Pambazuka News 546: US/NATO occupation of Libya & tributes to Samir Amin
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Libya could break up like Somalia
Libya is neither Tunisia nor Egypt. The ruling group (Gaddafi) and the forces fighting it are in no way analogous to their Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts. Gaddafi has never been anything but a buffoon, whose emptiness of thought was reflected in his notorious ‘Green Book’. Operating in a still-archaic society Gaddafi could indulge in successive ‘nationalist’ and ‘socialist’ speeches with little bearing on reality, and the next day proclaim himself a ‘liberal’.
He did so to ‘please the West’, as though the choice for liberalism would have no social effects. But it had and, as is commonplace, it worsened living conditions for the majority of Libyans. The oil rent which was widely redistributed became the target of small groups of the privileged, including the family of the leader. Those conditions then gave rise to the well-known explosion, which the country’s regionalists and political Islamists immediately took advantage of.
For Libya has never truly existed as a nation. It is a geographical region separating the Arab West from the Arab East (the Maghreb from the Mashreq). The boundary between the two goes right through the middle of Libya. Cyrenaica was historically Greek and Hellenistic before it became Mashreqian. Tripolitania, for its part, was Roman and became Maghrebian. Because of this, regionalism has always been strong in the country.
Nobody knows who the members of the National Transition Council in Benghazi really are. There may be democrats among them, but there are certainly Islamists, some among the worst of the breed, as well as regionalists. The president of the council is Mustafa Muhammad Abdeljelil, the judge who condemned the Bulgarian nurses to death and was rewarded by Gaddafi, who named him minister of justice from 2007 to February 2011. For that reason the prime minister of Bulgaria, Boikov, refused to recognise the council, but his argument was not given any follow up by the US and Europe.
From the outset ‘the movement’ in Libya took the form of an armed revolt fighting the army, rather than a wave of civilian demonstrations. And right away that armed revolt called NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) to its aid. Thus a chance for military intervention was offered to the imperialist powers.
Their aim is surely neither ‘protecting civilians’ nor ‘democracy’ but control over oilfields, underground water resources and acquisition of a major military base in the country. Of course, ever since Gaddafi embraced liberalism Western oil companies have had control over Libyan oil. But with Gaddafi nobody could be sure of anything. Suppose he were to switch sides tomorrow and start to play ball with the Indians and the Chinese? More important are the enormous underground water resources which could have been used to benefit the African Sahelian countries. Well-known French companies are interested in those resources (this is the reason for the early French involvement). They will use them in a more ‘profitable’ way to produce agro-fuels.
In 1969 Gaddafi demanded that the British and Americans leave the bases they had kept in the country since the Second World War. Currently the United States needs to find a place in Africa for its AFRICOM (the US military command for Africa, an important part of its alignment for military control over the world but which still has to be based in Stuttgart!). The African Union having rejected it, until now no African country has dared to do so. A lackey installed in Tripoli would surely comply with all the demands of Washington and its NATO lieutenants. That would be a direct menace to Egypt and Algeria.
Having said that, it remains difficult to imagine how the ‘new regime’ will behave. The possibility of a disintegration in the Somali pattern should not be excluded.
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‘Free Tripoli’, just don't mention the corpses
The war on Libya has not only been a war that has vindicated NATO’s (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) claim to the most powerful military force on earth, capable of imposing its will through sheer aggression wherever it sees fit, but it has also been a war that has reasserted the Western mainstream media’s power to not just fabricate events but to create.
The first media victory was when it got away with claiming that Gaddafi’s government was attacking its own citizens in Tripoli from the air, a claim which formed part of the pretext for NATO’s intervention and also served to create panic and anger amongst the city's residents. No one was held to account when later Russian intelligence satellites and visits from independent observers to the areas alleged to have been targeted revealed no evidence that such attacks had taken place.
One of the most powerful lies was churned out by none other than British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who claimed in the first days of the crisis that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela. The Libyan government admitted repeatedly that their media was wholly incompetent and unable to provide alternative information at the time, with the result that the people of Libya like the rest of the world believed the claims that were being made. In this instance the result was to create a sense even amongst his traditional support base that they had been abandoned and betrayed. Of course Mr Hague made no apology for such irresponsible remarks when soon after Gaddafi showed his face in the streets of Tripoli.
More recently, the BBC has yet to apologise for using blatantly fake footage from a demonstration in India claiming it was in Tripoli’s Green Square, as part of their evidence that the city had fallen.
Such fabrications continued throughout the six months, as the media reported that areas had been ‘captured’ by the rebels, when in reality these areas had been blitzed from the air and the sea by NATO rockets with the sole aim of destroying any threat of resistance to its allies the rebels.
As the alliance bombed the rebels' path to Tripoli, on its way massacring at least 85 civilians in the Zlitan town of Majer, the leaders of hundreds of the country's tribes, including the largest, Wafalla, Tarhouna, Washafana and Zlitan, reasserted their determination to defend their areas and to descend on Tripoli should it come under threat.
Meanwhile, the masses of men and women of Tripoli who turned out in rallies against the rebels felt confident that should the rebels show up in their city they would be able to defeat them with the arms that Gaddafi's government had been issuing to them since the beginning of the crisis.
Now many of those people have been massacred, have fled or are in hiding. They may or may not have underestimated the ruthless might of NATO, but the media’s narrative that Tripoli fell without resistance is contested by the fact that it took the massacre of thousands and at least five days to establish tentative NTC (National Transitional Council) control of the capital, as well as by eyewitness accounts of what happened during those five days and beyond.
From the beginning of the fighting in Tripoli on 20 August when I and 35 other journalists became trapped inside the Rixos hotel, it was virtually impossible to get a clear idea of what was happening on the streets outside. Throughout that period the sounds of bombs, gunfire and other heavy weaponry was almost non-stop, with shrapnel and bullets occasionally making their way inside the hotel. But like the rest of the world, the only information we had, apart from the odd moments of communication with contacts inside the city, was from the mainstream international media.
Since my release, I have begun to collate information from residents in the capital in the absence of information from sources which are recognised internationally as ‘independent’. The following report is based on these accounts and the sources’ identity must be kept confidential due to the systematic targeting of anyone who betrays disloyalty to the rebels, which as I experienced myself, includes challenging their version of events in the media.
On the first day after rebels from sleeper cells inside Tripoli emerged and began attacking checkpoints manned by Libyan special forces. As is the pattern with their advance into areas on the way to the capital, they faced a swift initial defeat. But with the first images emerging around the world of the rebels inside Tripoli, NATO ensured it would not be short lived. The organisation sanctioned to ‘protect civilians’ rapidly moved to bomb all checkpoints in the densely packed city. The vast majority of these were manned by volunteers – i.e., ordinary citizens that had been armed with Kalashnikovs since the beginning of the crisis – so that the rebels could easily move into the city by sea and by road.
This was followed by masses of youth and other residents in the capital pouring into the streets to defend their city, as they had pledged to do during the mass rallies mentioned above and elsewhere.
The following day, NATO responded with intensified aggression. Eyewitnesses report that during this day, the broadcasting station in Tripoli was bombed, killing dozens. Shortly after the rebels claimed control of Libyan TV and the international media dutifully repeated the claim, blocking any mention of how the takeover had occurred.
Adding to the media's campaign of confusion, reports of Gaddafi’s sons being caught and that Gaddafi along with other family members had fled the country continued to beam out of televisions across the world.
Having become accustomed to such psychological operations designed to weaken the people’s support for the government by making them believe it had betrayed them, masses defied the reports and marched to Green Square. From inside the Rixos, during the short periods when phone access was revived, my contacts in the city who were in Green Square at the time, informed me that Muammar Gaddafi had been seen driving through the city in his army fatigues urging people to remain strong and not be deceived by the West’s relentless propaganda. This has since been reported by further contact with other residents who were in the streets at the time.
Following relentless bombardment, the masses were pushed back to Gaddafi’s compound Bab al-Azizia where they resisted the rebels’ advance for a further 24 hours. It was during this time that Saif al-Islam, who until then the media and International Criminal Court had been insisting was captured and arrested, showed up at the Rixos hotel where we were trapped. Calm and confident, he took out a group of journalists to Bab al-Azizia whereupon their return they confirmed seeing thousands in and around the compound waving the green flag, including as the tribes had pledged, from their people across the country.
But like the peaceful march in the western mountains on 24 July, which was attacked by NATO and the rebels, the masses in Bab al-Azizia were broken up by NATO bombing an entrance for the rebels and attacks by Apache gunships.
The same fate was visited upon gatherings in Green Square. Bab al-Azizia alone was reported to have been bombed 63 times during that time.
With both Green Square and Bab-Alzizia now in control of the rebels, the resistance continued in areas like Tripoli’s poorest neighbourhood Abu Saleem, which a few weeks previously had held a mass demonstration against the NATO aggression and in support of the Jamahiriya. Fighting against the rebels also raged on in Salah Eldeen and El Hadba.
Armed with kalashnikovs and rocket propelled grenades, the citizens of these areas fighting 8,000 kg bombs, Apache gunships, US, European and UAE special forces and the rebels laden with NATO’s sophisticated weaponry became part of the carnage, and piles of bodies were reported to line the streets.
Since then, any area known to have supported Gaddafi has reportedly been bombed or been subjected to homes and apartments being burnt and looted. And even the mainstream media has been unable to ignore the systematic targeting and lynching of anyone with black skin. It is widely known that Gaddafi’s opponents deeply loathed his rhetoric and policies in support of black Africa.
With Sirt, Sabha and Beni Walid being amongst the last areas still flying the green flag high, the rebels claim to be giving these a deadline before they resort to a ‘military response’, implying that in the meantime, a non-military avenue will be pursued. Yet again, the media fail to highlight the hypocrisy that the rebels’ ally, NATO, has been openly bombing these areas.
The same media has unquestioningly swallowed NATO’s line that the targets have been exclusively ‘Gaddafi’s forces’, in the face of evidence before their very eyes to the contrary and in the absence of any independent investigation into the death toll of the 30,000 bombs estimated to have been dropped over the past six months.
The last concrete figures on the second day of fighting put the death toll in 12 hours of fighting in Tripoli alone at 1,300 with 900 injured. Far from Tripoli falling without resistance these figures suggest that Tripoli fell with the masses resisting being massacred.
As in Zlitan, Zawiya and elsewhere, the same atrocities as those committed in Tripoli are being carried out in Beni Walid and Sirt with the complete silent complicity of journalists and ‘independent’ observers on the ground. This is ‘free Libya’, so long as the thousands of dead and in hiding upon which it is based goes unmentioned.
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What does Gaddafi's fall mean for Africa?
"Kampala 'mute' as Gaddafi falls," is how the opposition paper summed up the mood of this capital the morning after. Whether they mourn or celebrate, an unmistakable sense of trauma marks the African response to the fall of Gaddafi.
Both in the longevity of his rule and in his style of governance, Gaddafi may have been extreme. But he was not exceptional. The longer they stay in power, the more African presidents seek to personalise power. Their success erodes the institutional basis of the state. The Carribean thinker C L R James once remarked on the contrast between Nyerere and Nkrumah, analysing why the former survived until he resigned but the latter did not: "Dr Julius Nyerere in theory and practice laid the basis of an African state, which Nkrumah failed to do."
The African strongmen are going the way of Nkrumah, and in extreme cases Gaddafi, not Nyerere. The societies they lead are marked by growing internal divisions. In this, too, they are reminiscent of Libya under Gaddafi more than Egypt under Mubarak or Tunisia under Ben Ali.
Whereas the fall of Mubarak and Ben Ali directed our attention to internal social forces, the fall of Gaddafi has brought a new equation to the forefront: the connection between internal opposition and external governments. Even if those who cheer focus on the former and those who mourn are preoccupied with the latter, none can deny that the change in Tripoli would have been unlikely without a confluence of external intervention and internal revolt.
MORE INTERVENTIONS TO COME
The conditions making for external intervention in Africa are growing, not diminishing. The continent is today the site of a growing contention between dominant global powers and new challengers. The Chinese role on the continent has grown dramatically. Whether in Sudan and Zimbawe, or in Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria, that role is primarily economic, focused on two main activities: building infrastructure and extracting raw materials. For its part, the Indian state is content to support Indian mega-corporations; it has yet to develop a coherent state strategy. But the Indian focus too is mainly economic.
The contrast with Western powers, particularly the US and France, could not be sharper. The cutting edge of Western intervention is military. France's search for opportunities for military intervention, at first in Tunisia, then Cote d'Ivoire, and then Libya, has been above board and the subject of much discussion. Of greater significance is the growth of Africom, the institutional arm of US military intervention on the African continent.
This is the backdrop against which African strongmen and their respective oppositions today make their choices. Unlike in the Cold War, Africa's strongmen are weary of choosing sides in the new contention for Africa. Exemplified by President Museveni of Uganda, they seek to gain from multiple partnerships, welcoming the Chinese and the Indians on the economic plane, while at the same time seeking a strategic military presence with the US as it wages its War on Terror on the African continent.
In contrast, African oppositions tend to look mainly to the West for support, both financial and military. It is no secret that in just about every African country, the opposition is drooling at the prospect of Western intervention in the aftermath of the fall of Gaddafi.
Those with a historical bent may want to think of a time over a century ago, in the decade that followed the Berlin conference, when outside powers sliced up the continent. Our predicament today may give us a more realistic appreciation of the real choices faced and made by the generations that went before us. Could it have been that those who then welcomed external intervention did so because they saw it as the only way of getting rid of domestic oppression?
In the past decade, Western powers have created a political and legal infrastructure for intervention in otherwise independent countries. Key to that infrastructure are two institutions, the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court. Both work politically, that is, selectively. To that extent, neither works in the interest of creating a rule of law.
The Security Council identifies states guilty of committing "crimes against humanity" and sanctions intervention as part of a "responsibility to protect" civilians. Third parties, other states armed to the teeth, are then free to carry out the intervention without accountability to anyone, including the Security Council. The ICC, in toe with the Security Council, targets the leaders of the state in question for criminal investigation and prosecution.
Africans have been complicit in this, even if unintentionally. Sometimes, it is as if we have been a few steps behind in a game of chess. An African Secretary General tabled the proposal that has come to be called R2P, Responsibility to Protect. Without the vote of Nigeria and South Africa, the resolution authorising intervention in Libya would not have passed in the Security Council.
Dark days are ahead. More and more African societies are deeply divided internally. Africans need to reflect on the fall of Gaddafi and, before him, that of Gbagbo in Cote d'Ivoire. Will these events usher in an era of external interventions, each welcomed internally as a mechanism to ensure a change of political leadership in one country after another?
One thing should be clear: those interested in keeping external intervention at bay need to concentrate their attention and energies on internal reform.
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* This article was originally published by Al Jazeera.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
India's volte-face on Libya: The secret mission
The death of Imtiaz Alam, a domestic help in Tripoli, ten days ago in a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) air strike, was an opportune moment for our government to pronounce on the Libyan tragedy. Even the death of a sparrow is a tragedy, as Shakespeare put it, but the government continued with its stony silence about Nato’s war crimes. The official position is that the Libyan situation should be normalised by the people of that country and “this process should be guided by respect for the sovereignty, integrity and unity of Libya.”
But that position was fortnight-old. The government is yet to reveal that it took a U-turn in secrecy and decided to identify with the western intervention in Libya. Even the Indian parliament, which was in session, didn’t know that the minister of state for external affairs E Ahmed attended the so-called ‘Friends of Libya’ conference in Paris on September 1, which was convened by France, the interventionist power that spearheaded the assault on Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in flagrant violation of international law.
Whether the volte-face was due to Nikolas Sarkozy’s charm or a diktat from Washington (or both), we do not know. Perhaps, two or three years hence WikiLeaks might throw some light. Meanwhile, Ahmed’s flight to Paris signifies a major shift in policy.
True, Muammad Gaddafi’s regime has been overthrown and there is need to look ahead. It is nobody’s case either that India’s ties with Libya should be put in a deep freezer until the looming civil war finally gets over. Nor is it questionable that India has substantial interests in Libya which need to be safeguarded. The big question is how India should go about meeting the developing situation.
Our government argued when Resolution 1973 came up in the United Nations Security Council that India’s position would be largely guided by the stance of the African Union (AU) on the Libyan question. Subsequently, prime minister Manmohan Singh demonstratively displayed India’s solidarity with Africa when he made an extended tour of that continent and attended an AU-India summit meeting in Addis Ababa. The spin doctors hailed Singh’s rhetoric as historic. In retrospect, it seems the Indian statements were vacuous.
The point is, AU stubbornly refuses to accord recognition to the National Transitional Council or TNC (which is how the disparate elements who are Nato’s pawns in Libya are collectively described.) For the AU, Nato’s intervention in Libya evokes collective memory of the colonial era. The AU ignored Sarkozy’s invitation to the Paris meet. The government owes a decent explanation as to what prompted it to dump the prime minister’s flowery rhetoric in Africa about India’s common destiny with that continent.
Oil to money
Furthermore, what was the Paris meet about? Quintessentially, the western interventionist powers, having brought about the ‘regime change’, now want to consolidate their grip on Libya’s oil resources and to this end want to install the NTC in power in Tripoli, which of course needs lots of money — and Europe is broke. France and Britain seek that the billions of dollars in frozen assets belonging to Libya to be vested in the TNC’s hands. The British foreign secretary William Hague admitted that money is needed “to fund basic necessities, pay civil service salaries, and bolster confidence in Libyan banks.”
The Paris meet was a grim victory celebration by the Nato powers. In order to give legitimacy to what lies ahead, the Nato powers want poodles from outside Europe to get into their bandwagon. India needs to ponder about what is happening. India shouldn’t have been party to the processes under the rubric of ‘Friends of Libya’.
India should rather insist that such processes for cauterising the Libyan wounds should be the UN’s business. The western interventionist powers are bypassing the UN and insisting that Nato will remain in Libya for an indeterminate period.
Most certainly, India needs to maintain contacts with the disparate elements vying for supremacy in Libya. But then, their representatives could be invited to visit Delhi so that India’s concerns can be appropriately registered with them. By all means, render humanitarian help to the Libyan people. But India does not need Sarkozy or David Cameron as mediators. Nor should India be oblivious of the stance of the AU. India should synchronise its stance with the AU’s. It will be a principled stance and it will be in consonance with the promises and hopes held out by Manmohan Singh in his celebrated Africa tour, which still lingers in memory.
Finally, India should thoughtfully begin to assess the far-reaching import of what is unfolding in Libya. India has consistently argued that the struggle for change has to be peaceful and non-violent. That was how the Shah of Iran was overthrown (1979); Marcos in the Philippines (1986); the East European regimes in the 1980s; and Suharto in Indonesia (1998). On the contrary, the change in Libya is taking place through unilateralist western military intervention. It raises fundamental questions in global politics.
Are we hearing the footfalls of history all over again — the ‘white man’s burden’? We too have been, historically speaking, victims of the predatory politics of the western powers in their scramble for scarce resources in the Global South. Before dispatching Ahmed under a veil of secrecy to Paris, the government should have consulted the Indian parliament.
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* The writer is a former diplomat.
* This article was first published by the Deccan Herald.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Libya: A wake-up call for African unity
‘If Africa was united, no major power bloc would attempt to subdue it by limited war because, from the very nature of limited war, what can be achieved by it is itself limited. It is only where small states exist that it is possible, by landing a few thousand marines or by financing a mercenary force, to secure a decisive result.’ Kwame Nkrumah
Do many of you now understand why Africa must unite? It is now more urgent than before. Are there any doubting Thomas’s who still believe in a balkanised Africa? To them I refer the following quotation. In the wise words of Kwame Nkrumah: ‘In a world divided into hostile camps and warring factions, Africa cannot stand divided without going to the wall.’ Africans and the AU paper tiger sat aloof and watched on whilst an African state was being attack on the pretext that Libya’s president Gaddafi was about to attack civilians in Benghazi with no proof. Could a suspected intention be used as a premise for war?
This is what the British PM David Cameron had to say on 22 August 2011 after chairing a meeting of the National Security Council on the situation in Libya.
‘Six months ago this country took the difficult decision to commit our military to support the people of Libya. I said at the time that this action was necessary, legal and right – and I still believe that today. It was necessary because Gaddafi was going to slaughter his own people – and that massacre of thousands of innocent people was averted. Legal, because we secured a resolution from the United Nations, and have always acted according to that resolution. And right, because the Libyan people deserve to shape their own future, just as the people of Egypt and Tunisia are now doing.’
The moral high ground of British PM David Cameron begins to plummet when Yemen and Bahrain are factored into the equation.
The fact of the matter is Gaddafi was a thorn in the eyes of the Western powers and they have not forgotten and forgiven him on how he lambasted and shamed them at UN General Assembly meeting in September 2009 by tearing a copy of the UN charter into pieces as a farce in his marathon speech at the dismay of the Western nations. Gaddafi argued and asked for compensation and repatriations for black Africans whose slave labour and wealth had made America and Europe super-rich.
So when the knock-on effect of Arab spring opportunity presented itself on the silver plate with Libya a state sandwich between Tunisia and Egypt, NATO took advantage of it as a proxy excuse to teach Gaddafi a lesson. A resolution was hurried through the UN and American President Obama acted without consulting Congress. This in itself was a violation of the American constitution. The Arab League, who by the way were already at odds with Gaddafi because he ridiculed them, saw the chance to get rid of their nest nemesis because Gaddafi was more Africa-friendly by pushing for the unification of Africa than the Arab League. Gaddafi for better or worse was a proud African who proudly showcased Africa on his attire with African emblem. The toothless AU who financially gained tremendously from the generosity and handouts from Gaddafi would now have to look elsewhere for a new paymaster. And those who still believe Africa must wait and not ripe for unity, I say to them, Nkrumah’s warnings have come to pass and he has been vindicated many times over. Neocolonialism is rearing its ugly head in African again but this time they are doing it openly without shame. The earlier we join our forces to unite the better otherwise soon the train would be gone forever.
The political fight for our liberation from the likes of Nkrumah, Nasser, Jomo Kenyatta and Lumumba was not the end of the chapter but the beginning of it. We must liberate ourselves economically in order to provide for our people. Africa’s economies must be channelled in a way that money will keep rotating on our continent to create wealth to make us rich. We are by any measure the richest continent but paradoxically poor. The fight for emancipation of Africa is not over yet and there is no room for or there can be no complacency. We have to speak with one voice which is why Africa must unite. We have to keep these three prime areas in one central body at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa – i.e., finance, defence and foreign affairs.
Yes, Gaddafi is a controversial figure without any doubt and like many of his African peers in power has overstayed, but until recently the Bedouin man Gaddafi was moving his tent from capitals of Europe and America like on the Sahara and they held a court for him. Gaddafi was courted in the power corridors worldwide. From Obama to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown,from Sarkozy to Berlusconi. In Africa and in particular the AU, Gaddafi was the paymaster with the fat blank cheque for anything AU. Now that he has been subdued by the very people who hold human rights in esteem but when tested on their own turf start to curtail EU human rights and now want their own bill of rights. They are the very ones who praised the social media and networking for toppling Mubarak. They are now finding ways and means to control social media or even to smash it the Chinese way.
Not long ago, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron was praising revolutions which used social networking in Egypt and Tunisia.
Today, the same British PM is using social media as a scapegoat. How grotesque! He is afraid that the Arab spring could become contagious in his British backyard, hence the strong measures to curb social media after the UK wide riots and looting by the youth using Blackberries and smart-phones.
The following statements are the two tongues and two faces of David Cameron.
This was what Cameron said after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was removed from office via the help of social media when addressing Kuwait parliament on 22 February 2011: ‘One of the most remarkable things about the historic events we've seen in Egypt and Tunisia in these past weeks is that it is not an ideological or extremist movement but rather, a movement of the people – an expression of aspiration predominantly from a new generation hungry for political and economic freedoms.
‘In short, it belongs to the people who want to make something of their lives, and to have a voice. It belongs to a new generation for whom technology – the internet and social media – is a powerful tool in the hands of citizens, not a means of repression. It belongs to the people who've had enough of corruption, of having to make do with what they're given, of having to settle for second best.’
This is what the same British PM said when the same social media was employed as tool when ‘London was burning’ after days of rage, rioting and looting.
‘Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill,’ Cameron said. ‘And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them.’
‘We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality,’ Cameron said in a speech before the House of Commons.
The CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry were summoned to a British parliamentary committee to ‘rebuke’ them.
In the words or eyes of David Cameron it is okay when social media is used to instigate violence elsewhere, but not Britain. Is this not hypocritical when he David Cameron who benefited enormously from using social networking in his sometimes smear campaign to his advantage to become the PM of Britain with the aid of Andy Coulson, a man with a questionable character who is now on bail after the News of the World phone-hacking scandal?
Here is what the British PM said on human rights with reference to the UK after the fire and looting that devastated parts of London and the UK:
‘… we inevitably come to the question of the Human Rights Act and the culture associated with it. Let me be clear: in this country we are proud to stand up for human rights, at home and abroad. It is part of the British tradition. But what is alien to our tradition – and now exerting such a corrosive influence on behaviour and morality … is the twisting and misrepresenting of human rights in a way that has undermined personal responsibility. We are attacking this problem from both sides. We're working to develop a way through the morass by looking at creating our own British bill of rights.
‘It is exactly the same with health and safety – where regulations have often been twisted out of all recognition into a culture where the words “health and safety” are lazily trotted out to justify all sorts of actions and regulations that damage our social fabric.
‘I want to make it clear that there will be no holds barred...and that most definitely includes the human rights and health and safety culture.’
The response of David Cameron is knee-jerk reaction which appeals to the populist mentality and plays well into hands of right-wing extremist groups like the English Defence League.
On the other hand, his Deputy PM Nick Clegg disagrees. This what he said on 26 August 2011. On the overall impact of the act, Clegg staunchly defends the legislation, which defends the most vulnerable: ‘I believe [incorporating the Human Rights Act into domestic law] was a hugely positive step which has done three things: it has ended the long delays people used to experience before they could get a hearing at Strasbourg, embedded the principles of the ECHR in our own courts, and sent a powerful message to the rest of the world about the value we place on human rights. So as we continue to promote human rights abroad, we must ensure we work to uphold them here at home. We have a proud record that we should never abandon.’
This is what the British PM said when he cut short his holiday to address the NTC rebels on human rights after the NTC rebels took over Tripoli.
‘We are working closely with the NTC to support their plans to make sure that happens. I spoke to Chairman Jalil last week, and will be speaking to him again to agree with him the importance of respecting human rights, avoiding reprisals and making sure all parts of Libya can share in the country's future. And the wider NATO mission which is to protect civilians – that will continue for as long as it is needed.’
So you see the two set of different standards for themselves but always try to educate us, however, when faced with the same problematic they take draconian measures to stop it. Would Britain allow rebels on their soil? Certainly not., so one man’s meat is another man’s poison. If ever there was a rebellion in UK or Europe would they listen to us when we try to educate them? In the 1960s and 1970s terrorism was always alien to them until they recently experienced it first-hand. When Nkrumah was faced with home-grown terror by the NLM/Mate Meho group, it was dismissed by the West. He was called a dictator for reacting to terror actions by a disgruntled few. So the paintings on the wall have different interpretations depending on which mood the leaders in the West find themselves. It’s all good as long as it fits their hubristic whims.
Now last but not least, David Cameron accused the youth involved in the recent riots and looting of twisted moral code. My humble question is, what is the level of PM David Cameron’s moral code when he engaged his spin doctor Andy Coulson of the erstwhile News of the World as director of communications at the centre of government machine, a man who was known to have orchestrated and been at the helm of the phone-hacking scandal in Britain. What is the moral code of PM David Cameron when he gives an audience to Rebekah Brooks, who was in charge when some of these allegations took place? What is moral code of a PM David Cameron who wines and dines with the News of the World owner, Rupert Murdoch, not a single time but many times over. I am at lost to find words for these acts of double standards.
See, most of the Western nations apply the Christian doctrine of war wherein they almost justify all the atrocities from the ancient biblical era to the Roman–Greco time to the imperial British control of the sea waves, to the forceful use of slave labour and the looting of Africa, to the present airspace control by America. Now the fight for new frontiers in space is wide open.
It is no secret that from time immemorial nations went to war and invaded other nations as of today not only to protect their interest but also to expand and make money when victorious by looting the booty of their enemies like seizing land or using their captives for slave labour and increasing their tax revenues. Today nothing has changed.
Today, Libya which has easily refinable sweet oil and is close to Europe, is being flattened to the ground. As these destructions of Libya continue, oil companies and foreign companies from Britain, France, Italy, America and Turkey are jockeying for their positions to get their booty, whilst Africa loses out. They are going to jump start their worsening economy and hire more people to reduce the unemployment in their various countries. The not altruistic motive of neocolonialism promises people democracy, but in actual fact that they are looking for their own interest first is well known to us, but each time we fall a victim because we don’t have a united force and voice to fight this hydra which undermines social justice on the African continent. Capitalism as they say has no friends, its only friend is to maximise profit. And where it fails to maximise its profit, it is socialised, as was in recent times.
Luckily enough, the answers to all our woes in Africa were given to us thanks to the Ghanaian-born Kwame Nkrumah, who warned Africans of the consequences if we do not unite during the fight for political liberation. ‘There are likely to be more coups and rebellions in Africa as long as imperialists and neo-colonialists are able to exploit our weaknesses. Unless we unite and deal with neo-colonialism on a Pan-African basis, they will continue to try to undermine our independence, and draw us again into spheres of influence comparable to the original carve-up of Africa arranged at the Berlin Conference of 1884.’
In my humble view globalisation is 21st-century pure capitalism. There is nothing wrong for capitalism if it wears a human face of social democracy.
‘Capitalism is but the gentleman’s way of slavery,’ said Nkrumah.
Africa’s way out of this cul de sac of being an economic and political punching bag for the East and West or perennial dilemma of ignorance, poverty and disease is to unite. Africa must unite or we perish together. ‘The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart. These are the forces that we must enlist and cement for the sake of the trusting millions who look to us, their leaders, to take them out of the poverty, ignorance and disorder left by colonialism into an ordered unity in which freedom and amity can flourish amidst plenty’ (Kwame Nkrumah).
The axioms, ideas and ideals are today more urgent than ever needed than before. The tumult in North Africa and especially Libya should be lessons learnt and a wake-up call to the present lacklustre African leaders. It is time for them to learn the democratic rules that the power always belongs to the people. The respective countries in which these leaders rule is not their personal or family property. They must learn to relinquish power and not change the constitution at will.
‘A Union Government for Africa does not mean the loss of sovereignty by independent African States. A Union Government will rather strengthen the sovereignty of the individual states within the Union’ (Kwame Nkrumah).
Nkrumah lives! We neither face east nor west. We still face forward. Viva Mama Africa.
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* This article was published by Ghana Web.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Libya: Insidious plunder, what else?
Nicholas H. Tucker
In 1884 the von Bismarck gathering had as its prime directive ‘stamp out slavery’ – read ‘humanitarian intervention’ – while the real agenda was the allotment of vast parcels of resource-rich land to Caucasian imperial wizards.
In 2011 the Ban Ki-moon gathering had as its prime directive ‘humanitarian intervention’, which is no different from the von Bismarck principle, the re-allotment of vast parcels of resource-rich land to Caucasian imperial wizards.
The ‘first scramble’ resulted in 127 years of abject misery and bone-grinding poverty for the people of Africa, with a few brief years in between where we the noble savages struggled and challenged their hegemony over our very lives, but to no avail, and now the time has come for us to renew the original contract with Elijah Muhammad’s ‘Devil’. Thus the 21st-century contract negotiations began in the same manner with which the 18th-, 19th- and 20th- century negotiations were performed – the culling of Africans.
If I were tasked to create a stage performance of events in North Africa, I would use the 407-year-old fantasy piece ‘The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus’ as a guide and select my key actors in the following order:
- Dr Faustus
Gaddafi (or almost any other African Union leader), all who have attempted to consort with The Devil at some time or the other
- Faustus’ soul
Libya - 41.5 billion barrels of oil and 144 tonnes of gold (or for that matter the population and the resources of almost any other African country – except those that produce only cabbages and sugarcane – like Swaziland. These we get to keep as a reminder of Caucasian generosity)
Ban Ki-moon (this one is definitely Stockholmed)
- Understudy for Mephistopheles
Obama (same as Ban Ki-moon), Sarkozy (grand dragon) or Merkel (übermensch) or Berlusconi (brown shirt) – a rather long list
- The Contract (actually contractors)
NATO, insurgents, BP, ENI, Total…
- The Devil (Mephistopheles’s boss)
Global finance and military–industrial complex
- Score and subtitles written and conducted by mainstream media
The emasculated left suffering from Stockholm Syndrome much like the Mephistopheles caste members.
This is a rather ugly and predictable piece of real-life theatre, for we know how this story starts and we definitely know how it ends – the Devil eventually owns us all, body and soul, so to speak. The very fires of hell have been ignited in Libya by imperial interests and through the very gates of hell stream the salivating demons in the form of NATO and their genocidal insurgents, to commit a Rwanda-type massacre of all who stand in the way of the United Nations ‘humanitarian intervention’ and IMF–World Bank ‘economic progress’. What is currently happening in Libya is no fantasy story. It is a situation that ultimately speaks to the fate of all of Africa, for if Libya falls the rest of Africa will soon follow.
The arrival of the so-called ‘Arab spring’ presented America and its lascivious mongrels within NATO with the perfect opportunity to engage in creating a permanent foothold on the continent of Africa, having over the past few years attempted to do so through AFRICOM and not quite succeeding. The African Union was not quite getting into the spirit of the NATO-for-darkies deal, thus impeding America’s first order of business, that of getting unconditional buy-in from most if not all of the current African heads of state.
While having their command and control centre based in Djibouti, effectively covering the Gulf of Aden as well as the Horn of Africa, they still urgently need an effective centre of control that actively blankets the Arab Maghreb Union, (Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Mauritania, Morocco) and – no surprises there – Libya fits the bill, but for a few small niggardly obstacles like:
- Jamahiriya (state of the masses)
- Absence of foreign debt
- Central bank
- 144 tonnes of gold in said Central Bank
- 41.5 billion barrels of oil still in the ground
- The highest living standards index in Africa
- Foreign direct investments in Europe totalling $200 billion.
Americas answer to these vexatious impediments is destroy the Jamahiriya by bombing it back to the stone-age, and seize their gold and oil as reparations for a war they did not start, privatise the state-owned Central Bank and make the Libyans indebted to the usurious IMF–World Bank–BIS nexus for loans to rebuild infrastructure deliberately destroyed by NATO in pursuit of ‘humanitarian intervention’, a process which will begin before the people of Libya have had time to even grieve for their dead. We must give the marauding Americans this, their twisted minds have a certain functional logic – cruel, cold, evil and frightening, but functional, and at the end of the day they will get what they came for – your land, your resources and your soul.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was absolutely spot on when said, ‘The drama of Libya isn't ending with the fall of Gaddafi's government. It's beginning; the tragedy in Libya is just beginning.’ What this means for the rest of Africa is that it shows the impunity with which imperialism strides through our lands and lays waste to anything and everything that stands in its way, even the so-called authority of our leaders in the African Union.
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* Nicholas H. Tucker is a member of the Socialist Party of Azania.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The war against Libya is criminal
As thousands of NATO bombs and a NATO-aided ‘rebel’ insurgency have got the better of Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime, French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minster David Cameron can exult. Sarkozy can thrust out his chest, as the prophet who momentarily extolled and extended the virtues of fraternal embrace and humanitarian solidarity, in an opportunistic manoeuvre towards a law-oriented concern for democracy and freedom as the philosophical foundation of French Enlightenment.
In a way, right-wing politics within France has had a huge spill over effect and extended into an imperialist campaign. A few months ago an unpopular, domestically battered president facing public discontent from all possible fronts, Sarkozy has succeeded in reincarnating himself as a modern-day saviour. His war of aggression is a fledgling attempt to succeed where the Italians failed; in other words, to finish the ‘Italian job’ started in 1910. Interestingly, at that time, the Italians claimed their invasion of Libya was motivated by their desire to liberate the Ottoman Wilayats from the yoke of Constantinople.
Rumours, perceptions and facts have meticulously been distilled and dutifully disseminated by consumerist mainstream media across the far-reaching corners of the world, forcing the public to ingest the pill of Western propaganda. Media coverage presents a dualistic world of good and evil in which Qaddafi is the absolute demon and Sarkozy the life-saving superhero.
By any measure, the Libyan war has become the stage of the most forceful deployment of the capitalist apparatus, the quintessential example of imperialism as the last stage of capitalism. The almighty market has bombed its way through an unwilling, recalcitrant regime; it will not stop until it has penetrated its deepest recesses. The ruthless exercise of geo-economic leverage by Western powers has once more advanced ‘rationalised imperialism’; as Amilcar Cabral would say, it has extended the militarised conquest of economic resources.
Democracy and liberation are merely hollow concepts, misused and abused by their proponents who have found a new way of instituting them in ‘rogue’ states through ‘strategic’ bombings and proxy wars. Western propensity for and obsession with bombing weaker countries with minimal harm to their own populations has caused unspeakable bloodshed, distress, trauma, and deep resentment in Afghanistan, Iraq and will in Libya.
But the war against Libya is criminal in so many ways, first of all because it is illegal. The NATO process afoot in Libya is a well orchestrated, carefully planned operation of elimination. It is a travesty of international law and it violates UN Resolution 1973 in so many different ways:
(1) The resolution did not give mandate to France and allies to overthrow a government just because they could do so
(2) The resolution did not give mandate to France and allies to actively arm a ‘rebellion’ and take sides in a civil conflict
(3) The resolution did not give mandate to France and allies to hunt and murder Qaddafi and to institute a puppet regime forever beholden to their Western liberators.
On the other hand, France and allies are quick to condemn the sluggishness and apathy of the African Union (AU). They repeatedly ignored calls by the AU to prioritise discussion over aggression. Now that the difficult task of reconstruction will entail a long, possibly hindered process, they are showing signs of wanting to involve the AU. From the very beginning, NATO’s objective was to discredit the AU as the ever ineffective organisation just because the latter advocated a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The AU, of course, looses a generous and vocal ‘pan-African’ ally in a defeated Qaddafi and the organisation is even losing its ability to defend its narrow continental interests. Qaddafi may be an incurable tyrant, but he’s nonetheless a generous tyrant who has many times lent a helping hand to many African states and leaders, even if this was at times for self-aggrandizement and for political recognition.
Besides, he galvanised a concept of African unity which has made inroads into policy-thinking within the AU. As inoperative as it tends to be, AU for once has indicated a sense of willing engagement to find an African solution to an African problem. But its roadmap to peace is not worth the paper it’s written on in the eyes of Sarkozy, Obama and Cameron.
AN UNTENABLE CAMPAIGN
A wonderful hypocrisy underlies the entire campaign. Qaddafi is no more dictatorial and repressive than the leaders of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. Given their ties with these countries, Sarkozy, Obama and Cameron are not in a position to grant and distribute dispensations. The brand of democracy that is being promoted, with powerful psychological techniques through a colluding media, is one we have too often seen at work. It is the democracy ‘granted’ by the barrel of the gun: in Iraq and Ivory Coast where it was duly applied by the lackeys of Western capital.
Very seldom has NATO been on the side of morality and legality. The Atlantic treaty has a long history of bullying and of imperial manoeuvres, of supporting the wrong people like the fascist government of Salazar whose innumerable crimes in Portuguese Africa (Angola, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Mozambique) contributed to a culture of unending oppression and bloodshed in these countries to this day.
So much impunity is dispiriting and infuriating. But more infuriating is the fact that over 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are dealing with an unprecedented famine without any power intervening to ensure their basic human rights to food and dignity are respected. No matter what criticism is levelled against Qaddafi, he provided his people with one of the highest living standards in the whole of Africa.
The media hype, astonishingly biased, has pacified the Western public, as well as scores of sceptic observers, of the necessity to remove the tyrant who ‘massacres his own people’. This unprecedented propaganda has been designed to smother dissenting and discordant voices. Even the most respected news outlets have actively become an embedded asset in NATO’s campaign of misinformation.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Libya: Hope, uncertainty and suspicion after Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year reign as leader of Libya is now history thanks to an armed rebellion which was helped across the finish line by NATO and the Western powers. What will the new Libya look like? Will it become a stable democracy or an outpost for Islamic extremist? Will the National Transition Council (NTC) hold together or will it collapse like a pack of cards and plunge the country in a Somalia-type chaos? Was it all about oil or about freedom for the Libyan people? And, are we witnessing the (re)colonisation of Africa? These are some of the questions that bloggers have been grappling with since the fall of Tripoli a couple of weeks ago.
Pipeline Dreams points out while the narrative about the Libyan revolution has been largely one-sided in the West, it is a more nuanced narrative that prevails in Africa:
‘Despite all the indications that NATO has played a critical role in the “uprising,” the disdain for Gaddafi in the West has led to incomplete and one-sided coverage of the Libyan situation.
‘If you read reporting on Libya from across Africa, however, you’ll discover a slightly different appreciation of the current situation…
‘Many of the people I’ve spoken with in Ghana are deeply troubled by NATO actions in Libya. Rather than debating the relative merits of Gaddafi and the rebels, they’re looking at what the NATO actions in Libya mean for the rest of the continent. After watching the French take out Gbagbo a few months ago and NATO forces bringing about the demise of Gaddafi today, it’s hardly surprising that many wonder who may be next.
‘With the scramble on for Africa’s resources, how much room for maneuver do African governments really have?
‘One thing is certain: when Western actions are selective and seemingly motivated by resources and self-interest, talk of human rights and support for democracy building fall on deaf ears.’
Shabablibya argues that the West’s Libya strategy of the past six months (both political and military) was incoherent and inept:
‘Libya has been a classic exercise in coercive diplomacy — more exactly, a classic case of how not to conduct it. The first lesson to draw is that in a game of intimidation, the psychological factor is key. Actual use of military force is designed to undermine the morale and break the will of the targeted leadership. To succeed, it should be swift, concentrated and carry a credible threat of more to come unless they comply with the ultimatum. The United States and NATO failed completely to meet those requirements. Implementation of a vague, incoherent strategy was disjointed in the extreme. Military and diplomatic actions both were irresolute and fitful…
‘Almost no battlefield support was given the insurgents at critical moments early in the campaign when Gaddafi and his loyalists were barely holding on. For more than a month, the thousands of claimed NATO air sorties had so little practical effect that opposition leaders voiced concerns that they had been misled if not betrayed. The incoherence and ineptitude of the air campaign undercut the political strategy of putting intolerable pressure on Gaddafi and his associates. The hand-off from the United States was abrupt and uncoordinated. President Obama was anxious to limit American exposure at a time of mounting domestic criticism about American overextension and the fierce opposition of the Pentagon led by Robert Gates. As for NATO and the Europeans, their weak political will — individual and collective — is notorious. Once again they have demonstrated an inability collectively to manage difficult, complex missions when the United States is not there to lead them. This judgment holds despite the initiatives of French President Sarkozy who has been too erratic and lacking in the authority to orchestrate the behavior of other governments.’
Sahel blog believes that the Libyan crisis will have a destabilising effect on the Sahel region:
‘As I said in February, there are multiple categories of foreign fighters in Libya, including the Tuaregs mentioned in the article, who had been there for years, as well as fighters who only went to Libya this year. There are also black-skinned Africans who are targeted in Libya on suspicion of being mercenaries.
‘Regarding Sahelians who actually fought in Libya, though, whether they were there for a decade or a month, their return to Mali, Niger, Chad, or elsewhere could, as Mamadou Diallo told AFP, prove destabilizing. This movement of fighters also points to a new political reality in the Sahel: the absence of Qadhafi’s presence as a political mediator (and sometime instigator) in various internal conflicts throughout the region. Sahelian governments have been working to prepare for a post-Qadhafi future, but they are deeply concerned not only about security issues, but also about the potential economic and humanitarian impact that returnees will have on poor and remote areas.
‘I am no expert on the Tuaregs, but it would seem to me that new rebellions are not inevitable. Still, a period of uncertainty seems likely, as individuals, communities, and nations adjust to the changes that the fall of Qadhafi is bringing.’
The Moor Next Door
The Moor Next Door assesses the role of Algeria in the Libyan conflict:
‘The mixed messages coming from Algiers — the contradictory statements from high officials and party leaders and the tone of articles in newspapers considered close to one or the other faction of the political elite — have exposed Algeria to conspiracy theories and accusations from the Libyan resistance and even traditional adversaries such as Moroccan propaganda outlets. Early in the conflict it seemed the Algerians hoped that a strong showing of solidarity by major developing countries and rising powers would help push back against the will of NATO and the Gulf Arabs…
‘Algeria’s policy appears symptomatic of its leadership’s general lack of finesse in managing emerging trends moving east to west in the Arab region. Algeria will likely face criticism internationally for having taken in the Qadhafis; it is also likely to suffer pressure from Gulf Arab states pushing the consensus position on Libya. Algiers lost the propaganda campaign during the Libyan crisis and is likely to continue to take a lashing when it comes to regional opinion and media coverage. Its links to NATO are unlikely to suffer seriously but may be put at some risk if it continues to dig into its defiant stance. France is a likely source of pressure…
‘At the domestic level, standing by the Qadhafis will not earn anyone in the Algerian leadership any kind of kudos from the Algerian people who are hungry for political change themselves. As Qadhafi scrapes out of the political scene, Algeria is ending the Libyan crisis more isolated than when it began.’
Lenin’s Tomb argues that Libya will not plunge into chaos like Iraq did because the NTC’s Western allies will stabilise the situation:
‘There will be no analogue to “de-Baathification”. The old state structures will be preserved and adapted, and the new government will enjoy considerable legitimacy provided it delivers on a basic menu of elections and political rights. Moreover, the parties that win those elections will likely be the more pro-capitalist elements allied to the ruling class factions in the leadership of the transitional council. The government that now follows will be less oppressive and more democratic than the one it ousted, and it will probably be less sectional than the Qadhafi regime.
‘It would be hard for the coming government to do worse than Qadhafi. In one respect, however, they may do just that. EU powers will certainly demand that the new regime hold to their promise to continue Qadhafi's policy of containing immigration from Africa to the EU. Given the way that some elements in this rebellion have treated black and migrant workers - you know, lynchings and that - the EU can probably have full confidence in the new regime's handling of this remit. It always made sense, of course, for the bourgeois elements of the rebellion to scapegoat black workers as the “alien” elements, the fifth column depended on by Qadhafi. In government, the temptation to resort to racist hysteria in order to frustrate and divide potential opposition will be magnified many times over.’
Africa Works calls for a more humane treatment of African migrants in Libya who are being persecuted on the grounds that they are mercenaries who fought for the Gaddafi regime:
‘Libyan rebels have happily received decisive support from an international community — led by France and the U.S. — who subscribe to race-blind principles. Having been empowered by aid based on these principles, the rebels should not abandon basic human decency in their treatment of migrants from ‘black Africa,’ whom they are unfairly labeling as mercenaries hired by the former regime.
‘In truth, Ghaddafi cynically manipulated Libya’s relations with sub-Saharan Africa, opening his country to economic migrants, especially from West Africa, and to human smugglers who helped these migrants find ways into Europe. In his brittle attempt at finding international allies, Ghaddafi promoted a pan-Africanism that sought, again cynically, to unite North Africa with the sub-Saharan. That Ghaddafi had no interest in actually building bridges between these two regions fatally undermined his pan-African project. Moreoever, by permitting large numbers of black migrants into Libya, Ghaddafi sowed the seeds of resentment against them by his own resentful and alienated population.
‘Now that Ghaddafi is gone, rebellious Libyans want the Africans migrants out as well. The views of the Libyan people should be respected but there also should be no violent and immediate expulsion of black Africans either. These migrants in Libya don’t deserve punishment. Rather they should be helped out of the country in an orderly process supervised by the International Organization for Migration or individual governments, perhaps France.’
Asmarino draws parallels between the Gaddafi regime and that of Isaias Afwerki in Eritrea:
‘Under a false pretense of championing the African cause, Gaddafi lavished million of dollars on notorious tyrants such as Idi Amin of Uganda, the Chad warlords in the late 80s and countless other places in the continent. One of his clients was until recently our own dictator Isaias Afwerki, whose regime had for years made a habit of soliciting from him petrol and undisclosed amount of grants and investments. It is possible that he kissed his hand (after all, Berlusconi, the prime minister, of Italy has done it.) Gaddafi was not his mentor, however. The path to tyranny that manifested itself in Libya following a military coup in 1969 and the rebellion in Eritrea that produced the misanthrope, Isaias, followed different trajectories.
‘In Libya it was young military officers who, influenced by Gamal Abdel Nasser, launched a top down social engineering. In short, the Libyan type had its roots in military barracks. Their Eritrean counterparts were, however, mostly college students who abandoned their studies to wage a war in the sparsely populated areas of Eritrea. Thanks to the protracted nature of the war and the resource-deficit environment of the theater of war, the largely student elite from the urban areas finally ended up as a military class. The breed in Eritrea was not the ordinary type of military juntas for only this reason: its totalitarian ideology.’
Richard Falk best captures the prevailing uncertainty about Libya’s future with a series of questions:
‘Qaddafi and his loyalists are apparently a spent force, and the future of Libya now becomes a work in progress without any clear understanding of who will call the shots from now on. Will it be the Libyan victors in the war now battling among themselves for the control of the country? Will it be their NATO minders hiding behind the scenes? Will it be the NATO representatives doing the bidding of the oil companies and the various corporate and financial interests that make no secret of seeking a robust profit-making stake in Libya’s future? Or will it be some combination of these influences, more or less harmoniously collaborating? And most relevant of all, will this process be seen as having the claimed liberating impact on the lives and destinies of the Libyan people? It is far too early to pronounce on such momentous issues, although sitting on the sidelines one can only hope and pray for the best for a country substantially destroyed by external forces.’
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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.
Samir Amin: A tribute to a fighter against global capitalism
‘We are thus at the point where in order to open up a new field for the expansion of capital (modernization of agricultural production) it would be necessary to destroy - in human terms - entire societies. Twenty million efficient producers (fifty million human beings including their families) on one side and five billion excluded on the other. The constructive dimension of this operation represents no more than one drop of water in the ocean of destruction that it requires. I can only conclude that capitalism has entered its declining senile phase; the logic which governs the system is no longer able to assure the simple survival of half of humanity. Capitalism has become barbaric, directly calling for genocide. It is now more necessary than ever to substitute for it other logics of development with a superior rationality.’
‘Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World’, p. 34
With these words Samir Amin was pointing to the choices before humanity. These were either one of expropriation of small farmers and later genocidal destruction or one where there was transformation of relations between humans. In the second and preferable alternative, humans would struggle to transcend capitalism to the point where there would be a new impetus for agricultural transformation where agriculture and forestry will provide for the wellbeing of billions of humans on planet earth. While acknowledging that the future transformation of agriculture was a ‘complex and multi-dimensional problem’ for humans, Samir Amin recognised that this task of transforming agriculture required new political alliances to break the present international division of labour. This vision is one where in the bio-economy of the 21st century, agriculture and forestry will ‘become new and lasting motors of the economy’ and a major source of new employment. Samir Amin was offering a vision of a new global system that integrated humans rather than excluding them.
The vision of another social system ‘abandoning the sacrosanct institution of private property’ has been at the core of the intellectual work of Samir Amin for six decades. Born in Egypt on 3 September 1931, Amin was well aware of the stability of the agricultural sector for thousands of years. Egypt represented a society where the national formation had survived thousands of years of invasion and Amin brought to the world insights from the struggles of this society where the devastating consequences of integration into the capitalist system had brought poverty and misery for millions in that society. Now as we celebrate the 80th birthday of this African revolutionary, the revolutionary upheavals in Egypt and the counter-revolution in Libya points to the sharpening of the lines as the struggles intensify. As one component of this celebration of the life of Samir Amin, Pambazuka is also launching the Samir Amin Award so that readers and the Pambazuka audience can pay tribute to the extraordinary contribution of Samir Amin. Throughout his rich life, Amin wrote and acted to strengthen effective forms of popular power and the ideas that could give coherence to that popular power. For Samir Amin, that idea was the idea of socialism and he has been a contributor to ideas of transformation to a new mode of politics and economics for six decades.
REFINING HISTORICAL MATERIALISM?
Samir Amin can rightly be considered one of the foremost theoreticians of Marxism in the 20th century. In the 21st century he continues to explain the systemic crisis of capitalism and the potentialities for incredible violence if humans did not struggle for a better world. Hailing from a society at the head of the Nile river that stood at the crossroads of three continents (Africa, Asia and Europe), Amin was able to grasp the strengths and weaknesses of differing forms of human organisation over centuries and he used the method of historical materialism to educate students of the paths that were possible before humanity. It is with this tool of analysis that Samir Amin continuously exposes the ‘idea of a self-regulating market’. Today it is urgent for those aspiring for social change to grasp the importance of the tools of the method of historical materialism in order to come to grips with the dangers that lurk behind the current economic crisis. Although North American universities have been afraid of the theoretical contributions of Karl Marx and historical materialism, it would be useful in the midst of this moment of uncertainty for students to read Samir Amin’s essay on ‘The Challenge of Globalization’ where he sought to extend this tool of analysis by being up front with some of its deficiencies (especially as this analysis related to nature and gender) in order to debunk what he calls ‘liberal utopianism.’
Throughout the post-colonial period after World War II, most of the significant forces for change (China, Vietnam, Cuba, Guinea, Zanzibar, Mozambique and South Africa) sought to grasp the core progressive tenets of Marxism, class struggles, the historical method and historical materialism and revolutionary change. Historical materialism has been a tool of analysis that seeks to understand material economic forces as the foundation on which sociopolitical institutions and ideas are constructed. In short, how do we understand the real dynamics of exploitation and domination within capitalism? In the world of austerity measures where workers are called upon to sacrifice and bankers are subsidised, there is a great need for the present generation to construct the theoretical base for grasping the social struggles in society that can assist us in making a break from seeking to understand history from the actions of great persons or the unseen hand of the market. Throughout his contributions, from the time he published his book ‘Accumulation on a World Scale’, Samir Amin has been using the historical materialist method of analysis to clarify the pitfalls of what he calls ’bourgeois economics’. Amin for decades had critiqued the ‘vulgar and mechanistic’ conceptions of ‘stages of economic growth’ that had been crafted as an anti-communist manifesto at the height of the Cold War. He wrote in the introduction of the book ‘Global History: A View from the South’ that ‘I had already formulated a radical critique three years before Walt Rostow presented his thesis. But since then “development economics” preached by the main institutions responsible for development interventions (the World Bank, cooperation programmes and universities) have never gone beyond this nonsense’ (p. 3).
It is this methodological clarity and consistency of exposing the nonsense of Western ‘development’ theories which placed Samir Amin in a position to continuously clarify the massive fraud involved in the various development projects of the imperial overlords and the current version which is called the Millennium Development Goals. Re-reading Samir Amin today helps us to understand how after 50 years of the Pearson Report, (Partners for Development), the Brandt Report (to end poverty and hunger), numerous World Bank Development Reports, the MDG goals and the Blair Commission for Africa, the people of Africa are poorer and more exploited than they were in 1960.
In the present crisis of capitalism, a materialist conception of history allows us to understand that the current financial crisis is only a microcosm of the deeper structural crisis of capitalism. In the words of Samir Amin, ‘This is not just a financial crisis which started with the breakdown of the financial system in September 2008. The financial crisis is itself the result of a long, a deep crisis which started long before, around 1975 with as of that time, unemployment, poverty, inequality, having grown continuously. And this real crisis of really existing capitalism has been overcome by financialisation of the system and the financialisation of the system has been the Achilles heel of the system.’
Today for young people to understand the reality where bankers are subsidised while millions die of hunger, it is necessary to grasp the nature of economic relations and the power of the capitalist classes. In the book ‘The Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World’, Samir Amin used the method of historical materialism to outline the foundations of US liberalism and its roots in European liberalism. It is the clarity of this method which allows the younger reader to understand that one leader such as Barack Obama cannot stop the project to dominate the world through military force. What Samir Amin has done using Marxist methodology is to further our understanding of the particularities of US capitalism with its genocidal past that has developed certain features of liberal ideology in a new and uniquely dangerous way.
MATURATION IN A TIME OF WAR, RECOVERY AND LIBERATION
Samir Amin had been a student in Europe (Paris 1947–57) and was party to a moment of great intellectual ferment. Humanity had been seeking to understand the ideas and economic conditions that had ushered in fascism and war, and the forces of decolonisation had seized the political and intellectual initiative after 1945. Yet within Western Europe Samir Amin witnessed the betrayal of the Algerian struggles by the French Communist Party and the dominant parties of the European left. Samir Amin had returned to Egypt at the height of the populism of Abdel Nasser (a year after the Suez Crisis) when the convergence of Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism had offered radical possibilities for the peoples of Africa and the Middle East in laying the foundation for real independence. After working for three years from 1957 to 1960 as a research officer in the bureaucracy in Egypt, Samir Amin grasped the limitations of populist nationalism and moved to work with the anti-colonial forces in Africa. After working in Mali, Samir Amin moved to Dakar, Senegal, and he has been associated with the intellectual and political work of progressive African causes for over 40 years.
If one had not been told than Amin received his doctorate in economics and statistics, one would have been forgiven for thinking of him as a historian given his breadth of knowledge of world history. This breadth comes across in the more than 30 books and thousands of journal articles and opinion pieces. In one such book, recently published by Pambazuka Press, ‘Global History: A View from the South’, Amin takes the reader through the history of ‘Central Asia and the Middle East’ and ‘Europe and China’ while recapitulating the real meaning of modern imperialism that was being presented as ‘globalisation’. From the introduction of this book, Samir Amin deconstructed two themes that have been central to his thinking: a) the so-called development economics; and b) the vulgar discussion of ‘markets’. These two issues have been the basis of a massive fraud against the majority of the citizens of the planet. This fraud persists with the promise of ‘progress’ for societies that embrace neoliberalism.
INSIGHTS INTO THE TRIBUTARY MODE OF PRODUCTION
The linear conceptions of ‘progress’ and ‘development’ were not only the fixation of the liberal wing of bourgeois economists such as Walt Rostow; there was a similar linearity of Marxists who believed that all societies must pass through the same stages that Europe had traversed. This was the stages theory of history of European Marxists. In his effort to go beyond the nonsense of ‘development economics’, Samir Amin has been seeking to link the theory and practice of human emancipation in a way that would illuminate the limitations of Eurocentric conception of human liberation. In fact, one of his most important texts, ‘Eurocentrism: Modernity, Religion, and Democracy: A Critique of Eurocentrism and Culturalism’ rejected not only the Eurocentric view of world history but sought to provide a new and refreshing understanding of phases of human transformations. Very early in his life, Samir Amin had been a member of the French Communist Party, but he soon understood that the chauvinism and narrowness of certain sections of the communist movement prevented them from grasping the real liberatory content of Marxism. Up to today, certain communist parties such as the South African Communist party (SACP) accept the stage theory of history which allows them to support the enrichment of a black bourgeoisie. In their rendition of Marxism, the growth of a bourgeoisie was necessary for the development of a working class.
From his break with the French Communist Party and a Soviet Marxism that was preaching the so-called ‘non-capitalist path’, Samir Amin set out to critique the mechanistic and linear conceptions of development which attributed a common characteristic of five modes of production: communalism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism and socialism. Karl Marx had developed this schema of human transformations in his analysis of human society and Marxists after Marx sought to find in all human societies the same stages that Europe had passed through. Marx himself had offered the concept of the Asiatic mode of production to characterise the social formations that were dissimilar to Europe, but this idea was underdeveloped in the work of Karl Marx. Samir Amin wanted to understand the specificities of the European experience and introduced a novel concept, that of the tributary mode of production to be able to clarify why societies such as Egypt and China which had been developed thousands of years before Europe never transformed into the capitalist mode of production. His thesis, repeated throughout his work, was that, ‘The tributary mode is the most general form of the pre-capitalist class society, that slavery is the exception not the rule, and that like the pure merchant mode, it is marginal; that feudalism is a peripheral form of the tributary mode and that, precisely because it was an immature form, still stamped by characteristics of its original communal society, it was fated to go beyond itself more easily, thereby ensuring Europe’s particular identity.’
It is this identity of Europe that brought humanity the mode of capitalism that Samir Amin now sees as, a parenthesis in history. ‘The principle of endless accumulation that defines capitalism is synonymous with exponential growth and the latter, like cancer, leads to death.’ This is the statement on the first page of the book, ‘Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?’
How can humanity, especially the poorest 4 billion citizens of the planet, escape this fate of certain death which emanates from the principle of endless accumulation? The insights on the tributary mode were drawn from a wider conception of the world and the state of knowledge that was available at the time of Karl Marx. Hence Samir Amin declared in his own words that one had to understand the limits of the state of human knowledge at the time of the writing of Marx and Engels.
‘I was an early reader of Marx. I very carefully read capital and other works by Marx and Engels that were available in French… But at the same time, I remain unsatisfied. For I had posed one central question, that of the “underdevelopment” (a new term beginning to be widely used) of the societies of contemporary Asia and Africa, for which I had found no answers in Marx… Far from abandoning Marx, and judging that his work had remained unfinished. Marx never completed the work he had intended to do, including, among other things, interpreting the world dimension of capitalism in his analysis and systematically articulating the question of power (politics) and the economy (capitalist and pre-capitalist)’ (‘Global History: A View from the South’, p. 1).
THE SOCIAL CLASSES CAUGHT AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE CHALLENGES FOR HUMANITY
It was in moments when Samir Amin reflected on his own work in the ranks of revolutionaries in Africa and Asia where we have a better understanding of his contribution at the theoretical level as well as the realm of popular political struggles. Those who have been battling Eurocentrism within the World Social Forum movement have witnessed Samir Amin at first hand, and this year his presence at the World Social Forum at the same time as the Egyptian uprising gave radicals and activists from across Africa an opportunity to understand the importance of the long contributions of Samir Amin. It was the same 10 years ago when Samir Amin placed himself firmly within the ranks of those fighting against racism in the World Conference against Racism in Durban (WCAR). It is not often that Samir Amin wrote or spoke of his own service, but one such recorded version of his contribution can be found in the First Babu Memorial Lecture that he delivered on 22 September 1997, in London.
Here Samir Amin traced his links to the struggles in different parts of Africa and his association with A.M. Babu and the Zanzibar revolution. In this lecture he divided this political work of himself, Babu and their contemporaries into three phases, that of the period before the Bandung conference of 1955, the Bandung period and the highpoint of liberation and the third stage of the period of the recolonisation of Africa. Because of modesty, Amin did not elaborate on the fact that in collaboration with intellectuals such as Norman Girvan from the Caribbean and working through UN agencies such as UNCTAD, Third World radicals had seized the international initiative and leaders such as Michael Manley, Julius Nyerere and Fidel Castro were calling for a new international economic order (NIEO). Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s mantra that there was no alternative to capitalism was a direct response to the radicalism that had enveloped the world in the post-Bandung period and had inspired national liberation movements.
Neo-liberalism was accompanied by what Amin called ‘the military management of the international system’, but progressives such as Babu and Samir Amin never wavered. Granted, he was making this delivery on Babu in 1997. In light of the new uprisings all over Africa and the Middle Wast we would now add a fourth stage, that of the present revolutionary upsurge in the era of financialisation and capitalist depression.
The breakthroughs of Amin’s contribution can now be compared to other African revolutionaries who sought to be creative in order to understand the specificities of their societies. Imperial social sciences continue to work to erase the contributions of African intellectuals such as Walter Rodney, Archie Mafeje, Claude Ake and hundreds of other dedicated scholar–activists. Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, A.T. Nzula, Walter Rodney and A.M. Babu were just a few of the revolutionaries who made sterling contributions to an alternative understanding of the paths forward. Since most of these Marxists were men, radical African feminists have been enriching our understanding of the interconnections between class and gender struggles and the issues that arise from ideas about human sexuality. Pambazuka has continued to support a better understanding of ideas about human sexuality with the publication of the book, ‘African Sexualities: A Reader’.
It is from Egypt where radical women such as Nawal El Saadawi have been promoting a brand of self-organisation and self-confidence in African women that became manifest in the work of women such as Asmaa Mahfouz and the other forces of the April 6th youth movement. Throughout Africa there is a new cadre of radical women who link the struggles of anti-imperialism to the struggles of women and those of same-sex orientation. Like most of the traditional left in Africa, Samir Amin is virtually silent on these matters of gender but he joins forces with African feminism when he lambasts political Islam and unmasks the ultra-reactionary and masculinist assumptions of fundamentalism, whether Christian, Islamic or Hindu.
From his first and major study of ‘Accumulation on a World Scale’, Amin distilled the lessons of this imperialism and unequal exchange and for a long time in the 1970s there was a long debate on whether there was such a phenomenon such as unequal exchange. Now the debate has not only ended, but unequal exchange has given way to plunder and clear looting as there is a new scramble for African resources in the age of the biomasters. Within Africa there is an urgent need for a theoretical understanding of the relationship between genetically modified crops, expropriation of poor peasants, the growth of slums, droughts, climate change and the food crises. Such an understanding will enable younger radicals to link the so-called war on terror as a front for the recolonisation of Africa as the present NATO invasion of North Africa has so clearly exposed. Samir Amin was always drawing attention to the mechanisms of looting and alerted students to how the colonial period had laid the foundations for the contemporary looting.
The most consistent and damaging form of dispossession is now being carried out in the African countryside by biotech companies and agribusiness firms pushing the ‘green revolution’ in Africa. Loss of species diversity, perpetual debt and structurally exploitative and dependency-creating international plans are only the surface manifestations of the threats that genetically modified organisms pose to Africa. Below the surface lay the damage and contamination of Africa’s genetic diversity, particularly endemic species, while in the long run lay the dangers outlined in the plans for ‘the modernisation of agriculture.’ This discourse on modernisation is not new. What must be understood are the continuities from the past and the new twists in the old story of the exploitation of Africans.
Samir Amin summed up the experiences of ‘underdevelopment and dependence in black Africa’. It is here where he continued to analyse the impact of capitalism on the poor peasantry as he had studied in capitalism and ground rent: the domination of capitalism over agriculture in tropical Africa. Samir Amin made the original contribution in assessing the impact of the colonial trade economy, the Africa of the mining concessions and the Africa of the labour reserves. In his conclusion of this essay, which was taught in the heyday of the Dar es Salaam school, he stated plainly:
‘In all three cases, then, the colonial system organized the society so that it produced in the best possible terms, from the viewpoint of the mother country, exports which provided a very low and stagnating return for labour. We have to conclude that there are no traditional societies in Africa, only dependent peripheral societies.’ (‘Underdevelopment and dependence in Black Africa: Origins and contemporary forms’, in the Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 10, no. 4 (December 1972), pp. 503–24)
For 50 years Samir Amin has been articulating the dangers to the African peasantry and preparing us to understand the social dislocations that emanate from the destruction of the agrarian sector. Writing a preface to a book on ‘African Agriculture: The Critical Choices’, Samir Amin explicitly spelt out the reality that globally ‘the development strategies implemented in Africa since independence have neither aimed at achieving the priority task of an agricultural revolution, nor really aimed at any significant industrialization, but basically extended the colonial pattern of integration in the world capitalist system.’
‘The catastrophic results are now obvious; moreover the Western inspired policies of so-called “readjustment” to the new conditions created by the global crisis (through the IMF and World Bank recipes) would only worsen the case. Hence another development, fundamentally based on a popular alliance, is the only acceptable alternative. The priority target of achieving the agricultural revolution clearly calls for industrialization, but a pattern of industrialization quite different from the conventional one… This national and popular content of development, in its turn, is virtually inconceivable without significant change toward democratization of the society, allowing for an autonomous expression of the various social forces and creating the basis for a real civil society. Simultaneously, the weakness of African states, referred to here, calls for co-operation and unity without which any national and popular attempt would remain extremely limited and vulnerable.’
STRUGGLING FOR A NEW MODE OF POLITICS AND A NEW MODE OF SOCIAL ORGANISATION
In the analysis of Samir Amin, African peasants are not victims waiting for international non-governmental agencies to come to ‘alleviate poverty’, but active agents seeking to change their conditions. The challenge then, as it is now, was how to move these dependent societies on a path of local accumulation that would change the quality of the lives of the majority of the producers. It is here where we go back to the ideas of socialism or barbarism developed systematically in the book ‘The Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World’. In order to prevent a catastrophe, it will be necessary to ‘preserve peasant agriculture for the entire visible future of the 21st century’. Herman Scheer, another visionary revolutionary, had come to the same conclusion in his book on the solar economy. In the concluding pages of this book on the future of renewable energy, Scheer had come to the same conclusion as Samir Amin, that one of the most urgent tasks of the 21st century was the need for our society to return to the land. Scheer was of the view that the development of a solar economy will see the location of energy sources and the accompanying storage industries in diverse and often peripheral locations. Scheer claimed that solar technologies will also bring an agricultural revolution which will have dramatic consequences for rural life. As one reviewer summed up this thinking: ‘His vision is not of a return to a medieval world of subsistence farming but rather the promotion of what he calls “real biotechnology” to develop the new applications to which biological materials can be put.’
The ideas of Scheer on the tapping of solar power brought the discussion on the future development of science and technology to the point where the development of the productive forces will make old assumptions about markets irrelevant with the tremendous possibilities open to humans in the era of converging technologies (biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology and cognitive technologies). Imperialism is mining the cognitive skills of the Africans who resisted ‘modernisation’ because there is the understanding that these peoples could be the springboard for new collective ideas about the relations between humans and humans and between humans and nature. Samir Amin gingerly tiptoed into this new era when he went beyond the certainties of predictability to tentatively offer the view that chaos theory may open new possibilities. ‘Chaos functions explain natural phenomena which cannot otherwise be accounted for. Could the discovery also be relevant for the social sciences?’(‘Global History: A View from the South’, p. 108.
Here we have Samir Amin mulling over the fact that chaos theory and the laws of unforeseen circumstances could contribute to the analysis of a number of economic and social phenomena. The chaotic structures of the world financial markets and the environmental destruction emanating from the forms of capitalist plunder presents chaotic conditions from which only planned and clear human actions can intervene for a different world.
WILL THE POLITICAL MOBILISATION OF THE POPULAR FORCES PROVIDE THE CONDITIONS FOR A LEAP BEYOND CAPITALISM?
Throughout his writings Samir Amin officered up the idea that so-called backwardness may be an advantage in Africa because this supposed ‘backwardness’ may allow Africans to leapfrog the destructive forms of industrialisation that has brought about the near destruction of the planet. There is no space in this commentary for the elaboration on the possibilities of a quantum leap in world politics. I have outlined these possibilities by drawing on an understanding of quantum possibilities in the recent book on 21st-century politics.
Samir Amin placed himself at the service of humanity and it should be stated that he remained within the thick and thin and hustle and bustle of African intellectual ferment. Hence although Samir Amin wrote about accumulation on a world scale and imperialism and unequal development, today younger activists can seek clarity from his writings in order to understand the real reasons for famine in an era when some societies are subsidising farmers to produce food which is dumped. It is from the realities of the interconnections between famine, the war on terror, the scramble for oil, plunder in the Congo and the gobbling up of land by big companies where Pambazuka is seeking to give clarity, and the connection to the work of Samir Amin is a logical path to continue the kind of work that Samir Amin and Babu undertook in another period.
Samir Amin at 80 years old is insistent that continuous political mobilisation of the popular classes for democratic openings will offer new possibilities. Samir Amin sees new opportunities from the reconstruction of a new solid front of the oppressed peoples of the world.
‘The political regimes in place in many of the countries of the South are not democratic, which is the least that one can say, and sometimes they are frankly odious. These authoritarian structures of power favour the comprador factions whose interests are linked to the expansion of global imperialist capital. The alternative is that the construction of a front of the peoples of the South passes through democratization. This democratization will necessarily be difficult and long, but the way towards it does not lie in the installation of puppet governments which hand over the resources of their countries to be pillaged by North American transnationals. These regimens are even more fragile, less credible, and less legitimate than those they replace under the protection of the American invader. After all, the objective of the United States in not the promotion of democracy in the world despite its purely hypocritical discourses in this matter.’
Samir Amin has lived a long life, and as Pambazuka celebrates his 80th birthday this month may his work inspire those who want to create a world of free humans, liberated from the ideas of chauvinist domination and a populist nationalism that manipulates the land question to serve the interests of a black capitalist class in Africa.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Horace Campbell is professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’. See www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Samir Amin: A titan of radical thought
Samir Amin stands within the intellectual canon of African revolutionary thinkers whose gargantuan and prodigious lifetime’s work is invaluable to all human beings who seek to eliminate the predatory, devastating impact of capitalism in our times. At the age of 80 and having written over 30 books and articles, Amin’s encyclopaedic understanding of the global capitalist system and its changing historical nature continues to offer fresh nuances and significant analyses in the field of critical theoretical thinking. Here, I simply wish to pay tribute to some of the most important aspects of his thinking that are incredibly pertinent to the global crisis confronting humanity at present.
For example, in the light of the current uprisings in North Africa and elsewhere around the world, perhaps Amin can also be characterised as a political prophet in a purely secular sense for writing the following in 1997:
‘Peoples peripheralized by capitalist world expansion, and who seemed for a long time to accept their fate, have over the past 50 years ceased accepting it, and they will refuse to do so more and more in the future.’ 
As people in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen refuse to accept continued dictatorship such struggles – inspired by the single act of a young Tunisian man setting himself alight – will continue to inspire ordinary peoples around the world to fight for freedoms and new systems free from tyranny. Amin goes on to encourage those committed to ‘the perspective of global socialism’ to struggle against ‘the five monopolies which reproduce capitalism.’ They are: the monopoly of technology generated by the military expenditures of the imperialist centres, the monopoly of access to natural resources, the monopoly over international communication and the media, and the monopoly over the means of mass destruction. 
Amin poses critical questions about the nature of the current capitalist system in many of his writings but none so provocatively entitled as his latest book: Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism? It is the ending of the capitalist system in its reconfiguration of neoliberal globalization with accompanying military intervention that Amin calls for.
In the current time of the profound capitalist economic crisis, there is an urgent need more than ever to closely revisit and re-examine the works of thinkers such as Amin. In addition, such writings should be placed on the social science curriculum of African universities. It is deplorable that many African students graduating as economists from African universities are likely to be able to regurgitate Western economists such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Joseph Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs. Yet, how many African graduates of economics would be familiar with the thinking of Amin or other radical African political economists such as the Nigerian Claude Ake and Bade Onimode or the Ugandan Dan Nabudere?
The reason for this state of affairs lies in the fact that since independence the models of development and nation-statism that Africa has subscribed to have imitated the West. The colonial legacy transformed into neo-colonialism in the post-independence period with the euphoria to ‘Africanize’ institutions such as the civil service, army, judicial system and educational systems failed to fundamentally change the mindset, values and purpose of such structures. In the 1980s and 1990s African institutions of higher education came under Western influence to the extent that universities, like African economies, have had to prostitute themselves for research funding from foreign donors as kleptocratic African governments failed to fund universities whilst they prioritized military expenditure instead. The impact of such an educational system is that Africa has produced armchair theorists indulging in abstract economic theory that is based on the premise of Homo oeconomicus. Consequently, such a paradigm is divorced from social reality in the quest for an elusive rationality that is lacking from bourgeois ‘conventional’ economic theory, or what is sometimes known as ‘market economy.’ This is the argument of Amin in the chapter ‘Pure economics, or the contemporary world’s witchcraft’ in which he likens the claims of pure economics to science as one of “magic and witchcraft” that obscures and obfuscates material reality.
More importantly, ‘the discourse of pure economics has no real aim other than to legitimize the unrestricted predations of capital,’ writes Amin. The chief proponent of such economics in our day is ‘Milton Friedman [who] is the wizard-in-chief of our contemporary Oz’ and there are ‘lesser wizards’ and ‘pundits’ in both the developed world and in Africa who subscribe to such economic bamboozling. 
For Amin, it is Marxian political economy, wedded to a historical materialist approach that poses essential questions for human beings. Among them are: what are the relations between capital and labour on a national and world level? Which ruling social groups comprise the hegemonic alliance within the capitalist system? How does the state generate a conducive environment for capital and regulate conflicts between capital and labour? And in the context of the uneven development of capitalism - what struggles are necessary for working people in the peripheries to overthrow the capitalist order in their own locality as well as imperialist exploitation? What forms of solidarity are necessary between peoples in the North and South to overhaul capitalism and imperialism and how can they be created and sustained towards the long term achievement of socialism?
Whilst several academics in the North belong to a school of thought that contends that the concept of globalization is a new phenomenon in our world, writers such as Amin and Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem have consistently argued that historical capitalism, at every stage of its maturity, has always been globalized. Perhaps it is the case that globalization represents old wine in new bottles. The late Abdul-Raheem wrote in 1998: ‘Globalization is therefore not so much a new thing but a new context.’ 
The lack of historical context and political responsibility in discussing the current fad of globalization, which has given rise to much writing on the concept, dangerously negates the fact that there was a previous globalizing mission of globalized colonialism that extended into the twentieth century for Africa, yet began with the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. Undoubtedly the present nature of capitalism has spawned a deepening polarization of the world between the poor and the rich countries. Within the centres of the North and South these profound cleavages also persist and this is a point of emphasis in Amin’s writings.
Another important integral theme in the work of Amin is his deconstruction of imperialism and its global operations and impact on the peoples of the South; how the collective imperialism of the ‘Triad’, that is the US, Western Europe and Japan, has appropriated democracy and the discourses on the environment, aid alongside the increased militarization of the United States. Amin considers these developments and issues are inextricably linked to the reproduction and control of the resources of the world by the minority capitalist-imperialist centres who seek to dominate such resources held in the South.
In reality the peoples of the global South comprise 80 per cent of the world’s population and therefore constitute the majority world. In the wake of the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1991, the decade of the 1990s saw the rise of calls for multi-party elections and democracy in Eastern Europe. Africa was infected with this fever and the calls for ‘democracy’ as envisioned by the North quickly became a conditionality that the financial institutions adopted to coerce African countries to open up to the globalized liberal economy. ‘Good governance’ and commitment to ‘human rights’ as defined by the West became the fig-leaf for continued aid that far from being apolitical has been used to prop up dubious regimes in Africa and elsewhere. Yet as Amin points out, the autocratic regimes of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Georgia, and Yemen, among others, are permitted to continue to oppress their peoples because they are regimes Western countries consider to be strategic to their political and economic interests.
In the savage and ruthless search for endless accumulation, capitalism continues to ravage the planet and has done so for centuries. Climate change, pollution, drought, famine and hunger are inseparable from this ruthless capitalist logic and therefore human beings on this planet cannot disconnect the destruction of the natural environment from the manner in which economic exploitation of the earth’s resources (fish, agriculture, oil, diamonds, minerals etc) are extracted at the expense of the majority world to support the way of life of those in the North.
Currently, capitalist oligopolies have sought to present their green credentials in ‘green capitalism’ – which has been supported by those in power in the Triad. Amin argues that ‘this capture of ecologist discourse is providing a very useful service to imperialism.’ Again, economists and powerful corporations masquerading as “green economists” engage in “witchcraft” (such as carbon swaps) to deflect focus on the fundamental causes of climate change and the necessity to overhaul capitalist production to arrest the continued pillage of the planet.
In what has been coined as the ‘new scramble for Africa’ by others, that is, an intensification of the conflict for access to the natural resources of Africa, it appears China’s encroachment on what the Western countries have historically and arrogantly considered their exclusive preserve signals two courses of action for Africans. Either Africans challenge this new re-colonization or continue to be client states of not only the Triad but also the emerging powers of Brazil, India, Russia and China (popularly known as the BRIC countries) if non-exploitative forms of economic engagement are not practised with the emerging powers.
For Amin the way forward for countries of the South lies in ‘delinking’, or his ‘theory of disconnection’ which offers such countries an alternative from the constraints imposed by the world’s economic system. Emphasizing that the concept should not be equated with “autarky”, that is, withdrawal from any forms of engagement with the world, the process of “delinking” is fundamentally about “the refusal to subject the national development strategy to the imperatives of worldwide expansion.  It requires a politically bold government with a conscious citizenry to implement a model of alternative development ‘based on expanding the scope for non-commodity and self-management activities’; rejection of the dictates of comparative advantage; and strengthening North-South relations between progressive forces. 
Essentially ‘whether one likes it or not, [delinking] is associated with a ‘transition’ – outside capitalism and over a long time - towards socialism.’ Such a transition is by no means linear or devoid of retreats. In building socialism of the future there is no blueprint. Or as Amin puts it: ‘if in 1500 one had been asked what capitalism would be, one would doubtless have furnished inadequate replies, even supposing one could have then imagined that what one was building was capitalism.’ In short, ‘socialism has still to be built.’ And in building socialism, Amin’s work stresses that ‘the struggle for democratization and the struggle for socialism are one and the same. No socialism without democracy, but also no democratic progress without a socialist perspective.’
‘Delinking’ seeks to create self-reliance in practice and reality among the peoples of the South through greater South to South cooperation, particularly economic relations that avoid reproducing similar relations of exploitation that exist between the capitalist core and the periphery, that is, the developed nations and the less developed countries.
In this protracted struggle towards ‘delinking’, the people of the South will also have to confront the militarization of globalization. With American soldiers in 144 countries around the world and the recent establishment of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) with over 2,000 American troops in tiny Djibouti, it seems Africa is now the latest incorporation into America’s Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and the Project of the New American Century (PNAC). The latter vision was born during the Bush presidency and has extended the Monroe doctrine which upheld that the US reserved the right to intervene against anything on or near the American continent that is perceived as a threat. The Bush regime extended that doctrine to the entire planet.
In relation to Africa, the Bush administration set up AFRICOM which constitutes a dangerous development that legitimizes itself by claims of assisting in security, humanitarian efforts and eradicating the GWOT on the continent. AFRICOM co-exists with its subalterns in the form of Japan and a defunct NATO constantly seeking a new role for itself in the post-Cold War era. The reality is among AFRICOM’s objectives is to secure much-needed energy for the American economy from the oil producing states of Africa. States such as Ghana and Chad which have recently discovered oil wealth, along with the existing African oil producers such as Nigeria, Angola, Libya, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, have intensified the strategic importance of Africa in this new scramble for the resources of the continent in the next decades.
Amin urges the people of the South and radical movements in the North to force the Triad of imperialism to abandon their military bases spread all over the world and to dismantle NATO. He speaks of the urgency of constructing an ‘internationalism of workers and peoples’ confronted by the savagery of continued capitalist dispossession through accumulation and increased militarization.
The perspicacity of Amin’s theoretical dissections of financializiation, American hegemony, the erosion of democracy and its manipulation in order to serve imperialist interests, the increasing power of global oligarchies such as the American company Monsanto (just to name one among hundreds that currently exist), the adoption of “responsibility to protect” which conceals imperialistic military agendas in ostensible humanitarian guises, the destruction of the earth in the rapacious search for more resources and markets around the world, are inextricably linked. The solutions - that is the creation of a new socialist world - will not be smooth, but as Amin vividly articulates, the alternative is chaos and barbarity.
Ideologically consistent and committed to radical transformation, Amin is an intellectual titan in the canon of African radical thought. The great African-American political activist, Ella Baker defined ‘radical’ as ‘getting down to and understanding the root cause. It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.’ If humanity progresses by asking questions of itself and at times stumbles in the process of finding and then implementing radical solutions to global inequalities and injustices - then Amin has made a colossal contribution in defining those profoundly relevant questions and issues at this critical juncture of history.
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* Dr Ama Biney is a Pan-Africanist and historian. She lives in the United Kingdom.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Capitalism in the Age of Globalization, by Samir Amin, 1997, p. 10
 Capitalism in the Age of Globalization, pp. 3-5.
 Spectres of Capitalism, by Samir Amin, 1998, pp.133-145.
 ‘An African Perspective on Globalization’ by Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, in The Society for International Development, 1998, pp.23-26.
 ‘An African Perspective on Globalization,’ 1998, 24.
 Delinking, by Samir Amin, 1985, p. 62.
 Delinking, p. 52.
 Delinking, p. 55.
 Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement A Radical Democratic Vision by Barbara Ransby, 2003, p. 1.
Samir Amin: Combining world-class scholarship with social justice
In February this year, CODESRIA published a book based on conversations that Demba Moussa Dembele, of the African Forum for Alternatives, had with Samir Amin. The book was titled ‘Samir Amin: Intellectuel organique au service de l’emancipation du Sud’ (‘Samir Amin: An Organic Intellectual Working for the Emancipation of the South’). The launching of the book in Dakar during the World Social Forum in February 2011 was used as an opportunity to celebrate Samir Amin, the man and the cause he has always stood for, and to do so in a forum that he has helped to build. The list of qualities of Samir that were highlighted in the dozen or so testimonies during that event is too long to be reproduced here. Those that I find particularly striking include the following:
- Professor Amin is a world-class intellectual, whose works include more than 40 books, many of which are, to this day, considered as classics in the field of development studies
- He is not only extremely productive, but also a fine thinker who also has the capacity to formulate very complex theories in easily accessible language. Samir said he reads Marx, all of Marx’s works, every 20 years. Reading Samir’s books, it becomes very clear that his own understanding of Marx is not superficial, but profound enough for him to transcend and creatively apply and, when and where necessary, extend ‘Marx’ to new contexts and situations
- From his book entitled ‘Accumulation on a World Scale’ to his analysis of the recent global financial crisis, the magnitude of which he had highlighted many months before the Bretton Woods Institutions began discussing it, and his analysis of the ‘Arab spring’, Samir has demonstrated that he has a profound understanding of how the global capitalist system works, and his ‘mission’ has been to uncover and expose the injustices of the global system that have an incredible capacity to metamorphose across time and space.
Professor Amin is also one of the rare breed of intellectuals who combine extremely fine scholarship with deep commitment to the cause of the underprivileged of this world: the countries of the South, and within the South, the labouring peoples of all genders, ages and colours. His scholarship had, in many respects, some kind of practical sense. In fact, although he keeps emphasising the importance of theoretical clarity, he never established a Berlin Wall between his scholarship and his personal engagement with social movements around the world. He has taught in many universities around the world, but he is also a founder member and leader of the World Forum for Alternatives. He has mentored generations of scholars, and inspired liberation movements around the world.
It was around him that the deans of social science and humanities faculties of African universities who formed the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA, met in Dakar in 1973 to establish CODESRIA. He also founded, shortly after CODESRIA was set up, what has now become another major international NGO: Environment and Development-Third World (ENDA-Third World), based in Dakar, at a time when few were the people who paid any attention to the environmental issues that have now become the subject of many world summits. Samir was then the director of the UN Institute for Development Planning (UN IDEP, based in Dakar), and he not only helped in creating these organisations that have now become so important, he also hosted them at IDEP, ‘at considerable professional risk to himself’, as Thandika Mkandawire rightly pointed out during the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of CODESRIA in 1973:
‘CODESRIA’s experience at IDEP was that CODESRIA, if it was to fulfill its mandate, could impose unbearable costs on the host institutes. Indeed only the courage and commitment of Samir Amin allowed CODESRIA to continue being hosted at IDEP at considerable professional risk to himself … CODESRIA [then] had no sources of funds, no staff, no equipment, no legal status. It depended on a borrowed office and a typewriter from IDEP … Professor Samir Amin’s goodwill, commitment and resourcefulness, and Professor Bujra’s decision to take up the post of Executive Secretary at the risk of losing his job and the moral support of the Executive Committee set the stage for the institutionalization of CODESRIA.’
He is still leading CODESRIA research projects, and just submitted a manuscript produced by a comparative research network on African Responses to the Crisis: Agrarian Reform and Agriculture in Africa, involving great scholars like Bernard Founou (Cameroon), Sam Moyo (Zimbabwe), Jacques Bertholet (France), Hassania Chalbi (Tunisia), Abdourahmane Ndiaye (Senegal), Issaka Bagayoko (Mali) and others.
As a person, I have always been amazed by the depth and breadth of Samir’s scholarship, but also by his simplicity. Lilly, his assistant at the Third World Forum, another organisation he founded, told the thousands of people who came to celebrate Samir’s life and achievements during the World Social Forum in Dakar that Samir and his partner Elizabeth taught her French and literally became her new family in Dakar. This is probably not the typical kind of employer–employee relations one sees in many institutions these days.
We wish Professor Samir Amin many happy returns!
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* Professor Ebrima Sall is director of CODESRIA, Dakar.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Report of the Executive Secretary to the 20th Anniversary of CODESRIA, 1973, p2.
Tribute to Samir Amin
Issa G. Shivji
Issa G. Shivji
Mwalimu Nyerere Professor of Pan-African Studies
University of Dar es Salaam
Happy birthday Samir Amin!
Your prodigious, insightful work on the nature of world capitalism, its origins and evolution, and on the long but necessary transition to socialism has educated, enlightened and inspired us over the last half a century. Truly you are one of the most original thinkers of the 20th and early 21st century. Your treatment of Eurocentricity and on the epistemological and philosophical consequences of the worldwide expansion of European capitalism has given us a frame of reference within which the cultural diversity of humanity is validated as an intrinsic part of authentic socialism.
I shall always remember the two years I spent in Dakar in the 1970s in your intellectual company, when I came to the the UN African Institute of Development and Planning (IDEP) in Dakar at your invitation. Thank you Samir for that privilege and opportunity to listen to your erudite lectures, delivered without notes and equally fluent in French, English and Arabic (and Spanish when necessary), and equally comfortable in neoclassical (from a critical standpoint, of course) and Marxist economic theory to the wonder of us all, faculty and students alike – and besides economics, in philosophy and political science. There are no disciplinary boundaries that you know.
It's a reason for celebration indeed to know that you have reached your 80th birthday in excellent physical and mental health … enjoy the feeling … and may you continue to put your enormous talents to the service of the working people of the world, as you have always done.
I heard of Samir Amin long before I met him. As a member of the Ghana Youth Council, I was involved in organising a conference that we thought would bring together youth movements throughout Africa to plan how we could plan together to advance the cause of Africa's political and economic development.
Also on the planning panel was a political scientist from the University of Ghana. This guy had a bit of a reputation as a 'radical' and so I paid great attention to the ideas he presented to us. He kept saying, “We must get Samir Amin!” I can't recall exactly why he wanted Samir Amin to come and address us, but he was so keen on bringing him that the name stuck in my mind.
The conference was, in fact, never held – due to the inability of our council to raise from the Ghana government the funds necessary to make our conference a reality. But I never forgot that I needed to learn about Samir Amin.
It was not until 1991 that I had the opportunity to meet Mr Amin. I'd gone to Egypt to take part in shooting a television programme about the “axes” from which Africa's economic resurrection appeared capable of emerging. We thought that Egypt to the north, Nigeria to the west and a renascent South Africa would be the most likely to provide the engine for Africa's economic growth. But would they co-operate with one another in trade and development or become inward-looking pygmies unable to decipher the message that continental Africa was transmitting to them?
I got in touch with Samir Amin and arranged for him to be interviewed by our team. He gave us a whole morning, and gave us in clear, unambiguous terms, his take of how Africa ought to go about the business of making itself economically strong in order not to be swamped by the products of North America and Europe. Unfortunately, BBC politics intervened and although we got excellent footage in Zimbabwe and South Africa as well (Nigeria refused to give us permission to film there – until we had completed the project!) the programme was never transmitted.
I felt pretty awful about having wasted Samir Amin's time, but remember the courtesy and patience with which he endured the often ridiculous demands that a television crew cannot help but make of those unfortunate enough to be exposed to such a group. “Can we have you looking towards the pyramids, please? Oh, the sun was in the wrong position for that shot. Can we have you say that again, this time from this different angle, please?”
Samir Amin never once complained. For those who have something important to say to the world know that the absurdities of modern technological requirements must be mastered if our clear understanding of the world is to be enhanced.
Happy birthday, Samir, man of both the 20th and 21st centuries.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Saying ‘thank you’ to Samir Amin as he turns 80
Bill Fletcher, Jr
Although I only met Samir Amin in late 2010, I had studied his work for decades, finding in them superior analyses and inspiration. In fact, after reading so much of his work I was quite unprepared for the person I actually met. He was very down to earth, incredibly funny, and could actually listen, the latter characteristic not one that can ever be taken for granted, particularly in the case of individuals who gain iconic status.
There are many reasons to recognise the work of Samir Amin, and not just due to his turning 80. Time and space only permit me to note one: his analysis of the implications of the convergence of the crises of the Western welfare state, Soviet bloc so-called socialism, and the national populist projects of the global South. The importance of this analysis is that it has helped the left to better understand the conjuncture in which we operate.
Amin directed the left to understand that the challenges that we faced were not simply about will — and in that sense he helped arm us against voluntarism — but that a failure of the left to both understand and transcend non-revolutionary alternatives to capitalism created an ideological and political void. The emergence of this void has resulted in a situation where the response to the global reorganisation and rabidity of capitalism has taken various forms, including cynicism, anarchism, social movement resistance, religious fundamentalisms, as well as both left- and right-wing variants of anti-imperialism. In other words, the three crises noted by Amin have led to a level of disarray in the face of crises faced by global capitalism itself.
In his analysis Amin has remained both optimistic and strategic. Never succumbing to ‘knee-jerk’ anti-imperialism, Amin has emphasised the critical importance of a concrete analysis of actual conditions. In that sense one does not walk away from reading Samir Amin’s works filled with rhetorical platitudes but rather with new insights as well as questions worthy of further investigation, study and debate.
The global left, progressive anti-imperialists and Pan Africanists owe Samir Amin a debt of gratitude. In addition to his analyses, he has helped us appreciate the long timeline we operate on in the struggle for a socialism that is revolutionary, Marxist, democratic and truly emancipatory.
Happy birthday, brother Samir.
* Bill Fletcher, Jr, is a racial justice, labour and international writer and activist. He is on the editorial board of BlackCommentator.com and is the co-author of 'Solidarity Divided'.
London calling: Fanon, spontaneity and the English insurrections
Nigel C. Gibson
‘Every time a man has contributed to the victory of the spirit, every time a man says no to an attempt to subjugate his fellows, I have felt solidarity with his act … Yes to life. Yes to love. Yes to generosity … No to the contempt … No to degradation… No to exploitation … No to the butchery of what is most human … freedom.’
‘See to it you remain a human being. To be a human being is the main thing, above all else … to be human means joyfully throwing yourself on the scales of destiny when need be, but all the while rejoicing in every sunny day and every beautiful cloud… Oh, I don’t know of any recipe that can be written down on how to be human.’
A new edition of Rosa Luxemburg’s Letters reminded me of the Luxemburg quote above (written from prison at the end of 1916 during the bloody war supported by the social democrats), which I was first introduced to by Raya Dunayevskaya in 1981; it was the year of rebellions across the major cities of England and the hunger strikes in Northern Ireland. It was a period of crisis and Thatcher had won the 1979 election, in part, by using the fear of being “swamped by people of a different culture,” and only won re-election later through a jingoistic war in the Falklands/Malvinas. The background to the 1981 revolts, which had begun in black neighborhoods in the mid-1970s against police harassment and brutality, spread across race lines. By 1981, black and white youth were fighting the police across England’s major cities. And now, thirty years later, it is happening again: the same police harassment, the same economic crisis, and, despite the rhetoric of multiculturalism, the same English racism—all this has never really ended. The old imperial concern about cultural miscegenation or Thatcherite “swamping”—the concern that white children would become infected by this corrosive and deforming element which is insensible to ethics and an enemy of values (Fanon 1968:41)—was expressed by the former LSE Professor and current TV personality broadcaster David Starkey (Commander of the British Empire). On national television (Newsnight August 12, 2011) he got to the root: “The problem is that the whites have become black.”
How to be human in a dehumanized society? This question haunted Fanon and it haunts our age. It was the question Fanon asked in his letter of resignation from Blida Hospital (1967b) concluding that a colonial society, a dehumanized society, needed replacing. But how could a dehumanized people replace it? One of Fanon’s contributions to revolutionary theory, a contribution that remains controversial today, is his belief that the “damned of the earth”—the poor, landless, unemployed, the marginalized and less than human—are not only thinking and rational beings but can organize themselves as forces that can change the world and make it a more human place. In other words, those people who are considered outside of society, the cast-offs and dregs, the worthless and stupid, the lazy and uncivilized, the irrational and ill-tempered, are the very people on which Fanon’s hopes for a “new humanism” are based. Being radical means getting to the root, and staying human means rejecting the pseudo-humanism of this world, a world where they massacre the human on every street corner (Fanon 2005:235). Fanon’s challenge to intellectuals to “sanction revolt” (see 1968:207; 2005:146) is no more apparent than in the recent riots in London. The riotous and destructive youth seem to prove the truth that they are nothing more than an “unconscious and irretrievable instrument of blind force … insensible to ethics” (Fanon 1968:41), representing at best nothing or nothing but the impossibility of progressive politics. Yet just as much as Fanon’s language describes one discourse, he reminds us that “challenging the colonial world is not a rational confrontation of points of view,” and we might ask: how does Fanon speak to our period?
If Rosa Luxemburg, perhaps the most empathetic of her generation of revolutionary socialists to the sufferings of the colonized against imperialism, insisted until her dying day that national liberation struggles were reactionary, Fanon argued from within the struggles of national liberation that the workers’ movements in Europe had fallen asleep. Perhaps they will wake up, but, he added, we cannot wait. What connects Luxemburg and Fanon is not only their acute sensitivity to human suffering and alienation but also their attempts to theorize and conceptualize new movements and to understand that such theorizations were connected to the construction of a new society. Luxemburg argued that “spontaneity plays such a predominant part [in the 1905 revolution] not because the Russian proletariat are ‘uneducated’ but because revolutions do not allow anyone to play the schoolmaster with them” (Luxemburg 2004:198). For the first time, argues Dunayevskaya (1981:18), “Luxemburg was impressed with what she disliked most—the lumpen proletariat. The revolution irradiated the genius of all people.”
While movements for social change can be viewed retrospectively to harbor longtime political discussions, spontaneous movements often arise quickly and are often dismissed as local, specific, “mindless”, and sometimes as absolutely unfathomable. These rebellions, what John Holloway summarizes as “a scream of horror, a scream of anger, a scream of refusal: NO” (2002:1) against objective dehumanization, are a constant feature of our contemporary world. Yet making sense of them is always made more difficult by the powerful contending forces attempting to break resistance by any means, to use rebellions for their own political ends, or both. Thus, almost as swiftly as a rebellion breaks out it is quickly crushed or compromised, and dismissed as destructive rage as Fanon warns in “The Grandeur and Weaknesses of Spontaneity,” the second chapter of The Wretched of the Earth. Yet just as there is no such thing as pure spontaneity—there is always thinking before and during an event—there is also the quest for self-understanding in the face of psychologists, social workers and political scientists from the right and from the left attempting to give it a meaning. The questions being asked may well be implicit, but the task is to have one’s ears open to “the genius of all people” when it is being drowned out by ideological noise. The task for radicals is to avoid applying pre-formed cookie-cutter theory to new situations and jamming a new event or movement into old categories, but, instead, to begin to open up space for dialogue and reflection on action. On the other hand, it is just “common opportunism”, as Fanon puts it, to abdicate any other responsibility as a revolutionary than to simply herald any action. Once liberated from such undialectical thinking the question remains: how does one perceive a movement’s genius and its reason, especially when it appears, from outside, to have none? This is particularly challenging in the face of those that pathologize rebellions and revolts as illogical and unreasonable, as quite simply mindless acts of violence. Rejecting this standpoint is a first step. The point is that one can’t know beforehand, so one has to be continually open to the world and its breaths, as Césaire puts it, and at the same time always self-critical, always questioning, always connecting.
Fanon understood that everything had to be understood in its concrete situation and he warned us in the first lines of Black Skin White Masks that he doesn’t come with timeless truths. He begins the book by stating, “The explosion will not happen today. It is too soon … or too late.” Too late. Today we are continually told that we have reached the end of history. Yet from Damascus to La Plaz and London the reality is constant and daily revolts. Despite the wish to pull Fanon into our era I am constantly reminded to be careful: it is a different situation. We have to find our own mission, Fanon insists, and yet, isn’t his mission of decolonization and a new humanism still unfulfilled? “What are good intentions,” he wonders, “if their realization is made impossible by the indigence of the heart [and] the sterility of the mind” (1967b:53)?
Both Fanon and Luxemburg worked tirelessly inside their revolutionary organizations, even as they were marginalized and as the leaderships of these organizations became increasingly pragmatic and unprincipled. Each intimated principles of organization (Luxemburg’s famous criticism of Lenin, “freedom means the freedom to think differently” and Fanon’s withering critique of the nationalist leaders and his insistence that the party has to be decentralized “in the extreme” to avert its centralization of power) though neither developed a theory of revolutionary organization. That being said this essay is not a comparative analysis of Luxemburg and Fanon but a focus on what I consider to be Fanon’s dialectic of spontaneity and organization. On re-reading The Wretched of the Earth I was fascinated by how Fanon writes about the problem of consciousness and organization in a few pages of the chapter “Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders” and how this articulates with his discussion of spontaneity.
The colony is “one vast concentration camp where the only law is that of a knife” (2005:232), writes Fanon in “Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders,” where “anything may be done for a loaf of bread.” Colonialism reduces the human being to animal needs and survival: “Relationships with the material world and with history are simply relations with food … to live means existing … the sole obsession is the need to fill that every shrinking stomach” (308/ 232, translation altered). And yet Fanon insists—and we can see intimations of such new collectivities in revolts against oppression such as Tahrir Square in 2011—that with a struggle for liberation everything changes. Under colonialism allowing the neighbor’s sheep to graze on your grass was an act of murder, he argues, but now a family's willingness to lend a donkey to carry a wounded fighter betrays a totally new social and national attitude. The family becomes less concerned about its previously prized possession and more concerned about the safety of the wounded militant. This radical change in consciousness intimates a new collectivity at the moment when the old is dying, but the new birth can be easily broken. There is something inherently unstable about this change and one can imagine a return to a survivalist and reactive consciousness. It is a fragile starting point and if things do not change the small-minded calculations and jealousies around sheep grazing are likely to return.
Fanon warns us that the internalization of self-hatred produced by colonial society means that the struggle has to be fought at a number of levels. The colonized must struggle to eliminate “all the untruths planted within him by the oppressor”. “Independence,” he concludes, is not a magic ritual but an indispensable condition for men and women to exist in true liberation, in other words to “master all the material resources necessary for a radical transformation of society” (2005:233). By material resources I take him to mean not simply the means of production but also the “genius” of the oppressed.
This notion of mastery, and self-mastery—the mastery of all material resources and the mastery of the radical transformation of society—takes us to the issue of organization. Fanon’s conception of organization “independent of the concrete situations” (1967b:144) is always connected to uprooting all the structures that devalue and destroy what is human. But the specific articulations in The Wretched, for example, seem at times contradictory and have to be both understood dialectically as well as in their concrete determinations. In opposition to the nationalist bourgeoisie, who import their concept of organization from the West—making a fetish of “building the party”—and who are mainly concerned with institutional and “legal” (within colonial law) negotiations for independence, the real revolt against colonialism is carried by those dispossessed and now marginalized people, who by being completely “outside the colonial system” have nothing to lose and who through practice create elemental self-organization. Crushed by colonial expropriation (of land and labor), dehumanized by its ideology and its police, the damned of the earth—the “scum,” the surplus people and “feral rats” (as the media reported the English revolt of 2011), are kept in check by state violence and divide and rule policing manifested in gang wars and “black on black” violence. The English revolt was not a revolt of “precarious workers” but of surplus humanity (perhaps even beyond the pale of Marx’s reserve army of unemployed), the black, brown and white youth outside the wage system, held in place by social security and housing benefits. They are, in short, damned. “I am angry at how the whole system works,” argues a London youth. “This is the way they want it … they give me just enough money so I can eat and watch TV all day” (see Thomas and Somaiya 2011). At certain times the anger erupts and is directed toward what is called “the system”. Seemingly unorganized but often highly focused in their target, the intensity of these revolts is their strength. They win local battles but, Fanon argues, this becomes a strategic weakness. Often built on the basis of resentment and feelings of deprivation, which let it be said are entirely objective, the revolt becomes a release of pent up frustration – a moment of collective catharsis. It is often reactive and without any clear political goals. In other words, Fanon warns, the enemy’s change of tactics, the buying off of one group, a small concession here, a mass clampdown there, can all undermine revolt and underline the importance of the revolt’s own self-reflexivity. Fanon argues that there needs to be a thinking, living organization. It is needed because there is no strategically privileged position. This brilliantly expresses the strength and weakness of spontaneity that we can see today with new technologies such as cell phones and social media playing an important role in the organizing of revolts and in many cases the outwitting of the authorities in urban space (and also just as the CCTV is essential to policing, it is countered by the “the hoodie”, the ski-mask and the veil against the cameras). Likewise, just as the strategy of guerilla war and urban rebellion depends not on holding ground, neither can it become a substitution for politics. For Fanon the weakness of spontaneity is its immediacy, its reactive action, a reaction against brutality that leads to a counter-brutality and also a brutality of thought. And though there is no immediacy without mediation and no spontaneity without prior thought, the weakness of spontaneity is when it fetishizes immediacy. Reduced to Manichean reaction it invariably becomes expressed in a politics of hate when what is needed is a nuanced analysis.
It should be remembered that Fanon is not creating a general theory of revolt or of spontaneity but theorizing revolt specifically within the context of the anti-colonial epoch. And yet, with Fanon one is always drawn to the present and this essay is no different. The implicit question is what is there in Fanon’s ideas that could help understand our present situation? Contemporary post-imperial neoliberal capitalist and authoritarian England exhibits the legacies of Empire. The afterlives of the intimate connections between the ordering of the poor in the metropole and the “natives” of the colony (who in the chain of British civilization are considered the epitome of barbarity) are at the foundation of its post-imperial ordering.
Is it audacious to consider what has been dubbed the London “riots” as a part of an elemental struggle for liberation? The revolt was not a movement and cannot be understood as one thing but a series of riots, sometimes collective and directed against the police but also simply smash and grab exercises and sometimes both. Reflecting the social strata of those involved, there was gang activity, opportunist organized crime and violence directed against the community. Yet despite some of the horrible features repeated ad nauseam by the press and the politicians, there remains the revolt as a reflection and critique of contemporary English society.
The London revolts, from the 1970s and 1980s onward, which always began in response to police violence, became more and more multiracial as the policy of criminalization (namely suspecting all youth of crime) blanketed whole communities. From Belfast to Brixton and from Ealing Broadway to the Hackney marshes the essence of English rule is not only the rubber bullet and water-cannon (demanded by the little Englander imperialists) but the security camera and national ID cards (which is why its normalization is the images of hooded rioters on public TV screens in city centers with traveling vans displaying images of people wanted in connection with the recent riots and looting. In a consumerist double-entendre the slogan reads “shop a looter”). The reality of English justice—as it was meted out in the colonies—is brought home as the discourses of human rights and justice so readily employed for imperial interest quickly falls away. The British Prime Minister, Cameron, (with no disagreement from the Labour opposition) repeats the imperial mantra, proclaiming, just as his predecessors did in Kenya in the 1950s and Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s that “phony human rights” would not get in the way of dealing with the “criminals” (Bonner 2011) and “the enemy within,” as Thatcher put it. And while the focus on the harsh sentences for “looters” indicates the intimate relations between police, politicians and the courts, it also belies the daily reality of criminalization and state violence as normal and acceptable to democratic bourgeois society.
For Fanon, revolts in the colonies are never simply isolated events. Word spreads quickly and unofficially. Indeed, the “maturity” of the age means that an “isolated event” (2005:35) becomes an international episode. The London revolts cannot be considered isolated, and the attempt to turn them into non-sense is an attempt to dehumanize them and silence the realities that they reveal. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia, spread to create a new form of social organization in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and spurred by Eurozone structural adjustment travelled across the Mediterranean recast by the Spanish indignados and the Greek aganaktismenoi (outraged) many of whom saw themselves as antipolitical.
In the context of the same capitalist economic crisis, the London outrages were sparked in a different way and were more akin to the French Banlieues revolts of 2005. In both London and in the Banlieues the police were seen as the enemy and both erupted into street battles with the police, leading to the destruction of property (on the Banlieues revolt see Quadrelli). In the late 1980s the 'problem' of unemployed youth on the street in Los Angeles was addressed in a law titled “Street Terrorism Enforcement Prevention.” The same notion of dealing with “street terrorism” is employed in contemporary England, where unemployed (or informally employed) youth in public spaces are constantly confronted by the psychological and physical threat of para-militarized police presence and constant stop and search harassment. The initial cause—the police murder of Mark Duggin (by a special armed police unit) and the police attack on a young woman demonstrating outside the police station was thus a call for dignity and rights. But once attacked the demonstration morphed into battles which beat back the police in Tottenham, and spreading to Wood Green (both in the borough of Haringey with some of the highest levels of poverty in the country), specifically Wood Green’s “shopping city,” took the form of dispossessing its big electronics and clothing stores and continued into gentrified Hackney in the East and areas of London’s suburban high streets such as Ealing and Croydon in the West and South. As it moved its character changed too, more destructive and more indiscriminate.
Neoliberal capitalism in crisis and its economist authoritarianism is Manichean. In reaction to its crude materialism London’s unemployed and criminalized youth, whose communities have been subject to thirty years of “accumulation through dispossession,” simply wanted what neoliberal consumer society told them they should want but couldn’t have. While not denying that there are gangs and robbing on participant retorted that “the politicians say that we loot and rob, they are the original gangsters …”, referring to the parliament expenses scandal that went utterly unpunished. It exposed, concluded Seamus Milne in the liberal The Guardian (Aug 10, 2011), “a society run on greed and looting.” And yet the London revolts signify more than the (im)possibility of shopping but the viability of a society whose central idea is shopping. Many poor people understand the events as a revolt against conditions created by Cameron’s authoritarian economism and as a refusal to accept them.
Like the Paris Banlieues revolt of 2005, the London revolt has been dismissed as reactionary—destructive and criminal. Much of the destruction in London occurred in poor neighborhoods and the descriptions of the French revolt could easily be applied to London: “desperate,” “senseless,” and “criminal” acts by “victims of social exclusion,” “indistinct and indiscriminate, a destructive luddite force that sometimes recalled the disturbing, incoherent and irrational action of the open crowd” (Quadrelli 2-4). The London revolt wasn’t explicitly political in the sense that the Greek or Spanish was in its aims. Rather than impute a politics, and while rage is often considered antithetical to rationality, what was the rationality of the revolt—in Fanon’s sense among those who are thought not to think—against the police and “the system” and “showing the police … [and] “the rich people we can do what we want”? How to begin to thinking about this with Fanon’s help?
BACK TO FANON?
‘The fact is that the body of these people appear to them to be bogged down in fruitless inertia … used to living in the narrow circle of feuds and rivalries.’
There is an arc of spontaneous revolts, beautiful in their creative beginnings, which traverses boundaries and borders and creates new solidarities and imaginations but which under the whip of the forces of order and strategies to buy-off sectors of the revolt becomes fragmented. The fragile new communities become destructured and can very often be destroyed by intrigue and rumor encouraged by agent provocateurs. Fanon argues in “The Grandeur and Weakness of Spontaneity” that the grand schemes of liberation, however indistinct and amorphous, can quickly be compromised, consumed by petty disputes and local hatreds. Quick victories turn into long drawn out struggles. But rather than thinking of new strategies the fight continues, quite literally, with often tragic consequences. It is a Manichean politics, which he calls “radical and totalitarian” (1968:132) a politics which suffocates space for thinking. It is a politics that leads to brutality. This “unmixed and total brutality,” Fanon argues, has to be “immediately combated.” If it is not, it invariably leads to quick defeat (1968:147). But how is it going to be defeated? Fanon seems fairly orthodox in his response (a response still heard today): by “leaders and organizers”. Yet Fanon is talking about those militants who have in fact broken with the old responses and the old politics. He describes a situation where the militants have quite literally been forced underground by the colonial regime, but at the same time, by breaking with elite dominated politics they have discovered the revolutionary action of the masses. The same mass of illiterates and “feral rats” who frighten the colonists, frighten the nationalist leaders. This is not only because both of the contesting elites think that the “mob” is prepared to destroy things. It is also because their situation calls the legitimacy of the system into question in a profound way that poses a solution to the crisis that goes beyond an intra-elite compromise. The unemployed, the landless, the “good for nothing,” argues Fanon, are quick to understand that the politics of “elite negotiation” doesn’t change anything. The pauperized and landless masses, Fanon argues, have in fact never had any interest in this kind of politics. It has little to do with them; yet at the same time they have never stopped thinking about getting rid of colonialism and quite simply understand that its essence and appearance are the same: violence.
For Fanon a liberatory politics begins not from discussions between political leaders and bourgeois parliaments but from the bottom up, grounded in the most urgent aspirations of the masses—bread, dignity, and land: “These politics,” Fanon insists “are national, revolutionary, and collective” (my emphasis). And this “new reality, which the colonized are now exposed to, exists by action alone” (my emphasis, 2004 96 see also 1968:147). In other words, what Fanon calls a living organization is a politics of will. It is action that creates a new reality and thus changes consciousness. He carries on in this Marxian vein (but also note that he is no longer talking about the leaders at all but the masses of people in struggle): “By exploding the former colonial reality the struggle uncovers unknown facets, brings to light new meanings and underlines contradictions which were camouflaged by this reality” (1968:147). It is the struggle which uncovers new realities and new contradictions, and it is the movement from practice that challenges theoreticians to help work out new concepts. The assumption that practice will follow on from theory, still common amongst some forms of leftism, functions to mask the emergence of the new and to delegitimate popular political innovation.
Thus the central issue is not in fact building organization—but building the collective, national, revolutionary struggle. He declares abhorrence to what he calls “the fetish of organization” and an elite politics based on an all knowing vanguard: knowledge, he insists, is produced in the struggle, a struggle for a new reality in which one confronts new contradictions. But as he concludes “The Grandeur and Weaknesses of Spontaneity”, “the force of intellect increases and becomes more elaborated as the struggle goes on … the rebellion gives proof to its rational basis and its maturity each time it uses a particular case to advance the people’s awareness” (1968:146). Political education is not a set of text books but a living relationship. It is refined in the school of the people not by school mastering because it is the maturity of the age that manifests an intimate relationship between consciousness (awareness) and the rationality of revolt mediated by the force of intellect. The people’s history of struggles and thinking about struggles—oral and written—becomes an essential element in self-understanding and knowledge of where we are going and why because it is the enlightenment and thinking of the very people that society dubs stupid and mindless that matters most in a popular emancipatory struggle. This is why the “brutality of thought” is the greatest threat to the force of intellect. The very power of Manichean ideas becomes its pitfall: “The people who at the beginning of the struggle had adopted the primitive Manichaeism of the colonist … find out that the iniquitous fact of exploitation can wear a black face or an Arab one …”. Without developing the force of intellect, it is inevitable that while one oppression is being destroyed another is being “automatically” built (1968:144-5). Yet this realization is a continual cycle related to lived experience. It is also a painful retelling and working through new situations and new contradictions. For example, understanding that exploitation can wear a black face does not answer people’s anger and does not automatically change the situation which can go in the direction of xenophobia, ethno-nationalism and racism. Political education is never a directive but as the South African shack dwellers' organization Abahlali baseMjondolo puts it, “a living learning.”
Fanon argues in “The Misadventures of National Consciousness” in The Wretched that it is essential that the organization become decentralized after independence. Its most important role as educator is to encourage the very people who have been discouraged and dehumanized by colonialism to accept that everything depends on the people alone and that they can rely on nobody else. Again, this can’t be instituted—thinking must be encouraged, he argues (which is not the same as bringing consciousness to the masses), but it is the result of engaged thinking with the people “inside the structure of the people” (namely, its self-organization) and the hard labor of engagement and self-engagement, as he writes in “Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders”:
“The important theoretical problem is that it is necessary at all times and in all places to make explicit, to demystify, and to harry the insult to mankind that exists in oneself [my emphasis] There must be no waiting until the nation has produced new men [and women]; there must be no waiting until men [and women] are imperceptibly transformed by revolutionary processes in perpetual renewal. It is quite true that these two processes are essential. But it is consciousness that must be helped. If the revolution in practice is meant to be totally liberating and exceptionally productive everything must be accounted for. The revolutionary feels a particularly strong need to totalize events, to handle everything, to settle everything, to assume responsibility for everything” (1968:305/ 2004 229).
Yet is this assumption of responsibility contradictory with the idea that the masses are their own subject? Fanon understands that the psychological effects of oppression are very real and must be addressed and yet at the same time the future is now. Engaging this contradiction warrants “the revolutionary’s” political and psychological self-critique. Consciousness must be helped to think for itself, not told what to think. Rather than substitutionism, to totalize events, to handle everything, to settle everything, to assume responsibility for everything is in fact an ongoing process: “Now consciousness no longer balks at thinking back or marking time if necessary” (1968:305). In other words, it is not always a matter of constant “forward movement” because the revolution is always a cycle (as Marx famously describes the “proletarian revolution” in The Eighteenth Brumaire). Based on this new totality and understanding, consciousness, he adds, “no longer balks at thinking back,” and going back over and rethinking. Rather than fretting about the new, he gives us a military analogy which is also analogous to his critique of spontaneity: “This is the reason why as a combat unit progresses in the field the end of the ambush does not mean cause for respite but the very moment for consciousness to go one step further” (1968:305/ 2005:229)
In other words, the dialectic of consciousness is an ongoing process. There is no respite. There is constant motion but not motion for the sake of motion. There needs to be respite also, a constant responsibility to check action, to think and to theorize. In a sense, Fanon’s thought expresses an optimism of the human will qua thinking subject, namely the thinking of those criminalized and dehumanized by the system.
He concludes “Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders” by arguing that “the criminality of the Algerian, his impulsiveness, the savagery of his murders are not, therefore, the consequence of how his nervous system is organized or specific character traits but the direct result of the colonial situation” (2005:233). The same could be said of the criminality of any revolt against an oppressive and dehumanizing system, including the London youth involved in the “riots” whose disregard for property is now being pathologized as characterologically criminal.
Fanon argued that under a colonial regime, “to live simply means not to die” (2005:232). Faced with the “promise of jail, beatings and executions”, who do you take it out on? Yourself and those closest to you. Rather than damning or dismissing spontaneous actions of “criminality,” Fanon—of course—wants to engage them. A similar engagement is required of the London revolt. For Fanon such engagement had an “immense impact on revolutionary consciousness” (2005:233). The London “riots” indicate how rage can go in many directions and how quickly elemental revolt spreads. But for Fanon the decisive moment occurs when action becomes the basis to open up a critique of the “beliefs inculcated in them by colonialism.” It is these beliefs—the internalization of system’s dehumanizing values—that can stymie action and destroy solidarity. Beyond reaction and rage against the machine, for Fanon the liberation of the mind of the oppressed goes hand in hand with reflecting on their own actions.
Fanon continues, “the colonized must also ensure that all the untruths planted within by the oppressor are eliminated… Total liberation involves every facet of the personality” (2005:233).
Total liberation. That is the seemingly unending task. It is the mission of the present and the vision of the future.
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* The author would like to thank Paul Carvajal and Richard Pithouse for their critical engagements with this essay.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Fanon 1968 The Wretched of the Earth refers to the Farrington translation and 2005 to the Philcox translation of Fanon’s Les damnés de la terre.
 From a quite different perspective Sivanandan argues that “multiculturalism has succeeded at the point of riot: the rioters came from all communities.” He also considers the “riots,” in contrast to the revolt of 1981 not based in the community. Yet the causality is similar. He adds that the youth have nothing to look forward to. But this was exactly the feeling expressed by the Sex Pistols anthem “God Save the Queen.” “We’re the flowers in the dustbin; We’re the poison in your human machine,” we’re the future but also there is no future. At the time no future was taken up by rock against racism against the National Front, which was gaining popularity in the inner cities. Certainly, the 2011 revolt lacks such organized articulation, yet it was not simply organized on a Blackberry as Sivanandan insists.
 The concluding chapter of The Wretched. It can be read as an interlocutor to Fanon’s famous chapter on violence and the dehumanizing effects of colonial brutality including torture (see Turner 2011).
 Cameron’s threat to cut off housing benefits for those convicted during the “riots” is in fact only the logic of the new cap on benefits which is pushing many people below subsistence. Many people are beginning to be evicted now.
 In an interview with Sky news, a participant points out that he targeted a shop where he had submitted a job application but had never been responded to. What is noteworthy is that there was response to the reporter’s moralism; “there is no future for young people … the government only look out for the rich people … We are not doing this for the fun of it but to survive in this world” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xe9Hyk5P16k
 As Thomas and Somaiya reported, “a young man in a gray hooded sweatshirt shouted directly into the faces of riot police officers: ‘You know you all racist! You know it.’”
 The police are estimating 30, 000 took part in looting and are aiming to imprison them all. The majority of those charged are not the middle class and university students who are the media’s focus
 Thousands of people created democracy, meeting everyday in front of the Greek parliament. As Costas Douzinas put it, “Aspiring speakers are given a number and called to the platform if that number is drawn, a reminder that many office-holders in classical Athens were selected by lots. The speakers stick to strict two-minute slots to allow as many as possible to contribute … The views of the unemployed and the university professor are given equal time, discussed with equal vigor and put to the vote for adoption. The outraged have reclaimed the square from commercial activities and transformed it into a real space of public interaction.” Likewise, the Spanish gatherings became full time occupations of the city main or large squares and the people set up assemblies for decision-making as well as organizing cleaning systems, education facilities, and kitchens. Despite police provocations there was in fact little violence.
 Slavoj Zizek makes an implicit connection between the London riots and the French revolt of 2005. For him both are “meaningless outbursts.” To make real change, he concludes (sounding like a hardest of the hard Leninist), “one needs a strong body able to reach quick decisions and to implement them with all necessary harshness.”
 I am indebted to Paul Carvajal for pointing this out.
 See “London riots: showing the rich we can do what we want”. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14458424
 From the colonial point of view the colonized are always feral. And from the late nineteenth century on, colonial administrators were particularly concerned with the effect on white settlers. David Harvey (2011) rightly points out that the “communards in Paris in 1871 were depicted as wild animals, as hyenas, that deserved to be (and often were) summarily executed in the name of the sanctity of private property, morality, religion, and the family.” He adds that “But the problem is that we live in a society where capitalism itself has become rampantly feral. Feral politicians cheat on their expenses, feral bankers plunder the public purse for all its worth, CEOs, hedge fund operators and private equity geniuses loot the world of wealth, telephone and credit card companies load mysterious charges on everyone’s bills, shopkeepers price gouge, and, at the drop of a hat swindlers and scam artists get to practice three-card monte right up into the highest echelons of the corporate and political world.” Similarly Sivanandan has also using the term feral speaking also speaking of the specificity of neoliberal capitalism with a “feral elite of politicians, press, police and banks running the system.” Looking for deeper causes for the “riots” he writes of a “polarised society” with a “third of the population mired in poverty and deprivation.” While all this is true, is it what capitalism has “become” in the metropoles (and was intimated in the urban revolts of the early 1980s) takes away from what it is and the specificity what it has always been outside “the core.”
 In his analysis of the mass revolt in the Paris banlieues of 2005, Emilio Quadrelli gestures toward a similar relationship between grass roots activists who are quite distinct from legal parties and movements, and those social actors who played a leading role in the movement of “banlieuesards” (see p.3). Quadrelli adds that there was “no reciprocal recognition” in the political language of the French conflict. It was instead a colonial discourse more in character of the “world of the Algerian war than conventional social models.” Thus he concludes the need to “return to a Fanonian discourses” (3). I take such a return as axiomatic.
Bonner, Raymond. 2011. “Cameron's Promise: Every Looter Will Be Caught,” The Atlantic August 11. http://bit.ly/ncuti5
Douzinas, Costas. 2011. “In Greece, we see democracy in action,” Guardian June 15, http://bit.ly/ma1oID
Dunayevskaya, Raya. 1981. Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution Brighton: Harvester.
Fanon, Frantz 1967a. Black Skin White Masks (translated by Charles Markmam). New York: Grove Press.
Fanon, Frantz. 1967b. Toward the African Revolution. New York: Grove Press.
Fanon, Frantz. 1968 The Wretched of the Earth (translated by Constance Farrington). New York: Grove Press.
Fanon, Frantz. 2004. The Wretched of the Earth (translated by Richard Philcox). New York: Grove Press.
Harvey, David. 2011. “Feral Capitalism Hits the Streets,” August 11, 2011 http://bit.ly/pLbPjS
Holloway, John. 2002. How to Change the World Without Taking Power. London: Pluto.
Luxemburg, Rosa. 2004. The Rosa Luxemburg Reader edited by Kevin Anderson and Peter Hudis New York: Monthly Review
Luxemburg, Rosa. 2010. The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg edited by Georg Adler, Peter Hudis and Annelies Laschitza. New York: Verso
Quadrelli, Emilio. 2007. “Grassroots Political Militants: Banlieusards and Politics,” Mute May 30. http://bit.ly/n8yPB8
Sivanandan, A. 2011. “The violence of the violated,” http://bit.ly/nTbtst
Thomas Jr., Landon and Ravi Somaiya. 2011. “London Riots Put Spotlight on Troubled, Unemployed Youths in Britain,” New York Times, August 9. http://nyti.ms/pvCDlh
Turner, Lou. 2011. “Fanon and the Biopolitics of Torture,” in Nigel C. Gibson, Fanon Lives New York: Palgrave, 2011
Zizek, Slavoj. 2008. On Violence. New York: Picador
Zizek, Slavoj. 2011.”Shoplifters of the World Unite,” London Review of Books August 18. http://bit.ly/q2cJov
How famine makes unscrupulous businessmen fabulously wealthy
In September 2008, a food aid convoy operated by a wealthy Somali businessman and his wife was allegedly looted by an armed group in northern Somalia.
The owner of the company operating the convoy blamed the Union of Islamic Courts for the incident, but independent Somali and international sources told investigators from the Monitoring Group on Somalia that the attack was probably staged, and the food had, in fact, been diverted for sale.
The Monitoring Group on Somalia – an entity mandated by the UN Security Council to monitor arms embargo violations in Somalia – presented the findings of its investigations to the United Nations Security Council in March 2010.
The report stated that the World Food Programme, the single largest provider of food aid in Somalia, had supplied 80 per cent of transport contracts worth roughly $160 million to three Somali businessmen who operated a monopolistic cartel in Somalia, and who were probably involved in the diversion of food aid.
Sources interviewed by the Monitoring Group estimated that up to 50 per cent of food aid was regularly diverted, not just by transport companies, but by WFP personnel and non-governmental organisations operating in Somalia, including one founded by the wife of one of the businessmen belonging to the transport cartel.
The Monitoring Group also suggested that one of the transporters belonging to the cartel had links to the Union of Islamic Courts, which raised questions about whether food aid was being used to finance armed opposition groups.
The Group urged the UN Secretary-General to initiate “a genuinely independent investigation of the WFP Somalia country office, with authority to investigate contracting procedures and practice” and recommended that “WFP revise its internal procedures to truly diversify the issuance of contracts”.
WFP denied most of the allegations made in the Monitoring Group’s report, but promised not to engage the transport contractors named in the report, and to widen its pool of contractors to encourage competition.
However, an Associated Press investigation into the food aid currently being delivered to Somalia has found that WFP is still relying on at least one of the transport ers for food aid deliveries.
What’s more, AP found thousands of food sacks belonging to WFP, and the US and Japanese governments being sold in Mogadishu’s markets.
In an article published this month, AP revealed that it found eight sites in the capital where food aid was being sold. Among the items were maize, grain and Plumpy’nut, a fortified peanut butter designed for malnourished children.
The article quoted an official in Mogadishu who believes that up to half of the food aid being sent to Somalia is stolen by unscrupulous businessmen.
He claimed that before the current flood of food aid, the proportion of food stolen was probably smaller but “in recent weeks, the flood of aid into the capital with little or no controls has created a bonanza for businessmen”.
Predictably, WFP has denied the findings of the AP investigation and claims that “the scale of theft alleged is implausible” and that only 1 per cent of food aid to Somalia is being diverted, a claim supported by the Somali government, even though AP has published photos showing sacks of food aid being sold in Mogadishu markets.
This particular story did not get as much publicity as one would expect, perhaps because it has been overshadowed by the calls for food aid orchestrated by aid agencies who rely on donors to sustain their operations.
If governments, individuals and corporations donating to humanitarian relief efforts and charities discover that much of the food they are paying for is stolen or diverted, they may not be so willing to give so generously.
The food aid industry, not just in Somalia, but in other parts of the world, is fraught with scandals, yet there is hardly any attempt by donors, or even journalists, to report the ugly face of the thriving industry. It is so much easier to look the other way and pat yourself on the back for doing something for starving people.
Yet, if one dares to look deeply, one will find that food aid is a multi-billion dollar business which has helped a small group to become fabulously wealthy on the backs of starving people.
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* This article was first published by The Nation.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Egypt’s military ruler Tantawi and the American siege of Gaza
Revelations from WikiLeaks
The US administration of President Barack Obama was even more actively involved than previously known in enforcing the siege of Gaza along Egypt’s border with the territory. And the Pentagon provided direct assistance and technology for these efforts, a newly released official document reveals.
The US Embassy cable dated 8 April 2009 and released yesterday by WikiLeaks is a briefing document for US Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) – a hard-line supporter of Israel – who was in Egypt to meet with officials. At the time, Lowey chaired an important congressional committee that oversees aid to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Moreover, the cable shows that the Americans coordinated Egypt’s efforts to keep Gaza sealed from the outside world directly with Egyptian army chief Field Marshal Muhammad Tantawi – who is currently Egypt’s military ruler. Tantawi heads the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that has ruled Egypt since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last February.
This may help explain why, despite high hopes, Egypt has reneged on repeated commitments to lift the Gaza siege.
PROMISES TO OPEN RAFAH CROSSING BROKEN
Last April, Egypt’s post-Mubarak government agreed amid much media fanfare to reopen the Rafah crossing, the only link to the outside world for Gaza’s 1.6 million Palestinians that does not go through Israel.
Yet the new procedures were scarcely different from the old, highly restrictive ones, meaning that in effect there is no change at all, as The Electronic Intifada has reported.
As a result of the continuing hardship caused by the severe restrictions on Rafah, dozens of Arab and international organisations recently called on Egypt to end the siege, stop subjecting Palestinians to humiliating and harsh conditions, and open the border once and for all.
AMERICAN AND EGYPTIAN COLLUSION TO MAKE GAZA ‘GO HUNGRY’
The cable confirms that the siege of Gaza – including the ban on the entry of reconstruction supplies following Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’ which killed more than 1,400 people – is political in nature. It was intended to force Hamas, which won Palestinian elections in January 2006, to allow the US-backed West Bank Palestinian Authority regime of Mahmoud Abbas to take back control of Gaza on its terms:
‘The Egyptians believe that Palestinian reconciliation is a prerequisite to delivery of the approximately $5 billion in Gaza reconstruction assistance pledged at the March 2 Sharm El Sheikh conference. Neither the Egyptians, nor the international community can work with Hamas as a partner on security, political or economic reconstruction issues; Rafah crossings will remain closed until the Palestinian Authority returns to operate the Gaza side of the crossing for normal business.’
This adds to the existing body of evidence; a 2007 cable released in April revealed American summaries of discussions with top Egyptian officials about sealing the border with Gaza:
‘Meanwhile, the Egyptians continue to offer excuses for the problem they face: the need to “squeeze” Hamas, while avoiding being seen as complicit in Israel’s “siege” of Gaza. Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Omar Soliman told us Egypt wants Gaza to go “hungry” but not “starve.”’
It’s notable that American officials did not record that they voiced any objections to this language. Crucially, in the 2007 cable, the United States reveals ‘we have no intelligence to support Israeli claims that heavy weaponry moves through the tunnels’. Deliberately denying the humanitarian needs of the population in an occupied territory is a war crime under the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, one that Israel has been committing with impunity. The cables show the extent to which Israel could rely on American and Egyptian officials as accessories in these crimes.
PENTAGON HELPS ENFORCE GAZA SIEGE
The US Embassy sought to use Lowey’s visit as an opportunity to iron out some difficulties in implementing plans to close the Gaza tunnels:
‘Egyptian security forces continue to improve counter-smuggling efforts along the Gaza border and further afield, through increasing their security presence in northern Sinai and giving greater focus to preventing weapons from entering the Sinai. Egyptian officials claim to have identified and sealed over 100 tunnels since the beginning of the year, with new discoveries occurring daily. Recently arrived U.S.- supplied counter-smuggling equipment, once installed and fully operational, could help improve Egypt’s ability to fully exploit the tunnels and break up smuggling rings. The government has requested additional border security assistance and we are currently exploring ways to provide the requested assistance.’
But the cable notes:
‘Installation of this new U.S.-supplied counter-smuggling equipment hit a snag in February, however, when the Minister of Defense [MOD] blocked the use of satellite technology to tune the equipment and complete the installation. DOD [US Department of Defense – known as the Pentagon] is designing a work around, but this may add 4-5 months to the time to complete the installation. At the same time, proper operation of the equipment also requires the use of GPS technology, to which the MOD has also objected, and we are still in conversation with them about that.’
AMERICAN PRESSURE ON TANTAWI TO DO MORE TO BESIEGE GAZA
Finally the cable suggests talking points for Lowey to use in her meeting with Tantawi:
‘(SBU) General Tantawi: MOD objections to some of the technical elements of the U.S.-supplied border security equipment may delay installation by as much as four-five months.
– Thank the general for his cooperation on installation of anti-smuggling equipment.
– Express concern that delays to equipment installation will impede tunnel detection.
– Urge the general, in the meantime, to consider low tech measures to destroy main tunnels, such as using a backhoe [bulldozer] to dig them out.’
This cable – as a preparatory briefing – does not reveal whether the meeting between Lowey and Tantawi took place or what was actually said, but there’s little reason to believe Tantawi would not have been receptive. The earlier 2007 cable detailing American discussions with him claims:
‘In their moments of greatest frustration, Tantawi and [Mubarak’s intelligence chief Omar] Soliman each have claimed that the IDF [Israeli army] would be “welcome” to re-invade Philadelphi, if the IDF thought that would stop the smuggling.’
‘Philadelphi route’ is the name Israel gave to the strip of land running the full length of the border between Egypt and Gaza. That, incidentally, was an opinion shared by members of the Palestinian Authority. As the Palestine Papers, Ahmed Qureia, a top official of Mahmoud Abbas’ US-backed PA also wanted Israel to re-invade parts of Gaza, so deep was the PA’s hatred for and rivalry with Hamas.
Given Tantawi’s direct role in enforcing the siege of Gaza all along, it is no surprise that Egypt continues to maintain it now that Tantawi is running the country, and Egypt continues to receive more than a billion dollars of US military aid every year.
Why did Egypt re-impose and maintain the siege days after announcing the full re-opening of Rafah? US policy toward Gaza has not changed – punishing the population to harm Hamas and support the US-backed rulers in the West Bank remains Obama’s approach. But it may also be linked to the failed reconciliation between Abbas and Hamas which the Obama administration adamantly opposed when it was first announced in early May.
Whether the siege of Gaza will ever be lifted remains directly linked to the Egyptian people replacing the SCAF with real democracy. As Joseph Massad has pointed out, that will be no easy task in light of all the entrenching of SCAF’s power since February.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Sudan: In-built neocolonialism
I have decided not to separate Sudan and South Sudan in my articles because the developments in both places even after the secession of South Sudan as an independent country as linked to how Sudan, Africa’s biggest country, was shaped historically and how it functioned as a country. The crisis in Sudan is a crisis of capitalism in post-colonial Africa but manifests itself through the way capitalism specifically functions in Sudan. It is true that you cannot reach a solution without looking at the manifestation, but absolutising the manifestations as the whole picture can be very distorting.
Sudan became independent as a country from Anglo-Egyptian control on 1 January 1956. The United Kingdom and Egypt reached an agreement for Sudan’s self-determination and self-government in 1953. A transitional period began with the inauguration of a parliament in 1954. The first civil war broke out between the South and North in 1955 because the Arab-led government reneged on the establishment of a federal system of government. Thus civil war broke out in Sudan even before independence was declared. It is necessary for this to be stressed for those who interpret the rebellion against the Arabo-Islamic ruling class in Sudan as latter day Western imperialist manoeuvres. That interpretation is ahistorical, a distraction and a racist distortion as I have tried to explain in previous articles.
With the independence of South Sudan, the country faces a number challenges which follow up from the past. What united the people of South Sudan in their quest for independence is a common opposition to the marginalisation and divide and rule methods of the Arabo-Islamic ruling class in Khartoum, which has employed Arab identity and Islam as tools in running the state and exploiting its people. The situation in Darfur and South Kordofan shows that the people of South Sudan faced the same situation as those in Darfur and South Kordofan, who are still part of north Sudan. Coordination at the level of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) doesn’t seem to be that smooth. The unity against the common enemy, the Arabo-Islamic ruling class, made it is easy for chieftains and ethnic communities to participate in the armed struggle without necessarily being effectively coordinated by the SPLM/A, as everybody wanted the end of the oppression and marginalisation.
A Southern Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SSLM/A) has issued a statement critical of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), which is the ruling organisation in South Sudan. The SSLM/A is claiming that the SPLM/A cannot represent all in South Sudan to be replaced by an interim government representing all political parties in South Sudan. The SSLM/A also campaigns for a federal South Sudan as the political structure that is likely to provide the best framework for proper representation and the protection of the ethnic plurality of South Sudan.
The economic situation, including struggle over grazing land, is also leading attacks and counterattacks from different ethnic groups. There have been attacks between Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups in Jonglei State resulting in serious casualties. Murle were supposed to be retaliating and attack by the Lou Nuer in June. The present attack by the Murle against Lou Nuer in Uror county this week has resulted in 640 deaths, 861 people injured, 208 children kidnapped, 7,924 houses destroyed through arson and the theft of 38,000 heads of cattle according to reports from group of officials to Sudan Tribune of 23 August. The attacks by the Lou Nuer on the Murle in June resulted in 900 deaths. Some of these problems arise because the Arabo-Islamic regime siphoning the oil that South Sudan sat on for its opulent life style kept South Sudan totally undeveloped as some feudal backyard.
I still consider the independence of South Sudan as progress despite this crisis. The development is helping bring to the fore other issues which were ignored or glossed over by the leadership of the liberation movement after the late John Garang who led the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army into the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Sudan. John Garang as a visionary had the vision of the liberation of the whole Sudan whilst a lot the liberation movement were concerned about just how to end Arabo-Islamic ruling class oppression and marginalisation. This oppression and marginalisation was to facilitate neocolonialist capitalist exploitation, and whilst the incidence was higher among the supposed non-Arab population and non-Islamic population, it was part and parcel of the domesticated capitalist system in Sudan. Although the independence of South Sudan has not resolved this problem, it will help draw attention to the importance of addressing the bigger question of liberation as envisioned by John Garang. The problems of Darfur and South Kordofan clearly mean that the marginalisation is not just a north–south divide and the clashes in South Sudan show that there are other problems beyond marginalisation of the non-Arabised population.
An issue outstanding is what to do with the disputed territory of Abyei. Abyei definitely is in South Sudan but with the area being the source of oil the North doesn’t want to let ago. As such, Abyei was not included in the referendum which led to the independence of South Sudan but the decision on whether it is in north Sudan or South Sudan has been postponed for the future. The Sudan government alleged that its convoy was fired on on 19 May under the South Sudan Police Force, resulting in casualties. In response to this the Sudan armed forces attacked and seized Abyei. In the 1990s jihad against the Nuba people of South Kordofan led to between 4,000 and 5,000 villages being destroyed. My previous articles in Pambazuka have detailed recent genocidal actions in South Kordofan. In response to insurrection from Darfur in 2003, the Sudan armed forces and the Janjaweed militias have carried similar genocidal actions in the Darfur area of western Sudan.
There is urgent need for global Pan-Africanist solidarity beyond rhetorics and speeches. There has to emerge a current in the Pan-Africanist movement that can campaign and lobby on the side of the marginalised majority in Sudan. This has to go beyond shifting alliances with governments outside Africa. This has to be done within the global justice movement. The shifting alliances with various non-African governments will also result in shifting the goal posts for neocolonialism. We should draw a cue from the network of solidarity groups that the Cubans for example have used as an important model. This proactive Pan-Africanist group could lobby various bodies to help an independent mass following develop its own capacity which may contribute to advancing self-determination in Africa as a whole. This type of solidarity is indispensable in addressing the unfinished agenda which has dragged Sudan along since the eve of independence in 1955.
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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 – www.kilombo.org.uk. He is also the producer and coordinator of the 'Another World is Possible' radio programme currently on GFM Radio. For further information contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org or +233-241498912.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Sudan: For LGBT, more clouds on the horizon
The preparation of this article started on 8 July, the eve of the secession of southern Sudan from the Republic of Sudan to become an independent country. Southerners were very excited, obviously, but both northerners and southerners were wondering about what the future might hold for them. Homosexuals on both sides have more than their fair share of concerns.
In December 2010 president Omar al-Bashir stated in a public speech which preceded Southern Sudanese referendum in January this year:
‘If Southern Sudan chose the secession the constitution will be then modified and there will be no place to talk about racial and cultural diversity and Islam and Shari’a* will be the main resources for legislation.’
This statement was made in the context of the ‘carrot and stick’ policy attempted back then by the northern government in order to persuade southerners who were living in the north to vote for unity in the 9 January referendum. However, its echo stirred the fears of liberals, human rights activists and, of course, the LGBT community, which had already suffered a great deal even during the transitional period between 2005 and 2011 in the name of Shari’a.
During this period, in concordance with the ‘Republic of Sudan Transitional Constitution for Year 2005’, Shari’a remained the main resource of legislations on the national level and it has been actively implemented in the northern states, whereas the South was excluded.
Before the National Islamic Front came into power by the military coup d'état (National Salvation Revolution) which held up the logo of the ‘Islamic state’ and rejected the principle of a ‘secular state’ in 1989 – before that – there were no laws that criminalised same sex relations between adults. However, only two years after that in the 1991 Penal Code man to man sex was criminalised under the name of ‘sodomy’, with the ‘guilty’ being lashed and maybe imprisoned for the first and second convictions and subjected to the death penalty for the third and last conviction. (The funny thing about this article is that anal sex between a man and a woman is included also as a crime in the same article!)
As for ‘acts of obscenity’ (public or private displays of affection or a sexual behaviour that does not reach the point of sexual intercourse) lashes, a year of imprisonment and a fine are all options. However, there is no clear mention in that law for same sex between women.
SHARI’A: DESIGNED AND PREJUDICED, THE SUDANESE WAY
70 per cent of the population in Sudan (before South Sudan’s secession) are Sunni Muslims with the dominant Sunni school being the Maliki denomination. Maliki traditional teaching regarding the so-called ‘act of sodomy’ implies that if four fair witnesses (which should be men) see two men with ‘the penis of one man enters the anus of another’ then both men (the doer and whom it is done to) should be stoned to death. Regarding homosexual acts between two women – ‘sehaq’ – there is no definite ‘Had’ (specific pre-defined punishment in the religious texts) However, it is still condemned by the four Sunni denominations and Ta’zir is in order (up to the discretion of the judges or to decide the appropriate punishment).
Apparently, this is not exactly what the law states today since no individual is sentenced to death under the sodomy law, unless he has been caught for the third time. Maybe this was an attempt from the legislators to ‘soften’ this obviously cruel law and since Sudan (up to the official level) is a country highly dependent on social affairs it could have embarrassed the government so much if any convicted person was executed at their first conviction because homosexuality is present even at the higher social levels like politicians, the army and even some religious men especially in the mystical community (however, no one from these societies was hardly ever convicted with sodomy) and this could have caused great disturbance to the social fabric.
Another possible reason for this is that Sudan has historical bonds and is highly influenced by our neighbour Egypt in which the Hanafi denomination of Islam prevails; the Hanafi School has a loose and less aggressive provision regarding the issue with ‘Ta’zir’ in the hand of the judges.
However, the Islamic view in Sudan wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Sufism (Islamic mysticism) which is equally prevalent (sometimes more dominant) than the Sunni Islamic denominations in many areas of Sudan, especially rural areas where illiteracy and poverty reach their peak. Everyday life of Sufis is not entirely clear since they live in isolation from the public, but sometimes stories break out which reveal the extent of homosexuality among them, especially between the Sheiyukh (plural of Sheikh) who are the spiritual leaders of these groups and some young men followers.
Although these stories are usually brought up by the Salafis (fundamental Sunni Muslims) in the context of their historical eternal debate with the Sufis as an ‘argument’ which proves the ‘astray’ of Sufis, no one seems to deny these stories. Actually, historical Sufism books mention homosexual acts as part of the Karamat (special divine grants) that are allocated by God for those who reach high spiritual status. Nowadays, whereas ‘Alnezam Alaam’ (public order – a branch of the police) seizes any chance to find and punish other LGBT individuals, it stays remotely when it comes to homosexuality among Sufis. Apparently the government does not want to lose the support of these loyal and highly influential groups as a part of the theo-political games that the NCP (National Congress Party) government plays in order to remain in power.
THE VICTIMS, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
In a tribal country like Sudan in which everyday life is centred around the family and with the reputation and the honour of the family of extremely dangerous importance, accurate and specific information like names, dates, circumstances and addresses about individuals convicted with sodomy is scarce and mostly remains in the archives of the Alnezam Alaam or the intelligence agencies. Families do whatever possible to keep it quiet and the ‘convicts’ (the victims) do not speak about it publically out of shame. However, now and then, some cases break out to the public, especially if they were big (in terms of the numbers of arrested people) and some victims find the courage to talk (though hiding their true identity). I bring just two examples that reflect the situation in here.
THE CASE OF THE 12 FREEDOM SUDAN MEMBERS
Ali, a co-founder and the president of Freedom Sudan (Sudan's LGBT association) wrote about his own terrifying story on the organisation website, in April 2009. While Ali and 11 of his friends (two women and nine men) were holding a private party in the residency of one of them, agents from the intelligence agency raided their party and caught them all and then took them to an unknown place. There, as Ali tells, each of them was put in solitary confinement ‘cells of 1.5 metres long walls’ he says under highly unsanitary conditions and he was deprived of water and food for two days straight. As for his interrogation Alli says:
‘They stripped me naked and they started to interrogate me. They asked me about everything: if I’m a gay, friends, family, political and LGBT association activities. They started to hit me. Some one of them he put a pistol to my head and said “I wish I can kill you right now”. They dragged me by my legs and they tied me upside down, and they started hitting me with a metal stick all over my body, they grabbed my organ and hit me there too, and they sticked that stick in my ass and they were laughing out loud about it and asked me: “Do you like it, do you want more?” I was screaming from pain and I was bleeding from everywhere, urine came out. They kept doing that until I lost my consciousness.’
He remained there for almost four weeks and spent another three and a half months in prison and while waiting for his trial, in which he was expecting to be sentenced to death since he was caught ‘red handed’ as he said, some family members succeeded in smuggling him out of prison and then he flew out the country via a fake passport. About his 11 friends Ali mentioned that eight of them were later flogged 100 lashes each, while the fate of another three members, including his boyfriend, was never known since then.
THE CASE OF THE 19 MEN AND THE GAY WEDDING PARTY
A famous incident took place in August 2010 when 19 men were flogged publically and fined after being caught by Alnezam Alaam in a private party celebrating the wedding of two homosexual men in Khartoum. However, the charge against them was limited to breaking the public morality codes in Sudan (since none of them was caught red handed) by wearing feminine clothes, putting on make up, dancing in a ‘womanly fashion’. There were no lawyers to defend them and one lawyer who witnessed their trial mentioned no one of his colleagues dared to defend the accused due to the overwhelming public hostility these individuals were met with.
There has been a figure circulating around the internet recently estimating the number of homosexual men only in Khartoum state to be 715 men. Obviously this number is not accurate and highly underestimates the size of our population bearing in mind that global rates range approximately from 4–10 per cent and that over 5 million people live in Greater Khartoum. However, this number can reflect the number of homosexual men known to the authorities and these will probably be watched and subjected to arbitrary arrests and harassments by Alnezam Alaam. It worth mentioning that this figure was provided by the AIDS Prevention Programme in Khartoum State in the context of its presentation of the HIV prevalence in the state.
SOUTH SUDAN: OUT OF SHARI’A, STUCK IN HOMOPHOBIA
In the newborn country of South Sudan there seems to be no light on the horizon for LGBT people, at least in the short term, with the president of the world’s newest country, Salva Kiir Mayardit, stating in an interview with Netherlands worldwide radio in July 2010:
‘Homosexuality is not in our character’ and adding ‘it is not there and if anybody wants to import it to Sudan [...] it will always be condemned by everybody.’
The homophobic discrimination in South Sudan is fuelled by some bishops in the Episcopal Church and the homophobic wave that is spreading nowadays in some African countries, like nearby Uganda.
In 2006 a bishop named Abraham Mayom Athiaan admonished the Episcopal Church in Sudan about its failure to condemn homosexuality sufficiently strongly. This took place despite the fact that South Sudan already has its own law against sodomy, since 2003, which was renewed in 2008 under article 248 from the law ‘unnatural offences’.
However, only around 10 per cent of Southern Sudanese are Christians according to the Federal Research Division of the US Library of Congress estimate in the early 1990s (although recent census and personal impression from southerners who live in Khartoum indicate much greater prevalence). The majority of the population have animist traditional indigenous beliefs (and sometimes mixed Christian and animist beliefs), but even among those homosexuality seems to be not tolerated. In a blog named Charlie Alder in South Sudan the blogger (after whom the blog is named) mentioned the story of woman from the Dinka (one of powerful tribes in South Sudan) who went from Sudan to Canada and lived there for five years during which she discovered freely her homosexual orientations. After she returned to Sudan and came out to her family she was immediately kidnapped in order to be sold to tribes that practice human sacrifices!
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* Ghareeb is a member of Freedom Sudan.
* This article was first published by Madikazemi.
* Part one of this article is available here: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/75747
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
* Shari’a or Sharia: The code of conduct or religious law of Islam. Most Muslims believe Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Qur'an, and the example set by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of Sharia to questions not directly addressed in the primary sources by including secondary sources. These secondary sources usually include the consensus of the religious scholars embodied in ijma, and analogy from the Qur'an and Sunnah through qiyas. Shia jurists prefer to apply reasoning ('aql) rather than analogy in order to address difficult questions.
Mapping war crimes in Sudan: An open letter to George Clooney
I have been following your recent activism on Sudan with great interest. While I admire your commitment to peace and human rights, I believe that you need to more critically evaluate the implications of your Satellite Sentinel Project, designed as an ‘early warning’ monitoring system for war crimes. The mainstream media’s celebration of your project warrants a closer look at what it means for the people you seem determined to help.
The project you launched last December sounds simple enough. According to your website, it ‘combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google's Map Maker technology to deter the resumption of war between North and South Sudan’. Private satellites that you hire monitor troop movements, and project partners analyse the collected images and post them on the website ‘to remind the leaders of northern and southern Sudan that they are being watched’. As you characterised this operation in a December 2010 TIME magazine article, ‘We are the anti-genocide paparazzi … if you know your actions are going to be covered, you tend to behave much differently than when you operate in a vacuum.’
While the press has lauded this form of ‘cyber-diplomacy’ – some going so far as to credit you with bringing about South Sudan’s independence  – I propose a more rigorous consideration of: (1) who is involved in the decision-making and what information is shared and not shared; (2) how you portray the various actors and interests involved; and (3) what independence means for the people of South Sudan.
Let’s explore my first question on information and decision-making: what data is collected by the Satellite Sentinel Project? Who has access to it? What information is shared with the public on your website, and what is not shared? How is this determined? According to your website, the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) is a collaboration between Not On Our Watch, the Enough Project, Google, the United Nations UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), DigitalGlobe, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Trellon, LLC. DigitalGlobe's largest customer is the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which gathers non-classified images for use by the US Department of Defense, intelligence agencies and other government bodies. The US Africa Command (AFIRCOM) lists DigitalGlobe as a resource for its work on the continent. Do you have a policy on sharing data with government entities and the US military?
All of your partners except UNOSAT are US-based, meaning that most, if not all, decisions and interpretations of data are done outside Sudan. None of your public advocacy includes analysis or policy recommendations by Sudanese intellectuals or policy experts. At a minimum, the absence of Sudanese actors and thinkers from your campaign reveals a lack of interest in the internal political processes that are crucial for strengthening democratic citizenship.
In terms of the way you portray the actors and interests involved, according to the SSP and its partners (with the Enough Project – part of the Center for American Progress – the most active and vocal member), Southern Sudanese peoples have been struggling for independence for years, which the north has allegedly resisted largely because it did not want to lose access to the abundant economic resources in the South.
Referring to the data collected by the SSP, you and your partners warn about the risk of crimes against humanity and even genocide against Southern Sudanese by the Khartoum government. As such, you insist the time to ‘act’ is now. As you, together with your colleague, John Prendergast, wrote on the eve of South Sudan’s independence:
We were late to Rwanda. We were late to the Congo. We were late to Darfur. There is no time to wait. With your support, we will swiftly call the world to witness and respond. We aim to provide an ever more effective early-warning system: better, faster visual evidence and on-the-ground reporting of human rights concerns to facilitate better, faster responses.
In your narrative, the Sudanese people are reduced to either victims or perpetrators – passive victims incapable of formulating their own path to peace and justice, or evil-doers requiring punishment. The people of Sudan are invisible in the global conversation, now heavily shaped by your project. The very real political issues at stake are diluted into nebulous questions of morality and the ‘responsibility to protect’, in which external actors like yourself claim a moral authority to defend people who have no way of holding you accountable in this monitoring system you helped to construct.
As you stated in a January 2011 interview on MSNBC about your project, ‘We can do things that governments can’t, because we are individuals.’ Would a wealthy Sudanese individual be permitted to launch a satellite over the United States or the United Kingdom with the same declared goal of protecting the citizens of these states from torture, unjust imprisonment or any number of abuses that have been documented in either of these two countries? How is it that your widely celebrated form of advocacy–solidarity simultaneously champions the sovereignty of one nation (South Sudan) while repudiating that of another (Sudan)?
Despite your stated commitment to monitor both northern and southern actors, the Satellite Sentinel Project highlights almost exclusively the actions of the Khartoum government and its army, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). In the context of North–South conflict, both the governments of north and South Sudan have prevented UN peacekeeping missions from performing their duties, and US Senator Leahy recently questioned the annual US$100 million in military aid provided by the US to South Sudanese forces in light of the reports of abuses those very forces have perpetrated. Meanwhile, your partners at the Enough Project recently called for more arms to be delivered to the South Sudan army.
Your selective attention to actors involved in this conflict creates a skewed understanding of the political dynamics – the public is led to believe that violations are committed by one party only (the Khartoum government), and that these abuses are occurring in a vacuum, motivated entirely by local greed, religious intolerance or evil. Failure to look beyond the ‘civil’ war narrative reflects a complete disconnect from geopolitics – no state is immune from the broader sphere of global economic and political activity.
For example, according to a newly published report by Norwegian People’s Aid about land acquisition in the South, nearly 10 per cent of the land in the brand new nation of South Sudan has already been sold or leased to corporations, many of them foreign corporations. Foreign investors have signed agriculture, biofuel and forestry deals that cover 2.64 million hectares of land (approximately the size of Rwanda). These deals took place in the context of a global rush for African farmland in the wake of the food, fuel and financial crises of 2007–08. Two of the largest deals have been negotiated with American companies: Jarch Capital and Nile Trading and Development.
What, then, does independence actually mean in the context of the global financial crisis and growing competition over land, oil, food and water? Will it lead to a better life for South Sudanese peoples? Even before the state’s formal declaration of independence on 9 July 2011, South Sudanese had been invited to open up their country for business. Your project is now playing an active role in integrating South Sudan into the global economy. According to the World Bank, the Satellite project has the potential not only to deter atrocities but also to build the world’s newest independent nation. On the eve of a jointly organised event, a World Bank official proffered a justification for your collective initiatives: ‘South Sudan is an expansive region that is currently poorly mapped. Without basic geospatial information, it is difficult for the government, civil society, development partners, and all stakeholders to visualize plans, see existing infrastructure, and target areas where they want to work and develop projects. This will also empower the Southern Sudanese community to develop their own solutions using maps.’
If only it were that simple. Geographic information is integrally linked to equality in terms of access to data, information, and knowledge. The above quote references an array of actors (government, civil society, development actors) as though each wield equal power in decision-making. In the fledgling young state of South Sudan, it is difficult to dismiss the political and economic leverage held by development ‘partners’ like the bank as it dangles millions of potential dollars in aid while demanding that the ‘right’ institutions and policies are needed for the country’s ‘socio-economic transformation.’
In this era of ‘global solidarity’, it appears that so-called ‘humanitarians’ and capitalists employ the same language of partnership and empowerment. Will your Satellite Project monitor the removal of populations from land acquired by foreign or private actors, or from land designated by the World Bank as critical to infrastructure projects? Will the South Sudan judiciary be empowered to hold legally accountable those responsible for the mass displacement of people whose resources – not lives – are more valuable to the global economy?
As the citizens of South Sudan negotiate the difficult road ahead, we can expect them to challenge the grandiose language of solidarity, partnership and progress utilised by humanitarians and capitalists alike. We can expect them to ask difficult questions of their so-called partners who are quick to provide ready-made solutions. Will you and your partners be receptive to this questioning? If indeed your primary concern is the welfare of the Sudanese people, it seems you must be.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Mark Benjamin, ‘Clooney's 'Antigenocide Paparazzi': Watching Sudan,’
TIME, 28 December 2010. Available at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2040211,00.html
 Greg Avery, ‘DigitalGlobe picks Lockheed Martin, ULA for next satellite launch,’ Denver Business Journal, March 2011. Available at http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2011/03/15/DigitalGlobe.html
 ‘Deterring Possible War and Genocide in Sudan: A Message from George Clooney and John Prendergast’ available at http://clients.trellon.org/sentinel/deterring-possible-war-and-genocide-sudan
 MSNBC Interview January 19, 2011.
 David K. Deng. The New Frontier: A baseline Survey of Large Scale Land-based investment in Southern Sudan. Norwegian People’s Aid, 2011.
 See, for example, Oakland Institute. Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa.
 Brian Adero, ‘Google Maps out Southern Sudan,’ IT News Africa, 1 July 2011. Available at http://www.itnewsafrica.com/2011/07/google-maps-out-south-sudan/
 The World Bank recently reccommended a $75 million trust fund to provide healthcare, infrastructure and employment to the Republic of South Sudan. ‘South Sudan urged to move away from mono-product economy,’ 17 July 2011. Available at http://www.albawaba.com/south-sudan-urged-move-away-mono-product-economy-383266
Dirty Durban’s manual for climate greenwashing
Will the host city for the November-December world climate summit, the COP17, clean up its act? Last Tuesday’s launch of a major Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf) report, ‘Towards a low carbon city: Focus on Durban’ – http://www.assaf.org.za/2011/08/durban-on-a-pathway-towards-a-low-carbon-city/ – offers an early chance to test whether new municipal leaders are climate greenwashers, attempting to disguise high-carbon economic policies with pleasing rhetoric, as did their predecessors.
Will Durban Mayor James Nxumalo and a new city manager, still to be named, instead get serious about the threat we face – and that major industries pose – as a result of runaway greenhouse gas emissions? We needn’t rehearse concerns about future rising sea levels, extreme storms, flooding that will overwhelm dirty Durban’s decrepit storm-water drainage system, landslides on our hilly terrain, droughts that draw new ‘climate refugees’ from the region into a xenophobic populace, the disruption of food chains and other coming disasters.
However, what might be termed South Africa’s ‘mitigation-denialism’ remains a notable problem. Not only did Planning Minister Trevor Manuel announce last week that he expects the North to pay SA up to US$2 billion a year through the Green Climate Fund he co-chairs – when in reality it is we who owe a vast climate debt to Africa given our world-leading rate of CO2/GDP/person – but Assaf seeks to persuade politicians that Durban can ‘entrench its reputation as SA’s leading city in terms of climate change actions [sic]’.
MISSING IN ANALYSIS: DURBAN’S WORSENING CARBON HABIT
This is pure hot air, because Assaf’s 262-page study shies away from critical mention of high-carbon Durban’s unprecedented public subsidies on long-distance air transport, shipping, fossil-fuel infrastructure, highway extension and international tourism.
For example, the study tells us nothing about the US$35 billion that ‘Back of Port’ planners have in mind for South Durban: displacing residents of the 140 year-old Clairwood neighbourhood to allow more expansion of the vast harbour (and its ships’ dirty bunker fuel), a new highway leading to more container terminals and super-toxic petrochemical facilities (including doubling oil flows through a new pipeline to Jo’burg via black neighbourhoods), expanding the automotive industry, and digging a huge new harbour on the old airport site. Not a mention.
Assaf says nothing about the damage done by building the US$1.2 billion King Shaka International Airport way too early and way too far north of the city, nor – aside from a throwaway reference in the governance chapter – about the mostly-empty US$430 million Moses Mabhida Stadium built for last year’s World Cup, next door to an existing world class rugby stadium which should have been used. Durban was nearly rewarded with a climate-destabilising 2020 Olympics bid before the SA cabinet had a rare common-sense moment in June and withdrew from the competition.
All these mega-investments certainly make Durban ‘SA’s leading city in terms of climate change actions’ – but opposite to the way Assaf claims.
In a failure of analytical nerve, the Assaf scientists appear too intimidated to discuss these expensive mistakes in polite company, much less argue for a detox-rehab of Durban’s carbon-addicted corporates. Yet it makes no sense to avoid the harsh reality of fast-rising emissions in sectors that make our city exceptionally vulnerable when carbon taxes do finally kick in, given how far Durban is located from the world’s main markets and given adverse implications for tourism.
At one point, buried in a dry table, are the names of Durban’s biggest emitters measured by consumption of municipal electricity: the Mondi paper mill, Sapref and Engen oil refineries, Toyota, Frame Textiles and the Gateway and Pavillion shopping malls. But the city’s biggest contributor to climate change via the national grid’s coal-fired power plants is a deadly manganese smelter, completely forgotten in Assaf’s study even though Assore’s most recent annual report concedes, ‘Electricity consumption is the major contributor to Assmang’s corporate carbon footprint and reflects energy sourced from Eskom grid supply, particularly by the Cato Ridge Works.’
Nor in Assaf’s chapter on ‘The national context’ do we learn that SA is building the world’s third- and fourth-largest coal-fired power plants, Eskom’s Kusile and Medupi, with a US$3.75 billion loan from the World Bank in spite of fierce opposition from civil society.
Not mentioned, either, are apartheid-era special pricing agreements that give BHP Billiton and Anglo American Corporation the world’s cheapest electricity ($0.02/kiloWatt hour), about 1/8th what ordinary households pay. Nor is there a word about the millions of poor South Africans disconnected from electricity, unable to absorb the 130 per cent price hike Eskom has imposed since 2008 so as to pay for the coal-fired generators.
These gaping holes are too wide for even Durban’s most skilled greenwashers – like municipal climate adaptation manager Debra Roberts – to hide, and to her credit, joking that, ‘You want to get me fired for publicly agreeing with you,’ she did just that when at the International Convention Centre launch I drew attention to these white-elephants-in-the-room.
Assaf chief executive Roseanne Diab replied that the city’s main mitigation focus should be Durban’s anarchic truck-freight transport mess, which she claimed can be tackled by air-quality regulation. That might be the case if SA had the USA’s Clean Air Act which considers greenhouse gases to be pollutants – something our SA Air Quality Act doesn’t. And it might also help if the municipality had an effective air-pollution monitoring unit, but in March it was stripped of most of its staff by the city manager and is now considered a joke.
And here in SA’s petrochemical armpit, from where I write, we South Durban residents continue to be the main victims, including Settlers Primary School with its 52 per cent asthma rate, the world’s highest. I spent an hour last Friday night out on Clairwood’s Houghton Road, where local residents association secretary Mervyn Reddy led 100 people blockading Consolidated Transport for letting truck drivers race like Michael Schumacher through the neighbourhood. After 10 deaths caused by maniac truckers, who can blame this community for rising up.
DURBAN CHASES THE CARBON TRADE
What Reddy knows but Assaf doesn’t say is that the sources of climate-threatening CO2 emissions are also responsible for much more immediate socio-ecological destruction. For example, Assaf enthusiastically promotes landfill methane gas-to-electricity conversion at Durban’s infamous Bisasar Road dump without observing (as do most academic articles) that Africa’s largest ‘Clean Development Mechanism’ is actually one of the world’s primary cases of carbon-trading environmental racism, worthy of a front-page article in the Washington Post in 2005 on the day the Kyoto Protocol took effect.
Placed in a black neighbourhood during apartheid, Bisasar Road – Africa’s largest landfill – should have been closed when Nelson Mandela came to power, as African National Congress pamphlets in the 1994 election promised the community it would be. But thanks in part to World Bank encouragement, Bisasar became the leading pilot for carbon trading and still pollutes the area to this day, with no prospect for closure before it fills up around 2020. A sister landfill in northern Durban, La Mercy, also had a methane-electricity project funded by the World Bank, but Assaf concedes that it failed to properly extract the gas.
In its enthusiasm for such financing, the Assaf study also forgets that the COP17 will witness the demise of Kyoto, the treaty that mandates these kinds of carbon-trade investments in places like Durban. The end of the only binding multilateral climate treaty is mainly due to Washington’s intransigence, and it is heartening to those of us in Durban that hundreds of people have been arrested at the White House over the last two weeks, demanding US rejection of filthy Canadian tarsands oil. In solidarity, Durban climate justice activists will demonstrate at the US Consulate just west of City Hall on Wednesday during afternoon rush hour.
Blithely, Assaf scientists recommend ‘innovative market-based financing mechanisms’ such as ‘the voluntary carbon market’ – while downplaying the emissions-trading fraud, corruption, speculation and collapse now rife across the world. As even a February 2011 report by the US Government Accounting Office revealed, for such voluntary market offsets to be considered genuine requires proof of ‘additionality,’ but this ‘is difficult because it involves determining what emissions would have been without the incentives provided by the offset program. Studies suggest that existing programs have awarded offsets that were not additional.’
As for measuring CO2 in the voluntary emissions markets, ‘it is challenging to estimate the amount of carbon stored and to manage the risk that carbon may later be released by, for example, fires or changes in land management.’ And verification of offsets is a challenge because ‘project developers and offset buyers may have few incentives to report information accurately or to investigate offset quality.’
Regrettably, Assaf believes in a few other ‘false solutions’ to the climate crisis, such as biofuels (Durban is a sugarcane centre) and co-incineration of tyres in cement kilns. Interestingly, the GAO has just released a report confirming analysis by progressive scientists in the ETC Group that the ‘climate engineering’ technologies of choice – geoengineering, nanotechnology, biofuels and synthetic biology – are ‘currently immature, many with potentially negative consequences … Climate engineering technologies do not now offer a viable response to global climate change.’
In another disturbing development, Assaf’s emphasis on residents’ behavioural change risks a blame-the-victim mentality: e.g., discouraging flush toilets for poor people so as to avoid increased electricity use at the sewage works. Adds Diab, ‘We must encourage people to stop using their cars and start using public transport’ – yet she is silent about how city officials let a crony-capitalist firm, Remant Alton, privatise and wreck our municipal bus system.
Not a total write-off, Assaf’s report at least encourages Durban to ‘produce local, buy local’ at a time of inane currency-induced trading patterns that have little to do with rational comparative advantages between competing economies. The report condemns suburban sprawl and much post-apartheid planning, while endorsing the ‘polluter pays’ principle, which, if ever implemented, would radically improve the city’s environment. All obvious enough, but what hope for implementation given our rulers’ pro-pollution bias?
‘Climate smart’, according to Roberts, means a city’s ‘low-carbon, green economy provides opportunities for both climate change mitigation and adaptation and fosters a new form of urban development that ensures ecological integrity and human well being.’
Precisely. But if Diab is correct that ‘poor public awareness’ is a major barrier to addressing the most serious crisis humanity has ever faced, Assaf scientists now contribute to that very problem with their bland, blind greenwashing of climate-dumb Durban.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society and is author of the forthcoming book ‘Politics of Climate Justice’ (UKZN Press).
* ‘Earth Grab: Geopiracy, the New Biomassters and Capturing Climate Genes', by ETC Group, is forthcoming from Pambazuka Press.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
What ails movements in South Africa
Socialism is such a big word it should belong to the people. It should be part of their living politics. But often it belongs to those who want to define themselves as the masters of everything. This is a serious problem because in socialism you can’t think that everything belongs to you. All the people need to be given space. Socialism is not supposed to be like any other political movement. It needs more participation. It does not need those who think that they can decide for the people. Socialism has no racial discrimination, no sexism and no inequality. Everybody is equal.
Socialism and its progress can’t stop merely because someone who thinks he is the master is not there. The people are there all the time to support one another, so socialism must belong to them. Socialism is not about how ‘big’ and good English words one uses. It’s about sharing views irrespective of race. The problems that we all face bond people together as brothers and sisters. Socialism does not need those who are big headed. There can be no kings or queens in the struggle for equality. Everyone has to humble themselves.
Some people have decided to talk two languages, the language of capitalism and the language of socialism. Why are these people begging others to come back to socialism when they are busy enjoying the fruits of capitalism? Why are they talking about socialism when they have spent their time getting rich rather than associating with the struggles of the poor? People sometimes use the shortest way to climb trees. When people want to get somewhere, in parliament or wherever, they use the language of the poor. They know that sometimes the poor trust too much, in such a way that they don’t see the difference between a socialist and a capitalist.
All those who use the poor to define themselves talk a different language once they achieve their aim. There should be no need to ask them to come back to the struggles of those whom they have betrayed. We should only trust those who have never left the struggles of the poor; only those who are constantly with us in our struggles. Let me stop it there, or it might look like I am fighting some big political leaders.
There is a slogan that says: ‘socialism is the future, build it now’. How can the people understand this slogan as a reality? Those who use the slogan are not in the struggles of the poor. In fact, they condemn the struggles of the poor from above. All that this slogan really means is that we should trust the politicians even though things are getting worse and not better.
And how can socialism grow if all the socialist movements decide to stand away from one another instead of coming together to form one strong voice? What I notice is that, if all the socialist movements don't swallow their pride and come into an agreement on how they can work together they won’t pass. If they are continuously reacting, then capitalism will dominate our lives for ever.
Capitalism is such a big giant and the entire capitalist class is together irrespective of political differences. If one tried to fight capitalist thinking, the entire capitalist class would unite to resist. It does not matter if those capitalists came during the apartheid era or afterwards, but they are neoliberals now and their wishes will be the same.
I’m so concerned about the naive thinking of every socialist movement in South Africa, without even choosing one. How can they stop capitalism while they define themselves separately whereas they have the same purpose? The main problem with the social movements is that people are too busy protecting their individual positions rather than seriously looking to find ways to join together to eradicate capitalism. I’m not fighting with the social movements but I have to use harsh words to show my dissatisfaction with their reaction to capitalism.
However, I must appreciate the fact that over the weekend of 13 and 14 August 2011, the Abahlali Mjondolo Movement SA (of KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape), the Anti-Privatization Forum, the Landless Peoples Movement in Gauteng and the Rural Network in KwaZulu-Natal met, along with the telephonic participation of the Unemployed Peoples Movement in the Eastern Cape, to discuss my criticism of the divisions amongst socialists in South Africa. Our meeting discussed various strategic ways in which we can build living solidarity and real unity.
Working together as opposed to competing with one another was the dominant theme of the two-day meeting. One of the conclusions was the commitment of the movements to identify one national program in which all of them will participate and to join hands to build a united front against all forms of injustice. If we can unite all the social movements without interference from the NGOs that have always tried to control and divide the movements, it will be a big step forward.
But I think without the support from the working class socialist thinking will never go any further towards becoming a reality. The workers are the ones who can push the ideas of socialism without fearing anything because the wealth of the country belongs to them. The capitalists depend on the workers. It is therefore very disappointing to find that the workers support capitalist thinking. It looks like they are betraying the poor people. Whenever there is a major strike COSATU asks us for support. But when we are facing repression or campaigning on important issues they are nowhere to be found. This is a very sad reality of life in South Africa.
During the time of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) socialism succeeded in making a revolution in Russia because the working class supported the struggles against the Tsarist regime. We all know that that victory soon turned sour because those who wanted to be the masters seized that struggle from the people. The workers and other poor people should have kept control of their struggle after the revolution and insisted that the soviets, not the Communist Party, remain in charge of Russia.
Here in South Africa the workers are aligning themselves with capitalist thinking. So it means there is a need for a strong working class federation which really will support all the struggles of the poor irrespective of their political affiliation. We need trade unions that will support social movements even when they organise outside of the ANC. Some choose to organise outside of the ANC and some are forced by repression to organise outside of the ANC. But either way unions should support the struggles of the poor.
In South Africa there are strong social movements which can drive this country to a better future but their problem is the way that they are handling their problems. Good thinkers decided to join socialist thinking because they know that is where one can express themselves without fear. Can all the social movements find ways to promote the spirit of togetherness and forget about plotting against other comrades? Yes, I know that out there there are some social movements which pretend to work for the people whereas they only need popularity. Some people expose themselves to the public in an attempt to be recognized as the peoples' martyrs.
I really don’t know what we can do because in some instances the true leaders of the struggles of the poor find that, once the political parties notice their capability, they woo them to join the parties. Once they join, they are sternly warned that this is a well known organization with its polices and that one can't just go and express their feelings in the media without the authority of the party. That means the activists who were very strong now have very limited powers. This is one reason why the socialist movements are not growing. There is also another tendency where political parties notice even people like me who are always busy writing articles. They can ask such people to join them but once you are in the party, they are going to control you to ensure you only write articles that favour them.
Also most of the social movements depend a lot on NGOs and those NGOs sometimes make sure that their views are implemented by the movements. This separates movements from their members because direction comes from above and not from below. The movements are weakened. But some NGOs also get their power and money from relations with movements. This is one reason why they try by all means to retain control over movements and to divide them. They try to ban 'their' movements from working with others that are guided from below.
Sometimes if you are in the struggle there may be a need for hasher decisions and some of those decisions will never be accepted by some of the NGOs. But if you want to set yourself free you need to call a stone a stone. It is understandable that some NGOs do not behave like others. Some support the struggles of the people and do not try to control them. But such NGOs are the exception. I know that there are people who will interpret my views badly. But no: comrades, let us face the reality. Let us stop what we are doing. And if you notice that my views are not the same as yours, please let’s find ways to agree to disagree.
Let us stop silly plots and petty betrayals based on race. Let us fight together because the capitalist system does not care about our racial differences. They care about profit, which is why they all support one another to continue exploiting the people. I am aware that some people are really desperate and engage in corruption. I am sorry comrades, but I know the truth is bitter. Now is the time to speak the truth. There is no other way besides facing reality as bitter as it is.
Please let us be wise and think more about the enemy we facing. Let us make sure we all understand that each plot we make against each other will weaken our ability to advance the struggle for socialism.
I also want to warn all those who think that they have a right to make decisions for the people that we are poor but not stupid. We will not allow these people to continue to divide our movements, weaken our struggles and even criminalise them when we try to remain democratic and take direction from our members. Anyone who wants to join the struggle for socialism is welcome but they must accept that power in our movements must remain with the members of our movements and that the movements will take their own decisions. We want comrades, not masters.
If you have some popularity in a struggle, that does not give you the right to become the master of that struggle or even that town. If you are elected to a position, that position is not for life. If you have some education and a job in an NGO, that does not give you the right to become the master of any struggle. Those NGOs that want to control the struggles of the people must learn from the middle class comrades that have joined the struggles of the people,, debating freely in our meetings and not as masters giving instructions from outside. All people must be equal in every step of the way in the struggle for socialism, otherwise even if we defeated capitalism, we would end up with new oppressors.
I would like to encourage meaningful talks among the social movements. I don’t say that people must change the names that they call their movements, but there is a need to understand and to form a real alliance of the poor. Yes, I know that already such alliance exists but the question is how we can make it work for all the people and ensure that all social movements are involved. We really need to put the idea of socialism in the hands of the people. We can't do it if we are not united.
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* Lindela S. Figlan (Jama kaS’jadu) is a former Abahlali baseMjondolo vice-president.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The second act of a Kenyan whistle-blower
A conversation with John Githongo
By serendipity, I met John Githongo on 28 February 2011, my last day in Nairobi, where I had been interviewing journalists for a book. If not for the suggestion of the estimable environmentalist and war photographer Sir Mohinder Dhillon, I would have gone back home assuming that the famous whistle-blower was much too busy to meet me. In fact, his current organisation, the INUKA Kenya Trust, was sponsoring a national event that day, the simultaneous singing of the national anthem at about 100 venues across Kenya. I photographed and recorded this event on Ngong Road, a main traffic artery near John’s headquarters in the Kilimani district. Afterward, we returned to the office, where we talked for about an hour.
John Githongo is a big, hearty, generous man. He spoke with intensity and percipience about a range of subjects, including his own career since he blew the whistle on the Anglo-Leasing scandal in 2004. This instance of massive corruption involved the self-proclaimed anti-corruption government of President Mwai Kibaki.
[For a thorough account of the Anglo-Leasing episode, see Michela Wrong, ‘It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower’ (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009)]
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW
CORRUPTION AND THE AFTERMATH OF WHISTLE-BLOWING
RON SINGER: Is the furor that followed the publication of the book about you finished?
JOHN GITHONGO: No, it’s not finished. It’s been simply been overtaken by all these other events.
RON SINGER: Yes, the kinds of thing that you blew the whistle on are still going on.
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes.
RON SINGER: Like this Mau Forest business [schemes involving land development]. Mo told me about that.
JOHN GITHONGO: Other scandals, too.
RON SINGER: What do you think of [Prime Minister] Raila Odinga’s appointment as Head of the Mau Forest Commission? Is that an effective way to deal with the problems and scandals involved? By putting a prime minister in charge?
JOHN GITHONGO: That sort of thing [land deals] is being done across the country. They start, they stop, then start again.
RON SINGER: I understand that, by law, [former president] Moi can justify his holdings in Mau Forest [where he owns huge tea plantations]. This is what [eminent cartoonist] Gado told me. But that the law could also take those holdings away from him.
JOHN GITHONGO: According to the new constitution, the president [Mwai Kibaki] has the power to do that.
RON SINGER: To take land back?
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes.
RON SINGER: But I understand Kibaki and Moi are on the same boards, and so on.
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes, there’s serious convergence between commercial and political interests.
RON SINGER: And he worked for Moi.
JOHN GITHONGO: Vice-president – a story of continuity.
RON SINGER: It could be a story of revenge, that he now hates him and wants to get even. But it isn’t, is it?
JOHN GITHONGO: No, not at all – a grandmaster master and his apprentice.
RON SINGER: May I ask you about one thing Charles Onyango-Obbo told me?
[Onyango-Obbo is perhaps Kenya’s pre-eminent journalist. In addition to writing eight or nine articles a week for The Nation, its affiliates and numerous blogs, he serves as media editor for the newspaper’s parent company, the Nation Media Group.]
JOHN GITHONGO: Sure.
RON SINGER: He said that, once Moi was gone, the Kenyan press lost its way, its purpose. Even though I think they acquitted themselves well in one election and one referendum before 2007. He said they lack a cause. But don’t they have one after 2007–08? They should.
JOHN GITHONGO: We compromise. I went into the Kibaki government thinking that, after the corruption of the Moi regime, something new was going on. But I found that they were doing the same thing. And, when I asked, they said, ‘This is our turn.’ Everything was the deal. And, if you do that, especially as a Kikuyu [which both Kibaki and, he, Githongo, are], you’re going to be hated. President Kibaki shouldn’t have come close to losing the elections of 2007. The economy was growing, 5.5 per cent, it had done very, very well. Free primary school education, primary school enrollment doubled, housing boom and so on.
RON SINGER: So why didn’t he win in a landslide?
JOHN GITHONGO: The ethnic factor. The other communities saw all their worst fears about the ‘perceived Kikuyu hegemon’ confirmed. Eventually, an elite behaves like its worse stereotypes.
RON SINGER: From before Moi [who represented a Kalenjin interlude], even. Are you also saying that the ethnic factor is still part of what keeps the press from finding its way?
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes, because much of it is controlled by the Kikuyu. Dominant group. Because of the climate, diseases, the Europeans settled in Kikuyu country. It gave them a head start. They got the best secondary schools, and so on.
RON SINGER: The Ibo in Nigeria, the Tutsi in Rwanda. The people I’ve talked to here seem to be above that. Of course, one, Gado, is a Tanzanian, and another. Onyango-Obbo, is a Ugandan. They’re not really … Kenyans.
JOHN GITHONGO: Well, I’m a Kikuyu, but I bring this out.
RON SINGER: That’s because you have a gene for trouble-making.
JOHN GITHONGO: Thank you very much!
RON SINGER: Still an infection in the press here … that’s terrible.
JOHN GITHONGO: Terrible. They control the resources.
RON SINGER: And I also hear that some ministries only hire people from one ethnicity.
INUKA AND KENYAN UNITY
RON SINGER: That was very lucky. I had no idea I was going to stumble into the rally.
JOHN GITHONGO: The thing is, it’s a matter of who takes ownership of the country. Kenya came out of a very bad period. It’s still in a very volatile situation, ever since the failed election in 2007. Almost a civil war, over a thousand dead, 600,000 displaced, at one point. And we still have ethnic militias. Now we have a coalition government. INUKA belongs to a partnership that is trying to strengthen this government and forge a national unity. So what you saw today is a rally going on across the country.
RON SINGER: Tell me about your organisation.
JOHN GITHONGO: INUKA is a national organisation empowering people to take charge of their own lives and problems. We engage in initiatives like what you saw today, to pull people together. We want people to engage their leaders.
… We’ve [also] started a training and employment programme working with youth, people who fall through the cracks. They get everything from artisanal training to car washes and getting microcredit. Little community businesses in shacks. And, on the other side, Kenyan software firms are involved. We set up networks between communities. Like this, people are not cutting each other with machetes.
RON SINGER: So you’re trying to keep that from happening again. Wow, you’re facing a big deadline next year [when elections are to take place].
JOHN GITHONGO: We keep on trying, and there are many, many other Kenyans on the same project, bringing in a lot of people.
[Ron tells John about the efforts of a visionary named Patrick van Rensburg (b. 1931) to build an alternative mini-economy in the village of Serowe, Botswana, in order to help people help themselves, instead of thinking they could all jump to prosperity via the global economy.]
JOHN GITHONGO: That’s right. That’s a good thing.
RON SINGER: It’s a big enterprise getting people to think locally, on a small scale.
JOHN GITHONGO: We’re just starting.
RON SINGER: Where do you get your money from?
JOHN GITHONGO: Right now, we’re being funded by private individuals. Twenty-five thousand, thirty-thousand dollars.
RON SINGER: Is that right! Hmm. But not corporations?
JOHN GITHONGO: No.
RON SINGER: Because what you’re doing is not what they’re interested in?
JOHN GITHONGO: We have one grant from a foreign government – the Finns, which is exclusively to do our website. They are very steadfast. We now have two grants, one from USAID, as well.
FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA
RON SINGER: Similar things happen in Nigeria. They also have an election coming up [in April 2011].
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes, it may be difficult. Obasanjo’s re-election was a travesty.
RON SINGER: Yes, and then he tried for the third term. But [Obasanjo’s successor] Yar’Adua was even worse, I think. Obasanjo, at least, set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Yar’Adua tried to take it apart by running the head, Nuhu Ribadu, out of the country.
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes.
RON SINGER: I interviewed him, Nuhu, by the way, if you’re interested. And now Nuhu is running for president. Guaranteed to get at least 20 votes. In Nigeria, no money, no machine, no chance. [In the event, Jonathan won, and Nuhu got about 7 per cent.]
[Ron Singer, ‘An Interview with Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s Corruption Fighter’, The Faster Times, 24 February 2010: thefastertimes.com/.../an-interview-with-nuhu-ribadu-nigeria’s-corruption-fighter/
JOHN GITHONGO: He’s a friend of mine.
RON SINGER: Oh, is he! I met him in Washington during his exile.
JOHN GITHONGO: I met him when I was in Oxford.
RON SINGER: Another guy I interviewed, Abiye Teklemariam, a dissident Ethiopian journalist, is at St Anthony’s [College, Oxford] now, writing a book about the democratic strands in Ethiopian history.
JOHN GITHONGO: Short book.
RON SINGER: Needles in a haystack. Even Nuhu had limits to what he could do. There was some business with oil leases given to Obasanjo’s friends, circumventing the bidding process. I think Nuhu had to keep quiet about that. Did you know about it?
JOHN GITHONGO: No. When he came to Oxford … I have some Nigerian friends among the intelligentsia who will no longer talk to me, because I defended him. They said he didn’t deserve the job, he was selective in his prosecutions, favored his boss’s people and so on. But I was clear.
RON SINGER: Huh! There’s a grain of truth in that, but it’s not a fair estimate. It’s mostly a smear.
JOHN GITHONGO: In a job like that, you’re making choices that are so difficult.
RON SINGER: We also talked about what brought him down, that business with the FBI. That was terrible. Did you know about that?
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes.
RON SINGER: Terrible. Imagine his position. He owed them something, it was like a blank check that they would fill in. That’s why you don’t like debt.
JOHN GITHONGO: I don’t like debt. I have debt now, but … I don’t own a credit card.
RON SINGER: The FBI is not someone you want to be indebted to. Were you able to persuade your Nigerian friends that they were wrong about him?
JOHN GITHONGO: No, some cut me off. One was a good friend, very close… Does Nuhu have a chance in the election? I don’t know Nigeria well.
RON SINGER: No, no, no chance at all.
JOHN GITHONGO: Then why is he doing it?
RON SINGER: Who knows? A better question is why Goodluck Jonathan [who succeeded Yar’Adua, who died in office] didn’t welcome him back and give him a big job, like the one he had. The answer must be that Jonathan has his skeletons in his own closet. Maybe Nuhu is running now because he’s mad at Jonathan. Or he’s running on principle.
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes.
RON SINGER: He’s very popular. People give him a standing ‘O’ when he gets on an airplane, then ask for his autograph.
JOHN GITHONGO: That’s wonderful.
RON SINGER: But it doesn’t win Nigerian elections.
JOHN GITHONGO: That’s an interesting point.
AFRICAN POLITICS AND ‘THE ETHNIC CARD’
RON SINGER: In the 1960s, when I was in Nigeria, the place was already in flames because of ethnic politics. I sort of was thinking that, when I came back 45 years later… I’m going there in the Fall. They still have the zonal presidency [whereby the Muslim North and Christian South take turns].
JOHN GITHONGO: Well, that’s how they keep things peaceful now, they share power.
RON SINGER: But there’s a problem: because the northerner died in office, two Southerners in a row. And If Jonathan is re-elected … [In fact, he was, and, in fact, there were riots in the North. But, as of August 2011, that situation had not spun out of control.] Still a factor … It’s because politicians play the ethnic card. If they united against it, as happened in Ghana, you could get rid of it.
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes.
RELIGION AND SOCIAL CONFLICT IN KENYA
RON SINGER: I’ve met some Catholic activists here who are trying to do similar things [to what INUKA is doing]. Since the last election.
JOHN GITHONGO: They suffered tremendously, because they were seen as partisan. When I traveled around the country, there were still parts of the country in 2008 where, if you were a priest, you took off your collar at night.
RON SINGER: Did the Muslims benefit? Converts?
JOHN GITHONGO: They have achieved, and continue to achieve, conversions among the Maasai [nomadic cattle-herders].
RON SINGER: Wow! That’s strange.
JOHN GITHONGO: Well, no. If you look at the road that Malcolm X took, Islam appeals to marginalised groups in a way that Christianity does not.
RON SINGER: Christianity has a problem with such groups, because, what they give with one hand, they take back with the other. We’ll feed you, run schools for you, but no birth control.
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes. To marginalised people, Islam is compelling. One of my best times in the US was visiting the Malcolm X Museum in November 2006. I don’t know if you know it, it’s a little house [in Harlem, New York].
RON SINGER: No, I haven’t been there.
[At this point, the phone rings, and, by chance, the caller must be a Muslim, for JG greets him with ‘salaamu alaikum’.]
RON SINGER: It’s ironic that, with all its democratic institutions, Kenya still has this problem [of ethnic politics]. Ethiopia has nothing like those institutions.
JOHN GITHONGO: Well, I agree with Meles in his opposition to the multilaterals [funding agencies, like the World Bank]. I’m becoming skeptical of them, of all that. But Ethiopia is growing. He achieves growth.
RON SINGER: Well, yes, he sets the agenda away from democracy, but the question is how long you can get away with it. The press is really beleaguered there. The government is afraid of the democratic revolutions. If the press is supposed to lead the nation … The government keeps the lid on too many pots. Something’s got to boil over.
JOURNALISM IN KENYA AND BEYOND
RON SINGER: I’ve interviewed many Kenyan and Ethiopian journalists, and Mo Dhillon suggested I speak with you. Oh, I got turned down once: Hilary Ng’weno [the 85-year-old doyen of Kenyan journalists]: “Too old! No interviews!”
JOHN GITHONGO: Ever since he left the media … he’s a shy man.
RON SINGER: His main interest now is history, I understand. He had an illustrious career in journalism, didn’t he? I understand that he was the best thing going, under Moi.
JOHN GITHONGO: That’s true. I’m not a journalist, you know. My background is in economics.
RON SINGER: I did know that. I read Michela Wrong’s book about you. Oh, and please accept my greetings from [press critic and former journalist] Chaacha Mwita. I interviewed him the other day.
JOHN GITHONGO: Oh, yes, very good.
RON SINGER: He told me about the 2006 raid on the Standard’s radio station. [Mwita was then The Standard newspaper’s managing editor.] He said they did it to teach them a lesson, to shut them up before the election.
JOHN GITHONGO: I was in exile by that time. Chaacha was there, so he knows. Yes, they did it to teach them a lesson. That was a volatile, confused time. The government seemed to have a laissez-faire policy. But despite the apparent freedom Kenyans have to speak out, repression has increased in a host of extrajudicial, subtle and insidious ways.
RON SINGER: I’ve also asked everyone why there isn’t more investigative journalism in Kenya. My best understanding so far is that it’s not really a matter of resources, but of conflicts of interest. The same people sit on the boards of the media companies as on the companies they would be investigating.
JOHN GITHONGO: True.
RON SINGER: There’s the ethnic factor, too. For instance, I understand that the Nation’s stance is influenced by the fact that Kikuyus run it.
JOHN GITHONGO: That’s the perception – correct – that it’s the government’s mouthpiece. That has damaged The Nation’s reputation.
RON SINGER: In the appointments business that has dominated the papers since I’ve been here, three weeks, the press wrote many articles critical of the government, but I understand that they took their lead from parliament. In other words, parliamentary opposition provided cover for the media.
[The government tried unsuccessfully to rush through several key appointments in order to circumvent the International Criminal Court indictments of the Ocampo Six, leading political figures, for instigating the 2007–08 post-election ethnic violence.]
JOHN GITHONGO: That’s accurate. The newspapers have pretty much been in decline.
RON SINGER: What do you mean?
JOHN GITHONGO: Since I returned, in September, 2008. When I got back, I took the time to travel around the country, living in villages for a year, 2009. Then I wrote about what I had found. Then, in the middle of last year, I set this [the INUKA Foundation] up. But going back, in my opinion the news desks, the foundation of any newspaper, where a ton of information comes in. At the news desk, where it is sifted, the news editor … What I found broken, was the news desk.
RON SINGER: What happened to it? Both major papers?
JOHN GITHONGO: All papers. Intimidation, instruction from above, polarised ethnically, stories get twisted. And that changed the kind of journalism we have. The focus became opinion.
RON SINGER: Yes, a lot of so-called news articles are really opinion articles. Even the best people, Charles Onyango-Obbo, whom I interviewed, writes articles that are heavy on opinion.
JOHN GITHONGO: Opinion has taken over, at the expense of hard news about what is going on.
RON SINGER: That also creates an imbalance. It’s very easy to have an opinion about judicial appointments, but harder to have an opinion about famine.
JOHN GITHONGO: Also, regarding Kenya’s ongoing crisis, we already have too many balls in the air: the appointments, the new constitution, elections coming up [in 2012]. What’s happening in North Africa and the Middle East is going to throw everything off. It’s a grenade for the political elite. If what’s happening causes the price of oil to go above a hundred dollars for a sustained period of time, combined with high food prices, then we have a very combustible situation.
RON SINGER: Not just in Kenya.
JOHN GITHONGO: Across Africa – it will be the game changer.
RON SINGER: Tell me, John, are you enough of a conspiracy theorist to believe it’s possible that all that talk about judicial appointments was encouraged as a way of masking other, deeper problems? A smokescreen? Or do you think they don’t go that far?
JOHN GITHONGO: They don’t have the brains for that.
RON SINGER: And it was very embarrassing for them.
JOHN GITHONGO: But, in some ways, the press is making a comeback.
RON SINGER: Not the news desks, though?
JOHN GITHONGO: No. But recently, all the editors met and issued a statement saying that they should stop their disagreements about the appointments. That was very positive… There’s also the irony of rapid press development that is very uneven, asymmetrical. People here talk about press freedom, how it’s wonderful, but if you have such inequality of opportunity among the media…
RON SINGER: …and that’s terrible for democracy. In the US you have press freedom, all right. You have these rags spewing out nonsense 24/7. Like Fox News.
JOHN GITHONGO: The first Gulf War made CNN. The second Gulf War broke CNN. Now it’s Al Jazeera, BBC.
RON SINGER: In Ethiopian hotel lobbies and bars, Al Jazeera on one TV, BBC on the other. Do you think there’s a prospect for a sub-Saharan equivalent of Al Jazeera? I’ve heard some rumblings. I also read allafrica.com, but that’s not quite the same.
JOHN GITHONGO: No. [JG mentions some pan-African media efforts elsewhere in Africa, including in South Africa and an online source in Nigeria.] So you have growth, inequality, and at the same time, you have more journalists in trouble in Kenya than in the years before.
RON SINGER: Yes, the latest Committee to Protect Journalists’ report says so…
JOHN GITHONGO: When I was in exile, I went into Marks & Spencer to buy food. The lady tried to get me to take out a credit card. I said I didn’t like debt. What struck me was how pushy she was. This business – the taking on of debt – is happening everywhere. In the States, very strongly. I watch Fox News.
RON SINGER: The bad guys.
JOHN GITHONGO: What I notice is the extent to which Fox is driving CNN.
RON SINGER: What do you mean?
JOHN GITHONGO: The flashiness, the colors, the rise of opinion.
RON SINGER: So you’re talking about the marketing of news?
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes, and Fox is pushing CNN to the right. People like Lou Dobbs have changed.
RON SINGER: A Fox guy now. There’s a lot of that going on, a move toward conservatism. The New York Times is still in balance, I’d say.
JOHN GITHONGO: I listen to NPR when I’m in the US.
RON SINGER: So what you’re saying is that certain big media players are driving the markets in Kenya and the US?
JOHN GITHONGO: Across the world.
RON SINGER: And that’s what you mean by inequality: the big boys swallow the small boys.
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes. Also in the print media. There is an insidious convergence between commercial and political interests, more than ever before.
RON SINGER: The Wall Street Journal sold to Murdoch. The Times is getting smaller and smaller and more and more expensive.
JOHN GITHONGO: Yes.
RON SINGER: Well, okay, I think I’ve asked you everything I can think of.
JOHN GITHONGO: If you do think of any more questions, please send me an email.
RON SINGER: Thank you very much.
JOHN GITHONGO: I’ll be waiting for your book. I’m invited to speak at a meeting of politicians in Pretoria, South Africa. My brief is to speak about corruption.
RON SINGER: Are you going to mention the Zuma family empire?
JOHN GITHONGO: No, no, I’ll speak about Kenya, as a cautionary tale.
RON SINGER: That’s the way to do it, you don’t want to point a finger at your hosts… Well, again, thank you so much. A pleasure to meet you.
JOHN GITHONGO: A pleasure to meet you too. I wish you all the best with your work. It was good that you got to see what we were doing today.
RON SINGER: Yes, that was wonderful, very lucky!
JOHN GITHONGO: So now you know the kind of thing we do.
An over-riding theme of this wide-ranging interview was Githongo’s multi-pronged critique of global capitalism. He analysed the economic roots of the press’s troubles today in both Kenya and the rest of the world: how markets drive the news, and how big, market-driven media outlets crowd out smaller ones, and set the tone and agenda for all of the media. The unfolding News of the World scandal gives particular point to this analysis.
Githongo also spoke about economic development in poor countries, praising the Ethiopian economy and describing INUKA’s efforts to combat ethnic divisiveness by means of grassroots economic development. Githongo’s ambitious, visionary idealism is illustrated by this project, which would use honest economic development to supplant ethnic patronage. To coin a cliché, Githongo thinks globally, acts locally.
Also of interest was our discussion of the existence of a network of African pro-democracy activists, of which I had only been vaguely aware before the interview. The fortunes of Nuhu Ribadu, Nigerian corruption fighter, parallel Githongo’s own. Both men had a government mandate to fight corruption, but, when they acted upon the mandate, they were menaced and driven into exile.
Finally, there is the continuity between Githongo’s earlier whistle-blowing and his current work with INUKA. Since ethnicity fueled the corruption he exposed, and since ethnicity is still a root cause of corruption and other problems in Kenya, it seems totally logical that he is now working for national unity. The positive reference to Nigeria’s controversial zonal presidency highlights the importance of ethnicity in John Githongo’s thinking.
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* Parts of this interview will appear in chapter six, ‘Kenya: How Free is the Free Press?’ in Ron Singer’s book ‘Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with African Pro-Democracy Leaders’ (Africa World Press: Red Sea Press).
* For more about the Kenyan press, see "How Free is the Free Press in Kenya?" opendemocracy, August 19, 2011:
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
On LGBTI communities: Alternative unpacking needed
On ‘Unpacking the LGBTI communities’: ‘I matter because I say I do as an African (black) transsexual woman (gender identity) who identifies as a lesbian (sexual orientation) and that all there is to it.’
This essay is a response to ‘Unpacking the LGBTI communities,’ by Audrey Mbugua. I do not know the author of this article personally but I am enamoured by her eloquence with the regards to the positioning of the ‘tagging’ of the ‘T’ onto the LGB. However, I do not agree with the exclusions hazarded in the writer’s attempts to unpack the LGBTI community. Sure, according to the author, ‘[t]he issues concerning LGB people stem from sexual orientation, whereas those of transgender people stem from their gender.’  I almost said as in gender role, but no. For me, matters are more personal and so is my gender identity. I say who I am, no matter what the wider communities positions are. I matter because I say I do as an African (black) transsexual woman (gender identity) who identifies as a lesbian (sexual orientation) and that all there is to it.
In her article, ‘Unpacking the LGBTI communities’ the writer’s heterosexuality is instantly apparent from the tone of this article, but that does not excuse her cavalier attitude towards those trans-women who exercise their choice to be different from the hetero-normative diktat. Unpacking the LGBTI without considering the fact that some trans-people do identify as L, G or B is an act of exclusion and the reasoning behind this statement will become apparent in due course.
Before we bother ourselves with the confliction of whether we (i.e., the ‘T’) are lumped together with the LGB or not, we ought to take a mirror, catch our own reflections and ask ourselves ‘Mirror, mirror, who is the fairest of us all?’, to which our individual response ought to be, ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall; I am the dearest of them all.’ This is a self-referential sense, rather than relegating ourselves as slaves to society’s impositions upon the transgender community by generations of ‘compulsory heterosexualism’ and again within the as in traditional LGB before us. Perhaps defining our collective selves as a community and doing so carefully so as to acknowledge the differences at the heart of the transgender communities as opposed to denying its diversity for whatever reason.
I am aware of the locale of the author – Kenya – and that she herself faces a separatist throng within the LGB, not to mention the wider community that side steps issues affecting transgender people. I, on the other hand live in London, and trust me when I say that living in the capital of the United Kingdom is no escape from LGB/heterosexual transphobia, be it subtle or otherwise. I am also of the African diaspora and I have experienced some of the worst instances of discrimination from Africans as well as from Europeans, Americans and Asians of all generations for reasons of my gender identity, my gender expression and my sexuality.
We have to deal with all those transitional issues as the writer catalogues. We also have lives beyond all those socio-economic determinants and the ‘go under the scalpel or not’ that, the writer claims, members of the traditional LGB do not partake of by choice. This comes as a surprise bearing in mind that drag kings like Ru Paul and Denis Rodman, to mention two, became world famous entertainers. Not to mention the throng of straight men that experiment with their gender expression in daily or nightly performance.
I am saddened that the only example of a trans-person in this article beside the writer seemed to think that distancing herself is sufficient excuse to say the following:
‘I am transsexual woman who neither seeks anything from, or gives anything to, the LGB community. As far as I’m concerned, if every LGB vanished from the face of the earth tomorrow, if wouldn’t affect my transsexualism one iota… I have nothing against LGB people, but their condition has nothing to do with my condition. Frankly, I don’t care what any of these “communities’’ do. As far as I’m concerned, they’d be better off looking at my example for guidance and support, than I would be looking at theirs. How are communities full of people like this going to benefit me?’
This is as if the LGB clamour means that the trans-‘LGB’ ought to pretend not to exist. These issues are not up to them nor are they up to the author of this article. One thing I want to get out there if anything is that the traditional LGB possessive defence of the sexuality landscape is full of paranoia that needs to respectfully ask when they do not understand the phenomenology of transsexuality or transgenderism. Striking self-righteous poses without understanding the trans community is as ignorant as a straight mob denying the existential integrity of traditional LGB where even bisexuals can sometimes find themselves grotesquely marginalised within the community.
I know the writer of ‘Unpacking the LGBTI communities’ is Africa-specific. I lend voice to that argument in the sense that I am African too. I certainly don’t have to live my life based on what society, community or neighbourhood command members to do, irrespective of which of the many communities I belong to. Why not? I am an individual with a unique ability to make my own choices without having to be force fed by anyone. When a gay man once asked me ‘did it hurt?’, I could have been rude, but due to passing of time and experience I am beyond being defensive about gender-specific curiosities. I faced him calmly in a level headed manner and responded, ‘No, it didn’t hurt!’ He looked puzzled since for him, his penis was his very existence. I had to make him realise that my transition wasn’t just about what genitalia I had but me, my whole person. From the moment I decided to ‘go the distance’ – pardon the sports-speak – it was no longer about personalised pain. As human beings, we give our ‘pain bodies’ too much importance. I can hear that in the ‘straight transgender-ist’ tone of ‘Unpacking the LGBTI communities’, which itself excludes my trans-difference, threatening to set me off in primordial fear, anger – my right to choose foreclosed in an instance by a presumption concerning how I lead this life of mine. I can also hear my own pain body, but at least I realise it. Not everyone would have the courage to do so with such ill-placed positioning as the writer of ‘unpacking…’ postulates.
It was about arriving and that arrival wasn’t subject to what my gender expression must be! Apart from the initial ‘real life test’ in which I was required to wear woman’s clothes, my choice was for trans-feminism. I chose my position, space and appearances free of ‘absolutes’, and that remains the same as a transsexual homosexual woman.
So as transgender people, or transsexuals to be precise, according to the writer, we seem incapable of reason; we are also robbed of our right to make our own choices. She makes the following claim:
‘What at times unnerves me is the ridiculous notion that transgender persons are pushing themselves to the homosexual crowd. It needs to be said transgender people are not to blame. It’s the way some gays (especially effeminate gays and butch lesbians) behave that created this problem to begin with … cross-dressing in parties and pride and having boob jobs to get into the she-male porn industry - it was assumed that gay men want to be women and lesbians want to be men. You made transsexuals look like a big joke and as people who capriciously break gender norms for the sake of it.’
This borders on hate speech and I’m saying this as one African transsexual woman to another. It comes across as homophobic and in trying to defend homosexual transpeople belittles us. Our ability to fight our own fights, make decisions on how we choose to identify, making the assumption that we copy our gay sisters and brothers and in doing so ends up insulting us because of our life choices. This coming from a transwoman is internalised transphobia.
A greater understanding of the issues facing transgender people and how to access transgender resources globally is urgently needed rather than erroneous generalisations that more than likely would lead to confusion. Only last month I received a hateful comment from a reader who was having difficulties negotiating the difference between transsexuality and transgenderism. The said readers comment went as follows:
‘Please do not use TS and TG interchangeably. TSs are mainstream women born with the wrong body and fix it. TGs are men who choose to pretend to be women and love keeping their precious penis for life. TS is a birth defect while TGs are men who lie and pretend to be women and commit sick acts with their penis. Lumping TSs in with TGs is like lumping someone taking pain pills after surgery to a drug addict. TS is a birth defect and a type of mainstream woman, TG is a choice and a type of queer. ALL non-ops MtF TGs are men and NEED to be called male pronouns no matter how much they protest. To call a man who keeps HIS penis for life a she and her is immoral and wrong. ALL TSs need the surgery, while ALL TG men pretending to be women want their penises played with. Did the “TS” in the story have surgery or was in need of it, or were they a TG man living a charade as a woman? If it was a TS, then the gay man was a bigot. If it was a TG, then the gay man did correct in warning the woman about the man pretending to be a woman and was supposed to keep his penis. Of course, any true-TS woman would have punched the f*g, and this person's “overlooking” is a type of effeminacy - a male homosexual response. A female would have raised hell. But the ‘TS’ must have enjoyed it as the lack of response showed. Any TS who doesn't speak up EVERY time she is misgendered is not my sister.’
We do not want to give people confusing information but even with our best efforts some people still have difficulties understanding. According to Emi Koyama, quoting Cherrie Moraga:
‘In this country, Lesbianism is a poverty-as is being brown, as is being a woman, as is being just plain poor. The danger lies in ranking the oppressions. The danger lies in failing to acknowledge the specificity of oppression.’
These days, globally, transgenderism is the new poverty and transsexualism much more so especially if you do not pass. The writer’s failure to realise the diversity of transsexuality and inevitable sexualities of trans-people is such an act.
I’m left wondering whether the writer of ‘unpacking…’ fully understands how diverse transsexuality really is and that this goes beyond an assumed ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ that she seems to favour over all else. I have to say that it is unfortunate that she so fleetingly overlooks the diversity at the heart of transsexualism, not to mention the greater transgenderism, when she claimed that:
‘The wanton oversight that defined the LGBTI movement in divisive terms only stands to isolate transgender agency further in a homo-normative enclave. Internalised homophobia is rife but so is transphobia. Passing judgement on transwomen or transmen without fully understanding how gender identity and sexual orientation merge is detrimental to human evolution.’
While I believe that subjective narration of transsexual experience is important for a fuller understanding of transsexual individuals and our life experiences in the world, I object to sisters or brothers who wantonly assume age-old compulsory heterosexuality for all. As a transsexual woman who identifies as a lesbian myself I find these implications deeply offensive. The author of ‘unpacking…’ seems to claim that I do not have freewill or the right to make that choice. Is she saying that any woman has such rights to go outside heterosexuality by the same token, or is that particular slur only reserved for transwomen that exercise that right?
A closer look at ‘Unpacking the LGBTI communities’ reveals a regressive step backwards instead of encouraging a positive multitude going forward together, and in her assertions the latter takes precedence. Using the discomfort of a gay man for levity the writer of ‘unpacking…’ quotes the unnamed person as stating the following:
‘I dislike transsexuals. I have nothing against them. I just don’t think they should be put in the same category as the gay/lesbian/bisexual community. Being transsexual doesn’t affect which gender you’re attracted to. I’m not saying they’re bad, I’m just saying that it doesn’t belong in the classification of sexuality.’
Another gay man claimed:
‘Transsexuals being associated with homosexuals make homosexuals look bad.’
Sexuality fundamentalists or what? And the insults go on. One gay man again even said, ‘I hate being put in the same boat as “transgender”.’ However, his fears are apparent when he goes on to talk about the appearance of transwomen and the surgical intervention we undergo and his need to keep up with the Joneses as an authentic gay man without noticing the hatred he deplores in the stereotypical view of transgender people. Perhaps all he was saying was like one Nigerian asked once at an LGBTI conference when he said ‘What does transgender mean anyhow?’ This was an opportunity to educate if any but unfortunately the conference ended. We swapped contacts but no comeback took place. Really if people want to know anything about anything, including transgender, the best route to knowing and then understanding a given subject is to ask questions and follow through.
Pandering to stereotypes, assumptions and swift judgements is founded on dogmatic beginnings and or cultural conditioning. They do not help. Rather, they give way to fascist mindsets where gender diversity ought to reign.
The writer of ‘unpacking…’ doesn’t specify or directly use lesbian or bisexual voices and at times she seems to stumble into the same stereotyping as the gay men above have done. She does not seem to be able to conceptualise homosexual transsexual women, not to mention transsexual men, and in doing so excludes all other possible ways of identifying as a trans-person. If this is the case, what would she make of a gender queer person or an mtf butch or a trans-dyke? Would she be willing to date an femme ftm, for instance? Trust me, I don’t mean to sound insulting. I am just attempting to map out the landscape that is trans-X-U-all à la Tracy O’Keefe and Katherine Fox of that same title … true transsexuality/transgenderism is about gender identity, but everyone also has a sexuality unique to them. In addition, imagine a trans-woman and her cissexual woman lesbian partner; do you need to cast aspersions on such healthy relationships because your worldview is so narrow as to not recognise such fluidity as diversity capable of conferring on the human race?
Nothing is said about the throng of what constitutes transgenderism. Does the author of ‘unpacking…’, for instance, realise that apart from being about gender identity, transgenderism actual impacts on the entire human species, as in QUILTBAG (coined by Lee Sadie, the interviewer talking to the gender performer, speaker and activist Kate Bornstein), as featured in DIVA Magazine where a claim to unify sex, sexuality and gender identities and gender roles were made in an interview with Kate Bornstein. Diversity comes in different forms and it is not fixed in the way the writer of ‘unpacking…’ and company would prefer. We need to educate ourselves before we can educate others. I so hope she would not want to become the pied piper for the transphobic horde?
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* Mia Nikasimo is a writer and poet and blogs at BlackLooks.org.
* Mia Nikasimo © August 2011
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Mbugua, Audrey. Unpacking the LGBTI Communities in Pambazuka News, issue 538, July, 2011.
 Snow White. ‘Mirror, mirror, on the world, who is the fairest of them all?’
 Mbugua, Audrey. Unpacking the LGBTI Communities in Pambazuka News, issue 538, July, 2011
 Tolle, Eckhart. The Pain-Body in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose Penguin, New York, p.129 - 160. And I paraphrase… ‘Everyone has a pain-body. The teaching in spiritual circles, Buddhism or from writers like Eckhart Tolle is that, The Pain-Body is an influx of negative emotional energy that exercises its prey from the vantage point of our primordial fears or primordial angers which it feeds on. ‘Human beings’ need to overcome their pain-bodies and learn to LIVE.’
 Mbugua, Audrey. Unpacking the LGBTI Communities in Pambazuka News, issue 538, July, 2011.
 Amy commenting to an article featured on Blacklooks -The online magazine.
 Koyama, Emi. Whose Feminism Is it Anyway in The Transgender Studies Reader. Ed. By Stryker, Susan and Whittle, Stephen. Routledge, New York, 2006. P. 701.
 Mbugua, Audrey. Unpacking the LGBTI Communities in Pambazuka News, issue 538, July, 2011.
 O’Keefe, Tracy and Fox, Katrina, Trans-X-U-all
 Lee, Sadie. Final Call: Kate Bornstein in Diva Magazine, Issue 125, October, 2006, page 114
The road from Attica
Michael E. Deutsch
9 September marks 40 years since the uprising at Attica State Prison, in upstate New York, and the deadly and sadistic retaking of the prison – and mass torture of hundreds of prisoners all the rest of the day and night and beyond – by state police and prison guards on the morning of 13 September. When the shooting stopped and the gas lifted, 29 unarmed prisoners and 10 hostages were dead, slaughtered by the assault force. Over a hundred more prisoners were shot, some maimed for life, and many others seriously injured. In addition, almost the entire 1,200-plus prisoners who occupied D yard and had hoped that their demands for humane treatment would be addressed by the authorities were systematically stripped and beaten, made to run gauntlets of club swinging police as they were herded back into cells, while dozens of supposed leaders and other special targets were taken aside for more personal vengeance. The United States Court of Appeals, hardly a pro-prisoner or even liberal institution, called the re-housing of the prisoners, ‘an orgy of brutality’.
Attica and its aftermath exposed the powder kegs ready to explode inside the US prisons and the urgent need to change the reigning penology and administrative practices throughout the federal, state and local prison systems.
Attica uncovered the hidden reality that the prisons and jails were increasingly the socio-economic destination for the poor and largely disproportionate numbers of black people, as well as political militants. The Attica prisoners’ demand for human rights also revealed that both men and women were treated like modern-day slaves in prison, denied minimal humane treatment, decent medical care and fundamental constitutional rights.
It is true there was much liberal sentiment expressed for prisoners in the wake of the rebellion, and massacre, and a small flurry of activity in support of prison reform, involving recognition that prisoners had some rights, and the need for rehabilitation programmes to prepare them for release. There was even some concern raised about the racist underpinnings of law enforcement and the entire criminal justice system. These efforts at reform, however, in comparison to policies already in motion to make the prisons chiefly into warehouses for the unemployed and internment camps for militants, were minimal, and soon largely abandoned.
The Nixon administration, sweeping into office on the cry of ‘law and order’, was determined to use federal government power to destroy what it considered a radical domestic insurgency, which it believed threatened the very existence of the capitalist society. Following the urban uprisings in Harlem, Watts, Newark and Detroit, numerous confrontations between the police and members of the Black Panther Party and other militant organisations, and the massive movement in opposition to the Vietnam war, the government, calling for greatly expanded police powers, passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. The act established enhanced powers for the police to carry on a ‘war on crime’, including procedures to allow wiretapping by law enforcement and relaxed standards to admit confessions.
The act also created the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), which over the following years provided more than US$5 billion in extra funding for state and local police, and for new prisons. While small amounts of money were given to non-institutional reform projects, the vast amount of resources was provided to police departments all over the country for SWAT-type counter-insurgency training, hi-tech weapons and surveillance hardware, and to build and equip more secure prisons. Thus Attica served to reinforce the Nixonian idea that militarised repression and high-security prisons were needed to confront the growing militancy facing the country.
Certainly, in the few years before and after Attica there was clear evidence that assassinations and frame-ups of radical political leaders was the policy promoted and funded by the administration.
As was made clear in court cases and other investigations, the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and George Jackson, and the frame-ups and imprisonment of Geronimo Pratt, Dhroruba Bin Wahad, the Wilmington Ten and the Omaha Two are only a few examples of this policy in action. Some political militants still languish in prison today over 35 years later.
Even before Nixon was in office, J. Edgar Hoover had launched the FBI’s secret ‘counter-intelligence’ programme (‘COINTELPRO’) with clearly spelled out plans to ‘expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralise’ the ‘militant Black Nationalist Movement’, to prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’, who could ‘unify, and electrify’ the militant black movement, and to use ‘hard-hitting’ measures to ‘cripple the Black Panther Party … and destroy what it stands for…’
The rebellion at Attica was clearly viewed as a reflection, and confirmation of, the perceived threat of domestic insurgency; indeed, Nixon called to congratulate Governor Nelson Rockefeller after the massacre. The political speeches, and militancy of the Attica prisoners, many of whom identified with the Black Panther Party, the revolutionary nationalism of Malcolm X, or the teachings and discipline of the Black Muslims, did not go unnoticed by the forces determined to suppress any movement for black liberation. The government was increasingly well aware of these ideas and movements, and was determined to destroy them. Thus the massacre and torture should not be viewed as bad decision-making by New York authorities, or roguish action by the police, but as simply the most savage and bloody of countless acts of conscious repression, which took place all over the country, and showed the political intention to destroy the black movement, and defeat and intimidate its supporters. Its aftermath also represents the further development, not of liberal efforts towards prison reform, but of the use of the prisons as an integral part of the program and apparatus intended to control and sequester America’s economically marginal, politically ungovernable populations.
The incarceration numbers clearly tell the story. For almost 50 years prior to Attica, the US incarceration rates were constant, and commensurate with those of Western Europe. Beginning in 1972, however, the rates rose steadily for the next 35 years, and blacks and Latinos were locked up in hugely disproportionate numbers. In 1972 there were about 300,000 people in federal, state and local prisons combined. Today the number is over 2.3 million. The United States with just 5 per cent of the world’s population has 25% of the world’s prisoners, the world’s highest per capita imprisonment.
The ‘prison–industrial complex,’ comprised of bloated ‘corrections’ bureaucracies and the companies they do business with, and fuelled more and more by private prisons owned by huge corporations, has become a multi-billion dollar industry. The annual budget in California alone is more than US$7 billion dollars, meaning an average of roughly $50,000 per prisoner per year.
By the beginning of the 1980s, after the destruction of Black Liberation Movement, the incarceration policies continued under the banner of the ‘war on drugs’ and the ramped up fear of crime, and young black and Latino men, often demonised as predatory threats. The flooding of crack cocaine into poor black communities, in some cases facilitated by law enforcement complicity, and the Reaganite ‘voodoo trickle-down economics’ created the ideal circumstances to continue the obscene incarceration juggernaut.
In lieu of decent jobs and education, poor people were given militarised occupying racist police, and draconian punishments, including mandatory sentences and three strikes life imprisonment. Those behind the walls who understood this oppression and wished to educate other prisoners were often isolated and buried alive in special isolation control units. Moreover, unlike the Attica prison rebellion, which was broadcast around the world, the media more recently generally ignored the explosion of numbers, and (until just lately) the costs; the conditions of confinement – poor food, indifferent medical care, no education or training programmes, arbitrary parole denials – and the swelling numbers of prisoners locked up permanently in sensory-deprivation cells, which constitutes mental and psychological, legalised, torture. Absent a dramatic cry for help, like a hunger strike or a riot, the voices and plight of prisoners are generally ignored. Certainly the shame of the US prisons is never even mentioned by the Obama administration, let alone addressed.
George Jackson said: ‘The ultimate expression of law is not order; it is prison.’ In the absence of vibrant movements for liberation and human rights, directed by militant activism, we are saddled with a society run wholly in the interests of the banks, the military, the big corporations and the rich people, which have no other accommodation for huge numbers of people at the base of the socio-economic pyramid except prison. What we need is not marginal reform that makes life a little better for those now (and soon to be) locked up, but a thorough revolutionary change in a political system resting on such a corrupt base. Real “hope and change” will only begin to emerge when we dismantle the racist, class-based criminal justice system, and allow those who are oppressed, at the work place, in the community and in the prisons, to freely organize and fight for justice.’
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* Michael E. Deutsch, a partner in the Chicago People’s Law office, was one of the criminal defence and class action civil rights suit attorneys for the Attica brothers. The civil rights suit was settled for US$12 million in 1999.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter - September issue
Request for French–English article translation
Famine: Less land, more hunger
The tragedy of hunger again becomes current news from the food emergency in the Horn of Africa, but famines are a silent daily reality. Worldwide, more than a billion people, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), have difficulties accessing food – a famine with political causes and responsibility.
Africa is a ravaged land. Its natural resources have been plundered from its communities over centuries of domination and colonisation. Although it is not only the plundering of gold, oil, coltan, rubber, diamonds and so on, but also, water, land and the seeds that provide food to its inhabitants. If 80 per cent of the population in the Horn of Africa, as indicated by the FAO, depends on agriculture as their main source of food and income, what they do when there is no land to cultivate?
In recent years, the growing wave of privatisation of land in Africa (purchases by food multinationals, foreign governments or investment funds) has made its precarious agricultural and food system even more vulnerable. With peasants and farmers expelled from their lands, where can they grow food to eat? Many countries, as a result, have seen their already limited capacity for self-provision drastically reduced, after decades of trade liberalisation policies which have reduced their productive capacity.
The food and financial crisis that erupted in 2008 gave rise, as has been well documented by the international organisation GRAIN, to a new cycle of appropriation of land on a global scale. Governments of countries dependent on food imports, in order to ensure the production of food for their people beyond their borders, and agro-industry and investors, eager for new and profitable investment, have subsequently been acquiring fertile lands in the South, a dynamic that threatens peasant agriculture and food security in these countries.
It is estimated that since 2008 they have acquired in this way around 56 million hectares of land on a global scale, according to data from the World Bank, the major part of this, more than 30 million hectares, in Africa, where land is cheap and communal ownership makes it more vulnerable. Other sources, such as the Global Land Project, speak of from 51 to 63 million hectares in Africa, an area similar in size to France. This covers leases, concessions or purchases of land. The forms of transaction can be multiple and often opaque, a dynamic that some authors have described as a ‘new colonialism’ or ‘agricultural colonialism’, through an indirect recolonisation of African resources.
The World Bank has been one of the main proponents in developing, together with other international institutions such as the FAO, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Fund for Agricultural development (IFAD), what have come to be known as the ‘Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment’, which legitimise the appropriation of land by foreign investors. Through the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the institution affiliated with the World Bank dealing with the private sector, programmes have been promoted to eliminate administrative barriers, change laws and tax systems in the countries of the South and encourage investment.
Ethiopia, one of the countries affected by the current famine, has offered three million hectares of arable land to foreign investors in India, China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, among others. Business could not be better: 2,500 km2 of virgin productive land at 700 euros per month, with a contract for 50 years. This is, for example, the agreement reached between the Ethiopian government and the Indian company Karuturi Global, one of the 25 largest global agribusinesses which uses these lands for the cultivation of oil palm, rice, sugar cane, corn and cotton for export. The consequences: thousands of peasants and indigenous people expelled from their lands, precisely those who suffer most from hunger and lack of food, as well as vast tracts of forests cut down and burned.
Other African countries such as Mozambique, Ghana, Sudan, Mali, Tanzania, and Kenya have leased out millions of hectares of their territory. In Tanzania, the government of Saudi Arabia has acquired 500,000 hectares of land to produce rice and wheat for export. In Congo, 48 per cent of agricultural land is in the hands of foreign investors. In Mozambique, more than 10 million areas of land have been leased.
The academic conference ‘Global land grabbing’, which took place in Britain in April 2011, noted the negative impact of these acquisitions. Over 100 documented case studies show how these investments had no positive impact on local communities, on the contrary generating displacement and increased poverty.
For years, the international movement Vía Campesina has denounced the dramatic impact of this massive wave of land grabbing on the peoples of the populations of the countries of the South. If we want to put an end to hunger in the world it is essential to ensure universal access to land, as well as water and seeds, and prohibit speculation and business deals concerning that which feeds us and provides us with food.
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* Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Malema on Botswana
South Africa enters an interesting week. Today (Tuesday 30 August 2011) Julius Malema appears before the disciplinary committee of the ANC (African National Congress) on charges explained by its chairperson Derek Hanekom as follows: ‘Comrade Julius Malema has been charged with various violations of the ANC constitution, including bringing the ANC into disrepute through his utterances and statements on Botswana and sowing divisions in the ranks of the African National Congress.’ From Wednesday on the other top officials of the ANC Youth League appear on the same charges. Apparently this is all about the intra-ANC struggle in the lead up to its elective conference next year. In other words, by extension the issue at stake is nothing less than who would be the president of South Africa after the next elections.
Of course this means lots of noise, bluster and counter noise and bluster, in the same style as we have seen in the run up to the last ANC elective conference in 2007 in Polokwane. The danger is that the substantive questions get lost. In this case it already has to some extent. This is the statement Malema and his colleagues are being disciplined for (and that they have retracted): ‘The ANC Youth League will also establish a Botswana Command Team which will work towards uniting all oppositional forces in Botswana to oppose the puppet regime of Botswana led by the Botswana Democratic Party. The BDP led Botswana is a foot stool of imperialism, a security threat to Africa and always under constant puppetry of the United States.’ What exactly is wrong with this?
Maybe it is against ANC policy to attempt to unite and support opposition to the governments of other countries. But such a position is morally and politically unjustifiable because firstly it would require a certain indifference to how foreign governments treat the people they govern, and secondly it would contradict the ANC’s history of relying on just such help from foreign governments in its struggle to unseat the apartheid government. The ANC cannot claim a principled commitment to non-interference, not after invading Lesotho to restore the government of their choice. In fact, the ANC has received millions upon millions of rands in election donations from foreign governments, which helped them getting elected; how is this not interference?
The bigger substantive issue is the nature of the Botswana government and its relation to the USA and Africa. The Youth League leaders do not specify why they see the government of Ian Khama as a ‘foot stool of imperialism’ or what exactly the security threat is that this government poses to Africa, but the truth is that they could have picked from any number of reasons. In the more than 40 years the Khamas and the BDP has been in power in Botswana, the US has replaced the UK as the leading perpetrator of imperialist aggression on the African continent. The death of Congolese president Patrice Lumumba is but one of many thousands of African deaths that can be directly ascribed to the ambition of the US to dominate Africa politically, economically, culturally and militarily. During this tumultuous time, when millions of Africans arose at great personal cost against US imperialism, where did the BDP government of Botswana stand? They were and are a loyal ally, or rather junior partner. Certainly African governments are aware of this. Why else in the last 15 years did Botswana have to struggle so hard to convince its neighbours that it was not hosting a secret US military base? The CIA, always sensitive to US interests, praises Botswana thus, ‘Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $13,100 in 2010.’ ‘Fiscal discipline and sound management’ in the view of the CIA consist of policies that support the ambitions of the US government and its business corporations. Whatever we think of Malema, we must admit that the Botswana government under the Khamas and their BDP has always followed such policies.
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* Ronald Wesso works for the Surplus People Project, an NGO supporting community struggles for agrarian reform and food sovereignty. This article first appeared on http://permanentrebel.blogspot.com/
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Thousands protest against Swaziland’s absolute monarchy
“The walls of Mbabane were vibrating with the shouts of Viva Pudemo [banned political party], viva Swayoco [youth wing of Pudemo],” says Secretary General of Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions Mduduzi Gina.
Between one and two thousand people took to the streets yesterday, and between five hundred and a thousand on Monday, to demand democratisation and social reform in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Swaziland.
According to a statement by Pudemo’s Secretary General, Skhumbuzo Phakathi, the demands included “the unbanning of political parties, the release of all political prisoners, and genuine dialogue towards democratic transition.”
Swaziland is a small Southern African country where all political parties are banned, where two-thirds survive on less than a dollar a day, and where government corruption and financial mismanagement has left the country virtually bankrupt.
Usually, any demonstrations against the monarchy or the mere mention of Pudemo or Swayoco on the streets of Swaziland would prompt a heavy-handed response from Swaziland’s police force. During last year’s May Day celebrations, Pudemo member Sipho Jele was arrested and later found dead in his cell under suspicious circumstances for the crime of wearing a Pudemo t-shirt.
But police have not clamped down on this week’s protests. “There is heavy police presence but they are not disturbing the marchers,” says Dumezweni Dlamini from the Swazi NGO, Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice. “One would really conclude that the state is trying by all means to make sure that they do not attract international attention by being violent towards peaceful demonstrators.”
In April, during the most recent spate of large-scale demonstrations in favour of multi-party democracy in the country, Swaziland had made headlines worldwide for its police force’s more or less random and heavy-handed beating up of peaceful protestors.
This paired with recently instigated international investigations into Swaziland’s frequent human rights abuses and the fact that the regime needs to be careful not give South Africa a reason to cancel a recent loan to Swaziland, means that the regime is seemingly acting with much more restraint than usual.
Protests against the Swazi government are set to continue in the coming days in Swaziland, in several South African cities, and in Denmark, Great Britain and Germany, where solidarity organisations and students’ movements have planned protests outside Swazi embassies and consulates.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Aerial Bombardment continues despite Sudanese Government ceasefire declaration
SUDO(UK) update,2nd September 2011
In spite of the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire in South Kordofan by President Bashir on 23rd August there has been a continuation of aerial bombardment of civilian targets by Government forces and attacks by Government soldiers and their allied militias. At the same time SPLA forces continued to attack Government garrisons.
On the evening of 23rd August Antonov aircraft bombed Kauda basic school, destroying many of the class buildings. On the days that followed aerial bombardment continued on a daily basis on Salara west of Diling, West of Kadugli, Taladi, Kalagi and Heiban.
On the 29th of August the SPLA attacked and captured Tomey mountain, strong hold of SPLA forces during the 1984-2000 war. Tomey used to be the headquarters of SPLA Nuba during the war. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) decided to take back Tomey with forces sent from Khartoum through the North Kordofan city of Um Rwaba. These forces were ambushed by the SPLA and scattered. The SAF targeted Tomey with indiscriminate aerial bombardment and the surrounding villages of Albair, Um Elhassan from 9 to 11 PM on the 30th of August.
Aerial Bombardment by Antonovs targeted villages around Moureng, near Kologi town, for eight hours from 4 pm on the 30th, putting all civilians in danger. The aerial bombardment was said by the Sudanese authorities to be part of a counter-insurgency strategy in response to the SPLM attack against government troops in Moureng.
SUDO (UK) calls on all parties to the conflict to respect international human rights and humanitarian law. All those involved should refrain from seeking to use tribal identity to exacerbate the conflict.
SUDO (UK) is calling for an independent commission of inquiry into the human rights violations in South Kordofan and for all those responsible to be brought to justice.
SUDO(UK) is also calling on all of Sudanese civil society to engage and advocate for peace and reconciliation and peaceful coexistence in South Kordofan.
For more information visit www.sudouk.org
Blue Nile: Outbreak of war between the government of Sudan troops and the SPLM
In the early hours of the 2nd of September there was an outbreak of fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) which involved all of those gathered in the Joint Integrated Units (JIU) forces in Blue Nile. This included all the major cities including Damazin, Kurmuk, Dindro, Olo, Wadwlmahi and Um Darfa. Both sides used heavy artillery in the towns endangering the civilian populations. The number of those who have been killed or injured are not yet confirmed but the civilian population has been forced to flee the cities of Damazin and Roseries.
Some of those who have fled from Damazin have reached Singa in Sennar State in very bad condition. Demazin is on the Western bank of the Blue Nile. Those who have fled Roseries are said to be heading towards the Ethiopian border and Dindir in Sennar State. There are currently no NGOs that are in place to deliver humanitarian aid to the displaced persons.
SUDO (UK) calls on all parties to the conflict to respect international human rights and humanitarian law. All those involved should refrain from seeking to use tribal identity to exacerbate the conflict and should observe the signed agreements.
SUDO (UK) is calling for humanitarian assistance to be provided to those displaced by the conflict.
SUDO(UK) is also calling on all of Sudanese civil society to engage and advocate for peace and reconciliation and peaceful coexistence in Blue Nile.
For more information visit www.sudouk.org
Half a million lives threatened by land and water grabs for plantations in Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley
According to a new Land Deal Brief from the Oakland Institute (OI) to be released on September 12, 2011, the controversial Gibe III hydroelectric project located in Ethiopia's Omo Valley is facilitating the take over of 350,000 hectares (ha) of land for sugar cane and cotton plantations. Portrayed as development, the project is resulting in state-sponsored human rights violations, which have escaped international attention so far. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lower Omo Valley is home to approximately 200,000 agro-pastoralists made up of some of Africa's most unique and traditional ethnic groups, including the Kwegu, Bodi, Suri, Mursi, Nyangatom, Hamer, Karo, and Dassenach among others and contains two National Parks. The project also threatens an additional 300,000 agro-pastoralists who rely on the waters of the Lake Turkana in Kenya, fed by the Omo River.
In recent months, the Oakland Institute was contacted by a growing number of people on the ground who informed us of increased political pressure on the population and criminalization of dissent. Field work confirmed that abuses are on the increase. For instance, villagers are expected to voice immediate support of the sugar plantations, otherwise beatings (including the use of tasers), abuse, and general intimidation occurs. Ethiopian security forces are putting pressure on these populations to end their pastoral ways and settle in one place. The development of plantations will result in loss of access to essential grazing lands, areas of wild food harvest, loss of the ability to grow food along the Omo River, sacred/culturally significant lands, and water sources, with no indication of how lost livelihoods will be replaced.
OI's investigation shows that this travesty, in the name of development, is taking place as the Ethiopian government continues to receive massive financial and political assistance from donor countries. For instance, the US is the single largest donor of aid to Ethiopia. The United States, thus cannot and should not turn a blind eye to the massive human rights violations resulting from land and water grabs in South Omo as well as in other regions of Ethiopia. Without significant and timely intervention, the rich cultural traditions of the indigenous people will be gone forever, raising immediate questions about their future livelihoods and identity.The numbers of people forced to relocate and lose their self-sufficiency, will undoubtedly rise due to this land development, joining the already swelling ranks of aid-dependent villagers in Ethiopia. As one Suri pastoralist puts it "This is the end of pastoralism in southern Ethiopia."
Only 17 hours left to bring Symphony Way book tour to Europe and North America
To all supporters of the Symphony Way and Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign,
The Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers will be presenting their book at two events in Cape Town today and tomorrow:
- SA Cities Studies Conference - Along with other authors, we will be presenting our book, No Land! No House! No Vote! at 5pm tonight (7th Sep) at the Kimberley Hotel on Roeland Street in Central Cape Town. For more information, click here.
- Making a home in temporary spaces: film and photography by Sydelle Willow Smith - Symphony Way will be speaking and displaying their book at 6pm tomorrow (8th Sep) at Rococo on Buitenkant Streent in Central Cape Town. See facebook invite here.
Last chance fundraising for Europe/North America book tour:
We only have 17 hours left to raise the money we need for a our book tour. If we get at least $4,000usd, then we'll be able to bring 2 authors on tour.
Please contribute here now so that our voices can be heard outside South Africa.
We cannot humanise our world through a vanguard media. The right to a voice cannot be held only by elite academics, authors and politicians. To fix the publishing industry, we must turn freedom of speech on its head. This is why the first ever pavement dweller book tour of Europe and North America is so necessary. On behalf of the Symphony Way community, we ask you to help us bring our new anthology, No Land! No House! No Vote! Voices from Symphony Way, to the world!
We plan to visit universities, bookstores, organisations and movements the following cities:
London / Oxford
New York / Boston
Philadelphia / Washington DC
Chicago / Milwaukee
San Francisco / Los Angeles
Ottawa / Toronto
If you believe in the importance of providing a platform for authentic voices from below, this is your chance to make sure these voices get heard. Please contribute to our campaign and you will receive free copies of the book, DVDs, signed copies by Raj Patel, and even a specially arranged visit to the city of your choice by the authors.
But please contribute here now before we run out of time!
Thanks for your support. Aluta continua!
The Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers
Contact: email@example.com or 0731438886 / 0845930255
To bring the book tour to your city, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign on to statement protecting Rwandan refugees
Fahamu Refugee Programme
On 31 December 2011, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and several states hosting Rwandan refugees are considering invoking the “cessation clause” of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. This is a very unusual and dangerous move that could cause revocation of the refugee status of tens of thousands of people who fled ethnic and political persecution in Rwanda, stripping them of basic rights and exposing them to forcible repatriation and possible persecution. Cessation is premature and should be stopped.
But you can do something about it! Send the FAHAMU Refugee Programme an email indicating that you endorse the statement below. We will carry your views to the Executive Committee of UNHCR and representatives its Member States at their annual meeting in Geneva October 3-5.
Here’s the text:
We, the undersigned, oppose invocation of the “cessation clause” of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees with respect to Rwanda. Thousands of persons fled Rwanda and are currently seeking protection abroad. These are not people escaping retribution from the 1994 genocide; they are those who have been fleeting Rwanda since that event because of the instability, ethnic strife, arbitrary judicial procedures, indiscriminate retaliation, political violence, intolerance of dissent, impunity, and lack of accountability that has followed.
Cessation is a drastic measure that would strip refugees of their legal rights and expose them to forcible repatriation and the risk of further persecution. The Cessation Clause should only be invoked with extreme caution when there has been, according to Guidelines of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 1) a fundamental and profound change in country conditions such that they no longer have a well-founded fear of persecution, 2) the change is demonstrably enduring and not merely transitory, and 3) the change enables refugees to enjoy the protection of the government.
Rwanda has made much progress since the genocide but it has not done so through reliable democratic and peaceful means. It remains a fragile, volatile, authoritarian regime with little tolerance for dissent, freedom of speech, or independent human rights reporting. Social and political fissures remain unresolved and the Rwandan government maintains an overtly hostile attitude toward its citizens who have fled. Positive changes need time to consolidate and genuine national reconciliation remains untested. Moreover, since 2009 more Rwandans have been fleeing, not just Hutu, but large numbers of genocide survivors who were never refugees before, as well as officials of the Rwandan government and officers from its army. Now is not the time to revoke protection from Rwandan refugees!
Endorse Now! Send your name, title, and organizational affiliation as you wish it to appear, along with your country of residence to Barbara@fahamu.org If you can endorse on behalf of your organization, church, business, union, or other civic group, let us know—that will be even more powerful! (Otherwise we will just list your affiliation “for identification only.”)
Achieving economic, social and cultural rights
Review of ‘Haki Zetu: Economic, social and cultural rights in practice’
Processes of social change are simultaneously rights-based and economically grounded since at the level of the human experience, the two dimensions are inseparable. Haki Zetu is based on the principle that to achieve lasting change, it is essential for communities and NGOs to use the human rights framework to persuade their governments to live up to their commitments to fulfill economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). The fulfillment of ESCR for most people in Africa is a distant dream because of a deep-rooted free market narrative that sees poverty as an externality of economic activity, as if the international economic system has no historical development and grounding. The human rights framework that stipulates an internationally agreed set of norms, backed by international law, provides a basis to hold accountable states and international actors for the fulfillment of ESCR.
Although the concept of economic, social and cultural rights has been expressed in many ways and in many places as indispensable for an individual’s dignity and the free development of the person, the status of ESCR continues to be questioned due to a ‘conceptual’ unwillingness to obligate state power to respond concretely and affirmatively to claims addressed to particular kinds of needs, because of views about the appropriate boundaries of state-individual-society relations, or because of a lack of consensus as to whether certain ends should be entitlements in the sense of legal rights.
The state by definition and purpose is a ‘duty-bearer’ towards the ‘rights-holders’, the right to dignity. States are under a legal obligation to utilise available resources, maximally, to address the social and economic needs of the population, and redress imbalances and inequalities where they exist. The fulfillment of ESC rights implies a commitment to socio-economic integration, solidarity and equality, and tackling poverty in all its forms.
The ICESCR to which most states have signed to outlines the duties of the state to promote the realisation or enjoyment of those rights by fostering the conditions necessary for their enjoyment. The ICESC does not contain explicit provisions setting forth the duty to ensure that domestic and international law provide sufficient means of maintenance of the treaty standards. It is left to individual member states to decide how they should implement the covenant at a national level. However, state machineries are embedded in the world system and despite the specific institutional forms that states may take, individual state capacities cannot be understood apart from the whole and its history. Most African states were integrated into the global state and economic system as peripheries and as marginal, without an effective state power at their disposal, and are still mostly locked into a dependent economic relation with the rich countries of the northern hemisphere. To this dependency add the IMF (International Monetary Fund) structural reform policy, Cold War rivalries and experimental developmentalism and one ends up with states unable to fulfill even the most basic ESCR. Moreover, the promotion of ESCR leads to an intensified examination of national social issues, through the judiciary and international treaties, and tends to disturb national power balances and internationally vested interests.
The series of handbooks Haki Zetu approaches human rights from the prism of the people fighting for their dignity rather than the perspective of a state reflecting on the limits of its capacity to protect them and the institutions it might develop to do so. The handbook series aims stem from the fact that in many communities in Africa and elsewhere, community members may have a clear understanding of the obstacle they face in realising a dignified life, but may not have yet realised that they have rights they can claim against the state and require that political priorities and the behaviour of public institutions conform to ESC rights standards. This may be the case in many communities despite the fact that ‘people have, and always have had a notion of justice and most would know or at least have an idea when state authorities are acting improperly’.
The Haki Zetu main handbook starts by sketching the evolution of the concept of human rights with a good example of a fairly old African ‘charter’ of human rights developed since the 13th century, the Kurukan Fuga of the Mandiga people in West Africa, through the declaration of the UN Universal Rights to the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights and the different treaty bodies and special procedures on ESC rights. The second section of the handbook is a practical guide for ESCR advocates working in communities.
The series is based on the principle that to achieve lasting change, it is essential for communities and NGOs to use the human rights framework to persuade their governments to live up to their commitments.
The human rights framework used in the handbooks is made up of three main obligations: to respect, protect and fulfill rights.
The obligation to respect requires the state and all its organs and agents to abstain from doing anything that violates the integrity of the individual or infringes on her or his freedom, including the freedom to use the material resources available to that individual in the way she or he finds to satisfy basic needs.
The obligation to protect requires from the state and its agents the measures necessary to prevent other individuals or groups from violating the integrity, freedom of action or other human rights of the individual including the prevention of infringements of his or her material resources.
The obligation to fulfill requires the state to take the measures necessary to ensure for each person within its jurisdiction opportunities to obtain satisfaction of those needs, recognised in the human rights instruments, which cannot be secured by personal efforts.
The tripartite framework used has a normative character which encompasses a spectrum of legal obligations going from the ‘negative’ to the ‘positive’.
Whilst each human right plays a role in structuring expectation regarding the deployment of state power to the end of securing the minimum conditions of human material existence, the two notions, respect and protect, firmly belong to civil and political rights. The notions are being used on the international level to develop a complaint procedure for ESCR, because of the unending debate on the justifiability of ESCR, which centres around the cost of fulfilling them and the implication of lifting so many out of poverty. There is and there should not be a debate on the justifiability of ESCR. ESCR have been signed into agreement by most states and are thus enforceable in the courts of law.
After more than half a century since the signing of the Declaration of the Universal Human Rights Charter, for the sake of the integrity of human rights the debate should be on how to create an enabling, solution-based environment to the fulfillment of ESCR.
The tripartite framework used in the handbook loses some of its applicability when one has to decide what it takes in a concrete situation for a state party to comply with its human rights obligations. ‘The obligation to create an institutional machinery essential to the realisation of rights, to provide goods and services to satisfy rights and to promote rights is as fundamental to the obligation to respect as they are to the obligation to fulfill’. It is more imperative to look at what it actually takes to enable people to secure their rights and the duties required to implement ESCR.
The second part of the main book is a practice-based guide to claiming, defending and promoting human rights in the community. The guide weaves together two models of HR work, an accountability model which focuses on trying to guarantee human rights either through the monitoring of human rights violations or advocating the protection of human rights through the law and strengthening content, and a transformational model that focuses on empowerment through recognition and prevention of human rights abuses.
After several decades of progressive human rights implementation, human rights work is guided by a reasonably well-defined set of core values, a complex and diverse body of knowledge and an elaborate system of mechanisms, set procedures and language used in the field and other spheres. In addition, human rights bodies legitimise their human rights fieldwork on the basis of general organisational functions, explicit and implied powers, and location-specific mandates. For some observers, the professionalisation of human rights work disables the possibility of other ways of knowing, and being, as though the knowledge of the problems of want and oppression, and their solutions, lie not with those who live these experiences, but with those human rights professionals who research them and fight on their ‘behalf’.
Haki Zetu seeks to foster the integration of human rights within the civic community through CBO. It is designed to support the delivery of human rights work at the most local level. Human rights work in the field is by its very nature particularly volatile and charged. Continuous support of CBO in the community is critical, along with formal study of human rights content, intensive skill training in leadership development and conflict resolution, whilst being mindful of socio-political processes of recognition and social hierarchies, and the possibility of a configuration of the human rights worker as the distributor of rights for those unable to claim them.
The handbook could be a useful tool for the promotion of ESCR at the most local level. The African Union is still in the process of drafting the protocol on ESCR. Whilst the protocol is long overdue, it is necessary for international organisations to engage with the debate at the African Union level, before they send foot soldiers to agitate the poor folk living in huts. The African charter is a charter for human and people’s rights; the concept of a people is enshrined in the charter. Any human rights work should be mindful of the human rights politico-cultural framework that has a conception of the human being as an abstract isolated individual, and restrain from advocating the supremacy of the individual over the community, especially when the individual is conceived in the classical liberal tradition as an individual, a human being who will use any means necessary in the pursuit of material benefits and can have no good reason to expect decent treatment from his fellows.
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* Gillian Nevins, ‘Haki Zetu: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Practice’, Amnesty International Netherlands, 2010, ISBN: 9789064632600.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Haki Zetu, ESCR in Practice, Amnesty International Netherlands, 2010
 Ida E. Koch, Dichotomies, Trichotomies or Waves of Duties? Human Rights Law Review 5:1
Tanya Basok, Suzan Ilcan & Jeff Noonan (2006): Citizenship, Human Rights, and Social Justice, Citizenship Studies, 10:33
David Flynn (2005): What's wrong with rights? Rethinking human rights and responsibilities, Australian Social Work, 58:3
William Gaudelli & William R. Fernekes (2004): Teaching about Global Human Rights for Global Citizenship, The Social Studies, 95:1
Pietro Maffettone (2010): Human Rights and the Value of Practice, The International Spectator, 45:2
Sarita Cargas (2011): Human Rights from Below: Achieving Rights Through Community Development by Jim Ife, Journal of Human Rights, 10:2,
Ida E. Koch, Dichotomies ( 2005): Trichotomies or Waves of Duties? Human Rights Law Review 5:1
GRiffey Briand ( 2011):The‘Reasonableness’ Test: AssessingViolations of State Obligations under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Human Rights Law Review 11:2
Brooke A. Ackerly & José Miguel Cruz (2011): Hearing the Voice of the People: Human Rights as if People Mattered, New Political Science, 33:01
Manuel Couret Branco (2009): Economics Against Human Rights: The Conflicting Languages of Economics and Human Rights, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 20:1
J.K. Mapulanga-Hulston (2002): Examining the Justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, The International Journal of Human Rights, 6:4
Africa and the FUKUS
Emptying of Libya's 'black' cities
To the African Union on Libya
Gaddafi agrees to negotiate
Libya's NTC in session
Museveni versus Besigye
Zimbabwe: Libya conflict: Zimbabwe expels envoy Taher Elmagrahi
Zimbabwe has expelled Libya's ambassador who abandoned Col Muammar Gaddafi and backed the rebels. Taher Elmagrahi joined protesters who stormed the embassy and raised the pre-Gaddafi flag. Zimbabwe's foreign minister said it did not recognise the rebel National Transitional Council.
Zimbabwe: SADC drags feet on appointing reps to assist JOMIC
Members of a regionally appointed team that is meant to assist Zimbabwe’s unity government with implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) have still not been selected, months after SADC leaders resolved that the political parties needed help. Additionally, no timelines for the process have been set.
Africa: Female African entrepreneurship
An Afrographique infographic depicting the percentage share of formal firms that are owned by women in Africa.
Africa: The 50 women shaping Africa
Women are our best hope for the continent, says Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah in her introduction to The Africa Report's list of the 50 women shaping Africa. Porgress has been slow, but many women are showing the art of the possible, inspiring a new generation to take control of their destiny.
South Africa: 19 Days of activism for prevention: 1-19 November
By focusing during 19 days on the prevention of diverse types of abuse and violence against children and youth, the 19 Days of Activism for Prevention campaign aims to continue to bring to light the alarming problem, its multifaceted aspects, and the need to generate sufficient grass-roots interest and government and public support for better prevention measures.
South Africa: Energy opportunities on the cards for women
A number of jobs and business opportunities will arise as the South African government continues to design implementation programmes that favour renewable energy and energy efficiency. This information was made available at a workshop for women organised by the national Department of Energy. The aim of the day-long meeting was to help women understand this sector and the potential it holds for them in terms of job creation and business ventures.
South Africa: Health sector to stand against rape
The rape of girls and women remains a major concern in South Africa, and the health care sector needs to be better equipped to collect evidence to prove sexual violation to help secure the conviction of perpetrators by the courts. The Foundation for Professional Development, a project of the South African Medical Association, is trying to improve how rape survivors are treated. It’s currently training health care workers to counsel victims of rape and to collect forensic evidence to help survivors build strong legal cases should they want the justice system involved.
Zambia: The perils of being a widow
Brian Moonga reports for Radio Netherlands Worldwide that widows in Zambia are increasingly experiencing theft, alienation and sexual exploitation. According to Ruth Mwewa, president of Zambia Widows Association, the privatisation of numerous industries over the past two decades, which resulted in the liquidation of over 2,000 companies, saw many families become destitute and desperate.
Angolan: Groups demand release of Angolan protestors
A number of human rights organisations have condemned the arbitrary use of agression towards and detention of, youths who were involved in the demonstrations at Independence Square in Luanda on September 3 – as well journalists who were covering the event.
Ethiopia: Ethiopia expels Amnesty group, jails opposition party leaders
Ethiopia has expelled a delegation of international rights group, the Amnesty International, and detained two opposition party leaders. Amnesty said its delegation was on an official visit to the Horn of Africa country. The opposition leaders were arrested on the back of individual meeting with the expelled delegation, a statement issued by Amnesty said. 'We are extremely concerned that the arrests of the two men occurred within days of talking with our delegates. Although the government denies it, we are worried that their arrests are not a coincidence,' said Michelle Kagari, deputy programmes director for Africa.
Ethiopia: Using aid as a weapon of oppression
Containing video documentation, this report reveals that a joint undercover investigation by BBC Newsnight and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has uncovered evidence that the Ethiopian government is using development aid as a tool for political oppression. Posing as tourists, the team of journalists travelled to the southern region of Ethiopia.
Global: Attica is all of us
September 9-13 mark the 40th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion. This massive prison takeover by hundreds of inmates and the callous repression and murders by the state of New York are part of a unique moment in US history. The legacy of Attica and the fight for human rights is carried on in the prisons of Georgia, Ohio, California and wherever people are caged for years on end.
Global: News about the Guantánamo Public Memory Project
As of September 1, the Guantánamo Public Memory Project will be coordinated from the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, steered by a leadership committee of partners including the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
Malawi: Group seeks access to information to monitor mining activities
The Karonga Natural Resources Justice Committee (KANRJC) has petitioned the government of Malawi for access to information that would allow them to monitor effectively mining activities to ensure compliance of labour standards and respect of people's rights.
South Africa: Human rights conditions in South Africa’s fruit and wine industries
A Human Rights Watch report documents conditions in South Africa’s fruit and wine industries that include on-site housing that is unfit for living, exposure to pesticides without proper safety equipment, lack of access to toilets or drinking water while working, and efforts to block workers from forming unions. While the Western Cape’s fruit and wine industries contribute billions of rand to the country’s economy, support tourism, and are enjoyed by consumers around the world, their farmworkers earn among the lowest wages in South Africa. The report also describes insecure tenure rights and threats of eviction for longtime residents on farms.
Africa: Study finds teachers face barriers in refugee communities
The Commonwealth Secretariat will present a paper on the role and status of forced migrant teachers in emergencies at the UK Forum for International Education and Training International Conference on Education and Development at Oxford University on 13 September 2011.
Cote D'Ivoire: Shoring up border security
With fear still rife among the Ivoirian refugees remaining in eastern Liberia, NGO the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which is managing refugee camps in Grand Gedeh County, is working to ensure refugee camps are apolitical and weapon-free.
Libya: Ongoing and renewed concerns for detained migrants
Human Rights Watch reports that black Libyans and African migrants are being held on suspicion of having fought as mercenaries for Gaddafi, by the de facto authorities, the National Transitional Council (NTC), solely on account of their skin colour. The migrants are being held in ad hoc places of detention across Tripoli, and it remains unclear how or if the NTC plans to review each case to determine whether there is evidence of criminal activity or not.
Somaliland: Government to expel all illegal immigrants
The Government of Somaliland announced that it will expel about 100,000 illegal immigrants from the country. The government set one month for illegal immigrants to leave Somaliland, or face punishment, warning Somalilanders found hiding illegal immigrants will also be subject to punishment. The Government plans to repatriate about 80,000 – 90,000 illegal immigrants mainly Ethiopians in one month.
South Africa: Lack of data on migrants ‘hampers planning’
Local authorities in South Africa are unable to consider the full effect of population migration trends in their budgeting and planning, leading to inadequate service provision, poor social cohesion and economic marginalisation, the South African Local Government Association (Salga) warned.
Uganda: 'Shoot us all down' - The Lakang and Apaa land conflict in Amuru District
The Refugee Law Project, under its video advocacy programme, has produced documentaries to show the work being done at RLP, as well as highlight the plight of forced migrants in Uganda. Research looked into the nature and dynamics of land ownership, land access, and land use as well as how political perceptions and considerations factored as important elements in the land conflicts and how the question of investment played out in the context of ongoing conflicts associated with land in Amuru district.
Angola: Democracy protesters arrested
At least 24 people were arrested for trying to stage a rally calling for more democracy and the resignation of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. The rally, organized in Luanda by a youth movement, gathered about 200 at Independence Square, in Luanda when the police stepped in and made the arrests. Protesters, journalists and several police officers were injured.
Nigeria: Justice in Nigeria now: Gbaramatu women disrupt Chevron operations
Hundreds of placard-carrying women, from about 10 Gbaramatu communities in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, laid siege to the project site of Chevron Nigeria Limited at Chanomi Creek and disrupted the laying of pipelines for the multi-billon dollars Escravos Gas to Liquid project.
Latest edition: emerging powers news roundup
In this week's edition of the Emerging Powers News Round-Up, read a comprehensive list of news stories and opinion pieces related to China, India and other emerging powers...
1. China in Africa
World Bank, China may cooperate to transfer manufacturing jobs to Africa
The World Bank is in 'very early stage' talks on cooperating with China to promote the transfer of low-value manufacturing jobs from the nation to Africa, said Robert Zoellick, head of the Washington-based lender. An expected end to the expansion of China’s labor force and the government’s push for domestic companies to move up the value chain could help shift jobs that would boost employment in sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa, Zoellick said at a briefing in Beijing at the end of a five-day visit.
West Africa rising: Guinea to sign $5.8 billion mining deal with Chinese firm
In Conakry, Guinean officials are on the verge of signing a $5.8 billion mining deal with a Chinese state-owned fund, Reuters reports. In return for digging rights to a plot outside the capital, China Power Investment would finance the construction of a coal power plant, a deep water port, and a refinery long sought after by the nation's rulers.
China targets Rwanda infrastructure projects
Rwanda has become the latest beneficiary of China’s foray into East Africa as the Asian giant seeks to control the region’s economic landscape, also targeted by Japan and India. China last week gave Rwanda $15.7 million to boost trade between the two countries. Rwanda will receive half the amount as a grant and the remaining 50 million yuan as a five-year interest free loan, said Gao Hucheng, Chinese Deputy Commerce Minister and international trade representative.
China, Africa gather to discuss rural development
Officials and delegations from China and African countries have gathered at a seminar being held in Beijing to discuss rural development and economic growth. The seven-day seminar kicked off on Sunday, attracting representatives from China and 11 African countries to exchange views and experiences related to the seminar's theme of 'agriculture and rural development.'
CNPC terminates 6 overseas projects, estimates losses of 1.2 bln yuan
China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), the country's largest oil and gas producer, terminated six exploration projects in Libya and Niger amid ongoing political turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa, the Securities Daily said Monday. The termination of the six projects run by Great Wall Drilling Co. (GWDC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of CNPC, is estimated to cause 1.2 billion yuan (187.51 million U.S. dollars) in losses for the company, higher than losses incurred during the 2009 financial crisis, said the report.
Investment in Africa urged
China will encourage companies to invest in new fields in Africa including agriculture, manufacturing, finance and environmental protection industries, Chen Deming, the Chinese minister of commerce, said at a China-Africa investment and cooperation forum on Sept 8. Chen said that Africa's development faces key problems including the food crisis and underdeveloped processing of agricultural products and natural resources. He said he encourages and supports 'Chinese companies to invest in Africa, especially in agriculture, manufacturing, finance and environmental protection.'
Ghana parliament approves $3 billion Chinese loan
Ghana's parliament on Friday approved a $3 billion Chinese loan and the country's finance minister said the west African nation was in talks with China's Exim bank for loans worth another $6 billion, which are part of a broader Chinese package. The money is part of a total $13 billion in agreements signed in September 2010 between Ghana and the China Development Bank and China Exim Bank aimed at developing infrastructure projects, including in the oil and gas sector.
Full Text: Nairobi Declaration adopted at the First China-Africa People's Forum
We, 200 representatives of non-government organizations from China and 19 African countries, gathered in Nairobi between 29th and 30th of August 2011 for the First China-Africa People’s Forum. Concerned about the severe drought and famine situation in the Horn of Africa region, we call upon governments and NGOs around the world, and the international community to render more support to people of the region in their disaster relief efforts to avert further suffering and loss of lives.
2. India in Africa
Investments in Ethiopia farming face criticism from activists
'Ethiopia offers an investor-friendly climate for companies, with incentives such as a three-year tax holiday,' Saleem, founder and chief executive of Sara Cotton Fibers Pvt. Ltd, said in an email response from Ethiopia. 'The Ethiopian government has also announced cotton as a priority sector for the country.' Indian companies are making a beeline to grow agricultural commodities and sell seeds, fertilizers and agriculture equipment in the Horn of Africa thanks to the availability of cheap labour and a dole-out of vast fertile land chunks by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi through the last decade.
Indian agribusiness sets sights on land in east Africa
Indian agribusiness companies are ready to spend $2.5bn buying, or renting for decades, several million hectares of cheap land in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda in what could be some of the largest farming deals struck in Africa in the last 50 years. But in a separate development, plans for a US-based investment company to lease up to 1m hectares of South Sudan for only $25,000 a year appear to have stalled following protests by local communities over the potential 'land grab'.
India's interests growing in African oil, gas assets
Even though Sudan is the only African country where state-owned Indian companies have started extracting hydrocarbons, other countries in the continent are also showing promise, according to information available with India's oil ministry. ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of the state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), has in the past three financial years produced 2.7 million, 2.4 million and two million tonnes of gas from its assets in Sudan. Soon, state-run firms are expected to strike oil in more from African nations.
3. In Other Emerging Powers News
Brazilian major now active in Southern, Central and West Africa
In June, Brazilian diversified mining major Vale, the world’s second-biggest mining company by market capitalisation, reaffirmed that it is set to make major investments in Africa by 2016. 'Our current investment proposal in Africa is to expend more than $12 billion over the next five years, subject to board approval,' Vale Zambia exploration manager Ian Hart told the recent first Zambian International Mining and Energy Conference and Exhibition, in Lusaka. The peak year in this programme will be 2012, which should see the company invest $3.3 billion in the continent. As of April this year, Vale’s investment in the continent totalled $2.5 billion, reported the Financial Times.
Basic countries back Indian proposals on climate
Ahead of the crucial ministerial level climate talks in South Africa, India has convinced the other three BASIC countries – Brazil, South Africa and China - to endorse its stand on equity, intellectual property rights and green trade barriers. The BASIC countries approved the Indian proposals, which had taken some strong negotiations to be put back on the table in the UN climate talks despite resistance from the developed countries.
Russia unveils Libya policy
This week Russia recognized Libya’s National Transitional Council as the only legitimate power in the country. A statement to this effect was published on September 1st, on the same day Col Muammar Gaddafi overthrew King Idris of Libya 42 years ago. Russia’s envoy to Africa Mikhail Margelov met with NTC’s Chairman Abdel Jalil on the sidelines of an international conference on Libya in Paris, which brought together representatives from 63 countries. Mikhail Margelov had this to say.
4. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Brazil's soy frontier: Next stop, Africa
A couple weeks ago, the government of Mozambique offered farmers from Brazil 50-year leases on 15 million acres of land: an area equivalent to a bit more than half of the acreage under cultivation in Iowa. According to Reuters, the price is right: $5.30 per acre, vs. a going rate of as much as $8,800 per acre in Brazil. Understandably, Brazilian farmers are jumping at the offer.
China's second coming in Libya
With Libyan rebels taking over Tripoli and authoritarian leader Muammar Gaddafi on the run, the rebellion aided by North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led air strikes to overthrow the Gaddafi regime will come to the end soon. Now reconstruction is an urgent practical issue on the agenda for the Libyan people and international society. China, an active player in Libya's economic affairs, had to evacuate some 35,000 Chinese nationals - workers, managers, engineers, traders and tourists - leaving dozens of projects unattended after civil war broke out in February. It has made it plain that it is ready to return 'to play an active role in future reconstruction,' as Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Chaoxu put it on August 24, under the United Nations' lead.
Fall of Gaddafi: Policy challenge for China and Russia – analysis
The impending victory of NATO-backed rebels over the military forces of Colonel Moammar Gaddafi throughout Libya and the effective takeover of Tripoli by the rebel Transition National Council (TNC) pose a significant policy challenge for China and Russia with regard to their support for autocratic leaders in the Middle East and North Africa.
Africa calls and young entrepreneurs heed
'It's like what happened in China 30 or 40 years ago, filled with potential and opportunity,' Yu told China Daily in an online chat, while tending to her handkerchief wholesale business in Accra, the capital of Ghana. 'Handkerchiefs are especially popular here. Almost everyone carries one, while in China, most people prefer paper tissues,' said Yu, whose family made a fortune as wholesalers in Yiwu, as did her fiance Yang's family - but neither family in handkerchiefs or textiles.
Africa: Squadron established to train air forces in Africa
A squadron of airmen with key skill sets, including air traffic control and civil engineering, is preparing for a mission to train air forces in Africa to deliver supplies and large numbers of troops into conflict zones. The New Jersey-based 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron was established in April and is expected to become operational later this year in support of U.S. Africa Command, according to Air Force officials.
Somalia: Obama widening war in Somalia
Led by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the U.S. is stepping up its war in Somalia, The Nation magazine reports. 'The CIA presence in (the capital) Mogadishu is part of Washington’s intensifying counter-terrorism focus on Somalia, which includes targeted strikes by US Special Operations forces, drone attacks and expanded surveillance operations,' writes Jeremy Scahill, the magazine’s national security correspondent.
Africa: Africa needs its judiciary to underpin social progress
South Africa is one of Africa's most liberal outposts, while Kenya has a reputation for conservatism. But no society is static, least of all in Africa. And the recent appointment processes around new chief justices in these two regional powerhouses demonstrates just how important – and potentially vulnerable – the democratic rule of law is, in places that have long histories of human rights abuse, and where inevitable social change threatens age-old customs. An opinion piece by Mark Gevisser for The Guardian.
Kenya: History made as parliament passes 15 Bills
The Kenyan Parliament has made history by passing 15 Bills that required to be enacted by August 27 in a record four days. The Bills include the Elections Bill, the National Gender and Equality Bill, the Kenya National Rights Human Commission Bill, the Political Parties Bill, the National Police Service Bill, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Bill and the Commission on Administration of Justice Bill.
Liberia: Referendum hurdle - NEC wants lawmakers to resolve absolute majority issue
The National Elections Commission on Tuesday September 6, 2011, met with lawmakers, asking them to consider a way out of a possible constitutional crisis likely to result from the ensuing legislative and presidential Elections. The NEC delegation, headed by Chairman James Fromayan, wants the legislators to fashion a way to save the commission the unreasonable costs of rerunning the legislative elections pursuant to an absolute majority requirement to win.
Liberia: Referendum plagued by high number of invalid votes
This report from Christian Media Cross finds that the chairman of Liberia’s National Elections Commission is expressing concern about the large number of invalid votes in the constitutional referendum. Elections chief James Fromayan says some voters marked both 'Yes' and 'No' as if it were done deliberately.
Malawi: Government becomes a one-man show
Malawi’s president has been running the country’s 22 ministries on his own after firing his entire cabinet. But political and economic analysts say that his delay in appointing a new cabinet is detrimental to the country’s development. Some analysts say government has come to a standstill because of this, while others say the situation shows that the president has lost control.
South Africa: Activists criticise Zuma’s Chief Justice pick
Several leading human rights activists are urging South African President Jacob Zuma to reconsider his plan to appoint a controversial pastor to lead the country's judicial system. Three women Nobel laureates say that Zuma's selection, Mogoeng Mogoeng, would weaken women's rights if appointed as chief justice of the Constitutional Court.
South Africa: ANC youth leader supporters clash with police
South African police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse supporters of the leader of the youth wing of the governing African National Congress (ANC) in Johannesburg. Julius Malema was due to face a disciplinary hearing when hundreds of his supporters started to throw stones and bottles at police.
South Africa: Libya policy reflects past loyalties
While Libya's neighbours rush to recognise rebels who ousted Muammar Gaddafi, regional powerhouse South Africa is blocking the release of Tripoli's frozen millions to them. The policy reflects Pretoria's strong ties to Libya's former strongman that date back to the anti-Apartheid struggle, and frustration that Western intervention, not African mediation under the African Union, has again proven decisive on the continent.
South Africa: The wage subsidy policy deadlock and youth unemployment crisis
South Africa's official opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) has launched a website developed to track the opportunity cost of not implementing the youth wage subsidy policy announced by President Jacob Zuma in his February 2010 State of the Nation Address. Nobody disputes that South Africa has a crisis of youth unemployment. The rate of joblessness in the country is amongst the highest in the world, and 71% of the unemployed are under the age of 34.
South Sudan: Professor Lako Tongun on independence
Africa Today spoke with Professor Lako Tongun on the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. Professor Tongun was in attendance during the celebrations in Juba, South Sudan on July 11, 2011.
The Gambia: Climate of fear ahead of presidential poll
Human rights advocates watching Gambia are worried that abuses against perceived dissenters will rise as the November presidential election nears, killing any chance of a free and fair poll. Already the official campaign period - the only time opposition parties are given access to the media and allowed to actively campaign - has been shrunk to 11 days from four weeks, sparking concern among political leaders.
Ethiopia: Wikileaks exposes UN Eritrean sanction lies
Thomas C. Mountain, writing on counterpunch.org, reports that the recently released, and long awaited, Wikileaks Files on Ethiopia expose the lies used to justify UN 'inSecurity' Council Sanctions in force against Eritrea.
Global: Jamaica’s ‘Dudus’ Coke: U.S. Government’s statement leading to the guilty plea
Jamaica’s druglord Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, former strongman in the Prime Minister’s political constituency, has pleaded gulity to charges of two counts of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering respectively, laid against him in the United States, and is awaiting sentencing.
Kenya: Anti-graft boss given week to leave office
Kenya's anti-corruption chief and his deputies have been given seven days to leave office after lawmakers adopted legislation establishing a revamped anti-graft watchdog enshrined under the new constitution.
Libya: Rebels probe state fund corruption
A report in the FT states that Libya’s rebels are examining possible corruption at the country’s $65 billion sovereign wealth fund and its links to the family of Colonel Muammer Gaddafi, according the man in charge of the investigation. Mahmoud Badi, a former technocrat with the Gaddafi regime, has been appointed by the National Transitional Council to track Libya’s foreign assets, including those held by the Libyan Investment Authority.
Nigeria: Anti-graft agency fails to deliver
Nigeria's anti-graft agency, set up in 2002, was supposed to crack down on corruption in Africa's most populous nation but it has failed to deliver, Human Rights Watch said.
Nigeria: Civil society scores president low
A civil society organisation in Nigeria has described the performance of the government under President Goodluck Jonathan as inept. The Coalition against Corrupt leaders, a civil society monitoring the performances of government officials says the first 100 days of Jonathan's administration falls short of average expectation.
Nigeria: HRW report: 'Corruption on trial?'
The record of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
In Human Rights Watch’s newest report, 'Corruption on Trial? The Record of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,' this highly credible NGO takes a break from its more usual investigations into conflict and violence to assess the successes and failures of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) — the agency tasked to investigate and prosecute financial crimes ranging from advanced fee fraud, more commonly known as '419' scams, to money laundering to government corruption.
Somalia: Corruption, the war on terror hindering food aid to southern Somalia
An iWatch News report finds that as the famine in southern Somalia worsens, aid experts fear that corruption and the politics of terrorism are crimping the flow of humanitarian relief to areas where starvation is worst. Abundant U.S. aid targeted for the Horn of Africa cannot directly reach starving people in southern Somalia because it’s blocked by Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist group labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
Africa: Microfinance: what role in Africa’s development?
There is continuing debate about the impact of microfinance on poverty reduction. In this analysis for Africa Renewal, David Mehdi Haman and Oliver Schwank argue that while microfinance cannot transform African economies, the scheme is necessary to help advance the continent’s development goals.
Africa: Pathways to progress
Status of water and sanitation in Africa
The African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) commissioned the production of a second round of Country Status Overviews (CSOs) on water supply and sanitation, to shed light on the factors that underpin progress in the sector. The World Bank, Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), and the African Development Bank implemented this task in close partnership with UNICEF, WHO, and the governments of 32 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Africa: Small seed packets could play big role in Africa's battle against drought
If more small farmers in Africa's drought-prone regions grew improved varieties of dryland crops, their communities would be better prepared for prolonged dry spells and scarce rain, reports The Guardian.
Africa: Water and sanitation access lies in completing transition to country-led service delivery
According to a new report released by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) at the World Bank, African countries that transition to taking a leadership role in safe water and sanitation service delivery to the millions of people without access have an unprecedented opportunity to drastically reduce these numbers by 2015.
Africa: Why Africa is leaving Europe behind
In an opinion piece in the FT, William Wallis asserts that Africans are relishing something of a reversal in roles. The former colonial powers in Europe are wrestling with debt crises, austerity budgets, rising unemployment and social turmoil. By contrast much of sub-Saharan Africa can point to robust growth, better balanced books and rising capital inflows. There is an opportunity in this novel scenario: for Africa to assert itself on the global stage, and for European countries to take advantage of their historic footprint in Africa by stimulating commercial expansion to their south. But it is far from clear either side will grasp it.
Afrrica: Strengthening public water in Africa
While both North–South partnerships and South-South Partnerships have strengths and limitations, linking these in networked models is an effective way to mobilise expertise and funding and achieve success. Such a networked partnership, involving six public water operators from Europe and two from Africa, was developed to improve access to water in Mauritania. The partnership rests on a solid basis of shared public service principles. A crucial factor in the partnership is the contribution of the Moroccan state water company ONEP, one of Africa’s best performing public water operators.
Kenya: Kenya loses out as foreign investors head to Uganda
Kenya is losing its grip in the battle for foreign direct investments (FDI) to Uganda and Tanzania as heightened political tensions and restrictions on foreign ownership in some sectors turn away multinationals. The FDI inflows to Kenya dipped from Sh67.8 billion in 2007 to Sh13.1 billion in 2009 and Sh12.4 billion last year, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Last year, Uganda’s FDI inflows jumped to Sh78.8 billion from Sh75.9 million while Tanzania’s increased from Sh60 billion to Sh65.1 billion—making the twin countries the key beneficiaries of the region’s common market.
Mozambique: Industrial policy in Mozambique
Many scholars acknowledge that industrial policy can work well in countries with strong merit-based public services and political checks and balances. However, there are very few empirical studies available that analyse industrial policies in low and lower-middle income countries. This study by Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik intends to help fill this gap by assessing the quality of industrial policies and industrial policy making in Mozambique.
Africa: AIDS breakthrough high hopes hit tight budgets
After 30 years and over 20 million deaths in Africa alone, US researchers report that early treatment of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leads to AIDS cuts transmission of the disease by over 96 per cent. Announced by the US National Institutes of Health on 12 May after a six-year, nine-country clinical trial that cost $73 million, the discovery that anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) can make people living with HIV far less infectious means that humanity finally has the tools to reverse the epidemic.
Africa: HIV and AIDS and older people in Africa
HIV affects older people in two main ways. Large numbers of older people are themselves living with HIV. Many are also taking on vital caring responsibilities for loved ones living with HIV and the children orphaned by AIDS. This briefing is aimed at the European Union (EU) and member states. It sets out the need to strengthen the response to HIV in Africa by providing interventions on the basis of genuine need rather than age.
Africa: HIV and the neglect of older African adults
While the focus of HIV and AIDS interventions has always been on the 20-40-year-olds most likely to be infected, African democracy institute Idasa warns that health workers and social planners have neglected to take into account the elderly who have contracted the virus – and their numbers are growing.
Africa: The malaria mosquito is disappearing – but it is not just good news
An article in Health New’s 'Health Canal' describes the disappearance of mosquitoes carrying malaria in areas of sub-Saharan Africa. The article explains why there may still be cause for concern in the malaria fight.
Kenya: South African research council to help Kenya on nano-technology
South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) announced that it is to collaborate with researchers in Kenya to develop a nano-medicine technology aimed to revolutionise treatment of communicable diseases. The aim of the technology is to improve on the efficiency of the existing drugs used in the treatment of diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.
Africa: Rhodes University 'Thinking Africa: Liberation, Race and Higher Education' supplement
'Thinking Africa: Liberation, Race and Higher Education' supplement was published by South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper (26 August 2011) and contains reflection pieces from Rhodes University's 'Thinking Africa: Fanon 50 years later' (6-9 July 2011) colloquium as well as the 'Race in Higher Education Roundtable' (11-13 July 2011) organised under the auspices of the university's Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning.
Eritrea: Expansion of schools in rural areas shows significant growth
The expansion of schools in the rural areas has shown significant growth, according to the Ministry of Education. Reports indicated that the number of schools ranging from elementary to secondary level rose from about 750 in 1996/7 to 1,681 in 2010/2011, of which 1,176 are in the rural areas.
Ghana: Blind urge government to support education of disabled
The Executive Director of the Ghana Blind Union (GBU), Dr. Peter Obeng Asamoah, has appealed to the government to channel more resources into the education of persons with disability in the country, especially the blind. He stressed that if the country was serious about getting rid of blind beggars from the streets of the cities, then a conscious effort must be made to provide them with the requisite education.
Global: 8 September, International Literacy Day: 793 million adults can neither read nor write
This year’s International Literacy Day, celebrated world-wide on 8 September, will focus on the link between literacy and peace. During a ceremony in New Delhi, India, UNESCO will award the international Confucius and King Sejong literacy prizes to projects in Burundi, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the United States of America. South and West Asia account for more than half (51,8%) the world’s adult illiterate population, ahead of sub-Saharan Africa (21,4%), East Asia and the Pacific (12,8%), the Arab States (7,6%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4,6%), North America, Europe and Central Asia (2%).
Cameroon: Alleged homosexuals denied bail
Two men who are currently being tried for alleged homosexuality in Yaounde were recently denied bail. Police said the men - aged 19 and 20 - were caught having oral sex in a car after visiting a nightclub in the capital, Yaounde. Their bail application was refused and they are to remain in custody at the Kondengui maximum security prison in Yaounde until the case is over.
Kenya: LGBTI Kenyans speak of violence against them for being 'different'
Even as Kenyan LGBTI activists fight for legal recognition they are confronted by the spectre of violence against community members based upon their sexual orientation. Many members of the LGBTI community have faced violence in the course of their lives and as a result are psychologically affected by this. Behind the Mask’s Melissa Wainaina interviewed two LGBTI individuals about such violence and the effect it had on them.
Kenya: Queer cinema comes to Kenya
The Inaugural OUT Film Festival will be the first public showing of cinema that reflects the life of sexual minorities. The film festival wants to make known a community that Kenyan society deems to be secret. The festival aims to entertain, educate and celebrate. There will be a variety of films and documentaries from within and outside the continent that will alter the way you look at the way the Queer community lives and loves.
Nigeria: African lesbians launch West African LGBT Human Rights Defenders project
Friday August 26, 2011 saw the Coalition of African Lesbians, CAL, launch its LGBT Human Rights Defenders, HRD project in Lagos, Nigeria. Participants in the HRD workshop, which was held in collaboration with The Initiative for Equal Rights, TIER, a Nigerian-based LGBT human rights organization, attended the launch alongside some members of the Lagos LGBT community.
Africa: China consumerism latest threat to Africa's elephants
China's fast-growing consumerism and lax policing of ivory laws are the latest threats to wild elephant populations, said an author of a recent report on endangered species. Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne, authors of the report that was presented at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva in mid-August, visited ivory carving factories and stores in southern China in January.
Africa: Climate change & Africa
A look at policy formulation
Research on futurechallenges.org, including an African climate vulnerability map via www.grida.no, finds that floods, droughts, desertification, coastal storms and famine are just a few of the impacts of climate change in Africa. Climate change is endangering the lives and livelihoods of millions of Africans and also hindering the continent’s economic growth and social progress.
Africa: Economic cost of climate change in Africa
A report by Climate Exchange Network for Africa includes five chapters, which cover: the impacts of climate change in Africa; options for adapting to climate changes; an assessment of the economic costs of climate change and adaptation; mitigation scenarios; and policy recommendations.
Global: ETC Group calls on UK government to halt geoengineering experiment
In response to reports that British scientists are about to test the hardware needed to put sulphur particles in the stratosphere as a climate technofix, international technology watchdog ETC Group is calling on the UK government to halt the controversial test and respect UN processes underway to discuss these issues.
Global: Facing up to the global water crisis
With rising population growth and changes in the earth's climate putting stress on the consumable 1% of the planet's water, the global water crisis risks becoming a source of cross-border conflict. Sub-Saharan Africa is especially vulnerable given its dry climate, which is exacerbated by underdevelopment and mismanagement of water resources. In 2000, countries in Africa and in other regions set targets to halve by 2015 the number of people without access to these basic services. Some of them may meet these targets.
Kenya: A model for clean energy innovation in Africa
infoDev's Climate Technology Program published an article in The Africa Energy Yearbook 2011, co-written with the Kenyan government and private partners. The publication discusses the Climate Innovation Center (CIC) in Kenya and how it will support the government's objectives in the Greening Kenya Initiative.
Kenya: Unique biofuel warms its way to kitchen as search for green energy hots up
A solar cooker manufactured by Consumer’s Choice that uses bio-ethanol gel and cuts down on harmful indoor emissions has sold over 2,000 units and is looking to upscale its production by creating partnerships with UN agencies and other non-governmental organisations. Consumer’s Choice is currently partnering with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR in a pilot project at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Under the programme, 70 families have been supplied with the stove and a daily one litre ration of bio-ethanol gel.
Uganda: Save Mabira natural forest campaign
NAPE and other members of Save Mabira Crusade, in collaboration with other citizens of Uganda and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) have submitted a petition opposing the proposed giveaway of Mabira and other forest reserves in Uganda. Save Mabira Crusade is a network of individuals, NGOs, civic leaders, religious, cultural and academic institutions, political organisations and local communities that have come together to save one of Uganda’s most valuable rainforests.
Zambia: Innovative programme saves wildlife, protects forests, and fights poverty in Africa
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) examines how the Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) programme has succeeded in stabilising wildlife while improving agriculture in the Luangwa Valley. The ten-year-old initiative, run by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), is even close to becoming financially self-sufficient.
Africa: Demand for renewable energy could drive more land grabs
Rising demand for the dominant form of renewable energy worldwide – wood – could drive yet more acquisitions of land in developing countries where food insecurity is rising and land rights are weak, say researchers at the International Institute for Environment and Development. In a briefing paper published August 30, they warn that this new trend needs greater public scrutiny and debate.
Global: India’s role in the new global farmland grab
This new report by Economics Research Foundation and GRAIN provides a detailed examination of the role of the Indian government and Indian companies engaged in overseas agricultural land acquisitions in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
South Africa: Land reform green paper released
The discussion paper on the 'emotive' land reform issue is now out, and the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti, is set to table it in Parliament. Releasing it to the media, he said that the draft Land Protection Bill would be out in the next three months. The minister said consultations around land reform were scheduled for completion in the next two months.
South Sudan: Divvying up South Sudan
Though much of the attention on land grabs in Africa has focused on Asian and Middle Eastern buyers, the Oakland Institute has been revealing that U.S.-based institutions are active as well. This is particularly true of South Sudan, where 'US investors are intimately involved' in land dealing.
Tanzania: AgriSol & Serengeti advisers: Land grabbers?
Bernard Baha of the Land Rights Research and Resources Institute points out in the paper 'The Politics of Investment in Large Scale Agricultural Ventures' that Tanzania has always been a country in the spotlight concerning cases of land grabbing for various uses. In the recent past there has been a lot of information in both print and electronic media about land being taken for various investment purposes. Little is known about these deals between the government and foreign investment companies eyeing Tanzania as a destination for agricultural investment.
Africa: IFAD president says Africa needs tools to feed its population
Africa will conquer hunger when its governments give the citizens tools and resources they need to feed themselves, Kanayo F. Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said on the eve of an international conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to address the famine crisis in the Horn of Africa. In a statement sent to PANA, Nwanze urged African countries not to wait for the international community to solve problems facing the continent.
Africa: Seed policies will boost food security in West Africa
Institutions such as United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and pan-African rice research organisation AfricaRice are promoting the adoption of national seed policies that will support sustainable growth and development of the seed sector in West Africa.
Kenya: The role of the U.S. in Kenya's embrace of GM crops
Kenya has finally joined a growing number of countries in the world which have allowed the importation, growing and commercialisation of genetically modified organisms. The National Biosafety Authority (NBA) gazetted the final regulations that allow for the commercialisation of genetically modified organism in Kenya. This means that on application to the agency, one can import such products for commercial use, and soon, modified seeds and planting materials will be available to Kenyan farmers.
Mozambique: Food security outlook
Although the 2010/11 agriculture season was affected by a number of shocks including localized floods during the first half of the season and midseason long dry spells, national staple food availability is estimated to have increased, as indicated by the recently released preliminary production estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture. These figures indicate that 2010/11 cereal production (maize, sorghum, millet, and rice) was about 2.91 million MT, an increase of 4.6 percent over last year and 21.5 percent above the five‐year average.
Africa: Investigate without peril: How to support investigative journalism in East Africa?
Investigative journalism distinguishes itself from regular journalism by its depth and subject matter, often involving crime, political corruption or corporate wrongdoing. It can play an essential role in a country’s governance by keeping corporations and government accountable. However, the political and economic environment in some regions of the world present specific challenges for investigative journalists: countries that score low on governance and transparency present particular risks and underline the need to build investigative journalism capacity. This brief analyses the obstacles to investigative journalism in the East African region, focusing on Kenya and Uganda, and discusses what can be done to help address these barriers.
Africa: Texting, Tweeting, mobile internet
New platforms for democratic debate
New media platforms are changing how people communicate with each other around the world. However, there is great variation in both the kind of communication platforms people make use of as well as in how they access these platforms. Computer ownership and internet access are still the prerogative of the wealthy few in wide swathes of the African continent. All the same, mobile internet access is on the rise and if current growth rates continue, African mobile phone penetration will reach 100 per cent by 2014.
Global: 'Voices 2.0' - Revolutionising participation within development cooperation
A new SDC Working paper soon to be published titled 'Deepening Participation and Enhancing Aid Effectiveness through ICTs and Media' examines why and how development practitioners can adopt ICTs and media for increased participation and better results into their daily practice.
South Africa: Journalists attacked during ANC protest
The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by anti-press violence by supporters of Julius Malema, youth leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, and is relieved that the party leader has urged restraint. Malema supporters protesting their leader's disciplinary hearing at ANC headquarters in Johannesburg hurled bottles, stones, and bricks at police and reporters. At least nine journalists were injured.
South Africa: Opposition fights spy provision in Info Bill
Opposition parties urged the ANC to strike a provision from the Protection of Information Bill that would allow intelligence agents to classify any part of their work, but the ruling party refused.
Sudan: Detained Sudanese journalist released, official says
A Sudanese reporter was freed after President Omar al-Bashir ordered the release of all detained journalists, a government official said. But a press freedom activist and local journalists say a number of media professionals and technical staff are still being held.
Botswana: Country to develop policy to protect traditional knowledge
Botswana is developing a policy to protect, preserve and promote its indigenous knowledge and mainstream it into the country's macro-economic framework. Development of the policy will involve identifying, documenting and gathering local traditional knowledge practices from areas including agriculture, health, culture and religious beliefs, and then feeding them into a legislative framework.
South Africa: 'Two Worlds' documentary looks to address inequality in post-Apartheid South Africa
'Two Worlds' is a documentary film which looks to address inequality in post-Apartheid South Africa, a country described as both a 'first' and a 'third' world in one. The film features interviews from 18 people including students, researchers and activists, searching for answers to some of the crucial issues affecting the country today. The documentary questions why South Africa has one of the greatest divides between rich and poor in the world, and ultimately attempts to use South Africa as an example of global inequality.
Cote d’Ivoire: ECOWAS team in post-conflict reconstruction talks
A high-level ECOWAS delegation led by the President of the Commission, Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, arrived in Abidjan on Monday, 22nd August 2011 for talks with officials of the Government of Cote d’Ivoire on how the regional organisation can support the country’s post-conflict reconstruction.
Libya: African Union refuses to recognise Libyan rebels as 'legitimate authority'
The Telegraph reports that the African Union has refused to recognise the National Transitional Council as the legitimate authority in Libya, calling instead for an 'inclusive government'.
Libya: INTERPOL issues Red Notice for arrest of Muammar Gaddafi at request of International Criminal Court
INTERPOL has issued Red Notices for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif Al-islam Gaddafi and former director of military intelligence Abdullah Al-Senussi after the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, requested the world police body to issue internationally wanted persons notices against the Libyan nationals for alleged crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution.
Nigeria: Death toll revised in UN attack
The death toll from the suicide bombing at the UN headquarters in the Nigerian capital stands at 21, with 73 injured, the deputy United Nations chief announced, reducing a previous toll of 23.
Somalia: Hundreds dying daily as Somalia famine spreads
Famine has spread to six out of eight regions in southern Somalia, with 750,000 people facing imminent starvation, the United Nations said, and hundreds of people are dying each day despite a ramping up of aid relief.
South Sudan: MSF condemns large scale attacks on civilians
The international relief organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) treated over 100 patients in the town of Pieri and referred another 57 to hospitals in Leer and Nasir following a raid on the town of Pieri and twelve surrounding villages in Jonglei State, South Sudan. The majority of the referred cases were women and children with gunshot wounds.
Sudan: Possible war crimes in South Kordofan State
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have collected evidence indicating that the Sudanese Armed Forces may have committed war crimes in Southern Kordofan. In a rare trip to the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan, researchers from the two human rights groups found that an indiscriminate bombing campaign carried out by the Arab government in Sudan since early-June is killing and maiming men, women and children.
Sudan: SPLM-N vows to buck Blue Nile’s ‘coup’
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) declared resistance to what it described as a coup against the elected governor of the Blue Nile State, Malik Aggar, announcing intensification of its efforts to forge a nationwide alliance to execute regime-change agendas.
Zanzibar: Ferry disaster could have been avoided
An op-ed piece in The Citizen notes that Saturday’s sinking of a ferryboat off the coast of Unguja Island with the loss of almost 200 lives brings to the fore a very pertinent question: were any lessons learnt from the May 21, 1996 MV Bukoba disaster in Lake Victoria in which close to 1,000 people died? It is hard not to draw comparisons between the two incidents given that factors behind the accidents bear an uncanny resemblance.
Africa: Low cost cellular telephones aid Africa mHealth development
Low price cellular telephones are helping advance mHealth opportunities across Africa, prompting developers to examine possible applications to address public health challenges. One application being developed for the Kenyan market provides symptom checkers, medical alerts and a searchable database of medical facility locations.
Africa: Mobile internet in Africa
This schematic diagram based on figures from On Device Research shows that for African internet users, well over 50% have mobile internet as the sole access method. In contrast, only 20% of UK mobile internet browsers never or infrequently (once a month or less) use the desktop internet. Most mobile internet users in Africa are aged between 13 and 34 (91%) and male (83%), the typical early adopter profile. Many are in school or university, showing the need for a level of education.
Africa: Surfing the African technology wave
The Frontier Strategy Group finds that the adoption of new forms of communication in Africa over the past decade – both mobile telephone and internet – has been nothing short of revolutionary. The continent is estimated to have produced over 316 million new mobile phone users since 2000, passing 500 million total subscriptions late in 2010, and its total internet user population is now estimated at almost 120 million. Previously, communicating over long distances was fraught with difficulty and expense; that outlook has been transformed. The significance of these trends for African economic development, transparency and democratization is profound; the opportunity for technology companies and indeed for businesses across many other sectors capable of leveraging such channels for advertising and delivery is no less significant.
Global: Mobile connections to surpass 6 billion by year-end
Total global mobile connections are set to surpass 6 billion by year-end, according to the latest Wireless Intelligence forecasts, a landmark which would mean the industry has added the last 1 billion connections in just 16 months. Wireless Intelligence estimates that the 6 billion milestone will be reached in late November and that total global connections will end the year at 6.07 billion. Africa is set to overtake the Americas as the second-largest regional market on 648 million connections (11 per cent of the total). Africa is forecast to record the strongest year-on-year connections growth of all the global regions, rising 18 per cent over the previous year.
Africa: Mobile Media Toolkit
The Mobile Media Toolkit is a project of MobileActive.org, a global network of people using mobile technology for social impact. The Secure section of the Mobile Media Toolkit also features another project from MobileActive.org called SaferMobile, which helps activists, human rights defenders, and journalists assess the mobile communications risks that they are facing, and then use appropriate mitigation techniques to increase their ability to organize, report, and work more safely.
Ghana: Rural fish farming
Fish is the primary source of protein for the majoirty of Ghana's 23 million inhabitants. Because of significant challenges impacting the global fishing industry, including unsustainable fishing practices, these individuals are rapidly losing their primary source of income and nutrition. Rural entrepreneurs across the country have attempted to start their own fish farms to fill the protein need and subsequent market demand. These fish farmers, however, have not been successful due to poor dissemination of technical resources, lack of quality supplies, and ineffective business models. Tilapiana was created to address this market opportunity and social need by working with village entrepreneurs to design, implement, and manage sustainable fish farms.
Global: Fellowships for threatened scholars
The IIE Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) is pleased to announce a call for applications for threatened academics whose lives or work are in danger in their home countries. Fellowships support temporary academic positions at safe universities and colleges anywhere in the world. Professors, researchers, and lecturers from any country or field may apply.
Kenya: Back to school?
A blog post by People to People International documents that the PTPI family joined together in support of their Mombasa, Kenya Chapter, sending more than $6,000 to help the chapter cover school fees for 23 students who otherwise would not be able to attend school.
Kenya: M-pesa scheme will help plight of malnourished children in Kenya
Concern Worldwide, an international humanitarian organisation dedicated to tackling poverty and suffering in the world’s poorest countries, has set up an aid initiative in the slums of Nairobi to combat the sharp increase in severe malnutrition in slums. Concern Worldwide plans to use M-PESA money transfer service to enable people to buy food. It is hoped that the initiative will help 20,000 people over the next five months.
Africa: 5th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights
The purpose of the 5th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights is to catalyze dialogue on the interrelationship between, culture, sexuality and attainment of sexual health for all in Africa.
Africa: Africa Business Women Connect Summit
The objective of the Africa Business Women Connect Summit is to enhance economic performance on the continent in the three largest export sectors for women: craft/textiles, agribusiness and services. ABW intends to unite successful African businesswomen from 53 countries in Africa. The initiative will be launched at a summit in Ethiopia in 2013, reaching 530 African Business Women, followed by in-country activities reaching an additional 5300 women supported by a Wisdom Exchange TV.
Tanzania: Call for Social Media for Social Change 2011
Social Media for Social Change is an intensive course for youth and volunteers that will introduce you to social media tools that drive social change. Social media includes internet-based and mobile phone tools and platforms for communications, such as Facebook and Twitter. The course will provide you with skills in how to plan and organise a basic social media communications strategy for your organisation that strengthens networking. To register or get more information about the Training, please contact Isabella Falsted at email@example.com or Elsie Eyakuze at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us at MS-TCDC, Dar es Salaam for intensive social media training in October 2011.
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA FOR SOCIAL CHANGE TRAINING?
Social Media for Social Change is an intensive course for youth and volunteers that will introduce you to social media tools that drive social change. Social media includes internet-based and mobile phone tools and platforms for communications, such as Facebook and Twitter. The course will provide you with skills in how to plan and organize a basic social media communications strategy for your organization that strengthens networking. The training also includes a Training of Trainers component that will allow you to pass on basic social media skills to fellow volunteers in their networks. It will provide you with skills in communications strategy, social media platforms, facilitation, discussion, dialogue, cultural understanding and group dynamics.
AS A PARTICIPANT, YOU WILL...
• Gain greater awareness about yourself and your strengths in social media.
• Receive personal guidance from experienced trainers in a small group setting
• Learn new tools that are easily adapted, principles of social media for social change, skills for working with diversity and a better understanding of how to use experiential education methods effectively.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND THIS TRAINING?
Experienced and less-experienced volunteers and communications staff • Activists and organizers wanting to use social media more effectively in their work • Leaders and coordinators of volunteer or youth networks who want to strengthen • communications and networking skills.
• To introduce a social media component to your organization communications strategy • To strengthen social media skills in selected platforms • To gain greater awareness of yourself as a strategic social media • To meet and receive support from other trainers and participants • To discuss the role of training in social change processes • To provide enough skills so that you can train others in basic social media skills and strategies
The training will start the 17th October 2011 and begins with dinner and registration at 6 p.m. The training will run for 3 weeks all weekdays from 9 am to 4 pm. Some days we will also have evening sessions from 8-
10 pm. Weekends will be off. The training will end on 4th of November 2011.
The training is designed as an experiential package with each session building on the previous session. We want to create the best learning environment possible for participants to absorb the combined learning of each session and therefore WE DO NOT ALLOW PARTIAL ATTENDANCE, you must commit to the entire training.
The Institutional Price for the TOT is 1200 US Dollars per participant. A discount may be available to individual applicants who are not supported financially by an institution. This includes tuition fee, course materials, accommodation in shared rooms and full board. There is NO allowance or transport costs included in the price.
REGISTER OR QUESTIONS
To register or get more information about the Training, please contact Isabella Falsted at email@example.com or Elsie Eyakuze at firstname.lastname@example.org
Africa: Special issue of Research in African Literatures on Asian African literatures
Research in African Literatures Volume 42 Number 3, Asian African Literatures, Special Guest Editor, Gaurav Desai
Citing the long history of the presence of peoples from the Indian sub-continent in Africa, the National Museums of Kenya sponsored, in 2000, a special exhibit on the 'Asian African Heritage.' This special issue of Research in African Literatures follows the lead of this exhibition by bringing together new essays by some of the leading scholars who have written on Asian African literatures in East and South Africa. The articles engage both with writers who are now considered canonical, such as M.G. Vassanji from Tanzania and Ahmed Essop from South Africa, as well as newer voices that have emerged over the past decade.
The Granta Book of The African Short Story
According to the novelist Helon Habila, editor of Granta’s forthcoming Book of African Short Stories, to put together a collection representing every African language, people and nation is impossible. Instead, Habila has compiled Granta’s new collection to showcase what he sees as a ‘new generation’ of emerging African short story writers.
Africa: Legal consultant for MENA region
ARTICLE 19 is seeking to engage a Legal Consultant, fluent in both English and Arabic, who will be responsible for ensuring it is able to play an enhanced role in promoting the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of information by developing an enabling legal and policy environment in the MENA region.
International Grants Policy and Programme Manager
Common Ground Initiative
£38,000 – £41,000pa
The Common Ground Initiative is a £20 million fund supporting African development through UK based small and Diaspora organisations. With the support of the Baring Foundation and working in partnership with DFID, Comic Relief aims to make grants that will bring sustainable change to some of the most disadvantaged communities in Africa. We also want to create opportunities for small and Diaspora-led organisations to strengthen their contribution to international development debates, policy and practice. Join us to help manage this strategic investment and, in doing so, make a greater contribution towards a just world, free from poverty.
Working from our Central London office, you will project manage our work on strengthening the voice, ideas and contribution of the Diaspora to international development policy, contribute to our learning in this field and manage a portfolio of grants under this initiative.
This influential role calls for experience of working in international development, a track record of influencing policy and a passion for using learning to inform future work. In addition to your international development expertise you are also a proven project manager used to managing budgets, presenting to key stakeholders and building relationships with senior decision-makers. You must also be willing to travel internationally.
Apply online via the link or alternatively send a large SAE, quoting reference CR1157, to Recruitment, Comic Relief, 5th Floor, 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP.
Closing date: 22nd September 2011.
Nigeria: SHN programme manager
Applications are invited for the post of Programme Manager to join the Partnership for Child Development (PCD). PCD is an organisation committed to improving the education, health and nutrition of school-age children and youth in low-income countries. The Partnership for Child Development has launched a new programme that will support government action to deliver cost effective school feeding programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. The Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme supports government action to deliver sustainable, nationally owned school feeding programmes sourced from local farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. The programme provides direct, evidence-based and context-specific support and expertise for the design and management of school feeding programmes linked to local agricultural production.
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