christians it is certain that they will enjoy such life in heaven. But we also deserve this life while on earth. God has blessed us with all the riches. However under the ANC this will forever be a dream deferred.
Our main task is to give people hope and to invent a politics that can express that hope. That is what Biko did for his generation. Once people have hope everything else follows. We have to care very carefully for every precious spark of hope that still shines in places like eThembeni and Phaphamani.
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* Ayanda Kota is chairperson of the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM), in Grahamstown, South Africa.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
SOAWR Youth Essay Competition: Finalist essays
‘Why is the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa important to you?’
In October 2010, the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) was officially launched in Nairobi, Kenya. The decade is a critical moment for the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality on the continent. The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights coalition (SOAWR), a coalition of 37 organisations based throughout the continent, is committed to ensuring that African Union (AU) member states ratify and implement the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa as an instrument that will play an important role in the realisation of the Decade’s objectives. Currently, 30 AU member states have ratified the Protocol. However, 19 member states are yet to ratify and four – namely, Botswana, Egypt, Eritrea, and Tunisia – are not yet signatories to the Protocol. At the same time, unfortunately, not all Africans are aware of the Protocol and its significance.
In Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, this June, African heads of state and government will gather at a summit with the theme, ‘Youth empowerment for sustainable development’. Youth action is critical to the continent’s development, and more specifically, in ensuring that girls and women can make equally valued contributions to this development. As such, Equality Now and other members of the SOAWR coalition invited youth (between 18 and 25 years old) to reflect on the importance of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa through an essay competition in which contestants were asked to respond to the question, ‘Why is the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa important to you?’ in an essay of a maximum of 2,000 words in either English or French.
The essay judging panel, led by Equality Now, was comprised of SOAWR members representing Alliances for Africa, Association des Juristes Maliennes, the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, People Opposing Women Abuse, and Réseau Interafricain pour les Femmes, Médias, Genre et Développement, as well as Pambazuka editors. They selected four winning essayists – two French speakers and two English speakers – who will all receive a copy of African Women Writing Resistance: An Anthology of Contemporary Voices edited by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, Pauline Dongala, Omotayo Jolaosho, and Anne Serafin. The top three essays in both English and French were also selected for publication on the Pambazuka News website (www.pambazuka.org). Equality Now will fund (through the Oxfam Raising Her Voice project) the participation of one winner in the AU June Summit. Oxfam will also support the three other finalists’ participation in the Summit.
The judging panel was pleased to receive well thought out and well-written essays from youth from different parts of the continent, who all emphasise the importance of the Protocol and urge governments to fully commit to its implementation. Nonyelum Umeasiegbu, for example, informs us that ‘If the charter had been implemented even a year after its declaration, I would not have lost my friend to child birth’. Nevertheless, she remains optimistic of the possibility of equality that comes with implementation of the Protocol – optimism shared by Laurence Lemogo who writes (in French), ‘The Maputo Protocol, specific text, directly addresses African women’s rights and is, unquestionably, progress towards the pinnacle of their liberation.’ And yet, according to Itodo Samuel Anthony, ‘This protocol thus provides a powerful tool for change but it needs to be popularized. In spite of my exposure, it took me this essay contest to hear of it for the first time…To make the protocol effective, we would require agency, especially at the grassroots’. Thus, as Nelly Nguegan concludes (in French), ‘What remains is to popularize the Protocol so that no one is ignorant of the law and, above all, to apply it for the success of the struggle. Is this thus not what is at stake and the importance of the Protocol: its application?’
Although it was difficult to select winners, given the quality of all the essays, the writers cited above were all selected as winners of the competition for their English and French essays. Equality Now extends thanks to all the youth who submitted essays as well as to the members of the judging panel for their energetic and close reading of all the essays and for their thoughtful deliberation in selecting the winners. We particularly thank Fahamu for donating the book prizes and the Pambazuka editors for their participation and provision of a platform to widely disseminate these essays. We also thank Oxfam for support in facilitating the finalists’ participation in the AU Summit.
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Heeding the Protocol
It is common knowledge that the fabric of our African society consists mostly of male-favoured parochial views and laws. Women who are supposed to be the weaker sex get dealt all the wrong cards, constantly punished for reasons unknown to us. Today there is so much unfairness, inequality and discrimination targeted at women in most spheres of life; culturally, domestically, medically, socially, politically and even religiously. We have always had to fight for every opportunity, including for basic rights that are non-existent, and we are not asking for too much. In reality, all we want are little steps and positive measures gradually put in place. Many lives have been lost from crude occurrences like genital mutilation to quack abortions and rape. In the same that lives have been lost, so have lives been dedicated to seeing to fruition, the Africa woman given her rightful place and entitlements. The platinum South and the green West and hot North and the wild East have all in time fashioned women of great clout who have tirelessly fought for the rights of women all over the continent. To these selfless women, and partner organisations, sacrifices made, time and resources dedicated we owe a lot. We are at the point we are today; chanting for the implementation of the protocol, because of their endless activism towards showing dissatisfaction and urging for the betterment of womankind.
And so today, hovering over all African women, from the woman hawking food on the dark streets of Yendi, to the woman washing clothes with a child strapped to her back on the windswept banks of Lake Togo, to the woman in a power suit striding purposefully through the bustling city of Lagos, to the woman in a remote village toiling on her farm in the sun while her husband sits in the shade, to the woman who has just birthed in primitive conditions and is dying but worries that her daughters will meet the same fate. In me and in these places and over all of these women, a small solitary dot, now an ever increasing dot, looms closer over us, slowly but surely; a dot called ‘RIGHTS’.
It is taking Africa forever to commence the implementation and domestication of the protocol on national levels and in various countries. If the charter had been implemented even a year after its declaration, I would not have lost my friend to childbirth. The medical complications that were discovered early enough into the pregnancy may have given rise to the legal decision to abort. And so today, implementation of the protocol means to me that women will be empowered to decisions that could save their lives, figuratively and literarily. It would also mean that my community will eradicate the culture of having a woman shave her hair when her husband dies, and of making her drink the water used in bathing the corpse. I find it even more painful that it is fellow women that ensure these barbaric practices are carried out. A woman should be left to mourn in peace, she has committed no crime.
The protocol means that widows will no longer be dispossessed of their inheritances, leaving them without the means to raise her children. Laws should be put in place to protect women everywhere from these sorts of cultures that have outlived their usefulness, if there ever any usefulness. I shudder to think that anyone, even me, could fall prey to these cave cultures.
The protocol assures me that women will be protected against domestic violence and have the justice systems ready to promptly and justly penalise any form of violence against women.
It means that wives will no longer be arbitrarily thrown out of their homes by errant husbands because there have been no systems on place to stop such acts. There will now be systems.
It means that there would be a general consciousness in recruitment processes aimed towards bridging the divide of inequality, more and more women will be employed and empowered.
The protocol means that there will be general equal access to education and jobs. Women will no longer be denied these amenities because society thinks that they should lay low and be married off, be seen and not heard, thereby leaving them without a future and prospects. This is partly why there are so many cases of women trafficking in Africa and with African women beyond the continent; the Schengen areas come to mind.
The protocol means that measures favouring women should be put in place. Laws should bend over backwards for us. For example, in Nigeria the police often beats up anybody arrested, sex notwithstanding. They even go the extra length of undressing them, and there have been reports of women raped by them. I don’t know if this is a part of the law, but the protocol means that laws preventing this would be written and implementation ensured.
It means that single women can be proudly take their places in society and be allowed to hold certain positions without their marital statuses being a disqualifying quality. I personally would have no problem with ‘unmarried’ statuses posing a problem, if only it also applied to men. With the protocol I expect no more exceptions to rules; our watchword should become ‘what is good for the goose, is good for gender’’, any exceptions made should be one that is geared towards accommodating women some more. I would have also thrown in ‘’all men are equal here’, but some minds may choose to take the word ‘men’ at face value and as not connoting the entire human race.
Prior to now, women have managed to prove over and over again that we can thread nimbly where men have stomped, and with dignity. Women have played some indisputable roles in Africa, and all this at a time when the divide of inequality was enormous, and the emancipation of women a thing of dreams. My heart skips to think of what more we can do when the playing ground has been leveled for us. Doors will open, a good life and greatness awaits.
And so, soon enough, washing in like a tidal wave from the Nile to the Niger to the Congo, and to the Orange, Limpopo and Zambezi would be a renewed vigor and faith born of the African Union’s protocol on the rights of women. We are finally ready to take on the world, no, we have taken on the world amidst restrictions, but now, we have been endorsed by the powers that be. Speaking for African women everywhere, ‘it is time to heed the 'protocol'.
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Nonyelum Umeasiegbu is a 24 year-old Nigerian who studied English Literature at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria. She is an advocate for women’s rights and is passionate about development and volunteering. She has worked on a project that provides nutritional support to orphans and vulnerable children, while training their caregivers on the fundamentals of earning a livelihood. She is currently a Technical Writer for an organization that works to maximize agricultural revenue and key enterprises in Nigeria. Nonyelum is presently enrolled in a Masters Degree program in Communication for Development at Malmo University, Sweden. An ardent reader, she loves to write in her spare time.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Protocol on the Rights of Women: my perspective
Itodo Samuel Anthony
‘The writer of the essay awarded first will be given the opportunity to attend the AU Summit in Malabo with her or his basic expenses covered.’
What’s in my quote above? Strange, is it? Ok, it has nothing to do with my interest in being in Malabo this June for the AU Summit but it’s got to do with the words that were italicised: her or his. The first time I read it, something sounded wrong. Over the years my ears have developed an uncanny ability to trace grammatical errors. Well, it isn’t a grammatical error - the initial discomfort and doubt in the grammatical correctness stemmed from the fact that all my life I had been taught to use his or her. His always came before her, so you see? Our society is ridden with such cultural and societal stereotypes promoting ‘the precedence’ of men to women and delineation of roles based on sexes that most children like me grew up with. I bet some kids would still argue the statement was grammatically wrong!
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa was adopted on 11 July 2003, at the meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Maputo, Mozambique. The Protocol entered into force in November 2005, after getting its 15th ratification from Benin. The Protocol is a home-grown human-rights instrument that seeks to promote and protect the rights of African women by reinforcing international human-rights standards and adapting them to address context-specific violations of African women’s rights.
The importance of the protocol is mainly in its potential to change negative power relations, gender inequality, disempowerment and impoverishment of women in Africa.The protocol further explores the finer hues of inequalities and discrimination women experience. I am particularly impressed with the protocol’s stipulations on marriage rights (Articles 6), widows’ rights (Article 20), right to inheritance (Article 21), health and reproductive rights (Article 14) and recognition of the rights of vulnerable groups such as widows, elderly women, disabled women and ‘women in distress’ and its mandate for State Parties to respect and promote the sexual and reproductive health of women with obligations to provide adequate, affordable and accessible health services.
In a wider sense, the protocol addresses non-discrimination, physical and sexual abuse, harmful practices, early marriages, access to justice and equal protection before the law, sexual harassment and abuse in schools, sexual harassment in the work place, health and reproductive rights, widow rights, inheritance rights, elderly women rights, women with disabilities and state reporting.
To make the protocol more effective, State Parties are not only mandated to refrain from violating rights, but they must promote and protect rights through positive measures. Thus for me, the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is not merely a statement of women’s rights, it is a call to action to State Parties to ensure discrimination and other vulnerabilities that impinge on the fundamental rights of women are eliminated.
THE PROTOCOL AND MY 101 QUESTIONS
Women in our societies are subjected to several forms of discrimination that impinge on their fundamental rights as human beings. Many cultures seek to perennially place the woman beneath the man. So issues surrounding gender inequality, discrimination against women, violence suffered by women and several other vulnerabilities are rather primordial in Africa and not concepts that could easily be wished away. Why a woman cannot have a say in certain things pertaining to her personal wellbeing beats my mind and should beat any sane mind. Why can’t a woman decide who, when and how to get married? Why cannot a woman inherit property from her parents? Why cannot a woman demand a limitation of the number of children she wants to have without receiving an instant slap? Why cannot a widow remain in her deceased husband’s house and take care of her children? Why do women have to compulsorily pass through the gruesome and unhealthy procedure of genital mutilation in the name of tradition or a rite of passage to womanhood without having to say if they want it or not? Why can a man beat up his wife and send her packing to her father’s house with everybody looking on at it as ‘normal?’ The questions in my head are endless. They are not merely my reflections on the discrimination, denial and violence women are unfairly subjected to in our society every day but also a clear indication of the varied forms of these discriminations.
While growing up, abuse of women starred me in the face and my nostrils were rank with it. It was a common sight in my neighbourhood to see men treat their wives with disdain, like the women were undeserving sometimes of them, like they were lesser beings, like they were some second class citizens. As a child, I knew my mother had a huge incapacity - she was illiterate but to me that did not change the fact she was my mother, or the fact that she deserved my respect and honour. For me the mere fact of being human was enough to earn her all those.
Our world is filled with discriminations of several shades. But two kinds of discrimination beat me: one based on race and the other based on sex. I grapple eternally to find a logical justification; why a human being, even within the realms of ephemeral insanity, would indulge in these. Forgive my bluntness, but it is sheer senselessness.
THIS PROTOCOL AND ME
You ask me why the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is important to me. For one, I have a mother and two sisters that I love so much and I wouldn’t let any of the discriminations and violence women suffer come to them. And secondly, I have seen too much discrimination against women and each time something pinches me: it’s a natural inclination towards the thought that ‘this is unfair’. That alone is enough.
Besides, what is wrong with being a woman? I like being a man, no doubt, but I could easily have been a woman. Our sex, just like race, is something we cannot decide and to resort to the lazy excuse of ‘it is a man’s world or the way of our world’ is pure senselessness. I like to think myself as reasonable. If you must know why I get touchy sometimes with respect to gender inequality, then I will tell you.
Aisha was my friend’s sister. She was about 13 at the time. She had already been sold off in marriage, ready to bear kids for a man as old as her father. I was 16 and I wondered what life could possibly mean for her. I still had my tall dreams of winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Maybe she had such dreams too; maybe if she had the choice she would become a nurse or a midwife or a teacher. Whatever dreams she had were however abridged by an early marriage she couldn’t refuse.
I read the touching story of a certain widow in the newspapers. Her experience nearly brought me to tears. The ill treatment she faced in the hands of her in-laws; being labeled a witch responsible for her husband’s death; the gruesome burial ritual that involved shaving her hair; wearing dirty clothes without bathing for days; eating from a broken calabash; being locked in a room for weeks in the name of mourning and eventual disinheritance by the in-laws all brought before me the grim realities of what certain women face: societal and cultural discrimination based on their gender. She had a daughter to take care of, but no one cared.
In the university a female friend was harassed by a lecturer who was demanding sex for her to pass a certain course. She was willing to read to pass but the lecturer insisted on having his price. Of course she failed the course when she refused. Nothing happened, but who would listen to her anyway? Many women face this kind of harassment every day and it is indeed a shame. What else is there? Men beating up their wives constantly in my neighbourhood and women being sent away in arbitrary divorce with no compensation are among several other discriminations that I have witnessed.
I am the first son of my family. My father, following the ‘norms’, would only discuss matters of family importance with me, leaving my elder sister and my mum out. But every decision I take in the house is informed by due consultation with my elder sister and mother. They can also think and I recognise that.
BEYOND THE PROTOCOL: ACTIONS FOR CHANGE
I belong to the Millennium Development Goals Awareness Creation Volunteer Group of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme in Nigeria. The scheme mandates graduates of tertiary institutions to serve the country for one year and currently I teach mathematics to grade 11 students in an all-girls school. Considering the peculiarity of my environment (being all-girls) I initiated a number of programs to create awareness on the issues of gender equality. The girls found it strange that in civilized countries a woman could actually claim a share of property in the event of divorce. They were used to seeing women battered and sent away empty handed to their homes.
This protocol thus provides a powerful tool for change but it needs to be popularised. In spite of my exposure, it took this essay contest to hear of it for the first time; I dread to think when old women in my village would know there is an instrument that empowers them. For me there is the challenge to create awareness through my volunteer group for these girls. Let them know their rights and the commitments of governments across Africa to enforce those rights.
To make the protocol effective, we would require an agency, especially at the grassroots where victims of discrimination can make complaints and have the government make their case. Without such agencies, women would be too scared to speak out, knowing that outspokenness would bring further discrimination and violence.
Today I know Aisha was sold off to an early marriage, losing a youthful life, a sound education and even exposing herself to the dangers that came with teenage pregnancies. This happened when Article 6 of the Protocol (which stipulates a minimum marriage age of 18) actually protected her. The poor widow whose story so touched me and informed my writing a play on gender inequality (‘Till Death Do us Part’) two years ago actually had Articles 20 and 21 to protect her against her in-laws. The girls who succumb to the ill treatment of female genital mutilation in Delta State where I currently serve actually have Article 14, which explicitly prohibits FGM and also promotes the health and reproductive rights of women. The woman who is disinherited at the death of her husband, the one who cannot inherit a property, the one who is sexually harassed, the one who is battered and ejected from her matrimonial home at the whim of her husband, the one who cannot decide the number of children to bear and several others who experience discrimination and violence actually have ample support embedded in the Protocol for the Rights of Women in Africa.
The question now is: how many women know of this protocol and its powerful potential of protecting them? And the challenge for me now is not being in Malabo in June, but to create ample awareness for the girls in my immediate community to know of this protocol and always hold on to the rights there-in. I do not know what the challenge is for you, but I know you have a role to play. Together we can stop this senseless discrimination and violence against our precious daughters, sisters and mothers.
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* Itodo Samuel Anthony is a 24 year-old from Benue State of Nigeria. He is a graduate of petroleum engineering, presently teaching mathematics at an all-girls school in Delta State as part of the mandatory National Youth Service Corps Scheme for graduates in Nigeria. His interests include writing essays, poems, short stories and scripts. He strongly believes in justice and fairness for all. His models include Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi, whose lives epitomised selflessness. For him, serving humanity is a privilege, and as the Junior Chamber International Creed puts it: ‘service to humanity is the best work of life’.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Policy, Advocacy and Programming on the African Women’s Protocol, Programme Insights, Feb. 2008, page 1, Online ISBN 978-1-84814-028-8
 The impact of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa on Violence against Women in Six Selected Southern African countries: An advocacy tool. (August 2009). Pp 1- 7ISBN: 978-0-9814420-1-3
Safeguarding rights and empowering youth
The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is important to me due to two major reasons, and probably even three, that it safeguards. First, I am an African, a woman and thirdly a youth. As an African young woman as well as other youths, we are a special resource that requires special attention not only because of the demographic bonus but also of the inert energy that we possess. We are a formidable creative resource that can be harnessed for Africa’s socio-economic development. The protocol is important to me as when the African heads of state will be convening in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, they will discuss about me, about my fellow youths and about our empowerment. The theme of the summit is ‘Youth empowerment for sustainable development’.
In order to achieve the positive outcomes in the areas of education, employment, health and citizenship, to fight poverty among the youth, a holistic approach to youth development has become an urgent matter that should be focused on. The African Youth Charter and its rapid entry into force, the celebration of the Year of African Youth in 2008 and the annual celebration of the African Youth Day every 1 November, the declaration of a decade (2009–2018) for youth development, and its approved 10-year plan of action, are convincing evidences that confirm the continental impetus to the African youth development.
Over time, the youths have been reminded that they are the leaders of tomorrow. However, the proverbial tomorrow never comes. As a youth I believe our/my tomorrow has come; our tomorrow is now. Thus by understanding and knowing what the protocol entails then we will be taking the first steps towards understanding how to achieve sustainable development. Statistically, about 62 per cent of Africa’s overall population fall below the age of 35 and more than 35 per cent are between 15 and 35 years old. 6,000 young people are infected with HIV/AIDS every day all over the world, most of them girls in sub-Saharan Africa.
On 26 October 2005, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa received its 15th ratification, meaning the protocol entered into force on 25 November 2005. This date was also significant as it coincided with the start of the international 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women campaign. This marked a milestone in the protection and promotion of women’s rights in Africa, creating new rights for women in terms of international standards.
The protocol is crucial for the protection and promotion of women’s rights. For instance, in its first article it calls for equality for all by eliminating discrimination against women. The protocol urges states parties to commit themselves to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of women and men through public education, information, education and communication strategies, with a view to achieving the elimination of harmful cultural and traditional practices and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes, or on stereotyped roles for women and men. This protocol in my opinion is the architecture essential for change. This in a nutshell means that it advocates for the changing of negative power relations, gender inequality and the disempowerment and impoverishment of women in Africa.
In addition, the protocol in article 5 calls for the legal prohibition of female genital mutilation. It also asks for the provision of necessary support to victims of harmful practices through health services, legal and judicial support and emotional and psychological counselling, as well as vocational training to make them self-supporting. The protocol further prohibits the abuse of women through all other forms of harmful practices which negatively affect the human rights of women and which are contrary to recognised international standards. Thus it sets forth a broad range the social welfare rights for women. The rights of particularly vulnerable groups of women, including widows, elderly women, disabled women and ‘women in distress’ – which includes poor women, women from marginalised populations groups, and pregnant or nursing women in detention – are specifically recognised. This article thus protects me and other women from any harmful practices.
Article 6 of the protocol states that ‘women and men enjoy equal rights and are regarded as equal partners in marriage’. This particular article is important to me because it clearly spells out that no marriage shall take place without the free and full consent of both parties, thus forced marriages will be a thing for the past, especially in some communities in my country. Another great provision is that the minimum age of marriage for women shall be 18 years, thus child brides are no more. Another clause of interest to me is that upon marriage, I shall have the right to maintain my maiden name jointly or separately with my husband's surname. Thus I will not have to go through a long process of paperwork to register a new acquired name. In addition, during the marriage I shall have the right to acquire my own property and to administer and manage it freely.
Article 11 deals with the protection of women in armed conflicts. It calls for states parties undertake to respect and ensure respect for the rules of international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflict situations, which affect the population, particularly women. A third clause of the articles denotes that states parties undertake to protect asylum-seeking women, refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons, against all forms of violence, rape and other forms of sexual exploitation, and to ensure that such acts are considered war crimes, genocide and/or crimes against humanity and that their perpetrators are brought to justice before a competent criminal jurisdiction. Also, the states parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure that no child, especially girls under 18 years of age, take a direct part in hostilities and that no child is recruited as a soldier.
The protocol endorses in article 12 that the states parties shall take specific positive action to promote literacy among women, promote education and training for women at all levels and in all disciplines, particularly in the fields of science and technology. They will also promote the enrolment and retention of girls in schools and other training institutions and the organisation of programmes for women who leave school prematurely. This, coupled with affirmative action, promotes the equal participation of women, including equal representation of women in elected office, and calls for the equal representation of women in the judiciary and law-enforcement agencies. Articulating a right to peace, the protocol recognises the right of women to participate in the promotion and maintenance of peace. This addresses the problem of negative power relations, as few if any women would be allowed let alone be able to hold any office. Interestingly, the recently passed Kenyan constitution ensures that more women take up leadership positions. For instance, Ms Nancy Barasa has been nominated for the position of deputy chief justice, among many other women who are at the helm of authority in my country.
This encourages me, a young woman, to aspire for an office in any field without fear of being barred by the virtue of being female. In line with article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the non-discrimination clause, which provides that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the charter will be enjoyed by all irrespective of their sex, article 3 states that every individual will be equal before the law and be entitled to the equal protection of the law. Other articles of importance to the woman folk include article 18(3), which is specifically about the protection of the family and promises to ensure the elimination of discrimination against women and protect their rights.
Youth action is critical to the continent’s development. The protocol further ensures that girls and women can make equally valued contributions to development, especially in line with the millennium development goals (MDGs). For instance, the protocol in article 14 explicitly sets forth the reproductive right of women to medical abortion when pregnancy results from rape or incest or when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the health or life of the mother. This comes in light of the many illegal abortions, pregnancy and childbirth that cause the deaths of at least 250,000 women each year in Africa. This means that Africa and the world at large lose a great number of its natural resources. It reminds me of the recent shocking findings in Congo. Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been raped at a rate 26 times higher than previously thought. The shockingly high number is equivalent to 1,152 women raped every day, 48 raped every hour, or four women raped every five minutes. The rape itself is traumatising enough not to mention the child conceived from the heinous act. As innocent as the baby is, it will always be a constant reminder to the woman of an event she would rather forget, not to mention other difficulties compounded as a result of the assault. This goes further to show that sexual violence in the DRC is not only a grievous mass violation of human rights but is a security threat to the entire nation.
The protocol states that women’s sexual and reproductive health is to be both respected and promoted, which is predicated on women’s right to control their fertility and by the obligation of states to provide adequate, affordable and accessible health services. It also demands that governments establish and strengthen existing pre-natal, delivery and post-natal services for all African women. The protocol enforces the right to self-protection and to be informed of one’s health status and that of one’s partner. It also provides for health services to cope with the effects of HIV/AIDS.
As a youth, I feel there is a lack of connection in my country between the ministries of justice, finance, of foreign affairs and the ministries of gender/women. This will mean that even with the protocol in place, the lack of cohesion will lead to gaps in implementation and monitoring and in turn the success of a good cause geared at development of the continent obsolete. The protocol addresses this concern by elaborating that the states that are signatory to this protocol are expected to implement and monitor the actualisation of the rights provided in the protocol and, in particular, provide budgetary and other resources for the full and effective implementation of the rights recognised in the protocol. They are also expected to report on progress in their periodic reports to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. I share the sentiments of Ugandan activist Sarah Mukasa, who noted that there is often a ‘disconnection between the pronouncements made at regional level and the action taken nationally and locally … domestication and implementation is riddled with challenges that will have to be overcome if the Protocol is to benefit the women it seeks to protect’. She goes on to identify three major obstacles in most countries, namely, weak public appreciation of the centrality of constitutionalism and the rule of law, inadequately resourced national gender machinery, and lastly, the precedence of entering reservations on progressive clauses.
In conclusion, I know that the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is important to me as it safeguards my welfare holistically as well as that of the future generation of women. It is upon me as a youth to be willing and ready to use my potential for the development of mother Africa. I believe an empowered youth is an agent of change. We are critical for the continent’s development; it is our responsibility. I want to be empowered and bring the change Africa needs. This is a luta continua. Nkozi Africa!
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* Eunice Kilonzo is a 21-year-old Kenyan second year student at the University of Nairobi, pursuing a bachelor of arts (in communication, political science and literature). She is also an intern at Newsfromafrica. She is the change she wants to see in the world, and one of these changes is seeing that negative ethnicity, a vice in her society, is curbed. She believes that while Kenya has over 42 ethnic tribes, unfortunately unity among them is somehow a façade. Thus both at the university and through her blog (http://iamnotmytribe.blogspot.com/) she writes and advocates against negative ethnicity. Besides writing, she likes travelling, reading and meeting new people.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Perspectives on Emerging Powers in Africa: May newsletter available
Following the second India-Africa Forum Summit held in Addis Ababa in May, two articles focus on the event in this edition of the newsletter. First, Prof K Mathews provides an overview of the activities and outcomes of the Summit, as well as commentary on the state of relations between the Indian government and Africa. A second article by Manish Chand also looks at the Summit, with specific mention of some of the commitments made during the event focusing on capacity building, education and human resource training. In addition, Rashaad Amra provides an interesting overview of Turkey’s engagement with Africa in terms of trade and investment activities. Mandarin translations for this month’s edition focus on the African journalist study tour to India conducted by the EMPA Initiative. It also draws comparisons with the tour to China conducted last year. The second article provides a review of the recent report by Global Witness titled 'China and Congo: Friends in Need'. The May edition is available here
The Modernist Democratic Pole: A 'new' political coalition
The political scene in Tunisia has witnessed the birth of a new political force: The Modernist Democratic Pole. This pole is a coalition of a number of political parties and civic associations. Mr. Riadh Ben Fadl and Mr. Mustapha Ben Ahmed, the founders of the pole, believe that it is crucial for all entities that have the same political ideas to unite. This would offer them higher chances to attract more voters, succeed in the elections, and therefore contribute in a deeper way to the creation of the new constitution. According to TAP, the initiative came to mind after they noticed that there are three main political groups: the left, Islamist movement(s) and the remains of the former regime. The main goal of the new pole consists of establishing a republican regime based on the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, freedom and the pacific alternation over power. The Modernist Democratic Pole is willing to “preserve our gained modernist values and to promote our Arabic and Islamic heritage.”
The rally’s first communiqué covers many fields such as politics, justice, culture and the stressed importance of each one of them. The parties, associations and independent figures taking part in this initiative declared that a unique program will be announced and that they will be in one electoral list under the umbrella of the Modernist Democratic Pole. “The Ettajdid Movement”, “The Left Socialist Party”, “The Movement of Democratic Patriots” and “The Republican Alliance” are among the parties that joined the coalition. The doors to join the pole are open to all parties, associations and independent figures sharing the same ideas with the pole. However, partisans of the former ruling party the “RCD” are not welcomed to join the pole. Abdelaziz Bel-Khouja, a member of the Republican Alliance, expressed his disappointment concerning the refusal of some parties, such as the Progressive Democratic Party, to adhere to the pole. The pole is preparing for a vast electoral campaign uniting all the members and should reveal its program very soon.
African farmers gathered to discuss agroecology in Zimbabwe
(Masvingo, 13 June, 2011) – Zimbabwean farmers’ organization are hosting a training meeting on agroecology , an encounter organized by La Via Campesina (LVC) Africa in Masvingo province in Zimbabwe, from June 13 to 19. The training workshop brings together LVC member organizations in the continent, key allies including academics, NGOs, social science practioners, and small-scale farmers.
More than 50 participants, from 10 African Countries, as well as visitors from Latin America and Asia, are gathering in Masvingo to discuss and share experiences on agroecology and sustainable peasant agriculture, and organic farming and conservation agriculture practices, that keep build on local knowledge and traditional skills to work the land and produce food ecologically.
The participants of the meeting list several challenges and difficulties that affect peasant production in their countries. Among the difficulties they face is the lack of support from their governments, climate change, the interference of multinational corporations in the agricultural sector, as well as the issue of land grabbing whereby smallholder farmers lose their traditional land, finding themselves in the risk of hunger and poverty.
Other challenges include limited access to markets with decent crop prices, donors conditionality driving anti-smallholder policies, and regulations with negative impacts on peasants. These issues need to be resolved for the peasants in Africa to develop their true productive capacity.
At the end of the seven days of the training participants will come up with proposed solutions and a strategic plan which will be implemented by their organizations and the network.
In these meetings participants are expecting to create a permanent space for the exchange and strengthening of agroecological efforts carried out by LVC organizations in Africa, in order to share experiences, methodologies, educational materials and trainers, as well as to develop a strategic action and working plan on agroecology and peasant agriculture at African level. Participants said that agroecology is the way for farmers to become independent and more productive, and to take control over their own farming systems. It puts us back in the drivers seat, they said.
Mr Nelson Mudzingwa, a smallholder farmer from Zimbabwe, speaking at the meeting, said he will open up his mind from the experience to be shared from other countries on agroecology practices. He gave evidence that organic farmers in Zimbabwe who use agroecology practices like native seeds and organic fertilizers are highly productive without dependence on private seed and fertilizer companies nor government handouts.
He said it is very important for farmers to practice agroecology rather than just theorizing, because without practicing there is no success. He also emphasized information sharing and documentation and sharing of lessons from the success stories. “As I believe in information sharing, I call upon my colleagues that we have to expose all success stories so that others they can easily adopt,” he said.
The participants of the meeting will visit strong Zimbabwean successful example of agroecology, from where they expect to learn how local farmers develop sustainable agriculture form their own seeds and techniques.
In a report titled “Sustainable Peasant Agriculture Can Feed the World” (available at www.viacampesina.org), LVC has compiled evidence at the global level to show that agroecological farming is more sustainable, more productive, and more resilient to climate change than conventional chemical and industrialized agriculture. LVC member organizations in Africa believe that agroecology is key to achieving food sovereignty and ending problems of hunger and rural poverty in the continent.
LVC Communication Team in Africa
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Another shack fire destroys families homes in Siyanda
Monday, June 13, 2011
Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement Press Statement
Another Shack Fire Destroys Families Homes in Siyanda
South Africans are still recovering from the heavy rains that caused a lot of
damage and flooding especially to poor communities. In Siyanda people have to
deal with fire as well as flood. The Shange family, the Buthelezi family and
one other family have all been left homeless after a fire that destroyed three
shacks in Siyanda B Settlement on Saturday, 11 June 2011 during the broad day
The fire is said to have started from a locked shack whose owner has been away
for almost two weeks to his rural home in KwaNongoma. Mr. S’cebi Shange, a 33
year old man and a father of a 4 months old baby was left only with all he had
on his body. Residents suspect that the fire started in the electricity box.
It took some time for the Fire Department to arrive and when it did it came in
a wrong passage way where there was no access for the truck to come closer. The
truck had to drive back to find an alternative road access. By the time they
came there was nothing left. "The blaze of the fire had already destroyed all
we owned" said Mr. Shange.
"The newly elected councillor Mr. Mdlalose arrived at the scene yesterday with
his BEC members, but did not even speak to us" said Mr. Buthelezi. Mr. Shange.
added that "We have lost hope as we have expected the councillor to assist us
in dealing with the disaster."
The Abahlali baseMjondolo leadership arrived in afternoon to witness the damage
and the effect caused by the fire. The families were traumatized and were in
desperate need of rebuilding material, clothing, furniture and foods.
Abahlali continues to condemn these ongoing shack fires which can be avoided.
They are not natural disasters nor are they a result of the poor being
uneducated about the causes of fires. They are a result of the way that we are
forced to live in an oppressive society.
We have had enough of these fires. In the past we have organised a shack fire
summit and we have marched to demand an end to the plague of fires. Our efforts
have fallen on deaf ears.
It is high time that the eThekwini Municipality engages meaningful with all
shack dwellers to find a permanent solution to the permanent crisis of shack
fires. Land and housing, water, electricity and sanitation can save lives of
the shack dwellers.
We have always advised the municipality that while we acknowledge that land and
housing can be a long term solution interim support such as the provision of
fire breaks, more water standpipes, sanitation and road access must be provided
as a matter of urgency.
If we were people that counted in the city urgent action would be taken to
address this crisis. By year after year passes while we are left to burn. For
year after year it is said that shack dwellers and their homes are burning
because we are ignorant and drunk. The fact is that we are forced to live in
this crisis of fire because we do not count to this government. Land, housing
and electricity could end this plague.
For more information and comment please contact the Abahlali Chairperson in
Siyanda Branch, MaMkhize Nxumalo on 076 5796198 or the Abahlali Office on 031
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Huge support for Free Maxwell Campaign
"This is just a way to scare students from excising their right to freedom of speech,” “Stay strong Maxwell,” “Solidarity from Barcelona. We send you our energy and strength!!!,” “In solidarity! from Chile!,” “in unison,alutha continua!,” “Thanx 4dis group twl hlp us 2 brng 2geda ideas on hw to free our mates whu we arrested 4 nthng.”
These are just some of the messages that people from around the world have posted on the Free Maxwell Dlamini Campaign’s website and Facebook page, and other messages of solidarity with President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, Maxwell Dlamini, keep flowing in.
In the campaign’s first 24 hours, nearly a hundred e-mails were been sent to the Swazi regime demanding the release of Maxwell, over 500 people accessed the campaign’s website, and people from all over the world – including Swazi, Danish, South African, Namibian and Basque NGO’s; Danish, German and Norweigan students; South African public employees and people from all over the world have wished to publically support the campaign.
The press has also covered the campaign. In the past week, the campaign has been in the news in England (The Guardian), Denmark (Arbejderen and U-landsnyt), Norway (SAIH), and The Times of Swaziland, who brought an article about the Free Maxwell Dlamini Campaign in its Swazi News Saturday edition.
The South African Broadcast Cooperation, SABC, also ran a documentary, Swaziland’s Political Prisoners that amongst other things included interviews in prison with Maxwell Dlamini filmed with a hidden camera.
Maxwell Dlamini is keeping up his sprits and is pleased that the Free Maxwell Campaign, the British National Union of Students and others are campaigning for his release. “It was good for Maxwell to see for himself that there is something of this sort going on in Europe,” a source from within the democratic movement who has visited Maxwell recently told me.
The reason for the massive show of solidarity towards Maxwell Dlamini is that he has obviously been abused and framed by Swazi police.
Maxwell was detained, tortured, and forced to sign a confession that says he was in possession of explosives during the April 12 Swazi Uprising – a movement inspired by similar uprisings in North Africa and The Middle East.
The charges against Maxwell Dlamini of being in possession of explosives, and thus contravening Sections 8 and 9 of Swaziland’s Explosives Act 4 of 1961, have been described as preposterous by several members of the democratic movement in Swaziland, as well as by unions and solidarity organisations around the world, and Amnesty International has urged Swaziland to ensure his, and fellow accused Musa Ngubeni’s, safety. If convicted, Maxwell Dlamini faces up to five years in prison.
The Free Maxwell Dlamini Campaign say on their website that they “demand that Maxwell Dlamini is released unconditionally and that any and all wrongdoings committed by Swaziland’s police forces and security forces towards Maxwell Dlamini and other members of Swaziland’s democratic movement are investigated, and that any perpetrators are brought before a court of law.”
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Israel–Palestine: Writer and academic detained without charge
Rapid Action Network
The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is seriously concerned about the detention of prominent Palestinian writer and academic Dr Ahmad Qatamesh, who has been held without charge by the Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank since 21 April 2011. PEN International fears that Dr Qatamesh may be held solely for the peaceful expression of his opinions, and calls for him to be immediately and unconditionally released unless charged with a recognisable criminal offense.
Amnesty International gives the following information:
Ahmad Qatamesh was arrested by Israeli security forces at 2am on 21 April from his brother’s home in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. He was taken to Ofer detention centre in the West Bank, where he was questioned for around 10 minutes by the Israel Security Agency (ISA). At a hearing on 28 April, a military judge agreed to extend his detention for another six days for further questioning, although none followed in this period. At another hearing on 2 May, the ISA made a request to extend his detention for a second time in order, according to his wife, to question him about his association with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Ahmad Qatamesh denied being active in the PFLP and the military judge refused the request.
A military court official told Ahmad Qatamesh’s lawyer that he would be released at 5pm on 3 May, and a prison officer gave him the same message. However, at 8.30pm on 3 May, Ahmad Qatamesh was handed an administrative detention order signed by the West Bank military commander of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The order appeared to have been produced for another detainee, since Ahmad Qatamesh’s name was written over correction fluid. The order was for an “extension” of administrative detention even though this is Ahmad Qatamesh’s first administrative detention order since the 1990s. The order also stated that he was an activist in Hamas, an organization with very different political views to those of the PFLP.
A military judge should review an administrative detention order within eight days and can cancel or reduce the order, though the usual practice is for the judge to confirm it. Amnesty International is concerned that Ahmad Qatamesh is being detained for the peaceful expression of his political views and therefore a prisoner of conscience.
Ahmad Qatamesh was arrested by the IDF in 1992 and reportedly tortured. He documented his experiences in a publication called “I shall not wear your tarboosh [fez]”. Over a year later he was placed under administrative detention after a judge had ordered his release on bail. After repeated administrative detention orders, he was eventually released on 15 April 1998…
Administrative detention is an Israeli procedure under which Palestinian detainees from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are held without charge or trial for periods of up to six months which are renewable indefinitely. No criminal charges are filed against administrative detainees, and there is no intention of bringing them to trial. Detainees are held on the basis of “secret evidence” which the Israeli military authorities claim cannot be revealed for security reasons. The “secret evidence” on which the military authorities base their decision to issue an administrative detention order is not made available to the detainee or his/her lawyer and the detainee cannot challenge the reasons for his/her detention.
The PFLP is a left-wing Palestinian political party which also has an armed wing. While Ahmad Qatamesh was a political and intellectual supporter of the PFLP in the 1990s, he says he has not been involved with them for 13 years. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, he has never been involved with PFLP-affiliated armed groups or advocated violence. (UA: 127/11 Index: MDE 15/024/2011 Issue Date: 06 May 2011)
During the 1990s, PEN International campaigned against Ahmad Qatamesh’s administrative detention. After he was released in 1998, he studied political science and has since lectured in the humanities department at al-Quds University in Jerusalem.
Please Send Appeals:
· Expressing concern that Ahmad Qatamesh is being detained for the peaceful expression of his political views and calling on the Israeli authorities to release Ahmad Qatamesh immediately and unconditionally unless he is to be promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offence and brought to trial in full conformity with international fair trial standards;
· Seeking assurances of his well-being in detention.
Commander of the Israeli Defence Forces – West Bank
Major-General Avi Mizrahi
GOC Central Command
Military Post 01149
Israel Defense Forces, Israel
Fax: +972 2 530 5741 / 530 5724
Salutation: Major-General Avi Mizrahi
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence
Ministry of Defence
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 691 6940 / 696 2757
Salutation: Dear Minister
Ministry of Justice
29 Salah al-Din Street
Fax: +972 2 628 5438 / 627 4481
Salutation: Dear Attorney-General
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Israel in your country if possible.
***Please contact this office if sending appeals after 15 June 2011***
For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: email@example.com
Namibia: Death threat for AVID accused
June 13 2011
NAMRIGHTS is, once again, alarmed by what appears to be renewed death threats directed at one of the seven key accused persons in the alleged AVID Investments Corporation-Social Security Commission (AVID-SSC) financial fraud.
Early this morning, an ostensibly disquieted former Namangol Investments Chief Executive Officer and AVID-SSC fraud accused, Nico Josea (48), told NAMRIGHTS high officials in Windhoek that he is, again, living in fear for his life following a death threat, which he had received over the weekend. Josea showed NAMRIGHTS officials a mobile phone text message (i.e. an SMS) reading as follows:
“U are the, next to die u wil pay the blood of LAZARUS KANDARA/LAZARUS IPANGELWA [sic]”.
Josea also told NAMRIGHTS that he had reported the incident to the Namibian Police (NamPol) as well as to his attorney. He said that those who authored the above text message are unknown to him. He, however, explained that he deeply suspects that the SMS might have originated “from those who have reasons to fear that I have information that will expose their involvement in the AVID-SSC case”.
The AVID-SSC scandal is a 2005 N$30 million cross-border fraud involving, among others, high-ranking officials of the ruling SWAPO Party and or their cronies. The long-awaited trial in the AVID-SSC matter, which was scheduled to be heard in the country’s High Court on June 1 2011, was, again, postponed to July 28 2011.
This is the second time in three years that Josea expresses concern for his right to life and security of person. On or around March 27 2008, Josea also told NAMRIGHTS that wherever he went, people were warning him to “be careful that the Old Man would kill you”. Josea explains that the term “the Old Man” is a direct reference to former Namibian President Sam Nujoma. Hence, Josea says that he has conscientiously developed a feeling that certain people out there who are acting in the name and or on behalf of either the former President and or former SWAPO Party Youth Secretary, Paulus Kapia, might really want to have him eliminated before, on or shortly after April 18 2008, when he was expected to appear in court over the AVID-SSC scam.
In a prominent article entitled, Nujoma named in Avid scandal, which was published on August 10 2005, The Namibian newspaper reported that AVID was introduced to the SSC by former SWAPO Party MP, Ralph Blaauw, who also claimed that the SWAPO Party Youth League owned 80 percent of the company's shares, and that suspended SSC Manager, Avril Green, claimed, in an affidavit submitted to the High Court, that former President, Sam Nujoma, too, was an AVID shareholder. In the said affidavit, Green reportedly stated that AVID had applied "pressure from higher political authority" to get the SSC to agree to invest money with the company.
On or around March 27 2008, Josea also told NAMRIGHTS that he believed that both Kapia and the former President might have fear or suspicion that, as a friend-in-business of the late AVID Investments Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Lazarus Kandara, Josea might have acquired considerable information, which might implicate them in the AVID-SSC affair.
Josea claims that, although he had never communicated or dealt directly with Kapia and or with Nujoma over the N$30 million loan from the SSC, he had been dealing directly with the late Kandara, who, in turn, was directly in contact with Kapia, who has been in direct contact with Nujoma over the multimillion AVID-SSC investment.
On August 24 2005, Kandara presumably committed suicide, under mysterious circumstances, only hours after NamPol members had arrested him the High Court. The late Kandara allegedly shot himself through the heart at pointblank range with his own gun, while in NamPol custody a few meters from the main entrance of the Windhoek Police precinct.
“These renewed allegations of death threats against Josea can hardly be taken lightly by us. Hence, we believe that such allegations warrant an Urgent Appeals procedure under one of the 33 UN extra-conventional human rights mechanisms, with the view to prevent the real and imminent loss of life or the enforced disappearance of Josea or even both”, said NAMRIGHTS executive director Phil ya Nangoloh this morning.
Widespread media reports last week decried the fact that several high profile mysterious deaths in the country, some dating back to 2001, have remained unexplained. The reports surfaced after a senior government Minister allegedly issued a death against trade unionist and National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) Secretary General Evilastus Kaaronda allegedly for coming strongly against yet another financial fraud, known as the GIPF Scandal, involving yet high-ranking politicians and or their cronies.
In case of additional information, please call, e-mail or text: Steven Mvula or Phil ya Nangoloh at Tel: +264 61 253 447, +264 61 236 183 or +264 811 406 888 (office hours) or Mobiles: +264 811 299 886 (Phil) and or +264 812 912 948 (Steven) or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or visit us at: Liberty Center, 116 John Meinert Street, Windhoek-West, Windhoek or at: www.namrights.org.na
Stop tar sands in Madagascar - write to Total's CEO now!
World Development Movement
Madagascar, its unique biodiversity and its people, are under threat. French oil company Total is deciding whether to mine highly polluting tar sands in one of the poorest areas of Madagascar. Please act now to help stop this. Email Total’s chief executive today and call on him to abandon his company’s destructive plans.
Campaigners in Madagascar are working on the ground to try and stop this from going ahead. Support here in the UK, where Scottish bank RBS is financing multinational oil companies involved in tar sands, adds vital strength to their work. Please take action now.
"We only have seven people in our organisation. We are like a family. But we have a network of organisations in Madagascar, which makes us stronger. And international support gives us further strength.” -Malagasy environmental and human rights campaigner
WHAT’S THE ISSUE?
French oil company Total has been test mining for tar sands at Bemolanga in the western part of Madagascar for the last three years. Now, they are considering moving on to full exploitation. We have already seen environmental destruction on a huge scale and the trampling of human rights in the tar sands fields of northern Alberta in Canada. This must not be allowed to happen in Madagascar, or anywhere else in the world.
In the region of Melaky, where the tar sands in Madagascar lie, 70% of the population live below the poverty line and 50% of children under the age of three have stunted growth due to malnutrition. More than 120,000 people could have their water supply disrupted and land poisoned as a result of the tar sands project.
The government of Madagascar is to receive only 4% of profits over the thirty years expected lifespan of the tar sands fields.
Using taxpayers’ money, the bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland is helping to finance the tar sands industry. Since being bailed out in 2008, RBS has provided £303million in corporate finance to Total.
It is vital that human development and environmental protection go hand in hand. Tar sands and oil exploitation threaten to undermine this possibility in Madagascar.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?
Total is coming to the end of its tar sands exploration phase and is considering its next move. There is an opportunity now to shine a spotlight on Total here in Europe, to highlight its activities in Madagascar and to put it under pressure to abandon its plans before any real damage is done.
In a carbon constrained world, exploring for new sources of fossil fuels is an irresponsible strategy. If we are to stop the world from reaching the point of runaway climate change, then the tar sands must be left in the ground and unprecedented levels of investment in low carbon technology are needed instead. Multinational energy companies like Total must stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.
Write to Total's CEO now!
On cultural oppression
H. Nanjala Nyabola
‘The Object of racism is no longer the individual but a certain form of existing’ – Frantz Fanon
Where does oppression begin? The above quote is taken from the essay ‘Racism and Culture’ from the collection ‘Towards the African Revolution’ by Frantz Fanon. Fanon was genius at spotting the many smaller battles that prevent people from realising their full potential, weaving together brilliant meta-narratives that demonstrated that oppression began long before the individual situated himself in the formal political arena. Fanon rightly argues that oppression is about structures of power that influence or impact on individual and communal self-worth, and in this breath I’d like to bring something up that is decidedly beyond the realm of formal politics.
Over the last few weeks, the question of the woman of colour and her body has been a recurring theme in my personal conversations. On one hand, the question of sexuality reared its head as the global (read North American and European) ‘Slut Walks’ ostensibly designed to insist that the style of a women’s dress was no invitation for sexual assault. The question levelled at this movement however is to what extent women outside Europe and North America view this as an integral part of their day-to-day life. Which is not to say that sexual assault doesn’t happen in the global south – that would be a laughable assertion. However, the vast scale of sexual assault in the DRC for instance emphasises that rape in many similar communities is an act of political rather than personal violence – not any more or less grave, just different. I wonder what the women of Eastern Congo would say to the ‘Slut Walkers’ if they had a chance?
On the other hand, the question of hair keeps recurring as well. For the uninitiated, since the era of slavery, when African American women were forced to cover their hair because it was ‘filthy, or disgusting’, women in the African community have been debating the social and political dimensions of relaxers, dreadlocks and natural hair. This is no trivial matter – for many women the politics of hairstyle is completely integrated to their self -perception and their status within their communities. Whether we like it or not, our choice of hairstyle is almost always interpreted as some kind of political statement, and almost always intractably linked with the notion of race. Relaxers, it is argued, are emblematic of the self-loathing internalised by women of African descent over years of oppression, and indeed Malcolm X has a wonderful speech available on You Tube on the question of ‘who taught you to hate yourself?’ dealing explicitly with this idea.
These two issues are linked firstly because you see the continuing tension between race and gender in women of colour. During the independence/civil rights era, women were often compelled to subjugate their gender-based rights struggles for the greater good – it was almost as if being black was harder than being a woman. When you get the resurgence of the feminist movement in the late 1960s and 1970s, you find many women stuck between rights issues that emerge from a rather Western framework (the debate on the public-private divide) and rights issues that pay no attention to the struggles which women of colour face against their own men. Postcolonial feminism continues to argue for the right of women of colour to have their struggles articulated in their own terms, but modern women of colour are still sensing that they have to wear different hats to fight each battle, or that they cannot be fought concurrently.
Secondly, the issues are linked because they emphasise the continuing struggle over the black woman’s body. The notion of rape as linked to dressing sexy would seem alien to many women of the global south because majority of women who are raped in the global south dress no differently than any other women in their community. By labelling their movement ‘global’, the Slut Walks – with all their good intentions – inherently lay claim to the oppression of women’s body in a manner that many black women may find ahistorical. In the same breath, the politics of women’s hair is often defined by others – Ngugi wa Thiong’o has written about women’s hair, Chris Rock has produced a hit movie about the politics of ‘Good Hair’. A feminist may argue that a black woman has the right to wear her hair however she wants, while those who stress racial oppression more may argue that the political dimensions run far too deep for the decision to be taken lightly.
Fanon talks about how the ‘social constellation, the cultural whole’ is deeply intertwined with the nature of racism; that as overt racism even then became less of an acceptable practice, it evolved into cultural racism. ‘The daily affirmation of superiority’ becomes an implied act through cultural forms – think of representations of people of colour as criminals, sexually deviant or generally exotic in popular culture. Racism is socialised and the process of teaching a people that they are inherently lesser than a mainstream culture is therefore a process of oppression. I would argue that the same analysis extends towards women’s bodies; that as women’s rights issues have gained prominence, the oppression of women has changed form and become a more cultural oppression. The sexualisation of women in popular culture as ‘liberation’ should thus be taken with a generous dash of scepticism.
All of which leads to a question that I’m still searching for answers to: Can African women or women of African descent ever be truly liberated if they never learn to love their hair as it grows out of their head?
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Conflict resolution: New and evolving discipline
Review of 'The SAGE Handbook of Conflict Resolution'
This is a well-written volume by key figures that contributes to the development of conflict resolution. It is not only an academic guide but also valuable in what it reveals in the minds of the scholars. It is a product of 34 chapters by experts from different areas of specialisation that demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of the field. The book’s coverage represents theoretical variations, historical depth and topical breadth. Furthermore, the authors have attempted to combine theory, research and practice so as to respond to the questions which conflict resolution scholars have been trying to answer; where is conflict resolution coming from, heading to and whether it deserves to be a discipline or not.
The main text is divided into four major sections, with the introduction and conclusion forming independent parts. As well as introducing the main body of the book, the introduction (pp. 1–11) is about the nature of conflict and conflict resolution, including, among others, the parties involved, issues in conflict and attitudes and behaviour of the actors. Section I (pp. 13–189) traces the origin and methods of studying conflict resolution. Issues and causes of conflict are reviewed in section II (pp. 191–284). They include territory, resources, ecology and identity (ethnicity, religion). In the third section of the book an attempt is made to analyse conflict resolution methods and actors (pp. 285–434), some of which include conflict prevention, negotiation, mediation, NGOs and the UN. Features and challenges in the study of conflict resolution are discussed in section IV (pp. 435–668). Finally, the conclusion (pp. 669–74) is developed from the main body, summarising the emerging themes in theory and practice.
A significant strength of the book is the review of intellectual discourse that informs the field conflict resolution. It begins with an appreciation of the evolution and the theoretical aspects and terminates with a discussion about contemporary features and challenges in the study of conflict resolution. Theoretical aspects cover quantitative and qualitative methods, game theory, multi-method and constructivism. Some of the discussed features and challenges include terrorism, media, democratisation, culture, peacekeeping and peace-building, civil wars, human rights and military conflicts, as well as training and education in conflict resolution. The structure and the breadth of the discussion offer insights into how theory and practice have developed over the years and the direction they are taking – though compared to others this is perceived to be a young discipline.
One of the major flaws in this volume lies in the authors’ lack of due attention to gender relations at both theoretical and practical levels of the field. Perhaps their preoccupation with theory, research and practice resulted in overlooking the significance of feminism and gender, which are of vital importance. The end of the Cold War and the paradigm shift made people focus on a new range of issues in conflict resolution – ecology, the economy and gender relations. At the theoretical level, feminists could make a contribution to the relationship between masculinity, violence and the coercive nature of conflict-resolution actors. The discussion about the traditional Cold War/masculinist theories and/or paradigms leaves the reader unable to grasp gender aspects in conflict resolution.
The book evidently pays more attention to the developments of conflict resolution in the United States and Europe or the so-called Euro-America. Although the authors sought to focus more on these regions, and how they impacted on developments in other parts of the world, they paid less attention to the outcome of developed countries’ actions and reactions and how they influenced the developing world’s approach to conflict resolution. Furthermore, it seems likely that the centre of gravity in conflict resolution – at least for practice – has been shifting away from America’s hegemony towards Africa, Asia and other parts of the world. This is particularly evident after the Cold War and the outbreak of the intra-state conflicts. It would have been useful to offer more insights on the practice of conflict resolution from other parts of the world.
Overall the book is of considerable value to academics and practitioners with an interest in conflict resolution. It is a useful tool that sheds light on this fast-growing field, especially during this time when considered to be a necessary skill that everyone should possess.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Lucy Shule is a conflict resolution scholar.
* Jacob Bercovitch, Victor Kremenyuk and I. William Zartman (eds), ‘The SAGE Handbook of Conflict Resolution’, Los Angeles, SAGE Publications, 2009, pp. xxi + 682, ISBN: 978-1-4129-2192-3.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Shining a very bright light on Africa
Response to 'The lies behind the West's war on Libya'
Canada's warplanes and the Libyan conflict
Response to 'The lies behind the West's war on Libya'
Informed public needs access to independent news
Response to 'The lies behind the West's war on Libya'
I wanted to personally thank the author, editor and news paper for this most honest, informative and forthright piece of journalism.
I agree with and support 100% the ideas put forth in this article and will keep this at the front of my social network page for others to read.
The propaganda that is used by these western Countries to continue their agenda in Africa is fraudulent and disgusting. Wealthy corporations have destroyed millions of innocent lives in the past and continue to do so in their quest for profit, hopefully, in this new era of electronic information where we are no longer dependent upon corporate owned and sponsored media , people can now find access to honest, independent news agencies with truthful information.
Hopefully this honestly informed public will then force the changes we all desire for free people of this world.
Thank you and your courage for truth.
News not coming out of Africa
Westerners: Champions of hypocrisy
We can meet the challenges
Communities Empowerment Network
Pambazuka News 193: DR Congo: The death of Chebaya and the advent of another Congo
Selling our land for donor aid
Zimbabwe's presidential toilet
Zimbabwe: Treason charges dropped, but trial to go on
The Zimbabwean state has dropped the most serious charges against six activists who faced the death penalty for treason. They now face the lesser charge of 'subverting a constitutional government' - but this still carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Their trial begins on 18 July. Their bail conditions have also been relaxed - they have to report to the police once a month instead of three times a week. The six, including former MP Munyaradzi Gwisai, were among more than 40 people arrested on 19 February for watching a video about the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.
Zimbabwe: WOZA troubles continue after police raid
Police in Bulawayo are still camped at a house used for meetings by Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), following a raid on the premises, the organisation has said. It’s understood the police are after WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, as well as the owner of the house, who is not a WOZA member and is understood to be out of the country. 'Since the beginning of the year, 38 WOZA members have been arbitrarily arrested and 24 detained and charged under the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act. Threats were made that upon the eventual arrest of Williams and Mahlangu, they would be denied bail and imprisoned in the male prison,' a WOZA statement said.
Zimbabwe: Zuma stands up to Mugabe during SADC summit
South African President Jacob Zuma reportedly got into a verbal confrontation with Robert Mugabe, after the ZANU PF leader challenged him over the ‘inaccuracy’ of the Livingstone Troika resolutions. The Johannesburg Summit went on and ‘noted’ the decision of the Organ Troika in Livingstone, dealing a major blow to ZANU PF who had wanted the resolutions thrown out altogether. But the regional leaders also appeared to soften their language towards Mugabe.
Côte d'Ivoire: Marrying young in Côte d'Ivoire
Soon after independence in 1960, the government set the legal age of consent to marriage at 20 for men, 18 for women and 21 for couples without parental consent. But the law is widely ignored in a society where many say that marrying young is the cultural norm. When female teens become eligible for early marriage, their school enrollment drops off sharply. While 66 per cent of girls enroll in primary school, just 19 per cent go on to secondary school, according to UNICEF.
Senegal: Continental gender conference opens in Dakar
Delegates from across the continent on Friday (17 June) opened the fifth pan-African gender conference in Dakar, Senegal. The two-day conference, bringing together over 500 participants will, among other things, seek to promote parity in all African countries. The Dakar-based international NGO, Femmes Africa Solidarité, is co-organising the event with the Government of Senegal.
Somalia: Country 'worst place to be a woman', says minister
A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll may have found that Afghanistan is the most dangerous place to be a woman, but Somalia's women's minister is astonished any country could be worse than her own. 'I'm completely surprised because I thought Somalia would be first on the list, not fifth,' said Maryan Qasim. 'The most dangerous thing a woman in Somalia can do is to become pregnant,' Qasim said. 'When a woman becomes pregnant her life is 50-50 because there is no antenatal care at all...There are no hospitals, no healthcare, no nothing.'
Swaziland: Girls leave school because of no sanitary wear
After a newspaper that Prudence* (16) used as sanitary wear fell from her while she played with friends at school, she left and never returned. The impoverished A-student could not handle the teasing or embarrassment. The prevalence of this problem has the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) considering approaching government. According to SNAT gender officer Bongiwe Khumalo, many teachers have identified this problem at their schools. Very few have been able to assist the young girls because of lack of resources. However, the organisation has no statistics available on how many girls are leaving school.
Tunisia: Will Democracy Be Good For Women's Rights?
While the social and political movements gaining momentum in the Middle East and North Africa appear to be opening the door for democracy, initially progressive revolutions do not often result in sustained improvements for women’s rights, notes this article. 'While Arab women have been crucial in the revolutions that have shattered the status quo, their role in the future development of their own countries remains unclear. In Tunisia, for example, the fear is that women will be sucked into an ideological and religious tug-of-war over their rights, reducing the complexities of democratisation into a binary secular/non-secular battle.'
Kenya: Amnesty backs ICC pre-trial hearing in Kenya
Amnesty International has said it backs the International Criminal Court's proposal to conduct the confirmation of charges hearings for the suspected post-poll violence sponsors (Ocampo Six) in Kenya. The rights organisation said the move, if successful, would bring justice closer to the victims who bore the brunt of the post election violence that left 1,133 people and 650,000 others uprooted from their homes.
Uganda: Civil society seeks independent inquiry into April killings
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni should ensure independent and transparent investigations into killings which occurred during the 'Walk to Work' protests and hold security forces accountable, a coalition of 105 human rights, media, and development organisations said in a letter to the president. The coalition, including civil society groups from every corner of Uganda, urged the president to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.
DRC: 'We are like birds: today we are here, but tomorrow we will move again'
In Mugunga, about 12km from Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), communities of Bambuti have been eking out a living at the edge of the city. The Bambuti are believed to be among Central Africa's oldest inhabitants, surviving from hunting and gathering. Among those living in Mugunga, some fled the war in eastern DRC in 2005 and others were evicted from their ancestral homes in Virunga National Park, home to DRC’s mountain gorillas.
DRC: 40,000+ Angolan refugees to go home
More than 43,000 Angolan refugees living in the Democratic Republic of Congo will be voluntarily repatriated starting next month, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR announced last Wednesday. Of about 80,000 Angolan refugees in the DRC, '43,085 have expressed their desire to immediately return to their country of origin,' said Mohamed Boukry, UNHCR representative in Kinshasa. The repatriation should start on 4 July and wrap up early next year.
DRC: Angola's 'sans papiers' violently deported in latest wave of expulsions
According to the International Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP), an estimated 10,961 Congolese were expelled from Angola in the month of May alone, 7,178 of whom have arrived in Kasai Occidental Province. The CISP figures have been validated by DRC’s General Department of Migration. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that 80,000 were expelled from Angola to DRC between January 2010 and March 2011. The expulsions are not a new phenomenon. From 2003 to 2009, 140,000 Congolese were deported from Angola, according to OCHA.
Global: UNHCR report finds 80 per cent of world's refugees in developing countries
A UNHCR report released on World Refugee Day reveals deep imbalance in international support for the world's forcibly displaced, with a full four-fifths of the world's refugees being hosted by developing countries - and at a time of rising anti-refugee sentiment in many industrialised ones. UNHCR's 2010 Global Trends report shows that many of the world's poorest countries are hosting huge refugee populations, both in absolute terms and in relation to the size of their economies. Pakistan, Iran and Syria have the largest refugee populations at 1.9 million, 1.1 million and 1 million respectively.
Kenya: Refugee tide swamps world's biggest camp
The biggest refugee camp in the world is full, creating a humanitarian emergency that threatens thousands of malnourished children, Médecins sans Frontiéres (MSF) has warned. Dadaab, a sprawling desert 'city' in Kenya with a population expected to reach 450,000 by the end of the year, has run out of space, the medical charity said. Many children who fled war in neighbouring Somalia are without food or shelter in dry heat of 50°C.
South Africa: Nyamwasa’s refugee status causes outcry
Civil rights groups are up in arms about Faustin Kayumbe Nyamwasa's refugee status in South Africa, arguing that the decision violates South African and international law and increases the likelihood of South Africa being used as a safe haven by perpetrators of mass crimes. This comes after Consortium for Refugees and Migrant Rights (CoRMSA) and Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) submitted a detailed legal briefing to the South African authorities highlighting his ineligibility and outlining the legal implications of the decision. (CoRMSA) together with (SALC) have launched legal action seeking the cancellation of former Rwandan general and suspected war criminal Faustin Kayumbe Nyamwasa's refugee status in South Africa.
Swaziland: Unions plan another showdown with government
Swaziland's labour unions are planning a series of further strikes to voice their feelings about proposed wage cuts and to lobby the government for regime change. Sibongile Mazibuko, the president of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, said the next protest action would take place over three days and their message was clear. 'We want this government to vacate office and we want regime change,' she said.
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...
Congo’s Inga Hydropower Project May Need Phased Implementation, AFDB Says
Democratic Republic of Congo’s plans to generate 40,000 megawatts by damming the Congo River could be staggered, making it easier to find funding and secure clients, research commissioned by the African Development Bank shows. Congo’s government estimates it needs $22 billion for the Inga power complex, which would harness the power of the world’s second-biggest river by volume after the Amazon. Work on the project, which includes the $5.2 billion, 5,000-megawatt Inga 3 power plant, has stalled due to a lack of money and a firm implementation plan.
[ur=http://bloom.bg/lBw7Ds] Read More [/url]
African free trade deal 'will boost Brics accord'
The US$1 trillion agreement to create a free trade bloc of African countries, signed by African leaders over the weekend, would serve as a considerable boost to the Brics accord, said Miller Matola, CEO of the International Marketing Council, on Monday. The International Marketing Council, which markets SA under the Brand SA campaign, said the Brics informal grouping of the emerging-market economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and, most recently, SA, would welcome the prospect of interacting with a combined unit rather than having to deal with the countries in question on an individual basis.
Clinton pushes US development agenda in Africa
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Africa on Friday to sell the benefits of US economic partnership to a continent where China has built strong aid and investment ties. Clinton arrived in Zambia to begin her five-day trip, which will also take her to Tanzania and Ethiopia to highlight the Obama administration's drive to deepen economic ties with Africa and help it meet challenges ranging from HIV/AIDS to food security.
"I paid a bribe" – new national pastime
A corruption confession craze is sweeping China, Africa's major trading partner. Thousands of netizens have ‘fessed up on internet sites to bribing traffic officers, judges, officials and company executives. Highlighting how swiftly things move in China, bribery cyber confession rooms have suddenly developed mass appeal over the past week.
2. China in Africa
Sudanese President, Wanted for War Crimes, Plans China Visit
China has announced that Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir will visit China at the end of this month. The Sudanese leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges and on Thursday he canceled a planned visit to Malaysia following protests from human rights groups. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir will make an official visit to China on June 27. Hong says during his visit, Bashir will meet with President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders.
Chinese Private Entrepreneurs to Fund 1,000 Hope Primary Schools in Africa
On June 2-6, 2011, the "Chinese Entrepreneurs' Charity Trip to Africa" delegation consisting of more than 30 private entrepreneurs from China, led by Dr. Junqing Lu, chairman of the China-Africa Hope Project and chairman of the World Eminence Chinese Business Association, launched the China-Africa Hope Project in Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda respectively. Construction of the hope primary schools funded by Chinese companies including Tianjiu Scholar-Merchants Group, Insight Holdings Group, Mingda Yihang Group, Fametal Mining, Winnerway, Timeshine, Qunli Coal and Cyber Real Estate officially kicked off.
Outside chaotic Luanda, Chinese workers build new city
In an open field 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Angola's chaotic capital, a $3.5-billion city seems to rise from nothing, a showpiece in government's drive to build one million new homes. Dubbed the "new city of Kilamba Kiaxi", it's the antithesis of overcrowded Luanda's traffic-choked streets and is being built - like so much else in Angola - by Chinese contractors.
China rejects Clinton’s ‘new colonialism’ rantings in Zambia
Chinese analysts have dismissed a statement by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that warned Africa to be wary of “new colonialism” as China expands its ties in the continent, saying that trade and economic cooperation between China and African countries are conducted on the basis of mutual benefit. Clinton said Saturday that “we don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa,” when asked about China’s growing influence in the continent during a television interview in Lusaka, Zambia.
U.S. Secretary of State's "new colonialism" remark aims to estrange Sino-African relations: expert
U.S. Secretary of State's remarks to liken China's presence in Africa as "new colonialism" aims to estrange relations between China and African countries, said a leading Chinese expert on African studies Tuesday. The comment made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aims to maximize the U.S. interests in Africa and ensure its interests will not be eroded, said He Wenping, director of the African Studies Office of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
China offers loans to boost SMEs in Africa
China has signed contracts valued at $220 million with African countries, offering loans from a special fund to support 13 projects of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Thursday. Besides the contracting funds, the China Development Bank (CDB), the undertaker for the special loans, has pledged support for 19 projects with commitment loans totaling $483 million, according to MOC.
OECD attacks China-Africa trade ‘myths’
Chinese trade and investment with Africa has the potential to benefit the continent’s development and criticism of the growing trend is misplaced, leading development organizations have insisted African governments must increase their bargaining power to make the most of new partnerships with emerging markets from outside Africa by boosting their planning capacity and strengthening their civil service, according to the African Development Bank and the OECD.
3. India in Africa
Uganda set to get $20 million trade institute
India, one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, plans to establish a Shs48 billion knowledge centre in Kampala to promote international trade in Africa. Mr K.T Chacko, the director Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, revealed the plan at a conference aimed at getting the input of beneficiaries of the India-Africa Institute of Foreign Trade (IAIFT) in Kampala on Monday. The institute is designed to provide practical professional education in the field of international business and marketing.
India’s withdrawal of helicopters from Congo points to wider trend
India is preparing to withdraw its four remaining Mi-35 attack helicopters from the U.N. mission in Congo early next month, ending years of Indian air superiority in the war-racked nation and depriving the United Nations of its most vital military asset as the country heads into a landmark presidential election. The Indian drawdown will deal a blow to the U.N. mission, known by its French abbreviation, MONUSCO, which has depended on Indian troops and aircraft to ensure it can protect civilians and conduct humanitarian operations in a sprawling central African nation the size of Western Europe.
US lauds India's model of engaging Africa
The US has lauded India's model of encouraging growth in Africa as the two countries gear up to collaborate in the 53-nation continent's agricultural sector. "The India model for encouraging growth in Africa is very impressive," US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said in Washington Thursday. He described as "momentous" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's two-nation trip to Africa that included visits to Ethiopia and Tanzania.
State Bank of India wants to expand in SA
India’s largest bank, State Bank of India will open a further four branches in South Africa and expand into the retail banking space to take advantage of South African businesses seeking to invest in India. Speaking to the media on Wednesday evening following his visit to South Africa, State Bank of India Chairman Pratip Chaudhuri said the bank plans to grow through green fields in SA and is not on the “look-out to acquire” a South African bank.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
Trade between Brazil and Portuguese-speaking African countries falls sharply in May
Trade between Brazil and Portuguese-speaking African countries (PALOP) fell sharply in may according to figures published by Brazil’s Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Ministry. In May both Brazilian exports to and imports from Portuguese-speaking African countries fell. Brazilian exports to Angola, Brazil’s main trading partner in Portuguese-speaking Africa fell 15.2 percent to US$69.7 million in May against the previous month.
Brazil’s economic ties with Africa continue to flourish
Former President Lula da Silva is often attributed with developing the increased economic relationship between Brazil and Africa – forming what is now known as the ‘south-south’ cooperation after visiting 27 of the 53 countries in 2003. It was this extensive trip that initiated the creation and expansion of a number of Brazilian consulates as well as other ties that were viewed as important.
African Development Bank signs deal with China and Brazil
The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group has signed two major cooperation agreements with China and Brazil for the funding of projects and programs in its regional member countries (RMCs), according to a statement from the Bank. The signing took place in Lisbon, Portugal on June 8, 2011 during AfDB’s 2011 Annual Meetings.
India, Japan discuss political, economic engagements with Africa
India and Japan held wide ranging discussions regarding their respective political and economic engagements with Africa; the current security and political situation in various parts of Africa; and issues emanating from Africa with regional and global bearing during the two-day 'Second India-Japan Dialogue on Africa', which was held here. The two sides extensively shared their views and experiences with regard to the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).
Russia joins China’s fight for Zim diamond control
Russia is set to join China in controlling diamond mining in Zimbabwe, with the Federation’s state diamond group seeking a license to mine at the controversial Chiadzwa fields. The Russian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Andrey Kushakov, said recently that his country has pledged to invest in mining and infrastructure development in Zimbabwe as a way of supporting the country. According to the Times of India news service, Andrey stated that Russia's state diamond group, Gokhran, will be investing.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
China & Africa: Law of the land
Africa looks poised to gain the upper hand in its negotiations over the investment and trade deals with China that are so central to the continent’s growth model China has invested tens of billions of dollars across the continent, vastly improving the trade and transport infrastructure in many African states, in return for commodity exports that have provided a timely and important trade boost that allowed Africa to emerge from the global financial downturn relatively unscathed. But signs are emerging that the balance of China’s trade and investment relationship with Africa may be slowly shifting more in Africa’s favour.
Russian foreign policy: double headed eagle
Russia's foreign policy arena is starting to look like a battlefield of its own as the country's top officials give seemingly conflicting signals about where Moscow stands amid the upheaval sweeping the Arab world, experts say. As unrest in the region continues to produce stunning political shifts, Russian leaders have been working to forge responses that are both relevant to peoples in the Middle East and also serve Moscow's larger strategic goals in the region.
The recent India-Africa summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at which India’s government pledged $5 billion in aid to African countries, drew attention to a largely overlooked phenomenon — India’s emergence as a source, rather than a recipient, of foreign aid. For decades after independence — when Britain left the subcontinent one of the poorest and most ravaged regions on earth, with an effective growth rate of 0 percent over the preceding two centuries — India was seen as an impoverished land of destitute people, desperately in need of international handouts.
China rapidly becoming Mozambique’s main partner
China is rapidly affirming its place as the main foreign power in Mozambique, replacing other traditional political and economic partners base on growing foreign trade, investment and cooperation, according to researcher Loro Horta. “At a time when the West is facing an economic crisis, China and other emerging economies are becoming crucial to the wellbeing of several African nations.
Botswana: Strike suspended as State deploys heavy security
Botswana’s government deployed heavy security in the capital Gaborone for the second day on Friday 10 June as despairing union leaders announced a suspension of a seven-week civil service strike that has driven the peaceful nation to the brink of full-scale violence. Armed police backed by the paramilitary Special Support Group (SSG) and a helicopter were out in force on Thursday 9 June to prevent the striking workers from engaging in acts of violence and destruction that have accompanied the strike.
DRC: Hurdles ahead as DRC passes election law
The Democratic Republic of Congo's parliament has passed an electoral law, a crucial step toward organising 28 November presidential and legislative elections, but opposition leaders have expressed concern over the poll's credibility. The timetable for registering millions of voters is tight, and opposition parties want greater international involvement in monitoring preparations for the election.
Egypt: Premier hints at delayed election
Egypt’s premier has said that delaying a parliamentary election scheduled for September would give political parties more time to prepare, state media said, amid fears that an early poll would benefit Islamists. His comments come amid a mounting campaign by liberal and secular groups to delay the election until after a new constitution has been drafted. The 'Constitution First' campaign has sparked intense debate, with critics arguing that delaying the poll would keep the ruling military in place for longer.
Kenya: Auditing the peace efforts in Kenya's Rift Valley
Kenya goes to elections again in about a year’s time, but already concerns are being raised that there could be a repeat of 2007/2008 when a disputed presidential election left more than 1,000 dead and over 600,000 homeless. Some leaders have warned that political tension persists in Rift Valley, the region which bore the brunt of Kenya’s post election in 2008. Bishop Cornelius Korir cited the fact that some people have chosen not to spend the nights in their homes because of the tension. President Kibaki’s advisor on ethnic relations, Raphael Tuju, has blamed joblessness amongst the youth and the failure of the Kazi kwa Vijana programme as providing tribal lords with idle youth to recruit into their armies.
Morocco: Protests called against reform plan
Morocco's youth-based February 20 Movement has called for nationwide protests against constitutional changes proposed by King Mohammed VI. The king outlined curbs to his wide political powers in an address to the nation on Friday and pledged to build a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliament. The proposals, to be put to a referendum on 1 July, devolve many of the king's powers to the prime minister and parliament.
Senegal: New move to turn Senegal into a monarchy?
Senegal is to create a new vice-president position. The move is seen as a means by President Abdoulaye Wade to maintain his grip on power. Cabinet has approved a proposal to create the position of a vice-president who will be a running mate for the president in next year's election. Observers see this as a means for the Senegalese President, 84, to maintain his grip on power while preparing grounds for a possible succession. The proposed plan has to be approved by the country's national assembly.
Somalia: PM Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo resigns
Somalia's prime minister says he has resigned, following an agreement between the president and parliament to remove him from office. Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo had initially refused to step down, but will now go 'in the interest of the Somali people'. His removal was part of a UN-backed deal that extends the mandates of the president, the speaker and deputies to August 2012.
South Africa: ANC Youth League 24th national conference declaration
'Congress believes that discussion of ANC leadership should be opened and members should at all time be at liberty to discuss and deliberate on the leadership question, particularly for the 53rd National Conference of the ANC in 2012. Putting timeframes of the leadership question disadvantages members and structures of the ANC to honestly reflect on the kind of leadership needed to lead the ANC post 100 years of its existence. Congress further disapproves of emerging tendencies to use State power as a tool to dispense patronage and empower friends and families.'
Uganda: Museveni, Mutebile clash over jets cash
The Governor of the Central Bank says President Museveni’s erratic policies and the government’s fiscal indiscipline have led to higher inflation and declining foreign reserves, a UK-based newspaper reported. Mr Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile told the Financial Times newspaper that he had disagreed with Mr Museveni over the decision to spend $740 million on jet fighters, which has pushed reserves down from six to four months of import cover. The Ministry of Defence, under President Museveni’s directive, withdrew a reported $400 million (Shs960 billion) from the Central Bank to pay for the fighter jets without parliamentary approval.
South Africa: Saab admits R24-million bribe paid to clinch arms deal
Swedish defence group Saab admitted that millions were paid to clinch a South African contract for fighter jets but said its erstwhile British partner BAE Systems had paid the bribes. Saab said R24-million had been paid by BAE in the form of bonuses and salaries between 2003 and 2005 for the deal involving 26 JAS Gripen fighters. The comments came after Sweden's TV4 television channel said it had evidence Saab had promised to pay Fana Hlongwane, then advisor to the South African defence minister and also serving as a consultant to the Swedish firm, millions of euros in bonuses if Pretoria did not back out of the Gripen deal.
Tunisia: Ben Ali trial to begin in absentia on 20 June
Tunisia's ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia in January, is to go on trial in absentia on 20 June. Announcing the date, interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi said Saudi Arabia had not replied to requests to hand him over. Charges range from conspiring against the state to drug trafficking.
Africa: African leaders root for single market
Africa needs more support to develop the major regional trading blocs on the continent. African leaders, at a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, said this would improve business competitiveness and build on successes of the free trade initiatives. The one-day summit, at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, ended with the signing of a tripartite document formalising the negotiations process of the 26 leaders present. The Heads of State and government leaders from the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) signed a declaration launching the negotiations for the establishment of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area.
Africa: Mega-treaty 'to funnel free-trade fortunes'
The planned creation of a 26-nation African Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) will draw industrial investment to South Africa by making it a springboard for low-duty access to other parts of the continent, trade and industry director general Lionel October said. The proposed free trade zone will merge the three regional blocs covering southern, central and eastern Africa. These are the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), and the East African Community (EAC), which have a combined population of 580-million people.
Angola: Chinese workers build new city
In an open field 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Angola's chaotic capital, a $3.5-billion city seems to rise from nothing, a showpiece in government's drive to build one million new homes. Dubbed the 'new city of Kilamba Kiaxi', it's the antithesis of overcrowded Luanda's traffic-choked streets and is being built - like so much else in Angola - by Chinese contractors.
North Africa: Arab revolutions mask economic status quo
The World Bank and IMF have been restructuring the economies of the Middle East for decades, with largely negative results. Yet they are poised to play a major role in the post-revolutionary efforts to stabilise Egypt, Tunisia and other post-authoritarian states. Despite the less than encouraging history of involvement in the region, the World Bank, IMF and other mainstream institutions have all sought to insert themselves into the economic reform process that most observers believe must accompany political reform in order for the latter to succeed.
Zambia: China rejects Clinton’s ‘new colonialism’ rantings
Chinese analysts have dismissed a statement by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that warned Africa to be wary of 'new colonialism' as China expands its ties in the continent, saying that trade and economic cooperation between China and African countries are conducted on the basis of mutual benefit. Clinton said that 'we don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa', when asked about China’s growing influence in the continent during a television interview in Lusaka, Zambia.
Africa: Critics challenge GAVI's vaccine spending practices
Critics are challenging the way a major procurer of vaccines for the developing world operates. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), a public-private initiative that held a major funding meeting in London, United Kingdom recently, raising US$4.3 billion, has come under fire for the way it spends its money. 'The GAVI model depends on giving more and more money, year after year, to get vaccines to poor countries in ways that are not self-sustaining and at prices that are unaffordable,' says Donald Light, a professor at Princeton University, United States. GAVI's decisions are skewed by the pharmaceutical companies that sit on its board, non-governmental organisation Médecins Sans Frontières and development charity Oxfam, tell The Guardian.
Africa: New meningitis shot could halt African epidemics
A cheap new meningitis vaccine designed to treat a type of the disease common in Africa could significantly reduce or even halt future epidemics in Africa's so-called 'meningitis belt', scientists said. International researchers said the vaccine, called MenAfriVac and made by the Indian generic drugmaker Serum Institute, was far more effective than older so-called meningococcal polysaccaride vaccines, including Mencevax from GlaxoSmithKline, in trials in three African countries. In two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which MenAfriVac's potency and effectiveness was compared with a standard vaccine often used during meningitis outbreaks in the region, scientists said the new shot was 'dramatically better'.
Africa: Weather data may predict cholera outbreaks
Public health officials may be able to forecast cholera outbreaks months in advance by looking at temperature and rainfall data, according to a study. Researchers looked at cholera outbreaks in Zanzibar, Tanzania, and found that they correlated with increases in temperature and rainfall. They calculated thata one degree Celsius increase - from 23 to 24 degrees Celsius - was followed by a doubling of cholera cases four months later.
Congo: Outbreak of dengue-like viral disease
Almost 1,000 suspected cases of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne viral disease that causes fever and severe joint pain, have been recorded in the Republic of Congo's capital over the past two weeks. The disease's symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash, and are similar to those of dengue fever. There is no known cure; treatment consists of relieving the symptoms.
Kenya: Rural MSM too afraid to access HIV health services
Discriminatory laws and a largely homophobic society mean that men who have sex with men (MSM) in Kenya generally find it difficult to access HIV-related information and health services, but rural MSM have an especially hard time. When Kibet Kipsowen*, 30, a cattle keeper in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province, and his partner have sex, they use the oil-based jelly he applies when milking his cows; he’s never heard of a water-based lubricant, let alone used one. Health practitioners discourage the use of oil-based lubricants for anal sex, as the oil degrades condoms, increasing the likelihood that they will break. Studies have found that most African MSM use oil-based lubricants, heightening their risk of contracting HIV.
Malawi: Local myths stall paediatric HIV treatment
Local understanding of children’s immune systems may be delaying access to paediatric HIV treatment, according to a study at a rural clinic in northern Malawi, where just 15 per cent of children in need of antiretrovirals (ARVs) are receiving the drugs. Research presented at the 1st International HIV Social Science and Humanities Conference in Durban, South Africa, showed that caregivers were reluctant to start sick, HIV-positive children on ARVs because they believed the children’s bodies were too weak for pills and their blood was 'still raw', but that as it 'ripened' with time, HIV-related opportunistic infections would leave them.
South Africa: Health system revolution
Every electoral district is set to have a primary health care nurse-driven team established in future with specialist doctor teams assigned to districts where maternal and child mortality is high, the health department has revealed. The recruitment of retired nurses to promote health schools will kick off in the next week. Health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi returned from a study tour to Brazil last year and announced that he was determined to revitalise the country’s primary health care system, copying some of the successes from the Latin American country.
Uganda: The value of immunisation programmes
Across the continent, there is new attention to the practical requirements of effective immunisation campaigns. Dr Seraphine Adibaku, head of Uganda's malaria control programme, says his country has already started raising popular awareness of the coming availability of a malaria vaccine, with the most recent meeting of officials from the ministry of health and developers of the vaccine and other stake holders held in May. 'We are conscious not to cause excitement because it can lead to undesirable consequences but we have to tell the people that a vaccine could be here sooner than later,' says Adibaku.
West Africa: Meningitis cases dramatically down
The roll-out of a revolutionary meningitis vaccination in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger has dramatically cut transmission rates, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and if each country can find sufficient funds to co-finance the campaign, it will be extended to all 25 countries in the Africa meningitis belt by 2016, says the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI). In the 2010-2011 meningitis season, Burkina Faso has confirmed just four cases of meningitis A; Niger has reported four cases; and Mali none, according to WHO.
Cameroon: Campaign to free Cameroon man jailed for homosexuality
Human rights campaigners have demanded the immediate release of a Cameroonian man jailed for three years for homosexuality. Jean-Claude Roger Mbede appears to have been a victim of entrapment by the security forces, which regularly target and prosecute gay men. Mbede sent an acquaintance a text message and arranged to meet him on 2 March, according to human rights watchdogs. Before the meeting, the acquaintance showed police text messages from Mbede.
Global: 'Gay Girl in Damascus' needs to man up, says APC
The recent revelation that the Syrian blogger activist 'Gay Girl in Damascus' was actually 'Straight American Man in Scotland' Tom MacMaster sent ripples through international media circles and left deep scars in the LGBTI community. But why is this hoax so potentially harmful? asks the Association for Progressive Communications. 'It comes down to identity and rights. This case touches on some of the core issues surrounding identity and human rights - especially online...MacMasters, in claiming that his fictitious lesbian persona had been arrested by Syrian authorities, lends credence to the claim of many repressive regimes that LGBTI movements within their countries are somehow alien or under foreign influence.'
Global: UN rights forum proclaims equal gay rights
The top UN human rights body declared on Friday (17 June) there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation, a vote Western countries called historic but Islamic states firmly rejected. The controversial resolution marked the first time that the Human Rights Council recognised the equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, diplomats said.
South Africa: 'When they find out you’re a lesbian they refuse to help'
With homophobia on the rise, large numbers of South African lesbians are being subjected to discrimination and violent assaults. There has also been an increase in 'corrective rape' by men trying to 'cure' them of their sexual orientation. More than 30 lesbians have been killed since 2006. But most of these crimes go unrecognised by the state and unpunished by the legal system.
South Africa: Gay woman stabbed in Crossroads
A gay woman was stabbed four times by men who accused her of stealing their girlfriends in Crossroads in the Western Cape, the Times reported. Noxolo Nkosana (23) was getting out of a car, returning home after work when two men, both Crossroads residents, approached her.
South Africa: Government must act against xenophobic violence
African Centre for Migration and Society Statement
'A nation‐wide escalation of threats and violence against foreign traders in townships and informal settlements is spreading across South Africa. The African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) calls for the South African government, in collaboration with civil society actors, to implement an urgent, public and sustained response to this xenophobic intimidation.'
Africa: World Bank blamed for fuelling climate chaos
Reflecting profound concerns of developing countries, a new report has strongly criticised the World Bank group for promoting false solutions to climate change, such as carbon trading, megadams, agrofuels and industrial monoculture tree plantations. The report - 'Catalysing Catastrophic Climate Change' - also gives vent to anxieties of social movements, environmental and social justice organisations, and affected communities. It was tabled at a side event by Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) during the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn that concluded on 17 June 2011.
Botswana: Drought takes Okavango to brink of catastrophe
The Okavango delta in Botswana has suffered 'catastrophic' species loss over the past 15 years, researchers have announced, in the latest sign of a growing crisis for wildlife in Africa. Some wild animal populations in the delta, one of the wonders of the natural world, have shrunk by up to 90 per cent and are facing local extinction, according to the most comprehensive aerial survey yet undertaken there.
Global: Climate regime on the brink
At the climate talks in Bonn in the past fortnight, the deadlock over the Kyoto Protocol continued, with a real prospect that the global climate regime will unravel, writes Martin Khor in this article. '...both the climate situation and the prospects for the global climate regime have become more grim...Most significantly, the Bonn meetings saw the continuation of the deadlock on the future of the Kyoto Protocol (KP), the legally binding regime that commits developed countries to cut their emissions by certain percentages.'
Global: Making ecocide a crime
The www.thisisecocide.com website is a campaign to make ecocide - the destruction, damage or loss of ecosystems - a crime. 'You can help us close the door to the ecocide and open a new one to a clean green world. The more of us that stand up and call for ecocide to be made a crime the sooner our world will change for the better.' This involves demanding that ecocide be made a criminal offence, that
ecocide be made the 5th UN Crime Against Peace and that ecocide be eradicated.
Global: Rich countries leave poor to pick up the tab at Bonn climate talks
Climate campaigners have raised the alarm at the direction of the UN climate negotiations as the latest round of talks came to an end in Germany last week. Speaking after the talks closed on Friday, Dr. Sivan Kartha of the Stockholm Environment Institute outlined the current 'gap' between emission reduction pledges and possible 'safe limits' of emissions of global-warming causing gases. 'In the race to stop climate change which will destroy homes, crops, and entire lives across the world, it is developing countries that are first out of the blocks. It is developing countries that have made pledges that add up with the science. Developed countries seem to be skulking away, trying to avoid picking up the tab for the pollution they've caused,' Chair of the panel, Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate at UK Friends of the Earth said.
Nigeria: Senate passes biosafety bill
Nigeria's national biosafety bill has been passed by the country's upper house. But those opposing it say that this month's enactment of the bill - two days before the end of Nigeria's sixth national assembly - results from a hidden foreign agenda to legalise GM organisms. Mariann Bassey, food and agrofuels programme manager for the Nigerian advocacy group Environmental Rights Action, called for a transparent process that includes the views of all stakeholders, 'not one that is shoved down our throats by biotech agents'.
South Africa: The failure of Bonn climate talks
Earthlife Africa Jhb, groundWork Statement
'The chances of a climate change deal in COP17 that will actually seal a deal that will do something about the problem of rising global greenhouse gas emission are becoming increasingly remote by the day. Why? It seems that vested high-carbon emission interests are capturing the process. In effect, those who financially benefit from high carbon emissions, such as energy companies, are involved in the actual negotiations to reduce emissions. This is only too evident in the South African negotiating team, where both petrochemicals giant Sasol and national electricity utility Eskom are official representatives.'
Sierra Leone: Study reveals alarming facts about plantation of Addax Bioenergy
The Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food (SiLNoRF) has published a report on the sugarcane-to-ethanol project of the Geneva based firm Addax Bioenergy. The researchers found that 'many farmers in project affected communities have already lost their access to fertile lands, though Addax has provided community members with alternative farm lands and confined them to smaller lands, promises by Addax to plough and harrow the lands materialized too late in 2010.' Furthermore, the researchers observed that 'water has become an ever increasing problem for the communities as lands leased by Addax are currently being prepared and even at this initial stage some water bodies such as the "Kirbent" and "Domkoni" streams near the Maronko village in the Makari Gbanti Chiefdom have ceased to exist.'
Uganda: Thirty arrested in forest encroachment battle
Over 30 people have so far been arrested in an operation to crack down on illegal encroachment and settlement in the national forest reserves in Kibaale district that started on Monday, 13 June. The operation which started last week in Kangombe Central Forest Reserve was mounted by National Forestry Authority (NFA) with the help of police. However, Deo Ndabiyareza, one of the encroachers, claimed that some encroachers bought land in the reserves. 'They very well know it that some of us came into the forest and the old settlers sold land to us. We cannot accept to leave this land because we have already planted crops,' he said.
Africa: Industrial agriculture and GMOs are false solutions to the food crisis
African farmers’ organisations, members of the International Movement of Peasants, La Via Campesina, and allied organisations denounce every attempt to adopt genetically modified organisms, GMOs, as being a false solution to the food crisis in Africa. According to the farmers, all of the myths promoting GMOs as a 'miracle' to increase productivity are false, as they threaten the genetic integrity of the local varieties that are the basis of African food security. Only organic food production, based on local knowledge and skills, can feed the continent, as diversified, agroecological farming systems actually produce more total food per hectare than does industrial monoculture.
Global: G20 ministers of agriculture must focus on smallholder farmers
The first-ever official meeting of Ministers of Agriculture from G20 countries, to be held in Paris 22-23 June presents an extraordinary opportunity, says this IPS article. 'Tasked with developing an action plan to address price volatility in food and agricultural markets and its impact on the poor, the ministers are uniquely positioned to not only tackle the immediate price volatility problems, but also to take on a more fundamental and long-term challenge - extreme poverty and hunger. As experts in agriculture, the ministers no doubt know what extensive research confirms: Investing in agriculture and rural development, with a focus on smallholder farmers, is the best bet for achieving global food security, alleviating poverty, and improving human wellbeing in developing countries.'
Africa: Amandla, Canada’s longest running African current affairs radio show
Amandla has been on the air for 23 years, making it Canada’s longest running African current affairs radio show. It works every week to shift the public’s attention away from the mainstream media’s narrow portrayal of Africans as passive victims of war, famine, drought, dictatorship and corruption. Amandla seeks to explain the root causes of these afflictions, but also to move beyond this focus to encompass the creativity, ingenuity, innovation, ideas and struggles for change that Africa also embodies. Amandla, Wednesday, 7pm to 8pm EST, on www.ckut.ca
Rwanda: Cabinet adopts information access bill
ARTICLE 19 has urged the Rwandan Parliament to pass the Access to Information Bill that was adopted by the Rwandan Cabinet on 1 June 2011 as a matter of priority. 'The Rwandan Government’s adoption of the Access to Information Bill is a clear acknowledgement of the key role free flow of information can play in good governance and transparency and in the sustainable development of the country. The Rwandan Parliament must now expedite the enactment process so that the people of Rwanda can start enjoying the benefits of this law,' said Henry Maina, Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.
Sierra Leone: Newspaper journalist stabbed to death
Ibrahim Foday, a reporter of The Exclusive, a Freetown-based independent newspaper, was on 12 June 2011, stabbed to death by unknown assailants in Grafton, a town in the outskirts of Freetown, where Foday lives. The Sierra Leonean authorities have not identified any suspects or disclosed possible motives for the murder, according to a release by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist (SLAJ), on 13 June 2011. The SLAJ statement linked Foday’s death to an ongoing land dispute between Grafton and another town, Kossoh. Prior to his death the reporter had published a series of articles, on the dispute that the Kossoh people were not pleased with.
Somalia: Four journalists detained in Mogadishu
The Somali Journalists Association Network said on 14 June they had learnt that the National Security Agency for the Somali government had detained two radio journalists in the capital city of Mogadishu. Both were working for the privately owned independent Radio Kulmiye Based in the capital Mogadishu.
South Africa: Cartoonist back in ANC's sights
South Africa's best-known cartoonist, Zapiro, could again be facing legal action by the African National Congress (ANC) following the publication of a new cartoon of President Jacob Zuma. In Zapiro's latest cartoon in the Mail & Guardian newspaper, published on June 10, Zuma is portrayed with his belt unbuckled, while ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe holds a woman depicting press freedom. 'Lady Justice' is also drawn, and shouts: 'Fight, sister, fight!!' The cartoon is a comment on the ruling party's Protection of Information Bill and the proposed media appeals tribunal.
South Africa: Watchdog calls for calm in SABC vs M&G spat
The latest in the South African Broadcasting Corporation's fight against the BCCSA ruling on unfair reporting in favour of the Mail & Guardian has seen Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) warning that the issue could pose a serious threat to media freedom in South Africa. MMA has added its voice to the call for action against the broadcaster in the face of a damning Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) ruling on unfair reporting. Earlier this year, the BCCSA ruled the SABC had contravened the Broadcast Code of Conduct by making unsubstantiated claims of alleged corruption against the M&G, as well as ordering the state broadcaster to issue an apology.
Global: Preventing hazardous child labour in agriculture
Worldwide 215 million children are engaged in child labour, and of these 115 million are involved in what is considered to be hazardous work, says this report from the Food and Agricultural Organisation. Agriculture is the sector where the largest share of child labourers is found - a staggering 60 per cent of boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 17.
Global: Free the Cuban Five
The Cuban Five, five men serving four life sentences and 75 years collectively in a US prison, are the subject of an international campaign for their release because of the belief that that have been falsely convicted of committing espionage against the US. In this moving song, musician Anthony 'Mighty Gabby' Carter calls for their release.
East Africa: Eight million in Horn of Africa need food aid, says UN
The UN food agency has warned of worsening food shortages due to drought in the Horn of Africa region, saying eight million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia need aid now. 'The current crisis is not an unusual or chance event, but rather a chronic feature of the region,' Rod Charters, regional emergency coordinator for the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said in a statement. 'The region has now experienced two consecutive seasons of significantly below-average rainfall, resulting in failed crop production, depletion of grazing resources and significant livestock mortality,' FAO said.
Kenya: Severe drought, high food prices hit pastoralists
Successive poor rains coupled with rising food and fuel prices are leading to a worsening food security situation with alarming levels of acute malnutrition being recorded in drought affected parts of Kenya, mainly in the north of the country, say experts. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2011 is the driest period in the eastern Horn of Africa since 1995 'with no likelihood of improvement until early 2012'.
Libya: NATO admits civilian deaths in Libya raid
NATO has acknowledged responsibility for an air strike that killed a number of civilians in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. A statement from the alliance said that a military missile site was the intended target of a raid on Sunday morning but one of the weapons did not strike it and may have caused civilian casualties. At a local hospital, reporters were shown three bodies, including a child, which government officials said were people killed in the air strike. 'Basically, this is another night of murder, terror and horror in Tripoli caused by NATO,' Moussa Ibrahim, a government spokesman, said at the hospital. Five families were living in the building which was hit, he said.
Libya: SA sniper rifles used in Libya
Damning video evidence has emerged, proving for the first time that sniper rifles made in South Africa are being used in Libya’s bloody civil war by forces loyal to embattled dictator Muammar Gaddafi, reports City Press newspaper. The revelations come amid continued refusals by South Africa to divulge the details of conventional arms sales to Libya’s repressive government – which totalled nearly R69 million last year.
Sudan: Civilians bear brunt of Southern Kordofan clashes
Aerial bombardments, killings of civilians and house-to-house searches are escalating in the Northern Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan, aid workers and residents report. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that some 53,000 people have been displaced by fighting that broke out on 5 June near Kadugli, the state capital, between the Northern army, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and former members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
Sudan: North Sudan amassing heavy arms
Fresh satellite images show the army amassing heavy weaponry in the capital of Sudan’s embattled northern oil state, suggesting that a major offensive could occur soon, monitors have said. The US monitoring group, which was set up by Hollywood star and rights activist George Clooney last year, said the satellites images that were taken on 17 June were the first to show thousands of people seeking shelter around the main UN compound near Kadugli. Heavy fighting has raged across South Kordofan since 5 June between the SAF and northern troops aligned to the army of the south that Khartoum has vowed to crush using all available means.
Kenya: Lower mobile phone calling rates put on ice
Mobile phone users should not expect any further call price cuts for now. This is after Safaricom and Telkom Kenya got backing from the country’s top offices - that of the President and of the Prime Minister to suspend implementation of new termination rates. Safaricom and Telkom Kenya had warned that a further cut would have a negative effect on the sector’s profitability, risk of job losses, curtail new capital investments, reduce government revenue and competitiveness.
Libya: Nato uses Twitter to help gather targets
Nato is using information gleaned from Twitter to help analysts judge which sites could be targeted by commanders for bombing and missile strikes in Libya. Potentially relevant tweets are fed into an intelligence pool then filtered for relevance and authenticity, and are never passed on without proper corroboration. However, without 'boots on the ground' to guide commanders, officials admit that Twitter is now part of the overall 'intelligence picture'.
Justice in Nigeria Now newsletter
The latest issue of Justice in Nigeria Now (JINN) newsletter contains the following posts:
- Truth in Advertising: JINN's subvertisements tweak Chevron's ads
- Listen to Nigerian women's leader Emem Okon
- Watch what Emem Okon had to say after speaking to Chevron
- Check out Ms Magazine blog featuring Emem Okon and Laura Livoti
- Take Action: Send a message to Chevron re: their human rights and environmental abuses.
Visit their website to sign up for the newsletter.
The Congressional Monitor Database
Institute for Palestine Studies
The Institute for Palestine Studies’ Congressional Monitor project, launched in 2006, tracks every legislative initiative introduced in the US Congress that mentions Palestine or Israel or has bearing on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Congressional Monitor Database contains all relevant legislation from the 107th through the 110th Congress (2001-2008) and will be updated on an ongoing basis to include legislation from before 2001 and after 2008. It includes key information such as legislation number, sponsor, party and state represented, number of cosponsors, brief summary, related measures (if any), and final status of the measure.
Why the media matters in a warming world
A guide for policymakers in the global South
The Climate Change Media Partnership has published a briefing paper that recommends ways for policymakers to support a better class of climate change journalism that is relevant to local audiences, builds public awareness of the issues and contributes to improved policymaking. You can download the four-page briefing paper from the CCMP website.
Call for Papers: Journal of Higher Education in Africa
The aim of this issue is to discuss the multi-dimensional interactions between African universities and 'their' territory. More than anywhere else, African universities are facing the hardly reconcilable missions and objectives of meeting growing socio-educational demands, maintaining academic standards to preserve their reputation, contributing to local development while keeping their autonomy and negotiating political pressures. These are challenges which young African universities are confronted with in a context of declining public funding. This issue proposes to analyze those interactions and their mutual effects.
Call for Papers
Journal of Higher Education in Africa: Thematic Issue No. 1, 2012
The University and its Territory* in Africa
The aim of this issue is to discuss the multi-dimensional interactions between African universities and 'their' territory. More than anywhere else, African universities are facing the hardly reconcilable missions and objectives of meeting growing socio-educational demands, maintaining academic standards to preserve their reputation, contributing to local development while keeping their autonomy and negotiating political pressures. These are challenges which young African universities are confronted with in a context of declining public funding. This issue proposes to analyze those interactions and their mutual effects.
Theme and subthemes
Universities have always been considered as key drivers of the economic development of 'their' immediate environment and perceived as visibility factor by local authorities and economic powers because of their capacity to link the global and the local communities. Equally, universities have come to realize that their own reputation and visibility is increasingly tied to their context, and have in recent years emphasized their 'engagement' initiatives with the communities and authorities that constitute their local territory.
Beside the general interest it conveys worldwide, this theme is to reveal new meanings in the African context, given that modern cities and universities have expanded simultaneously and significantly during the post colonial period. Small and medium size towns and modern universities that existed before independence hardly interacted in any formal sense with local communities because they were extraverted and were, more often than not, at the service of colonization. After independence, universities in Africa adopted contrasting approaches toward regional and community engagement from one country to another. Overall, a strengthening of the new relationship between universities and their environment entailed supplementing their traditional academic missions (teaching and research) with a developmental agenda in areas of administrative and technical skill provision, and of applied research among others. As a result, universities are today faced with the reality of being embedded within their region or city and interact with a range of local stakeholders with diverse demands.
Combining economic, cultural, and political dimensions, interactions between the university and their territory will be analysed as areas of mutual perceptions, of conflicts and opportunities towards a better understanding of African Universities’ spatial identity.
The following themes are suggested as potential areas of interests to pitch paper proposals, but contributions on germane issues are also welcome.
The economic, urban and spatial management dimensions
How are university sites chosen? What policies and strategies interfere in the edification of university campuses? In many African countries, despite current economic and financial pressures, policy makers are subject to intense pressure resulting from the rising social demand for higher education or from political bargaining. This pressure, compounded by the weakness or even the absence of economic development programs, has often turned the establishment of universities into core elements of regional and urban management.
To what extent does access to higher education policies determine the configuration of urban spaces? The high increase in student enrolment, combined with the specific student culture, customarily known to be demanding, are likely to be of impact on the type of infrastructures and facilities available as a result of management strategies or in response to market opportunities.
What evidence do we have of the local impact of universities’ knowledge transfer activities (provision of skills and applied knowledge to local administration and businesses)?
To what extent does the funding of universities encourage the development of local strategies? How is their economic impact assessed and what are the perceptions associated with them among local stakeholders? To what extent do universities, as major local employers, impact on the local labour market, on local salaries and rights of other sectors’ employees?
Papers discussing the meaning of the concept of territoriality for virtual universities or universities combining contact modes with distance learning are particularly welcome. The journal is also interested in complex identities and forms of multiple territorial embeddedness as in the case of universities based in provincial towns and opening study centres in the larger cities.
The socio-political dimension
What forms of cohabitation exist between academic, cultural and economic spaces? How do universities engage with local authorities and communities? Can universities be considered as proactive local stakeholders? What institutional strategies can be said to be directly or indirectly responding to local specific needs or demands (in public health, innovation, etc)? Do universities have a clear strategy of 'community service' through extra-mural adult classes, student placements, health consultancy and campaigns? Does the presence of academics and students influence the local political make up in any specific way? Part of the university’s attractiveness, which helps recruit the best students, the more reputed academics and also bring about international collaborations (indispensable for visibility outside the national confines) depends on the attractiveness of nearby cities (conditions of accommodation, accessibility, entertainment, culture, security, etc). To what extent does the presence of a university influence those characteristics of its immediate environment?
The responsiveness-autonomy dilemma
Questions related to the level of embeddedness of the university in its place may also be approached through the prism of academic autonomy. Is the development agenda often governing the establishment of new institutions threatening their autonomy? In practice, it has been proved that in Africa, the autonomy of universities is often mitigated by their dependence in many respects, especially financially, vis a vis the state. One can, therefore, expect the relationship between the university and the city to be heavily mediated by the state factor. While academic freedom and the franchises universitaires are still routinely threatened by state interventions in certain African countries, 'autonomy' has lately tended to effectively mean the shedding off of state responsibility in funding the institutions and the consequent arrival of private firms, transforming campuses to business quarters, with shops, banks, private providers competing with lecture rooms for space. Elsewhere, private universities have started to build new terms of territorial loyalty and processes of international accreditation have submitted public institutions to extra-territorial opportunities and allegiance. How all these processes are effectively framing the academic/community engagement will be of interest to this thematic issue.
The cultural dimension
Do universities contribute to the conception of an urban and territorial identity that they would identify as 'their' place? Do they play the sort of identity building role which religious, political or ethnic institutions claim to be playing? Do they have a local research agenda contributing to a better understanding of their cultural environment? What attitudes have local institutions and their staff offered in contexts of urban violence or ethnic and religious strife?
Rather than adopting a normative position or assuming a positive role for universities in African societies, this thematic issue will aim to draw on empirical evidence and concrete case studies to highlight the diversity of models and forms of interactions between universities and their claimed or assigned local territory. Paper proposals in English or French are welcome from all areas of the social sciences, provided that they are empirically and theoretically informed.
Hocine Khelfaoui & Yann Lebeau
• June 20th, 2011: Submission of a 350 word abstract (including title and a maximum of 5 references) in French or English.
• October 1st, 2011: Submission of articles (up to 8,000 words including references).
• October–November 2011: Peer review and revision of articles.
• December 2011: Submission of final articles.
All submissions should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Space, place and territory are polysemic terms in social science, often used interchangeably. For the purpose of this call we are deliberately using them in their loosest sense, but we will expect contributions to clearly define the geographical entities referred to as well as the universities’ forms of spatial loyalty described and discussed. Depending on local configurations, the spatial delimitation of a town may be accepted as a reference for the local actions and forms of identification of universities while in other contexts several institutions may have to share an urban environment, prompting complex territorial strategies. Elsewhere, the spatial loyalty of a university will contractually impact on a much larger regional, provincial or state territory (or even beyond in case of distance learning institutions).
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