Pambazuka News 538: Scams, theft and invasions
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Comment & analysis, 3. Advocacy & campaigns, 4. Pan-African Postcard, 5. Obituaries, 6. Books & arts, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Highlights French edition, 9. Cartoons, 10. Zimbabwe update, 11. Women & gender, 12. Human rights, 13. Refugees & forced migration, 14. Africa labour news, 15. Emerging powers news, 16. Elections & governance, 17. Corruption, 18. Development, 19. Health & HIV/AIDS, 20. Education, 21. LGBTI, 22. Racism & xenophobia, 23. Environment, 24. Land & land rights, 25. Media & freedom of expression, 26. Social welfare, 27. News from the diaspora, 28. Conflict & emergencies, 29. Internet & technology, 30. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 31. Fundraising & useful resources, 32. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 33. Publications
Highlights from this issue
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Polls set for 2012
WOMEN AND GENDER: Women from 20 countries vow to fight imperialist attacks
HUMAN RIGHTS: Privacy, technology and human rights
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: African women in Europe victims of human trafficking
AFRICAN LABOUR NEWS: Strikers shot in South Africa
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: The latest edition of the Emerging Powers News Roundup
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from South Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya, South Africa, Liberia and Ghana
CORRUPTION: Dealings of connected politicians questioned in Botswana
DEVELOPMENT: The key areas of divergence between Africa and the EU over EPA nogotiations
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: The threat to generics caused by the India-European Union free trade agreement
LGBTI: Gay refugee programme launched in Cape Town
RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: SA government gets lowest rating on xenophobia
ENVIRONMENT: Could the EU’s biofuel industry be legislated out of existence?
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Civil society tells World Bank to stop lending to land grabbers
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Marketers move in on Egypt’s revolution
NEWS FROM THE DIASPORA: Cameroon debates diaspora bill
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from DRC, Ethiopia, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia
PLUS: Internet and Technology, Fundraising and useful resources, and Jobs…
The great billion dollar drug scam
Alongside pneumococcal diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia, rotavirus-related diarrhoea is a primary childhood killer in developing countries, thought to snuff out the lives of 500,000 children each and every year. An overwhelming 85 per cent of these children are African and Asian. The need for medical miracles is as great as ever, but corporate mispricing generates huge profits, while driving up the price of life saving medicines.
British-based drug corporation GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently offered a five-year deal to supply poor nations with 125 million doses of the rotavirus vaccine - Rotarix - at $2.50 a dose, just five per cent of the current going price in Western markets. Through the GAVI group, the international vaccine agency financed by developed nations such as the UK, it is hoped that GSK and pharmaceutical multinational Merck - who, between them, dominate the rotavirus vaccine market - will provide a secure line of low-cost drugs for as many as forty countries in the near future.
But is it really a discount, and if so, who is paying the cost?
The financing mechanism subsidising the vaccine is named the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a pot created by the G8, as well as the World Bank and the Gates Foundation, as a "pull" incentive for drug multinationals to consider developing countries' long-term markets for pharmaceutical "public goods", such as vaccines. Rotarix has taken off well: Since 2007, some 50 million children - through 100 million doses - have already benefited from Rotarix; by 2009, global Rotarix sales reached $440 million - increasing by 50 per cent from 2008, and Merck's Rotateq reach $564 million in sales.
GSK Chief executive Andrew Witty described the pricing structure as, "neither a gimmick nor a one-off philanthropic gesture", but rather "part of a concerted strategy to change our business model" - designed to combine "commercial success with long-term sustainable contributions".
PRICING STRUCTURES AND PROFITS
Drug companies such as GSK have often claimed that the high cost of "innovation" ie: research and development (R&D) is between $1bn and $1.7bn to bring a new drug to market. The AMC and GAVI - collecting some $4.3bn to finance purchase of vaccinations, were designed with the premise that the high cost of drug multinationals' R&D must be met.
During the past several decades, the pharmaceutical industry in the US - more than half of which comprises European-based companies - has largely been the most profitable industry in the nation's economy, thanks to mechanisms such as the lack of a government-imposed pricing structure. "Free pricing and fast approval secure rapid access to innovation without rationing," said Daniel Vasella, the former head of (Swiss-based) Novartis, of the advantages of doing business in the US.
Drug multinationals claim that US consumers are forced to fund the necessary research and development in order to keep global innovation going. In Australia, Europe, as well as Canada - the source of much prescription drug "re-importing" by US citizens, where drugs sometimes sell for half the going US price - governments ensure pricing structures render patented drugs affordable.
While drug multinationals generate considerable profits from these countries, about 50 per cent of global drug industry profits are generated in the US. In 2006, for instance, global prescription drug sales totalled more than $640bn - of which almost $300bn were US-generated sales.
But the real deception is less the Machiavellian tactics used by Big Pharma to Botox the bottom line than the terrible myth behind the "true" price of innovation: the $1bn pill. From 1996-2005, Big Pharma firms spent $739bn on marketing and administration (M&A): "Administration" costs here include accounting, executive salaries (including bonuses, stock options etc) - as well as human resources expenditure. "Marketing", meanwhile, consists of direct-to-consumer advertising, sales pitches and free samples to doctors, alongside advertising in medical journals.
A CLOSER LOOK AT DRUG COST
During the same 1996-2005 period, drug companies invested $288bn in R&D and $43bn in property and equipment, while generating $558bn in profit.
From the outset, it is possible to see that R&D ranks second to last in terms of expenses. But the breakdown of R&D itself is opaque: companies do not list actual expenses for the development of a particular drug, claiming that information comprises proprietary and/or confidential commercial secrets.
Yet, according to the Harvard Business Review: "The cost per new approved drug has increased more than 800 per cent since 1987, or 11 per cent per year for almost two decades." Drug corporations such as Novartis and GSK state that companies producing generic drugs - often Indian - are able to bypass such costs, and sell their "copied" drugs for a fraction of the price of the patented product - often undercutting the intercontinental firms by as much as 65-99 per cent.
The "$1bn cost" is derived from a 2003 study [PDF] published in the Journal of Health Economics by Joe DiMasi et al from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. The authors and their organisation claimed that the study was unbiased, despite the fact that the Tufts Center is itself some 65 per cent financed by drug companies.
Though the findings have been normalised as factual by the media, the facts have long since been debunked by independent specialists.
The authors surveyed ten large pharmaceutical corporations (between them responsible for 42 per cent of R&D expenditure in the US, where the bulk of such work is carried out), examining the R&D costs of 68 randomly selected drugs, and determined the cost of the development of each at $802 million (elevated to $1bn when adjusted for inflation).
As the data was submitted confidentially by the drug companies to the authors, there is no way to verify the quality of the information, nor was there any accounting for the potential volume of intra-company corporate mispricing. The names of the firms were not mentioned; nor were the names of the drugs, the type of drugs; or the status - whether a priority drug, comprising advanced treatment, or a "me too" drug - ie: a variation of products already on the market.
'Demythologising' the costs
For starters, the $802 million figure failed to take into account the opaque and strange manner of accounting involved, beginning with "capitalised costs". According to the authors, R&D expenditures, "must be capitalised at an appropriate discount rate - the expected return that investors forego during development when they invest in pharmaceutical R&D instead of an equally risky portfolio of financial securities".
As Marcia Angell, US physician, former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine and senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School, stated: "The Tufts consultants simply tacked it on to the industry's out-of-pocket costs. That accounting manoeuvre nearly doubled the $403 million to $802 million."
So, when taking into account updated costs by PhRMA (2006), increasing overall R&D to $1.32bn, more than $650 million has just been included as "research and development" by drug companies claiming mythical profits that might have been generated, had they invested in, say, Wall Street - and not the scientific "innovation" used to justify gross profits from exclusive patents.
In the journal BioSocieties, sociologist Donald Light and economist Rebecca Warburton "demythologise" the costs of R&D drug development by also analysing the tax breaks involved in R&D costs [PDF].
The US Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) revealed: "The net cost of every dollar spent on research must be reduced by the amount of tax avoided by that expenditure." The authors used data from official sources such as the Tax Policy Center, to reveal additional tax savings of 39 per cent. Cumulatively, taxpayer subsidies and credits reduced the overall costs from $403 million to $201 million.
Moreover, as this Ernst & Young "Tax Planning" article explains, R&D costs are usually shifted to high tax jurisdictions to offset costs. Meanwhile, profits generated by patents are often "re-located" to low-tax jurisdictions. Pharmaceutical companies prefer to generate R&D "expenses" in high-tax jurisdictions such as the US in order to offset the costs against taxable income. Yet the cost of R&D does not included "avoided" tax. Not surprisingly, most pharmaceutical companies are also based in low-tax secrecy jurisdictions such as Delaware in the US, where profits can be shifted into passive profit and intellectual holding companies.
In an article [originally printed in the New Age newspaper, published online here] I wrote with John Christensen, the founder of the Tax Justice Network and a former economic advisor to Jersey, one of the UK's top tax havens, we revealed how tax secrecy and intellectual property (IP) was being exploited to profit drug corporations, rather than serving the needs of vulnerable people.
"Pfizer, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline - as well as over 60 per cent of Fortune 500 multinationals, all maintain entities in Delaware, taking full advantage of legal and financial opacity tools. In addition to banking secrecy and zero disclosure of beneficial owners, Delaware allows for parent companies to establish holding companies within two days, producing nothing, conducting no economic activity in the state, and generally hosting just one shareholder (the parent company). Such entities, allowing the parent company to pay the newly created entity a "fee" for use of IP, serves as a passive conduit converting taxable income to passive non-taxable profit. The entity's sole purpose is to own and 'manage' laundered income generated from IP."
The gigantic legal expenses incurred by specialists for developing patents, legal defence, sourcing the tax havens and other IP-related issues constitute more costs - included as R&D. This tax optimisation strategy closely resembles that of "high-tech" companies depending on intangible capital for the bulk of their wealth. According to Forbes magazine, by 1999, three of the four richest people in the world made their fortune from intellectual property rights. They owed their fortune, said Michael Perelman, to "Microsoft, one of the major holders of intellectual property rights, befitting the so-called New Economy in which 'DOS Capital' has supplanted Das Kapital".
PROFITS FROM AIDS TREATMENT
Intellectual property rights management can be a lucrative business indeed. The first HIV/AIDS treatment, azidothymidine [AZT], sold under the brand name Retrovir, was manufactured by the company Burroughs Wellcome, later incorporated into GSK. In 1983, two years after AIDS was first reported, the US National Institutes of Health and the Pasteur Institute in Paris identified its cause - the HIV retrovirus. In that same year, Samuel Broder, head of the National Cancer Institute (an NIH branch), established a global team to screen antiviral tools, including the AZT molecule discovered by the Michigan Cancer Foundation, subsequently acquired by Burroughs Wellcome.
Broder's NIH-NCI team, alongside scholars at Duke University, discovered the effectiveness of AZT against the AIDS virus and conducted early clinical trials in 1985. As Marcia Angell explained in her illustrative book, The Truth About Drug Companies, Burroughs Wellcome immediately patented the drug and "carried out the later trials that enabled it to receive FDA approval in 1987" after a review of only a few months. The corporation charged patients upwards of $10,000 per year for treatment and heavily congratulated themselves on the achievement of life-saving medicine.
After one such self-congratulatory letter by Burroughs Wellcome's CEO to the New York Times, Broder and his colleagues from the NCI and Duke University responded angrily, stating: "The Company specifically did not develop or provide the first application of the technology for determining whether a drug like AZT can suppress live AIDS virus in human cells, nor did it develop the technology to determine at what concentration such an effect might be achieved in humans. Moreover, it was not first to administer AZT to a human being with AIDS, nor did it perform the first clinical pharmacology studies in patients. It also did not perform the immunological and virological studies necessary to infer that the drug might work, and was therefore worth pursuing in further studies. All of these were accomplished by the staff of the NCI working with the staff of Duke University."
Driving the point home, they added: "Indeed, one of the obstacles to the development of AZT was that Burroughs Wellcome did not work with live AIDS virus, nor wish to receive samples from AIDS patients."
Paradoxically, the drug Retrovir was classified by the company as an "orphan drug" ie: a drug where there exists a market of fewer than 200,000 people - and therefore not likely to be commercially profitable. This was done to claim 50 per cent credit from the government for the costs of clinical trials. In 2005, GSK was accused of artificially boosting their short-term profit by not increasing production to meet drastically increasing demand - thus creating "scarcity" for their patented product. This was seen as a last bid attempt to milk the patent which was to expire in September 2005. Shortly thereafter, the US government approved generic versions of the drug.
When Ghanaian distributor Healthcare Ltd imported a generic version of the drug (a combination of AZT and 3TC - known as Combivir) from an Indian drug company named CIPLA, providing it at an affordable Indian price (90c per pill), rather than the patented US price ($10 per pill), GSK threatened the distributor with court, prompting Healthcare Ltd to cease sales. Yet even as GSK accused CIPLA of violating patent rights, GSK did not own the "rights" to Combivir in the West Africa regional patent office. AZT and other AIDS treatment remained blockbuster drugs for GlaxoSmithKline, generating $2.4bn profits in the first six months of 1997, thanks in particular, to AZT and 3TC. By 1998, AIDS was being referred to as a "world-wide health crisis", considered by many as, "an epidemic".
GSK subsequently made billions of dollars from a patent, controlled a market, and affected the lives of billions of people worldwide, for something they did not invent. They did claim, however, that they conceived of it working. This notion was enough to exclude the NCI scientists, including Broder, from being listed as inventors.
But is this a one-off example?
Of course, the US government is very conscious of moves designed to "avoid" taxation. But little effective action has been taken to tighten the tax net. In 2005, Congress extended a"tax holiday" to pharmaceutical corporations, allowing companies to repatriate hidden profits at just 5.2 per cent of the corporate tax rate. At the time, Pfizer had untaxed profits at $38bn; Merck $18bn; Johnson & Johnson $14.8bn - at least, those were the profits they were willing to declare.
Generally, a considerable portion (upwards of 12 per cent) of big pharma's research and development (R&D) costs is Phase IV or "post-marketing" trials of drugs already commercially sold to consumers, in an attempt to expand sales. The figure was estimated at 75 per cent of R&D costs by the Tufts Center, said Harvard Medical School's Marcia Angell.
"Since the majority of Phase IV studies will never be submitted to the FDA, they may be totally unregulated. Few of them are published. In fact, like all industry-sponsored trials, they are not likely to be published at all unless they show something favourable to the sponsor's drug. If they are published, it is often in marginal journals, because the quality of the research is so poor," she said.
Innovations and free-rides
Ironically, the Tufts Center study by Joe DiMasi et al, which estimated the price of bringing a new drug to market to be more than $800m, drastically skewed R&D costs by basing analysis not on the general state of approved drugs but instead on "self-originating NCEs" or "New Molecular Entities (NMEs)" which comprise only a small portion of drugs approved annually by the FDA - estimated at 35 per cent (1990-2000) - a figure that has since decreased in the past decade.
Pharmaceutical "innovation" is determined by two crucial factors: a) the creation of a "new molecular entity"(NME) - which in itself may or may not be useful for treatment but which signifies the introduction of a new, distinct molecular form, and b) an NME that constitutes a"priority drug": ie: a drug that offers, in the words of the FDA,"a major advance in treatment or which provides treatment where no adequate therapy exists" - in short, a therapeutic advance for serious illnesses.
Under the 1992 Prescription Drug User Act, the FDA operates via a two-tiered system of review: Standard Review (S) applied to drugs that offer only minor improvements over existing marketed drugs, and Priority Review (P), a fast-track - a six month process since 2003 - pretty speedy for any company who wants to drive through "innovation".
Though the two comprise separate categories, by blurring the definitions, pharmaceutical companies are often able to misrepresent NMEs, with"innovations" justifying the high costs of patents ie: exclusive government-approved marketing rights.
From 2006- 2009, just 48 drug innovations (P+ NME) were approved by the FDA, while an average of 84 per cent of research funding comes from US taxpayer sources, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Light and Warburton conclude that "the net corporate investment in research to discover important new drugs is about 1.2 per cent of sales, not 17-19 per cent".
So, while drug companies claim that the EU has suffered from a lack of innovation, trailing behind US R&D expenditure by 15 per cent in 2004, little of this figure corresponds to reality.
Easy "free-riding" of the US public funds and R&D is the primary reason why drug companies have flocked to the US. Just a quarter of NMEs are estimated by specialists as being actually developed by drug companies, instead, most are licensed from government/public-financed labs such as the NIH and universities - as well as smaller companies.
Acts and licensing
In 2002, then-CEO of GSK Bob Ingram spoke to the Wall Street Journal on the subject of licensing: "We're not going to put our money in-house if there's a better investment vehicle outside." Ingram pointed out that GSK was eager to reach the levels of other companies, such as Merck, which received 35 per cent of its revenue from licensing.
The cost differential between a licensed NME and one developed in-house is vast: a licensed NME costs just 10 per cent of actual R&D expenditure (2000) in contrast to an in-house developed NME at 74 per cent. In 2000, just 13 per cent of approved NMEs were developed in-house - a figure that has not drastically changed.
The system of licensing came about via the Bayh-Dole Act - named after Senators Birch Bayh (D-Ind) and Robert Dole (R-Kans) - designed to enable universities and small businesses to patent discoveries that came about from NIH-financed research (the primary distributors of taxpayer funds for medical research) - thereafter granting the patents to pharmaceutical corporations in exchange for royalties.
The Act did articulate taxpayer protection rights concerning non-exclusive licences - if the action "is necessary to alleviate health or safety needs which are not reasonably satisfied", or the action "is necessary to meet public uses".
But Ronald Reagan's 1983 Executive Memo changed tack, liberalising access to include coverage for large corporations. Prior to this, publicly financed discoveries were considered knowledge in the public domain. One further piece of legislation - the Stevenson-Wydler Act - removed the barriers between"publicly funded" systems (mainly the government but also universities) and the private sector.
Weighing the costs
In short, depending on whether or not the NMEs were developed in-house, estimates by Light and Warburton - in addition to other specialists, such as Angell - reveal the costs of R&D as more along the lines of $50m - $200m.
So much for the $1bn pill - but what of the costs of development for the Rotavirus vaccine?
Vaccines are often priced 40 - 100 times more than the cost of production. Drug companies claim that pharmaceutical research is very expensive and that R&D costs are extremely high.
Unfortunately for GSK, the usual 5,000 or 6,000 clinical trial "subjects" - people involved in Phase III trials - drastically escalated to around 63,000 to 68,000 people - in order to rule out a perceived fatal side effect (intussusception) that forced Rotashield off the market some years earlier.
Prior to the massive Phase III trial, the costs of GSK's trials ranged from $1.8 million to $2.4 million, stated Light et al. Unlike Merck, GSK conducted many trials in developing countries, drastically lowering the potential costs. But even estimating at the higher range, the total costs for GSK's Phase I - Phase III trials reached between $128m and $192m - for all 63,000-plus people.
Few of the clinical trials conducted in developing nations are investigated by the FDA. A 2008 Pfizer presentation [PDF]showed just 45 of 6,485 (0.7 per cent) of foreign trials were scrutinised. In 2008, more than 76 per cent of the people used for clinical drug trials were foreign "subjects" - some 232,532 people.
The cheapened value of poorer peoples - including better "value for physician" must not be underestimated.
One report, dated 2000, by the inspector general of the US Department of Health and Human Services, disclosed that physicians in the US were paid $10,000 per patient enrolled for a drug trial - plus a further $30,000 on enrolment of the sixth patient. Costs, no doubt, included as "research and development".
Aside from"cheapness", in developing countries there exists far less regulation, oversight and awareness; and the poor are unlikely to litigate if and when damage/deaths occur as a consequence of the drug. This is particularly lethal when it comes to experimentation on children. More than 78 per cent of children-focused clinical trials were conducted outside of the US.
Vaccines and identification
The Rotarix vaccine was not developed in-house but was licensed in: In 1988, Richard Ward PhD isolated the human rotavirus strain and developed a live, orally deliverable vaccine candidate under a licensing agreement with the Virus Research Institute, which later merged with another company, to become Avant Immunotherapeutics, a small firm that has often received grants from the NIH.
As Donald Light, a professor of comparative health policy, and economist Rebecca Warburton revealed in their paper analysing the development cost of the rotavirus vaccine, Avant funded a Phase II trial of Rotarix in 1997-1998 which found the drug gave protection in 89 per cent of cases. Light et al go on to write that, in 1997, GlaxoWellcome (later GSK) negotiated global rights and agreed, in exchange, to finance development costs, paid Avant $5.5 million and agreed royalties of 10 per cent on net sales.
The rotavirus vaccine signified a radical turning point in the introduction of vaccines: usually, poorer nations wait out a 15 or 20 year period. GSK's rotavirus vaccination instead proceeded via regulatory approval not in the country of manufacture, but instead, the country of first intended use - Mexico.
Why not Africa or Asia?
Mexico proved the perfect site for introduction: since the 1990s, the government created, expanded and strengthened a "national surveillance system" for diarrhoeal disease, noted Walsh and Situ. Hospitals and clinics had well-equipped laboratories to identify infectious diseases; the Ministry of Health regularly monitored and reported cases, as did the clinics and hospitals, as part of the Mexican Social Security Institute (MSSI) system.
Since 2004, the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), comprising more than forty nations of the Americas, supported - along with other organisations - the development of rotavirus surveillance systems in countries including Argentina, El Salvador, Guyana, Uruguay, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras. Monitoring was engineered to"characterise the proportion of diarrhoeal hospitalisations attributable to a rotavirus infection, serotypes of circulating rotaviruses, and the seasonality of rotavirus infections", writes Julia Walsh MD in The critical path for vaccine introduction[PDF]. This information is fed into economic analyses, a critical element in the countries' decision on whether to introduce a vaccine.
The good news, for GSK, about Mexico and Brazil, is that the percentage of population targeted to be vaccinated is more than 98 per cent. In 2006, Duncan Steele from the Initiative for Vaccine Research (WHO) stated that the Rotarix vaccine was being introduced to Brazil, Panama, Venezuela and other countries - at a cost of $7 per dose for public health use. In 2004, Brazil purchased eight million doses (two doses per child), at the full $7 per dose. Ward would later say that rotavirus hospitalisations were estimated to be down by 59 per cent.
Presently, unless Merck makes an entry into the international marketplace, there exists no competition for GSK which already describes itself as,"the main supplier of vaccines to UNICEF and GAVI". According to GSK, PAHO and other aid agencies intend to purchase enough Rotarix to ensure immunisation for 80 per cent of the world's children. Avant estimates that the global market for the drug will generate as much as $1.8bn annually. Neither GSK nor Merck have published a summary of their costs.
Light and Warburton estimate that the cost of Rotarix - due to the incredibly large expense of the almost 70,000-person trial is as high $466 million, excluding capitalised costs - and that out-of-pocket costs could be recovered with a single year's profit. From 2008 onward, sales totalled more than $1bn.
At "efficient" manufacturing costs of $1.50-$2 per dose, GSK will make a jolly profit from the "full price" in developed nations, and the 98 per cent successful vaccination target rate in countries such as Brazil. Once the five-year period is up, GSK - holding the global monopoly, will be embedded as part of the national health budget in 40 or more countries.
GSK's home country - the UK - donated the largest chunk of taxpayer funds to the AMC pot - at $1.34bn, while IP king Bill Gates offered a further $1bn. Gates claimed that he felt "great about the prices" GAVI received but acknowledged that Indian and Chinese manufacturers could bring the price down"somewhat" if they ramped up vaccine output.
No matter that drug companies like GSK actually sat on the GAVI board at the time such decisions were made.
Developed nations banging the trade-related intellectual property drum, and intellectual property captains such as Bill Gates, will not bypass the anti-competitive grip of patents - for which there exists no free market, and where all patent value is opaquely imputed by the company in question.
This is the flipside of "charity", this is a calculated attempt to sustain the status quo - a world structured on inequality, where the gap between those with access to medicine, and those without, is not only undeserved and systemically unjust - but also lethal.
To paraphrase brilliant comedian Chris Rock, drug companies - or drug dealers, as he put it, don't want to cure you (or kill you). The money comes from making you live in need.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article first appeared in two parts in Al Jazeera here and here.
* 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’.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Manning Marable and the Malcolm X biography controversy
A response to critics
Bill Fletcher, Jr
On the day of Manning Marable’s death, 1 April 2011, I received an additional piece of disturbing information. A friend of mine informed me of a discussion he had just had with a Black activist-writer who, on hearing about Marable’s passing, went into what could only be described as a rant against Marable. Marable’s body was hardly cold, and this individual, who knew Marable, was castigating him to my friend, claiming that Marable was everything but a child of God. It was at that moment that I knew that Marable’s ‘Malcolm X: A life of reinvention’ (hereafter referred to as ‘MX’) would ignite a firestorm in some quarters of the Black Freedom Movement. Within days, despite the overwhelmingly positive response to the book, this firestorm emerged.
In approaching the controversies that surround ‘MX’ it is important to ask two questions prior to responding directly to critics: (1) What did Manning set out to do? (2) Did he succeed? We will take these one at a time before commenting on some of the issues raised by various critics and what lies beneath them.
WHAT DID MANNING SET OUT TO DO?
‘MX’ is a blockbuster of enormous proportions. The mere act of writing a 500+ page biography is a significant achievement on any scale. Yet Marable was not attempting to write the definitive biography when he first started out on this journey. As he himself noted, his first objective was to write what he called a ‘political biography’ of Malcolm X. Over time the objectives shifted somewhat and became a bit more complex.
Much has been made of the biography ‘humanising’ Malcolm, a term which I have myself used. Yet that is not the starting point for understanding the objectives. A better starting point is perhaps derived from Marable’s own statements on the matter, the gist of which begins with the fact that Malcolm X had been – and remained – a hero for Marable, who, in his opinion, had been the most significant Black activist figure of the mid-to-late 20th century. It was Marable’s committed belief in Malcolm X’s significance that moved him to dedicate the last decade of his life to chronicling Malcolm’s life and legacy through the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University. And it is this same commitment to Malcolm X’s and his family’s legacy that caused Marable to utilise his institutional influence and resources to push Columbia University to make good on its promise to open the site of the former Audubon Ballroom as the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial Center. ‘MX’ is the product of a historian who cared deeply for his subject, who felt that his subject was deserving of a comprehensive examination of his life. Marable took this task seriously, grappling with aspects of Malcolm’s life that he knew would challenge our iconic view of Malcolm but also do it in a way that would deepen our appreciation of his heroicism as human being to other human beings. Yet in trying to understand Malcolm’s trajectory, not just when he left the Nation of Islam, but much earlier, there were curious features in the ‘Autobiography of Malcolm X’ that were difficult to either understand or explain.
From my own discussions with Marable, as well as what is contained in ‘MX’, I know that Marable had been perplexed for years regarding what was missing from the ‘Autobiography’. Most people that I know who have read the ‘Autobiography’ found the ending somewhat odd, i.e., that there is little discussion of Black freedom strategy and then, suddenly, we are into Alex Haley’s final words! Like many other things in life, the tendency was just to chalk this up to circumstances, in this case, that the book was completed after Malcolm’s assassination and that not everything could be wrapped together.
This explanation did not satisfy Marable. His conclusion, as he notes in the book and in numerous interviews he conducted prior to his death, was that Haley edited the book in such a way as to make it more acceptable for the audience that Haley wanted to reach (mainstream white America). Accordingly, sections of the ‘Autobiography’, such as that which covered Malcolm’s proposed Black united front, were eliminated entirely. Haley, a Black Republican, had no interest in a Black Nationalist or Pan-Africanist vision. This mere fact makes highly ironic some of the criticisms raised of Marable in connection with the book, specifically, that he was attempting to make Malcolm more acceptable to a liberal audience. The facts, simply put, demonstrate that such a conclusion is ridiculous. Why it is being offered, however, is something that will be discussed later.
The ‘Autobiography’ contained some other issues for Marable, however. In the process of conducting his research he came across contradictions, or at least problems, that led him to understand that the ‘Autobiography’ was a political testimony by Malcolm that, like most autobiographies, had specific contextual objectives. As such, Malcolm tended to exaggerate certain things, and in other cases, ignore significant facts altogether. This is not uncommon and not something for which Malcolm should be chastised. But it is the job of the historian and biographer to search beneath that which is acknowledged to ascertain accuracies, patterns, as well as other potential ‘story lines,’ for lack of a better term.
It is in this context that one can better understand the notion of ‘humanising’ Malcolm X. From the moment that Malcolm was killed there were efforts by the State and the Nation of Islam to demonise him. On the other hand, there was a largely grassroots move among many black nationalists, Pan Africanists and socialists, to uphold his memory and work. Within this last category there were those who tended toward canonising Malcolm X, irrespective of any qualifiers issued at the time or since.
Malcolm became larger than life, and for an activist, black radical historian like Marable, this produced complications particularly when the complexities of Malcolm’s experiences were not properly understood. Yes, Malcolm was a hero, but what was going on with him as a person? What were the questions that he had? Did he ever stumble? Was there a straight trajectory in his evolution? What constituted the nature of his politics, including as they and he evolved?
An additional objective for Marable was to explain Malcolm’s evolution, particularly what took place while he was in the Nation of Islam as well as what took place in the aftermath of his leaving. Again, for many revolutionary black nationalists and other radical forces, at least at the time, there was this sense of a dramatic break in 1964 followed by a straight radical line. This notion dissatisfied Marable and he went to work to research what took place, particularly when Malcolm was in the Nation of Islam.
There is another part to his objective, however. What was going on in the period of the building of, first, the Muslim Mosque, Inc., and later the Organisation of Afro-American Unity? What strategies were being unfolded? How was leadership being addressed? How was the role of women changing over time in these formations?
In ‘MX’ Marable also set out to show that Malcolm was not another version of Martin Luther King. Again, Haley implied, and many others have tried to suggest more explicitly, that Malcolm and Martin Luther King were somehow converging. As Marable demonstrates, and clarifies quite explicitly in the final chapter, that was not the case at all. While there were points of agreement and while the record is clear that Malcolm envisioned the possibility of a united front with King, Malcolm represented a different political tendency. He was a revolutionary nationalist and Pan-Africanist, but he was also someone who entertained the use of electoral politics for more than symbolic value. His post-NOI politics, in other words, were in flux, but in either case they were not King’s.
But here is where things get complicated: Marable sought to establish to what extent Malcolm’s politics were in line with those of people who claimed to follow him. This became an additional source of controversy.
Finally, Marable sought to determine who killed Malcolm X. This was certainly not an initial objective of his when he chose to write this book but as he became more absorbed in the story he was drawn to examine the facts and myths surrounding the murder. As with other portions of the book, Marable drew from original sources, secondary sources, witnesses, etc. His conclusions were, to some extent consistent with some earlier analyses, but startling in others, particularly in his examination of the dynamics within the MMI and OAAU that very likely contributed to the success of the assassination.
DID MARABLE SUCCEED IN HIS OBJECTIVES?
This is what makes the controversy surrounding the book both fascinating and, often, distasteful at the same time. Through in depth research, Marable does succeed in his objectives. He uncovered the ‘hidden’ chapters of the ‘Autobiography’ and demonstrates to the reader their importance in understanding Malcolm’s evolution. He provides the reader with a detailed understanding, not only of the Nation of Islam, but of other Muslim currents in the USA that influenced Black America generally, but also the NOI. He shows the struggles within the NOI that helped to shape Malcolm, but also helps the reader understand the frustrations that Malcolm increasingly felt within the NOI. Finally, Manning offered the social and historical context for understanding Malcolm, both within his time, but also in subsequent decades.
There are two, specific features of ‘MX’ I wish to focus upon, however. One has to do with gender and the second concerns the assassination. But prior to that a word on methodology.
Shortly after the publication of ‘MX’ I had the opportunity to speak with a Black journalist about the book. He indicated that he did not care for the book. When I probed it turned out that his major concern was that he did not believe that Marable should have offered any tentative conclusions about matters where he failed to have complete facts. One example of this was the matter of the same-sex encounter for pay in the Malcolm Little period and a second example was the possible affairs that Betty Shabazz may have had.
I was a bit stunned in hearing these concerns only later to recognise that this journalist was approaching this book as if it had been an article for a mainstream newspaper. In an article for a newspaper there is a certain approach that the writer must take. That is never the case with a historian or biographer, and as such there is a standard that Marable is being held to that is both unfair and disingenuous. A historian (and gmis along the lines of a civil trial vs. a criminal trial. In a civil trial the jury looks at the preponderance of the evidence in order to draw a conclusion. In a criminal action the jury, as we know, can only convict if there is NO shadow of a doubt.
Historians look at the evidence and draw conclusions. This is why history is never an exact science. While we can generally confirm specific facts, e.g., Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the reasons for an action, event, etc., are always the subject of analysis and debate. New theories emerge to explain different developments. This is also the case when one is developing a biography.
Further, a genuine scholar, of Marable’s calibre, in writing a biography cannot simply refuse to acknowledge important claims or uncomfortable facts. Such matters must be addressed, in which case the biographer can certainly take a pass if they have not arrived at any conclusion; they can challenge them; or they can affirm the earlier conclusions.
For a variety of reasons which we shall touch upon below, there are many critics who challenge this approach. They may mechanically look at this matter from the standpoint of journalistic standards or they may have other motives that hide behind a challenge to the methodology.
With regard to gender, Marable dared to touch on a piece of Malcolm that has largely been ignored by biographers, both friend and foe. The matter of a same-sex encounter for pay, though related to gender obviously, was useful more in understanding the criminal, parasitic life that Malcolm Little lived prior to prison. What was, however, more useful in terms of gender, was to understand Malcolm’s misogynism, Marable raised some uncomfortable questions on this score, including the manner in which Malcolm discussed his mother and her eventual collapse, but also the conclusions that Malcolm drew when his female collaborators in crime turned against him in order to save themselves. There is a pattern that Marable identifies that lasts into the post-NOI period when it came to women. Once Malcolm broke with the NOI his views began to shift on matters of gender, and actually shift in such a way so as to unsettle some of his key male supporters in the MMI.
One can go deeper, however. Malcolm’s relationship with Betty Shabazz was more complicated than either the ‘Autobiography’ or many of Malcolm’s uncritical supporters would make it out to be. Betty was a strong woman in her own right who sought security and sexual satisfaction, to name just two items, in her marriage to Malcolm. She also strongly supported him, often raising cautionary notes that were prescient. However, she did not have identical politics to Malcolm and certainly did not evolve further down the path of revolutionary nationalism and Pan Africanism. In other words, the relationship was complicated, and in order to address some of the challenges contained in this relationship Malcolm sought help from Elijah Muhammad, only to have that request for help turned into an instrument against him in the factional wars in the NOI.
The entire matter of gender has caused its own uproar and in so doing has betrayed an uncomfortable vein within Black America that has hemorrhaged in the past and could very well again. One need only remember the controversy surrounding the Clarence Thomas hearings and the allegations by Anita Hill to recognise the volatility of the issue.
A second matter of focus was the assassination. As noted earlier, Marable did not set out to uncover the full scope of the plot, but here he touched upon one matter that had received very little earlier attention: the tension within and among his supporters in the post-NOI period. First things first, however. Marable’s research has already provided the impetus for a discussion regarding the need for a new examination of the circumstances surrounding the assassination. This includes the role of the police, FBI, as well as some elements of the NOI. The facts, as presented by Marable, and in some cases by earlier scholars and investigators, raise such serious questions regarding who was actually involved in the assassination that silence on this matter is simply unforgiveable.
There are many points of controversy surrounding the assassination, but what is especially worth noting is that Marable’s investigation identified three forces that had an interest in Malcolm’s death: The State; the NOI; and some of Malcolm’s own supporters. This is not the first time that history has demonstrated that an assassination or otherwise criminal action had multiple players, each with its own interest in the success of the operation even if they may not have been actively collaborating or have consciously conspired. In this case, the curious actions of the police on the day of the murder; the faulty security (by Malcolm’s own people); and the identification of the assailants, points to multiple perpetrators, each with their own set of objectives. The problem of Malcolm’s followers seems to have been a matter – never publicly discussed – revolving around some of them feeling betrayed by Malcolm’s own evolution, an evolution which was moving at the speed of light compared with their own changes.
THE CRITICS AND THEIR DISCONTENT
When one listens to the critics of ‘MX’ it is often difficult to ask anything other than, what is really going on here?
In order to understand what is going on, one must identify multiple sources, much of which has almost nothing to do with the book itself. These include: The creation of Malcolm-as-icon; homophobia; personal jealousy targeted at Marable; New York chauvinism targeted at Marable; and on-going differences regarding strategy within the Black Freedom Movement. As the reader will notice, however, the debate has little to do with the facts as articulated in the book, despite the words of some of the critics. None of the challenges regarding alleged errors in fact that have been raised, irrespective of their relative validity, calls into question anything of significance in the book. In fact, a surprising number of the challenges to the book appear to have come from people who, at least at the time of their criticism, had not even read the book or just read selective passages. I have personally found myself in situations where individuals, in discussing the book, begin by saying something like: ‘I have not read the book but…’ or ‘I have not finished reading the book but…’ and then gone on to offer impassioned analyses with very little foundation. The fact that individuals believe that they do not have to do a real reading is a matter that could be the subject of an entirely separate essay!
Unfortunately, for too many followers of Malcolm – myself included – the ‘Autobiography’ has been treated as the word of God. Rather than appreciating the politics that accompany all autobiographies, many of us have treated this book, along with Malcolm’s speeches, as the final or near final word on Malcolm-the-person. The story is a magnificent story of redemption, but also of pride and revolutionary courage. Yet in our search for heroes, we often seek demi-gods. We seek a type of perfection that does not exist within humanity and wish to believe that the only way that a hero can be a hero (or heroine) is if they have reached that dimensional plateau of perfection. As one critic of Marable stated, quite unapologetically: The people need icons.
It is true that the people need heroes and heroines, particularly as a means of fighting despair. It is often the case that we shape or reshape those heroes or heroines in order to accomplish other political purposes. The State certainly understands that. As Lenin so aptly noted, upon the death of a people’s hero, the capitalist State moves to alter society’s understanding of said hero in order that the dead hero can become acceptable and advance the interests of the State.
The people can also reshape a hero in order to uphold the cause(s) advanced by the hero during their life. Malcolm’s immense courage and defiance are legendary, but is that courage and defiance called into question if we find out that Malcolm vacillated about actually splitting with the NOI? Is it called into question if we know that he expressed misgivings? Is his manhood – however we happen to interpret that – challenged when we learn that there was a sexual/emotional disconnect between Betty and him?
When we demand that our heroes and heroines be perfect, then each human challenge, such as those noted earlier, calls into question whether our hero can be our hero. This is what lies beneath many of the criticisms of ‘MX’ and of Marable.
When we turn heroes and heroines into demi-gods there is an additional problem that arises: We make it less possible, and in some cases even impossible, to emulate said hero. As political activists we should be utilising the memory and practice of heroes, whether Martin Luther King, Fannie Lou Hamer, or Malcolm not simply to inspire but as sources of wisdom. We should be learning from their practices, including how they confronted their challenges, and shaped who they were and who they became. We should be learning how to take from those experiences and apply to our own. To borrow from the late, great leader of the revolution in Guinea-Bissau/Cape Verde, Amilcar Cabral, we on the Left must ‘tell no lies and claim no easy victories…’ including about our own great leaders. But once these individuals rise to the status of demi-gods that all becomes impossible. After all, how can we mere humans emulate Hercules?
While the fury over the challenge to Malcolm-as-demi-god has been at the core of much of the uproar, some of the initial outrage resulted from the discussion of the possibility that Malcolm engaged in a same-sex encounter for pay prior to his going to prison. There are some interesting features to this outrage. This is not the first time that this matter has been raised. In fact, several authors have posed this issue. As such, it would have been highly questionable for Marable to have ignored the matter as if it were some imaginary issue. It is important to note that in Marable’s treatment of this aspect of Malcolm’s life, he used both primary sources (prison letters Malcolm wrote) as well as three secondary sources (including memoirs from Malcolm's nephew Rodnell Collins and his partner in crime Malcolm ‘Shorty’ Jarvis) to corroborate his conclusion.
Methodology, however, is not the main issue here. What infuriates some critics is that the possibility of Malcolm engaging in a same-sex encounter raises questions as to his manhood. This assumption is based on the erroneous notion that one’s sexuality is a fixed and determined category and that the positive aspects of Malcolm-the-revolutionary leader are somehow invalidated by what at one moment may have been sexual ambivalence.
The outrage expressed by some people at this ‘revelation’ is certainly tinged with homophobia, although I am not assuming that all of those who have reacted negatively to this segment of the book are automatically homophobic. Nevertheless, both the outrage and any homophobia associated with it does not withstand scrutiny when challenged, as it has been by Michael Eric Dyson, who has pointed out that the Malcolm who may have engaged in a same-sex encounter for pay was the Malcolm Little of the thug period. In that period he engaged in pimping, gambling and armed robbery. For many critics it appears to be completely acceptable that he engaged in these assorted activities but somehow same-sex encounters for pay are over the top.
What is shocking about this debate is how few pages it covers in the actual book (no more than two) and that Marable was very careful in his conclusions. As with any historian, he draws certain conclusions from the evidence he had but then goes on to make an interesting point: there were no subsequent examples or claims of either same-sex encounters for pay or homosexual activity period. While this should have calmed down the critics, the mere suggestion of such activity was enough to unsettle them.
Another feature of the criticism of ‘MX’ is the allegation that it represents an attempt to portray Malcolm as having the same politics as Marable; liberalise Malcolm so that he is more acceptable to a mainstream audience; or turn Malcolm into some sort of social democrat. There is no foundation for these arguments. The closest thing to a legitimate issue was Marable’s poor choice of words to describe Malcolm’s evolution toward Pan-Africanism (see below).
The final chapter of the book refutes the critics – hands down – on this matter of an attempt to liberalise Malcolm, etc. One need only review that chapter and consider the points that Marable raised. Not in order of importance, but:
1) Malcolm was not converging with King. [We discussed this point earlier.]
2) Malcolm saw the need for a complete restructuring of the USA in order for Black liberation to ever be achieved.
3) Malcolm would most likely have not been enthralled with affirmative action because he would have been looking for more structural solutions to our situation.
4) Malcolm would have engaged in a certain form of electoral politics.
5) Malcolm was trying to define his politics at the global level and situate the African American struggle within the global struggle against imperialism and racism.
There is nothing in this that sounds like liberalism or social democracy. Instead it more closely conforms to variants of anti-imperialist politics, in particular a form of anti-imperialist politics that was prevalent in the global South at that time.
Some critics, however, have raised Marable’s use of the term ‘race neutral’ in talking about the form of Pan-Africanism and Third World solidarity Malcolm was advancing in order to allege that Marable was trying to water down Malcolm. Having known Marable for more than 25 years I would attribute this to either a poor choice of words or a mistaken editing decision. Let’s explore, however, what Marable was attempting to address.
There was a moment that Malcolm himself described when, during one of his trips, he encountered a North African revolutionary. The North African revolutionary questioned Malcolm about his use of the term ‘black nationalism.’ This North African revolutionary, being AFRICAN, was apparently also quite light-skinned and asked Malcolm where that put him in the context of ‘black nationalism’. Malcolm did not have a clear answer for this but, towards the end of his life appeared to have been grappling with this issue and what it meant for how he was to conceptualise and describe his politics.
Marable used the term ‘race neutral’ to describe a set of anti-racist politics that were Pan-African and Third Worldist, not in the sense that liberals or the right use the term ‘race neutral.’ It would have been more akin to what the South African movement has called ‘non-racial’ or ‘anti-racist.’ He was trying to describe this as something that was not about black as skin color but more akin to the manner in which ‘black’, terminologically, came to be used in places such as Britain, South Africa and the Caribbean in the late 1960s and 1970s, i.e., as a political characterisation (thus, South Asians often identified as ‘black’ in each of those settings and did not reserve this designation to only those of direct African descent).
What makes the criticism of Marable so patently disingenuous is that one need only consider the body of Marable’s works to know that his usage of the tern ‘race neutral’ was far from an example of liberalism, or other such disorders.
This all leads to a final point, i.e., that many of the criticism of ‘MX’ have little to nothing to do with the book itself; they have to do with Manning. So, it is time to explore some of these in order to understand additional aspects of the temper associated with many of the responses.
I began this essay with a story concerning the response by one person of note to Manning’s death. This story was in some ways a subplot in a larger story.
The larger story includes the matter of the legacy of Malcolm X and who can lay claim to it. There is an assortment of Black radicals, largely men, who believe that they carry Malcolm’s torch. Whether due to conferences that they have held or books that they have written, they believe that only they are entitled to pontificate on the question of Malcolm X. Marable’s book, and the largely positive response that it received (not to mention the thoroughness of its research) inflamed many of these individuals who seemed to have concluded that they had been eclipsed. Rather than welcoming Marable’s contribution, they chose instead to smear it and him, as if that would somehow enhance their own stature.
Then there is the particular question of Manning Marable-the-person. Marable was an incredibly smart, dynamic, and prolific African American who gained significant attention. At a relatively early age he positioned himself through reaching out to the broader African American population via his columns. What Manning understood, and something that he explained to me a long time ago, was that Black newspapers are regularly looking for good material. What he chose to do, which many other Black radicals ignored, was reaching out to the Black press and inserting a left/progressive point of view. That meant winning over publishers, many of who were/are relatively conservative and do not spontaneously gravitate to radical ideas.
Marable followed three courses. One was to make a name for himself in the academy as an exceptional scholar. Second, he recognised the importance of and worked at building a Left. He was never a Marxist-Leninist and, as such, was not involved in the revolutionary party-building efforts of the 1970s and 1980s. His politics were complicated, even when he was in the Democratic Socialists of America. In essence he was a Marxist looking to create a mass, left-wing formation that was thoroughly anti-racist and anti-sexist. He was concerned with and critical of vanguard-ism, as he saw it, among so many radicals, not only in the USA but overseas. In fact, his book about African and Caribbean politics goes through an important analysis of the collapse of the Grenadian Revolution, the sources of which involved elements of what came to be known as the ‘crisis of socialism,’ including but not limited to vanguard-ism.
Marable was very influential in the early stages of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a formation that resulted from a split in the Communist Party, USA. Although Marable had never been a member of the Communist Party, he hoped that CCDS would become a mechanism for a Left realignment and the building of a mass, radical, transformative project.
This was also the same person who was at the core of initiating the Black Radical Congress, an effort to create a front or coalition of Black leftists ranging from left nationalists to non-nationalist communists. If anything could be said of Marable, it was that he approached this in a non-sectarian manner, even where he had differences with individuals (and groups) from other tendencies.
The final of the three courses was Marable’s commitment to entering into mainstream discourses from the Left. Contrary to many leftists who are content to speak to themselves and their small groups, Marable sought to reach out to a broader range of the general public, from liberals on to the Left.
The intensity of the attacks on Marable, and particularly the personal nature of some of the attacks, actually represents a continuation of a struggle that took place in the Black Radical Congress between 1998-2001. The BRC was a broad grouping of Black radicals that came together to engage in joint campaigns. Formed in June 1998, the BRC had a diverse leadership core that included Marable. Marable, one of the co-founders of the BRC, became one of the three co-chairs of the BRC. This leadership position meant that he was one of the spokespersons for the BRC but also one of its acknowledged leaders.
Within the BRC there were those who both disagreed with Marable but also resented him. The resentment may seem a bit strange to the reader, but that is why I began this essay with the story of the reaction of one person to Manning’s death. The resentment appeared to have been rooted in a combination of factors that included the high visibility that Marable had achieved by the 1990s; his appointment to Columbia University and the fact that this raised his profile in New York City (and for some New Yorkers this is unpardonable if one is not from New York, a point I can make as someone born and raised in New York); and, even more ironically, that Manning refused to stay in the box of being a traditional academic but instead insisted on being directly involved with the construction of a movement.
In addition to resentment, there were strategic differences within the BRC. These differences were quite natural for an organisation that had the ideological breath of the BRC. The BRC was not a cadre organisation and membership included people with very divergent views. In and of itself, this should not have been a problem. The problem, however, lay in how differences were handled.
Manning came under assault for an orientation that was reflected in his writing. He was intent on making the BRC a politically relevant formation by which he and many others meant that it would be a recognizable force in the Black Freedom Movement and would represent a legitimate pole of Left opinion in Black America and beyond. Such an approach necessitated alliances with forces far broader than the traditional Left. It included outreach to more liberal forces as well as other social movements, including the NAACP and organised labour. It also meant connecting with progressive Black Democratic politicians.
Manning’s view stood in contrast with an alternative approach, or approaches. One alternative view was that which saw the BRC as needing to be more purist in its left-wing politics. For this segment, it was enough for the BRC to articulate the ‘correct line’ but there was less interest in interacting with forces outside of the BRC who were not on the Left. Those articulating such a view did not come from one particular group or represent one particular tendency. On both sides of the divide there were nationalists, communists, socialists, liberation theologians, feminists, etc. What split these two tendencies revolved more around something that Rosa Luxemburg called ‘revolutionary Realpolitik.’ To what extent should a formation like the BRC, or for that matter any other mass Left-wing formation, attempt to be a real political force with clear leftist politics vs. remaining a refuge for the tried and true? To what extent would the BRC roll up its sleeves and get a bit dirty interacting with those with who it had political differences but might share some agreement on a specific set of issues? Manning favored taking the risk of such an engagement, and for that reason—often combined with other sources (mentioned earlier)—he came under attack. The attacks became so personal that Manning ultimately decided that both due to his growing concerns with his health (the sarcoidosis) and his determination to write the Malcolm X biography, that it was no longer worth it to subject himself to such a barrage.
‘MX’ attempts to speak to a broad audience. It is not directed at the Black Left, though certainly many members of the Black Left have been reading it. It seeks an audience within Black America and beyond who are and have been trying to understand this remarkable historical figure, Malcolm X.
Yet there is another side to ‘MX’ that relates to the strategic differences that emerged in the BRC (noted earlier). To some extent Marable was attempting to better understand the strategic challenges that Malcolm confronted in attempting to build a Black radical pole to lead the Black Freedom Movement. The lost pages from the Autobiography, Malcolm’s interest in electoral politics; and, Malcolm’s embrace of Pan-Africanism were not isolated ideas or notions, but reflected an effort by Malcolm to fashion a strategic vision and direction that would root the Black radical movement he sought to build within the larger currents of Black America. His announced intention, for instance, of supporting Civil Rights workers in the South was a significant step taken to build a bridge in the Black Freedom Movement. Rather than castigating Black liberals and progressives who followed Dr King, by 1964 Malcolm saw a chance for his brand of Black radicalism (with a nationalist bent, since it is important to note that there was Black radicalism already within the ‘King’ camp of both similar and different bents) to directly link with and influence other tendencies within Black America. I believe that this is one thing that made Malcolm most intriguing for Marable.
HOW TO USE ‘MX’?
In the fall of 2010, as Manning was recovering from his lung transplant, we spoke about his forthcoming book. I suggested to him that the book could become an important instrument for advancing a discussion about the state of Black America, but more specifically, the future of Black radical politics. In that light, I went on to suggest that the book should not simply be promoted through personal appearances by him, but that there should be activists and scholars around the country who were enlisted in building events and studies, using the book to move a discussion that needs to happen. While Manning was intrigued with this approach, for a variety of reasons he was unable to do anything about it.
One of the best tributes to Manning, and for that matter one of the best ways of honouring the memory of Malcolm X, would be to use the book precisely for discussions about the future of Black radicalism; its relationship to other progressive movements in the USA; and the relationship of Black American radicalism to the domestic and global movements of the world’s ‘coloured peoples.’ This certainly does not mean that everyone has to agree with me that ‘MX’ is a fabulous book. What it does entail, however, is stepping back from the innuendo, personal jealousies, and trivial pursuits, and focusing instead on the issues that the book raises. Here are a few issues that have preoccupied me since reading the manuscript and then the final book:
1) What is the balance between charismatic leadership and democratic organisation?
2) What do we mean by ‘Black political power’ in the era of Obama, racial backsliding, and right-wing populism?
3) What sort of alliances can be built both within Black America as well as within the USA that advance the interests of the majority of African Americans?
4) What does 21st century Pan-Africanism look like? What is its relevance to the domestic Black Freedom struggle?
5) How should issues of gender be addressed in ways that are more than symbolic?
6) How do we understand the role of the State and what are the implications of that analysis for public, political activity?
7) How does Black radicalism come to, once again, resonate within the Black working class?
Discussing issues, such as these (and this is not an exclusive list), can advance our movement. ‘MX’ can become an instrument to help us further our journey. Twisting words, ignoring the scope of Marable’s works, and settling personal, private, and largely irrelevant accounts does nothing more than demonstrating that some critics have allowed themselves to ultimately become condemned to irrelevancy.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a long-time racial justice, international and labour activist and writer. He is also an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com, Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of ‘Solidarity Divided.’ My thanks for feedback received for earlier drafts of this essay.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Edward Wilmot Blyden, grandfather of African liberation
In my recent report on the unveiling of a plaque at No. 22 Cranleigh Street in Camden in North London to commemorate the years that the premises were the residence of the Trinidad-born writer, George Padmore, I mentioned that Padmore was regarded as the ‘father of African emancipation’.
A lesser-known fact about Padmore is that his lifelong devotion to the cause of African liberation was ignited in him by another African who was also born abroad - Edward Wilmot Blyden, who was born in the Virgin Islands (then under Danish rule) but spent most of his life in West Africa, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone, but also in the then British colony of Lagos.
As Padmore’s intellectual mentor, Blyden ought, therefore, to be rightly recognised as ‘the grandfather of African emancipation’.
These acknowledgements are important, for you cannot read about the history of American liberation, (for instance) without also being told of the debt which the American founding fathers owed to some of the British advocates of ‘the rights of man’, whose ideas influenced them. But African history was - and still continues -to be taught largely as if our liberation dropped out of heaven and grew in splendid isolation, nurtured entirely by its own inner vicissitudes.
The reason is, of course, that it is extremely inconvenient for some of the whites who own the political/history teaching/publishing industry, which mediates between us and our knowledge of our own continent, to accept that there is only ‘one Africanness’ in the world. Even more difficult to grasp for some is the fact that the black colour of a person brought up in a white environment can - and does - often arouse so much curiosity about the origins of that colour (and the possible loss of intellectual and spiritual identity associated with the person’s removal from its ‘source’) that he or she can spend a lifetime exploring and retrieving what he or she had lost. And when what is lost is found, it sometimes becomes a lifelong mission to communicate it to others with such force and passion that a whole movement - both political and intellectual - can arise out of it to unite peoples separated by land and sea.
This rediscovery of African roots happened to Edward Blyden; it happened to Sylvester Williams; to W.E.B. Du Bois; to Marcus Garvey and to George Padmore. The works of Edward Blyden, which Padmore came across among his father’s famous collection of books had such an effect on Padmore that when he was leaving Trinidad for America in 1924 (at the age of 21), he left instructions with his pregnant bride that she should name the child ‘Blyden’ - whether it was a boy or a girl.
The child turned out to be a girl, and Padmore’s wife, probably against her will, did as she was told and christened her Blyden. Poor girl - she can be forgiven if she became a bit hung-up on names, for shortly after her father had arrived in America, he was obliged to undergo a change of name himself - for political reasons - from ‘Malcolm Nurse’ to ‘George Padmore’. This meant that he was addressing the letters he sent to his only daughter ‘To Miss Blyden Nurse’, while she, on her part, would have had to be replying to ‘(Dear Dad) Mr George Padmore’.
Blyden Nurse, known by her name, ‘Blyden Nurse-Cowart’, is alive and well and lives in Las Vegas, USA. She is now 87 years old. The writer and publisher, Margaret Busby, met Blyden in the flesh 11 years ago, when Blyden visited London. Ms Busby’s father was a boyhood friend of Padmore’s (Padmore visited the Busby family who were Trinidadian in origin) when they were living at Suhum, southern Ghana, at the time Padmore was also living in Ghana). She confirmed to me: ‘Yes, Padmore had decided that he was going to name his child after Edward Blyden, whatever the child’s gender. I met Blyden (and her daughter Lyndia Randall) in 2000, when they were in London for the conference that Lester Lewis organised to mark the centenary of the first Pan-African Conference in London in July 1900, at which my Dominican grandfather (Mr G. J. Christian), was a delegate.’
Busby adds: ‘Our families were close in Trinidad, and Blyden told me she was at school with one of my Trinidadian cousins. She and Lyndia live in Las Vegas, USA, I believe.’
The 1900 Pan-African Conference, organised by another Trinidadian, the lawyer, Sylvester Williams, was the first Pan-African Conference and a unique achievement of Williams. But it is often overlooked in favour of the 1919, 1921, 1923, and 1927 conferences, and especially, the 1945 congress in Manchester.
Sylvester Williams formed an ‘African Association’ in 1900 to ‘promote and protect the interests of all subjects claiming African descent, wholly or in part, in British colonies and other places, especially Africa.’ Look at the breadth and scope of the potential membership of such an association. Is there any organisation with such a wide reach anywhere in the world of today - 111 years later? Isn’t the absence of such an organisation, with all the technological tools we have at our command for uniting peoples - rather shameful?
In 1900, Williams said it was time for all people of African descent to begin talking directly about matters of concern to themselves. Williams influenced Dr W.E.B. Du Bois to participate in the 1900 conference. His famous ‘Address to the Nations’, with its prophetic statement that ‘the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the colour line’, came to be regarded as the defining statement of that conference.
Sylvester Williams was born at Arouca in Trinidad, from where he went first to Canada and then to England to read law. He obtained a law degree at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and at King’s College, London, before going on to practise as a barrister in South Africa from 1903 to 1905. He was the first black man to do so, and he practised around the same time as Mahatma Gandhi was also practising law in South Africa. Williams’s experience in South Africa must have politicised him a lot, for on his return to London, he became involved in municipal politics and won a seat on the Marylebone Borough Council in November 1906. He was one of the first people of African descent to be elected to public office in Britain. He returned to Trinidad in 1908, where he practised as a lawyer until he died in 1912.
Although he was fired by the same Pan-African ideals as Sylvester Williams, Edward Blyden was a priest and educationist by profession. It was his writings as a sociologist, historian and philosopher that impressed George Padmore. Blyden extolled the ‘African personality’ in an unabashed manner at a time - the mid-19th and early 20th centuries - when the prevailing view of Africa in Europe and America (except within a few knowledgeable circles) was not far removed from the well-publicised words of the ‘influential’ British philosopher, and historian, David Hume, namely that: ‘I am apt to suspect the negroes (Hume wrote in an essay entitled ‘Of National Characters’) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilised nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences…Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction betwixt these breeds of men. Not to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves dispersed all over Europe, of which none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity; tho’ low (white) people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession.’
George Padmore, who was very well read as a young man, may have come across this racist statement of Hume’s and, as many educated blacks of his time did, felt it to be a repugnant viewpoint. But how was it to be countered? That is where he would have found the published works of Edward Blyden enormously liberating. Although Blyden held many important diplomatic and educational positions, it is more as a man of ideas than as a man of action that he is of immense importance to Africanists. He was a champion and defender of his race and in this role, produced more than two dozen pamphlets and books, the most important of which are ‘A Voice from Bleeding Africa’ (1856); ‘The Negro in Ancient History’ (1869); ‘The West African University’(1872); ‘Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race’ (1887) and his major work: ‘West Africa before Europe’ (1905). He also published African Life and Customs in 1908.
In his works, Blyden argued that Africa and Africans have a worthy history and culture. He rejected the prevailing notion of the inferiority of the black man and propagated the view that each major race had a ‘special contribution’ to make to world civilisation.
He boldly pointed out - although he was a Christian minister - that Christianity had had a ‘demoralising’ effect on blacks, in contrast to Islam, which, he claimed, had had ‘a unifying and elevating influence’ on them. (George Padmore’s father in fact converted to Islam from Christianity and may well have been influenced in his decision by Blyden.)
Blyden’s political goal - which Padmore adopted as his own and tried to implement with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana - was the establishment of a major, single, modern West African state, which would protect and promote the interests of peoples of African descent everywhere.
Blyden saw Liberia - then with the rare distinction of being an independent African state - as the ‘nucleus’ of such a Pan-African state, with Sierra Leone and Nigeria following not far behind. But in order to offer a credible project of African nationhood, Blyden first had to establish the equality of the African as a man like any other, which meant demolishing the prevailing view of the ‘Caucasian race’ (as exemplified by David Hume) that the African was an inherently inferior being.
In a book entitled ‘Liberia’s Offering’, published in 1862, Blyden eloquently deployed his vast knowledge of the Bible to indict Europeans who considered themselves ‘civilised’, but who either refused to learn about the true nature of Africa, or distorted it to fit into an ignorant mindset that was the product of the crudest and most ‘ancient xenophobia’.
The continent of Africa (Blyden argued) occupied an important geographical position, lying as it did between two great oceans - the highways of the principal portions of commerce. Yet, to the majority of ‘civilised and enlightened’ men, Africa was hardly ever made a subject of earnest thought. Various interests of more immediate concern crowded out thoughts of a land that was spoken of only when instances of degradation, ignorance, and superstition were referred to.
The other portion of the ‘civilised world’, who thought and spoke of Africa, were themselves ‘divided in their views and feelings with regard to that land, and in the motives which actuate them to be at all interested.’ Some only regarded it as a place for a lucrative trade in palm-oil, cam-wood or ivory: all their interests in the land were of a commercial nature. Others, ‘with souls more sordid and hearts more avaricious, who are never once troubled by any sentiment of humanity, are interested in Africa only as a scene for plunder and carnage.’
‘From these people,’ Blyden pointed out, ‘Africa has had the most frequent and the most constant visits, during the last three centuries. They have spread all along the coast of that peninsula - formerly the abode of peace and plenty, of industry and love - arrows, firebrands, and death. In their pursuit of blood - not of beasts but human gore - they have scattered desolation, and misery, and degradation into all parts of the land whither they have had access; so that not infrequently has it occurred that some unfortunate and lonely sufferer, standing amid a scene of desolation, having escaped the cruel chase of the slaver, whose ruthless hands have borne away his relatives and acquaintances, has earnestly cursed civilisation, and has solemnly prayed, as he has stood surveying the melancholy relics of his home, that an insurmountable and impenetrable barrier - some wall of mountain height - might be erected between his country and all “civilized” nations.’
Only a few, very few, ‘civilised’ people ‘regarded Africa as a land inhabited by human beings, children of the same common Father, travellers to the same judgement-seat of Christ, and heirs of the same awesome immortality.’ These few had laboured ‘to accelerate the day when Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God,’ Blyden wrote.
He also drew attention to Africa’s ‘adversaries’ - those who had no sympathy to bestow upon the African. The African’s complexion and hair furnished to them conclusive reasons why the African should be excluded from their benevolence (such as it was). ‘And such persons’, Blyden continued, ‘may be found in “enlightened” countries, professing Christianity, and priding themselves on their civilisation and culture. But do not such feelings prove them to be connected rather closely with those remote ages when the extent of one’s clan or tribe or district formed the limit of all his benevolent operations? Does not their conduct constantly remind those who meet them of their intimate relations with the barbarous past?’
There were still others who believed, or affected to believe, that Africans were ‘doomed to degradation and servitude’. Yet some of these persons also professed to believe in ‘the regenerating and elevating power of the Gospel’. They would ‘declaim long and loudly, upon the efficiency of Christianity to redeem and dignify man - to spread, wherever it goes, light and liberty, and the blessings of an exalted civilisation. But, in their minds, Africa seems to form an exception.’
Employing Christian theology at its eloquent best, Blyden asserted: ‘Glorious truth…is confined neither to countries nor races. It knows no limits. Who will dare to affirm that Africa will remain in her gloom, when the glory of the Lord shall have filled the whole earth?’
Blyden prophesied: ‘Oh! the darkness of many generations seems scattered; and I rejoice in the assurance that the land of slaves shall be the home of freedom!’
Men talked ‘selfishly and scornfully of the long-continued barbarism and degradation of Africa, as if civilisation were indigenous to any country; as if the soil and climate of some countries could give existence, and vitality, and growth to the arts and sciences. If this were the case, we should despair of Africa’s ever rising from its abject condition. But all the teachings of general and particular history, all individual and national experience, are opposed to such an idea. For there was nothing in race or blood, in colour or hair, that imparted susceptibility of improvement to one people over another.
‘Knowledge which lies at the basis of all human progress, came from heaven. It must be acquired; it is not innate. The intellectual plough and rake must be used, and the good seed introduced. Knowledge must be imparted. As one man learns it from another, so nation learns it from nation.’
If civilisation were inborn in the Caucasian, as some affirmed, if it was indigenous to all the countries inhabited by the Caucasians, should not every land which Caucasians inhabited be in a high state of civilisation? Blyden asked. But many Caucasian countries were far from such a state: ‘Look at the regions of Siberia, of Lapland. Look at the peasantry of many of the countries of Europe…Why are they so far down in the scale of civilisation? Why did not their Caucasian nature, if it did not urge them onward to higher attainments, keep them in the same leading positions as other nations?’
Blyden cried out: ‘Shall we here tell you of the sufferings which the slave trade has entailed upon them? Shall we tell you of their sorrows in the countries of their captivity? The barbarities which the Christian nations of Europe and of America have inflicted, and are now inflicting upon the Negro, would fill volumes, and they should be written with tears instead of ink, and on sack-cloth instead of parchment.
‘We refer not merely to those physical annoyances and diabolical tortures, and debasing usages, to which, in the countries of their exile, they have been subjected, but also to those deeper wrongs whose tendency has been to dwarf the soul [and] emasculate the mind.’
Can you imagine young George Padmore, forced in a British colonial school to read the works of Hume and others, coming across this positive and refreshing exposition of Africa’s position in the world, and its future, by Blyden? Can anyone wonder why Padmore chose to call his only offspring after a man who answered so many of the questions in his mind?
As it happens, I saw George Padmore on the day he left Ghana for the last time. I was at Accra airport on some business or other when I ran into him as he was entering the immigration area on that day in September 1959.
I greeted him with a smile and was taken completely aback when he told me, out of the blue, ‘Cameron, I know you boys will do it!’
I was puzzled.
‘Do what?’ I wanted to ask him. But in an instant, he had disappeared into the ‘Passengers Only’ area.
It was not until I stood in front of the dais on which Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of South Africa at the Union Building in Pretoria on 10 May 1994 that I understood what Padmore had meant when he had told me, ‘I know you boys will do it.’
Throughout the years, I had, from my base in Accra and London, fought in spirit - and with my pen - in solidarity with my brothers fighting to free themselves in white-ruled Africa. South Africa was the last to go, and I had got an invitation from the African National Congress to join it in celebrating the occasion.
I wept buckets of tears that day.
How can tears be sweet? Ha - my tears that day tasted of honey, no less!
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES: EDWARD WILMOT BLYDEN
Edward Wilmot Blyden was born in 1832 in the Virgin Islands, but later moved to Liberia, where he became an educator and statesman. He is described in a biographical note as someone who, ‘more than any other figure, laid the foundation of West African nationalism and of pan-Africanism’.
A ‘precocious youth’, (the biographical note continues) ‘he early decided to become a clergyman. He went to the United States in May 1850 and sought to enter a theological college but was turned down because of his race. In January 1851, he emigrated to Liberia, an African American colony which had become independent as a republic in 1847. He continued his formal education at Alexander High School, Monrovia, and later became the institution's principal in 1858.’
In 1862, Blyden was appointed professor of classics at the newly opened Liberia College, a position he held until 1871. Although Blyden was self-taught after high school, he became ‘an able linguist, classicist, theologian, historian, and sociologist. From 1864 to 1866, in addition to his professorial duties, Blyden acted as Secretary of State of Liberia.’
From 1871 to 1873, Blyden lived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, whose intellectual life he enriched by editing Negro, the first known pan-African journal in West Africa. After 1885, Blyden divided his time between Liberia and the British colonies of Sierra Leone and ‘Lagos’. (This city didn’t become part of, as well as capital of ‘Nigeria’, until the arrival of Lord Lugard at the beginning of the 20th century.)
Blyden later returned to the service of Liberia as the country’s ambassador to Britain and France. He was also a professor and later president of Liberia College. In 1891 and 1894, he spent several months in Lagos, and was appointed ‘government agent for native affairs’ there between 1896 and 1897.
Despite his official appointment, Blyden, while in Lagos, wrote regularly for the Lagos Weekly Record, one of the earliest propagators of Nigerian and West African nationalism. He also operated in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he helped to edit the Sierra Leone News, which he had assisted in founding in 1884 ‘to serve the interests of West Africa…and the [black] race generally.’ He also helped to found and edit there, the Freetown West African Reporter (1874-1882), whose declared aim was, even in those early years, to forge a bond of unity among English-speaking West Africans.
Between 1901 and 1906, Blyden was ‘director of Moslem education’ in Sierra Leone. This made him responsible for teaching English and ‘Western subjects’ to Moslem youths, with the all-important object of building a bridge of communication between the Moslem and Christian communities. The importance of his work can only be gauged by comparing those days of harmonious co-existence between the religions in West Africa, with today’s chasm between believers of different faiths, that often results in senseless mass murders, especially in Nigeria.
This aspect of Blyden’s work no doubt struck a chord with George Padmore, whose own father converted from Christianity to Islam. As noted before, Padmore named his only child after Blyden, from which it can be deduced that Blyden's intellectual influence passed from father to son, although Padmore himself was not a religious figure. Blyden died in Freetown on 7 February1912, at the age of 82. He still has surviving family members in Sierra Leone, who commemorate his anniversary each year.
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* Cameron Duodu is a journalist, writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Sudan: International crimes and threats to peace are mounting rapidly
After so many years of work on Sudan, I thought myself fully braced for the worst the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime might do. As so often before, I was wrong. The litany of egregious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law over the past five weeks is simply overwhelming---in South Kordofan, in Abyei, but in other areas along the North/South border as well. Just in the past two weeks, the regime's Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and militia allies in South Kordofan have: threatened to shoot down UN humanitarian aircraft in the region; shot, tortured, and arrested national members of the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan; denied freedom of movement to UNMIS personnel in nearly all locations; deployed intelligence officers in Kadugli, disguised as Red Crescent workers, to compel the removal of displaced civilians who had taken refuge at the UNMIS headquarters in Kadugli; denied UN and nongovernmental relief organizations use of the Kadugli airport, thus creating a vast and growing humanitarian crisis; engaged in house-to-house searches for Nuba civilians, arresting or summarily executing all thought to have "southern sympathies"; and engaged in what Amnesty International has called "indiscriminate attacks, bombing from high altitudes with imprecise bombs in areas which include civilians." These bombing attacks have extended to territories in South Sudan.
The SAF has also, in violation of international law, laid anti-personnel land mines in areas around Kadugli to control movement in and out of the town, and Military Intelligence has set up numerous checkpoints that are used to arrest Nuba civilians and restrict UN movements. Reports of mass graves and the use of chemical weapons against civilians are as yet unconfirmed, but continue to emerge with increasing insistence from those on the ground and in the region. As a recent and compelling article by Dan Morrison in Foreign Policy reminds us, the use of chemical weapons was part of the genocide in the Nuba Mountains during the 1990s. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has also documented Khartoum’s use of chemical weapons against civilians in the South:
"The increase of the bombings on the civilian population and civilian targets in 1999 was accompanied by the use of cluster bombs and weapons containing chemical products. On 23 July 1999, the towns of Lainya and Loka (Yei County) were bombed with chemical products. At the time of this bombing, the usual subsequent results (i.e. shrapnel, destruction to the immediate environment, impact, etc.) did not take place. [Rather], the aftermath of this bombing resulted in a nauseating, thick cloud of smoke, and later symptoms such as children and adults vomiting blood and pregnant women having miscarriages were reported."
“These symptoms of the victims leave no doubt as to the nature of the weapons used. Two field staff of the World Food Program (WFP) who went back to Lainya, three days after the bombing, had to be evacuated on the 27th of July. They were suffering of nausea, vomiting, eye and skin burns, loss of balance and headaches.”
("Living under aerial bombardments: Report of an investigation in the Province of Equatoria, Southern Sudan," February 2000)
MSF rightly "deplored" the fact that no nation demanded an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons---not one government in the world community made the single request that could have set in motion an investigation. This tells us all too much about the international response to current atrocity crimes in Sudan, committed by the same regime that has used chemical weapons in the Nuba and in South Sudan.
[See also my lengthy archive/report on bombing in South Sudan, Darfur, and South Kordofan over the past twelve years: www.sudanbombing.org]
Elsewhere SAF attacks have been recorded in every state in the South that borders North Sudan. It has repeatedly bombed the Jau area of Pariang County in Unity State, creating thousands of newly displaced civilians; it has fired artillery at the civilians and UN personnel in the town of Agok, to which so many fled following the May 20 invasion of Abyei; it has massed forces in the remote region where (northern) South Kordofan and White Nile State meet (southern) Upper Nile State (Upper Nile, with Unity, is the great oil production region in South Sudan); it has organized and supported potent militias that have as their sole objective destabilizing the South as much as possible before and after the July 9 independence of the Republic of South Sudan; it has attempted to move troops south of the River Kiir, which separates the forces of the SAF and Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA); it has shelled Banton Bridge, the major route from Abyei to Warrab State (and thus essential for any potential returns). And on June 26 the regime allowed its Misseriya Arab militia allies to attack a train carrying people returning to their homeland in the South; the attack killed at least one and wounded four according to an UNMIS spokeswoman. Such an attack could not have occurred unless countenanced by the SAF or Military Intelligence.
This list is not complete, but it is authoritative, based on numerous newswire dispatches, human rights reports, many scores of accounts from Nuba who have escaped to the South, and internal UN internal documents that have been reported by several news organizations. And astonishingly, in the midst of a news blackout throughout South Kordofan and a shutdown of cellular phone service---with only very limited Internet access---there are many reports, even photographs that have made their way out of the Nuba Mountains and are compelling in their brutal details. The credibility of a number of sources has been authoritatively confirmed.
But without a humanitarian presence, and without accounts from the now-paralyzed UNMIS, information about Khartoum's actions in South Kordofan will rapidly diminish, rendering a vast and accelerating humanitarian crisis invisible. For now, the US and its allies, as well as all Security Council members who wish to know what is occurring, have access to more than enough intelligence to make informed assessments.
It is difficult to focus on a single atrocity crime amidst such massive violence and abuse, but I believe the most telling violation of international law was Khartoum’s use of security personnel in Kadugli, disguised as Red Crescent workers, to compel the movement of displaced civilians who had taken shelter within the UNMIS protective perimeter. Some 7,000 Nuba civilians (estimates vary) gathered within the protective custody of the UN following Khartoum's initial military onslaught and ethnically targeted killings (June 5). But Associated Press reports (June 23) on actions taken by Khartoum on June 20:
"Sudanese intelligence agents posed as Red Crescent workers and ordered refugees to leave a UN-protected camp in a region where Sudan's Arab military has been targeting a black ethnic minority, according to an internal UN report obtained Thursday [June 23]. The report said agents from the National Security Service donned Red Crescent aprons at a camp in Kadugli, South Kordofan and told the refugees to go to a stadium for an address by the governor and for humanitarian aid. The refugees were threatened with forced removal from the camp if they did not comply.
"The report…does not say what happened to the camp residents after their forced removal on Monday. The report did not say how many refugees were forced to leave the camp. "
These actions violate international humanitarian law on so many counts it requires an analysis unto itself. But the brutal cynicism that pervades the intelligence and security services in Khartoum, the contempt for the lives of African Sudanese civilians, and the utter disregard for the UN---which learned only indirectly where these people had been taken---seem astounding, though not so astounding, evidently, as to generate a meaningful response. Despite this public report there was no direct response from any international actor of consequence, including the UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos. Small wonder that Khartoum believes it may do what it wants with impunity.
And this leaves us to draw the most ominous conclusions about the fate of the hundreds (or thousands) who were led to Kadugli Stadium: their has not been reported because UNMIS is now completely restricted in movement. Only on June 28 (eight days later) did the UN make its concerns---and its ignorance---known:
"The United Nations has voiced concern at the fate of 7,000 Sudanese civilians last seen being forced by authorities to leave the protection of a UN compound in the tense border region between the North and South. A UN spokeswoman says the global body has asked north Sudan authorities for access to the civilians who are believed to have been taken to the nearby town of Kadugli in South Kordofan province last week. Spokeswoman Corinne Momal-Vanian told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that so far authorities have denied the request." (Associated Press, June 28; emphasis added)
Indeed, the SAF has over the past two weeks made clear its intention to end freedom of movement for UNMIS, despite the guarantees of the "Status of Forces Agreement" Khartoum signed in 2005. UNMIS patrols have been told by SAF officers that their mission is over, and only SAF-supervised administrative movements may take place. To make sure that UNMIS got this message, another utterly shocking episode is reported by The New York Times (June 21):
"Sudan's forces detained four United Nations peacekeepers and subjected them to 'a mock firing squad,' the organization said Monday [June 20, 2011], calling the intimidation part of a strategy to make it nearly impossible for aid agencies and monitors to work in the region."
And in its strategy Khartoum has almost completely succeeded. The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate rapidly; hundreds of thousands are now cut off from relief aid; and thetotal displaced population may be greater than 400,000. But again no international voice was raised to report this extraordinary detention, thereby encouraging further intimidation of UNMIS by SAF and security officers, even as military observation is critical: SAF continues to pour large quantities of weapons, armor, ammunition, and troops into Kadugli and Dilling; military checkpoints continue to target Nuba civilians; atrocities of the most brutal sort continue to be reported in and around Kadugli; and aerial attacks on the Nuba Mountains are unrelenting. Just two days ago sixteen people, including eight women and children, were killed during a bombing attack on three Nuba villages near Kurchi.
Nor is UNMIS encouraged to be vigorous in challenging Khartoum's restrictions on their guaranteed freedom of movement. In fact, the UN peacekeepers are deliberately being threatened with military assault: SAF artillery and aircraft have attacked extremely close to UNMIS bases in several locations. On June 17 the SAF launched an intensive artillery attack on the town of Agok, where so many of the more than 110,000 refugees from Abyei have fled; some shells fell as close as 200 meters from the UN compound. Again on June 17, SAF attack aircraft bombed near Kadugli, with some bombs coming less that a kilometer away from UN headquarters. The same was true on June 14, when SAF bombing runs came extremely close to the UN compound in Kauda. Photographs of the attack, which targeted the airstrip critical for humanitarian transport, show just how close this attack came. One purpose of these attacks so near to UN personnel is clear: intimidation. For sooner or later, as the UN well knows, one of the bombs or shells will land on a compound. The SAF is simply incapable of targeting with sufficient precision so close to UN sites. In short, the goal is to force withdrawal.
For Khartoum's largest ambition is to control the civilian populations in South Kordofan and Abyei without the interference of either UNMIS or a humanitarian presence. The Ethiopian brigade to be deployed to Abyei was authorized by the UN Security Council only on June 27; and despite its robust protection mandate, there are grave doubts about its ability to reverse the ethnic clearances that have already occurred or to create sufficient security for the Ngok Dinka who fled the region to be able to return to their lands and homes. Troublingly, the mission has no human rights mandate, as is typical for UN peacekeeping missions---a clear concession to Khartoum (and Beijing). UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang, who has recently returned from Abyei, declared in Khartoum that there "was 'utter devastation' in the territory and called for a thorough human rights investigation both there and in South Kordofan." In South Kordofan, Amnesty International rightly finds that civilians are being "coerced to return by the Sudanese authorities to places where their lives and safety could be at risk." But all evidence suggests that the appropriate phrase is not "could be at risk" but "face the clear and imminent threat of ethnically targeted destruction, much of which is already in evidence."
Terrifying accounts have come from relief workers, a few necessarily anonymous diplomatic sources, and of course the Nuba people themselves: "Yusef" from Kadugli told Agence France-Presse that he had been informed by a member of the notorious Popular Defense Forces (PDF) that they had been provided with plenty of weapons and ammunition, and a standing order: "He said that they had clear instructions: 'just sweep away the rubbish. If you see a Nuba, just clean it up.' He told me he saw two trucks of people with their hands tied and blindfolded, driving out to where diggers were making holes for graves on the edge of town." Nuba are being executed in gruesome ways at the hands of the SAF and militia groups, often by having their throats slit. A church source reports that Nuba are being hunted "like animals" by helicopter gunships. These African peoples, trapped by geography in North Sudan, are haunted by their terrible history and are right to be fearful. As one aid worker has predicted, "if the ground offensive commences, 'absolute carnage'… could ensue." This ground offensive could come at any time.
There can be no plea of ignorance about the nature of realities on the ground, such as Obama's special envoy Princeton Lyman has attempted to make. Indeed, an American government official told the New York Times last week that, "This is going to spread like wildfire," adding that, without mediation, "you're going to have massive destruction and death in central Sudan, and no one seems able to do anything about it." "No one seems able to do anything about it"? Able? … or willing?
To be sure, the emphasis by the Obama administration has been on its "inability"; and in any event, a negotiated solution is certainly the only long-term answer to the present crisis and the viability of Nuba life. News from Addis Ababa today (June 28) indicates a “framework agreement” will be signed, preparing the way for negotiations between Khartoum and Juba on the future of South Kordofan and southern Blue Nile. But there is good reason to believe that this decision by Khartoum is just for diplomatic appearances, and will change nothing on the ground. Thabo Mbeki, who announced the "agreement," has a well-deserved reputation for overselling his diplomatic achievements.
And if the agreement fails---as all the regime's agreements with Sudanese parties in the past have failed (think Abyei, for example)---does anyone really doubt that there is a good deal more economic leverage to be wielded in compelling Khartoum to halt its military actions and obstruction of humanitarian relief, especially if the Obama administration convinces our European allies join the effort? The Northern economy is in desperate shape, and the NIF/NCP regime extremely vulnerable in what will be a very difficult economic future.
There is also military leverage.
A No Fly Zone has been called for by many, including many Nuba, as Khartoum's military aircraft continue to pound away at civilian and humanitarian targets. The Enough Project has called for deployment to South Sudan of an unspecified "medium-range surface-to-air missile system." But as I have argued previously, a NFZ is completely impracticable without the devotion of inordinate resources. A missile battery in South Sudan might eventually be of use, but not for the Nuba Mountains now. The third generation of Patriot Missile, for example, is an amazing military engineering achievement; but its range is only about ten miles, and its radar extends only about 60 miles. These distances are completely inadequate for coverage of South Kordofan from South Sudan.
But with real political will, the Obama administration could threaten to destroy on the ground those military aircraft implicated in attacks on civilians or humanitarians (a dwindling population). This would minimize the chances for casualties and collateral damage. But the administration could not merely threaten: it must be prepared to follow up, starting with the destruction of the most expensive and terrifying weapon in Khartoum’s air force, its MiG-29s (there are about 20, each costing roughly $30 million for complete outfitting and maintenance). Such destruction would create a de facto NFZ. As it is, these supersonic aircraft are continually upon the people of the Nuba before they can be heard, dropping their ordnance and screaming away with a sound that is utterly terrifying. The demands that should be made of Khartoum are clear: halt these aerial attacks on civilians, allow humanitarian access---or watch your air force be destroyed seriatim by cruise missiles or drone attack planes.
An overextended and war-weary America might persuade Obama that the politics of this military effort are too costly. This seems the overwhelmingly likely decision, given comments by Secretary of State Clinton and Obama's special envoy Lyman. If so, Obama needs to be prepared to live with voices such as that of Andudu Adam el Nail, the Episcopal bishop of Kadugli and the Nuba Mountains: "Once again we are facing the nightmare of genocide of our people in a final attempt to erase our culture and society from the face of the earth." Given the genocidal jihad of the 1990s, this nightmare seems all too real. A correspondent for Time reported last week an interview with a relief worker who had escaped to Juba, South Sudan: "You can see it in all their eyes. They are scared. They see this as a fight for survival." Is President Obama really prepared to see the Nuba people lose this fight?
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* This article first appeared on Sudan Reeves.
* Eric Reeves is professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachussetts, US. He has spent the past twelve years working full-time as a Sudan researcher and analyst, publishing extensively both in the US and internationally.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Understanding land investment deals in Africa
Nile Trading and Development, Inc. in South Sudan
The Oakland Institute
The largest land deal in South Sudan to date was negotiated between a Dallas, Texas-based firm, Nile Trading and Development Inc. (NTD) and Mukaya Payam Cooperative in March 2008. The 49-year land lease of 600,000 hectares
(with a possibility of 400,000 additional hectares) for 75,000 Sudanese Pounds (equivalent to approximately USD 25,000), allows NTD full rights to exploit all natural resources in the leased land. These include:
- Right to develop, produce and exploit timber/forestry resources on the leased land, including, without limitation, the harvesting of current tree growth, the planting and harvesting of hardwood trees, and the development of wood-based industries;
- Right to trade and profit from any resulting carbon credits from timber on the leased land;
- Right to engage in agricultural activities, including the cultivation of biofuel crops (jatropha plant and palm oil trees);
- Right to explore, develop, mine, produce and/or exploit petroleum, natural gas, and other hydrocarbon resources for both local and export markets, as well as other minerals, and may also engage in power generation activities on the leased land;
- Right to sublease any portion or all of the leased land or to sublicense any right to undertake activities on the leased land to third parties. In addition, the Cooperative agrees to not oppose the undertaking of any such activities by NTD on the leased land and to cooperate with the company in any efforts to obtain more concessions from the government of South Sudan.
INVOLVEMENT OF MULTIPLE FIRMS, INDIVIDUALS AND A TEXAS CONNECTION
While the lease is signed between NTD and Mukaya Payam Cooperative, several Texas-based interests are associated with this deal.
For instance, NTD is an affiliate of Kinyeti Development, LLC, an Austin, Texas-based “global business development partnership and holding company with decades of experience in international business, finance, and diplomacy.” Kinyeti’s managing director, Howard Eugene Douglas, was the United States Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs (1981-1985) during the Administration of President Ronald Reagan. Christopher Weikert Douglas, who in 2008 worked at the United States Consulate in Dusseldorf, Germany, serves as Secretary of the company. The two are also directors of the Texas incorporated company, Orbis Associates LLC, and the Singapore registered firm, Orbis Orient Ltd. They also own a share in the equity of Kinyeti Forestis, in partnership with another Texan, James R. Franklin. This team is linked to the American Exotic Timber Group, another company based in Texas, working precious wood, such as teak and rosewood in South Sudan. Co-founder of Kinyeti Development, Leonard Henry Thatcher, a UK-national who worked for many years as an investment banker and securities broker associated with the London Stock Exchange, played a major role in facilitating the deal. According to the Kinyeti website: ‘Mr. Thatcher was principally responsible for negotiating the major land lease contract in Southern Sudan that forms the basis of several
Kinyeti projects, conducted in conjunction with its strategic partner, Nile Trading & Development, Inc.” Leonard Thatcher is the signatory on the NTD lease, listed as the “Chairman of the Board” of Nile Trading and Development.
DEVELOPMENT PLANS EXTENSIVE, BUT NOT YET OPERATIONAL
The lease allows for NTD to engage in virtually any economic activity and explicitly states, “The Cooperative acknowledges and agrees that the Company may undertake any other activity permitted by the laws of Southern Sudan on the Leased Land.” However, NTD’s exact development plans and timeline remain uncertain.
A May 2008 letter from NTD president David Neimann to General Wani Konga, the governor of the Central Equatoria State, seems to suggest that development plans are focused on the agrofuel sector but are without limitation of expansion into other sectors:
Pursuant to the Lease, the Cooperative leased to the Company 600,000 hectares (with the possibility of additional hectarage in the future) in order to (A) develop, produce and exploit timber/forestry resources on the leased land, including, without limitation, the harvesting of current tree growth, the planting and harvesting of megafolia-paulownia, palm oil trees and other hardwood trees and the development of wood-based industries; and (B) engage in agricultural activities, including, without limitation, the cultivation of palm oil trees and biodiesel plants such as jatropha. We also intend to trade any carbon credits that result from the timber on the leased land and our activities on the leased land – so that we may reinvest a significant portion of the resulting profits in the Cooperative, Central Equatoria State and elsewhere in Southern Sudan and thereby help enhance the quality of life of its people.
Indeed, Mr. Neimann entered into a “contractual alliance” with Tony Paris of Paris Broadcasting Cable 7 (PBC7) in June 2008 for algal agrofuel production in South Sudan. Additionally, the Kinyeti Development and American Exotic Timber Group project to harvest precious woods in South Sudan has been underway since late 2009, and this wood is for sale on various internet sites.
QUESTIONABLE PUBLIC DISCLOSURE
The most mysterious element to the NTD land deal is the identity of the “lessor,” the Mukaya Payam Cooperative. The lease is signed by a Mukaya Paramount Chief on behalf of the Cooperative, and witnessed by two others – a judge and lawyer. According to Sudan’s Agency for Independent Media (AIM), the Mukaya Payam Cooperative is a “fictitious cooperative” comprised of “a group of influential natives from Mukaya Payam and the neighboring payams (districts)...The influential natives leased out the land behind the backs of the entire community...” The AIM report alleges that “the communities are largely ignorant of this cooperative and do not even understand it. In reality, the cooperative does not exist on the ground.” The report continues, “Individuals behind the Cooperative have sought to divide the community in sections. Some communities are in favor of the lease, while others are opposed to it. What is common among all of them, however, is that they are not all well informed about the advantages and disadvantages of the deal.”
The process for land rents distribution among communities is also uncertain. The lease explicitly states that “any profits generated by NTD in respect of [sic] the leased land shall initially, and through 2012, be divided 60 percent to ‘the Company’ and 40 percent to Mukaya Payam Cooperative, ‘the Cooperative’”... with increasingly equitable distributions until 2033 when the profits generated by the Company shall be distributed 50 percent to the Company and 50 percent to the Cooperative. The lease agreement was only signed by a Paramount Chief at the payam level, without the involvement of leaders from any of the other four payams in the county. Thus, how or whether the Cooperative will distribute the rents among the payams and community members is unknown.
It is not known when the matter will be resolved. A baseline report on land deals in South Sudan, published by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) in March 2011, found that nine percent of the country has been sought or acquired by private interests. The report suggests that the government consider a temporary ban on large-scale land acquisition projects until institutions are better established. In response to the report, Robert Ladu Loki, head of the South Sudan Land Commission, said the investors’ contracts will be investigated. Regardless of the kind of development that occurs, there is no doubt that the effects on local communities will be considerable, and that US investors are intimately involved. As the NPA report points out, NTD’s lease of an area three times the size of Lainya County (whose population is 89,315) suggests that speculation is involved; and even if the company were to invest in a manner that does not require resettlement of local communities, such extensive development would still significantly affect patterns of land access and use for tens, or even hundreds of thousands of people.
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* Download this article in PDF format from the Oakland Institute.
* The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Mukaya Payam, located in Lainya County, in the Central Equatoria State (CES) of South Sudan, is 63 miles from Juba and 37 miles to Yei River County.
 Lease Agreement. Red: MPI/DLAc&PP/CES/38.A. Directorate of Lands Administration and Physical Planning, Ministry of Physical Infrastructure, Central Equatoria State, The Government of Southern Sudan. 9, March 9 2008.
 Lease Agreement, The Government of Southern Sudan, 9 March 2008.
 Lease Agreement, The Government of Southern Sudan, 9 March 2008.
 Kinyeti Development website, “About Kinyeti,” http://bit.ly/pWPK7C (accessed 25 April 2011).
 The Indian Ocean Newsletter, “Texans eyeing Central Equatoria,” No. 1306. Africa Intelligence, 2 April 2011.
 Kinyeti Development website, “About Management,” http://bit.ly/pLzWau, (accessed 25 April 2011).
 David Deng, “The New Frontier: A baseline survey of large-scale land-based investment in Southern Sudan,” Norwegian People’s Aid, March 2011, p 46.
 Communication from David P. Neimann, President, Nile Trading & Development to Major General Clement Wani Kongo, Governor, Central Equatoria State, 2 May 2008.
 Paris Broadcasting Cable 7 is a broadcasting studio based in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and was founded by CEO/Executive Producer Tony Paris, a native of Dallas, Texas. Paris is also co-owner of Paris Hairston and Associates, also based in Pine Bluff, AK, a company engaged in algal oil research and production.
 Paris Broadcasting Cable 7, “Algae Project,” 15 June 2008, http://bit.ly/ntGN7M (accessed 25 April 2011).
 See “African Log Timber available from S. Sudan,” http://bit.ly/n5RP0t (accessed 3 May 2011). The posting states, “We are focused on providing our customers in United States, China, Mid Eastern Region and around the world the best timber available from Northeastern African Tropic Jungle. The area is rich in old-growth timber that never been commercially harvested.... Whether you are looking for high quality deciduous trees or tropical hardwood timber, in semi-processed or finished form, we are your first choice to access the best that the Africa can offer. Email us for more details.” Also see their listing for selling African teak from Sudan on http://bit.ly/npHeqy (accessed 3 May 2011). The individuals involved in the above, James R. Franklin and Ms. Nellie Franklin are also listed as contacts for the Balkan Timber Group, see: http://bit.ly/qTF2m5 (accessed 3 May 2011).
 One of the witnesses is Lawrence Korbandy, SPLM’s legal expert and Chairperson of Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission.
 Agency for Independent Media (AIM) is a media and human rights networking agency operating in South Sudan. AIM’s mandate is anchored on the importance of professional facilitation of information gathering and dissemination within and outside South Sudan.
 James Okanya Lomerry, and Lonya Bany Banak, “Southern Sudan Land Grabs: A Case on Mukaya Payam Land Issue,” unpublished work for Agency for Independent Media, commissioned by Oxfam International, Juba: October 2010.
 Ibid. p 24.
 Ibid. p 27.
 Lease Agreement, The Government of Southern Sudan, 9 March 2008.
 Sudan Catholic Radio Network, “Land Commission to Investigate Reported Foreign Deals,” 28 March 2011, http://bit.ly/oZ6erc (accessed 25 April 2011).
 David Deng, “The New Frontier: A baseline survey of large-scale land-based investment in Southern Sudan,” Norwegian People’s Aid, March 2011, p 46. The views and conclusions expressed in this publication are opinions of the Oakland Institute alone.
Monsanto in Haiti
Last week, thousands of farmers and supporters of Haitian peasant agriculture marched for hours under the hot Caribbean sun to call for more government support for locally grown seeds and agriculture.
The demonstration was organized by the Peasant Movement of Papay and other farmer associations, human rights and women’s groups, and the Haitian Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA), the Haitian online agency AlterPresse reported from the march. The official theme of the peaceful demonstration was “Land Grabbing is Endangering Agricultural Sovereignty.”
Singing slogans like “Long Live Haitian Agriculture!” and “Long live local seeds!” the crowd – wearing straw hats and red T-shirts – wound its way on foot, donkeys, and bikes through this dusty provincial capital. The demonstration ended at a square named for farmer Charlemagne Péralte, who lead the “Caco” peasant revolt against the U.S. army occupation from 1916 until 1919, when U.S. Marines assassinated him.
One year ago, thousands of farmers covered the same march route to protest the import of a “gift” of seeds from Monsanto. The farmers burned some of the seeds, calling them a “death plan” for peasant agriculture.
Last spring, in violation of Haitian law, the Minister of Agriculture gave the agribusiness giant Monsanto permission to “donate” 505 tons of seeds to Haiti. The first shipment of 60 tons, reportedly of maize and vegetable seeds, arrived in May 2010. Some of the seeds were coated with a chemical (Thiram) so toxic that the EPA forbids its sale to home gardeners in the U.S.. Monsanto announced its $4 million gift was “to support the reconstruction effort” in Haiti.
What has become of the seeds that Monsanto gave? And how real was the fear of Haitian farmer organizations that the donation was a Trojan horse?
Haiti Grassroots Watch explored the impacts in a three-month investigation, “Seeding Reconstruction or Destruction?” and “Monsanto in Haiti.” Excerpts from the report follow.
In Haiti, a US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded agricultural project accepted the Monsanto “gift.” USAID/WINNER (Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources) is a five-year, $126 million US taxpayer-funded agriculture and environment program. WINNER is run by giant beltway contractor Chemonics International, which in 2010 ranked #51 on the list of top 100 US government contractors in the world, earning over $476 million in contacts that year.
USAID/WINNER’s Chief of Party is Jean Robert Estimé, minister of Foreign Affairs under dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.
In its post-earthquake strategy document, the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture called for massive seed distribution – covering 30 percent of farmers’ needs – for three seasons post-earthquake, and gave its warm approval of the Monsanto “gift.” This is even though allowing new varieties (the maize and most of the vegetable varieties) onto Haitian soil directly contravenes Haitian law and international conventions… which aim to protect the gene pool and the ecosystem in general.
The Ministry of Agriculture issued a list of “approved” seed varieties in March. None of the maize varieties on the list are hybrids.
Asked by Haiti Grassroots Watch about the fact that new varieties posed a threat to Haitian biodiversity, and that seeds and other plants and animals are being imported into Haiti without control, Ministry of Agriculture Director of National Seed Services Emmanuel Prophete admitted that the Ministry does not have the power to control the borders.
“We are supposed to have a quarantine system, and all seeds should be tested for germination and adaptation before they are distributed,” Prophete conceded in an interview earlier this year. “We don’t have the power to do that at this time.”
Asked about the introduction of the Monsanto hybrid seeds onto Haitian soil, Francesco Del Re of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) would not directly condemn the “gift” seeds. But, he noted, for its emergency seed distributions, the FAO-led “Agriculture Cluster” imported only the seeds on [the government approval] list, “for a very precise reasons, because the hybrids need to be renewed every year and do have to be bought by peasants every year.”
Asked if the FAO attempted to block the Ministry or the USAID/WINNER program from importing and distributed seeds, Del Re said: “We gave advice. That is what we did. Afterwards, naturally, we are not the national police, so we can’t verify everything, everywhere, but we did all we could do… I agree with the philosophy that we discussed with the Ministry and that we put into place with them. Afterwards, if other partners make other choices, that is their responsibility.”
DANGERS OF INTRODUCING UNTESTED SEEDS IN EMERGENCY CONTEXT:
In a May 13 news release, Monsanto announced: “Haitian farmers, who otherwise may not have had sufficient seeds to plant this season [Haiti Grassroots Watch emphasis] in their earthquake-ravaged country, are receiving help from a unique public and private partnership.”
Except… Haitian farmers did have enough seed to plant that season, according to several reports.
Monsanto’s “gift” announcement came a full two months after the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) – which has extensive experience in Haitian agriculture development work – released a “rapid seed assessment” report [PDF] for southern Haiti, one of the areas worst-hit by the earthquake. The assessment, circulated to humanitarian and development organizations working in Haiti, recommended against the importation and distribution of seeds. CRS wrote: “Direct seed distribution should not take place given that seed is available in the local market and farmers’ negative perceptions of external seed. This emergency is not the appropriate time to try to introduce improved varieties on anything more than a small scale for farmer evaluation. [our emphasis]”
A multi-agency seed security study shepherded by International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in the spring and summer of 2010 warned that “one should never introduce varieties in an emergency context which have not been tested in the given agro-ecological site and under farmers’ management conditions.”
Reached in January 2011, principal CIAT researcher Louise Sperling noted that most hybrids require extra water and better soils, and that most of Haiti was not appropriate for maize hybrids. While not opposed to the use of hybrids – when there is adequate training, irrigation, fertilizer, and when farmers can afford to replace them – she said she was concerned that “the hybrids being promoted have never been tested extensively on-farm” in Haiti.
And, she asked, “What if the technology fails? And, if [farmers] want to buy the seed again, where will it be available and at what price?”
At least some of the peasant farmer groups receiving Monsanto and other hybrid maize and other cereal seeds have little understanding of the implications of getting “hooked” on hybrid seeds. (Most Haitian farmers select seeds from their own harvests.) One of the USAID/WINNER trained extension agents told Haiti Grassroots Watch that in his region, farmers won’t need to save seeds anymore: “They don’t have to kill themselves like before. They can plant, harvest, sell or eat. They don’t have to save seeds anymore because they know they will get seeds from the [WINNER-subsidized] store.”
When it was pointed out that WINNER’s subsidies end when the project ends in four years, he had no logical response.
Director of National Seed Service Prophete told Haiti Grassroots Watch that when peasants get improved seed varieties, production rises, but “the system is based on a subsidy… You have to ask yourself about the sustainability because if the policy changes one day, where will peasants get seeds?... We’ll get to a point where, one day, we have a lot of seeds, and then suddenly, when all the NGOs are gone, we won’t have any.”
PROMOTING THE PRODUCT, REGARDLESS OF RISK:
According to its website, one of WINNER’s goals is to help famers “increase their productivity and to double their incomes in five years” through the use of better irrigation and techniques, and by using better seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs provided at only a tenth the of actual cost through “Farmer’s Stores” run by local farmers organizations.
One USAID/WINNER staffperson passed on an internal document to the journalists. “Preliminary Report on the seed donation of hybrid maize and vegetable seeds from MONSANTO” revealing USAID/WINNER’s intent. According to the document, “Despite a whole media campaign [by grassroots organizations and “political leaders”] against hybrids under the cover of GMO/Agent Orange/Round Up, the seeds were used almost everywhere, the true message got through, although not at the level hoped for [emphasis added].”
The report continues, “We are in the process of working as quickly as possible with farmers to increase as much as possible the use of hybrid seeds in the plain areas where it is possible to give them technical support.”
Even though most of the internally displaced people (66 percent) had returned to cities by mid-June, seed distributions continued throughout 2010 and into 2011. When CIAT researcher Sperling learned of this in March, 2011, she told Haiti Grassroots Watch, “Direct seed aid – when not needed, and given repetitively – does real harm. It undermines local systems, creates dependencies and stifles real commercial sector development.”
Sperling added that some humanitarian actors “seem to see delivering seed aid as easy and they welcome the overhead (money) – even if their actions may hurt poor farmers.”
DANGERS TO HUMANS AND THE ENVIRONMENT:
At least some of the farmer groups interviewed don’t appear to understand the health and environmental risks involved with the fungicide- and herbicide-coated hybrids. Until Haiti Grassroots Watch intervened, some farmers were planning to grind up the toxic seed to use as chicken feed.
In one of our sites of investigation, the Farmers’ Store is actually a room in a community building that was unlocked and unstaffed on at least one Haiti Grassroots Watch visit. The building is located in a neighborhood full of families with children.
Inside the room, sacks of sorghum and maize seeds, bags of fertilizer and boxes of seeds are all jumbled into a huge pile. Some of the sacks are labeled, others are not. Several open bags from Monsanto/DeKalb in Brazil spill bright pink, chemically coated maize seeds onto the floor. Other maize seeds are in unlabeled white sacks which are punctured with holes… made by rats? Children? The farmers? That seed is covered with a white powder.
A half-empty bag of Pioneer seeds, also presumably hybrid, and presumably treated with fungicide and herbicide, sits open. Sunlight streams in through two windows, meaning that airborne Maxim XL, which coats the Monsanto/DeKalb seeds, and other airborne fungicides, pesticides and fertilizers could just as easily stream out. And into the lungs of nearby schoolchildren.
Syngenta, maker of Maxim XL, warns that skin and eye contact, and inhalation, are dangerous. “DO NOT use treated seed for animal or human consumption... DO NOT allow treated seed to contaminate grain or other seed intended for animal or human consumption. DO NOT feed treated seed, or otherwise expose, to wild or domestic birds,” one warning label reads.
Boxes of vegetable seed – presumably from Monsanto but not labeled as such – are jumbled about. Many of the seeds are treated with Thiram. In 2004, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that Thiram cannot be used in home gardens, on apples, or on playing fields. The 260-page report also detailed adverse health effects on humans, noting details like “the chronic toxicity profile for Thiram indicates that the liver, blood and urinary system are the target organs.” Thiram also has “effects” on foraging birds’ reproduction, and thus Thiram-coated seed should not be broadcast on the soil.
There are also bags of Mancozeb. The EPA also looked at Mancozeb recently (2005), saying the fungicide “poses some acute and chronic risks to birds and mammals” and that handlers need to wear full protective clothing, gloves and a “PF 5” respirator.
“Yes, all of this is dangerous. When you use Mancozeb, the farmer needs to wear a face mask, glasses and gloves,” the farmer agreed. “USAID doesn’t give them to us, but we buy them so they are available to the farmers.”
When Haiti Grassroots Watch asked the farmer where the gloves and masks were stored, he looked around under some of the seed sacks. “Well, maybe they ran out but we always buy them and have them here,” he said, hesitantly. “I don’t know exactly where they are.”
The farmer and the journalists thoroughly searched the room. There was no protective gear.
USAID/WINNER keeps a lid on its activities and tightly controls access to its work. Several WINNER employees told Haiti Grassroots Watch that before starting contracts, all staff had an agreement with Chemonics which prohibits their speaking with the media.
Haiti Grassroots Watch repeatedly requested an interview with USAID/WINNER agronomists and officials to follow up on the seed “gift.” Requests were repeatedly denied. In addition, Communications Director Maxwell Marcelin broadcast an email – obtained by Haiti Grassroots Watch – warning: “… a journalist is trying to do a report, including the project USAID/WINNER… I ask you to be very vigilant and, if the case presents itself, do not respond to any question, no matter how simple it seems… It is important to advise us immediately of all incidents, or requests, in order to help us better respond.”
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* This article first appeared in Toward Freedom.
* Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years. She is also author of the bookWalking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds, which promotes social and economic alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Email from Elizabeth Vancil to Emmanuel Prophete, Director of Seeds at the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, and others; released by the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, date unavailable.
NATO is an outlaw, the ICC is its accomplice
The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague is a pariah in the world of justice and international law; those who work for it are traitors to their cause, while the institution itself is an insult to every fibre of civilisation and a knife in the back of the notion that the law prevails and is applied without bias.
It is patently clear nowadays that the ICC is a tool in the hands of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), a cynical tool which bases itself on the pseudo-precept that it follows the law and a manipulative organism which twists legal principles and applies them with two weights and measures. What is amazing is that those behind the ICC and NATO think that the public will believe them.
NATO has committed war crimes in Kosovo, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. NATO has committed terrorist attacks, occasioning murder in all three theatres of war. Nothing happened; the ICC remained silent. Arrest warrants have been served for David Cameron and Barack Obama in police stations near their places of work and residence for the murder of Colonel Gaddafi's three grandchildren and other civilians in Libya. Monitoring the situation, we see that nothing has yet happened.
NATO'S VIOLATION OF THE LAW
NATO's remit in Libya were UNSC (United Nations Security Council) Resolutions 1970 and 1973 (2011) which, summarised, concentrated on no boots on the ground in Libya among NATO forces, yet this is not the case (violation 1); the enforcement of a no-fly zone, which does not include strafing civilian structures (violation 2); and measures to protect civilians from being attacked does not mean attacking government forces fighting hundreds of heavily armed terrorists (violation 3).
Under the UN Charter it is illegal to take sides in an internal conflict (violation 4); it is illegal to murder or attempt to murder government officials (violation 5); with no formal declaration of war, with no remit from the military committee of the UNSC, any action occasioning murder is illegal (violation 6); ditto attempted murder (violation 7); ditto actions occasioning grievous bodily hard (violation 8); ditto actual bodily harm (violation 9); and ditto criminal damage (violation 10).
Under the Geneva Convention it is illegal to attack civilian structures with military hardware (violation 11); it is also illegal to deploy in theatres of conflict munitions and weaponry which will have an effect after such conflict. The alleged use of cluster bombs by NATO and of depleted uranium (there are several precedents) could provide violation 12.
Here are at least 11, possibly 12, violations of international law in Libya, countless others in other operations, and the ICC says nothing. The judges of the ICC receive their instructions and insult their academic area, the fundamental principles of law and their professional class with barefaced arrogance. I challenge Mr Luis Moreno Ocampo to investigate the above charges and to pronounce himself.
THE JOKE WHICH IS THE ICC
Two international lawyers have exposed the joke which the ICC is. Within just a few hours, lawyers Themba Langa (South Africa – counsel to Muammar al-Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi) and Fabio Maria Galiani (Italy – legal advisor and member of the defence team) uncovered no less than eight points of law proving that the ICC is a kangaroo court without one iota of legal validity, yet again proved in this case. Their points are summarised as follows, with my observations in brackets.
They point out that for a start the court has no jurisdiction in Libya because it was never ratified there, and that anyway, notwithstanding this, under international customary law a head of state has immunity (did they take Saddam Hussein to The Hague? Indeed, the ICC has no jurisdiction in the USA, so why should it have any in Libya?).
Second, they point out that the referral to the ICC by the UN Security Council is a violation of jurisdiction, independence and impartiality because it instructs the court to exclude prosecution for certain persons, and in following this directive the ICC itself is in violation of its own constituent statutes. Third, the UNSC does not have the power to dictate terms over Libya to the ICC, and anyway, under international customary law the ruling yesterday by the ICC is invalid in countries which are not signatories to the Rome Treaty which set up the court.
Fourth, if in the following instances the prosecutor has still not decided whether to open a case on Georgia (because the evidence is being considered) since 2008 (three years), on Guinea since 2009 (two years), on Colombia since 2006 (five years), why then was all the evidence on Libya read, digested and treated legally within just three days when the investigation was opened? (Where is the case against Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi? Where are the cases against the Islamist terrorists who massacred black Libyans and children? Where is the case against NATO, against Obama, against Cameron, against Sarkozy and against Berlusconi?)
Fifth, the ICC did not even notice that the referral by the UNSC violated the court's statute. Sixth, if NATO respects the court and its deliberation (why is it continuing to perpetrate 100 terrorist attacks a day protecting terrorists?), then the defendants should have the right to defence themselves.
Seventh, NATO is accountable for murder, destruction of property and injury to civilians (acts of terrorism) and eighth, the entire campaign has been based on manipulation through the media (rendering the legal tenets void under any normal court of law. But then again, the ICC is no court of law, is it?)
Next, on the impartiality of this ‘court’, the lawyers mentioned above claim in their statement:
‘One of the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber I, Mr. Cuno Tarfusser, recently made statements to the Italian media on the situation in Libya which indicated that the ICC is not impartial.’
One last question, why do the USA, the UK and France prohibit the delivery of baby food to Libyan children? Isn't it enough for Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy to murder them by bombing? If they enjoy murdering children, why don't they start at home? When they look at their children, do they hear the screams of Colonel Gaddafi's grandchildren as they fried in their own blood?
So, Mr Luis Moreno Ocampo, what, as a judge and a lawyer, do you have to say to that? Nothing, of course, because we know who and what you are.
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* This article was first published on Pravda.ru.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The peace and justice movement and the NATO bombing of Libya
The need for clarity on the AU roadmap for peace
On 26 June 2011 there was a community meeting in our home town of Syracuse to oppose the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) bombing of Libya. This meeting was the last stop of the Eyewitness Libya tour featuring Cynthia McKinney. McKinney, (former US congresswoman from Georgia and presidential candidate for the Green Party) was on a tour of the United States to draw attention to the illegal bombing of NATO in Libya and the terror being unleashed against innocent people in the name of protecting civilians. The other speakers at this community event were Akbar Mohammed of the Nation of Islam and Derek Ford, a local organiser for Answer. Answer is one faction of the US peace and justice movement that has been opposed to US militarism, organising under the banner of ‘Act now to end war and oppose racism’. The event to oppose the NATO bombing was held at the Alibrandi Center of Syracuse University and co-sponsored by the Pan African Community of Central New York (PACCNY).
The meeting represented a missed opportunity. While the platform opposed the NATO bombing in Libya, there was a lack of clarity on what the meeting stood for, especially in relation to the equivocation of Cynthia McKinney over the character of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. In the face of the reality where there is no moral or political support in the world for the present NATO bombing, the peace and justice movement must be clear about not only what they are against, but what they are for. It is up to the peace movement to clarify the paths to peace and to push for an end to the military campaign of the West. The West has lost credibility with the stalemate after more than 100 days of bombing. It is now clear that there is no military solution and only the African Union roadmap for a ceasefire provides a framework for an end to the illegal bombing.
It is important here to restate the principal components of the roadmap of the African Union.
The roadmap was a five-point plan, demanding the following:
- a ceasefire
- the protection of civilians
- the provision of humanitarian aid for Libyans and foreign workers in the country
- dialogue between the two sides, vis-à-vis the Gaddafi regime and the Transitional National Council, leading to an ‘inclusive transitional period’
- political reforms which ‘meet the aspirations of the Libyan people’.
Currently, Russia, China, Turkey, India, the Caribbean community (CARICOM) and even members of NATO are supporting the African Union plan for a ceasefire, and after the meeting of the African Union last week, sections of the National Transitional Council tepidly accepted the mediation of the AU with South Africa, Congo, Mali, Uganda and Mauritania as representatives of the African Union.
THE PEACE MOVEMENT MUST BE INFORMED ON AFRICA
A clear position on the need to oppose the NATO bombing and to oppose the Gaddafi regime came from the Pan African Community of Central New York (PACCNY) president Hdayatu Salawu. Dr Salawu succinctly stated her position on behalf of PACCNY, and was consistent with the overarching position of the organisation in opposing imperialism and opposing African dictators.
The next speaker, Akbar Mohammed, spoke at length defending past dictators such as Idi Amin Dada of Uganda. In an attempt to point out how the popular opinion on political leaders and events is shaped by the corporate media in the West, Akbar Mohammed used the vilification of Idi Amin Dada as an example of how the West shaped popular opinion on African leaders.
This was a very bad example indeed; one did not need the West to shape popular opinion on Idi Amin. After eight years in power (1971–79), Idi Amin had massacred over 300,000 Ugandans. Akbar Mohammed went further to exaggerate the support of Idi Amin in Uganda by saying to the audience that over a million persons turned out in Uganda for his funeral after he passed away in Saudi Arabia. The amount of detail on Uganda and Idi Amin made in the presentation by Akbar would have led anyone listening to think that this was an event about the rehabilitation of Idi Amin and not about the illegal bombing of Libya by NATO.
Akbar as a national leader of the Nation of Islam did not have his information correct because Idi Amin passed away and his body was not returned to Uganda. Hence, even the small points that Akbar Mohammed wanted to make about the resources of Libya – water and oil – were lost by his uncritical support for leaders such as Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Laurent Gbagbo and Muammar Gaddafi. These leaders can be called anti-imperialist but peace and justice forces must be nuanced enough to be anti-imperialist and oppose dictators at the same time. Anti-imperialism and opposition to anti-imperial dictators, in support for the people’s aspirations, are not mutually exclusive.
Because of the length of the presentation by Akbar Mohammed, the time spent by Cynthia McKinney to present her Eyewitness report to the bombing was limited and taken up by video clips of the impact of the bombing. While telling the truth about the devastation of the bombing, Cynthia McKinney missed an opportunity to educate the audience on the contradictions in Libyan society.
SPEAKING OUT CLEARLY AGAINST AFRICAN DICTATORS
It devolved to a long-time revolutionary from Kenya in the audience, Dr Micere Githae Mugo, to clarify to Cynthia McKinney and Akbar Mohammed that those who were mobilising against imperial interventions had to be courageous and speak out against African dictators at the same time. Drawing from her own experiences as a freedom fighter in Kenya against the Moi dictatorship, Dr Mugo pointed to the fact that one must also recognise the democratic struggles against dictators in Africa. She wanted Cynthia McKinney to explain how a leader could justify being in power for 42 years. Her clarity pointed to the reality that while progressives cannot oppose Mugabe and Gaddafi from the same platform as those of settlers and imperialists, they must nonetheless be opposing dictatorship because they have turned the principles of freedom and liberation against the people. She pointed to the fact that while Mugabe and the ZANU-PF leadership started out as freedom fighters, their present level of accumulation and disregard for the people have removed them from the ranks of progressives. Howie Hawkins, the local activist from the Green Party, queried why Cynthia McKinney did not support the roadmap of the African Union.
The political changes in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired the peoples of Africa and the Middle East to rise up against dictatorships. These uprisings threaten the future of Western imperialism, especially in areas where there are fossil fuel deposits such as Libya. The efforts to manipulate international instruments such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to serve the interests of Western oil companies cannot halt the present drive for social justice. The arrest warrant of the International Criminal Court for Gaddafi and his sons carries no influence as long as the West continues to be partial in deciding who are war criminals.
The capitalist depression and the increased exploitation of working peoples in Europe and North America ensure that the masses of the people cannot be persuaded easily to support military adventures while there are millions out of work and the people are being called on to make sacrifices.
THE CREDIBILITY OF NATO AND THE US AFRICA COMMAND
When the British, French and US pushed through Resolution 1973 through the Security Council of the UN with the mandate to protect civilians, the Western leaders had promised their populations that within days, the political map of Libya would change. The very same forces that had been supported by the billions of dollars from Libya now turned against Muammar Gaddafi. Now, in the face of the resistance of the Libyan people, it is clearer that the bombing of Libya will not bring a quick military solution. If anything, the bombing has qualitatively changed the political calculus to unleash more sympathy for Gaddafi in the face of the indiscriminate NATO bombing.
The head of the Arab League has reversed its support for the NATO exercise and now the bombing is with moribund political, military or moral support. Even within the US military, it is now clearer that the prestige and influence of the US military is diminished with every day that the NATO bombing continues. What started out as a public relations exercise for the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) is turning into a propaganda nightmare as citizens do not want to be associated with the bombing and killing of innocent civilians in Tripoli. There is little support for the bombing in the Congress of the United States and the Obama administration presents contradictory reasons for its continued involvement in this illegal bombing. The debate over the War Powers Act has revealed a deeper problem for the military and financial establishment. This is the reality that the citizens will not continue to support expenditures on wars to support oil companies while there is economic austerity at home. Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic representative from Ohio in Congress, has been an outspoken opponent of the bombing, and has been explicit in calling on Congress to cut off funds for the Libyan operation. In one broadside he noted:
‘The US Congress must act to cut off funds for the war because there is no military solution in Libya. Serious negotiations for a political solution must begin to end the violence and create an environment for peace negotiations to fulfill the legitimate, democratic aspirations of the people. A political solution will become viable when the opposition understands that regime change is the privilege of the Libyan people, not of NATO.’
This clear position is only limited by the fact that Kucinich stopped short of supporting the African Union roadmap.
LESSONS FROM THE REMOVAL OF IDI AMIN
As the war continues, both NATO and sections of the financial–oil–military oligarchy become desperate and this desperation is now manifesting itself in the supply of weapons to the Transitional National Council by France. Jean Ping of the African Union correctly noted that France's decision to supply arms to the Libyan rebels was ‘dangerous and compromises the security of the whole region’. He called it the Somaliaisation of the region.
This observation is cogent in so far as the West continues to be shocked by the tenacity of the revolutionary forces in Egypt and so want to have a foothold next door in order to be ready to intervene against the consolidation of the transformations in Egypt and Tunisia. This fact along with the oil deposits in Libya will continue to prompt the oil companies to plan for a military presence in North Africa.
However, there is no military solution. A long-term political solution to the past undemocratic rule will not come overnight. Africa learnt this fact the hard way after the Tanzanian army intervened militarily to remove the Idi Amin regime in Uganda in 1979. After the removal of Idi Amin, the political immaturity of the Ugandan forces led to years of instability and war. Akbar Mohammed of the Nation of Islam did not realise that by using Idi Amin as his example of an anti-imperialist leader, he was reminding people that it was the same Gaddafi who sent troops and aircraft to support the murderous Idi Amin regime in Uganda.
The future of Libya as a peaceful country requires an end to the bombing and the end of the Gaddafi regime. The Libyan situation demands that the peace and justice movement be critical and nuanced enough to not only oppose all forms of imperialism in Africa but to also fight against the Africanisation of imperialism and oppression by African dictators. Leaders in societies such as Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon and Uganda – among others – are watching to see if brute force can stop the tide of change. The tide is irreversible and as the capitalist crisis deepens there will be more rebellions.
Now that Gaddafi himself has accepted the terms of the African Union roadmap, including the provision that he stand aside in order to bring about a ceasefire, the peace and justice movement in the US must support the African Union so that the United Nations will be pressured to end the mandate of NATO and end the illegal bombing of the people of Libya.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Horace Campbell is professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’. See www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Unpackaging the LGBTI communities
The so-called lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual (LGBTI) movement is fast becoming a frightening nightmare. There seems to be widespread human rights abuses that are being ignored; the violations committed by some homosexuals against transgender persons do not merit the interventions they deserve. It’s high time we stopped pussyfooting on this issue – time to call a spade a spade not a big spoon. We need to stop pampering some people with the common cliché of gays and lesbians are ignorant of trans issues and justifying human rights abuses orchestrated by some gays and lesbians.
In the month of February, a commentary was published named ‘LGBT: Transgender rights not simply gay rights’[i]. I authored that commentary and as expected I received a lot of criticism from a section of gays and lesbians. For some, I could sense palatable denial and the fear of being deserted by those they thought gave them the security of numbers. Additionally, there was this other section who came to learn of the mistakes they had been making in their LGBT organisations. It’s for the latter that I will delve into the topic of unpackaging the LGBT community.
I will start with my views on whether transgender persons should be lumped together with the LGB community. And my answer is a definite no. The issues concerning LGB people stem from sexual orientation, whereas those of transgender people stem from their gender. The issues of transgender persons are completely different from those of the LGB.
Much of the retort I get from some LGB individuals is that though the issues of transgender persons are different from those of LGB individuals, we face similar oppression. There is no iota of truth there. Just because at times people confuse transgender for homosexuals and abuse their rights due to that confusion doesn’t mean we face similar oppression. That’s oppression based on perceived sexual orientation but not real sexual orientation, and the best way to deal with it is to educate people that transgender persons are not homosexuals.
Transgender persons have to deal with issues of changes of names and sex markers on identification documents and academic certificates. How many homosexuals have to deal with that? Transgender persons need to access medical services such as hormone therapy, castration, mastectomy and oopherectomy. Are these issues of any relevance to homosexuals? No. Is discrimination in employment and access to public service the same for homosexuals as it is for transgender? Do gays have to fret when they have to get services at the bank like a transgender person? Transgender issues are completely different from those of gays.
At times you will get ridiculous arguments from LGB individuals, and at times certain ‘transgender’ persons, on why the T should be lumped into LGB.
‘[T]ransgender isn't a sexuality (then again, 'LGBT' is just a collective for people who don't think 'straight'). Sure, there's a great deal of intermingling between sexuality and gender, but they're unrelated. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure you can be both transgendered and not take on the heterosexual mentality of the gender you change into.’[ii]
‘I do feel that if the T was removed from the LGBT then it would just drop of in society. I think the reason they were probably lumped together in the first place is because it was the Gay community that brought Transgender people more out into the open back in the early days. Many Trans people also identify as bisexual or Gay. As a Gay male I have no problem with the T being lumped in with the LGB.’[iii]
The problem as far as this sentiment is concerned is that they are a weak and pathetic intellectual brew. What do these kind of people mean that transgender people don’t think straight? So transgender people think like what? Homosexuals? I don’t think so. I am not insinuating that homosexuals are bad but lets not gaynize transgender people for the sake of uniting the LGBT community. At times I get to hear some trans people saying there are trans persons who are gays, lesbians and bisexual. But I wonder why they don’t say some trans folks are mechanics and computer scientists and should be lumped together with mechanics and computer scientists. The thick line that separates transgender from the homosexual community is fast becoming blurred for purposes of courtesy. The mentality behind it is mostly, ‘lets sacrifice some transsexuals to LGB to appease them and make them think we are together and some of our kind are like them’. This wheeling and dealing is as dangerous as it is irresponsible.
Others will ask questions that call for a serious re-evaluation of whether most LGBs should even be allowed to work on transgender issues. Two have asked me how transgender is different from LGB: ‘Don’t transgender people have sex like homosexuals?’ My sympathies go to this section. I mean, how am I supposed to know how transgender persons have sex? Secondly, who gave these people the right to poke their noses into how every transgender person in the universe has sex? How are transgender persons supposed to work with such people? But then the fence-sitters will say give them a break, they are suffering from insatiable appetite for transgender education.
It’s a relief that there are homosexuals who support the idea that transgender persons should not be associated with gays and lesbians.[iv]
‘Well although Transsexuality is a choice......Perhaps they should belong in a seperate group...Although if I ever met one I wouldn't make fun, I would just mind my buisness maybe ask a question if I am curious (Like for starters thier sexualities. In TV shows when someone becomes a transexual they seem to like the opposite sex. But how does a girl who turned into a boy start liking girls even though they originally liked guys unless they gay or bisexual.’
‘I just think that associating transsexuals with gay/lesbian/bisexual is like bald being associated with blond, brunette, etc. I don't think it's a sexuality thing as much as a gender role thing, and YES, there's a difference.’
‘I don't dislike transsexuals. I have nothing against them. I just don't think they should be put in the same category as the gay/lesbian/bisexual community. Being transsexual doesn't affect which gender you're attracted to. I'm not saying they're bad, I'm just saying that it doesn't belong in the classification of sexuality.’
‘Transsexuals being associated with homosexuals makes homosexuals look bad.’
‘I am a gay guy and I don't know any transgendered or transexual people...and I have lots of gay friends who dont associate with trans people either...so why are lesbians/gays lumped together with trans?’[v]
‘I hate being put in the same boat as 'transgender'. Im gay, and im a man. I dont wear womens clothes, and i dont wanna have my balls cut off!!! I think its incredibly insulting to be grouped together with 'transgendered' people like this. People associate gay men, with wearing your mums dress, and its because we are all lumped together like this.’[vi]
The point to be lamented is not that some transgender persons don’t want to be associated with gays and lesbians, but that there are gays and lesbians that don’t want the lumping of transgender into the homosexual community and that we the lowly and pathetic transgender persons need to give gays and lesbians their space. As one transgender person said:
‘I am a Transsexual woman who neither seeks anything from, or gives anything to, the LGB community. As far as I'm concerned, if every LGB person vanished from the face of the earth tomorrow, it wouldn't affect my Transsexualism one iota… I have nothing against LGB people, but their condition has NOTHING to do with my condition.. Frankly, I don't care what any of these “communities” do. As far as I'm concerned, they'd be better off looking at my example for guidance and support, than I would be looking at theirs. How are communities full of people like this going to benefit me?’[vii]
What at times unnerves me is the ridiculous notion that transgender persons are pushing themselves to the homosexual crowd. It needs to be said transgender people are not to blame. It’s the way some gays (especially effeminate gays and butch lesbians) behave that created this problem to begin with, with effeminate gays cross-dressing in parties and prides and having boob jobs to get into the she-male porn industry – it was assumed that gay men want to be women and lesbians want to be men. You made transsexuals look like a big joke and as people who capriciously break gender norms for the sake of it. And thanks to the social justice system that listens to everyone except transsexuals, transsexuals ended up being lumped together with gays despite the knowledge that it would breed irreconcilable conflicts. We are not in the business of hijacking the gay rights movement – we don’t need to – and for those who think so can only tell them to take their crazy ideas where they came from. Do you think most transsexuals are happy when they see trans folk in gay prides? Being mocked by some dressed up gays and lesbians or being used as clowns in your prides?
This will be incomplete if I failed to mention the issue of suffering the stigma of others and affirming stereotypes about transsexuals. I hope I don’t make a slip of the tongue and if I do just know it wasn’t intentional. Some gays have expressed the sentiment that transsexuals make them look bad. Well, I don’t know how transsexuals look bad and how they victimise gays but if that’s the case it’s true that having these groups working together tends to make different groups suffer for the ‘sins’ of others.
I normally recite this mantra once in a while: I would rather have my rights violated because am a transsexual woman and not because people have confused me for a homosexual. I am willing to fight back and bear the pain for my ‘sins’. But I can’t bear the pain of suffering because of other people’s ‘sins’. Transsexuals should not be turned into human shields for some gays. We can work together the same way we can work with any community, but we cannot accept the unwritten rule that transsexuals must work with gays at all times. We have freedom of association.
The LGBT community affirms stereotypes about transgender people and that their gender issues have something to do with their sexual orientation, i.e., they change sex to sleep around with some people. You can even see this trend at the international human rights fora, e.g., the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity.[viii] Why is it that transgender issues have to be dragged alongside those of homosexuals? Does it mean that if gays didn’t exist then the issues of transgender person will not be worked on by the UN? This trend tells people that gender identity and sexual orientation are related and that transgender persons are partly (if not wholly) gays. This has to come to an end.
It’s bad that some transsexuals had to pass through the homosexual community. They didn’t choose it; they were forced by the societal norms that equate transsexualism with homosexuality. Coupled by a sad community who opened their arms widely for transsexuals to make the great gay ark their domicile, people who needed the security that comes with numbers and human shields. It’s regrettable that we had to pass through that but time was on our side. We came to know better.
But am I too optimistic when I say that? Recent activities in South Africa show I am chasing a mirage. It so happens that the South African trans community is upset that they were not included in this year’s gay pride theme, ‘Born This Gay’.[ix] The thing is they feel alienated by the gays because they never mentioned transgender in the theme. Have a look at this:
‘As a heterosexual transsexual person I would like this clarified and would like to know if our affiliation to the “LGBTI” Joburg Pride is an error on our part.’
Leigh Ann van der Merwe, a Trans woman in the Eastern Cape asked: ‘How can they advocate to being inclusive about LGBTI but do this?’
Robert Hamblin, advocacy manager and deputy director at Gender DynamiX, an organisation that works for the advancement of transgender and intersex people, said: ‘This theme is unacceptable. People believe that gay people know the latest trends, but they definitely got it wrong this time.’
In all fairness, I can only say that the complainants saw it coming. But you ignored the signs and wished you were in safe hands, yet in the back of your minds you knew you would be short changed. That was a gay pride, not transgender pride. If you get hurt when encroaching on other people’s territory then blame yourself; don’t blame gays and lesbians.
I have witnessed overzealous gays who think they have the right to be our voice. This unsolicited help ends up causing conflict that end up being blamed on transgender people. The depathologization campaign is one area that needs to be highlighted. Look at the following:
‘Being transgendered is not a mental illness. We are simply part of the diversity of humanity. Gender Identity Disorder is therefore not a valid diagnosis. Homosexuality we removed as a mental health diagnosis in 1987. For us to achieve true liberation and recognition we need to throw off this unjust stigma. We are not ill, just different.’[x]
You would think this is a transsexual person talking but it’s a homosexual. And look at his argument: homosexuality was expunged from the DSM so transsexualism should follow suit. Why do people like these view transsexualism and the issues of transsexuals from a homosexual lens? Who gave them the right to speak on our behalf? Transsexual people from London responded saying:
‘[W]e were worried that campaigning for the removal of Gender Identity Disorder as a medical diagnosis without proposing an alternative mechanism by which transsexual people would be able to access medical transition resources was premature and dangerous.. do not wish to support a movement(transgender) which may give the impression that we seek complete divorce from the medical community... We further call on Mr Hambridge, who is not trans himself, to stop claiming to speak on our behalf when he is ignoring our protestations and silencing our voices.’
I don’t know why some gays are good at helping people solve their problems but lousy in their work. Clean your houses before you go out there to clean others. I think there is something these people gain when they do that, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Ironically, the Global Forum on MSMs was there as sidekicks for gays (regarding the depathologisation of GID): ‘The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) recommends a rights-based and person-centered approach to developing guidelines that will help transgender persons receive non-discriminatory, non-judgmental and quality health care.’[xi] You would be shocked to know that this is the same organisation that for years tirelessly labelled transgender women ‘men who have sex with other men’. I wonder which is the greater of these two evils, i.e. putting transsexualism in psychiatry and labelling transgender women men ‘who have sex with men’? We don’t need disrespectful and arrogant people pretending to be our sidekicks. If you cannot shed your bigoted gender normative stereotypes then I suggest you leave lowly transsexuals alone with their problems.
I hope I have been adequately sensitive to all persons and I hope there will be a change in the way things get done. I am not on this earth to split or unite the LGBT community – I am a busy person. But the issues of transgender persons would not fall through the cracks if we didn’t have T lumped together with LGB.
We need to re-evaluate projects, organisations and donor funding and ensure equitability for all. We need to have a system whereby no one fears to criticise gays and lesbians because they fear being regarded as homophobic. Gays and lesbian do make mistakes, but rarely will you hear people correcting them. Is it that they have special rights or is it we became too open minded our brains fell out? It’s high time we realised that the LGBT model failed and transgender persons have to move on with their lives.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
[i] Audrey Mbugua 2011 LGBT: Transgender Rights Not Simply Gay Rights, http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/70777
[ii] Yahoo Answers: Why are Transsexuals Lumped Together with Gays in LGBT? What Do We Have in Common?, http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100412004213AA7JioU
[iii] QueerUk. The T in LGBT, http://forums.queeruk.net/threads/the-t-in-lgbt.967/
[iv] Serebii.net Forums. Do Transgender Really Belong in LGBT, http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=421250
[v] Yahoo Answers: Why are Transsexuals Lumped Together with Gays in LGBT? What Do We Have in Common?, http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100412004213AA7JioU
[vi] QueerUk. The T in LGBT, http://forums.queeruk.net/threads/the-t-in-lgbt.967/
[vii] Yahoo Answer LGB People, what are your views on transgender individuals?, http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101201123307AA2TITq
[viii] Hillary Rodham Clinton. 2011 United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/06/166383.htm
[ix] International Gay and Lesbian Association. South Africa : Trans community rejects ‘born this gay’ theme for Jo’Burg Pride, http://ilga.org/ilga/en/article/n37sQPK1sC
[x] Sarah Brown. 2009 Rogue Cis LGB Activist Fighting Against Trans People on Our Behalf, http://transgender.livejournal.com/2142354.html
[xi] International Lesbian and Gay Association. Global Forum on MSM & HIV Supports Worldwide Advocacy, Efforts to depathologize Transgender Identities, http://ilga.org/ilga/en/article/moljQIx12W
Uganda: Gay rights are human rights
It is the expectation in every culture that a guest shows appreciation for the hospitality given, and when presented with an opportunity returns the favour. Nobody expects a guest to abuse or misuse kindness, expect perhaps when that guest has long ears to the ground.
So, I am about to confront the hospitality extended to me by the Parliament Planning and Development Coordination Office to observe the induction seminar of Uganda’s ninth Parliament on 20-24 June 2011 at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala. No harm is intended on my part, as I seek to continue the debate on gay rights in Uganda by crusaders out to criminalise homosexuality, including members of parliament.
The case under debate herein is Uganda Parliament versus Sylvia Tamale. On Friday, 24 June, Dr. Sylvia Tamale, re-knowned feminist professor of law at Makerere University, was invited to be a discussant in debate on a paper by Dr. Specioza Wandera Kazibwe (former vice president and member of parliament in Uganda). The paper was on women’s participation in politics and was presented at the ninth parliament induction seminar.
Kazibwe’s presentation focused solely on the contribution of Ugandan women in public politics, with illustrations from her experience as a senior government official in both the executive and parliament. When Tamale took the stand to discuss Kazibwe’s presentation, she focused on the same subject, framed in what she referred to as the ‘ten public perceptions of women in parliament’. She explained that these perceptions derived from her keen following of public debates, reading newspaper articles and her groundbreaking book, ‘When Hens Begin to Crow’(1999).
Nowhere did Tamale discuss anything related to homosexuality or gay rights, a topic that belongs to her in the Ugandan public psych. Yet, as soon as the Q&A session opened, the subject of gay rights arose in what equated to condemning and mocking questions that were directed at Tamale.
The first question came from Major General Katumba Wamala (representative of the armed forces in parliament), who asked Tamale why ‘she encourages women to marry women and men to marry men’. I thought this was something Tamale could easily dismiss as outside the context of her discussion. However, the chair of the session, John Nasasira (the MP for Kazo County and the government chief whip) took the intrusion a little further by deciding that the plenary discussion should take Tamale to task for her advocacy in defence of gay rights. Instead of following the practice of picking MPs who had raised their hands, Nasasira called on David Bahati (head crusader of the anti-homosexuality lobby in parliament) to ask a question to Tamale: ‘Honourable Bahati, I will give you a chance to ask a question, and you know why.’
Was it necessary for Nasasira to call such a debate? Was he doing this in good faith or was he making fun of Tamale? That question became more complicated when, after Bahati said he would ask a different question not related to gay rights, Nasasira made a remark that during a women’s conference in Nairobi, a female speaker took to the floor and lashed out at men. One of the ministers he attended with commented, ‘I did not know women hated men like this!’ Apparently, another colleague responded, ‘Those are lesbians.’ This was meant to be a joke that turned out to be a tasteless remark.
Tamale finally took the floor to respond to all questions, including the one on gay rights. She reminded members of parliament that not long ago colonialists, slave traders, missionaries and others used their power, the bible and science to justify that we [Africans] were less human, less intelligent or less deserving. She implored MPs to reconsider their actions before seeking to criminalise the lives of fellow humans. However, once we were outside the conference room, it became clear that the battle raging inside the minds and ‘selective moral consciousness’ of MPs had not waned.
At lunch hour, an MP asked me, ‘Why would they invite such people, like Tamale?’ His colleague (another MP) responded, ‘People should know where human rights stop and on what continent!’ I asked her if in fact similar charges have not been levied at African women about where they belong and when they should talk in their struggle for recognition as humans. She did not respond to that.
Most arguments I have heard by the anti-homosexuality lobby are framed in the language of upholding societal values based on religion, African culture, western infiltration and being against sinful and abnormal behavior. However, the same people laying the charge that homosexuality has its roots in western culture are comfortable in their Swiss Rolex watches, German Mercedes cars, Finish Nokia phones and Gucci suits.
The tense and seemingly unwelcoming environment did not sway me from the opportunity to debate gay rights with MPs. I reminded those who erroneously accuse the United States of pushing its homosexual behavior onto Ugandans that, until 2003, when the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas struck down the remaining sodomy laws in 15 US states, same sex couples in the US were prosecutable for the crime of sodomy.
Secondly, what is African culture and what is African about homophobia? Cecilia Ogwal (MP for Dokolo) asked why those people (in the west) are against our African culture of marrying ten wives yet they want to force [our] men to marry fellow men? Then again, in the US state of Utah, and in Canada and Mexico a section of The Church of the Latter Day Saints (commonly referred to as Mormons) practice polygamy, which is conveniently referred to as ‘plural marriage’. Ironically, the same bible-wielding people in Uganda casting stones at homosexuals seem to have no problem engaging in other social ills including adultery, pedophilia, prostitution, pornography, economic exploitation and political exclusion.
I asked several MPs I spoke to: ‘What would you do if you found out that among the people you have legally criminalised and sentenced to death, as proposed by the Anti-Homosexual Bill, are your children, family or dear friends?’ Bahati told me that as someone committed to eradicating such evil behaviour from our society, he would hand over his child to the police for punishment.
Yet, how many of us think of our children as capable of committing ‘those vices’ we disavow? We tend to think that criminals are ‘those people, far away from our good-natured children and families’. We do not want to believe that our children might grow up to realise that their identities are not heterosexual.
A lawyer working with the Ugandan parliament told me she is going to teach her children the ‘right morals’. She, like several others I spoke to, does not believe that homosexuals are born and not made. From her experience in attending a single-sex boarding school in Uganda, ‘girls recruit others into homosexuality’.
On the percentage of MPs who would vote in favour of ‘The Bahati Bill’, my lawyer friend told me that it would pass with about 95 per cent support. I wondered who the other five per cent were. Could they be, as I have since learned from a gay rights scholar, those male MPs having sex with fellow men but not pronouncing themselves as gay?
Perhaps this speaks to the real problem afflicting the gay rights movement in Uganda; men who are having sex with men not because they are homosexuals but because, according to the gay rights scholar, they cannot get anal sex from their wives. Some are in fact buying this sex from men. I see them differently from men forced by societal and family expectations to marry women to cover up their gay identity; such are the men for whom I rally. Not the male prostitutes selling sex to men or men having the luxury of enjoying anal sex, while painting gay identity as a ‘choice of convenience’, and possibly condemning gays to extinction.
The problem with the anti-homosexuality crusade in Uganda is that it is too sexualized. Both the proposed Anti-Homosexual Bill and public perception tend to equate gays with the act of sexual intercourse. Yet, straight couples practice and enjoy anal sex. It would not be far-fetched that such people are against gay rights, when they too engage in what is arguably ‘abnormal sex’ relegated to gay behaviour.
We cannot blame gays for threatening ‘normal marriage’ when the heterosexual marriage is a daily threat to itself with cases of divorce, sex outside marriage, sex with prostitutes and with all sorts of objects. Thus, we cannot universalise what is culture in a society where many people are suppressed, and continue to fight for space because of their gender, sexual orientation, economic status, physical appearance, race, religion, nation group or age. I believe each one of us can find ourselves somewhere in any one of these categories. None of us has a monopoly on African culture nor are we bestowed with the authority to safeguard what is African culture.
As a black person, traditionalist, pro-polygamist and libertarian, I have always refused to be defined within the confines of ‘society’ and thus cannot afford the same luxury against any other person because of my misguided notions of ‘what is acceptable behavior’ or normal identity. Gays are humans and as such, deserving of humane recognition and respect.
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* Doreen Lwanga a human rights activist.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Cry woman cry, cry beloved Zimbabwe!
‘Another weekend in for my child, is that it??? Cynthia was picked up from her town residence, not in Glen View, and she was never in Glen View, why, why is this happening to my child and why to her little boy?? How do I tell a little boy that he can't see his mother because she was arrested for no crime at all??’ – Anna Manjoro.
The above are the cries posted on the social networking site, Facebook, by Mrs Anna Manjoro, Cynthia Manjoro’s mother. Cynthia is one of 24 Glenview residents accused of killing a police officer, Petros Mutedza. Above is the shrill cry of anguish coming from a mother and grandmother for her daughter, Cynthia, who has left behind a son to whom she has to explain the ‘criminal’ enormity of his mother’s arrest.
Problem is there is no criminal enormity here! Only, perhaps, a coldly calculated ‘political enormity’. An eerie cloud of premeditated spitefulness that hovers ominously over Cynthia and three other women who have been transferred from the female to the male section at Chikurubi Maximum Security prison – a holding centre for the most vile and dangerous criminals.
The psychological impact is unimaginable!
Just to prove where the real deception behind the arrests of the 24 lies is the fact that Cynthia herself, even the police admit, has not committed any offence, but her arrest is meant to ‘lure’ her boyfriend who, as they allege, is also behind the killing of the police officer in Glenview.
Anna’s cries are deep from Zimbabwe’s own belly, mourning for her beloved children.
Arbitrary arrests, torture, hate speech – you name it – characterise a relentless campaign by President Robert Mugabe’s acolytes in the top echelons of the army, police and intelligence to intimidate and instil fear in an otherwise restive population. This unfortunate group, it should be noted, is not the first since Zimbabwe’s independence to endure the brutality of similarly seeming mindless incarceration as a result of trumped up charges.
When political temperatures rise, women and children are the most vulnerable. But who cares?
Scars are still fresh from the violence of the 2008 Presidential election run-off. A woman from Manicaland Province states in ‘No hiding place: Politically motivated rape of Zimbabwean women’, a December 2010 study commissioned by the Research Advocacy Unit (RAU): ‘When I woke up the following morning on the 26th of June 2008, they had put a skirt on me and a ZANU PF t-shirt, I had blood all over my skirt and my thighs were swollen. My vagina was full of semen; I had wounds and cracks from being raped continuously. I could not walk because my legs were swollen.’ The grisly forms of violence, endured by hundreds of women, through out the country during this dark period are well documented.
It may seem as if this is no longer the time to dwell on what some might feel to be petty struggles fought in high density suburbs like Glenview. It may, however, certainly be claimed, in some quarters, that the focus is no longer on the ability of the working class (or struggling women, on a more specific note) to mobilise and liberate themselves, and that now the focus has shifted onto the regional and African elites’ political will to offer leadership that will liberate Zimbabweans from a long time ally and friend of theirs.
It is patently clear that Zimbabweans are in danger of becoming mere pawns in an uninspiring regional dance exhibiting the drearily dispiriting rhythm of one step forward and two steps back. As an illustrative point, the dire political problem has now been removed from the agenda of the SADC organ on security and politics, and is not likely to feature that prominently at the ongoing African Union Summit being held in Equatorial Guinea.
One does not need to go very far in search of where Zimbabwean women have been located in the current political discourse, a quick media scan, or an equally quick perusal of the recently adopted SADC resolutions, exposes the gender-exclusive, political context in which the country’s future is once again being defined.
It is simply problematic that the recent – and much celebrated as being progressive – SADC resolutions do not contain in them any clause that even tacitly mentions the peace and security of Zimbabwe’s women and children, such as Cynthia and her little boy.
Given that election time in Zimbabwe is always a season of an increased tempo – in hate-speech, political violence (you name it) – this is just a serious oversight!
It has been just recently, and our ears are still ringing from the impact, that we have been exposed to the explosive public statements of Brigadier–General Douglas Nyikayaramba against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, which are a chilly reminder of the prevailing lawlessness – a mouth-drying threat to the security of ordinary Zimbabweans. And dare I remind one and all that women and children have always borne the brunt of such rabid lawlessness. It was the securocrats that coldly planned and executed the diabolic free-for-all abuse of women experienced in 2008.
May it also be noted that Nyikayaramba’s statements also revealed, as never quite in the same manner before, that now power in Zimbabwe is more vested in the securocrats than in State House.
It is therefore, demonstrably foolhardy, to conclude that security sector reform, which featured prominently among the SADC leaders recently, (given more clear and fresh evidence that the ailing President Robert has ceded power to the ‘securocrats’, as represented by the Central Intelligence Organization, the military, and the police) will have an impact on the ground, without real commitment from the regional leaders to implement and execute noticeably workable plans to protect civilians.
And so while the Zimbabwe issue has been removed from the SADC troika’s agenda, greater responsibility now lies in the hands of facilitator, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, to take up urgent issues, such as the human security of women who are daily suffering from Zanu PF’s violent politics.
It is my belief that unless issues to do with women’s peace and security are not dealt with at the highest level, there is much cause for fear, that they will remain the silent battered victims, of Mugabe’s brutality. I will not go into the Lancaster House agreement but rather just look at the country’s recent history under the Government of National Unity and how the women’s agenda to assert their rights has remained on the fringes of democratic discourse.
A crude example, for instance, is how much women have struggled to be heard in the constitutional reform process under the Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC), in which women’s voices have been muted on key issues, such as land ownership, or how Zanu PF has sought to subvert the women’s voices through indoctrination at grassroots levels on how they should respond to issues that affect them.
On their part, the women should be applauded for putting together an election roadmap which was presented to the SADC secretariat by the Women’s Coalition. It covers broadly, from a gender perspective, key issues of central importance if a free and fair election is to take place. These issues include: constitutional reform, legal reform and reform of repressive legislation. It also includes demands to an end to politically motivated violence.
In this regard, the women are demanding an end to the culture of impunity and also that the state should ensure full security of women and girls. Political parties must commit to non-violent campaigning and desist from hate speech in accordance with the GPA.
Speaking at an international conference, on women and peace building, held in Harare earlier this year, Professor Mirjam van Reisen, Tilburg University Department of Humanities and also Director of the European External Policy Advisors (EEPA): ‘Women in Zimbabwe are united in their quest for peace. They demand that all political parties respect women. They ask that all political parties must put in place mechanisms to stop violence.’
The role of women in peace-building and conflict-resolution is enshrined in the SADC Gender Protocol, article 28 which states that: ‘State Parties shall endeavour to put in place measures to ensure that women have equal representation and participation in key decision-making positions in conflict resolution and peace building processes by 2015 in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.’
While, in general, international legal documents are clear on paper, in terms of women’s participation in conflict resolution, implementation on the ground remains problematic. It is patently clear that the SADC discussions, both in Livingstone and Sandton, have been a high stakes negotiations game to rescue Zimbabwe from fast sinking into an ugly political quagmire. One is, however, compelled to also caution that failure to include, for specific attention, more than half the country’s population is, in our day and age, not only callously inexcusable but also an oversight that could see Zimbabweans sink even faster into the quick sand of autocracy, greed and violent politics.
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* Grace Kwinjeh is a journalist and political activist.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Burkina Faso after the recent socio-political shocks
From the recent mutinies of our national army (including the soldiers of the Presidential Security Regiment’s protest over the non-payment of various allowances), to the protest marches of certain victims of business and the demonstrations (often including home burnings) of numerous pupils and students in reaction to the death of Justin Zongo, it’s finally clear that peace was and will be a treasure, even more fragile than we could believe. The use of arms or civil demonstrations has become, in a short space of time, a normal way to make demands. This shows all too clearly that the communication between the middle and the upper hierarchy has not been functioning well. Given this, it’s of no surprise that the President Blaise Compaoré has put his trust in a shrewd ‘communicator’ in Luc Adolphe Tiao.
Aware of the seriousness of the recurring breaches in communication, the president of Burkina Faso decided to take control of the portfolio of the Ministry of Defence. Perhaps the revelations on the workings of finance in the garrisons that were made during direct consultations with non-commissioned officers and men of rank appeared to him serious enough to take military office himself. Is he not also, as outlined in the constitution, the supreme chief of the armed forces? Under current conditions, this remains part of his constitutional obligations, despite the relevant clauses of article 42 of the basic law.
It’s well known that discipline constitutes the main strength of armed forces. Yet it is also true that money is what counts in war, and better financial organisation within the army would allow the president of Burkina Faso to sustainably resolve the current military crisis.
However, there needs always to be respect for a certain level of equality in salaries between the military and civilians with the constant aim of safeguarding the purchasing power of each socio-professional category. From this viewpoint, the go-ahead for the correction of civil servants’ promotions by, at the latest, September 2011 is a move in the right direction.
In any case, within the military barracks, as well as in civil life in Burkina Faso, the cause of these incidents resides undeniably in the feeling of injustice, and the perception by a sidelined majority of our population of an apparent and extremely large disparity in living standards between citizens of the same country. These feelings and perceptions are, incontestably, the burning universal factors contributing to the destabilisation of social peace and of the concept of ‘living together’. How then could the new prime minister work to durably resolve the causes of these repeated incidents?
Portrayed pejoratively by many national media such as ‘pompier de service’ or ‘l’homme de la situation’, it seems premature before the usual period of grace (that the whole of society has just granted him) to carry any assessment of the capacity of the new prime minister and his new team to stem the current crisis, owing essentially to the complexity of the task assigned to him by the president of Burkina Faso.
It needs to be emphasised that the current crisis is structural in nature and demands equally structural measures by the new prime minister and his government to bring the country out of the crisis and into an ‘emergent orbit’. Such a plan would include the removal of the local development tax, the reduction by 10 per cent of the rate of the single tax on wages and salaries, the lowering (thanks to state subsidies) of the cost of staple goods, the abolition of price setting for medical procedures, the removal of outstanding penalties resulting from electricity bills and the diligent treatment of judicial cases. All of this would undeniably constitute a good start.
We can never pretend to know a man well, but Luc Adolphe Tiao has shown himself at the start of this period of scrutiny to be a man of faith, peace and conviction. Looking at his first emergency measures, he appears to have taken the bull by the horns, particularly when one considers the impressive list of consultations that have been held with traditional and/or religious authorities, political parties of the presidential majority, civil society actors and above all the political parties of the opposition. Other concrete actions will certainly have to be joined to these first measures. All Burkinabe, each in their own way, should be invited to actively contribute towards an end to the current crisis. Indeed, during these last 20 years, for all that we can criticise (nothing is perfect, far from it!), Burkina Faso has been reputed for its stability and its social peace.
These stability gains well deserve to be protected as it’s from this base that we must consolidate the democratic process. There is no joy to be found in seeing a significant list of travel cancellations to our country since the start of the troubles, with even the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs having strongly and officially advised against travel to Burkina Faso.
The departure of all Japanese volunteers from our country is equally sad to see. It is thus imperative to find the ways and means to quickly exit from the crisis. With this in mind, we must welcome the meeting of the minister of foreign affairs with the representatives of accredited bodies in Burkina Faso. In the same manner, we must hope that the future meeting of the minister of foreign affairs with the Burkinabe community in France will constitute another step forward. Burkina Faso is a safe country, home to many foreigners who have settled down without worries or fear. Indeed, a telling statistic is that the number of French people living in Burkina Faso vastly exceeds the number of Burkinabe residing in France, which isn’t the case in other African countries.
Even the image of Burkinabe, whether at home or abroad, is an excellent one. We must then strive to preserve this beautiful image, which without doubt brings pride to our country. And during this period of political turbulence and controversy, rapid therapeutic solutions should be tested in order to limit the damage done, and we shall all gain tomorrow if we concern ourselves with the essential of today. Certainly, we must remember that the new government has already carried out a number of welcome measures.
However, several other major challenges still face us in the here and now. What are they?
THE STANDARDISATION AND STRICT CONTROL OF THE COST OF STAPLE GOODS
The price of foodstuffs and certain staple goods, including petrol, must not only be made subject to state subsidies. These prices will have to be made subject to a certain standardisation and strict control to allow people to maintain a minimum level of purchasing power. It will serve no purpose to raise the salaries of civil servants or the military if the price of staple goods doesn’t stop rising. The snake may bite its own tail. Yet the regulations of the price of staple goods mustn’t come at the cost of forgetting the primacy of health.
The problem consists of providing the rural population with access to drinking water and medical care. If the removal of the price setting of medical procedures can constitute a first response, the second should be to go further with the development of an emergency kit: many are the penniless people who arrive at a hospital and are not able to meet the payment of the first medical prescription. The development of an initially free medical system through the provision of a free emergency medical kit would be a considerable step forward. One can legitimately argue the weakness of state finances, but don’t we also say that you can’t put a price on health?
In any of these beneficial health measures, the success and perfection of this health system would lie in the implementation of a form of universal healthcare that would integrate the whole population into the system. The National Social Security Fund could constitute the basis of the necessary pooling of resources until significant contributions come in from other populations. In any case, regarding the healthcare of our peoples, no sacrifice is ever enough. The shadow of being hospitalised always constitutes an extra nightmare for those who are not able to meet medical costs. It will be a wise policy choice, not least as the counterpart of public health lies in national education. The better people are sensitised to certain disease risks, the better they are able, preventively, to avoid them.
We believe this to be the most crucial challenge for the future of our country. The better the younger generation are educated to tackle the issues of the coming century, the greater will be the chances of development in Burkina Faso and the better off our people will be. We would have to greater cultivate the direction of the nation and the state to devise, design, build and improve our education system to educate our youth in the disciplines and subjects indispensable to our development and to our greater welfare. It’s not surprising that the finishing of our houses is in the dire state that it is because we don’t have the best plumbers, solar energy or air-conditioning specialists, plasterers, carpenters nor joiners. We should popularise and encourage the establishment of professional schools to meet such needs.
At the same time, the internet and school canteen should be restored in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges. Lastly, and of fundamental importance, we should create a better match between available jobs and the skills that will be taught in our institutes and vocational training schools, which must at all times remain accessible to ordinary Burkinabe. It’s more than a desperate situation, as much for the parents as for the youth themselves, when pupils and students at the end of their educational cycle are unable to find work. Yet public service must not be the only significant job market. The guidance of pupils and students will have to be done with an awareness of various job outlets and the availability of work in the aforementioned sectors.
This statistical matching must be implemented through the Department of Studies and Planning (DEP), working together with a joint commission made up between the Ministry of Higher Secondary Education and Scientific Research on the one hand and the different heads of vocational schools and the Ministry of Youth, Vocational Training and Employment on the other, and all of this with the view of building and strengthening a sustainable economy.
The economy is, par excellence, the foundation for all policy actions. To ‘compete’, you need competitive businesses and a domestic market that can carry its own weight. Burkina Faso is the main provider of meat to Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and a good number of other countries in the region. More than ever, the challenge consists of further strengthening an economy mainly orientated towards our own strengths. To the envy of many other countries, we have significant human resources to achieve this, not only intellectual but rural, agricultural, pastoral and artisanal. We need to actively upgrade these different sectors through our local authorities. It is from them and their upgrading that we must begin step by step towards the recovery of a sustainable development in our country.
With this in mind, the installation of reservoirs in villages, the development of light industrial processing and the pursuit of an emergent service economy or service sector will without doubt absorb unemployed youth and raise the state coffers with foreign currency. Only at such a point would confidence be renewed in the men and women of politics.
ON THE POLITICAL FRONT: THE HANDOVER OF POWER
The handover of power, beyond the constitutional rules of the current two-term limitation on holding presidential office, unavoidably constitutes a natural law which no global leader could sustainably oppose. In Burkina Faso, the recurring question of the revision of article 37 plays on everyone’s mind. Several political leaders, as many from the presidential majority as from the opposition parties, have already expressed their views on this constitutional amendment or non-amendment. The two positions are incompatible. In our humble opinion, the constitutional amendment is inconceivable under current circumstances without the consent and full support of all sections of our people, including the opposition parties. In such a case there would be no ambiguity, and the recent various demonstrations must serve to guide us.
Indeed, the obvious frustrations of the Burkinabe opposition parties can be understood. These opposition parties are well aware that in the current democratic game in Burkina Faso, they will not be able to (unless there is a better mobilisation of the electorate in the towns and above all in the countryside) gain access through majority to national representation and even less so to the highest summit of the state.
Be that as it may, we will all win in Burkina Faso if we bring together all the sections of our people, including civil society actors and opposition parties, in the announced policy reforms and, in particular, by taking into consideration the profound aspirations of our peoples (concerning education, health, employment, etc).
Only in fighting effectively against social inequalities by offering a noticeably more equitable sharing of the existing riches in our country will we be able to harvest all of our strengths and our intelligence to the service of our people. We are perfectly aware, due to constraints of all kinds, that it’s easier to write than to realise these wishes.
However, to govern is to foresee and to predict, to try and resolve here and now the existential problems of our people. It is the responsibility of our government, and of all people, at whatever level they may find themselves, to contribute to the construction of the Burkinabe edifice. Together, we shall overcome!
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* Paul Kéré is a lawyer in Nancy, France.
* This article was first published by Le Faso.net.
* © Copyright Le Faso.net
* Translated from French by Ben Radley.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
African transformation: Only in our hands
Africa has uninterruptedly been a net-exporter of capital to the Western world since 1981. The thundering sum of US$400 billion is the total figure that Africa has transferred to the West in this manner to date. These are legitimate, accountable transfers, largely covering the ever-increasing interest payments for the ‘debts’ the West claims African regimes owe it, beginning from the 1970s. A 2010 study by Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based research organisation, states that Africa may have also transferred the additional sum of US$854 billion since the 1970s (‘this figure might be more than double, at [US]$1.8 trillion,’ the study cautions), through illegitimate exports by the ‘leaderships’ of corrupt African regimes, with Nigeria topping this league of felons at US$240.7 billion. In effect, the state in Africa no longer pretends that it exists to serve its peoples.
These capital exports, legitimate or/and illegitimate, are funds of gargantuan proportions produced by the same humanity that many a commentator would be quick to categorise as ‘poor’ and ‘needy’ for ‘foreign aid’. In the past 30 years, these funds could and should easily have provided a comprehensive healthcare programme across Africa, the establishment of schools, colleges and skills training, the construction of an integrative communication network, the transformation of agriculture to abolish the scourge of malnutrition, hunger and starvation, and, finally, it would have stemmed the emigration of 12 million Africans, including critical sectors of the continent’s middle classes and intellectuals to the West and elsewhere.
RIGHT THERE ON THE GROUND
Yet despite these grim times of pulverised economies and failed and collapsing states in Africa, we shouldn’t ever forget that those who still ensure that the situation on the ground is not much worse for the peoples than it is, and so profoundly retrievable, are Africans – individuals, working alone, conscientiously, or working in concert with a few others or within a larger group to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide healthcare and some leisure to immediate and extended families, communities, neighbourhoods, villages and the like: the surgeon who not only works tirelessly in a city hospital, with very limited resources, but uses his scarce savings to build a health centre and an access road in his village with subsidised treatment and prescription costs; the nurse who travels around her expansive health district, unfailingly, bringing care to the doorsteps of the people who neither can afford nor access it physically; the retired diplomat who has mobilised her community to set up a robust environmental care service that has involved the construction of public parks, regular refuse collection and some recycling, after-school free tuition for children with a planned community newspaper in the pipeline; the coach transport operator who laid out scores of his coaches to ferry survivors of a recently organised pogrom 350 miles away to safety; the civil rights activist and intellectual who rallied members of his internet discussion groups within the course of a month’s intense campaign to successfully apprehend a contractor who was about to abscond with millions of (US) dollars worth of public funds meant for a crucial upgrade of an international airport initially built by the community; a stretch of individuals’ programmes of scholarships for students at varying levels of school life, provision of staff salaries in schools and colleges, the maintenance of libraries and laboratories in schools and colleges, construction and maintenance of vital infrastructure in villages and counties and so on. These are the authors busily scripting the path of the renaissance Africa.
To cap these phenomenal strides of Africans, the 12 million African émigrés we mentioned earlier now dispatch more money to Africa than the much-parroted ‘Western aid’ to the continent, year in, year out. In 2003, according to the World Bank, these overseas residents sent to Africa the impressive sum of US$200 billion – invested directly in their communities. This is 40 times the sum of ‘Western aid’ in real terms in the same year – i.e., when the pervasive ‘overheads’ attendant to the latter are accounted for. Thus Africa’s pressing problem in the past 57 years of presumed restoration of independence has not been ‘poverty’, as it is often uncritically portrayed, but how to husband an incredible range of abundance of human and non-human resources for the express benefits of the peoples.
A widespread revolution in the consciousness of Africans will hasten the realisation of a critical mass of the types of Africans described above – at all levels of society. Gradually, many fires are being lit. This shift in consciousness will feed into the strategic goal for change which still remains the dismantling of the architecture of alienation and subjugation posed to African existence and progress by the ‘Berlin states’ emplaced.
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* Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of ‘Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature’ (Dakar and Reading: African Renaissance, 2011).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Digital Tongues: Africans in conversation
‘Digital Tongues’ is a series of Skype and email conversations between myself and four other Africans from Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa. I decided to publish these conversation as a series of posts onThought Leader , South’s Africa’s Mail and Guardian blog, and Pambazuka in the hope that those living on the continent and its diaspora will read and participate in the dialogue in their own way by posting a comment below or blogging or tweeting their thoughts. This is one of many conversations young Africans need to be having in order to push forward the concept of Africa as a whole continent and to bridge the perceived gaps between ‘North’ and ‘Sub-Saharan’ Africa and the ethno-political divides within Africa’s five regions.
Here, the five of us discuss African politicians and social media, perceptions/misperceptions of Africa in the international media, in African politics and the effect that dividing north and sub-Saharan Africa has on perceptions of the continent. We also discuss how the national and nationalistic politics of our respective countries impacts on the construction and understanding of our own identities. This exchange reveals the how the different national and nationalistic politics of our respective countries are constructed and how they impacts on understanding of our own identities and is one of the many conversations.
In this series, the conversationists are: Myself and Sophia Azeb, an Egyptian living in the US. Sophia is studying for her PhD and moonlights as a super-heroine exorcist dashing out the Orientalist demons of Dubya in Americans. Tolu Ogunlesi probably belongs to that rare breed of human beings who go to bed muttering must … send … one … more … tweet and though I’ve never met him, I’m sure he’d appreciate an ‘On Twitter, do not disturb’ sign as a Christmas gift. In between his musings about Nigerian politics and daily life, Tolu is a writer and journalist, currently working as features editor of 234 Next, a Nigerian newspaper.
If there’s a Twitter-coloured dreamcoat out there somewhere, then I’d like one to be shipped to Johannesburg, South Africa for Khadija Patel. Surely her efforts as a global news aggregator have not gone unnoticed by the good Lord. When she’s not tweeting about world events, Khadija is an opinionista for the Daily Maverick. Last but not least, is Sonja S Uwimana, a Rwandan American working in international development who, if she’s like me, cares as much for Hollywood’s ‘help starving Africa’ humanitarians, as rain on hot concrete.
TENDAI (ZIMBABWE): Welcome, everyone. I hope we’ll have an interesting discussion where each can enlighten the other about how we each see identity issues and political relations on the African continent.
SONJA (RWANDA): Cool. Any leading questions? I’m on deck for Rwanda then.
TENDAI: Can you tell us when Paul Kagame will be back on Twitter after that entertaining exchange with the journalist Ian Birrell?
SONJA: He still is! Even when he was in Chicago recently.
TENDAI: How have I missed his tweets???
SOPHIA (EGYPT): Beloved leaders need their own twitter list. I wish at least one of the Hosni Mubarak twitter accounts was actually the man himself.
TOLU (NIGERIA): It’s Facebook for Mr Jonathan in Nigeria. Well over half a million fans as we speak. I think only Obama’s got a higher number. I’m fascinated by how the new bunch of African leaders are taking to social networking. Even Zuma recently had a page set up for him as president of South Africa.
SONJA: How much is it actually them though? I find it hard to believe that Kagame tweets for himself. Seems to me it’s some overzealous editor of Rwanda’s New Times newspaper, state-owned of course.
KHADIJA (SOUTH AFRICA): Zuma’s recently taken to Twitter. We do wish his timeline would be as lively or newsworthy as Kagame’s but alas we’re stuck with a Twitter presence that someone in the presidency is using to give Zuma an affectation of social media prowess. But like all things in recent South African politics, the real story of social media among our bigwigs is with the ANC Youth League. After threatening to close down Twitter (forgive their delusions of grandeur), they’ve recently taken to social media platforms with some gusto.
TOLU: I’m curious to know how the Idi Amins and Mobutus (were they alive) would have handled Twitter and Facebook. Would Amin have tweeted from exile in Saudi in a bid to rehabilitate himself (reputation-wise)?
TENDAI: Idi Amin might. He had a charismatic enough side to his twisted personality to try Twitter. With followers, he might imagine he presided over a kingdom of Scotland.
SOPHIA: Amin and Gaddafi would have almost exclusively DM’d each other, I think.
TOLU: Sophia, so do you think social networking played any significant role in Egypt uprising?
SOPHIA: I do, yes. I wrote a brief post about my perspective on it for the blog Sonja and I both contribute to. But I do think the West crediting social networking as inspiring a ‘shift from the typical Egyptian apathy’ (or similar stereotypes) has been a desperate attempt to rationalise these large-scale uprisings that are not just against dictatorships, but also incredibly corrupt and devastated economic structures and US imperialism.
SONJA: It’s all anyone wants to talk about and I’ve given up trying to change the narrative and then, of course, come the ‘what about sub-Saharan Africa’ questions.
SOPHIA: Oh yes, we’ve discussed this before. ‘Sub-Saharan’, ‘Middle East’, ‘Middle East and North Africa’ etc. These terms are so incredibly problematic and totally neglect the nuances of identities through Africa and Asia.
TENDAI: I think there is a tendency to oversimplify things within the mainstream media — just as we want to speak of Twitter revolutions, we draw permanent yet imaginary lines in the sand to distinguish north from south overlooking the centuries of complex encounter in these spaces. I suppose in today’s world of easy, convenient discourses, to begin to understand Africa as a whole and the sum of many parts would be too difficult for those who produce the dominant narratives on Africa.
KHADIJA: Hey, over here [in South Africa], we’re still getting used to the fact that we’re not an island floating somewhere off the coast of Blighty somewhere. We actually have a whole continent attached to us. Seriously though, South Africans are becoming increasingly insular and our media caters to this predilection.
SOPHIA: Internationally, it’s certainly faulty media coverage. It’s almost totally focused on South West Asia and North Africa — when politically convenient, I mean — and a reliance on the imperial borders we all live under and our former/current colonial masters still propagate (including a depressing number of scholars of colour in the West) that make impossible fair and thorough coverage of uprisings, protests etc.
TOLU: I wrote a piece for CNN about ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ [protests] and realised how tough it is to be very nuanced in an 800-word piece that tries to cover sub-Saharan Africa. Damn! At times like this you realise that Africa is a BIG place and that no theory covers two countries, every situation is different.
TENDAI: Even within one county like Sudan the media trips up, badly. The constant references to “black African” versus “Arab” read like woeful misunderstandings of the context-specific politics of race and identity in Sudan. Khadija, does the South African media trip up with South Africa’s identities?
KHADIJA: For sure! But then as South Africans we’re still working out what it means to be South African. We continue to reel from the effects of being a severely fractured population so opportunities to share experiences and construct a sense of “South Africanness” through shared experiences are scarce.
SONJA: I’m actually more interested in the ways we (as “Africans” — whatever that means) also propagate these “Arab” vs “African” / “Middle East” vs “sub-Saharan Africa” divisions.
TENDAI: That’s a good point, Sonja. How “Arabs”, “Afro-Arabs” and “Africans” see ourselves — politically and culturally — feeds off of and feeds into how others see us. In Zimbabwe, we have a violent kind of nativist politics that is tied to the notion of being an indigenous African and Zimbabwean ie black. But when the Chinese and Europeans come with their cheque books, it all goes eerily quiet on the frontiers of indigenisation.
SOPHIA: Just a few months ago I heard several black American and Canadian scholars at a conference definitively conclude that Tunisia and Egypt have the US Civil Rights Movement to thank for their uprisings and then declare Egypt and Tunisia to be “non-white but not black African” nations. A sentiment many in South West Asia and North Africa also ascribe to, but one many of us are working against, given the complexities of our identities — racial, ethnic, religious, gender and otherwise.
TENDAI: But what is it that makes us racialise everything? Why are we still hung up on colour?
KHADIJA: I recently participated in Michelle Obama’s Young African Women Leaders Forum. I was one of 76 women from across sub-Saharan Africa who had been identified as ‘young women leaders’. Now, without delving into what exactly what all of us had done to merit a place there, what perplexed me was that these were 76 women exclusively from sub-Saharan Africa. We’re all trying to reach across our borders and find a sense of Africanness but the absence of ‘Arab’ Africans was not at all questioned. If we are indeed to discover a sense of pan-Africanness then we have to look beyond linguistic and racial divisions. Or, is it easy to clump together the [north] Saharan block because they share a linguistic heritage? Or is it indeed racial?
TENDAI: I wonder who did the choosing for the Michelle Obama Young African Leaders and what kind of view of Africa informed their choice. Concerning the Saharan north and south, I think there are very good reasons there are these linguistic, cultural and racial determinants creating the imaginary divide, but it also has negative effects especially when it seen as a raced division.
SOPHIA: I think we’re hung up on colour because it is precisely how neocolonial and authoritarian powers keep us separate. The divide and conquer trope is very real, but it has shifted in dramatic ways.
TENDAI: And we too have become the dividers and conquerors. Sonja, where do the Sudanese locate themselves in terms of their identity and the geopolitical labels imposed on us? Are they in ‘sub-Saharan’ Africa or North Africa? Or the Middle East?
SONJA: I find it frustrating (and somewhat hilarious) that whether I'm in north or south Sudan, I'm told I could be Sudanese... and yet both sides don't recognise each other in that way. [On location] they are all of those, and none of them.
TENDAI: And what does being Arab even mean in Egypt? I thought I knew but sometimes I struggle with understanding what Arabness/Arabised means.
TOLU: And then there's the peculiar Libyan case – self-defining as Arab, but with strong Gaddafi involvement in the AU, and his dubious Pan-African vision... not sure the rest of North Africa really cared that much about a Pan-African ideal.
TENDAI: All hail the King of Kings of Africa!
SOPHIA: Arab is often used as a racial category – something I frankly think is akin to people claiming a 'pure' heritage of (whatever).
TENDAI: But are Egyptians of 'pure' Arab heritage?
SOPHIA: Absolutely not! We're talking about a nation almost precisely in the centre of the trading world of ancient times and today. North Africa and South West Asia have been home to peoples of all phenotypes, racial and ethnic identities, languages and cultures. ‘Arab’ culture, like other cultures, is built around language affiliations.
TOLU: So is it correct to say that what we call the Arab world is bound more by language and religion than by any racial homogeneity?
SOPHIA: Tolu, I would say so – but that doesn't mean that the mythology of a racially homogenous ‘Arab’ world doesn't exist in SWANA as well as the West.
TENDAI: Arabness like Africaness is a social construction, made of many things. Concerning Arabness, I don't get it's inclusions/exclusions – why are Sudanese Arabs ‘not quite Arabs’, yet other Arabs in Africa are also of ethnic mixes indigenous to Africa? And similarly with Africanness in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Rwanda and Nigeria is used for political and cultural convenience and power-plays. What are some of the identity issues in your countries and how do young people – all generational differences therein – see themselves?
KHADIJA: As I said earlier, we’re not sure ourselves what being South African entails. But what is really interesting is watching how the rise and rise of a black middle class with middle class values and tastes are being ‘excommunicated’ as blacks. But we must remember that social identities are inherently fluid and the thrill in studying them is founded mostly in watching them in a state of constant flux.
SONJA: Ha! Well if you ask our dear leader, Kagame, we are all Rwandan. My generation is very much still imbued with the myths of my parent's generation, who are the ones who grew up under colonialism and came of age during independence.
TOLU: In Nigeria the major defining characteristics are ethnicity and religion. Hundreds of ethnic groups, a handful of major ones (each with upwards of 25/30 million people), and two main religions - Islam and Christianity. No wider-world identity ambiguities - all Nigerians regard themselves as black Africans. Plus we had no "settler culture", unlike say Kenya.
SOPHIA: My father's generation – Nasser-era Egypt – often identity as black, African and Arab simultaneously. And now my generation has the opportunity to revive that very Pan-Africanist, Non-Aligned Movement ideal of cultural and racial solidarity. For now, all I have to offer to your question about Sudan, Tendai, is that it is as arbitrary as any racial classification is. The fight for racial solidarity is just one stepping stone on the road to a collective struggle against neo-colonialism and neoliberal economic opportunism. In Egypt, Mubarak did not only depend on creating strife between Copts and Muslims – he also manipulated Nubians, Bedouins, light-skinned and dark-skinned ‘Arabs’ to struggle amongst each other.
SOPHIA: The same thing is happening in Palestine, much more successfully – Palestinians of African descent and Palestinians of Asian descent (and mixed Palestinians) are very focused on uniting with each other against Israeli apartheid. They are aware of the tactics Israel has used to separate them by race, not only religion.
TENDAI: We also had a ‘settler culture’ in Zimbabwe and as Mubarak executed his own ethnicity and religion based strategy of divide and rule, we have it too in my country. Mugabe works on an insider/outsider and inclusive exclusion strategy (Agamben) and among the insider's i.e. Black Zimbabweans, there's preferential treatment depending on tribe/race – but still ensure he presides over the nation. Zimbabwe's tribal divisions are there, but thankfully they don't run as deep as some African countries.
KHADIJA: It’s easy for me to say ‘Agh over here, we don’t do the whole tribal thing’. But then I’m a fourth generation urban South African of Indian descent. Rural realities are of course staggering in their contrast. And yet, we are dogged by assertions of Afrikanerdom everywhere in South Africa. And the often vitriolic rhetoric from the ANC Youth League has further contributed to a sense of ethnic polarities.
SONJA: Kagame's Rwanda is one where we are all Rwandan, where we don't talk about that which has historically divided us, but behind closed doors,’Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’ are still very much alive.
TENDAI: So what happens if you need a national identity card, what do they write?
TOLU: Curious about Rwanda – do forms bear ‘ethnicity’ markings? Or is it a We're All Rwandan policy, Death to Ethnicity/Tribalism? In Nigeria most forms you'll fill (and even people's resumes) will have STATE OF ORIGIN on them.
SONJA: Any mention of ethnicity means you are somehow leading us back down the road to 1994, which is why Kagame has institued all those "anti-genocide ideology" laws.
TENDAI: And what's the conviction rate under those laws?
SONJA: So far it's mostly affected journalists, who are receiving sentences of upwards of 17 years. You'll be hard pressed to find private citizens who speak ‘out of turn’ in Rwanda. On the other hand, in the diaspora, we do all the talking we want yet can't seem to find a way to have meaningful dialogue.
TENDAI: 17 years is harsh, so much for PK Mr Nice Guy, eh? About IDs, for Black Zimbabweans it's like Nigeria – but not on the CVs but for things like your ID you have to state your tribal village, animal totem, chief's name and ethnic group.
TOLU: You're kidding about the Chief's Name bit right?
TENDAI: No I am not, it’s evolved from earlier forms of colonial bio-power. When I got my I.D my mom wrote all the info down on a piece of paper for me – note that I was born in a town and have lived in a city all my life, I go to the rural areas for holidays and I don't think I've ever met this chief and yet, without naming this stranger I could not get my ID card.
KHADIJA: I keep thinking back to the xenophobic riots that broke out in Johannesburg in 2008. Many of those killed were later found to have actually been South African citizens. Yet, that piece of paper that ought to have safe guarded them, was ultimately no refuge from a blood thirsty crowd.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Blacks didn't need World Cup
The Fifa World Cup cost South Africa about R120-billion. We will be coughing up at least R100-million annually to service the stadiums, our beautiful cathedrals of self-enslavement. Set the cost of the Fifa World Cup against our development needs, and you can't but conclude that we didn't need it, nor could we afford it. So why did we go all out to host such an unnecessary event?
Anyone who has doubts about just how bad things are for the majority of South Africans should read Trevor Manuel's National Planning Commission report on the state of things. Education for black people has basically gone to hell. Even the allegedly improved matric pass rate is a ruse, because the "67.8% pass rate hides the fact that only 15% achieved the pass rate mark of 40% or more. This means that roughly 7% of the cohort of children born between 1990 and 1994 achieved this standard". In a normal country with a caring politics, such a report would have led to the fall of a government.
It gets worse. Manuel tells of shocking death rates, unimaginable inequality, an appalling state of healthcare and high rates of theft as a result of corruption. In short, our country, perceived from the bottom, is in a permanent state of crisis. The black majority is left outside the democratic experiment. Why would a nation engulfed by such challenges choose to take money away from hospitals and schools to host a party?
This conundrum is partly answered by the euphoric piece our former president Thabo Mbeki wrote for Bloomberg news: "We were convinced that, were we to win the right to host the soccer World Cup, this would make a decisive contribution to the achievement of the goal of vital importance to all Africans, of destroying the demeaning stereotype of a hopeless continent."
The hopelessness of being black is overwhelming. So powerful is the desire to be acknowledged by the white world that we blacks will do anything to get the nod. Our beloved Desmond Tutu shared Mbeki's sentiment that we blacks needed to do all we could to show that we were human too. He said it didn't matter if after the World Cup those stadiums were white elephants.
We forget at our peril how by-laws were changed, people forcibly removed, schools destroyed, hawkers made to disappear and tax laws altered to make sure Fifa was happy and its profits guaranteed.
Now we must look beyond the social and financial costs of the World Cup and focus on what it promised the abandoned black child in search of approval from its indifferent white father. The success of the World Cup moved our former philosopher-king to enthuse: "A giant step forward has been taken towards achieving the goal of destroying the age-old negative stereotype of Africa and the Africans. Similarly, as Africans we have also made an important statement to ourselves that we are as capable as any in the world to organise for success that brings a sense of fulfilment to billions."
The World Cup was indeed organised for the delight of the (white) "world". We blacks could now walk the talk. Ostensibly, we had shown the doubting Thomases that we were human too. This is pathetic self-delusion. In spite of more than 500 years of denigration, oppression and enslavement -- which continues without so much as a "sorry" -- we believed that if we could demonstrate our humanness somehow, the white world would get it. This is a case of powerlessness that begets well-deserved contempt.
When I look at the World Cup and how we valorise the temporary psychological satisfaction it brought us blacks it reminds me of my own childhood on the farms of the old Transvaal. Our parents, who were virtual slaves, competed among each other for the approval of the baas. The things our parents did at times were downright embarrassing.
Blackness is an amputation, a lack that can be fulfilled only by white acknowledgement. Even ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema's ramblings against "bloody whites" must be understood in this context.
The tragedy of it all is that whiteness has already stymied our efforts to be seen as human. We perform this futile exercise again and again, with the same results. Even as a proponent of black consciousness, with its promise of a self-validation that requires no external source, I know we blacks are defeated before we start -- and this makes me sympathetic to our black follies.
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* This article first appeared in the Mail&Guardian.
* Andile Mngxitama is author of the essay 'The people vs Phillip: How the ANC sold us for a cup', available at newfranktalk1[at]gmail[dot]com
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Another look at the Niger Delta amnesty programme
The sky was very cloudy that Thursday morning. I decided to go to Lagos after postponing the journey for one week. It has become my habit to take an amateurish look at the weather before heading towards the airport. I have a phobia for flying and so making any journey in country is usually a big task for me. I had arrived the airport with a disposition to spend five hours waiting – no thanks to delays which are now part of the routine of air travels in Nigeria. As I sat absentmindedly by the newspapers vendor, I dozed off. A kind of stampede woke me up an hour later when a certain man arrived in the company of seven uniformed men of the Nigerian police. The rifle-carrying policeman displayed as though he was one of the governors or at least a minister. However, his look did not in any way convey the slightest civility. He had this dirty dark complexion that made me curious. I made a move to inquire about who he was as he worked carelessly into the VIP lounge at the airport of the Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja. He is one of the ex militants, someone whispered. I cannot recall his name but is sounded like one of the south-western states. While I stood wrapped in the wonder of the display, a co-passenger explained to me that it was normal for them to move with an entourage. ‘This one na small, if you go to some states in the Niger Delta you will hardly differentiate the governors’ convoy from that of the militants because they have the same number of exotic cars and they all live in government house,’ he murmured in a very low tone.
The Niger Delta amnesty has been successful, more or less. At least since the federal government granted the unconditional amnesty to the fiery former combatants, there has been relative peace in the area. The incidences of disruption of oil production have reduced considerably and crude oil production figures have been quite impressive. Government revenue has improved and there has been a drastic reduction in the incidences of kidnapping and insecurity in the region. It is still there.
Many businesses that relocated due to security challenges have started returning slowly. Nightlife is coming back in a city like Port Harcourt which was once completely asleep at nightfall. Another indirect benefit of the amnesty is that the just-concluded elections were at least more peaceful than they would have been if there was no amnesty. Many arms (maybe not all) have been mopped up from the region and so there were fewer ‘items’ to use as instruments to cause mayhem. For the first time in many years, elections actually held in some states. Some politicians campaigned and some voting took place. I monitored the elections in some parts of Rivers State and I saw for myself. Before now the militants would decide on behalf of the people. Politicians simply handed cash to them and they took over all the polling stations with their boys and that was it.
Therefore, there are many other reasons to justify the modest success of the amnesty, but a time has come to think beyond the first layer of success and begin to imagine how long this will last. Granted, the deteriorating security situation in the Niger Delta necessitated the urgency to which the amnesty programme was hastily put together in an ad hoc fashion. There is now a need to comprehensively review the programme. Official figures indicate that more that 15,000 ex-militants have been trained. Where will they fit in terms of long-term employment? Is there a provision to get them a job in their area of training or will they be given start-up capital to start their own businesses? Will some of them get scholarships to go back to the universities?
There is this thing about the allowances the ex-militants are collecting, which is fuelling discontent and now makes it seem like an incentive for militancy. So when can we draw a line between militancy and criminality? This has become necessary because no one can rule out the future possibility of a few rag-tag individuals invading the creeks in the name of Niger Delta agitation and starting to ask for another amnesty. What are the incentives for other young people who have not yet taken to militancy but who are also unemployed, desperate and vulnerable? When will the government make a statement that amnesty cannot be a cover for criminality and lawlessness? Where do we draw the line? Is the Nigerian state covertly encouraging the use of violence to register any form of discontent? Are we not heading ominously into a vicious circle?
The Niger Delta agitation was anchored on the issues of marginalisation, environmental despoliation and infrastructural decay and poverty amidst plenty. As far as these conditions still persist, there can never be sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region. The reports of the Niger Delta Technical (Ledum Mitee) Committee must be gathering dust somewhere now. Part of the energy and resources that the government is spending to sustain the amnesty programme interminably can be redirected to pursue verifiable physical development in the region. It is inexcusable that even at a time when we have a president from the region, many of these promises still remain in the pipeline!
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* Uche Igwe is based at the Africa Program at Johns Hopkins University (SAIS), Washington DC.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
National Anthem for the Republic of South Sudan
We praise and glorify you
For your grace on South Sudan
Land of great abundance
Uphold us united in peace and harmony
We rise raising flag with the guiding star
And sing songs of freedom with joy,
For Justice, Liberty and Prosperity
Shall forevermore reign.
Oh Great Patriots!
Let us stand up in silence and respect
Saluting our Martyrs whose blood
Cemented our National foundation,
We vow to protect our Nation.
Oh God, Bless South Sudan!
Mouctar Diallo held incommunicado by Gambian authorities
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Benedicte Bakkeskau and I am a Graduate Student at the American University in Cairo, Egypt.
I am writing on behalf of a fellow colleague of mine, Mouctar Diallo, who has been held incommunicado by Gambian authorities since June 28, 2011.
Mouctar Diallo is a graduate student in Political Science and Anthropology/Sociology at the American University in Cairo and a Guinean National. He was arrested on April 30, 2011, three days after arriving in the Gambia to continue anthropological research he had begun in the Gambia the previous semester and had continued in his home country of Guinea. He spent over a week being questioned in jail and then was effectively under house arrest until June 28th, when the Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) called him in again for questioning and told him they were making a case to prosecute him as a terrorist. They accused him of spreading Egyptian revolutionary ideas to Gambia. Since then, no one has been able to reach him.
Background information on the events leading up to Mouctar’s detention on June 28th:
On April 30, 2011, shortly after arriving in Serekunda, Gambia, Mouctar was walking in front of a building where UN officials resided, where police were investigating a break-in that had occurred the previous night. They stopped him and searched his bag and his pockets then had him bring them back to the guest house where he was staying. They were suspicious of the books and field notes they found there and arrested him, jailing him in Kairaba police station until May 9th. They confiscated his computer, his notes, his phone, and many other possessions and pored over what they found to make a case against him. Also, boxes containing his books that he was having a driver move from Conakry to Serekunda were confiscated when they arrived at customs because, again, officials reportedly were suspicious of the contents of the books. After a week and a half, he was released on bail but kept effectively under house arrest, being constantly watched in a property the police had set him up in.
After Mouctar contacted friends and university faculty back in Cairo, the American University in Cairo faxed a letter signed by Mouctar's thesis advisor, the graduate program coordinator, the department chair, and the dean of social sciences and humanities explaining that he was a student in good standing conducting university-funded research. Gambian authorities were still not convinced. Mouctar tried to work with more than one lawyer who dropped his case, apparently because they were told he was a dangerous terrorist.
All this while the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) periodically called him in for questioning, repeatedly telling him they would soon issue a report determining whether he could be allowed to stay and finish his research or would be deported. Toward the end of June the questioning became increasingly harsh, with increasingly wild accusations and threats of torture by electric shock, and Mouctar began to worry that he would disappear without a trace. They accused him of being a "terrorist" and of fomenting an Egypt-style revolution.
On June 28, he met with the officer in charge of his case to get an update on his case and inquire about getting his possessions back. His fears were confirmed when the officer told him that the NIA would keep him under their custody for the next 48 hours for questioning and that afterwards they would likely try him as a terrorist. We spoke with Mouctar that day just before he was to go in for questioning. He was worried that they may never let him out again, and he told us that if they let him out after the 48-hour period he would contact us immediately. But if he did not contact us we should assume they had imprisoned him and were moving forward with the terrorism case. Although he had hesitated to draw attention to a case that had looked like it might be dismissed at any moment, at this point he said he would welcome any intervention on his behalf.
Since then no one has heard from him or been able to reach him.
This information is also found on the Facebook page that has been created in order to create awareness around Mouctar’s situation and disseminate information concerning his case and its developments. You will find it here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Mouctar-Diallo-in-the-Gambia/223362961037492#!/pages/Free-Mouctar-Diallo-in-the-Gambia/223362961037492?sk=wall
I kindly ask you to look into this case immediately and urgently as we are worried for Mouctar’s safety and well-being. I also ask that you spread the news of Mouctar’s unjust detention and plead for his release as we have not had success in doing this. If you have any suggestions for people who might be able to help with this unjust case, please let us know.
As Fahamu’s mission is to support and strengthen human rights and social justice in Africa, I would consider Mouctar Diallo’s unjust detention in the Gambia to be of high concern to your organization.
Angolan activist arbitrarily detained in DR Congo
6 July 2011
An Angolan human rights activist arbitrarily detained without charge in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than two weeks must be released immediately, Amnesty International said today.
Agostinho Chicaia, an environmentalist and former president of the banned Angolan human rights organization Mpalabanda, was arrested in Kinshasa on 20 June, apparently in connection with an attack on the Togolese football team last year.
The Congolese authorities have told Amnesty International that they are detaining him on an international arrest warrant for 25 individuals wanted on terrorism offences by the Angolan government.
"Agostinho Chicaia has been arbitrarily detained for more than two weeks now without charge. The Congolese immigration police have told us that they will release him if instructed to do so by the Angolan authorities. The authorities in Angola must intervene immediately to ensure his release, "said Muluka-Anne Miti, Amnesty International’s Angola researcher.
Agostinho Chicaía, who has been living in Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo since 2009, was arrested in the DRC by members of the Congolese Immigration Police at the N’djili International Airport in Kinshasa. He was en route to Harare via Kinshasa to attend a conference on environmental issues.
Information received by Amnesty International indicates that the international arrest warrant was apparently issued in 2010 and is no longer valid, reportedly because the specific crime for which it was issued was revoked by the Angolan authorities in December 2010.
The arrest warrant list is believed to be connected to an attack on the Togolese football team in Cabinda in January 2010, which left two people dead and several injured.
The Congolese authorities say that the Angolan consulate has not informed them that the arrest list was no longer valid.
Agostinho Chicaia’s wife told Amnesty International that her husband is forced to sleep in an outdoor courtyard as conditions in the detention cell are appalling.
She said a representative from the Angolan consulate had visited him in the detention centre on 29 June.
"They said they can't do anything till Luanda responds. They promised to help once they got notification from the Angolan authorities. I think the problem is with Angola. The Congolese say Angola has to decide. They sent a letter to Angola, but Angola has not responded," she told Amnesty International.
Peoples' movement demands a stop to GMO food imports
Bunge la Mwananchi
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
No to World Bank role in the green climate fund
Climate finance is needed urgently by the people of the South to enable them to deal with the impacts of climate and pursue an alternative development pathway for equitable and sustainable societies. Climate finance is part of the reparations for the climate debt that northern countries owe the South for causing the climate crisis. It is also an obligation of North countries (“Annex 1”) under the UNFCCC. Climate justice movements have been advancing demands and proposals regarding 1) the scale and nature of climate finance, 2) sources, 3) a global climate fund, 4) allocation and use. However, climate finance is also being used to promote policies and projects that are harmful to communities, workers, farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples, women and other marginalized groups. From the local to global there are many struggles and campaigns resisting and protesting so called climate projects.
This Climate Finance Action Alert aims to facilitate collective and coordinated actions on climate finance issues.
TO THE TRANSITION COMMITTEE OF THE UNFCCC: NO WORLD BANK ROLE IN THE GREEN CLIMATE FUND
A new global climate fund that will be responsible for managing and disbursing climate finance for the South is vital and has been the subject of climate justice campaigns and of international climate negotiations. A key demand of climate justice campaigners as well many South countries (“developing countries”) is that the World Bank not be given a role in this new global climate fund given its track record in harmful projects and policies, undemocratic structures and operations, its neoliberal development paradigm, and its involvement in dirty energy.
One of the “decisions” of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC last December 2010 in Cancun was to set up the “Green Climate Fund” or GCF. A “Transition Committee” was formed with the task of drafting a proposed design for the GCF and submitting it for action at the next COP in Durban, South Africa in December 2011. Further, the World Bank was appointed as “trustee” of the Fund for the “interim period.”
The Transition Committee had its first meeting last April 28 to 29, and a major issue that sparked debate was the role of the World Bank in the Technical Support Unit (TSU) of the Transition Committee. A number of developing country members of the TC clearly stated their position that the World Bank not be given an influential role in the TSU and in the regular structures and operations of the Green Climate Fund itself. This position has been strongly articulated by many movements and civil society groups in various statements addressed to the UNFCCC and the Transition Committee.
It is urgent and vital that climate justice movements and all concerned groups and citizens take action in to intervene in this process, with the aim of
· Expressing opposition to the World Bank being appointed Trustee of the Green Climate Fund in the interim period; Preventing the World Bank from being given any further role in the Green Climate Fund
· Raising greater awareness of the World Bank’s harmful policies, projects, paradigm of development
· Promoting demands and alternatives regarding the design of the Green Climate Fund
To these ends, we urge you to join us for immediate actions this coming week. On July 12 to 13, the Transition Committee will be holding its Second Meeting. In the days leading up to the meeting, we invite you to:
1. Join an email action addressing members of the Transition Committee. Open the link: (www.worldbankoutofclimate.org/?p=536) and sign and send the email. The email is urging members of the Transition Committee not to give the World Bank a role in the GREEN CLIMATE FUND
2. Send letters addressed to the Ambassadors of Mexico, South Africa and Norway in your cities. These countries are the Co-Chairs of the Transition Committee. Please find attached a template you can use.
3. Send letters to the editor of your newspapers expressing your concerns as citizens.
Jubilee South - Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development * Africa Jubilee South * Pan African Climate Justice Alliance * Third World Network * European Network on Debt and Development (EURODAD) * LDC Watch * South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication * South East Asia Fishers for Justice (SEAFish) * Migrants Forum Asia (MFA) * NGO Forum on the ADB * World Development Movement UK * Jubilee Debt Campaign UK * Jubilee Scotland * Jubilee USA Network * Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns – USA * Slett U-landsgjelda (SLUG) Norway * Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale (CRBM) Italy * Alliance Sud - The Swiss Coalition of Development Organisations Switzerland * ATTAC Japan * Daughters of Mumbi Kenya * EquityBD Bangladesh * VOICE Bangladesh * International Campaign on Climate Refugees' Rights (ICCR) Bangladesh * Bangladesh Krishok Federation (Farmers movement) * SUPRO Bangaldesh * Unnayan Onneshan Bangladesh * KRuHA Indonesia * WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia * Koalisi Anti Utang (KAU) Indonesia * Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI) * Solidaritas Perempuan (SP) Indonesia * Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) Indonesia * National Hawkers Federation India * Indian Social Actin Forum India * Himalaya Niti Abhiyan (HNA) India * Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization Malaysia * National Network on Right to Food Nepal * Campaign for Climate Justice Network Nepal * Rural Reconstruction Nepal * General Federation of Nepalese Trade Union (GEFONT) * Freedom from Debt Coalition Philippines * Tambuyog Philippines * Kalayaan Philippines * Makabayan Pilipinas * AMA Philippines * Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum * Center for Environmental Justice / Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka * Kenya Debt Relief Network (KENDREN)
Municipal security and shackdwellers clash in Kennedy Road settlement
This morning Municipal Security Guards arrived at the Kennedy Road shack settlement and began disconnecting people from electricity. The community had previously negotiated an understanding with the Municipality that they would not send their security guards into the settlement to disconnect. However this morning this agreement was violated and the people resisted the disconnections. There was a confrontation, rubber bullets were fired and stones were thrown. A young man was shot in the chin with a rubber bullet at close range. A road blockade was then organised following which both the SAPS and the Metro Police arrived on the scene. But the attempt to disconnect people from electricity was successfully resisted.
The new ward councillor also arrived on the scene. He told the people that he would tell the Municipality not to disconnect anybody at Kennedy Road from electricity and that those that had been disconnected should reconnect. He blamed the Municipality for the confrontation this morning and said that the Municipality must now move swiftly to electrify all the shacks in the settlement.
The Kennedy Road comrades, and Abahlali baseMjondolo in general, have been struggling for electricity for many years. Before each election promises are made and after each election the security guards and police come to disconnect the people. The struggle for electricity for all continues.
For further comment and information please contact:
Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Abahlali baseMjondolo Spokesperson: 081 309 5485
Mr. Sibiya, Kennedy Road Development Committee: 082 255 1213
This thing tolerance
H. Nanjala Nyabola
Around this time last year the media in the UK was awash with stories of ‘intolerant Africa’ – the backlash in Malawi and Uganda to a set of gay couples in both countries was taken as evidence of the apparently enduring homophobia of African people in general. Certainly, the reaction by certain segments of the populations in those countries was cause for great concern, notably the horrific murder of activist David Kato in Uganda. In one of those unfortunate cycles in which those who know better do or say nothing, extremist voices were allowed to dominate the storyline and paint a picture of Africa that grossly misrepresents the various communities’ interaction with homosexuality, and the story was told of ‘homophobic Africa’, intolerant enough to advocate or support the violent murder of a young man in his prime on the basis of his sexual orientation.
The word tolerance comes from late Middle English and denotes a capacity to bear hardship or pain. Today we use it especially to indicate an ability to put up with ideas or the existence of ideas that we do not necessarily agree with. In the language of rights and equality, the notion of tolerance is central the idea being that we ‘the majority’ need to increase our capacity to tolerate those on ‘the fringe’ whether they be racially, socially, or by sexual orientation different from us – the norm. It strikes me that tolerance implies a begrudging acceptance or acknowledgement rather than a wholehearted respect or acceptance. You tolerate something if you still believe it to be inherently wrong, implying magnanimity on your part but by extension fallibility or shortcoming in the behaviour or person that you are tolerating. You tolerate an annoying younger sibling, you tolerate a noisy neighbour but do you tolerate people that you value or respect? Regardless, we are told that tolerance is the glue that holds multicultural societies together. A ‘phobia’ on the other hand is an extreme or irrational fear of something. In the context of gay rights however, homophobia is – I believe incorrectly – used to denote a broad spectrum of reactions from genuine incomprehension to the poisonous ramblings of politicians in Malawi and Uganda last year, to the despicable violence of Mr Kato’s murderers.
The trouble with defining such a key term so broadly is that it alienates a broad spectrum of reactions that lie somewhere between the extremes. I would argue that African societies are neither ‘tolerant’ nor ‘homophobic’, in part, because ‘phobia’ and ‘tolerance’ are not logical binaries; neither adequately resolves the tension in the other. Tolerance does not explain away fear nor does a phobia describe an incapacity for dealing with hardship or pain. In this breath, I don’t believe that most Africans are ‘extremely or irrationally afraid’ of homosexuals or homosexuality, nor arguably, are African societies in general ready to put up with a lifestyle that remains for many, foreign and unusual. Rather, I would argue that the silent majority in many African communities is struggling to articulate its position on a phenomenon that is consistently presented in extreme, all-or-nothing language, with limited patience or understanding of the sociological framework of the societies in question.
Allowing myself a series of broad generalisations, I would argue that the average African’s interaction with homosexuality has been informed by many of the forces that have fed into other present day contradictions. In many ways, traditional societies across the continent were more liberal, especially with matters of sexuality, than their present day variants. Pre-marital sex for instance, even where marriage is defined in its broadest sense was encouraged in many groups (outside Islamic communities) as a method of establishing fertility. However, with the spread of puritanical Victorian standards during the colonial era, and the coupling of an embrace of ‘Christian values’ with the opportunity to gain an education and make a living in an increasingly monetised society, we witness a dramatic shift in the other direction. Sex becomes a taboo subject and rather than grapple with the complex elemental forces that keep societies alive, people are encouraged to regard them as base and sinful instincts.
As this process of ‘Victorianisation’ made a taboo of heterosexual interactions, it criminalised and stigmatised anything outside them. However, as with many other facets of the colonial experience, rather than a wholesale rejection or acceptance of values, we witness a superimposition, and the emergence of the ‘double life’ that characterises many African communities today. There is a gay scene in just about every major town in African, and for all their empty posturing, neither Banda nor Museveni can shout away the gay scene in either of their countries. Trying to negotiate the complexities of modern societies, many individuals find themselves keeping up the appearance of a wholesale embrace of either ‘Western’ or ‘traditional’ values while dipping in and out of the other at will. This isn’t by any measure a bad thing. It’s a reflection of the incredible capacity of individuals to make sense of life at it’s most complex. The point is that as in many other ways, ‘Africa’ is a complex place, and when trying to get a handle on the status of various phenomena across the continent, it is important to take a more longitudinal view.
The struggle for African societies is that we want to do more than just tolerate; we want to understand. At the same time, it is not unfeasible that homosexuality is in fact external to many African societies, and this does not make the societies themselves inherently ‘phobic’. It makes them societies – aggregates of people whose broadly held values on various issues reflect the average of all individually held beliefs. There are most certainly homophobic people in many African societies, but there are also a good number of people who just need time to make sense of rapid changes in their communities. It would be a great tragedy would be to restrict the room for such constructive engagement by painting an entire continent of people with the negative brush of homophobia.
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Cynthia Salvadori, a tribute
Cynthia Salvadori, author, anthropologist, historian, photographer, illustrator and activist passed away in Lamu on Sunday, 26 June 2011. Over a simple ceremony inspired by Islamic rites, she was buried by some of her friends three days later where she had been living the last two years. That she had chosen to end her life did not come as a surprise to those who knew her well; she had been saying it in so many ways.
Her death will leave an irreplaceable vacuum. She was a faithful friend, regular in answering your mails, guiding you, caring and being concerned about you. She also confronted and corrected injustice through her writing. Her ‘The Forgotten People Revisited’, commissioned by the Kenya Human Rights Commission on ‘Abuses of Human Rights in Marsabit and Moyale Districts' and published in 2000 documented events in the 1990s when she was living in the NFI ‘I wrote it primarily to attack the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments/police/military,’ she said.
Cynthia’s journey was highly influenced by two men in her life. Her father, Massimo (Max) Salvadori, and her companion and colleague Andrew Fedders. She and Andy travelled all over Africa (seven times in the north). In the 1970s, with Cynthia as the photographer and Andy as writer, they published their works on the Maasai and the Turkana in ‘Pastoral Craftsmen, Peoples and Cultures of Kenya’. Cynthia spoke of Andy often and remained faithful to him (and to his memory) right to the end, but for those of us who had never known Andy (he had died a long time ago), he remained a mystery.
Cynthia’s father Max Salvadori, a political thinker, political economist and historian, had been shaped by a hatred for all dictatorships. His radical stance and anti-fascist activity, coupled with being a vigorous opponent of Mussolini, led him to imprisonment in Italy. Under pressure, he was released - on the condition that he go into exile. He and his British wife, Joyce Woodford Pawle, chose refuge in Kenya. Here he farmed for three years but left soon after Cynthia was born on Equator Farm at Njoro.
Her father returned to Europe and the US to continue his fight against fascism in Italy; he worked in the British secret service, the SOE. He taught at universities and he wrote. ‘My father was never around often, but I was influenced by his political activism,’ she said. ‘He was a historian, on a grand scale. He had an amazing mind and history mattered to him greatly because of the politics of liberalism. He was really primarily a political activist. As a British officer, he played an important role in the Italian resistance. Had it not been for my mother, he would have been involved in post war Italian politics. But he knew she couldn’t stick Italy so he spent his life as a professor of history mostly in the US (from classical Greek and Roman to modern European, but mainly the latter). He wrote books and hundreds, if not thousands of articles.
And my brother is a motorcyclist! With hundreds of articles and three books to his name. I think Clem (Clement Salvadori) and I grew up thinking that's what grown-ups did, they wrote books. The idea came absolutely naturally. Though it was Andy - who despaired of my commas - who taught me how to write well.’
Cynthia’s growing up years in Kenya, Europe, in San Tomasso and studies at Berkeley in California opened her universe. In 1962, she returned to Kenya. This was to be her home for always - even though she chose to continually renew residential visas rather than take up citizenship. As she was to say once, ‘Here I am sitting at the border, always an intriguing place to be. And comfortable. All my life I've never felt that I “belonged” anywhere; as we moved so frequently when I was a child I was always an “outsider”. The only consistent thing was that I hated whatever school I was in. But in the long run being an “outsider” has stood me in very good stead. I've liked certain places for certain reasons - usually for the riding. Lamu for its cats and donkeys and history. Never for any individual people.’
Yet Cynthia’s Kenyan connection goes back over 150 years. In her own words: ‘My mother's great-uncle was the first British vice-consul here in Lamu, back in the early 1880s. And a great-great-uncle was Speke, so my roots in East Africa go back to the 1850s! First of all my family was Andy and our horses; one by one they died. But my natal families, Salvadoris and Pawles, are strewn all over the world - that was when the map was mostly coloured pink. Both my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather came from families of twelve. I couldn't stay “back” from them if I even tried.’
Cynthia’s multi-heritage opened her life to so many doors. Her thoughts, her numerous articles for various journals, the conferences she gave, her detailed and meticulous and in-depth studies and writings on various cultures of Kenya clearly displayed a desire to understand the peoples around her. It was an insatiable curiosity for human cultures and of unjust treatments. She travelled widely in Kenya, doing much field work, especially in the Northern Frontier District, the NFD, which she came to love. Marsabit, Isiolo, Moyale. She worked with Paul Tablino to revise and translate from the Italian his book, ‘Gabra, Camel Nomads of Northern Kenya’.
She spent six years working under difficult conditions (with only occasional mails from Marsabit) in southern Ethiopia to completely revise, and to illustrate, a massive Borana dictionary, the ‘Aada Boraanaa’, a dictionary of Borana Culture which was published in early 2007. During that time she also translated (again from the Italian) and edited ‘Decisions in the Shade; Political and Juridical Processes among the Oromo-Borana’ by Marco Basi.
She would say, ‘It was bliss, sleeping on a cowhide under the stars, between the camels and the goats. It was also bliss that, having been to many Gabra weddings and carefully photographed each and every ritual detail, this time I didn't even take my camera out of my bag. I just lay on my mattress and watched, and listened to the singing that goes on all night prior to the bride being escorted at about 5am to her new mat-house that the women of both families erect for her the previous evening (the same Gabra day) - in an hour - in the groom's family's camel boma. Then I'll head back to Marsabit and spend another couple of weeks there, checking up on things I uncovered. And just enjoying being there - dirty, dusty and dry though the town is.’
The Indians of Kenya have always been a very visible minority in Kenya, conspicuous by their dress and also by their economic status. In the 1980s, Cynthia’s attention turned to the Indians of Kenya. They were not a monolith group, but very little had been written about their histories or their cultures. She compiled the encyclopedic book, ‘Through Open Doors, A View of Asian Cultures in Kenya’. This was a monumental project, containing immensely detailed religious and cultural background on the different groups. She travelled all over Kenya to record histories as told by the Indians themselves - as they saw their histories -and came up with a three volume set, ‘We came in Dhows’, besides working on two Gujerati journals (Parsee and Bohra) ‘Two Indian Travellers in East Africa 1902-1905’. Equally importantly, she encouraged so many of us to write and publish our own histories and stories. Late last year, Cynthia, together with Shaila Mauladad, compiled yet another book on the history of Punjabi Muslims of Kenya, ‘Settlers in a Foreign Land’ – a book very much in line with ‘We came in Dhows’.
‘Thanks for the Happy Diwali wishes,’ she would write, ‘but sadly I didn't even light a candle. I agree with you, if one isn't in the thick of the culture, it seems rather vapid to try to celebrate it by oneself. I spent so many years so deeply involved with Indian culture that all the festivals came to mean a great deal. And I really miss them. I have a deep-seated loathing for theology (which is an oxymoron, how can one know anything about “theo”?) but a great fascination for rituals.’
Hers was not an allegiance to any religion - Hindu, Jew, Christian or Muslim - yet she could have sat for hours in a Sikh Gurudwara listening to the Gurbani in a language she did not understand. Or, under a tree being a part of Sufi ceremony, she could have given you a long lecture extempore on St. Simeon of Aleppo.
Cynthia’s publisher in Addis Ababa persuaded her to write a book on the Sufis of Ethiopia. She spent years collecting and compiling data; the manuscript remains unpublished. ‘It makes me feel a bit redundant, writing about Sufis in Ethiopia,’ wrote Cynthia. ‘I'm sorry my father didn't live to see my “Forgotten People Revisited” and my “Maji” book (which I dedicated to him). But at least I've given it a historical dimension and put a political slant on Sufis. I've added an Appendix “Militant Sufi Movements in Africa” - Dan Fodio of Sokoto, Abdel Kader in Algeria, the Mahdi in the Sudan, the Senussis in Cyrenaica and the Ahlu wal Sunna in Somalia today! Finally, after years of writing stories about other people’s families, I wrote one about mine -“Anti-Fascists on the Equator”. This story was published in an issue of the Old Africa magazine.’
The enormous time and meticulously detailed effort she put into her work made her hyper sensitive to any corrections or changes without her written approval. In the event that when her 'Glimpses of the Jews in Kenya' was published, she completely disowned her own book, claiming its mutilation by one of her friends. Yet she displayed none or little stress in physical discomfort or pain -something a couple of whiskeys, pain killers and a hot bath, if possible, could solve. She lived sparsely, her lodgings bereft of furnishings; it was almost ascetic.
Cynthia may have been more or less housebound since her arthritic hips (which she absolutely refused to have replaced) reduced her movement, but in no way was she ever disconnected. Her conversation more than made up, whether it was discussing Lamu affairs, in Kenya or the rest of the world or her concern for the troubles between the Burji and the Borana in the NFD and how the government was failing to come to grips with the situation. One minute she would be in awe of the beauty of the dances of the Wataa peoples that she had witnessed. The next she would be swearing about the developers and jet setters who had taken over Manda Island, Shela and Kipungani for putting fresh water in their swimming pools, houses and hotels while doing nothing for poor people. She had an extraordinary memory, combined with an equally deep and extraordinary recognition of the other.
She never owned a house. But she would have her horses and cats when possible, or else she had them parked with various friends. She adored her animals. Very early in her life she became vegetarian. As she explains, ‘At one point my father wanted to host a meal for the peasant families on the farm; he'd provide the ingredients, they'd do the cooking. We couldn't very well ask them to bring their own chickens so I had to go to a chicken battery for the first time in my life. I was so horrified that's when I became a vegetarian, then and there. I had a couple of rows with my mother, “No Mummy, not even hamburgers for the Cousin Jane's children!” And then she accepted it. And everybody was perfectly happy.’
When in Nairobi from up North or from Ethiopia, she stayed with friends. Much later, in the secluded compound of 90-year old Jan Hemsing, who in earlier days had authored 20 books herself, she had a small bedroom and no kitchen so she did without hot meals. ‘I'm fine at Jan's,’ she said, ‘It is really convenient. And full of cats. Suzuki lives just outside my window, covered with jacaranda blossoms, and when I drive in and the engine is warm there is always one cat or another ready to curl up on her bonnet. I've now got Suzuki parked right in front of my window, which is very companionable. One of Jan's six cats, the ginger Orlando, is sitting on her bonnet, looking at me…my new digs, a detached guest-room in a mini-jungle right behind Sarit Centre. It's convenient but claustrophobic. Although I appreciate Jan's hospitality immensely, and realise she appreciates my being here, I'm hoping something else will materialise. But it doesn't matter much as I intend to go to Lamu anyway.’
Cynthia’s last two years were in Lamu at a guesthouse of her friend, American born Kenyan artist Jony Waite. They started work on ‘Lamu Scrapbook, stories of Lamu’ written by Cynthia, with sketches by Jony. The book awaits publication, pending funding.
Surrounded by Moshi and Mabawa, her cats in Lamu, Cynthia maintained her relationship with her numerous fans and friends, continuing her writing and publishing projects. She spoke of her cats with affection - as the soul of her house. And when they died, poisoned by neighbours, she was devastated. Perhaps also complicated by her eternal frustration with the lack of communication from her publisher in Ethiopia, or looking for funding for her books, Cynthia chose to go, the way her father had done. ‘I’d always been proud of my father, but the way he chose to die in ending his life made me proudest of all - which I was there to witness,’ she wrote in one of her emails.
She could be sharp; sometimes it sounded rough and hard, but Cynthia's work remained meticulous, her mind clear. Cynthia never got the full recognition that she deserved, yet she left us an invaluable legacy with treasures of well researched and documented works. We in Kenya remain indebted to her generosity.
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Two South African enemies die, alongside our right to water
Two of South Africa’s greatest water warriors were not actually killed in conflict, though at the time of their deaths on 22 and 23 June, both were furious with their traditional political party home, the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
For Kader Asmal, the party’s proposed legislation to snuff state information, nicknamed the ‘Secrecy Bill’, warranted spirited condemnation, and the airwaves rang with his principled liberal critique up through his last week. The day after he died (age 76), the ANC authorised sufficient revision to the bill that he probably would have declared victory. His funeral and memorial were given exceptionally high-profile coverage in the state press, befitting his status as a senior human rights lawyer and party intellectual.
The other, Durban community activist Thulisile Christina Manqele (age 46), had a more profound critique of post-apartheid politics, and no one in authority was amongst 400 mourners at her 2 July community funeral. A former domestic worker, she suffered ill health and lost her job in 1999, at the time looking after seven children including three she informally adopted.
The two old enemies never actually met in person, and since the crucial Durban courtroom fight more than a decade ago, they probably never thought of one another. Yet their lives tell us a great deal about political status, social memory, and a battleground - Manqele’s water metre - on which South Africa has won its reputation as among the world’s most conflict-ridden societies.
Manqele, who regularly attended the monthly Harold Wolpe Lecture Series at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society, was an ordinary working-class woman, but in 1999-2000, she found herself at the centre of a ferocious struggle for water rights.
Asmal was, from 1994-99, the country’s water minister before becoming education minister (1999-2004), and by the late 2000s he chaired the Wolpe Trust. After I played a minor advisory role for him in 1997, Asmal wrote me an angry letter insisting I cease criticising government for reneging on the promise in the 1994 ANC campaign platform, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), for a universal free ‘lifeline’ water supply of 50 litres per person per day.
ASMAL’S WATER POLICY
Keeping that promise would have required a nation-wide water pricing policy with higher unit amounts charged to hedonistic water consumers, especially large firms, mines and (white) farmers, in order to cross-subsidise everyone else and also encourage conservation. To illustrate, state power company Eskom has long been the single largest water consumer, paying low prices to cool coal-fired power plants (supplying the world’s cheapest electricity to BHP Billiton and Anglo), plants that a climate-conscious government would urgently mothball as soon as they can be replaced with renewables. (Instead, the ANC government is building two new ones, the world’s third and fourth largest, to appropriately welcome ‘Conference of Polluters’ delegates to the Durban COP17 summit in late November.) The post-apartheid balance of forces didn’t permit this sort of reform.
‘The positions I put forward are not positions of a sell-out,’ Asmal berated me in May 1998 after a simple redistributive challenge to his officials. ‘The RDP makes no reference to free water to the citizens of South Africa. The provision of such free water has financial implications for local government that I as a national minister must be extremely careful enforcing on local government.’ Of course, that was precisely why a national cross-subsidisation policy was required, and still is, so that local fiscal shortfalls don’t continue driving up water prices (38 per cent here in Durban on Friday), causing yet more disconnections for those unable to pay. More worrying still, the former law dean at Dublin’s Trinity College took a slippery leap of logic to redefine the word ‘lifeline’ to mean, not free, but instead the equivalent of paying the full operating and maintenance costs. Indeed ‘100 per cent cost recovery’ was the policy Asmal was persuaded to adopt by bureaucrats in his first White Paper. The pressure against subsidising water was intense, and overwhelmed Asmal’s professed social-democratic ideology. Privatisers from Paris and London had been banging down South Africa’s doors even before apartheid fell.
In a 1995 powerpoint presentation to Asmal, the World Bank’s taskmanager of the controversial Lesotho Highlands Water Project made this case: if poor consumers had the expectation of getting something for nothing, municipal privatisation contracts ‘would be much harder to establish’. So if consumers were not paying their bills, Asmal needed to impose a ‘credible threat of cutting service’. He may have disliked the Washington financiers, but Asmal faithfully carried out their advice; in 1999 the Bank bragged it was ‘instrumental’ in his ‘radical revision’ of water pricing. So when word trickled down from Asmal’s ministry that full cost-recovery was the new SA water policy, what had earlier been free - for example, bantustan-era KwaZulu water supplies in Ngwelezane near Richards Bay - would now be priced. South Africa’s fabled service delivery protests began in earnest.
Cost-recovery was the reason Ngwelezane’s water administrator disconnected hundreds of households from grid access they could no longer afford in August 2000. Immediately after the victims turned to local river water, Ngwelezane became the epicenter of South Africa’s worst modern cholera epidemic. Hundreds died. (It was only then that Asmal’s successor, Ronnie Kasrils, persuaded party officials to reverse policy and provide a free basic water supply, albeit just half the RDP’s recommended level.)
MANQELE’S WATER WAR
Meanwhile, a few hours drive down the coast in southwest Durban, Manqele was working closely with the late Fatima Meer, sociologist Ashwin Desai and Westcliff Flats Residents Association leader Orlean Naidoo to help unite Chatsworth’s African and Indian residents in what became the Durban Social Forum, no easy task given the area’s divided history, desegregation dynamics and acute race/class tensions. In 1999, Manqele became ill, lost her job and saw her municipal arrears reach $1,300.
The first water disconnection by city authorities was in January 2000. Manqele explained in the documentary film ‘Plumbing the Rights’: ‘That man came now to close the water. I haven’t got water after that I haven’t got food too, and then I’m thinking one way may be to sell my body there, I’m thinking food again to, I’m thinking I can’t got there to prostitute me I’m old. All night I can’t sleep and high blood pressure is high.’
Chatsworth activists then helped Manqele illegally reconnect the pipes, allowing her and the seven children to consume more than the 25 liters per person (two flushes of the toilet each) that the city was allegedly supplying free each day. But as Naidoo recalled, the water only kicked in once arrears were cleared: ‘What kind of free water service is that - when people can’t afford to pay their daily bill, how are they going to pay off their arrears to get their free water? So that’s just a false hope.’
The turn to illegality was demonstrated on film by Chatsworth organiser Brandon Pillay, later elected an ANC city councilor: ‘There’s a copper disc that’s placed inside of this pipe and that actually shuts off the water so what we do is we just try to open up this pipe, and on opening this pipe we just remove the disc and then we have water.’
Manqele told the filmmaker a few months later, as cholera joined the diarrhea and AIDS pandemics: ‘That’s why me now I go back there to open the water…I’m scared for the cholera and then I need the water because me my condition…and I’m worried for the children, the suffering of the children, that’s why now if I never did that thing (illegal reconnection) now I’m going to die, I can’t stay without water.’
In March 2000, Manqele’s lawyers won an injunction against the city, raising expectations for a more sustained challenge to Asmal’s legacy. But Manqele’s move to claim her constitutional water rights in the courts was foiled in July, for as Bristol University law professor Bronwen Morgan reported, ‘Extensive evidence was brought by the water company about the fact that she had tampered with the network, which was defined as criminal activity’ and, allegedly, ‘the judge’s attitude was sharply altered by the evidence of her dealings with moonlight plumbers.’
Facing more than 10,000 Durban township residents recently disconnected, the political implications of the case loomed large. Mass organising was kicking off across SA’s biggest cities and new urban social movements arose, encouraged by the grassroots-women’s strength and inter-ethnic unity symbolised by Chatsworth’s water war.
Although the court ultimately ruled against Manqele, municipal water authorities shifted tactics, announcing that instead of outright disconnections, ‘flow limiters’ would be installed, an important distinction, but these too were often removed by local activists. Disgusted with national policy and the legal system, Manqele’s legacy was to keep the community movement sufficiently strong to enforce street-level power of water reconnection ever since.
(She can be seen here and here.)
FALSE HOPE LEGACY
Some of us should have listened and learned more from Manqele because three years later, while based at the University of the Witwatersrand Graduate School of Public and Development Management in Johannesburg, Sowetans asked for my advice and I naively suggested they take their water case to the courts.
In Joburg, Asmal’s influence was also decisive in encouraging water commercialisation (the city’s failed 2001-06 contract with Suez); at the same time he authorised an ecologically-damaging and socially-dislocating mega-dam (Mogale) in corruption-ridden Lesotho, where a dozen multinational corporations, including a Suez subsidiary, were prosecuted for bribery during the Katse Dam’s late-1990s construction. Joburg water supply costs quintupled.
(Ironically, Asmal chaired the quite balanced World Commission on Dams at the time. It was yet another contradiction internalised in his complicated life.)
Like Manqele, the Soweto activists initially won minor ‘false hope’ victories in the Joburg High Court in 2008 and SA Supreme Court in early 2009, but their case for doubling daily free water to a modest 50 litres and prohibiting pre-payment metres was overturned by the Constitutional Court in September 2009. Asmal was quiet. So much for human rights law, and for our faith in liberal public-interest institutions.
A member of Manqele’s legal team, Heinrich Bohmke, remarked that her case was ‘an early warning - for those who would hear it - of the dangers of construing demands for the bare necessities of life in terms subject to constitutional adjudication. The case was lost, the Westcliff Flats Dwellers Association was demobilised while judgment was awaited and, in fact, came to think of itself as a collection of good if victimised citizens.’
Human rights law was now useless, Bohmke continues: ‘After the loss, survival again meant illegality and abandoning the passive comforts of victimhood. It was only because of the strength, resilience and expedience of people like Christina that the strategy of legalism was disavowed and the organisation was rebuilt.’
Manqele was a salt-of-the-earth activist, a great woman active in her residents’ committee until last week. Asmal will be remembered fondly by many, especially for his strong recent stand against Israeli apartheid. Once you lose power, Asmal (as well as Kasrils) proved, your best instincts can flower.
Yet his legacy includes water disconnections and privatization; Lesotho megadams; devastating inattention to household sanitation, municipal sewerage and Joburg’s Acid Mine Drainage crisis; the neoliberal ‘Outcomes Based Education’ curriculum fiasco; notorious doctoring of matriculant pass rates to make it appear he generated improvement; highly dubious university merger decisions now being reversed; and, in 2003, a key role providing ethical cover for state munitions sales to Washington-London’s Iraq war belligerents.
But in taking sides with neoliberalism in the country’s world-famous water wars, Asmal met his match: an overburdened woman in a Durban community willing and able to fight back. And when the courts were as full of hot air as was he occasionally, it was in her turn to self-generated justice that we gain permanent inspiration from Christina Manqele.
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* Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society, http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Art, literature and ‘the whole Africa thing’
This week I am taking a break from covering social justice and political blogs and instead introducing a different political perspective through some of the many art and literary blogs across the continent. One of the oldest of these is Wordsbody by Nigerian writer and art critic, Molara Woods who has been blogging since 2006. Molara’s focus is primarily on Nigeria’s rich and diverse art scene. In this post comments on the recently ‘discovered’ Nigerian/Ghanian writer, Taiye Selasi:
‘…one moment you’ve never heard of someone and the next, they’re all over the place and popping up every other day…’
Selasi’s short story ‘The Sex Lives of African Girls’, published by Granta, has been the subject of much of the online conversations on her work – which contain the usual hype that westerners use on ‘discovering’ anything amazing out of Africa. Having the support and awe of the likes of literary giants, Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison have helped her on her way.
‘The writer tells Granta about her short story: “I was rather surprised to discover that I’d painted such a devastating portrait. It was only months and months after I’d finished editing – focusing narrowly on rhythm, image, pacing, form – that I noticed how dark the content was, how fundamentally damning the comment.”
‘From there she’s at the BBC pleading for more fictional portrayals of the African middle class (I’d say Amen! to that – and I’d add that there should be more of the African middle class in stories singled out for recognition by international awards and prizes).
‘Then she’s over at the NPR which proclaims thus: African Writer Helps Put Her Community On Media Map. Although I seriously question whether Ms Selasi, delightful though she seems, could be credited with putting her ‘community’ on the map, as though others didn’t come before her. One of those daft declarations the Western media makes about our ‘community’ as par for the course, all the time.
‘Anyway, the writer is fashionably thin, has chiselled features, soul singer hair and speaks in a “smiling” American voice – all of which helps, I’m sure. What matters most though is that by all accounts, she’s loaded with talent, which is always welcome.
‘Her “Ghana Must Go” – a very Nigerian title if I ever heard one – has been sold by the Wylie Agency to Penguin, and is being championed by Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison. What’s that like?’
Tolu Ogunlesi Nigerian writer and features editor for the online newspaper NEXT, writes on the newly coined term ‘Africa 2.0’ to describe the role of technology in Africa. It’s unlikely that his essay ‘Some Thoughts on Africa 2.0’ will join the list of definitive narratives on Africa such as Chimanda Adichie’s ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ and Binyavanga Wainaina’s satirical ‘How to Write About Africa’ and the more recent critique of the Caine Prize by Ikhide Ikheloa ‘Email from America: The Caine Prize and Unintended Consequences’. For one thing the essay lacks Ogunlesi’s usual wit but probably more to the point it is really about Nigeria. I would have expected Ogunlesi to be more mindful of conflating Africa with Nigeria and provide examples from other named countries. Nevertheless his observations on an ‘emerging Africa’ do speak to the ongoing uprisings across the 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.’
At the risk of falling into the same trap as Ogunlesi (using Africa as a title and then writing about Nigeria), African Literature News and Review by Nigerian writer Chielozona Eze links to a recent interview on Bombsite with Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina. Wainaina discusses writing on and as an ‘African’ as well as his new memoir ‘One Day I Will Write About This Place’ which took seven years –“five six years of many many collapses”. His reflection on ‘How to Write About Africa’ is a reminder to new writers who become the ‘new face’ of the grand ‘AmerEuro’ narrative on Africa, on what happens next as the hype unfolds!
‘I feel like the original Granta piece now belongs to somebody else. I have enjoyed desecrating it—I can distress the sanctimoniousness that sometimes surrounds it. I want to be contrary about “How to Write about Africa.”
‘Then there’s the whole Africa thing, which is complicated. The moment you have been published and recognized for whatever reason, and your name is bandied about around Africa and in writing circles, you end up in certain places. You end up in London a lot. This has been decided. Somehow you end up in Paris a lot too. It’s been decided. And then little other places. New York for some reason hasn’t quite done it. In these places you generally meet African writers and have some kind of relationship which is usually like “Oh fuck!” and then you get very drunk and you get to know each other—over long periods of time. For many of us, in a certain way, that’s our first discovery of Africa. Some writers met Africa early. They came to New York to study at NYU, or they were in London, in Leeds, or somewhere, and there was an African students’ association—they made friends and some kind of community thing happened. It happened to me as a student in South Africa where I met Ghanaians, Ugandans, and all these professionals. I belonged to a community around them and then developed a sensibility, because, all of a sudden, I would find myself knowing what happened in the Ghanaian election, for instance.’
Out and About Africa is written by Brandie who covers ‘fashion, design, music and photography’. Her posts are short and visual which in these days of excess in words provides sensory relief. In this post she publishes some old black and white photographs of Ethiopian Jews by Ruth Gruber’s ‘From Exodus to Ethiopia’ The photos are laden with politics of Palestine, homelands, race and class.
Poéfrika is an outstanding blog by Rethabile Masilo on ‘African-inspired writing’. His blog includes interviews with African writers and poets – including those from African Diaspora – reviews, and of course poetry. In this post he reviews ‘Marcus and the Amazons’ by Caribbean writer, Geoffrey Philps who authors another exceptional literary blog, the ‘Geoffrey Philps Blog’.
‘Marcus and the Amazons makes me feel right and (yes) triumphant in its ability to portray characters and events which, as I have said, ring true to life. Here's an example. When I went to the USA I was a young man just exiled from Lesotho and having just tasted South Africa's apartheid jails under the then Pass Law system. I was a young political mind with clear ideas and a budding desire to end injustice in the world.
‘A few years later, I was ashamed to find myself considering whether freedom fighters in Southern Africa were or were not terrorists. The media in America had worked on my subconscious and made me wonder about one of my strongest convictions: South Africans had done everything possible for peaceful change in the region, to no avail, and therefore the only channels left were sabotage and the militarisation of the population.
‘I was Clarence, then, and if the propaganda machine had been consistent, deliberate and targeted, I could have possibly folded and gone over to the "enemy". Just like Clarence. And that's why Marcus and the Amazons is important. The sort of thing Geoffrey recounts has, is, and will happen as long as man is man and greed is greed.
‘As a scientifically minded individual who did his Independent Study on insects, it was an extra treat to read of the cooperation among Marcus and his family and friends, and their societal behaviour which includes division of labour, the ability to find solutions to complex situations, and the ability to communicate (using pheromones), qualities which as a result make them the most successful family in the animal kingdom. The Formicidae family.’
African Women’s Cinemais a relatively new blog by Beti Ellison who is the director of the Center for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema. Here she publishes an interview with Léandre-Alain Baker on her film ‘Ramata’, which is based on a novel by Abasse Ndione. Here is a brief synopsis of the film from the Rotterdam Film Festival: ’Ramata is a striking woman in her fifties who lives in an elegant neighbourhood of Dakar, married to a Minister of Justice with whom she is preparing to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary. But she is forced to confront this unsatisfactory image of herself when she meets a mysterious hustler free of all attachments, named Ngor Ndong.
‘BE: Ramata, the wife of the Minister of Justice, lives a wealthy bourgeois life, which is seemingly happy and fulfilling. However, her encounter with Ngor takes her to another side of the social spectrum of society and awakens a deep longing and desire, unsatisfied and intangible, which smolders within her, and that ultimately Ngor is not willing nor able to satisfy. An emotionally irrational need for Ngor plunges Ramata into an emotional abyss that unravels into self-destruction. And yet, this illusive lover, Ngor, has no discernible role in this story!
‘LAB: Ramata is a deeply wounded woman, a wound that dates back to her childhood and thus is constitutive of who she is. This encounter with Ngor Ndong, her young lover, will awaken in her the grief that had been dormant. Essentially, it is the story of the metamorphosis of a woman, her relationship with the world, and the universe around her. The affair with her young lover, Ngor Ndong, takes a dramatic turn when the hidden chapter of her past comes back to haunt her. It is true that their relationship is irrational, and so is the desire for another, for love. It is this irrational aspect that reveals to us the things that are the most concrete in their lives. This is what allows us to discover who they really are.’
Kimani wa Wanjiru is a blog on contemporary arts in Africa and beyond has a series of posts on visual artists from Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Benin – an awesome collection. I love the one of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ by R Kimathi, which expresses everything I feel about religious irrationality and it’s demonisation of sexual minorities. I don’t know the artist's intention but for me this the Pentecost on its head.
Finally Dar Sketches is a visual delight aimed at producing ‘a high quality book of drawings and creative writing inspired by “street level” Dar es Salaam.’ The book is available in Tanzania. Based on the drawings which are inspiring and beautiful, I hope the book soon be available in other parts of the continent and beyond.
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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.
The Militant Intellection Complex...
A conversation with Pius Adesanmi
AFRICAN WRITING: In your ‘day job’, you teach in a Canadian University, but you are also a widely-published commentator on Africana. You don’t believe in the need for distance in the practice of academia, then?
PIUS ADESANMI: Thank you for your question. I am a public intellectual and a chronicler of Africa. I have wholly embraced that vocation with its generous hassles and miserly joys. The condition of Nigeria and Africa today are too desperate for me to find any joy or personal satisfaction in producing exclusive literary-theoretical jargons that could only be understood by colleagues and advanced doctoral students.
And, no, I do not believe in the need for discursive boundaries between town and gown. My philosophy of intellection and knowledge production has been shaped over the years by a very broad range of populist (I hope one can still use that term in a non-pejorative sense today) traditions. The writer and public intellectual that I am today were shaped by all the big isms of the political and ideological Left even with all their warts. I strive constantly to hone an intellectual praxis marked by its embeddedness in the social, an underlying immersion in volk consciousness, a rootedness in the idioms of the street, and a permanent suspicion of power that cannot in anyway be cocooned in academia. I am just too restless for the epistemic isolation that is academe.
And don’t forget that I am also a product and student of the French tradition of public intellection. If you look closely at 19th and 20th century France, especially roughly from Emile Zola’s ‘J’accuse’ down to our times, the ideas that powered and inflected society did not come as a result of the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, Pierre Bourdieu, Andre Breton, Raymond Aron, Louis Althusser, Pierre Fougeyrollas, Michel Foucault, Alain Finkiekrault, and Bernard-Henri Lévy merely sitting down to philosophize from the hallowed halls of the Sorbonne or the Ecole Normale Supérieure. Many of these thinkers were or are also agitators, columnists, anarchists, and animators of the public sphere. Anything you could do to keep power on its toes and prevent complacency on the part of the people was welcome.
At the risk of boring you, let me remind you that public intellection is also not a new thing in Africa. The only new dimension is the increasing appropriation of the internet as a space of public intellection as we see, for instance, in the very visible listserv praxis of Nigeria’s Mobolaji Aluko, a Professor of Chemical Engineering with a public intellectual vocation underwritten by social and political justice concerns. Other than this new online dimension, the field of African public intellection has been very rich since the upsurge in continental production of discourse and knowledges in European languages began in the 20th century. In no particular order, the likes of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Odia Ofeimun, Edwin Madunagu, Ayodele Awojobi, Bala Usman, Eskor Toyo, Niyi Osundare, Biodun Jeyifo and so many others have contributed enormously to blurring the boundaries between town and gown in terms of activism and essayistic interventions. South Africa, Kenya, Congo, Uganda, Malawi, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe have all given us the likes of Archie Mafeje, Bernard Magubane, Eski’a Mpahlele, Ali Mazrui, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Florence Wambugu, Mahmood Mamdani, Achille Mbembe, Lovemore Madhuku, John Makumbe, and Ernest Wambia dia Wambia just to limit myself to those. I like to flatter myself by believing that I am qualified to be called a devoted student of these illustrious practitioners of African public intellection.
AFRICAN WRITING: Dr. Laurent Gbagbo (President of Cote d’Ivoire) is another ‘public Intellectual’. What is your advice to him at this point of his country’s political history?
PIUS ADESANMI: Dr. Laurent Gbagbo was a public intellectual. Today, he gives a bad name to the very essence of public intellection. He is one of those fellows who just make one wonder if one isn’t pouring water in a basket in terms of our collective struggle to articulate and push better narratives of Africa. Everywhere I go in the lecture circuit, people say: do not pathologize Africa; cherry pick positive stories about Africa for western audiences; Africa has no monopoly of negative narratives. The trouble is: a single Gbabgo destroys in one second years of positive image casting by those of us struggling to re-narrativize that continent. I feel somewhat personally assaulted by the Gbagbo tragedy because I am as Francophone as I am Anglophone. I’ve been following Gbagbo for a very long time. It’s sad to see what he has become.
AFRICAN WRITING: Africa has a long history of liberators who are too easily satisfied by the liberation of their own wallets. The first wave that brought independence to the former colonies chose not to break down the power structure of the colonists and simply inserted - and entrenched - themselves in it. Our post-independence history has roughly followed that template, of opposition leaders that become worse than the ‘dictators’ they oust. You speak of a ‘permanent suspicion of power’ that cannot be cocooned in academia. Have African ‘public intellectuals’ who cross the political divide fared any better? Are our centres of intellection actually liberating minds, or generating the ideas to truly liberate their societies? Or are they just vehicles to catapult an intellectual elite into the casinos of power.
PIUS ADESANMI: ‘Liberators’ is a very huge basket into which I assume you have dumped a very broad range of actors in the continent’s liberatory processes: nationalist politicians, trade unionists, student unionists, youth unionists, creative writers of the Negritudinist and cultural-nationalist dimension and, of course, academics and public intellectuals. I am offering this disentanglement just to get a proper handle on your question. I think you are also super-imposing the typical Nigerian scenario of cross-over intellection on the whole of Africa. It is true that more than thirty years of military rule and corrupt civilian interregnums have eventuated in a corrosion of values of which the co-optation of the intellectual by the state has been a manifest consequence in Nigeria but that is not always the case with the rest of Africa.
I prefer the template of one of Democratic Republic of Congo’s foremost public intellectuals, Ernest Wambia dia Wambia. I am sure you know that he studied in the United States and wrote a formidable doctoral dissertation on Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre before settling down to an eclectic academic career that saw him eventually teach at Harvard University before moving to the University of Dar-es-Salaam. By the 1980s, he had become one of Africa’s famous and influential public intellectuals and got into trouble often with Mobutu Sese Seko. I am sure you know that he went to the trenches during the second Congo war against Laurent Kabila and became a leader of the rebel movement, Rally for Congolese Democracy. Yes, a famous African public intellectual quit the University and picked up a Kalachnikov against Laurent Kabila in the 1990s. That story is not very well known in Anglophone Africa because of the iron curtain of language but it happened and I daresay that it is far more gripping than our own narrative of a young writer who held up a radio station three decades ago while trying to defend the ethos of democratic practice in Nigeria. This is not to diminish Soyinka’s truly heroic act. Today, Ernest Wambia dia Wambia is a progressive Senator in DRC and still one of the most active and prominent names in Africanist academic and political discourse circles. That is a kind of African public intellectual trajectory that has been overshadowed by the Nigerian model of collaboration with the corrupt postcolonial state in Abuja. We must be careful, however, not to pathologize the Nigerian model. After all, there were intellectuals who collaborated with the Vichy regime in France.
AFRICAN WRITING: We refer mainly to that broad clique who find themselves in power, or with access to the spoils of power.
PIUS ADESANMI: That is true - especially in Nigeria where the state has been able to ruin the names and reputation of too many of our public intellectuals but like I just pointed out in the case of Wambia dia Wambia, collaboration with power has not been the only destiny of public intellection in Africa and Nigeria. Part of the problem here is that your question assumes, as it is often frequently done, that the work of the public intellectual must always eventuate in concrete, benchmarkable results in terms of the advancement and liberation of society. Sometimes history dictates otherwise by interpellating them just to produce ideas and permanently disrupt the settled verities of those in power. When Octavio Paz says that thinking is the only obligation of the intelligentsia, he makes a lot of sense to me. Thinking is really the only debt that the public intellectual owes his society. Thinking is what I believe I owe Nigeria and Africa.
AFRICAN WRITING: Do you really subscribe to Octavio Paz? Do you not see a crisis of imagination in Presidential Houses across Africa? An abundance of people with power who don’t know what to do with it? Is there not a place for think tanks that actually bend their minds to concrete policy? Can African taxpayers afford the luxury of ‘abstract thinkers’?
PIUS ADESANMI: Octavio Paz was not just talking about abstract thought. He was talking about intellection tout court. That said, abstract thought and concrete policy intellection are not mutually exclusive. Those producing policy papers in American think tanks do not operate ex nihilo. They are coming from the abstract thought that has either framed philosophies of the Left or the Right depending on their respective political persuasions. In the USA, all the lunatic rightwing public policy papers and recommendations churned out by equally lunatic rightwing think tanks in Washington, and which served as the springboard for so many policies of the Bush-Cheney junta, are traceable to the abstract thought of the Chicago school of economics and the towering artifice of its singular messiah, the late Milton Friedman. That is the man whose abstract thought and vision informs the worldview of the racists in the American right - those crazy neocons and tea partyers. In essence, there is no such thing as policy intellection shorn of philosophical roots in abstraction. There are in fact two immediate dangers in the perspective of your question. One is the danger associated with the oft-repeated fallacy that the situation in Africa is too dire for abstraction. When that mode of reflection is translated into the lingo of the street in, say, Nigeria, it eventuates in certain national attitudes to intellection. Hence, politicians and even the general public begin to dismiss any sustained and rigorous intellection as dogon turenchi or big English. The rise of illiteracy in Nigeria and the generalized hostility to knowledge is remotely linked to the hostility to abstract thought. Otherwise informed Nigerians then go online to make thoroughly illiterate statements asking for more action and less grammar.
The second danger lies in the fact that apathy towards abstract intellection and ideas all over Africa means that the intellectuals who tend to coalesce around the islets of power to produce the concrete policy papers you are talking about would be coming from ideological backgrounds that are inimical to the interests of the African/Nigerian people. Do you think that Olusegun Aganga, Charles Soludo, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Yayi Boni, Alassane Ouattara, and others in their Bretton Woods ilk come from a concrete policy background shorn of abstract thought rooted in specific ideologies? Of course not. They are all products of all kinds of neo-liberal imperialist abstractions acquired in the context of American think tanks and institutions. What we need more in Africa is precisely the sort of rigorous primary abstract thought that could be at the base of the ideological impulses of the second layer of policy intellection that subsequently lands at the table of the minister or the president.
AFRICAN WRITING: Do you see any signs that this ideological thinking rooted in African interests and realities is going on? Or is Africanist thought still client to SinoEuroAmerica? Won’t you admit that much of our intellection amounts to intellectual masturbation where our so-called intellectual elite fail to apply their abilities to actual solutions?
PIUS ADESANMI: Sure, you do have a point about the preponderance of intellectual masturbation and the evident failure of intellection in the area of concrete solutions. But I see that as a symptom of much deeper problems in Nigeria associated with the corrosive effects of the prolonged years of democratic stagnation on national values. I have been to conferences - academic conferences - in Africa where the government would send ministers to attend sessions and take notes and mingle with intellectuals and even invite those intellectuals to their respective ministries for post-conference dialogue with their staff. This happens a lot in Southern Africa. Now, can you imagine a minister in Nigeria attending an academic conference as an ordinary participant who is going to attend every session and take notes? Unless you invite him to come and disturb the opening ceremony with his flamboyant convoy and sirens two or three hours late, he won’t attend. This, over the years, has led to a devaluation of intellectual production in Nigeria. There are also African countries where I have noticed that governments give specific developmental briefs to universities and ask them to produce thought. That adds value to intellectual labour and creates an outlet for thought to be translated into beneficial societal products.
That does not happen in Nigeria because the government is still fighting the war that the military declared on the University even more than a decade after the restoration of democracy. That explains why Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State and his colleagues in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum instinctively opted for Harvard University when they dreamt up a project of capacity training for Nigerian governors. It was unimaginable for them to team up with a Nigerian University. But I see signs of change, especially in southwestern Nigeria with the Yoruba Academy trying to serve as a bridge between intellectuals and state governments in that part of the country. New generation intellectuals like Diipo Famakinwa, Wale Adebanwi, Yinka Odumakin, and Sola Olorunyomi are all gearing up to ensure a connection between intellect and governance in southwestern Nigeria on the platform of the Yoruba Academy. To return to the initial frame of your question: ideological thought rooted in African interests is going on powerlessly in many places in Africa. I say powerlessly because to try to produce that kind of intellection independently of western power structures is to begin with a great disadvantage in Africa. But those who are resolute are trudging on. An interesting body of work has been emerging from Ayi kwei Armah’s Per Ankh Collective in Dakar. This body of work is the sort that travels in the direction of ancient African societies and knowledge systems for abstraction and not in the direction of the West.
AFRICAN WRITING: Speaking about intellectuals and public policy, are you a Dead-Aider? Dambisa Moyo’s controversial book (‘Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How there is a Better Way for Africa’) preaches trade, not aid (to grossly oversimplify a complex subject). Where do you stand on the subject?
PIUS ADESANMI: Moyo is precisely a good example of an Africa public policy commentator coming from the sort of Western neo-liberal knowledge systems that I have been analyzing here. I am not exactly sure that her attempt to break away from what she was taught in those places has worked.
AFRICAN WRITING: Can I pin you down on where you believe she is in error?
PIUS ADESANMI: How do you preach trade in conditions of gross global inequality? What power does Cote d’Ivoire have over the price of her cocoa? Can you stop the US from granting those subsidies to her own farmers and thereby creating a non-level playing field between her own farmers and Latin/Central American farmers? Can you subject trade to the goodwill of the buyer - especially if that buyer is a capitalist West? ‘Trade, not aid’ is a convenient platitude that has no future in the more realistic global capitalist world that we encounter in the works of Naomi Klein. And who says that aid is always inimical? Israel is one of the world’s biggest aid recipients.
AFRICAN WRITING: But is the current Aid regime not analogous to AIDS in the sense of breaking down Africa’s auto-generative capabilities?
PIUS ADESANMI: I am more opposed to charity than I am to aid. I have constantly written against charity as an offshoot of a formidable Mercy Industrial Complex.
AFRICAN WRITING: What is the difference between ‘aid’ and ‘charity’. Do you believe that one-off, no-strings-attached grants are more inimical than the various ‘aid’ packages linked with procurement and repayment conditionalities?
PIUS ADESANMI: The layman’s distinction that I make between the two is purely idiosyncratic and may not meet with the approval of development experts and expats but when have I ever taken those fellas seriously? I have always seen aid as transactions between states and public world bodies (the UN, the European Union, Africa Union) that allow for a structured and supervised trickle down of a fragment of the global North’s surplus to the global South in order to ensure that the state in the global South maintains its comprador essence while the state in the global North continues to supervise neocolonial asymmetries with a squeaky-clean conscience.
Charity on the other hand is when guilt-ridden Westerners pushed by a messianic complex and convinced of their essential Christian goodness, decide to do something about the hunger and the diseases of the Other in the global South. Once the Westerner self-fashions in this manner, there are options open to him. He puts money in an envelope meant for charity as part of Sunday offertory in his church; he dumps a can of tomato soup or a pack of Uncle Ben’s rice in those ubiquitous charity baskets in schools, shopping malls, hospitals. Beyond this level, it becomes more structured because non-state, non-governmental agents and structures takeover: Oxfam, médecins sans frontières, Save the Children, Save Africa, Adopt a Child, Save this, Save that. These agents and structures, in turn, appeal to western celebrity culture. Enter Bono, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, George Clooney, Oprah. Enter restless celebrity-academics like Jeffrey Sachs. Enter specific African countries that permanently appeal to the proclivities of this Mercy Industrial Complex: Malawi, Mali, Chad, Sudan, South Africa (the part of it that is ‘Africa’), the Congos, Kenya. Enter very specific registers that go into how the targets of the Mercy Industrial Complex are narrativized: mosquito nets, malaria, wells, boreholes, protein deficiency, hygiene, handwashing practices. This, of course, means charity jobs that are advertised in very interesting ways by these actors. An Australian charity organization was recently looking to hire a hand-washing specialist!
AFRICAN WRITING: Just what do you refer to as the ‘Mercy Industrial Complex’?
PIUS ADESANMI: I thought I already sketched out the basics of how the Mercy Industrial Complex functions. If you look at the foundational expression of which my own formulation is but a claque, the Military-Industrial Complex, you will notice a recurrence of diction and registers all leading to the same psychology: essential goodness. Hence we have a defence industry in the United States that must corrupt Congress and the Executive in order to ensure that unheard-of percentages of America’s national budget continue to flow to the arms sector; hence we have politicians who must find value for all the money they pump into that sector by trying to put American military bases in every country in the world if possible; hence we have an electorate that fetishizes ‘our men and women in Uniform’ and a clergy that prays for them when they go out to bomb thousands of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan in the service of the Military-Industrial Complex.
All this is powered by a certain national sentiment: we are too essentially a good people to allow the rest of the world escape the privilege of our values. We should bomb those values into them whenever necessary. You will see that attitude to the rest of the world even in the way American diplomats discourse the rest of us in the Wikileaks cables. Not even Britain, their traditional Chihuahua, escaped all that condescension. The same mode of self-fashioning powers the Mercy-Industrial Complex albeit with different actors. Mercy, a narrative of the self’s essential goodness, has become this gigantic industry that involves all the actors listed above - charity organizations, churches, NGOs, celebrities, all using the media to reach the hearts and pockets of westerners already afflicted by the messiah complex. This in turn spins dramatic scenarios on the ground when these people go to donate their cookies and hamburgers in Darfur. And there is of course always the photographer on the lookout for that shot that just might win a Pulitzer Prize.
AFRICAN WRITING: Your language skills include French and English, which equips you to negotiate your way through most African cities. Is this the most pan-African step our educational systems can take? Or is it more beneficial for African pupils to learn to write and speak an indigenous African language in addition to their great European language?
PIUS ADESANMI: I assume that by our educational systems you are talking exclusively about the continent. Language is not the most pan-African step our educational systems in Africa can or should take. It should begin by enhancing processes of African co-presence in University classrooms throughout the continent. African Universities have more exchange agreements with European and North American Universities than they have with fellow African Universities. My school, Carleton University, alone has agreements with Universities in Ghana, Tanzania, Botswana, and South Africa, and we are casting our net wider in the continent. The inflatus for this is obvious: the sentiment that such agreements open up opportunities for those African Universities to benefit from the superior resources of Western Universities. What does this translate to? Western African studies classrooms have become considerably more holistically pan-African than any classroom could ever hope to be in the continent.
Let me give you an example. I teach one of our core introduction to African studies courses at the undergraduate level. Enrollment is always between 100-160 students every semester. The first time I taught that class, about eighty of those kids were from more than 30 African countries as I later found out. That is a single Canadian University assembling students from more than half of the continent in just one classroom. No University in the continent, not even South African Universities, is currently in the position to do that. African Universities need to constantly work on how to enhance continental capacity for such mutual co-presence in the class room. That must, of course work, in tandem with the need to constantly break down the iron curtain of language. I have for instance constantly written about the impact of the language barrier on African literary discourse. The other day, Olu Oguibe was complaining on Facebook that the younger generation of Nigerian literati didn’t know who Mario Vargas Llosa was after the 2010 Nobel was announced.
That is a small problem compared with the appalling knowledge of the francophonic half of the African literary process in Nigerian discussions. There is so much Anglophonic provincialism going on in places like Krazitivity, Ederi, and other outlets of Nigerian literary discourse. People jump up in those places and make authoritative and sweeping statements about African writing: statements that are not valid once you cross the border to Cotonou from Lagos. You would think that the likes of Calixthe Beyala, Alain Mabackou, Kossi Effoui, Bessora, Fatou Diome, Marie Ndiaye, Nathalie Etoke, Leonora Miano, Alain Patrice Nganang, Yodi Karone, Simon Njami, Gaston-Paul Effa, J.R. Essomba, and my very good friend, Abdourahman Ali Waberi, never wrote anything in African literature. Of course, the francophone clan is also guilty of this provincialism. As far as I know, only the likes of Waberi and Alain Patrice Nganang regularly display any awareness of the fact that they have counterparts in Uwem Akpan, Chris Abani, Helon Habila, Chimamanda Adichie, Lola Shoneyin, Chika Unigwe, Unoma Azuah, Ogaga Ifowodo, Amatoristero Ede, and Remi Raji. If you ask me, the situation was not like this with the Soyinka-Achebe-J.P. Clark generation.
AFRICAN WRITING: T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Journey of the Magi, has these lines, that have also inspired the title of one of Chinua Achebe’s novels: ‘We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,/ But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,/ With an alien people clutching their gods/ I should be glad of another death’. Is religious zealotry becoming more of a life and death question on the continent? What options?
PIUS ADESANMI: For Africa, the poem should read autochthonous people clutching alien gods. I have been a very close observer of the wind of Pentecostalism blowing over the continent. Commentators always reach for the easy Marxian cliché of religion being the opium of the people but I prefer to see religion in a much specific political frame: it is the exutory that has come to replace everything that political independence promised the people and failed to deliver on. If you return to the narratives of independence as framed by the nationalist generation in the 40s down to the 60s, you will see that it was framed in terms of concrete deliverables to the people that contemporary pulpit performance by the continent’s flamboyant pastors and Islamic clerics seem to be mimicking. Take all the biblical quotations away from the pulpit oratory of Chris Oyakhilome or Enoch Adeboye and you may very well end up with Nnamdi Azikiwe’s galvanizing nationalist oratory. And precisely because Africa’s/Nigeria’s new religious zealotry of the of the Pentecostal variety no longer frames faith and salvation in terms of the hereafter but more specifically in terms of material comfort deliverable by a God who isn’t a God of poverty, religion has become the second great euphoria after the first euphoria of independence.
AFRICAN WRITING: But there is a cross-over between the political and the religious, is there not? In Uganda political uprising was retooled to murderous effect with the quasi-religious edge of the LRA. In Nigeria, Pastor Tunde Bakare is for instance in the vanguard of political resistance. Do you see the political profile of religion growing or waning?
PIUS ADESANMI: If we define the political in very generous, broad terms, yes there is always an intermesh between the religious and the political. Don’t forget that Christianity’s entrance into Africa was intensely political insofar as the missionarization of the continent was the precursive event to formal colonization. But if we zero in on an instrumental definition of the political in terms of structural praxes that could enhance and expand the space of human agency, such as we see in the case of Pastor Tunde Bakare in Nigeria, then the political profile of religion is waning. We must separate religion as positive political praxis - as we have with Tunde Bakare - from the more generalized instance feature of religion as a feature of postcolonial rot as evidenced in the collaboration of flamboyant pastors with the rotten postcolonial state in a place like Nigeria. The Bakares are easily crowded out by the recidivists among the clergy.
AFRICAN WRITING: Now onto football! At a recent FIFA session, Russia trumped England to host the 2018 world cup. It seems the consensus that a couple of highly-publicised media reports on FIFA corruption by The Times Newspaper and the BBC Panorama programme may have scuppered England’s chances. Is this media self-interest or principle above nationalism? Should national media look at national interests before going to press? (Consider for instance, the role of the American mass media in the run up to the Middle-Eastern wars.)
PIUS ADESANMI: I am perhaps the worst person to have to handle this sort of question because of my own permanent hostility to England in football matters. I can’t stand English noisemaking and sense of entitlement. I’m a fanatical watcher of the Premiership like every good Nigerian but I can’t stand the English media and football establishment. I was glad when they got trounced in South Africa. I am glad they were trounced by Russia. The English media is an insufferable cry baby in football matters. As an intellectual on the Left, my opinion of the American media is even worse - unless you are talking about The Nation and, maybe, MSNBC. The rest is just ignorant teapartyism masquerading as media in America.
AFRICAN WRITING: But by purveying national jingoism from warfront to football arena, surely the media is doing the world a service? Surely the very real human emotion released every four years at the World War - sorry World Cup - is best bled on the pitch!
PIUS ADESANMI: Of course national jingoism in the media has its uses. An intellectual like me would have little to scream about if the British and American media suddenly became less nationalistic! This is where you have to give it to the Nigerian media though. Despite the general perception that they have been bought - except the rising online rags like Sahara Reporters and Nigerian Village Square - there is very little nationalistic jingoism. Some of the worst headlines that the world sees about Nigeria are very often lifted from the headlines of Nigerian newspapers.
AFRICAN WRITING: How courageous have African creative writers been, when it comes to reimagining a future. Did Chinua Achebe’s ‘A Man of the People’ cop out with the coup ending? How will a 21st century writer end a novel that would be truly prophetic (like Chinua Achebe was) in today’s world?
PIUS ADESANMI: Yes, Chinua Achebe in ‘A man of the People’ and T.M. Aluko in ‘Chief the Honourable Minister’ were both prophetic without copping out by ending those novels with coups. I guess we are in an era where the creative writer - if she feels interpellated by political themes - may have to start imagining structures and societies that would come after the unraveling of the African state as we know it. The coup endings in Achebe, Aluko, and others were not envisioning alternatives to the postcolonial state. They were merely signalling the takeover of that state by non-democratic elements. That, in itself, pre-supposed that democracy was a possible answer to the African dilemma. But we have seen in Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and in so many other places that we have to begin to imagine other possibilities of political becoming beyond the state.
AFRICAN WRITING: How fundamental is Wikileaks to ruler/ruled dynamics? Is this relevant to Africa? Does information have the same subversive effect in Africa as it does elsewhere? Can information about a secret wife for an African head of state have the same undermining power as a mistress of a European head of state?
PIUS ADESANMI: Wikileaks can only be revolutionary here in the West because of the nature of their society. You know, our mutual friend, Nduka Otiono, has been working for a very long time on the nature and uses of rumour and street narratives in Africa - with emphasis on Nigeria. I have followed his scholarship with keen interest as it teases out the intermesh between rumour, civic agency, and politics in Nigeria. In our preponderantly oral culture where transactions between ruler and ruled depend considerably on rumour, many of the things that Wikileaks normally reveals would have been rumoured and discoursed in free newspaper reading parliaments, in Molue buses, in beer parlours and in such other spaces of public disquisition. By the time official versions come out, the rumour-version of such event would have settled in public consciousness. Rumour is always precursive and attenuates the impact of revelation.
Of course there are cultural differences that would shape attitudes to the shock value of revelations about secret wives. Don’t forget that a secret wife may shock perhaps in Britain but I am not sure it would shock anybody in France if the President had a secret wife. After all, they have the deuxième bureau concubinage system in their culture even if western arrogance and conceit make them pretend that those things exist only in Africa.
AFRICAN WRITING: If we challenged you for a single transformative idea, policy or change that could bring the most beneficial change across the continent, what would it be?
PIUS ADESANMI: Strengthen civics as a subject in every primary school on the continent. Design and implement a pan-African civics syllabus under the aegis of the African Union. The continent is paying a very huge price for the absence of early exposure to civics. The other day in my neighbourhood, I saw kids - like seven year olds - wearing police tags and watching passing cars. They had notebooks and other stuff. I was curious. That was their police responsibility day at school. The police department puts them in specific locations. When they notice suspicious behaviour on the part of drivers, they write down your plate numbers etc. They are already being taught that in the elementary school.
AFRICAN WRITING: Doesn’t such early acculturation not expose children to the morality of the government of the day? Do you not see Stalinist, Nazi echoes in this scenario?
PIUS ADESANMI: You are right. There is always that danger but is the alternative any better? The fanatical followers that made Gbagbo possible in Cote d’Ivoire and who actually gather in daily public fora at a place misnamed La Sorbonne in Abidjan would perhaps be different African subjects if they had civics; Nigeria has produced almost two generations of citizens without civics and look at the price we have paid. That is why I am proposing a pan-African civics template that would not just be a reflection of the morality of any African government.
AFRICAN WRITING: You were the inaugural winner of the Penguin Prize for African Writing, for your book, ‘You are Not a Country, Africa’. It is due on the bookshelves soon. What can your readers expect in the book.
PIUS ADESANMI: If they have read ‘Angela’s Ashes’ or the ‘Soyinka of Ibadan’ and ‘You must Set Forth at Dawn’, they will easily understand what I try to do. I have described that book as a cultural memoir of the African continent. The essays are in the creative non-fiction mode, starting with specific events and experiences that cover the last thirty years of my life. The essays then use such anecdotal vignettes to move into a more sustained reflection on issues of politics and culture across the continent. The title comes from a line in Abioseh Nicol’s famous poem, ‘The Meaning of Africa’. The Sierra Leonian poet was writing in the fervent of Anglophone African cultural nationalist poetry in the build up to political independence and he says: ‘You are not a country, Africa/you are a concept/fashioned in our minds/each to each/to hide our separate fears’. Can you think of a better definition of Africa?
AFRICAN WRITING: Do you see yourself playing a more direct role in politics in future years?
PIUS ADESANMI: The thought always crosses one’s mind. Like most Nigerians in the diaspora, a great deal of my time is spent agonizing and developing high blood pressure over the monumental mess and disappointment that is Nigeria. And if the conditions are not there for you to pull a Wambia dia Wambia and pick up your Kalachnikov against the forces of evil ruling Nigeria in Abuja, if you know that accepting an appointment from them almost always comes with the Faustian precondition of selling your soul and relinquishing your voice and joining all that corruption, you sometimes think that maybe you should go and stand for election in some capacity or the other. Anything to try and make a change. But then you remember that the so-called society we are looking for will continue to need dreamers, thinkers, and those whose jobs it is to narrate her!
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* Nigerian born Pius Adesanmi is an acclaimed literary and cultural critic. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada, where he teaches literature and African studies at Carleton University.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The burden of being black
Review of Ojo-Ade’s 'Aimé Césaire’s African Theater: Of Poets, Prophets and Politicians'
Peter Wuteh Vakunta
Being black and being human is the leitmotif that runs through Aimé Césaire’s theatre. In an attempt to problematise the dilemma of being black in a race-conscious capitalist society, Femi Ojo-Ade chooses to do a succinct study of Césaire’s four plays, the setting of which is continental Africa: ‘Et les chiens se taisaient’ (1956), ‘La tragédie du roi Christophe’ (1963), ‘Une saison au Congo’ (1966) and ‘Une tempête’ (1969).
In ‘Et les chiens se taisaient’, Césaire reawakens the phantom of the self-styled civilising mission, the stock-in-trade of which is the denigration of the African personality under the veneer of benevolence. Césaire’s protagonist, the Rebel, reaffirms his pride in being African. Ojo-Ade observes: ‘… the rebel details his struggles, affirms his failed battle to deny his African gods, and laments all attempts at de-Africanization, convinced as he is that Africa deserves to be defended by her children against the invaders and rapists’ (p. 26). The Rebel warns his people against the dangers of superficiality and artificiality. Thus Césaire revisits the belaboured troika – slavery, colonisation and negritude – in this mind-boggling play. The theme of slavery is recurrent in the play. The Rebel notes that at the beginning of the trajectory, ‘there was misery of slaves crossing the great sea of misery, the great sea of black blood’ (p. 113). He perceives his son as a metonym for all oppressed children of Africa, indeed, of the entire black race that must be liberated from the shackles of Western civilisation. The Rebel repudiates the false belief in Christianity as a redemptive force for Africans and proudly attests to his illuminating role as leader of an oppressed people. As Ojo-Ade would have it, the oppressor uses the subterfuge of religion ‘to subvert the victims’ culture, to take their attention away from the essentials of life on earth as they ostensibly encourage them to seek life everlasting in an unknown space of perfection and purity’ (p. 41). All along, the Rebel’s resounding words incessantly hit hard at both oppressors and their accomplices: ‘All, you will not leave until you have felt the bite of my words on your imbecile souls…’ (p. 173).
‘Et les chiens se taisaient’ is rich in symbolism, the most significant of them all being the trope of kingship. A procession of African kings invades one of the scenes, symbolising the remarkable black civilisation long forgotten by both oppressors and oppressed. In a similar vein, the architect, portrayed in the play as the implacable enemy, is a symbol of capitalist Europe, conqueror and exploiter. The play harbours racial undertones. Césaire establishes a series of dichotomies between whites and blacks. The white race is portrayed as follows:
‘This materialistic race
Gold and silver have woven their pale color.
Waiting for the grey has curved their wild nose
the glow of steel is embedded in their cold eyes
Oh, it is a race without velvet’ (p. 152).
These words of hate emanate from the soul of black folks, oppressed for too long – now determined to break from all manacles. As Ojo-Ade maintains, they are the words of a people ‘digging into the past to fashion a vision that would construct a future of pride of purpose, of rehabilitated humanity and dignity from the present of alienation and collusion’ (p. 34). ‘Et les chiens se taisaient’ is the anatomy of resistance as a tool of emancipation. The Rebel’s courage is the counterpoint to the racial cowardice of his racist jailer. His defiance symbolises the master’s moral defeat even as he wields the whip of torture that leads to the Rebel’s death. The ultimate trope of dog is the playwright’s portrayal of the white race as a pack of carnivorous, steel-eyed assassins, hypocritical purveyors of injustice and symbols of the very opposite of things human.
‘La tragédie du roi Christophe’ fictionalises the tragedy of a benevolent dictator, King Christophe of Haiti. Ojo-Ade notes that ‘Haiti is a perfect representation of the post-slavery and postcolonial periods in Africa’s history, perfect because it is the only country where blacks took up arms against the implacable, civilized enslavers-colonizers and defeated them’ (p. 68). It is noteworthy that Christophe had qualities of dignity, revolutionary fervour for freedom and equality as well as military adherence to law and order that stood him in good stead as a leader. Césaire’s interest gravitates around King Christophe’s leadership qualities and his responsibility as a leader entrusted with the critical task of nation-building. Christophe is portrayed as trailblazer, breaker of barriers and harbinger of better days ahead. Like his other plays, Césaire uses ‘La tragédie’ to adumbrate the question of racial schism not only in Haiti but also in all colonised climes the world over. In point of fact, the racist thrust is present in various configurations and looms large in this play. The dichotomy and racial tension between whites and blacks are palpable throughout the play: Europe–Haiti, superior–inferior, civilised–savage, developed–underdeveloped. These rifts notwithstanding, Christophe is determined to prove to the oppressors that he and his people are worthy of being accepted into the community of humans. The infamy of de-identification of blacks remains a theme of great interest throughout the play, as this excerpt indicates: ‘In the past they stole our names from us! Our pride! Our nobility, they, I say, they stole them from us!’ (p. 37). Césaire makes a weighty statement when he alludes to the obliteration of slave identity by slave-masters. It was not just names that were stolen from slaves, their languages were stifled as well.
In stark defiance of these machinations, Christophe continues to lay claim to his Africanity and black ancestry by paying homage to his Bambara ancestors: ‘Blow, blow, white savanna as my Bambara ancestors used to say…’ (p. 110). His security men, Royal Dahomets, are recruited directly from Africa because of their loyalty and commitment. He tries to create in his court an atmosphere reminiscent of the African family and community. Césaire portrays Christophe’s attempts at re-Africanization as a return to roots. True to himself, he makes appropriate use of symbolism as an effective communicative technique. The Citadel is a symbol of endurance and quest for excellence, proof that blacks are capable of extraordinary achievements. Sadly enough, like all tragic heroes, Christophe has flaws. In his anxiety to complete the Citadel, he becomes a brutal dictator, ordering everyone to work, including children: ‘Yes, children! You big scoundrel! It’s their future that we are constructing!’ (p. 83) All in all, Christophe is depicted as an ambivalent character throughout the play. The sublime symbolism of the Citadel is matched by the ridiculous creation of sham nobility, of fake families based on coerced marriages. His act of patting women’s buttocks has been picked up by critics as a sign of low morals and lack of etiquette, and a contradiction to his decree on matrimony as essential for faithfulness and responsible behaviour. Christophe has a false sense of grandeur as seen in the following lamentation: ‘I regret nothing. I tried to put something into an ungrateful earth’ (p. 138). Ojo-Ade observes that the play ‘calls our attention to the king’s foibles, impossible to gloss over in the atmosphere of tension and the unfolding tragedy’ (p. 118).
‘La tragédie du roi Christophe’ is a lampoon on Western civilisation, notably its religious precepts. Césaire’s allusion to Catholicism and the decrees it makes to regulate matrimony is derided in this drama. It should be noted that in Haiti, the traditional religion, Voodoo, is more prominent among the people than Christianity. Any attempt to circumvent this indigenous religion is tantamount to courting disaster. Christophe betrays Shango, but the betrayed Shango will end up avenging himself and causing the king’s downfall. He arrogates to himself the absolute supremacy fit for a godhead, dehumanises Voodoo representatives and calls upon himself the wrath of the Almighty. By underscoring the triumph of Shango, Césaire confirms the centrality of indigenous religions among black Haitians. It is in this light that Ojo-Ade posits: ‘In order to fully understand the gravity of Christophe’s sin one must note the importance of African religion in Haiti’s revolution’ (p. 119). Convinced that he is a victim of malevolent forces, Christophe finds solace in Voodoo. His songs, complemented by those of his wife, bear witness to his final rehabilitation. In sum, the theme of self-consciousness among blacks seems to constitute the thread that holds the whole play intact.
‘Une saison au Congo’ recounts the rise and fall of Patrice Lumumba, legendary prime minister of the Belgian Congo. After dealing with the meteoric rise and fall of Haitian King Christophe, Césaire casts his synthesising eyes on another encounter between Africa and Europe, this time using a man whom Europe has refused to admit into the fold of humans. In this historical play, Césaire brings us face to face with Machiavellian colonisers, from the descendants of King Leopold II to his official representatives on the ground, to the businessmen who milked the colony’s immense natural resources, to the military lording it over a crop of incompetent natives. ‘Une saison au Congo’ is a tragic tale, the tragedy of the Belgian Congo. Patrice Lumumba towers above everyone else in this unfolding tragedy because he symbolises the pride and integrity of the Congolese people. He is at the centre of the tragedy because his assassination brings to the fore Africa’s conundrum. As Ojo-Ade observes: ‘ Whether they be friends or foes, they all consider the man extraordinary, standing head and shoulders above the rest, whose mediocrity is accentuated by his massive superiority’ (p. 164). Césaire uses the stylistic device of juxtaposition to underscore Lumumba’s superhuman attributes. While Lumumba’s name remains unaltered throughout the play, the names of the villains, those plotting to kill him, are deformed, diminished, indeed, tinkered out of shape to conform to their villainous characters. Besides, all those mangled names connote the subterfuge and superficiality inherent in the name-bearers.
The tragedy of the Congo as recounted in ‘Une saison au Congo’ resides in the fact that armed with the solution to the Congolese question Lumumba is prevented from implementing his progressive agenda. Like King Christophe of Haiti, he realises the urgency of the task at hand and refuses to go slow. He tells members of his cabinet: ‘We must go too fast’ (p. 34). Like Christophe, Lumumba was not perfect, despite his stellar qualities. Mokutu, a sobriquet for Mobutu, is portrayed throughout the play as Lumumba’s Achilles heel. Yet he calls Mokutu his friend and brother: ‘It’s true, Mokutu is a soldier, and Mokutu is my friend, Mokutu is my brother’ (p. 37). Even as he symbolises the fiery qualities of African liberation, Lumumba is dragged down toward the cult of personalities and the canker of corruption that constitutes the bane of the African continent.
As for the demise of Lumumba, Césaire lays the brunt squarely on the shoulders of white imperialists. Ojo-Ade posits: ‘It should be recalled that the West, led by the United States, was clearly against Lumumba and in support of Katanga whose mineral wealth they were targeting. Labeling Lumumba a communist was tantamount to sending him to his grave’ (p. 175). In short, Césaire constructs the plot of this play to confirm the collusion between external and internal forces in the elimination of Lumumba. These words from Ojo-Ade are poignant enough: ‘The U.S., even though the master-coordinator-collaborator remains the invisible hand; and Belgium, very visible, remains behind the front guard of Congolese predators’ (p. 187). Lumumba’s portrait in ‘Une saison au Congo’ is that of a man who defines politics not as the preserve of prostitutes and pimps masturbating over public wealth but as a precept of probity anchored on commitment to selfless service to the people. Césaire leaves us with a worrisome thought when he perceives politics as a game of gangsterism and self-gratification, concretised in the power to shamelessly empty the coffers of the nation and reap the fruits of the people’s labour.
Césaire’s ‘Une tempête’ is calqued on William Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’. The play brings to the limelight the power dynamics inherent in a colony. Prospero, Caliban and Ariel are the major role-players in this drama. They re-enact the conflict between the coloniser and the colonised. The play is set on a mysterious island surrounded by an ocean. Prospero rules the island with his two servants, Ariel and Caliban. When Prospero was shipwrecked on the Island, Caliban and Ariel treated him kindly, but Prospero later makes them his unwilling servants. In scene two of the play we encounter Prospero and his servants – the self-effacing Ariel, and Caliban, an abrasive, foul-mouthed servant. We are told that while the language of Ariel is that of a slave who binds himself to his master without question, that of Caliban is one that questions the authority of his master, as seen in the except below:
‘You taught me language;
And my profit on’t is I know how to curse.
The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!’ (Tempest, 1, ii 363-65)
Caliban’s language of resistance in this excerpt comes as a shock to Prospero as it is unexpected that a servant would defy his master in this manner. Caliban’s anger toward his master is indicative of his urge to be freed from Prospero’s domination. Césaire’s play sheds light on the dynamics of power in a colonial set-up. The relationship between Prospero and his servants throughout the play supports a colonialist reading of the text. It is the craving for emancipation that Césaire fictionalises in ‘Une tempête’, as Caliban’s vituperative language shows:
‘Tu m’as tellement menti,
Menti sur le monde, menti sur moi-même
Que tu as fini par m’imposer
Une image de moi-même
Un sous développé, comme tu dis,
Voilà comment tu m’as obligé à me voir,
Et cette image, je la hais! Elle est fausse!
Et maintenant, je te connais, vieux cancer,
Et je me connais aussi!’ (p. 88)[i]
A keen examination of the foregoing passage reveals the relationship between language and race, and the constitutive, and therefore, putatively ontological power of a dominant language. Like Caliban, the postcolonial writer feels incapacitated by a borrowed identity.
The encounter between Caliban and Prospero raises interesting questions about the function of language and power dynamics in postcolonial Afro-Caribbean literature. The play provides one of the most telling demonstrations of the critical importance of language in the colonial encounter. Caliban’s reaction to the diatribes of Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, encapsulates the malaise and bitter reaction of many colonised peoples to centuries of linguistic and cultural servitude. Caliban’s language is the product of a mindset in a state of malaise. He rejects the master’s language because Prospero has given him the tools of communication but has failed to give him the leeway and self-responsibility with which to use language. His rebellious attitude is a reaction to his feeling that he is being unfairly used and subjugated. By appropriating the master’s language, Caliban is able to break out of Prospero’s infernal linguistic prism. His longing for autonomy makes him relevant in the study of postcolonial Afro-Caribbean literature. Like Caliban, Afro-Caribbean fiction writers frequently manipulate hegemonic language in a bid to dismantle the power structures in the post-colony. By doing so, ex-colonised writers are able to actualise their own possibility of being.
In a nutshell, ‘Aimé Césaire’s African Theater: Of Poets, Prophets and Politicians’ is a celebration of black consciousness. This book is an invaluable tribute to Mother Africa and her offspring living in the diaspora. Femi Ojo-Ade has accomplished the laudable task of bringing these books to the attention of Africans and Africanists both at home and abroad. The seminal importance of this work to students and scholars of Afro-Caribbean literature cannot be overstated. It is worth the read.
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* Femi Ojo-Ade, 'Aimé Césaire’s African Theater: Of Poets, Prophets and Politicians', Trenton: Africa World Press, 2010, 362 pp., paperback, US$34.95, ISBN: 1-59221-739-7.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
[i] And you lied to me so much,
About the world, about yourself [sic],
That you ended up by imposing on me
An image of myself:
Underdeveloped, in your words, incompetent,
That’s how you made me see myself!
And I loathe that image … and it’s false!
But now I know you, you old cancer,
And I also know myself! (‘Une tempête’, 70)
Political Narratives of Congolese Young People in Uganda
Christina R. Clark-Kazak
The lives of young refugees in their own words.
Millions of citizens from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been killed or displaced during decades of political corruption and military conflict. Many forced migrants are young people, who are often seen either as passive victims or as radicalized and amoral child soldiers perpetuating the cycle of violence. Recounting Migration refutes these stereotypes by presenting young Congolese refugees' nuanced understanding of the complex power relations that affect their everyday lives.
Christina Clark-Kazak, a former international aid worker, uses extensive interviews done in Kampala and Kyaka II refugee settlement, Uganda, to present the narratives of ten young people living as refugees. Their accounts reveal both political awareness and individual agency in everyday and extraordinary circumstances. The author shows how refugee youth seek to influence decision-making processes in families, communities, and at policy levels through formal and informal mechanisms, as well as through non-political channels such as education and music. She juxtaposes their interpretations of the situations with the discourse and bureaucracy of international aid organizations, showing the sometimes radical differences between these perspectives. Clark-Kazak not only provides insight into the politics of labelling but offers recommendations for future research, policy, and programs for refugee young people.
A remarkable and compelling look at the lives of young refugees, Recounting Migration challenges stereotypes by giving these migrants a long-overdue opportunity to speak for themselves.
"Clark-Kazak captures the humanity of Congolese young people through their stories, moving beyond the identities that have been cast upon them by the outside world. This book is a must read for anyone working on refugee and migration issues to better understand the complexities of the topic." – Lieutenant-General the Honourable Roméo A. Dallaire (Ret'd)
The book is available on special offer, with a discount of 20%. Download an order form in PDF format.
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Discount Price: $76.00
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* Christina R. Clark-Kazak is assistant professor of international studies at York University.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Verse for Nyiginya
to the people of Rwanda
Natty Mark Samuels
I hear you talking of genocide and gorillas. But there is more than that to Rwandan history. In telling you of Rwanda, come with me into the 17th century.
To speak of Ruganzu Ndori and his kingdom called Nyiginya. Sharing power with the Queen Mother, alongside the royal drum Karinga. Of his royal herd and a bull called Rusanga. His son Semugeshi and Mpande, their diviner. Of the cult of Kibogo, the celebrated rainmaker. The eternal fire, of legendary King Gihanga. Of the sacred hills, the traditional healers. Hutu woman, Tutsi man and the original ones called BaTwa. The farmer, the herder and the forest dweller. Of sorghum porridge, honey beer and the cooking of banana. Iron goods, ivory and the barkcloth of the weaver.
I heard you talking of ethnic poison and endangered primates. Now you know something else from the Rwandan story. Of Nyiginya and it's first King, the man called Ruganzu Ndori.
© Natty Mark Samuels, 2010.
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Pambazuka News 196: Senegal: New challenges following 23 June protests
SENEGAL: 23 JUNE WAS A RED LETTER DAY
Demba Moussa Dembélé
23 June will always be remembered as a disgrace for President Wade and his clan. But it will be etched in gold in the political history of independent Senegal. 23 June 2011 will forever remain a day of glory for the Senegalese people, who showed that power ultimately resides with them. 23 June is also a shining testimony to the courage, determination and self-sacrifice of Senegalese youth.
SENEGAL: A PEOPLE’S VICTORY AND A REPUBLIC ON ITS FEET
On 23 June, the Senegalese people demonstrated en masse against the planned vote in parliament to modify the constitution in order to facilitate the re-election of Wade and ensure that his son would be his successor. But mass protests scuppered the plans of the president, his government and parliament. According to Mamadou Diallo, the people prevented a dangerous development.
STOP ABDOULAYE WADE FROM SEEKING A THIRD MANDATE
On 23 June 2011, the Senegalese people scored a significant victory against the despotic will of President Abdoulaye Wade from reforming the constitution yet again to usurp all powers. This appeal is to organise opposition to a third mandate for Wade who has already declared himself a candidate, in violation of the constitution.
DRC: A MAP OF VOTING BOOTHS AND ELECTORAL FRAUD
Benjamin Stanis Kalombo
On 4 July Congolese police dispersed a demonstration called by opposition activists in front of the headquarters of the Independent National Election Commission (CENI). The activists were protesting against irregularities in the electoral lists drawn up for November’s legislative elections. And as Benjamin Stanis Kalombo notes, cases of fraud have been increasing.
MADAGASCAR IN THE CHINESE NET
Madagascar has been steadily sinking under the weight of its own contradictions, but it would be erroneous to blame this on purely local factors. ‘A wider perspective, looking at the problems in a global context, shows that the African continent is in mutation and about to negotiate a historic bend in the road that some blame on outside forces.’ Madagascar is no exception, but it would be wrong to underestimate China’s role and strategic interests in this evolution.
FRANCO-IVORIAN RELATIONS ON THE UPSWING IN THE POST-GBAGBO ERA
The dark chapter of the Laurent Gbagbo period has finally ended. But can Côte d’Ivoire embark on a new destiny and build a new history at the same time? France has strengthened its position in what it considers to be its backyard, but, argues Jean-Jacques Konadjé, it also faces competition from other powers, especially the strategic interests of the United States.
Independence in South Sudan
Zimbabwe: New Zimbabwe-South Africa row?
Zimbabwe and South Africa could be headed for another diplomatic furore after Zanu PF strategist and serial political turncoat Jonathan Moyo suggested that facilitator to the Zimbabwe political crisis, President Jacob Zuma could be aiding the 'regime change agenda' in the country. But Zuma’s international relations advisor, Lindiwe Zulu immediately dismissed Moyo’s astonishing claims, saying they will not be distracted from continuing their facilitation role for the sake of Zimbabweans.
Zimbabwe: Parties set polls for 2012
Zimbabwe’s three governing parties have agreed on a mid 2012 election timetable despite demands by President Mugabe that they must be held this year. President Mugabe has been insisting that elections must be held before the end of the year, despite protests that the political situation was still volatile and that the necessary reforms were yet to be put in place. 'This means that there is no way we can hold elections this year,' the privately owned NewsDay newspaper quoted one of the negotiators as having said.
Zimbabwe: Radio publishes names of 'CIO agents'
A London-based Zimbabwean radio station has published a list of what it claims are names of Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents in what could be potentially a major national security breach. The radio station, which broadcasts to Zimbabwe on short wave, posted a list of 83 names on its website and promised to release more names every Thursday for the next six weeks. Writing a week before the disclosures, SW Radio Africa reporter Lance Guma said: 'For years, agents working for the CIO have relied on their secret identities to carry out abductions, torture and the murder of opposition activists.'
Global: Progressive women from 20 countries vow to fight imperialist attacks against women
In a historic gathering, more than a hundred women from seven continents representing more than 40 women’s organisations worldwide attended the first general assembly of International Women’s Alliance (IWA) in Manila early this month. With the theme 'Advance global anti-imperialist women’s movement in the 21st century, strengthen the international women’s alliance', progressive women from 20 countries vowed to fight imperialist attacks against women’s rights and welfare.
Global: UN report looks at women's rights around the world
The United Nations' newest agency - UN Women - takes an ambitious and sometimes startling look at gender equality and women's rights around the world with its first-ever report. The 2011 'Progress of the World's Women: In Pursuit of Justice' report is 'a global survey of women's access to justice -looking both at legislation passed by governments and the steps taken (or not taken) to implement those laws,' according to the Guardian. 'The report highlights the practical barriers that women - particularly the poorest and most excluded - face,' says former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in the report’s introduction. It states that 127 countries do not explicitly criminalise rape within marriage, while 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not a crime.
Global: Gender laws alone no guarantee of justice, says UN report
More countries have gender equality legislation on their books than ever before but many laws are inadequate and rarely if ever enforced, the first major report by the new UN women’s agency showed on Wednesday. While equality between women and men is guaranteed in the constitutions of 139 countries and territories, the report titled 'Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice' paints a picture of a world in which statutes have little impact on women’s lives. 'In rich and poor countries alike, the infrastructure of justice – the police, the courts and the judiciary – is failing women, which manifests itself in poor services and hostile attitudes from the very people whose duty it is to meet women’s rights,' the report said.
South Sudan: Women hope independence means less maternal deaths
Mother of eight, Jessicah Foni, 36, hopes that independence will mean a hospital will soon be built in her village. Foni, who has travelled from a remote village in South Sudan to the state’s capital to celebrate independence, lost two babies at birth because of the lack of medical facilities in her area. South Sudan has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. Out of 100,000 live births, 2,054 women die.
Swaziland: US couple plead guilty to exploiting African woman
A married couple in the US pleaded guilty in federal court to exploiting an African woman and forcing her to work for them, authorities said. The woman, from Swaziland, was invited to travel to the United States and work as a caterer for a wedding. The wedding never existed. Instead, the woman was harboured in a home, concealed from law enforcement detection and kept working as a housekeeper until early 2007. 'This case reminds us that modern day slavery is occurring in our communities,' United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said. Last month, a Nigerian citizen in Atlanta was convicted for trafficking women from Nigeria to work as nannies.
Africa: Minority women fight back against mistreatment
Women in minority and indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to wide-ranging forms of violence, abuse and discrimination, according to a new report released by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), a human rights group that works on behalf of minorities and indigenous peoples. The disproportionate levels of abuse and discrimination that these women face - including rape, other forms of sexual violence, and trafficking, from government forces, paramilitaries, or members of their own communities - can be attributed to the fact that their identity exists at the intersection of two rather marginalised groups, women and minorities, making them easy targets.
Rwanda: Fishing is also women’s business
A woman paddling a canoe no longer arouses curiosity in eastern Rwanda. While still not a common sight, you can readily spot women wearing orange life jackets and sitting alongside men, paddling canoes and fishing on Lake Rwakibare. The president of a co-operative says, 'We currently have over 260 members, including more than fifty women.' The president says, 'Why should women expect their husbands to provide everything? In addition, current government policy requires that women are involved in all sectors, and that includes fishing.'
Nigeria: Call for decriminalisation of sex work
Commercial sex workers in Nigeria are demanding more respect and more rights. Nongovernmental organisations have been promoting various rehabilitation and education initiatives. But prohibative costs for these programs lead some advocates to believe that the best option is to decriminalise commercial sex work. The Nigerian Criminal Code penalises prostitution with imprisonment, but some say the law shouldn’t govern morality. The government has mentioned no plans to decriminalise sex work and instead promotes education and alternative employment.
DRC: Angolan activist detained
An Angolan human rights activist arbitrarily detained without charge in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than two weeks must be released immediately, Amnesty International has said. Agostinho Chicaia, an environmentalist and former president of the banned Angolan human rights organisation Mpalabanda, was arrested in Kinshasa on 20 June, apparently in connection with an attack on the Togolese football team last year.
Egypt: New law targets illegal organ transplants
Egypt has a new law banning the sale of human organs, imposing severe restrictions on transplant operations for foreigners, and stipulating long jail sentences and huge fines for violations. The law, approved in December 2010 after protracted discussions in parliament, took effect only in June owing to country-wide political turmoil since January. Doctors say about 1,500 illegal transplants take place annually. Most live organs come from the destitute who sell body parts to pay debts or start small projects to earn a living to escape unemployment and poverty.
Equatorial Guinea: Response to human trafficking inadequate, says report
Equatorial Guinea is principally a destination for children subjected to conditions of forced labour. Children are recruited and transported from nearby countries – primarily Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, and Gabon – and forced to work as domestic servants, market laborers, ambulant vendors, and launderers. This is according to a 2011 US State Department report that finds Equatorial Guinea's response to human trafficking to be inadequate, particularly given the government’s substantial financial resources.
Global: Privacy, technology and human rights
This discussion paper from the International Council on Human Rights Policy examines the human rights implications of the immense diffusion of data-gathering technologies across the world in recent years. It starts from the premise that the relevant issues, while much discussed, are not yet well understood and are evolving rapidly, both of which contribute to widespread anxiety. The paper explores the roots of this anxiety and attempts to determine its sources and effects. It queries the degree to which data-gathering technologies pose problems that represent (or are analogous to) human rights threats and asks whether and how human rights law may help to assess or address those problems.
Rwanda: Rwandan jailed for life over war crimes
An appeals court in The Netherlands on Thursday 7 July sentenced a Rwandan citizen living in the country to life in prison for crimes committed during the genocide in 1994. Joseph Mpambara, 43, was found guilty by the appeals court of torture causing the deaths of two Tutsi mothers and their four children on 13 April 1994, upholding a previous lower court conviction.
Africa: African women in Europe victims of human trafficking
Little attention is being paid to African women and children in Europe, who are faced with new forms of slavery and colonialism which they experience day in and day out in democratic states of the 'North', which are otherwise mindful of human rights. Eurostat estimates that there were some 90,000 African migrant women in Europe in 2007, but countries like Italy, France, Ireland and Portugal had not given any data. In 2009, very few countries provided the numbers. Italy, however, reported about 30,000 African migrant women.
Somalia: UN says Somalia is 'worst humanitarian disaster'
The head of the United Nations refugee agency has described the situation in drought-hit Somalia as the 'worst humanitarian disaster' in the world, after meeting with those affected at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The camp, located in the northeast and the world's largest in the world, is overflowing with tens of thousands of refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and within Kenya. Antonio Guterres, the head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), visited the camp on Sunday, appealing for 'massive support' from the international community for the more than 380,000 people estimated to be living in Dadaab.
Sudan: Red Sea boat sinking leaves '197 people dead'
A ship packed with refugees bound for Saudi Arabia has caught fire and capsized off the northeastern coast of Sudan, killing 197 people, the Sudanese Media Centre, a state-linked news agency, has said. The ship had launched from the Red Sea State, one of Sudan's 26 states, and sailed for four hours in Sudanese territorial waters before the blaze broke out, according to the news agency.
Somalia: Refugees helping new arrivals in Dadaab
With hundreds of new Somali refugees arriving daily at the congested and overcrowded Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya, incumbent refugees are going around the camp with loud-hailers appealing for help for the newcomers, most of whom lack food, clothes, and blankets. 'As the numbers [of new arrivals] kept increasing and more people kept coming, we decided to organise and pool our efforts,' Abdiwali Hussein Mohamed, a member of the refugees' committee, told IRIN. 'We must do what we can, even if it is one pair of shoes.' The new refugees arrive in a deplorable state, Mohamed said.
Global: New migration database launched
The Center for Migration and Refugee Studies Database (CMRS) has announced the launching of its newly constructed information system. The CMRS information system aims at becoming a comprehensive location where migration and refugee research material especially, but not exclusively, on the Middle East region is compiled. The system is divided into three main components: legal, demographic and socio-economic. It contains material in both Arabic and English and it is possible to search in both languages.
Global: Climate change and the risk of statelessness
The suggestion that the entire populations of low-lying island States could be forced to move to other States due to the effects of rising sea levels is perhaps one of the most striking and well-known examples of the potential human impacts of climate change, states this paper from the UNHCR, which assesses the relevance of the principle that statelessness should be prevented in addressing the situation of low-lying island States. 'The paper begins by examining the elements of statehood under public international law. While there is a strong presumption of continuity for established states, the possibility of a total loss of territory for natural reasons, or the total displacement of a population and/or government, is entirely novel.'
South Africa: Deportation threat for undocumented Zimbabweans
With just weeks to go before a 27-month moratorium on deporting Zimbabweans living illegally in South Africa expires, the authorities are scrambling to complete a documentation process that will still leave hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans lacking the necessary permits to avoid arrest. The number of Zimbabweans who have fled the political and economic crisis in their country and moved to South Africa is unknown but estimates from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) range from one to 1.5 million. Before the government introduced the moratorium in April 2009, the authorities were deporting Zimbabweans who had entered the country illegally at a rate of about 200,000 a year.
South Africa: Strikers shot, says Numsa
Four Numsa members were injured when police shot them with rubber bullets during an engineering sector strike in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, the metalworkers' union claimed on Thursday, 7 July. The union's spokesman Castro Ngobese said the four men were in hospital and a case had been opened at a local police station. He condemned the alleged shooting, during protests for higher wages. On Wednesday Numsa claimed police intimidated, harassed, shot at and arrested strikers in Bellville, Cape Town and Germiston, Johannesburg.
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...
1. China in Africa
China shifts focus in Africa
According to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit report into Chinese investment in Africa, there’s been a distinct shift in emphasis. It says while Beijing’s investment in Africa’s resource sector is significant - its not a game-changer and the mainland is now going after the consumer more aggressively.
Africa can gain from dearer Chinese labour: World Bank
Rising labour costs will push over 80 million Chinese jobs in light manufacturing abroad over the next three to five years, with African nations well placed to lure many of them their way, the World Bank said. Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for Africa, also hailed recent local efforts to bolster the continent's farming sector after decades of neglect, but warned that the region remained overly exposed to food and fuel price shocks.
China names envoy to Comesa in race for Africa trade
China has formalised diplomatic ties with Africa’s largest market bloc as it builds trade and investment ties with the region. The fast rising Asian economy has appointed Mr Zhaou Yuxiao its envoy to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), boosting relations with the 19-member bloc. Mr Zhaou will double up as the envoy to Zambia which hosts the head office of Comesa that also wants to merge with the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc).
African transformation results in Chinese investment
Africa is transforming and growing in importance, particularly in mining resource potential, The Beijing Axis (TBA) founder and group MD Kobus van der Wath reports. The continent, in the past 15 years, has seen governmental, governance and political change, with positive develop- ments taking place in regulations, policies and infrastructure in many regions, TBA says.
Portuguese-speaking and Chinese businesspeople meet in Luanda, Angola, this month
The capital of Angola, Luanda, on 20 and 21 July is due to host the 2nd meeting of businesspeople for trade and economic cooperation between Portuguese-speaking countries and China, Angolan weekly newspaper Expansão reported. The newspaper cited the meeting’s organisers as saying that, although so far only 163 businesspeople had signed up, the total number of participants was expected to be around 400.
Lambasting Chinese Companies Could Imperil African Workers, Analysts Say
Beijing solidified a business partnership with Zimbabwe last week that unionists say is responsible for abusive work environments across the southern African nation. In a diplomatic visit of Zimbabwean officials to Beijing, both nations' ruling parties pledged to make good on a 2010 treaty, promising strengthened Sino-Zimbabwean political and economic cooperations.
But some Zimbabweans say that ties are strong enough.
2. India in Africa
India’s Tata plans SA factory
TATA, the Indian industrial giant, will begin construction of a vehicle assembly facility in Rosslyn, Pretoria, later this month. The company’s spokesman in Mumbai, Debasis Ray, confirmed the investment yesterday. "We’re not giving out any details now, but it’s been in the planning for some time to build an assembly plant in SA," he said. The announcement comes at a time of increased interest in automotive investments into SA.
India keen on ties with South Sudan
India has drawn out an elaborate blueprint for engaging oil and resource-rich South Sudan, Africa’s newest country that will come into existence over the weekend, foreign ministry officials said on Thursday. Vice-president Hamid Ansari will represent the world’s largest democracy at the birth of the new nation on Saturday. Foreign ministry officials said India and South Sudan have been reaching out to each other since earlier, with Pricilla Kuch, minister of state in the office of South Sudan President, visiting New Delhi in April.
3. In Other Emerging Powers News
Home-grown hurdles push Indian firms to invest abroad
With land frustratingly hard to get at home, India's largest rubber producer decided to make its next investment -- and its first overseas -- a continent away, in Africa. Harrisons Malayalam , which is also a major tea grower, is joining a surge in outbound investment by corporate India. It plans to spend up to $112 million somewhere in Africa to buy about 10,000 acres. The overseas investment push by Indian companies, often seen as the assertiveness of a rising power, is increasingly spurred by difficulty finding attractive opportunities in Asia's third-largest economy. "Plantation land in India is very scarce and the competition is intense for the little that is available," said Harrisons Malayalam Managing Director Pankaj Kapoor. "So all the plantation companies are looking at Africa where it is still available and cheap."
China trumps Brazil in simmering African showdown
A century ago, it was the explorers and infantrymen of Europe's great powers slugging it out for slices of Africa. Now, it is the agents of Chinese and Brazilian capital, but the competition is just as fierce. Underscoring the new world order of the 21st century, Brazil's Vale, the world's biggest iron ore producer, is going head-to-head with Jinchuan Group, China's dominant nickel producer, in a fight for Metorex, a medium-sized South Africa-listed mining firm. Although the saga still has at least a week to run, Jinchuan swung a hefty blow this week, with a $1.3 billion bid to trump a $1.1 billion offer from Vale.
China invests $12.67 billion in Brazil
China stepped up its investments in Brazil in a big way with fresh investment of about USD 9 billion, taking its overall foreign direct investment in that country to USD 12. 67 billion as the two countries warmed up under the BRICS alliance. China will invest USD 4.5 billion in Brazil's technology sector this year shifting its investment in the Latin American country from agriculture and mining.
Brazilian minister calls for boost to Portugal-Brazil partnership for Africa
Brazil’s minister for Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, Fernando Pimentel called Thursday in Sao Paulo for a boost to the partnership between Brazil and Portugal for expanding business by the two countries in African markets. During a business lunch organised by the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in Brazil, the minister said that the two countries could not be left out of Africa as he was convinced that it would be the stage for the great economic disputes of the 21st century, citing China’s growing presence there as an example.
Korean firms to build plants in SA
Several South Korean companies are planning to establish multibillion-rand manufacturing plants in SA, boosting the Asian manufacturing powerhouse’s presence in SA’s economy. Steel firm Posco, electronics group LG, Hankook Tyre, and Korean Trade Insurance will all set up base in Gauteng. HSG, a manufacturer of heavy metal components, has chosen Richards Bay as its regional headquarters, to target shipping.
Russia to establish diplomatic ties with South Sudan
Russia is ready to establish diplomatic relations with South Sudan after declaration of its independence, Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesman said on Thursday. "We are ready to establish diplomatic relations with the new state in Africa and in the nearest future we expect to hold substantive talks on the issue with South Sudanese representatives," the spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
India to continue generic drugs for HIV patients
India will not compromise on drug licensing norms and continue to produce generic drugs for free treatment to HIV positive patients, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said. "The government reaffirms its full commitment to ensure that quality generic medicines, including antiretroviral drugs, are seamlessly available," Sharma said at a meeting with UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe.
4. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Science in Africa: Enter the dragon
Before Emeka Oguzie went to China, he had only read about potentiostats in journals. The Nigerian materials scientist knew that he needed the electrochemical analysis tool to advance his search for indigenous plant extracts that can slow the corrosion that rots industrial machinery. But his cash-strapped department at Nigeria's Federal University of Technology in Owerri could not afford a US$25,000 piece of equipment. And his lack of skill with the device meant that scientists in the United States or Europe would not offer him a postdoc position abroad. "I had no experience with the facilities they work with," he says. Oguzie's luck turned in 2005, when he won a fellowship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world, to spend a postdoctoral year in China.
New dawn for Africa-India ties
Addis Ababa, the diplomatic capital of Africa, played host to Indian diplomats, businessmen, artisans and artists that were present as part of the interactions during the Second India-Africa Forum Summit. India's relations with African countries have got a boost with the various co-operation initiatives unveiled by the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister emphasized the growing importance of Africa, calling it the 'new growth pole' in the world.
China in Africa? No thanks
The Chinese “invasion” of Africa is no secret. They have come here in a big way in the past twenty years, building roads and bridges, sports stadiums, and other basic infrastructure. Now Africans are returning the favour. Whereas even two years ago African business-people would do their shopping in Dubai and Bangkok, now Dubai is the air hub where they change planes for Guangzhou, where even a Nigerian community has established itself. But will China ever replace the United States in people’s hearts, despite everything, even if it surpasses the U.S. and becomes the world’s leading economy? Highly unlikely.
South Sudan: Uganda influence extended as independence declared
South Sudan’s independence celebrations on Saturday will not only usher in the world’s newest country, they may also be a coronation of its southern neighbor, Uganda, as a cresting regional influence. Even now, with independence close at hand, South Sudan will be a nation in dependence. Countries from the United States to China are investing in the soon-to-be country, and the nearby East African Community says it is likely South Sudan will join the regional economic bloc. But Uganda, a developing country itself, holds a special place. A vast portion of South Sudan’s produce is imported, and Uganda exports more goods to South Sudan than any country in the world.
Sudan: Beyond the euphoria of Southern independence
South Sudan becomes the world's newest nation on 9 July, the final step in the six-year Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), a deal that ended the 1983-2005 North-South war. The government is upbeat, but after the euphoria of celebrations and the pomp of speeches, the new nation faces a mammoth task. Exactly how North and South Sudan divorce is critical to the future for both states. Key negotiations still remain - most importantly over oil. Border conflict has already forced thousands to flee, including some 110,000 people following the northern occupation of the contested Abyei region in May.
Egypt: The struggle continues
Thousands of demonstrators rallied in Tahrir Square on Friday, 1 July. Sharp clashes between youth on the one hand and police and regime thugs on the other on Tuesday and Wednesday 28 June and 29 June were the immediate impetus for the demonstration, says this article on the Jadaliyya website. 'But in addition to outrage about police brutality, which most Egyptians had hoped was a thing of the past, there is growing dissatisfaction with the limited changes since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak,' says the article.
Tunisia: Tunisians undecided ahead of October vote
More than half of Tunisians do not know who they will vote for in October's elections, according to a poll partly sponsored by Al Jazeera. The faultline between those who would like to see an Islamist form of governance and those who wish to see the secularism established under President Habib Bourguiba maintained is fast becoming a defining divide in the nascent democracy. With 54 per cent of Tunisians yet to decide who they will cast their vote for, according to Al Jazeera's poll, it is clear that the campaign period will be crucial. Most of the newly formed political parties remain completely unknown to the public.
Kenya: Nairobi demo turns chaotic, 10 people arrested
Ten people were on Thursday 7 July arrested as protests against the high cost of living and graft at the Ministry of Education turned chaotic. And police were forced to lob several teargas canisters to disperse the group of Unga Revolution campaigners who are pressing for a reduction in the cost of flour as well a the sacking of Education minister Prof Sam Ongeri.
South Africa: Zandspruit burns again
It's early morning in Zandspruit and police are barricading one end of the road. At the other end, behind a blockade of trees, rocks and burning tyres, a mob of young and old emerge, singing struggle songs. The protest started at 3am and will not stop until their councillor addresses them. It's been two months since South African local government elections, and the community is fuming that no one has come to address them since. As they march they carry posters that are calling for councillor Maureen Schneeman to step down.
South Africa: Rank and file at odds with ANC leaders
Amid growing factional conflict and infighting in the province, which was solidly united behind Jacob Zuma at the ANC's 2007 Polokwane conference, disgruntled members in the Moses Mabhida region continued their six-week-long sit-in protest against corruption and internal dysfunction at the party's regional branch headquarters in Pietermaritzburg. Tellingly, the protesters have strong support from the South African Communist Party and its youth league, as well as Cosatu.
Liberia: Campaigning kicks off ahead of polls
Liberia has kicked off campaigning for 11 October presidential and legislative elections, with incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf facing criticism over her plan to seek re-election. Sirleaf, who was elected Africa’s first female president in 2005, said she wanted a second term to continue her work in rebuilding the west African nation which was devastated by the 1989-2003 civil war.
Ghana: Atta Mills picks candidacy with overwhelming support
Ghana’s former President Jerry Rawlings has finally lost his charm and charisma after delegates at the ruling National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) primary rejected his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings’s bid to replace incumbent President John Atta Mills at next year’s election. Out of 2,861 votes, Nana Agyeman-Rawlings could only poll 90 votes against President Mills’ 2,771. If she had won, this would have been the first time that a serving president is changed after his first term in office since the country returned to Constitutional rule in 1992.
Botswana: Questionable dealings of connected men
Ian Khama, Botswana's president since 2008, has interests in a premium tourism company that benefited from the controversial relocation of Botswana's Bushmen from their ancestral land to resettlement camps in the 1990s and the early 2000s. Khama is a shareholder in Linyanti Investments, a subsidiary of Wilderness Holdings, a company criticised by the Bushmen and international pressure group Survival International for illegally occupying their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Egypt: Mubarak ministers cleared of corruption
An Egyptian court has acquitted three ministers from the toppled regime of Hosni Mubarak of squandering public funds. They were the first not guilty verdicts issued in a series of trials of former senior officials following the fall of Mr Mubarak in February. The ministers include former Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali.
Kenya: UK pressure for Gichuru, Okemo extradition
Britain has piled pressure on the government for the extradition of Nambale MP Chris Okemo and former parastatal chief Samuel Gichuru on corruption charges. British High Commissioner to Kenya Rob Macaire said the fraud cases were solid and rejected arguments that the two should not be extradited given the claims that the charges were not offences in Kenya when they were committed.
South Africa: Sweden turns up heat on arms deal
The temperature climbed a few degrees in the arms deal kitchen this week as the Swedish prosecutorial authority directed a seemingly low-key missive to South African counterparts inquiring whether investigations into the defence procurement scandal had been reopened. The letter, under the signature of Gunnar Stetler, the director of the Swedish National Anti-Corruption Unit, notes that details have come to light of what he describes as an alleged 'bribery scheme towards South Africa', and asks whether in response to the new information, the South African judicial authorities have seen fit to open preliminary investigations.
Zambia: Millions meant for the poor stolen or missing
Every year the Zambia government allocates billions of Kwacha for poverty reduction, but much of the money has been stolen or misappropriated. The latest report from the Office of the Auditor General, and a study published by the Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) in June 2011 shows that a number of multi-billion Kwacha projects funded by government failed to take off in 2009 and 2010 because of the misappropriation of funds.
Africa: Key areas of divergence between Africa and the EU on EPA negotiations
When the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations began ten years ago, there was a common understanding that the new trade regime would be targeted at deepening of Africa’s regional and continental integration, the enhancement of the competitiveness of the economy, and improvement of production capacities with a view to achieving sustainable development. However, says this posting on the Third World Network-Africa website, in the process of the negotiations these laudable objectives are not being pursued whilst WTO-plus elements have been introduced into the negotiations as reflected in numerous contentious issues.
Africa: Pet hates, dragon’s and biofuel
In response to a recent report by the Oakland Institute on land grabs in Africa, this blog article notes that, 'The free market attributes the demand of Westerners for transport fuel as more pressing than the demand of poor locals for basic food crops, because they are able to pay more, not because they have a greater need. Domestic governments need to intervene here to ensure that local economies produce enough food to feed themselves. Malnutrition has far reaching effects through every aspect of the economy, reducing productivity, increasing poor health, and damaging long term development of children both physically and mentally.'
Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa ‘not on track to meet MDGs by 2015’
Tanzania and other sub-Saharan Africa countries have made rapid progress towards the millennium development goals (MDGs), but reaching all goals by 2015 remains challenging, a new report says. Despite major improvements, the report says, there were still too many people being left behind calling for intensified efforts to improve the economic gap. Progress tends to bypass those who are lowest on the economic ladder or are otherwise disadvantaged because of their sex, age, disability or ethnicity. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva, finds that sub-Saharan Africa improved the fastest among all developing regions in many areas, especially those related to health.
East Africa: Don’t copy Europe, Mamdani warns
Scholar Mahmood Mamdani has cautioned East Africans against copying the European model of regional integration, arguing that it is a recipe for disaster. He was addressing the East African Legislative Assembly symposium. Mamdani said those who call for unity in Africa have tended to follow a model - The European Community - yet developments in Greece, Spain, Ireland, etc should cause a rethink.
East Africa: Traders lose Sh630m to border red tape
Red tape at border points is costing East Africa $7 million (Sh630 million) for each hour of delay in a year, according to a new study that proposes checks along the Northern Corridor be co-ordinated to ease transport costs. The report, 'Harmonisation of vehicle overload control in the East African Community', sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency shows that trucks take five days to cover the 1,100 kilometres from Mombasa to Kampala - with 19 hours being spent on crossing borders and weighbridges.
Zambia: Mineral policy slammed by climate network
Zambia would have been in less debt if it had better policies on minerals, says the Zambia Climate Change Network. ZCCN chairperson Robert Chimambo said this was the right time to create good policies that would ensure enough revenue from the country’s minerals when copper prices were high on the international market. He, however, regretted that foreign investors were controlling the government at the expense of the Zambian people. Chimambo said it was unfortunate that the government had decided to ignore the numerous calls from various stakeholders on the need to introduce better taxing systems on the mining companies.
Africa: BRICS can ensure affordable drugs
While ‘data exclusivity’ clauses will not feature in the India-European Union free trade agreement, the threat posed by the impending deal to the world’s supply of cheap generic drugs is far from over. India’s commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma assured Michel Sidibe, chief of the United Nations joint programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) at a meeting this week that India would reject attempts by pharmaceutical giants to include data exclusivity clauses in the FTA. 'The government of India reaffirms its full commitment to ensure that quality generic medicines, including antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, are seamlessly available, and to make them available to all countries,' Sharma said.
Africa: Hands off the medicine, MSF tells European Commission
Millions of people in developing countries rely on affordable generic medicines to stay alive. More than 80 per cent of the medicines used by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to treat AIDS across the developing world are produced in India. But the European Commission is now shutting off the tap of affordable medicines by attacking the production, registration, transportation and exportation of generic medicines. Visit this page of you're interested in helping Médecins Sans Frontières send a message to the European Commission to keep their hands of our medicine.
South Sudan: Public health in disarray
A lack of proper primary care facilities in South Sudan means doctors are often overworked. And a lack of money means they are under-equipped, as well. The government in Juba does not give them enough to buy the supplies they need, and donations from the international community do not fill the gap. The health ministry has plans to open a network of primary care centres - roughly one per 15,000 people - but none are fully operational. And the military and police hospitals are closed, forcing hundreds of thousands of soldiers and officers to seek care from civilian facilities.
Global: Debunking the HIV/AIDS spending backlash
National AIDS programmes are feeling the pinch as the international community and governments rethink their prioritization of AIDS over other infectious diseases. The withdrawal of support for the fight against HIV is gaining momentum and it is time to get angry, according to Francois Venter, head of the Southern Africa HIV Clinicians Society. In this Q&A with IRIN/PlusNews, Venter spoke about debunking the five major claims fuelling the backlash against global HIV expenditure, drawing on work by University of Cape Town professor Nicoli Nattrass and long-time HIV activist Gregg Gonsalves.
Kenya: People dying because of lack of anaesthetics
One person dies weekly in Kenya due to a shortage of anaesthetics and the situation is worse in slums and rural areas across the country. In areas like Turkana in the Rift Valley, and the North Eastern, Eastern and Western provinces people are enduring painful operations without any anaesthetics at all. This is according to James Kamau, a civil society activist and the chief executive of the Kenya Treatment Access Movement, a local non-governmental organisation.
Africa: Childbirth drug sparks controversy
Health experts say the drug misoprostol is saving women's lives around the world. It's also controversial. Originally developed to prevent gastric ulcers, it's also been shown to prevent excessive bleeding after childbirth. That's the leading cause of maternal death in the developing world. It's estimated that one woman dies from postpartum hemorrhage every seven minutes. The controversy comes because misoprostol, or miso, can also be used to induce abortion.
Malawi: Effective delivery of public education services
This report argues that missed opportunities in the education sector can be traced back more than 15 years to when, ironically, the Free Primary Education concept caused a vicious cycle of challenges which impeded on progress in the delivery of education services in Malawi. The report focuses on the issues of governance in the sector that place constraints on realising such goals as free primary education, capacity building of staff, investment in infrastructure and the increased efficacy of oversight mechanisms.
Zimbabwe: State of the education sector in Zimbabwe 2010 report
This report documents the state of Zimbabwe's education sector in the year 2010. It is the latest edition of the Students Solidarity Trust (SST)'s 'Inside the Pandora's Box' annual series. This 2010 report focuses on the material and democratic tenets in its evaluation. The gist of the 2010 argument is that whereas there have been some minimal and noticeable improvements in the availability of education little of that has been premised on democratic tenets. Consequently, explanations of educational change rooted in material analysis premised in the political economy are helpful but inadequate to capture political dynamics in contemporary Zimbabwe.
Nigeria: New initiative boosts LGBT activism
The Women’s Health and Equal Rights (WHER) Initiative, established in 2010 to fight for the right of Nigeria’s lesbians and bisexual women, last week held a picnic to create awareness about their work. Nigeria’s first lesbian/bisexual rights organisation, WHER, was set up to counter the repression faced by people whose sexual orientation and gender identity do not conform to the 'societal norm'. The establishment of the WHER Initiative was meant to enable a holistic and more representative approach to LGBT rights activism in the country.
South Africa: Gay refugee programme launched in Cape Town
In light of the increasing homophobia perpetuated against marginalised gay asylum-seekers and immigrants, a Cape Town based community organisation, PASSOP (People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty) has launched a Gay Refugee Programme, aimed at supporting and building a network for this group. In a statement, David von Burgsdorff, Programme Coordinator for PASSOP said, 'recognizing the vulnerability, the programme will provide support and advocacy for this social group and will include a solidarity network to unite Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants by providing them with outlets for emotional support and counseling.'
South Africa: Government gets lowest rating on xenophobia
In a week that saw two Somali traders shot dead in Cape Town and two more in Port Elizabeth, the South African government's handling of xenophobia received the lowest possible rating in a report by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Monitoring Project. Three years after widespread violence against foreigners broke out across the country, evaluators from the Monitoring Project noted that the government had failed to prioritize the issue, and that 'there is even an element of denialism on the part of some officials'. Tara Polzer Ngwato, of the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, agreed with the assessment. 'Government responses have been fragmented, poorly resourced and with limited political commitment,' despite a significant rise in attacks on foreign-owned shops in several provinces since the beginning of 2011.
Africa: Climate impact threatens biodiesel future in EU
Europe's biodiesel industry could be wiped out by EU plans to tackle the unwanted side effects of biofuel production, after studies showed few climate benefits, four papers obtained by Reuters show. Europe's world-leading $13 billion biodiesel industry, which has boomed in the wake of a decision by Brussels policymakers in 2003 to promote it, is now on the verge of being legislated out of existence after the studies revealed biodiesel's indirect impact cancels out most of its benefits.
Cameroon: Palm oil project threatens people and the rainforest
Plans are in place to clear the diverse rainforest ecosystem in Southwest Cameroon to make room for oil palm plantations. The forest and the agricultural societies situated around it are the foundation for the livelihoods and food supply of the people in the region, which comprises 38 villages and around 45,000 inhabitants. The organisation Rainforest Rescue is asking people to participate in their protest by writing to the minister of environment of Cameroon.
DRC: River's decreasing flow alarms Congolese
The River Congo waters have drastically decreased in the first six months of the year, causing problems for boat navigation. According to the DRC public company in charge of the waterways - Régie des Voies Fluviales - the phenomenon is unprecedented in DRC history. According to Congolese meteorologist Amos Paluku, the low water level is linked to other climatic changes observed in the country, particularly in the western DRC.
Ethiopia: Nile dam development to go ahead
Ethiopia is going ahead with the construction of the 5,250MW Renaissance Dam despite fears that it will spark disputes with Egypt over Nile waters. The dam will be one of the world’s 10 biggest with Ethiopia funding itself for the 4.78 billion US dollar cost. This video from Vox Africa reports on the dam.
South Africa: Exposing the greed of corporates
KPFA 94.1FM recently interviewed Desmond D'sa, chairperson of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance in South Africa, who was on a visit to the United States ahead of the COP17 meeting scheduled for Durban in late 2011. D'sa described the key themes of his visit as exposing the greed of corporates and the destruction that they cause, emphasising the message that corporates can be challenged and tackled, and the importance of linking up local issues with national issues in South Africa.
South Africa: Shell fracking ad ‘unsubstantiated’ and ‘misleading’
Shell South Africa has been ordered to withdraw 'unsubstantiated' and 'misleading' claims it made in full-page advertisements in newspapers about its use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas exploration in the Karoo. The ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was welcomed by Jonathan Deal, chairman of the Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG), who laid the complaint. 'It is critical that with an issue so important to South Africa as fracking that the public is not misled, as Shell clearly intended in its advertising.'
Global: World Bank told to stop lending to land grabbers
Civil society organisations from Latin America, Europe and around the world have issued an open letter calling on the World Bank's International Finance Corporation to reject a proposal to finance Calyx Agro, a company that acquires farmland in Latin America on behalf of wealthy foreign investors. Calyx Agro is a subsidiary of Louis Dreyfus, one of the world's biggest commodity traders. The World Bank is considering a loan of up to US$30 million to help Calyx Agro expand its operations in Latin America. The letter also denounces the Bank for its on-going support to other leading investors involved in land grabbing around the world.
Kenya: Biofuels land grab in Kenya's Tana Delta fuels talk of war
Gamba Manyatta village is empty now, weeds already roping around the few skeletal hut frames still standing. The people who were evicted took as much of their building materials as they could carry to start again and the land where their homes stood is now ploughed up. The eviction of the villagers to make way for a sugar cane plantation is part of a wider land grab going on in Kenya's Tana Delta that is not only pushing people off plots they have farmed for generations, stealing their water resources and raising tribal tensions that many fear will escalate into war, but also destroying a unique wetland habitat that is home to hundreds of rare and spectacular birds.
Sudan: In Sudan's breadbasket, a revolution is waiting to happen
To breathe new life into its agricultural sector and boost output, Sudan is desperately seeking foreign investment, especially from neighbouring Arab countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia which are nervous about their future food security. In recent months, farmers have staged sporadic demonstrations against what they consider an unacceptable offer by the government to buy their land. Some have degenerated into violent confrontations with the police. 'The farmers are complaining, because the price they are being offered for their land is not fair,' said lawyer and political activist Majdi Selim, speaking at his office in Wad Madani.
Uganda: Women's gains from the implementation of succession law
The 1972 Succession Act identifies the persons eligible for inheritance and their respective share entitlements in Uganda, but the majority of women in rural communities are not aware of this office and its function, nor do they understand Uganda's legal provisions for inheritance, says this policy brief from the Uganda Land Alliance and the Uganda Media Women's Association. Current policy on the implementation of women's legal rights must be revised to address this problem. Action needs to be taken to educate and sensitize the community as well as women their legal entitlement to land inheritance of property.
Egypt: Marketers move in on Egypt's revolution
Egyptian companies and multi-nationals are now using images of and references to the youth-led uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in advertisements to sell internet service, mobile phones, soft drinks, tourism and more. The marketing has sparked something of a backlash among young Egyptians and has contributed to a rise in politicised street art and graffiti. 'Everyone sold us down the river. So all these people coming now and claiming that their phones, their kitchen appliances, their whatever, has helped the revolution - nothing has helped the revolution but the people that did the revolution,' said one Egyptian.
DRC: Journalist gunned down amid rising attacks on press
A journalist who had recently reported about the arrest of locals accused of trafficking weapons for criminal activity was found shot to death last week in the eastern town of Kirumba in the Democratic Republic of Congo, report Journaliste en danger (JED) and other IFEX members. Kambale Musonia, the host of a daily programme on Radio Communautaire de Lubero Sud, was shot to death a few metres from his home on 21 June. Musonia is the sixth journalist gunned down in the past four years in North and South Kivu alone, says JED.
Sudan: Two journalists convicted for articles about human rights violations
Judge Modather Al-Rasheed of the Khartoum press court has sentenced Fatima Ghazali, a journalist with the daily Al-Jarida, to a fine of 2,000 Sudanese pounds (516 euros) or one month in prison in case of refusal to pay. As Ghazali refused to pay the fine, she was immediately taken to Omdurman prison to begin serving her sentence. The judge also sentenced Al-Jarida editor Saadeldin Ibrahim to a fine of 5,000 Sudanese pounds (1,290 euros) in connection with the same articles about human rights violations by the security forces.
Cote d’ Ivoire: Five detained pro-Gbagbo media personnel charged with undermining the state
Five detained journalists were on 26 June 2011 charged with conspiracy to undermine the state as part of probe into the political crisis following the defeat of former President Laurent Gbagbo in the second round of the November, 2010 elections. The five men including journalists and other media executives are part of 15 close associates of ex-President Gbagbo who have been charged with 'offences against the authority of the state'.
Zambia: Law Association of Zambia unhappy with ZNBC
The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) says it might have to institute public interest proceedings over the breach of the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) Act. LAZ President Musa Mwenye says that ZNBC’s news broadcast is unbalanced and mostly inclined to the MMD, a situation which has been compounded by the absence of a board of directors at the media institution.
Kenya: Budget cushions agricultural sector amidst staggering inflation
As the country’s inflation rate hits a staggering 14.5 per cent – compared to 4.5 per cent in December 2010 - Kenyans are struggling to afford basic commodities like maize, amid a shortage of the staple food. But with a recent budget allocation of almost 112 million dollars for agriculture, maize shortages may soon become less frequent in years to come. At nine per cent, the budget allocation is only one percentage shy of meeting the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) policy framework. CAADP requires that countries signatory to the agreement allocate at least 10 per cent of the national budget to agriculture.
Cameroon: House debates diaspora vote
The Cameroon Government has tabled a Bill in the National Assembly that could grant the vote to the diaspora. The Bill is almost sure to be passed as it is supported by both the ruling CPDM party, which has a two-third majority in the Assembly as well as the leading opposition party SDF. Cameroonians in the diaspora have been clamouring for the vote over the years, to no avail.
DRC: Fragile peace holding in Ituri
Almost eight years after an estimated 50,000 people perished in a four-year conflict that also displaced 500,000 from their homes in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a tenuous calm prevails in the area. The 1999-2003 Ituri conflict was between the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups. In Nioka, Mahagi territory, about 90km northeast of the district capital, Bunia, the violence sucked in the Alur ethnic community, with the Lendu accusing them of supporting the Hema.
Ethiopia: Thousands need aid after volcano eruption
Thousands of Ethiopians in Afar State are facing critical food, water and health gaps almost a month after a volcano erupted in neighbouring Eritrea's Nabro region, officials say. The volcano started erupting on 12 June, spewing ash over hundreds of kilometres, affecting food and water sources as well as air travel in some parts. The eruption also caused an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.7, Eritrea's Information Ministry reported in a communiqué.
Libya: Is NATO using dirty bombs in Libya?
When Libyan rebels requested NATO air support to help them in their fight against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, they might have gotten more than they bargained for, and might be paying for it for a long time to come. Several scattered reports released since the conflict began claim that some of the missiles NATO jets are using to disable Gaddafi's army are tipped with depleted uranium, a toxic heavy metal that could have long-term negative health effects on populations exposed to it.
Nigeria: Communities stage protest against Shell
Four communities that Shell Petroleum Development Company operates in recently issued a 14 day ultimatum to the company, demanding implementation of an agreement reached with the communities in 1999. The communities include: Oruma, Otuasega, Elebele and Imiringi. Following the ultimatum to Shell, leaders of the community had appeared before the Joint Military Task Force [JTF] at the expiration of the time with a view to settle the matter amicably. Unfortunately, Shell could not convince the aggrieved communities that are demanding that the company honour the agreement it reached with them in 1999, and they decided to stage a peaceful protest at the heavily guarded Shell facility, the Kolo Creek Logistic Base.
Somalia: IGAD seeks no fly zones
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development Assembly (IGAD) wants the United Nations to impose a No fly zone on Somalia in a bid to cut off arms supplies to the Al Shabaab terrorist group. President Kibaki led the East African leaders in asking the UN to enforce no fly zones on key towns during an IGAD meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting also directed its anger on Eritrea, which they accused of supplying arms to the Al Shabaab through Kismayu.
Somalia: Violence, drought sparked human tragedy
Persistent violence compounded by a serious drought have forced 54,000 Somalis to flee in June, bringing the total number of displaced Somalis to a quarter of the country’s population, the UNHCR has said. The food shortage problem is so acute that there are now reports of children under five dying of hunger and exhaustion while fleeing, or dying within a day of their arrival at refugee camps despite emergency aid, the UN refugee agency said.
Africa: The battle for dot Africa
Early in June in Singapore, the International Centre for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board of directors announced that they will allow more gTLD (generic Top Level Domains). Currently, there are only 22 registered gTLDs like .com and .org. The expanded gTLD space means that Africa can too have its own gTLD like .africa. An organisation going by the name DotConnectAfrica (DAC) (http://www.dotconnectafrica.org/) has been spearheading this venture for a while now. DAC has even been on social media, communicating their agenda and advocating for the .africa gTLD long before the ICANN announcement.
Global: Civil society declines to support OECD communique on principles of internet policies
The Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council to the OECD has declined to support an official communique on principles for internet policy-making, saying that it could undermine 'online freedom of expression, freedom of information, the right to privacy, access to knowledge, and innovation across the world.' Their concerns include the communiqué’s over-emphasis on protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights at the expense of fundamental freedoms.
Freedom Archives mailing list
The Freedom Archives mailing list contains posting on general anti-imperialist news with an emphasis on analysis and non-traditional sources. Click on the URL provided to subscribe.
Call for proposals: TASENE
The TASENE programme is a unique collaboration between COSTECH (Tanzania), Sida (Sweden) and NWO-WOTRO (The Netherlands). TASENE invites applications from recent PhD graduates in any discipline to conduct full time research over two years, jointly with colleagues from the other countries. The researchers will work in Tanzania and in either Sweden or The Netherlands. Research should be relevant to the research and university system in Tanzania.
2011 Gender Symposium
1-3 November 2011, Cairo, Egypt
In line with its mandate to promote high-level scientific and academic debates on various aspects of socioeconomic development in Africa, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) hereby announces the 2011 edition of its Gender Symposium which will be held from 1st to 3rd November, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. The Gender Symposium is a forum organized annually by CODESRIA to discuss gender issues in Africa, and the theme of this year’s edition is Gender and the Media in Africa.
2011 Gender Symposium
Gender and the Media in Africa
Date: 1st – 3rd November, 2011
Venue: Cairo, Egypt
In line with its mandate to promote high-level scientific and academic debates on various aspects of socioeconomic development in Africa, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) hereby announces the 2011 edition of its Gender Symposium which will be held from 1st to 3rd November, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. The Gender Symposium is a forum organized annually by CODESRIA to discuss gender issues in Africa, and the theme of this year’s edition is Gender and the Media in Africa.
Democracy, globalization and the need for gender equality have put the issue of Gender and the Media in Africa at the forefront of the social science reflection. Revisiting this issue consists in placing it in a historical and political perspective that enables an understanding of its connection with the overall issue of development in Africa. The struggle for independence, in its political and trade-union dimensions, did not neglect the use of the media, especially the print media, even if those who had the chance to attend school were, at the time, very few in number. Subsequently, shortly after independence, the media played a major role in the political and ideological schemes that gave legitimacy to the progress of the public sphere in many African states. The crisis years, the so-called ‘lost decades’ following the implementation of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), underscored the need to control the public sphere in a way that ultimately resulted in what became known as ‘authoritarian decompression’ in some circles and ‘political liberalisation’ in others. Indeed, the growing impoverishment of populations and the drastic reduction in their access to social services (education, health, etc.), resulting from the policies of state disengagement, led to the erosion of its legitimacy. Subsequently, the wave of democratization that blew on the continent in the last two decades has resulted in a recovery of the freedom of expression which resulted, among others, in an opening of the media space. Since then, political and media pluralism has characterised the political and civic practice on the continent in varying degrees. Thus, we have moved from a context characterised by the omnipotence of the state-controlled media, resulting from their legal and/or de facto monopoly of the public space, to a situation of large media pluralism. Under the the single-party system, the state-controlled media played a major role in the production and validation of a political, cultural and social ‘truth’ which no institutional or political mechanism could question. Yet, the liberalisation of the media space and the proliferation of the media (print, television, radio) that accompanied it facilitated the construction of a citizenship spirit based on pluralistic information that enables citizens to take better position regarding public policies, and especially to open the debate on a variety of issues that were previously seen as taboos or simply ignored. Women are among the most affected in this regard, especially as visibility in the public sphere does not automatically translate into equal gender proportion in the media. For instance, women are rarely mentioned in articles with political and economic content. In fact, global statistics has shown that only 18% of people given media coverage or, more accurately, mentioned in the media in the world, are women. This shows that women hold less than one-quarter of the space occupied by men in the media. In Africa, women’s place in the media has dropped from 22 to 11 per cent in recent years. Nevertheless, women have been able to establish a new horizon of freedom, marked by advocacy for equality and equity, that has greatly benefited the international environment. It is therefore important to examine how the media have redefined themselves in the context of democratic pluralism and openness to take charge of the need to create more room for women in the media.
While the social science reflection has often been interested in the relationship between the media and democracy and/or governance, it has put little emphasis on the gender dimension of this issue. UNESCO had initiated a broad debate on women and the media, which was an opportunity to discuss the elimination of stereotypes in the media and stress the urgent need to counter the featuring of downgrading images about women as well as poor handling of information relating to women in the media. Developments in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) have opened up new possibilities for the participation of women in the world of communication and especially in the dissemination of information relating to women.
The objective of the 2011 Gender Symposium is therefore to renew the reflection and interrogation on the media, using the gender paradigm. Do the media contribute to the deconstruction of gender inequality relations, or do they only reproduce stereotypical images of masculinity and femininity that leave intact the power relations between men and women? What and how do they contribute to the building of the civic capacities of women and the construction of their leadership? Are they incorporating the gender dimension or just following the existing dominant ideology which plays down on the visibility of women? Are the alternative media (community radio, private radio and television stations, etc.) more sensitive to gender issues than the state-controlled media? Do the Web, the blogosphere, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) offer new spaces for women to express themselves or do they operate like the traditional media? How can we rate women's access to ICT and the policies of African states in terms of the promotion of women and gender issues through it? Do media pluralism and the commodification of information increase gender inequalities by crystallizing more the stereotypical images, especially those of women? What exactly can be done as a way of checking the so-called tabloids which use degrading images of women as illustrations? How do we resolve the issue of gender disparity in the media, with low number of women at the decision-making level of media outlets, resulting also in a poor representation of women in the contents?
These different questions have to be discussed in a context of globalisation, where Information and Communication Technology (ICT) gives particular resonance to the interaction between the local and global spaces, with some fluidity that is unprecedented in the movement of ideas, goods and values. The new ethical horizon that emanates, and which requires equality in gender relations and respect for human rights, inevitably gives a new mission and a new power to the media. How do the latter embrace their responsibility in the emergence of new femininities and masculinities in consolidated democratic spaces? These are some of the important questions that need to be given urgent attention in the African context.
All those interested in presenting papers on the theme of the Symposium are invited to send their abstracts no later than 31 July 2011. Full papers of the abstracts accepted for presentation must be received by CODESRIA no later than 20 September, 2011 for assessment before confirmation of the final selection by CODESRIA.
For more information on the 2011 Annual Gender Symposium and how to participate in this event, please contact:
2011 Annual Gender Symposium
Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)
BP 3304, CP 18524 Dakar, Senegal
Tel: +221 33 825 98 22/23
Fax: +221 33 824 12 89
African Studies Association 54th annual meeting workshops
The African Studies Association is pleased to announce three pre-conference workshops to be offered on Wednesday, 16 November 2011. Participants will have the opportunity to explore governance and development at American University in depth or go behind the scenes to learn about the resources employed by The Library of Congress and the Museum of African Art.
African Studies Association 54th annual meeting workshops
The African Studies Association is pleased to announce three pre-conference workshops to be offered on Wednesday, 16 November 2011. Participants will have the opportunity to explore governance and development at American University in depth or go behind the scenes to learn about the resources employed by The Library of Congress and the Museum of African Art. Because this is the first time workshops are being offered they will be offered at no fee. The deadline to register is 1 September 2011. Click here to register.
The Library of Congress: African and Middle Eastern Division
The workshop will focus on information resources for research on East Africa, the Horn of Africa, Southern and Lusophone Africa, and Western Africa including the Francophone countries. Workshops will include resources such as newspapers, serials, maps, law publications, photographs, rare books, and videos. Materials from a number of libraries and organizations will be displayed on-site. The sessions will be led by Angel Batiste, Eve Ferguson, Marieta Harper, Laverne Page, and Mary-Jane Deeb. All are librarians in the African and Middle East Division. This workshop will be held from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art: ASA Museum Day
The National Museum of African Art is hosting workshop which will focus on education, curating, research, and gallery tours. Educators will share their experiences with new technologies and how these effect art education activities such as teaching, student learning, and collaboration between different museums. Participants will have the opportunity to participate in gallery tours, guided collection storage visits, as well as tour the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives. The workshop will also focus on coordinating with local communities in Africa to demonstrate the impact of globalization on information sharing. The workshop will be led by the curators of the museum who are members of ASA and the Arts Council of the African Studies Association. This workshop will be held from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
American University: Governance and Development: Reassessing and Reinventing Power Sharing and Decentralization in Africa
USAID is partnering with the School for International Service at American University to discuss contemporary approaches to governance in Africa. Workshop participants will analyze recent power sharing agreements and critically evaluate decentralization reforms. Senior staff will identify comparative lessons learned and explore how these particular reforms impact democracy and economic development on the continent. This workshop will be held from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM.
The Changing Political Economy of Afro-Arab Relations
19 – 30 September 2011, Rabat, Morocco
CODESRIA and SEPHIS are pleased to announce the first edition of the African-Arab Advanced Institute. This annual advanced institute on African-Arab relations will be held alternatively in North Africa and in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Institute is conceived as a high-level knowledge-building, agenda-setting and networking forum for scholars in the prime of their careers desirous of experimenting with new fields of knowledge and exploring new conceptual terrains.
African-Arab Advanced Institute
Theme: The Changing Political Economy of Afro-Arab Relations
Date: 19-30 September, 2011
Venue: Rabat, Morocco
CODESRIA and SEPHIS are pleased to announce the first edition of the African-Arab Advanced Institute. This annual advanced institute on African-Arab relations will be held alternatively in North Africa and in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Institute is conceived as a high-level knowledge-building, agenda-setting and networking forum for scholars in the prime of their careers desirous of experimenting with new fields of knowledge and exploring new conceptual terrains. The Institute is underpinned by a desire to extend and transform the frontiers of African and Arab Studies by simultaneously challenging and transcending the inherited boundaries set by the colonial encounter and Cold War-inspired area studies. Participants in the Institute will be drawn from across Africa and the Arab World and will work together during ten days around a specific theme. The inaugural session of the Institute will take place in Rabat, Morocco, from 19 – 30 September, 2011. It will focus mainly on:
The African-Arab Advanced Institute
Africa is one continent whose peoples share a common position of subalternity in global relations, and a number of common historical experiences and cultures. The historical ties and exchanges that exist between Africa and the Arab World are numeros.
The number of Arabs and non-Arab people using Arabic as a working language is estimated at 300 millions, two thirds of whom are Africans. The Arabic script is used by a much larger number of people, some of whom use it to write African languages, which is what has given birth to Adjami. There is therefore a considerable degree of overlap between Africa and the Arab World, geographically and sociologically, and there are intense trade and economic exchanges between these two worlds.
Furthermore, there is a long history of higher education in the Arab World, and very old traditions of scholarship, and there is a huge body of literature in Arabic that is unknown to non-Arabic speaking African scholars. Similarly, there are a lot of books written in English, French and Portuguese that have not been translated into Arabic, but the extensive Arabisation policy promoted in a number of North African countries has made it more difficult for many scholars of this part of Africa, particular the young scholars, to participate in scholarly and policy debates in Africa conducted in English, French and Arabic.
There is also a growing number of African intellectuals who studied, and many students currently studying in the Arab World. All these people are operating at the margins of the African intellectual community.
More generally, the study of Africa was bounded in a context defined globally by colonialism and the Cold War, and regionally by the post-1945 consolidation of apartheid. In this configuration, North Africa was said to be a part of ‘the Orient’ and, thus, of the area called ‘Middle East’, while apartheid South Africa was considered an exception to be studied separately. The domain of African Studies came to be developed around the land area between the Sahara and the Limpopo. Socially, Africa was Bantu Africa; spatially, it was equatorial Africa. This notion was, however, never accepted in the post-colonial academy in Africa, including in the programmatic work of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) that emerged as the pioneer and apex African social research organization on the continent. Established in 1973, CODESRIA defined the study of Africa as including both the continental land mass and the Indian Ocean islands, and set up research networks accordingly.
Part of the ‘Arab World’ is in Africa. As has been noted above, out of the estimated 300 million inhabitants of the Arab World, 200 million (i.e. two thirds) live in Africa. Culturally, many millions of Sub-Saharan Africans are also linked to the Arab World through religious networks (Islam).
The post-Cold War and post-apartheid era calls for a careful and sustained problematisation of received boundaries in the study of Africa. It is suggested that this endeavor requires comparative studies which, while thematically focused, deliberately transgress these boundaries with a view to exploring historical terrains that were obscured by the dominant paradigm, and charting new grounds in identity theory and politics. In so doing, it is hoped that the study of African-Arab relations will not only be revitalized but, equally important, that new important insights will be developed that will contribute to a radical re-direction of our reading of African history, sociology and politics away from the hegemonic occidentalist bias that has been predominant. Furthermore, in exploring the historical legacies resulting from the flow of peoples and goods across boundaries and the contemporary patterns that are playing themselves out, it is expected that the initiative would explode various myths about the nature, content and direction of the complex interfaces between peoples and cultures in the making of politics, economy and society in Africa and the Arab World.
As an endeavour at the generation of new knowledge, the Institute will be structured as a multidisciplinary intervention.
Inaugural Session of the African-Arab Advanced Institute: The Changing Political Economy of Afro-Arab Relations
The inaugural session of the Institute will focus on the changing political economy of Afro-Arab Relations as a point of departure. Prospective participants in the session will be invited to submit proposals of not more ten pages on any aspect of the theme of The Changing Political Economy of Afro-Arab Relations that they might be interested in pursuing. Up to 10 fellows drawn from across Africa and the Arab World, and from the African and Arab Diaspora, and from different disciplinary backgrounds, will be invited to participate in the session. The session will be convened and led by a Director designated by CODESRIA and SEPHIS to offer intellectual leadership and coordinate the output of the fellows into a joint SEPHIS-CODESRIA publication.
Among the sub-themes of The Changing Political Economy of Afro-Arab Relations around which reflection will be organized are the following:
b. Post-colonial Nationalisms
c. The Spirit of Non-Alignment and Bandung
d. The Political Economy of the Nile
e. African and Arab States in the Global Oil Politics
f. Trade and Investments
h. State and Human Security Challenges in Africa and the Arab World
i. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere and the Promise of Democracy in Africa and the Arab World
Participants in the Institute will be drawn from among those scholars whose proposals on the theme for which CODESRIA and SEPHIS invite applications are adjudged to be the most promising. Priority for participation in the Institute will be given to scholars from Africa and the Arab World. Participants will be experienced scholars with a well-established academic record that equips them for the challenges of the kind of radical and well-grounded innovative thinking that is designed to be a key distinguishing feature of the Institute. Authors of proposals will be invited to focus on both particular place(s) and theme(s) in developing their work. This way, each fellow of the Institute will combine a case study with a thematic focus in the work that they will carry out. Methodologically, this approach will allow for the combination of detailed empirical observation with a comparative analysis and, in so doing, will both build on the historical strength of area studies, the focus on the local, and move away from its historical limitation, the tendency to translate political boundaries (the area) into boundaries of knowledge production. The working languages of the Institute are Arabic, French and English.
Laureates: Applications should include the following:
1) a Curriculum Vitae (maximum of two pages),
2) an application letter
3) a research proposal outlining the candidate’s current research project, including the methodology that is being employed or considered (at most four pages),
4) a sample of the applicant’s work
Convener/Resource Persons: Applicants for the position of Course Convener and Resource Persons should submit: 1) an application letter; 2) a curriculum vitae; and 3) a two-page course outline of three lectures specifically focusing on the issues to be covered in the sub-themes, and 4) a sample of the applicant’s work.
Applications must be written in English, French or Arabic. The deadline for the submission of applications is 07th August 2011. An international scientific committee will examine the dossiers of all candidates by 16th August 2011. Successful applicants will be notified immediately after the completion of the selection process.
Incomplete and unnecessarily lengthy applications will not be taken into consideration.
All faxed and e-mailed applications must also be accompanied by a hard copy original version sent by post if they are to be considered.
Additional information about the African-Arab Advanced Institute can be obtained via:
- the CODESRIA web site: http://www.codesria.org
- the SEPHIS web site: http://www.sephis.org
Applications and requests for more information should be sent to:
CODESRIA/SEPHIS Africa-Arab Advanced Institute
Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop, angle Canal IV
B.P. 3304, Dakar, Senegal
Fax: (221) 33 824 12 89
Tel: (221) 33 825 98 22/23
Whose Memories Count and at What Cost?
20 -27 November, Kitgum, Northern Uganda
The Refugee Law Project (RLP), Faculty of Law, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, in collaboration with the African Transitional Justice Research Network (ATJRN) is accepting applications to its 2nd Institute for African Transitional Justice (IATJ), an annual week-long residential programme with a focus on Transitional Justice issues in the context of Africa. The Institute, which is scheduled to take place from 20 - 27 November 2011, in Kitgum, Northern Uganda has as its theme: 'Whose Memories Count and at What Cost?' The deadline for submitting applications is 1 August 2011, and any applicant intending to apply for some form of scholarships must do so before that deadline.
Journal of Conflict Resolution, Volume 11 No. 1, 2011
Special Issue on the Theme: Southern Africa - 50 Years After Hammarskjöld
This special issue of African Journal of Conflict Resolution (AJCR) on Southern Africa - 50 years after Hammarskjöld underlines the current relevance of Hammarskjöld’s legacy and the continued relevance of his mindset and convictions for our efforts today to enhance peace and reduce violence and discrimination. This covers not only dimensions seeking to protect individual people. It also includes efforts to ensure more equal relations among states within the international system, often misleadingly called ‘order’ but more often tantamount to a structurally embedded disorder. By doing so, the following contributions also articulate parameters for better conduct by and among states and their leaders, respecting the interest of ‘We, the Peoples’ as the Preamble of the United Nations Charter declares (in contrast to what follows in the actual clauses, which focus on the governments of states). Download the special issue.
Political Narratives of Congolese Young People in Uganda
Millions of citizens from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been killed or displaced during decades of political corruption and military conflict. Many forced migrants are young people, who are often seen either as passive victims or as radicalized and amoral child soldiers perpetuating the cycle of violence. Recounting Migration refutes these stereotypes by presenting young Congolese refugees' nuanced understanding of the complex power relations that affect their everyday lives.
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