Pambazuka News 539: Defining citizenship, nation and the state
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Advocacy & campaigns, 3. Pan-African Postcard, 4. Books & arts, 5. Letters & Opinions, 6. Highlights French edition, 7. Cartoons, 8. Zimbabwe update, 9. Women & gender, 10. Human rights, 11. Refugees & forced migration, 12. Africa labour news, 13. Emerging powers news, 14. Elections & governance, 15. Corruption, 16. Development, 17. Health & HIV/AIDS, 18. Education, 19. LGBTI, 20. Environment, 21. Food Justice, 22. Media & freedom of expression, 23. Social welfare, 24. News from the diaspora, 25. Conflict & emergencies, 26. Internet & technology, 27. Fundraising & useful resources, 28. Courses, seminars, & workshops
Highlights from this issue
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Election timelines ‘unrealistic’
WOMEN AND GENDER: South Sudan – what independence means for women
HUMAN RIGHTS: Apartheid era plunder in South Africa to be probed
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: ECOWAS claims largest refugee numbers
AFRICAN LABOUR NEWS: Independent Egyptian trade unions endorse BDS
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: The latest edition of the Emerging Powers News Roundup
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda
DEVELOPMENT: Developing country groups slam climate change loans
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: New hope in fight against HIV/Aids
EDUCATION: Egyptian professors fight back with sit-in
ENVIRONMENT: GMOs – ‘Africa is not the place for these things’
FOOD JUSTICE: Women and food sovereignty
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Moving from principles to rights at Rio 2012
NEWS FROM THE DIASPORA: Cameroon gives franchise to diaspora
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: News from Ethiopia, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan
PLUS: Internet and Technology and Fundraising and useful resources…
Beyond the genocidal concept of tribal homelands
On the East African Federation
I became interested in the question of why the old community collapsed after I returned to Uganda from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1979. I spent months reading community files in government ministries in Kampala. I was struck that the debate on the Community unfolded as a debate between states only. I could not locate an independent discussion that cut across state lines.
If we limit the discussion on the old community to external rivalries that imploded the old community from within, then we will inevitably conclude that there is little we can do about forces we do not control. But if we can expand the discussion to look at our own failure to develop a public discourse on East African issues, then we can move a step forward. The discussion needs to involve broad sectors of East African society. By not leaving the initiative to the political class, we can contribute to exploring different options and rallying new forces.
THE MARKET AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
Those who call for unity in Africa have tended to follow a model – the European Union. The AU was self-consciously modelled after EU, including both name and acronym.
Today, developments in Greece, Spain, Ireland and others should make us rethink. Instead of seeing the EU as a model, we need to see it as an experience from which to draw lessons, both positive and negative.
The EU was extraordinarily successful as a common market. As a monetary union, however, it is turning into a near disaster. What is the problem? When national governments lost sovereignty over their national currency, the policy-making power over monetary policy passed to a politically unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels. Without a mechanism to ensure political accountability at the centre, the EU has turned into a market fundamentalism. The results are clear. As weaker economies like Greece go under, they are forced to undergo a version of structural adjustment, inevitably leading to reduced wages.
The fault line in the EU is not very different from the fault line in East Africa. It divides rich from poor member states. Who is to protect the weak majority?
The antidote to market forces is political democracy. If the law of the market is that might is right, then the basis of citizenship is political equality. If the market stands for rights, then citizenship stands for justice. In a democracy, the poor and the weak look to political power to give them minimum protection against those who rule the marketplace.
There are today two different demands growing in the weaker states of Europe: either leave the EU to regain democratic control over monetary policy within each nation-state, or turn the EU into a political union so that monetary policy in Europe is subject to democratic control. The question is: can you have a sustainable monetary union without a political union, or at least without political arrangements that will safeguard popular livelihoods?
If you write Tanzania for Greece or Spain and Kenya for Germany, you can see the relevance of the EU problem for us. If East African unity is to turn into a market fundamentalism, what is to prevent the weak and the poor, the majority, from turning against that unity, or following demagogues who tell them that they should return to their real communities, their native homelands, not to just Tanzania or Uganda, but to, say, Sukumaland or Buganda?
The first debate we need is how to counteract market fundamentalism: what would poorer regions, and the poorer classes, have to gain from an East African unity? How shall we balance the language of rights with that of social justice, market fundamentalism with social equity?
This is the question that broke up the old community, starting with the collapse of the Kampala Agreement. It cannot be wished away.
THE LAND QUESTION
I have heard claims that we have solved the land question by leaving land policy to each member state. Rather than solve it, I think we have shelved it.
The vast majority of East Africans are peasants. The question that concerns peasants first and foremost is that of land. Without secure access to land, there is no secure livelihood.
We have two radically opposed land systems in East Africa. Both are of colonial origin. One is freehold, where the poor are free to sell their land to the rich – even if it means they will be without any means of livelihood in the future. Then there is customary tenure, created during the colonial period. Its basis is that land belongs to the community.
Customary tenure is basically a preventive measure. It prevented the peasant from being dispossessed by market forces and secured the material basis of rural livelihoods. It also prevented the rural poor from being turned into a surplus population flooding into towns. Conversely, it prevented urban-based capital from appropriating land in the countryside.
On the negative side, the regime of customary tenure defined the community in ethnic terms, as a tribal community, and land as part of a tribal homeland. The overall effect was to narrow the African horizon to the tribe. Not only was the tribe turned into a source of security and belonging, it was also said that danger lurks beyond the tribe.
The challenge today is twofold: can the principle of land to the tiller (security of tenure) inherent in customary tenure be preserved in a united East Africa? Or will unity sacrifice this to freehold tenure and principles of market fundamentalism?
Second, can unity create something more than a market – a playing field where the rich and powerful will inevitably dominate? Can it create a meaningful citizenship, a political shelter for the majority?
The European solution to this challenge is well known. From the 17th century, freehold tenure became the basis of agrarian accumulation in Europe. Its results too are well known. The rural poor were expelled from the countryside as a surplus population.
Those unable to find jobs in urban areas were forcibly expelled to overseas colonies – initially as bandits, convicts and rebels, then as victims of market fundamentalism. This was the story of the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The European option made for an urban dictatorship over rural areas. Urban areas called for autonomy. Europe’s urban-centred vision is theoretically sanctified in the notion of civil society. We have taken it over uncritically.
In East Africa, urban autonomy was historically a part of the regime of race privilege. Civil society was racialised at birth. The progressive forces in East Africa were not those who fought for urban autonomy, but those who fought to link the urban and the rural. Advocates of civil society and urban autonomy have overlooked this historical fact.
Today, the European option of expelling the rural population is no longer feasible. Given that there are hardly any empty spaces left in the world, Africa’s rural poor have no fall back except within Africa. The surplus population expelled from Africa’s rural areas cannot and for the most part does not migrate overseas. In spite of sensational stories in the press that highlight the plight of Africans who drown at sea trying to get to Europe, facts are otherwise. This surplus population is found as refugees and internally displaced persons inside Africa.
We can learn something from the Chinese example. Everyone knows that the crisis of rural areas in China is growing. The surprise is that this crisis is not bigger. For this, there is one important reason. In China, land in rural areas is not a commodity. Land belongs to the village. It is something like what we call customary tenure. Access is based on use. The lesson for us is to look for ways of reforming customary tenure rather than abolishing it. The point should be first to retain security of tenure, the principle of land to the tiller – and the recognition of the village community as the custodian of land.
But the point should also be to reform the notion of the village community from tribal to residential.
It should now be clear that leaving land policy to national governments will not solve the problem. Its consequence is likely to be a migration of the rural poor from lands of freehold tenure to lands where security of tenure still obtains for peasants.
A second consequence will be a growing demand in the latter areas that borders be closed to stop the flow of those whom local people see as a threat to their land and their jobs. We only need to think of the recent violence against African migrants labelled ‘makwerekwere’ in South Africa.
The big question is the relationship of the rural to the urban – and of tribe to nation. Can one be part of a wider community without losing home and a sense of home? This takes us back to the big question, the question of citizenship.
CITIZENSHIP – ETHNIC OR TERRITORIAL?
The centralised state is a European invention. Before the monopoly of arms and judicial power in the hands of the central state, power was decentralised. Even where the ruler was autarchic, most disputes were settled around the feudal manor or village communities.
Before the era of the centralised state, decentralised power was a global practice. When European anthropologists came to Africa a century ago, they divided African societies into two types – state and non-state. They were not just seeing Africa through European eyes, they were also acknowledging the fact of decentralised power as a widespread African reality. The turn to federation, to a form of decentralised power, is in this sense a return to one part of our political tradition. But that return has been problematic.
There are two types of federation: ethnic and territorial. African federations have tended to take on an ethnic rather than a territorial character. You can understand the difference between the two by asking the question: if the place where you live is different from where you or your family came from, where is your home?
The territorial notion says your home is where you live now. The ethnic notion says your home is where your family, or ancestors, came from. Where did the ethnic definition of home come from? My contention is that this is not part of the political tradition of pre-colonial Africa. It is part of colonial tradition.
Every 20th-century colonial power in Africa divided its population into two groups: races and tribes. Races were outsiders. Tribes were said to be indigenous, to be natives. Races were said to have a history – they moved. Tribes were said to have only geography. They were said to have stayed put in the tribal homeland from the beginning of time.
My question is this: how far back does this political tradition of identifying each person with a native place, and of a native place as something fixed and unchanging – how far back does it go?
Every African people I have read about have an origin story. Whether the story is of Kintu and the Baganda or Oduduwe and the Yoruba or the Bachwezi and the Luo, they all claim to come from somewhere, but always from somewhere else. The origin story of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa in Rwanda is that they fell from the sky.
All origin stories are migration stories. Pre-modern peoples did not believe that any people were indigenous to a particular place. This is not just true of Africans. The biggest origin story, one shared by Abrahamic religions, is the story of Genesis in the Old Testament. It says the earth was empty before its settlement by peoples we know – all were migrants who came to the land after the biblical flood. All humanity was native to heaven. Only after the fall did humans come to possess guardianship of the earth.
The vision of a world populated by ‘indigenous’ peoples with ‘non-indigenous’ minorities is a distinctly modern and secular notion. In this part of the world, it is a distinctly colonial notion. The idea that each tribe has a tribal homeland, that each tribe rightfully belongs to its homeland, is native to its homeland, is a settler notion. It is the basis of the claim that tribes must stay put in their homelands and that the world outside the homelands belongs to settlers.
The real point is not that colonialism invented this fiction but that we have bought it. We consider it as part of African custom, rather than colonial custom. Let me give you one example of how this notion has become central to our political lives.
Nigeria created a federation after the civil war of 1967–70. Key to the federation is a clause called ‘federal character’. It says that key federal institutions must have a ‘federal character’. What are these key institutions? They are three: the army, the civil service and federal universities. What does it mean to have federal character? It means their composition must reflect the composition of the federation. Recruitment in each institution must be on the basis of quotas for each state, where the quota reflects the relative weight of the state population in the Nigerian federation.
Now, here is the rub. To qualify for the quota of a state, you must be indigenous to the state. Who is indigenous to the state? To be indigenous, you must be born in the state of a father also born in the same state.
The ethnic federation is today a major source of Nigeria’s problems. The market economy moves products and people, both rich and poor – on the one hand rich traders, industrialists and professionals, on the other, jobless workers, landless peasants, itinerant hawkers.
Those who move beyond state boundaries – and these are usually the most enterprising, whether rich or poor – are labelled non-indigenous and disenfranchised. With each passing year, more and more Nigerians are non-indigenous in the states where they live.
The ethnic federation is a major source of Nigeria’s contemporary political problems. Most internal conflicts in Nigeria are fights over who is indigenous and who is not. In the Middle Belt, fights over definition of indigenous revolve around two notions of indigenous. One group says you are indigenous if your family arrived before colonialism. The other says you are indigenous if your family was there before the Sokoto Caliphate. But both agree that if you came to the Middle Belt recently, meaning over the past 100 years, you did not belong there.
Here is the positive side of the picture: not everyone in the independence leadership of East Africa accepted the colonial story of tribal homelands as African tradition. The shining example is that of Mwalimu Nyerere and mainland Tanzania.
Consider the following sobering proposition: East Africa is a region of genocide and ethnic cleansing. We associate Rwanda and Burundi with genocide; Zanzibar with the violence of the revolution; Uganda with that of expulsions, from that of Catholics from Mengo in 1900 to that of Muslims from West Nile after the fall of Idi Amin; and Kenya with the violence in the Rift Valley.
The one exception is mainland Tanzania. It is the only part of the region where a group has not been persecuted collectively – as a racial or an ethnic group. Tanzania is the East African antidote to Nigeria. Mwalimu Nyerere’s contribution is identified with Ujamaa. But Mwalimu should really be remembered as a statesman who built a nation-state. He took a colonial tribal federation and built a centralised state out of it.
Politically, colonial Tanganyika was no different from other colonies. It was a patchwork of tribal administrations. The colonial administration divided the population into so many tribes and races. Races were governed under civil law and each tribe under a separate customary law.
Nyerere’s great achievement was to create a single law and a single machinery of enforcement – both legal and administrative – so that every Tanzanian came to be governed by the same law, regardless of race or tribe.
Mwalimu created a rule of law. He created a national citizenship based on residence in a country where colonialism had left the legacy of defining every individual on the basis of a racial or tribal political identity based on origin.
There is another instructive example in the region, that of Uganda from the bush war of 1980–86. The early NRA learnt much from the legacy of Nyerere. When the NRA liberated a village in the Luwero Triangle, it created village councils and committees. The question arose: who can vote in these councils and committees and who can run for office?
The colonial tradition was that only those indigenous should have local rights. But this would have disenfranchised half the population, for roughly half were immigrants, either from Rwanda or from the north.
The NRA’s response was: whoever lives in the village has a right to participate in the decision-making of the village, no matter where they come from. Rights were based on residence, not ethnicity.
Once in power, the principle was subverted. Today, the NRM has elevated the concept of tribal homelands into a key principle of governance. It is now said that every tribe, in some parts of the country even every clan, must have its own administrative homeland. Thus the multiplication of districts in Uganda over the past decade, giving rise to the demand that the population of every district be divided between those indigenous and those not, the former with rights and the rest without rights. If this practice of statecraft continues, with or without oil, Uganda will be another Nigeria.
Today, the political landscape in Uganda resembles that in Kenya more than it does the landscape in Tanzania. The distinctive political feature of independent Kenya is that the intellectual foundation of colonial statecraft has never been challenged there. Its effect is best exemplified by the violence in the Rift Valley. There are two explanations of this violence. One blames the violence on the Ocampo Six. Whatever their responsibility, they have been demonised in a discourse that hides the fundamental cause of the violence. The violence was driven by two questions: who is indigenous, and who has the right to land?
When it comes to land, there are two claims in Kenya. One says that land belongs to the native tribe; it is part of the tribal homeland. The other says the land belongs to the nation, the community of citizens; from this point of view, the homeland is a nation-state.
The same contention was at the root of the conflict in Darfur where the conflict began as a civil war between pastoral and peasant tribes following the drought of the 1980s. When pastoralists ran south from the effects of the drought, the southern tribes said: get out of the land, it is our tribal homeland. The northern tribes said: we are citizens of Sudan, the land is part of Sudan. A similar demonisation of Bashir has hidden from us the root causes of the violence in Darfur.
How do we choose between these two notions of rights – one based on tribe and the other based on nation?
If you want to use the language of right and wrong, both are right. Each is rooted in a different imagination, a different history. The tribal claim is rooted in the colonial imagination, and the national claim in the nationalist post-colonial imagination.
To choose between the two, we have to move from the language of individual rights to that of democracy – from the language of rights to that of justice. That means thinking of consequences for the majority. Let us not be so mesmerised by the language of rights, the language of the marketplace, that we lose sight of justice.
The community will not survive if it exalts the principle of rights – and thus of market fundamentalism – in the common market. To survive and prosper, it will have to balance the question of rights with that of justice, freedom of the market with the claims of citizenship.
East Africa has two post-colonial traditions of citizenship: territorial and ethnic. If we are to have a political federation, it will have to be based on a common citizenship. Which one will it be?
If we leave the question of citizenship to member states – as we have done with the question of land – then East Africa will not be a political federation, but a confederation where individual member states will retain their sovereignty.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Mahmood Mamdani is the director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research.
* This article is adapted from the text of keynote address to the East African Legislative Assembly Symposium, ‘A Decade of Service towards Political Federation,’ held in Arusha, Tanzania, on 30 June.
* This article was first published by The East African.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Sudan and the meaning of independence
WELCOME PEOPLE OF SOUTH SUDAN TO THE COMITY OF NATIONS
On 9 July 2011, the people of the Republic of South Sudan raised their flag in Juba to symbolize the declaration of political independence. This ascension to independence was one more step in the peace process that is supposed to bring the peoples of the Sudan from war to peace. This peace came after the second civil war. The first civil war which began a year before the independence of Sudan lasted from 1955 to1972. In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed after 23 years of war (1982-2005). This agreement stipulated that after six years there should be a referendum where the people of South Sudan would make a decision whether they would remain part of the Sudan or become an independent state.
A referendum was held in January 2011 and South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly for independence. The present political leaders of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM) had campaigned for independence as the option. One other option would have been for the leaders in the Sudan to fight for transformation for all people of the Sudan and to become a force to beat back the conservative fundamentalists in the northern part of the Sudan. We respect the choice of the leaders of South Sudan and this new state will be welcomed to be the 54th member of the African Union and the 193rd member of the United Nations. With more than 2.5 million persons perishing in the last war that lasted for 23 years, the people paid a very high price for this independence and serious engagement will be needed by the pan African community along with all progressive persons to ensure that the sacrifices for independence would not be in vain.
PAN-AFRICANISTS, AFRICAN UNITY AND SECCESSION OF STATES
In welcoming the Republic of South Sudan to membership of the African Union, our branch of the Pan-African movement does not in any way diminish the call for the urgency of the unity of all the peoples of Africa. With each passing day and the crisis of capitalism, rampant militarism and imperialist military interventions, gradual implosion of the dollar, regional trade blocs and challenges of global warming, it is clearer that only a democratic and united people of Africa can negotiate with the new emerging powers to ensure that Africans can have the space for transformation, peace, and social reconstruction.
Commenting on this question of South Sudan before the referendum, I highlighted our most recent experience in Africa of an emerging state that was carved out of an existing state, the case of Eritrea. Twenty years after independence, the peoples of Eritrea are now fighting against the government that was supposed to be a leading force for liberation. Eritrea and Ethiopia have fought wars senselessly over strips of land, mainly Badme. Both societies have diverted scarce resources to military projects instead of concentrating on the health and wellbeing of the people.
The people of the Republic of South Sudan have captured their independence 50 years after many African countries became independent. We can learn from the positive and negative lessons of these 50 years of African independence. One of the most positive lessons was the solidarity of Africans over apartheid. It was the organised political, economic, military, and diplomatic cohesion in Africa that supported the peoples of Southern Africa to oppose racism and external domination. There are numerous other positive lessons from the independence of Africa, but the negative lessons seek to completely overshadow the positive lessons. One major negative lesson has been how some leaders have exploited the people’s political independence, and acted as conveyor belt to drain wealth from Africa. From Nairobi to Abidjan and from Harare to Tunis, we have examples of leaders with billions of dollars outside of Africa while the people who fought for independence do not have the basic amenities of food, clean water, clothing, health, housing, decent education, and a peaceful environment.
Already, even before the independence flag was hoisted in South Sudan, one met children of the new rulers of this nascent nation in Nairobi where these leaders have formed alliances with the most notorious exploiters in Kenya and East Africa. Transforming the education and health services in the Sudan will require that these very same leaders build institutions and develop infrastructure along with social services for the people.
The Republic of South Sudan has joined the international community with some of the lowest development indices in the world. In a new country where there are virtually no roads, no organised system of delivering public electricity and sanitation, in fact, the South Sudan has a real opportunity to pursue a project of reconstruction that starts with the prioritisation of the wellbeing of the people. Such a project will require that the peoples of the South Sudan learn the positive lessons in all other parts of Africa where the peoples have rejected neoliberalism and whole sale give away of natural resources.
Currently, in all parts of Africa, even in Nairobi where the children of the leaders of South Sudan are going to school, the people are demonstrating against high food prices, genetically modified food, and the exploitation of the working poor. In Tunisia and Egypt, young people, workers, women, farmers are still involved in a revolution to oppose neoliberal capitalism. Many Western capitalists converged on Juba for the independence celebration. But the reconstruction of an independent Republic of South Sudan cannot be left to whims of neoliberal investors.
The memories of slavery were very much on the minds of the peoples who celebrated independence. Under the new constitution of the Sudan, there are explicit statements on ‘Freedom from Slavery, Servitude and Forced Labour.’ Article 13 of the constitution states as follows: ‘Slavery and slave trade in all form are prohibited. No person shall be held in slavery or servitude … No person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour except as a penalty upon conviction by a competent court of law’.
These clauses must be supported with vigorous support for trade unions so that old forms of enslavement are not replaced by wage slavery and other forms of bondage and peonage.
The reconstruction of the South Sudan requires massive injection of funds to build schools, roads, dams, hospitals and clinics, houses, and parks. Leaving such a project in the hands of foreign private capital will serve to exacerbate growing inequalities. The new tasks of building a society to meet the needs of the people in the South Sudan must be conducted in a manner that puts the interests and wellbeing of the ordinary people above everything else. This reconstruction must be oriented away from the moribund World Bank models that have marred the self-determination projects of many African states.
Paradoxically, the leadership of South Sudan and progressive Pan-Africanists working for the reconstruction of the South Sudan now have an opportunity to invoke the Nkrumaist sense of integrated and regional reconstruction which fosters African unity, freedom, peace and prosperity for African people. As a landlocked country bordered by Ethiopia to the east; Kenya to the southeast; Uganda to the south; the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southwest; the Central African Republic to the west; and the Sudan to the north, the management of peaceful relations will necessitate the kind of deft support that has been given by the African Union, with the hard work of the mediator, Thabo Mbeki.
THE WEALTH OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH SUDAN
The Republic of South Sudan is entering independence as one of the richest and most resource endowed countries in Africa. There are many areas of wealth that are already outstanding among the vast wealth of this new member of the international community. I will highlight five. The first is the wealth in the more than 8 million people of the country. Some of the major nationalities in the South Sudan – including Dinka, Shilluk, Nuer, Acholi, Lotuku, Bari, Otuho, Zande, and Ubangia – are among the original peoples of Africa who resisted many forms of domination and efforts to integrate the South Sudan into the world capitalist system. These people resisted Arabisation, Christianisation, and Islamisation. Today we know that bio-prospectors are studying these people to try to understand their bloodlines and their genetic makeup for huge profits for Western pharmaceutical industry. Southern Sudanese were among 43 different African communities whose genes were studied and patented by American academics Sarah A. Tishkoff and Floyd Allan Reed. These people’s genes were discovered to contain what is called the single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs, materials associated with the ability to digest milk products (lactose tolerance) in adult African populations.
The second source of wealth is the water resources of this new nation. South Sudan is one of the states that share the Nile and the wetlands system that includes the vast swamp region of the Sudd formed by the White Nile (locally called the Bahr al Jabal). Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas. The wetlands of the Sudd cover an area half the size of France and this is one of the most ecologically diverse spaces on earth. The management of this resource can be a foundation for cooperation or conflict with their neighbours to the north, both the Sudan and Egypt. Though many people focus on oil resources, water resources have to be managed in a way that generates peaceful relations.
The third resource is the rich agricultural land and genetic resources. Here is a country of 619,745 sq km (239,285 sq miles), larger than Portugal and Spain combined; and with a population of 8 million persons, with vast tropical forests, swamps, and grassland. The leadership of South Sudan should look beyond the neoliberal foreign agro-corporations and land grabbers who masquerade as job creators and food security guarantors. So far, these foreign interests have grabbed millions of hectares of South Sudanese land. According to one report:
‘In just four years, between the start of 2007 and the end of 2010, foreign interests sought or acquired a total of 2.64 million hectares of land in the agriculture, forestry and biofuel sectors alone (in South Sudan). That is a larger land area than the entire country of Rwanda. If one adds domestic investments, some of which date back to the pre-war period, and investments in tourism and conservation, the figure rises to 5.74 million hectares, or nine percent of Southern Sudan’s total land area.’
The fourth resource is the oil resources. This country is endowed with over 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserve and more than 5 billion barrels of oil reserve. Presently, more than 90 per cent of the budget of the South Sudan comes from oil production. This production is dominated by oil companies from China, Malaysia and India, while Western oil companies are lobbying hard to break this investment hold of the Third World countries.
In addition to its petroleum, South Sudan is rich in minerals such as iron ore, copper, chromium, tungsten, silver and gold. With this vast wealth, the leaders have a choice of taking the country down the road of a Nigeria or DRC or the road of countries such as Malaysia, Norway and Vietnam. In the later three countries, the political leaders made a choice to use the wealth and resource of the country for the people and judiciously entered into foreign relations that strengthen processes of transformation.
The fifth major resource that is linked to the first resource is the linguistic diversity of this new multi-ethnic nation. South Sudan is composed of more than 200 ethnic groups and is, along with the adjacent Nuba Hills, one of the most linguistically diverse regions of Africa. The United Nations recognise that there is a fundamental linkage between language and traditional knowledge (TK) in relation to biodiversity. The Interim Constitution of the South Sudan states that ‘All indigenous languages of South Sudan are national languages and shall be respected, developed and promoted.’ It will require concerted efforts to transcend regional chauvinistic drives among some sections of this new state to ensure that all languages are respected.
SOUTH SUDAN AND HER NEIGHBORS
The Republic of South Sudan and its sister nation of the Sudan need each other, and it will be in the interest of all of their people to work for peaceful coexistence and to strengthen relations based on mutual respect. This will be one of the toughest challenges because outstanding issues of militarism, plunder, arrogance, exploitation, and racism will predispose some sections of the northern political leadership towards military engagement with the Republic of South Sudan. In the immediate future, negotiations over the autonomy of Abyei and the questions of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile State will prove to be challenging. It is here where the Republic of South Sudan will have to work closely with the neighbours in East Africa and the African Union so that there is an energetic international presence to prevent an outbreak of war.
Ultimately, there will be need for intensified political work among the people of the north who want peace to remove the cliques around Bashir who use Islamism and militarism to maintain themselves in power. The oil from the South goes through to the north to be refined, and it will be correct for the people of the independent South Sudan to renegotiate the terms of the relations with the north over oil. Plans for the building of a 200 kilometre-long link to the existing South-Eldoret-Mombasa pipeline in Kenya will create tensions with Khartoum and the leaders of the Republic of South Sudan will have to draw on their experiences in negotiations to ensure that Africa is not dragged into another war over oil. With the information on the development of oil and gas resources in Tanzania and Uganda, the leaders of the South will need a comprehensive vision that would link such resources into a grid to serve the needs of Africans first.
Relations with East Africa will be very important to assist the reconstruction project. Leaders such as Yoweri Museveni and Mwai Kibaki do not provide good examples for future form of governance in the Republic of South Sudan. Moreover, the militaristic traditions that inspire disaffected leaders of the SPLM to create militias to launch attacks on communities provide a lethal cocktail when the forces of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) are already using this region as its base for destruction.
Many South Sudanese have lived in Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and north Sudan. They have relations with trade unionists, cooperatives, schools, churches, mosques, nongovernmental organisations and other sections of what is called civil society. In South Africa, trade union centers such as COSATU can assist and the people of South Sudan should be aware that it is not only the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment programme) forces from South Africa who have interest in the Sudan. Programs such as the training initiatives that have been undertaken with the University of South Africa (UNISA) can be expanded to include other universities and tertiary institutions of learning in South Africa and other African states. The health and wellbeing and education of the people of Republic of South Sudan are a pan African issue.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS BEYOND THE LOST BOYS SYNDROME
During the time of the struggles against militarism in the north there were over four million Sudanese who were displaced by war and destruction. In the midst of this war, sections of the conservative right in America, especially the most racist and fundamentalist Christians, projected themselves as saviours of the peoples of Southern Sudan. This mentality of saving Africans infected one group of young people from South Sudan who were dubbed, ‘The Lost Boys of Sudan.’ While we empathise with the toll of the war on these young men, we wonder where they were lost from or whether the women and the young girls who were also displaced by the war were irrelevant.
The new nation must pursue reconstruction and rehabilitation beyond the limitations of the lost boys syndrome. The new constitution of the South Sudan already signals that gender equality is a priority. It provides ‘for equal pay, benefits such as maternity leave, equal participation in public life, equal property and inheritance rights and the development of laws to combat traditional practices that are harmful to women.’ The Constitution further states explicitly that all levels of government shall:
‘(a) promote women participation in public life and their representation in the legislative and executive organs by at least twenty-five per cent as an affirmative action to redress imbalances created by history, customs, and traditions;
(b) enact laws to combat harmful customs and traditions which undermine the dignity and status of women; and
(c) provide maternity and child care and medical care for pregnant and lactating women. Women shall have the right to own property and share in the estates of their deceased husbands together with any surviving legal heir of the deceased.’
The translation of these principles into substantive reality will be important in supporting the wider struggles for the emancipation of women in all parts of North and South Sudan. This is even more so in the context of reports coming out of the country. As stated in one report, ‘violence against women and girls is pervasive, devastating, and a tolerated problem in Sudan, a legacy of Sudan's brutal civil war, during which it was commonplace’. At the time of the struggles for independence in Angola and Mozambique leaders of the liberation movements maintained that, “the liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition of for its victory.” But today, one can see in Angola and all over Africa that the women are still fighting so that African independence recognizes the centrality of the contribution of women.
The so-called lost boys mentality in Sudan has induced concepts of charity and dependence so that even in some of the most racist communities in the United States, the same racists who see Africans as inferior people sought self-gratification by presenting themselves as sponsors of projects of the Lost Boys. This Lost Boys syndrome is one of the most overt symptoms of the scavenging humanitarianism that seeks to take away self-respect and dignity from Africans. The Republic of South Sudan has enough resources to mount a credible reconstruction programs that brings together credible international players from every corner of the world – East, West, North, and South – so that the reconstruction program is not based on going around the world with a begging bowl. Indeed, the reconstruction of the Republic of South Sudan must be done with dignity.
COMPLETING THE TASKS OF LIBERATION
Next week, the South Sudan will launch a new currency. This currency will bear the image of John Garang. However, we would like the people of the South to honour the memory of Garang substantively and not devalue him and the principles he stood for while simply putting his face on the currency. John Garang was a member of the Dar es Salaam school of liberation, an associate of Walter Rodney and freedom fighters from all parts of Africa. John Garang fought for peace, unity, and the upliftment of all of the people of Sudan. As the leader of the SPLM, his vision of the independence, freedom, and unity of all Africans was something he fought for. Teaching about Garang (including his strengths and weaknesses) and about the struggle of South Sudan will give the people the pride that is needed. In Jamaica, the Jamaican government placed the image of Marcus Garvey on the currency, but seventy years after the passing of Marcus Garvey, there’s still no systematic teaching of his philosophies and opinions. The people of South Sudan cannot afford for the memory and teachings of John Garang to be taken away from them and be used to legitimize a new class of exploiters.
Those who conspired to kill John Garang are real criminals who thought they could kill his dream. The same International Criminal Court that has gone after Bashir has not gone after the other killers and the economic crimes committed against the people of the South. One of the major crimes of Bashir was to perpetuate war to reinforce the historic plunder and exploitation of the people of the South.
However, the people of the South cannot fight to remove the northern exploiters only to pave the way for southern exploiters. It is here where we call on the organised sections of the people to organise against the Africanisation of exploitation and oppression. As Frantz Fanon said, ‘exploitation can wear a black face as well as a white one.’ The complete liberation of the people of South Sudan, like that of other Africans, would be accomplished when the leaders put the dignity, wellbeing, and peaceful coexistence of the people above and beyond everything else.
We welcome the independence of South Sudan and this independence will alert us to work even harder for the full unity of Africa because we know that the independence of South Sudan will be meaningless outside of the consolidation of full unity, dignity, and respect for all African peoples.
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* 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.
Genocidal actions by government of Sudan must be stopped
The government of Sudan is reported to have been carrying out activities of torture and mayhem in the South Kordofan, which could best be described as ethnic cleansing. Many a time when the government of Sudan is exposed on human rights abuses, it employs the fact that there is a picture that it is not in the good books of the west, and therefore writes it off as western propaganda. This distraction has succeeded in confusing a lot of peace-loving and human rights activists. The past two weeks have seen fascist-like activities that have been characteristic of the tyrannical regime based in Khartoum being carried of South Kordofan. Some thought that the independence of South Sudan on 9 July would put to bed issues of xenophobia and ethnic cleansing in Sudan. As I said on a Press TV programme in January 2011, the struggle for democracy will even be further deepened in North Sudan despite the secession of the south. The security situation in Southern Kordofan has deteriorated. The fighting continues throughout the state with civilian casualties reported to be on the increase, including mass displacement of the civilian population.
The aggression in South Kordofan has not been limited to just the Sudanese population, it has also been extended to the United Nation Mission staff in the country as well. The targets in the aggression show that the Arabo-Islamic regime in Khartoum wanted to create destabilisation in Sudan on the eve of the independence of South Sudan so that the South Sudan breakaway will not lay a Arabo-Islamic regimes over the decades. The SPLM is going to be the ruling party in South Sudan. However, the SPLM operated in the whole of Sudan. The government of South Sudan attacked the home village of the deputy leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North, Abdel Azziz Al-Hilu on 10 June. This has caused majority of the civilian population to flee in fear. There have been attacks in the Al Rashad locality targeting the Tagoi ethnic group seen as of African-descent (Nuba). Reports have it that these armed attacks of aggression have been led by the Sudan Armed Forces and perpetrated by Arab Dar Faidand Salamati tribes. Similar actions of aggression took place in this same area on 14 April in the period before the Sudan elections. Members of families of prominent activists have been arrested a number of houses have been burnt during the attack. The Sheikh of the Tagio tribe was also arrested. His fate and that of others arrested is not known. People who transferred their support from the Democratic Unionist Party to the SPLM and participated actively in the 2-4 May have been arrested. In the Dilling locality, the village of Netil has had civilian casualties, which include deaths and injuries as well as attacks on livestock allegedly by the Sudan Armed Forces.
Non-Islamic institutions in the area have been caught in crossfire. The Catholic priest of the Kadugli Parish together with some parishioners were arrested at an airport checkpoint on 9 June by the Sudan Armed Forces. The parishioners were trying to flee to El Obeid following an attack on the Catholic Church by the Sudan Police and the Sudan Armed Forces. Whilst internally displaced persons are fleeing, there are reports of intimidation, attacks and killings of civilians at the airport junction check point along the Kadugli-Dilling road set up for Sudan Armed Forces security checks before civilians are allowed to pass.
It is alleged that the Sudan Armed Forces are planting land mines in densely populated areas of Kadugli especially in the Kalimu neighbourhood and also organising ongoing conscription of civilians to prevent the armed wing of the SPLM making any advances. Reports also claim that Arab young men have been armed and asked to witch-hunt and harass SPLM supporters in the town. It is also claimed that the Sudan Armed Forces visited a Sudan Red Cross Clinic on 10 June and picked up injured civilians for interrogation about their SPLM sympathies. There are also allegations of abductions and also mass graves. Abductions have even been reported to have taken place around the immediate surrounding perimeter of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). Whilst UNMIS may relocate their International Staff the fate of National Staff could be problematic as they will be targeted by the Arabo-Islamic regime’s forces.
This situation demands solidarity and action from all peace-loving people and human right activists. I am, through this article, appealing to all readers to write to their elected representatives in legislatures wherever they are to raise this issue in their assemblies and initiate early day motions and organise solidarity events and also raise the issue with their governments. People should also write to local, national and international newspapers publicising this genocidal situation and calling on people to mobilise everywhere they are to put international pressure on the government of Sudan to stop this genocidal action. For further information contact:
Read the latest Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) report, ‘Strike Range : Apparent Deployment of Sudan Armed Forces Mobile Rocket Launchers Near South Kordofan’
View or download Digital Globe satellite images from SSP’s latest report.
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* Explo Nani-Kofi is the co-ordinator of Kilombo Community Education Project, London, UK, and Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination, Peki, Ghana, which jointly publishes the Kilombo Pan-African Community Journal.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Sudan: Bittersweet independence
Muzungu Diaries provides an eyewitness account of the independence celebrations in Juba, South Sudan:
‘The actual independence ceremony took place at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum, the final resting place of the father of the nation. He died in a helicopter crash in 2005, the cause of which was never satisfactorily proved, and throughout the morning’s festivities a flag-draped statue of him dominated the crowd close to the dais.
‘The mausoleum is sited within a large walled field, and by 8am there was a giant crowd of people from throughout Sudan, most forming small circles to celebrate around drums. We arrived just after 7am, and were soon festooned in South Sudan flags, greeting everybody with “South Sudan Oyeeee!”
‘There are over 200 ethnic groups in South Sudan, and there must have been representatives of most at the mausoleum. We walked around, talking to people and marveling at the worrying amount of bullets, both spent and live, which still litter the ground. At one point we found a live .50 round, a very large bullet indeed. I fetched a security officer, who without ceremony but with a wry grin picked it up and headed for the gate. The atmosphere was one of a music festival, but more men in leopard skin (print and real) than you would usually see. Sadly I know very little of the different tribes there, and while I could spot different Northern Uganda traditional dresses and dances no problem, I can’t claim the same of South Sudan, so you’ll have to put up with the slightly insulting catch-all of “South Sudanese tribesmen”.
‘When Garang’s statue had been unveiled Ryan and I took a walk to witness the parade, and were invited up onto an SPLA car to get a better view. Then we returned to the mausoleum just in time to witness the raising of the flag. As the flag began to rise, thousands began to cheer and wave their own flags. Finally as it reached the top a rare gust of wind blew through, spreading it out. The crowd went beyond everything they had managed all day, and the emotion was clear throughout. So many people suffered and died for that moment.’
CNS Blog has another eyewitness account of the Southern Sudan independence celebrations, this time from Father Christopher Townsend, secretary for communications of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference:
‘On the eve of independence in South Sudan, I was sitting under trees with a small community of neighbours in an area called “High Jerusalem”. The afternoon leading to the evening had an atmosphere I can only describe as high point South African — the sort of feeling we had during our own transition in 1994 and the feeling of the World Cup 2010. I had even heard vuvuzelas. Flags everywhere.
‘Sitting near the Nile, in the insect dark, we were celebrating a meal. The South Sudanese had decided on this night of liberation that there would be a type of Passover Seder. Stories of pain, oppression and slavery were followed by stories of hope. Bread was shared, songs and the new national anthem was sung, candles were lit and there was dancing — the quiet, eager dignity of a people set free.
“I couldn’t help thinking that this is what we should have done in 1994 — encouraging neighbours to take their time to share stories. But maybe we weren’t ready, with our apartheid living and apartheid minds. Maybe it is something that we can imitate though — a chance to tell stories and listen, not to public hearings, but the personal TRCs among neighbours....
‘On the day [of independence]… the Jubilation of seeing the flag raised, the quiet confidence of a new constitution and country was only outdone, for me, by the ‘hand of god’ moment when the power failed before [President Omar] al Bashir could start speaking. When he eventually finished, the crowd gave him a very polite, almost English, clap and then spontaneously stood up and waved him off. Priceless. An unmistakable sign…
‘The Republic of South Sudan has a long way to go — the lack of development and infrastructure is chronic. Many Southerners who were in the North have fled south to few schools and less opportunity.
‘But arriving at the very little Airport of Juba, six months after departing after the referendum, clearly shows how great the energy is for explosive growth — South Sudan is a country of enormous potential.’
AW Blogs’ M. Jalal Hashim comments on the discriminatory practices instituted by the Sudanese government against Sudanese of Southern origins:
‘On 22nd June 2011, the Ministry of Labour issued a general directive to all government departments to enforce compulsory retirement on any Sudanese of Southern origin as a direct consequence of denationalizing them, i.e. stripping them of their Northern Sudanese nationality. Another similar directive was sent to the private sector. Accordingly, tens of thousands of Northerners of Southern origin have been purged from Civil Service. To add hurt to insult, official farewell parties were made at the altar of this civil genocide. Many of these infamous parties were televised and broadcast. These cynical parties were held in ‘honour’ of those a majority of who have never seen the South and who have been living in the North for most of their lives…
‘Nothing can be more erroneous as those people are not Southerners as such; they are simply Northerners of Southern origin in the same way as the Minister of Interior (Ibrahim Mahmoud, who is responsible of the Civil Registry and nationality) is a Northern Sudanese of Eritrean origin. In his days as a university student in Egypt, he even used to preside over the Eritrean Students Union...
‘The national, regional and international NGOs and civil societies institutions, and the free Pan African elites and intellectuals worldwide cannot maintain their ethical and moral integrity if they allow this state fascism and apartheid orientation in the Sudan. They must not be blackmailed into capitulation. We have all to stand up and face this new wave of state racism… The Sudanese Northerners of Southern origin are being officially discriminated against by the government of Khartoum. This is taking place as part of a process of demographic engineering in the course of which African people in Darfur are being replaced by Arab groups brought in from Niger; African Nubas are being replaced by Arabised groups in Southern Kordufan and Abyei; the Beja of Eastern Sudan are being replaced by fanatically Islamist groups from the Eritrean and Egyptian peasantry; the Nubians in the far North are being replaced by Egyptian peasants brought from over the delta.’
Ibishblog’s Hussein Ibish believes that the independence of South Sudan is a wake-up call to the Arab world:
‘The loss of a large, formerly integral and oil-rich part of an important Arab state is obviously a huge blow to Sudan. Moreover, it may prove a significant blow to the Arab world as a whole, since South Sudan's relationship with the Arabs in general is still in question. It has been offered Arab League membership, but whether it will accept that, or even the alternative of observer status, remains unclear. Meanwhile, it is cultivating strong ties to sub-Saharan African states, the West and Israel.
‘The reality is that if northern Sudanese and other Arabs are distressed at this development, as they reasonably might be, they have no one to blame but themselves. The almost unanimous yes vote in the secession referendum reflects the grim and bitter treatment of the southern provinces by Khartoum for many decades.
‘The north gave the southern Sudanese no reason whatsoever to wish to remain part of the united Sudan and every incentive to embrace independence at the soonest possible date. This history is by no means exclusive to Sudan, but reflects a broader problem throughout the Arab world of ignoring peripheral regions, oppressing ethnic and sectarian minorities, and utterly failing to produce societies inclusive of their heterogeneous populations…
‘The Arabs ought to take this opportunity to learn yet another bitter lesson about the dangers of chauvinism and intolerance, although there is no evidence that they are presently doing so.’
Sudanese Thinker makes a clarion call to the Sudanese to use the Internet in general and social media in particular to tell their own stories themselves:
‘I don’t know about you, but with the bittersweet Independence of South Sudan, something in me has forever shifted. That’s it. I’m done just being mostly a blogger. It’s time to play a more proactive and strategic role.
‘I think I speak for most if not virtually all Sudanese tweeps when I highlight the following points:
‘Generally speaking, western media coverage of Sudan is simplistic, biased and counter-productive. The narrative needs to change to reflect the realities.
Sudan’s narrative in Western and American political discourse needs to change, and we can’t merely rely on our super cool diplomats to do the job. We can and should speak up for ourselves. We can and should engage in conversation with anyone willing to listen, and such people exist. For instance, I recently connected with @sam_a_bell, the former Executive Director of Save Darfur by accident on Twitter. And now in less than two weeks, I’m scheduled to meet him in person in Washington DC over tea for a friendly chat and debate.
‘There’s so much injustice and suffering happening in Sudan that needs to be exposed and broadcast to the world, and framed with all the necessary nuances and important contextualization.
‘We’re too dispersed right now, and lack coordination, let alone achievable goals and strategies. Heck, I bet there are so many pro-democracy Sudanese out there in the world who crave the kind of intelligent, informed and useful discussions we regularly have. (Some of these people are your friends. You know them. Bug them to join Twitter! Teach them. Give them a one-on-one new media “workshop” if needed.)’
Colored Opinions reveals that the independence of South Sudan has rekindled secessionist dreams across Africa, including in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo:
‘The secession of South Sudan has sparked a wave of secession speculation and secession dreams around the world. And obviously we also witness the resurfacing of the ‘Kivu secession’ lobby with the usual ‘Congo is a failed state’ argument and predictably Rwanda backers opportunistically jumping on board.
‘Laura Collinson, a Canadian working with the Government of Rwanda through the International Growth Centre eagerly retweeted the article by G. Pascal Zachary titled ‘After South Sudan: The case to keep dividing Africa’ [in which] Zachary suggests, referring to a paper by Pierre Englebert, in that article, just like pro-Kagame propagandist Andrew Mwenda on twitter, that secession might solve the Kivu problem. Pascal Zachary does add that there is no evidence suggesting a majority of Kivutiens would want secession.
‘It's outsiders who have promoted the case for secession of Kivu. Apart from several policy experts abroad dreaming of turning Congo from a failed to a success state, we should not forget the Ugandan and Rwandan journalists aiming to give legitimacy to the RPF backed rebel group CNDP of Laurent Nkunda in eastern Congo.
‘Would secession of Kivu solve Congo's problems, as suggested? Would the FDLR problem suddenly disappear? Would it address the grievances of both Rwandans and Congolese? Offering secession as solution to the political problems in the region is like throwing oil on the fire.’
Method to the Madness lashes out at the Caine Prize for favouring stories that perpetuate (negative) stereotypes about Africa:
‘One of the most depressing things about being from an African country, and I suspect it is the same for being from any post-colonial society, is the need to seek validation abroad or by Western standards. You can be the best writer ever, but if a bunch of white guys in academies don't see it, you're not. This applies to disciplines outside of literature as well. It's really as simple as that.
‘That is what is so extraordinary about the Caine Prize. Folks call it the "African Booker Prize", and with the mantle of premier African literary award comes the weight that The Booker, The Pushcart, The Pen or any other literary award doesn't have - the burden of representation, of validation, of choosing by dint of one's position the face of and state of African literary scene...
‘Writers write. Readers have opinions. It's really that simple. One has a right to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and churn out just whatever (s)he pleases. I certainly did not like Hitting Budapest, a plotless story that does not seem to have a point beyond "these kids are poor and live squalidly and you should pity them", but I do not really care about Bulawayo; she can write whatever she wants. I'm madder at the Caine Prize for seeming to favor stories of a particular strain, the ones that are less about characters and the network of trip-wires that make up their humanity and more about flattening characters to render them tools to make a political point, and absolving them from the basic responsibilities that come with writing a good story. I'm madder at them for not asking for complexity, and buying into an oversimplified narrative of Africa - poverty, war, disease, starving/fighting children -- just like most Western media does. I'm madder at the Caine for saying that this collection of stories is the best they could get out of Africa. I'm mad because I and so many people out there know that that is not true.’
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* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Sudan: Africa’s newest state should sustain the dream
For many South Sudanese, the 9 July independence day is supposed to mark the end of an era of hopelessness. The road leading to this important milestone has been strewn with lots of hardships, including a protracted and costly war with its attendant denial of basic rights and freedoms.
Expectations are obviously high. If there is anything the ruling elite needs to keep in mind, it is that repressive tactics should only be a thing of the past.
Concerns about the possible continuation of repression in Africa’s newest state surfaced in April 2010, as the then semi-autonomous region was conducting its first general elections.
Passing through Juba, South Sudan’s capital, I met Sylvia Abuk (name changed to protect her identity), an opposition activist, and asked her what she thought about reports of harassment and intimidation of a number of her party members at the hands of government security forces.
‘We have fought hard for freedom; we cannot allow anyone to undermine our aspirations for democracy and justice,’ Ms Abuk told me. She was clearly disillusioned that Southern Sudanese security forces were harassing, arresting and detaining not only members of opposition parties but also journalists affiliated with independent media groups, who were often targeted just for making comments critical of the government.
Many people share Ms Abuk’s concerns. They certainly include the people now being arbitrarily arrested on suspicion that they might have links with armed opposition groups. They also include members of opposition parties who were barred from participating in drafting the new constitution. The new government needs to address this political intolerance as a top priority.
Beyond putting an end to political marginalisation and abuses against actual or supposed political opponents, there are a number of other steps that South Sudan may want to take to streamline its human rights agenda. In a recent joint paper reflecting on the human rights challenges ahead of South Sudan’s independence, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged the new state to adopt steps that include strengthening accountability for abuses by soldiers and other security forces; placing a moratorium on the death penalty; and releasing detainees, especially children, whose continued imprisonment in crowded prisons is found to be unjustified.
The new era should prompt the South Sudanese leadership to halt human rights violations. Since January, fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and armed opposition groups has led to the killing of hundreds of civilians, including women and children, and the displacement of tens of thousands of people, particularly in Upper Nile, Unity, and Jonglei states. SPLA soldiers have been responsible for many of these violations.
In other instances, the government has failed to protect civilians from brutal inter-communal fighting that has also led to killings, destruction and displacement. Leaders should, as a matter of urgency, ensure that rank-and-file soldiers and their officers, as well as the police service, know and understand their obligations, and are held accountable. Tolerating continuous abuse of civilians by security forces will only add to people’s feelings that the demons of the past are still haunting the new nation.
Security forces are not the sole culprit if one considers a wider range of human rights problems reported in South Sudan. In addition, fingers are often pointed at the weaknesses in the justice system as contributing to arbitrary detention and long periods of pretrial detention. Apart from that, traditions based on discriminatory policies combine with high rates of illiteracy among women and girls – 80 per cent across the South – to exacerbate issues related to forced and early marriage and gender-based violence. The new nation will need to take a hard look at those other bottlenecks and adopt zero-tolerance for discredited practices that target women and girls.
The independence of South Sudan is nothing short of a dream come true for Ms Abuk and many of her compatriots. To avoid turning that dream into a nightmare, the new nation’s leadership will need to adopt a line of governance that reflects greater commitment to human rights, public freedoms and justice for all. Regional and international partners of South Sudan may support that line of governance only through an honest partnership that does not shy away from asking questions whenever human rights are at risk. Africa cannot afford to have another failed state.
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* Aloys Habimana is Africa deputy director at Human Rights Watch; he is based in Nairobi.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The CIA's secret sites in Somalia
Nestled in a back corner of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport is a sprawling walled compound run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Set on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the facility looks like a small gated community, with more than a dozen buildings behind large protective walls and secured by guard towers at each of its four corners. Adjacent to the compound are eight large metal hangars, and the CIA has its own aircraft at the airport. The site, which airport officials and Somali intelligence sources say was completed four months ago, is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access. At the facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted “combat” operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.
As part of its expanding counterterrorism program in Somalia, the CIA also uses a secret prison buried in the basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, where prisoners suspected of being Shabab members or of having links to the group are held. Some of the prisoners have been snatched off the streets of Kenya and rendered by plane to Mogadishu. While the underground prison is officially run by the Somali NSA, US intelligence personnel pay the salaries of intelligence agents and also directly interrogate prisoners. The existence of both facilities and the CIA role was uncovered by The Nation during an extensive on-the-ground investigation in Mogadishu. Among the sources who provided information for this story are senior Somali intelligence officials; senior members of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG); former prisoners held at the underground prison; and several well-connected Somali analysts and militia leaders, some of whom have worked with US agents, including those from the CIA. A US official, who confirmed the existence of both sites, told The Nation, “It makes complete sense to have a strong counterterrorism partnership” with the Somali government.
The CIA presence in Mogadishu is part of Washington’s intensifying counterterrorism focus on Somalia, which includes targeted strikes by US Special Operations forces, drone attacks and expanded surveillance operations. The US agents “are here full time,” a senior Somali intelligence official told me. At times, he said, there are as many as thirty of them in Mogadishu, but he stressed that those working with the Somali NSA do not conduct operations; rather, they advise and train Somali agents. “In this environment, it’s very tricky. They want to help us, but the situation is not allowing them to do [it] however they want. They are not in control of the politics, they are not in control of the security,” he adds. “They are not controlling the environment like Afghanistan and Iraq. In Somalia, the situation is fluid, the situation is changing, personalities changing.”
According to well-connected Somali sources, the CIA is reluctant to deal directly with Somali political leaders, who are regarded by US officials as corrupt and untrustworthy. Instead, the United States has Somali intelligence agents on its payroll. Somali sources with knowledge of the program described the agents as lining up to receive $200 monthly cash payments from Americans. “They support us in a big way financially,” says the senior Somali intelligence official. “They are the largest [funder] by far.”
According to former detainees, the underground prison, which is staffed by Somali guards, consists of a long corridor lined with filthy small cells infested with bedbugs and mosquitoes. One said that when he arrived in February, he saw two white men wearing military boots, combat trousers, gray tucked-in shirts and black sunglasses. The former prisoners described the cells as windowless and the air thick, moist and disgusting. Prisoners, they said, are not allowed outside. Many have developed rashes and scratch themselves incessantly. Some have been detained for a year or more. According to one former prisoner, inmates who had been there for long periods would pace around constantly, while others leaned against walls rocking.
A Somali who was arrested in Mogadishu and taken to the prison told The Nation that he was held in a windowless underground cell. Among the prisoners he met during his time there was a man who held a Western passport (he declined to identify the man’s nationality). Some of the prisoners told him they were picked up in Nairobi and rendered on small aircraft to Mogadishu, where they were handed over to Somali intelligence agents. Once in custody, according to the senior Somali intelligence official and former prisoners, some detainees are freely interrogated by US and French agents. “Our goal is to please our partners, so we get more [out] of them, like any relationship,” said the Somali intelligence official in describing the policy of allowing foreign agents, including from the CIA, to interrogate prisoners. The Americans, according to the Somali official, operate unilaterally in the country, while the French agents are embedded within the African Union force known as AMISOM.
Among the men believed to be held in the secret underground prison is Ahmed Abdullahi Hassan, a 25- or 26-year-old Kenyan citizen who disappeared from the congested Somali slum of Eastleigh in Nairobi around July 2009. After he went missing, Hassan’s family retained Mbugua Mureithi, a well-known Kenyan human rights lawyer, who filed a habeas petition on his behalf. The Kenyan government responded that Hassan was not being held in Kenya and said it had no knowledge of his whereabouts. His fate remained a mystery until this spring, when another man who had been held in the Mogadishu prison contacted Clara Gutteridge, a veteran human rights investigator with the British legal organization Reprieve, and told her he had met Hassan in the prison. Hassan, he said, had told him how Kenyan police had knocked down his door, snatched him and taken him to a secret location in Nairobi. The next night, Hassan had said, he was rendered to Mogadishu.
According to the former fellow prisoner, Hassan told him that his captors took him to Wilson Airport: “‘They put a bag on my head, Guantánamo style. They tied my hands behind my back and put me on a plane. In the early hours we landed in Mogadishu. The way I realized I was in Mogadishu was because of the smell of the sea—the runway is just next to the seashore. The plane lands and touches the sea. They took me to this prison, where I have been up to now. I have been here for one year, seven months. I have been interrogated so many times. Interrogated by Somali men and white men. Every day. New faces show up. They have nothing on me. I have never seen a lawyer, never seen an outsider. Only other prisoners, interrogators, guards. Here there is no court or tribunal.’”
After meeting the man who had spoken with Hassan in the underground prison, Gutteridge began working with Hassan’s Kenyan lawyers to determine his whereabouts. She says he has never been charged or brought before a court. “Hassan’s abduction from Nairobi and rendition to a secret prison in Somalia bears all the hallmarks of a classic US rendition operation,” she says. The US official interviewed for this article denied the CIA had rendered Hassan but said, “The United States provided information which helped get Hassan—a dangerous terrorist—off the street.” Human Rights Watch and Reprieve have documented that Kenyan security and intelligence forces have facilitated scores of renditions for the US and other governments, including eighty-five people rendered to Somalia in 2007 alone. Gutteridge says the director of the Mogadishu prison told one of her sources that Hassan had been targeted in Nairobi because of intelligence suggesting he was the “right-hand man” of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, at the time a leader of Al Qaeda in East Africa. Nabhan, a Kenyan citizen of Yemeni descent, was among the top suspects sought for questioning by US authorities over his alleged role in the coordinated 2002 attacks on a tourist hotel and an Israeli aircraft in Mombasa, Kenya, and possible links to the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
An intelligence report leaked by the Kenyan Anti-Terrorist Police Unit in October 2010 alleged that Hassan, a “former personal assistant to Nabhan…was injured while fighting near the presidential palace in Mogadishu in 2009.” The authenticity of the report cannot be independently confirmed, though Hassan did have a leg amputated below the knee, according to his former fellow prisoner in Mogadishu.
Two months after Hassan was allegedly rendered to the secret Mogadishu prison, Nabhan, the man believed to be his Al Qaeda boss, was killed in the first known targeted killing operation in Somalia authorized by President Obama. On September 14, 2009, a team from the elite US counterterrorism force, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), took off by helicopters from a US Navy ship off Somalia’s coast and penetrated Somali airspace. In broad daylight, in an operation code-named Celestial Balance, they gunned down Nabhan’s convoy from the air. JSOC troops then landed and collected at least two of the bodies, including Nabhan’s.
Hassan’s lawyers are preparing to file a habeas petition on his behalf in US courts. “Hassan’s case suggests that the US may be involved in a decentralized, out-sourced Guantánamo Bay in central Mogadishu,” his legal team asserted in a statement to The Nation. “Mr. Hassan must be given the opportunity to challenge both his rendition and continued detention as a matter of urgency. The US must urgently confirm exactly what has been done to Mr. Hassan, why he is being held, and when he will be given a fair hearing.”
Gutteridge, who has worked extensively tracking the disappearances of terror suspects in Kenya, was deported from Kenya on May 11.
The underground prison where Hassan is allegedly being held is housed in the same building once occupied by Somalia’s infamous National Security Service (NSS) during the military regime of Siad Barre, who ruled from 1969 to 1991. The former prisoner who met Hassan there said he saw an old NSS sign outside. During Barre’s regime, the notorious basement prison and interrogation center, which sits behind the presidential palace in Mogadishu, was a staple of the state’s apparatus of repression. It was referred to as Godka, “The Hole.”
“The bunker is there, and that’s where the intelligence agency does interrogate people,” says Abdirahman “Aynte” Ali, a Somali analyst who has researched the Shabab and Somali security forces. “When CIA and other intelligence agencies—who actually are in Mogadishu—want to interrogate those people, they usually just do that.” Somali officials “start the interrogation, but then foreign intelligence agencies eventually do their own interrogation as well, the Americans and the French.” The US official said that US agents’ “debriefing” prisoners in the facility has “been done on only rare occasions” and always jointly with Somali agents.
Some prisoners, like Hassan, were allegedly rendered from Nairobi, while in other cases, according to Aynte, “the US and other intelligence agencies have notified the Somali intelligence agency that some people, some suspects, people who have been in contact with the leadership of Al Shabab, are on their way to Mogadishu on a [commercial] plane, and to essentially be at the airport for those people. Catch them, interrogate them.”
* * *
In the eighteen years since the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in Mogadishu, US policy on Somalia has been marked by neglect, miscalculation and failed attempts to use warlords to build indigenous counterterrorism capacity, many of which have backfired dramatically. At times, largely because of abuses committed by Somali militias the CIA has supported, US policy has strengthened the hand of the very groups it purports to oppose and inadvertently aided the rise of militant groups, including the Shabab. Many Somalis viewed the Islamic movement known as the Islamic Courts Union, which defeated the CIA’s warlords in Mogadishu in 2006, as a stabilizing, albeit ruthless, force. The ICU was dismantled in a US-backed Ethiopian invasion in 2007. Over the years, a series of weak Somali administrations have been recognized by the United States and other powers as Somalia’s legitimate government. Ironically, its current president is a former leader of the ICU.
Today, Somali government forces control roughly thirty square miles of territory in Mogadishu thanks in large part to the US-funded and -armed 9,000-member AMISOM force. Much of the rest of the city is under the control of the Shabab or warlords. Outgunned, the Shabab has increasingly relied on the linchpins of asymmetric warfare—suicide bombings, roadside bombs and targeted assassinations. The militant group has repeatedly shown that it can strike deep in the heart of its enemies’ territory. On June 9, in one of its most spectacular suicide attacks to date, the Shabab assassinated the Somali government’s minister of interior affairs and national security, Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan Farah, who was attacked in his residence by his niece. The girl, whom the minister was putting through university, blew herself up and fatally wounded her uncle. He died hours later in the hospital. Farah was the fifth Somali minister killed by the Shabab in the past two years and the seventeenth official assassinated since 2006. Among the suicide bombers the Shabab has deployed were at least three US citizens of Somali descent; at least seven other Americans have died fighting alongside the Shabab, a fact that has not gone unnoticed in Washington or Mogadishu.
During his confirmation hearings in June to become the head of the US Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral William McRaven said, “From my standpoint as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard” at Somalia. McRaven said that in order to expand successful “kinetic strikes” there, the United States will have to increase its use of drones as well as on-the-ground intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. “Any expansion of manpower is going to have to come with a commensurate expansion of the enablers,” McRaven declared. The expanding US counterterrorism program in Mogadishu appears to be part of that effort.
In an interview with The Nation in Mogadishu, Abdulkadir Moallin Noor, the minister of state for the presidency, confirmed that US agents “are working with our intelligence” and “giving them training.” Regarding the US counterterrorism effort, Noor said bluntly, “We need more; otherwise, the terrorists will take over the country.”
It is unclear how much control, if any, Somalia’s internationally recognized president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has over this counterterrorism force or if he is even fully briefed on its operations. The CIA personnel and other US intelligence agents “do not bother to be in touch with the political leadership of the country. And that says a lot about the intentions,” says Aynte. “Essentially, the CIA seems to be operating, doing the foreign policy of the United States. You should have had State Department people doing foreign policy, but the CIA seems to be doing it across the country.”
While the Somali officials interviewed for this story said the CIA is the lead US agency on the Mogadishu counterterrorism program, they also indicated that US military intelligence agents are at times involved. When asked if they are from JSOC or the Defense Intelligence Agency, the senior Somali intelligence official responded, “We don’t know. They don’t tell us.”
In April Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali man the United States alleged had links to the Shabab, was captured by JSOC forces in the Gulf of Aden. He was held incommunicado on a US Navy vessel for more than two months; in July he was transferred to New York and indicted on terrorism charges. Warsame’s case ignited a legal debate over the Obama administration’s policies on capturing and detaining terror suspects, particularly in light of the widening counterterrorism campaigns in Somalia and Yemen.
On June 23 the United States reportedly carried out a drone strike against alleged Shabab members near Kismayo, 300 miles from the Somali capital. As with the Nabhan operation, a JSOC team swooped in on helicopters and reportedly snatched the bodies of those killed and wounded. The men were taken to an undisclosed location. On July 6 three more US strikes reportedly targeted Shabab training camps in the same area. Somali analysts warned that if the US bombings cause civilian deaths, as they have in the past, they could increase support for the Shabab. Asked in an interview with The Nation in Mogadishu if US drone strikes strengthen or weaken his government, President Sharif replied, “Both at the same time. For our sovereignty, it’s not good to attack a sovereign country. That’s the negative part. The positive part is you’re targeting individuals who are criminals.”
A week after the June 23 strike, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, described an emerging US strategy that would focus not on “deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.” Brennan singled out the Shabab, saying, “From the territory it controls in Somalia, Al Shabab continues to call for strikes against the United States,” adding, “We cannot and we will not let down our guard. We will continue to pummel Al Qaeda and its ilk.”
While the United States appears to be ratcheting up both its rhetoric and its drone strikes against the Shabab, it has thus far been able to strike only in rural areas outside Mogadishu. These operations have been isolated and infrequent, and Somali analysts say they have failed to disrupt the Shabab’s core leadership, particularly in Mogadishu.
In a series of interviews in Mogadishu, several of the country’s recognized leaders, including President Sharif, called on the US government to quickly and dramatically increase its assistance to the Somali military in the form of training, equipment and weapons. Moreover, they argue that without viable civilian institutions, Somalia will remain ripe for terrorist groups that can further destabilize not only Somalia but the region. “I believe that the US should help the Somalis to establish a government that protects civilians and its people,” Sharif said.
In the battle against the Shabab, the United States does not, in fact, appear to have cast its lot with the Somali government. The emerging US strategy on Somalia—borne out in stated policy, expanded covert presence and funding plans—is two-pronged: On the one hand, the CIA is training, paying and at times directing Somali intelligence agents who are not firmly under the control of the Somali government, while JSOC conducts unilateral strikes without the prior knowledge of the government; on the other, the Pentagon is increasing its support for and arming of the counterterrorism operations of non-Somali African military forces.
A draft of a defense spending bill approved in late June by the Senate Armed Services Committee would authorize more than $75 million in US counterterrorism assistance aimed at fighting the Shabab and Al Qaeda in Somalia. The bill, however, did not authorize additional funding for Somalia’s military, as the country’s leaders have repeatedly asked. Instead, the aid package would dramatically increase US arming and financing of AMISOM’s forces, particularly from Uganda and Burundi, as well as the militaries of Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia. The Somali military, the committee asserted, is unable to “exercise control of its territory.”
That makes it all the more ironic that perhaps the greatest tactical victory won in recent years in Somalia was delivered not by AMISOM, the CIA or JSOC but by members of a Somali militia fighting as part of the government’s chaotic local military. And it was a pure accident.
Late in the evening on June 7, a man whose South African passport identified him as Daniel Robinson was in the passenger seat of a Toyota SUV driving on the outskirts of Mogadishu when his driver, a Kenyan national, missed a turn and headed straight toward a checkpoint manned by Somali forces. A firefight broke out, and the two men inside the car were killed. The Somali forces promptly looted the laptops, cellphones, documents, weapons and $40,000 in cash they found in the car, according to the senior Somali intelligence official.
Upon discovering that the men were foreigners, the Somali NSA launched an investigation and recovered the items that had been looted. “There was a lot of English and Arabic stuff, papers,” recalls the Somali intelligence official, containing “very tactical stuff” that appeared to be linked to Al Qaeda, including “two senior people communicating.” The Somali agents “realized it was an important man” and informed the CIA in Mogadishu. The men’s bodies were taken to the NSA. The Americans took DNA samples and fingerprints and flew them to Nairobi for processing.
Within hours, the United States confirmed that Robinson was in fact Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a top leader of Al Qaeda in East Africa and its chief liaison with the Shabab. Fazul, a twenty-year veteran of Al Qaeda, had been indicted by the United States for his alleged role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings and was on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list. A JSOC attempt to kill him in a January 2007 airstrike resulted in the deaths of at least seventy nomads in rural Somalia, and he had been underground ever since. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Fazul’s death “a significant blow to Al Qaeda, its extremist allies and its operations in East Africa. It is a just end for a terrorist who brought so much death and pain to so many innocents.”
At its facilities in Mogadishu, the CIA and its Somali NSA agents continue to pore over the materials recovered from Fazul’s car, which served as a mobile headquarters. Some deleted and encrypted files were recovered and decoded by US agents. The senior Somali intelligence official said that the intelligence may prove more valuable on a tactical level than the cache found in Osama bin Laden’s house in Pakistan, especially in light of the increasing US focus on East Africa. The Americans, he said, were “unbelievably grateful”; he hopes it means they will take Somalia’s forces more seriously and provide more support.
But the United States continues to wage its campaign against the Shabab primarily by funding the AMISOM forces, which are not conducting their mission with anything resembling surgical precision. Instead, over the past several months the AMISOM forces in Mogadishu have waged a merciless campaign of indiscriminate shelling of Shabab areas, some of which are heavily populated by civilians. While AMISOM regularly puts out press releases boasting of gains against the Shabab and the retaking of territory, the reality paints a far more complicated picture.
Throughout the areas AMISOM has retaken is a honeycomb of underground tunnels once used by Shabab fighters to move from building to building. By some accounts, the tunnels stretch continuously for miles. Leftover food, blankets and ammo cartridges lay scattered near “pop-up” positions once used by Shabab snipers and guarded by sandbags—all that remain of guerrilla warfare positions. Not only have the Shabab fighters been cleared from the aboveground areas; the civilians that once resided there have been cleared too. On several occasions in late June, AMISOM forces fired artillery from their airport base at the Bakaara market, where whole neighborhoods are totally abandoned. Houses lie in ruins and animals wander aimlessly, chewing trash. In some areas, bodies have been hastily buried in trenches with dirt barely masking the remains. On the side of the road in one former Shabab neighborhood, a decapitated corpse lay just meters from a new government checkpoint.
In late June the Pentagon approved plans to send $45 million worth of military equipment to Uganda and Burundi, the two major forces in the AMISOM operation. Among the new items are four small Raven surveillance drones, night-vision and communications equipment and other surveillance gear, all of which augur a more targeted campaign. Combined with the attempt to build an indigenous counterterrorism force at the Somali NSA, a new US counterterrorism strategy is emerging.
But according to the senior Somali intelligence official, who works directly with the US agents, the CIA-led program in Mogadishu has brought few tangible gains. “So far what we have not seen is the results in terms of the capacity of the [Somali] agency,” says the official. He conceded that neither US nor Somali forces have been able to conduct a single successful targeted mission in the Shabab’s areas in the capital. In late 2010, according to the official, US-trained Somali agents conducted an operation in a Shabab area that failed terribly and resulted in several of them being killed. “There was an attempt, but it was a haphazard one,” he recalls. They have not tried another targeted operation in Shabab-controlled territory since.
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* This article first appeared in The Nation.
* Jeremy Scahill is an award-winning investigative journalist and correspondent for the US national radio and TV program Democracy Now!
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Speaking truth to power: Africa and development
Yash Tandon is a celebrated policy maker, professor, author and activist. He has spent most of his life trying to understand the complex relationship between developed nations and undeveloped nations. He is famous for communicating his maverick ideas about freedom and the impediments to freedom in human terms rather than in technocratic language. He has headed the South Centre which is responsible for devising policies for the South by the South. This seventy two year old is championed by many for speaking the uncensored truth to the structures of power, in this sense he is regarded as being heroic as well as wise. Capital’s Matthew Newsome caught up with Yash after the Go Green Conference at the AU two weeks ago to hear what his views were on Kleptocratic Capitalism, African sovereignty and the challenges to creating a fair and sustainable society.
CAPITAL: You have been described as an activist in your celebrated efforts to deliver change as a policy maker, author and Professor. What is it that distinguishes an individual as an activist?
YASH TANDON: There are different kinds of activists, each his or her own. I cannot define an “activist individual” for somebody else. My own understanding boils down to three things. One is to distance oneself from the centres of power sufficiently to be able to express views freely, truthfully and independently. The second is to keep upfront human values in trying to assess development or policy efforts of governments – mine are rooted in non-violent and community-based approaches that enhance the ability of the people at the grassroots level to control their own destinies. And the third is patience. Changes do not come overnight.
CAPITAL: What do you think the reasons are behind the current global financial crisis?
YASH TANDON: The crisis has been in the making since the mid-1980s when the United States and Britain liberalised the global economy in order primarily to resolve the crisis of profitability that their corporations were then facing. In the process they deregulated the economies and removed those barriers to trade and investments that had ring fenced society from the greed of the corporations. This greed has now broken boundaries of social control over corporate excesses.
CAPITAL: What are the shortcomings of the prevailing free market paradigm?
YASH TANDON: The paradigm is essentially ideological; existentially there has never been a “free market”. The global economy is highly centralized in the hands of a few hundred global corporations that control the market for commodities and a few dozen finance and banking corporations.
CAPITAL: You describe in your work how the Capitalist system is being run by ‘Kleptocratic Capitalists’. Please can you elaborate on this?
YASH TANDON: Today we live in a world of kleptocratic capitalism. Some “left” intellectuals call it “financialised capitalism” - finance is king; production takes a second place. But this term is limited to only its predominant economic characteristic. In essence, in political-economic terms, kleptocratic capitalism is a system of economic production and exchange based on fictitious wealth without going through production of real wealth and political governance controlled by “looters and daytime robbers”. It is “rent seeking” by the rich nations; and within each nation by the rich economic and power elite. This creates at the opposite polar end the dispossession and disempowerment of the masses of the people.
CAPITAL: What are the implications of this financial crisis for Africa?
YASH TANDON: To the extent that Africa is integrated in the global economic and financial system, Africa would naturally feel the impact of this crisis. For example, remittances from Africans working abroad have drastically fallen putting a severe strain on the families that had depended on these. But the essential point to remember is that Africa was already a victim of an economic system that pre-dated the current financial crisis. For thirty years or more, Africa has been subjected to structural adjustment programs forced on it for borrowing money from the IMF, the World Bank and the so-called “donors”. Very few people really understand these processes. What the peripheral countries like Greece and Ireland are going though as a result of the austerity measures forced on them by their creditors is what Africa has been subjected to for more than a generation.
CAPITAL: How might the free market paradigm undermine Africa´s ambition to become developed?
YASH TANDON: Under the so-called “free market” -- what in fact is a system of almost total control by global corporations and a few global financial institutions – Africa will never develop. The “growth” figures put out by the World Bank, the United Nations, and some donor agencies are misleading. However, there are occasional reports from UN agencies that cannot hide the truth. In a recent paper-- “Governing development in Africa - the role of the state in economic transformation”, 22 March 2011-- the UN ECA argues that despite high growth rates in Africa there has been no improvement in employment and welfare of ordinary people. And -- although the UN ECA does not say so -- the reason is that global capitalism has an inherent tendency towards polarization between the rich and the poor. To fight against this, you have to have a strong state backed by people’s power. Africa is weak in both these resources – strong states and people`s power -- to fight against kleptocratic global capitalism.
CAPITAL: You have spent a lot of your career trying to understand the economic relationship between Developed countries and the developing world. Please can you summarize for Capital just how valuable you think development aid is from the developed world?
YASH TANDON: In light of the answers above, it should be clear that “development aid” is not what it claims to be. Aid is a form of credit that debtors have to pay back. I go back to Greece again, because Greece is going through a classical crisis right in front of our eyes. In a few months, Greek assets will be privatized and fall in the hands of German, French and other banks and corporations. Greece will lose its economic sovereignty. This is what has happened to those developing countries that have been too weak to fight against the “chains of aid”, and of course, these include practically the whole of Africa, including bigger countries like Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.
CAPITAL: What do you think are the main obstacles to reducing poverty and improving the condition of the environment in Africa?
YASH TANDON: This is a big question. The biggest obstacle is the neo-colonial structural condition of Africa. Africa has gained “political” independence, but not economic liberation. This will come when the people get on to the streets and replace their neo-colonial regimes – backed by the Empire – with genuinely popular regimes that are accountable to the people and not to the donors, the IMF or the World Bank.
CAPITAL: Do you think that Green Capitalism is a satisfactory response from the status quo to address the challenges of climate change, peak oil and resource scarcity in Africa?
YASH TANDON: I am afraid not. It does not solve the problem of the control of Africa`s resources – including oil, minerals, land, water and forestry – by global corporations.
CAPITAL: How unique is Africa in its capacity to adapt to these environmental challenges?
YASH TANDON: Africa might be able to work out some measures for either mitigating carbon emissions or adapting to environmental global warming through community driven projects at local levels. But these will not make an impact substantial enough to get Africa out of its climatic challenges. In order to do this, the peoples and states of Africa have to take bold steps to first nationalize their resources (outside the control of global corporations) and make these resources available for development by institutions and structures created by the people themselves.
CAPITAL: How compatible are the needs of the Free Market Kleptocratic Capitalist system with the needs of the living environment upon which we depend?
YASH TANDON: From what I have said so far, it should be obvious that we cannot leave our precious global environment in the hands of those who are driven, essentially, by the profit motive. It is an oxymoron.
YASH TANDON: How genuine do you think investment is from countries like India and China in its expressed desire to help Africa develop and progress?
Yash: I doubt that China and India are driven by the motive of “helping Africa to develop”. They are in Africa because they need Africa`s resources, and openings for investing their capital. Nobody from outside is going to develop Africa. That is Africa`s responsibility. Therefore African governments must negotiate trade and investment terms with India, China -- and others -- with knowledge, skill and shrewdness.
CAPITAL: Do you think it is wise for Africa to emulate the development trajectory of India and China?
YASH TANDON: India and China are not “models”, but Africa can learn a lot from the way these two countries have been shrewd when it comes to negotiating with the Imperial countries -- whether it is on matters of trade, investment, intellectual property and transfer of technology, or climate change.
CAPITAL: Can you suggest an alternative mode of development other than Free Market Kleptocratic Capitalism and the development aid industry, that might be more advantageous for Africa to adopt, in order to successfully produce an equitable and sustainable society?
YASH TANDON: There are no “models”. Africa will have to develop its own “model”. At the end of the day, the people will need to replace their kleptocratic neo-colonial regimes with governments that answer to the people and that develop means and institutions to exploit Africa’s vast resources for the people of Africa, and not for a minority local rich class and global kleptocrats.
CAPITAL: Ethiopia prides itself for being an uncolonised country, however you have hinted that African countries are now very vulnerable to the empire of transnational corporate interests. Please can you expand on this and tell me just how vulnerable African countries like Ethiopia are to this perceived threat?
YASH TANDON: Ethiopia was not colonised during the height of colonialism, but following Italy’s invasion in the 1935, it did fall under a colonial rule and occupation. Italy’s defeat in 1945 liberated the country, but it was a weak state and a weak economy surrounded by countries that were still colonies. During the cold war period, Ethiopia experimented with diverse systems of economic production, until today what we have is a hybrid system of production and exchange in Ethiopia. Ethiopia still has a long way to go to fully liberate itself from the domination of imperial capital. This is not a “perceived” threat; it is real.
CAPITAL: Please can you tell me about your work with the South Centre ? It has been described as the United Nations for the South, what kind of policies were you helping to create?
YASH TANDON: In general terms, the SC seeks to provide a policy platform for the countries of the South to coordinate their negotiating positions on issues ranging from trade agreements to intellectual property, climate change, human rights, health and human security. The SC provides the necessary backup in the form of research, technical analyses, background papers and a venue for third world negotiators to meet and discuss their common strategies. The objective is to create a more symmetrical and fair environment for diplomatic negotiations on issues of global concern to the South.
CAPITAL: You have criticized AGRA for being a manifestation of this. Please can you tell us what AGRA is and what the implications of this organization are for Africa?
YASH TANDON: AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) is a multi-million mega-project funded by Rockefeller and Gates foundations. Under the guise of providing Africa with “climate sensitive” food crops and flowers, AGRA is pushing agro-chemical crops using multi-genome patents. Its objective -- or at least the end result -- is to control Africa’s plant biomass to generate super profits for mega-chemical and seed corporations. This will wipe out small scale agricultural producers in Africa, and because the production is highly capital intensive and uses huge amounts of water, it threatens to dry out Africa`s water resources. Some of the effects of this kind of production are already manifest, for example, in the parched condition of Lake Naivasha in Kenya and the displacement of thousands of fisherfolk.
CAPITAL: How much credibility does the Green revolution model that came out of India have in its application to African countries like Ethiopia?
YASH TANDON: India’s kind of “Green revolution”, if replicated in Africa, will create enormous problems of future food security and social stability.
CAPITAL: Do you think that the current policies in this country are effective enough to ensure fulfillment of the MDG?
YASH TANDON: The MDG’s overall goals are not likely to be met in Ethiopia or the rest of Africa, despite some pockets of positive development here and there, because they are based on a development paradigm that is seriously flawed.
CAPITAL: What are Ethiopia´s strengths in being able to determine its own fate as a sustainable and equitable country independent of outside interference?
YASH TANDON: I am afraid I do not have enough knowledge to answer this question. From what I have seen it does have a government that is aware of some of the problems I have mentioned above. I am not sure if it has the will and the internal political and institutional capacity to steer a development course independent of outside interference. Nonetheless, there are policies that the present government has put in place that are sensible – for example, on putting limitations on capital account and ownership of banks – but Ethiopia is still too dependent on aid from outside. This constrains its ability to shape its own development path.
CAPITAL: In your work you have outlined the obstacles to achieving freedom and you have also carefully delineated strategies for transformation. Please can you describe for us your understanding of what authentic transformation is and how the necessity of distinguishing information from Knowledge is a vital stage towards achieving meaningful change as an individual as well as a society?
YASH TANDON: Information does not translate into development; in fact there is already information overload, mainly emanating from global players like the IMF, the World Bank, and the “donors”. This is the tragedy that we are currently witnessing in Greece, for example. Development comes from a deep understanding of the situation Africa finds itself in contemporary times. Development is always self-development. It cannot come from outside. Pain and sacrifice are necessary ingredients of development, both for individuals and for nations. The “soft bed” of foreign aid is the road not to development but to slavery.
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* This article first appeared in CAPITAL, Vol 13, No 656, July 12, 2011.
* Yash Tandon is a writer on development theory and practice, chairman of SEATINI and senior adviser to the South Centre.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
On the African awakenings
Winds of change, governance deficits and the way forward for Africa
We are living today in what is probably one of the most inspiring times in our recent history, reminiscent of the period of the rise of the anti-colonial revolutions that followed the Second World War. Our continent is pregnant with hope, but equally it carries hope’s twin, despair. This duality, which has remained a characteristic of our post-colonial inheritance, was perhaps best illustrated in the events of 1994: on the one hand we witnessed the rise of the popular movement that brought about the downfall of the apartheid regime in South Africa; and on the other hand, we saw the massacre of nearly a million people in Rwanda in a period of a few months. Both hope and despair coexist in all our countries. But because of the depth of the current crisis of capitalism, that duality will become, I believe, ever more polarised in the coming period. In this presentation I want to explore some of the causes and dynamics around what I would describe as a time of African Awakenings.
We are all familiar with the extraordinary events that took place in Tunisia and Egypt that led to the downfall of Ben Ali and Mubarak, and were followed by popular uprisings in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere in what is known today as the Middle East. Corporate media has christened (and I use that word intentionally) these the 'Arab Spring'. I would like to suggest that this in not necessarily an adequate descriptor. Over the last year, we have witnessed significant uprisings in a large number of African countries – and I should hasten to add here that the uprisings that have been the focus of attention of the media – Tunisia and Egypt – are all African countries. (Indeed, where does Africa begin and where does it end? Did the building of the Suez Canal finally amputate Africa from its intertwined history with the peoples to the east?)
The uprisings and protests have not been confined to the Arab-speaking world. There have also been uprisings occurring in Western Sahara, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Djibouti, Senegal, Mozambique, Botswana, Madagascar, Swaziland, and South Africa, to say nothing of the Walk to Work campaigns taking place recently in Uganda. Many of these uprisings have been brutally suppressed. Some of these uprisings have perhaps not (yet) been on the scale that we have witnessed in North Africa, and each has had its own well-defined immediate, specific and proximal aetiologies.
But I would argue that despite the specificities of each, they can legitimately be considered together as the cumulative response to a common experience shared over the last 30 years. Indeed, I would suggest that they have much in common with the recent events we have witnessed in Wisconsin (USA), Spain, Greece and, indeed, in Italy (where 95 per cent of the population delivered a resounding defeat of the government in the recent referendum that sought to privatise water, to extend impunity to politicians, and to attempts to expand the use of nuclear power).
Indeed, I think it would be a mistake to consider the shifting political and social climate in Africa being based on the overt, large-scale uprisings alone. There is growing evidence in a number of countries of social movements re-emerging during the last 10 years, providing a framework through which the disenfranchised have begun to re-assert their own dignity, proclaiming - even if only implicitly - their aspiration to determine their own destiny, their own right to self-determination. The emergence and activities of movements such as Bunge La Mwananchi, Bunge Sisters and the Unga Revolution in Kenya, Abahlali base Mjondolo, the Anti Eviction Campaign, the Landless People's Movement in South Africa, the anti-water privatization movement, the growing militancy of the LBGTI movements, the formation of alliances of peasant and farmer organisations, the growing demands from organised labour, all these are manifestations of an underlying mood of discontent and disenchantment with the political order. Even in South Africa, that so-called democratic success story, ‘South African police have conservatively measured an annual average of more than 8,000 “Gatherings Act” incidents by an angry urban populace which remains unintimidated by the superficially populist government of Jacob Zuma’ since 2005. The remarkable growth and spread of alternative media such as Pambazuka News is, I would suggest, further testimony of the changing mood on the continent.
Ten years ago when we launched Pambazuka News, I was dismissed as a hopeless romantic for naming the website and newsletter 'Pambazuka' meaning, in Kiswahili, the awakening. I believe that the gathering momentum of these awakenings defines the social and political scene on the continent today. We are witnessing not so much an ‘Arab Spring’ as an African Awakening.
WHAT HAS GIVEN RISE TO THE AWAKENINGS?
What has given rise to the uprisings and to the growing levels of protest on the continent?
Conventional wisdom - or more accurately, perhaps, corporate media - would suggest that this is happening because the growing middle-class have rising expectations for individual freedom, mobility, money, private health and education, luxury commodities, cars, and so on. It is suggested that what is fuelling the discontent with autocratic regimes is middle-class aspiration for an unfettered market and their frustrations with the regimes that prevent them enjoying these benefits. To give credence to this perspective, the African Development Bank and the World Bank claim that Africa has a burgeoning middle class: apparently one-in-three Africans are today middle class, based on the ridiculous and laughable definition of that class as being those with an income of $2 - $20 a day ‘a group that includes a vast number of people considered extremely poor by any reasonable definition, given the higher prices of most consumer durables in African cities’. Conveniently forgotten, of course, is that 61 per cent of Africans, who are below the $2 a day level, are mired in deep poverty! 
However, I would argue that the mass uprisings and protests that erupted across the continent and in the Middle East, as well as those that we have witnessed in Wisconsin, Ohio, France, Spain, Italy, as well as the 'sub-clinical' discontent manifested in the emergence of protests by social movements to which I have referred earlier, all have a common origin.
Whatever one might have to say about the shortcomings of the post independence governments in Africa - whether of the first or second waves - whatever we might think about the shortcomings of some of the social and political policies, whatever we might say about the undemocratic nature of the regimes that were established, we have to acknowledge their extraordinary achievements over a relatively short period of time after independence: the establishment of universal health care, education and social welfare, the expansion and development of transport and communications, establishment of grain marketing boards, cooperatives, and so on. In the space of less than two decades, there were dramatic improvements in parameters such as life-expectancy at birth, infant and child mortality, material mortality, university education, and many other parameters of social progress. All these gains were the result of hard fought independence struggles through which many lives were lost and much blood shed. The regimes that came to power had in effect struck a social contract with the mass movement that brought them to independence, and to some measure, as part of a modernisation project, they sought to deliver on their promises, albeit in an uneven way. But over the last 30 years, countries in the global South, and in particular in Africa, have been faced with coping with the systematic reversal of the gains of independence.
The development of these reversals emerged in the context of a number of major world events: the spiraling worldwide recession of the 1970s; the defeat of the US in Vietnam; the de-linking of the dollar from the gold standard and floating of currencies; the emergence of OPEC which enabled oil-producing states to control the world price of oil, with the result of a glut of capital flooding the market seeking new avenues for profits; the rise of the debt-crisis of countries in the global South as their currencies became devalued; and the establishment of the hegemony of the New Right and its neoliberal policies under the tutelage of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the USA in the 1980s.
Almost without exception, the same set of social and economic policies were implemented under pressure from the IFIs (international financial institutions) across the African continent - the so-called structural adjustment programmes (later rebranded as Poverty Reduction Strategy Programmes), all to ensure that African countries serviced the growing debt. But the agenda of the creditors was also to use the debt ‘crisis’ to open avenues for capital expansion, through extreme privatization and liberalization of African economies.
The state was declared ‘inefficient’ (despite its considerable achievements in the short period since independence), and public services were first run down before being sold off to the oligopolies for a song. The state was prohibited from subsidising agricultural production and investing in social infrastructure, with prohibitions on capital investment in health, education, transport and telecommunications, until eventually public goods were taken over by the ‘private’ (read oligopoly) sector. Tariff barriers to goods from the advanced capitalist countries were removed; access to natural resources opened up for pillaging; tax regimes relaxed; and ‘export processing zones’ established to enable raw exploitation of labour without any regulations from the state or trade unions. Over time, privatisation was extended to agriculture, land, and food production and distribution.
Landlessness, unemployment, increases in child, infant and maternal mortality rates, decline in life expectancy rates and impoverishment on an unprecedented scale came to be the lot of the majority of citizens, while a minority accumulated and enriched themselves through their control of the state and alliance with international corporations. Countries that only two decades ago were characterised as having more than 80 per cent of their populations being rural, were transformed so that today the UN Habitat estimates that some 50 per cent live in the peri-urban slums with no rights of abode, tenure or any other form of security. Deregulation of all constraints on capital was the mantra of the day, justified as the precondition for encouraging foreign investment, which in turn would supposedly lead to ‘development’. (Habitat 2010).
The net effect was to reduce the state to having a narrowly prescribed role in economic affairs, and precious little authority or resources to devote to the development of social infrastructure, its primary role being to ensure an ‘enabling environment’ for international capital and to police the endless servicing of debt to international finance institutions.
But the most serious consequence of these policies was not simply the reversal of the many gains of independence, but the erosion of the ability of citizens to control their own destiny. Self-determination, originally such a powerful motor force for mobilisation in the anti-colonial movement, was gradually suffocated. Economic policies were no longer determined by citizens and their representatives in government, but by technocrats from the international finance institutions and the World Bank, with hefty support provided by the international aid agencies. As the state was forced to retreat from the provision of social services, the space was avidly occupied by the development NGOs (non-governmental organisations). What citizens once had a right to expect by virtue of the gains of independence was replaced by charitable acts of agencies that were dependent on the support of international aid institutions whose policies were increasingly aligned with those of the IFIs.
This was also a period of significant repression. Political opposition in most countries was discouraged or suppressed; opponents of government were locked up or disappeared. And where progressive developments occurred – as in Burkina Faso under Thomas Sankara – assassinations, support for military coups and economic isolation were some of the weapons used to prevent citizens having the audacity to construct alternatives to the crass policies of neoliberalism. And with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Stalinist socialism in Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s, the credibility of alternatives to capitalist ideologies collapsed too. Without a coherent alternative to the dominant ideologies of capitalism, Thatcher’s famous claim of TINA (there is no alternative) became a reality.
Over time, one of the consequences of neoliberal economic policies was the gradual transformation of citizens into consumers. Those with the resources could exercise choice on where they bought their services, education, and health care. Power and influence over social policy were increasingly determined by wealth. But those who had no means to participate in consumer society - the pauperised, the landless, the jobless, the never-employed - those unable to consume, were left effectively disenfranchised. And those who were able to find employment were forced to accept poor working conditions and low wages. Attempts to organise or protest were discouraged by the knowledge that outside stood a reserve army of labour ever hungry to take jobs from those fortunate enough to have them.
The scale of looting that was opened up as a result of neoliberal policies is well-documented. Third World payments of US$340 billion each year flow northwards to service a US$2.2 trillion debt, more than five times the G8's development aid budget. At more than US$10 billion a year since the early 1970s, collectively the citizens of Nigeria, Ivory Coast, the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Angola and Zambia have been especially vulnerable to the overseas drain of their national wealth. As Brussels-based debt campaigner Eric Toussaint concludes, ‘Since 1980, over 50 Marshall Plans worth over $4.6 trillion have been sent by the peoples of the Periphery to their creditors in the Centre.’
Research by the Tax Justice Network (TJN) estimates that a staggering US$11.5 trillion has been siphoned 'offshore' by wealthy individuals, held in tax havens where they are shielded from contributing to government revenues. ‘Around 30% of sub-Saharan Africa's GDP is moved offshore,’ writes John Christensen (2006) of TJN, ‘As several studies have suggested, this rate of capital flight means that Africa - a continent we are continually told is irrevocably indebted - may actually be a net creditor to the rest of the world.’ And finance capital and the corporations do all they can to hide their wealth in offshore tax havens. A UNDP report on illicit funds estimates that illicit flows from least developed countries (LDCs) have increased from US$7.9 billion in 1990 to US$20.2 billion in 2008. The top ten exporters of illicit capital account for 63 per cent of total outflows from the LDCs while the top 20 account for nearly 83 per cent. 
Corruption, far from being the cause of the crisis in Africa, is the result of the insistence of finance capital to ensure it has its way. Corruption, I would argue, is a fundamental structural feature of capitalism in the global South in the era of globalisation.
Many criticise SAPs/PRSPs as being the product of bad policy - neoliberal policies that are said to be dogmatic and an expression of 'market fundamentalism'. But, as Prabhat Patnaik has argued recently, the policies that are being insisted upon by the international finance institutions are the result of the structural needs of financialised capitalism in the present era, something that began as early as the 1970s and today dominates all parts of the global economy. There are today, according to Samir Amin, some 500-700 oligopolies that control almost every aspect of our lives, whether to do with the clothes we wear, transportation, communications, agriculture, industry, natural resource extraction etc.
It is worth quoting Patnaik at length here for he captures succinctly the structural nature of the demands of financialised capital that give rise to demands for specific economic conditions to be fulfilled. In the current period, he argues,
‘…finance capital has become international, while the State remains a nation-State. The nation-State therefore willy-nilly must bow before the wishes of finance, for otherwise finance… will leave that particular country and move elsewhere, reducing it to illiquidity and disrupting its economy.
‘The process of globalization of finance therefore has the effect of undermining the autonomy of the nation-State. The State cannot do what it wishes to do, or what its elected government has been elected to do, since it must do what finance wishes it to do.
‘It is in the nature of finance capital to oppose any State intervention, other than that which promotes its own interest. It does not want an activist State when it comes to the promotion of employment, or the provision of welfare, or the protection of small and petty producers; but it wants the State to be active exclusively in its own interest. It brings about therefore a change in the nature of the State, from being an apparently supra-class entity standing above society, and intervening in a benevolent manner for “social good”, to one that is concerned almost exclusively with the interests of finance capital. To justify this change, which occurs in the era of globalization under pressure from finance capital, the interests of finance are increasingly passed off as being synonymous with the interests of society. If the stock market is doing well then the economy is supposed to be doing well no matter what happens to the level of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. If a country is graded well by credit-rating agencies then that becomes a matter of national pride, no matter how miserable its people are.
‘Since the nation-State pursuing trade liberalization has to cut customs duties, and therefore must restrict excise duties (so as not to discriminate between domestic and foreign capitalists), and since, in the interests of “capital accumulation” it keeps taxes on corporate incomes…low, the limit on the fiscal deficit causes an expenditure deflation on its part. And this provides the setting for “privatizing” not only State-owned assets “for a song” but also welfare services and social overheads like education and health. All this is usually referred to as constituting a “withdrawal of the State” and its rationale is debated in terms of “the State” versus “the market”. Nothing could be more wrong than this. The State under neo- liberalism does not withdraw; it is involved as closely as before, or even more closely than before, in the economy, but its intervention is now of a different sort, viz. exclusively in the interests of finance capital.’
What we face across the continent is a process of massive dispossession: dispossession of land through land grabbing, dispossession of the value of our wages, dispossession of our ability to produce what we, rather than what international finance capital, wants. The extent of land-grabbing that is occurring across the continent illustrates the scale of what is going on: a recent set of reports from the Oakland Institute shows that ‘land grabs encompassing the size of France, displacing thousands of families, building miles of irrigation canals without concern for environmental impacts, allowing crops to be planted that do not improve food security for Africa - done with little or no consultation with those directly impacted, and have no accountability or transparency.’ 
But perhaps the most serious dispossession that we face is a political dispossession. Our governments are more accountable today to the international financial institutions, to the corporations who extract wealth without restriction, to the international aid agencies that finance institutions such as the IMF, than to citizens. In this sense, our countries are increasingly becoming more akin to occupied territories than democracies.
It is this process of dispossession that was behind the eruption of citizens of Tunisia and Egypt. In both cases it was not only the repressive nature of Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes, but the accumulated years of experience of ‘pauperisation’ or impoverishment of the majority, while a few enriched themselves.
It is true that people across the rest of the continent have been inspired by the uprisings. But above all, the eruptions, protests and uprisings we have seen are also an attempt of people to assert their own dignity and reclaim control over their own destinies.
And when Ben Ali and Mubarak were swept out of power by the popular uprisings, there was an immediate resonance across the continent. While the media sought to portray these as some form of contagious disease, the reality was that the dispossessed across the continent and beyond recognized in the anger and demands of the Tunisians and Egyptians their own dignity, and the aspirations of their own desires. They recognized immediately the common experience of the decades of neoliberalism that had impoverished them. It was no surprise that as far away as Wisconsin, Barcelona, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen the idea of establishing ‘Tahrir Squares’ has been on the lips of activists.
ROLLING BACK THE GAINS
What then has been the response of empire to the uprisings?
The sweeping away of Ben Ali in Tunisia and of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt took the imperial governments, who had been ardently supporting those regimes financially, economically, politically and militarily, completely by surprise. The corporate media sought to present the uprisings as sudden and spontaneous, despite the evidence in both countries that the eventual pouring of people on to the streets was the outcome of years of attempts to organize protests that had been brutally suppressed. Corporate media sought to present the mobilizations as being the product of Twitter and Facebook, obscuring the agency of people and conveniently forgetting that in Egypt the largest mobilization occurred after both the Internet and mobile phone networks had been blocked.
Imperial response to the uprisings has been, in essence, to establish in Tunisia Ben Ali-ism without Ben Ali, and in Egypt, Mubarak-ism without Mubarak. It is instructive to note the profound hypocrisy of US and European governments: in Egypt, they had sought to present Mubarak as a bastion against Islamists in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood. As Samir Amin has pointed out, Mubarakism was comprised of the Mubarak family, the military (who control major sectors of the economy) and the Muslim Brotherhood (who had, since the days of Anwar Sadat, been given a direct role in media and in education). With the fall of Mubarak, it is hardly surprising that the US has been eager to push for the formation of a government comprising the remaining components of Mubarakism - the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. But what is even more instructive are the economic policies being pushed by the IMF and World Bank: privatization of the commons, opening up of the economy to the transnational corporations, reduction in social expenditures - in short, the very same old worn out policies that have, as I have argued earlier, led to the crisis in the first place.
While empire is seeking to contain the mass movements in both Tunisia and Egypt, it is by no means a foregone conclusion that the transformations brought about by the uprisings will be successfully reversed. The military has certainly been active in seeking to intimidate, imprison and torture activists, while the US seeks to put in place all kinds of pressures to ensure that compliant regimes are established that protect the interests not only of the oligopolies, but also of the Zionist state of Israel.
What we have witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt is but only Act 1 Scene 1 of a long struggle that may take many decades to reach a revolutionary conclusion. Revolutions don’t happen overnight. They are the product of long struggles over decades that are characterized by upswings and downswings. It is not possible to predict the outcomes of this long struggle, and much will depend on the kind of political programmes that progressive forces within the mass movement are able to argue for and how they organise themselves.
REGIME CHANGE AND MILITARY INTERVENTION UNDER THE GUISE OF HUMANITARISM
If the events in Tunisia and Egypt inspired hope, its twin, despair, is perhaps what is dominant in relation to Libya, Côte d'Ivoire and Somalia. What may have begun as popular protests in Libya that were inspired by the events in neighbouring Tunisia, very soon became captured by the splits within the Gaddafi regime. There appears to be evidence that the rebellion in Libya has been nurtured, armed and orchestrated long before there were spontaneous demonstrations, with plans for regime change mapped out well in advance. Ismael Hossein-Zadeh has pointed out that Gaddafi has much in common with nationalist populist leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Salvador Allende of Chile, Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti and many others in that:
‘Gaddafi is guilty of insubordination to the proverbial godfather of the world: US imperialism, and its allies. Like them, he has committed the cardinal sin of challenging the unbridled reign of global capital, of not following the economic “guidelines” of the captains of global finance, that is, of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and World Trade Organisation; as well as of refusing to join US military alliances in the region. Also like other nationalist/populist leaders, he advocates social safety net (or welfare state) programs - not for giant corporations, as is the case in imperialist countries, but for the people in need.’
Under the now completely discredited excuse of ‘humanitarian intervention’  the UN authorized invasion delegated to NATO has involved large-scale bombing, use of drones and killing of civilians. Far from protecting citizens, the intervention has created a civil war between the so-called ‘rebel’ forces and those supporting Gaddafi. All attempts to establish a basis for negotiation have been systematically undermined by NATO and its allies.
Similarly, the UN authorized intervention in Côte d'Ivoire was a thinly disguised regime-change initiative that has guaranteed corporations control the lucrative economic resources of the country, in which French and US concerns in particular have gained. What it has failed to resolve are the deep divisions within Côte d'Ivoire society.
And in Somalia, every attempt to reconstitute a semblance of peace has been systematically undermined with the aid of military intervention by the Meles government of Ethiopia, acting as a proxy of empire.
These events illustrate the growing willingness of empire to intervene militarily to ensure that regimes that serve its interests are guaranteed. They represent precisely the mirror image of hope that the uprisings demonstrate. They are also consistent with the increasing willingness of empire to engage in the barbarism that the world has witnessed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and increasingly in Pakistan.
A PERIOD OF WARS AND REVOLUTIONS
Samir Aminhas pointed out that the current crisis of capitalism, which he locates as beginning in the 1970s with the delinking of the dollar from the gold standard, has parallels with the first major crisis of industrial capitalism almost 100 years previously in the 1870s. The consequence of that crisis was the colonization of the world and the division of Africa into colonial territories, the wide scale grabbing of land and resources, brutal mass killings and genocide, and the growing concentration and centralization of capital. The period following that saw the massacre of millions in the inter-imperial war of 1914-18, the depression that led to the rise of fascism in Europe, and the outbreak of the Second World War that killed millions. But the same period also saw the first successful anti-capitalist revolution in Russia, the successful peasant led revolutions in China, the rise of the anti-colonial revolutions, the defeat of first the French and then the US in Vietnam, and the revolution in Cuba. It was a period of wars and revolutions. But the current crisis of capitalism is different from the earlier one in that the scale of concentration and centralization of capital is unprecedented, and accompanied by a financialisation of capital also on an unprecedented scale. As one person recently characterized it: General Motors used to produce cars and occasionally speculated; today General Motors speculates on the stock markets, and occasionally produces cars!
We have entered, it is suggested, into a period of wars and revolution, a period barbarism or social transformation. In Africa we have seen the devastation of Somalia, the destruction of the natural environment in places such as the Niger Delta, the military interventions in Libya and Côte d'Ivoire, to say nothing of the arming of regimes that ensure the illegal occupation of the territory of Western Sahara. At the same time we see the emergence of social movements seeking to reassert the dignity of our people, the protests and uprisings that have developed over the continent. The outcome of all these events cannot be foreseen. But there are grounds for optimism, I believe.
WHAT WAY FORWARD?
In the light of the current period where our governments genuflect to the corporations and international financial institutions and ignore the wishes of their citizens, what is offered as a solution is the fetishisation of the ballot box where what is on offer to citizens are merely different versions of the same comprador elite elements. What this approach ignores is that while citizens may have a chance to vote once every four to five years, finance capital votes every day on the stock markets, voting that has a direct consequence on every aspect of production, and on the price of every day goods, fuel, land prices, and so on.
If we are to regain our control over our own destinies and dignity, we need to consider not so much how to use the ballot box but much more the question of how do we democratise our societies. What kind of processes do we need to allow us to democratise every aspect of our lives? For example, who determines what is produced, how is it produced, by whom is it produced, how much is produced, for whom is it produced, what is done with the product? And how do citizens decide on how the surplus is used? The same goes for all sectors: health, education, social welfare, telecommunications, agriculture, natural resource extraction, and so on.
Of course, such decision-making would be anathema to finance capital, to the corporations, and to those compliant governments who have neither the courage nor the will to stand up to them.
As someone once quipped, these kinds of decisions are too important to leave to governments.
Unless citizens themselves have direct control and say over these critical issues, democracy simply does not exist. Instead we are faced with decision-making that is in essence based on the same old structures that ensured colonial domination and control.
We need to be creative. We don’t need to go shopping for answers at the supermarkets of the corporations, banks and finance houses for what they have to offer ‘off the peg’. It is time we had the courage to invent the future. Either we do that, or others will determine our future for us. There are a number of important features of the present situation that are favourable for beginning to build the kind of world that we want to live in.
First, there is little doubt that because of the extent of the financialisation of capital and its dominance in the current era, the ruling classes face a dilemma: financialised capital demands that neoliberal policies be implemented relentlessly – from the perspective of capital, there is no alternative. Yet these are precisely the policies that have created the current crisis. Einstein’s famous statement captures this dead end: ‘You can’t solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking that created the problem.’ There is, in effect, a bankruptcy of ideas. This presents us with an opportunity. In Latin America, ALBA countries (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) are seeking to develop social, political, and economic integration between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid, rather than trade liberalization as with free trade agreements, and are even planning to establish their own currencies. A similar debate needs to be opened up in Africa.
Secondly, one of the striking features of the current period is the degree to which there is growing recognition across the global South of the commonalities in experience of the dispossessed. Indeed, there is even recognition of those commonalities emerging in the North - viz the recent uprisings in Wisconsin, Spain and Greece. For the first time in many years, there is a potential to create solidarity links with people in struggle based not on charity and pity, but on an understanding of the common cause of our dispossession.
Thirdly, whereas for many years social struggles have focused on single issues - for instance, water, energy, environment or health - today the material basis for cooperation between different sectors is greater than has been the case for years. Initiatives such as the World Social Forum, for all its shortcomings, provide an exceptional opportunity for forging both cross-sectoral and inter-regional solidarity.
Fourthly, accompanying the growing crisis of the credibility of neoliberal ideas has been, since the collapse of Stalinism and the Soviet Union, a crisis of credibility in the dogmas that have so long imprisoned progressive and creative thinking about the kind of world we want to live in. This means that there is room for creativity as well as learning from the mistakes that have been made by the left internationally.
Finally, while recognizing that there are many struggles against those who seek to exploit Africa, there are opportunities also to create today the alternatives to profit-driven motives of corporations. For example, African farmers’ organisations are confronting the onslaught of foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, backed by oligopolies like Monsanto, that are ‘pushing agro-chemical crops using multi-genome patents. The objective of the corporations - or at least the end result – is plain to see: the control over Africa's plant biomass to generate super-profits for mega-chemical and seed corporations.’ Yet at the same time, farmers and peasant organisations, especially those led by women, have been organising to counter this by launching their own campaign, ‘We are the solution: celebrating African family farming systems’, in which indigenous knowledge and farming methods that are sustainable can be promoted. What these movements have understood is that now is the time for us to begin mapping out the path towards emancipation, ensuring that emancipation is not some distant dream but rather something that we make happen today.
As I stated at the start of this presentation, our continent is pregnant with hope, while still confronted with its opposite, despair. The outcome of our struggles for emancipation is not in the hands of the gods, but in our own ideas, struggles, and solidarity. We have the capacity to influence, if not determine, the way things will turn. But to do so, we have to have the courage to invent the future. Let me leave the last words to Thomas Sankara:
‘You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen.’
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This is the text of a speech delivered for the Beyond Juba Distinguished Lecture, 22 June 2011
* Firoze Manji is Founder and editor-in-chief, Pambazuka News www.pambazuka.org
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Accounts of these events can be found in Pambazuka News over the last year.
 Patrick Bond (2010): South African's financial bubble and boiling social protest: http://bit.ly/nX7SBq
 Patrick Bond (2011): Latest fibs from world financiers. http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/73149
 Manji, F. (1998) ‘The depoliticisation of poverty’, Development and Rights, Eade, D. (ed), Oxford: Oxfam, pp. 12–33
 Manji 1998, op. cit.
 Habitat (2010) State of the World’s Cities
 Amin, S. (2010) 'Millennium Development Goals: A critique from the South', Pambazuka News, http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/67326
 Manji F and C O’Coill (2002): The missionary position: NGOs and development in Africa. International Affairs 78 3 (2002) 567-83
 Dembele, D.M. (2005) 'Aid dependence and the MDGs', Pambazuka News http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/29376
 Bond, P. (2005) ‘Dispossessing Africa's wealth’, Pambazuka News, http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/30074
 Christensen, J. (2006) 'Tax justice for Africa: a new development struggle', Pambazuka News http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/31903
 UNDP (2011): Illicit financial flows from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) 1990-2008. http://bit.ly/pELJOY
 Prabhat Patnaik (2012): Notes on imperialism: phases of imperialism. Pambazuka News http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/70060/print
 Samir Amin 2010. Op cit
 Oakland Institute (2011): Special Investigation: Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa. http://bit.ly/qZlh4u
 Samir Amin (2011): 2011: An Arab Springtime? Pambazuka News. http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/73902
 Ismael Hossein-Zadeh (2011): Why regime change in Libya? Pambazuka News http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/74278
 Interestingly ‘humanitarian intervention’ was also the excuse used to justify King Leopold’s brutal colonisation of the Congo (see Adam Hochschild 2011: King Leopold’s Ghost. London: Pan Books)
 Samir Amin (2010): Ending the crisis of capitalism or Ending capitalism. Oxford: Pambazuka Press.
 Yash Tandon (2011): Kleptocratic capitalism: Challenges of the green economy for sustainable Africa. Pambazuka News http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/74507
African political unity must be more selective
A blueprint for change
There cannot be any clearer illustration of the impotence of Africa’s continental and regional institutions to find local solutions to the continent’s problems than their numbing inaction in the face of the wave of popular rebellions against dictators in North Africa sweeping across the continent.
African continental and regional institutions were conspicuously silent when popular rebellions kicked out autocratic leaders in Tunisia and Egypt. They have been equally clueless in dealing with the crisis in Libya where people are rebelling against their ruler, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – and he is fighting back violently. The AU mission to Libya was a massive failure.
In the absence of leadership from Africans, the UN and traditional big powers stepped in to try to resolve the Libyan and other African crises. African institutions and leaders also spectacularly failed to deal with the crisis in the Côte d’Ivoire, where former strongman Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing presidential elections to Alassane Ouattara. Again, the failure of African leaders and continental institutions in the Côte d’Ivoire crisis meant that former colonial power, France, at crucial points played a key role in mobilising international pressure on Gbagbo to step down.
Africa’s sub-regional institutions have been equally impotent. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had one emergency meeting after another, but got nowhere close to resolving the Côte d’Ivoire crisis. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has yet to stop Zimbabwean autocrat Robert Mugabe’s tyranny against its people. In fact, during crucial moments, SADC and regional leaders have actually reinforced Mugabe’s power. Similarly, in Swaziland, King Mswati, has battered his people, but still receives the red-carpet treatment by SADC. The AU of course has not done any better in both Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
The AU, the home-grown continental structure set up to offer African solutions for local problems, has failed spectacularly in lots of other African hotspots too. It has fallen far short in trying to broker an end to bloody conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. It did not come to grips with the crippling food shortages, fuel and inflation plaguing the continent, which is at least in part due to bad local leadership, mismanagement and lack of democracy. A common response to other common regional problems, such as the HIV/Aids crisis, or a common response to the devastating impact of the global financial crisis, has been lacking. Not surprisingly, African countries worst hit by food shortages – including Zimbabwe, Egypt, Cameroon, Gabon, Ethiopia – are also among those governed the most autocratically, and where the AU’s silence has been most deafening.
For all the rhetoric of ‘African unity’, AU member states have rarely voted together in international fora to safeguard common African interests. The ‘unity’ record of regional institutions such as SADC and ECOWAS are similarly compromised. Individual African countries are usually often bought off by big and former colonial powers. Continental and regional institutions have had no uniform mutually beneficial policy towards interacting with outside powers. The only unity has often been of Africa gangs of dictators clubbing together behind the AU, SADC or ECOWAS to shield each other against criticisms by ordinary Africans, civil groups and outsiders when battering their citizens.
For example, China picks and chooses its policies for different AU member states – buying off individual leaders – to prevent a united African response. Africa has been divided on how to respond to the European Union’s economy undermining economic partnership agreements (EPAs), with some countries rejecting it and others embracing it. EPAs force African countries not to trade with countries or regions competing with the EU. A common response from African continental and regional institutions would have made it difficult for the EU to punish those refusing to sign up and prevented them from playing African countries off against each other.
AFRICA’S PROSPERITY DEPENDS ON TIGHTER POLITICAL, TRADE AND ECONOMIC INTEGRATION
It is now a truism that Africa’s prosperity in an increasingly uncertain, complex and rapidly changing world depends on even closer political, economic and trade integration between countries. Africa’s future prosperity still lies in individual countries on the continent, pooling their markets, development efforts and attempts to seriously build democracy. African countries now desperately need the stability, security and the independence to make policies freely that only a continental ‘pooling of resources and cooperation’ can provide. African countries will have to come up with common strategies to leverage for example China and other emerging markets’ increased trade and investment interests in Africa.
The current leadership of regional and continental institutions are too discredited, the institutions too toothless and the rules for membership too lenient. The solution is to radically overhaul continental and regional institutions. In order to reverse this dispiriting situation, African countries will have to bring new energy, ideas and leaders to make regional and continental institutions work. Furthermore, we need new objectives and new concepts appropriate and even new words that are appropriate for our times. The ways in which many African leaders and institutions generally think about closer integration is outdated. The idea of a pan-Africanism in which all African countries will join into a happy family is unworkable, unachievable and simply silly. To continue with these ideas will mean that Africa is unlikely to reach its full potential in this generation and become as prosperous as say the East Asian tigers.
The current wave of rebellions against dictators that started in North Africa, the global financial crisis and the rise of emerging countries such as China, Brazil and India – which is likely to remake the world – offers a critical juncture for African countries to pursue comprehensive going reforms of continental and regional institutions. In fact, given the rupture that the global financial crisis is causing to nations, the continent may end up poorer, unless it changes direction.
African political unity must be selective. The basis of a revamped African Union must start with a small group of countries that should club together who can pass a double ‘stress’ test based on quality of a democracy and the prudence of their economic governance. When the final decision was made on the structure of the AU in 2001, there were two options on the table to determine membership criteria. One option argued for selective membership based on meeting certain democratic and development criteria. The second option argued for all African countries to be members, regardless of whether they are led by dictators. This latter option was pushed by some of Africa’s ‘big men’-led countries, including Libya’s Gaddafi and Zimbabwe’s Mugabe. Clearly, this was a lost opportunity.
The AU has, in fact, no minimum entry requirements, whether in terms of the quality of democracy or the prudence of a country’s economic management. Because membership of the AU is largely voluntary, countries like Zimbabwe, could still be members even if their governments have appalling human rights records and spectacularly mismanage their countries’ economics and politics. This means that Zimbabwe and all the rogue regimes in Africa can all be fully-fledged voting members, determining the outcomes of crucial decisions of the organisation.
MAKE MEMBERSHIP OF THE AU MORE SELECTIVE
In fact, the AU should start as a three-track system, a core group of countries that meets the minimum democratic and economic governance criteria, and a second track of countries who did not make the cut in democratic and economic management terms, but which are serious about pursuing the new objectives of the AU. The rest, the third group of countries, would be the assortment of dictatorships – which should be shunned, until they introduce democratic governance. The second-track countries should then be assessed on an annual basis to see whether they are ready yet to enter the first track of countries.
By compelling members to follow a set of good economic and social policies, the citizens of African countries who are outside the AU – perhaps because their leaders refuse to adhere to minimum good governance rules – will also have a clear set of standards against which they can measure their governments’ performance. Citizens of non-member countries would also be able to use to compulsory AU good governance criteria to put pressure on their governments to deliver. This will also energise many African nations as their citizens would be able to measure their governments’ performance – whether members of the AU or not – against credible new continental-wide good governance norms.
Of course, there are not many African countries that will right now pass such a test. Stricter rules will mean that the AU will start off initially as a small club of countries. At best perhaps only South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, Cape Verde, Namibia – and then if the criteria are in some cases flexibly applied! Nevertheless, the countries which pass the test for acceptance into the elite tier should harmonise economic policies, and foreign and democratic governance. These top-tier African countries could be the core of the first African-wide set of industrial policies and long-term economic development strategy aimed to lift African countries up the industrial value chain.
Every country then sets democratic and developmental targets, say for five years. Every member of the AU can draw up a developmental plan, in consultation with the AU. At the heart of these developmental plans must be for African countries to diversify, from raw materials to beneficiated products. As former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan rightly said recently Africa is over-reliant on unprocessed commodities along with insufficient investment in manufacturing and infrastructure, and this old pattern is being replicated in its trade with new emerging partners, such as China and India, which is unlikely to translate into widespread job-creation, poverty reduction and economic prosperity.
The AU will then monitor the implementation of these plans to ensure they are met. The movement between these countries of skills, people and goods could be eased. Countries which adhere to these democratic and economic management criteria could be rewarded with new investments, development projects and support, and those not excluded until they improve. Special Africa investment funds could be set up, for example pooling the proceeds from commodities, to finance social and physical infrastructure across the continent. Proceeds from such funds would then be distributed on the basis of the level or willingness of nations to reform economies and democracies. This fund can then be use for targeted development in underdeveloped areas of the countries that make the criteria.
It is not that countries that fall in the poorest governed groups should be sidelined. Funds, resources and support could be given to them, based on strict criteria of adherence to democratic and prudent economic governance rules. The AU of core countries will then adopt joint positions on foreign policy, and will act as a bloc in multilateral organisations, international treaties, and on common issues, such as the climate change. The AU can also directly negotiate with say China when trade deals are struck to come up with the most beneficial trade deals for individual countries. The AU will then negotiate as a trade bloc beneficial trade agreements for African countries. A core, standing African peacekeeping force could be set up from members of the core group, and those of the second group through the principle of ‘flexible’ union.
Secondly, the second group of African countries which do not meet the minimum democratic and economic governance criteria, but which are genuinely on their way to meet these requirements, would then be set targets to reach before they are allowed into the elite group. Achievement of these targets would then be rewarded with increased investment. The third group of African countries which have very minimum levels of democratic governance and prudent economic management would also be set targets, with deadlines to meet at least the requirements to be allowed into the second-tier nations.
The fourth group of African countries would be those who are typically undemocratic and badly governed economically, with clearly no immediate prospects of improvement. Those countries scoring badly – and showing unwillingness to reform – should be sidelined until they shape up. The first-tier countries would then offer citizens of the African nations where democratic and economic governance fall short continental examples to aspire to.
FOCUS ON RIGHTS OF CITIZENS, RATHER THAN STATE SECURITY
The sub-regional African institutions, SADC, COMESA and the EAC (East Africa Community) must all be collapsed to make way for a revamped AU, a continental-wide common market and Africa free trade area. Africa can escape the high tariffs in industrial countries by instead of exporting products to these industrial countries exporting to other African countries that do not produce such products. Of course it is right for African countries to call for an overhaul of the unfair trade barriers imposed by industrial countries. The reality is that this is not going to happen. The difficulties that industrial nations now experience because of the global financial crisis means that these countries are likely to become more protectionist, rather than less. This means that African countries will have to go beyond just complaining – because it will lead nowhere. A better strategy would be for African countries to trade smarter within, and with new trading partners among emerging markets. For example, Africa’s manufacturing and services may be uncompetitive in relation to industrial nations, but can be traded with other African countries.
Continental and regional institutions peace and security policies have, as under the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), at their focus state security, rather than human security. This wrong-headed principle is at the heart of African peers shielding despots such Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe from criticisms, rather than coming to the aid of their desperate citizens. For the OAU, African presidents were more important than the continent’s people. This has remained unchanged under the new AU and regional institutions. Another obstructive rule has been that African leaders always side with the fellow African leaders when they are criticised by the West, especially former colonial powers, no matter the merits of the criticisms.
Furthermore, fellow African movements always close ranks when another is criticised by outsiders. This must be broken. African solidarity must not be based on leaders, but on values, such as democracy, social justice, clean government, ethnic inclusiveness and peace, protecting ordinary Africans against disease, violence and hunger, and prudently managing economies for the benefit of the continent’s people. African countries will need to cede some of their sovereignty. The AU’s charter will have to be changed from protecting the sovereignty of individual countries to protecting the security of Africans themselves. The African principle of non-interference in the affairs of neighbours still partially informs the AU, which has been very reluctant to intervene forcefully in misgoverned nations.
A combination of social and economic integration caused by globalisation's adjuncts of migration, urbanisation and the free flow of information, means borders are increasingly meaningless. There are no ‘national’ crises in Africa anymore: a crisis in one African country will quickly turn into a crisis in the whole region, affecting the whole continent. Zimbabwe's problems are South African – as the 3 million destitute Zimbabwean emigrants fleeing chaos in their country to South Africa are attesting to. Similarly, in East Africa, if Kenya catches a fever, so too does Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the DR Congo.
There is not much provision for ordinary African citizens to have direct influence on AU and regional institutions’ decisions. AU, regional institutions and African leaders were themselves very reluctant to have civil society, let alone their voting citizens, scrutinise their institutions and plans. So far, continental and regional institutions are glorified clubs of leadership chums, mostly dictators for that matter. Referenda could be introduced whereby ordinary citizens, electorates and civil groups vote on crucial policies of continental and regional institutions.
A revamped AU and regional institutions could play important roles in constructing a new democratic political culture across the continent. Importantly, the fact that most African countries are so ethnically, linguistically and culturally diverse means that democracy and inclusive development must be the glue of any nation-building process. Many African countries have still not reformed limited democratic institutions, restrictive laws and official powers inherited from colonial days to more relevant ones. In many other countries where democratic institutions, such as parliaments and human rights commissions, have been set up, these are often in name only. In fact, democratic political cultures are absent in many countries.
Part of the revamp of continental and regional institutions must be real, effective pan-African institutions, such as a continent-wide supreme court and a constitutional court. These courts should be independent and have jurisdiction over prescribed areas in member states, so that when tyrants like Mugabe emerge they can no longer depend on the acquiescence or support of fellow rogues whose records are not much better or even worse. Member countries of revamped AU and regional institutions will also have to establish credible democratic institutions: an independent judiciary, electoral commissions and human rights bodies.
The first task of revamped continental and regional institutions must be to compel all its members to scrap all repressive laws. Most African countries, just like Zimbabwe, have ‘insult laws’ that outlaws criticisms of the president – the second leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Tendai Biti, was prosecuted under these laws. Yet the AU does not demand its members to repeal such oppressive laws. A citizen from a member country must have recourse to the AU if that citizen is brutalised by his or her government. Gender equality must be the basis of all business of the AU. Every member country will have to adhere to a limit of two terms for presidencies. There will have to be a transparent procedure to impeach presidents or leaders who start off as democrats but turn into tyrants, so that we do not repeat having the likes of Mugabe again.
Political parties in AU member countries getting state funding should adhere to minimum internal democratic rules. This will prevent one-man parties and tribal parties. The AU must also set new minimum standards of conduct and operation for ruling and opposition parties in Africa in member countries. Most of them are too undemocratic, corrupt and tribally based to lead the continent to a new era of quality democracy and prudent economic management.
CONCLUSION: AFRICAN INTEGRATION PROJECT MUST BE GENUINELY DEMOCRATIC
Africa urgently needs an ‘inclusive and forward-looking’ democratic and economic development project beyond the lacklustre, superficial and unserious ones offered now. Political and economic development integration on a continental level, if done seriously, may perhaps be that forward-looking project that will lift Africa out of decline. But the African integration project must be genuinely democratic, giving ordinary citizens a real say in its decisions, which will ultimately impact on their lives. The debate of the future of the continent must not be limited to leaders or the elite – as is the case currently.
Post-independence Pan-Africanism failed to secure a sense of ownership of the African integration projects. Its proponents steered it in a top-down, leadership-focused, exclusive and non-participative direction rather than bottom-up, ordinary citizen, inclusive and participative manner. The current efforts of the AU and regional institutions are very much in danger of falling on the same sword as the failed post-independence integration project. Beyond leaders and the elite, there is no genuine African-wide debate about the future of the continent. Continental and regional institutions must now urgently be reformed to close the continent’s gaping democracy gap, move it to the next level of democratic building and consolidate, to ensure enduring stability and equitable growth.
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* William Gumede is honorary associate professor, Graduate School of Public and Development Management, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His forthcoming book ‘The Democracy Gap: Africa’s Wasted Years’ is released later this year.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 The leaders of the group ran a campaign suggesting South Africa was influenced by the West, and therefore its proposal was to make the AU more EU-like in its selectivity. Mbeki himself was under attack at the time by old-guard African leaders who alleged that he was under the influence of the West. This damaged his reputation among fellow African peers. Since then, Mbeki went all out to appear more African than other leaders, even to the extent of not criticising Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe for his human rights abuses in his country, lest he was tagged as parroting the West.
 Githongo, J. and Gumede, W. 2008. ‘Let the African Union set democratic standards’, The Financial Times, 1 July.
 This is clearly illustrated by the fact that a crisis say in Zimbabwe or Sudan clouds investor perceptions of the whole of Africa. Outsiders often lump a crisis in one country as affecting the whole continent. This problem has been further illustrated by South Africa’s efforts in the mid-1990s to sell itself as a stable country separate from other African crises-ridden countries. This has not been very successful, as Afro-pessimism in the West lumps any political or economic problem in South Africa, however minor, as a general affliction of all of Africa. Botswana, one of Africa’s most consistently prudently managed economies and democracy, has often suffered the same fate.
 Githongo, J. and Gumede, W. 2008. ‘Let the African Union set democratic standards’, The Financial Times, 1 July.
How free is the free press?
An interview with Chaacha Mwita
Ron Singer and Chaacha Mwita
Chaacha Mwita was managing editor of The Standard, Kenya’s second-largest daily newspaper, during the infamous government raid on their radio station in 2006. Thus he was an eye witness to this much-analysed event, some of the particulars of which still remain murky. Chaacha has also written a book about politics and the press in Kenya. Our interview took place on 25 February 2011 in the Hilton Hotel lobby in Nairobi’s downtown business district. The interview ranged from Kenyan press and political history to a prediction about the role of the press in the upcoming 2012 elections. (‘Citizen Power: A Different Kind of Politics, a Different Kind of Journalism’ (Nairobi: Global Africa Corporation, Citizen Engagement Series, 2009))
THE LEGENDARY HILARY NG’WENO
RON SINGER: I wanted to meet Hilary Ng’weno [now-retired 85-year-old doyen of the Kenyan press corps], but he told me he doesn’t give interviews anymore. Tell me about him.
CHAACHA MWITA: He’s one of those people without whom you cannot understand Kenyan journalism. He founded a newspaper which was then called Nairobi Times. It was subsequently [in 1983] bought by the then-ruling party, KANU (Kenya African National Union). It was renamed Kenya Times. In those days, it was the newspaper to read, not just because it was a high-quality newspaper. If you were a businessman, you had to find advertising and tenders in this paper. If you were a pro-democracy person, you had to read the Kenya Times to gauge what the system was thinking about your activities. And, if you were an ordinary citizen, you had to read it closely. So its great success lay not in its high-quality journalism, but in the fact that, by reading it, you knew the thoughts of the ruling party, and took appropriate measures.
RON SINGER: That was before your time, right?
CHAACHA MWITA: Long before my time. Then, after KANU bought him off, he started the most authoritative weekly.
RON SINGER: The Weekly Review.
CHAACHA MWITA: Yes, it was quite an undertaking. It didn’t pander along political-party lines, exactly, but once in a while it came under heavy criticism from the party.
RON SINGER: In other words, it tried to play it both ways?
CHAACHA MWITA: Yes. It’s sad that The Weekly Review folded. The Nation Media Group bought the title, but they’ve never revived it. I guess they bought it to keep it from falling into the hands of potential rivals.
RON SINGER: I’ve read the current weekly, East Africa. Is that a successor, in a sense?
CHAACHA MWITA: Absolutely not.
RON SINGER: That seems like it covers news, has stories of interest.
CHAACHA MWITA: Yes, news, human interest, a bit of art. And its focus is East Africa. Weekly Review covered politics.
RON SINGER: Not the same kind of paper, at all.
THE KENYAN PRESS: 2006–08
CHAACHA MWITA: I no longer do journalism. But I wrote political journalism… You know what happened after the 2007 election [the ethnic violence]?
RON SINGER: I do.
CHAACHA MWITA: I was sort of troubled by that. In 2007–08, I researched and wrote a book about the problems of Kenyan journalism, and where it has to go to serve democracy.
[Since November 2009, Chaacha was worked for an international NGO, doing research on health issues and advocacy to the Kenyan and other African governments.]
RON SINGER: Does that mean you’re dealing with the government a lot?
CHAACHA MWITA: A lot – and not just the government of Kenya. We have a presence in 18 African countries.
RON SINGER: I’ve heard and read a lot about the press’s role in the 2007 elections and the ethnic massacres that followed. To me, their performance was sometimes okay, but often problematic. I know that The Nation had the policy of not naming the ethnic groups of those who committed acts of violence, and that some people have criticised them for that. I don’t know if the papers could have saved the situation once it had started. What do you think? Was there culpability by the papers in the way it all started?
CHAACHA MWITA: After the violence broke out, the papers realised this was a serious situation and they had to do something to try to return the country to peace and sobriety. But, before that, the papers were not behaving in a responsible manner. They took sides, especially in the releasing of election results. In the two previous elections, the 2002 election and the referendum of 2005, the media houses had their own reporters at every polling station, and they released full results as soon as they were announced. There was no problem. They were watchdogs, agents against rigging.
RON SINGER: That’s what they should do.
CHAACHA MWITA: But, come 2007, for some reason, the situation had changed. The media houses stopped publishing election results from different parts of the country. The Nation Media Group, the largest in East and Central Africa, had bought a state-of-the-art system to cover that election. They claimed that the system failed. But, even if that was true, the journalists on the ground had tape recorders, cameras, computers, etc.
RON SINGER: They always have back-up.
CHAACHA MWITA: Yes. That situation could have been saved. One of the reasons violence broke out in some parts of the country was that there was this long period when people didn’t know who had won. They suspected that something underhanded was taking place.
RON SINGER: Out comes rumour.
CHAACHA MWITA: Yes. The press did not help. Until today, they have not acquitted themselves of the role they played.
RON SINGER: Was The Standard the same?
CHAACHA MWITA: The Standard was surrounded by the government, and they put their TV station on auto-pilot, running old soaps, and stopped talking about the election for close to four hours before they had the courage to come back. A lot of pressure was put on them.
RON SINGER: When was the raid on the radio station?
CHAACHA MWITA: That was much earlier, before the election. I was at The Standard at that time. I was managing editor. They came and arrested me.
RON SINGER: What was the name of the guy who did that?
CHAACHA MWITA: Of course, Michuki.
[Then internal security minister, John Michuki is now environmental minister.]
RON SINGER: Why did he do it?
CHAACHA MWITA: He said the station was planning to disrupt national security.
RON SINGER: ‘Planning…’?
CHAACHA MWITA: Yes.
RON SINGER: Why did they really do it?
CHAACHA MWITA: As far as Chaacha Mwita is concerned, they did it to intimidate the press. They had no evidence for the alleged reason. As a matter of fact, at that time, the newspaper was carrying examination results. Everyone who has lived in this country knows that when exam results come out, they dominate the coverage of the next day. No journalist wants his paper to carry any other story. There is no reason that can convince me that they raided it in the interest of the nation.
RON SINGER: Wasn’t it anomalous? They didn’t do things like that, I thought. What was going on? How high up did it go?
CHAACHA MWITA: I can tell you that we were not mincing our words about how the democratic experiment [brought in by President Mwai Kibaki in 2002 after the Moi tyranny collapsed] was failing. Our coverage of the government was hard-hitting.
RON SINGER: That’s what woke the rattlesnake.
[It was John Michuki who made the notorious comment that, if one rattled a snake, they had to be prepared to be bitten.]
CHAACHA MWITA: They thought, if we don’t crack down, if we allow things to go the way they are going, we will not be able to get away with anything.
RON SINGER: We won’t be able to rig the election if we need to.
CHAACHA MWITA: After the raid, fortunately, the country came together. The Nation supported us, and even KBC, the government station, joined in and criticised the raid. But subsequently they threatened to repeat this. At a public rally, Michuki said, ‘I will do the same again.’
RON SINGER: I’ve heard that Michuki’s big achievement is the law mandating seatbelts in matatus [public taxi vans]. Except no one wears them.
CHAACHA MWITA: In the absence of journalistic resources, I cannot answer important questions such as ‘Who supplied the seat belts?’
RON SINGER: Was there ethnic partisanship in the press coverage of 2007–08?
CHAACHA MWITA: Yes. When you look at the media structure at that time, at the Nation, for example, most of the editors and managers were from one group.
RON SINGER: The Kikuyu [Kibaki’s group].
CHAACHA MWITA: I know those people personally. Some of them are my friends. So it’s difficult for me to say some things, but I must say them. You have to make a distinction between intellectual honesty and friendship.
RON SINGER: A terrible choice. Imagine if I thought my daughter was a crook. Thank God she’s not!
CHAACHA MWITA: Exactly. So the paper’s articles were obviously favourable to the president and critical of Raila [Odinga, a Luo, Kibaki’s opponent, and currently his partner in government under a power-sharing agreement].
RON SINGER: Was The Standard also partisan? I know you’re a Standard man, so I have to ask you that.
CHAACHA MWITA: By that time, I had left The Standard, so I can tell you. If it was partisan, it was to a lesser extent. A couple of studies have been done of media performance at that time, and The Standard scores better.
My own research, however, suggests that both papers did badly, with little difference.
[‘The Role of the Media in Conflict’, (Radio media and others), http://www.internews.org/.../LiteratureReview_ReportingPeaceKenya_20090415.pdf]
2011–12: A PREDICTION
RON SINGER: With the new constitution in place, and the 2012 elections looming, do you anticipate that the press will have been chastised, and will play a more positive role? More like pre-2007?
CHAACHA MWITA: I think the press has learned its lesson. I’m not saying they will not revert to all those challenges and mistakes of 2007. But, especially between the advent of the coalition government [in 2008] and now, they are a bit more careful. One of the best examples is their coverage during the last three weeks of the judicial appointments issue [a failed extra-legal attempt to subvert International Criminal Court proceedings against government higher-ups allegedly involved in the 2007–08 violence]. The media came out quickly and unanimously to say that the spirit and letter of the law should be followed. Before 2007, at least one journalist would have come out saying the president was following the law, he was not wrong. At the very worst, the press withheld their position until the legal issue was clarified.
RON SINGER: Would you say the press was the leading reason Kibaki was forced to retreat?
CHAACHA MWITA: Absolutely not!
RON SINGER: Parliament was, wasn’t it?
CHAACHA MWITA: Yes. And the press followed. But let’s be fair to the press. They were not on the president’s side, even though they were not necessarily on the people’s side.
RON SINGER: But, if the move hadn’t been so unpopular, they might have been less noisy about it.
CHAACHA MWITA: Yes. They could have come out with a summary of the relevant law before the speaker stated it. It wasn’t a mystery; the constitution was there. And the papers have the capacity to hire the best lawyers in the country. But I’m happy they did as well as they did.
RON SINGER: I’m sure you know that, for all its problems, Kenya is a beacon for journalists from the whole region.
CHAACHA MWITA: I think our standards are very high. When you step out of Kenya and go to other countries, you get the feeling that we are doing well. But the moment we step back … we cannot allow abuses to happen in this country. Those guys want to work here, but we have genuine concerns about the way we are being governed, and about our media practices and where this country ought to be. If all these things were brought right, where could we be today?
RON SINGER: Without corruption, the development would be so much better. But don’t worry, Nigeria is still way ahead in the Premier League Corruption tables. The Manchester United of corruption. Anything else?
CHAACHA MWITA: No. But look at my book carefully. If anything springs to mind, shoot me an email.
RON SINGER: If I had said before this trip, ‘I wish there was one book I could read about this topic…’ I’ll send you a copy of mine when it comes out too.
CHAACHA MWITA: I’ll remind you.
RON SINGER: Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure.
CHAACHA MWITA: Thank you.
Photo by the author
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article uses material from Ron Singer’s forthcoming book, ‘Uhuru Revisited’ (Africa World Press/Red Sea Press).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The salt that lost its savour: News of the World
Once upon a time, the News of the World was one of the British newspapers that no one interested in British affairs could ignore. Published each Sunday since 1843, it had by 1950 become the biggest-selling newspaper in the world, with a weekly sale of 8,441,000 – that is, it was bought by more people than existed in Ghana at the time! And, if the fact that each copy was read by more than one person is taken into consideration, then its readership became quite simply phenomenal: something like 25 million per week, at the very least. It fed its readers a diet of sex – especially rape – and other ‘human interest’ stories. Its content made many people wonder: would the paper be read by so many if its stories were less titillating? If titillation was what the public wanted, was it right to criticise the News of the World for giving it to them?
In 1969, this newspaper that was once tagged as ‘English as roast beef’ was bought by an Australian newspaper tycoon called Rupert Murdoch, who was also to buy the Times and the Sunday Times, two rather more prestigious London newspapers than the News of the World. He also bought The Sun newspaper, a broadsheet that he turned into a tabloid and which introduced the ‘page 3 girl’ into British journalism: every morning, readers of The Sun are provided with a picture of a nubile beauty with bared breasts.
(Incidentally, Mr Murdoch came to the attention of knowledgeable Ghanaians when his second daughter, Elisabeth, married Elkin Pianim, son of the Ghanaian economist and politician, Kwame Pianim. The marriage was later dissolved.)
Murdoch became an even bigger player on the British media scene when he established Sky Broadcasting, a satellite-TV service that soon captured the rights to show most of Britain’s Premier League football matches, as well as local and international cricket matches. Because Sky has a near-monopoly of popular sport, Murdoch’s companies in Britain, which operate under the umbrella of a parent company called ‘News International’, have been ‘printing money’ for him. (That was how a former owner of commercial TV licences in Britain, Lord (Roy) Thompson of Fleet, once described the ease with which a TV licence owner could rake in revenue from his TV operations.)
Murdoch’s businesses were becoming big not only in the UK, but he also endeavoured to conquer the biggest media market of all – that of the USA. He set up News Corporation, which not only owns Fox News (one of the most popular — and shallow-minded – TV stations on the planet) but also several newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. Murdoch became so powerful as a result of his ownership of all these media organisations that British politicians who wanted power went to pay obeisance to him, especially, the former prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Blair spoke to Murdoch three times before taking the decision to send British troops to Iraq.
Murdoch’s power apparently seems to have transmitted itself by osmosis to some of the staff of his newspapers — especially the News of the World and the Sun, but also the Sunday Times (once Britain’s leading newspaper and from which a little more sobriety might have been expected), and they appear to have begun to break the law in seeking information about individuals. The News of the World in particular, but also the Sun, began to employ private investigators to hack into the mobile phones of persons about whom the papers were interested in writing stories.
Such hacking of telephones is illegal in the UK.
The personalities whose telephones were hacked included members of Britain’s royal family in addition to celebrities such as film and television stars, football players and their wives and girlfriends, as well as – we now know – the former prime minister Gordon Brown, when he was chancellor of the exchequer. His lawyer’s files and a building society account were ‘blagged’ (the person seeking the information pretended to be acting for Brown, or was Brown himself!). The mind boggles at this: couldn’t Britain’s secret economic information have been filched from these forays into Brown’s files?
Brown also told the House of Commons that medical information relating to his son was obtained and published by the Sun newspaper. He and his wife were greatly distressed by the publication, Brown said. This, added to revelations that the News of the World hacked into the phone of a girl who had gone missing and deleted messages from it (thus giving them false hope that she was still alive), turned a big section of British public opinion against the Murdoch organisation.
Initially, news of some of these breaches of the law had become public after a royal reporter of the News of the World, Clive Goodwin, and the private detective he used, Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed for hacking into the telephones of a member of staff of the royal family.
But the British police, Scotland Yard, decided that although 11,000 pages of information had been seized from Glenn Mulcaire, there wasn’t much more to be done after the prosecution and jailing of Goodwin and Mulcaire. The 11,000 pages contained the telephone numbers of about 4,000 people, but Scotland Yard has, up to now, only been able to tell just over a hundred of these people that they had been on Mulcaire’s list and might therefore have had their phones hacked. Scotland Yard has now set up a special unit to comb through the information seized from Mulcaire, which had, hitherto, been stowed into ‘bin bags’.
However, some of the individuals whose eyes were opened by the Goodwin–Mulcaire trial began to take private legal actions for breach of confidentiality against the News of the World. As soon as they sued, the paper settled the matter out of court. The condition for their accepting these payments was that their allegations would be sealed by the court and never revealed.
Meanwhile, the Guardian newspaper began to investigate the extremely serious lapses on the part of its rival newspapers owned by News International. The paper clearly established that the News of the World was probably emboldened to break the law because it had cultivated some policemen at Scotland Yard, to whom it paid large sums of money. At least one senior policeman was taken on as a columnist by News International’s ‘sober’ paper, the Times, after he had resigned from the police force.
While these allegations were being bruited about, the parent company of the Murdoch group made an offer to buy more shares in BSkyB, the company that ran Sky, and in which Murdoch only held a minority shareholding. Murdoch now wanted to own a majority of the shares of BSkyB. It was then that the fear in which politicians and others in society held Murdoch suddenly evaporated. Murdoch should not be given any more power over the media than he already had. His bid appeared to them to amount to ‘arrogance’: how could a company that was under such a huge cloud believe that it should be allowed to have more power? Then things got really bad for Murdoch.
First, it was reported that ‘personal details about the Queen and her closest aides’ were sold to the News of the World by corrupt royal protection officers. The information ‘included phone numbers and tips about the movements and activities of the Queen, Prince Philip and staff in a serious breach of national security’. The payments and involvement of the royal and diplomatic protection squad were uncovered by News International in 2007, and yet the organisation maintained again and again that it had not engaged in any general wrongdoing.
Murdoch withdrew his bid shortly before the House of Commons was due to debate a motion, supported by all sides of the house, asking Murdoch to withdraw the bid. And Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the police will thoroughly investigate all allegations made in relation to phone hacking and payments made to the police by the media. The general question of regulating the media is also to be looked into. A judge, equipped with powers of summoning individuals and ordering them to give evidence on oath, will look into the whole question of media wrongdoing.
Earlier, even as the modalities of the enquiries into hacking were under discussion, Murdoch stunned the country by announcing that he was closing down the News of the World. But if his closure of the paper was meant to close down the affair, he was wrong. It had exactly the opposite effect. More revelations began to pour out about its phone hacking.
Despite the potential risk to security the information about the issues uncovered by the organisation were not passed on to the police, until last month. Scotland Yard was only informed after other News International bosses discovered the existence of emails related to the issues, during a separate internal probe set up to uncover evidence of phone hacking.
The allegations against News International have stunned the British body politic. It is, rightly, the proud claim of the British media that they bring governments to account. But if they use illegal methods to do this, are they not behaving like the ‘salt’ which, Jesus said, had ‘lost its savour’?
What shall be done with salt that has lost its flavour, Jesus asked rhetorically. In the case of the British media, tougher methods of regulating them are definitely on the way.
But it is extremely important that when these regulatory measures are brought in to improve the standards of behaviour of the media they do not become a stumbling block to genuine investigative journalism. Yes, News International has brought dishonour and distrust upon the heads of the British media. But it should not be forgotten that most of the wrongdoing by News International titles were uncovered by the dogged, unrelenting work of another journalist, Nick Davies of the Guardian newspaper.
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* Cameron Duodu is a writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Why Egypt wasn’t waiting for WikiLeaks to ignite a revolution
Ask any Egyptian how much of an influence the Internet was in the nation’s uprising and the first thing they’ll probably do is roll their eyes at you. I’ve certainly mentioned it countless times – the international media found the perfectly convenient package of a Facebook revolution fueled by a Google executive. A better lead couldn’t have been written if they had made it up themselves.
But the thing is, there is as much fiction in this package as there is fact. Yes, the Facebook page ‘We Are All Khaled Said’, created by the Google executive Wael Ghonim, was instrumental in mobilising a certain demographic in Egypt. But long after Mubarak was toppled, figures have emerged to prove that calling the uprising in Egypt - in any way, shape or form - a Facebook Revolution is almost as ridiculous as the short-lived name of the Lotus Revolution, a name which had absolutely nothing to do with the movement.
In case you’re curious, the Lotus Revolution was a name that followed the just as ill-thought out name for the Tunisian uprising, the Jasmine Revolution. Both names were no doubt dreamed up by journalists who had visited the countries once upon a time, and were enamoured with the exotic, oriental, incense-filled alleyways of Cairo and Tunis. The reality of these uprisings couldn’t be further from the Orientalist postcard snapshot that is continually forced down our throats.
The reality of the uprising in Tunisia is that it was sparked by a young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire because that was the only form of protest he had left to use. The reality of the uprising in Egypt is that it was sparked by a young man, Khaled Said, who was brutally beaten to death in an alleyway, while people watched, as he begged for his life.
So with that in mind, it’s no surprise that the Wikileaks parody ad that seemed to be taking a bit of credit for the Egyptian revolution has sparked outrage among Egyptian activists.
Mosa’ab El Shamy, an Egyptian activist and photographer who spent the 18 days of the uprising in Tahrir, told The Next Web, ‘I thought we would only have to counter all the local corporates here, which were trying to claim credit for the revolution and share a ride on the bandwagon, but Wikileaks, is to me, the worst of them all.’
Many local companies have been accused of playing both sides in Egypt, bowing to the regime before the uprising, and in a lightening quick chameleon change, their colours were suddenly an entirely red, white and black display of supposed patriotism and pride in Egypt’s revolution.
El Shamy goes on to explain his views on Wikileaks, conceding, ‘I believe it is changing the world in its own way and their effort is a prime and noble one, but it’s ludicrous to hear Mr. Assange in the ad declare with a cheeky grin as he watches the imagery of protesters pushing police forces back from Kasr el Nil Bridge that “the world changing as a result of his work is priceless.”’
In fact, as Egyptian blogger Zeinobia pointed out in her response to the parody ad, most of the Wikileaks cables relating to Egypt were never translated or published in local media for a variety of reasons, ranging from a fear of retribution to simply a matter of bad timing, with more important issues taking the attention of the Egyptian media and its audience.
Ironically, much of the information that the Wikileaks cables revealed about the Egyptian authorities was already common knowledge. Egypt is a country that saw bloggers and journalists imprisoned for voicing their opinion. Egypt is a country where questioning the president’s health was punishable with imprisonment. It is not a country which was waiting for Wikileaks cables to spark a movement that was years in the making.
El Shamy points to another ad that saw an even bigger backlash from Egyptian activists, bloggers and tweeters. A Vodafone ad which had originally been released a few weeks before the 25 January protests, was re-released online, with a newly added introduction, in which the telecom company seemed to be attempting to take a bit of the credit for mobilising the masses.
Comparing the two, El Shamy says of the Wikieaks ad, ‘I find it more dangerous, and “under-attacked”. Assange is an international, popular figure and millions are ready to follow his steps and take his word; and here lies the danger of “brainwashing” more masses than the ones who believe that it was all his work.’
Wikileaks parody ads aside, no matter how many times the theory is debunked with statistics and personal stories, the Internet revolution keeps rearing its ugly head. El Shamy comments, ‘It’s always entertaining to see the media rinse and repeat stories about how tech savvy our revolution was, how Facebooked, YouTubed and Twittereised it is, but I believe it is taken out of context this way, and is an insistence on showing a small, rather unrepresentative aspect of the Egyptian revolution. The huge majority of Egyptians who took to the streets weren’t on Facebook or didn’t mind missing out on the Twitter fad. The impoverished and underfed and ragged clothed certainly weren’t motivated by a Facebook event or some videos they saw on YouTube. That should be acknowledged sooner or later or else I think it’s a huge injustice to them, and an elitist perspective.’
The Egyptian revolution was an incredible coming together of men and women from different backgrounds, different religions and different cities. Throughout the country, they stood side by side and called for one thing. To even attempt to credit that to the Internet, to Wikileaks, or to anything else other than the perseverance of the Egyptian people is to ignore the facts.
The role that the Internet did play was to get the story out. El Shamy was one of many who tweeted his way through the revolution. Asking him how he personally used the Internet during the 18 day uprising, he says, ‘I used it to tweet, tweet, tweet and tweet. I reported everything as I saw and answered people’s questions and tried chronicling what it felt like to be in Tahrir for over two weeks. I interacted with fellow activists who were away from the square or other parts of Cairo and tried
convincing as much people who supported and followed our news through the internet but feared for their safety. It was an amazing experience.’
El Shamy does give credit to the Internet where credit is due. ‘I think the Internet played a fine role during those 18 days, but did the revolution come to a halt or lose mobilisation when the service was cut off? Definitely not. It was useful that we let the world know, and gradually increased pressure on the regime from outside, and it acted as an anti-propaganda tool when the media was spreading all kinds of lies, and I think we made the best of it. But it simply shouldn’t be overstated.’
As Egyptian state TV televised calming images of the Nile, YouTube and Twitter were witness to brutal violence and tear gas-filled shots of a struggle for freedom. As Egyptian state TV broadcast stories of a Tahrir Square infiltrated by foreign spies from the four corners of the world and hell bent on bringing Egypt to its knees, YouTube and Twitter told of men and women who stood against snipers, thugs, and even a raid of camels and horses to come out victorious.
When it comes to the actual figures, Facebook penetration in Egypt in April 2011 stands at seven per cent with Tunisia’s penetration rate far higher at 22 per cent. And let’s not forget that not all Facebook users in the region were automatically supporters of the uprising. Facebook arguments in the post 25 January world were common. The number of photos of Mubarak that appeared as profile pictures on Facebook after the former president stepped down is proof of that. Country-wide protests were not waiting for Facebook members to take to the street.
Yes, activists used Facebook and Twitter to coordinate among themselves, even far before 25 January. Yes, Flickr and YouTube were essential in disseminating information to the wider public. But the number of people who took to the streets because of a call on Twitter cannot be compared to the number of people who took to the streets because of the on-the-ground efforts of activists, who ventured into areas of Cairo and Egypt where Twitter was virtually unheard of to spread awareness. And especially not in a country where the number of Twitter accounts didn’t exceed 130,000 in April 2011. In fact, the number of people who joined the protests as they watched from their balconies as hundreds and thousands of protesters passed in the streets, chanting ‘come down’ probably exceeded the Twitter effect as well.
On 28 January, minutes before a crowd passed beneath my balcony, I watched as a young man quickly passed out fliers to people in the street. He handed the sheets of paper to men standing in the street, threw them at the feet of a crowd of women who were gathered at a street corner, ducked quickly into shops and ran right back out again. I never saw what the flyer said because by the time I ran down into the street they were nowhere to be seen. He disappeared into a crowd of protesters who had fast approached, accompanied by a large crowd of helmeted riot police and police cars alongside them.
It is men like him who are truly to be credited with mobilising the Egyptian people. It is men like him who made the Egyptian people take to the streets, knowing there was a possibility they would not be coming home. To say that Facebook can be equated with each and every person’s effort on the ground is to take a little bit of credit away from men like him.
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* This article was first published by The Next Web.
* Nancy Messieh, Lesotho-born and raised, is an Egyptian writer and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. Follow her on Twitter, Flickr, Diptychal.com or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Existential threats in the Caribbean
Democratising politics, regionalising governance
‘CLR James was arguably, one of the outstanding personalities of the 20th century. In a life that spanned nine of the century’s decades he embraced most of its great social movements with passion, eloquence, and brilliant insights. His impact extended far beyond his native Trinidad and Tobago to the entire Caribbean, Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States and Africa.
‘To some, CLR is best known for his tireless struggles against, colonialism, imperialism, racism and Stalinism; inspired by an overarching and infectious vision of the possibilities of establishing a just, human and participatory society. Others will remember him for the scope of his knowledge and appreciation of literature and philosophy, and for his ability to illuminate their relationship to politics and the worker day world. No one exposed to him or his work is ever quite the same again.’
THE CLR JAMES I KNEW
I was privileged to first hear CLR at a lecture he delivered on the Mona Campus of the UWI in late 1959. I was a first year student, an impressionable youth, and the experience was unforgettable. His subject was ‘The Artist in the Caribbean’; and he brought art, literature, politics, philosophy, and economics together within a single unified vision of the world and of human society. ‘The great artist,’ he said, ‘is universal because he is national’ - rooted in his or her society and reflecting and relating to the social forces of their time and place. It was not just his content, but his style. James spoke with knowledge, feeling, authority, fluency and poetry. The words seemed to flow like a great river from the mountain to the sea, sometimes changing direction and speed, sometimes digressing, but always confident that it was headed towards some glorious rendezvous with history. A first impression, a lasting impact.
Years later, as a graduate student in London, I was part of a CLR James study group that met every week at his house in London to sit at his feet - intellectually and even literally. The subjects ranged from democracy in advanced industrial society to West Indian politics, literature and society. There were people some of you may know or know of, like Wally Look-Lai, Ken Ramchand and Raymond Watts from Trinidad, Richard Small and Orlando Patterson and Joan French from Jamaica and Walter Rodney from Guyana.
Individuals from the James Study Group were to develop ideas, scholarship and activism that influenced the course of development in the English-speaking Caribbean in the early post-colonial years.
Young people today don’t know enough about CLR James and the other greats of our history. If this knowledge, this consciousness was steeped in their bones there wouldn’t be so much confusion in the region today about who we are, about where we are coming from, and where we are going. I remember once wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Uriah Butler on the front and someone thought that the image was that of Col. Sanders of KFC! Of course I did grow up believing that the real Lord Kitchener was a Trinidadian Calypsonian, and only later learnt that he was a British General whose name had been adopted by Mr Alwyn Roberts as his sobriquet! And by the way, I got it right the first time around.
CLR JAMES ON FEDERATION
James was an ardent West Indian nationalist at a time when to be a nationalist and to be a regionalist were one and the same. (That is still the case; I have always held that people who see a contradiction between nationalism and regionalism are either unaware of our history, or choose to deny it.) James’s return to the region in 1958 after an absence of 36 years was to attend the ceremonies inaugurating the West Indies Federation. He stayed on to be General Secretary of the West Indies Federal Labour Party; the party of Manley, Williams and Grantley Adams; the nationalists and social democrats. He edited the PNM newspaper, the Nation; from which platform he carried out an ultimately successful campaign to have Frank Worrell named captain of the West Indies cricket team - the first black captain. He travelled and lectured in various parts the region; he held classes, he published.
Three months after his return there is a record of his having given several lectures in British Guiana, as it then was. The date is June 1958. At least one of those lectures has survived; the title is ‘Federation (The West Indies and British Guiana)’. James published the lecture himself: he had an eye for political education, and for history. The foreword to the pamphlet was written by Forbes Burnham; it is significant that James should have invited him and what Burnham had to say was also very significant. It reads in part:
‘A special invitee to the opening of the first Federal Parliament in Trinidad last April, (Mr. James) took the opportunity of visiting British Guiana, and his public lectures on ‘Federation’, ‘Literature and the Common Man’, ‘Political Institutions in the advanced and underdeveloped countries and the relations between them’ were a source of controversy and education for many Guianese. Many of the latter for the first time recognised the possibilities and scope of our national movement and its intimate relation to that in the Caribbean in particular and the colonial world in general’.
I very much doubt that in later years James would have been proud of this association with Burnham. But this was 1958, Federation was a hot topic in B.G.; and when you read on you begin to see why James spoke as he did and why Burnham said what he said. The reason can be summed up in a single word: race. James: ‘In Europe and the United States we discussed Federation for years before World War II and I cannot remember a single occasion in which it ever crossed our minds or the issue was raised that British Guiana would not join the Federation…But after the war, and especially during recent years, there began to be sounded a note which has grown in intensity. We heard that the East Indians in British Guiana were opposed to Federation (because)…They had a numerical majority over the other races, they hoped to establish an Indian domination of the colony; Federation would bring thousands of Africans (or people of African descent) from the smaller islands to British Guiana…They would place the Indians in British Guiana in an inferior position…We heard also that the African population of British Guiana was now eager for Federation particularly for the reason that it would bring this reinforcement from the smaller islands…I have heard these arguments constantly repeated. That is to reduce the great issue of Federation to a very low level.’
He goes on to say: ‘It has been observed that when a colonial country is approaching national independence, there are two distinct phases. First, all the progressive elements in the country begin by supporting the national independence movement. Then when this is well under way you have the second stage. Each section of the nationalist movement begins to interpret the coming freedom in terms of its own interests, its own perspectives, its own desires. Thus the accentuation of racial rivalry at this time is not peculiar to British Guiana or to Trinidad…This political excitement, however, carries with it certain dangers…’
He points out that in British India, Hindus and Muslims lived together in relative peace and harmony. ‘Yet in the days before World War II there sprang up the movement for a Moslem state which finally succeeded and resulted in the formation of Pakistan. I do not wish to say that there were not honest and sincere elements in the movement. But in it there were three types against whom I want to warn you here in British Guiana - fanatical racialists, scheming and ambitious politicians, and businessmen anxious to corner for themselves a section of industrial and commercial possibilities.’
I do not think James could have said it any more plainly. It was a warning about those who fan the fires of racial or religious animosity for reasons that are less than noble. The ethnic violence that broke out in Guyana in the early 1960s lay in the future. James was prescient in the way that only a man of his genius could be. He was warning the Guyanese, he may well have been warning Trinidad and Tobago. He was probably in the presence of Forbes Burnham and I would guess that his audience was mainly Afro-Guyanese. In 1958 Burnham had already split from Jagan and the PPP. We do not know if he was one of the ‘scheming and ambitious politicians’ that James was talking about - CLR was a master of oblique reference where he trusted his audience to know the meaning. I would guess that he meant his audience to understand people from both sides of the political divide.
His observations clearly continue to have resonance. An ethnic sub-text continues to lie beneath the discourse on integration. But that subject is for another occasion. What I propose to do is to look at James's position on Federation in the light of what has happened since then and the situation today.
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* This is an extract from a longer essay entitled 'Existential Threats in the Caribbean: Democratising Politics, Regionalising Governance. Click here to read the full essay.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Santiago’s Festival of Fire
Cubans hug up their Caribbean culture
Santiago de Cuba’s Festival of Fire, held each year in the first week of July, is the Cuban version of CARIFESTA. Artistes come from all over the Caribbean, highlighting the popular and traditional culture of the region. This year the Festival was dedicated to Trinidad and Tobago, which sent a 70-odd multi-cultural delegation of dancers, pan men, drummers and other performers headed by Culture Minister Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters. Performances were held in Santiago’s Teatro Heredia and at public spaces throughout the city, all free to the population, and mostly enthusiastically attended. Judging by what I experienced during this and other visits, culture is to Cubans what shopping is to Americans. People of all ages and all walks of life seem to hug it up at every opportunity; whether in the form of musical performances, song, dancing, art exhibitions, sporting events, film festivals, book fairs, museums or just plain playing dominoes on the sidewalk.
The annual Festival is organised by Santiago’s Casa Del Caribe, the 31-year old centre for research on Caribbean popular and traditional culture and the promotion of Cuba’s cultural ties with the rest of the region. An integral part is an international colloquium at which researchers share their findings on culture, society and politics from the different language zones. I was privileged to deliver the opening keynote address on the subject of ‘C.L.R. James, Caribbean Integration and the Independence of the Caribbean’. This was essentially my earlier OWTU CLR James Memorial Lecture, with an additional section on James and the Pan-Caribbean (this is appended below). I learnt that my address, which was delivered in Spanish, had been broadcast in full on Cuban radio, sections shown on TV and an excellent report published in the daily Granma. Such prominent media treatment of academic events is not unusual in Cuba; and contrasts with the scanty coverage given their equivalents in most of the Anglo-Caribbean media. Ironically, my treatment of C.L.R. James got better coverage in Cuba than the same lecture did in his native Trinidad and Tobago!
The other keynote address was delivered by James Millette on the subject “Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago: Sister islands at two ends of the Caribbean”. James traced the social and political evolution of the two Caribbean ‘markers’ over 500 years, focusing on the struggle for emancipation and national independence, the transcendental significance of the Haitian and Cuban revolutions, and the shortcomings of constitutional decolonisation in the Anglo-Caribbean; and noting the decline of Western pre-eminence consequent on the rise of the People’s Republic of China.
In all, there were over 90 presentations on the colloquium theme, ‘The Caribbean That Unites Us’. Twenty-five panels were grouped under the subjects History and Culture of the Caribbean; Gender, Culture and Identity; Caribbean Popular Religion; Traditional Popular Medicine and a special Tribute to Gabriel García Márquez. The presentations are summarised in the report prepared by the organisers, posted at Colloquium Report (in Spanish). Unfortunately the individual presentations have not been posted, but if you are interested try sending an email to the Casa del Caribe at http://www.casadelcaribe.cult.cu
The thread connecting colloquium to cultural events to language zones was the African presence in the Caribbean. As scholars pondered Pan-Africanism in Cuba and Jamaica and the development of Black consciousness in Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago; Vudú and Yoruba religious ceremonies were being performed in communities adjacent to Santiago. Attending several of the cultural events, I came away with a strong sense of the power of music, dance and spiritualism as the common language of Caribbean people. Santiago’s Steelband Caribe and Trinidad’s Valley Harps steel orchestra had half their audiences at Teatro Heredia jumping on the stage at the end of their respective performances. The cultural procession held in the city centre before the Cuban and T&T culture ministers and a crowd of several thousand ended with a street jump-up which to all intents and purposes was a j’ouvert—except that it was Santiagueran Conga. The ode to the Cimmaron (Maroon) held on a hilltop in the community of Cobre was a ceremony with powerful spiritual impact—complete with possession—which reminded me of Jamaican Kumina and, I am told, shared many elements with Trinidadian Shango. And of course the great Bob was everywhere—on T-shirts at the Cimmaron monument and his voice coming from boom boxes in the street dances.
Next year’s Festival del Fuego is dedicated to Martinique. We need some enterprising souls to organise charters to these Festivals so as to avoid the time-consuming and costly flight through Panama and Havana. And what about a ferry charter from Port Antonio in Jamaica, now twinned with the city of Santiago? The city has many attractions, including the magnificent monument to Antonio Maceo, Black leader in Cuba’s war of independence from Spain, the tomb of Jose Marti, the famous and well-maintained Spanish fort ‘El Moro’, and several art galleries.
July 10, 2011.
JAMES AND THE PAN-CARIBBEAN
Now I would not want anyone to have the impression that CLR James’s was a narrow West Indian chauvinist, that his conception of the Caribbean was an exclusively Anglo-centred one. If I were to give you that impression I would be committing a grave error and a serious injustice to the legacy of CLR James. James was a historian, a Marxist historian, a historian of revolution; and he was profoundly aware of the historical forces that had shaped the foundation and evolution of Caribbean society; the forces of capitalism, the plantation system and slavery; which know no barriers of language; the forces of colonialism and imperialism; that rendered these islands pawns in the larger game of rivalry of the imperial powers; one day Spanish, the next day English, the next day French or Dutch or American; and so on; sometimes one island divided in two parts, each with a different imperial language.
And the proof of this of course is that one of James’s best and most widely quoted books, was not written about the British West Indies at all. I am referring of to The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Overture and the Saint Domingue Revolution. A book of extraordinary scholarship and erudition; a detailed historical, economic and political analysis of Caribbean society under slavery, of the dynamics of race and class, of imperialism and national liberation, of freedom and self-emancipation. It was one of his earliest books, first published in 1938; and when it was republished in 1963, James added an Appendix. And the title he gave the Appendix was, from ‘Toussaint l’Overture to Fidel Castro’. So you see what I mean! As Dra. Graciela Chaillloux has written: ‘The Cuban Revolution’s recent attainment of power was more than sufficient impetus and reason to re-examine the past century and a half of the history of the Caribbean. From a Marxist perspective, deeply rooted in Caribbean reality, James saw the personalities of Toussaint and Fidel as symbols of the certainty of the revolutionary transformation of Caribbean society’.
Now note carefully what James says about these two revolutionaries and these two revolutions.
Castro's revolution is as much of the twentieth century as Toussaint's was of the eighteenth. But despite the distance of over a century and a half, both are West Indian. The people who made them, the problems and the attempts to solve them, are particularly West Indian, the product of a peculiar origin and a peculiar history. West Indians first became aware of themselves as a people in the Haitian Revolution. Whatever it’s ultimate fate, the Cuban Revolution marks the ultimate stage of a Caribbean quest for national identity. In a scattered series of disparate islands the process consists of a series of uncoordinated periods of drift, punctuated by spurts, leaps and catastrophes. But the inherent movement is clear and strong. (CLR James, Black Jacobins, Appendix).
The inherent movement is clear and strong! The movement of the people; the movement of Caribbean people! Can one doubt that James saw the Caribbean people as one people, a people with an enormous revolutionary potential, divided by language and by water, but linked by historical experience? Can one doubt that he saw the Cuban Revolution and the Haitian Revolution as being inextricably linked, products of the same historical currents, the current of self-emancipation, of “smaddifiction” as the late Rex Nettleford called it , the same currents that feed this annual cultural celebration of the Caribbean self, this Festival del Fuego! And how fitting it is that it should be held here in Santiago de Cuba, cradle of the Cuban Revolution, and just a few hundred kilometres away from Bois Caiman, cradle of the Haitian Revolution!
So when James spoke about Federation of the British West Indies as a historical necessity, we have to put it in context; the Federation would have to serve as a platform towards cooperation across the Pan-Caribbean space; and indeed with the nations of Latin America as well. He says:
‘I have sympathy for those people who think of British Guiana as having a continental destiny. ...There is no reason why British Guiana, placed as it is on the South American Continent, should not be able to form associations of one kind or another with the other two Guianas...(but) ..It can attempt these connections only if it is firmly associated with the West Indian islands, with people who speak the same language, who have more or less the same type of historical experience, who have had the same European association. That is the natural unity. Upon that basis, while on the one hand Jamaica and these others can make their experiments for association with Cuba and Haiti, at that end of the curve, British Guiana can pioneer into these areas at this end... ‘ (CLR James, lecture on Federation, 1958.)
So I wanted to remind you of that point. Now back to Federation.
The rest of this lecture is at: http://www.normangirvan.info/girvan-clrjames-memorial-revised/
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This essay first appeared on Norman Girvan: Caribbean Political Economy.
* Norman Girvan is a professorial research fellow at the Graduate Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.
 ‘smaddifiction’ – to ‘become somebody’; to assert one’s identity, dignity, right to be regarded as a human person equal in every essential respect to every other person.
From ‘how could’ to ‘how should’: The possibility of trilateral cooperation
Recently, there has been an increasing call from the West for a so-called ‘trilateral cooperation’, e.g., West–China–Africa cooperation. I was invited to several conferences, seminars or workshops on the issue, especially on aid, such as ‘China’s emerging global health and foreign aid engagement’, held in Beijing (25 May), the international symposium ‘Styles of foreign assistance’ in Seoul (26–28 May) and China–DAC policy symposium on ‘Economic transformation and poverty reduction: How it happened in China, helping it happen in Africa’ in Beijing (8–9 June). All these workshops are focused on the aid issue. The High-level International Conference on ‘Aid effectiveness’ will be held in Korea in November 2011. There is a doubt on the traditional aid regime and a strong tendency of transforming ‘aid effectiveness’ to ‘development effectiveness’ among developing countries. During this important time, what does the trilateral cooperation indicate? How should China face this new situation? I would like to express my opinion in the case of the China–US–Africa cooperation.
In the workshop co-organised by CSIS-CIIS Conference on ‘China’s emerging global health and foreign aid engagement’, I was assigned to write on the subject ‘How should US and China launch the pilot project in Africa?’ According to the subject-title itself, the presumption is that there is a possibility for US–China cooperation in assistance to Africa. However, to turn that possibility into reality needs a lot of work. The reason is simple: how could two parties discuss an important issue concerning the third party without the third’s knowledge? How could the two parties carry out this kind of cooperation without the third party’s participation at the very beginning? How could we start the cooperation without much understanding, let alone agreement, of each other’s concept of the issue?
The conventional experience indicates that the starting point of cooperation is to understand each other first. What is the concept and principle of cooperation or aid? What is the history of cooperation or aid between one and the other? What are the forms of cooperation and aid? Only by knowing each other – and by acknowledging the difference and similarity of bilateral cooperation – can the trilateral cooperation be smoothly carried out and achieve a better result.
This article intends to provide some background knowledge of China–Africa medical cooperation. The argument is that only by settling the issue of ‘how could’ can we start to get down to the business of ‘how should’. It is divided into five parts: concepts and principles of China–Africa relations; the history of China–Africa medical cooperation; forms of cooperation; key questions regarding trilateral cooperation; and the steps to launch the so-called ‘pilot project’.
CONCEPTS AND PRINCIPLES
The concepts and principles are the basis for China–Africa cooperation. First, how should we look at Africa, in a positive view or negative view? If we take a historical perspective, we will find that Africa is not a backward continent. Rather, it has made a great progress since independence. I would like to name just a few things, namely, integration, human rights, border wars and nation-building. We notice that the African Union is now making some progress and Africa is the only continent that gives one voice regarding the big issues in international affairs. As for human rights, Africa has produced its own female ministers, a UN chair, Nobel Prize winners and even presidents in only about 50 years, which other continents can hardly compete with. Compared with many border wars in modern history in the European continent, there have been much fewer border wars in Africa, which is more impressive considering that the border is mainly the product of imperialist participation or colonial occupation. Nation-building is another great achievement. Modern nation-building is a difficult process for any nation. There are problems in the continent for sure, yet for many African nations it goes rather smoothly.
Secondly, the relationship between China and Africa is equal, which is quite unique considering that equality has never been mentioned in the international arena. China has never used the concept of ‘donor-recipient’ to describe China–Africa relations, with ‘partner’ used instead. China believes that assistance is not unilateral, but mutual. The status of China and Africa is equal, not a relation of superior and inferior. Although the relation is strategic, it is equal and friendly. Both China and Africa appreciate each other and cooperate with each other. It is noticeable that the ‘donor-recipient’ notion reflects a philanthropic idea; the donor has a condescending attitude while the recipient is humble and obedient. With a ‘if-you-don’t-I-will’ attitude, donors are unable to take ‘recipients’ as their equal partners. On the contrary, they always want to be a ‘preacher’ and usually threaten to withdraw the aid if they are not satisfied with what happens in the recipient countries. Therefore, no matter what aid they offer, they are not appreciated by the recipients owing to their arrogant manner.
Thirdly, China takes Africa as a promising rather than ‘hopeless continent’. This attitude can be tested from the Chinese investment in Africa in recent years. According to Western media, ‘Luanda is changing fast. A few years after the end of a devastating civil war, cranes are crowding the skyline of Angola’s capital… Last year Angola’s economy grew by an estimated 15.5%, the fastest on the continent … the rest of Africa has also been doing well: a recent report by OECD estimates that Africa’s economy grew by almost 5% last year, and is expected to do even better this year and next… Is Africa, often dubbed the hopeless continent, finally taking off?’ We can also notice recent published facts:
- Rwanda is this year’s top reformer, the first sub-Saharan African country to be named top reformer
- The growth rate of construction is 128 per cent in emerging economies, with Nigeria at the top
- From 2000 to 2008, GDP (gross domestic product) in Africa has an average increase of 4.9 per cent, occupying third place in fastest-growing parts of the world.
With various advantages such as human resources, natural resources and cultural heritage, why should Africa be poor and hopeless?
The principles guiding China–Africa relations can be summarised as equality and mutual respect, bilateralism and co-development, no-political strings attached and non-interference of domestic affairs, and stress on the capability of self-reliance.
As early as 1963–64, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai put forward the Eight Principles of Development Assistance: 1) aid should not be considered as a unilateral grant, but mutual help; 2) neither conditions nor privileges should be attached to the aid; 3) to reduce the burden of the recipient countries, a no-interest or low-interest loan can prolong the time limit if necessary; 4) the purpose of aid is to help recipient countries develop independently; 5) to increase the income of recipient countries, the programmes should produce quicker results with less investment; 6) China would provide the best equipments and materials for the recipient countries, and promise to change them if the quality is not as good as the agreement permits; 7) to guarantee the recipient countries to master the relevant technology when technical assistance is provided; and 8) experts from China should never enjoy any privileges and should receive the same treatment as the local experts in recipient countries. If we carefully analyse these principles, it is quite obvious that they are a kind of obligation and discipline on China’s side, e.g., what China should do and what the Chinese should avoid. The first principle is very important, guiding China–Africa cooperation for decades.
The best example of this development assistance is the building of the Tanzania–Zambia Railway (TAZARA), ‘one of the lasting monuments to its former presence’. China helped Tanzania and Zambia build the railway of 1,860km for US$500 million during 1968–86 with about 30,000 to 50,000 Chinese involved (64 people died). As Jamie Monson points out: ‘… the Chinese had articulated their own vision of development assistance in Africa throughout the Eight Principles of Development Assistance … these principles reflected China’s efforts to distinguish its approach to African development from those of the United States and the Soviet Union. Several of these principles had direct application to the TAZARA project.’
After the 12th party congress, the Chinese Communist Party started its new policy of development assistance. During his visit to Africa in 1982, Zhao Zhiyang put forward four principles regarding China–Africa economic cooperation, e.g., equal bilateralism, stress on effectiveness, various forms and common development. Although equality is a principle in Western ideology as well as an important content in the humanitarian tradition, there is never mention of this principle in international relations. China and Africa have similar historical experiences, and they both cherish the value of mutual respect and the sense of equality. State–state relations are like person–person relations; only equality and mutual respect can endure any difficulties. After the Canadian oil firm Talisman decided to sell its interest in a Sudan consortium that also involved Chinese and Malaysian firms, the China National Petroleum Corporation wanted to purchase the interest, but Khartoum turned down the Chinese offer and awarded the shares to an Indian firm instead. The deal by no means troubled relations between China and Sudan, which shows that China and Sudan are equal partners, and they each make decisions to guard their national interests independently. As Mkumbwa Ally, deputy managing editor of Tanzania Standard Newspapers stated: ‘The cooperation between China and Africa including Tanzania is based on mutual-benefit, that's not the “Power matters the most” policy by some western countries but the way to cooperate with others.’
No-political strings and non-interference in domestic affairs has been another important principle of China’s diplomacy since the 1950s. China and African countries have similar colonial experiences and they put great emphasis on national sovereignty. In order to make a good decision, China always refers to the UN and the African Union’s stand. What’s more, international affairs show clearly that external interference can seldom settle the problem but instead worsens the situation. As Deborah Brautigum observed recently, ‘Where the West regularly changes its development advice, programs, and approach in Africa … China does not claim it knows what Africa must do to develop. China has argued that it was wrong to impose political and economic conditionality in exchange for aid, and that countries should be free to find their own pathway out of poverty. Mainstream economists in the West today are also questioning the value of many of the conditions imposed on aid over the past few decades.’
China’s assistance policy also puts the stress on self-reliance. This is an experience from China’s own development. With help from China, Sudan has turned from being a net oil importer to an oil exporter. Recent collaboration between China and Nigeria to launch a communications satellite, NigSat I, is a groundbreaking project where China has provided much of the technology necessary for launch and on-orbit service and even the training of Nigerian command and control operators. While Nigeria acquired satellite technology, China also gained from the collaboration by burnishing its credentials as a reliable player in the international commercial satellite market.
Western aid does not work properly, a fact which was pointed out by New York University Professor William Easterly’s work ‘White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good’, and ex-World Bank employee Robert Calderisi’s book ‘The Trouble With Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working’. Dambisa Moya, a Zambian scholar who also worked for the World Bank, published a book entitled ‘Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa’, criticises the aid regime severely. She termed aid as a ‘silent killer of growth’ and made the statement, ‘Africa’s development impasse demands a new level of consciousness, a greater degree of innovation, and a generous dose of honesty about what works and what does not as far as development is concerned. And one thins is for sure, depending on aid has not worked.’ She called for a stop of aid, and she used a chapter entitled ‘The Chinese are our Friends’ to praise China’s way of development assistance to Africa.
Though China’s aid to Africa is not as large as that of the West, why is it workable? The reason, in my opinion, can be attributed to China’s foreign assistance philosophy, which regards partner countries as equal and believes assistance should be mutually beneficial. China and Africa have both been colonised or semi-colonised, experiences that have provided them with similar norms of conducting international relations: mutual respect and an equal footing.
HISTORY OF CHINA’S MEDICAL COOPERATION IN AFRICA
Generally speaking, China–Africa medical cooperation started from 1962. In July 1962, after the victory of the liberation movement and the withdrawal of French medical staff, the Algerian government called on the international community for medical assistance. The Chinese government received the message through two channels, the Red Cross and the Algerian minister of health. In January 1963, China was the first to express its willingness to provide medical assistance to Algeria, marking the beginning for China to provide medical aid other countries. Since then, Hubei Province has been in charge of the dispatch of the Chinese Medical Team (CMT) to Algeria. Up to 2006, Hubei had sent out more than 3,000 medical personnel/times (p/t) to Algeria and Lesotho. The latter started to receive CMT in 1997.
CMT is dispatched on the basis of one province for one or more African countries. During the 1960s, seven medical teams were sent to six African countries – Somalia, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea and two to Tanzania, Zanzibar and Tanganyika respectively. During their visit to Algeria, Premier Zhou Enlai and Vice-Premier Chen Yi met the CMT members there as an encouragement. The assistance was rewarded with great support from African countries, especially in the occasion of UN Assembly in 1972, when 26 African countries voted yes to the revival of the legitimate status of PRC (People’s Republic of China) in the UN.
For the past 48 years, China has implemented cooperation with Africa, dispatching CMT to provide free medical service. Together with CMT, China has also offered free facilities and medications, trained African medical personnel and built hospitals in various African countries. Unique in international relations, the practice of CMT aroused interest from abroad. David H. Shinn, the former US ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, once commented that ‘Chinese teams offer an array of medical specialties in addition to traditional medicine. The most recent team of 27 to arrive in Mauritania included specialists in scanning, orthopaedics, epidemiology, gynaecology, surgery, ophthalmology, water chemistry, bacteriology, and virology. They often serve in rural areas, something that many African doctors do with great reluctance.’
Entering the 21st century, China has strengthened its international medical cooperation with Africa. Since 2002, more than 40 agreements were signed. Up to 2010, China has sent 21,000 CMT p/t to 69 countries – most of them are in Africa and have served 210 million patients. According to a source from the Ministry of Health, by the end of 2010 China had sent a total of 17,000 medical workers since the dispatch of the first CMT to Africa, and the total cases treated reached 200 million. Besides CMT, the China–Africa cooperation is expressed in other fields, such as the provision of medication and medical facilities, running training courses and training African medical specialists in China. Most important, China started to set up anti-malaria centres in African countries, as promised by President Hu at the 2006 summit.
As medical cooperation is concerned, CMT has contributed a great deal to the service of Africans, the improvement of health systems and the raising of the standard of local medical services.
FORMS OF CHINA–AFRICA MEDICAL COOPERATION
China–Africa relations are equal, which is quite unique considering that equality has never been mentioned in the international arena. China has never used ‘donor-recipient’ (a philanthropic idea) to describe China–Africa relations, with ‘partner’ used instead. China believes that assistance is not unilateral, but mutual. Both China and Africa appreciate each other and cooperate with each other. The principles guiding China–Africa relations include equality and mutual respect, bilateralism and co-development, no-political strings attached and non-interference of domestic affairs, and stress on the capability of self-reliance. China–Africa medical cooperation generally includes the following ways.
1. To serve Africans in a Chinese way
To serve the people is the fundamental aim of a public heath system, which Chinese doctors try their best to contribute to. In Algeria, CMT spread its 16 treatment stations to 21 provinces and cities, covering more than 10 medical specialties, and became the biggest and most influential one among CMTs in Africa. The great advantage of CMT is the Chinese traditional medical treatment, especially acupuncture. The reputation of CMT has spread to neighbouring countries. In Mali, while the climate and living conditions cause many cases of rheumatism, arthritis and psoatic strain, acupuncture is the most effective cure for the cases. CMT in Niger treated 57,330 patients, 5,120 by acupuncture and several ministers were treated by Chinese medicine and acupuncture. The same thing occurred in Tunisia, Cameroon, Benin, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Mozambique. In order to praise Chinese medical teams for their service, African governments awarded about 600 CMT members with various medals for their services to humanitarian cause.
2. To improve the local medical system
In order to help improving local public health systems, China has cooperated with African countries in various ways, such as building hospital and medical facilities, providing free medications and transferring Chinese medical techniques. In the Republic of Congo, the hospital for gynaecology and obstetrics was a small one in the 1960s. Now it is the third biggest comprehensive hospital in Brazzaville; it holds 23 Chinese doctors who play a significant role in the hospital. The department or specialty of acupuncture has appeared in Tunisia, Cameroon, Lesotho, Namibia and Madagascar. The cooperation also promoted the institutional innovation in the African medical system. The establishment of the Centre of Acupuncture and the department of acupuncture in Biserta Hospital in Tunisia is an example. The course on acupuncture started at universities in various countries, such as Conakry University in Guinea, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique and Madagascar State Public Health School.
3. To help raise local medical standards
Chinese doctors have also tried to transfer medical techniques to local doctors. When Prime Minister Zhou Enlai visited Zanzibar in 1965, he told CMT there: ‘CMT will sooner or later return back home. We should train Zanzibar doctors and help them to work independently. Therefore to leave a medical team which would never go away … Our assistance is to make the country able to stand up. Just like to build a bridge, so you can cross the river, and without a staff. That would be good.’ CMT usually help local doctors by offering free lectures, training courses and operation-teaching. In Tanzania, in order to train local medical staff to learn acupuncture, CMT members used their own body for the local doctors to practice, directly teaching them to grasp the technique. By this way, they trained a large number of medical specialists. CMT also made the best use of local media to publicise medical knowledge. In Algeria, CMT held more than 20 training courses, more than 30 lectures and trained more than 300 personnel, who have become the backbone of local medical institutions. Liberia suffered from war for a long time, resulting in many patients. CMT’s service was noticed by David Shinn, the US former ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. He said: ‘China received praise in Liberia for its medical teams because they prioritise the transfer of knowledge and technology. They sent specialists and general practitioners, who upgraded and built the professional skills of local heath workers. In the case of war-torn Liberia, this is a critical medical need.’
4. To fight against malaria in Africa
China adopted several measures such as CMT, training programmes, anti-malaria projects, free facilities and drugs, and anti-malaria centres. Anti-malaria is a major task for CMT, who usually distribute free medications to patients. Cotecxin, the most effective anti-malaria drug produced in China, and acupuncture have won a great reputation in Africa. In certain areas, life habits and the abuse of medication cause serious disease. In Mali, malaria is very common and people have to take Quinine for treatment and many people suffer from limb hemiplegia caused by the overuse of Quinine. Chinese acupuncture experts cured the cases by silver needle. CMT also compiled booklets for training of local medical workers. China holds training programmes at home and in Africa to provide anti-malaria training for African specialists and officials. In 2002 Jiangsu Center for Verminosis Control and Prevention (JCVCP) was designated as a base for international assistance. Since then, the centre has run six programmes for African medical staffs and officials, offering training to 169 officials and special technicians from 43 countries. In 2003, two anti-malaria programmes ran in Madagascar, Kenya and Cameroon to train medical staffs from 35 African countries, to carry out the anti-malaria project is another way. In Moheli island of Comoros, villages are seriously affected by malaria. In 2007, a joint project started between Moheli island and Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (GUTCM) in China. To combat against malaria, the drug is of vital importance. When a delegation of senior African government officials visited a Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company in 2005, they called on Chinese companies to set up branches in Africa for medicine production. DihydroArtemisinin, or ‘Cotecxin’, was first developed by Beijing Holley-Cotec in 1993. It was approved by the WHO (World Health Organisation) as an effective anti-malaria drug. In 1996, the Ministry of Health designated Cotecxin as the required medicine for CMT. It is also chosen many times as aid materials to Africa, either by the government or pharmaceutical companies. Another important measure is the setting-up of anti-malaria centres in Africa, a direct result of the 2006 summit.
5. Other forms of medical cooperation
Besides the above-mentioned forms, there are others as well. China is now one of the countries to dispatch soldiers to join the UN peace-keeping force in Africa. Some of the Chinese soldiers are medical doctors. Chinese civil society also takes an active part in medical cooperation with Africa. For example, the ‘China-African Brightness Action’ is a project carried out by multilateral efforts. As the news media reported, the African initiative is part of the Journeys Bring Light Programme of the National Organisation for the Prevention of Blindness and Beijing Tongren Hospital, financed by companies such as Hainan Airlines in 2010, while the second one was co-organised in March 2011 by the National Committee of Blindness Prevention (NCBP), China Association for Promoting Democracy, the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), HNA Group Co., Ltd, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction (Group) and Beijing Tongren Hospital.
QUESTIONS CONCERNING POSSIBLE TRILATERAL COOPERATION
Before we move to the next step, we have to ask three key questions concerning the essence of cooperation and aid.
QUESTION ONE: SHOULD WE PROVIDE OUR HELP TO AFRICAN COUNTRIES WITH CONDITIONS?
As we know, the US has its own policy regarding its relations with Africa. Different from China’s above-mentioned concepts and principles, the US put a great emphasis on conditionality in terms of aid. For example, in order to contribute to global development, the US Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC) offers financial aid to developing countries with certain conditions. There are selection criteria, which include 17 indicators. Only those countries which can meet the criteria are qualified to receive aid. I sometimes ask my American colleagues, ‘If any country can meet your conditions, does it need aid any more?’ If the criteria are the pre-conditions, the cooperation can hardly go on to next step.
QUESTION TWO: CAN WE DECIDE THE ISSUE FOR AFRICANS?
On 3 May this year, three of my graduate students went to the International Poverty Reduction Centre in China last month to attend a seminar on ‘To promote African development through agriculture and social protection’, given by officials and experts from the US government, USAID and British consultant agency. Four topics covered different aspects of African food security, hunger and development, and guarantee of the provision of food in the future. Two of my students are Africans. Although the content was interesting, two of my African graduates complained when they were talking about their assistance to Africa that there was no African present except the two of them. This situation is by no means particular. I have attended some of the workshops with the same peculiar characteristic: talking about important African issues without Africans’ participation. Can we decide the issue for others? That is the key question.
QUESTION THREE: CAN WE DECIDE WHAT AFRICANS NEED?
The other days, two officials from the Department of West Asia and Africa of Ministry of Commerce visited our centre and we discussed China–Africa relations. One of them, Mr Chen, told me a story offered by a World Bank official who exchanged views with the Ministry of Commerce. The World Bank official asked the official of the ministry, ‘Do you know why you Chinese are more successful in the aid issue?’ The answer was negative. Then the World Bank official explained. ‘Let me tell you why. It’s just because we know what aid we can provide in Africa while you don’t know. Since you are not clear, you ask the Africans about this and they told you what they exactly need. That is the reason you are more successful.’ Can we decide what others need? This is another key question.
These three questions bring us back to the concrete issue: how could the US and China launch a pilot project in Africa without Africans’ knowledge and participation?
We really have to answer the three key questions first before starting anything else. If the answers to the three questions are no, then we can move on to discuss the following steps. Frankly speaking, without African involvement and participation, any trilateral cooperation or agenda concerning African would become a political show or a joke.
HOW SHOULD WE START TRILATERAL COOPERATION
With rapid economic growth in China, cooperation between China and Africa is also strengthened. Chinese officials promised to expand medical cooperation with developing countries, including those in Africa in various occasions. The US has a long history of aid to Africa and now it has also speeded up its engagement in Africa, including medical aid. There exists the possibility for cooperation.
What I suggest here are the following steps.
First, to reach an agreement in understanding ‘cooperation’ in the Chinese term, or ‘aid’ in the American term, is of vital importance in the cooperation process. As mentioned above, China has its own philosophy of cooperation, and so does the US. In China, the cooperation is no-conditional strings attached, while the US has about 17 requirements in their MCC aid project. What should both sides do in the cooperation in terms of different philosophy? My African students have expressed some doubt on the issue. ‘China and the US are totally different on the issue, so how could they cooperate in Africa?’ Can we solve this problem first?
Second, there would be a need to choose a proper project once the agreement is reached. There are countless projects undergoing in Africa; some are successful and some not. Some are beneficial towards ordinary Africans, some not necessarily so. In my view, ‘Bring brightness to Africa’ (cataract extraction) might be a good one, since it is a popular one and can directly serve ordinary people. Just think in Malawi alone there are 70,000 people blinded by cataracts! What is more, Chinese doctors have some good experiences and have done this successfully twice in African countries.
Third, choose an African country as a partner. Since China and the US have different views on many issues, they have accordingly different relations with African countries. On the whole, China has fairly good relations with all African countries except the few without diplomatic relations with China. The African country should be one which keeps good relations with both. Only first requested and then agreed by the country, the pilot project can get started. Otherwise, no project can be successful without the host country’s cooperation.
Fourth, who should be responsible for and get involved in the pilot project? There are several ways to do this. Under the government’s guidance, the ministry in charge of the medical issues or cooperation takes the responsibility in organising and performing the project. This is a government’s sponsored project. The second way is that NGOs or GNGOs could take charge of this and decide the issue step by step. The government could sponsor an NGO or GNGO to carry out the project. The third way may be a good way to start once we have settled the ‘how could’ issue. What I suggest is the third one, with both the government’s efforts and civil society’s participation combined.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Li Anshan is a professor at the Centre for African Studies, Peking University, China.
* Li is a contributor to 'Chinese and African Perspectives on China in Africa', published by Pambazuka Press.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 It is common knowledge that women in Europe won universal suffrage after a long-time struggle in modern history. Women got their right for election in 1918 in Germany, 1928 in Great Britain, 1945 in France, 1946 in Italy and 1948 in Belgium.
 For border wars during the modern time in Europe, see T.C.W. Blanning (ed), ‘The Nineteenth Century: Europe, 1789–1914’, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000; Stefan Berger (ed), ‘A Companion to Nineteenth -Century Europe: 1789-1914’, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
 According to a Russian Africanist, 44 per cent of borders in Africa were determined by latitude and longitude, 30 per cent by geometrical methods and only 26 per cent by natural border lines such as mountains, rivers and lakes.
 For example, after more than 80 years of independence, the US undertook a civil war to prevent the secession of the nation, resulting in about 620,000 soldiers’ deaths (Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic Suffering: Death and American Civil War, New York, 2008).
 The Economist, 24 June 2006.
 Jamie Monson, ‘African freedom railway: How a Chinese development project changed lives and livelihoods in Tanzania’, Indiana University Press, 2008, p.148.
 Deborah Brautigam, ‘Dragon’s Gift: The real story of China in Africa’, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 308.
 ‘China launched satellite for Nigeria’, Xinhua News Agency, 14 May 2007.
 ‘Chinese medical team went to Algeria’, People’s Daily, 7 April 1963.
 Ambassador David H. Shinn, ‘Africa, China and health care’, in AISA, no.s 3 and 4, October–December 2006, pp. 14–16. See also Drew Thompson, ‘China’s soft power in Africa: From the “Beijing Consensus” to health diplomacy’, China Brief, 2005, 5 (21), pp. 1–4.
 Foreign Aid Division of the Ministry of Commerce, ‘Providing sincere and selfless assistance to promote the construction of a harmonious world’, China Economic and Trade Herald, 2010, issue 15.
 ‘China commits to expanding medical aid in Africa’, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90776/90883/7288562.html
 Jiangsu Provincial Health Bureau (ed), ‘Glorious Footprint: In Memory of Fortieth Annivesary of Jiangsu Province to Dispatch Medical Team Abroad’, Nanjing: Jiangsu Science and Technology Press, 2004, p. 3.
 Ambassador David H. Shinn, ‘Africa, China and Health Care,’ Inside AISA, Number 3 & 4 (October/December, 2006), p.15.
 For a more detailed history, see Li Anshan, ‘Chinese Medical Cooperation in Africa: With special emphasis on the medical teams and anti-malaria campaign’, Uppsala: Nordic African Institute, 2011.
 Huang Yiming, ‘Seeing eye to eye’, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/life/2010-12/08/content_11668467.htm; ‘2011 China–Africa Brightness Action' Launched in Beijing’, http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/110318/cn67615.html?.v=1
 For MCC indicators, see http://www.mcc.gov/pages/selection/indicators
First ever African road convoy to Gaza
South African Relief Agency (SARA)
An open letter to Jacob Zuma
Unemployed People’s Movement
Dear Mr. President
On the 14th of July you will be awarded the freedom of Grahamstown by the Makana Municipality. Raglan Road, which runs up through the township, its shacks and broken down RDP houses, will be renamed Dr. Jacob Zuma Road. We have been told that the budget for the ceremony will be R250 000. We know that in reality it will cost more than this but the Municipality are refusing to give us all the documentation that would allow us to see the real cost of this ceremony.
The Makana Municipality is a failed Municipality. The needs of the people are not met, corruption is rampant and authoritarianism is worsening. Twenty thousand people remain without homes. When homes are built they fall down in the first storm. When a wall collapses people are given a plastic sheet to hang up. People go for months without water. Unemployment is at 60%. Activists are arrested on trumped up charges and given unconstitutional bail conditions that ban them from political activity. The thugs of the ANC Youth League close down meetings that they can’t control. A whole generation of youth live without hope.
Your presidency is a failed presidency. Under your authority the ANC has become, from top to bottom, very little more than a way for the politically connected and the politically loyal to feed off the public purse via access to the state. The state has become a site of patronage and self enrichment and not a tool for development. Democracy is being rapidly curtailed. The media are under serious attack, protesters are being murdered by the police in broad daylight and movements like Landless People’s Movement and Abahlali baseMjondolo, as well as local structures like the Makause Development Forum, are under open attack by the ANC with the support of the police. There is no vision for the homeless, the unemployed and the raped. The party is divided and an aggressive right wing demagoguery has taken centre stage.
A failed municipality wants to give the freedom of Grahamstown to a failed president. This is a farce. It is an insult to us. Every time we walk down Dr. Jacob Zuma road this insult will be repeated. It is unbelievable that liberation has ended in this fiasco. It is unbelievable that the unemployed and the homeless will be expected to celebrate this insult. Of course those who are looking for jobs and tenders will be in the front dancing and singing when you are given the freedom of Grahamstown. But when they lie in their beds at night they will know that by doing what they need to do for themselves and their families they are undermining the struggle of the people – a struggle that stretches back to battle led by Makana himself.
You will be given the key to Grahamstown while many of us do not even have a key to a falling down, leaking and tiny RDP house. The local politicians will herd people without water, electricity, homes, decent education, work or a decent livelihood and the freedom to organise independently to the streets to celebrate the award of your freedom of this town. The unfree will be expected to celebrate your award of the freedom of this town.
We will not be joining the celebration. If your government had brought us decent homes, jobs and schools we would gladly welcome you to our town. If you had brought us a deepening of democracy that gave us the opportunity to shift to a bottom up system we would welcome you to our town. But the reality is that there is nothing to celebrate and we will not be exploited by our councillors as they try to bring themselves closer to money and power while continuing to fail the people. We will not celebrate our own oppression.
The reception for you after the ceremony will be held at the monument to the 1820 Settlers. This monument is an insult to us. It is there to celebrate invasion, dispossession and occupation - a process that has left us shivering in the shacks of Grahamstown. We have previously called for it to be used to house the shack dwellers of Grahamstown. If you were a people's President you would not set foot into this monument to settler colonialism in a town ringed with shacks.
We thought seriously of organising a protest against this celebration. We thought of covering the streets that your cavalcade will come down with shit from our buckets. We thought of creating a human chain across Raglan Road. But we know that that the police and the army will be there in full force. They are already all over town. We don't want more Andries Tatanes. Therefore we have decided to meet you with ideas, with this open letter.
We will continue our struggle to win our own freedom – our freedom from poverty, our freedom from political repression. We invite all those who share our concerns about the failures of the Makana Municipality and the failures of the Zuma regime to join us in this struggle to turn a colonial town into a people's town in which there is freedom from poverty, land and housing, water and electricity, work or an income for all, decent schools and full freedom to write, speak, and organise without fear.
The Unemployed People's Movement, Grahamstown
Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462
Xola Mali 072 299 5253
Swazi political prisoner Maxwell Dlamini suffers stroke, denied treatment
Student leader and Swazi political prisoner Maxwell Dlamini has suffered what his family described as a possible mild stroke yesterday but was apparently denied proper treatment.
"Maxwell asked for permission to seek medical assistance for the condition he is in now. He said he felt pain in his left shoulder, after which he could not use the lower part of his left arm. He wants to get medical help outside prison because he does not believe he will receive proper medical attention there. We want to take him to a private doctor to ensure that our son gets satisfactory medical attention. We will speak to our lawyer to see how we can do that," Maxwell’s father, Nimrod Dlamini, told The Times of Swaziland after having visited his son yesterday.
According to a source from Swaziland’s democratic movement, Maxwell had informed the prison authorities about his illness, but was denied treatment. A representative from the Zakhele Remand Centre, where Maxwell is held, stated that Maxwell would be offered treatment, however, although he claimed to have been unaware of Maxwell’s illness.
The democratic movement have insisted that Maxwell Dlamini’s trial date should be set without further delay as they suspected that Maxwell’s illness was due to stress caused by the uncertainty surrounding his case and his treatment by Swazi police and prison authorities.
Maxwell Dlamini was pre-emptively detained and allegedly tortured by Swazi police before the April 12 uprising in Swaziland, where the Swazi regime violently clamped down on demonstrators and detained the entire leadership of the Swazi democratic movement.
Maxwell Dlamini has, together with his fellow accused Musa Ngubeni, been forced to sign a statement admitting possession of explosives and denied bail on several occasions. Maxwell has also been denied the right to sit his exams at the university of Swaziland where he is a student, and the Swazi authorities have done their utmost to obstruct their lawyer, Mandla Mkhwanazi.
The charges against Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Mgubeni of being in possession of explosives, and thus contravening Sections 8 and 9 of Swaziland’s Explosives Act 4 of 1961, have been described as preposterous by several members of the democratic movement in Swaziland, as well as by unions and solidarity organisations around the world, and Amnesty International has urged Swaziland to ensure their safety.
A new nation: New nationalism and freedom with empowering peace
Independence Day statement
Southern Sudan Civil Society Taskforce (SSCSTF)
July 8th 2011
We congratulate the President of the Republic and Chairman of the National Congress Party (NCP), Field Marshall Omer Hassan El Beshir for his decision to honour, accept the results of the Referendum and to recognize the Independence of South Sudan. We also congratulate, First Vice-President of the Republic, President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), General Salva Kiir Mayardit for guiding and accepting the will of the people of South Sudan. We congratulate the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and the South Sudan Referendum Bureau for their dedication to the task of organizing a peaceful, fair and credible referendum that has led to this historic event. We congratulate the people of South Sudan for exercising a peaceful, orderly and successful referendum leading to the birth of the New Nation.
We would like to thank our partners throughout the world for their prayer and support as well as the international community for their concern over the plight of the people of South Sudan. We pay tribute to the late Dr John Garang de Mabior, and the fallen heroes and heroines he led, for their contribution leading to the Independence of South Sudan.
As we recall the long and heroic struggle for justice, freedom, equality and dignity, we also contemplate what lies ahead post-independence in terms of peace, development and security which amounts to an enormous task. The 50 years of civil war left over two million people dead and more than three million displaced. Negotiations led to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, which included provision for a referendum on independence for the Southerners. The referendum was held in January 9th 2011, in which the people of southern Sudan established to the world through a peaceful, fair, free and transparent process that they have opted to secede from the north. This was demonstrated through a landslide victory of 99.57% for an independent South Sudan.
We commend the efforts of the every citizen of this nation, its friends, international community and civil society networks, that made great contributions in advocating for a peaceful transition to independence. These great works are a pointer to the fact that the South Sudanese are determined to be the leaders in the change they believe in. As we continue to advocate for a genuine national healing process and the building of trust and confidence in our society through all inclusive participation, we are constantly determined to be part of the process of laying the foundation for a united, peaceful and prosperous society based on justice, equality, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
We would like to use this opportunity to reinstate our support to government in establishing a decentralized democratic multi-party system of governance in which power shall be peacefully transferred and values of human dignity and equal rights upheld.
We fully appreciate the complexity of South Sudan in ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural, regional, socio-economical, gender, lifestyle and physical terms. We therefore do not pretend that there is a single South Sudan that would meet the expectation and aspiration of every South Sudanese. We are proud of our own vision for the nation and at the same time respect those of others.
We see the differences in preferences and opinion of how this country should move forward as both inevitable and desirable – inevitable because we are free to choose; and desirable because we have plenty alternatives to consider. Diversity and dissent in public opinion are beautiful signs of real independence.
Political violence which dominated the last two decades in Sudan refers to actions that aim to achieve certain political goals by causing harm to others or subduing them with violence. This must not be confused with legitimate exercise of freedom of speech, assembly and association where violence is not preached, threatened and executed.
More than violation of peace, political violence is exploitation of the marginalized and outnumbered. It deprives the victims of political violence their right to participate in public affairs.
In this regard, peace associated with fear that inhibits us from full participation in public affairs is but pseudo peace. True peace must be empowering and inclusive to allow all South Sudanese to contribute to and enjoy life in the new nation. True peace requires rule of law and protection of human rights.
A range of challenges present themselves within this new nation. Aside from the issues of governance and poor service delivery, the most serious is the seemingly unending internal conflicts. Hence, we call upon every South Sudanese citizen and organization, especially the politicians and political parties, to sign up to the following principles:
1. ZERO TOLERANCE FOR VIOLENCE AS A POLITICAL MEANS AND TO ENSURE THAT ELECTED GOVERNMENTS ARE UPHELD.
We call on all citizens of the Republic of South Sudan to exhibit Zero tolerance for violence as a political means and that elected Governments are upheld. We further urge the new government to use consultation and dialogue as a means of resolving conflicts. Civilized life requires restrain and self-control. Conflicts should be solved through dialogues, deliberation, debates or litigation. There must be zero tolerance for the use, threat or incitement of violence as a political means, regardless of circumstances or subject matters. The threat of political violence is greatest when political elites resort to means other than elections to attain power. Democracy is the only guarantee for political stability and peace. Politicians and political parties must therefore do their best to win elections honestly, not usurping power after elections. Otherwise, democratic breakdown may lead to coups or revolutions.
2. ZERO TOLERANCE TO TRIBALISM, NEPOTISM AND CORRUPTION
We call on South Sudanese people to reject tribalism, nepotism and corruption. The
government and its citizens should put in place policies and laws that discourage their
Tribalism exists in every society and can only be effectively eliminated by reason, not law. Corruption and nepotism are affected by tribalism. Corruption is more than bribery or embezzlement of funds; it includes abuse of power or authority for private gain. The appointment of people to positions based on family or clan or other ties is also corruption; appointments to all positions should be based on merit.
3. PROTECT FREE EXPRESSION AND ASSOCIATION AND PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
We call on the Republic of South Sudan and all her citizens to demonstrate its commitment to civil and political rights and freedoms. The new government should make a bold step and publicly affirm the government’s commitment to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including membership in any political party The state which monopolizes the legitimate use of violence should exist only to protect citizens from private violence, not to inflict violence. The state’s coercive power therefore must never be used against peaceful political activities. Instead, the state has the duty to protect political participation. The new nation should also end the arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists, activists, and political opponents to the ruling SPLM. Release detainees or charge them with a recognizable criminal offense. Republic of South Sudan should enact media laws that guarantee freedom of expression and media freedom in accordance with internationally accepted standards. Enact a law that establishes the state controlled media as an independent public broadcast authority.
4. TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND INCLUSIVITY
We call upon the all citizens and the Republic of South Sudan to make a collective responsibility in ensuring that public resources, Revenues from Natural Resources, Aid money. Donations and grants are effectively managed to the benefit of all citizens. We further urge the new government to involve its citizens in all decision it’s making processes.
One of the biggest challenges that faced GOSS in the CPA era was the management of public resources and revenues from natural resources. GoSS was faced with criticism on public expenditure and corruption that led to loss of millions of dollars that would have been used to improve or provide basic services. Further more natural resource-related issues have been significant drivers of conflict and instability in Sudan. Unequal access to the country’s natural resource wealth has frequently been central to the marginalization of Sudan’s peripheral regions. This means that the Republic of South Sudan should put in place robust measures/means to ensure transparency, accountability and an all inclusive process in decision making processes. We call on the Republic of South Sudan to effectively manage foreign Aid monies,donations,grants and revenues accruing from its vast natural resources especially Oil and gas to extend a sustained reliable basic services to its citizens.
5. PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND GIRLS
The new government should declare zero tolerance for sexual and gender based
violence and develop a national strategy to address the problem.
We call on the Republic of South Sudan to demonstrate commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls by publicly declaring zero tolerance for early and forced marriage and develop a national strategy to address the problem. Republic of South Sudan should straight away ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), and use them as guidance in drafting the new Constitution and other laws to promote gender equality.
The new nation must accelerate programs to educate men, women and children as well as traditional authorities about the legal rights of women and girls under Sudanese and international laws applicable in South Sudan. The Ministry of Gender and Social Affairs should have adequate resources for such promotion and protection activities.
6. VIOLENCE IN ABYEI AND SOUTH KORDOFAN
We ask the parties to the CPA to respect and protect human rights in the two regions. We particularly ask the government of Khartoum to stop the killings, rape and dropping of bombs to the civilian communities in Kordofan. We call on the two parties to stick to the Addis Ababa Accord.
We call upon the two peace partners, the NCP and SPLM, and other parties to expeditiously work on the pending issues notably the issue of Abyei, the North-South border, and to bring the popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan States to their logical conclusions. But even while we await the process, the citizens in these two regions have a right to life and access to all necessary basic services that both parties must guarantee.
Other pending issues that need to be agreed upon include the issue of citizenship, Sudan’s foreign debt, and oil.
Thank you and we wish all citizens a happy and Peaceful Independence Day.
Signed On Date; _____________8th July 2011_________________
Sudan Democratic Election and Monitoring Program
Institute for Promotion of Civil Society
South Sudan Law Society
South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy
Equatoria Relief and Development Association
National NGO Forum
Skills for South Sudan
Agency for Independent Media
Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference
Southern Sudan Action Network on Small Arms
Sudanese Network for Democratic Elections (SUNDE)
Episcopal Church of Sudan
South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms
New Sudanese Indigenous Organization-Network
Sign on letter to the UN: The right to water and sanitation
To sign the letter, please send the name of your organization as you would wish it to appear on the letter, including country, no later than July 26th to [email@example.com]Shayda Naficy[/url] from Corporate Accountability International.
Also, please consider submitting a 5 sentence case study for the backgrounder highlighting challenges or model solutions for fulfilling the human right to water and sanitation to Jeffrey Astrein via email to highlight your local struggle.
To: United Nations Member States, United Nations Functionaries and Agencies:
President of the General Assembly, Amb. Joseph Deiss
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
CC: Specialized UN Agencies on Water
Special Rapporteur, Catarina de Albuquerque
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Human Rights Council Members
From: the Undersigned
Re: Review of the UN & Water on the Year Anniversary of the UNGA Recognition of the Human Right to Water & Sanitation
Esteemed President of the General Assembly, UN functionaries, and State
We are writing to express our great appreciation for the gains the United Nations has made in furthering the human right to water, and to highlight some of the progress and challenges to advancing that right.
It has now been one year since the historic General Assembly Resolution 64/292 recognized the right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. That resolution called on States and international organizations to supply the financial and other assistance needed to enable all countries, especially developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible, and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. Since then, there have been a number of important positive developments including the Human Rights Council’s reaffirmation of the right to water, and the appointment and extension of mandate for the Special Rapporteur (formerly Independent Expert) on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque. Ms Albuquerque’s searching and methodical work on the human right to water represents a major avenue for deepening our understanding of what it takes to realize the human right to water.
At the same time, there are many challenges before us, and some growing trends that are troubling. Many factors continue to deprive millions worldwide of clean water and sanitation, among them: inadequate governance structures and oversight of water and sanitation; lack of public investment in water and sewer infrastructure; contamination, overuse, and appropriation of water by industry, especially chemical-intensive agriculture; scarcity and inequity of access; poverty and unaffordable charges for water services.
In the midst of this dire situation, corporations have been hard at work to ensure that global action to address the water crisis does not impinge on their profits. To shape the global response, transnational corporations have promoted themselves as key partners in a range of incomplete or misleading solutions marketed to governments and inter-governmental institutions worldwide. These include supposed solutions for addressing climate change that actually further compromise the right to water in rural areas, especially among indigenous communities.
Notably, corporations are shaping the global response to the world water crisis by inserting themselves into UN activities as financiers, collaborators, experts, advisors, and participants. Through these means, transnational corporations have gained unprecedented access and influence over the UN at the same time that their activities frequently lead to human rights abuses on a very large scale. Today, the overwhelming focus of international organizations like the UN and World Bank on “partnerships” with the private sector is failing to provide for basic water and sanitation needs, especially in developing countries and rural areas where the need for investment is great. Furthermore, these corporate-promoted partnerships overlook the danger of growing corporate control over water, the inadequacy of pay-to-play responses, and the need to strengthen governments in order to ensure proper water governance.
Thus, we commend the Human Rights Council for establishing a new mandate, the Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, which promises to study and promote effective means of accountability for the human rights abuses of transnational corporations. As part of its work, we ask that the Working Group consider the impacts of transnational corporations on the human right to water and sanitation. Likewise, we commend the work of the Joint Inspection Unit in evaluating the efficacy and impact of increasing UN-corporate partnerships. We call on the UN leadership to ensure that the Joint Inspection Unit’s assessments result in concrete recommendations to safeguard against undue corporate influence on the UN and its activities. This must be done to ensure that the water agenda is not co-opted by the few against the many.
Yet, more must be done to ensure that the water agenda is not co-opted by the few against the many. We call on the UN to openly assess the impacts of corporate collaborations and safeguard against corporate influence on the UN and its activities.
Country governments play the key role in managing water resources, but they are seriously in need of support from international organizations, including the UN, to increase their capacity to fulfill the human right to water, exercise adequate oversight, and ensure that all people have access to safe, affordable water. We must be mindful of the importance of building government capacity – independent of industry – for long-term, macro oversight and planning to ensure sustainability and healthy ecosystems. In turn, we call on governments to revise national and local law to reflect international recognition of the human right to water and prioritize developing national plans for fulfilling the right to water and sanitation.
Governments and the United Nations should also advance this right through their participation in international collaborations including COP17 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2011 and the Rio + 20 Conference in June 2012. As in other international policy-making arena, governments and inter-governmental organizations should take care to safeguard against and limit corporate influence in these spaces as well.
The United Nations has a tremendously important role to play in coordinating global and local efforts to address the world water crisis, and formulating best practices. Governments worldwide have the crucial role of ensuring that the human right to water and sanitation is fulfilled. We call on both the UN and State representatives to provide essential support for realizing this right by acting on our recommendations, one year after the right was resoundingly recognized by governments of the world.
Thank you for your action on these important matters.
Corporate Accountability International, USA & Colombia
Alliance for Democracy USA
Council of Canadians, Canada
Blue Planet Project, Canada
Food and Water Watch, USA
Coalición de Organizaciones Mexicanas por el Derecho al Agua, Mexico
Swarna Hansa Foundation, Sri Lanka
Not having doesn’t equate to not being
H. Nanjala Nyabola
‘Tiny, emaciated children with wrinkled skin hanging off their bones, rib cages jutting out, bulbous eyes gazing out forlornly, flies covering their faces – the-all-too-familiar face of African hunger’ – BBC News
At some point in my lifetime I sincerely hope that aid agencies will develop a system of asking for assistance that does not involve dehumanising African people, especially children. Newspapers across the UK are this week replete with images of hungry African children in various states of undress as part of a campaign to raise funds to assist those suffering from the drought in East Africa. Pictures of black babies struggling to hold on to life may shock Europeans and North Americans into opening their wallets, but I wonder if I am the only African for whom they represent an insidious and unintentional but no less distressing exploitation, not to mention a source of great shame over my government’s failures – but that’s another article.
For now, even conceding that it is necessary to show the extent of the catastrophe in order to push people to give, there has to be a way that dignity does not have to be compromised in the name of supposed generosity. For instance, there’s a law in the UK that explicitly prohibits television cameras from showing pictures of minors without the explicit permission of their parents or guardians. Whenever such images are required for a report, they are pixelated or blurred out, or the children and vulnerable people filmed out of shot. All of these measures are designed to avoid exposing vulnerable groups to undue harm by having their person permanently associated with negative phenomena in the public imagination.
Do such laws exist in African countries especially? Or rather, shouldn’t they be applied in European or North American countries to protect African minors from such exploitation as well? Do journalists offer the parents of these children the choice to either consent or decline the use of their images? What do the parents get from the journalists in exchange for the stories? If journalists are ethically bound not to offer goods or material assistance in exchange for the use of images or information in a story, then why can’t the same ethics prevent them from using these images in the first place? What is implied by this awful double standard about the way we think about or value African humanity?
What about the impact of branding places where people have to carve out an existence ‘hell’? If we associate places like Somalia, Ethiopia or Northern Kenya – places where people have to live, love, eat, sleep and drink just like the rest of us – with such heavy handed imagery are we not condemning them to the very fate that we are criticising or observing? Without diminishing the extent of the struggles endured by vulnerable communities in these regions, especially during droughts like the kinds we are experiencing now, doesn’t it debase the communities in question if we ‘otherise’ their environment, brand it unfit for human habitation and then spend 10 minutes wondering how ‘these people’ manage? Aren’t we implying that they are either endowed with a magical durability or that they lack that positive quality that makes it impossible for us to inhabit the same spaces?
I understand the need to emphasise the sense of urgency in times of crisis like the current drought in East Africa but it is already well documented that such images only serve to desensitise target audiences to the genuine plight of vulnerable communities. The CNN effect may have changed the way people react to crisis and conflict since Rwanda but it has also meant that images have to be more extreme and disturbing in order to prompt a reaction from the audience. Where’s the line? If a naked and suffering child, full face in view can be plastered across various media formats in the name of charity, where next?
Suffering doesn’t negate humanity. There is still dignity in poverty and in struggle, and not having does not equate to not being. Surely there is room in the humanitarian community or their sympathisers for humanity; to treat those who are most in need for protection with the same respect that we would expect to be treated with ourselves. Altruism is about charity in the manner in which we use in common parlance, but charity in the biblical sense, i.e. seeing value in other people and ‘doing unto others…’ and if our generosity can only be secured by such insidious dehumanisation then it says more about the state of our hearts than the lives of those we hope to help.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The trouble with the Caine Prize
The Caine Prize has a new winner. From the press release at the Caine website:
‘Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo has won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for her short story entitled ‘Hitting Budapest’, from The Boston Review, Vol 35, no. 6 - Nov/Dec 2010.
‘The Chair of Judges, award-winning author Hisham Matar, announced NoViolet Bulawayo as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held this evening (Monday 11 July) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
‘Hisham Matar said: "The language of ‘Hitting Budapest’ crackles. Here we encounter Darling, Bastard, Chipo, Godknows, Stina and Sbho, a gang reminiscent of Clockwork Orange. But these are children, poor and violated and hungry. This is a story with moral power and weight, it has the artistry to refrain from moral commentary. NoViolet Bulawayo is a writer who takes delight in language.’
Hisham Mattar, writer of the amazing In the Country of Men that I just finished last week, said that? Well, that's another story. You can read my review of the story here.
One of the most depressing things about being from an African country, and I suspect it is the same for being from any post-colonial society, is the need to seek validation abroad or by Western standards. You can be the best writer ever, but if a bunch of white guys in academies don't see it, you're not. This applies to disciplines outside of literature as well. It's really as simple as that.
That is what is so extraordinary about the Caine Prize. Folks call it the "African Booker Prize", and with the mantle of premier African literary award comes the weight that The Booker, The Pushcart, The Pen or any other literary award doesn't have - the burden of representation, of validation, of choosing by dint of one's position the face of and state of African literary scene.
If you so much as scroll through the blog, you would see my reviews of each of the five stories that made up the shortlist for the prize. I tried not to absolutely skewer things in reviews (unless, of course, it's really that abominably bad), but as a whole I'm agree with Ikhide Ikheloa from 234Next on the quality of this year's shortlist:
‘The good news is that the Caine Prize is here to stay. The bad news is that someone is going to win the Caine Prize this year. This is a shame; having read the stories on the shortlist, I conclude that a successful African writer must be clinically depressed, chronicling in excruciating detail every open sore of Africa. Apologies to Wole Soyinka. The creation of a prize for “African writing” may have created the unintended effect of breeding writers willing to stereotype Africa for glory.
‘The mostly lazy, predictable stories that made the 2011 shortlist celebrate orthodoxy and mediocrity. They are a riot of exhausted clichés even as ancient conflicts and anxieties fade into the past tense: huts, moons, rapes, wars, and poverty. The monotony of misery simply overwhelms the reader. Fiammetta Rocco, the Economist’s literary editor who chaired last year’s judges, crows that the stories are “uniquely powerful.” The stories are uniquely wretched. The chair of this year’s judges Hisham Matar declares presumptuously that the stories “represent a portrait of today’s African short story: its wit and intelligence, its concerns and preoccupations.” Really? Is this the sum total of our experience, this humourless, tasteless canvas of shiftless Stepin Fetchit suffering?’
I hope to goodness that this applies only to this years, but judging from Olufemi Terry's Stickfighting Days, pathetic stories seem to be their thing. Emmanuel Iduma, publisher of Saraba Magazine, responded to Ikheloa's comments, which seemed to cause quite the firestorm on the internet and, I hear from someone present, was even talked about in the discussion part of a Caine Prize event that happened in London today:
‘I believe what is more important is the objective of the story. I assume it is unhelpful to draw a line on what a writer’s process/objective is by his story. Granted, critics do this continuously – yet in the final analysis if we can define a “grand” objective of “the story” we can go past these questions of stories that dance to a Western tune. And what is the West, anyway? And what is even human? So our grand objective must transcend western lines, become human, and take a more particularized stance. Can this grand objective be grasped? I propose that memory, fraternity and essence are merged, so that every writer, of whatever African descent, plugs his narrative into this fusion. Hopefully.’
Knowing my own writing process and how much is involved, I'm wont to agree with Iduma. I'm not willing to be cynical enough to say that these writers are, as Ikheloa says, "willing to stereotype [Africa] for glory". I have no idea what led NoViolet Bulawayo to write the story she did, chockful of such familiar tropes on woe-is-me African literature (IMF street? Really??) And I should say here that this is what annoys me the most about the counter-argument to this brand of literature. Writing about Africa does not absolve one from writing well, and bringing complex characters to life, and, indeed, having a plot and creating a believable world for a reader from which (s)he can take away something of value. It really does not.
Writers write. Readers have opinions. It's really that simple. One has a right to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and churn out just whatever (s)he pleases. I certainly did not like Hitting Budapest, a plotless story that does not seem to have a point beyond "these kids are poor and live squalidly and you should pity them", but I do not really care about Bulawayo; she can write whatever she wants. I'm madder at the Caine Prize for seeming to favor stories of a particular strain, the ones that are less about characters and the network of trip-wires that make up their humanity and more about flattening characters to render them tools to make a political point, and absolving them from the basic responsibilities that come with writing a good story. I'm madder at them for not asking for complexity, and buying into an oversimplified narrative of Africa - poverty, war, disease, starving/fighting children -- just like most Western media does. I'm madder at the Caine for saying that this collection of stories is the best they could get out of Africa. I'm mad because I and so many people out there know that that is not true.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article first appeared on Method to the Madness.
* Saratu Abiola is politics editor at Nigerians Talk.
Verbal vendetta: Cameroon’s contradictions
Review of ‘Paradise of Idiots’ by Peter Wuteh Vakunta
David T. Scheler
In his imaginative new volume titled ‘Paradise of Idiots’, Peter Vakunta sets the stage for a verbal vendetta with a bittersweet tribute to his fatherland, Cameroon. The oxymoronic title of the book speaks for itself. It shows us what the poet perceives as the paradoxical idiocy of those at the helm, and underscores his point of view through a careful choice of words that shine a searchlight on the root causes of schisms within the social fabric. Using staccato lines for emphasis, the poet depicts a post-colony in the throes of disintegration – anglophone and francophone cultures at loggerheads, entangled in tribal feuds while self-appointed government officials muffle the voices of dissent, and placate the populace with hollow promises of terrestrial bliss.
Taking the form of a long poem, ‘Paradise of Idiots’ is the portrait of a Cameroonian polity divided as much by petty squabbles and language barriers as it is by the Mungo river. It is a lament of a son-of-the-soil whose heart throbs for his homeland. It is also a clarion call in which the poet summons his compatriots to come together and work in tandem for a hopeful future, to seek and find a centre, to salvage Cameroon before it goes up in smoke. Sadly, Vakunta comes through as a lone voice in the wilderness, as these lines suggest: ‘Basking in oxymoronic solace / of mediocrity, ineptitude and lethal myopia / Self-styled ‘People’s Representatives’ / Metamorphosed nitwits / Chatter like demented hoodlums / In the Ngoa-Ekelle Glass House…’ (1). Elsewhere, he calls for reason: ‘… in a wilderness of irrationality / confined to solitude in the bowels / of a home-grown Guantanamo’ (4).
‘Paradise of Idiots’ is clearly a poem about identity crisis, as the following will affirm:
‘I don’t quite know who I am / Je ne sais pas au juste qui je suis / Some call me Anglo / D’autres m’appellent Froggie / I still don’t know who I am / Je ne sais toujours pas qui je suis’ (7). Vakunta deepens his depiction of the pervasive identity confusion in Cameroon by switching codes in his didactic barrage: ‘Do we really need English de toute façon? / Le Cameroun c’est le Cameroun, no be so? / Le chien aboie et la caravane pass, I di tell you! / I’ll fight to my last breath / To create a real lingo for myself / I’ll speak Français / Je parlerai English / Together we can speak Camfranglais / We’ll speak Camerounais / Because here nous sommes tous chez nous…’ (8). ‘He who has ears’ the poet continues, ‘should hear! / HEAR THE ANTHEM OF NATIONAL SCHIZOPHRENIA / I will not speak français at home / Je ne parlerai point French on the school grounds / I will not speak French with my copains….’ (8). This rather bizarre ‘anthem’ appears to be the result of a synthetic importation of French and Anglo hegemonies.
Vakunta goes on with a scathing, visceral reminder to his intended audience – the people of Cameroon – of their most basic human commonality, and what he sees as the insanity of the current divisiveness in the society: ‘In the same boat we all are’ he states, ‘The same fate awaits us all / As one man is born, so is the Other / As one man dies, so dies the Other / All of us breathe the same air / The same red blood runs through our veins / We defecate in the same way / And urinate in like manner… / No man has an edge/ On account of pigmentation/ Or color of the eye / We are all equal’ (28–9).
The poet’s philosophical musings are pregnant with meaning throughout the poem. His concern about the future of his country is clearly reflected in his address to ‘the children’ of Cameroon, particularly when he utters the following admonitions: ‘Beware,’ he begins, ‘of matricide / Don’t kill Mama Kamerun! / Can you hear me now? / Under her skin lies her beauty / In her roots, her being, her soul / Her essence, her skin / With shades erratic / Height ever changing / Her hair, curly, and long … She stands / Kind / Humane / She is Loving, Beautiful / Generous’ (18). ‘Paradise of Idiots’ is also a satirical take on governmental ineptitude. Incisive lines lambast the powers-that-be for electoral gerrymandering: ‘Benefiting from the privilege / Of incumbency the powers-that-be / Make a mockery of the ballot / Ballot boxes filled by conmen with / Counterfeit ballot papers prior to voting day / Ghost polling stations sprout up hither and thither / In palaces of Fons, Chiefs and Lamidos’ (6). The poet goes on to bemoan the tragic fate of whistle-blowers in the wake of rigged elections: ‘Vulgar oligarchic minions’, he notes, ‘Inebriated by the blood of innocent souls / Fermenting in mass graves in Mbalmayo / The heart land of nihilism / A stew-pot replete with / Cadavers of adversaries’ / [walk freely in] ‘Streets awash with the blood of / Slaughtered unarmed citizens!’ (14)
Vakunta’s rhetoric often foregrounds the ambivalent promises repeated again and again by politicians in a bid to inveigle voters: ‘BIDONS VIDES… / EMPTY VESSELS… / Faites confiance aux élus du peuple / Have confidence in the elected leaders / Vos routes seront goudronnées d’ici peu dans les limites de nos moyens / Your roads will soon be tarred / If the resources are available… Tous les hôpitaux seront / approvisionnés en médicaments / Dans les limites du possible / All your hospitals will have all the necessary supplies / If we can afford it / Chose promise, chose due / A promise is a debt / Rassurez-vous / Rest assured…’ (11–12). Deriding what he perceives as the hypocrisy of the incumbent, the poet chuckles: ‘In mock atonement / Clasped in the arms of the infamous troika– /Tribalism, cronyism, nepotism / These are maggots / Gnawing at the fabric / Of an unimpressive edifice’ (16).
Yet ‘Paradise of Idiots’ is not all gloom; the poet offers a glimmer of optimism for his beloved compatriots as he summons all and sundry to a truth and reconciliation conference: ‘It’s time to lay the ghosts / Of divisive contraptions to eternal rest / And join hands in unison / Together we’ll see the world / Through a crystal clear prism’ (16). In an attempt to resolve the national question, Vakunta offers both a hope and a caveat: ‘Her worth and wealth / To citizens and denizens without discrimination … She blindly gives and gives / And gives even more / Allowing her soul and worth / To be read and shared like an open book’ (19). He then uses this glimmer of optimism to revert to the current reality: ‘Selfish visitors endeavor to seize her entity / Her home, her gifts, her land, HER PROPERTY! She yearns for your tender embrace / Attention! / Screaming! / Alone as prey to pleasing others / She forgot to please herself’ (19).
Addressing those on the ascent to a better life in this ironic paradise, whose stock-in-trade are cronyism and a skewed educational system, the poet wonders aloud: ‘How do you feel brandishing a degree / You earned through sexual intercourse? / You’ve thrown pride of academia to the dogs / And rendered yourself / Prisoner of your own make-believe’ (26). The wave of chaos and corruption then rises once more to the surface, with a terse and pulsating barrage of interrogatives: ‘The endemic poverty that / Has become our bedfellow / How long… How long… How long… / Shall we not give a damn to / The fact that our roads are death-tracks / How long … Shall we pretend not to see / The siphoning of our natural resources / By erstwhile colonial masters? / How long… / shall we look the other way / When our schools are in a state of disrepair? / How long shall we not speak up against doctors / Who ‘butcher’ patients in our dilapidated hospitals / Devoid of medical supplies? / Is our nation infected with leprosy? / Are we moral lepers?’ (39).
In sum, ‘Paradise of Idiots’ accomplishes precisely what its author set out to do: sound a wake-up call to Cameroonians at home and in the diaspora as a caveat against the dangers inherent in sitting on the fence. By titling his volume as he does, Vakunta makes a declaration as rich and complex as it is varied in implications. Reflecting recognisable influences from another Cameroonian poet, Francis Wache in his ‘Lament of a Mother’, this book is unique – from the powerful dualities of its language to the universality of its concerns. It is a long poem that will be enjoyed by many (Cameroonians in particular), as one is confronted by the past as though it were a renaissance of historical occurrences in a powerful poetic whole. Vakunta’s attention to diction, semantic precision and evocative play on words, on intellect and on human emotion has resulted in an exceptionally scintillating version of the political/poetic art form. Vakunta intends his poem to serve not only as a wake-up call for Cameroon, but as a vituperative universal admonishment for all members of the world’s community, admonishing them to wake up and to confront what needs to happen if the new global culture is to survive. This book is worth the read.
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* Peter Wuteh Vakunta, ‘Paradise of Idiots’, AuthorHouse, 2010, 84 pp., cloth, $15.99, ISBN: 978-1452008017.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The fiasco of political machinations
Review of Christopher Mlalazi's ‘Cell 4072’
The holy scriptures inform us towards the twilight episode of creation: ‘...God said, let us make man in our own image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea...’ and before God took a rest from His creative work He reflected on creation, ‘…and God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good...’ Gen 1v26, 31(AKJV). Man in his original state was no doubt perfect and mirrored the glory of God.
Over time in the Garden of Eden, man degenerated into something imperfect and corruptible, marking the beginning of the great controversy between God and Satan. In short, the misery man finds himself in today is a product of the sin committed by his forefathers in biblical times, but redemption came with the death of Christ.
The man Chris Mlalazi writes about has shamed the beauty and splendour he was adorned with by the Creator and has redefined his own self-image. I follow with fanaticism as this prolific playwright and writer employs his creative writing skills to demonstrate the extent to which man has transformed himself into a horrendous and fearful creature, redefining his environment and that of his fellow human beings in sheer disregard of commonly held societal and moral values.
In one of my expeditions through the valleys of creative writings, I came across an interesting review of Chris Mlalazi’s ‘Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township’, by Barbra Mhangami. In the review she noted that throughout his stories, Mlalazi depicts a mean spiritedness and a lack of conscience in most of his characters so that when she was done with the book, she felt a little queasy. His short story collection can also be seen as a reflection of the long suffering and the struggles Zimbabwean people living in a disintegrating society, characterised by land invasions, shortage of foodstuffs, collapsing health delivery system, breakdown of law and order, economic meltdown, soaring relations with international community leading to global isolation and loss of cultural values that define us as Zimbabweans, had to endure. I will not be persuaded to review the whole anthological package but rather would pay tribute to ‘Election Day’, where Chris laughs at the fiasco of political machinations happening in the country and invites his readers to join in the laughter at the stupidity of it all. I’m focusing on this short story for the sole reason that it has a bearing on the one I earmarked for review in the preceding paragraphs.
In his short story entitled ‘Cell 4072’, Mlalazi takes his readers through a historical journey travelled by revolutionary nationalist leaders in their quest for independence. Those familiar with the decolonisation of Africa would agree prior to that historical aeon, indigenous people were treated with contempt by the colonial regimes. Legal instruments calculated to create disparities in areas of political participation, economic opportunities and socio-cultural status were enacted and vigorously enforced. As the black people became conscious of their situation they formed political parties whose ideologies were crafted around the need to remove the colonial government by whatever means possible and reclaim their right to self-determination.
The colonial government’s response was the systematic arrest and detention of revolutionary leaders, as a way to crush the spirit of the revolution. Chris portrays those developments in the scene where Jeridan is arrested: ‘...Black colonial regime’s secret police in the year 10000... had handcuffed him, threw a hood over his heard, and bundled him into a grey van.’ And his compatriot, Brother, ‘... a firebrand critic of the regime who did not mince words had been whisked away from his Ragana congregation one snowy Sunday morning and bundled into a grey closed van.’ The manner in which these two were apprehended reflects insensitivity by colonisers to the feelings of the colonised.
In the story being reviewed, Chris presents a pre-independence scenario where his audience is allowed to dig deeper into our historical heritage and draw similarities and contrasts between the past and the present. As a shallow minded former History student, I know my past informs the present and also helps to predict the future, but the feeling I get from my reading of ‘Election Day’ and ‘Cell 4072’ is that a thin line exist to separate the past from the present at least as my reality counts, it’s only a change of personalities and cronies in power.
Long after independence it is quite disturbing that the general masses who were the pivot of revolutionary struggles are still subject to the very laws deemed oppressive, repressive, burdensome, and draconian during the colonial era. That reminds me of a peasant farmer I had seen scratching the barren ground under the scorching heat during the year when food shortages were experienced in our country. I had felt happy that the old man still had hope of better days, but it was also poignant for me as the incident happened at a time the country witnessed a political combat for the control of food distribution, which in my view was done along partisan lines.
Mlalazi sets and for the most part confines his story, covering a period of 30 years, in a single cramped cell that houses his main characters, Jeridan and Brother, but his ability to keep his readers entertained and captivated is so amazing. Perhaps having grown up in a politically tumultuous country much of what he conveys in his anthologies is more informed by his environment. There is no doubt that in a situation that required him to choose between military engagement and diplomacy, Chris would go for the latter. This can be discerned from the conversation between occupants of Cell 4072 who despite having been behind bars for 30 years had not lost their sense of humour and distaste for loss of lives and shedding of blood. This is captured in the scene where Jeridan asserts: ‘…so many lives and so much blood wasted where the word could have amicably resolved things for everyone.’
It is disquieting to note that, despite the ruthless colonial experiences, Africa our motherland is still preoccupied and obsessed with colossal blood-shedding as a way of settling dissenting opinions. A wave of protests experienced by the continent in the 21st Century has had a big telling that as Africans we are not yet ready to accept opposing views in harmony.
As the winds of change swept across Africa, business cartels saw an opportunity to create synergies and collaborations with influential nationalist leaders who were by this time still detained in colonial prisons for various political activities. The visit to prison by Sir Londi, a representative of an international business cartel, to make his business proposition to Jeridan should not have come at a better time than that. This is shown in the scene where Londi says, ‘…the wind of change is at last blowing over Europe, Jeridan, and we can’t ignore them.’ While business cartels saw business opportunities coming with the winds of change; indigenous people saw political emancipation, deliverance from colonial bondage, emerging economic opportunities, social transformation and so on. Mlalazi shows a compelling force behind change, it was both irresistible and inevitable, and all awaited it with a positive frame of mind.
The night of Londi’s visit had some of these changes written all over Cell 4072 and this is portrayed in the scene where Jeridan and Brother ‘...dined on a four course meal that would have shamed the famous cuisine of the internationally revered Table Mountain Hotel in Cape Town, the capital of the United States of Africa, and washed down with a bottle of vintage courtesy of the jail Superintendent.’ The benefactors of the colonial regime correctly read the changes in the political atmosphere and realigned themselves according to the changing political climate obtaining in Europe during that time.
In colonial prisons, bringing beer into the cell was an offence that carried a stiff penalty as beer was considered contraband. The irony here is the superintendent was the defender and custodian of the law that governed the operations of the correctional institution, but here he was breaking the very regulations he was mandated to enforce – which meant under the existing laws he should have been charged. But established friendly relations with the prospective presidential candidate on his side, the force of the colonial regime was most likely to deal with him harshly but once in power the independent white majority government was indubitably going to handle his case with kid gloves.
Having been in close contact with the operations of a modern prison system, I am deeply impressed by the degree of precision with which Chris portrays life behind bars. Being incarcerated means loss of freedoms, loss of autonomy, loss of initiative and loss of rights. Beating and battering of inmates are not allowed in principle but reality has seen it in action as a corrective measure. And at times grave crimes warranting prosecutions are committed against inmates by prison warders. Incisively, Chris examines the ugly face of imprisonment in the scene where Brother lost his tooth: ‘...he had swallowed it during a beating in the torture chambers.’ One might be prompted to say the scenario portrayed reflects the colonial prison system – but believe you me, such a system continues in contemporary correctional services.
If this is indeed true, then the current prisons/correctional system are one of the vestiges of the colonial periods requiring transformation and or reformation. Despite widespread condemnation of human rights abuses in correctional institutions, United Nations member countries have continued to plug their ears with sealing wax, subjecting offenders to inhuman or degrading treatment and depriving them of basic necessities of life such as medication, access to clean water, blankets and proper accommodation among other things, in sheer disregard to the promulgation of the United Nation’s Minimum Standards Rules for the Treatment of Offenders. Jeridan and his colleague, Brother, were not spared from such treatment hence the statement, ‘…we have suffered together for so many years in this cell in the hands of the black man.’
Against the backdrop of some politicians in postcolonial nations who have ruled for extensive terms of office, Chris Mlalazi employs his creative work to scoff and laugh at those political leaders who have clung to power for a long a time, even though age has taken its toll on them, and the people have weighed in and denounced their rule or misrule. This is well captured in the scene where Jeridan, realising his frailty says, ‘I am going to step down after a few years and give it to somebody else younger than me to carry on with the work of national rebuilding. I am an old man now and I don’t think I will be able to withstand the pressure that goes with such appointments.’ I get the understanding that no forms of coercion should be applied to make one realise that he/she is no longer serving the best interest of others and it’s high time to pave way for another person who is more energetic and responsive to communal needs.
The decision for an early exit is approved by Brother who says such an action would be a ‘mark of a great man...Even Imperialist Africa will revere your name, for you would have broken a record-[since] no leader from formerly colonised country in White Europe has ever done that-all stick to power until they collapse at state house from old age, and often employ dirty and ruthless tactics to remain in power.’ Though it might appear he is trying to present his readers with a political circus with which to exercise their lungs, Chris is sincerely mocking the tendency of some leaders who have stuck to their throne much to the detriment of genuine national interest.
In spite of having suffered so much in the hands of the colonial regime, Jeridan seems not to have allowed the spirit of vengeance to creep into his mind and cloud his judgement, for he was prepared to make peace with himself first and with those who had persecuted him. In the conversation between Jeridan and Brother, the former says, ‘And I shall let them keep everything...after all, they are not to blame for the sins of their forefathers.’
Whether or not Jeridan’s statements were influenced by his prior conversation with Londi, I’m not sure. What is apparent, however, is that there is a paradigm shift in his thought processes something akin to true or genuine repentance. Chris is here preaching the gospel of reconciliation to those in or aspiring for higher political office – after all what would it profit a man to win his kingdom but fail to bind it together in love?
Londi seemed to have been eloquent enough in his speech to convince Jeridan that the business cartel he represented had the capacity to transform his life into a blissful and prosperous one, should he agree to embrace and endorse their proposals. This is derived in the scene where Londi says to Jeridan, ‘...just look at you, you are now an old man Jeridan, and if you play ball with us, we shall create you into a demigod, and you shall be worshipped internationally and of course, you shall not lack in anything.’ The offer is presented in such a sweet voice and language that Jeridan finds it irresistible – but before the acceptance of his proposals Londi had said, ‘And if you refuse, you are not walking out of this jail alive...’ In the field of diplomacy we call this a ‘stick and carrot’ approach and Jeridan correctly read the consequences of turning down the offer hence his was a positive response and he had shaken Londi’s hand as a sign of approval. In all the cited quotations, Chris uses his characters to refute the commonly held rhetoric that what politicians do while in office is for the common good. He raises a barrage of questions, look who wll play ball with the business cartel? Who will be made a demigod? Who will be worshipped internationally? Who will not lack in anything? The answer to all these questions is Jeridan, the potential presidential candidate for a vibrant revolutionary political party contesting for political space in a sphere dominated by Imperial Blacks.
Chris Mlalazi joins a bandwagon of playwrights and writers who have used their creative writing skills to document some of the social injustices brought to bear by the masses in postcolonial nations in Africa. Frantz Fanon in his treatise ‘The Wretched of Earth’ gives us an analysis of the psychology of the colonised and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage of colonised peoples and the role of violence in historical change, he also incisively attacks post-independence disenfranchisement of the masses by the elite on one hand, and inter-tribal and inter-faith animosities on the other.
John Eppel and the late Julius Chingono’s ‘Together’ give us a mixture of stories and poems commenting on the often contradictory political process in postcolonial Zimbabwe. For the duo, the outbreak of violence during elections is symptomatic of something more portentous. Taken together, these two men challenge their audience, me included, to reflect on Zimbabwe’s lost decade (2000-2010). One is unflinchingly led to question some of the things that politicians do for political expediency. For instance, it is mind-boggling that an energetic young man can bite his lower lip, roll up the sleeves of his shirt, pick up a machete and ran after a frail old man just because he is related to an opposition supporter or he cast his vote where he preferred.
‘The Crocodile of Zambezi’ by Pen international award winning ‘dissident’ playwrights and writers Raisedon Baya and Chris Mlalazi, though so dark a prose, shed some insights into the ruthlessness or heartlessness man can exhibit in his pursuit of power. The twosome depict a scenario where political clout and statecraft have corrupted the reasoning and judgement of some leaders in Africa, making them insensitive to the needs of the masses, the very people who elected them into office. Ncube W. (1991) tells us that behind the facade of the constitutional democracy system in Zimbabwe lay an authoritarian political system, characterised by the proscription of democratic space, serious violations of basic human rights and the rule of law. In this scenario the creative imagination of playwrights and artists has been woven with what Terrence Ranger calls ‘patriotic narrative’, while creative works critical of the status quo are labelled ‘dissident narrative’. The ‘Crocodile of Zambezi’ which took two years of creative writing and two months of rehearsals was produced in a politically volatile environment just a few weeks before the country’s run-off elections of 27 June 2008. It does not come as a surprise the cast and artists came into contact with the authorities after their first performance.
In the earlier paragraphs I stated that I’m fanatic about Chris Mlalazi but I wouldn’t say why. Now let me revisit that and say the man is admired for his bravery and mastery of mortal combat with challenges besetting his internal environment. You will remember the biblical quotation cited in the beginning of this review. I said man in his original form was perfect and bore a resemblance to God. What the Voice of the Ghetto is attempting to do is to bring man to his sober senses and make him realise the damage he has done to his fellow beings and turn back to his original place in the Garden of Eden where he was resident before the fall.
When one looks at him he sees a missionary with an eternal gospel of love and compassion to preach unto all the corners of the earth before the Second Advent of Christ. It is my strong conviction and fervent hope that Mlalazi will continue dishing his audience with mouthwatering stuff as his environment gives him utterances.
In the spirit of Ubuntu let the fight for social justice and human rights through creative writing begin – after all, the pen is mightier than the sword. For interest’s sake, I would like to make a comparison between the two. On one hand, there is a pen which sheds ink and on the other there is a sword which sheds blood. When writers decide to commit their pens to paper sanity prevails but as soon as the military direct their swords against unarmed civilians insanity and mourning takes over, invoking the instincts of creative writers to respond. At times the sword has been used to silence creative writers and artists critical of government policies perpetuating social injustices and human rights abuses.
Scribes you still have the voice shine on!
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* Read ‘Cell 4702’.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
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Zimbabwe: Election timelines 'unrealistic'
Zimbabwe Election Support Network press statement
'The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) notes with concern the continued disregard of the voice of the people of Zimbabwe as witnessed by the lack of commitment to consult the people in the whole negotiation process. ZESN is of the view that the timelines that have been set are unrealistic and fail to address a number of pertinent concerns that are essential before the country can hold a new election.'
Zimbabwe Election Support Network
Comment on election roadmap timelines
12 July, 2011-Harare - This statement is a response to the timelines set and agreed by the three political parties in GNU for Zimbabwe’s electoral roadmap as reported in the Herald of 7 July, 2011. First and foremost, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) notes with concern the continued disregard of the voice of the people of Zimbabwe as witnessed by the lack of commitment to consult the people in the whole negotiation process.
ZESN is of the view that the timelines that have been set are unrealistic and fail to address a number of pertinent concerns that are essential before the country can hold a new election.
ZESN believes that the 30 days given for voter education and mobilization for voter registration are insufficient as the successful completion of the processes is likely to exceed the set timeline given the many dimensions the processes demand.
ZESN is also concerned with the 60 day timeline given for voter registration and preparation for a new voters’ roll and reckon that the timeline must be increased taking into account the number of existing registered voters in excess of 5 million and those of first time voters that would need to be captured. This is compounded by the proposed Electoral Amendments Bill which seeks set up a polling station based voters’ roll. The proposed system would necessitate the ‘re-registration’ of all existing voters and allocation to specific polling stations. The time allocated for this process should be cognizant of this, to ensure no eligible voters are excluded. The time and resources required for voters to register also needs to be considered so that the process is not too onerous as to discourage citizens from participating.
It is depressing to note that the parties failed to agree on essential reforms that we believe are fundamental to creating an environment suitable for credible, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe in particular the need for enhancing the independence and resourcing of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
ZESN also reiterates the need for security sector reforms as a critical element in paving the way for violence -free election. ZESN is concerned with the fact that security sector reforms remain unresolved yet this is a critical issue on how the elections will be conducted as this will influence its outcome. The early deployment of observers is also essential as it enables them ample time to assess the situation prevailing in the country. ZESN maintains that an innovative combination of election observation methods should be used to ensure scrutiny of the pre-electoral environment by regional and international observers at least three months before and one month after the election as a deterrent to politically motivated or electoral violence. ZESN reiterates the need for legal reforms to ensure that repressive legislation is repealed or amended before the next election. The rejection to amend the Public Order and Security Act is unwelcome especially at a time when there is need to allow more freedoms in regards to public gatherings.
Furthermore the basis and interest of the negotiating political parties are unclear as they seem to have disregarded the ongoing constitution reform process which inevitably will bring a number of changes in the electoral process.
ZESN therefore proposes the following as an alternative to tackling the issue of timeframes in the implementation matrix for the negotiators:
· Timely gazetting of polling stations.
· The determination of a mechanism for the type of voters’ roll and registration methodology to be used and how this will relate to the proposed polling station based system.
· A clear agreed framework and timeframe for registration of both old and new voters and clean-up of the roll.
· The delimitation of constituencies based on outcome of the new constitution and based on accurate voter registration information as well as the finalization of the voters’ roll.
· Voter education and mobilization needs to be a continuous part of the entire process.
· A constitutionally stipulated election period to avoid uncertainty on election dates.
ZESN stresses that the roadmap needs to create an enabling environment for free and fair elections. Setting unrealistic timelines will likely result in another disputed election. The constitution reform process needs to be completed first. The roadmap should promote transparency in all electoral processes and critically deal with issues that have hindered credible elections in the past. SADC needs to take an active role and urge the political parties to commit to the letter and spirit of the roadmap once it has been signed. ZESN emphasises on the need to instil confidence in the electorate and the creation of enabling environment for the holding of credible elections that reflect the will of the people of Zimbabwe. Ends//
PROMOTING DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN ZIMBABWE
FOR COMMENTS AND FURTHER DETAILS CONTACT
ZIMBABWE ELECTION SUPPORT NETWORK
+263 (04) 791 443, 798 193, 791 803, 250 736
firstname.lastname@example.org /email@example.com or visit our website www.zesn.org.zw
Zimbabwe: Three Zimbabwe ministers arrested but later freed
Three Zimbabwean government ministers were briefly detained on Sunday evening (10 July) as tension continues to mount in Harare’s troubled coalition, it was reported. Industry and commerce minister Professor Welshman Ncube, also the leader of the smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was arrested alongside two ministers from his party as they returned from a meeting in Victoria Falls. He was with regional integration minister Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and her national healing and reconciliation counterpart Mr Moses Mzila Ndlovu.
Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF insists on elections before year's end
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's party has renewed its calls for new elections this year, rejecting a timeline that his own negotiators hammered out last week, a state daily reported. 'The politburo is unanimous that elections should be held this year,' Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told the Herald newspaper after the party's top decision-making body met in the capital. On 6 July, negotiators from Mugabe's party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed on a timeline for election preparations which would put the polls in 2012.
South Sudan: What independence means for women
On 9 July 2011 the world witnessed the birth of a nation - South Sudan, Africa’s 54th country. In an interview with UN Women, South Sudan’s Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Agnes Lasuba weighs in on the country’s independence and what it means for women. 'The women of South Sudan played various roles to achieve independence. During war they picked up arms. Others were mobilisers and others were taking care of the wounded, the sick and the elderly. And others were yearning for peace and they took it upon themselves to lobby other people and other countries, so that there could be peace for them and for their children,' says Lasuba in the interview.
Sudan: Born into crisis, violence against Women Continues
Violence against women is rampant, devastating and tolerated in South Sudan and the new country needs to address these gross human rights violations and train people, especially soldiers, to respect women’s rights. This is according to rights activists in the country. 'I have worked with many women and girls who have been abused. They are beaten by their husbands, raped by the rebel soldiers and they suffer in silence,' says Loise Joel, a human rights activist who runs the non-governmental organisation Human Rights for the Vulnerable, in Central Equatorial State in South Sudan.
Africa: 'UN Women Is Creating a New Energy'
While in New York to celebrate the launch of UN Women's flagship biennium publication, 'Progress of the World's Women: In Pursuit of Justice', Botswana's Unity Dow sat down with IPS to discuss the United Nations' newest entity, its landmark report, and the road ahead for women. Dow is a lawyer, human rights activist, and formerly Botswana's first female judge. She has studied both within Africa and abroad, and has authoured five books. She is serving her second term as commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists, and is chairperson of their Executive Committee.
DRC: Working group concerned over latest rape reports
NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security statement
'The NGO Working Group on Women Peace and Security is alarmed at the latest reports by its member organisations and the United Nations of mass rape and other crimes against civilians perpetrated in the Fizi area of South Kivu by troops of the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The NGO Working Group urges the Government of the DRC, the United Nations and Member States to heed the voices of Congolese women, who have repeatedly stressed that such attacks stem from the persistent failure of the DRC authorities to advance equality for women and ensure justice for survivors.'
Global: Strauss-Kahn case illustrates violence against women
The media circus surrounding the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape case dishes out more drama each day, with a side of lurid fascination. But we basically know how the story ends. The narrative of the immigrant housekeeper allegedly assaulted by a European official perfectly illustrates an axiom of violence and power: the wider the gap between genders and races, the greater the latitude of injustice, states this article from www.colorlines.com
Equatorial Guinea: Government must follow through on pledge
The government of Equatorial Guinea’s ratification of the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women is a potentially important step toward gender equality in Equatorial Guinea, but to be meaningful it must be followed by concrete reforms designed to promote and protect the economic, political, and social rights of women, EG Justice said. Equatorial Guinea became the 31st African Union member country to ratify the Protocol, also known as the Maputo Protocol. It guarantees the equal rights of women to political participation, economic and social equality, reproductive rights, and an end to genital mutilation. Despite existing laws intended to forbid domestic violence and defend women’s rights, to date the Equatoguinean government has failed to consistently safeguard and advance the rights of women.
Kenya: Cosmetic surgery for elite, remote from the masses
Surgeons say there are no statistics on cosmetic surgery in Kenya, a country where half the population lives at or below the poverty line. But among higher-earning women here, tummy tucks and breast reductions are on the rise, according to surgeons interviewed for this story. Sue, who declined to give her last name to protect her privacy, is in her 40s and has one child. She says that after years of emotional abuse from her husband, she paid $5,500 to have a tummy tuck and a breast lift to boost her self-esteem.
Africa: New guide on Protocol on Rights of Women in Africa
Equality Now in conjunction with Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) is delighted to announce the release of 'A Guide to Using the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa for Legal Action'. The release of this manual comes five years after the Protocol came into force. 'We hope African lawyers and women’s rights advocates find the manual useful and it gives them hands-on guidance on how best to apply the remarkable standards of the Protocol in cases of violations of women’s rights,' said Faiza Jama Mohamed, Nairobi Office Director of Equality Now, which convenes SOAWR, a coalition of 37 civil society organisations working to ensure that the Women’s Protocol is ratified and implemented across the continent.
South Africa: Apartheid-era plunder to be probed after all
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela anticipates she will have some tough questions for the government once her probe into missing apartheid billions gets under way. This week Madonsela announced she had reversed her initial decision not to investigate allegations that upwards of R26 billion was looted from state coffers via various schemes under apartheid. The allegations originate from a report compiled by a UK-based investigation and asset recovery firm, Ciex, which alleges it was contracted by the government to track billions which were siphoned from the government in the dying years of apartheid.
Uganda: Rebel commander charged in war crimes trial
Uganda opened its first war crimes trial Monday, 11 July charging a commander of the Lord's Resistance Army rebellion blamed for brutal civilian murders during a 20-year war in the north of the country. Thomas Kwoyelo was charged before the International Crimes Division court in the northern town of Gulu with 53 counts of wilful killing, hostage taking, destruction of property and causing injury.
South Africa: Illegally evicted occupiers return to their homes
Having been illegally evicted from a building in Johannesburg’s CBD, several hundred people were able to return to their homes after an urgent hearing at the Johannesburg High Court. The residents had been evicted from their homes without a court order by the City of Johannesburg’s Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and Fire Brigade officials. Hundreds of women and children, including 50 blind people, were locked out of their home by JMPD officers. The officers readily conceded that they had no court order but said that they were 'only following orders'.
Senegal: Hissene Habre's extradition to Chad suspended
Senegal has suspended its plans to forcefully send home Chad's former President Hissene Habre, who has been sentenced to death in his home country, Senegal's foreign minister has said. The move followed an appeal by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay. Ms Pillay had expressed concern that Mr Habre could be tortured in Chad. Mr Habre is blamed for killing and torturing tens of thousands of opponents between 1982 and 1990, charges he denies.
Cote d’Ivoire: Ivorian infighting forces UN refugee relocation
Insecurity and malnutrition among Ivorian refugees in Liberia have forced the UN's refugee agency to relocate hundreds to inland camps. A UNHCR statement this week quoted refugees expressing fear for their lives due to fighting among armed rival gangs and which is affecting the distribution of relief aid. An estimated 2,000 refugees are affected by the relocation from transit centres and villages along the Liberian border with Cote d’Ivoire.
Global: Armed non-State actors and the protection of internally displaced people
Report from expert conference held 23-24 March 2011
'In many countries, IDPs are exposed to violence and to various violations of their rights, either by the State or by armed non-State Actors (ANSAs). ANSAs have various obligations towards IDPs under international law, which can be found in the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols, but also in the Rome Statute and the Kampala Convention, as well as the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (the 'Guiding Principles'). However, the vast majority of violations committed by ANSAs against IDPs and other civilians are perpetrated with impunity, as national governments have lost the monopoly on the use of force and their judicial systems may function poorly.' Visit http://www.genevacall.org/ to download the report.
Kenya: Kenya told to open up new refugee camp
A United Nations agency wants Kenya to open up a new settlement to accommodate refugees who have flocked to the Daadab camp. The head of the UN refugee agency Antonio Guterres was taken aback by the pathetic state of affairs at the camp, one of the word’s largest, when he visited at the weekend. According to UNHCR, the camp initially set up to cater for only 90,000 refugees, has now exceeded the number by nearly five times.
Kenya: Locals feel the strain as refugee numbers soar
About 1,300 Somalis are arriving at the Dadaab refugee camps in northeast Kenya every day. The nutritional state of older children, as well as under fives, is of concern, but the local Kenyan population is faring little better. Outside the camp, the host population is not faring much better. An MSF nutrition assessment showed that the local community was suffering from malnutrition at the same rates as the refugees living in camp outskirts, and people had stopped feeding their animals in order to have enough food for themselves.
Kenya: Minister wants refugees settled outside country
The government wants new refugees settled outside Kenya to ease congestion in existing camps. Internal Security assistant minister Orwa Ojode said Kenya is overwhelmed by the number of people fleeing Somalia, which has escalated in recent months. 'It’s a very heavy burden which we did not budget for. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) can feed them in Somalia since the latest arrivals are not fleeing due to insecurity but lack of food,' he said.
South Africa: SA begins shutting doors to rest of Africa
South Africa has set the stage for the mass deportation of more than one million Zimbabwean immigrants later this month in a move that could alter its status as the world's largest country of refuge. South Africa has been a beacon for asylum seekers due to liberal immigration laws, proximity to African trouble spots and massive economy compared to the rest of the continent that has attracted millions seeking wealth they cannot find at home. About one in five of the 845 800 asylum seekers globally in 2010 sought refuge in South Africa, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
West Africa: Ecowas claims largest refugee numbers
The Economic Community of West African States says that the region has a big chunk of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in Africa. The regional bloc commissioner for human development and gender Adrienne Diop said this at a news conference on the ministerial conference on the implementation of the African Convention on Internally Displaced Persons in West Africa. Out of the 27.5 million people, who were displaced in 2010 in Africa, 11.1 million were from the West African sub-region, Diop said.
West Africa: ECOWAS renews commitment to implementing AU convention on IDPs
ECOWAS Ministers in charge of humanitarian affairs have resolved to set up a Task Force of Government Ministries, relevant partners and civil society to coordinate the implementation of the African Union (AU) Convention on humanitarian assistance and internal displacement in Africa, also known as the Kampala Convention. At the end of their first Ministerial Conference on Humanitarian Assistance and Internal Displacement in West Africa, held 7 July 2011 at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, the ministers also agreed to formulate coherent national IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) policies, legal and institutional frameworks that will fully reflect the content and the spirit of the Kampala Convention.
Egypt: Independent trade unions endorse BDS
Kamal Abu Aita, representative of the Egyptian Independent Union Federation (EIUF) which was recently formed in Tahrir Square during the revolution, has confirmed that the EIUF rejects any attempt to ‘normalise' relations with Israel. In a speech in London to hundreds of activists from the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, Abu Aita also welcomed the formation of the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS) and called on the international trade union movement to join the coalition.
South Africa: Decent work does not cause unemployment
Alternative Information Development Centre statement
'The profiteering of SA’s businesses (enabled by lax compliance with labour law and weak regulation of trade and capital flows) stand in the way of creating decent jobs that can offer the majority of South Africa’s the dignity prescribed in our Constitution. In this context the Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC) supports the struggle of NUMSA and other unions for a living wage. A victory for them will set a better standard for the whole labour market.'
AIDC Statement: Ongoing strikes -Decent work does not cause unemployment
Issued by the Alternative Information Development Centre (www.aidc.org.za).
Media coverage of the ongoing metal workers strike has repeated the claim that 'wages are too high in South Africa and high wages are the primary reason that more jobs cannot be created'.
These reports have consistently ignored the following facts:
FACT 1: WAGES ARE FALLING IN RELATION TO INCREASING PROFITS: The wage share of GDP has been falling since 1999. A larger and larger share of the new value produced by workers is being taken by corporations as profit. In current prices, workers have lost R480bn in wages to profit from 2000 to 2010 (Stats SA, GDP reports). More than half of all workers in SA earn less than R2500 per month, and a third of all workers earn less than R1000 per months, according to the National Planning Commission (NPC) Report.
FACT 2: INCREASED PROFITS DON’T CREATE JOBS! This growth in profits over wages for the past decade has not been creating new jobs. Rather than investing in more production, the corporations have invested in financial speculation and been taking their profits out from SA on a massive scale. “Unrecorded capital flows” out from South Africa the last ten years amounts to from 5 to 20% of GDP, every year.
FACT 3: THE ATTACK ON WAGES IS AN ATTACK ON THE UNEMPLOYED: Media reports have repeated claims that organised workers are preventing the unemployed form gaining work. They do not stop to ask how the unemployed survive from day to day. To a large extent the unemployed live off the income of workers: Government’s National Planning Commission (NPC) Report estimates that every wage earner supports approximately ten dependents.
Based on these facts it is easy to conclude that employers in South Africa can afford higher wages. Paying higher wages would stimulate economic growth and the creation of jobs.
The profiteering of SA’s businesses (enabled by lax compliance with labour law and weak regulation of trade and capital flows) stand in the way of creating decent jobs that can offer the majority of South Africa’s the dignity prescribed in our Constitution.
In this context the Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC) supports the struggle of NUMSA and other unions for a living wage. A victory for them will set a better standard for the whole labour market.
Issued by the Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC). AIDC is a social justice NGO that produces alternative knowledge and publishes the Amandla mgazine (www.amandla.org.za)
For more information or comments, contact Dick Forslund (AIDC Economist):
Cell: 079 912 3372
Tel: 021 447 5770
South Africa: Numsa workers return to work
The violent two-week metalworkers strike has ended, with some workers gaining a 10 per cent wage increase. Eight of the nine National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) regions accepted the offer, bringing an end to a strike that brought a near-total halt to the second-biggest contributor to GDP.
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...
Zambia Lures Vale, Vedanta in $6 Billion Copper-Mine Expansion
Zambia, Africa’s largest copper- mining nation, is set to enter the world’s top five producers as Vale SA, First Quantum Minerals Ltd. and Vedanta Resources Plc lead more than $6 billion of investment in the country’s mines. “If all the planned projects take off, Zambia is expected to overtake Australia and Indonesia to become the fifth-largest copper-producing country in the world by 2013,” Sophie Chung, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie unit Brook Hunt, said yesterday in an e-mail. The country’s “positive” investment climate sets it apart from its neighbors, Brook Hunt said in a separate note.
2. China in Africa
China pledges Africa support in renewables
Beijing is ready to share its green energy successes with Africa, as the world's least developed continent strives to tap into its renewable energy resources, a visiting Chinese minister said in Nairobi on Monday. Speaking at the UN Environment Programme (Unep) headquarters in Nairobi, Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian said the Chinese government was committed to the growth of green energy.
China trains petroleum workers in S Sudan
China has started a welder training course to help South Sudanese master knowledge and techniques relevant to the petroleum industry in which the newly-born nation has a large potential. A total of 30 trainees selected from about 800 applicants are under the vocational training, the first of its kind in South Sudan, and are expected to be backbone workers in the petroleum industry in the future. The project is conducted by the China Engineering and Construction Corporation (CPECC), an affiliate of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), in conjunction with South Sudan's Ministry of Energy and Mining.
Nigeria, China sign Kainji hydro plant modernization contract
The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has signed a contract with Sinohydro Corporation and Harbin Electricity Corporation of China for the rehabilitation of Kainji hydropower station in Nigeria. The contract, valued at $82 million, is scheduled to be completed within 42 months, when the refurbished hydro plant will generate 340 MW, media outlets reported.
Chinese ambassador to Mozambique formally hands over agricultural research centre
China’s Centre for Agricultural Research and Technology Transfer in Mozambique, located in the district of Boane, Maputo province was formally handed over by China’s ambassador to Mozambique to the country’s government, Mozambican daily newspaper Notícias reported. The project cost over US$6 million funded by the Chinese government as part of cooperation between the two countries in the science and technology sector.
China to hold education exhibition in Kenya
China will open a two-day education exhibition on Friday in the Kenyan capital Nairobi to promote local understanding about the Asian country's higher education and attract more Kenyan students to study in China. The exhibition has attracted 122 representatives from 55 famous Chinese colleges and universities, who will make introductions, distribute brochures and answer questions about education in China.
3. India in Africa
Museveni urges Indians to invest in export sector
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has urged the Indian business community in Uganda to invest more in the country, especially in the export sector. He told them that the Government has negotiated regional and international markets and is now levelling the investment field in the country. ‘The Government has negotiated markets of 130 million people in East Africa. South Sudan wants to join; there is COMESA, AGOA, the European Union, Japan and China. So, you will be producing for all these markets,’ he said.
India looking to boost ties with East Africa
India is looking at increasing engagement with different economic groupings in Africa, particularly East Africa, with the emergence of South Sudan over the weekend as an independent nation and indicating a desire to integrate with the East African region. This is also a part of India’s overall strategy to deepen engagement with the mineral- and resource-rich continent. India recognized South Sudan as an independent nation on Saturday, with India’s ambassador to Khartoum A.K. Pandey handing over a letter to newly inaugurated South Sudan President Salva Kiir from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sanjay Singh , secretary, east, in the ministry of external affairs, told reporters over the weekend.
WHO lauds India's effort to combat HIV in Africa, S America
International health organisations today lauded India for providing effective and affordable medicines to combat Meningitis and HIV/AIDS in Africa and South America. Appreciating India's role, the Director General of World Health Organisation, (WHO), Dr Margaret Chan made a particular mention of the supply of medicines at an affordable cost by Indian pharmaceutical companies to help dealing with the outbreak of Meningitis in Africa at the first BRICS Health Ministers conference here.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
The quiet rise of Turkey’s influence in Africa
WHILE all eyes in Africa have been firmly focused on such fellow Bric countries as China, Brazil and India, Turkey has emerged, almost unnoticed, as a major investor on the continent. A report released by the African Development Bank last week shows that Turkey is now counted among the top five emerging market economies with a sizable interest on the continent. China still commanded the biggest share of the African market, accounting for 38% of the continent’s total trade with emerging countries. This was followed by India at 14,1%, South Korea at 7,2%, Brazil at 7,1% and Turkey at 6,5%.
SA’s own aid agency ‘a threat to foreign funding’
SA RISKS losing millions of rand in development aid from its traditional trading partners when the South African Development Partnership Agency (Sadpa) is established later this year, says an expert . International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said in her budget speech in May that a bill was being drafted to create the agency before the end of the department’s financial year, in March next year.
India, China to oppose barriers to affordable drugs
India, China and other members of the BRICS group of countries have agreed to stand together to oppose any moves by developed nations to tighten Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) rules that could threaten access to affordable drugs in developing countries, officials said on Tuesday following two days of talks. China had also agreed to look into India's requests to expedite the registration process for Indian pharmaceutical companies seeking to enter the China market, officials said, with growing momentum among the BRICS countries to expand trade in pharmaceuticals and reduce reliance on more expensive Western drugs.
Russia to open embassy in South Sudan
Russia will open its embassy in South Sudan, the world's youngest state. "Russia is planning to open its embassy here," the Russian President's Special Representative for Cooperation with Africa Mikhail Margelov said on Russia Today television on Monday. "But first, it is necessary to complete the entire bureaucratic procedure, which is up to the Russian Foreign Ministry to do under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," he said. Moscow is concerned about developing relations with South Sudan, Margelov said.
South Korea’s Exim Bank Eyes Ethiopian Investments
The Exim Bank of South Korea has concluded an agreement with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) in order to support Ethiopian agriculture, infrastructure and manufacturing investment sector. Sufian Ahmed, minister of MoFED, signed the agreement with Kim Sung Hwan, South Korea’s minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
GERRIT OLIVIER and MAXI SCHOEMAN: Foreign policy
In his inimical way, Joseph Stalin berated an upstart comrade for allowing his "brains to go to his head". Needless to say, the poor guy ended up in the Lubyanka. Having become the "s" in the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, SA) configuration, SA seems to be courting a similar infliction. While the new status is both flattering and overwhelming, the question is how to use it to advance SA’s interests.
India's foreign policy has not grown out of its static position
The one big actor which is missing in action in the Libyan drama is India, which has yet again proved that the word 'proactive' does not exist in its diplomatic dictionary. According to inside sources privy to the Indian government, Nato has sounded out New Delhi to offer a ceasefire based on existing lines of control between the pro-Gaddafi and anti-Gaddafi forces, which could be converted in the long run into a partition of the country into east and west. India did not latch on to this opening and has instead burrowed its head, ostrich-like, without any sign of inventiveness or initiative.
Algeria: 100 ideas for a 'new Algeria'
Fifty young economists, academics and businesspeople called an Algiers press conference on Saturday (9 July) to unveil '100 Measures for a New Algeria'. It was the symbolic date of 5 July, however, that 'Nabni' ('Our Algeria Built on New Ideas') selected to announce the recommendations. The group hopes to implement the proposals, drafted after two months of deliberations, before next years' independence decennial.
Angola: Assessing risks to stability
Angola's commodity-based economy is tied to global oil and diamond prices, and is thus highly susceptible to exogenous shocks, says this Chatham House briefing paper. 'Urban poverty is a source of social strife. The ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) will need to improve service delivery and quicken the pace of social reform to stave off potential unrest. If mismanaged, the task of choosing a successor to President José Eduardo dos Santos could spark a destabilising power struggle within the MPLA.'
Botswana: Opposition coalition faces uphill task
Reports that major opposition parties in the country have united to form an umbrella opposition coalition against the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) could be the beginning of an end to the ruling party's 45-year rule over this country. However, the level of support for the new coalition remains unclear. With negotiations still underway, the opposition coalition has not yet taken control of any political power base nor demonstrated its popularity. Leadership of the coalition might also prove a contentious issue.
Cote d’Ivoire: Interim leader of deposed Gbagbo's party quits
The acting president of the party of former strongman of Cote d’Ivoire Laurent Gbagbo has quit. Mamadou Koulibaly resigned, accusing some executive members of being opposed to 'any change'. Koulibaly, who is also the Speaker of the National Assembly, accused the Ivorian People’s Front (FPI) of being 'static, immovable, walled up in disorder, idolatry, worship of its founders, hopeless contradictions and fear of innovation'.
Egypt: New cabinet to be sworn in
Egypt's new cabinet will be sworn in on Monday after a reshuffle that protesters say have partially satisfied their demands for deeper political and economic reforms. Protesters, who have camped out in Cairo's Tahrir Square since 8 July, say they want further measures, including a quicker trial of Hosni Mubarak. Thousands of Egyptians have returned to Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt's uprising, complaining that change has come too slow under the military council that took over power.
Morocco: Thousands rally in Morocco over reform plan
Both supporters and opponents of constitutional changes offered by Morocco's king have protested in their thousands, indicating debate over the country's future sparked by the "Arab Spring" uprisings has not ended. Sunday’s opposition protests organised by the youth-based February 20 Movement took place in three cities and passed off without any clashes. The movement is a loose national network that was inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
South Africa: ANC regional secretary shot dead in Durban
ANC eThekwini regional secretary Sbu Sibiya was shot dead at his home in Inanda, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Tuesday, 12 July. Brigadier Phindile Radebe said Sibiya (40) was shot in his driveway at 10pm on Monday. He had just returned from his office in Durban.
South Sudan: New born South Sudan has ambitious goals
While top government leaders of the world's newest nation, South Sudan, have announced plans to make the country not only the 'hub' of Africa but also the bread basket for the Eastern African region, the Civil Society Taskforce is stressing the need for creating a just, peaceful and equitable society. The new independent state needs hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in order to connect its territory, which is the size of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania combined with expensive roads and bridges. It plans to build refineries and pipelines to transport its crude oil to the international market, reported the Sudan Tribune.
Uganda: MPs throw ministers out of Parliament
A joint meeting that sought to end the current power crisis in the country on 11 July ended without any solution after lawmakers on the budget committee threw out government officials, including ministers, over accountability concerns. Four ministers were in Parliament pleading for the approval of Shs207.5 billion needed to pay for the outstanding thermal power subsidy bills but without success.
South Africa: Knives out for corruption busters
SA's top prosecutors are in a fight to the death over the future of corruption-buster Willie Hofmeyr, who heads the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Special Investigating Unit. The Sunday Times reports that new corruption claims have been levelled at Hofmeyr and top NPA officials thought to be close to him. NPA officials in various provinces claim the charges were stage-managed by NPA boss Menzi Simelane.
South Africa: Minister's refusal to answer a 'criminal act'
The refusal of the minister of public works to answer questions on her role in clinching dodgy police lease deals amounts to a criminal offence. This is one of several damning findings in public protector Thuli Madonsela's final report on the police lease saga, which concludes Madonsela's investigation into dodgy police leases, worth R1.8-billion, in Pretoria and Durban with businessman Roux Shabangu, which was exposed by the Sunday Times last year. Shabangu is an associate of President Jacob Zuma's.
Africa: Developing country groups slam UK’s climate loans
Groups from 13 developing countries have slammed UK climate loans to be given through the World Bank. Community leaders in countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Mozambique and Yemen have written to British cabinet ministers Chris Huhne and Andrew Mitchell rejecting the loans the UK is providing to their countries to help them cope with climate change. In their letter they say the UK and other rich industrialised countries, who have done the most to cause climate change, owe a ‘climate debt’ to poor countries who are worst affected by the phenomenon. ‘Climate loans will only lock our countries into further debt, and further impoverish our people,’ reads the letter.
Africa: New industrial policy needed, says report
Africa now accounts for about one per cent of global manufacturing, and cannot realistically hope to reduce widespread poverty if its governments don't take effective measures to expand this vital economic sector, says a new joint report by UNCTAD and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. The 'Economic Development in Africa Report 2011', subtitled 'Fostering Industrial Development in Africa in the New Global Environment', calls for a practical, well-designed approach to industrialisation, that is adjusted to specific country circumstances and based on extensive discussion with and feedback from businesses and entrepreneurs.
Africa: What has tax got to do with development?
In two new reports 'What has Tax got to do with Development: A critical look at Mozambique's Tax System' and 'What has Tax got to do with Development: A Critical look at Zimbabwe’s Tax System', AFRODAD analyses the role played by taxation in the development of the two countries. The link between development and taxation has come up in various fora as development practitioners and activists discussed methods of mobilisation of domestic resources for financing development in the South. The reports reveal that mobilising domestic resources as a means to financing development has become an important development issue, a shift from the past emphasis on financing development from aid and external borrowing.
Angola: Economic issues dominate Merkel's visit
German economic interests played a key role during Angela Merkel's three-country trip to Africa. In oil-rich Angola improving business ties was a major topic on the agenda for Chancellor Merkel. Ricardo Gerigk, who has headed the delegation of German business in Luanda since last year, said: 'Angola's oil production is close to two million barrels a day,' he said. Angola is the second largest oil producer in Africa after Nigeria. But with a population of just 17 million, compared to Nigeria's 150 million people, there's more wealth, he said.
Malawi: UK suspends aid to Malawi indefinitely
The United Kingdom has announced the suspension of all general budgetary support to Malawi indefinitely, effective 14 July. The International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said they suspended aid based on concerns about governance, democracy, suppression of freedom of expression, chronic fuel shortages and a deteriorated tobacco industry. Relations between Malawi and UK soured in April this year when President Bingu wa Mutharika expelled British High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane Dyet and the UK reciprocated.
Southern Africa: Intra-SADC trade edges up
Contrary to popular belief, intra-regional trade has actually been slowly going up since 2000, though the figure still pales into insignificance compared to what the rest of the region trades with the outside world, specifically China and United States of America (USA). SADC Secretariat trade policy advisor Paul Kalenga told The Southern Times that intra-SADC trade grew in absolute terms to US$34 billion in 2009 from US$13.2 billion in 2000, a 155 percent increase.
Africa: New hope in fight against HIV
AIDS drugs designed to treat HIV can also be used to reduce dramatically the risk of infection among heterosexual couples, two studies conducted in Africa have shown for the first time. The findings add to growing evidence that the type of medicines prescribed since the mid-1990s to treat people who are already sick may also hold the key to slowing or even halting the spread of the disease. The research involving couples in Kenya, Uganda and Botswana found that daily Aids drugs reduced infection rates by an average of at least 62 per cent when compared with a placebo.
Africa: Protecting access to generic medicines
Recent developments at national and international levels with regards to anti-counterfeiting legislation and actions have raised debate about such laws not undermining access to affordable generic drugs. This policy brief produced by EQUINET, SEATINI and TARSC points to the separate measures and mandates needed to combat firstly fraudulent trade mark and intellectual property (IP) infringement in counterfeit medicines by IP authorities, secondly to ensure that any anti-counterfeit measures protect TRIPS flexibilities, including for access to generic medicines.
DRC: Cholera, measles kill hundreds
Outbreaks of measles and cholera in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo have killed hundreds of people, with thousands more infected, says an official of the UN World Health Organisation (WHO). 'Since September 2010, 115,484 measles cases and 1,145 related deaths have been reported in South Kivu, Katanga, Maniema, Kasaï Occidental, Equateur, Bas Congo and Kasaï Oriental provinces,' Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO media and advocacy officer, told IRIN. According to Jasarevic, a lack of government funding halted follow-up mass immunisation activities in the regions, leading to the measles outbreak.
Kenya: More cervical cancer screening for HIV-positive women urged
The Kenyan government is taking steps to incorporate screening for cervical cancer - one of the biggest killers of women of child-bearing age - into HIV care, but health workers say low awareness means the uptake of this vital service is low. Studies show that HIV infection increases women's risk of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a leading cause of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening is included as part of routine care for HIV-positive women under the country's national guidelines for HIV care. However, screening levels remain low; according to the UN World Health Organisation, just 3.2 per cent of Kenyan women aged 18-69 are screened for cervical cancer every three years, compared with 70 per cent of women in the developed world.
Liberia: Debunking diabetes myths
Lucy Dollokieh, a mother of four from Liberia’s Nimba County, developed severe pains when urinating and thought she had been cursed by a witch, but when a volunteer came to her village describing diabetes symptoms she recognized them, went to a nearby hospital and was diagnosed with diabetes. She now injects herself daily with insulin. With low awareness of the disease’s symptoms and only one hospital in the country that can diagnose it - Ganta Methodist Hospital in Nimba County - the vast majority of the estimated 50,000 cases in Liberia go undiagnosed, according to the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF).
Egypt: Professors fight back with sit-in
Hundreds of university professors are staging a sit-in at over a dozen campuses across Egypt to call for the ousting of university administration officials appointed by the former Mubarak regime and to replace them with elected representatives. 'We are calling for democracy that is part of the revolution that started on January 25th,' says Khaled Sameer, an assistant professor of cardiac surgery at Ain Shams Medical School and the spokesperson for the Unified Coalition for the Independence of Universities.
Global: Ending the crisis in girls' education
A new report from the Global Campaign for Education shows that millions of girls are being forced out of school because of poverty, child labour, early child marriage, the threat of sexual violence, inadequate and poor-quality schools. The report examines 80 poor countries in terms of the gains they have made in girls’ education. The report shows that the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, India, Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan are among those countries failing to respect the rights of girls to an education.
Kenya: Varsity staff to strike over dissolved council
Staff at a public university have threatened to boycott work in protest against the dissolution of the institution’s governing council. The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology workers gave the government one week to appoint a new council or face industrial action. The council, which is charged with the university’s administrative duties, was dissolved through a Kenya Gazette notice published on 3 June.
South Sudan: Universities remain closed
The Republic of South Sudan formally became independent from Sudan on 9 July, but its three universities remain closed, bereft of staff, students or facilities. The universities moved to the north in the early 1990s, when civil war was at its worst in the south. They were supposed to have relocated by now, with lectures due to have begun in the south in early May. But South Sudan's government has raised only half of the US$12 million it needs to build and refurbish lecture halls, laboratories and student accommodation.
Togo: Fragile truce after five weeks of student protests
West African country Togo's students' struggle for better education conditions is now in its fifth week and despite a recent truce, tensions remains high in the capital Lomé. A wind of appeasement seemed to blow on the demonstrations organised by the Mouvement pour l'Épanouissement des Étudiants Togolais - MEET (Movement for the Fulfillment of Togolese Students) - when students managed to obtain from authorities the reinstatement of the president of their association on 30 June. Abou Seidou, a student of the University of Lomé, had been previously expelled for allegedly causing troubles on the campus. This reinstatement was expected to open the way to negotiations, reports Global Voices Online.
Sierra Leone: Government study on MSM breaks silence
The National HIV/Aids Secretariat of Sierra Leone, which falls under the National HIV/Aids Control Program (NACP) recently conducted a study on Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) around the country. The 2011 study on MSM in Sierra Leone has broken the silence on the existence of sexual minorities in Sierra Leone. Findings from this survey revealed several problems affecting sexual minorities, especially MSM in Sierra Leone.
Tanzania: Eddy Cosmas freed from UK detention
Following a hearing before an British immigration judge, Tanzanian gay asylum seeker Edson 'Eddy' Cosmas was released from Harmondsworth Removal Centre at 5pm and was also removed from the 'detained fast track' process. The judge's decision has not been written but a witness at the court hearing said that it was on the basis that previous immigration judiciary decisions could be regarded as possibly 'unsafe' and that more time was needed for both a psychiatrist's report as well as for an expert witness of the situation of LGBT in Tanzania to be found.
Africa: Whose voice counts in tackling climate change poverty in Africa?
A new collection of stories, research and good practice is showing how African climate and poverty activists are leading the global fight for climate justice - finding creative, inspired ways of using life-saving knowledge networks to share climate change and poverty research. But their voices are often ignored by African governments when it comes to policy, and funding for African-led research and knowledge sharing is not seen as a priority. 'New voices, different perspectives' is a pioneering pan-African ‘encyclopaedia’ of the brightest and best ideas in climate change adaptation. It’s the result of a collaboration between over 200 of the continent’s leading development researchers, community activists, NGOs, climate scientists and international donors at the AfricaAdapt Climate Change Symposium held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 'New voices, different perspectives' offers a stark message to African politicians in the run up to the UN climate negotiations to be held in Durban, South Africa, this December: African governments can only lead the global fight for climate justice if they start to seriously value indigenous knowledge, community-led responses and African-led research. Apart from the publication, a video animation can be watched at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN-5JtUlUgQ
Cameroon: Landfill gas project puts Cameroon in emissions market
Cameroon has opened its first landfill gas recovery plant, which aims to reduce methane emissions from waste and earn the country emissions reduction credits under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. The plant will trap methane generated by decaying household waste at the Nkolfoulou waste disposal site, on the outskirts of the capital, Yaounde. The gas will be stored in wells and burned off, releasing carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes substantially less to climate change per volume released than methane.
DRC: DRC, India to build hydro plant
The Democratic Republic of Congo and India have signed a deal to build a hydroelectric plant in southern Congo. Officials from both countries participated in a signing ceremony in the Congolese city of Kananga late Monday. Congo's Energy Minister Gilbert Tshiongo said the plant, when completed, will have a capacity of 65 megawatts. The project is part of Congo's effort to address power shortages and develop the country's infrastructure. Analysts say the country has huge hydroelectric potential because of its many rivers.
East Africa: Too soon to blame climate change for drought
As parts of the Horn of Africa experience their driest periods in 60 years, pushing the numbers needing aid to beyond 10 million, some have been quick to blame climate change. But no single event can be attributed to climate change, which involves long-term (decades or longer) trends in climate variability. There is, however, consensus in attributing the drought to the particularly strong La Niña event. The impact of climate change on the intensity and frequency of La Niña and El Niño in future is a big unknown. Philip Thornton, a senior scientist who works part-time with the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the University of Edinburgh-based Institute of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, told IRIN via email that projections of the climate-change impact in East Africa were 'a problem' as the authoritative Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report 'indicated that there was good consensus among the climate models that rainfall was likely to increase during the current century'.
Global: A look into the ocean’s future
A new report by an international coalition of marine scientists makes for grim reading. It concludes that the oceans are approaching irreversible, potentially catastrophic change, reports the New York Times. The experts, convened by the International Program on the State of the Ocean and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, found that marine 'degradation is now happening at a faster rate than predicted'. The oceans have warmed and become more acidic as they absorbed human-generated carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They are also more oxygen-deprived, because of agricultural runoff and other anthropogenic causes. This deadly trio of conditions was present in previous mass extinctions, according to the report.
Global: Arctic may be ice-free within 30 years
Sea ice in the Arctic is melting at a record pace this year, suggesting warming at the north pole is speeding up and a largely ice-free Arctic can be expected in summer months within 30 years. The area of the Arctic ocean at least 15 per cent covered in ice is this week about 13.6 square kilometres - lower than the previous record low set in 2007 - according to satellite monitoring by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. In addition, new data from the University of Washington Polar Science Centre, shows that the thickness of Arctic ice this year is also the lowest on record.
Kenya: GMOs, ‘Africa is not the place for these things’
Anne Maina of the African Bio-diversity Network says the introduction of patented seeds and related chemicals into Kenya’s farming systems threatens the country’s agricultural practices, its livelihoods, the environment, 'and undermines our seed sovereignty'. The House (Parliamentary) Committee on Agriculture has also warned that opening up the country to genetically modified products would endanger lives. Committee chairman John Mututho said last week that the country lacked technical capacity to assess the quantity and type of genes in imported products, and had a long way to go before fully embracing use of GM products while ensuring the health of its citizens.
Africa: Women and food sovereignty
'Women and Food Sovereignty: The voices of rural women from the south' provides an overview of the situation of peasant women in the Global South. The document showcases the problems faced by these women, as well as their different forms of resistance and struggle in demand for food sovereignty. It includes testimonies of rural women from Africa, Latin America and Asia. They explain why it is necessary to struggle for access to land, for the conservation of seeds and for small-scale farming.
Burkina Faso: Cotton growers gain some victories and many promises
Cotton production resumed quietly in the small town of Sara after farmers won a victory in their fight with SOFITEX, the leading company in Burkina Faso which buys and processes cotton, reports Farm Radio Weekly. The renewed interest in cotton contrasts with the violent protests in June. Some farmers threatened not to produce the valuable fibre this year. But others had already planted and did not support abandoning the crop. Angry farmers destroyed some of the newly-planted fields. Police intervened to prevent them from pulling up all the young cotton plants.
Global: Predicting food price volatility
A new tool for measuring food price volatility in global agriculture markets could help poor countries or aid agencies like the World Food Programme (WFP) decide where and when to buy staples, says Maximo Torero, director of the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Markets, Trade and Institutions Division. The early warning tool, NEXQ (Non-parametric Extreme Quantile Model) has been developed by IFPRI and is based on sophisticated economic modelling, which provides daily price variability ratings for four major crops - hard wheat, soft wheat, maize (corn) and soya beans - and aims to help analysts predict price volatility.
Africa: Moving from principles to rights at Rio 2012
The rights of access to information, public participation, and access to justice are essential to sustainable development. The 1992 Rio Declaration provided for these rights in Principle 10 and Agenda 21 moved them into reality in many countries. Now renewed commitment is needed for the full implementation of the rights in all countries. The Rio 2012 Summit provides an opportunity for governments to transform Principle 10 from aspirational goals into actionable rights. Governments and civil society should use the opportunity to commit together in adopting, implementing, and exercising these rights in support of sustainable development.
DRC: Kabila government bans broadcaster favorable to rival
The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the Democratic Republic of Congo's ban of a private broadcaster favourable to opposition presidential candidate Etienne Tshisekedi. Radio Lisanga Télévision (RLTV), based in the capital, Kinshasa, lost its signal without formal notice, the station's director-general, Basile Olongo Pongo, told CPJ. The same day, Congolese Communication Minister Lambert Mende issued a decree indefinitely banning the station across the country over 'programs that are promoting violence and contribute to disturb public order,' according to news reports.
Ethiopia: UNHCHR grills Ethiopia on anti-terror law
The Human Rights Committee of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reviewed Ethiopia's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recently, including its press freedom record. Peppered with questions about an indefensible record of abuse - jailing the second largest number of journalists in Africa and leading the continent in Internet censorship - representatives of the Ethiopian government responded with cursory talking points and bold denials in contradiction of the facts, says the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Senegal: Attacked human rights defender in hiding for fear of his life
Alioune Tine, the executive secretary of the Dakar-based African Human Rights Organisation (RADDHO), who was on 23 June 2011 violently attacked by militants of the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) during a demonstration, has gone into hiding after being discharged from hospital. The militants indiscriminately attacked Tine, a prominent human rights defender, to the extent that he was rushed and admitted at the Dakar main hospital.
Sierra Leone: Newspaper reporter threatened with death
Ibrahim Kalokoh, an investigative journalist of the privately-owned For Di People daily newspaper, was threatened with death by two staff members of the Sierra Leone Port Authority (SLPA), following corruption reports by his newspaper against the SLPA’s General Manager, Benjamin Davies. The Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) correspondent reported that the two men warned him to discontinue 'publishing' negative stories about their boss or they would be killed.
Sudan: Post-split, governments silencing voices
Just a few hours before South Sudan's independence, the popular Arabic daily 'Ajras Al-Hurriya' and five English-language newspapers were suspended - a worrying start to the relationship between north and south, report the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and Index on Censorship. Sudan's National Press and Publication Council said the papers were closed because the owners and publishers are from South Sudan, and, under the country's Press Law, they must have Sudanese nationality, reports ANHRI.
Tunisia: Access to the administrative documents
In May, Decree No. 2011-41 was promulgated in Tunisia relating to administrative documents held or produced by public authorities. In its comment on the Decree, Article 19 notes that the exceptions to the right to information outlined in the Decree should be amended in order to comply with international standards. 'According to international law in this area, information should never be withheld unless it affects a legitimate interest protected by law, release of the information would cause actual harm to that interest and this harm would be greater than the harm caused to the public interest by non-disclosure. The provisions of the Decree on exceptions (Articles 16 to 18) should be replaced by a
single provision clearly laying down this three-part test.'
Southern Africa: Majority still lack access to safe water
Only two in every five people in the Southern African Development Community has access to safe water for drinking and household use. Three quarters of those lacking access, live in rural areas and the majority of these are women and children. Chrispin Sedeke, head of the Transboundary Water Management Division of the Ministry for the Environment of the Democratic Republic of Congo, believes that even these discouraging figures are likely understated. According to a report published in March 2011 by the United Nations Environment Programme, the DRC possesses half of the water resources in Africa, but more than 50 million Congolese do not have access to water.
Cameroon: Cameroon gives franchise to diaspora
A Bill that gives Cameroonians in the diaspora the vote has been passed into law. The Bill sailed through during an extraordinary session of the National Assembly. Opposition groups and civil society organisations have, however, termed the new law a 'political gimmick' by the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) party to gain political capital and extra votes from abroad during the forthcoming elections.
Haiti: The shelters that Clinton built
When Demosthene Lubert heard that Bill Clinton's foundation was going to rebuild his collapsed school at the epicenter of Haiti's January 12, 2010, earthquake, in the coastal city of Léogâne, the academic director thought he was 'in paradise'. The project was announced by Clinton as his foundation's first contribution to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. However, when Nation reporters visited the 'hurricane-proof' shelters in June, six to eight months after they'd been installed, we found them to consist of 20 imported prefab trailers beset by a host of problems, from mold to sweltering heat to shoddy construction.
International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5
Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up, Tuesday 26 July, Los Angeles, CA, Screening and Release to the Public
'Will the real terrorist please stand up' shows that US-backed violence against Cuba continued for decades. Some Bay of Pigs participants and the most well-known terrorists appear on camera to boast or re-evaluate their activities over the years. Orlando Bosch, Jose Basulto, Luis Posada Carriles and Antonio Veciana discuss assassinations and other actions they took to bring down the Revolutionary government. The new film, with Danny Glover, Cuba's top counter spy and Fidel Castro himself (filmed recently) is combined with fascinating archival footage and a rare recorded interview from prison with one of the Cuban 5.
Date: Tuesday July 26
Place: Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica
$10 entrance fee
Q & A with Saul Landau
The screening will coincide with the release of the documentary to the public and is the first time that it will be shown in Los Angeles.
This documentary was produced by Emmy-Award Winner Saul Landau
'Will the real terrorist please stand up' shows that US-backed violence against Cuba continued for decades. Some Bay of Pigs participants and the most well-known terrorists appear on camera to boast or re-evaluate their activities over the years. Orlando Bosch, Jose Basulto, Luis Posada Carriles and Antonio Veciana discuss assassinations and other actions they took to bring down the Revolutionary government. The new film, with Danny Glover, Cuba's top counter spy and Fidel Castro himself (filmed recently) is combined with fascinating archival footage and a rare recorded interview from prison with one of the Cuban 5. These men are serving long sentences in US prisons for trying to stop terrorism against tourist sites in their country.
'Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up' provides every professor and specialist with an invaluable teaching and learning tool about US-Cuba policy and the history of terrorism in that policy. It also explains the story of and context for the 'Cuban 5,' the Cuban agents who penetrated Miami exile groups to stop their plans for violence against the island, and ended up in US prisons.' Julia Sweig, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
'It's a real Who's Who of key figures in the more than half-century-long grudge match over Cuba.' Tracey Eaton former Dallas Morning News' Bureau Chief, Havana.
'Perhaps the best cinematic summary of this reality was rendered in the film by none other than the current chairman of the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who declared for all to see and hear that she would welcome the assassination of Fidel Castro. No matter how cynical one may have become, that is an astonishing scene. A US Congresswoman asking for the murder of another country's leader-a most egregious, unbelievable demonstration of this undeclared war with Cuba.' Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel, US Army (Retired)Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05)
This event is organized by Cinema Libre Studio
Partial list of sponsors: Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, El Rescate, Film4Cuban5, International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, Law Offices of R. Samuel Paz, Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles Chapter, Office of the Americas, Operation USA, Socialist Workers Party, Union del Barrio, and Venice Peace and Freedom Party.
NOTE: To learn how to purchase this new documentary write to:
Ethiopia: Famine tragedy looms in the Horn
The Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) estimates that 2.85 million people - a third of the population - are now in humanitarian crisis and in need of urgent assistance, an increase of 42.5 per cent over the figure in December 2010. 'We are no longer on the verge of a humanitarian disaster; we are in the middle of it now,' Isaq Ahmed, the chairman of the Mubarak Relief and Development Organisation, a local NGO working in the south of the country, told IRIN on June 28. 'It is happening and no one is helping.'
Libya: NATO jets destroy Libyan military depot
NATO jets have struck a military storage facility and other targets in the eastern outskirts of the capital, Tripoli. Sunday's attacks came two days after major international players recognised Libya's opposition leadership as the country's legitimate representative. From Tripoli, bright flashes could be seen on the eastern horizon just after midnight, followed by a steady rumbling that went on for an hour.
Nigeria: Thousands flee Maiduguri
Thousands of Nigerians are fleeing the north-eastern city of Maiduguri following a spate of recent attacks, which have killed at least 40 people. Some of those leaving are students after the university was closed. The attacks have been carried out by the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, which opposes Western education and fights for Islamic rule.
South Sudan: UN cost-cutting threatens peacekeeping mission
The United Nations should ensure that peacekeepers have a strong mandate to protect civilians and should increase the number of troops deployed to South Sudan, a global coalition of eight international nongovernmental organisations said. The UN Security Council is expected to authorise a new peacekeeping mission in South Sudan to succeed the current United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). The UN secretary-general has recommended increasing the number of troops from the current 5,000 to 7,000. However, some member states have urged lower troop levels, citing cost concerns.
West Africa: ECOWAS stepping up response
Following years of discussion, representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are now testing joint disaster responses in light of increased flooding and more severe droughts in West Africa over the past decade, according to the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD). 'Major efforts' are under way for 'south-south cooperation between member states', according to Andrea Diop, disaster focal point at ECOWAS, including setting up an Emergency Flood Fund for disaster response which individual countries can tap into; a natural disaster reduction task force; and an Emergency Response team.
Africa: New report gives insights on mobile apps potentials in Africa
There has hardly been a week without headlines on mobile apps in the last six months. The launch of the Apple apps store in July 2008 has undoubtedly been a turning point in what is today considered as a sector that generates at the global level US$ billion of annual revenues through apps downloads. Consultancy and research company, Balancing Act, has just released a new report entitled 'Mobile apps for Africa: Strategies to make sense of free and paid apps' which analyses the nascent apps ecosystem in Africa while providing an analytical framework allowing African mobile operators or other stakeholders to decide on what strategy to adopt regarding mobile apps.
New report gives insights on mobile apps potentials in Africa
There has hardly been a week without headlines on mobile apps in the last six months. The launch of the Apple apps store in July 2008 has undoubtedly been a turning point in what is today considered as a sector that generates at the global level US$ billion of annual revenues through apps downloads. Consultancy and research company, Balancing Act, has just released a new report entitled ‘Mobile apps for Africa: Strategies to make sense of free and paid apps’ which analyses the nascent apps ecosystem in Africa while providing an analytical framework allowing African mobile operators or other stakeholders to decide on what strategy to adopt regarding mobile apps.
The 131 pages report ‘Mobile apps for Africa: Strategies to make sense of free and paid apps’ contains 15 illustrated boxes, 26 tables, 39 charts and 2 maps. It is divided into three distinctive parts: Part 1: The users, the device and the usage; Part 2: The developers and the content; Part 3: Distribution platforms and distribution strategies.
According to Isabelle Gross, the author of the report, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that smartphones will take a significant market share in Africa too. Usage surveys show that African mobile users are carrying out more and more ‘non-voice’ activities on their phone. The rate of smartphone penetration in South Africa for example is promising and more African countries will follow on its path as smartphones prices will come down in the next two years.
The handsets pyramid which currently is made up of over 80 per cent basic phones in some African countries will be shifting in the next years and the changes will be top-down with a larger representation of smartphones and feature-rich phones. The report provides smartphone penetration forecasts for different markets. At present, Nokia's handsets remain African's favourite mobile phones but as the adoption of smartphones gathers pace, it will lose it leadership in favour of other OEMs. BlackBerry is currently the favourite brand among young South Africans.
African countries with a large subscriber base and a growing smartphone penetration rate present the best opportunities for mobile apps. Smartphones drive the consumption of mobile apps and as more African mobile users will have a smartphone in their pocket in the near future, the case of providing them with content is getting more compelling for local developers.
The report finds that African mobile apps developers are usually young graduates. In terms of gender, male developers outpace female developers. However, there are no figures on their number per country but estimates suggest a couple of hundred in small African countries and two or three thousand in large African countries. The African ‘developers' ecosystem’ remains fragmented but there is a growing number of initiatives that try to bring in more structure as well as funding to support interesting projects and talented developers. The report provides further insights on what type of mobile apps are more likely to make money in Africa as well as recommendations for African developers on how to optimise the revenue that they can expect to be making from the various apps stores that are available today to them. For local developers it is all about knowing what mobile users want and what are the best ways to get it to them.
The revenues generated by the main international apps stores are tantalising for mobile operators and most of them across the world still have to decide if they want to become a mere ‘dump’ pipe channelling all the content to their mobile subscribers' handsets or decide to step in and start to supply content to their subscribers in order to get a share of this revenue. African mobile operators and in particular those one that have launched 3G services, are facing precisely this dilemma.
The report provides an overview of the ‘distribution platforms ecosystem’ and evaluates how disruptive the international apps stores have been so far for African mobile operators. Several African mobile operators are looking at launching their own apps store but so far only Orange Tunisie and Tunisiana have officially announced the launch of their apps store.. The report further looks at how the growth of the international apps stores will affect Africa and what is changing in the apps ecosystem that could benefit Africa.
A set of 8 recommendations are also provided to help mobile operators to identify what to look for when planning to launch an apps store. They are based on early lessons from emerging countries mobile operators that have launched apps stores. The report concludes by a detailed business case on launching an apps store in an African country and forecast revenue from paid applications, data revenue from apps downloads and revenue from advertising and in-apps purchases.
More details are available at http://www.balancingact-africa.com/reports/telecoms-and-interne/mobile-apps-for-afri
Balancing Act is an online publishing and consultancy business covering broadcast, telecoms, Internet and computing in Africa. It is one of the primary sources of information and expertise in this area. It publishes African Broadcast, Film and Convergence and Balancing Act's News Update, a weekly e-letter which goes out to subscribers in French and English.
+ 44 (207) 582 5220
Kenya: Public gain online access to government data
Kenya has launched an Open Data portal, the first African country to make government data accessible to the ordinary citizen on an Internet-based platform. The portal will allow users to compare information at national, province and county levels. Users will also create maps and other visualisations and directly download data on their computer or mobile phone.
Call for Papers: Impact of the North African Revolutions on Sub-Saharan Africa
AfriMAP invites submissions of papers on the impact of the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya on governance in sub-Saharan Africa. Our objective is to encourage and promote new thinking and debate on issues that AfriMAP is exploring through its research. We are particularly keen to encourage submissions based on primary sources, personal research and innovative thinking.
Making every woman count
Make Every Woman Count (MEWC) is a newly established African women's organisation. The organisation has launched a website, which provides timely and accurate information regarding the African women's movement. Please visit the website for more information http://www.makeeverywomancount.org/
South African artists against Israeli apartheid
The www.southafricanartistsagainstapartheid.com website is dedicated to the declaration launched on 1 November 2010 by South African Artists Against Apartheid. You can follow the campaigns and events initiated by South African Artists Against Apartheid on this website, as well as recent news relating to international cultural boycott activities.
Call for Papers: The African Women's Journal
As part of contributing to the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) through provision of information on the themes of the Decade, the African Women’s Journal for July-December 2011 will focus on the theme: Women’s Education and Training in Africa.
Call for Papers
The African Women's Journal
THEME: Promoting Equal Opportunities for Women’s Access to Education and Training in Africa
The Beijing Platform for Action stresses that education is one of the most powerful and effective tool for women’s empowerment in Africa. However, limited access to quality education and training opportunities continues to hinder women’s equal participation in decision making, leadership and also in positively contributing to development in their countries. This is despite the fact that equal access to education is considered one of the fundamental human rights by the United Nations since it adopted the Right to education (Article 26) in 1949. Efforts to attain equal access to education and training for boys and girls; men and women have not yet resulted in gender parity at all levels including in adult education programmes.
As part of contributing to the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) through provision of information on the themes of the Decade, the African Women’s Journal for July-December 2011 will focus on the theme: Women’s Education and Training in Africa.
The Journal articles will focus on any of the following sub-themes:-
· Strategies being used to attain equal access to education and training in African countries
· The untold stories in the African continent: some unique examples of literacy programmes and innovations that are transforming the lives of women, their families, communities and societies
· The role of adult and continuing education in boosting women’s empowerment and sustainable development in Africa
· Galvanizing African governments to allocate sufficient resources for and monitor the implementation of educational reforms
· From policy to practice: Expanding opportunities for women and girls’ education
For those interested to submit articles, kindly send us an ABSTRACT of your article on or before 31st July, 2011. The abstract should be written in English or French and must not be more than 200 words.
You will be notified if your abstract has been approved. Only writers with selected abstracts will be asked to submit full article, which must be written in English or French and should be between 800 to 2,000 words. The article also needs to be well researched with clear referencing. A guideline for referencing will be provided. We will also require pictures relating to the article. (NB: The picture will have to be in Jpeg format). Including a brief biographical note, contact information with a JPEG mug shot picture of yourself in high resolution. Deadline for submission of FULL ARTICLE will be 30th August, 2011.
Please note the following key deadlines
Abstract should be submitted by 31st July, 2011
Full Article should be submitted by 30th August, 2011
Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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