Pambazuka News 537: Land grabs, kleptocratic capitalism and citizen protests
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Announcements, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Pan-African Postcard, 6. Obituaries, 7. Books & arts, 8. Letters & Opinions, 9. Highlights French edition, 10. Cartoons, 11. Zimbabwe update, 12. African Union Monitor, 13. Women & gender, 14. Human rights, 15. Refugees & forced migration, 16. Africa labour news, 17. Emerging powers news, 18. Elections & governance, 19. Corruption, 20. Development, 21. Health & HIV/AIDS, 22. Education, 23. LGBTI, 24. Racism & xenophobia, 25. Environment, 26. Land & land rights, 27. Food Justice, 28. Media & freedom of expression, 29. Social welfare, 30. News from the diaspora, 31. Conflict & emergencies, 32. Internet & technology, 33. Fundraising & useful resources, 34. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 35. Jobs
Highlights from this issue
ANNOUNCEMENTS: US and UK author tour for acclaimed book 'No Land! No House! No Vote! Voices from Symphony Way'
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Biti’s office besieged; Harare Residents Trust meeting terrorised
AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: Civil society rates governance in South Africa
WOMEN AND GENDER: Twenty-five emerging women leaders announced
HUMAN RIGHTS: Children still in DRC prisons despite new law
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Reaching out to refugees persecuted by sexual orientation
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: The latest edition of the Emerging Powers News Roundup
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Egypt, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa
CORRUPTION: Debate over Chiluba’s funeral allocation
DEVELOPMENT: Africa’s extractive industry sector faces challenges
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Ethics left behind in race for drug trials in the South
LGBTI: New Nigerian information law may benefit LGBT activists
ENVIRONMENT: World emissions rise; carbon markets fail
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Land grabbing and the new politics of food
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Jailed Ethiopian journalists accused of terror plot
SOCIAL WELFARE: Forty-four per cent of Mozambique children affected by malnutrition
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from Chad, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan
PLUS: Internet and Technology, Fundraising and useful resources, and Jobs…
Land 'investment' deals in Africa: Say ‘no way!’
Anuradha Mittal, Jeff Furman, Frederic Mousseau
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Congratulations on the release of your recent special investigation: Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa. It is a phenomenal achievement shedding light on how large-scale investments in land in Africa are resulting in food insecurity, loss of food sovereignty, the displacement of small farmers, conflict, environmental devastation, water loss, and the further impoverishment and political instability of African nations. Can you tell us what prompted you to look into the issue and how you went about the research in such a comprehensive way?
ANURADHA MITTAL: Land investments – the purchase or lease of vast tracts of land from mostly poor, developing countries by wealthier food-insecure nations and private investors for the production and export of food and agrofuel crops – have become a very fast-paced international phenomenon. This trend which has come to be popularly known as ‘land grabbing’ has been painted as a development opportunity for developing countries.
By referring to surging influx of capital into primarily African land markets as ‘foreign direct investment’, players in the international policy arena including Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) have affirmed that responsible land investment is possible and imply that African nations are beneficiaries in these deals. Their hope is that land investments will presumably create what has been hailed a ‘win-win situation’ in which food-insecure nations increase their access to food resources and investors profit from exports, while ‘host’ nations benefit from improved agricultural infrastructure and increased employment opportunities.
Yet, very little is currently understood of the legal, social, and economic implications of the land deals. The Oakland Institute’s own analysis identified three major areas in need of further investigation. These include the need for (i) better data on and better understanding of the concept of ‘land availability’ (ii) better understanding of the land deals, i.e. their nature and their implications for the countries and the food insecure populations and (iii) addressing the issue of land rights.
FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: The Oakland Institute commenced this work to address this knowledge gap to answer an important question that seems to have been removed from the debate: Where does the urgent and critical task of improving food security for the world’s most vulnerable fall within the accelerating trend of commercial investment in farmland?
With this aim, we started research in seven African countries including Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Mozambique, Zambia, and south Sudan. We basically had our researchers on the ground, spending months in those countries, meeting and interacting with multi-stakeholders from international financial institutions to development agencies to government officials to investment agencies as well as individual investors. And, more important, we met and interviewed the communities who are impacted, to hear and learn what they knew of the project, what their expectations were, what their experience was, recognising that we wouldn’t know of the full experience because in many cases projects haven’t even started.
JEFF FURMAN: At the same time we have been interacting with investors because we believe investment in agriculture is very important. However, to assume that investment in agriculture in itself would lead to food security, or create jobs… would be a mistake. So our effort aimed at identifying good practices that result in returns not just for the investors but have real returns for communities and national economies that could be upheld and showcased as opportunities to be supported. And in the process we learnt of such schemes that it was obvious that the information needs to be in the public realm.
In the course of our work we also realised the extent of the lack of transparency. The information that we found in the course of our research – contracts, business plans, land leases, memorandums of understanding – are often impossible to access. In many instances, local communities who are being told to move off their lands, have not even seen these land leases! And thus we have made this information available to help inform the debate and allow people to make informed decisions about the future of their land. We know that once families are displaced, once the canals are built, once the small farmers lose their livelihoods, and once the environmental damage is done there is no going back. This would not and could not be repaired.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: The findings of your report parallel the historical experiences of many colonised and displaced peoples expropriated and disenfranchised in the name of 'progress'. A major argument put forward today by governments, investors, and international institutions is that agricultural investment will spur much-needed economic development, and create jobs and infrastructure in poor countries. Your reports reveal that these largely unregulated land acquisitions are resulting in virtually none of the promised benefits for local populations, but instead are forcing millions of small farmers off ancestral lands and food-producing farms in order to make room for export commodities. What distinguishes this current wave of occupation from the acquisitions of the past, in terms of the actors involved and the actions required to stop them?
FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: It is the pace at which this trend has grown since 2008 when agricultural food prices started sky-rocketing. According to the World Bank, in 2009 alone nearly 60 million ha – an area the size of France – was purchased or leased in comparison to an average annual expansion of global agricultural land of less than 4 million ha before 2008. The International Land Coalition estimates the figure to be 80 million hectares.
ANURADHA MITTAL: Secondly, the role of foreign investors who are driving this ‘land rush’ is pretty unique.
It is not just food insecure rich nations such as the Gulf states or the Chinese. Our research exposes the role of private hedge funds and equity funds who have nothing to do with agriculture and who are rushing in creating agricultural operations and taking over large swathes of land. The list is long: Emergent Asset Management, Chayton Africa, Quifel Holdings, Pharos Fund, Altima, Duxton, Macquarie, and many others. While they have not attracted much attention, the role of speculators in food prices is big and their control over land and water resources in Africa is huge.
JEFF FURMAN: In addition, this take over of African resources is being promoted as a development paradigm by the multilateral institutions across Africa. Whether it is Ethiopia or Sierra Leone or Zambia, the same one-stop shops have been created at the advice of the World Bank group who’s focus is to promote ‘investor friendly’ climate by ensuring foreign investors access to land.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Much of the Western mainstream press has focused on the acquisition of land in Africa by Chinese, Indian and Saudi Arabian interests, while your report also uncovers the large-scale involvement of US and European investors including: The London-based Emergent Asset Management; the Swiss-based Addax Bioenergy; Quifel International Holdings based in Portugal; the US-based AgriSol Energy; Pharos Financial Group, a Russian hedge fund, and some prestigious American universities, including Harvard, Spellman and Vanderbilt. In your experience, are there significant differences between 'Western' and 'Eastern' investment models, or are the stakes for African peoples essentially the same no matter who's behind them?
ANURADHA MITTAL: The question, according to us is not on who should occupy Africa. The real question at the heart of the matter is for whom are Africa’s resources and who do they benefit? Africa’s resources – land, water, minerals… are for the people of Africa. Despite its rich resources, African nations are reeling from widespread hunger and poverty. In that context, to talk about who should have strategic investor status, or export guarantees, is the wrong question to ask.
The Chinese are actively promoting their interest in Africa. However, private hedge funds and equity funds are equally scary as they eye Africa for quick returns. They search for arbitrage opportunities – money they can make off the prices of land for instance, is a real threat. According to Susan Payne of Emergent Asset Management ‘in South Africa the cost of agri-land, arable good agri land that we are buying is one-seventh of the price of similar land in Argentina, Brazil and America. That alone is an arbitrage opportunity. We could be moronic and not grow anything over the next decade and we would still be making money,’ reflects true intentions of vultures sweeping into Africa, taking over land and other resources to profiteer from it.
At the same time these hedge and private equity funds have managed to strike investment protection and promotion agreements with governments which assure them tax holidays, special status as foreign investors such as reduction of profit taxes; right to repatriate earnings; water rights. They demand the most fertile lands, lands close to transportation and other infrastructure. These are the most fertile lands that Africa has to offer so these speculators can profit while poverty, impoverishment and hunger increases in Africa. So it’s not about choosing Western over the Eastern investors. This is about food sovereignty for Africa. It is really about how (the use of) water and land and the resources of Africa for Africans should be determined through democratic processes.
Land investments are also being stimulated by the United States and the European Union which have set targets to replace 30 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, of their gasoline with agrofuels. Many European companies are thus involved in this new flourishing business, often with support provided by their governments and embassies in African countries. For instance, Swedish and German firms have strong interests in the production of biofuels in Tanzania. Major investors in Sierra Leone include Addax Bioenergy from Switzerland and Quifel International Holdings (QIH) from Portugal. Sierra Leone Agriculture (SLA) is actually a subsidiary of the UK based Crad-l (CAPARO Renewable Agriculture Developments Ltd), associated with the Tony Blair African Governance Initiative.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: The publicity around your report emphasises investors 'get[ting] what they want in exchange for giving a poor, tribal chief a bottle of Johnny Walker'. Did your research also note rising local resistance to the external acquisition of land? What strategies are those communities using to protect their homes and livelihoods?
ANURADHA MITTAL: Yes often we were told that in countries like Zambia, a gesture of gifts such as a whisky bottle for the tribal chief, along with some ‘promises’ of ‘ending poverty’ would get you approval for your land lease from the chief. And while there is a dearth of extension services and credit schemes for smallholder farmers, we were also told that once the tribal chiefs sign over the land to you then the credit schemes, banks and everyone moves in. The same institutions who believe that small farmers are un-bankable. So the whole system is set up to be against the small farmers, whereas suddenly if you come in with your plans and schemes of large industrial agriculture, especially if you are a foreign investor, everyone lines up to support you.
FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: In terms of resistance, as the reports indicate, communities are upset and organising. In places like Ethiopia where you have such high extent of political repression, we were struck by the bravery of people who came forward to still speak to our researchers and share their stories. It takes a lot of courage for them to have been able to do that and for security reasons we could not name them in the reports.
JEFF FURMAN: In Matuba, Mozambique where EmVest has taken over a thousand hectares of land, local villagers told our research team, ‘The white man came with the local officials and there was much pressure to give up the land.’ They couldn’t fight back while the white man promised, ‘we are here to end your poverty.’ While they wait for the promise of ‘ending poverty’ to come true, there is pressure on them to give another thousand hectares. The villagers and the chief that we met were very clear in the message: All we want is our land where we grow our food, shelter our family, and there is food for our cattle. We don’t want to be plantation workers because we can have better life on our one or two hectares than if we are plantation workers.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: The reports state that major African rivers, including the Nile, the Niger and the Zambezi, are tapped by these land grabs. Hence, the land grabs are actually often 'water grabs' intended to stabilise not only food supplies but also water access in other countries. What can be done to protect watersheds and ecosystems that often cross national boundaries and jurisdictions from this assault?
ANURADHA MITTAL: We tend to talk about investments in land as just land grabs but what our research shows is that it is really about resource grabs and especially water grabs. For instance, the CEO of a fund operating out of South Africa boasted at an agricultural investment conference in Geneva, ‘Internally we call our land fund/water fund.’ This fund is active in Zambia that has 54 per cent of the SADC region’s water. Or Emergent’s EmVest project in Mozambique; they can use as much water as they want. They don’t have to pay for the amount of water used. The payments are minimal based on the acreage that they have. In Mali, Malibya has the assurance of the government to have access to all the water they need, while only 5 per cent of the country’s land is arable.
JEFF FURMAN: Agreements are being negotiated where the host countries are being obliged to provide water to foreign investors. And that is when you have to question, in terms of economic development, what do these countries and regions get back? And when you do the cost benefit analysis for the resources that have been offered to the foreign investors, it’s a win-win for the investor, not for the country or the communities.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: You have posted announcements on your website for conferences for investors at which high-level officials from the FAO and UNEP are making presentations. In what ways are United Nations agencies and aid institutions facilitating or hindering the Great Land Grab?
FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: Yes, FAO officials, UNEP officials, World Bank officials are at these meetings. And it’s not about food, it’s not about communities. It’s about markets, it’s about arbitrage opportunities. It is about promise held by the ‘ag fundamentals.’
This is only the first phase of the release of our reports. Our work, which is based on documents that come from these agencies and foreign investors, demonstrates that though land deals are being promoted as a development paradigm, after you add up the benefits that are provided to investors – tax holidays, the right to repatriate their earnings, the right to hire ex-pats in countries, or the right to have all kind of holidays from paying profit taxes, (and taking into consideration) the price of land, and the water rights, basically the numbers don’t add up to provide concrete gains for people on the ground.
ANURADHA MITTAL: I was in Zambia in February where the government is launching a farm block scheme that is being touted as a scheme to end poverty and bring economic development. In a meeting with a very high official in the ministry of agriculture, I asked what the purpose of the scheme was and he said, ‘Economic upliftment and poverty alleviation.’ And I asked, ‘How do you plan to do that? Are you asking investors for a lot of money for the land?’ And he said, ‘No, you have to put in $5,000 for putting in your tender; the land is really cheap.’ So I asked him, ‘Are you asking to put in infrastructure?’ ‘Oh, no, the government is putting in the necessary infrastructure.’ ‘OK, are you asking for a specific number of jobs that need to be created by these investors so we know that livelihood expansion happens?’ And he said, ‘No you can put in some general language around employment creation. We don’t ask for hard numbers’. So I asked him, ‘Will you help me understand how you will meet this objective of poverty alleviation and economic upliftment of the country when you are not asking investors for anything.’ And he comes close to me, smiles and says, ‘You and I both know that there is no such thing as a good foreign investor.’
FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: Malybia in Mali took over 100,000 hectares of land. They say they will provide jobs for a thousand people. Research has showed that when using irrigation in this region of Mali, two hectares of land are enough to provide for a family that depends on agriculture for their livelihood. So if it is 100,000 hectares it means 50,000 families, and if you count at least four or five people in a family, you can do the math. How many people can be sustained? And we know over and over again from UNEP and other UN agencies that the way to improve food security for Africa is through smallholder agriculture. If the kind of support and investments that are being provided to foreign investors was provided to African farmers, we would have a very different Africa.
We also know that industrial agriculture is responsible for anywhere between 16 to 30 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions. And instead of dealing with climate change what we are doing is rushing to Africa to set up the same huge industrial style agriculture.
And in some cases, like in Mozambique and Zambia there is funding from UNFCC to ostensibly combat climate change because the projects are for biofuels.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What does your experience with the reaction to the launch of the report tell us about strategies needed to confront the Great Land Grab?
What actions would you recommend that farmers and peasants in Africa take in the light of your findings? And what kind of actions would you want of the readership of Pambazuka News?
ANURADHA MITTAL: Communities on the ground who are being impacted by these land grabs have been fighting back in ways they can. In some places they can be very vocal in other places they cannot. The Oakland Institute took on the task of getting this information out because we believe information is knowledge and knowledge is power. What is evident however is that this issue confronts all civil society groups working on climate change, water issues, land rights, hunger, GMOs,etc. We can no longer stay focused on one single issue without working on the larger political environment.
FREDERIC MOUSSEAU: Our partners amidst the Ethiopian diaspora, in Sierra Leone, Mali, Tanzania, and other countries are taking on the biggest challenges, taking on their local and national leaders. It is important for the international civil society to push and support those national mobilisations. National groups in these countries are demanding public hearings, moratoriums on these deals. And internationally we need to be backing and supporting those efforts.
JEFF FURMAN: And we need to determine where our pension funds and university endowments, sovereign wealth funds invest. These cannot be guided by merely high returns; it has to be about quality of life, and livelihoods of people. This has to be about not once again colonisers rushing in to Africa to colonise at the expense of the people and environment of Africa. We simply must say we cannot invest in schemes like this that are promising 25 to 40 per cent returns. Student groups, faculty organisations, pension funds should be saying, ‘no way!’
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Anuradha Mittal is executive director of the Oakland Institute. Jeff Furman is a board member of the Oakland Institute. Frederic Mousseau is policy director of the Oakland Institute.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Kleptocratic capitalism: Challenges of the green economy for sustainable Africa
This meeting seeks to address one of the most difficult issues of our times – the question of sustaining growth and development in Africa while at the same time protecting the environment and ensuring that growth benefits entire communities and not just a small minority.
There are only two points I wish to make in the limited time I am given. One is that Africa’s development or growth model is seriously flawed. It has not translated into people’s welfare over the last 40–50 years. And the second is to caution African countries and the African Union against ‘outsourcing’ policy issues, especially those relating to international negotiations – such is the case with climate change – to ‘experts’ from outside Africa.
In a recent paper the UN ECA argues that despite high growth rates in Africa there has been no improvement in employment and welfare of ordinary people. The paper gives Africa’s commodity export dependence as the primary reason for it. I agree, but the main reason, in my view, is the global system of production and exchange of which Africa is a part (AU/UNECA issues paper: ‘Governing development in Africa - the role of the state in economic transformation’, 22 March 2011).
The global system of production of wealth and its distribution is characterised by kleptocracy, primitive accumulation and dispossession. Economists call it ‘rent seeking’, and they justify this with the argument that ‘surplus’ from the rural and agricultural areas is needed in order for Africa to grow and industrialise; that this is how they did it in the West. That is historically true.
However, the early model of competitive capitalism of 19th and the 20th centuries is not applicable to Africa today because we live in a different world. It is a world of kleptocratic capitalism. Some ‘left’ intellectuals call it ‘financialised capitalism’ – finance is king; production takes a second place. But this term is limited to only its predominant economic characteristic. In essence, in political-economic terms, kleptocratic capitalism is a system of economic production and exchange, the creation of fictitious wealth without going through production of real wealth and political governance controlled by ‘looters and daytime robbers’. It is ‘rent seeking’ by the rich nations, and within each nation by the rich economic and power elite. This creates at the opposite polar end the dispossession and disempowerment of the masses of the people.
This, when everything is said and done, is at the root of the rebellions by the masses of the people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and other Arab and North African countries. This is a current that could swell into a tsunami tidal wave to other parts of Africa – if not today, then tomorrow or the day after. It is inherent within the very dynamics of kleptocratic capitalism’s contradictions.
At the global level we have Ponzi schemes that create wealth out of thin air – money made out money without going through real production; money out of fraudulent deals and speculation. The Madoff investment scandal in the US is a good example. Bernard Madoff is now in jail, but for a long time he was the chairman of NASDAQ, a stock market that dealt mainly with industrial and technology shares. But he is not the only one. The global banking system is itself, by its nature, a huge Ponzi scheme. I cannot go into a detailed explanation here. But what is happening in Europe, for example, is a good indicator. German and French bankers buy Greek bonds guaranteed by the Greek government; the ostensible reason is to ‘bail out’ a bankrupt Greek treasury. But in the process, the banks exert pressure through their governments, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to impose severe austerity measures on the people of Greece in order to ensure that the Greek government does not default on the loans. If it does it would put into jeopardy the EU currency system, and possibly the entire European project that is largely pushed by European corporate and finance capital. The people of Greece and Ireland have to suffer so that the ‘system’ survives. The system’s survival is more important than the wellbeing of the people. The term ‘systemic risk’ has become part of the vocabulary of economists since the 1997–98 financial/economic meltdown. Ireland was an ‘aid donor’ to Africa only yesterday; today it is a beggar nation – beggared by the Ponzi-like global banking system.
Globalised capital (the so-called ‘foreign direct investments’ or FDIs) and its several manifestations – banks, insurance companies, shipping agents, commodity speculators, wholesale traders, chain retailers, etc – are in league with the local economic and power elites in the ‘recipient’ countries, and their god is ‘accumulate, accumulate and accumulate’. Even China and India are not free from this virus – displacement of people from land is creating staggering problems in these countries. These ‘new’ capitalist countries are still significantly underdeveloped from a science and technology perspective. The battles over intellectual property in the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and in the industrial–corporate world testify to this reality. Power in the global banking–financial market lies in the boardrooms of a dozen or so big players, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup Inc., the Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. They operate in an unregulated market, i.e., largely outside of national control, not even that of the United States. Like an octopus, they have their tentacles everywhere, including China, India, Brazil and South Africa.
Africa has been one of the major resource providers of global kleptocratic capitalism. By means of the so-called ‘development aid’ and FDIs, Africa’s resources are exploited to sustain ‘the system’. In real terms the investments and ‘aid’ are a gigantic credit system that creates a mountain of debt which Africa has been paying in the form of transfer of real values – coffee, cocoa, cotton, cobalt, platinum, gold, chromium, manganese, uranium and titanium, to name but a few. (Africa holds 90 per cent of the world's deposits of cobalt, 90 per cent of its platinum, 50 per cent of its gold, 98 per cent of its chromium, 64 per cent of its manganese, 33 per cent of its uranium and 80 per cent of its columbite-tantalite). In a recent paper by Kandeh Yumkella, director general of UNIDO, and Rob Davies, South Africa's minister of trade and industry (from which the above figures are taken), the authors say that Africa has 80–200 billion barrels of hydrocarbon reserves, but most of these are exploited by global corporations. A ton of African titanium sand, to give but one example, brings about US$100 in export revenues, whereas a ton of titanium alloy brings $100,000 but to countries outside Africa – a ratio of 1:1000.
The gross exploitation of Africa’s resources is underpinned by a global credit system run by the World Bank, the IMF and the aid industry. ‘Development aid’ is a charade. (See Yash Tandon, ‘Ending Aid Dependence’, 2009). What the IMF and the German–French dominated banking system has been doing to the peripheral European countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal) in recent years is exactly what the IMF, the World Bank and the so-called ‘donor’ community have been doing to Africa for the last 50 years. They have been sacrificing the welfare of the people of Africa so that the ‘system’ of corporate greed and ‘rent seeking’ by the rich and powerful can survive and prosper. It is no wonder that people in Africa remain poor and unemployed.
Africa has its own domestic over-consuming power and economic elite (the plutocrats) in league with their imperial overlords – the bank-robbers and global corporations – that exploit the masses of the people. One of the manifestations of their greed is the massive land grab that we are witnessing today. A lot of the land grabbing is done by these domestic plutocrats. Also, many African governments are selling off or leasing agricultural lands to foreign investors from Europe, the US, India, China, the Gulf States and further afield. There is a rush for all of Africa’s resources, not just land, but also its forests, oil, gold and diamonds.
The price of this intense exploitation is paid by the ordinary people. In recent court cases in South Africa, for example, tens of thousands of former mineworkers received little or no compensation for occupational lung diseases working in asbestos mines and other kinds of toxic environment. Hundreds of thousands of African rural people are displaced and dispossessed to make space for domestic and foreign land grabbers – often, ironically, to grow food ‘for the poor’ – using agro-chemicals or the magical biofuel ‘green gas’ jatropha. These climatically displaced refugees (CDRs) are swarming rural countryside and peri-urban areas across Africa.
AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) is one example of this kind of exploitation that is encouraged by mainstream African economists and power elites. Under the guise of providing Africa with ‘climate-sensitive’ food crops and flowers, Rockefeller and Gates foundations-funded AGRA (with the blessing of the former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan) is pushing agro-chemical crops using multi-genome patents. Their objective – or at least the end result – is plain to see: the control over Africa's plant biomass to generate super-profits for mega-chemical and seed corporations.
From Mali to Mozambique small peasant farmers are resisting the takeover of their lands and life-saving meagre means of sustenance. But they are scattered and weak in political organisation to mount an effective resistance. When the ‘Arab spring’ hits the cities of these countries – as inevitably they will – these displaced and disempowered millions will enlist in droves into ‘rebel armies’ to remove the neocolonial dictators of Africa from their perched thrones.
This, in brief, is the first point. Africa is run by a global kleptocratic system, a system which enriches a minute number of economic and power elites in Africa and the global bankocrats and corporatocrats at the one end of the pole while impoverishing the masses of African people at the other. Economists call this ‘rent seeking’, but it is, bereft of linguistic and technical finesse, simply looting.
What can be done? It is too vast a subject to take on. I will give two contrasting models that exemplify polar conceptions on how to go about addressing the challenges Africa faces. One is South Africa's second Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP-2) based on ‘market-based policy measures’, mega-projects such as the Coega complex near Port Elizabeth and carbon trading. This is the route of the trodden past – its outcome is predictable.
The second is the pledge the government of Rwanda made at the ninth session Forum on Forests around tackling poverty in ‘forest communities’ with a 25-year plan to tackle ecosystem degradation and improve rural livelihoods. What is significant about the Rwandese concept is its dual objective of saving the forests and also the ‘forest communities’. For the environmentalists forests are simply biomass that on the one hand provide fuel and on the other hand carbon dioxide absorbing ‘lungs’ as a counter against global warming. But besides the forests there are also forest dwellers. The challenge is to save the forests and the forest communities; the people as well as the environment. Those who are sensitive to the welfare needs of the people within African governments and African parliaments must support people’s movements that take on this dual challenge. One example of this is the ROPPA (Network of Farmers' and Agricultural Producers' Organisations of West Africa) which coordinates and strengthens a number of rural women's associations working towards saving the communities as well as the environment.
FROM COP-17 TO RIO+20 AND BEYOND
My second point is of more immediate concern. There are only five months left from now to the COP-17 in November 2011, and less than a year to the Rio+20 (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)) that will take place from 14–16 May 2012 in Brazil. In this short period, African governments and activist civil society organisations might draw lessons from the 2009 COP-15 in Copenhagen and the 2010 COP-16 in Cancun. Both these conferences were followed by widespread dissatisfaction on the part of those that are striving to save the environment as well as the communities that live off what nature provides them for their sustenance without these being expropriated by global corporations and commodity speculators.
For the purposes of this conference, I wish to focus on just one lesson. And this is that Africa needs to be wary of the use of finance (or the so-called ‘development aid’) by the industrialised countries (ICs) to divide and rule the developing countries (DCs). Globally, if there is a near-clear North–South divide, it is on the question of climate change. Until the 1990s most scientific research and diplomatic negotiations on global warming focused on emission mitigation. The language of adaptation first emerged at the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 as a result primarily of pressure from the DCs. The UNFCCC, which hitherto had focused on mitigation, now recognises the significance of adaptation and the historical responsibility of the ICs to compensate the DCs for the damage they have caused to the environment during their period of industrialisation. This historical responsibility is reflected in the UNFCCC’s treaty provisions that oblige ICs to provide new and additional financial flows (as well as technology transfers) to the DCs to support the latter’s costs for implementing the UNFCCC and to undertake climate adaptation. The Kyoto Protocol endorsed this principle by placing these two categories of nations with common but differentiated responsibilities in, respectively, Annex 1 and Annex 2 categories.
At the international level African countries are members of the Group of 77 and China (G77+China), which forms the primary negotiating group for the developing countries in climate change negotiations. This group also includes members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). With such a differentiated group, it is natural that there should be differences among them on their concerns and priorities. The ICs take advantage of these differences in order to ‘divide and dictate’ to the DCs the terms of the climate change negotiations. What makes Africa vulnerable is its dependence on the West for the so-called ‘development aid’ and ‘technical experts’.
One significant illustration of this is the manner in which the industrialised West has used money and ‘technical assistance’ as a means of ensuring an outcome at COP-16 in Cancun after they had failed to do so at COP-15. Europe and the US mounted a coordinated offensive to break the ranks of the countries of the South. Some of this was quite overt and open, for example, through the use of ‘development aid’ and other financial incentives. Others were covert and secretive, such as the use of US spy network – exposed, partially, by WikiLeaks (see Pambazuka issue 510, Dec 2010).
The biggest ‘bribe’ is the US$100 billion per year in finance for adaptation and low-carbon development to poorer nations by 2020. This is just pie in the sky. Africa should not hanker after it, for even if it materialises, it would be so firmly ring-fenced with ‘conditionalities’ as to auction away the sovereignty of African nations at the altar of ‘green capitalism’ or ‘good governance’. In early 2011, for example, the US withheld about US$350 million grant to improve the energy sector to be disbursed to Malawi through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on the grounds that Malawi had failed to observe governance and human rights issues. As for the annual fund of US$100 billion, the certainty that it will be similarly ring-fenced is the fact that it will be administered by the World Bank.
In a February 2011 report ‘Storm on the horizon? Why World Bank climate investment funds could do more harm than good’, the Eurodad (a network of 57 NGOs from 19 European countries) argues that the World Bank is not the best-placed institution for a legitimate and development-friendly climate finance architecture for the future. In general, many European NGOs are sympathetic to the concerns of Africa. My own experience working with a number of them on the issue of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that Europe is trying to foist on Africa has been very positive. This said, it is important that African countries are self-reliant on matters related to policy issues, especially when it comes to negotiations in the global system. It is an easy (and cheaper) way out to ‘outsource’ policy advice to ‘experts’ from Western NGOs on the grounds that African countries do not have the experts or the money to finance them.
This is a relevant and important point in relation to climate change negotiations. As we move to COP-17 and Rio+20, it is important that the African Union Commission builds its own network of experts to advise African countries on technical and political issues that are likely to emerge in the months ahead. It is in this light that I need to caution Africa against the processes being in put in place by several interested parties in the West to offer ‘technical advice’ to ‘poor’ African countries.
One such is the CDKN initiative. The Climate and Development Knowledge Network, founded in March 2010, is a consortium of consultancies and think tanks which helps decision-makers in developing countries design and deliver ‘climate-compatible development’. CDKN claims that it can help African countries to maximise their opportunities to tap climate finance and build their capacity to manage these funds. It will also support them in assessing climate risks and vulnerabilities, and work to reinforce the Legal Response Initiative (LRI). The CKDN offers ‘real-time, free legal advice to climate negotiators’. This makes it suspect. Why should it offer ‘free’ advice? What is its agenda? Who finances it? It is not unfair to reason that somebody along the chain benefits from this ‘free’ advice. Nothing comes ‘free’.
The CDKN consortium includes PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (FFLA), SouthSouthNorth, LEAD International and INTRAC. I know some of them well from previous interactions with them. The ODI, for example, advertises itself as an ‘independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues’. From my knowledge of the ODI (on matters related to development aid, trade and EPA negotiations, for example) I can say without a moment’s hesitation that it is really an arm of British foreign policy. It is the ‘soft arm’ of British imperial diplomacy whose ‘strong arm’ comprises of instruments of force, including sanctions and war.
‘Policy making’ is not something that African governments should ‘outsource’ to anybody from outside Africa. It is best for Africa to develop its own expertise than depend on outside help, not only on negotiations on climate change but all matters of vital policy concern to Africa. It is of course understandable that individual African countries may have limited resources to create think tanks and research institutions. But they can take advantage of bigger institutions of which they are members. The most important collective organisation is of course the African Union. But there are others. For example, African countries are significantly represented in the South Centre that was created in 1995 under the inspiration of Third World leaders like Julius Nyerere and Mahathir Mohammed. The centre is well placed to provide technical expertise on a range issues from trade negotiations to intellectual property rights, finance for development and, yes, climate change. The South Centre, for example, made a significant contribution to the African Union Commission’s position on the EPA negotiations in a meeting the AUC organised in Kigali in November 2010.
Real knowledge comes not from information but from a thorough and deep understanding of Africa’s situation. There is a vital and strategic distinction between information and understanding (verstehen) – an interpretive or participatory examination of social phenomena. The fundamental reality of Africa is that it is integrated into a global system of kleptocratic capitalism characterised by primitive accumulation or ‘rent seeking’ by the rich nations and within each nation by the rich power elite. This creates at the opposite polar end the dispossession and disempowerment of the masses of the people. The present phase of the evolution of capitalism is caught up in its own contradictions, but capitalism is not about to disappear. It is a long road. In facing the challenges of the demands of a ‘green economy’ that ensures ‘sustainable Africa’, Africa has to balance the human rights and needs of the masses of its people with the imperative of protecting Africa’s environment. Africa should not hand over policy matters and negotiating strategies to outside ‘experts’, however benign they might appear. Above all, Africa must build a common united position on climate negotiations in alliance with the other countries of the South, leading with the COP-17 and then Rio+20. The African Union and the South Centre can play a significant role in leading towards Rio and beyond.
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* This article comprises a speech given at the 'GO GREEN International Conference', June 2011, African Union Conference Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Green Thursday in the life of the nation of Senegal
The day everything changed and a ticking bomb finally exploded
The nation of Senegal came out in all of its flying colours to defend the republic and express its full sovereignty over its destiny.
Green for the colour of hope, green for the colour of renewal, green in opposition to the oppressing claw with which the ruling party of PDS (Parti Démocratique Sénégalais) had reigned over the country of Senegal for the past 11 years of rule – whose colour of representation was blue, once the symbol of SOPI, or change, when PDS leader Abdoulaye Wade was elected to power in 2000, toppling a 40-year regime.
Today all across the country, flags and party houses of the PDS were burnt down in the streets, along with stoned cars, government buildings and houses of deputies known to be lieutenants in the ruling party.
Thursday 23 June was indeed a historic day in the life the nation that we the youth of Senegal will never forget. The nation came out in all of its glory and fury – men and women, youth and old, poor and rich, swift politicians and lay common men and women – and took to the streets together as one. This was to contest a law proposal orchestrated by the presidency that was to change the rules of the electoral game to enable an easy re-election for Abdoulaye Wade for a third seven-year term in the upcoming February 2012 election –halving the minimum percentage of voters required to win at the first round from 50 per cent plus one vote to 25 per cent of all votes expressed, and furthermore instituting a vice-presidency without any consultations or consensus with the people, a logical pre-requisite to such a sweeping constitutional change.
However, the people of Senegal today did not just come out to contest, legitimately, the nth makeover of their constitution. They came out because this was an act too far, the drop that made the full vase tip over.
This explosion – which took the form of hundreds of thousands of Senegalese men, women and youth, marching to besiege the National Assembly and the main streets of Dakar, as well as those of all regional capitals across the country (Thies, Diourbel, Kaolack, Fatick, Saint-Louis, Ziguinchor), demanding that the law proposal under examination at the National Assembly be repealed and fighting armed policemen with their bare hands and stones screaming to the top of their lungs ‘y en a marre!’ (‘we have had enough!’) – was the explosion of a bomb that had been ticking in my senses for the past five years.
Indeed, during the five years past since the contested political re-election of Abdoulaye Wade in 2007, the 80 plus-year-old president of Senegal had been lining up politico-financial scandal after politico-financial scandal, which made his once soaring popularity scores plummet. To name but a few of these: the billions of the Muslim Summit Organisation squandered and mismanaged by his own son; the millions of the partial privatisation of the national electricity company, Senelec, and more recently of the telecommunication concession leased to a less competitive third party different from Orange, the largest telecom provider but with whom the president had struck a back-table deal; the privatisation of the national port to a private Dubai company to whom Wade’s son was connected; the ransacking of an anti-government broadcasting company’s offices by one of Wade’s lieutenants who never went to trial for it; an unpopular gargantuan statue built using public funding but with 35 per cent of the proceeds going to Wade’s personal foundation; more recently, the purchase of a multi-billion CFA home in the posh side of town by the president who paid for this in cash; destabilising financial markets with a dumping of CFAs onto the money market; multiple reported thefts of millions of CFAs in his ministers’ homes, making people raise eyebrows about how these public officials had so much money sitting in home vaults in the first place and not in public banks; the parcelling and sale of the public utility lands of the national fair, which was a prime resettlement site for victims in the advent of a humanitarian crisis; the parade of brand new luxury cars in the brand new streets of the Corniche linking the airport to the presidential palace while the majority of the population laboured for hours in a defunct public transportation system to get to work from the cheaper housing neighbourhoods of the banlieues to their workplaces in central Dakar; the housing bubble; the general air of impunity and witchhunt against anyone who dared make money outside of the president’s intimate circle; and the repeated creation and dismantling of government ministries, institutions and national agencies as needed to give ‘a piece of the cake’ to faithful followers and PDS militants. The litany of scandals stretches endlessly.
The most insufferable scandal however to the nation of Senegal – a country, it is important to note, that has had multiparty elections since 1974 when it was only 14 years of age as a country free of the colonial yoke – was the de facto grooming by Wade of his son to inherit the republic, a rumour at first which the Senegalese people could not believe, having elected Wade through the ballot only a mere seven years back but which became increasingly corroborated by the series of acts posed by president and son over the past five years. Yet the nation gave Wade and son a final warning still, clearly saying no to the personalisation of the state and Wade’s covert plan of a monarchic devolution of power during the 2009 legislative elections, when Abdoulaye Wade’s son, who does not speak even one of the national languages of Senegal as a descendent of French mother who lived all of his life in France, yet positioned as a headliner in the PDS ballot list, was defeated even in his own voting centre in Point E, a strong signal to the democratically elected president to reform his ways. But Wade did not pick up on the signals and failed to read the writings on the wall. Also he could not fight off the increasing accusations of enriching himself and his family on the backs of Senegalese people and grooming his son to inherit him.
On Thursday 23 June, after having suffered in relative silence months of intensive power outages in a country that had never know them, even under the most austere years of structural adjustment (Senegal after all is not Nigeria), five years of general gloom where Abdoulaye Wade and his parliamentary majority in the National Assembly reigned with an arrogant political fist (an error of the opposition that had boycotted the legislative rounds in 2007 over calls of electoral fraud by Wade to win his second mandate), throttling the country and brazenly appropriating all of its assets (lands, deeds, natural resources, inflowing aid) getting richer and richer, while the majority excluded from the ‘goody basket’ of the state met only shrinking opportunities, rising prices, long nights without power and ‘no, thank you’ to the limited number of jobs still available but to which hundreds of desperate job-seekers fresh out of Senegal’s first-rate universities and professional schools lined up for. That angry youth today – mostly jobless, broke, lost in its quest for values, with nowhere to turn to and hungry for change – is the one that took to the streets to state loudly that they were fed up of a regime that no longer served their interests, but its own.
The people of Senegal took to the streets today to decry the hijacking of their country by a band of self-interested politicians –from all across the spectrum – and of their freewill by the same occasion.
What has taken place in Senegal is most of all a reclaiming by a people of a voice they thought they had a lost and a dignity even they themselves had forgotten they had.
What was most touching to me today watching this day of uprising that shook the young nation jolting it awake was the diversity of the people who took to the streets – it started yesterday with a handful of determined youth from the movement ‘Y’en a Marre’ (urban rappers and disillusioned youth for the most part) and opposition leaders, of whom a few took dramatic steps to awaken the dignified spirit of the Senegalese people, such as Cheikh Bamba Dieye, mayor of Saint-Louis and minority deputy in the national assembly, who singled himself out by chaining himself to the gates of the National Assembly two days before the vote to symbolise how this new law, if passed in assembly on Thursday, would render the condition of the Senegalese man, chained forever to Wade’s dictatorial regime. However, by yesterday, the eve of the fateful National Assembly vote, men, women and youth from all walks of life were out on the streets.
This morning, the riots had reached their paroxysm. The rallying order was to all assemble at Place Soweto, in front of the gates of the National Assembly, and let the voice of the people be heard that the people of Senegal did not want this law. It was anti-democratic and would give full powers to Wade to implement his foul scheme of devolving power to his son by naming him vice-president, before taking off on a golden retirement paid by our public dimes. Given that the National Assembly deputies, from the PDS ruling party by large measure, no longer represented us, it was time to let them hear us – and loud. In the wee hours of the day, the prior-day rioters who had gone home to revive their forces posted out on Place Soweto, forming a human barrier against the deputies trying to enter the National Assembly. By 10am, a thousand university students left the University Cheikh Anta Diop on the Corniche and ran in 30 minutes the 10 kilometres separating them from Place Soweto, doubling in size on their way by picking up anyone who could join the struggle. The national board examinations for sixth graders in progress were disrupted as marching students took the examiners out of the classrooms forcefully – encouraging them to join the revolution.
I was very touched to see what happened then: the well-to-do bankers, government officials, NGO workers, back office workers, private company bosses, established colleagues and heads of households all across Dakar who had all to lose, all left their offices all at once with the outcry ‘when the day of death has arrived those who continue to live are not men!’ (translated from an old Wolof proverb sang in praise to warriors before the day of reckoning). What was most fantastic was that the women were the first on the streets. They had declared their intent the day before at a planning meeting led jointly by the opposition leaders and civil forum where one woman took the microphone and stated ‘if you the men want to stick to meeting rooms and are too afraid to take to the streets, we will’ and they formidably did in all of their anger and determination. And we know that whatever women start will not end until they prevail. It literally gave me the goosebumps as I saw the image of a veiled young woman – a symbol of obedience and passivity – who found a way through the middle of the agitated mob on Place Soweto brandishing a large stone in her hands and sent it crushing down back the head of a National Assembly deputy who was trying to enter the assembly to vote in favour of the law.
As the day of protest continued, people from everywhere – apparently buses on end sent in from Saint-Louis and Kaolack pouring in more people onto the streets of Dakar – joined in, filling the ranks of the fast-thickening mob in front of the National Assembly and all across the capital. In Medina, Sacré-Coeur, Niari Tali, Thiaroye, Pikine, Guédiawaye, all of the streets pulsed with the anger of the citizens, with the heart of the mob at Place Soweto pulsating energy and volition through the city’s main arteries in an interlinked chain of anger and determination. Pandemonium broke loose with police forces being fast overwhelmed, not knowing what front to fight off as hundreds of foyers of dissent opened simultaneously all throughout the city and the country.
But the people who did not come to Dakar also marched in their regions – in Diourbel the entire PDS party house was ransacked and burnt down to ashes. Not a single bench was even left behind for future PDS members in that impoverished town in the centre of Senegal to sit and orchestrate further lootings of the region’s resources.
Being in Senegal today was like seeing scenes from a movie one thought could have never been possible in this peaceful stable country of West Africa, once hailed as the beacon of democracy on the continent and a haven of stability amidst its warring despotic neighbours in the sub-region. All across the country, people marched on, unwavering, firing stones at the police and running back strategically when the policemen fired back with hot water hoses poured in from large towering tank onto the mob and tear gas to will. Blood of civil victims and police officers alike lined the streets, mixing with stone detritus and heavy teargas fumes fogging the air. It was a guerilla fight, one led by ordinary citizens who turned into street fighters for the day with the war cry ‘We have had enough!’
The people marched on through the day harangued by their conviction and knowledge that now that the bomb had finally erupted, there was no turning back. In unison all across the country people chanted and wore the slogan ‘y’en a marre’, and placards could be seen waved by many, written over makeshift cardboards with felt pen or quickly printed over A4 paper, stating ‘touche pas à ma constitution!’ (‘Don’t touch my constitution!’), ‘Wade degage!’ (‘Wade get out!’), or again ‘La police ne tirez pas sur le people, nous défendons la meme cause’ (‘Police officers, don’t shoot us – we’re defending the same cause’). Spontaneous citizen volunteers went to buy megaphones to direct the flow of the mob, cooked food, provided shelter, water and support to the retreating street fighters.
This was an unprecedented formidable demonstration of spontaneous popular freewill that nothing, no one, was able to hold back.
By the afternoon when the people’s mobilisation was not decelerating but rather going crescendo, Wade, advised by all of the country’s religious, military and diplomatic figures – even lieutenants in his own party sitting in the National Assembly defending the law proposal but fearful for their lives – finally commissioned one of his majority deputies to announce in assembly that he was repealing the law proposal.
The country then exploded in one outcry of joy. We the people had won! Democracy had prevailed! The voice of the people in all of its supremacy had been asserted.
Many in the mob wanted to remain on, waiting to ambush the exiting ‘deputies of the people’; others wanted to continue the march to depose the president at his palace, true to the proceedings of Tahrir Square in Tunisia. But discouraged by leaders and more concerned with freeing the arrested comrades whom the police got to lay hands on, the mob marched on to the central police station of Dakar instead.
Green was the feeling in the air of the day as people celebrated.
Green for the colour of hope, green for the colour of renewal, green in opposition to the oppressing claw of the ruling party of the PDS that has reached its ending, through the will of the people, who had elected its leader to power in the first place 11 years ago, and today demonstrated its ability to depose him from power if it so willed.
The tragedy of the end of 11 years of PDS reign represents however a new beginning for a nation that FINALLY came out of its stupor to contest its endemic atmosphere of economic morbidity, injustice and impunity, and in the end prevailed. This is a green Thursday indeed in the life of the young West African nation.
Today the People of Senegal enabled their transition to a new era for their country, and Africa’s democracy: it is the era of civil society. The small country of Senegal has demonstrated once more the grandeur of its democracy, and the maturity of its nation. I believe Senegal will never be the same after this historic day. Two dead and 145 gravely injured was the bitter price to pay. But never again is the song sung by all the hearts as people go to bed in Senegal tonight.
P.s. Today more than ever I am proud to be Senegalese. We have won and prevailed over the anti-democratic forces of Wade and his despotic regime. Congratulations to the people of Senegal for your bravery! Congratulations on standing up as one person to fight for your dignity, throwing all fear away! All of you who took to the streets yesterday, and all those of you who harboured and supported the street fighters from your homes, I salute you! It is the victory of freedom over injustice today, of democracy over oligopoly, as the voice of the people was reasserted today across all the towns, cities and streets of the republic through the bare hands and sheer bravery of ordinary citizens who took to the streets to express their self-determination. Today Senegal is a different country. Gacce Ngalama to all the street fighters of yesterday! You have my deepest respect, and I am today very proud to be a citizen of Senegal, once again. I thank you for having reinstated the dignity of our nation.
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* This article was first published at http://afrooptimism.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/345/
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Senegal on the rise
‘Ne touche pas à ma constitution!’
On 5 March Senegalese blogger Basile announced on his blog (I blog, therefore I am) and on Twitter (@basileniane #19mars) that a ‘We are fed up’ demonstration would take place on 19 March 2011 which made a direct reference to Egypt and Tahrir Square (http://bit.ly/gGADT8).
‘The winds of revolution from “Arabic” countries are blowing towards Senegal. Indeed the head of the press group Walfadjri [fr] just kicked it off. In a press conference on Thursday, Sidy Lamine Niasse called all Senegalese to a demonstration on March 19 - the anniversary of the Senegalese political alternative - to denounce the injustice reigning in the country. The sit-in will take place at the Protêt square or the independence square, rechristened the highly symbolic name of ‘Tahrir square’ by Sidy Lamine Niasse’ (translated into English – http://bit.ly/lA90ve)
A further statement made on the website Afrik explained the disillusionment of the youth with 40 years of mismanagement, corruption, rising prices, high unemployment and most importantly the belief that President Abdoulaye Wade was seeking to change the constitution to allow him a third term and priming his son Karim to succeed. The statement also condemned the arrest of rap group Keur Gui after their denouncement of the president and his failures (http://bit.ly/lA90ve).
On 19 March 3,000–5,000 protesters gathered in Independence Square in what turned out to be a peaceful rally despite the government announcement the night before that it had foiled an attempted coup and made 15 arrests. Many doubted the truth of this and felt it was a ploy to destabilise the protests by reaching out to nationalist sympathies. This may have worked as a separate group of some 10,000 demonstrators marched to the presidential palace in support of Wade.
Three months later on 23 June thousands of Senegalese in cities across the country and from all walks of life took to the streets with the chant ‘Don’t touch my constitution’ in opposition to a proposed law which would allow a presidential candidate to take power with just 25 per cent of the vote and create a vice-president which people fear would be given to his son. Within hours Wade had capitulated and abandoned the proposed 25 per cent vote but not the plans for a vice-president and not before human rights activists Alioune Tine, who had previously received death threats, and Oumar Diallo were seriously wounded in a brutal attack (http://bit.ly/my8rJx).
The reference to Tahrir Square was both a rallying call to enact a dream of a different Senegal and a declaration that says ‘we are here’ and things are no longer as they were.
The massive street protests in Dakar and cities across Senegal forced an almost immediate turnaround as the government quickly withdrew the proposed constitutional changes. Last December in ‘Twilight of a regime or dawn of a new era’, Sidy Diop warned of a looming instability in Senegal as the regime ‘confronted by threats to its survival’ struggles to keep a hold. The choice for President Wade is transparency and engagement with voters or, as he has attempted to do, to violate the constitution.
‘If, on the other hand, it is a question of taking another path, violating the constitution and republican values, this project would be very dangerous for national cohesion and might incur civil war. And any politician, of whatever political stripe, whose acts and gestures above all serve his personal ambition, would commit an enormous blunder and cause his country to slide into violence and chaos. This is the why we dare to hope that those who believe Wade has this intention are mistaken. Such an enterprise would not only be very risky but also his compatriots would put into question his whole life and his political career, which has been for the most part dedicated to changeover among parties, to commitment without concessions, to a continuous struggle for the defence of public liberties and democracy.’
Diop refers to an emerging movement and ‘new ways of expression through petitions’ which he suggests should be institutionalised as a way of both rejecting decisions and as instruments for creating new laws.
‘The present situation in Senegal is at a decisive turning point in its history. We have, on the one hand, a power that is very uncertain about its survival and that seeks solutions of all kinds for its continuity but which, of its own accord, has deprived itself of the bases that can guarantee it. On the other hand, there is an opposition that is trying hard to elaborate concepts and strategies in order radically to change the nature of the state and of power but which must overcome the difficulties and obstacles that lie in the path of a sustainable unity.
‘And then, between these traditional forces, a civil society has emerged that brings real hope to those that now doubt the capacity of the parties to get the country going again, because they themselves have contributed to create the present difficult situation.’
In the wake of 23 June protests, Senegalese civil society (http://bit.ly/m4uy29) made the expedient decision to create a new movement incorporating some 60 groups. Their first demand is for the president not to contest the 2012 elections; however, in doing so there is a recognition that political and social change requires a collective consciousness and organisation and cannot rely on the short-term impact of street protests.
Senegalese blogger Arame Tall’s post ‘Green Thursday in the Life of the Nation of Senegal: The Day everything Changed & Ticking bomb finally exploded’ is a powerful exposition on the historic meaning of 23 June for Senegal and the region.
‘Green for the color of hope, green for the color of renewal, green in opposition to the oppressing claw with which the ruling party of PDS (the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais) had reigned over the country of Senegal for the past 11 years of rule–whose color of representation was blue, once the symbol of SOPI, or change, when PDS’ leader Abdoulaye Wade was elected to power in 2000 toppling a 40-year regime.
‘Thursday June 23 was indeed a historic day in the life the Nation that we the youth of Senegal will never forget. The Nation came out, in all of its glory and fury, men and women, youth and old, poor and rich, swift politicians and lay common men/women, and took to the streets together as one to contest a law proposal orchestrated by the Presidency that was to change the rules of the electoral game to enable an easy reelection for Abdoulaye Wade for a third 7-year term in the upcoming February 2012 election.
‘Today the People of Senegal enabled their transition to a new era for their country, and Africa’s democracy: it is the era of Civil Society. The small country of Senegal has demonstrated once more the grandeur of its democracy, and the maturity of its Nation. I believe Senegal will never be the same after this historic day. 2 dead and 145 gravely injured was the bitter price to pay. But never again is the song sung by all the hearts as people go to bed in Senegal tonight.’
COUNTRIES TO WATCH
An agreement to end the nationwide strikes which began on 18 April was signed on 12 June, but it’s not clear whether everyone has returned to work. Views differ on the reasons behind the strike. Bongani Masuku of COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) sees the strikes as a struggle for workers rights and against the ‘neo-liberal restructuring of the public sector’. For Tshiamo Rantao of the Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS, the strikes are a ‘sign of the rising power of labour’. Professor of International Relations Stephen Chan puts the strikes in the wider context of discontent with the ruling party:
‘There is genuine disquiet about possible shrinkage in public sector employment, but there is also a mood of discontent with the stylistics of the President and his austere and disciplinarian utterances. These convey the sense that society is an army camp where orders should be obeyed, rather than something open and expressive - whether for better or worse. Political opposition has not threatened the ruling party since independence, and there is no real sense that citizens seek the government's overthrow. But they do want a sense of new dynamism. The important thing about the trade unions is that they occupy the effective space that civil society and political opposition in Botswana should occupy, but cannot. The expressiveness of dissent, as led by the unions, is an important development in Botswana.’
African Dictator is a website created in March 2011 by an anonymous ‘collective of international social activists’ with no allegiance to any government or ideological perspective except to draw attention to countries led by dictators who have a history of civil and human rights violations. In Equatorial Guinea, a group of secret bloggers announced the creation of new movement which would use social media to remove President Obiang Nguema:
1) ‘The Equatorial Guinean Youth Collective, we are a youth organization, born in Equatorial Guinea in secret, to organize and fight for our legitimate rights and interests, joining the youth, strengthening the youth movement.’
2) ‘We have teamed up to find the exchange of news, views and the effective support of workers and democratic organizations in the imperialist countries and mainly of Central African countries, as young people and workers who have brought down dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt.’
Two years ago it would have been difficult to imagine that a small group of online activists would be influential in toppling a government but Tunisia and Egypt have shown that with time this is a real possibility. In a sense we are fortunate to be able to witness the early stages of what could become a mass movement. I hope the youth collective can sustain the struggle and that they will receive the support from activists across Africa and elsewhere.
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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.
Swaziland: uprising in the slip-stream of North Africa
A new, well-educated generation of Swazis have been inspired by the uprisings in North Africa, as well as compelled by their own increasingly desperate situation of mass-unemployment and poverty, to try and replace the undemocratic and corrupt absolute monarchy that is Swaziland with a democratic and fair system.
The know-how and tactics of these youths, combined with the mass mobilisation for democracy and socio-economic justice that has taken place for decades in Swaziland, that together comprised the campaign or uprising on 12-15 April, appears to be a significant breakthrough. It may not have brought about immediate democratisation but it is surely ‘the beginning of the end’, as a poster held by a demonstrator on 12 April proclaimed.
There are several common factors between the Swazi uprising in April and the North African uprisings that preceded and influenced the one in Swaziland. These are that no one had expected them and that they happened because of a combination of financial turmoil, youth unemployment and a year-long democratic mobilisation. The use of online media tools such as Facebook and Twitter meant that the demonstrators could bypass the highly censored national media. And the uprisings were dependent not on one or a few leaders, but on many, meaning that the regimes could not simply shut the uprisings down by arresting a few key people.
One of the main differences between Swaziland and North Africa in building a successful protest movement is that the technology available to the masses in North Africa, that was crucial in keeping the masses informed, simply is not there in Swaziland yet. Only about 5 per cent of the Swazi population have an Internet connection, although mobile phones with Internet connections are becoming increasingly available.
SWAZILAND: AN ABSOLUTE MONARCHY
Swaziland is a small land-locked country in Southern Africa, bordering South Africa and Mozambique. It is nominally a middle-income country, but this is due to a few Swazis living in luxury whilst the majority languish in poverty. Swaziland has the highest Aids rate in the world, one of the lowest life expectancies, and two thirds of the population survive on less than one dollar a day. Hundreds of thousands are on food aid from the World Food Programme.
Human rights and political rights are routinely disregarded in Swaziland, even though Swaziland has signed the African Charter on Human Rights. According to Amnesty International’s 2010 international report, Swazi ‘police and other security officials, including informal policing groups, continued to use excessive force against criminal suspects, political activists and unarmed demonstrators. Incidents of torture and other ill-treatment were also reported.’ And Freedom House gave Swaziland a political rights score of seven - the lowest there is - in 2010, concluding that: ‘Swaziland is not an electoral democracy.’
Since independence from Great Britain in 1968, Swaziland has been run by an absolute monarch. King Sobhuza II, the father of the present monarch Mswati III, suspended the constitution, banned all political parties, and proclaimed a state of emergency (that has yet to be lifted) on 12 April 1973. The king appoints and dismisses the government and prime minister at will, and in effect runs the country as the landlord would his farm in medieval Europe, deciding over everything from land allocation to the budget through a traditional system of chiefs and headman.
The Swazi monarchy thereby in effect crushed the ambitions of all Swazis, besides that of a small parasitic elite based within the monarchy. The ambitions of the middle classes were curtailed by banning political parties and those of the working classes by suppressing the labour movement. The monarchy also enhanced its power grip over society in general by controlling mineral royalties, business, and land administration.
Media criticism of the regime and monarchy has been muted by the fact that the king owns one of the country’s two large newspapers and the other is mainly funded by advertisements, of which the government is the biggest provider. Subsequently, all the official media in Swaziland employ a great deal of self-censorship.
‘I found that during the three years I have lived in Swaziland that if I want to really know what’s going on in the kingdom, I should not bother with the Swazi media,’ former associate professor at the University of Swaziland Richard Rooney, who edits the widely read, foreign-based, Swazi Media Commentary, said recently.
According to the Media Institute of Southern Africa, the unfortunate tendency of the Swazi media to refrain from criticising the regime was particularly obvious in the days leading up to 12 April 2011. ‘The only independent newspaper in the country, the Times of Swaziland, has managed to give government almost free reign to spread their propaganda…In all the protest coverage, the protestors were not given an opportunity to respond to the many accusations from the government/traditionalists.’
And public criticism has also been muted by the fact that anyone expressing a remotely nonconformist view about the current regime is seen as terrorist, and either left to languish in jail on trumped up charges, or simply beaten up by the police.
Any genuine information or analysis about the regime and the potential of democracy in Swaziland therefore has had to come from other sources, such as the independent magazine, The Nation, foreign based online websites such as Swazi Media Commentary, debate forums such as that of the Swaziland Solidarity Network, new social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, and the sharing or photocopying of foreign, mainly South African, newspaper clips about Swaziland.
The problem for Swazis who want change, and want to read online analyses about how this change will come and be implemented, is that only about five per cent of the Swazi population have an Internet connection. A magazine like The Nation is not widely read, maybe because it is too expensive or highbrow for the average Swazi, and even copying newspaper articles can be seen as a criminal offence, as was the case with the young man who was taken to court over having copied and distributed an article from a South African newspaper that was unfavourable towards the regime.
Many Swazis, especially in the rural areas where three quarters of the population live, therefore get their political information and analysis from a combination of word of mouth, political party and union activities, and civic education.
THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
Civil society in Swaziland works for democracy from all angles, including by way of consciousness-building at the political level, through the labour movement, by coordination of the democratic forces, by campaign work and by cooperation with like-minded organisations in South Africa.
Especially the unions and the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) were an important part of the 12-15 April campaign or uprising, as they played an integral part of planning it. But the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice (FSEJ), the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) and The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) were also fully behind the campaign, the latter issuing a press statement that saluted ‘the workers and the people of Swaziland for standing up to the hostile regime and press[ing] through with their demands.’
The Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice (FSEJ), formed in 2003, has built a mass-based democratic force of conscious individuals and organisations through civic education about democracy and rights, especially in the rural areas that are traditionally conservative and comparatively loyal to the monarchy. The organisation has thereby played a vital role in making the uprising possible by enabling those who receive civic education to link their poverty and lack of freedom to the policies of the present regime and vent their anger at the root cause of their troubles, the regime. The consciousness-building of FSEJ and others is also vital if Swaziland is not to become yet another African democracy ruled by the political and financial elites.
The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) has been the main political movement for democratic change since it was founded in 1983 and will probably form or be part of a future multi-party democratic government. PUDEMO’s manifesto, written in 1985, is clearly in opposition to the present regime in stating that the movement is ‘fully dedicated to creating a democratic Swaziland’, that ‘the countries wealth shall be enjoyed by all citizens and shall be shared equally’, that ‘the land shall be given to all those who work it’, that there shall be ‘free, compulsory, universal and equal [education] for all children’ and that ‘human rights shall be observed and respected’.
Regardless of its peaceful and democratic nature, however, PUDEMO’s leadership and members have repeatedly been charged with anything from wearing a PUDEMO T-shirt to high treason for alleged ‘terrorism’, beaten up, tortured and even on rare occasions killed by the Swazi state and police. This has more or less neutralised the movement and forced its members to advocate democratic change in one of the democratic movement’s other organisations.
The Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) was formed in 2008 by a number of civil society organisations, trade unions and political movements, including PUDEMO. The founding of the SUDF resulted from a belief that to create a strong civil society that could work actively for democratisation and poverty eradication, there would have to be political education, mass mobilisation and more unity and coordination among the pro-democracy forces in Swaziland. ‘Unity for democracy is ultimately what triggers change. The secret lies in mass mobilisation,’ as Sikelela Dlamini of the SUDF puts it.
‘But the SUDF has assumed a more underground role than when it was established in February 2008,’ says Dlamini. ‘It has had to “delegate” its leadership of the overall push for democratisation to its labour federation affiliates, including the SFTU, SFL and SNAT. Any other way has prompted the state to swiftly use its courts of law or security apparatus to declare workers’ demonstrations and protests illegal and stop them on the basis that they are of a political nature. The SUDF therefore played a subtle yet central role in the organisation and actual carrying out of the 12-15 April demonstrations.’
The unions have played a leading role in the struggle for democracy and socio-political rights; both in the recent spate of demonstrations and historically, not least because they are the only organisations legally allowed to hold demonstrations through the Industrial Act. Swaziland has ratified all International Labour Organisation conventions, giving Swazi workers the right to union membership and strike action, although strikes are more or less impossible to organise legally in practice, and employers discriminate against union members. The two main union federations, the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL), with a combined membership of over 85,000, have, together with the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), recently formed a new common labour federation, the so-called Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).
The unions are not officially politically affiliated to any party or movement, although the SFTU, SFL, SNAT, and now TUCOSWA, are part of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), and openly advocate democratisation and socio-economic justice.
The Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) was formed in 2010 and is ‘a broad coalition of progressive organisations inside Swaziland and in South Africa united around the demand for multiparty democracy in Swaziland,’ aiming to focus international attention on Swaziland. The connection with South Africa has been forged as a ‘common cause against oppression’, according to the founding document of the SDC, and is important because of the concurrent campaign in South Africa, Swaziland’s neighbour and main trade partner, by the SDC.
One of the important things that these organisations, not least the more party-political PUDEMO, need to have in place is a clear, concrete and coherent set of policies, both so that they can ‘sell’ the idea to the masses as a superior alternative to the present system, and so that they will succeed after such a system has been realised.
This also means that the democratic movement must focus on both the overarching political goals of democracy and the more limited, but tangible, daily goals of improving the conditions for the many poverty-stricken Swazis, and that they must ensure that any reforms are won from below by the efforts of the masses, not given from above.
‘The views of the movement need to be based on a concrete set of policies that relate to concrete issues such as land policy or educational policy, and that people can therefore relate to,’ says Morten Nielsen from Africa Contact, one of the few foreign NGO’s to work with and support the Swazi democratic movement. ‘And this set of policies for a future democratic Swaziland is not really there at present.’
Another important matter is that of democratic inclusivity. Without allowing the masses to play a major part in the democratisation of Swaziland, the democracy that will be the result of this process will be but an empty shell. True democratisation cannot be a top-down process. This is why civic education and increasing the internal democratic nature of the membership organisations (to serve as a concrete lesson in democracy and a framework for a future democratic society for members) is so important. And the importance of the yearlong consciousness building from below could be seen in the way the 12 April uprising was led, not by the few but by the many, and how it continued even after the entire leadership of the democratic movement was detained.
THE 12-15 APRIL UPRISING
Clearly worried about the scope and potential of the 12 April campaign and demonstrations, the regime and its police and security forces took many precautions. Its preparations started well before the actual event. The Swazi army was sent for training in Pakistan and huge quantities of military hardware was recently bought (the military budget now being equivalent to the health budget). ‘We are spending a lot on the army but we are not anticipating what is happening in North Africa. The army is there to avoid such situations,’ Finance Minister Majozi Sithole told French news agency, AFP.
The Swazi Senate had also mandated the minister of labour and social security to try and prevent the demonstrations from happening. The Swazi media, perhaps pressurised by the regime, only quoted government sources and generally discredited the campaigners in what the Facebook campaigners called a ‘smear campaign’, and security forces were searching high and low for anyone suspected of being involved in the campaign.
The regime clearly also tried to intimidate Swazis into not participating in the demonstrations. Swaziland’s prime minister, Barnabas Dlamini, had warned anyone considering doing so that his security forces would ‘crush the protests’, and police commissioner Isaac Magagula stated, ‘everyone is a suspect until proven otherwise’.
The regime is known for arresting people who are suspected of having any relation to the democratic movement whatsoever. That the Swazi police forces and armed forces do this with impunity is in no small part due to the 2006 constitution, which in effect declares all political parties to be terrorist organisations, and the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which defines terrorism in very sweeping terms. Swazi legislation thus gave the police and security forces almost unlimited powers to clamp down heavily on peaceful demonstrations on 12 April - powers that were widely employed.
The regime pre-emptively detained student leader Maxwell Dlamini and other key figures in the movement before 12 April. Many others were detained between 12 April and 15 April, the regime detaining the entire leadership of the unions, PUDEMO, the SUDF and the SDC, as well as anyone else they suspected of taking any part in the demonstrations in an attempt to bring the uprising to a standstill. Many people were arrested for simply going about their daily business and driven to far-away forests and left there to find their own way back.
‘The security forces are literally grabbing everyone they can lay their hands on from the streets and detaining them,’ said an SDC press statement from 12 April. That the demonstrations therefore continued after the arrest of the entire leadership of the democratic movement is testament to the success of the democratic movement’s strategy of mass leadership and that the Swazi population are well and truly fed up with the regime.
And yet the protests continued unabated. Maybe because the demands of the protestors were democracy and socio-economic justice, as opposed to the demands of previous demonstrations in Swaziland for more specific and mundane matters such as higher salaries and against redundancies. This time round the protestors dared acknowledge and proclaim that all their previous and existing grievances have been caused by Mswati’s undemocratic and corrupt regime, says Dlamini. ‘It was pointless to continue to mount piecemeal one-day protests for shortage of hospital drugs, unreasonable electricity tariffs, withdrawal of government scholarships, wasteful public spending, and latterly mandatory pay cuts, etc., when all of these ills emanated from mismanagement inherent in the undemocratic Tinkhundla system of governance.’
That Swazis want democracy seems beyond doubt, although determining anything in a country that does not allow free and fair elections or a free press is obviously difficult. The increasing willingness to demonstrate for democratic change, regardless of the brutal response of the police and the decreasing numbers of voters in the present non-party election system where the king effectively decides everything, more or less proves this point.
A FACEBOOK UPRISING?
Much has been made of the use of these modern sources of communication in the campaign. It has even been claimed that announcing the Swazi uprising on Facebook weeks before it took place was a strategic ploy to reveal the true, brutal nature of the Swazi regime because the Facebook campaigners knew that the world’s press would be following Swaziland closely on 12 April, and knew that the revolutionary language of the Facebook campaign would provoke a violent response from the Swazi regime. The brutal nature of the regime would thus become obvious for all to see, internationally and in Swaziland.
This strategy turned out to be something of a double-edged sword, however. ‘While Swaziland remains predominantly rural with limited Internet connectivity, the hype around an uprising managed to filter throughout the country,’ says Dlamini. ‘It generated unrealistic excitement and anticipation on the part of a general citizenry, who became spectators while the bulk of those who generated the Facebook hype also resided outside the country and could not coordinate activities on the ground to actuate their cyber aspirations.’
It also allowed the regime to be much better prepared for the demonstrators than it had been for the last large scale demonstration in Swaziland, on 18 March 2011. Here the regime had seemed surprised at the numbers of demonstrators. Between 8,000 and 10,000 marched on 18 March, making it one of the biggest political demonstrations in the history of the country.
And as people in the mass-movement pushing for multi-party democracy in Swaziland have retorted, uprisings do not just spring up because they are announced on Facebook. They might be lit by a spark, as was literally the case in Tunisia, but they are fuelled and sustained by the years of groundwork undertaken by civil society organisations and political movements such as the FSEJ, the SUDF, PUDEMO, and the trade unions. These organisations have organised, conscientised and prepared the masses for the moment the spark was lit.
‘The years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice by cadres of the progressive movement, civil society and all social forces are what have made people aware of their problems,’ says COSATU’s international relations secretary, and former Swaziland Solidarity Network general secretary, Bongani Masuku.
These organisations were probably also responsible for putting the bulk of the people on the streets – people that actually managed to bypass and brave the police roadblocks, random arrests and general intimidation and participate in the demonstrations.
They had called for demonstrations demanding socio-economic justice and democracy between 12 April and 15 April, whereas the Facebook campaigners had a ‘more radical and broad approach that seeks to topple the government,’ says Thamsance Tsabedze from FSEJ.
‘The king must vacate office immediately,’ the Facebook campaign stated on their website. ‘Our aim is to remove the king and make sure there’s multiparty democracy,’ said one of the instigators of the Facebook campaign, Pius Vilakati, a former Swazi student leader who is now exiled in South Africa, to the Mail & Guardian.
WAS 12 APRIL A SUCCESS?
Judged by the numbers attending the protests or by the concrete results, the 12 April uprising was not as successful as the North African uprisings (although none of these countries have actually democratised yet either). Only a few thousand managed to evade the many police roadblocks and mass-arrests on 12 April and the following days of protest, and the king and his undemocratic regime is still in power. And this is despite the Facebook campaign promising that ‘a hundred thousand men’ (and presumably women) would ‘march into the country’s city centres to declare a 2011 democratic Swaziland free of all royal dominance’ and the SUDF’s Dlamini stating that ‘we are looking to put at least 20,000 disgruntled Swazis out on the streets.’
But perhaps we should judge the Swazi uprising not as a failed end result. Perhaps we should instead see it as a manifestation of a growing resoluteness amongst the people of Swaziland. PUDEMO certainly seemed to see it this way, saluting ‘the workers and the people of Swaziland for standing up to the hostile regime and pressing through their demands,’ as a press statement put it.
The uprising was also an important step away from political apathy in Swaziland, an important step in bringing the sometimes-fragmented Swazi democratic movement together in demanding democratisation and socio-economic justice for all Swazis, and an important step in informing the world of the misdeeds of the Swazi regime.
Before 12 April most people outside Swaziland after all thought they knew the kingdom as a peaceful tourist destination, if they knew of the country at all. After the brutality of the Swazi regime on 12 April and the following days had been publicised in newspapers around the world, and condemned by countries such as the USA, the EU and South Africa, it will be very difficult for anyone to cling to this image of Swaziland.
And viewed in this light 12 April was a success that will hopefully prove to be the beginning of the end for Africa’s last absolute monarchy. As Rooney, the editor of Swazi Media Commentary, said, ‘It might still be the day that led to something else.’ Swazis will certainly be far less likely to accept reformist changes from the regime now. ‘The event sent a clear message to the regime that their end is nigh,’ as Tsabedze put it.
Having said this, the democratic movement perhaps will have to reconsider its tactics for the future demonstrations to ensure that those demonstrating are not put in any needless danger and for these demonstrations to succeed in overthrowing the regime and bringing about a true democracy in Swaziland. ‘I think in the future the democratic movement will have to ensure that the information machinery is well oiled and that people are well mobilised and ready for any challenge,’ Tsabedze concludes.
What the eventual outcome will be of the Swazi uprising is perhaps too early to predict, as it is with the other uprisings in North Africa, the Middle East, and in occupied Western Sahara (which was, unbeknown to most people, the first country to experience an uprising in October, when a peaceful protest camp was attacked by Moroccan security forces).
What we can already say, however, is that the 12 April demonstrations, along with the mass demonstrations on 18 March have seemingly galvanised and incited not only those in the democratic movement in Swaziland, but also ordinary people who turned out in droves for the two occasions.
And what we can hear is that the unions have said that they will continue the uprising with monthly demonstrations against the Swazi regime, that the campaign to make the international community act continues unabated, and that there have been rumours that King Mswati is considering a controlled unbanning of political parties and a transitional system of democratic, multi-party elections in a desperate attempt to cling on to power.
The internal financial turmoil, where the IMF reported in January 2011 that ‘the debt dynamic [in Swaziland] is becoming unsustainable,’ where the Swazi government has revealed that it will not be able to pay the salaries of its over 30,000 civil servants as of June 2011, should certainly ensure an increasing dissatisfaction with the regime and a good turnout for these demonstrations.
That Swaziland will have a system-change seems inevitable at this point. ‘April 12 - 15 may have come and gone; but its impact in shaping the socio-political direction of Swaziland will be felt for many generations to come,’ says Dlamini. ‘It is very clear to every Swazi now that a return to multiparty democracy is not just inevitable, but also an imminent alternative. King Mswati III faces the unenviable choice to further resist and risk being pushed aside, or make hasty concessions and lose significant ground but save the institution of the monarchy from extinction.’
The only question that remains is thus whether change will come sooner or later, peacefully or not, whether such a new system will be truly participatory or not, and whether it will ensure socio-economic justice for the many poverty-stricken Swazis. If there is no change of system and government soon, the IMF is waiting in the wings, ready to demand the structural adjustments that demand financial, but not democratic, openness and reform (cutbacks and layoffs) that have been detrimental to the poor and middle classes in so many other African countries.
Whether the international community of governments, organisations and individuals, that, according to Dlamini, ‘sacrifices the Swazi people on the alter of silence and shameless indifference’, will follow the lead of the democratic movement and finally start to exert some pressure on the Swazi regime for its crimes before, during and after 12 April is another matter, however.
This external pressure could be by way of smart sanctions, as PUDEMO and others including the SFTU have demanded for some time now, or by other measures. What is clear is that external pressure would probably ensure a more swift and peaceful democratisation, whereas the regime will probably respond with more violence towards the democratic movement if it feels it can get away with it internationally.
The US, the EU and South Africa could shut the regime down in a matter of days if they really wanted to. Over 90 per cent of Swaziland’s imports and 60 per cent of its exports are with South Africa, and the US and EU are also significant trading partners. The same goes for multinational companies such as Coca Cola in particular, who have a huge concentration plant in Swaziland because of the kingdom’s substantial sugar cane production. ‘Coca-Cola presently contributes about 40 per cent of the kingdom’s gross domestic product,’ according to Rooney’s Swazi Media Commentary.
But since these countries and companies have chosen not to pressurise the regime on its human rights record and lack of democratisation up until now, and only look like taking small steps towards any public criticism of the Swazi regime after 12 April, it will probably take public and civil society pressure from both inside and outside Swaziland to make them change their minds.
There are already voices within South Africa, North America and the EU that have been calling for democratisation and socio-economic justice in Swaziland for some time now, such as ACTSA in Great Britain, Africa Contact in Denmark, and COSATU, the Swaziland Democracy Campaign and the Swaziland Solidarity Network in South Africa.
Those who truly and selflessly wish to help Swaziland achieve these goals must be cautious, however. ‘International support’ and ‘partnership’ are concepts that have often been distorted and misused to serve the purposes of more or less disguised neo-imperialist agendas over the years - not least in Africa. The foreign governments, NGO’s and others outside Swaziland must understand that struggle for inclusive democratisation and socio-economic justice in Swaziland cannot be dictated from New York, London, Beijing or Pretoria. For what is the use of all the talk of democracy and human rights if it really means that Swaziland, and other countries in Africa, are to be steered from afar yet again?
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* Peter Kenworthy has a Master of Social Science, International Development Studies and is part of Africa Contact’s Free Swaziland campaign.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
ACTSA’s Swaziland campaign: http://www.actsa.org/page-1223-Swaziland.html
Africa Contact’s Swaziland campaign: http://afrika.dk/frit-swaziland
About COSATU’s Swaziland campaign: http://www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=1722&cat=Campaigns
Stiff Kitten’s Blog: http://stiffkitten.wordpress.com/
Swaziland Democracy Campaign: http://www.swazidemocracy.org/home.htm
Swazi Media Commentary: http://swazimedia.blogspot.com/
Swaziland Solidarity Network: http://www.ssnonline.net/
Swaziland United Democratic Front: http://sudfinfo.wordpress.com/
Visit Swaziland unofficial tourist site: http://visitswaziland.wordpress.com/
AU on Libya: Political solution needed
1. Thank you for organising this interactive dialogue. It is good that the United Nations Security Council has met the African Union (AU) Mediation Committee (High-Level Ad hoc Committee on Libya) so that we can exchange views on the situation in Libya in a candid manner. This should have happened much earlier because Libya is a founding member of the AU. An attack on Libya or any other member of the African Union without express agreement by the AU is a dangerous provocation that should be avoided given the relaxed international situation in the last 20 years since the release of Nelson Mandela from jail and the eventual freedom of South Africa.
2. The UN is on safer ground if it confines itself on maintaining international peace and deterring war among member states.
3. Intervening in internal affairs of States should be avoided except where there is proof of genocide or imminent genocide as happened in Rwanda or against the Jews in Germany and the European countries that were occupied by the Third Reich.
4. There are differences on the issue of Libya as to whether there was proof of genocide or intended genocide. Fighting between Government troops and armed insurrectionists is not genocide. It is civil war. It is the attack on unarmed civilians with the aim of exterminating a particular group that is genocide – to exterminate the genes of targeted groups such as the Jews, Tutsis, etc. It is wrong to characterise every violence as genocide or imminent genocide so as to use it as a pretext for the undermining of the sovereignty of States. Certainly, sovereignty has been a tool of emancipation of the peoples of Africa who are beginning to chart transformational paths for most of the African countries after centuries of predation by the slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism.
Careless assaults on the sovereignty of African Countries are, therefore, tantamount to inflicting fresh wounds on the destiny of the African peoples. If foreign invasions, meddlings, interventions, etc, were a source of prosperity, then, Africa should be the richest continent in the world because we have had all versions of all that: slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism. Yet, Africa has been the most wretched on account of that foreign meddling.
5. Whatever the genesis of the intervention by NATO in Libya, the AU called for dialogue before the UN resolutions 1970 and 1973 and after those Resolutions. Ignoring the AU for three months and going on with the bombings of the sacred land of Africa has been high-handed, arrogant and provocative. This is something that should not be sustained. To a discerning mind, such a course is dangerous. It is unwise for certain players to be intoxicated with technological superiority and begin to think they alone can alter the course of human history towards freedom for the whole of mankind. Certainly, no constellation of states should think that they can recreate hegemony over Africa.
6. The safer way is to use the ability to talk, to resolve all problems.
7. The UN or anybody acting on behalf of the UN must be neutral in relation to the internal affairs of states. Certainly, that should be the case with respect to African countries. The UN should not take sides in a civil war. The UN should promote dialogue, peaceful resolution of conflicts, and help in enforcing agreements arrived at after negotiations such as the agreement on the Sudan.
8. Regardless of the genesis of the Libyan problem, the correct way forward now is dialogue without pre-conditions. The demand by some countries that Col. Muammar Gadaffi must go first before the dialogue is incorrect. Whether Gadaffi goes or stays is a matter for the Libyan people to decide. It is particularly wrong when the demand for Gadaffi’s departure is made by outsiders.
9. In order for dialogue, without pre-conditions, to take place, we need a ceasefire in place that should be monitored by the AU troops among others. This will help the AU to confirm the veracity of the stories of Gadaffi killing civilians intentionally.
10. That dialogue should agree on the way forward in the direction of introducing competitive politics. Gadaffi thinks he has the most democratic system in the world of people’s authority, elected local committees. Since so much chaos in Libya has emerged on the issue, Gadaffi should see the wisdom of accepting competitive democracy. Gadaffi cannot ignore the fact that the rebels took over Benghazi and his authority melted away before NATO came in to confuse the picture. The pre-NATO uprising in Benghazi was, mainly, internal. Gadaffi may say that they were organised by Al Qaeda. Even if that is so, it is a fact that some Libyans in Benghazi threw out Gadaffi’s authority. Therefore, Gadaffi must think of and agree to reforms, resulting into competitive politics.
11. A transitional mechanism could, then, be worked out and competitive elections would take place after an agreed timetable.
12. What about security for the opposition members? We have plenty of experience on such issues. What did we do in Burundi? We provided a protection force (a brigade) for the Hutu leaders who were living outside Burundi or were in the bush. One of them is now the President of Burundi after winning democratic elections.
13. How about those who are alleged to have committed war crimes – including Gadaffi and the rebels? Again, our decision in Burundi is useful here. We used the concept of “immunité provisoire” (provisional immunity), for all the stakeholders so that they could participate in the dialogue. After peace is realised, then a Truth and Reconciliation body could be set up to look into these matters. After democratic elections, trials of guilty parties can take place.
14. Long-term safety of everybody can be ensured by security sector reform and especially reform of the army, so that it takes orders from any elected President.
15. The intervention in Libya was premised on the basis of protecting civilians and preventing further civilian deaths. However, the humanitarian situation in Libya remains serious and continues to get worse with continued hostilities. Looking at how resolutions 1970 and 1973 are being implemented, the international community and the United Nations in particular, are being severely put to the test, as what is happening in Libya will undermine future efforts of the UN in the protection of civilians. There is, therefore, no need for any war-like activities in Libya because there is a peaceful way forward. There has been no need for these war activities, ever since Gadaffi accepted dialogue when the AU mediation Committee visited Tripoli on April 10, 2011. Any war activities after that have been provocation for Africa. It is an unnecessary war. It must stop.
16. The story that the rebels cannot engage in dialogue unless Gadaffi goes away does not convince us. If they do not want dialogue, then, let them fight their war with Gadaffi without NATO bombing. Then, eventually, a modus vivendus will emerge between the two parties or one of them will be defeated. The attitude of the rebels shows us the danger of external involvement in internal affairs of African countries.
The externally sponsored groups neglect dialogue and building internal consensus and, instead, concentrate on winning external patrons. This cannot be in the interest of that country. Mobutu’s Congo as well as performance of all the other neo-colonies of Africa in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and their eventual collapse in the 1990s prove that foreign sponsored groups are of no value to Africa.
17. It is essential that the UN Security Council works with the African Union to ensure that a ceasefire is immediately established with an effective and verifiable monitoring mechanism and dialogue embarked upon, leading to a political process including transitional arrangements and the necessary reforms. The crisis in Libya requires a political solution and not a military one; and the AU Road Map is the most viable option.
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* Dr Ruhakana Rugunda is Uganda’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
* This statement was first published by Mathaba.
Is the 'global coalition' obstructing Africa’s progress?
AFRICA’S CONFIDENT STEPS TOWARDS DEMOCRACY
2011 will go down in Africa’s history as one of those rare moments in which the continent was dealt severe blows to its rightful role as a member of the international community. While pontificating at length about democracy, participation and the rights of people to chose their own destinies, the West has shown once again that its own interest overrides those legitimate concerns of others. This has to be emphasised time and again to enable the youth of Africa to learn that the salvation of this continent lies in Africans ourselves.
What began as popular revolt in Egypt and Tunisia was refreshing and new, coming on the heels of post-election deadlock in Côte d’Ivoire. It was like a bolt from the blue, but refreshing and reassuring that the masses were not asleep. However, it is also time for us to wake up to new realities that threaten the nascent democratic systems which are being nurtured and our fragile economies as the West begins to search for new lands to conquer and colonise as their own economies hit the rocks. Age-old colonial attitudes die hard. In the early 1980s, there were numerous debates about the ‘re-colonislation’ of Africa. These were mainly dismissed as heresies, but as Tripoli is being pounded as I write this article, and the life of Colonel Gaddafi and his people are in peril, we see a repeat of Iraq and Afghanistan, except that this time it is on Africa soil.
DEMOCRACY WITHOUT DEVELOPMENT
Events in Tunisia and Egypt – the latest examples of popular uprisings or ‘revolutions’ – highlight issues of poverty, deprivation, dictatorships bankrolled by the West and, eventually, a people so fed up that they defy these dictatorships, irrespective of the cost to their own lives and property. Their defiance is reminiscent of the second liberation in Africa in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Will these popular revolutions lead to the type of change envisaged by the protestors in Egypt and Tunisia? Did the second liberation in Africa lead to the type of democratic transition popular forces envisaged?
Guinea has receded in the news since the military gave way to an elected government, but it still presents us with a good example of the conundrum we are usually presented with when discussing democracy and development in Africa. Guinea was abused and desecrated by the French as a colonial power. When the late President Ahmed Sékou Touré, like most radical African nationalists, tried to reverse poverty, deprivation and the neocolonial exploitation of Guinea’s bauxite, he suffered the same fate as most of our post-colonial leaders. He died a disappointed man. When I met President Touré in Conakry, the capital of Guinea (in 1982), he was a broken man. He had lost his radical vitality and moaned a lot about Africa’s inability to develop because of constant external interference. Guinea was not to recover. In Niger, a legion of coup makers also complain about the poverty that is all obvious in spite of the fact that it is a mineral-rich country. In the recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, poverty and youth unemployment was very much one of the influencing factors.
Others have argued that the quagmire of poverty in which many Africans face today is due to a lack of effective and a visionary leadership. I tend to agree. In order to understand this, one needs to look at how African leaders are groomed, selectively praised and demonised and how they sustain themselves in power. In both Egypt and Tunisia, the United States of America bankrolled the Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali dictatorships for several decades, only to wake up when the masses of these countries were in open defiance, in spite of American support for their dictators. When the masses poured into the streets, one could not help but feel nauseated at the way the American political elite suddenly found a voice to talk about ‘democracy’ in Egypt. Where have they been all these years when then President Mubarak abused, disposed and virtually imprisoned his people?
It appears that Africa’s post-colonial history is full of examples of people who assume leadership roles because of their popularity, while others assume such roles because of the support they have from foreign interests, mainly American and some Western powers. In recent years, Western powers have taken it upon themselves to decide who is a ‘leader’ in Africa. In the recent debate, we have heard a phrase uttered several times. One leader from the European Union is quoted as saying, ‘as far as we are concerned, Gaddafi must go’. Wow, is she a Libyan?
The sort of atrocities committed in the name of ‘democracy’ are a worrying trend, with several thousands of innocent children, women and men dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and Côte d’Ivoire. Several thousand more will die in Libya before this colonial enterprise reaches its logical conclusion, while several more will die in Côte d’Ivoire, firstly because of the foreign intervention led by French imperialism, and secondly the bankrupt nature of the African ruling class, who have no inhibitions if they trample over several dead African children to achieve their dream of sleeping in ‘state house’.
In the name of democracy, the ‘international community’ creates its own centres of power, and labels them ‘coalition’ governments, sometimes with the blessing of the African Union. We have them in Kenya and Zimbabwe. ‘Coalition’ governments are like the jobs of a poorly constructed house put up by cowboy builders: it will hold for a while, but its structural deficiencies cannot be overlooked. Kenya’s vice-president, the Honourable Kalonzo Musyoka, calls them ‘the worst form of government’. In the Cold War era, such intervention was either directly or indirectly through local proxies (Mobutu Sese Seko and Jean-Bédel Bokassa are examples of this). In other times, direct intervention through mercenaries is easier and less costly; we saw this in Sierra Leone with the British mercenary group, Executive Outcomes, leading the charge against guerrilla forces.
In the 1980s, Africa was replete with ‘charismatic leaders’, ’strongmen’, ‘new leaders’ – names invented by admiring Western journalists. These leaders were also bolstered by Western financial support. Neocolonialism had come of age. The inventors of these so-called African ‘strongmen’ always ignored the most basic principle of political science and democracy that only the citizens of that country have the legitimate authority to decide whether a leader is good or bad for a country. My countryman Nii Akuetteh (executive director of Africa Action, USA) calls this, ‘the genuine, informed, enlightened opinion and sentiment of the broad majority’. The reality in Africa today is that ‘this majority is never consulted. Indeed, steps are taken to suppress its views’. The role of the African majority is usurped by the labelling chorus of Western praise-singers and their African cohorts.
This Western chorus praises certain African leaders and keeps them in power through public praise, insidious secret military agreements, large doses of Western aid and military equipment to suppress their opponents in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’. Even when these leaders are kleptomaniacs, they look the other way. Before the Cold War was interrupted, it was all done in the name of fighting ‘communism’. These days, it is either about fighting ‘terrorists’ or supporting local ‘democracy’. This scenario is being replayed in the Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Libya (of late) and several African countries under the guise of finding an international consensus to post-election crisis. In Côte d’Ivoire, the post-election crisis has been largely fuelled in part by the interference of France, and other conniving imperialists’ interests and the local ruling elite. The real interests of the Ivorian populace were irrelevant to these forces.
Why does the West keep corrupt, undemocratic, visionless and ineffectual leaders in power? It is because these leaders serve and protect the interests of the West. They become front-men and -women for implementing Western orthodox economic policies which endanger Africa economies and people but serve vital Western economic and military interests. Liberalisation provides an unfettered access to African minerals, oil, military bases or complicity in renditions, which allows Western torturers to arrest and incarcerate innocent citizens or transport them to lawless lands in the name of fighting terrorism.
In serving Western interests some of these African rulers wage war on the true interests of their people. In the end what we see in Africa today is a global coalition of foreign interests and their local puppets usurping power in the name of ‘democracy’. The liberators now turned plunders and abusers, who have always seen collusion with Western interests as normal and as a protection of ‘democratic values’. In reality, these Western interests and their local puppets actually hate and stifle real popular democracy.
In the immediate post-independence period, Africa had leaders like Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Sékou Touré (Guinea), Modibo Keïta (Mali), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania) and several others whose voices on the global stage could not be ignored because these were leaders with a vision, an intellect unmatched by any other and who were committed to the cause of Africa. They were feared and respected in equal measure because the African liberation train was at full speed, unstoppable and fearless. Imperialism changed tact and through coups d’état, sabotage and assassinations, eliminated these leaders, leaving us with the profiteers and plunderers.
Today, African voices on the international stage are muted, indeed muffled, in the cacophony of Western-led musicians and praise-singers acting on behalf of Africa. African voices are so muted that the African Union can be ignored by institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), to which these leaders are signatories. The lack of respect for African leaders at the global level is indeed worrying because if our leaders cannot speak for us at the United Nations and be listened to, then who can? If Jacob Zuma, Mwai Kibaki, John Atta Mills, Goodluck Jonathan, Meles Zenawi and Yoweri Musevine can be ignored and treated with disrespect, then what happens to the rest of African humanity? Such treatment is carefully choreographed by this global coalition as a defence of ‘democracy’ and of the people of Africa. The contemptuous attitude of Western leaders (even junior ones) towards African leaders is baffling.
In trying to understand the role of this global coalition, it is also important to examine African history since the 1980s when the West used food and development aid and support to Western non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to deepen their stranglehold on the continent. The former British prime minister Tony Blair called this intervention ‘humanitarian’. It probably was to the eyes of the Western public, but to a more discerning eye, there was more to it. While Tony Blair was preaching humanitarian intervention in Africa, he was leading one of the bloodiest periods in the history of Iraq, ignoring and lying to his own people about his motives.
African intellectuals and activists ought to respond to policy directives from Washington and London with equal robustness in defence of Africa. In recent weeks we have all been treated to a flurry of writing from African academics, extolling the lessons of Egypt and Tunisia for the youth of Africa. They write as if Africa has not been there before. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Africa was a ferment of popular revolutionary struggles led by students, youth, trade unions, farmers’ and women’s movements. Current regimes in most African countries are the result of these popular struggles. So when people pose the question whether ‘Egypt can be replicated’, the answer should be a resounding ‘no’, because Egypt is following a precedent set by African youth and political activists in the era before the Facebook generation of activists.
DEMOCRACY AS SELF-DETERMINATION
Democracy in its true meaningful sense requires self-determination and true empowerment of the people, the ability of a country through its legislature and institutions (e.g., civil society) to protect the nation’s natural resources and national vital assets, including its children, people with disabilities and water resources. Democracy has to be relevant to the people in whom it is exercised and cannot be imposed by bombs rained on innocent women, children and so on. African history is replete with kingdoms where ‘democracy’ of a more relevant type was practiced. A weak, ineffective state is incapable of doing this, and lends itself to corruption, impunity, plunder, the abuse of its citizens and manipulation by foreign vested interests. Yet there has been a deliberate attempt to weaken the African state. In the name of democracy, the African state has been weakened while national leadership is severely undermined and discredited deliberately through selective insults, deliberate economic sabotage and the use of mercenaries and misguided youth to create mayhem in the name of empowerment. This tendency is part of a process of imperialist and neocolonial political and economic control.
The only way the West can continue its stranglehold on Africa is through the weakening of state institutions and by undermining the very nature of the state through open, insidious and perfidious means such as abusing African leaders through blanket selective name-calling and the mobilisation of hostile forces in the grand name of ‘supporting democracy’ while doing the exact opposite. The forced imposition of national ‘grand coalitions’ after contested elections is one example of such attempts to weaken the African state and render it ineffective and amenable to manipulation by vested foreign and local interests. But as noted earlier, these coalitions are problematic, as the case of Zimbabwe and Kenya demonstrate. Contested elections in other parts of the world do not automatically lead to so-called ‘grand coalition governments’.
These national grand coalitions are underpinned by a global coalition of its own. This also constitutes the defenders of imperialist and neocolonial interests in Africa. This global coalition has become the instruments for imposing and enforcing the will of the so-called international community in some African countries, the latest example being the attempt to enforce regime change in Libya. Members of this global coalition include the neoliberal African ruling elites, Western politicians, bureaucrats, tycoons, Western heads of missions in Africa and journalists. Kenya is an example of the role of this grand coalition. Where the interest of this global coalition is threatened either by poverty, youth uprisings, armed rebellion, land seizures or the failure to secure lucrative oil and other contracts, they would not hesitate to undermine democracy or its institutions. Sometimes Western interests turns to hate of Africa and its continuing quest for legitimate self-determination and economic independence.
In the past, this global coalition has recruited mercenaries or hired pliant neocolonial collaborators in African armies to overthrow legitimate and democratically elected governments, with all kinds of puerile reasons and justifications. As Nii Akuetteh puts it: ‘The grand (global) coalition thus constitutes the enemies of democracy in Africa. It uses subtlety and deception as part of its war. Consequently, every member of this coalition – the African rulers, the Western politicians, bureaucrats, tycoons and journalists, at the appropriate time – profess their love for democracy.’
The timing and geographic element in this phenomenon should not be overlooked either. In the words of Nii Akuetteh: ‘The specific set of Western interests being served changes with time and also depends on region. The changes in Western interests produce changes in which African rulers receive the labelling and the praise.’ In the 1960s leading up to the 1980s, when Western interests were largely influenced by winning the Cold War against communism – i.e., protecting capitalism while professing its right to plunder Africa’s resources – rulers who received support included Mobutu Sese Seko (then Zaire, now the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo)), Jonas Savimbi (rebel leader in Angola), General Ibrahim Babangida (former ruler of Nigeria) and Jerry Rawlings (Ghana), to name but a few.
Today, Western interests have changed to imposing capitalism (in the name of globalisation and economic prudence), the continued plunder of African resources and fighting the ‘War on Terror’. Those receiving Western praise and support now include President Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia), President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), President Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia. In the words of Nii Akutteh: ‘The time and geographic elements also explain why some African rulers receive the Kleenex treatment from the West. When their usefulness comes to an end, they lose favour, are thrown aside and become pariahs, if not demons. President Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and ex-President Charles Taylor (and now Muammar Gaddafi) might fall into this category.’
This also explains why building democracy in Africa is fraught with difficulties. The pro-democracy movement since the 1980s has fallen prey to this Western deception and beguiling. Democracies thrive and are sustained by the quality of their institutions, particularly those charged with promoting justice, equality and accountability for all citizens, not for the chosen few. These institutions, by their very nature and the quality of their work, can strengthen the public trust in their governments. So when these institutions give even the slightest appearance that they are being compromised, undermined by foreign name-calling or used for the pursuit of ethnic, foreign and/or personal interest, the very fabric of democracy is threatened. This global coalition believes that when it comes to Africa, individual freedoms should be sacrificed for its interests.
When African leaders attempt to rein in these foreign predators and resist neocolonial imposition, unjustified sanctions are applied without morality and due consideration for the poor of that country. A classic example of this is Zimbabwe, and Ghana under its first prime minister, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, and now Libya. Under these conditions, Africa is put in the spotlight and labelled ‘failed states’, ‘basket cases’ and similar patronisingly depressing accolades.
PEOPLE’S POWER IS THE ANSWER
The role of the global coalition bent on neocolonial domination of Africa calls for serious resistance to first inform African people and build solidarity within and outside Africa. There is an urgent need to expose the hypocrisy of this anti-African cabal group which claims to fight for democracy and development while doing all in their power to resist African self-determination and block genuine economic independence and self-reliance. The current popular successes in Tunisia and Egypt, like similar struggles in other parts of Africa, will prove to be a mirage as this global coalition mobilises its efforts to ensure that these popular ‘revolutions’ do not lead to genuine change for the popular movements of the people and real democracy. They will rely on the ruling elites of these countries as their pliant supporters. African activists (both political and civil society elements) in Africa and the diaspora must exploit every opportunity to relentlessly publicise and expose how Western politicians, misguided aid enthusiasts and tycoons join together to praise, prop up and protect horrific African regimes and their ruthlessly servile policies while at the same time demonising genuine pan-African, anti-imperialist leaders who seek to deal with the intractable problems of neocolonialism, poverty and deprivation.
In the same way, African activists should identify and expose both African and Western journalists who use their positions to promote anti-African diatribes in the name of freedom of expression. Nii Akuetteh provides a reason why such an exposure is critical: ‘Western reporters (who in their own countries are fearless and terrifying in ferreting out abuse of power) undergo a transformation when they leave home. When in Africa, they practice foreign journalism as patriotic propaganda. In these morality plays, Westerners in Africa do no wrong but rather are white saviours who rescue poor Africans from their evil leaders and their uncivilised culture.’ The result is that Western public opinion is in the dark. It has no clue about the harm its politicians, businessmen (some parade as benevolent investors), bureaucrats and tycoons have been doing across Africa. If African activists and progressive leaders work with Western and global activists to shine a bright light on the nefarious arrangements that hurt Africa so badly, it will wither away and leave Africa to deal with the rest.
Above all, Africa and its institutions must learn the lessons of the past and not allow foreign interest to dictate who is and who is not fit to rule an African country. This requires of us as Africans to be broadminded, to develop our own vision of what constitutes African democracy and how to resolve African differences. Activists must develop new strategies, tactics and programmes to confront the new realities. This calls for renewing confidence in ourselves to wean our countries from the extreme over-reliance on external support by building our own resource base through local resource mobilisation, fostering more equitable development and learning to mend our broken societies our own way.
The African spirit teaches us not to despair. Even though Africa may be seen through some other lenses as being in perennial crisis, Africans have a habit and an impressive record of overcoming what Nii Akuetteh calls ‘even more dire adversity’. The examples of Tunisia and Egypt have rekindled people’s believe in themselves and the possibility of peaceful positive change. We must seize the moment. But we should also not ignore the painful lessons of neocolonial, imperialist interventions. They are aimed at parachuting us back to the days before the Berlin Conference. As Nkrumah once said, Africa is ‘out of the gambling house of colonialism and will never return’.
Forward ever, backward never.
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* Zaya Yeebo is a journalist and writer.
* 2010 © Zaya Yeebo
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Race, class and transformation in South Africa
There has been a dialectical and organic link between the class question and the race question in South Africa from the period since the inception of capitalism to the present post-settler colonial era of the country. Capitalism since its inception in South Africa has constituted the primary or irreconcilable contradiction with the masses of its exploited people. This work deals with the dialectical and organic link between the class question and the race question in the country and the fundamental need not to depart from the importance of the racial factor in South African politics for revolutionary socio-economic change. It ends with an analysis of the nature of the relationship between black capital and white capital in the present South Africa from the structural socio-economic transformation perspective.
Throughout the whole socio-historical phase of capitalist development from mercantilist imperialism, through free trade imperialism and financial imperialism, to the present period of multilateral imperialism, South Africa served as ‘a mirror of the emergence of the modern world’. It executed this task by embodying ‘more intensively than most the consequence of the benefits’ of capitalism ‘to a white minority linked to Europe’ and ‘the misfortunes, to the majority linked to the rest of Africa and Asia, with the minority trying to create a South Africa after its image, which it also saw as representative of what it called Western civilisation. South Africa ‘was also to embody the resistance against the negative consequences’ of capitalist ‘modernity’, and in ‘its history we see the clashes and interactions of race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion and the social forces that bedevil the world today.’
These ‘clashes and interactions of race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion and social forces’ bedeviling South Africa today constitute challenges faced by the South African revolutionary and progressive forces in providing the intellectual foundations for a vision of an economic independent South Africa. Central to the execution of this task is to ensure that this vision is not only accepted by the masses of the South African people, but also, most importantly, be fought for. The mobilisation of the popular social forces for the achievement of their economic liberation is central in this task. This mobilisation must be rooted in the principles that none but ourselves can and should liberate and develop ourselves and our country.
Agents for social change are constituted by a network not only of socio-economic relations, but also by race, gender, generation, residence, and other affiliations which insofar as they are structurally defined by relations of control, domination and exploitation are the arena of political, economic and ideological struggle. A broad, popular, firm and vigilant alliance of popular forces should be forged. In addition, agents for social change should be integrated into the project in which theory and analysis are moved to practice through mobilisation and concrete action in order to establish community as the basis of social existence. This task should be executed by connecting their particular marginalisation and suffering to the relations of production and reproduction of their socio-political and economic status in the society embodied in the capitalist mode of production and by struggling to materialise their possibilities for collective efforts towards structural socio-economic transformation.
The position of Cyril Lionel Robert James in his analysis of the dialectical and organic link between the class question and the race question of politics and imperialism is important in the provision of the analysis of the dialectical and organic link between the class question and the race question in South Africa. James maintains and defends the thesis of the primacy of the class question over the race question in the relations between social class forces in terms of their demands, needs and interests within capitalist countries. According to him, the race question, as the secondary issue in relation to the class question, must be dialectically and organically incorporated into the class question in these relations. The importance of the race question must be neither overestimated nor underestimated. The dynamic relationship between the class question and the race question must be viewed and examined dialectically.
Providing analysis of the dialectical and organic relationship between the race question and the class question and demonstrating how social class division structurally buttresses racism, James never departs from the importance of the racial factor in his view of politics and imperialism. The point is that the reality that the race question is the subsidiary or secondary issue in relation to the class question in this process does not mean that the importance of the race question should be neglected or minimised. James, the leading authority on the dialectical and organic link between the class question and the race question, articulates this reality as follows:
‘The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental [is] an error only less grave than to make it fundamental.’
This is the strategic lesson for us as South African revolutionary and progressive forces. We should dialectically weave the relationship between the race question and the class question and never depart from the importance of the racial factor in South African politics for revolutionary socio-economic change.
Relating to the articulated combination of the class struggle and the national struggle in South Africa, Ngugi wa Thiong’o concludes that:
‘Thus, South Africa as the site of concentration of both domination and resistance was to mirror the worldwide struggles between capital and labour, and between the colonising and the colonised. For Africa, let’s face it, South African history, from Vasco da Gama’s landing at the Cape in 1498 to its liberation in 1994, frames all modern social struggles, certainly black struggles. If the struggle, often fought out with swords, between racialised capital and racialised labour was about wealth and power, it was also a battle over image, often fought out with words.’
This ‘image of the world’ is ‘a physical, economic, political, moral and intellectual universe of our being.’
The issue of the struggle between ‘racialised capital and racialised labour’ is important in the analysis of the nature of the relationship between black capital and white capital in the present South Africa from the structural socio-economic transformation perspective. It is important also in the analysis of the relationship between black labour and white labour in the country. This is given the importance of the dialectical and organic link between the class question and the race question from the period since the inception of capitalism to the present post-settler colonial era in the country.
One of the issues confronted in the struggle for structural socio-economic transformation in South Africa is the nature of the relationship between black capital and white capital. Given the dominance of the South African economy by some whites, it is generally maintained and accepted that black capital is subordinate to white capital. However, in the language of politics of revolutionary socio-economic change, the issue is not that black capital is subordinate to white capital in the South African political economy, but that black capital and white capital are mutually dependent. Rather than being a victim in its relations with white capital, black capital, together with white capital, is an active social agent in the advancement of a neo-liberal capitalist system which confronts both black labour and white labour as subordinate social classes in the South African political economy. In essence, both black capital and white capital constitute the South African capital which is the class ruling the South African labour constituted by both black labour and white labour.
The position that black capital is subordinate to white capital avoids and hides the structural comradeship relationship between black capital and white capital in the South African political economy. The advancement of black capital is in the interests of white capital and foreign capital, particularly that of advanced capitalist countries as well as the strategic interests of global capitalism in the country and beyond. This reality and the fact that internal contradictions within national capital are secondary, not primary, are supportive of the reality that the key, fundamental struggle in South Africa is between labour and capital.
The South African revolutionary and progressive forces should dialectically weave the relationship between the race question and the class question and never depart from the importance of the racial factor in South African politics.
Despite the dialectical and organic link between the class question and the race question in South Africa, there are some South Africans, particularly the beneficiaries of apartheid, who wage organised struggle to stifle the debate on the race question. They pretend not to be aware that the history of settler colonial and racist rule was characterised by racist control, domination and exploitation of black people and affirmative action for white people. They pretend not to be aware that the fact that racism was the official policy in the settler colonial and racist era means that there was a white economic empowerment policy. Given this history, how can the race question not be one of the key issues of concern for those who are for a better life for all South Africans? At issue is not just their denial of the importance of the racial factor in South African politics, but, most importantly, their opposition to the structural transformation of South African society.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 For a comprehensive analysis of the socio-historical phase of the development of capitalism from mercantilist, through free trade imperialism and financial imperialism, to the present period of multilateral or corporate imperialism, see, Dani Wadada Nabudere, ‘The Political Economy of Imperialism: From Theoretical and Polemical Treatment from Mercantilist to Multilateral Imperialism’, London: Zed Press, 1977.
 Ngugi wa Thiongo, ‘Recovering our memory: South Africa in the Black Imagination,’ in Steve Biko Foundation, the Steve Biko Memorial Lectures, 2000-2008, Johannesburg: Steve Biko Foundation and Pan Macmillan South Africa, 2009, p. 55.
 Ibid., p. 56.
 C.L.R. James, ‘The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution’, New York: Vintage Books, 1963, p 283.
 Ngugi wa Thiongo, ‘Recovering our memory: South Africa in the Black Imagination,’ p. 56.
Is microfinance working in South Africa?
Poverty at home when she was growing up caused Thandi Dlamini* to drop out of school in Grade 11 – two years prior to matriculation. Her lack of education prevented her from obtaining formal sector work. She married, and moved to a small village in the semi-rural community of Acornhoek, Limpopo, with her husband and four children, but the family struggled to survive on her husband’s meager income as a driver and before long they were begging for hand-outs from neighbours and relatives as the house around them fell apart.
Thandi took the poverty bull by the horns. Having noticed there was a lack of small shops selling basic commodities nearby, she started a spaza shop selling products directly from her house, in part using her children’s social grants to finance the purchase of stock. In 2007, she joined the Women’s Development Businesses (WDB) microfinance programme, providing micro-credit to poor women. The loans – R1000 ($150) in 2009, increasing to R2500 in 2010 and R3000 in 2011 – allowed her to develop her business through the purchase of wider stock, and she now makes an income of around R600 a month.
Thandi Dlamini is one of two success stories provided to us on request by WDB. To date, the programme has over 70,000 clients accessing credit via a group-based methodology based on that of Grameen Bank, the original micro-credit institution formed by Muhammed Yunus with the dream of eradicating world poverty. Like Grameen Bank, WDB – a 100% women’s programme – provides loans solely for enterprise purposes. But this represents only tiny slice of the larger microfinance cake: in South Africa, only 6% of the R50bn microfinance industry is invested in micro-enterprises, the remainder being chiefly small loans to consumers in need of quick cash flow. “The WDB approach is to focus on enterprise development or productive loans since you cannot ensure a sustainable livelihood for the family unless your income generating activities are showing growth,” said the bank’s fund development manager Nomalanga Masumpa.
Not all WDB’s conditions are identical to Grameen Bank, however, with a primary difference being the repayment costs. At 32.4% per annum, WDB’s interest payments are double those of Grameen’s, which remain at 16%. With the one-off initiation fee and administration fees, WDB’s combined charges are 54%, which may make loan payments difficult to keep up. Masumpa defends WDB by saying, “Microfinance costs are far lower than moneylenders,” and lays the higher costs down to the fact that “in South Africa, it is generally expensive for microfinance to cover its costs.” These costs, she says, are mainly those of skilled labour and collection fees. (Following this conversation we informed Zanele Mbeki, who heads the organisation, about the ACPAS system which significantly reduces costs for collection systems, and she said appropriate managers would visit the site and advise the WDB board on recommended action.)
Naturally, we wished to talk to the women who featured in the success stories. This proved initially difficult as, according to one official, the “system was not configured to provide these details.” Persistence paid off, and we were eventually put in contact with Thandi Dlamini and able to interview her in her village. The interview was then translated from her native Shangaan to English. Though the figures she quoted to us did not correlate with those provided in her case study by the bank, Thandi was positive about her microfinance experience. She talked about the possibility of opening a community creche and expanding her shop. “Before the loans, I had a tuckshop which was poorly stocked. After getting loans this improved. I also diversified the goods that I sell and in addition to groceries, I now sell clothing and blankets,” she said.
Thandi claimed that she was not the one who contacted WDB but, rather, that it intentionally sought out people in her income group, via its local management systems, also known as 'group structures'. “I get loans from Mvelamani* [her local group] who get [the money] from the WDB. I do not know anything about the group structure. But what I know is that they go around communities, asking people to come in groups of five to borrow money from them, which they get from the WDB.” The group structures also inspect businesses and “conduct workshops to teach you how to use your money,” she said. As with Grameen, it is the group-based system that is the collateral is the group-based system, ensuring that other women are responsible for the loan if one member cannot pay. Funds are “set aside as a group, every month, as insurance.” Should there be a problem repaying the loan, “we access this money that has been put aside to add to the group member’s instalment so that we can continue to meet our obligations.” She said she had never heard of Mvelamani not paying loans back to the WDB.
Despite the unsettling news from Bangladesh that, following Muhammad Yunus’s permanent removal as the head of Grameen Bank on the grounds of exceeding the official retirement age the finance ministry has unveiled a plan to increase its stake in the bank, Grameen remains a model for microfinance worldwide. But Yunus’s vision that poverty would become so rare that we would have to establish a “museum of poverty” has proved to be but a pipe dream. Though a whole host of motivations can be seen to be behind the widespread criticism of Grameen Bank, some of the more creditable analysis has revealed undeniable pitfalls, including the problems of running women-targeted programmes in often patriarchal developing countries, where the social, political, and legal status of women leaves them open to exploitation and debt.
In 2008, Professor Lamia Karim, who conducted an extensive 24 month study on Bangladesh’s microfinance borrowers and later authored a book on the subject, revealed that although women were the formal recipients of loans, “men used 95 percent of the loans… In my research area, rural men laughed when they were asked whether the money belonged to their wives. They pointedly remarked that since their wives belong to them, the money rightfully belongs to them.” According to Karim, though Grameen Bank (and models replicated thereof) exemplifies neoliberal ideas of development through microfinance, rendering the poor a ‘bankable’ group may have caused more ill than good. During an interview, Karim – a native of Bangladesh, identified three primary findings:
“First, women give the loans to their husbands. Women are the conduits for the circulation of capital in rural society. This has resulted in increased domination and violence for indivdual women both at the household and community levels. Second, women operate as the custodians of honor and shame in rural society. By instrumentalising these codes, NGOs shame rural women to recover their defaulted sums of money. Third, money is transferred from poor borrowers to the rural middle-class through proxy membership, moneylending, and by NGO officers allowing richer clients who they consider to be more credit-worthy,” she said.
A study conducted by Aminur Rahman of the Canadian International Development Agency, investigating gender-based violence in the context of Grameen’s micro-lending, revealed that 60% of women were asked to join the Bank by their husbands; a further 11% by other males; 13% by female relatives; 5% recruited by Bank’s officials, and just 10%, of their own initiative. Female borrowers were subject to victimisation by male relatives and forced to sell their homes and possessions to ensure repayment. Banked ‘clients’ – stuck in submissive roles, were also forced to collateralise their ‘honor’, and experience shame and marginalisation, by the group and the village, in the event of non-repayment. In India, this has resulted in over 200,000 suicides. In Peru, severe sanctions on borrowers. In Egypt, the use of criminal law to facilitate repayment.
And while the Grameen Bank boasts a repayment level of 97%, other studies reveal that the bulk of general weekly loan repayments were financed by relatives (39.4%), moneylenders (7%), peers (1%), other sources including neighbours (7%). In fact, a study commissioned by the Grameen Bank itself revealed, “Based on the studies in this survey, the overall effect on the incomes and poverty rates of microfinance clients is less clear, as are the effects of microfinance on measures of social well-being such as education, health, and women’s empowerment.” As the Harvard Business Review revealed in 2007, “Many heads of microfinance programs now privately acknowledge 90 percent of micro-loans are used to finance current consumption rather than to fuel enterprise.” In 2009, almost 40% of microloans supplied to South Africans were used to purchase food, and a considerable portion of indebted consumers engaged in cross-consumption of loans – using one source to pay off another.
The potential dangers of the microfinance industry for Africa were recognised by the African National Congress Economic Transformation Committee (2005) which stated, “Rather than promoting employment and economic security it could promote unemployment and economic insecurity by thriving on the extension of unsustainable debt burdens among low-income workers, thus generating economic disempowerment…”
But South Africa, according to some, has the right conditions for responsible microfinance to benefit the poor, and particularly women. “The political reality is that in South Africa, for various historical and other reasons, the women are left to fend for themselves,” said Professor Gerhard Coetzee Director of the Centre for Inclusive banking in Africa at the University of Pretoria and Advisor (Inclusive Banking) for ABSA to The Africa Report. “As with Bangladesh, there is the same same disciplined repayment of 98%, and this allows for women to empower themselves. Not only do women spend more of their returns on their children, but the positive impact on their daughters is considerable.”
A spokesperson for WDB says, “In deep rural areas, women are mostly heading up single households with menfolk having left the area to seek work in urban zones. Thus the women are responsible both for generating income to support the family left behind and to take care of the children. In our experience, women have time and time again demonstrated their discipline in both growing their small income generating business and in their ability to repay their business loans on time.”
Muhammed Yunus made the point that charity is not the way to eradicate poverty, but for some microfinance is just another opening to profit. The World Bank’s microfinance-focused Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) revealed in 2008, during the recession, that the assets of the world’s top ten microfinance investment groups grew by over 30%, rendering ‘the promise of poor women’, a lucrative private asset class.
“The phenomenon of growth has several reasons,” says Coetzee. “One is that as people lose their jobs in the formal economy, they turn to informal activities and survivalist businesses, so instead of a negative impact, microfinance becomes the cushion of the poor. The second reason is that there is a tremendous gap in the demand for microfinace services. Studies from the CGAP and Finscope reveal that more than 80% in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to financial services, ranging from loans to saving and transactional products, as well as insurance.”
Presently, while over 60% of eligible people are banked in South Africa, there is weak penetration in the loans and insurance sectors. University of KwaZulu-Natal Development Studies professor Patrick Bond, formerly the first US Federal Reserve employee assigned to regulate the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act on a full-time basis, says that the overall interest rate structure is biased against ordinary people.
“The usury ceiling was raised dramatically on the advice of the Free Market Foundation in 1992, up to 32% for small loans, and today the rate is even higher,” he said. “Even NGOs purportedly trying to help poor people using the Grameen Bank model have vastly inflated overhead and salary costs far out of line with the global industry.” According to Bond, 17 years after apartheid, not only has unemployment doubled, and inequality rising steadily, but the profit by financial institutions has soared. “The extreme expansion of bank credit to working-class people is far beyond their ability to pay. So from 2007-10, the number of South African consumers with ‘impaired credit ratings’ rose from 37% to 47%, a 2.3 million increase. Nearly a third of consumer credit outstanding is unsecured.”
To counter the pitfalls of microfinance, and protect consumers from predatory lenders, the National Credit Act (NCA) was launched in mid-2006, which covers loans and other credit from banks, including mortgages, overdrafts, credit cards, vehicle finance, micro-loans, pawn transactions and other type of credit and loans provided to consumers. To date, there are just under 4500 registered lenders, with over almost 2000 registered debt counsellors. The NCR claims to have resolved 94% of complaints (estimated at 10 442).
This is where South Africa differs from Bangladesh: according to Karim, despite the latter being the ‘market leader’ in microfinance, no bankruptcy laws and consumer protection bills exist. In South Africa, where the average cost to collect defaulting loans is R6000 – far below the average microfinance enterprise loan – compliance is possible only for the ruthless or, alternately, so-called ‘development’ institutions, peddling handsome salaries and perks to advocacy-type employees eager to prove that the hand which feeds, does so benevolently.
In an interview with The Africa Report in 2007, Yunus revealed that if he were to launch the microfinance movement again it would be in Africa where women are more assertive. This is, of course, a far cry from reality in many African countries, north and south, but in South Africa at least, the social, economic and religious background points to an environment where women are less vulnerable to the types of abuses uncovered in Rahman’s study.
At the time Thandi Dlamini connected with the WDB, poverty in Limpopo was estimated at over 65%, one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. But poverty is not lack of income alone. Deprivation of, or limited access too, basic services such as infrastructure, transport, healthcare, education, clear water and waste sanitation, as well as other key opportunities and institutions, provide the structural pillars informing South Africa’s income inequality – one of the world’s more glaring known gaps. Until these factors too are addressed we are far from achieving the microfinance dream.
* Name of the WDB client and the group structure has been changed.
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* Khadija Sharife is a journalist and visiting scholar at the Center for Civil Society (CCS) based in South Africa, and a contributor to the Tax Justice Network. She is the Southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report magazine, assistant editor of the Harvard ‘World Poverty and Human Rights’ journal and author of ‘Tax Us If You Can Africa’.
* This article first appeared in The Africa Report.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
‘Africa 2.0’: Myth or reality?
In recent weeks, there have been a series of conferences in Africa and Europe that focused on the role of technology, specifically social media, in promoting development and good governance in Africa. These have spun a number of discussions about the real impact of social media in Africa:
FrontlineSMS provides a synopsis of the recent Africa Gathering summit in London which focused on social media in Africa:
‘Many of the participants at the conference agreed that IT literacy, and indeed infrastructure, are not yet at a level for new forms of social media to overtake other existing communications tools. The consensus was that there continues to be an important place for traditional media. Some discussion was dedicated to the continuing conflicts in North Africa, for instance, as it was recognised that while the rise in use of new, internet based tools such as Facebook and Twitter have facilitated communications channels for social mobilisation to increasing numbers of people; there is a danger of creating new forms of inequality. In many contexts, new media does not have the same pervasiveness or reach as mediums such as newspapers, radios and mobile phones. At the local level, the tools required for change are often already in people’s hands; the challenge is making them work effectively to meet the needs of the context.
‘It was argued that change must be bottom-up, and begin by supporting grass roots initiatives to acquire the tools which suit their needs. If kept simple, social media devices such as the traditional radio combined with simple, cheap low-spec devices, like a mobile phone, can enhance the interactivity of radio to produce better intra-community experiences. By removing barriers of communication between community members and leaders, it becomes easier to foster a strong and engaged civil society.’
Strange Attractor’s Suw Charman-Anderson, a participant at the Africa Gathering conference, argues that rather than focusing too much on social media and digital tools, Africans should spend time developing a ‘social experience’ irrespective of the type of media:
‘There has been a lot of talk today about social media as if it is only Twitter and Facebook, and often the response has been that this is representative of only a small sections of voices in Africa and old, but valid, concerns about creating a digital divide. I also think that when we talk about social media, we need to think about how we can create social experience using whatever media is available to people…
‘It’s about building a social experience, not about getting jiggy with the technology. The world’s largest circulation English language newspaper isn’t in the US, UK or Australia. It’s in India, Newspapers in Asia, Africa and Latin America are seeing double digit growth. There are huge opportunities in socialising ‘old media’...
People want to communicate. They want their voices heard. It’s often said that FM radio is to Africa what satellite television is to the Middle East. When we think about social media, there is a lot of ways that we can engage people socially regardless of the technology.’
Tony Ballu argues that new technologies are creating a more assertive and independent generation of Africans who are very critical of their leaders:
‘The anger amongst Africans in the Diaspora and even young Africans on the continent at their leaders is very palpable, people feel let down by their leadership and it’s rare to hear anybody say a good word about an African President or Prime Minister. Most Africans it seems now blame their leaders for their plight not Colonialism or Slavery or any other made-up reasons that African leaders like to parrot. This anger can be felt on Twitter, Facebook and numerous blogs springing up all over the web. This generation of Africans is not going to make the mistakes of their parents who accepted wholeheartedly the assertion of African leaders of the time, that all their problems could be traced to the Whiteman. There is an element of armchair-revolutionarism about all of this, however the revolution has to start somewhere...the problems facing the continent will not and cannot be solved by Aid or money from the West but a radical reform in the way Africa is governed. This new state of mind bodes well for the development of the Continent, and with the help of Technology, Mobiles and Social Media, a growing mass of Africans are making huge strides towards a successful future.’
A similar view is shared by Tolu Ogunlesi who believes that ‘Africa 2.0’ will created and championed by a new type of ‘strongmen’ totally different from the strongmen of the past who plunged Africa in ignominy:
‘In truth, Africa 2.0 needs strong men and women, in addition to strong institutions, and Mr. Obama’s words could do with some redefining. When he says “Africa doesn’t need strongmen”, it is evident that he means the kind of strongmen that have led it to where it is today – the Mobutus and Does and Abachas and Mugabes...The expansion of a class of strongmen - entrepreneurs, scientists, news media, etc - who do not owe their wealth (or its expansion) to easy access to oil blocs and diamond mines and political office, alongside the inevitable expansion of the middle class, will reduce the prospects of the kind of totalitarian control that once defined and destroyed the African continent.
‘The point is this: in the emerging Africa it is harder for the government to carry on as though the people didn’t exist, or as though they existed to be deceived, because the citizens are losing the fear that once held them down. And then again, yes, people do get sick and tired of suffering, and less and less patient with lying, thieving, murderous tyrants.
‘The term “Africa 2.0” has been used to describe this new face of Africa. In my mind I see Africa 2.0 as a giant construction site. So much is going on simultaneously: sketching, assembling, pulling down, and dredging; and arguments and debates, some threatening to turn violent. Architectural plans are emerging and disappearing and changing as construction is going on, and accidents happen every now and then.’
Global Dashboard’s Claire Melamed argues that Africa’s mobile phone revolution will lead to another digital divide without the active participation of government:
‘The areas where most people live are covered [by mobile phones], but large swathes of every country, so a significant number of the most excluded, remote communities, still don’t have a signal. Expanding coverage is going to be expensive, and the most remote areas are going to be the most expensive. But it’s got to happen if we’re interested in equitable access to the huge benefits that mobile communications can bring. Governments have a role of course, in providing incentives for the private sector to make those investments.
‘The literacy divide. I’ve blogged here before about the fact that slowly growing rates of literacy and rapidly growing rates of mobile internet access might mean that inability to read, rather than lack of access to the technology, will soon become the key barrier to accessing the internet. There are lots of great examples of how mobile communications can be used to promote literacy, but the point still stands. And again, it’s largely up to governments to make sure that literacy expands fast enough to keep up…
‘My conclusion: the mobile revolution might have been driven by the private sector, but governments have to get involved and start seeing mobile communications as a service like any other, with the same issues of equity, coverage and affordability, to prevent new inequalities from emerging. Or in other words: the usual public policy problem updated for the mobile age.’
George Ngwane riles against Western duplicity in Libya:
‘In February 2010, I was in the company of students studying Conflict Prevention and Resolution in the UK whose field trip to The Hague took us to the trial of Charles Taylor in the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands. Before watching the trial, we were given lectures on the concepts of “crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes” and the fact that part of the reason why Charles Taylor was in the dock was his alleged sponsorship of rebels in the Sierra Leonean war (blood diamond) which took place between 1993-2004. What are the Western Allied Forces doing adorning Libyan rebels with diplomatic garbs, collecting a war chest for the rebels, opening offices and recognizing a rebel outfit as well as encouraging the oil for arms trade with the rebels (blood oil)?
‘I sometimes wonder how useful the Chevening Fellowship Certificate offered me by the British Government at the end of my course on Conflict Prevention is when the same Government defies the logic of peaceful settlement in preference to a large scale orgy of state violence. And international human rights organisations, Eurocentric scholars and their African lackeys, the International Criminal Court and all the international moral crusaders are keeping mute waiting to raise their ominous voices each time Robert Mugabe kills a fly. Brazen double standards and outright hypocrisy…
‘After fifty years of nominal Independence, Africa’s malign or benign despotism cannot be replaced by Western malevolent or benevolent imperialism. The endgame of any malign African despot shall in the short or the long term be engendered by genuine homegrown people power which fortunately is now witnessing a groundswell from the anti- one man rule to the anti-monarchy stance.’
Mideast Soccer’s James Dorsey writes about the challenges that a post-Qadaffi Libya will have to confront:
‘The problems include restoring and maintaining law and order; securing basic services such as food, water and energy; achieving international recognition of a post-Qaddafi government; resuming oil exports to ensure funding for the new government; and kick starting Libya’s stagnating economy.
‘All of this has to happen in a country that lacks institutions as a result of Mr. Qaddafi’s reliance on traditional tribal structures.
‘The pitfalls are equally challenging. A major conclusion of the experts is to incorporate existing structures and forces. The experts are drawing on the fact that a decision by the than US administration of Iraq to disband former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s military and police forces fuelled the bloody insurgency that savaged Iraq for years.
‘The need to rely on remnants of Mr. Qaddafi’s regime is reinforced by the fact that the untrained and inexperienced rebel forces are likely to be unable to maintain security on their own. Privately, Libyans in rebel-held territory concede that their most competent force consists of Islamists steeled by years of fighting in the 1990s against Mr. Qaddafi’s regime.
‘Ensuring the integration of remnants of the old regime into a new Libya may also pay political dividends. It would serve as a reassurance for those in Mr. Qaddafi’s camp who might still be willing to jump ship or even stage an effective coup against Mr. Qaddafi to remove him from power and pave the way for regime change. That reassurance takes on added importance following this week’s arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court in The Hague against Mr. Qaddafi, his son, Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi and Abdullah Senoussi, the head of Libyan intelligence.’
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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.
Igboland: Freedom, survival, future
The major preoccupation of an aggressor/conqueror state is to seek to effectuate a process of memory erasure over its overrun nation and land. This is the opportunity for the conqueror to begin to construct a bogus narrative of possession and control of the targeted society that arrogates it to the fictive role of primary agent of the course of history.
The enduring success of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things fall Apart’ is that the classic not only anticipates this conqueror’s predilection but it subverts the triumphalism of the latter’s Pyrrhic victory. Despite the District Commissioner’s bombastically-titled anthropological treatise at the end of the novel, heralding the latest European ‘possession and control’ of another region of Africa, this time Igboland, the future direction of history here neither lies with the administrator nor his evolving occupation regime – nor indeed with his conquering capital back home in Europe!
To locate the source for change and transformation in Igboland, subsequently, we need to examine, carefully, the import and circumstance of historian Obierika’s address to the administrator on the life and times of his friend and people’s hero, Okonkwo, who had recently committed suicide. We are reminded that as he speaks, two full sentences into a third, Obierika’s voice ‘trembled and choked his words’, trailing off into gasps and silences of deep contemplation. It is precisely within the context of these kaleidoscopic frames of Obierika’s recalls and introspection that we discern the sowing of the nation’s regenerative seeds of resistance and quest for the restoration of lost sovereignty. It is therefore not surprising that Okonkwo’s grandchildren would spearhead the freeing of Nigeria, to which Igboland had since been arbitrarily incorporated by the conquest, from the British occupation.
BAN THE SUN
For the aggressor state with a clear genocidal goal, memory erasure of the crime scene at the targeted nation is even more frantically pursued. On the morrow of the conclusion of its execution of the second phase of the Igbo genocide in January 1970, Nigeria wheeled out pretentious cartographers to embark on erasing the illustrious name, Biafra, from all maps and records that it could lay its hand on! During its meetings, the genocidist junta in power banned the words ‘sun’, ‘sunlight’, ‘sunshine’, ‘sundown’, ‘sunflower’, ‘sunrise’ or any other word-derivatives from the sun star that unmistakably reference the inveterate Land of the Rising Sun. This task and symbolism of sun-banning and sun-bashing were of course bizarre if not daft as the junta itself was to discover much sooner than later – and from a most unlikely source indeed…
At the time, a British military advisor to the junta, who was out dining with a senior member of the council in Lagos, unwittingly compared Igbo national consciousness and tenacity with that of the Poles. The advisor, who had studied modern history at university and was a great admirer of the exceptional endurance of Polish people in history, stated that the Igbo had demonstrated similar courage in the latter’s defence of Biafra and that a ‘rebirth of Biafra is a distinct possibility in my lifetime’ – this was unlike the 123 years it took the Polish state to re-appear in history after its disappearance from the world map! The advisor was then in his early 30s and the obvious implications of his Igbo-Polish analysis were not lost on his host. The junta member co-diner was understandably most outraged by the advisor’s crass insensitivity on the subject which he readily shared with his junta colleagues. Predictably, the immediate consequence of the hapless advisor’s impudence was an early recall home to Britain.
There were other bouts of farcical treats on display in Nigeria during the period aimed at erasing the memory of the Igbo genocide. Junta and other state publications and those of their sympathisers would print the name Biafra, a proper noun, with a lower case ‘b’ or box the name in quotes or even invert the ‘b’ to read ‘p’, such was the intensity of the schizophrenia that wracked the minds of the members of the council over the all important subject of the historic imprint of Igbo resistance and survival.
The Awolowoists and Awolowoids (supporters of Obafemi Awolowo, junta deputy chair and head of finance ministry) on the junta even toyed with the idea of abolishing money altogether in the economy of the soon occupied-land of the resourceful and enterprising Igbo. They reasoned that this would deliver the ‘final solution’ that had eluded them during the ‘encirclement, siege, pounding, and withering away’-strategy of the previous 44 months… They ended up with the ‘compromise’ pittance of £20.00 sterling per the surviving male-head of the Igbo family – a derisory sum, which, they reckoned, stood no chance of averting the catastrophe of social implosion they envisaged would occur in Igboland subsequently. We mustn’t fail to note that the £20.00-handout excluded the hundreds of thousands of Igbo families whose male-heads had been murdered during the genocide… Dreadfully, the accent placed by Nigeria on this third phase of the genocide, starting from 13 January 1970, was the economic strangulation of the 9 million Igbo survivors… 3.1 million Igbo had been murdered in the genocide between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970.
Igbo survival from the genocide is arguably the most extraordinary feature for celebration in an otherwise depressing and devastating age of pestilence in Africa of the past 50 years. Few people believed that the Igbo would survive their ordeal, especially from September 1968 when 8-10,000 Igbo, mostly children and older people, died each day as the overall brutish conditions imposed by the genocidist siege deteriorated catastrophically.
The Igbo are probably the only people in the world who were convinced that they would survive. And when they did, the aftermath was electrifying. In spontaneous celebration, the Igbo prefaced their exchange of greetings with each other for quite a while with the exaltation, ‘Happy Survival!’ Igbo survival, at the end, does represent the stunning triumph of the human spirit over the savage forces that had tried determinably, for four years, to destroy it. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s description of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ (this sun star, yet again!), her majestic tome on the subject, as a ‘love story’ couldn’t therefore be more apposite.
Forty years on, first and second generations removed from their parents and grandparents respectively who freed British-occupied Nigeria in 1960 and survived the follow-up genocide, Okonkwo’s progeny are once again tasked and poised to restore Igbo lost sovereignty. Everyone knows of their firm resolve and ability to achieve this goal. The Igbo can feel it; they feel it. Surely, the successful outcome of this endeavour is one of the most eagerly awaited news developments in Africa presently.
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* Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe's new book is entitled, ‘Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature’ (Dakar & Reading: African Renaissance, 2011), ISBN 9780955205019, paperback, 236pp., £19.95/US$29.95.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The potential balkanisation of Sudan and the role of meddlers
In this article, I want to address two issues: The potential balkanisation of the Sudan and the proposed Ethiopian Peacekeeping role in Abyei.
I think there is a clear consensus that defining and demarcating the border between North and South Sudan is one of the necessary preconditions for peace. However, Sudan’s troubles are numerous and peace remains elusive. The proposal of an Ethiopian peacekeeping role in Abyei is a band-aid that would not help peace and may even make things worse by intensifying regional rivalry. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), as the government is known in Ethiopia, is not impartial and can never be a neutral arbiter in Sudan. So how did Sudan reach the predicament it is in?
AN OVERVIEW BACKGROUND OF SUDAN
Sudan was colonised by Britain, with Egypt as a junior partner (1899-1956), as one entity with separate local administrations. In some areas the British established clear boundaries between communities while in others pastoralists roamed from one area to another according to grazing needs and seasonal changes. Prior to British colonialism, within Sudan as in many parts of Africa, the functional equivalent of borders consisted of frontiers among ethnic groups. A frontier, as opposed to a boundary line, is a zone of less contact; a boundary marks a clear line over which a state exercises sovereign power. The character of the modern state necessitates the establishment of such clear-cut limits of its area of authority and organisation.
Contemporary South Sudan is often superficially compared with Eritrea, which separated from Ethiopia in 1993. The historical trajectory of Eritrea and South Sudan differ in one important way. Whereas, Eritrea was an Italian colony with a separate evolution from Ethiopia, Britain colonised South Sudan as one entity historically contiguous with North Sudan. So, the comparison that narrowly focuses on just the breakup of two modern African states is simplistic as it fails to take into account how colonialism redefined Africa. Yet, even in those countries where the African state system and territorial composition in the 19th and early 20th centuries were quite arbitrarily defined during colonisation and transferred after decolonisation, we are today witnessing an unprecedented crisis of state structures and authority, contributing to the continuation of conflicts and wars. Indeed, these inherited borders, consisting of diverse ethnicities, are at the root of the crisis of the post-colonial African state, as is the case in North and South Sudan.
‘Balkanisation’ is a term used to refer to ethnic conflict and fragmentation within multiethnic states. This term was coined at the end of the First World War to describe the ethnic breakup of the Ottoman Empire, specifically in the Balkans. The partition for which Southerners in a referendum did vote overwhelmingly is to be formalised on 9 July 2011 between North and South Sudan, making South Sudan the world’s 193rd nation – and giving the world the illusion of finality. Yet the impending balkanisation between North and South Sudan is already marred by violence in Abyei, whose fate was not addressed by the referendum. At present both sides are making irredentist territorial claims backed by violence. There are ethnic enclaves in the frontier areas of Abyei whose national affiliations are ill-defined and/or overlap with territory claimed by both sides. An urgent resolution of this border issue is of paramount significance before it deteriorates from an already acute to chronic instability between the two neighboring states.
Already, North Sudan contains seemingly intractable ethnic divisions and potential flashpoints of cleavage like in Darfur, Blue Nile province, and South Kordofan; additionally, the South has several ethnic militia groups who refuse to surrender their arms to the central authority. South Kordofan is north of what will soon be the international border where many pro-south ethnic Christian Nubans reside: They are now being targeted by the Omar Al Bashir regime in Khartoum because they fought along with the South against the North during the civil war. Since South Kordofan is where one fourth of the remaining oil wealth is located, the area is fiercely contested and another site of struggle for self-determination. It took Hollywood focus on Darfur to make it visible, but South Kordofan is barely beginning to make it onto the radar of the Western media. South Kordofan is now the latest victim of the mayhem perpetrated by Khartoum.
In the South, the ethnic conflict between the Lou Nuer and the Shilluk, on the one hand, and the Dinka on the other hand, is a major impediment to peace. The Lou Nuer and the Shilluk see the southern government as pro Dinka. Nuer, Shilluk, and Dinka are overly broad categories; each consists of clusters of ethnicities. Part of the animosity among ethnic groups reflects the divide and rule strategy of the North in pitting ethnicities against one another during the long civil war. But there is also a much longer history of interethnic conflict over cattle or land in localised settings. In the post-independence era, competition between ethnic groups for the best place in the sun promoted injustice and violence. In the Sudanese equation, the Southerners have long stood out as conspicuous losers. It is not surprising that they voted so overwhelmingly (98.9 per cent) for an independent South Sudan. Yet the southerners themselves are far from being cohesive, and the North is obviously fractured and in danger of further disintegration.
Abyei lies along a migration route, where the Missiriya graze their animals. The Missiriya are nomadic but are considered northerners. Traditionally they negotiated grazing rights with the southern Ngok Dinka communities who live primarily in Abyei. This competition for land and grazing rights will linger regardless of where the boundaries are drawn. Unlike African borders, European borders were resolved over hundreds of years through wars and treaties. Borders continue to be adjusted; new states continue to appear even in Europe. There is nothing timeless about borders, especially those imposed on Africans by the overarching power of Europeans in 1884 in Berlin, during what is commonly referred to as ‘the Scramble for Africa.’ The Europeans drew nation-state lines without any regard for language groups or ethnic communities. These relatively recent colonial boundaries are at the root of the numerous border disputes in Africa.
The predecessor of the African Union (AU), the Organization of African Unity (OAU), adopted colonial boundaries as sacrosanct in order to discourage balkanisation resulting from secessionist movements. Perhaps a re-conceptualisation that scrutinises the failed assumption that nationalism supersedes ethnic loyalties within a significant part of African states is long overdue. Is the nation-state system a viable organising principle in the African context? If not, what is the alternative? Can ‘federalism’ help to keep secessionist tendencies at bay? If so, what federal formula may work for African states plagued by ethnic insurgencies? Sectarian division within states is unravelling many countries in Africa. Fundamental questions must be asked in light of the real possibilities of balkanisation of Libya, Ivory Coast, the Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Nigeria, etc., as well as of Sudan. Somalia in particular is one of the worst examples of a fragmented region ruled by competing warlords.
THE FUTURE OF SOUTH SUDAN
The German political philosopher, Max Weber, famously defined the state as ‘a human community that claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.’ North Sudan – along with the emerging South Sudan and a few other states in Africa, where intra-state wars are waged to legitimate the sectarian claims to statehood made by one side or another across different centers of power organised by warring ethnicities – would not qualify as states in Weber’s definition. Molded out of peripheral provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Sudan never really had a strong national identity or anything that might pass for it. In Sudan as in many African states, we have clusters of peoples with separate ethnic, communal, and religious identities. The human and social cement that creates and sustains identity still lies in the family, the tribe, the sect, or religious confession, not in statehood or nationhood. Allegiance to those of one's own kind is what counts. Village elders have thus always had special status in traditional African communities.
South Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world, is set to become an independent state in a few weeks after over half a century of violence, displacement and war. The North South war began in 1955, stopped in 1972, only to flare up again in 1983. The civil war and famine claimed about two million lives and displaced over four million people. But South Sudan’s problem is not over yet, and the challenge of building a viable state out of the ruins of war is fraught with many difficulties. The problem of South Sudan is not limited to the violence and duplicity of the Islamist government in Khartoum. Indeed, rival militias, ethnic entrepreneurs and warlords are also vying for the spoils of power. One hopes that South Sudan succeeds against all odds and becomes a successful state. Given the history of post-colonial Africa to date, the likelihood of success hinges on visionary leadership which would benefit from intergenerational wisdom, and an urgent creative compromise between ethnicities.
POTENTIAL PITFALL: THE OIL CURSE
With South Sudan choosing to strike out on its own, it will retain more than three-quarters of Sudan’s hydrocarbon reserves. Currently, the Islamist government in Khartoum earns US$9.8 billion dollars annually in oil exports. The potential loss of a large part of this export revenue will deal a serious blow to the Northern Islamist government, which is already causing it to lash out in desperation. Khartoum allowed the referendum of the South to take place for lack of viable options. Al Bashir was fighting two civil wars, one in the south and the other in the west, in Darfur. In Darfur the Sudanese state could use a divide-and-rule strategy by arming the Janjaweed militias; the South didn’t allow for such a scenario. Additionally, Al Bashir is facing prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Al Bashir may have hoped for the withdrawal of this prosecution in return for his acceptance of the referendum verdict. It was an unpopular, forced acceptance born out of the weakness of the Islamic government in Khartoum. The outcome of the referendum will alter not only the map of the country but also the regional geopolitical balance of power.
Resources will shift from the Islamist regime in Khartoum to South Sudan, which has close ties with the West. South Sudan is clearly oil-rich, ranked third in production in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and Angola, pro-American, and is a focus of American evangelists, petroleum companies and geopolitical strategists. According to the IMF, North Sudan will lose 75 per cent of its oil revenues. Sudan's debt was US$36.8 billion by December 2010. The North insists that it needs to share the debt payment with the South, but the South has so far resisted. However, South Sudan still needs the North for at least one practical purpose: South Sudan is landlocked, and the pipelines, refineries and storage facilities required in transporting exportable oil run through the North, with sea access in Port Sudan. One must not forget that Omar Al Bashir still has this important card to play. He can deny South Sudan the transportation link for exporting its oil. There is no easy alternative route for South Sudan to export its oil. It may take up to four years to build the infrastructure necessary to utilise the port of Mombasa in Kenya. For peace to prevail, South and North Sudan must not only resolve the Abyei stalemate but also the oil-revenue-sharing problem in order to learn to deal with one another as good neighbors. These two countries are bound by geography; they have few options but to cooperate.
Oil is significantly responsible for destroying the social fabric which has held communities together. Countries like Sudan demonstrate how natural resources such as oil have become a curse rather than a blessing. Despite lucrative earnings from oil, most people continue to live in abject poverty; violence is exacerbated by greed, while the few become obscenely wealthy. A rush for riches has crushed traditional economic activities, causing the deterioration of living conditions and turning former subsistence farmers into landless laborers. Sudan’s oil is also polluting the water that communities need to sustain life. Sign of Hope, a German human rights organisation, tested the water quality in areas surrounding the oil fields and found it to be heavily contaminated. At least 300,000 people may be affected from drinking this contaminated water. It is also feared that ‘there could be environmental implications for the nearby Sudd Swamp, one of the world's largest wetlands formed by the White Nile.’ Biodiversity in the Sudd Swamp is already endangered by the controversial Jonglei canal project designed to increase water flow to northern Sudan and Egypt, while drying up the southern swamps, with possible devastating impact to the rich flora and fauna and the livelihood of local communities in the South. Environmental costs are passed on to local communities who benefit little from the oil wealth.
Oil-producing states make up a growing number of the world's conflict-ridden countries. In 2008, they were the sites of a third of the world's civil wars, up from one-fifth in 1992. It is commonly acknowledged that oil breeds conflict between countries, but the more widespread problem is that it breeds conflict within them. Furthermore, cynical outside forces protect and enable dictators. China threatened to veto a 2004 UN Security Council resolution against Sudan in order to protect its own oil interests. China built the pipelines and storage facilities in Sudan and has put its thirst for natural resources and energy ahead of human rights considerations. China imports 50 to 60 per cent of Sudan’s oil, accounting for about 7 per cent of total imports. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) holds a 40 per cent interest in Sudanese oil, Malaysia holds 30 per cent and India holds 25 per cent. Rent-seeking from oil enables autocracies by eliminating dependence on tax revenues from citizens, which can force accountability. South Sudan earns 98 per cent of its revenue from oil and easily can degenerate into autocracy if there is no proper mechanism to prevent growing corruption and misuse of money obtained from oil sales.
THE ETHIOPIAN FACTOR
Ethiopia is jockeying to take advantage of the violence in Abeyei by offering ‘peacekeeping’ forces, which Hilary Clinton has already endorsed and perhaps even very strongly recommended. It was reported, ‘US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton...endorsed the idea of a peacekeeping force in Sudan's disputed Abyei region and encouraged both sides to take up an Ethiopian offer of troops.’ This proposal is alarming since it will surely complicate matters even more and must be discouraged by those who seek peace for Sudan and the region. Ethiopia’s motives are undoubtedly complex. The record of Ethiopian involvement in neighbouring Somalia can serve as a useful lesson. Ethiopian intervention in Somalia is one of the reasons for the increased violence and the dysfunctional state of affairs in that country. Efforts by neighboring countries ostensibly to ‘prevent’ terrorism there only generated more terrorism and violence, famine and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia. (For more on this, see: ’Somalia: Al-Shabab, extremism and US allies’).
The West's selective condemnation of dictators only complicates things for Africans and peaceful resolution of their conflicts. Overlapping convulsions of ethnic and state-sponsored massacre have been occurring against the Anuaks, in Oromia and the Ogaden within Ethiopia, without a word of acknowledgement from Washington. Successive American administrations protest with righteous indignation regarding atrocities in Sudan; nevertheless, massacres of farmers and civilians in Ethiopia have been unfolding without a murmur of complaint.
AN AFRICAN SOLUTION FOR SUDAN
The eagerness of Zenawi to involve himself in South Sudan, as well as the quick endorsement by Hilary Clinton, can be seen as a scramble for oil by a trusted client of the West to control this vital resource. Ethiopia has more practical reasons for wanting to lead a ‘peacekeeping’ mission in Sudan. The US cuts Ethiopia a lot of slack. It is able to get away with bogus elections. It is the largest recipient of aid in sub-Saharan Africa, and it is able to ignore an international ruling with impunity. The irony of utilising Ethiopia as a peacekeeper in the border conflict in Sudan must not be lost. Ethiopia itself is in violation of an (ICJ) ruling which requires it to demarcate its border with Eritrea. Ethiopia is sitting in its own Abyei, a border region called Badme, which the ICJ determined to be an Eritrean territory. As the Arab Spring has demonstrated, those who hoped that Barack Obama might hold all dictators accountable equally now know that their hopes were misplaced.
Nile politics is another reason for Ethiopia to want a foothold in Southern Sudan. There is a clear convergence of interests between Ethiopia and South Sudan on this issue. The ousting of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and the impending secession of South Sudan will strengthen the case of the upstream nations. Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi signed an agreement which attempts to alter the water-sharing treaties on the Nile River. In 1929 during British rule over Sudan and Egypt, the British government ensured 100 per cent rights of Nile water for Egypt and Sudan.
The 1929 agreement signed between British government and its colony Egypt forbade upstream nations from reducing the water of the Nile flowing into Egypt. The treaty stated that ‘without the consent of the Egyptian government, no irrigation or hydroelectric work can be established on the tributaries of the Nile.’ The 1959 Nile Water Treaty not only maintained Egypt and Sudan’s 100 per cent rights over usage but also inserted their veto powers over any development in the Nile by the upstream countries.
At a time when the destructive effect of big dams is well documented, Ethiopia is building mega dams without any environmental and social impact assessment. Lori Pottinger of the International Rivers writes: ‘Ethiopia is fast becoming Africa's poster child for bad-dam development.’ Zenawi has built five dams during the last decade and plans to sell electric power to Sudan in exchange for oil imports. Dam projects are also a way to mobilise support for the EPRDF and to drum up Ethiopian nationalism in an effort to distract Ethiopians from organizing resistance akin to the Arab Spring. The political impact of building these dams, not only in Ethiopia but also in Uganda, is creating regional tension with Egypt. It is widely believed that the sustainable policy for Ethiopia would mean learning from Kenya, for example, and harness its rich geothermal potential. No doubt, the colonial era treaties which give Egypt lopsided hegemony over the Nile need to change. But politically motivated projects that destroy the ecology of the Nile watershed by treating it as a mere pipeline that discharges water will exacerbate instability and regional tension. The Nile is a complex integrated watershed, and protecting it requires environmentally responsible cooperation by the riparian countries. Mega dam projects are proven environmental hazards in Egypt and Sudan, and there is no reason to believe otherwise in Ethiopia. (Refer to Lori Pottinger’s work, for an excellent analysis on the disastrous impacts of dams for hydro power.)
The president of the Earth Policy Institute, Lester E Brown, writes:
‘In Ethiopia, a Saudi firm has leased 25,000 acres to grow rice, with the option of expanding… [T]hese land grabs shrink the food supply in famine-prone African nations and anger local farmers, who see their governments selling their ancestral lands to foreigners. They also pose a grave threat to Africa's newest democracy: Egypt. As Egypt tries to fashion a functioning democracy after President Hosni Mubarak's departure, land grabs to the south are threatening its ability to put bread on the table because all of Egypt's grain is either imported or produced with water from the Nile River, which flows north through Ethiopia and Sudan before reaching Egypt. (Since rainfall in Egypt is negligible to nonexistent, its agriculture is totally dependent on the Nile.) Unfortunately for Egypt, two of the favorite targets for land acquisitions are Ethiopia and Sudan.
Land grabs by rich investors and countries should be banned because they harm the environment, small farmers and pastoralists, and dismantle traditional communities. This policy of land grab causes food insecurities by taking away productive and valuable land from the farmers and pastoralists.
In November 2010, Zenawi accused Cairo, without providing evidence, of seeking to destabilise Ethiopia by supporting several groups of rebels opposed to his regime and added that ‘Egypt couldn't win a war with Ethiopia over the Nile’. Despite such confrontational and adventurous policies, Zenawi’s significance for the US may have grown, due to the uncertainty of the times, the loss of a reliable client in Hosni Mubarek, and the chaos in Yemen. Egypt under Mubarek has been the cornerstone of America’s policy in the Middle East for three decades. Notwithstanding the official lip service to democracy promotion, there is more continuity with previous administrations than change in Obama’s policies. According to leaked information from WikiLeaks, former assistant secretary of state for Africa, Dr Jendayi Frazer, twisted Zenawi’s arm to intervene in Somalia. According to the same source, Zenawi had no intention of invading Somalia before he was coerced to do so by Dr Frazer. Zenawi seems ready to shortchange Ethiopia and Africa on request from US officials. For example, during the climate conference in Copenhagen, US undersecretary of state, Ms Otero, ‘urged Meles to sign the Copenhagen accord on climate change…Meles responded that [Ethiopia] supported the accord in Copenhagen and would support it at the AU [African Union] Summit.’ With this record of acquiescence, it is reasonable to assume Zenawi’s motive for intervention in Sudan is suspect.
Lamenting the betrayal of Africa by Zenawi, the author of ‘The Shock Doctrine’, Naomi Klein, wrote:
‘On the ninth day of the Copenhagen climate summit, Africa was sacrificed. The position of the G-77 negotiating bloc, including African states, had been clear: A 2 degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures translates into a 3-3.5 degree increase in Africa. That means, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, “an additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger” and “water stress could affect between 350 and 600 million more people.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts the stakes like this: “We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale.... A global goal of about 2 degrees C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development.” And yet that is precisely what Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, proposed to do when he stopped off in Paris on his way to Copenhagen: Standing with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and claiming to speak on behalf of all of Africa (he is the head of the African climate-negotiating group), he unveiled a plan that includes the dreaded 2 degree increase and offers developing countries just $10 billion a year to help pay for everything climate related, from sea walls to malaria treatment to fighting deforestation.’
Notwithstanding his early background as a liberation fighter of Marxist persuasion, once in power Zenawi had been a darling of the Western counties and all too willing to appease and accommodate his Western benefactors, at the expense of Ethiopians and Africans. Manipulating the UN system, certain client states, and African regional organisations, the West has undertaken peace enforcement operations such as the one proposed for Sudan. With the expansion of the UN global role in peacekeeping after the Cold War, the scope of peacekeeping operations became more ambitious, and the traditional requirements of impartiality were abandoned. UN forces could now be empowered to impose ‘peace’ on warring parties and, if necessary, to take sides in a conflict. Token peacekeeping has all too often been used as a scapegoat for feckless Western policymaking. This modus operandi needs to be questioned, given the limited potential of African States to provide security even within their own territories. The regional organisation known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is one such regional organisation that has been used as a cover for dubious interventions in the Horn of Africa. IGAD gave support to Ethiopia's intervention in Somalia on condition that Ethiopia would quickly withdraw. That withdrawal only came about after two years, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Somali civilians, the plunging of Somalia into deeper chaos and famine, and only after Ethiopia found itself in an untenable Vietnam-like quagmire.
Regional organisations and alliances in Africa do not have the practical means to bring security to the continent. How can regional peacekeeping forces coming from pseudo-democratic, dictatorial states bring the values of respect for human rights and governance through the rule of law? Ideally, outside powers without their own agenda must provide short-term stability through infusions of security forces, training police, humanitarian relief, and technical assistance to restore electricity, water, banking and payment systems, etc. South Sudan lacks meaningful infrastructure and paved roads are almost nonexistent. South Sudan is in dire need of controlling its own territory and gaining oversight of its natural resources. Effective collection of revenue, adequate national infrastructure, and a capacity to govern and maintain law and order, including respect for basic human rights, is essential for the new South Sudan. Rival armed militias must come under a centralised national command in order to nurture a sense of national commonalities and establish peace.
Southern Sudan must also be spared from being a pawn of regional rivalries by unscrupulous neighbors and non-neighbors such as Egypt, Ethiopia, China, Malaysia, Japan, India and the United States, etc., who are primarily self-interested. Egypt and Ethiopia are clearly selfishly competing for influence and leverage in South Sudan. This dangerous dance can potentially further destabilise South Sudan and North Sudan.
The future of North Sudan after partition could be potentially catastrophic. Omar Al Bashir’s position is already dangerously precarious after presiding over the division of Sudan and losing billions of dollars in oil revenue. Ethnic cleavages in Darfur, South Kordofan, the Blue Nile state, Kassala as well as sharply contrasting attitudes toward Islamism are all minefields in northern Sudanese politics. The North fears a domino effect in South Kordofan and the Nuba Mountains where government troops are unleashing terror, killing civilians and creating displacement to discourage a growing quest for autonomy and self determination.
The notion of ‘African solutions to African problems’ sounds appealing. But the failure of the UN/AU peacekeeping force, backed by the UN, to provide security in Darfur is a reason enough to pause and ask questions. One can only conclude that the West is dealing with the problem superficially by rendering marginal the status that sub-Saharan Africa occupies in world politics. This myopic view underlies the logic behind the limited logistical and financial support for Uganda and Ethiopia, to enforce this ineffectual version of ‘peacekeeping.’ The African peacekeepers were presented as a panacea in Darfur and Somalia, and it appears a similar unworkable pattern may be replicated in North and South Sudan.
Given the weakness of many state structures across Africa, the pervasive religious and civil violence, and the predatory nature of most African governments, little faith can be placed in such ‘peacekeeping’ overtures. Within the prevailing realities in Africa, the beautiful sounding shibboleth of ‘African Solutions to African Problems’ is a convenient excuse for the big powers to do little in solving African problems. ‘Peacekeepers’ are casually introduced into situations, which require more than a token presence of an outside force to achieve a meaningful resolution of conflict.
Christopher Clapham sums up the problem of peacekeeping in Africa as follows:
‘Peacekeepers in Africa have been plunged into the most intractable problems in attempting to maintain some kind of order.…For them the relatively straightforward tasks of merely policing agreements between states are not an option. They have been called on…to intervene in vicious civil wars and to negotiate and, if need be, to enforce peace settlements among conflicting parties whose commitment to any peaceful resolution of conflicts was often at best extremely uncertain, and at worst no more than a façade behind which to prepare a resumption of hostilities.’
These types of peacekeeping fiascoes were predictable. Where there is no peace to keep, UN peacekeepers are seen as an occupying or hostile force, as in Somalia. The so-called peacekeepers had themselves become players in the conflict. The troops themselves were often confused about their missions. In the aftermath of the Second World War, traditional peacekeeping was designed to keep separate warring states after a cease fire. This was the model applied in the Sinai after the 1956 Suez Crisis. In the post-Cold War era, peacekeeping has come to be used as an ideological tool to build nation states in the image of the West, according to liberal internationalist values. This is ‘a one size shoe fits all’ approach which does not take into consideration the uniquely complex challenges of South Sudan.
Africa and South Sudan need to chart their own future by drawing from their diverse patterns of conflict resolution and restoring the centrality of respect for tradition and for the wisdom of elders. Africa needs to respect the elders whose voices have been drowned out by other imposed cultural patterns and ethnic entrepreneurs. Perhaps an Elders’ Council modelled on the Indigenous Peoples Council and composed of diverse ethnicities, representing all those who have a stake in peace, needs to be created to conduct dialogue. The UN at its best has nobly cultivated such models of sovereignty and autonomy and has empowered indigenous communities, and it can now continue to do so in Africa. A centralised unitary governing system is by itself largely unworkable for multiethnic societies like Southern Sudan; instead, creative application of some form of federalism mixed with some form of centralism maybe the way forward. The current arrangement may breed what Alexis Tocqueville called the ‘tyranny of the majority,’ which might apply (within the context of the issues I have addressed here) to the Dinka. Tocqueville's argument was a brilliant warning, for it opened the way for a new understanding of the potential for harm latent in an unqualified commitment to majority rule and democracy. The Southern Sudanese must try to work out their problems with the North, and they must work to find some internal cohesion while allowing space for a degree of autonomy among the Dinka, the Nuer and the Shilluk. It is a matter of the survival of all; hence, northern stability is also in the interest of South Sudan and vice-versa.
If peacekeepers are truly needed in Abyei as a stopgap measure, they should then be sent from anywhere but the neighbouring countries. Perhaps South Africa or Nigeria can lead the way as they are geographically more removed and less likely to harbour ulterior agendas or to use South Sudan as a proxy for self-serving dictators to expand their influence and divert attention from their own domestic entanglements.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2002, 16 June 2011
 Richard S. Williamson, Sudan on the Cusp, Current History, May 2011, p.173
 Africa News, Sudan: IMF Says North Sudan Must Undertake Measures to Avoid Post-Secession ‘Shock’, Sudan Tribune, April 19, 2011
 Peter Greste, Oil 'polluting South Sudan water,' BBC New,16 November 2009
 Michael L. Ross, Blood Barrels Subtitle: Why Oil Wealth Fuels Conflict, Foreign Affairs, May 2008 - June 2008
 Silvia Spring, Curse of Friendship; Do China and India represent a new kind of player in emerging markets? They say so. But outsiders doubt it., Newsweek, November 13, 2006
 Peter Lee, Chinese and U.S. interests converge on Sudan, Albuquerque Express (adopted from Asia Times), 20th September, 2010
 Peter Lee, Chinese and U.S. interests converge on Sudan, Albuquerque Express (adopted from Asia Times), 20th September, 2010
 Lachlan Carmichael, US backs Ethiopia peacekeepers in Abyei, AFP, June 13, 2011
 Lester R. Brown, When the Nile Runs Dry, The New York Times, June 2, 2011
 UPI Energy, Ethiopia challenges Egypt over Nile water, December 8, 2010
 Rob Prince, WikiLeaks Reveals US Twisted Ethiopia’s Arm to Invade Somalia, Antiwar.com, December 14, 2010
 US embassy cables: US urges Ethiopia to back Copenhagen climate accord, guardian.co.uk, 3 December 2010
 Jeffrey Gettleman, Sudan Steps Up Furious Drive to Stop Rebels, New York Times, June 21, 2011, p.1
 C Clapham, The United Nations and peacekeeping in Africa, in M Malan (ed), Whither Peacekeeping in Africa?, ISS Monograph, 36, Institute for Security Studies, Halfway House, April 1999, p. 32
George Padmore commemorated with plaque in London
On Tuesday 28 June 2011, the late George Padmore – who was been described by the famous West Indian writer C.L.R. James as ‘The father of African emancipation’ – will be honoured with a ‘heritage plaque’, better known as a ‘blue plaque’, which will be unveiled at No. 22 Cranleigh Street in Camden, north London. Padmore lived there from 1941 to 1957, with his partner and collaborator, Dorothy Pizer.
The address was familiar to almost every African nationalist involved in the 20th century struggle against British colonialism. Two Africans who became the first presidents of their countries – Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya – were habitués of 22 Cranleigh Street, as was Joe Appiah, a Ghanaian politician and lawyer, who became the son-in-law of Sir Stafford Cripps, a former British chancellor of the exchequer.
Many of the statements and pamphlets, as well as the correspondence with which leaders of the British colonies in Africa combated the policies of the Colonial Office in London, were drafted at the dining table of 22 Cranleigh Street. It was also the venue at which George Padmore organised the 5th Pan-African Conference in Manchester in 1945. Padmore and Nkrumah were joint-secretaries to the conference, one of the largest gatherings of black anti-colonial politicians ever seen.
In those days, West Indians and African-Americans often found common cause with their African brothers, and the Manchester Conference elected Dr W.E.B. DuBois, the most famous African-American intellectual of the era, as its honorary chair.
The part played by Padmore’s home in the anti-colonial struggle was sketched for me vividly by a Ghanaian trade unionist, J.P. Addei, then a journalist on the Ashanti Times, who was invited to visit Britain by the Colonial Office. During the visit, a Nigerian companion of Addei’s encountered an act of racial discrimination in London, which they reported to Padmore.
Padmore immediately fired a letter of protest to the Colonial Office on behalf of the Nigerian. The result was a full-scale reception held for the two visitors, at which a minister from the Colonial Office expressed his regrets for the ‘unfortunate incident’.
The late John K. Tettegah, former secretary-general of the Ghana Trades Union Congress and member of the central committee of Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP), told me that it was George Padmore who drafted, at 22 Cranleigh Street, the ‘Motion of Destiny’ which Dr Kwame Nkrumah moved in the Ghana National Assembly on 10 July 1953, requesting independence for Ghana within the British Commonwealth ‘as soon as the necessary constitutional arrangements are made’. Independence was granted to Ghana less than four years later on 6 March 1957, with Dr Kwame Nkrumah as the country’s first prime minister.
Nkrumah invited George Padmore to move down to Accra from London to become his ‘advisor on African affairs’. In Accra, Padmore and Dorothy Pizer were housed in a beautiful colonial bungalow, which has now been turned into the ‘Padmore Library’ in Accra. It was there that I met Padmore for the first time. I had been invited to the Soviet Union as a member of a delegation to the Afro-Asian Writers’ Conference held in Tashkent in September 1958, and because in those days Ghana still maintained the old colonial practice of vetting anyone who travelled ‘behind the Iron Curtain’, Padmore, as an expert on communism, was asked to vet me.
He was a very urbane figure and never directly asked me anything about what I thought of Marxism or even Ghana’s politics. We just had tea and chatted about African and world affairs. He apparently approved of me, for when he asked me whether I needed anything for my journey and I said I had no suitcase, he asked Dorothy to bring me what I heard as ‘that revolution suitcase’.
Now, I’d heard that Padmore had travelled incognito throughout colonial Africa, stoking the fires of revolution on behalf of the Comintern, and always managing to stay one step ahead of the British ‘007s’ of the time and their French and Portuguese counterparts. So the idea that he was going to lend me his ‘revolution suitcase’ (probably equipped with a false bottom) excited my imagination a great deal. It was years later that I discovered that what he had actually told Dorothy must have been to bring me his ‘Revelation suitcase’ (‘Revelation’ being the brand name of a popular suitcase)!
The mild American nasal twang that characterised his speech had misled me to mishear ‘revelation’ as ‘revolution’. So my fantasy of lobbing George Padmore’s ‘bag of tricks’ around the world was quite misplaced, and even if I had never subsequently lost it, the suitcase would not now be fetching me a million quid or so at Christie’s auction house.
George Padmore was christened Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse on his birth in Arouca, Trinidad, on 28 June 1903. He was educated at St Mary's, and later became a journalist at the Trinidad Guardian. Even at an early age, Padmore held strong views, and after a disagreement with his editor, he left the paper and travelled to study medicine in the USA in 1924. But he soon shifted to law.
However, he didn’t devote himself to his studies, but involved himself in organising black workers. He gained a reputation as a powerful political speaker, and joined the Communist Party of the United States. In 1929, Padmore travelled to the Soviet Union as a member of the party. In the USSR, he was, in 1930, appointed head of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUC-NW), an organisation that represented the concerns of black trade unionists to the international communist labour organisation (Profintern).
In this job, Padmore secured the finances and organisational structure to become a full-time anti-colonial activist. It enabled Padmore to develop contacts that would prove useful for his later Pan-African initiatives. As mentioned earlier, he was also able to travel secretly to African colonial countries.
However, around 1934 the Soviet line on African colonialism softened, as the Soviet Union embraced an anti-Hitler line that put it in the same boat as the British and French governments.
Padmore was expected to ‘toe the line’ and tone down his attacks on colonialism in the publications of which he was in charge, so as not to offend the Soviet Union’s new bedfellows. This infuriated Padmore and he resigned and left the USSR. He moved to the United Kingdom and in 1941, made his abode at 22 Cranleigh Street. It became the base for his assault on colonialism and imperialism. Organising the 5th Pan-African Conference was his greatest achievement after he settled in England.
In 1957, Padmore accepted Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s invitation to become his advisor on African affairs in Accra, and as soon as he established himself there he set about following up the proposals that had been formulated at the Pan-African Conference in Manchester in 1945.
First he and Nkrumah organised a Conference of Independent African States in Accra in April 1958. This conference declared that ‘the existence of colonialism in any shape or form’ was a threat to the security and independence of the African States, and to ‘world peace’.
This was a significant declaration, for the desire not to upset the Western powers had created an ambiguity in the attitude of some of the independent African states regarding the liberation of the rest of the continent.
The conference went on to state: ‘Condemning categorically all colonial systems still enforced in our Continent … [this Conference] calls upon the Administering Powers to respect the Charter of the United Nations in this regard, and to take rapid steps to implement the provisions of the Charter and the political aspirations of the people, namely self-determination and independence.’
Significantly, the conference also recommended that ‘all Participating Governments should give all possible assistance to the dependent peoples in their struggle to achieve self-determination and independence’, and ‘offer facilities for training and educating peoples of the dependent territories’.
Padmore and Nkrumah followed the Conference of Independent African States with an ‘All-African People’s Conference’ attended by freedom fighters from African countries still under colonial rule. Within two years of this conference over a dozen African countries, including the biggest countries – the Congo and Nigeria – gained their freedom. Padmore did not live to see this African triumph however. He died in London of a long-term liver ailment on 23 September 1959.
The unveiling of the plaque at 22 Cranleigh Street, London, will be performed by His Excellency Garvin Nicholas, High Commissioner of Trinidad & Tobago, His Excellency Professor Kwaku Danso-Boafo, High Commissioner of Ghana, and His Worship Councillor Abdul Quadir, Mayor of Camden.
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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.
Science, the future, and the revolutionary moment
Review of Michio Kaku’s ‘Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100’
We are still in the early stages of the 21st century, yet with every passing day, humans are confronted with rapid transformations in the fields of genetics, robotics, information technology, cognitive sciences and nanotechnology. We are promised longevity and trips to space even while harnessing the power of the sun with the potential for unlimited energy for everyone on earth. The transformations in high-energy physics, bio-molecular medicine and quantum computing have revolutionary potentialities to change social relations among humans and between humans and the universe. The question of how these technologies will further revolutionise the current century is the subject of a new book by Michio Kaku, ‘Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100’. This book attempts to convey to the lay person the most up to date directions in the fields of science and technology. In separate chapters, Kaku examines the future of computers, artificial intelligence, medicine, nanotechnology, energy and space travel over the next one hundred years. In each chapter he splits the future into three sections – the Near Future (Present to 2030), the Mid-Century (2030 to 2070) and the Far Future (2070 to 2100) – and he discusses the development and impact of science in each futuristic period. My critique of the book stems from the need to voice what is missing in the book: a note of reminder to Western scientists that while they seek to dominate nature and harness its full power, there are still billions of humans who live without the basic necessities of life. Scientists, like Michio Kaku, who are ensconced in laboratories in Europe and North America fail to understand that while neoliberal and corporate support for research may foster an economic environment conducive to a particular type of technological innovation, this same neo-liberal capitalism also accelerates inequality, poverty, and ecological degradation for the majority of humans on the planet.
WHO IS MICHIO KAKU?
Michio Kaku is a Japanese-American physicist who explores the terrain of the fourth dimension (usually referring to time) in physics. As a high school youth, he attended the National Science Fair with a home-made atom smasher he built in his parents' garage. Because of his creativity he was spotted as a promising physicist by Edward Teller, known by some as ‘the father of the atom bomb.’
Edward Teller was one of the most famous scientists of the twentieth century who was associated with the Manhattan project, the collaborative effort of the West that led to the development of the atom bomb. Hungarian-born theoretical physicist Teller is also credited for passing on the scientific information on how to build a nuclear bomb to the Israelis. Teller was co-founder of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the numerous scientific labs across the world that was placed in the service of the United States military and consumed billions of dollars from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Kaku is a descendant of Japanese immigrants to the US, and his parents were interned in a concentration camp in California during the Second World War. After being mentored by the ultra-conservative physicist Edward Teller, Kaku wrote a very critical book critiquing the United States’ plans for nuclear war entitled, ‘To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon's Secret War Plan’. This was a public break with his mentor and the physicists associated with the military-industrial complex. For decades, Michio Kaku consciously associated himself with the progressive media. As a presenter on WBAI Pacifica Radio in New York City, he has been popularizing the ideas of theoretical physics. Kaku is currently the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of the City University of New York. He is co-founder of string field theory in physics and is the author of 10 books and over 70 scientific articles in physics journals. His latest bestseller, ‘Physics of the Future: How Science will Change Daily Life by 2100’, became number seven on The New York Times Bestseller List just a few weeks after publication.
PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE
In the first chapter of ‘Physics of the Future’, Kaku predicts that computer power will increase to the point where computers, similar to the fates of electricity, paper, and water will, ‘disappear into the fabric of our lives, and computer chips will be planted in the walls of buildings.’ In Chapter 2, ‘Future of Artificial Intelligence: Rise of the Machines,’ Kaku discusses robotic body parts, modular robots, unemployment caused by robots, surrogates and avatars, and reverse engineering of the brain. Kaku shares the perspective of many in Silicon Valley who believe that emerging technologies are qualitatively unique in the capacity to manipulate human beings at the genetic level thereby potentially altering ‘human nature’ or even changing the meaning of life itself. It is in chapter 3 on the ‘Future of Medicine’ that Kaku imagines a future, ‘where surgery is completely replaced by molecular machines moving through the bloodstream, guided by magnets, honing in on a diseased organ, and then releasing medicines or performing surgery. This would make cutting the skin totally obsolete. Or magnets could guide these nano machines to the heart in order to remove a blockage of the arteries.’
Kaku joins other futurist in predicting the reversal of the ageing process. Ray Kurzweil is among the most well-known futurist who has been working on the reversal of the ageing process. Kaku wrote that in the future, reprogramming one’s genes can be done by using a specially programmed virus, which can activate genes that slow the aging process. Nanotech sensors in a room will check for various diseases and cancer. Advancements in extracting stem cells will be manifest in the art of growing new organs.
TIPTOEING AROUND TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM
In Chapter 4, ‘Nanotechnology: Everything from Nothing?’ Kaku restates the basic thesis that he propounded in the Visions: that nanotechnology has opened up a new era in the relationship between biology and technology. Quoting from Horst Stormer (winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for physics), Kaku started the fourth chapter with the statement that ‘Nanotechnology has given us the tools to play with the ultimate toy box of nature – atoms and molecules. Everything is made from these and the possibilities to create new things appear limitless.’ Kaku argued that within this century, we will possess this most important tool of nanotechnology that will allow humans to manipulate individual atoms. He added, ‘Nanotechnology might also, perhaps by the end of this century, create a machine that can create anything out of almost nothing.’ Surveying the incipient commercial applications of nanotechnology, he drew attention to the booming area of nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) that includes everything from inkjet cartridges, air bag sensors to gyroscopes for cars and airplanes.
In pointing to the possibilities of the post silicon era, Kaku focuses on the potentialities of carbon nanotubes that will take humans to the post silicon era. In this future era of atomic transistors and quantum computing that will take us to the mid-century 2030-2050, ‘almost every product will be enhanced via molecular manufacturing techniques, so they will appear superstring, resistant, conductive and flexible.’ By 2070 the advocates of nanotechnology envision an even more powerful machine: a molecular assembler or ‘replicator,’ capable of creating anything. Kaku waxes about the revolutionary possibilities of the bottom up approach or self-assembly possibilities, but he offers a rider that, ‘the holy grail of nanotechnology is to create the molecular assembler, or replicator, but once it is invented, it could alter the very foundation of society itself.’
Although Kaku steers clear of the discussions on technological singularity and Transhumans in the 21st century, the rapid development of genetic and nanotechnologies are outpacing ethical debate on the potential consequences of these innovations. Ray Kurzweil, one of the many scientists interviewed for ‘Physics of the Future’, believes that technological innovation is at the heel of a growth curve. In the coming years, technological development will proceed so rapidly as to foundationally alter life on earth. In his major book, ‘The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology’ (2005), Kurzweil forecasts that by 2045, the exponential growth of computer processing power will enable the creation of machines intellectually superior to human beings. Humans will ‘transcend biology’ by merging with these machines, effectively gaining control over evolution itself through enhancement technologies. These hyper-intelligent cyborgs will create new technological innovations—particularly in nanotechnology and genetic engineering—that will solve the world’s social and ecological problems. ‘The Singularity’ will occur when the cyborgs begin creating their own exponentially-advanced successors, sparking a period of rapid evolution that qualitatively alters the human history.
Unlike Ray Kurzweil, Michio Kaku does not come out with a specific date when we will reach Singularity or the era of Transhumans, but the general thrust of chapters 3 and 4 in ‘Physics of the Future’, is to reinforce the argument that genetics, robotics, information, and nanotechnologies (or GRIN technologies) have the potential to radically transform society through the development of technological fixes to problems ranging from poverty and disease to ecological degradation. Ray Kurzweil and the corporate sponsors who have now supported the opening of Singularity University support a brand of neo-liberal capitalism where individuals can freely research and develop new technologies, thus accelerating the pace of innovation and progress without critical reference to the political realities and ideation system that could exploit such ‘progress,’ thus posing potential dangers of generating new forms of eugenics and perpetuating conditions of domination and plunder around the world.
Kaku supports this brand of competitive capitalism and entrepreneurial environment while failing to recognize that most of the science labs that he visited in the course of his research came from public funds, from universities or from monies invested in research by the US military.When the big drug companies justify high prices for their products they justify in the name of the huge outlays for research and development. Many of the labs that Kaku visited were doing work that serves the interests of big pharma even while benefitting from scientists who are supported by public funds. The Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are two of the more renowned laboratory visited by Kaku and praised in his book. Scholars such as Seymour Melman have written extensively on the content of Pentagon capitalism that privileged science labs such as the LLNL These labs mobilized science and technology in the service of the most militaristic sections of the establishment who hide behind the discourse of ‘national security.’ Ever flexible in the needs of the current buzz words for militarism, labs such as the LLNL represents itself as a laboratory with multidisciplinary capabilities to prevent the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction and bolster homeland security. In this way scientists in these labs could make the jump from being advocates of Star Wars to representing themselves as bioengineers in the frontline in the war on terror.
Michio Kaku complicates his awe for these military-sponsored laboratories by romanticizing what he calls Type 1, II and III civilizations; by calling the European Union and the North American Free Trade Area Type 1 civilizations, Kaku betrayed his love for the modernity that is based on destruction.
Using the European concepts of poverty and scarcity that had been the cornerstone of Western economic writings, life in Kaku’s vision of the future does not depart significantly from the present where corporations dominate society and turn everything, even human beings, into commodities. One has to be very familiar with the entertainment culture of Hollywood to follow some of the reference points for the book or risk being lost – he drew heavily from sci-fi films such as Star Trek, Star Wars, The Terminator, iRobot and the Matrix. He further displayed his training and preference for European history and culture by starting each chapter with references to Greek mythology. It is this constant reference to Greek mythology that placed this book within the confines of European history and transformation. This rendering of human history excludes the myths and transformations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It was therefore not surprising to see how Kaku came to his understanding f Type I civilizations that starts with the modes of policics, economics and consumption of Europe. He sought to generalize about human behavior from the individualistic and competitive culture that had been drummed into children in the United States, calling this the ‘caveman principle.’
ETHICAL ISSUES AND PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE
The discussion of the converging technologies brings important ethical issues to the forefront of the debate on physics of the future. I cannot ignore the reality that while scientists in North America are daydreaming on ‘Perfection and Beyond,’ there are billions of persons in all parts of the world without access to healthcare. Feminists in the United States have been writing against the investment in perfection and the association of whiteness with genetic perfection. The Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law at Northwestern University, Dorothy Roberts, whose area of research includes the effects of child welfare agency involvement in African-American neighborhoods and on race-based biotechnologies, and Harriet Washington, author of ‘Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present’ (2007), both have written extensively on the investment in whiteness. In the words of Dorothy Roberts (PDF):
‘[R]ace-based biotechnologies are combining to produce what I’m calling a new biopolitics of race. It attributes health and other inequities to inherent racial genetic difference, disguising the social determinants of racial inequality. According to this view, inequities aren’t caused by social power, privilege, and discrimination. They are caused by the natural genetic predispositions of people belonging to these so-called principal human races, which evolved differently. This racial biopolitics is a means of reinforcing racial inequality and disguising white privilege in post–civil rights America …’
Kaku did not interrogate the history of genetic perfection and the eugenics movement in the US. Although he mentions eugenics in passing, there was not enough attention to the reality that unless there was democratic and popular control over the science laboratories where the genetic engineering experiments were being conducted, the old eugenic ideas will come back, only this time dressed in modern white lab coats.
Kaku was out of his depth when he sought to place contemporary technological development within more structural contexts linked to political economy, culture, and ideology. This limitation of the book comes out in the chapters on the future of energy, the future of space and the Future of Wealth. As contributors to the special issue of [url=Pambazuka News Issue 499]Pambazuka News Issue 499[/url] pointed out, wealth creation in the 21st century is reinforcing and reproducing the forms of exploitation of the past 30 years. This has been the period of neo-liberalism where the economic policies of the corporate forces strengthen the rich while further impoverishing the poor.
The ETC Group (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration) has been one of those international non-governmental organs exposing the interconnections between the big pharmaceutical companies and other corporate elements in seeking to dominate how the research and use of these technologies are directed. These activists have rightly pointed out that many of the ideas discussed in Kaku’s chapter on the Future of Wealth are already being deployed by the big corporations.
As the special issue of Pambazuka observed:
‘Reading about such developments is like reading science fiction. The difference is that this is real; it is happening now. These technologies are being developed in a world that is grossly unequal, under conditions where accumulation and profiteering rule, enabling the rich to get richer by any means, while the majority are pauperised. They have developed under conditions created over the last 30 years that have allowed corporations to monopolise atomic-level manufacturing – whether of living or inanimate matter – and legitimise wide-scale corporate biopiracy, with Africa, a continent of extraordinary biodiversity, being a significant victim.’
Michio Kaku did not consider the choke hold of the pharmaceutical companies and the biotech companies in ensuring that medical care is out of the reach of most citizens of the planet. His typology of civilizations – type 1, II and III – does not interrogate the history of conquest and the reality that in this era, there is a new form of conquest underway where the tools of the quantum revolution are being mobilised in the service of global capital. Thus, even in the positive descriptions on the Future of Energy, Kaku discusses the current crisis of global warming and the continued use of fossil fuels without the power dynamics behind the present mode of economic organisation.
In an optimistic tone he said, ‘In this century, we will harness the power of the stars. In the short term, this means ushering in an era of solar/hydrogen power to replace fossil fuels but in the long term, it means harnessing the power of fusion and even solar energy from outer space.’
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: CLARIFYING TRUTH FROM FICTION
Kaku repeats the false assumptions of the West that uses energy consumption as the basic measure of civilisational transformations. Energy consumption and the capacity for colonial expansion have marked modern imperialism and one cannot discuss the current research into bio-engineering without grasping the massive plunder of humans and nature being carried out by biotech companies. It is here where Kaku’s exposure to the Pentagon’s capabilities for Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons would have made an important contribution to the peace movement and better assist the US anti-war movement as to the real capabilities of the US military. For the past fifty years the US military suborned the scientific community, especially the physicists to support new weapons, and Kaku could have exposed some of these weaponry to break the suspicions that now surrounds projects such as the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Since Karl Grossman (author of ‘Weapons in Space’) spoke at my University on the capabilities of HAARP for weather modification in 2001, I have been waiting for a respected scientist like Michio Kaku to clarify to the peace and justice forces the role of physicists in building military capabilities for the weaponisation of space and for the unleashing of destruction on earth. This is especially pertinent given that Michio Kaku wrote the foreword to the book ‘Weapons in Space’. Kaku could have delivered a major service to clarify truth from fiction in relation to weapons such as HAARP and electromagnetic capabilities. There is one small indication of the EMP capabilities when he discussed the work of the late Theodore Taylor who had designed nuclear warheads for the Pentagon. The reader is introduced to a discussion of third generation ‘designer bombs’ without an elaboration of whether these miniature atomic bombs, which can fit in a suitcase, already exist.
The chapter on the Future of Energy brings to light the vast potential for the socialization of production and the harnessing of multiple sources of energy in the medium and long term. While Kaku exposes the reader to fascinating possibilities, he gives one the sense that the solution to the burning problems of environmental degradation will come from a research laboratory without fundamental changes in the organisation of production and consumption. As fascinating as the new technologies are, this chapter on the Future of Energy did not critique the giant petroleum companies and their intense work to dominate research on alternative energy sources. Instead, Kaku delves into possible technical fixes for the challenges of global warming. Referencing, Craig Venter the biologist, Kaku repeats the proposition that it may be possible to use genetic engineering to ‘specifically create life forms that can absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide.’ Quoting Venter who gained fame from pioneering high speed techniques that successfully led to sequencing the human genome, Kaku writes, ‘We view the genome as the software, or even the operating system of the cell. The goal is to rewrite that software, so that microbes can be genetically modified, or even constructed almost from scratch, so that they can absorb carbon dioxide from coal burning plants and convert to useful substances, such as natural gas. Kaku also quoted approvingly from another physicist, Freeman Dyson who advocated ‘creating a genetically engineered variety of trees that would be adept at absorbing carbon dioxide.’
What these two alternatives from Dyson and Venter have in common is the idea that the current form of utilising energy could continue and that with a technical fix, humans could reverse global warming. Kaku warned however that, ‘as with any plan to use genetic engineering on a large scale, one must be careful about side effects. One cannot recall a life form in the same way that we can recall a defective car. Once it is released into the environment, the genetically engineered life form may have unintended consequences for other life forms, especially if it displaces local species of plants and upsets the balance of the food chain.’ When he wrote the foreword to the book ‘Weapons in Space’, Michio Kaku termed the moment of the end of the Cold War a missed opportunity because instead of ushering in an era of peace and prosperity, the beginning of the 21st century, saw increased militarisation, marked by the weaponisation of outer space. I would agree with that statement and also suggest that in this book there was a missed opportunity to join forces with those opposing the greater commoditization of life and nature.
ENERGY FROM THE SKY
For more than three decades, Kaku has been a supporter of the solar revolution and the vast potentialities of the future solar economy. He wrote simply that, by the end of the century, another possibility opens up for energy production: Energy from space. This is called space solar power. While the US government invests in wars of occupation, Japan, Germany and China have moved ahead with investments in research on the future of solar power. ‘Mitsubishi Electric and other Japanese companies will join a $10 billion program to launch a solar power station into space that will generate billions of watts of power.’ However, Kaku writes on the future of the revolutionary technologies for the provision of energy and expounds on the present catastrophe of global warming without conveying a sense of urgency in confronting the corporations that are profiting from the fossil fuel industries. Whether it is space based solar power, cold fusion, anti-matter reactors, nanotech solar cells or other novel breakthroughs integrated in the revolutionary superconductor grid, the current lords of finance and big oil companies are seeking to ensure that energy is not freely available to all humans and that energy will remain a commodity. Herman Scheer, the German environmentalist has written clearly that in a revolutionary situation, there will be a confrontation with the conventional energy industry. In his book, ‘The Solar Economy: Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Global Future’, Scheer wrote:
‘There is no point in constructing a global strategy for climate change if renewable energy is seen as a secondary issue. Where the aim is to replace fossil with renewable energy, there can be no question of compensation for the fossil energy industry. There can be no environmental revolution in energy supply without creative destruction (à la Schumpeter) of the existing conventional energy industry.’
FROM COMMODITY CAPITALISM TO INTELLECTUAL CAPITALISM
The weakest section of ‘Physics of the Future’ is the chapter on the future of wealth. Kaku discusses phases in the transformation of capitalism with his understanding of what he calls ‘perfect capitalism,’ without reference to the brutal forms of exploitation under the capitalist mode of production. After surveying the revolutionary technological changes and the impact on production and services, Kaku predicts that there will be a transition from ‘commodity capitalism to intellectual capitalism.’ He predicts this transition because although robots will do most of the work by the end of the century, ‘the human brain cannot be mass produced.’ Although the forms of relations that Kaku describes in this chapter on the future of wealth is based on socialised production of goods and massive investments in technologies, Kaku remains wedded to private property and the relations of capitalist exploitation. Hence, the transition to intellectual capitalism will reproduce ‘winners and losers’ and reinforce the ‘digital divide.’ According to Kaku, the forms of alienation and exploitation embedded in the meaning and sense of work that has been imposed on humans since the rise of the capitalist mode of production will be with humans well throughout the 21st century.
The revolutionary potentialities that were outlined in this book were undermined by the absence of a critical understanding of the militarism and domination that has been associated with capitalism. All of the evidence of the future possibilities of serving human needs in medicine, in energy and in creating a new concept of work pointed to the need for transformation beyond competition and greed to a form of human organisation that placed humans at the forefront.
Kaku compounded this weakness by developing a typology of civilisations that reproduced the same linearity that he is supposed to abhor as a quantum physicist. Ranking civilizations by energy use could not be repaired by a discussion on the move from the masters of nature to conservators of nature. Kaku reproduced worn out Baconian concepts of domination over nature, by discussing humans as choreographers of nature.
In his review of Kaku’s previous book, ‘Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century’, Marcus Anthony pointed out how a deeper examination reveals that Kaku's vision is vitally lacking in depth, and reflects modern scientific cultures' obsession with technology at the expense of humane and spiritual values. This same critique can be leveled at ‘Physics of the Future’. Scientists who explore the future of planetary civilizations must have an appreciation for all peoples and work to ensure that future transformations do not erase 60 per cent of human beings on the planet. Kaku reinforces the same technological determinism that is being promoted by scientists such as Ray Kurzweil and Craig Venter. It was Einstein who wrote courageously that,’ I find it strange that science, which in the old days seemed harmless, should have evolved into a nightmare that causes everyone to tremble.’
I am sure that Kaku did not want readers to tremble when reading this book, but his embrace of cyberlibertarianism and neo-liberalism placed this book in the service of the rich and powerful.
Michio Kaku, Steven Chu (1997 Nobel Prize winner in Physics and currently the United States Secretary of Energy) and President Barack Obama are representatives of outsiders who entered the corridors of power and are now the gatekeepers of the eastern establishment. They recognise the inequalities of the current capitalist system but are awaiting technological breakthroughs to curb the power of the oil majors and their bankers. These three public servants are representatives of a new generation of leaders who did not grow in the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) corridors of power but seem to support technological determinism because such technological orientation conflates technological innovation with human progress while promising tech-fixes for many of the social and ecological problems indelibly linked to neo-liberal capitalism.
In my book, ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics’, I termed the current moment in world history – starting from 2008 – as ‘a revolutionary moment.’ In that book I drew from the principles of Ubuntu to point to the centrality of upholding our common humanity in facing the challenges of the moment.
Kaku’s work does indeed point to the fact that we are in a revolutionary moment. In ‘Physics of the Future’, the idea of revolution is a constant theme, building on the themes of revolutionary scientific changes that Kaku elaborated in Visions. In the ‘Physics of the Future’, Kaku brings to the non-physicist the possibilities of transformative technological breakthroughs over the next 100 years. It is apt to restate what was said in my book, that ‘the challenges, principles and potential from this new scientific revolution that is on-going in our life time cannot be fully appreciated because of the eugenic thinking of the educational system.’ An in-depth study of the moral and ethical issues for this technology is constrained by an educational system geared towards dumbing down and incarcerating American youths. The ethical choices offered by new technologies can only be fully explored in a new context where the democratisation of knowledge and information lay the basis for new citizenship.
However, the strength of Kaku’s ‘Physics of the Future’ lies in how it breaks down the information on quantum physics in relation to energy transformation and livelihoods in the universe. Unfortunately, in his visits to many of the cutting edge labs across the world, Michio Kaku failed to thoroughly interrogate the intense exploitation across the planet and the deadly military operations and occupations that are continuing today in order to preserve the ugly status quo. In essence, the strength of the book is undermined by the fundamental weakness, the embrace of neo-liberal capitalism.
The only major political economy change that Kaku envisages in this physics of the future will be the change from commodity capitalism to intellectual capitalism. Twenty-five years ago Kaku wrote extensively to critique the war planning of the Pentagon from 1945 and how this planning was linked to interventions across the planet. In this recent book, Kaku is completely uncritical of the US military destruction of other societies and the military capabilities that he was given access to in the cutting edge labs financed by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Kaku is in a position to support the efforts of those scientists working for the demilitarisation of the planet earth, but has failed to avail himself of the opportunity to make a complete break with the traditions of Edward Teller.
While making an important contribution in popularising complex ideas of physics, Kaku could have conveyed to the younger generation the reality that the revolution in science cannot be separated from the real social relations between humans and the historical foundations of contemporary imperial domination. Technological revolution by itself cannot change society; it requires the intentional and purposeful intervention of humans to make a break from traditions of slavery, bondage and exploitation. This reality seems to be hidden by the neoliberal ideology that centralises political and economic power in the hands of a few in North America, Western Europe and Japan while placing profits above humans.
The weakness of the ‘Physics of the Future’ thus exposes how human societies are stymied by old and backward linear conceptions of progress, politics and political economy, incapable of catching up with the quantum changes taking place in the scientific world at this revolutionary moment. The task before us is to make some quantum leap in politics and global political economy in order to catch up with the quantum transformation in science, the failure of which poses the danger of new forms of eugenics, exploitation, human hierarchies, and catastrophic destruction of the ecosystem and the essence of our common humanity beyond what we can imagine at the moment. I enjoyed reading ‘Physics of the Future’ and call for Michio Kaku to make a break with sections of the scientific community that serve the interest of those who support new forms of domination in the twenty-first century.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Michio Kaku’s ‘Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100’ is published by Allen Lane (ISBN 1846142687).
* Horace Campbell is professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’. See www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Behind the boycott
Why South Africa's academic boycott of Ben Gurion University took hold
LILLIAN BOCTOR: On 23 March, the University of Johannesburg decided not to continue the Memorandum of Understanding with the Ben Gurion University in Israel. Can you tell me what this was about?
SALIM VALLY: Ever since the tragic events in Gaza in 2008-2009, where 1,400 people, largely civilians, were killed, the international movement against what we call apartheid in Israel has been galvanised.
The massacre of the humanitarian activists on the flotilla has also given this movement an impetus. For us as South Africans it has resonance, because you know we called on the world to support our struggle by isolating the apartheid regime. And the call made by Palestinians using the inspiration of the South African call to boycott apartheid has really struck a chord amongst huge swaths of our population, including academics, church leaders and trade unionists.
Now, Ben Gurion University had a relationship with what was then called the Rand Afrikaans University prior to it becoming the University of Johannesburg. This was during the apartheid days. And there is enough evidence to show this collaboration. And a lot of this collaboration was around military research and development, nuclear links. So this is well established.
With the University of Johannesburg, in the past few years many of these links have been reexamined. There was an attempt to resuscitate this link with Ben Gurion University in August 2009 and a number of academics felt that this relationship was problematic. So when a memorandum of agreement was signed, immediately there was a petition by academic staff, trade unions and students. It received overwhelming support. But beyond the university, very prominent South Africans like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the president of the union that has 1.8 million members, Cosatu, the student organisations, writers like Breyten Breytenbach, Antjie Krog, and hundreds of academics in other universities in South Africa supported breaking links with Israel.
You know it was a debate that we held not only at our university, but throughout the country over a period of 18 months. In these 18 months it was a thoroughly democratic debate. Different points of views were contested. There were seminars and conferences. In the university they established task teams, committees, fact-finding missions. The vice chancellor, the deputy vice chancellor and other members of the management executive committee of the university went to Israel, met with all parties. The president of Ben Gurion University, academics there, as well as Palestinian academics and unions came back and gave a report. On two occasions it went to both the Senate and the Council, the highest decision making bodies of the university. The debates were the longest debates in the history of the university. And at the end of the day late in March it was put to the vote. This was by secret vote in the Senate and almost two-thirds of the Senate members voted on the basis of all the reports and discussions to sever links with Ben Gurion University.
You know I need to emphasise that the decision was not taken on the basis of a few slogans or just rhetoric. It was the culmination of very scholarly work. And this is one of the unintended consequences of this saga. Because from the outset, on our side, those of us that felt it important that we needed to show solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, they don’t have academic freedom, you know, and we use various reports. UNESCO issued a very comprehensive report on what Palestinian academics have to confront almost every day of their lives, including students. The checkpoints, the inability to travel if you are in Gaza to attend international conferences or for students and professors from Gaza to the West Bank or to go to Israel, there are so many restriction and constraints, things we take for granted as academics, and these issues affect our work as academics and clearly UNESCO is not a radical group or anything and they provided the evidence.
When the University of Johannesburg resuscitated their agreement in August 2009 (with Ben Gurion University) in that period very shortly before that time, Amnesty International wrote a very meticulously compiled report very evocatively titled ‘Thirsting for Justice’ or ‘Troubled Waters’. It was a report on how Israel used water as a weapon against Palestinians. It was very clear that, first of all, there is an unequal and discriminatory allocation of water. The mountain aquifer, which is the only source for Palestinians in the occupied territory in the West Bank, 80 per cent of that water goes to Israelis and settlements. Only 20 per cent goes to Palestinians. Palestinians’ usage is a fraction per person of the usage of those in the settlements. The settlements have lush gardens and swimming pools. Palestinians have very serious problems with water. We also have a situation where Israelis can draw on other sources of water including all the water from the Jordan River that goes to Israel, but Palestinians only have the aquifer. In the Gaza area, they have the coastal aquifer, but that’s brackish water. They need the power plant to desalinate the water and their only power plant in Gaza has been constantly under attack.
Palestinians need permits to put together waste facilities, wastewater facilities. These permits are not forthcoming. In the one case when a permit was given the Israeli army vetoed the granting of this permit. And in fact there was a German company that was given the contract to build this wastewater plant and the Israeli government had to pay this company millions of shekels because they broke the contract. The chief engineer of the power plant in Gaza was just recently kidnapped in Ukraine from a train. The Israeli government has acknowledged this, that he is in an Israeli jail. He was on his way to Ukraine to meet and spend time with his Ukrainian wife and his six kids. And there’s been a tragedy in Gaza with water and the sewage works and people have died terribly because of that. So, you know what I'm saying is that this decision is based on a number of reports, reports that we’ve compiled. We sent a delegation to look at the water issue and Ben Gurion University was given ample opportunity to deny or counter these claims, claims which there is ample evidence for.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: Where they (academics at Ben Gurion University) working with academics at the University of Johannesburg on these water issues?
SALIM VALLY: Well yes. And a minority of academics at the university wanted these links, including the person, the professor who was involved in this water research. And I’ve published an opinion piece in the Mail and Guardian newspaper and this piece starts off with a correspondence I had with this professor. And I said that we would like to, those of us who signed the petition, meet with you, a very collegial letter, we would like to meet with you to discuss this and to discuss the water report of Amnesty International. And his response, which I quoted in the article, was that you know, I am not interested in politics, this is political. I’m just merely interested in scientific research around water.
And that was the beginning of my article. And I ask the question whether science is neutral. Can it be neutral, apart from of course pure mathematics and pure science? But something that Einstein realised a long time ago, that it wasn’t merely the splitting of the atom. It was the atomic bomb later on. And so there is this social responsibility. Which doesn’t mean that Einstein shouldn’t have used his knowledge for that, but that Einstein himself regretted the use of that knowledge for destructive purposes. Everybody from Descartes to Kaplan to Bronofsky to Einstein all realized the social purpose of science.
In Britain, for example, Stephen Rose, who’s a world-renowned neurobiologist and his partner Hilary Rose is a socialist of science. And they co-founded in the late 60s, as a result of the American use of napalm and Agent Orange, an organisation of scientists called the Society for Social Responsibility in Science. And these are the same individuals who today are part of BRICUP, the British Committee for Universities of Palestine. The same individuals, many of whom, and it’s a pity that one has to say these things, but many of whom are Jewish, and for them it’s a question of humanity to support Palestinians. And Hilary and Steven make the point that science is not neutral. In terms of this particular issue, there’s ample evidence how geologists and hydrologists and urban planners and geographers have been complicit in continuing an illegal occupation in Palestine. And therefore this issue has thrown up this debate which is a very rich debate.
Scientists in Germany worked together with academics around the world, even when they were developing this very unscientific program on eugenics, trying to show that one so-called race - it’s a biological myth of course - is superior than another and they experimented on human beings in the concentration camps. But yet there were liberal and left scientists because of this notion of academic freedom.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: So this notion of academic freedom…that’s one of the criticisms that has come out of certain sectors of South African society, that by not continuing the memorandum of understanding with Ben Gurion University, you are not allowing academics to have this freedom. How do you respond to that?
SALIM VALLY: Yes absolutely. In South Africa and elsewhere and in Canada as well, the response is fairly simple. One is that academic freedom becomes meaningless and bereft of any practical possibilities if it is not cognisant of the conditions of that particular society where academic freedom is supposed to exist. And academic freedom has to be sensitive to conditions of genocide as I have just mentioned, of occupation and in our case apartheid. And there are many leading South Africans today who recognise that we would not have the academic freedom we have today if there wasn’t a boycott campaign, that many white South African academics would merrily continue not raising their voices against apartheid if they weren’t pressured in one way or the other. Life was great! And of course today we have academic freedom for all, at the time we had academic freedom for a few.
So in Palestine/Israel, Palestinian academics don’t have academic freedom, including increasingly Israeli academics who dissent from the main stream. The Knesset has passed this law now making it a seditious offence, a treasonous offence, if you support boycott divestment sanctions. So the other important thing, people say that you know there are countries where more people are killed, look at the Congo, look at Darfur. Why pick on Israel?
The difference is that in countries like Zimbabwe or Iran, or elsewhere, there is a sanctions campaign. They are being isolated by the West. But in fact Israel, despite violating major humanitarian and human rights law, are privileged, and are pampered. Look at Canada for example, the Harper government how it has privileged and pampered Israel despite human right violations. That’s the difference. The second difference is that in Zimbabwe or the Congo or elsewhere, academics have not called on the world to boycott their academy. But Palestinian academics have, in this case the victims, they have, like we did in South Africa. So for those reasons we think our defence of academic freedom is the real defence. Judith Butler, one of the greatest living philosophers of our times, has written extensively on why she supports the academic boycott and this is a person that you cannot fault in terms of her history in support of academic freedom.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: What do you think this boycott will accomplish?
SALIM VALLY: Well, it is a precedent setting case. It has inspired Palestinians despite the repression they face. It has allowed our society in South Africa to focus on this issue, to understand it better. It has resulted in many of our colleagues throughout the world reexamining links with Israel. So we think it will have a tremendous impact and it will pressurise the Israeli regime and what they are doing to the Palestinians.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: You work for education rights, also in South Africa. How has looking at the lack of academic freedom and rights in Palestine turned the mirror also on what’s happening in South Africa and how has it affected academics and the role of academics in South Africa itself?
SALIM VALLY: It is an extremely important case and throughout these 18 months there are parallels with what is research for. What is the role and purpose of the academy? Whose knowledge matters? Whose interests matter? So the question of water, for example, this water research with Ben Gurion didn’t look at the real issues. The pro-Israeli lobby had a spin. They said you know we have a water problem and you are denying this research and therefore you are responsible for us not having clean water. But of course what they don’t look for is who are the polluters. The mining industry in South Africa, you can’t look at water pollution without looking at the mining industry. You can’t look at water without looking at privatisation of water, with the maintenance of water, facilities and infrastructure. Those are the real issues. Whereas the Ben Gurion research didn’t deal with those issues. So, it also resulted in issues of academic freedom, of dissent, of challenging decisions, of democratising the academy so that professors and students and workers have a right to veto what the management does. So all of these issues were thrown up so it’s helped us look at our own society more critically while we dealt with this issue. So in that sense, it wasn’t separate from issues that we are confronted with.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: Thank you so much.
SALIM VALLY: You are welcome.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Parliamentary budget office vital to improve budget process
With the 2011/12 parliamentary budget sessions continuing unabated in Dodoma, concerns have been raised over the members of parliament's oversight role in the budget process. The parliament's budgetary oversight function is not only deemed ineffective but also largely a routine scanning and rubber-stamping occasion.
It remains an open secret that the bulk of the MPs lack capacity in terms of appropriate technical skills to effectively participate in the budget process. A lot of noise has been made over the failure by parliament to hand over budget books within the stipulated time. Article 96 of the Parliamentary Standing orders (2007 Edition) stipulate that parliamentarians should get budget books 27 days before the budget session for them to make meaningful contributions during the debates.
Despite the failure to get the books on time, parliamentarians lack the technical know-how when it comes to budget matters as they stem from various professional backgrounds such as engineering, medicine, education, social sciences and entertainment. This cripples their ability to effectively engage the executive on budgetary matters and in most cases they submit to some policies, not because they agree, but due to ignorance.
Parliament plays an important role in the running of a country as its oversight duties contribute to the crucial role of effectively monitoring and reviewing the legislature, policy and fiscal administration by government on behalf of the citizens. But, for this to be achieved, the parliament's oversight of the budget process has to be effective.
The oversight role is achieved when the parliament keeps an eye on the activities of the executive and holds the executive to account on behalf of the general populace. But, in Tanzania, government's ranking in respect of its performance in budget transparency and parliamentary oversight continues to be low.
It is against this background that Policy Forum, a network of over 100 civil society organisations, advocates the establishment of an independent non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), a move meant to strengthen the legislature’s oversight role in the budget process.
In a bid to achieve this, the network held an awareness meeting with MPs in Dodoma recently. And, addressing the gathering the coordinator of Policy Forum, Semkae Kilonzo, highlighted the need to establish a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), an independent, non-partisan, entity formed under the auspices of the office of parliament that examines the budget proposal from the executive and enables MPs to come up with alternative budgets.
Johnson Kaijage, of the Policy Forum secretariat, during the same meeting, presented the PBO concept and the rationale to support its establishment in Tanzania, pointing out that there was a need to improve the capacity of MPs to be more proactive in the budget process and engage more meaningful with the executive - particularly with regards to analysing the proposals submitted to them in parliament.
‘MPs need more information to engage effectively in the process. At the moment, inadequate information is being provided and often too late to make meaningful inputs,’ he added.
He also explained that PBOs are designed to prepare economic forecasts that are independent of the executive, analyse budget proposals submitted by the executive, develop budget projections and prepare spending-cut options for legislative consideration.
In a press statement released recently, Policy Forum's budget working group member, Moses Kulaba, said, ‘The network has for a long time observed the performance of parliament in delivering upon democratic governance and is concerned that it is wanting in exercising its budgetary oversight function.’
Kulaba observed that parliament’s weakness in execution of this key oversight duty contrasts sharply with the executive’s management of the whole budget process. ‘There is minimal involvement of parliamentarians in the process,’ he added.
The 2011 Open Budget Index, a comprehensive survey that evaluates whether governments give adequate public access to budget information and opportunities to stakeholders to participate in the budget process, confirms this weakness.
Kilonzo said that the 2010 Open Budget Index rated the Tanzanian parliament’s budgetary oversight as being weak because it does not have full powers to change the executive’s budget proposal at the start of the budget year; it does not have sufficient time to discuss and approve the executive’s budget proposal (citing receipt of the budget in less than six weeks before the start of the financial year); and it does not hold open discussions at which the public can participate.
‘This is coupled with low technical analytical capacity of parliamentarians and insufficient information to effectively hold duty bearers to account, contributing to parliament’s weak performance on budgetary oversight,’ Kilonzo added.
An independent Parliamentary Budget Office, established under the structures of the legislature would, among other things, examine the draft annual budget proposed by the executive and provide analytical support to parliamentarians to be able to question the proposal in question and enable them to propose alternative budget proposals. Its key role is to produce objective budgetary, fiscal and programmatic information for legislators to be able to contribute, interpret, review and make concrete judgments regarding budget proposals - hence effectively exercising their oversight functions.
‘The PBO has been established in other jurisdictions like Kenya, Uganda and Ghana who previously had parliamentarians who experienced the same problems as ours. The evidence from these countries is that MPs have strengthened their capacity and are now more engaged in the budget process giving meaningful inputs to the executive’s proposals,’ said Kulaba.
Parliament’s oversight of the budget process involves monitoring and review of the entire budget process including the broad fiscal challenges facing government, expenditure controls and budgetary tradeoffs that affect present and future spending. Overall, the budgetary oversight function is part of a checks-and-balances system that ensures that there is accountability in the utilisation of inadequate financial resources.
It remains to be seen whether the parliament will spearhead the formation of the PBO for better accountability and to help parliamentarians effectively execute their budget oversight role. This will be enabled by the fact that the office will become an oasis of information (on budget issues) in this desert.
* Eugenia Madhidha is a media specialist with Sikika, a member of Policy Forum’s budget working group.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Symphony Way: 'Let the outside world hear our voices'
Author tour – campaign to bring Symphony Way words to the world
Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter - July issue
Seminar: 'Civilian Protection: Achilles Heel of Humanitarian Agencies'
The emerging new Nile Basin regime
The politics of institution building
The central challenge facing the Nile Basin states after ratification of the Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) will be the establishment a new Nile Basin regime that will set clear procedures on water sharing, decide on all river projects in the region, and work for the benefit of all. Such an institution will replace the two colonial and post colonial-era imposed regimes or treaties that favoured Egypt and Sudan but were unfair to all upstream states. But the task ahead will not be easy because, unlike the status quo, the new Nile Basin regime will be negotiated among 11 nations including South Sudan, which will obtain its independence this coming summer.
In the past, Egypt’s hegemony over the status quo – namely the 1929 agreement with the UK representing the colonial upstream nations and the 1959 Agreement with Sudan – was facilitated by several factors. Among these are greater technical capacity to control, utilise, and allocate the water of the Nile; far more resources, materials, and bargaining and ideational power than other nations in the basin; greater levels of economic development, military might, and political stability; and access to international political and financial support. All these have contributed to Egypt’s ability to influence knowledge and construct a hegemonic discourse.
The main question is what will the emerging new Nile River regime look like? We don’t know, but we do know in international relations the importance of regimes in governing the global commons. First, regimes serve as means of international learning about critical functions and contribute to the convergence of policies of more than one state. They regulate many functional areas such as trade, finance and monetary policies, distribution of natural resources, and arms possession. Second, regimes are generally mixtures of negotiated and imposed orders. The former are usually led by a powerful state and the latter are fostered deliberately by a dominant power or an alliance of dominant actors. Regimes do not arise spontaneously; they evolve as the new Nile Basin regime is doing and they mature over time. Third, regimes create group norms that not only shape not the rational behavior of states, but also influence cooperation. In time, institutions such as the future Nile Basin Commission assist cooperation by embedding and sharing knowledge and norms, which can become international customary law.
A critical variable in the formation of a new Nile Basin regime will be the presence of institutions that translate the common vision. If it is to be viable, the new regime will need institutional support programs that may evolve out of the sub-programs of the Nile Basin Initiative. Such institutional support programmes (ISPs) come in many forms. Some may be civil society groups like the Nile Basin Discourse (NBD), which gathers input. Others may have a legal standing and be able to borrow, disburse funds on mutual projects, and adjudicate disputes. Still other ISP institutions may provide venues for gathering data and disseminating information. The most sophisticated may lay the foundation for basin-wide vision, becoming social planners. But at the end of the day, what makes negotiated regimes viable is institutional bargaining. That is, negotiated regimes focus on the specification of arrangements that all those engaged in the negotiations can accept. The reason is that institutional bargaining in international society operates on the basis of a unanimity rule in contrast to a majority rule or some other decision rule, justifying a focus on the development of winning coalitions.
In terms of institutionalising and constructing the Nile Basin Commission, the absence of data may be a challenge. Although the lack of technical expertise may be solved by expert knowledge, in general there may be many areas of ignorance that might influence the negotiation process. Accurate measurements of the geography of the Nile Basin, including the extent of drainage and of hydrology and the contribution of water by each basin state, may not be available. Indeed in the past, Egypt refused to renegotiate the status quo with upstream states due to lack of data. In other words, during the initial phase of the formation of a new Nile Basin regime the veil of ignorance might be useful, but the implementation phase requires significant details including costs, environmental impacts, and methods of monitoring for compliance. These details become significant because of relative gains.
Relative gains are the stuff of realpolitik because laws and norms are not of consequence in explaining inter-state relations; state behaviour is better explained purely in terms of what states can actually gain. This formulation fits Egypt and Sudan’s bilateral agreement of 1959, which re-formulated the 1929 status quo. At the same time, the liberal view that predicts that increasing interconnectedness and interdependence will lead to the creation of international institutions that enable absolute and mutual gains fits the efforts of Ethiopia and other upstream states that have worked very hard to realize a new Nile River regime, which in essence has to do with the regulation and sharing of water. A major challenge in regime building is that cooperation and institutions most often serve the interests of the powerful. In the past, Egypt as a powerful player in the Nile Basin has been able to extend its power through various institutions and hold on to its major hegemonic discourse regarding Nile River issues.
But this has changed because of a new norm that has emerged among the majority of Nile Basin states. The key actors in spreading this norm have been transnational agents and domestic civil society, leading to a collective new identity formation among Nile Basin states. Both the 1929 and the 1956 norms were lacking as they did not serve all members well. Thus norm re-interpretation, which is dynamic and involves localisation, and norm re-constitution have led to a counter discourse based on the Nyerere Doctrine, which does not hold sacrosanct colonial regimes or agreements. It is this re-interpretation and re-representation of the imposed regimes of 1929 and 1959 that has led to negation of Egypt’s hegemonic discourse of the Nile and to the eventual signing of the Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) by the majority of Nile Basin states. This document is now headed towards ratification. It will establish, provided no one defects, the legal basis for the construction of a new negotiated regime that hopefully will work for the benefit of all Nile Basin nations.
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* Aaron Tesfaye is associate professor in the Department of Political Science, William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey, USA and author of ‘The Political Economy of the Nile Basin Regime in the 20th Century’.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Increased access to budget information key to reducing fraud
The recent revelation by the Treasury that the education ministry has been home to a multi-billion fraud has attracted high public interest. This is because corruption remains the permanent and sceptic wound on the grand Free Primary Education programme mooted some nine years ago.
It reminds me of an 11-year-old physically challenged girl in Ekero village, Mumias constituency, who is not able to attend school because of a lack of a wheelchair and other basic aids. Equally, her parents have not been informed of where they ought to seek assistance, while the neighbouring public primary school cannot take her on board for a lack of resources. This situation keeps an estimated 250,000 plus children locked up in child labour rather than going to school. It ensures that many children attending schools in informal settlements continue lacking access to desperately needed financial resources. Further, this scourge keeps over 3.9 million children out of school and ensures that those in school continue to lack teachers and other essential learning materials.
The wound has continued to force the programme to witness regressive completion rates and poor quality educational standards. These negatives are clearly going to have a big effect on the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals.
ARTICLE 19 highly welcomes the findings of the Treasury as they at last confirm all fears by different stakeholders that the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme continues to serve as a cash-cow for some public officials. It also puts to rest the minister of education’s continued public statements that no money was lost.
As advocates for enhanced transparency using access to information tools, we also welcome the promise by the head of criminal investigation department that they are studying the report and will soon take appropriate action. We note that any cases opened up after the investigations will only add to another 25 ongoing cases against 18 officers for alleged misappropriation of Sh 92 million after the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) concluded its investigation.
However, while necessary and critical, the proposals and plans for electronic money transfers, the resignations of senior officials and the investigation and eventual prosecution of further suspects in the alleged fraud will not keep dry the plunder tap at the Ministry of Education.
Some immediate and complementary interventions are necessary. First, the treasury must make the full report publicly available on its website and through any other means.
Second, the KACC and the director of public prosecutions must without fail seek to surcharge all the responsible officials to recover all lost resources at a market rate. This will make corruption more expensive than it is currently.
Third, all donors, including the Department for International Development (DfID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the World Bank, the African Development Bank and Concern International must make public what they fund in the Ministry of Education. DfID and its Canadian counterpart must lead the pack. This is because such proactive disclosures are expected of them from their parent ministries in the UK and Canada respectively, but also it is a constitutional requirement in Kenya under Article 35. The Education Donor Coordination Group must reach out to donors like the OPEC Fund and others to ensure stakeholders have a one-stop shop where they can get information on all funded projects and the terms of the funding.
Fourth, the Ministry of Finance jointly with the KACC and the Ministry of Information and Communication must seek to have the often least talked about Freedom of Information Bill expeditiously approved by the cabinet and reintroduced in parliament. This is because the pervasive culture of secrecy and wilful destroying of critical transactional documents will continue to put needless barriers to the good efforts of public transparency and accountability.
Fifth, the Ministry of Finance must seek to develop a citizen guide to the 2011–12 recently released budget and require that each ministry develop its own. The citizen guide to the budget is a simple, plain language summary of public finances. This is critically important as access to public information is a precondition for Kenyans to understand how the government is using its delegated authority to tax, borrow and spend public resources.
It is also vital for citizens to get involved in informed public debate during the budget process and to hold each ministry and the government in its entirety appropriately to account. Such budget guides will definitely enhance direct citizen engagement and report any improprieties in advance as a critical step in keeping dry the corruption tap. Without budget transparency the recharged efforts to win the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) short race and the Vision 2030 long race will fall short.
Sixth, the Ministry of Education must, on the one hand, develop clear guidelines, creating on obligation on the part of the school heads and boards to publicly display all monies received per year and the expenses. On the other hand, the ministry must proactively make public all disbursements to schools.
Similarly, the Education Management Information System currently used by the ministry must regularly be updated to the best international standards, perhaps with the support of UNESCO. This is critical as the latest data seems not quite up-to-date, hence giving an erroneous perception on the retention and completion rates, especially at the primary and secondary levels.
Seventh, the Teachers Service Commission must seek to deregister all those teachers who directly or indirectly facilitated the fraud through the unregistered schools.
In sum, the above efforts will ensure that discussions on transparency, access to information and accountability that have been peripheral in the Ministry of Education until a scandal is revealed are back high on the agenda. Similarly, when citizens can access better information it will ensure they deal with the paucity of information on what the ministry received from the Treasury, as well as what it sends to schools and what schools invest in. This is a powerful force against the clientelist politics that have dominated the country over the years.
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* Henry Maina is the director of ARTICLE 19, eastern Africa.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Nigeria: Jeffrey Sachs’ hasty optimism
I read an op-ed written by eminent economist and special adviser to the United Nations secretary general, Professor Jeffrey David Sachs on the prospects of the Nigerian economy with mixed feelings (New York Times, 30 May 2011). I cannot ever attempt to join issues with this international statesman. I will rather wish to align myself with emeritus Professor Paul Kurtz of the State University of New York at Buffalo who said that ‘ideas must compete on the table of free inquiry’. At least for the benefit of those who desire an engagement with Africa’s most populous and potentially most prosperous, based on facts alone.
The coinage of the word BRINCS is most commendable. That suggests that Nigeria may likely join Brazil, India, China and South Africa as part of the fast growing emerging economies. While that is a clear possibility, the economic trajectory of my home country at the moment and the willingness (or not) of her political leadership only render such a suggestion to a mere wishful thinking. Jeffrey Sachs is famous as an unrepentant optimist with a palpable passion for Africa and so his positive suggestion cannot be said to be surprising or unexpected. However, what we hear from Abuja daily does not justify the learned Professor’s optimism. Rather it suggests an exaggeration for public relations intent.
Let me put in perspective why I respectfully disagree with Jeffrey Sachs’ ‘five solid reasons for optimism’.
Firstly, the reference to ‘change’ cannot be associated with the transition from military dictatorship to democracy in 1999. What happened was a change in uniform without change in values. On ground many Nigerians do not see this as progress per se. Our electoral democracy has failed to deliver development-point blank. It does not connect with the ordinary people. Largely what we have is a government of the few by the few and for the few – an oligarchy that has produced parasitic elite who service their greed from public resources while the majority of citizens are submerged in poverty and peasantry.
Secondly the praises for the conduct of the last elections are not completely out of place. No doubt one can say without equivocation that the presidential election was at least a true reflection of the popular will of the Nigerian people. However it is not completely right to sermonise it as ‘freest and fairest’. In the subsequent elections that followed, there were isolated cases of rigging, ballot box stuffing, double voting, logistic delays and violence. The post election violence in Northern Nigeria remains a big sore on our collective conscience. Let the point be made therefore that we can do better. That cannot be said to be our best.
Thirdly, Professor Sachs referred to an anticipated impact of India and China in reshaping the Nigerian economy. While these two countries are showing enormous interest in the natural resource deposits in Nigeria, one cannot say that there is a reciprocal engagement from the Nigerian side. They enter from our porous borders, find their way to our communities and cart away whatever they can find from crude oil to precious metals. The rise in commodity prices is not enough to drive development. It must be accompanied by sound macro-economic policies and fiscal discipline. Did the learned professor ask how much was spent 2011 elections for instance?
The so-called commodity boom will come and go. It has come many times and what Nigeria has to show for it are a few faceless accounts in Swiss Banks. Abuja has no systematic plan to engage either India or China and that is the sad truth. The figures we use come from the propaganda machinery in Delhi and Beijing. We seem to be joining the ‘looking east’ frenzy without asking about what is in it for us.
Fourthly, while Nigeria is said to be enjoying a ‘robust annual growth of 7 percent’ – a diagnostic look will reveal that this is just a dry figure of jobless growth with no pro-poor element. The postulation of growth has not yet impacted on the majority of Nigerians who still remain poor. I fault the claim of Professor Sachs that Nigeria will soon join era of convergence of technology. Adequate power supply is still a wish that is farfetched in my country. Our infrastructure is still inadequate and decaying, scientific temper is very low in the population and the policy arena is still cloudy. How can such a country connect with the global technology diffusion machine?
Finally Professor Sachs must be told that Nigeria is one country that will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We lack the disciplined culture of generation of reliable and consistent baseline data. This is the biggest enemy of sound planning and scaled solutions. Policy inconsistency means that little gains are washed away by political reversals. Many Nigerians do not believe that the gains of the debt relief were spent in a ‘robust and accountable’ manner. That rarely happens and I stand to be corrected. Rather than give her a pat on the back, Abuja must be told that our country is still a global poster child of the paradox of plenty and the natural resource curse.
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* Uche Igwe writes from the African Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University (SAIS), Washington DC, USA.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Day 6 anti-corruption activists sit-in in Nairobi
Bunge la Mwananchi
We resume duty - day 6 - of sit-in at the Ministry of Education on Monday June 27, 2011 at 10am after a weekend of rest.
Our grassroots intelligence has informed us that Prof. Sam Ongeri or his proxies in the corruption cartels are planning to send hooligans to visit violence on us so as to disrupt our sit-in. Our civic actions are non-violent, constitutionally protected and therefore we refuse to be cowed and shall continue with our sit-in until Prof. Ongeri see some sense enough to resign.
Last week on day 4 of sit-in, hired goons splashed human feces on anticorruption protesters apparently to scare and embarass us - the prosters - demanding transparency on how the Ministry of Education lost FPE money.
We interpreted the splash of human feces us desperate act of corruption fighting back. We would like to inform those who undertook this action on behalf of whoever that instead of being scared and embarassed, we are more embolden, determined and we wear the dirt you sprayed on us a badge of honor for fighting corruption.
Our goal remain to put creatively pressure on Prof Sam Ongeri as top most duty bearer in the Ministry of Education to take responsibility of his action or inaction that led to the loss of 4.2 Billion FPE money.
We want to thank you and fellow Kenyans for the support you gave us in the last 5 days of sit-in at Jogoo House to protest the loss of KES 4.2 Billion FPE money.
We would also like to share with you the "redemption song" that opened Central Police cells when we were arrested on June 23, 2011 during Jogoo House
sit-in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX-9bxvpYD4 .
See our sit-in photos on facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1165272108&sk=photos
We want to encourage you to creatively find a way you can support this cause. You can support us with water, bread, placards or anyway you are able. Most importantly share with your networks our postings.
National Coordinator, Bunge la Mwananchi
0733 827 859
Release the Cuban Five
Million Signatures Awareness Campaign
Mr. President Barack Obama
On Septembre 12 1998, Five Cubans were arrested and imprisoned in the United Status: Gerardo Hernández, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino, René González and Antonio Guerrero, who were living in this country at that time.
They were condemned at a trial with no due guaranties and evidence to unjust sentences, from 15 years to two life sentences. The lack of evidences has been recognized even by the US Attorney General`s Office (in 2001), and still the Cuban Five are serving their hard time in faraway and distant prisons.
The Cuban Five are victims of a political trial, and the US legal system has demonstrated that if you are a Cuban you can simply be arrested and incarcerated.
The United Nations Committee of Arbitrary Detentions has been concerned on this case, and agreed on the questioned of the conditions the trial was held.
The Cuban Five has gained world recognition because during the last 12 years they have a unbreakable awareness of being innocent. Their only crime was to defend their country, and even the people of the United States, from terrorist actions by the Miami-based anti-Cuban mafia.
Since September 1998 the Cuban Five has gone through many constrains and hardships, even their families have been punished, because the United States Government has not allowed their visits, in a franc violation not only of the International Law, but also the US Constitution concerning human rights of inmates.
The President of the United States can and must order the release of the Cuban Five, and from the peoples of Africa, the aforementioned below signatories, demand justice and plead for their immediate liberation.
The politics of law: Libya and the West
H. Nanjala Nyabola
To begin with, please accept my sincerest apologies for the unprecedented hiatus last week. It was a hectic time and I appreciate the patience of the Pambazuka family in letting me have some breathing room to get through it.
Aside from that, it’s been an interesting week in international politics. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the ICC (International Criminal Court) and generated some interesting conversations with people about the role of politics in international law – should African governments support an institution that is so overtly political in its decision-making process as to which cases get prosecuted and which do not? Even before that, I wrote about Muammar Gaddafi and how the West’s ill-advised foray into regime change in Libya would generate more trouble than they realised. This week it seems that both of these issues have come to a head, with the ICC issuing warrants of arrest for Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Gaddafi, primarily for charges of murder and execution, although there have been murmurs that charges for rape may also be on the table.
It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that this is not just a legal or procedural issue. What happened was that the West went looking for a war when it had no jurisdiction to fight one – even though the case could plausibly made that Gaddafi acted with excessive cruelty in responding to the uprising in Libya. Once the war was legitimised through the UN system, we now have a situation whereby the political fallout must also be managed to give a gloss or veneer of respectability to what was and continues to be an ill-conceived and -timed conflict. Pursuing a prosecution after the fact of the war only confirms that the intention is to use the ICC as a mop to clean up the mess in Mistrata rather than to actually pursue justice.
Whenever I get challenged on my complex position on international law, I always argue that the law is politics and politics is the law, because ultimately the law is about giving institutions the power to adjudicate over violations of various local, national or international standards. Law is by its very nature a political process, because the law represents the social and political consensus on those values that we hold most dear as a community. We legislate heavily against murder because we believe that no one should have the right to arbitrarily take the life of another, and because as a community we share a political or social value that all human life is valuable. In contrast, we have no laws against killing trees, or chickens or cows except in so far as they belong to other people, representing a consensus that some life is more valuable than others. In its most raw form therefore, international law represents those international conventions or mores that we as a global community hold most dear. We have instruments that protect against murder, arbitrary displacement, human smuggling, pillaging and other excesses of power because we believe these values should be above contestation.
There are many conversations that could be had around the question of how representative these instruments are of the actual people rather than the politicos that negotiate them, but beyond that recourse to an international legal instrument is always an inherently political decision, moderated by the extent to which we believe those values have been violated, to which we believe we have a responsibility to respond to those violations and, yes, to which the interests of various nations overlap. These considerations do not necessarily reduce from the efficacy of the notion of international law. They are merely a reflection of the reality of power in the modern system. It means that anyone who challenges the notion of an international law could either challenge the actual implementation of the legal framework or who we believe is responsible for responding to the violations or the manner in which we conceptualise power in the international system. I believe that you can’t fight all three battles at the same time, simply because you are either fighting one battle well or spreading yourself too thinly and fighting all battles poorly.
The case of Libya is a reminder that power matters, as does who wields it and why. If Europe and the US had no interest in Libya’s oil, or securing the Mediterranean against the refugee influx, there would likely be no warrant issued for the Gaddafis. However, it is also a reminder that when the people of Libya needed protection, African nations raising their voices were scarce on the ground, partly through a culture of silence that has opened up the door to impunity in the past, but also due to the current power dynamic in the international system where money buys you influence and African countries (say they) don’t have money. Until this power dynamic can be effectively challenged, it is in the interest of African nations to find a way of making existing systems work to their advantage, most importantly to work towards protecting African people.
There is no contradiction between wanting to build an international legal order that works for those that need the most protection and challenging the order of power in international politics. It’s simply a question of picking battles and keeping sight of the overall goal of the war, which in this case is making Africa safer for all Africans.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Inquirer's 'heavy weight' Patrick K. Wrokpoh is dead
C. Winnie Saywah
Death has struck the Inquirer Newspaper family leaving one of its senior editors, Patrick Karmle Wrokpoh, dead. Patrick died Friday night, June 24, 2011, upon arrival at the Catholic Hospital following a brief illness. Journalist Wrokpoh was born on June 1, 1973 and graduated from the D. Twe High School in New Kru Town. He was a graduating senior student at the African Methodist Episcopal University reading Mass Communication. He was also a full member of the Press Union of Liberia and the Sport Writers Association of Liberia. The late Patrick attended many fellowships and international functions including the Olympic held in China.
The late Patrick who has worked as a practicing journalist for the past 13 years was also the chief reporter at the New National Newspaper owned and operated by Sando Moore and he also provided media consultation for the New Republic Newspaper. The late Journalist Wrokpoh was the current Liberian Correspondent of the Chinese News Agency (XINHUA) and China Africa Magazine all based in Beijing, China.
He was also a contributor to Pambazuka News of South Africa having completed and participated in the 2010 African Journalists Study Tour in Beijing, China organized by Fahamu based in South Africa. Mr. Wrokpoh was a 2008 Climate Change Media Fellow becoming the first Liberian journalist on record to be accredited to attend and report on the United Nations Climate Change Summit after 13 years. It was the 14th edition held in Poznan, Poland and he participated after he was selected for a fellowship program organized by Panos London, Interviews and the International Institute of Environmental Development (IIED) on climate change reporting.
He also served as the Liberian Correspondent of the United Nations Integrated Regional Information News Network (IRIN), African News Dimension (AND) and Agency France Press (AFP). He also worked as a contractor for three months with the European Union in Liberia.
Patrick joined the Inquirer as a sports reporter and later rose to the position of a sports editor. He advanced in his reportorial duties not only reporting on sports but he reported on politics as well as other issues with passion for the profession. Due to this dedication and commitment to duty at the institution, he had the confidence of many and travelled extensively out of the country. The late Patrick went to Tokyo, Japan as guest of the Japanese Atomic Agency and the Foreign Ministry of that country.
The late Journalist was selected through a competitive application process by the agency in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry to attend a special forum on disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapon. He was the only Liberian journalist selected for the forum.
He visited several Japanese cities that were hit by US atomic bombs during World War II, including the Hiroshima Memorial Park, Nagasaki and the site of the Nuclear Power Plant in that country and participated in the Global forum on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education.
Early this month, the late Patrick travelled to Accra, Ghana where he participated in an international journalism conference held under the theme Journalism, “Ethics And Religion” along with three other Liberian journalists. He was privileged to present a paper on behalf of Liberia.
The Inquirer boss, Philip N. Wesseh has described the death of Mr. Wrokpoh as a loss and blow to the institution. He said Patrick was a valuable asset to the institution with an unmeasured dedication, commitment and humbled lifestyle.
“Patrick was someone who had sufficient patience to lead and teach others. He was approachable and very respectful. He was a heavy weight in the Inquirer. He worked under tension at all times. We will miss him,” Mr. Wesseh lamented.
Mr. Wesseh said although many persons he knew have died but, the death of Patrick was something he is yet to understand, adding, “I still cannot believe that death has taken the person I considered the heavyweight in the newsroom.”
The late Patrick helped to coordinate the affairs of the Inquirer's county correspondents and he was the institution's representative on media related projects including the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) project.
The late Patrick was a family oriented person with several children including Alice, Anita, Patricia and Eznma. He leaves to mourn several brothers, sisters, relatives and his youthful wife, Juliet B. Datty-Wrokpoh.
Meanwhile, several persons have consoled the institution for the homecoming of the journalist. They include, Mr. Gabriel Williams, former Managing Editor of the newspaper; Mr. Peter Quaqua, president of the Press Union of Liberia;;,Mr. George Barpeen, former president of the union, Mr. Cyrus Badio, Press Secretary to the President, Mr. Terence Sessay, Press Secretary to the Vice President and Mr. Sando Moore, his former boss. Others are Sam Dean, Alphanso Toweh, Ansu Konneh, Throuble Suah, David Targbe, Sonnie K. Morris, Henry Bestman, Othello Yarsiah, Charles Crawford, Solo Keigbeh, Herbert Johnson, Truth FM, LBS, Jallah Grayfield, Horatio Willie, S.K Davies, Jonathan Savage, Aloysius David, C. Y. Kwanue, George Bardue, George Kennedy, S. K. Duworko, Frank Sainworla, Boima J.V. Boima, Frederick Dainse, Precious Seboe-Bonte, Clara Mallah, Jimmy Fahngon and Lewis Togba.
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* This article first appeared in The Inquirer.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Truly ‘A Season of Visions’
The 14th Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)
As the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) finishes another year, is it positive to look back and reflect on this year’s festivities. The 14th ZIFF was by all accounts a fantastic success, and congratulations and thanks are due to the festival’s organisers and staff. The impact of the past festivals was clearly seen in the impressive work by African filmmakers, whose works represented the immense talent and creativity of the continent.
This year’s theme ‘A Season of Visions’, intended to invoke human creativity and problem-solving capabilities, brought to the festival an undeniable optimism.
ZIFF represents an important forum for cultural production and self-representation in the continent. Rather than Hollywood produced images of Africa, primarily still representing colonial nostalgia or the dark continent, the films of ZIFF embraced authentic self-representation that clearly reflect the vibrancy, complexities, and possibilities of the continent, and are themselves a sign of hope for African social and political justice. This is not to say that the films ignored the seriousness of the present challenges, rather the festival approached contemporary issues and conflicts, neither trivialising them nor presenting them as insoluble. The optimism of the festival was evident, a trend that is seen in two of the year’s most popular films to premiere at this year’s ZIFF.
In the new documentary film by Javed Jafferji, ‘Journey to the State House’, the audience is presented with the struggles of establishing multiparty democracy in Zanzibar, through tracing the political journey of opposition party, Civic United Front (CUF), leader Maalim Seif Shariff Hamad. While recognising the contested and violent elections of the last decades, the film presents the success of the most recent 2010 election and power sharing agreement between majority party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) as a movement towards peaceful democracy in Zanzibar, an optimism reinforced by the audience’s animation.
The winner of the Swahili Best Feature Film, ‘A Ray of Hope’, tells the story of a young woman’s struggle under the stigmatisation and discrimination faced by those infected with HIV. Yet through her struggle she finds empowerment, standing up to discrimination and regaining the respect of her community, an ending that again sent the audience into thunderous applause.
The transformative power of the film medium was also strengthened by ZIFF’s promotion of dialogue and discussion. Events such as the Women’s Panorama and the Children and Film Panorama followed film screenings with facilitated discussion, bringing enhanced relevance and power to the films and again representing the festival’s goals of promoting film as a medium for social change through provoking dialogue and engagement.
The expansion of African filmmaking offers enormous potential for authentic self-representation for local audiences; yet as it grows and spreads beyond the continent, it offers potential in exposing international audiences to authentic African images and realities.
ZIFF plays a substantial role in nurturing African cultural production. Through various workshops, ZIFF encourages the sharing of technical skills and resources to enable filmmakers to bring their stories to life. This year’s festival included a five day HD camera workshop with cinematographer Barry Braverman, documentary directing and producing classes, as well as a documentary pitching contest, in which filmmakers worked to develop, under the mentorship of seasoned professionals, their documentary ideas and then pitching their ideas to broadcasters and producers.
Through fostering the creativity of African artists, ZIFF presents a forum for self-representation and internal dialogue. In the production of authentic images of Africa, art is imbibed with an optimistic view of the future, without ignoring the complexities and challenges facing the continent. The ‘Season of Visions’ highlighted this gaze towards a bright future, for evident in the immense creativity displayed by the festival’s artists, it is not only their films that are imbibed with hope, but in this creativity and the dialogue it provokes, we are to find the unity and strength to both imagine and bring forth global social and economic justice.
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* Kari Dahlgren is a student of anthropology and African studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and is currently conducting research in Zanzibar.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Julius Malema is a demagogue
Nationalisation would be nothing but massive public subsidy for rich
Unemployed People's Movement (UPM)
The mass movements that have raised progressive governments to power in Latin America, the global financial crisis, the recent uprisings in the Arab world and the ongoing rebellion of the poor in our own country have all created more space for the left. The days when so many people believed that there was not alternative to capitalism and imperialism are passing. Socialism is back on the agenda. It is clear to many people that we cannot continue to organise our economy around the interests of big capital while leaving the people to suffer as they are.
But the person who has stepped into this space most confidently is Julius Malema. The media are portraying him as someone who speaks with veracity for young people of this country, the oppressed, the shack dwellers and the unemployed.
I wish first and foremost to appreciate the role played by Julius Malema in raising both the issue of Nationalisation and the Land question. He has done this in the face of adversity and hostilities. We do need to be discussing economic alternatives and the agrarian question. Malema is right to recognise that we cannot carry on along the same path that we have been on for the last 17 years. That path has made the rich richer and the poor poorer. It is unacceptable and we have to make a new path, a path that puts the interests of the people first.
But there are contradictions - antagonistic contradictions - in Malema’s call for Nationalization and the fact that the media portrays him as someone who speak for the poor. The Youth League might speak in the name of the poor to advance its agenda but everyone knows that it is not a poor people’s organisation. You will not find it having branch meetings in the squatter camps. But you will definitely find it having branch meetings in the university campuses. You will find the Youth League getting support on Facebook from people who are frustrated that their jobs are not making them rich. When the Youth League does have a presence in the township it’s not properly constituted. It’s just a way for a few young people to get jobs by demonstrating their loyalty to the party bosses, usually by intimidating activists and closing down their meeting. The Youth League is where a young person who wants to get a job at the local council or to become a tenderpreneur goes to network and to advance their class interests. We have many vibrant poor people’s organisations in this country but the Youth League is not one of them. It is important for the media to do proper research before just writing things on the basis of their assumptions.
We must never forget that the tenderpreneurs plundering our resources while unemployment is hovering around 40%, with the majority being young people, are an elite. Their money is going into mansion in Sandton, sushi parties and Italian sports cars. It is not going into the communities that they came from. They are, as Zweli Vavi has argued, turning the democratic state into a predatory state.
Here in Grahamstown we have been reading Frantz Fanon for the last two months. Fanon is clear that if national consciousness does not turn into social consciousness then a predatory elite can capture the state and enrich themselves in the name of the nation. He his clear that when the national bourgeoisie is given the freedom to claim that it represents the people it is a real danger to the people. For Fanon the national bourgeoisie can never liberate the people. The people have to liberate themselves by a second struggle to turn national consciousness into a social consciousness.
In 2010, City Press revealed that Julius Malema’s company SGL Engineering won at least R140 million in government tenders. When some of the municipalities were asked anout this they refused to respond. It was reported that:
Malema (28), and his business partner at SGL Engineering, Lesiba Cuthbert Gwangwa, 31, are multi-faceted young businessmen. Their company has won tenders for road construction, street paving, sewer reticulation, bulk water supply, landfill sites, cemeteries, central business district upgrades and provision of drainage systems.
City Press also reported last year that at least three of several multi-million-rand bridges and roads built by Julius Malema’s company in Limpopo were washed away within weeks of their completion.
So Malema become rich off public money while the public were left with nothing. It is clear that Malema is a multimillionaire through unjust means. He is the man who gains riches by unjust means. He is like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay. He is like the ruling class that owns and controls the means of production, the means of production created by the working people who own nothing at the end of the day, and are alienated from it. He is like those who control our land through unjust means, everyday they tell us that they worked hard to secure their place on the sun, and that now we must buy our land back. This constitutes rape and plunder. This makes Malema a hypocrite, condemning self enrichment while privately indulging in massive personal enrichment. This is Malema’s treachery, indulging in slogans and songs of liberation from the days of apartheid whilst at the same time enriching himself through unjust means. He and his supporters are trying to privatise the people’s struggle to make themselves millionaires while the people starve.
We must never forget that Malema’s power does not come from the self-organisation of the poor. His power comes from the support that he gets from BEE millionaires and billionaires like Tokyo Sexwale. It is their money, and the money from tenders, that he is using to build Youth League branches and make the Youth League a strong force in the ANC. We must not forget that in Germany in the 1930s it was big business that supported the fascists.
How does Malema feel about the fact that the unemployment rate in this country has reached alarming proportions and that the majority is young people? How does Malema feel about the fact that we have the highest rate of HIV and AIDS and that the majority is young people?
The real leaders of the poor young people, those who threatens the status quo, those who are active in social movements, in people’s daily struggle get a stick. While they struggle for a better tomorrow for everyone they remain in shacks with other young people, they remain without work, they face arrest and assault at the hands of the police. They face intimidation by the goons from the ANC Youth League.
Those who agree with the status quo are dangled with the carrot. They live in suburbs, drink expensive Johnny Walker Blue Label whiskey, are awarded tenders and become multimillionaires. They are conformers. They have no desire to change the status quo. In fact they are becoming the leaders of the status quo. Despite his rhetoric and slogans Malema is one of those that gets the carrot.
You cannot become a multi-millionaire in a struggle for the oppressed. But you can become a multi-millionaire in an attempt to capture the struggle of the oppressed and use it to advance the interests of a predatory elite.
The ANC is riding on us. Bheki Cele is giving us the while while Malema is dangling a carrot of ‘economic freedom in our life time’.
A demagogue is a rabble rouser that appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the population. They are dangerous. They do not allow the people to think for themselves. They cannot withstand criticism and will always attack viciously whenever they are exposed. There have been some demagogues in the movements of the poor. They have done terrible damage to our struggles. Now the ANC has sent a demagogue to claim that he represents the struggle of the poor. But real leaders encourage the people to think for themselves. Real leaders encourage the people to organise themselves. Real leaders are calm and thoughtful. Real leaders tell no lies and claim no easy victories.
The call for Nationalization is nothing short of a greedy call to institutionalise corruption. Malema’s BEE friends, the carrots friends, Zondwa Mandela (Nelson Mandela’s grandson), Khulubuse Zuma ( Zuma’s nephew) and Michael Hulley (Zuma’s attorney) own Aurora mine. They have not paid the workers since February 2010. The call for nationalization of mines is a call to bail out Malema’s friends. If Aurora mine is the future then God help us.
Malema needs us to deliver political support for his predatory friends. He is again riding on us, dangling the carrot in front of us, while Bheki Cele is whipping us with the stick. This is not socialism. The idea here is to use the public purse to enrich the elite. Real socialism would mean taking over the mines and the commanding heights of the economy by the government of the working class, to be run democratically under those who produce the wealth, the workers. Production would meet the needs of the society not the profit of the few. Socialisation must be under the workers’ control and workers’ management. The problem here is that Malema’s cronies who are unable to operate the mines profitably, now want the working class to pay the bill so that they can remain billionaires despite their failure to run the mines well. This is not in the interest of the people.
I grew up using the idea of nationalization before it was corrupted and lost its meaning and became the buzzword in the hands of the tenderpreneurs that it is today. They have no clue to its original intent and definition. It has become Malema’s carrot on stick.
But we have news for Malema. We will not be ridden to our doom by the ANC Youth League. The rebellion of the poor will continue. We will continue to organise ourselves. We will not allow Malema and his billionaire backers to hijack our struggle to advance his own interests. We know who our leaders are and they are in the shacks and the jails of this country. We need an alliance between the poor and the workers to defeat Malema and the predators that he represents and to take forward a genuinely progressive political project.
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* Ayanda Kota is chairperson of the Unemployed People’s Movement, Grahamstown, South Africa.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News 195: Senegal: The people halt Wade
VIOLENT RIOTS AGAINST POWER CUTS IN DAKAR
Dakar has had a night of riots, with the masses taking to the streets since the end of Monday 27 June to protest against power cuts. In several areas of the city, the electricity supply is only available in a sporadic manner for a few hours – sometimes a few minutes – with sessions that can last for close to 24 hours.
SENEGAL: WHEN WADE BACKED DOWN ON 23 JUNE
The 17th amendment to the Senegalese constitution, which was to take place on 23 June, fell through. The people took to the streets of Dakar – as well as in the towns upcountry – to protest against the proposed bill that President Wade had forwarded to Parliament. This was a bill whose aim, had it gone through, would have opened up an avenue for Wade's son, Karim, take on the succession to power, but also would have guaranteed him an easy victory in the 2012 presidential race.
FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL IN SENEGALESE DEMOCRACY?
Fatou Kiné Camara
Rejected by a public revolt, the constitutional bill that Abdoulaye Wade had introduced to institute a 'president–vice president' ticket to the February 2012 presidential elections constitutes a democratic retreat on several levels. Fatou Kiné Camara identifies four of these levels, which make up a 'burial of all democratic progress in Senegal'.
THE ERA OF THE BADLY ELECTED PRESIDENT!
If the bill proposed by Abdoulaye Wade passes, 25 per cent of votes cast would be enough to become president of the republic. In a country which counts 12 million inhabitants with an electoral body of 4,917,160 voters, then 1,229,290 votes would be enough for one to be elected in the first round of elections. For Alioune Sarr, never would we see a president so badly elected.
CONSTITUTIONAL DISORDER WITH DYNASTIC INTENTION
El Hadj Mbodj
To ensure the devolution of power to his son Karim, Abdoulaye Wade did not hesitate to conceive legal atrocities. And El Hadji Mbodj notes that 'it constitutes a crushing of fundamental principles of constitutional democracy and a shock of the very basis of republican power'.
WHY I VOTE AGAINST
Samba Diouldé Thiam
A public revolt forced President Abdoulaye Wade to withdraw the bill he proposed to amend the constitution, yet it was already before parliament. Although the liberal majority was already ready to let the bill pass by mechanical vote, members of parliament from the ruling party – as well as those from the opposition – were ready to vote against. Samba Dioulde Thiam is one of them. He explains his reasons why.
AFTER THE VICTORY OF 23 JUNE, OTHER PREJUDICIAL BATTLES TO BEGIN!
Ababacar Fall 'Barros'
In Senegal, the power in place backed down, but this is only but one battle won. According to Ababacar Fall 'Barros', other conquests are yet to be carried out to create democratic conditions that will help 'barricade the road for the enemies of the people' during the 2012 presidential elections.
GUINEAN CIVIL SOCIETY SUPPORTS THE STRUGGLE OF THE SENEGALESE PEOPLE
The National Council of Organisations of Guinean Civil Society, faithful to its cause of being watchful and in accordance to its values and principles, notably in terms of human rights and democracy, insists on expressing their concern with regards to the events that took place in Dakar on 23 Thursday June 2011.
Gaddafi and son wanted by ICC
Madame Lagarde takes office
Museveni all the way!
Syria's President Assad seeks advice from Africa!
Zimbabwe: Biti’s offices again besieged by rowdy ZANU PF crowd
Over a thousand ZANU PF supporters, bussed in mainly from rural areas, stormed the offices of the Ministry of Finance on Monday (27 June) and shockingly threatened to beat up or kill Minister Tendai Biti. The ZANU PF thugs, who held office workers hostage from 11am until early evening, sang derogatory songs against Biti and his MDC-T party. The crowd, which initially gathered at the ZANU PF provincial offices along Fourth Street in central Harare, marched to Biti’s office building under a police escort.
Zimbabwe: ZANU PF youth terrorise Harare residents meeting
People who attended a Harare Residents Trust meeting (HRT) were left terrified after ZANU PF youths gate crashed the event and beat up guests and members. The meeting was held on Saturday (25 June) at the Mbare Netball Complex, with the aim of discussing issues affecting residents, such as the problems with power shedding and refuse collection. However, a ZANU PF mob appeared and unleashed terror. Among those who were severely beaten was Precious Shumba, HRT co-ordinator and founder, who had to be taken to hospital. Although now discharged he is still too unwell to attend work.
Africa: Civil society rates governance in South Africa
Governance gaps were considered in Midrand, South Africa on 28 June, when the APRM Monitoring Project (AMP) - run jointly by SAIIA, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) and the Africa Governance, Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP) - launced its independent assessment of governance in South Africa entitled 'Implementing the APRM: Views from Civil Society'.
Senegal: AU should press Senegal to extradite Habré
The African Union (AU) should press Senegal to extradite the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré to Belgium, a coalition of his victims and human rights groups said. 'Time is up,' said Jacqueline Moudeina of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH). 'We would have liked to see Habré tried in Africa, but after 20 years the important thing now is that justice be done somewhere.'
Africa: Africa’s 25 most outstanding emerging women leaders announced
Representing 25 African countries and the Diaspora, the 2011 most outstanding women leaders represent a Pan-African diversity with multi-disciplinary academic, professional and social backgrounds. From poverty to women’s economic empowerment, to global warming and African women’s political participation, this new generation of African women leaders are proof that Africa can produce bold, visionary and inspirational leadership needed to lift Africa to its rightful place on the global stage.
Moremi Initiative Announces 2011 MILEAD Fellows - Africa’s 25 Most Outstanding Emerging Women Leaders
Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa proudly announces the 2011 MILEAD (Moremi Initiative Leadership and Empowerment Development) Fellows. The MILEAD Fellows were chosen through a highly competitive selection process and criteria for their outstanding leadership promise, community service accomplishments, and commitment to the advancement of women in Africa. The 25 selected fellows are some of Africa’s most extraordinary young women leaders with the courage and commitment to lead and shape the future of their communities and Africa as a whole.
'If there is anyone out there who still doubts the possibility of Africa to produce the needed leaders who can confront and resolve the big challenges of our era, we invite them to meet this new generation of change makers from our great continent.' - Excerpt from a statement of the MILEAD Committee
The 2011 MILEAD Fellows
Representing twenty five African countries and the Diaspora, the 2011 Fellows represent a Pan-African diversity with multi-disciplinary academic, professional and social backgrounds. From poverty to women’s economic empowerment, to global warming and African women’s political participation, this new generation of African women leaders are proof that Africa can produce bold, visionary and inspirational leadership needed to lift Africa to its rightful place on the global stage. The 2011 Fellows are between 19- 25 years of age but are already engaged in actively leading change on critical issues from grassroots to international levels. Here are the honoured 2011 Fellows:
Ms. Lorato Modongo (Botswana)
Ms. Nelly - Shella Yonga (Cameroon)
Ms. Ines Ahoue (Cote D'Ivoire)
Ms. Christine Lunanga (DRC)
Ms. Samar Abdelrahman (Egypt)
Ms. Selamawit Tiruneh (Ethiopia)
Ms. Yassin Nyan (Gambia)
Ms. Hannah Asuming-Brempong (Ghana)
Ms. Serrainne Nyamori (Kenya)
Ms. Kula Fofana (Liberia)
Ms. Florence Kasende (Malawi)
Ms. Landy Daniel Andrianaivosoa (Madagascar)
Ms. Lebogang Mahlare (South Africa)
Ms. Halimatou H. Moussa Dioula (Niger)
Ms. Maureen Chidi Ezeigbo (Nigeria)
Ms. Patricie Mavubi (Rwanda)
Ms. Ndidi Nwaobasi (Senegal)
Ms. Miatta Koroma (Sierra Leone)
Ms. Linda Midzi (South Africa/ Zimbabwe)
Ms. Hind Al-Tayeb (Sudan)
Ms. Jokate Mwegelo (Tanzania)
Ms. Ayaovi Akomatsri (Togo)
Ms. Edna Akullq (Uganda)
Ms. Nachela Chelwa (Zambia)
Ms. Escar Kusema (Zimbabwe)
Ms. Mabel Adaeze Ogakwu (Diaspora)
Ms. Belise Rutagengwa (Diaspora)
From over 500 applicants, the selected Fellows of 2011will become part of the growing MILEAD community of young women leaders. We salute all the applicants for their tremendous work and sacrifices, often under extremely difficult circumstances. Even though only 25 candidates could be selected, we truly admire the courage and commitment of all of these leaders. We absolutely look forward to collaborating with all applicants through other platforms and future programs as we strive to achieve opportunity, dignity and justice for women in our communities and across our great continent.
The 2011 MILEAD Fellows Institute
The MILEAD Fellows will converge in Accra, Ghana to kick-start the 2011 MILEAD Fellows Program with a three-week intensive leadership training program. The program will be hosted by the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon. It will enable the Fellows to cross-examine concepts of leadership in a broad African context, cultivate the skills and experiences women need to occupy and excel in leadership positions, and gain knowledge on cutting-edge issues critical to African women and their communities. During this period, experienced and accomplished women leaders who are committed to supporting and nurturing the next generation of African women leaders will mentor Fellows.
About The MILEAD Fellows Program
The MILEAD Fellows Program is a uniquely designed initiative committed to the long-term leadership development and promotion of Africa’s most promising young women leaders. Fellows go through a yearlong training and mentoring program, designed to build skills, strengthen networks, and support women’s leadership on critical issues. Over the course of a year, selected Fellows progress through three phases. Firstly, identification and preparation of Fellows through leadership development, networking, conferences, mentoring, and training. Secondly, promotion of Fellows through media coverage and networking. Lastly, support of Fellows through career planning, management, and access to opportunities and resources. Fellows continue to receive and share lifelong solidarity and support through the Alumni Network of the program.
About Moremi Initiative
Founded in 2004, The Moremi Initiative for Women's Leadership in Africa strives to engage, inspire, and equip young women and girls to become the next generation of leading politicians, activists, social entrepreneurs, and change agents--leaders who can transform and change institutions that legitimize and perpetuate discrimination against women. We firmly believe that the full and active participation of women in leadership is a pre-requisite for positive change and development in Africa, and addresses the current problem of leadership imbalances.
Key program partners include Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), Institute of African Studies- University of Ghana, Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE), Junior Achievement International, The Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), The Global Fund for Women, OSI- International Women’s Program, and The Africa Group Consult, GATE to Africa, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women) among others.
For more information, contact Moremi Initiative:
Tel: +233 242 901222 (GHANA); +1 404 826 2942 (USA)
Email: email@example.com or visit: www.moremiinitiative.org
Africa: Women excluded from climate change projects in Africa, UN experts warn
Of the millions of dollars spent on climate change projects in developing countries, little has been allocated in a way that will benefit women. Yet, in Africa, it is women who will be most affected by climate change. According to United Nations data, about 80 per cent of the continent's smallholder farmers are women. While they are responsible for the food security of millions of people, agriculture is one of the sectors hardest hit by climate change. 'There is a lot of international talk about climate change funding for local communities and especially for women, but not much is actually happening,' says Ange Bukasa, who runs investment facilitation organisation Chezange Connect in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Egypt: Military pledges to stop forced virginity tests
The head of Egypt’s military intelligence has promised Amnesty International that the army will no longer carry out forced ‘virginity tests’ after defending their use, during a meeting with the organisation in Cairo on Sunday. Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), discussed the issue with Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty months after the organisation publicized allegations of the forced ‘tests’. Major General al-Sisi said that ‘virginity tests’ had been carried out on female detainees in March to 'protect' the army against possible allegations of rape, but that such forced tests would not be carried out again.
Global: Solutions to end child marriage
Child marriage is increasingly recognised as a serious problem, both as a violation of girls’ human rights and as a hindrance to key development outcomes. As more resources and action are committed to addressing this problem, it becomes important to examine past efforts and how well they have worked. This International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) report summarises a systematic review of child marriage prevention programs that have documented evaluations. Based on this synthesis of evaluated programs, the authors offer an analysis of the broader implications for viable solutions to child marriage.
Uganda: When women go without needed contraceptives
When the monthly contraceptive injection that Bernadette Asiimwe, a mother of four, got from government health centres in western Uganda was out of stock for weeks she fell pregnant with her fifth child. By the time Assiimwe decided to pay for the contraceptive and went to Reproductive Health Uganda, a family planning association, she was already four weeks pregnant. Asiimwe is not alone -many mothers like her in western Uganda have had unintended pregnancies due to shortages of commonly used contraceptives in government health facilities.
Africa: ICC says protecting Africans, not targeting them
The International Criminal Court's deputy prosecutor rejected charges it unfairly targets Africa, saying the victims were also African and that indictments were led by referrals from Africans themselves. In a joint interview with Reuters and France's TV5 in the Ivorian capital, ICC Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the high rate of referrals in Africa could just as easily show that leaders on the continent were taking their responsibilities to international justice seriously.
Botswana: Bushmen to get water well after long court battle
Bushmen living in Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve will receive a crucial new water supply next month after winning a lengthy court battle, the diamond firm mining the area said. Botswana's highest court ruled in January in favour of the Bushmen who had fought for years for the right to re-open a crucial water well that supplied their village.
DRC: Children still in prison despite law
Two years after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) promulgated the Law on Child Protection, an estimated 3,000 children remain in prisons across the country. The law, which came into effect in January 2009, replaced a 1950 colonial law on juvenile delinquency that set the age of criminal responsibility at 16, leading to a number of severe penalties against children, including life imprisonment and the death sentence. The current law has provisions for judicial, penal and social protection of children under 18 and states that a judge can send child law-breakers to 'a public or private institution of a social character, but only as a measure of last resort', and not to a prison.
DRC: Monusco's election mandate detailed in UN resolution
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Groupe Lotus, ASADHO and the Ligue des Électeurs, have welcomed United Nations Security Council Resolution 1991 adopted 28 June and renewing the mandate of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). In light of upcoming elections, the Resolution reads that the MONUSCO shall support the electoral process 'through the provision of technical and logistical support' including, 'by monitoring, reporting and following-up on human rights violations in the context of the elections'.
South Africa: Zuma disappointed by Gaddafi warrant
Libyan doctors living in South Africa and the DA have welcomed the international arrest warrant for the leader of their war-torn country, Muammar Gaddafi. But President Jacob Zuma has expressed disappointment. 'President Zuma is extremely disappointed and concerned over the issuing of a warrant by the International Criminal Court against Colonel Gaddafi,' presidential spokesman Zizi Kodwa said. 'It’s unfortunate that the ICC could take such a decision while the AU through its ad hoc committee has done so much.'
Global: Reaching out to refugees persecuted for sexual orientation
In this article, UNHCR Public Information Intern Dasha Smith speaks to Neil Grungras, who has spent many years advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex refugees and asylum-seekers, and is the founder and executive director of the San Francisco-based Organisation for Refuge, Asylum and Migration (ORAM). This interview comes at a time when accounts increasingly emerge of persecution and violence towards refugees and asylum-seekers in parts of the world based on sexual grounds.
Libya: Double tragedy for sub-Saharan migrant workers
The conflict that began in Libya on 17 February 2011 with a popular revolt against Gaddafi’s regime has triggered a mass exodus of the civilian population into neighbouring countries. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled, mainly into Tunisia and Egypt. An International Federation for Human Rights report, based on the findings of a mission to the Egypt-Libya border, reveals the vulnerable situation of refugees and migrants stranded at the Salloum Land Port and presents numerous accounts of violence targeting Sub-Saharan African migrants in Eastern Libya.
Mozambique: UNHCR calls on authorities to stop deporting asylum-seekers
The UNHCR has written to the Government of Mozambique reminding it of its obligations under the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugee and the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention. This follows reports of deportations by the Mozambique authorities. In one report, 93 asylum seekers were deported to Tanzania in the early hours of Tuesday morning (21 June). The group, comprising 59 Somalis and 34 Ethiopians, had recently arrived by boat near Mocimboa da Praia in northern Mozambique. Most were young men but among them was a woman, four children, and three elderly men. Many were suffering medically as a result of their journey.
Sudan: Eritrean refugees battling for a better life
The first official Eritrean refugees arrived in Sudan in 1968; today, an estimated 1,600 cross the border every month to seek refuge in Shagarab, a large camp in the east of Sudan. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that northern Sudan has more than 100,000 Eritrean refugees but in 43 years, the profile of the refugees has changed. 'The new arrivals are generally young and well educated; they come from the highlands and have no cultural or ethnic ties with local populations,' said Mohamed Ahmed Elaghbash, Sudan's Commissioner for Refugees.
South Africa: Union appeals Wal-Mart decision
The South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers' Union (Saccawu) has filed an appeal against the Competition Tribunal's decision to allow Walmart to acquire a controlling stake in Massmart. The Competition Tribunal was due to give reasons on Wednesday for its decision to allow US giant retailer Walmart to acquire 51 per cent of local retailer Massmart in a R16.5-billion deal.
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...
Inga hydro project on Congo river too risky – AfDB
Current plans to develop the stalled $8-billion to $10-billion Inga 3 hydropower project on the Congo river may be too risky because of costs and time, a senior African Development Bank (AfDB) official said on Wednesday. The bank is financing a study for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government to optimize development of the Congo river's immense hydropower potential, with a pre-feasibility study expected in September.
Tanzania plans to lease land to foreign investors
Tanzania plans to provide over 1.6-million hectares of land for lease by foreign investors to set up manufacturing plants, and plans to create free trade zones to boost exports, the Prime Minister said. East Africa's second largest economy – which expects to grow by 7.2% in 2012 – depends largely on tourism, mining and agriculture but is hoping to expand its manufacturing, telecommunications, energy, financial services and transport sectors.
2. China in Africa
Hu reassures Sudan over continuing investment
Sudan won pledges from China and its state-owned energy firm yesterday that they will continue investing in the country after its resource-rich southern region becomes independent next month. Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said yesterday President Omar al-Bashir was visiting Beijing hoping to hear China would continue to invest in northern Sudan's oil, agriculture and mining sectors.
China says Libya rebel leader to visit
A leader of the Libyan rebel group leading the fight to oust Muammar Gaddafi will visit China, Beijing said on Monday in another step in its efforts to expand ties with opposition forces in the war-divided north African country.
Expert regrets China’s hold on terms of development
MULTI-Facility Economic Zones are going to increase resentment and worsen strained relations between the Chinese and local people if they are not properly managed, says an expert at Sino-Africa relationship. Nitesh Dullabh of the Johannesburg-based Beijing Axis said it was regrettable that China at the moment was dictating the terms of development of industrial parks – the Multi-Facility Economic Zones (MFEZs).
China accused of jamming TV, websites in Ethiopia
The Chinese government is facing accusations that it has helped block news websites in Ethiopia and jammed Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and other broadcasters, including the Voice of America and German's Deutsche Welle Amharic services. The Chinese government is facing accusations that it has helped block news websites in Ethiopia and jammed Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and other broadcasters, including the Voice of America and German's Deutsche Welle Amharic services.
China woos ecowas with $525m for projects
A Joint delegation of officials of the ECOWAS Commission and some member states, began talks on Monday with Chinese leaders and Public-Private sector actors on ways to strengthen economic and trade relations between the Peoples’ Republic of China, the ECOWAS Commission and its member states. A statement issued at the ECOWAS headquarters in Abuja yesterday, revealed that an initial $525 million Chinese funding support for projects in Ghana and Sierra Leone is part of the discussions between ECOWAS leaders and senior Chinese officials.
Tanzania seeks $700 mln China loan for power plant
Tanzania is seeking a $700 million loan from the Export-Import Bank of China to fund a power plant aimed at plugging a chronic power shortage in east Africa's second largest economy, a senior official said on Wednesday. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, David Jairo, said the loan would help state utility Tanzania Electric Supply Company build a 300 megawatt gas-fired power plant in southern Tanzania.
Chinese plan taxi factory in South Africa
Chinese automobile manufacturer CMC is to build a vehicle factory in the Eastern Free State town of Harrismith at a cost of R1bn. CMC's best-known South African products are the Amandla and the Ses' Buyile taxis. This distributor of Chinese minibus taxis, Plutus and Tigo bakkies and the Lifan passenger vehicle plans not only to manufacture cars for the local market, but also to export.
Mozambique may become China's second-largest trading partner in Africa
Mozambique is likely to become China’s second-largest trading partner in Africa over the next five to 10 years with development of cooperation in sectors such as energy, the deputy secretary-general of Forum Macau told Portuguese news agency Lusa.
3. India in Africa
India pushes to review Mauritius tax treaty amid revenue leaks
India and Mauritius will soon review a three-decade-old taxation treaty, misused by many Indian and multinational companies to avoid paying tax or to route illicit funds, an Indian official and a Mauritius government source said on Monday. The Indian government has been under pressure from opposition parties to renegotiate a treaty blamed for huge revenue losses, as Indian investors ship their money to Mauritius and then funnel it back untaxed.
State Bank of India shows interest in Ghana
The State Bank of India (SBI) has indicated it wants to start banking business in Ghana. The bank’s officials say it is planning to build subsidiaries in Ghana, Australia as well South Africa in some few years to come.
African Press Organisation Opens office in India
The African Press Organization (APO), a global leader in media relations related to Africa, on Wednesday opened offices in Mumbai, India, according to a statement received in Accra. The statement noted that India had been actively promoting trade with Africa over the past few years with trade relations between India and Africa hitting 31 billion dollars in 2009 and 2010.
India asks UN to make African Union effective partner
Citing its own example of institutionalising ties with Africa, India has asked the United Nations to heed the views of the African Union in dealing with the 53-nation continent. This would make AU ‘a more effective and capable partner of the UN system,’ Vinay Kumar, counsellor at India’s Permanent Mission, said Tuesday at a UN Security Council briefing on the UN Office to African Union (UNOAU).
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
Zuma calls on African funds for development
South African President Jacob Zuma called on African nations Wednesday to contribute resources to sustain continental development, amid funding concerns prompted by the Arab uprising. Africa is moving in the right direction with a focus on economic growth, but needs funds to maintain the momentum, Zuma told delegates in Equatorial Guinea ahead of an African Union summit opening Thursday.
Angola points out parliamentary cooperation with Russia
Angola wants to establish a parliamentary cooperation with Russia, mainly in political and administrative areas, wishing that the level of parliamentary relations attains the same stage as in the partnership between both countries’ Governments. This desire was stressed this Monday, in Luanda, by the Angolan first parliament speaker, João Lourenço, during a meeting between parliamentary delegations of Angola and Russia.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
India’s economic engagement with Africa
The feasibility of India giving credit worth billions to other nations was unthinkable a decade ago, but thanks to a resurgent economy, India has recently moved from being a recipient to a benefactor. This differs from the earlier ‘protectionist’ approach. Encouraged by a confident government, but also seeing opportunities on its own, the Indian private sector is getting involved in foreign investment and pushing the government to engage with Africa more consistently and to expand its network. Like investors from other emerging economies, India sees Africa as an important supplier and customer to drive growth. As India generates and absorbs hi-tech, it is ready to transfer intermediate technology more suited to developing economies, and invest, even though returns are not going to be large or fast.
T S Vishwanath: The 'grand' key to Africa
It is referred to as the “Grand Free Trade Area” or the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement, and true to its name it will be one of the largest free trade areas in the developing world when it becomes a reality. The 26-nation free trade area encompassing countries from Egypt to South Africa and three existing free trade blocs will be a very important platform for countries to engage and invest.
Egypt: Fresh clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square
Clashes between Egyptian security forces and more than 5,000 protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, have left more than 590 injured, according to witnesses and medical officials. Tahrir Square, the epicenter of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's former president, was sealed off early on Wednesday (29 June) as lines of security forces in riot gear strived to regain control from demonstrators. Witnesses said the clashes started on Tuesday when police tried to clear a sit-in at the state-TV building, which included families of those killed during the country's revolution earlier this year, known as the 'martyrs', according to the Daily News, an Egyptian news website.
Morocco: Protesters reject reform vote
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Morocco to push for democratic reforms despite the vote approving a new constitution curbing the king's near-absolute powers. The February 20 Movement, which has organised months of demonstrations calling for reforms in the Arab world's oldest reigning monarchy, has denounced the new constitution as window-dressing. It says its approval in Friday's referendum, where it passed with 98 per cent support, was a sham. More than 6,000 protesters rallied in Morocco's main economic hub Casablanca on Sunday, chanting 'For Dignity and Freedom!', a reporter for the AFP news agency at the scene said.
Senegal: Power cut riots wreak havoc
Protests have broken out in the Senegalese capital Dakar and in the southern city of Mbour over continuing power shortages. In Dakar, several government buildings were set on fire including the offices of the state electricity firm, Senelec. Security forces in Mbour fired tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators. The trouble over power cuts, which have lasted 48 hours in some areas, come just a week after rioting against the president.
South Africa: Opposition to calls for nationalisation
Nationalisation is an attempt by the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) to save black economic empowerment (BEE) 'elements in crisis', and will not help the poor, South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande said. At the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) central committee meeting, he warned against the call for nationalisation by elements in the ANCYL, 'whose intention is to save these BEE elements in crisis, and not to address the interests of the workers and the poor in the country'. Putting privately owned assets in the hands of the state is not 'inherently progressive' as it depends on which class interests are being advanced.
South Africa: The battle for Cosatu
The battle for Cosatu is balanced on a knife edge. This week its central committee postponed key debates as various lobby groups pulled it in different directions. The Blade Nzimande-led South African Communist Party (SACP) tugged it to take a moderate and less critical stance towards government policies and ANC president Jacob Zuma's leadership. Pulling on the other side, Cosatu's general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, stood accused of agitating for 'regime change' as he went for broke, criticising the government's new growth path and the planning commission's diagnostic report. The debates and divisions on the government's economic policies were also a proxy war between those who want Cosatu to support the present top six ANC leaders and those who, in tandem with the ANC Youth League, propose to replace ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and Zuma with new leaders.
Kenya: Smouldering evidence, the Charterhouse banking scandal
'Smouldering Evidence', AfriCOG’s latest report, examines the Charterhouse Bank Scandal which has received much attention in the media recently and dates back several years. The report documents the scandal and analyses violations of law and criminal acts including money laundering and the curious flip-flopping of public officials, including the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, on the issue of whether the Bank should remain closed. This report is part of a series of studies explaining major corruption cases in order to raise public awareness and knowledge of corruption cases and the measures that can be taken to avoid them and seek accountability for their perpetration.
Zambia: Money for Chiluba's funeral too much, says Peoples Pact Forum
Readers of a Zambian Watchdog article are divided over the controversy surrounding the K5-billion that the government has released for the funeral of Fredrick Chiluba. The majority of comments to the article feel that the amount is too much and that a break down should be provided of how the money is spent, but some comments defend the expenditure. 'Why do you have to complain about the money spent? I think it’s for a good cause he was our president he deserves a decent sent off. Some of you, you don’t even pay tax why complain? You are overseas remember!!!(sic),' wrote Mthunzi Chopamba. But others are more cynicial: 'Even in death Chiluba continues to steal from us,' wrote Brainee.
Africa: Africa’s extractive sectors face challenges
It was apparent at the 13th annual strategy meeting of the African Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (Aimes) held in Harare last week that challenges posed by the mining industry are similar throughout the continent. The event, which was organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) and Third World Network-Africa in collaboration with ActionAid International (Zimbabwe), ran from 21-24 June. Held under the theme: 'The African Mining Reform Agenda: Mobilising for Developmental Impacts', the meeting saw Aimes member countries, among them Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Ghana, DRC, Zambia, and Zimbabwe taking part. The Aimes meeting, among its many objectives, aimed at coming up with strategies to vigorously advocate for mining companies to not only accept the need to have a CSR policy, but to make it mandatory.
Angola: IMF reaches deal with Angola on next loan tranche
The International Monetary Fund said it had reached a staff-level agreement with Angolan authorities that could lead to the release of $136 million in funding to the African oil producer. IMF mission chief to Angola Mauro Mecagni said in a statement the disbursement of the next tranche under Angola's $1.4 billion loan agreement first needed the approval of the IMF's board. Some $1.25 billion has been disbursed to date. Mecagni said there had been 'considerable progress' by Angola in implementing agreed economic measures following a 2009 fiscal and balance of payments crises.
Global: Inequality needs to move up the development agenda
A new report from Unicef notes that global income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, is 64 per cent higher than it was 200 years ago. The report notes that the poorest 20 per cent of the world's population holds two per cent of its income. At the rate of change posted in the past 20 years, it will take more than 250 years for the bottom 20 per cent to go from two per cent to 10 per cent.
Malawi: Mutharika rejects IMF's call to devalue currency
Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika said Saturday he would not take International Monetary Fund (IMF) advice to devalue the local currency because he was protecting the poor. Both the business community and the IMF were 'pressuring the government' to devalue to Kwacha to K180 to a dollar, he said. 'If we do that, prices of essential products and services will go up including transport. Who will win?' asked Mutharika. The president was speaking after the IMF said its programme in Malawi had stalled over policy disagreements.
Sudan: China bolsters economic ties with Sudan
The presidents of China and Sudan have cemented economic ties between their countries during a state visit by Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese leader, to Beijing. China is a major buyer of Sudanese crude oil, and is keen to ensure the partition of Sudan into two states will not descend into fighting that could disrupt supplies and damage Beijing's stake on both sides of the new border.
Swaziland: SA said to lend R1.2bn to Swaziland
Swaziland opposition forces say the South African government has agreed on a R1.2 billion loan to bail out its cash-strapped government. The Swazi opposition believes that King Mswati III asked President Jacob Zuma for R10bn. Lucky Lukhele, spokesman for Swaziland Solidarity Network based in Joburg, said: 'It is shocking that a government that banned the Dalai Lama from visiting the country in 2009 has degraded itself to being a "sugar daddy state" to a bona fide "feudal overlord",' he said.
Africa: Older ARVs associated with premature ageing
Certain antiretroviral (ARV) drugs commonly used in the developing world may be responsible for premature ageing, according to the authors of a new study published in the journal, Nature Genetics. Newer, less toxic but more expensive ARVs are more commonly used in the Western world. Nucleoside analogue reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) have enabled millions of people living with HIV to prolong their lives. 'We noticed that people in their 40s who had been on NRTIs for the past several years had signatures of ageing in their muscles commonly found in healthy people in their 70s and 80s,' said Prof Patrick Chinnery of the University of Newcastle in the UK, one of the study's lead authors.
Cameroon: Cholera fight goes local
Devolving power to local authorities is helping Cameroon step up its fight against a two-year cholera outbreak, say government and aid agency staff. In 2010 decision-making and financing on health, water infrastructure and education was devolved to the country’s 376 local government councils. Slow to get going at first, since early 2011 these councils have more effectively fought to prevent cholera, said Casimir Youmbi, programme manager of Plan International in Cameroon.
Congo: Chikungunya spreads to Pool region
An epidemic of Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne viral disease, which began in early June in Congo’s capital Brazzaville, has spread to the neighbouring Pool region, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Between 1 and 23 June, there were 7,014 cases in Brazzaville and 460 in Pool, but no deaths, according to WHO. In Pool, which endured a series of civil wars between 1998 and 2003, damaging the local health infrastructure, only the towns of Goma Tse Tse and Kinkala, the regional capital, are affected.
Global: A human health perspective on climate change
This report, from 2010 and published by the Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health, highlights 11 key categories of diseases and other health consequences that are occurring or will occur due to climate change. The report also examines a number of cross-cutting issues for research in this area, including susceptible, vulnerable, and displaced populations; public health and health care infrastructure; capacities and skills needed; and communication and education efforts.
Global: Ethics left behind in race for drug trials in the South
The number of clinical trials in developing countries has surged in recent years but the legal and ethical frameworks to make them fair are often not in place, the 7th World Conference of Science Journalists, in Qatar (27–29 June), heard. By 2008, for example, there were three times as many developing countries participating in clinical trials registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) than there were in the entire period between 1948 and 2000, with many 'transitional' countries, such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, taking part.
Senegal: Poorly-trained midwives pose danger
Poorly-regulated, privately-run training schools in Senegal are churning out midwives who do not have a solid grasp of birthing or ante- and post-natal care, causing women and babies to die needlessly, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Other basic competencies, as defined by the World Health Organisation, include referral in high-risk pregnancies or births; addressing miscarriages; and family planning. Most women who die during labour in Senegal do so because of post-partum haemorrhaging, according to UNFPA’s joint Senegal director, Edwige Adekambi.
South Africa: Lack of neurologists prevents effective epilepsy treatment
The countrywide shortage of neurologists is preventing people with epilepsy from getting proper care in the public sector. Epilepsy is supposed to be diagnosed by a neurologist, but in Gauteng there are only three hospitals with neurology departments. This means that everyone in the province who has epilepsy has to visit either Johannesburg General, Chris Hani Baragwanath or Pretoria Academic hospitals. Epilepsy can, for the most part, be controlled by daily medication but people normally only receive a six-months prescription.
Zambia: Zambia confronts TB among women with HIV
TB is a leading cause of death among people living with HIV in Zambia, according to Justin O'Brien, policy, advocacy and communications manager for The Zambia AIDS Related Tuberculosis Project, ZAMBART, a nongovernmental organisation that aims to improve the quality of life of people with HIV and TB. About 70 per cent of Zambian TB patients have HIV, according to the World Health Organisation. Dr. Peter Chungulo of ZAMBART says that poverty and malnutrition, or undernutrition, also contribute to TB infections, whether it's new cases or relapses.
Cote d'Ivoire: UNICEF Leads 'Back to School' Initiative
Of all the vulnerable groups in the country, the most affected are nearly a million children, most of whom either stay home or have returned to schools looted or destroyed during the fighting.
The UN Children's agency UNICEF and the US-based non-governmental organisation Save the Children have been actively involved in a 'Back to School' initiative with support from the Ministry of Education.
Ghana: Why aren't Ghana's children in school?
Ghana has a free education system, yet over a million of Ghana’s children do not attend school, says this article from Ghana's The Mail. 'Ghana’s government has a duty to create an environment that facilitates education. It should provide not only the education itself, but the means to get materials such as books and pens if a family cannot afford it.'
Nigeria: New information law may benefit LGBT activisits
Nigeria’s new law on Freedom of Information (FOI) may impact positively on LGBT rights advocacy in the country. The law will address the situation of corruption and promote good governance, which is a foundation for the protection of fundamental human rights. LGBT rights activists could leverage the provisions of the new law to improve on their research and documentation of human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
Nigeria: Super Falcons' coach combats lesbianism
Eucharia Uche, the coach of the Nigerian national women’s soccer team, the Super Falcons’ has said she will use spirituality to combat lesbianism on the side. Speaking about what she termed, 'spiritual warfare', she recently said, 'I came to realize it is not a physical battle; we need divine intervention in order to control and curb it [lesbianism].' As soon as she was hired as the first female coach of Nigeria’s powerful women’s national soccer team, Uche expressed her concern about rumoured lesbians on the national side, describing it as a 'worrisome experience' at a seminar.
Senegal: Religious leaders fuel homophobia, says Amnesty
Amnesty International’s 2010 annual report on Senegal found that sermons by religious leaders fuel homophobia and undermine the fundamental rights of gay people in that country. The report was presented recently to media and civil society during a press conference held at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Dakar. Seydi Gassama, director of Amnesty International Senegal said, 'The situation of human rights in Senegal is far from brilliant. Religious tolerance is one of the characteristics of Senegalese people and we cannot tolerate religious leaders that pronounce threats against homosexuals.'
Uganda: David belongs to all of us now
The Law, Gender & Sexuality Research Project at the Makerere University School of Law in Uganda is putting together a book on the life, work and legacy of David Kisule Kato. David was murdered in his home in January and is considered a founder of Uganda's LGBTI human rights movement. The project is calling for submissions of essays, fiction, poetry, web blogs, art, crafts, photographs, film, documentaries, speeches, diaries, letters and other correspondence, music, academic publications, etc. that reflect any aspect of the life and work of David Kato.
South Africa: ‘Xenophobic’ committee head lashed
Opposition MPs and Parliament guests were shocked as the chairwoman of the parliamentary oversight committee on home affairs, Maggie Maunye, implied that foreigners flocking to the country were soaking up resources and preventing South Africans from enjoying their freedom. Maunye made the remarks on Wednesday at the conclusion of a briefing of her committee by Home Affairs officials. The delegation included deputy home affairs minister Fatima Chohan, and had dealt with the issue of refugee reception centres.
Global: Herbicide tolerance and GM crops
This Greenpeace report examines the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in many herbicides sold throughout the world, including the well-known formulation, Roundup. 'Glyphosate based herbicides are used widely for weed control because they are non-selective; glyphosate kills all vegetation. Glyphosate has been promoted as "safe". However, mounting scientific evidence questions the safety of glyphosate and its most well known formulation, Roundup. The evidence detailed in this report demonstrates that glyphosate-based products can have adverse impacts on human and animal health, and that a review of their safety for human and animal health is urgently needed. The widespread and increasingly intensive use of glyphosate in association with the use of GM (genetically modified, also called genetically engineered or GE) crops poses further risks to the environment and human health.'
Global: Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor
The thesis of this new book is that the violence wrought by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war takes place gradually and often invisibly. Using the innovative concept of 'slow violence' to describe these threats, Rob Nixon focuses on the inattention we have paid to the attritional lethality of many environmental crises, in contrast with the sensational, spectacle-driven messaging that impels public activism today. 'Slow violence, because it is so readily ignored by a hard-charging capitalism, exacerbates the vulnerability of ecosystems and of people who are poor, disempowered, and often involuntarily displaced, while fueling social conflicts that arise from desperation as life-sustaining conditions erode.'
Global: Why the media matters in a warming world
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. Climate change journalism can protect people and promote sustainable development - but only if it is accurate, timely and relevant, the brief says.
Global: World emissions rise, carbon markets fail
Global greenhouse gas emissions rose faster than ever last year and the market-based schemes set up to bring emissions down are in trouble. That’s the bad news from two recent reports by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Bank. The IEA said emissions in 2010 were five per cent higher than 2008, the previous highest year. It estimated that about 44 per cent of the emissions came from coal, 36 per cent from oil and 20 per cent from natural gas. It also said 80 per cent of projected emissions from energy generation in 2020 'are already locked in as they will come from power plants that are currently in place or under construction today'.
Kenya: Kenyans demand a stop to GMO Food Imports
'The developers of GMOs have exerted great pressure to ensure that our recently enacted Biosafety Act of 2009 serves the interests of foreign Agribusiness, rather than farmers and consumers. The introduction of patented seeds and related chemicals into our farming systems threatens our agricultural practices, our livelihoods, the environment, and undermines our seed sovereignty. We believe that we can feed our communities and this country with organic and agroecological farming practices that do not destroy, pollute and contaminate food, land and seeds. Our ability to feed Africa through agro-ecological practices is recognised and supported by UN reports, the IAASTD report and many research findings. We call upon the government to support small scale farmers in having access to water and capacity building in agro-ecology and for this to be enshrined in our Kenyan policies.'
Kenyans demand a stop to GMO Food Imports
1 July 2011; Nairobi, Kenya
Kenyans, demand a stop to GMOs:
We demand the recognition of organic agriculture and other agro-ecological farming practices in Kenya’s agriculture policies and practices.
The developers of GMOs have exerted great pressure to ensure that our recently enacted Biosafety Act of 2009 serves the interests of foreign Agribusiness, rather than farmers and consumers. The introduction of patented seeds and related chemicals into our farming systems threatens our agricultural practices, our livelihoods, the environment, and undermines our seed sovereignty. We believe that we can feed our communities and this country with organic and agroecological farming practices that do not destroy, pollute and contaminate food, land and seeds. Our ability to feed Africa through agro-ecological practices is recognised and supported by UN reports, the IAASTD report and many research findings. We call upon the government to support small scale farmers in having access to water and capacity building in agro-ecology and for this to be enshrined in our Kenyan policies.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence to show that GMOs can cause serious damage to health, environment, food production and livelihoods. For example, animal feeding trials have shown damage to liver, kidney and pancreas, effects on fertility and stomach bleeding. A most recent study carried out on pregnant women in Canada found genetically modified insecticidal proteins in their blood streams and in that of their foetus. The developers of GMOs have always claimed that this is impossible; they have stated that these proteins are broken down in the digestive process and will not be found in the body. This recent finding is sending shock waves around the medical and scientific community.
Some of the problematic environmental consequences of GMOs include the development of insect resistance to the pesticides engineered into crops as well as the emergence of new and secondary pests destroying farmers’ crops forcing them to buy and use highly toxic pesticides. Further, the development of herbicide tolerant weeds are choking farmer’s fields. These weeds can no longer be controlled by modern herbicides, forcing farmers to spray high doses of older more toxic chemicals in an effort to control them. This has disastrous consequences for environmental and human health.
We do not believe that top-down technological solutions will solve the many challenges that Kenyan farmers face. This one-size-fits all solution cannot attend to our varied needs. Instead, we call for collaboration between farmers, scientists and government to ensure that we produce healthy and plentiful food. This “solutions centred” approach and farmer -scientist cooperation has in the past resulted in such innovations like the Katumani breed of maize for drier areas of Kenya and an improvement in food production systems and increased yields in a sustainable way. Everything that genetic engineering is claimed to offer can readily be achieved through safer methods such as non-GM breeding, intercropping and creative innovation. Our public research institutions must shift their focus back to farmers needs rather than support the agenda of agribusiness, which is to colonise our food and seed chain. We believe that the patenting of seed is deeply unethical and dangerous; it undermines farmers’ rights to save seeds and will make us wholly dependent on corporations in the future.
Farmers of Kenya believe that hunger is not caused by under-production of food, but because people have no money to buy food. Thus it cannot be said that GMOs are the solution to poverty and hunger. Article 43 of the Kenya Constitution affirms that Every Person has a Right to be free from hunger and to have adequate food of acceptable quality (Not GMOs!)
We demand that the Kenyan government recognizes the importance of agroecological practices as the primary farming practice in the country by enacting concrete legislation on it and allocating an annual budget for capacity building of small farmers who want to practice agroecological practices.
Further, we demand that the government, through a concrete policy statement, protects the integrity of agroecological practices and farmer saved seed varieties by banning the introduction of GMOs into the Kenya.
African Biodiversity Network (ABN)
Tel: +254 722 386 263
Social Justice Activist
Bunge La Mwananchi Social Movement
Tel: +254 720 318 049
Tel: +254 721 609 699
Mauritania: Mauritania could lose capital city to the sea
For the past five years, water has been seeping out of the ground beneath parts of Nouakchott, undermining foundations and transforming some areas of the Mauritanian capital into uninhabitable marshes. Recent studies by the government suggest that nearly 80 per cent of the overall surface area of Nouakchott could be submerged in less than a decade - in 20 years at most. One scenario predicts the disappearance of the city by around 2050.
Southern Africa: Increased focus on renewables?
According to a recent study by the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), the SADC region will continue to require more energy in the future for its developmental needs, reports Kizito Sikuka for Southern African News Features. Member State utilities through SAPP have identified a number of priority projects for commissioning over the next few years to address the energy situation in the region. Most of these projects are targeted at renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro and wind – which are less polluting to the environment compared to other forms such as coal. These projects include the Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower project in Mozambique, Itezhi Tezhi hydropower in Zambia and the Kudu gas project in Namibia.
Africa: Land grabbing and the new politics of food
In this Policy Brief PLAAS Senior Researcher Ruth Hall argues that Africa, a continent plagued by chronic food insecurity, is now considered to be the future breadbasket of the world, and is expected to help meet its rising food needs. In the process of cashing in on the opportunities offered by cheap land and water, large-scale investors are displacing land uses and land users in ways that could aggravate the already severe challenges of rural poverty and hunger.
DRC: Urban farming takes root
Urban farming in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is providing a livelihood for thousands of city dwellers, with vegetables bringing in good money for small growers and helping to alleviate high levels of malnutrition nationally, agricultural officials say. The demand for vegetables and the high prices they command in DRC cities - up to US$4 per kilo - has pushed many jobless residents into becoming small-scale growers. Most of the green spaces along the roadsides of the capital, Kinshasa, have been transformed into small farms.
Ethiopia: Two jailed journalists accused by government of terrorism plot
The Ethiopian government has publicly accused an editor and a columnist of involvement in a terrorism plot, according to news reports and local journalists. Woubshet Taye, deputy editor of the leading Awramba Times newspaper and Reeyot Alemu, columnist for the weekly Feteh, have been held incommunicado under Ethiopia's far-reaching anti-terrorism law since last week. The anti-terrorism law criminalises writing the government deems favorable to groups and causes it labels as 'terrorists', including banned political opposition party Ginbot 7. This is the first use of the law against journalists.
Global: Paying tribute to journalists 'in limbo'
Nearly 70 journalists were forced into exile over the past 12 months, with more than half coming from Iran and Cuba, says a new survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The report is just one of the ways IFEX members marked World Refugee Day on 20 June. Eighty-two per cent of journalists left their home countries between 1 June 2010 and 31 May 2011 because of imprisonment, or the threat of being jailed, says CPJ. Another 15 per cent fled following physical attacks or threats of violence.
Sierra Leone: Suspects arrested in rare journalist murder
A police officer and two others have been arrested as suspects in the stabbing death of journalist Ibrahim Foday of 'The Exclusive' newspaper near Freetown, Sierra Leone, say the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Foday was beaten and stabbed on 12 June in the east of the capital while covering clashes between neighbouring villages Kossoh and Grafton over a piece of land, report the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and other IFEX members.
Somaliland: Puntland court sentences local reporter to one year in jail
Somali Journalists Association Network has learned that a Puntland court in Bosaso, the capital of Bari region, sentenced a local reporter to one year in jail. The verdict of the court was announced Saturday by judge Sheikh Adan Aw-Ahmed after it was alleged the journalist supplied false information on the Puntland administration.
South Africa: ANC concessions on secrecy bill a good start, says Right2Know
The Right2Know campaign has welcomed the ANC's concessions on the Protection of Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill). 'It is a first, but important step, which may signal a willingness by democrats within Parliament and government to push back against an apparent grab for power by securocrats within the state. This would have been impossible without the voice of ordinary South Africans who have led the struggle for the Right2Know campaign over the past year.'
Zimbabwe: Journalists arrested
Zimbabwean police Wednesday (29 June) arrested an editor and a journalist from a privately owned newspaper for reporting on the arrest of an ally of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Nevanji Madanhire, the editor of The Standard newspaper, and Patience Nyangove, a reporter, were picked up by detectives at the paper’s offices in central Harare. A manager of the parent company – Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) – was also arrested.
Mozambique: 44 per cent of children affected by malnutrition
Up to 44 per cent of children in Mozambique suffer from chronic malnutrition, according to an official study. The conclusion was made by the World Food Program (WFP) representative in Mozambique, Lola Castro, and the deputy representative of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in Mozambique, Roberto de Bernadi said. Entitled 'Child poverty and disparities in Mozambique 2010', the study analyses child poverty, malnutrition, child abuse and impact of HIV/AIDS.
Nigeria: ‘15 million Nigerian children are child labourers'
With some 15 million children working in Nigeria, often in dangerous jobs, the International Trade Union Confederation has decried the alarming level of child labour in the country and anti-trade union violence in a report to the World Trade Organisation. The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation, represents some 175 million workers in 151 countries, including Nigeria. In the report submitted to the 153-member World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, the group said that 'Some 15 million children are at work, many in dangerous jobs.'
South Africa: Informal settlements at high risk for crime and illness
The infant mortality rate and under-five mortality rate are globally regarded as among the best indicators of the health of a community, argue three University of Cape Town professors in this article about informal settlements. 'In Khayelitsha about 60 children among every 1,000 born alive die of diarrhoea-related illness before their fifth birthday - 10 times more than in our southern suburbs. That under the prevailing conditions this number is not appreciably higher could be ascribed to households doing their utmost to maintain as high a standard of hygiene as possible.'
Haiti: Peasants march for a 'real agricultural policy'
Thousands of Haitian peasants marched in the city of Hinche in the Central Plateau region on 21 June to demand that the government promote food sovereignty, the restoration of the environment and the development of an agriculture 'adapted to the reality of our country'. 'There needs to be a real agricultural policy,' protesters said, in distinction to current policies that encourage the importation of food, seeds and other agricultural commodities. 'Every day we see our neighbours giving up farming in the absence of any decent income,' said a longtime planter who gave his name as Jérôme. 'Young peasants are very often discouraged by the lack of economic prospects [and] the prohibitive cost of land.'
Haiti: Violence, anger grow in Haiti's quake camps
Haitian President Michel Martelly, who came to power in mid-May, must urgently rehouse homeless quake survivors still living in camps nearly a year and a half after the disaster, and meet the basic needs of those who remain in urban slums, says a new report from the International Crisis Group (ICG). The Brussels-based think tank warns the new government faces an 'immediate crisis' amid the growing frustrations of these vulnerable groups in the capital, with 650,000 people still waiting for permanent housing in more than 1,000 unstable emergency camps dotting Port-au-Prince. With the onset of the hurricane season, storms have already flooded 30 camps, driving people to abandon their tents.
Chad: The Libya fallout
Chadian families are facing worsening food insecurity, becoming more indebted, and selling off personal possessions as they try to cope with the loss of remittances from relatives who have returned home from Libya. Remittances, which half of the households in Chad's western and southwestern regions of Kanem and Bahr el Ghazal used to receive, are down by 57 per cent, according to a survey by NGOs Oxfam and Action Against Hunger (ACF). Households on average were sent US$220 per month.
Horn of Africa: Millions facing severe food crisis
An estimated 10 million people across the Horn of Africa are facing a severe food crisis following a prolonged drought in the region, with child malnutrition rates in some areas twice the emergency threshold amid high food prices that have left families desperate, the United Nations reported. In some areas of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda, drought conditions are the worst in 60 years, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update.
Libya: France confirms Libya arms drop
The French military has confirmed that it airdropped weapons to civilians fighting in rebel-held areas in the western part of Libya. Colonel Thierry Burkhard, a spokesperson for the French general staff, told Al Jazeera that the military had dropped assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers to groups of unarmed civilians it deemed to be at risk. The Le Figaro newspaper and the AFP news agency reported that France had dropped several tonnes of arms, including Milan anti-tank rockets and light armoured vehicles.
Libya: Rebels welcome AU's 'Gaddafi-free' talks offer
Libyan rebel leaders have welcomed an African Union offer to open talks with the government in Tripoli without the direct involvement of Muammar Gaddafi. The Transitional National Council said it was the first time the AU had recognised the people's aspirations for democracy and human rights in Libya. The talks offer was agreed at an AU summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. The AU also told members not to execute an arrest warrant for Col Gaddafi from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Mauritania: 17 died in al Qaeda operation, says Mauritania
Mauritania said on Sunday 26 June that 17 people were killed in a joint attack carried out with Mali on an al Qaeda in North Africa's (AQIM) camp in the Wagadou forest region near Mauritania's border on Friday. A spokesman for the Mauritanian army said 15 al Qaeda fighters were killed and nine were captured by the Malian army. Seven Mauritanian soldiers were wounded, but two of them died later from their wounds.
Nigeria: Deadly blast in Nigerian beer garden
At least five people have been killed in a bomb blast at a police beer garden in the troubled northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a military source and a witness said. Sunday evening's blast took place in the middle of a 'mammy market' near the police barracks in the Wulari area of the city. Mammy markets are open-air pubs and eateries found around police or military barracks and are open to both security personnel and civilians.
Somalia: African Union, beyond passive peacekeeping?
Some 3,000 Ugandan soldiers from the African Union (AU) mission have arrived in Somalia to help government forces battle al-Shabab, a group trying to overthrow Somalia's weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and impose Islamic law. This comes after the mandate of the AU mission was expanded from peacekeeping to enforcement of peace last month, meaning that AU soldiers can now lead the onslaught against al-Shabab.
Sudan: IGAD to hold talks on Sudan as the South's independence nears
Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki on Sunday left for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a meeting expected to make a breakthrough in the Sudan peace process. Top on the Inter-Governmental Agency on Development (Igad) summit agenda is the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Sudan. President Omar Al-Bashir of the Republic of Sudan and the First Vice President Salva Kiir Myardit are scheduled to attend the meeting.
Sudan: Sudan to let rebels join army; south downplays oil threat
Sudan has agreed to bring some former rebels into the its army and the south played down a northern threat to shut oil pipelines, as the country's halves scramble to prepare for the south's looming secession. South Sudan is due to become the world's newest independent state in less than two weeks, but the two parts of the country have yet to iron out tough issues, from the mutual border to how they will share oil revenue and divide $38 billion in debt.
Egypt: Ambitious science spending plan announced
Egypt's government has announced an ambitious plan for a tenfold increase in spending on scientific research within the next three years, at an event where the prime minister declared science as a top priority. It plans to raise the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) spent on scientific research from 0.23 per cent to two per cent. But critics say this is too much, too fast.
Global: Debate at UN over internet rights
The UN has, for the first time, taken a major step towards defining the relationship between the internet and human rights. At a recent event there were more than 50 attendees and the event culminated in over 40 countries signing on to a joint statement commending the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression’s report, which had been featured at the event. This article from the Association for Progressive Communications includes an interview with Joy Liddicoat, head of APC’s Connect your rights! campaign, to get a better understanding of what this means for internet rights.
Madagascar: Phone aimed at low-income users launched
Right at the bottom of the pyramid are phone users who can’t afford the minimum cost for a SIM to share in someone else’s phone, writes Russell Southwood from Balancing Act. Movirtu has produced a cloud-based, login account which will enable anyone who has access to a GSM phone to share it but still retain their own number. The product was being tested in 2010 and started being deployed as a pilot with several operators in Africa.
Zimbabwe: Anonymous steals data from world governments
Hacktivist group Anonymous says it has dumped onto the web data that it claims was taken from the government servers of several countries. The group indicated this was part of its AntiSec operation, a move to steal data from governments it did not agree with. In a message on its Twitter account, Anonymous claimed to dump data from 'Anguilla, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Australian Government Servers.' Anonymous said it started with the userbase of Zimbabwe, which it said was 'rather small'.
Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the truth
Millions of Congolese have lost their lives in a conflict that the United Nations describes as the deadliest in the world since World War Two. United States allies, Rwanda and Uganda, invaded in 1996 the Congo (then Zaire) and again in 1998, which triggered the enormous loss of lives, systemic sexual violence and rape, and widespread looting of Congo’s spectacular natural wealth. The film, 'Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering The Truth' explores the role that the United States and its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played in triggering the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century. The film is a short version of a feature length production to be released in the near future. It locates the Congo crisis in a historical, social and political context. It unveils analysis and prescriptions by leading experts, practitioners, activists and intellectuals that are not normally available to the general public.
West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR)
Based in Dakar, Senegal, WADR is a trans-territorial radio station set up to facilitate the exchange of development information between and among countries of West Africa. WADR’s mission is to promote and defend the ideals of democratic and open societies, advocate for mutual understanding, respect between and among individuals and communities, promote peace and human security, transparency and accountability in governance, regional economic integration, and social cultural development amongst people of the region. Broadcasts are in English and French and include programs such as 'Growing Matters' which promotes agriculture, the environment, and sub-regional food security, and 'Fifty-Fifty' which is a platform for gender issues. WADR can be accessed in Dakar on FM 94.90 or online with live streaming at http://www.wadr.org/en/site/
Revival of Pan-Africanism Forum
16 July 2011, Hilton Hotel, 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852
Pan-Africanism: A Viable Ideology to Address Africa’s Rape Redux/Euro-American 21st Century Neo-Colonial Re-Conquest & Scramble for Africa
When: 3:45 PM, Saturday, 16 July 2011
Where: Hilton Hotel, 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852, (Across from the Twinbrook Metro station (Red Line) Rockville, MD)
Who: Molefi Asante, Ph.D., (Keynote speaker) Professor and author, Samar-Al-Bulushi, activist and journalist,Maurice Carney, Director of Friends of the Congo and human rights activist, and Peter Bailey, Activist and journalist.
On the anniversary of the Coalition Forces’ invasion of Iraq, Africa witnessed overt imperialist aggression by former European colonial oppressors and the US. Civil unrest in nations across Africa is partially caused by hegemonic Western influence, which few mainstream media outlets address as an important factor. In Egypt and Tunisia, popular movements have appeared to have extinguished their Western-backed dictatorial regimes. However, oil and resource rich nations including Ivory Coast and Libya face imperialistic machinations of a cabal of Western nations and Arab monarchial states fomenting illegal neo-colonial wars to drive nationalist governments from power. A third category of African nations in crisis is comprised of countries, such as Burkina Faso, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda, where proxy resource conflicts or unpopular geopolitical Western-backed regimes struggle to hold state power.
While some applaud the progress of democracy on the continent, others denounce the re-conquest of Africa. The US supported military intervention of NATO, France, and the UN in Africa ‘in the name of democracy’ demonstrates the desire of Western powers to reassert their hegemony by nullifying independent nationalistic leaders and replacing them with subservient proxies willing to perpetuate super-exploitative and neo-liberal policies set forth by the Washington Consensus. The West hegemonic project over Africa is also a reaction to China’s meteoric 21st Century rise and grand entrance into the African scene, and an attempt to deny it and other rising powers such as India, Brazil the right to commerce with Africa and alter Africa’s intra-trade and self-determination. The US and Europe’s plans to make Africa terra nostrum is best demonstrated by the perfidious actions of the French forces, the planned imposition of AFRICOM, and the militarisation of the UN.
The speakers will discuss the US, NATO, UN, and France-led illegal and naked aggression in Africa, particularly in Libya and Ivory Coast, and the current trends in the African scene, highlighted by the regime change, in Tunisia, Egypt, and Ivory Coast with the capture of Gbagbo by the French troops, the overlooked movement of Burkinabe to remove the Compaore regime, the emergence of Southern Sudan and the ongoing crises in the Democratic Republic in Congo, Uganda, and Somalia.
Renowned Pan-Africanist activist and philosophical founder of concept of Afrocentricity, Dr. Molefi Asante is the keynote speaker to discuss the Anglo-European agenda to re-colonise Africa.
About Us: The Revival of Pan-Africanism Forum’s purpose is to rekindle the spirit of the African collective consciousness consolidated by an awakening of the African masses in the face of current forceful Western engagement in Africa.
Dr. Randy Short (731) 394-7217; Delmas Irigale (240) 550-4349; Makhaya Sibongile (225) 361-5417; Coti Chapo (240) 476-1791; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Helleiner Fellow Visiting Researcher 2011-12
North-South Institute (NSI)
Helleiner Fellow Visiting Researcher 2011-12
The North-South Institute (NSI) is pleased to invite applications for two Helleiner Fellow Visiting Researcher positions in 2011-12. The program is open to post-doctoral students or mid-career policy researchers working in a university, policy research institute, think-tank, or other relevant organization. It provides an opportunity for residents of African countries to undertake policy-relevant research at NSI in Ottawa ON, Canada and to engage in discussions and exchange experiences and skills with NSI's staff and its research and policy-making networks.
For complete program details and criteria, please consult the following document:
Please send a letter of interest, two-page research proposal (setting out the research question, research approach/methodology and policy relevance), cv, short sample of writing, and three references, by Friday July 15th, 2011
Contact: Dina Shadid at email@example.com
Fahamu has a vision of a world where people organize to emancipate themselves from all forms of oppression, recognize their social responsibility, respect each other’s differences and realize their full
potential. Fahamu is looking for a qualified and passionate Intern to work with us for a period of three
months July‐September 2011. The intern will be responsible for promoting Pambazuka books including coordinating sale of Pambazuka books; distribution of publicity materials and coordinating the participation of Fahamu/ Pambazuka in book fairs and related events.
Programme Director - International Mobilization
Amnesty International (AI)
Programme Director - International Mobilization
Location: Global South
About the role
After an initial period in London, you’ll be based in one of our offices in the Global South - focusing your energies on increasing our influence both in countries where we already have national entities, as well as in countries where we are not represented on the ground. Your work will centre on ways to build and improve our capacity to have a positive impact for human rights. You’ll do that by creating strong programme-wide operational plans, driving and overseeing different teams all over the world for effective delivery under the authority of the Secretary General.
It will be your responsibility to make sure that these teams work together, to support in-country managers and AI entities to generate major influence for human rights. You can, therefore, expect to manage budgets while dealing with competing demands and to give strategic and political advice while overseeing staff performance. You will help AI go from strength to strength by mobilising more people in countries through new, diverse and sustainable forms of presence.
Dynamic, results-driven and an expert in movement development, mobilization and the analysis of civil society, you are an experienced leader and team player with a proven ability to develop and implement innovative strategies, plans and processes at the local and global level. Passionate about human rights you will understand the effects of social change and have experience of organizational development, governance and structures in a NGO setting. So you’ll know all about managing global operations, allocating resources strategically and the remote management of staff in multi-cultural, multi-lingual environments. For this purpose, you are a good communicator and adept at conflict management.
Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, fairness, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of almost three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world, one where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.
For more information and to apply, please visit www.amnesty.org/jobs
Closing date: Midnight BST on Sunday 24th July 2011
Regional Deputy Programme Director
Amnesty International (AI)
Regional Deputy Programme Director
Fixed term maternity cover contract
£50,100 per annum
You will bring leadership and dedication to human rights, together with knowledge of the region (particularly West Africa), political judgement, and management skills. In all likelihood, you’ll come to us from a similar role with another NGO. But whatever your specific background, you’ll need to combine clear, strategic thinking with practical experience of organizational development on an international stage. The key to your success in this role, however, will be your ability to lead, inspire and bring out the best in everyone around you.
If you have proven experience and skills in these fields, and have first hand experience of these regions, this is the chance to help shape Amnesty International’s human rights agenda there. Fluency in written and spoken English and French is essential, and knowledge of the Great Lakes region would be an asset.
Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses, and to protect and progress the rights of people around the world who are discriminated against on the basis of who they are. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, equality and freedom wherever they’re denied. Our network of almost three million members and supporters is already making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through high-level research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations, movement mobilisation or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.
For further information about this and our other current vacancies, and to apply online, please visit our website www.amnesty.org/jobs
Closing date: 20 July 2011.
CVs will not be accepted.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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