Pambazuka News 547: Ten years after 9/11: War can't bring peace
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Ten years after 9/11: War cannot bring peace
2011 marks 10 years since 9/11. Two weeks prior to that momentous tragedy I was in New York and passed through the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan many times during my three-week stay. I have often wondered what became of the African-American doorman in the lift who jovially told us that it would take some 15 seconds to reach the Windows of World restaurant located on the 106th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I have also pondered about the staff who served us our meal. I returned to the UK and 9/11 took place. Did the doorman and restaurant staff all work that dreadful day – or were they killed alongside the nearly 3,000 people from many different nationalities in those intimidating and iconic Twin Towers?
Ten years on, it is essential to pause and consider the state of the world today. What have the American government and people learnt from this single greatest atrocity on mainland America? In what ways has our world irrevocably changed since then? Or is it a fallacy that 9/11 changed the world? What are the steps needed to bring about greater peace, social justice and equality in our present world in order to prevent more 9/11s?
DECEPTION ON A GRAND SCALE
It appears new wars have been born – disturbing militarisation, media disinformation and fabrication have all been the direct, devastating consequence of that day. The response to that day of terror was the unleashing of the global war on terror (GWOT) by the then Bush-led administration and British prime minister Tony Blair. In October 2001 Bush carried out a ‘preventive war’ by invading Afghanistan and in March 2003 with his junior Atlantic partner, Tony Blair, carried out ‘regime change’ in Iraq under the iniquity of the dubious name,‘Operation Enduring Freedom’. Up to a million people in London marched on 15 February 2003 against the prospect of war, as did many ordinary people in over 40 countries around the world. These voices were ignored by the political classes that claim terrorists are opposed to democracy and all the good things about Western civilisation.
To date, the body bags of numbers of American and British troops continue to rise. British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq total 379 and 380 respectively. American troops who have been killed to date number 1,670 in Afghanistan and 1,752 in Iraq. In the Western media, rarely are the numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties given, but such numbers catastrophically dwarf those of the dead among the coalition. According to the website ‘Iraq Body Count’, Iraqi civilian deaths from violence stands between 103,344 and 111,861 people. These needless deaths lie on the conscience of the Western ruling classes who sanctioned these wars for economic gain from gas and oil in Afghanistan and Iraq and their ambition for revenge and maintenance of political power.
In the Western psyche of a sanitised war that is often portrayed as being akin to a Hollywood action war film, these deaths of Iraqis are somehow unreal – often referred to as ‘collateral damage’ in military-speak, for non-Europeans are somehow lesser human beings. As the veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges succinctly writes: ‘Our dead. Their dead. They are not the same. Our dead matter, theirs do not.’
Such a mindset that exalts the devaluation of human life lay behind the shocking human rights violations of sexual abuse, rape and sodomy at the Baghdad correctional facility more popularly known as Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 by US troops – one year after the war began in Iraq. America’s British cousins were also complicit in shameful gratuitous violence against Iraqi detainees held in custody in Iraq in September 2003. Baha Mousa’s killing, following 93 separate injuries on his body, led to an enquiry into the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) that established ‘corporate and systemic failures’ in the MOD. How many other Baha Mousas exist, we may never know.
However, the legacy of Western imperialist intervention and brutal exploitation in the South has a much longer history than Iraq, going back to the genocide of the Native American people with the arrival of the expansionist Europeans in the 1600s, as well as other regions of the world such as the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. A decade after 9/11, it remains profoundly despicable that the grand lie that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction has largely led us to where we are now.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE GWOT
What the GWOT has unleashed in terms of attitudes and values has further emboldened ‘pre-emptive strikes’ that are disturbing for all of humanity, but particularly the peoples of Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa who make up the global South. Islam is the new bogeyman for Americans and other Westerners.
Richard Reid, more famously known as ‘the shoe bomber’, returned to Paris airport on 22 December 2001 and boarded American Airlines Flight 63 from to Miami. Wearing special shoes packed with plastic explosives in their hollowed-out soles, Reid also contributed – a mere three months after 9/11 – to the fear and heightened security measures in Western capitals. That we all have to take off our shoes to pass through airport security in some airports is attributable to ‘the shoe bomber’. In the wake of 9/11 and Reid’s iniquitous act, ‘racial profiling’ targeted at Muslims came into practice. Also under attack in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 were Sikhs in New York, who to some Americans were indistinguishable from Muslims.
The Bali bombings took place on 12 October 2002 when the Islamist group Jemaah Islamiya killed 202 people and injured many more. This was followed by attacks on the public transport system on 11 March 2004 and on 7 July 2005 in Spain and Britain respectively. Those terrorist acts increased the attacks on Muslims and gave rise to increased Islamophobia. Some eight years after ‘the shoe bomber’, on 25 December 2009 the ‘pants bomber’ Umar Farouk Abdulmulltallab tried to set himself alight on board flight 253 in Detroit. Such terrorist acts have simply justified in many quarters, particularly in the West, the continued need for greater and more stringent security checks at Western airports with new calls for full body scans to detect explosive devices, particularly after Abdulmulltallab’s abortive attempt.
The GWOT has replaced the Cold War and given the US ruling military and political elite a justification to extend their Monroe Doctrine to the entire planet. It has given rise to the manipulation of the media by reporters, television presenters and journalists who serve the interests of the war machine and the political classes. ‘Embedded journalists, a euphemism for those who spin fabrications and myths, simply condition the minds of ordinary people for further war and interventions that Western citizens are persuaded are necessary. Those Western journalists with a political conscience such as John Pilger, Naomi Wolf and their equivalents in the South such as Khadija Sharife and Olu Owoonor Gordon who speak the unpalatable truth to power are rare indeed.
The GWOT has catastrophically increased the cost of the empire. The US now spends US$700 billion annually on its military, which is as much money as the military expenditure of the rest of the world.
Malcolm X deemed the assassination of J.F. Kennedy in 1963 as a case of chickens coming home to roost. Were he alive in 2011, would he have said the same of 9/11? The denial among many Americans and people in the West of the fact that decades of imperialist policies in the Middle East, particularly the biased stance of successive American administrations towards Israel in the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine, the deliberate flouting of numerous UN Security Council resolutions by the state of Israel, as well as the presence of military bases in the holy land of Saudi Arabia, contributed to the unleashing of a ferocious political rage among fundamentalist Islamic elements in the Arab world who were the perpetrators of this heinous act. That even the 2004 official 9/11 report into the tragedy avoided the question of why the attack took place in the first place remains staggering.
Ten years later there has been no real significant development towards the realisation of a Palestinian state; Jewish settlers continue to build on Palestinian land; and US military troops remain firmly planted in the autocratic client-state of Saudi Arabia. In fact, Israel continues to act like a spoilt child of the US in its refusal to apologise to Turkey for what a recent UN report characterised as use of ‘excessive and unreasonable force’ to stop the Mavi Marmara flotilla that sought to break the Gaza blockade on 31 May 2010. Nine people were killed when Israeli commandos boarded the flotilla.
The sheer arrogance of the Israeli apartheid state continues to bleat that Israel has the right to maintain the naval blockade on Gaza as a ‘legitimate security measure’. For some in the South – that is, the majority of the world – and particularly the Arab world, this recent impunity of Israel not only breeds further grounds for future fundamentalists outraged by injustices against fellow Muslims in Gaza but also highlights America’s tolerance of Israel’s impunity.
WAR CANNOT PRODUCE PEACE
Ten years on, in the West there is an annual deluge of TV programmes commemorating 9/11 that do very little – if anything – critical and genuine reflection on the real causes of 9/11. Those shown in Britain simply amplify the lie that there was a pre-9/11 world and a post-9/11 world. This new historical turning point in some ways is true and untrue. Overall it is very simplistic. There continues to be a bigger and more dangerous reach of imperial powers in the world today. Such powers existed in the pre-9/11 world but have now extended their ideological justifications for carrying out ‘regime change’ by the sophisticated construction of what Milan Rai characterises in the case of Iraq as ‘a phantom menace’. The doctrine of ‘preemptive strikes’ will allow military hawks to create future phantom menaces to pursue their imperialist agendas around the world. This is the precedent stemming from 9/11 in our times.
However, another 9/11, as many have pointed out, was the overthrow of the popularly and democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile on 9 September 1973, which unleashed a vicious dictatorship led by the US-supported General Pinochet that endured for 17 years. Many innocent Chileans’ lives were lost during those years of butchery. Yet for many people in the West, the power of the Western propaganda machine that erases and exalts the histories and sufferings of some people more than others, there is only one 9/11 in the Western consciousness.
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail in 2007–08 Barack Obama pledged to end the war in Iraq. After winning political office he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize only to escalate the numbers of American troops sent to Afghanistan in 2009. Yet peace remains unachievable in Afghanistan while American troops remain there. Ten years on, it seems the American people and their government continue to fail to understand this.
To date, victimisation along with growing intolerance towards Islam and Muslims was demonstrated in the hysteria among some Americans towards the proposed construction in August 2010 of what right-wing extremist forces dubbed ‘the Ground Zero mosque’. The truth is that the proposed building would be a multi-faith community centre with an Islamic prayer area which is to be located two blocks north of the site where the Twin Towers stood. The centre would not be seen from the Twin Towers which is now referred to in the American press as ‘hallowed ground’. According to a CNN poll, 70 per cent of Americans opposed the multi-faith centre with only 29 per cent approving it.
Despite this fact, prominent republicans such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin vociferously protested against the construction. They were joined by right-wing zealots and evangelical Christian groups who launched a sustained campaign against it. A Florida-based pastor, Terry Jones, inflamed the sensitive matter further by threatening to burn copies of the Qu’ran to coincide with the ninth anniversary of 9/11 to demonstrate his opposition to the centre and his insistence that it be moved. He suspended the plan in the face of condemnation from Obama, the Pentagon, the State Department and international outrage.
In the wake of the posturing right-wing pastor came the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 by American troops. This may have quenched the American desire for revenge, but there is the prospect that it may also further radicalise fundamentalists in the Arab world to replace their assassinated leader and continue his mission as devout heirs to bin Laden’s vision and objectives. For some Americans the assassination gave rise to a groundswell of patriotic triumphalism, particularly around the site of the former Twin Towers, as hundreds celebrated the announcement of bin Laden’s execution.
Peace for Americans and all who cherish human life cannot exist when America continues to possess over 200,000 troops stationed in 144 countries around the world. Some will seek to justify this military presence, yet as America and other Western countries such as Britain continue to face a deepening capitalist economic crisis Americans need to ask themselves if they can afford to live in a state of permanent war. Similarly, the British need to ask themselves why it is that, whilst austerity measures are imposed on the working people of Britain, Prime Minster David Cameron can justify spending taxpayers’ money to bomb Libyans. The power of the ruling classes has always been to disconnect what is happening at home from what is happening abroad. The truth is that they are inextricably linked.
THE FARCE OF WESTERN DEMOCRACY AND ‘RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT’
Perhaps the only lesson the British establishment has learnt from the 10 years since 9/11 is that authorisation and sanction for their wars in the UN Security Council is necessary to legitimate their actions before the public. Unlike his obnoxious predecessor, Tony Blair, Cameron’s government, along with France and Lebanon, received legal support on 17 March 2011 for Security Council Resolution 1973 for NATO-led military action to assist the Libyan rebels. The resolution also demanded ‘an immediate ceasefire’ and imposed a no-fly zone ostensibly to protect civilians. The reality is the responsibility to protect doctrine is a dangerous 21st century version of the 19th century ‘white man’s burden’ that was used as an ideological cloak to colonise Africa.
The new mantra of responsibility to protect (R2P) has seemingly replaced the alleged ‘humanitarian intervention’ of Kosovo in the late 1990s. Both mask political and economic agendas of the Western powers. In addition, the selective use of the no-fly zone policy by the UN Security members smacks of double standards. In the Gaza strip during the winter of 2008–09, not one member of the UN Security Council called for a no-fly zone when phosphorous bombs were used by the Israeli military against the people of Gaza.
Whether it be Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, the constant rhetoric of Western leaders and policy-makers that their involvement in other people’s countries is about bringing democracy and freedom, as in Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq, is a great farce. As the late Sierra Leonean journalist and pan-Africanist Olu Awoonor Gordon argued: ‘The West is not interested in democracy. The West is interested in political control. If the West is interested in democracy why have they never raised the question of democracy with the King of Saudi Arabia?’
The question can also be asked about why Blair and David Cameron never raised the question of Gaddafi’s democratic credentials since the rapprochement in March 2004 between him and then British prime minister Tony Blair. Just as oil contracts for Britain were the objective of Blair’s willingness to shake hands with Gaddafi in his tent in the Libyan desert, oil contracts are the real motive for the Cameron government’s desire to oust him. Recently unearthed secret files show that Blair insisted on meeting the Libyan leader in his tent for the photo opportunity it would afford journalists. Such is the political vanity and showmanship of Blair’s missionary zeal to embrace a dictator whose contradictory record in Africa has also contributed to create Africa as the ‘scar on the conscience of the world’ that Blair bemoans. In the outrageous hypocrisy and recent political somersaulting that has characterised British foreign policy towards Gaddafi, the British have always been keen adherents to the dictum that in politics one does not have permanent friends but permanent interests to be pursued by any means necessary.
MILITARISATION AND THE LATEST TERRORIST TRAGEDY
In the wake of 9/11 we have seen efforts to re-colonise Africa and extend the militarisation of US foreign policy to the continent. This was carried out by the Bush regime under the ideological pretext of the GWOT extending to Africa’s Sahel region, Gulf of Guinea and the Horn of Africa. The establishment of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) on 6 February 2007 ostensibly to address US interests of counter-terrorism, contain armed conflict, arrest the spread of HIV/AIDS and reduce international crime conceals America’s need to protect its growing need for alternative oil resources to be found in Africa, which China’s growing presence threatens.
A recent tragic event to remind us of the agonising ties to 9/11 is the gruesome massacre of 77 people in Oslo on 22 July this year. Initially the Western media presumptuously jumped to the conclusion – without any concrete evidence – that the perpetrators were al-Qaeda operators, only to find the terrorist was one of their own. However, it is also interesting that most of the Western media coverage of this horrific event tended not to cast the perpetrator, a blond blue-eyed well-educated Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik, as a ‘terrorist’ but as a ‘Christian fundamentalist’. Is it the case that in the Western mind ‘terrorists’ are only brown- or black-skinned people? Surely Timothy McVeigh, perpetrator of the 1995 Oklahama City bombing, and Breivik necessitate that we understand that ‘terrorists’ come in all ethnicities and, more importantly, that we try to understand the motives of their dastardly acts in order to counter them.
In the aftermath of the cold-blooded shootings, Breivik claims to have launched his vile actions ‘to save Europe from Muslim takeover’ because he believes there is a conspiracy to impose multiculturalism on the continent and destroy Western civilisation. His anti-immigrant politics chimes with the politics of many right-wing and anti-immigrant parties and policies in Sweden, Holland, Italy, Austria and elsewhere in the last decade. For example, in Britain since October 2009 the English Defence League (EDL), a far right-wing group that openly states it is opposed to Islamism and Islamic extremism in England, has used street marches to disseminate and publicise its toxic views. In the last two years they have organised 40 marches in Britain and invariably all have ended in violence often against the organisation Unite Against Fascism (UAF). The latter was formed in late 2003 as a direct response to the electoral successes of the racist and right-wing British National Party (BNP) in Britain.
In addition, mainstream European leaders such as David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi and others have added to the mood of ethnic and cultural intolerance and anti-immigration by condemning multiculturalism as having failed. Contributing to the generation of anti-Muslim sentiments in Britain and across the European continent is the populist press that presents all Muslims without distinction of their nationality (that is whether they come from Turkey, Tunisia or Pakistan) as one homogenous group of people without class or political differences.
The response of some Muslims has made them more defensive about aspects of their culture such as wearing the hijab, particularly in Britain. In France the hijab and other conspicuous religious symbols were banned in all state schools in 2003. The action was supported by two-thirds of the left-wing National Front and the centre-right. Needless to say, France’s Muslim population of 6 million feel under threat and under scrutiny whilst the justification given by the French government is to enforce secularism.
Ten years since 9/11 the challenges of resisting deep-seated prejudice in the configuration of Islamophobia and continued racism against people of African descent – which manifests in the high number of black males dying in police custody in the UK – are symptomatic of the domestic and foreign policies that are often the twin sides of the same coin of imperialist nations. In pursuing such policies, people of colour continue to be perceived as ‘the other’ and not fully human. Similarly, the continued violence of occupation in Palestine, the continued hypocrisy and double standards of Western foreign policies that mask current imperialist agendas, obviously make for a radically unstable world. Despite the fact that Barack Obama pledged to close down Guantánamo Bay during his campaign, it remains open, with individuals who are in the eyes of the American administration guilty before proven innocent of their links with Al-Qaeda.
Intensifying the struggles to challenge all these political and social injustices is the task of all those desiring genuine justice, freedom and equality for all in our world.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Dr Ama Biney is a pan-Africanist and historian living in the United Kingdom.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Global NATO and the recolonisation of Africa
Lessons from the Libyan intervention
If there was any uncertainty about the real mission of the United States, France, Britain and other members of NATO in Libya, these doubts were clarified with the nature of the military campaign against the people of Libya that had been orchestrated under the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. It was a new kind of war, using third party forces in order to silence the global peace forces who were opposed to further military intervention. A robust propaganda and disinformation campaign by the corporate media covered up the real content of what was happening.
The economic crisis inside the Eurozone was too deep, however, and some of the members of NATO were hesitant about this recolonisation of Africa. France was desperate to get in on the act of intensifying the exploitation of African resources. France had not been a big player in Libya (a former colony of Italy) which until recently was Africa’s fourth-largest oil producer, and possessing one of the continent’s largest oil reserves of some 44 billion barrels – more than Nigeria or Algeria. France was also aware that Libya sits on the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, an immensely vast underground sea of fresh water. The government of Libya had invested US$25 billion in the Great Man-made River Project, a complex 4,000km long water pipeline buried beneath the desert that could transport two million cubic metres of water a day
The energetic activities of Nicolas Sarkozy in guiding the military intervention took centre stage, while the US military could claim to ‘lead from behind.’ When France called a celebratory conference of ambassadors to rally them for the new imperial vision, Mr Sarkozy said Libya proved ‘a strong contrast’ to past European weakness, and justified his decision to integrate France into NATO’s military command in 2009. The nature of this war organised from the air with proxy armies and private military contractors showed the way for dictatorships like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fight for ‘democracy.’
This intervention clarified for many African military forces that their alliance with the United States and France will not spare them when it is in the interest of the NATO forces to dispense with former allies. Muammar Gaddafi had enabled the imperial forces by financing their governments, purchasing junk as weaponry and cooperating with their intelligence agencies. The news about the cooperation of Gaddafi with British and US intelligence services along with their collaboration in relation to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (translated as torture), the exchange of information and the secret transfers of opponents and ‘terror’ suspects should clarify to all that Muammar Gaddafi was no anti-imperialist. More damaging has been the most recent news of the regime’s collaboration with human traffickers to use African immigrants as political football in his conflict with Europe. When the rebels were at the gates of Tripoli, the Gaddafi government worked with human traffickers to release African migrants who wanted to go to Europe. Hundreds left Libya then and drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. (See ‘Gaddafi planned to flood Europe with migrants as final revenge’).
But the crux of the matter of the relationship between Africa and Libya can now be seen in the killing of Africans in Libya on the grounds that they were and are mercenaries. These racist actions by the so-called ‘rebels’ were reported from the start of this ‘humanitarian’ intervention but at the point when these hodge-podge forces entered Tripoli, there was fresh evidence of the wanton killings of black Africans. Africans who escaped the pogroms reported the killings and this information had been in the public domain for months. Now it seems the world is paying attention after Amnesty International put out a report that Africans are being killed in racist attacks. So pronounced have been these racist killings that liberal organs such as the New York Times had to write an editorial on the killings. There has been no word from the United States or the information section of the AFRICOM. Though there have been with small stories in the British press, when British prime minister David Cameron, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and other NATO celebrants made their flying victory visit to Libya, they were silent on these racist attacks against black Africans as they shuttled between Tripoli and Benghazi trying to iron out how to cut French oil companies into the restructuring of the oil industry in Libya.
The African Union has condemned the racist attacks and maintained that political negotiations are still necessary. Jean Ping, chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, decried the attacks on black Africans and reiterated the reasons why the African Union wanted to see an inclusive government in Libya. Jean Ping declared, the ‘Blacks are being killed. Blacks are having their throats slit. Blacks are accused of being mercenaries. Do you think it's normal in a country that's a third black that blacks are confused with mercenaries?’
Ping continued, ‘There are mercenaries in Libya, many of them are black, but there are not only blacks and not all blacks there are mercenaries. Sometimes, when they are white, they call them “technical advisors”.’
This reminder, that Libya is in Africa and that a third of the country is black is for those forces who are celebrating the success of a NATO mission to protect Africans which has ended up killing Africans. Africans do not consider the NATO mission a success. In fact, this has been a disaster for peace and reconstruction in Africa. The Russians and Chinese do not consider this operation a success but the leaders of Africa and the leaders of the BRICS societies have awoken too late to the new form of imperial intervention using Global NATO.
The one positive impact of this new imperial adventure is to send alarm bells among all of the military forces in Africa aligned to the West. The other impact is to alert the popular forces to the reality that governments with big armies are literally ‘paper tigers.’ Proper organising, political education, and disciplined activity by the working people can shift the international balance of power and rid Africa of other long serving despots. There is a new scramble for Africa and the progressive forces will have to learn the lessons from the new multilateral imperial interventions that are now being planned by Global NATO.
GLOBAL NATO AND THE INTERVENTION IN LIBYA
The history of NATO and the history of Libya are intertwined in many ways. It was two years after the formation of the North American Treaty Organization that Libya became independent in 1951. However, for the Europeans the strategic importance of Libya during the Second World War and the memory of the siege of Tobruk were too fresh in their minds for NATO to give up Libya entirely. The compromise was that NATO and the US would maintain a military presence. The US established a base called Wheelus Air Base in Libya. This base was called a ‘Little America’ until the US was asked to leave after Gaddafi seized power in 1969. The US had been scheming to get back into Libya since then. For a short while Gaddafi was supported as an anti-communist stalwart, but later he became a useful nuisance shifting as friend and foe over the years. As the US fabricated the myth of al Qaeda in the Maghreb, cooperation was extended to this leader but Gaddafi was opposed to the establishment of US and French military bases in Africa. Now we are informed through the military gossip sheet Stars and Stripes that NATO is considering the establishment of an air squadron in Africa to assist African governments. This is how it was reported in ‘Stars and Stripes’ (29 August 2011).
‘While not formally assigned to AFRICOM, the squadron has been formed to conduct missions primarily in Africa, with a focus on building the air mobility capacity of African militaries.’
The next question that was posed by peace activists was whether this was a prelude for the building of another AFRICOM and NATO facility in Africa.
NATO had been formed as an alliance ostensibly to defend Western Europe against the Soviet Union. Charles De Gaulle had pulled France out of this alliance in 1966 after it became clear that this military alliance was dominated by the USA and Britain (supporting their military industries). Usually, when an alliance is formed for a specific purpose such as halting the spread of communism, that alliance is folded when the mission is complete. Hence, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it was expected that the mission of NATO would be scaled down.
Instead, NATO has expanded seeking to encircle Russia by expanding its membership to include former members of the Warsaw Pact countries. For over 79 days NATO bombed Kosovo in 1999 as it gave itself a new mission to expand US military power right up to the doorstep of Moscow. Gingerly, NATO expanded under President Clinton from 12 members to 16, then to 19, then to 26 by 2004, and by 2009 to 28 members. Despite vocal opposition from Russia, the discussion of expanding NATO proceeded to develop the idea of Global NATO.
After Charles De Gaulle had left NATO in 1966, Nicolas Sarkozy rejoined in 2009. France had been working within Europe to challenge the dollar and the US on a global scale but after the reactions about ‘freedom fries’ during the Iraq war, French military planners retreated and decided to throw their lot in with the crusaders in Washington. This new posture towards the crusaders and neoconservatives in the USA was also a nod to the growing strength of the Jean-Marie le Pen and the National Front type organisations in France and Europe.
Using the War on Terror and the wars in Afghanistan as the justification, the rationale of the militarists for a global role of NATO began to take shape and the idea of NATO was debated in military journals. One of the writers on this concept was Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to NATO. This was an ambassador who had understood the long history of financial and military cooperation between the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. In an era when capital was truly transnational, and the hedge fund managers and oil companies had no loyalty to a particular country, international capitalists wanted a new military force, mobile and well equipped for the new scramble for African resources.
In one such musing by the new defence specialists is the thinking that, ‘The concept of a Global NATO is used above all in connection with two leitmotifs – on the one hand the idea of the alliance becoming a global strategic actor (functional globalization) and on the other the notion of a NATO whose membership is in principle global (institutional globalization). The two dimensions can, however, scarcely be separated from one another but instead are intertwined.’
This discussion under the idea of the ‘institutional globalization of NATO’ maintained that the security threats to capitalism were global and that NATO should consider itself as a ‘concert of democracies’ keeping order internationally. Within these journals the idea was floated that NATO should be expanded to include Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and possibly Brazil.
After encircling Russia the clear posture was for the encirclement of China.
The rationale was simply that the ‘operational level of NATO is the entire globe.’ In 2002, NATO had declared, ‘to carry out the full range of its missions, NATO must be able to field forces that can move quickly to wherever they are needed, sustain operations over distance and time, and achieve their objectives.’
Despite these lofty positions of the strategic planners, NATO was bogged down in Afghanistan. The prolonged crisis of capitalism inside the Western world meant that citizens had no appetite for an expanded imperial role, until Gaddafi gave NATO the excuse to seek to operationalise the idea of Global NATO by promising to kill the citizens of Benghazi who he called rats and vermin.
ENTER SARKOZY – THE NEW SAVIOUR OF NATO
After the embarrassment of the support for the genocidaires in Rwanda in 1994, the French military establishment had taken a low profile and sought to gain respectability for its military interventions in Africa by seeking international mandates. For over forty years France had intervened militarily in Africa, because Africa was central to its entire military strategy. Without the wealth of Africa, France would be a minor power with as much influence as Austria. French imperialism was particularly aggressive in Africa. When the United States decided to compete with France by establishing the Africa Crisis Response Initiative (a precursor to the US Africa Command), France objected. Soon, the French understood the hegemonic intentions of Rumsfeld and Cheney so the French cooperated in operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all the while seething that Rwanda had left the umbrella of francophonie. By the time of the establishment of the US Africa Command, France was cooperating fully with the United States while stepping up its cultural and commercial presence in Africa.
One golden opportunity for France to put the image of defenders of genocidaires behind them came in Cote D ‘Ivorie when France sought a UN mandate to maintain its military forces in that country, a force that had occupied that African country for 40 years. In 2011, Laurent Gbagbo became another enabler of overt French intervention by his intransigence over vacating the presidency. Sarkozy eagerly went in to ‘restore democracy.’
As the self-declared gendarme of Europe, France was taken aback by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in January. The French offered support for the leader of Tunisia, Ben Ali but the removal was too swift and soon after the Egyptian revolution changed the military balance in world politics. NATO panicked and Sarkozy took the initiative to mobilise for the intervention in Libya when Gaddafi gave the Europeans the opening by his wild statements. The Egyptian revolution had far reaching consequences for Israel and for Europe. The Libyan intervention served many purposes, gaining more unlimited access to oil and water in Libya while standing poised to stab the Egyptian revolution in the back.
For decades, France had mooted the idea of a Mediterranean Union to extend the power of France in North Africa. France had worked closely with the monarchy in Morocco to block the independence of Western Sahara and coveted the wealth of the region. More importantly, French oil companies had been left behind after Gaddafi opened up the petroleum sector of Libya for western firms. Italian, British and US oil majors were competing with Russian, Chinese, Indian and Turkish interests. German industrial and financial power was stronger in Libya than French. Sarkozy wanted to change all of that when faced with the most serious banking crisis in France.
When the February 17 uprisings erupted in Libya, French intelligence was alert and Sarkozy mobilised the British and later the US Africa Command to intervene using the UN formulation of Responsibility to Protect, under the cover of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. China, Russia and Brazil acted irresponsibly, by either abstaining in the vote or sanctioning the vote with their silence. South Africa and Nigeria (under heavy pressure from the Obama White House) voted for the resolution to establish a no-fly zone. South Africa later backtracked opposing the bombing of Libya claiming that the NATO forces had gone beyond the mandate of the UN Security Council Resolution. Better late than never, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Africa maintained a principled position and led the position that the roadmap of the African Union was the only way forward for a resolution of the internal political problems in Libya. But France and Britain were salivating over a re-division of the oil resources of Libya.
This intervention was under the umbrella of the UN and so this was another foray of Global NATO. Yet, most NATO members understood the reasons for Sarkozy’s energy. Of the 28 members of NATO, the majority refused to participate in this attack. The Prime Minister of Poland declared that the attack on Libya was for oil. There were only eight members (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, UK and the United States) that participated in this operation (called United Protector). The members could not even agree on a command structure so the US put up the Africa Command as the Front and called their operation, Operation Odyssey Dawn. The French called their action, Opération Harmattan. The British called their involvement Operation Ellamy while the Canadians termed theirs, Operation Mobile.
The Germans understood the double-dealing of Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany even pulled its crews out of NATO support aircraft. Turkey was opposed to the NATO operation and the dysfunction of this operation became evident after one month. Recriminations started between these ‘partners’ with some members claiming that others were not pulling their weight. Space does not allow for a full examination of the thousands of sorties of NATO in Libya after seven months. The full day-to-day roster of their military and naval operations to oust Gaddafi is in the public domain on the internet. African popular leaders can read the day-to-day strategic operations to see the full weakness of NATO. The Chinese have written on the dysfunction of NATO and one writer An Huihou wrote that the operation in Libya was ‘Not a real success for NATO.’ This Chinese writer called for negotiations but the Chinese political leadership publicly support the roadmap of the African Union. More importantly, while the Chinese pulled their citizens out of Libya, there was not even a word of protest from China over the killing of Africans in Africa when the imperial forces were using a UN mandate called Responsibility to Protect. In order to pacify the Chinese leadership, the energetic Sarkozy had a flying visit to Beijing, promising that Chinese contracts would be honoured.
We will have to revisit this aspect of the war at another moment, but for this submission it is important to understand the new forms of intervention.
A NEW KIND OF IMPERIAL INTERVENTION
It must be stated that the mobilisation of the international peace forces against NATO has always been a consideration for the planning of Operation United Protector. It is now time to place the opposition to militarism with clear focus on the private military corporations who act outside of the law. Inside the United States, the then Defense Secretary, Robert Gates told West Point cadets in March that, ‘In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined’. The Pentagon was afraid of being bogged down and although the peace movement had the Obama administration on the defensive, some sections this movement did not distance itself from Gaddafi while they condemned the killing of innocent civilians by NATO jets.
European workers, faced with the double dip recession where the banks were calling on the governments to impose austerity measures, were lukewarm toward the Libyan operation, so the invaders had to find a novel way for intervening. This intervention then took the form of bombings by NATO, on the ground special forces from the French and British commandos with air and ground support from Qatar.
On 4 September 2011, the New York Times reported the coordination in this way, ‘The United States provided intelligence, refueling and more precision bombing than Paris or London want to acknowledge. Inevitably, then, NATO air power and technology, combined with British, French and Qatari “trainers” working “secretly” with the rebels on the ground, have defeated the forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.’ Other newspaper accounts reported that ‘former soldiers from an elite British commando unit, the Special Air Service, and other private contractors from Western countries were on the ground in the Libyan city of Misrata.’
The Guardian in England said contractors were helping NATO identify possible targets in the heavily contested city and passing this information, as well as information about the movements of Gaddafi’s forces, to a NATO command centre in Naples, Italy. The newspaper reported that ‘a group of six armed Westerners had been filmed by the Al Jazeera TV network talking to rebels in Misrata; the men fled after realizing they were being filmed.’
Initially, the United States Africa Command took credit for the NATO operations in Libya, but when it seemed as if the entire operation was bogged down, there were efforts to bring in Special Forces and private security personnel using Qatar as the front and paymaster. Indeed, the use of fronts such as the Emir of Qatar pointed to a new form of global militarism. Blackwater, (now called Xe) the US private military firm for hire, had moved to establish its headquarters in the Emirates, specifically Abu Dhabi. In a detailed article in the New York Times entitled, ‘Blackwater World Wide’, we were given one window into the various front companies of Blackwater and the integrated nature of the CIA/Blackwater operations. We were then told that Blackwater did not want to recruit Muslims because Muslims would be reluctant to kill other Muslims. When the rebels entered Tripoli, the same talking heads in Washington that were opposed to the intervention were now praising this new kind of cooperation between the US military and Global NATO
Future researchers on the ‘special operators on the ground’ in Libya will be able to list the names of the Private Military Contractors who were involved in this war. When the leaders of the National Transitional Council needed money to pay the private contractors and to bribe regional leaders, the Global Nato diplomats promptly called for the unfreezing of the assets of Libya, even while the African Union was protesting the killing of black Africans.
LESSONS FOR PROGRESSIVE AFRICANS
In less than three weeks, the General Assembly of the United Nations will meet and the leaders of Global NATO will seek to silence the members of the African Union. The African Union has been lobbying the Group of 77 as they seek to bring to the attention of the world the reality that the UN Security Council mandate of responsibility to protect did not extend to black Africans. Even at this late moment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in South Africa is correct to stick to the call for the African Union roadmap. Experience elsewhere in Burundi and Uganda after wars of intervention showed that it is only the long-term and pedantic work for peace that can end the fighting. There must be negotiations with an international peacekeeping force that excludes the eight NATO countries that violated the mandate of the Security Council. The National Transitional Council is deeply divided and negotiations will be needed so that they do not kill each other as they already started to do when they killed Abdel-Fattah Younis, the general who had defected from Gaddafi to the Benghazi side. It is only a matter of time before it becomes clear how Abdelhakim Belhadj (sometimes written Belhaj) of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), graduated from detention at Guantanamo Bay to be one of the ‘rebel’ leaders and leader of the Tripoli Military Council. Anyone who followed the US destabilisation of Somalia can understand how those who are one day called the worst terrorists are the next day the best allies of the USA.
Ultimately, it is not in the interests of Global NATO for the fighting to end in Libya insofar as the lack of clarity on the future of the Egyptian revolution will require imperial forces to stab the revolution in the back. This is where Qatar and Saudi Arabia have proven their use for the western ‘concert of democracies.’ Qatar in Libya and Saudi Arabia in Bahrain have shown the world that the intervention of the West was not for humanitarian reasons.
Muammar Gaddafi had enabled the imperial intervention by his close collaboration with their intelligence agencies. These intelligence forces used their closeness to fight and remove his family from power after 42 years. During the initial stages of the integrated Qatar/special forces/private military contractors assault on Tripoli, the spokesperson for Gaddafi boasted that the regime had 65,000 armed personnel ready to defend Tripoli. Yet, when the Special Forces of NATO and Qatar showed up in Tripoli, the Gaddafi forces were nowhere to be seen. This is because the ‘paramilitary forces of Libya under Gaddafi were better at internal repression than in dealing with foreign threats. Libya had a number of paramilitary forces and security services. They acted as a means of controlling the power of the regular military and providing Gaddafi and his family with security.’ Gaddafi was a leader with billions of dollars who did not know how to buy weapons and maintain them. Thus when a real war emerged, Gaddafi who had been spending about a billion dollars per year on weapons was full of bluster but had no real army. Western military analysts had studied Gaddafi very closely and had told anyone who wanted to read that,
‘Libya had to keep many of its aircraft and over 1000 of its tanks in storage. Its other army equipment purchases require far more manpower than its small active army and low quality reserves can provide. Its overall ration of weapons to manpower is absurd, and Libya has compounded its problems by buying a wide diversity of equipment types that make it all but impossible to create an effective training and support base.’
The same military analysts who were writing on the absurdity of the military planning and arms purchases of Gaddafi came from countries that were competing to sell Gaddafi new weapons. Today we are told that the National Transitional Council needs new weapons.
In another offering it will be necessary to fully examine the lessons of the NATO intervention for the African freedom struggle. It will be necessary, then, to sum up the Gaddafi role in Africa and the African Union. Until that time, it is sufficient to say that the operations of Global NATO has awakened many leaders to the reality of the ways in which third parties and private military forces will be used to invade Africa. Even the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo has had to speak out forcefully against NATO in Libya. While these leaders are speaking, the rank and file in Africa are paying attention to the fact that France, Britain and the USA will go to all lengths to invade Africa in the new scramble for resources. General Carter Ham of AFRICOM has already travelled to Nigeria to enact the drama on the stage that had been set up by former US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell who predicted that Nigeria will break up within 16 years. General Carter Ham urged partnership between the government of Nigeria and AFRICOM knowing full well that such a partnership would be to fulfil the wishes of those who do not want to see the unity and peace of Nigeria and Africa.
China, Russia, Brazil and India will have to make a choice. They will either be integrated into the spoils of the current scramble for land, oil water and seeds or will join with the people of Africa to democratise the United Nations and support the forces of peace and reconstruction. China has sent one signal by becoming the principal paymaster for Europe becoming the stopgap for the crisis in the Eurozone.
Africans may believe in Ubuntu but they will never forget. The day will arise when the idea of Responsibility to Protect will be used by a democratised United Nations.
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* Horace Campbell is professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’. See www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Witnessing the transition to fear in Tripoli
Amidst all the media furore about the fall of Tripoli from the grasp of the Libyan government, it's not easy to get a clear picture of what things look like under the new rulers. Upon being released from five days of entrapment in the Rixos hotel with 35 other foreign journalists, it was hard to believe that the streets I was driving through were the same ones I had become familiar with during the month I had spent in the capital.
The previously bustling roads with families rushing around to-ing and fro-ing from the beach and getting ready for the meal to break the fast were empty, the green flags replaced by rebel ones, and the sparse checkpoints previously run by male and female volunteers, i.e. residents with Kalashnikovs, had been replaced by checkpoints every 100 or so metres, manned by tanks and exclusively male fighters holding sophisticated weapons supplied by the worlds most powerful military force, NATO.
The proud young black Libyans protecting their neighbourhoods were gone. Later we would see the images of them being rounded up and put on pickup trucks, a sight that in the previous months had been confined to places like Benghazi and Misrata. These are the victims of the claim that Gaddafi had hired mercenaries from the African continent, a claim which has been profusely rejected by human rights organisations as lacking any evidence. But in the new Libya they are some of the first – along with those from the largest tribes, Wafalla, Washafana, Zlitan and Tarhouna – suspected to be supporting Muammar Gaddafi, a crime punishable by death and much worse.
The Red Cross convoy transporting us pulled into the Corinthia hotel. When I had stayed there on a previous trip just a month before, just two or three armed guards manned the entrance. This time it was overrun with men wielding weapons sent from NATO and Qatar and just a handful of swamped and exhausted staff remained.
Later, I saw some Libyan faces I recognised, their eyes looked filled with trauma. ‘How are you?’ I asked one. ‘He is still in our hearts,’ she responded. Later when we had more time to talk in privacy she broke down, apologising as she cried. She said it was impossible to talk to anyone, ‘Libya is like our mother, but we can't talk to our mother anymore’. A Wafalla woman from the tribe’s area of Beni Walid, she knew her and her family could be rounded up at any second, simply because of the Wafalla’s steadfast backing of whom they call their ‘guide’ – Muammar Gaddafi. ‘Beni Walid people have always been very proud, generous, humble and dignified people,’ she said. ‘Under that [the rebel] flag of King Idris, we had to kiss the feet of the king before we could say a word to him, we have gone back to those times.’
She was one of the many who warned me to keep my head down and get out as soon as possible. I had been one of the few reporters that focused on the effects of NATO’s bombing campaign in the country and had tried to highlight the million marches and mass tribal conferences in favour of the Libyan government that indicated it was not quite as unpopular within Libya as it had been portrayed to be.
I had also tried to expose the links of the rebels to Al Qaeda, which NATO was on the other hand fighting in places like Afghanistan. Since the admission by the rebels that the assassination of former rebel commander Abd al Fatah Younis was carried out by Al Qaeda-linked groups within their ranks, the presence of the extremists threatened to become clearer as the then Libyan government prepared to release files and phone recordings exposing Al Qaeda’s involvement in the crisis and how the West had worked with them.
But following the fall of Tripoli only unflinching acceptance of the new Libya would guarantee your safety. My Wafalla friend urged me to get home and speak about what was happening.
Fighting still raged on the roads out of the country; they were particularly unsafe for anyone without rebel protection so my only prospect of getting home was via the Mediterranean.
For days this was a very slim prospect – the commotion between the rebels that would frequently break out in the Corinthia hotel over who was the real authority, extended not just to the harbour via which I needed to escape, but to much of the city. For four days other foreigners and I would be told every few hours we would be leaving, only for the person who had given the go ahead in the harbour to disappear and be replaced.
With so many different groups, like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya and those loyal to the defectors from Gaddafi’s government, the western forces now openly on the ground seemed out of their depth.
On my second day in the Corinthia, three butch British guys strutted around insisting they were now in charge of the security of the hotel. One of them told me he had come over from Kabul, which was ‘getting a lot worse’. ‘Do you think this is going to become like Kabul?’ I asked, ‘It’s very likely, with so many different groups fighting for power’, he replied.
Meanwhile the cost in lives lost in the fall of Tripoli has received little investigation. The last concrete figures came from the then existing Ministry of Health on the second day of fighting in Tripoli, which put the death toll in 12 hours in the capital alone at 1,300 with 900 injured. The Ministry reported that in the previous day over 300 people had been murdered and 500 injured. This surpasses the 1,400 massacred during the two-week onslaught by Israel’s Operation Cast Lead on Gaza, which sparked outrage worldwide.
After heavy bombing and attacks by Apaches in Tripoli’s poorest neighbourhood and one of the last areas to fall, Abu Saleem, eye witnesses reported seeing masses of bodies covering the streets. A relative of one of those feared to be amongst the carnage visited the local hospital where he said just one doctor and two nurses were left. Like masses of the capital’s workers, many hospital staff had fled, were in hiding or perhaps dead. When he asked to see the bodies, the guards told him there were none – his family fears they have been dumped in mass graves in locations that may for a long time be unknown.
This bloodbath does not fit into the narrative of a ‘free Libya’ in which civilians are ‘protected’, but in such an atmosphere charged with the hunger for control at any cost, it is near impossible for those on the ground to be honest about the images before their eyes, while they remain in rebel-held territory.
One young armed rebel donning the French flag on his fatigues crept up behind me and asked me where I was from. ‘London,’ I replied, ‘Ah Cameron, we love Cameron,’ he beamed. I forced a smile, to even criticise my own prime minister would betray disloyalty to Libya’s new rulers.
In the harbour as we looked at the ship that had been waiting to be relieved of its supplies and replaced with passengers, an Italian commented that it was like ‘a kid running a university’ as the new people in charge worked out how to operate the cranes and other machinery necessary to keep the ships coming and going.
We were told that ship may not be able to leave for another five to ten days and the only option for exit by sea was a 20-yard long fishing boat for 12 people lacking most safety equipment, like diving gear.
43 of us prepared to board. The rebel then in charge of monitoring our boat checked our identification repeatedly over four hours insisting that no Russians, Serbians or Ukranians would be allowed to leave. Neither would a Cuban and Ecuadorian citizen. Their countries relations had been too good with Muammar Gaddafi during the crisis.
Finally at about midnight, we were all allowed on, except for one Russian man.
As the sounds of tanks and firefights and the smell of death that filled the air grew more and more distant, I remembered the peaceful, welcoming and safe city I had driven into.
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* Lizzie Phelan is an independent journalist and commentator who reported from Tripoli during NATO’s bombing campaign and takeover of the capital. She can be contacted at phelanlizzie[AT]gmail.com.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
NATO’s war on Libya is an attack on African development
AFRICOM and the neocolonialists
‘Africa the key to global economic growth’. This was a refreshingly honest recent headline from the Washington Post, but hardly one that qualifies as news. African labour and resources – as any decent economic historian will tell you – has been key to global economic growth for centuries.
When the Europeans discovered America 500 years ago, their economic system went viral. Increasingly, European powers realised that the balance of power at home would be dictated by the strength they were able to draw from their colonies abroad. Imperialism (AKA capitalism) has been the fundamental hallmark of the world’s economic structure ever since.
For Africa, this has meant non-stop subjection to an increasingly systematic plunder of people and resources that has been unrelenting to this day. First was the brutal kidnapping of tens of millions of Africans to replace the indigenous American workforce that had been wiped out by the Europeans. The slave trade was devastating for African economies, which were rarely able to withstand the population collapse, but the capital it created for plantation owners in the Caribbean laid the foundations for Europe’s industrial revolution.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, as more and more precious materials were found in Africa (especially tin, rubber, gold and silver), the theft of land and resources ultimately resulted in the so-called scramble for Africa of the 1870s when, over the course of a few years, Europeans divided up the entire continent (with the exception of Ethiopia) amongst themselves. By this point, the world’s economy was increasingly becoming an integrated whole, with Africa continuing to provide the basis for European industrial development as Africans were stripped of their land and forced down gold mines and onto rubber plantations.
After the Second World War, the European powers, weakened by years of unremitting industrial slaughter of each another, contrived to adapt colonialism to the new conditions in which they found themselves. As liberation movements grew in strength, the European powers confronted a new economic reality: the cost of subduing the restless natives was starting to near the level of wealth they were able to extract from them.
Their favoured solution was what Kwame Nkrumah termed neocolonialism: handing over the formal attributes of political sovereignty to a trusted bunch of hand-picked cronies who would allow the economic exploitation of their countries to continue unabated. In other words, adapting colonialism so that Africans themselves were forced to shoulder the burden and cost of policing their own populations.
In practice, it was not that simple. All across Asia, Africa and Latin America, mass movements began to demand control of their own resources and in many places these movements managed to gain power sometimes through guerrilla struggle, sometimes through the ballot box. This led to vicious wars by the European powers now under the leadership of their upstart protégé, the USA, to destroy such movements. This struggle, not the so-called Cold War, is what defined the history of post-war international relations.
So far, neocolonialism has largely been a successful project for the Europeans and the US. Africa’s role as provider of cheap, often slave, labour and minerals has largely continued unabated. Poverty and disunity have been the essential ingredients that have allowed this exploitation to continue. However, both are now under serious threat.
Chinese investment in Africa over the past 10 years has been building up African industry and infrastructure in a way that may begin to seriously tackle the continent’s poverty. In China, these policies have brought about unprecedented reductions in poverty and have helped to lift the country into the position it will shortly hold as the world’s leading economic power. If Africa follows this model, or anything like it, the West’s 500-year plunder of Africa’s wealth may be nearing a close.
To prevent this threat of African development, the Europeans and the USA have responded in the only way they know how: militarily. Four years ago, the US set up a new command and control centre for the military subjugation of Africa, the so-called AFRICOM. The problem for the US was that no African country wanted to host them; indeed, until very recently, Africa was unique in being the only continent in the world without a US military base. And this fact is in no small part thanks to the efforts of the Libyan government.
Before Gaddafi’s revolution deposed the British-backed King Idris in 1969, Libya had hosted one of the world’s biggest US airbases, the Wheelus Air Base, but within a year of the revolution, it had been closed down and all foreign military personnel expelled. More recently, Gaddafi had been actively working to scupper AFRICOM.
African governments that were offered money by the US to host a base were typically offered double by Gaddafi to refuse it, and in 2008 this ad hoc opposition crystallised into a formal rejection of AFRICOM by the African Union.
Perhaps even more worrying for US and European domination of the continent were the huge resources that Gaddafi was channeling into African development. The Libyan government was by far the largest investor in Africa’s first ever satellite, launched in 2007, which freed Africa from US$500 million per year in payments to European satellite companies. Even worse for the colonial powers, Libya had allocated US$30 billion for the African Union’s three big financial projects aimed at ending African dependence on Western finance.
The African Investment Bank, with its headquarters in Libya, was to invest in African development at no interest, which would have seriously threatened the International Monetary Fund’s domination of Africa, a crucial pillar for keeping Africa in its impoverished position. And Gaddafi was leading the AU’s development of a new gold-backed African currency, which would have cut yet another of the strings that keep Africa at the mercy of the West, with US$42 billion already allocated to this project, again much of it by Libya.
NATO’s (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) war is aimed at ending Libya’s trajectory as a socialist, anti-imperialist, pan-Africanist nation in the forefront of moves to strengthen African unity and independence. The rebels have made clear their virulent racism from the very start of their insurrection, rounding up or executing thousands of black African workers and students. All the African development funds for the projects described above have been frozen by NATO countries and are to be handed over to their hand-picked buddies in the National Transitional Council (NTC) to spend instead on weapons to facilitate their war.
For Africa, the war is far from over. The African continent must recognise that NATO’s lashing-out is a sign of desperation, of impotence, of its inability to stop the inevitable rise of Africa on the world stage. Africa must learn the lessons from Libya, continue the drive towards pan-African unity and continue to resist AFRICOM. Plenty of Libyans will still be with them when they do so.
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* Dan Glazebrook writes for the Morning Star newspaper and is one of the coordinators of the British branch of the International Union of Parliamentarians for Palestine. He can be contacted at danglazebrook2000[at]yahoo.co.uk.
* This article was first published by Counterpunch.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Swaziland: 'Build an unstoppable tsunami for freedom!'
Over the past few days, the mass of the people of Swaziland: workers, students, women, rural and landless masses, churches and other faith-based organisations, social movements, NGOs and the rest of civil society networks have confronted the tinkhundla system on a scale unheard of before.
This week alone has seen an unprecedented 30,000-40,000 people fill the streets of our country to demand freedom. This must be the beginning of intensified action. As we regroup and organise for April next year and the third global week of protest in September 2012, let us mobilise even more. Let us build the profile of the global week to reach an unprecedented 100 cities around the world. Let our allies across the world build more chapters of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) to intensify the global offensive.
In resolute action, we have literally rendered the whole country ungovernable and tinkhundla system unworkable. We have demonstrated that our desire to destroy the system of royal oppression and build the foundations of a new and democratic society, as comprehensively articulated by our political program, The road map to a new and democratic Swaziland, is real. As we have always said, the unity of all progressive forces is a prerequisite for our freedom. Let us build more unity in action. Let us build more disciplined unity and cohesion within our ranks. And let us build an unstoppable tsunami for freedom.
The time has come to take the struggle to the comfort of the royal family and its friends, both national and international. The royal family cannot be at peace while we in the schools, townships, workplaces, institutions of learning and rural communities face naked brutality and the whole country is in flames. They must not be allowed to relax while we suffer. They must not be allowed to enjoy a good life when our children can’t go to school. They must not have the luxury of stealing our money and siphon it out of the country. We must use every means at our disposal to make their life difficult. They must not receive any bailouts until they commit to a process for democratisation.
Linked to that is the reality that the regime and its generals have resorted to martial law and full-scale repression against all forces for democracy, with PUDEMO and its auxiliaries as the prime targets, in an attempt to cow us into submission. We refuse to be intimidated and are daily getting more confident that the system is on its knees and we must make the final leap now.
By using all forms of struggle, occupying all frontiers of the revolution and closing all spaces internationally, we have thrown the tinkhundla regime into permanent disarray. It is for that reason that the people of Swaziland are now boldly declaring that the issue is not whether tinkhundla system will die or not, but the announcement of the funeral date is the issue. From the intensive care unit tinkhundla has gone straight to the mortuary and that is why we can no longer afford to delay its funeral. It is for that reason that we proclaim that today, the closing day of the second global week of action, must be a clear statement to all doubting Thomases that tinkhundla is no more and that the people are ready for power. We call on all our international friends to join us in this last mile to freedom.
We also send special greetings and salutations to all our comrades who shall be on the streets today throughout South Africa, having started with the well-organised march in Cape Town to the national parliament of South Africa and those in other parts of the world organised in more than 23 cities across the world. We can feel your presence here with us and are further inspired to act and sacrifice more for our cause.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)-led delegation and the humiliation and abuse it suffered at the hands of the brutal security forces are in our hearts at all times. By physically brutalising the COSATU leadership, the regime has shown that it has no respect even for the people who seek to assist in the current crisis. The regime has demonstrated for all to see that it is brutal, undemocratic, intolerant and arrogant. We hope the world has seen what this regime is capable of. It does not understand peaceful activity. It does not understand tolerance. All it knows is violence and more unprovoked violence.
We salute Swazis staying outside of the country for organising and joining activities as part of the global week. In particular, we salute the Swazi Diapora Forum for organising a very successful event on September 8 in Johannesburg. We salute the solidarity activities undertaken by the affiliates of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) during the week and we are also happy that the WFTU will be hosting an international solidarity conference on Swaziland in Strasbourg, France, on September 12-14.
We further take this opportunity to salute the mass of the people of Swaziland, particularly the coordinators of this highly successful global week of action, the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) under the leadership of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO). You have done us all proud and we shall always rally behind your proven coordination efforts in order to maximise the unity of our people.
PUDEMO salutes its members who came in their numbers throughout the country to be part of the protest actions. The regime has failed to kill the people’s movement. The people have unbanned PUDEMO. We salute the leaders of our trade union movement for cohesion and decisiveness. We salute the students and the youth.
As the people’s liberation movement we will be at the forefront until freedom comes.
The national momentum towards democracy is on course!
The time is now!
PUDEMO calls on the people to render the country ungovernable and make tinkhundla unworkable!
The people of Swaziland want democracy, freedom and they want it now!
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* Mario Masuku is president of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) of Swaziland.
* This article was first published by Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Palm oil fuels land grabs in Africa
The oil palm nursery occupies several hectares of newly cleared forest and fallow land in Sierra Leone. The nursery manager says that by 2012 he’ll have 540,000 oil palm seedlings here, enough to plant over 3,000 hectares. By 2017, the plan is to establish oil palm over 40,000 hectares that have been leased by a foreign investor for 45 years, with a possible extension of 21 more.
But for him, this is a ‘small’ plantation. He’s managed far larger ones in his native Malaysia. He says Sierra Leone has to start now to establish oil palm plantations because there is no more land in Malaysia and Indonesia.
By next year palm oil is forecast to be the world’s most produced and internationally traded edible oil. Apart from its use as a cooking oil, it’s also found in an astonishing range of processed foods and cosmetics. One in ten supermarket products [pdf] contains palm oil. Government targets for the use of agrofuels in Europe, China and North America are making palm oil, which can be used to produce biodiesel, an even hotter commodity. The burgeoning demand for palm oil is fuelling a war of words over its pros and cons, and fuelling a new scramble for land in Africa.
THE WAR OF WORDS
Malaysia and Indonesia currently account for about 83 per cent of production and 89 per cent of global exports of palm oil. But environmental and civil society groups have drawn world attention to the way that rainforests and peat-lands have been cleared in Southeast Asia for industrial-scale oil palm plantations, some intended to produce agrofuels purportedly intended to mitigate climate change even as they aggravate it.
Malaysia’s Palm Oil Council has been defending the industry, establishing The Oil Palm website to ‘educate others’ on the benefits of palm oil. There is even a Oil Truth Foundation website, filled with vitriolic attacks on organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, which have been critical of industrial palm oil producers. An email enquiry to the website received no response.
To try to counter the criticism, in 2004, palm growers, oil processors, traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, investors and NGOs formed the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, ‘dedicated to promoting sustainable production of palm oil worldwide’. But Friends of the Earth pdf maintains that this ‘demand for ‘sustainable’ palm oil is simply leading to the expansion of other palm oil plantations onto forested land’ and causing more deforestation.
A recent moratorium in Indonesia on new concessions for land in forest areas and peat-lands, as full of loopholes as it may be, is driving industrial giants such as Sime Darby, Olam International and Wilmar International and a host of European, American and Asian investors and speculators seeking to get in on the palm oil boom to search for new lands. Their target is the ‘final investment frontier’, the much-abused continent of Africa.
AFRICA – THE ‘FINAL INVESTMENT FRONTIER’
There are no detailed studies showing the full extent of foreign investment in land for oil palm in West and Central, so information about land deals, many lacking any transparency, is piecemeal at best.
In Liberia, a country that was ravaged for years by war, an estimated 5.6 per cent of the total land mass has been leased out to foreign investors for palm oil production. Sime Darby has a 63-year lease for 220,000 hectares of land for oil palm plantations in the country. Singapore-listed Golden Agri Resources has another 220,000 hectares for palm oil estates, and Equatorial Palm Oil, a UK-listed palm oil developer has another 170,000 hectares. This, in a country that still has to import 60 percent [pdf] of its staple rice needs.
In neighbouring Sierra Leone, another nation trying to regain its own food security and heal itself after a long civil war, European and Asian firms are securing long-term (50 year) leases on at least half a million hectares of farmland, almost 10 percent of the country’s arable land. Of that amount, close to 300,000 hectares have been acquired for oil palm plantations by corporate investors from Europe and Southeast Asia.
In Cameroon, foreign investors from Asia, the US and Europe are rapidly securing enormous land banks, often in fragile forested areas, for palm oil estates. The same is true in Benin, Nigeria, Gabon, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a Chinese company is reportedly [pdf] working to secure 2.8 million hectares for oil palm for biodiesel production.
African governments that are endorsing and enabling this wave of large land acquisitions seem to have forgotten their countries’ long and painful struggles for independence. They are not just allowing but actively encouraging the foreign industrialists and speculators to repeat the same grave injuries committed by colonists and industrialists of yesteryear.
TAKING POSSESSION OF THE TREE, THEN THE LAND TO GROW IT
Apart from some large plantations established during colonial times or as state-owned enterprises by newly independent governments in the region, in West and Central Africa oil palm is still largely growing almost wild or being cultivated in an environmentally sustainable way by smallholder farmers.
Just for the record, the oil palm on which the industry has grown so wealthy – Eleais guineesis – is native to and really belongs to the people of West and Central Africa. Or rather, it would do, were African farmers in the business of taking out patents on genetic material. It formed part of the food supply of indigenous populations long before recorded history and was widely traded as well. It has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 3,000 BC.
But once Europeans ‘discovered’ this African treasure, the takeover began. During the Atlantic slave trade, red palm oil was used to provision slave ships. Later, the British Industrial Revolution used the oil to lubricate machines and in candle making. By the 20th century, Europeans were running plantations of the tree in Central Africa and Southeast Asia.
By 1960, Malaysia had become the world’s largest producer of palm oil, giant monoculture plantations had become the norm, and the oil they were producing was highly refined and exported worldwide. During the recent boom driven by the demand for agrofuels, in 2007 Indonesia overtook Malaysia as the largest global producer of the oil. The whole lucrative plantation industry in Asia was based on oil palm planting material that originated from four specimens of the African tree that were taken to the Bogor Botanic Gardens in Indonesia in 1848.
Local growers and consumers in Africa do not refine, bleach and deodorise the oil into the commodity that industry produces for the world market. Increasingly, science recognises what local people in Africa have always known, that locally grown and locally processed red palm oil is nutritious. It is an excellent source of Vitamins E and K and full of carotenes, which can be converted in the body to Vitamin A. It is also medicinal.
In West and Central Africa, oil palm is often grown by rural people in ‘tree-crop plantations’ just one or two hectares in area, in diverse stands of other important trees in and around their farmland and at forest edges. It grows well in forest fallows and in agroforestry stands that include kolanut, citrus, indigenous fruit and timber trees, banana and plantains, and cocoa and coffee.
The indigenous oil palm is invaluable in the region. The rich red oil that is extracted manually from the palm fruit is a staple in diets, second in importance only to rice or other staple grains or cereals. It is used in soups and sauces, for frying, and in dough made from customary foods such as cassava, rice, plantains, yams and beans. The fruit can even be boiled and roasted with a bit of sugar, tasting very much like a delicious date. The clear oil that is extracted, mostly manually, from the palm kernel is used to make soap. The tree flourishes in natural association with other key food crops such as cassava and yam. The pressed cake left after extraction can be used for fodder. Palm fronds are used for thatch.
Wild and cultivated stands of oil palm in West and Central Africa are also the source of one of the region’s great delicacies – palm wine, which is collected directly from the tree and an important source of income for the tappers. Grown and used the way it traditionally has been in Africa, the oil palm also performs environmental services. It can help reclaim degraded lands, as a valuable shade tree in biodiverse cocoa and coffee tree-crop plots, and the residue left in boilers after oil extraction can be used to fertilise soils.
But all of this relates to oil palm only as smallholders grow and use it. Like so many African treasures, once the foreign industrialists got their hands on it and took it away, the oil palm became something very different. In the hands of corporations, palm oil was transformed into a highly profitable commodity for the world market and its industrial production has caused immeasurable environmental damage in Southeast Asia. It appears poised to do the same in Africa.
Prevailing economic dogma emphasises economies of scale and increased profitability through sheer size of oil palm estates. It does not take into consideration what is lost from the land when it is transformed into endless rows of oil palm clones, or the environmental damage caused by heavy pesticide and fertiliser use required in monoculture plantations.
Local people are told that this kind of foreign direct investment in their farmland will bring development, jobs and modernise agriculture. They tend not to be informed about what is at stake – their farmland, water resources, environment, biodiversity, food security and sovereignty.
Governments and traditional rulers seem indoctrinated by the myth that allocating large tracts of land to foreign investors will lead to ‘modernised’ agriculture. They and others promoting the land deals as a form of agricultural investment would have us believe that anyone who defends smallholder production is succumbing to ‘romanticism’. They appear equally oblivious, wilfully so, to the enormous risks these land deals incurs for their people and their nations.
Smallholder farms are massive employers, critically important for poverty reduction. They need support and investment that brings development from the farm up, not foreign investment that destroys their farms. ‘Large-scale land acquisitions during commodity booms can be particularly detrimental to social and economic development,’ write Vera Songwe and Klaus Deininger [PDF], the latter the lead author of a landmark 2011 World Bank report on large-scale land acquisitions.
And yet large-scale land acquisition during a commodity boom is precisely what is happening in West and Central Africa, where massive amounts of productive smallholder farmland and precious woodlands, forest fallows and biodiversity reserves are being taken over by Asian, European and North American investors. They’re keen to capitalise on the latest oil boom – one involving the humble African oil palm that is, sadly, threatened by the push to cultivate its ‘improved’ varieties on millions of hectares of precious African farmland.
When foreign corporations and nations descend on Africa to get at the continent’s oil, they tend to cause massive environmental, social and political disruption, and also conflict. But when they descend on the continent to get hold of massive amounts of arable land to produce palm oil for the world market, they are doing something even more egregious. They are taking control of the land and water on which the local people depend for their food production, livelihoods – their very survival.
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* Joan Baxter is a journalist, development researcher and writer and an award-winning author who has lived and worked in Africa for more than 25 years. She is a Senior Fellow at the Oakland Institute.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The youth in Ivorian reconstruction
Whether a ‘patriot’ or a ‘rebel’, a member of the pro-Gbagbo or pro-Ouattara militia, the youths who were affected in the Ivorian conflict both as perpetrators and as victims had a similar background: all were confronted with the socio-economic challenges of a country held back by a decade of civil war. Political Scientist Michel Galy rightly pointed out that the ‘dead goats’, that is, students with neither degrees nor a future, had nothing to lose and could be easily mobilised.
Past and recent studies have attempted to explain why young people engage in violent acts. The authors of the ‘Study on youth vulnerability and exclusion in West Africa’ (YOVEX) argue that participation in violence can be ‘perceived as a form of status symbol or acknowledged as a form of achievement, or reflecting a continuing historical pattern as a service to the community (that is, defending the community)’.
Although the Ivorian post-election divide took the illusive mantra of an anti-neocolonialism/self-determination movement versus foreign interference, the ideological battle – if there was any at all – was the tip of the well-rooted iceberg of structural challenges exacerbated by personal and collective motives. Among such challenges is the youth bulge. From security sector reform to education and national cohesion, critical reconstruction measures will need to be on top of the agenda of Ivorian authorities.
IMPLEMENTING DDR: PITFALLS AND WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY
The failure to conduct disarmament before the 2010 disputed presidential election has strengthened the presence of two rival armies that were ready to fight, leading to hostilities when former President Laurent Gbagbo rejected election results backed by the international community. The International Crisis Group warned that ‘large numbers of weapons must be surrendered – an arsenal that threatens not only Ivory Coast but also Liberia, Ghana and all members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).’
In a recent briefing on security sector reform, Ivorian Minister Delegate for Defence Paul Koffi Koffi announced that the government would demobilise 10,000 fighters by the end of 2011 as part of measures aimed at re-establishing security. The next thing would be to wonder how comprehensive, inclusive and thorough such a process would be. Indeed, a danger would be to have security sector reform left to winners alone.
Designing and implementing a successful disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme may require learning from flaws of the Sierra Leonean and the Liberian experiences, while taking into account the specific Ivorian social, economic and political environment. Here is summary of the hiccups in previous DDRs as analysed by Human Rights Watch:
- The majority of former fighters interviewed who had participated in the 2000–03 United Nations-sponsored Sierra Leonean disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme (DDR) received only partial benefits, were kept out of the skills training component of the programme or failed to receive any benefits at all. They also identified corruption in this process and an inadequate grievance procedure within the DRR program as serious problems. Many perceived the programme's failure to engage them as having contributed to their decision to take up arms in subsequent conflicts. Similar problems were described by those within the 2003–05 UN-sponsored Liberian disarmament programme, although to a much lesser degree.
- The risk of resurgence of conflict is indeed still high in an Ivorian society still highly polarised, and the dynamics of a migrant population of young fighters from neighbouring countries making their ways through porous borders is a threat that needs attention. The discovery earlier in June of a huge cache of arms and ammunition in the Liberian county of Grand Gedeh, near the border with Côte d’Ivoire is a symptomatic manifestation of a regional-scale threat.
STRENGTHENING THE EDUCATION SECTOR
On 20 April 2011, the new Ivorian authorities decided to close until further notice two public higher-learning institutions in the economic capital Abidjan: the universities of Cocody and Abobo Adjamé. They argued that the institutions were no longer conducive to the training and grooming of the elite. Evoking security reasons, the Ouattara government stated that the two institutions were ‘arms caches’ and served as a ‘refuge’ for militias and mercenaries of former President Laurent Gbagbo. 
It could be argued that Paul Collier’s thesis about the low level of education of youth embarking on civil wars would not hold in Côte d’Ivoire. Many of pro-Gbagbo’s Young Patriots and pro-Ouattara’s young supporters are well-educated citizens caught in the middle of a politico-military crisis where they had to choose sides as a matter of survival. In a context marked by tension, a crippled education sector and lack of employment opportunities, the triggers of violence were holding on a thin line.
The national chair of the youth of the PDCI (Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire) party Kouadio Konan Bertin addressing his colleagues described them as ‘young people with plenty degrees reduced to mere entertainers in meetings, placing chairs and tarpaulins’. An example of the lack of alternatives and opportunities for youths is the protracted period of studies for many Ivorians. The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Cissé Bacongo revealed that about 7,000 students had spent over 16 years on campuses, warning that the number could increase as investigations unfolded.
In view of all the above, it would be critical for the Ivorian educational system to take up the following challenges alongside other priority measures of the reconstruction:
- Secure and rehabilitate infrastructure that was seriously affected by looting at the height of the post-election crisis
- Initiate unification of the nation through equal access to knowledge irrespective of ethnic, religious and political background and the reduction of inequality in gender and among the regions of the country
- Build and strengthen democratic processes at all levels through participatory engagement in the reform of the education sector
- Set up visionary post-education mechanisms for creative employment and self-employment of youths.
REBUILDING NATIONAL COHESION: WHAT THE ‘FACEBOOK GENERATION’ HAS TO OFFER
Leading the Ivorian nation towards overcoming past hurts in order to reconcile is one of the most sensitive tasks facing the Ouattara administration. However, it may be easier to achieve a deep transformation with youths as an entry point. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon rightly indicated that young people often understand better than older generations that differences can be transcended to ‘reach [our] shared goals’.
To fully employ youths as agents for reconciliation and unity, we would recommend the creation of spaces of dialogue among the youth in the form of national youth conferences that engage them at the political level. As the country moves towards the organisation of legislative elections by the end of the year, a good test of sound inclusion of youth in the Ivorian political processes could be to make sure they are duly represented across parties in the national assembly.
Most importantly, defusing frustration among the youth can only be achieved if economic opportunities are created for them. Hence the critical need to lay the foundation of responsive governance that would reduce horizontal inequality and bury the seeds of instability. An ally not to be underrated in the materialisation of an economic ‘deal’ for the youth is the private sector which, as a major employer, needs a conducive environment to develop. Money pumped in by partners and debt relief will certainly help Côte d’Ivoire but not sustain its severely damaged economy. A vibrant and youthful workforce will.
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* Myriam Wedraogo is an alumnus of the Peace and Security Fellowship, African Leadership Centre.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Michel Galy ‘Cabri mort n'a pas peur de couteau’ Notes sur jeunesse et violence dans la crise ivoirienne », Outre-Terre 2/2005 (no 11), p. 223-227.
Accessible at : http://bit.ly/qED006
 Wale Ismail et al., Youth Vulnerability and Exclusion (YOVEX) in West Africa: Synthesis Report, CSDG Papers, Number 21, April 2009, p.61.
 Executive Summary and Recommendations of the International Crisis Group Report, ‘A critical period for ensuring stability in Côte d’Ivoire”, 1 August 2011. Accessed at http://bit.ly/nEjYvo
 Human Rights Watch: Youth, poverty and blood: The lethal legacy of West Africa’s regional warriors, vol. 17, no. 5(A), April 2005, http://bit.ly/pDFS7D
 The area in Grand Gedeh County where the arms were found is one of the places where mercenaries and militias employed by Côte d’Ivoire’s deposed ruler Laurent Gbagbo are said to have fled after the latter was toppled on April 2011.
 See APA- Abidjan, 20 April 2011, http://bit.ly/rf8apX
 PDCI forms with the RDR of President Alassane Ouattara the ruling majority, RHDP.
 See Le Patriote ‘Université d’Abidjan : Plus de 7000 étudiants ont 16 ans de présence’, 20 July 2011, http://bit.ly/pjZvxD
 Secretary-General's Remarks to General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Youth, New York, 25 July 2011, http://bit.ly/qi8VK0
President Jonathan, where is the National Climate Change Bill?
On 9 December 2010 the harmonised version of the National Climate Change Commission Bill was forwarded to President Goodluck Jonathan for assent. It was received on his behalf by his Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters Dr. Cairo Ojougboh. It is now more than eight months since the transmission and there is still no word from the presidency on the fate of this very important bill. More than 30 such bills addressing several critical areas of our national life are currently lying on the same table gathering dust. This is incontrovertible evidence that we either have a president who is out of touch with the people or a presidency that has no capacity to do its job.
More than one fifth of the Africa’s poor, about 102 million people, live in Nigeria. They predominantly depend on rain-fed agriculture, as over 90 per cent of them are rain dependent, peasant farmers. Lack of irrigation facilities owing to few dams means that it is difficult to provide adequately for the water needs of most crops, thereby adversely affecting yield. Today, rainfall in Nigeria has become very irregular (intense in some areas and very sparse in others) and the agricultural base of the desperately poor is severely threatened. The situation places at risk more that 42 per cent of our GDP and increases the vulnerability of those in dire need of the dividends of democracy. The distant drought we were used to is increasingly spreading closer to the Guinea Savanna towards Kaduna and Niger states. Floods have devastated many parts of Nigeria leading to a loss of more than 150 billion naira (about $1 billion) in Lagos State alone and causing the displacement of more 1,800 people in Bauchi State. The erosion menace is a frightening reality throughout the entire South East. There are those within the government who still see climate change through the regrettable not-in-my-backyard lens or consider it as a problem of the future; the time has come for them to rise from their cold conceit, wake up to their responsibility and repent from inaction. The absence of an agency for the coordination of informed policy response to the issues of climate change has cost us beyond what can be calculated and has paved the way for ad hoc reactionary approaches that lack depth and are prone to capture. A full-fledged commission that has both the technical competence and regulatory teeth will indicate that we are ready as a nation to ameliorate the adverse effects of climate change (before it catches up with us) while innovatively tapping into the opportunities it offers.
The oil industry (our chief foreign exchange earner) draws intense criticism from development experts due to its huge contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. We are comfortably lagging behind because our government has always found one reason or the other to continue mindless gas flaring in the Niger Delta region. One third of all greenhouse emissions in Africa still come from just one single source - the oil industry. It is depressing that there is neither any clear understanding nor leadership nor courage on matters of climate change within any governmental institution in Nigeria. Vested interests are having a field day and have found 'innovative' ways of sedating our policy makers to keep shifting the goal post to the detriment of the population that they pretend to be catering for. How can we continue to close our eyes as the gas that could power our economy is turned to flames daily? How do we intend to feed the power plants that will give us the megawatts of the electricity we require to turn our economy around? When will the celebrated gas master plan go beyond media propaganda?
Many countries are building thriving low carbon economies that are creating new 'green' jobs for their population. Why are we always lagging behind only to tick the box as if such issues are sacred matters of international obligation? President Goodluck Jonathan carries the burden of the environmental despoliation and ecological catastrophe in the Niger Delta region in particular and in other parts of Nigeria. He needs to demonstrate leadership now.
On a lighter note, I saw a beautiful poster of our president a few days ago along a popular expressway in Abuja, with his eyes carefully plucked out. Could this be a subtle response from an increasingly frustrated ordinary Nigerian to the president's pace and style?
Those whose livelihoods are shaped daily by the caprices of climate change and who voted him into power in April 2011 deserve a better deal. Luck has offered Goodluck an important opportunity. He should append his signature to the National Climate Change Commission Bill and the many others also awaiting it.
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* Uche Igwe writes from the Africa Program, Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC via ucheigwe[at]gmail.com.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Things falling apart in Nigeria
On Friday 9 September a group of Egyptian protestors stormed the Israeli embassy, raised the Egyptian flag and entered the building. At least 130 protestors were arrested, 1,000 injured and three shot dead by the Egyptian army. Human Rights Watch reported that some 12,000 civilians have been arrested and face military tribunals since January this year. This is more than during the whole of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Egyptian Chronicles provides some clarity on the protest which she describes as two separate incidents.
‘Ok first no one broke in to the Israeli embassy officially yesterday, it was an apartment used by the embassy as some sort of archives vault. I am not defending the action itself but you have to transfer the truth.
Second all the clashes that took place starting from Mid night till the dawn and resulted in the injury of 1049 and the death of 3 was not at the Israeli embassy but rather at the Giza security directorate which are couple of blocks away’.
She goes on to point out that Israel has violated the Camp David accords, killing ‘not less than 50’ Egyptian soldiers with no apology; however, Egyptians were forced into silence on these violations by the Mubarak regime. Particularly worrying is that many Egyptians believed what happened was a ‘setup by SCAF’ in ‘cooperation’ with Israel to empower SCAF more. Though this is in the realms of possibility, I still find it hard to believe.
‘Now the emergency law is fully activated and many people can’t tolerate this chaos and this lack of security that jeopardize our relations with the outside the world now.’
For The Arabist the only surprising aspect of the attack is that it had not happened sometime in the previous 30 years.
‘The only surprising thing about the breach of the Israeli embassy in Cairo is that it never happened any time before in the past 30 years…Throughout the 1990s, at least once a year, students from nearby Cairo University staged a half-hearted attempt to storm the place. The hardcore "Ultra" football club fans who seemed to be a major contingent of yesterday's crowd may simply have been more persistant than your usual Cairo demonstrators -- partially because the self-styled "commandos of the revolution" (whose subculture is described by Ursula below) are used to fighting with police, and partially because they claimed to have one of their own dead to avenge, supposedly killed on Tuesday night post-match battle between Ahly club fans and police on Saleh Salem Road that started when police charged the stands in response to taunting chants.’
The title of his post ‘More on the Ultras, the embassy, and the Friday of “not exactly putting the revolution back on track”’ raises questions about where the ‘revolution’ is heading and the arising divisions between those who supported the action and those who feel it was distracting and destructive to the revolutionary movement.
‘Twitterers have been lamenting that the Israeli embassy violence has overshadowed the original demands of ending the military trials of civilians and ensuring an independent judiciary. Others have argued against the futility of demanding that a military junta renegotiate one of the country's key diplomatic agreements, while simultaneously attacking . Pro-embassy-storming Twitterers have been celebrating this "victory", and a in a few cases, lashing back at those who argues that attacking a diplomatic symbol of Israel is a waste of time, accusing them of treason.
‘One of the more perceptive Tweets I've seen comes from Egyptian Thinker: "reminder: #Jan25 is a [increasingly] decentralized, grassroots movement which cannot, by definition, be controlled. Stop blaming each other." As a revolution progresses, and accomplishes some of the initial uprising's goals (ie, removing Mubarak) without accomplishing others (ie, a true overhaul of the police), it's pretty inevitable that revolutionaries will part ways, fall out over tactics, objectives, etc. This is particularly going to be the case when there's been a bit of malaise in the movement, and the number of longtime demonstrators who show up in Tahrir, who've carefully Tweeted out their demands beforehand, are not of sufficient mass to steer those groups (like the Ultras) who may have other agendas.’
Finally on Egypt, SandMonkey reminds those who are affected by a ‘malaise and melancholy’ believing that nothing has been accomplished – that this is far from the truth. He points out that Mubarak has been removed and put on trial; Egyptians are ‘embedded with the idea of democracy’ and will now be able to vote; Egyptians used to being beaten by the police have been able to reverse that with the massive demonstrations in Tahrir Square;
‘Some will respond that this is well and good, but we haven’t accomplished our goals, to which I respond that this is normal, because, let’s face it, we were not ready. What happened is of such magnitude that we chose not to truly believe it, to the point that we are willing to revert to the notion that this is of no significance, and that we accomplished nothing. And not only were we not ready, we also made mistakes, specifically because we weren’t prepared at all to take on the military institution that secretly runs this country. But this might not even be our fight. We have brought the country thus far, and are still pushing, but the real game is 3-5 years down the line, when the newer generations emerge.’
In Nigeria things appear to be falling apart with three separate bomb attacks in the past 24 hours alone. These follow the suicide bomb attack on the UN building in Abuja on the 26th August. In addition the end of Ramadan was marked by more inter religious and ethnic violence in Plateau State leaving at least 40 people dead. The government have taken a few anti-terrorist initiatives but Nigerians have little confidence in their ability to even begin to deal with Boko Haram whose attacks are becoming almost daily events. What is a little strange is that hardly any Nigerian bloggers are writing about Boko Haram or the violence in Jos.
The Niger Delta Working Group choose to publish a letter written by an American expatriate living in Jos who runs a flower and vegetable farm. Her letter is a warning that Plateau State will definitely fall apart if the violence continues as all expats will leave and what industry there is, will collapse. Personally I think this letter should have made headline news and been delivered by hand to the President and House of Assembly. The farm is now closing and relocating to another state – possibly Kaduna.
‘Since the crisis began there has been no statement from any government official, either at the Federal or State level, about the situation, despite daily headlines in all of the newspapers, and gruesome reports in the local and international news media. The Governor has been absent all of this time, and the highest official to make any statement has been the Commissioner for Information. The various security agencies are not on good terms with each other. No efforts are being made for any sort of peaceful settlement of the problems, and a military solution can only be very temporary. Even that has not been successful.’
‘But now it is obvious that we have finally come to the end of the road. I will spare you the very gruesome details, but the level of barbarism which we witnessed in Jos over the past few weeks (including even cannibalism) has, I believe, so poisoned the environment here that I truly believe we will not see any normality returning to the area in my lifetime (I am now 68). I don’t feel I should spend my remaining years in a fruitless exercise. We have persevered as long as we have mainly because of the support and encouragement from our customers, who have been wonderful in all of this. But none of us have been able to lead any semblance of a normal life since January last year. People cannot visit us. All of my friends, Christian and Muslim, are afraid to come to Jos. By 6pm everyone is indoors, there are no social activities at all and people don’t go out at night. In the area where I live in Jos, which used to be a mixed area but is now almost entirely Christian, if any person obviously a Muslim comes to see me, all the neighbours come out to see the person and ask me what they are doing there. In the area of the farm, any person who associates with Muslims is considered an enemy who is part of the attacks and is under suspicion.’
Kayode Ogundamisi publishes a video “Nigeria Police "RISE" to the new challenge of "FLUSHING OUT BOKO HARRAM". Police deployed supposedly to check vehicles for Boko Haram terrorists - what they expect to find is only known to them - are shown doing anything but. First we see a policeman take a huge stick and swipe a random motor cyclist who was lucky he didnt fall off and die. Then we see another taking bribes from passing cars and finally one walking up and down chatting on his mobile phone. The actions of the police and the Plateau State government explain these tweets by Emmanuel Iduma and Chxta respectively:
‘If Boko Haram says Stay In & FG says You're Safe, which would you follow? #Stalk’
‘QoTD: If Boko Haram declare work free day, and FG says there's movement, who would you listen to? Be honest...’
The new reality for Nigerians continued in Ibadan where police received ‘intelligence’ that the University of Ibadan was on the top of Boko Haram’s list of sites to bomb. Ascology reports:
‘Motorists entering the University of Ibadan campus groaned on Monday as the authorities of the institution mounted an intensive security check at the gates leading to the institution over possible bombing by the dreaded Boko Haram sect...The security measure, which left motorists sweating for hours in the traffic gridlock created at the main gate of the institution, followed unconfirmed reports that the university had been marked down for bombing alongside several others....The sect regards Western education as ungodly. The report suggested that the university would be bombed between September 12 and 17.
‘But we Nigerians are an upbeat optimistic nation who always look to the positives in our daily lives so in the midst of daily attacks by Boko Haram, religious and ethnic violence in Plateau State, rumblings from ex militants in the Niger Delta and countless political dramas, 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria was launched.’
The campaign to rebrand Nigeria is in response to the ‘419’ financial scams associated with Nigeria and Nigerians, which we know are not peculiar to Nigeria – fraud has no nationality. Nonetheless Nigeria and Nigerians have been unfairly branded as the A-list of fraudsters. Now the people are fighting back. The first rebranding initiative was the ‘The 419 Positive Project’ which invited Nigerians and their friends to come up with ‘419 positive attributes of Nigeria’. The ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ follows on from this. Yes this is highly confusing and I don’t quite understand why campaigns replicate themselves with similar names but regardless, the idea is that if Nigerians repeatedly blog and tweet on 419 Reasons, eventually these positives rather than 419 scams will appear at the top of searches.
Akin’s explains on his blog:
‘I will suggest that all Nigerian bloggers write a blog titled 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria and Nigerians and basically use every opportunity to turn a negative slur into a positive and wholesome reclaiming of Nigerian pride.
‘The association of 419 and Nigeria should begin to yield positive commentary about Nigeria.’
The list of “419” on Facebook is not exactly very impressive and relates to individual achievements. They certainly don’t hide the country’s failing by resorting to tabloid jaunts on the internet. On the other hand some real political critique would be a positive step.
The real positive news from Nigeria was reported by Justice in Nigeria Now, is that last week hundreds of women from Gabaramtu in the Niger Delta held a protest against Chevron:
‘WARRI-HUNDREDS of placard-carrying women, from about 10 Gbaramatu communities in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, yesterday, 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.
The workers of an indigenous service company, Fenog Nigeria Limited, handling the project were helpless as the women refused to vacate the site, while soldiers guarding them looked on.
‘The women, from Okerenkoko, Oporoza, Benikrukru, Kurutie, Kunukunuma, Azama, Igoba, Pepe-Ama, Tebizon, Kokodiagbene communities, led by Mrs. Comfort Oguma, said both the Federal Government and Chevron deceived them and demanded that all pre-contract agreements be fulfilled.’
Finally the co-editor of Nigeria’s excellent literary magazine, Saraba [another positive] Emmanuel Iduma has been guest blogging on Black Looks:
‘In these series of posts, I am interested in pointing attention to how creative writing in Africa intersects with the internet. I do not intend to make an exhaustive consideration. Hopefully more writers will think about this intersection, how our art is influenced by it, and how our intention to “make a presence” will continuously shape the manner in which we are read and presented.
‘I identify that since we are gingerly coming off print technology (keeping our eyes behind, yet looking forward), there are certain needs that confront us. These are: a literate audience, an audience with the ability to access, and an audience willing to receive a continued online effort. In this part, I will focus on the first, a literate audience.’
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Is Africa rising or flailing?
Firoze Manji has rightly argued that the desires for political change being expressed in North Africa and the Middle East are shared throughout the rest of the African continent. While the north has been in the spotlight in the international media, large demonstrations have seriously challenged governments in countries like Swaziland, Gabon, Cameroon, Djibouti, Senegal, Kenya, Burkina Faso and more. It would appear then that the Western media is largely ignoring those expressions in the countries south of the Sahara, in part because they do not seem to hold the same strategic importance on the geopolitical stage. Moreover, in the media-fuelled imaginations of those in the more affluent parts of the world, perceptions of southern portions of the continent continue to hold racist tones that differentiate them from the predominantly Muslim north.
It is true there are important similarities between the underlying causes of the struggles in sub-Saharan African countries and in those of North Africa – specifically Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. Yet there are also very important differences. My worry is that voluntarist attitudes toward the movements in countries south of the Sahara overestimate their potential to replicate the democratic movements there. Overstating the similarities within and between these societies can prevent us from understanding the rather different tasks that need to take place to support significant social change. These differences will ultimately determine the internationalist strategies of solidarity we take in trying to advance a movement against the absurdly unequal global dispensation of wealth and power, and how we position ourselves to address the catastrophic consequences global capitalism is causing to people, our planet and the health and prosperity of future generations – wherever they reside.
HOW THE COMPARISON FITS
Bringing attention to the struggles of those battling dictatorial regimes and living conditions in sub-Saharan Africa helps further highlight the fact these movements are not merely struggles for liberal democratic rights, as important as those are. In fact, the reason it has been so difficult to find the political basis of unity in most of these uprisings when they emerged in January is partly because they were, quite simply, responses to material deprivation. They are movements that arrive out of the desperation imposed upon people by more than 30 years of Friedman-inspired neoliberal economic policies. What they are beyond this varies.
Egypt, in spite of its historical particularities, has many economic similarities with the rest of Africa. Its massive trade deficit is perhaps the clearest measure of the neocolonial relationship it has been pushed into by the wealthy countries that politically dominate international financial institutions. In 2010, Egypt exported US$23.5 billion, but imported US$48.8 billion. It did this while paying growing loans to the rich countries. Its internal lending rate in 2010 averaged 11.8 per cent. For most farmers or small business it was closer to 20. Such a relationship cannot hold. Like many countries in Africa, Egyptians are buying consumer goods worth twice what they produce and paying back loans used in the 1960s to start businesses that are now being sold back to international corporations before they have even been paid for. The rich countries get to feel good about their Live Aid and MakePovertyHistory campaigns, but they are still taking more than is returned. In this way Egypt is typically 21st century 'African'.
The most recent World Bank trade brief published a year before the uprising in Egypt gave a glowing assessment of the Mubarak government's compliance with the World Bank's demands. It states, for example, that: ‘The changes it implemented, such as eliminating minimum capital requirements, also led to Egypt being ranked as the ninth top reformer for 2008/09, after having been ranked the tenth top reformer the year before.’ European and US leaders later tried to distance themselves from Egypt's domestic politics, suggesting the regime was not 'reforming' fast enough. Yet the obvious reality is that the Mubarak government was actually doing everything the US and EU told them to in economic terms. Internal assessments of its economic performance over the previous decade by the International Finance Corporation, World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund) are quite sickening in light of what we now so clearly know about the experiences of the majority of people in the country who were suffering. If they complained or organised opposition, they would be tortured into submission in jails filled with political prisoners (lnweb90.worldbank.org/oed/oeddoclib.nsf/.../$file/egypt_cae.pdf).
Like most other African countries, Egypt was also facing massive urbanisation and urban poverty resulting from neoliberal policies that sent rural economies into crisis by eliminating marketing systems and agricultural support. As Hichame Safieddine (http://www.unionbook.org/profiles/blogs/the-bullet-hicham-safieddine) notes: ‘In Egypt, close to 40 per cent of Egyptians are estimated to live under the poverty line. Uneven urban sprawl has left close to 9 million living in the slums of Cairo alone.’ And the circumstances may be worse than available data reveals.
Research by Sarah Sabry (http://eau.sagepub.com/content/22/2/523.full.pdf+html) suggests urban poverty rates in Cairo have been seriously underestimated, especially when one considers issues of housing, health, water and sanitation and the ways resources are differentially accessed, even within families. Egypt, like virtually every African country, spends more on debt servicing payments than it spends on healthcare. As with other African countries, the Egyptian government had no capacity to act on needs of the poor, if they gave a damn, because neoliberal 'development' allows for no planning. The market is supposed to address all these issues so the only role for politicians, according to the theory, is to remove all functions of the state – except for policing of course. So faced with the real challenges being experienced by so many millions, the only sovereignty the Mubarak regime had was its means of repression – which they managed to extend beyond the horrendous methods taught by US troops and CIA handbooks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Army_and_CIA_interrogation_manuals; http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2010/03/09/waterboarding_for_dummies;
When Mubarak was thrown out, there was a large list of bills in process that were drafted to appease interests of the US and foreign capital (including more than 900 Canadian companies listed there). These were things like public-private partnerships and anti-inflationary measures. As a result of this sort of globalisation the Economist Intelligence Unit could note in 2010 that ‘Egypt's exports have quadrupled to $16 billion and overall trade is approaching $60 billion. A modest but interesting American initiative, designed to encourage regional integration and known as “Qualifying Industrial Zones,” has provided some help as well.’ The ‘Qualifying Industrial Zones’ referred to are in fact the places where resistance first emerged as people fought to create unions not under the grip of the state. They were created to bypass unions and yet ironically helped establish peoples breaking point of what kind of indignity they were willing to accept.
The fact that Egypt was being praised as an economic success in the months before Mubarak's departure reveals how thoroughly out of touch leadership and institutions of the Washington Consensus are with realities of the majority of the world. It also reveals the utter bankruptcy of the ideology so fervently pursued in the interests of a class of global billionaires.
This is not hugely different than the experiences in other parts of the continent. Uganda, for example, has been a special client of the US and the World Bank. Since the early 1990s the US were quickly able to cosy up to the once-Marxist rebel who overthrew the brutal and incompliant regime of Milton Obote and Idi Amin. Ethiopia too does the United States's dirty work in Somalia. Meanwhile, virtually every other African country has seen levels of inequality grow while local production declines and more imports flood their markets. Foreign companies (often South African) buy their communications systems, mines, seed companies, millers, clothing manufacturers, soap producers and anything else imaginable. This is neocolonialism par excellence.
YET THEY DIFFER: THE NORTH HAS BEEN A STRONGER ANTI-COLONIAL FORCE
It is also true that the history of North Africa cannot be separated from that of the rest of the continent. Ancient Egyptian and Nubian Empires were intimately linked to the histories of Bantu peoples further South. The Islamic empire was also rooted in Africa while a highly decentralised relationship existed with the Maghreb, in which local variants of Sufi Islam have taken syncretic forms within pre-existing religious thought. A number of significant empires such as the Malian, Songhay and Ghanaian also linked people across the Sahara for many centuries before Europeans were able to gain any strategic strength over the territory. For these and other reasons Illeni Centime Zeleke is correct in suggesting we more carefully scrutinise the ways terms like 'Arab' and 'African' are mobilised in news reports and popular discourse (http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/71735).
While North African history is intimately tied with sub-Saharan societies, there are also significant divergences. Most importantly, Islam served to provide societies in the north a number of protections against the slave trade and colonialism. Longstanding connections to the rest of the Islamic world also enable them to maintain systems of education that would be torn apart in the majority of societies further south throughout the colonial experience. Additionally, the southern and eastern portions of the continent saw massive movements of their populations in the centuries before independence. This was the case for a variety of reasons. The continent saw a realignment of power away from Eastern-based trade via the Islamic empires (roughly defined), toward an Atlantic world, which simultaneously extracted huge portions of labour, setting off new dynamics of warfare. Incursions from the south aligned with internal dynamics to cause a series of migrations and wars that advanced upward as far as the Congo Basin.
Meanwhile, for reasons not entirely understood, there were exodus from kingdoms in areas of present-day Angola and the DRC (democratic Republic of Congo), whilst the Portuguese began hammering the eastern Islamic cities (that did not have in-land Islamic societies to protect them). These dynamic populations were then fixed into colonial administrative apparatuses that gave life to new notions of ethnicity while simultaneously severing old forms of cooperation between peoples and destroying pre-existing systems of production and accumulation. Concurrently, a racial project increasingly constructed differences among people that were not previously very significant in determining relationships between the North and South of the Sahara. These processes contributed to the creation of significant differences between contemporary societies of varying parts of Africa.
The point is not that the north was completely immune from these patterns but, with variation among them, northern societies nevertheless fared much better than those in the south. There are a number of consequences of this. First, it was generally very difficult for significant settler populations to establish themselves. Secondly, racial projects were not as successful in establishing a deep sense of inferiority among Africans in the North, the West and the Horn, relative to Europeans. It also meant that local merchant classes (often directly aligned with religious authority) maintained significant levels of power originally accumulated through trans-Saharan trade. These classes compelled colonial forces to broker with them – to some degree as the colonists did with 'chiefs' further south. In these ways, the experiences with Islam were very different than places in the south where Christian evangelical projects were so powerful in defining the terms of public life. Partly for these reasons, North African countries managed to also make greater gains in developing industrialised economies with a corresponding industrial working class. To some degree this was, of course, a factor of simply being closer to Europe, with France and, to a lesser extent Italy, integrating administration of occupations directly into their national state structure, alongside attempts of cultural unification.
In Egypt, unions were largely tamed by state control from above, bringing the unions into the arsenal of labour discipline with the Egyptian Trade Union Federation. Yet since as early as 1990, the state labour regime slowly began eroding as workers looked elsewhere for protection. This was certainly evident in the formation of the Centre for Trade Union and Workers' Services (CTUWS). They also started building independent trade unions and participated in hundreds of illegal strikes, leading to the formation of independent trade unions and, eventually, the establishment of an independent trade union federation. This process was rooted in the civil service as much as in the industrial unions, and the pressure has continued to grow in the post-Tahrir days. See, for example, http://www.egyptworkersolidarity.org/ and http://www.socialistalternative.org/news/article11.php?id=1521
NEOLIBERALISM RESTED ON AN EGYPTIAN AXIS
Since World War II the most significant differences between sub-Saharan Africa and the north – especially Egypt – have been geopolitical. British government documents show that plans for colonial withdrawal were intimately tied to the creation of Israel, which has in turn allowed Israeli settlers to continually push far beyond the needs of the true metropoles – which were Anglo-American. This was a counter-revolutionary base before independence was even granted. Egypt, until Anwar Sadat, was a frontline in a much larger battle against the ‘Third World’, as Vijay Prashad defines it. It is this battle that ultimately threw back any progress that was made in achieving greater equality in the post-colonial era (as imperfect and short-lived as that was). It also, however, coincided with the solidification of an intense puppet regime with Mubarak. In order for him to implement policy that was against the interests of the overwhelming majority in the Arab world, his regime had to be dictatorial. The battle in Egypt is not only against the economic programme of neoliberalism, but that programme is so obviously centred on an absolutely vulgar project of ongoing occupation. This is why the US did not give up on him as easily as they would have with any other tin-pot dictator.
In fact, up until January of 2011 the position of the US and the EU was that the northern countries needed to be held down by dictators of the good kind, while support for those despots further south has been more fickle. It was the US, Israel and their other client, Saudi Arabia, who required the dictatorial rule to maintain their grip on the gates of the Palestinian prison in Gaza and the Suez. This dictatorship did not, however, manage to break down all aspects of Nasser's anti/post-colonial state, which included significant advancement in levels of education. Thus, Mubarak found himself implementing neoliberal policies that cut the number of jobs available as a demographic glut of educated students entered working age.
THE SOUTH SUFFERS DIFFERENTLY AND RESPONDS DIFFERENTLY
Although it is politically unpopular to divide the continent of Africa, in this analysis, there are important reasons to do so. Since the financial crisis of 2008 there has been ongoing speculation in commodities, including the rise in futures markets for staple foods, which has coincided with processes of 'land-grabbing' and further social dislocation of the poorest in Africa. This has been met with a surge of protest movements in sub-Saharan countries that bears some resemblance to those taking place in Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. The increases in food prices are of course just one component – the last in a series of attacks against the poor over the last 20 years or more: education and healthcare have been gutted, basic infrastructure is crumbling, unions have been smashed, wages are down, transport costs continually rise while people are forced to travel in despicably unsafe vehicles that take them home to intermittent electricity and water services they nevertheless pay ever-larger portions of their income for.
The conditions of the majority in sub-Saharan Africa unfortunately render them politically volatile. Varying theories in social sciences have tried to codify the resulting political structures; ‘politics of the belly’, ‘politics of spoils’, ‘prebendalism’ and the like. They all are attempting to codify forms of semi-feudal arrangements in which labour and the necessities of life are not completely commodified. Labour and life are of course not completely commodified in any part of the world. Everywhere, capitalism is built upon pre-existing systems of oppression even as it smashes the bonds between humans and nature, humans and each other, in creating the wage relation. These pre-existing systems of oppression – these 'traditions' – are reinvented as capitalism expands ever outward into new places. However, in many parts of Africa, so few manage to actually break into the wage relationship. As a result ‘non-capitalist’ relations tend to be more intense than in the centres of capitalist accumulation.
In current-day Uganda, where demonstrators increasingly challenge the US-supported petty dictatorship of Yoweri Museveni, it is estimated that 80 per cent of youth are unemployed (Africa Report, no. 29, April 2011). Official unemployment rates in most of Africa are of course notoriously difficult to establish, if there are even attempts to collect them. Yet World Bank statistics show that in Chad, 94 per cent of those employed can be described as being in ‘vulnerable employment, unpaid family or own account employment’. In Senegal it is 84 per cent. Zambia, which benefits from a large mining sector, comes in at 65 per cent.
Then there are the dramatic differences in quality of life and public health indicators. According to those established in the Millennium Development Goals, only 5 per cent of people in Benin and Niger have access to ‘improved sanitation services’. It is 4 per cent in Ethiopia (although Britain's Johnny Walker just acquired one of its main breweries. They may not have clean water; they can at least have beer!). 9 per cent in the Congo and Burundi have 'improved sanitation'. In Chad, sadly, it is only 3 per cent. According to World Bank statistics, Chad has to be about one of the worst places in the world to live – if one actually wants to stay alive. The only places with worse overall crude death rates are the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau (with its drug-smuggling port of Europe-bound cocaine) and Afghanistan. In comparison, 59 per cent of Peruvians and 81 per cent of Guatemalans enjoy these basic necessities. For Chadians, therefore, working as a mercenary for Gaddafi was a reasonable option. In Botswana, which was so recently billed as a 'miracle' economy thanks to its mining industry, almost 25 per cent have HIV.
This is, unfortunately, not Africa rising, it is Africa flailing. Africa is flailing amidst the repercussions of neoliberal economic policies and a resulting process of accumulation through dispossession. The inequalities emerging in African countries are as or more staggering than they are in all other parts of the world subjected to neoliberal economic policies. The difference is that Africans barely extracted any of the benefits of capitalism, in the ways that working class people in other parts of the world were able to. They received at most a decade and a half of post-independence in which they could go on a spending spree and build the infrastructure their societies had been systematically deprived of through the colonial years. Some, such as South Africa, never had that opportunity as neoliberalism was brought in simultaneously with the end of apartheid and formal independence.
The new elite in sub-Saharan Africa is extremely brazen in their conspicuous consumption, but the more difficult question to answer is whether they will actually have any capacity to make investments in industries that could absorb some of the extraordinary levels of the unemployed. So far it does not seem to be the case as wealth tends to be coming from those who have quickly gotten into cell-phone communications – supporting technologies manufactured elsewhere – and luxury hotels and transport, while most other industries are being increasingly dominated by external players. As Patrick Bond has repeatedly noted, their productive capacities are proving to be as pathetic as Fanon predicted they would be. Many members of this new elite are often former activists from the independence struggle. Today they make a mockery of the struggle as they sport the latest models of luxury cars with the spoils of contracts for state services, their investments in mining companies in Zimbabwe and their seats on corporate boards of directors.
The unemployed, on the other hand, are both illiterate and globally aware – they see displays of the wealth emanating from other parts of the world and quite rightfully desire some of it. Yet almost all of them have been victim of multiple tragedies. Many have lost parents, siblings, extended family and friends to HIV, where it has been prevalent (yet where it is not, malaria, dysentery and innumerable treatable diseases do nearly as well). Those now at a working age were the first victims of cuts in education, who lost out when fees were suddenly introduced for school systems that were incapable of maintaining standards. Universities were bled dry, hospitals, clinics, veterinary care and marketing systems were dismantled and food subsidies eliminated, some water and electricity services have been partially privatised, but most systems are still floundering because of the enormous investments needed to simply revive what already exists. Meanwhile, peri-urban slums continue to be built in flood zones and areas without basic sanitation, let alone clean water.
In this context, poor people participate in some of the most unpleasant political processes. They have not built an analysis of the global economy through processes of battling employers and the state in the way that many Egyptian workers have. Al Jazeera coverage has praised Senegal's ‘Y En A Marre’ (‘Enough!’) movement, but nobody talks about the fact that when they demonstrate, large demonstrations also take place in support of the hideously kleptocratic ruling party. Things are not quite as they are reported in the Tehran Times (http://www.tehrantimes.com/index.php/world/721-senegals-wade-stages-mass-rally-for-re-election-bid), but pro-Wade rallies in early 2011 did pull out thousands while comparable numbers demonstrated for Y En A Marre. Those at rallies in support of the ruling party are not simply Wade’s stooges, like those who attempted to break into Tahrir Square numerous times with vicious force but were repelled by heroic rock-throwing youth.
In Senegal, as in Zambia and many other parts of the continent, the poorest demonstrate in support of the ruling parties as often as they demonstrate against them. This is a complex phenomenon that cannot be explained in simple, jargonistic political science terms, but it often has very nasty consequences. These are, for example, the homophobes in Malawi. In Zambia, grassroots politics most often amount to party ‘cadres’ (unemployed youth) beating each other up and at times terrorising local members of the community. Newspapers weekly have images of people whose faces have been bloodied in ridiculous battles as the poor fight about insults made toward their respective leaders. Their leaders, such as Michael Sata of Zambia's Patriotic Front, mobilise homophobic, misogynist and xenophobic nationalisms that make mockeries of history and invoke religious fundamentalisms fuelled by US-funded evangelical church doctrine. The fear, of course, is that in some instances these forms of politics meet up with voting blocks that correspond to territorial claims of ethnicity. In Kenya, in 2008, this resulted in poor people killing each other as the country divided for their presidential candidates. This kind of mobilisation is so much easier and more rapid than the great work the Bunge La Mwananchi movement undertakes, pulling out smaller numbers to a cause that is much more capable of halting ongoing colonialism.
These comprador leaders join the World Bank and international NGOs in appropriating the language of the left. This language was once used in former liberation struggles but today it is utterly disconnected from their original meanings. Lay people can wax on about ‘empowerment’ and ‘gender’ without being able to actually contextualise it in relation to structures of political and economic power. The BMW-driving wives of politicians head up women's organisations while invoking the most vacuous feminist politics that simply ask citizens for votes for women. Five African countries actually have more women in government than Canada – Rwanda, Angola, Burundi, Uganda and South Africa – and yet it has not altered neocolonial relations. Rather than focusing on the tyranny of debt-servicing relationships, Africans have picked up on the distracting and undemocratic language of ‘governance’ pushed on them by the IFIs. Such language doesn't even function within the narrow confines it was intended for, in part because it conflicts with the ideology of neoliberalism.
Carlos Oya at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) has been undertaking research on civil service reform that reveals a variety of new means of fleecing the public within the frameworks provided by the IMF, World Bank and other donors. The language of privatisation, outsourcing and public–private partnerships has enabled civil servants to set up consultancies and companies that run parallel to government, receiving outsourcing contracts for inflated prices. It is a new version of the very same thing that the neoliberals disliked about former parastatal enterprises – graft, but it has simply been given a new name.
Ultimately, Firoze Manji is correct to say that ‘there is, in effect, a bankruptcy of ideas’ on how to move forward in struggles against neoliberalism in Africa. There is not only a bankruptcy of ideas, but the social forces do not seem to be there to fight for them. In the first anti-colonial struggles key intellectuals shunned material prosperity within the colonial economy and took on the slow task of anti-colonial popular education. They rode bicycles between villages and stayed in the houses of the poor. In the best instances they developed organic connections with the struggles of the poorest while promoting a politics of self-emancipation in the manner promoted by people like Frantz Fanon and Amílcar Cabral. Spontaneity and mass action played a vital role in many instances, but there was also a political philosophy – however imperfect – to tap into. Today few intellectuals of this sort exist. Committed academics are absorbed in trying to keep universities functioning while others spend their time doing work for international organisations and NGOs. Others have left to work in the US, Europe and elsewhere – often with the reasonable desire to support their families on the continent. Regardless of the motivations, the result is that the educated classes have largely abandoned the struggles for independence and social justice.
For these reasons, if social forces in much of Africa are going to fight for a better world they will absolutely have to link up with those struggles elsewhere – and especially those in Egypt and Tunisia. Not only do Egyptian activists need to continue to fight internally, they will have to develop an internationalism that looks south. The recent massacres of dark-skinned people by Libyan rebels show how disastrous anti-African sentiment by lighter skinned 'Arabs' can be. African social movements like Kenya's Bunge la Mwananchi will also have to navigate the competing demands of continuing their impressive grassroots activism in challenging circumstances under principles of self-reliance while also finding ways to link up with international struggles that can find ways of supporting them without undermining their autonomy. The point is, we cannot expect the same kind of dramatic surges in the south anytime soon. Unfortunately, it will take a lot more work and a lot more thinking about how to build a new and potent internationalism. (See Kimari and Rasmussen's excellent piece here: http://www2.carleton.ca/africanstudies/research/nokoko/volume-1/)
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India–Africa relations in the 21st century
Genuine partnership or a marriage of convenience?
Fantu Cheru and Cyril Obi
From most indications, India and China, two leading emerging economies in the world, are competing with each other, as well as Africa’s traditional western trading partners, to build a stronger relationship with Africa. Both Asian giants have contributed to the increase in the volume and value of African exports, bringing in more revenue to resource-rich African countries. This has provided African countries with an opportunity also to diversify the destination of exports, creating some room for greater flexibility, as well as an alternative to the condition-laden, asymmetrical relations into which African countries had been hitherto locked with their western trading partners and financial institutions.
By the same logic, India and China have provided Africa with cheaper imports, investments and low-cost technology, while their resource diplomacy has provided the continent with new and visible forms of development cooperation and aid that are largely free of the terms imposed by western partners. It would appear that this competition between India and China is underscored by the quest for oil, markets, minerals, raw materials and influence.
Although the growing presence of India and China in Africa is creating some concern in western capitals, particularly in the context of a ‘new’ scramble for Africa’s resources and the implications of such ties for democracy and accountability in Africa, it is rather too early to tell whether this renewed interest in Africa by China and India will constitute a new dimension of South–South relations, or alternatively, if it will produce new forms of asymmetrical relations. What is clear, however, is that the rise of both India and China in Africa certainly will have significant implications for the future of Africa’s development and its international relations. Trade between China and Africa grew from $20 billion in 2001 to more than $120 billion in 2009. Similarly, India’s trade with Africa (excluding oil) also surged from $914 million in 1991 to between $25 billion and $30 billion in 2008.
Despite official Indian denial that there is no competition between the two Asian giants (The Economic Times 2010) in Africa, India’s foreign policy swings between attempting to catch up with the Chinese, who have made major inroads in Africa over the past decade, and accommodating the aspirations of China, India and the western world in the context of India’s enduring relations with the continent. Thus, we argue that what we see is an emerging trend of competition sometimes moderated by accommodation. This competition centres on three major issues: energy security, access to Africa’s untapped markets and diplomatic influence (National Intelligence Council 2004; Martin 2008).
Also of note is the reality that India cannot match China’s ‘deep pockets’ when it comes to resource diplomacy, state backing for private sector investments, and the provision of credit and aid to African countries. India compensates for this with its rhetoric of being a true friend and equal partner of Africa that is keen to facilitate development on the continent, as defined by Africans themselves, in the spirit of solidarity and mutual benefit. However, India’s policy toward Africa is different from China’s more in terms of its form/degree than of its intent (Mawdsley and McCann 2010). It is important to note that when stripped of its rhetoric, it is hard to ignore the similarities between the African strategies of India and China, which Naidu rightly observes is found in ‘their demands for resource security, trade and investment opportunities, forging of strategic partnerships, African–Asian solidarity and South–South solidarity’ (Naidu 2010, p. 34).
The other aspect that relates to the expansion of Indian influence in Africa is framed in the context of an Indo-Africa renaissance, which can act both for economic partnership and a voice in shaping the emerging world order (Sharma 2009). In this regard, India has doubled its lines of credit (LOC), opened up niches in the areas of human resource development, technical training and capacity building, energy cooperation, investments, a pan-African e-network and the transfer of low-cost appropriate technology. Although the evidence strongly indicates that ‘India has lagged behind China’s aggressive courting of African nations to secure rights to energy as well as raw materials’ (Redvers 2010), India’s competition with China in Africa will serve as an interesting window on the way in which these three issues affect Indian policy.
INDIA’S RACE TO CATCH UP WITH THE CHINESE
It is important to establish from the outset that India is not a newcomer to Africa and the relationship dates back to the pre-colonial period. It became stronger during the period of anti-colonial struggle and later, at the height of the cold war, when India, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, took an instrumental role in the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to demand for a just international order. The principle of nonalignment and South–South cooperation became the centrepiece of Indian foreign policy until the late 1980s.
With the economic liberalisation in the 1990s, India’s foreign policy objectives became more pragmatic, with the aim of promoting India’s economic ambitions on the world stage. Just as China had done under Premier Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s, India began to strengthen its external relations with Europe, the United States and its closest neighbours in Asia to fully realise its political and economic ambitions. Among India’s more recent foreign policy initiatives were the decisions to enter into a strategic dialogue with the US, open new economic relations with the countries of Latin America and Asia, ease tensions with China and pursue a deliberate policy to collaborate with them in key international organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation. Yet, engagement with the African continent did not peak in India’s ambitious globalisation strategy until 2008, almost a decade after Beijing’s well-coordinated penetration of the African market.
There are a number of reasons why New Delhi is increasingly courting the African continent. At the forefront of India’s foreign policy priorities is energy security (Patey, Chapter 9 in this volume; Obi 2010; Vines and Campos 2010). The Indian economy has grown rapidly from the 1990s, and securing cheap energy and other strategic raw materials from the African continent on a long-term basis has become an economic and political imperative. It is projected that by 2030 India will be the world’s third-largest consumer of energy (Madan 2006). Currently, 75 per cent of India’s oil imports come from the politically volatile Middle East. Because India possesses few proven oil reserves, diversifying the sources of its energy supply by developing stronger economic ties with the African continent tops the political agenda (Sharma and Mahajan 2007). With projections suggesting that India will depend on oil for almost 90 per cent of its energy needs by the end of this decade, it is little wonder that energy security through the diversification of supplies is a key priority. Given Africa’s position as the last oil frontier, it is only strategic that India engages the continent in pursuit of its energy security interests. This urgency is further elevated by the increasing scramble for African resources by both China and the industrialised countries.
Second, Africa has emerged as an important market for Indian goods and services, as well as a vital element in India’s quest for strategic minerals and other natural resources needed to feed its burgeoning economy. In this regard, the Indian private sector, with some government support, has been active in expanding trade and investment in Africa and to capture Africa’s untapped market potential. Accordingly, India’s trade with Africa expanded by 500 per cent, from $5.2 billion in 2003 to an estimated $26 billion in 2008. The most recent figures for 2009 indicate that India’s trade with Africa has grown to an estimated ‘US$39 billion, compared to China–Africa trade of US$109 billion’ (Indiainteracts 2010), showing a continuous growth in Indo-African trade, but also indicating the gap between India and China’s trade with Africa. India is working hard, however, as suggested by agreements reached at the March 2010 India–Africa Conclave meeting in New Delhi attended by 400 African delegates from 34 countries, ‘to scale up its bilateral trade with Africa to US$70 billion by 2015’ (Thaindian News 2010).
Similarly, African countries have been interested in acquiring cost effective and intermediate technology from India in the fields of information technology, agriculture, health and pharmaceuticals (Modi 2010). Only half a million Africans have access to the internet, and there is thus a pressing need to narrow the digital divide. Africans also want to gain more knowledge and expertise from India’s successful green revolution experience in order to attain food self-sufficiency. In the field of health, African consumers are interested to have access to affordable drugs as well as treatment in India’s highly sophisticated health delivery system (Beri 2008).
Third, as its economic power grows, India also has decided to project its military power in the Indian Ocean region, which it has long considered to be within its sphere of influence. Given the existence of extremist organisations and criminal syndicates that traffic drugs, arms and people, as well as pirates in the Indian Ocean region, India has begun to dramatically expand its military presence in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean, through which the oil tankers that carry nearly all of India’s oil imports must travel (Volman 2009).
In October 2008, Indian warships began conducting patrols off the Somali coast to protect ships from pirate attacks. India has also established a listening post in northern Madagascar, which consists of a radar surveillance station equipped with a high-tech digital communications system and which is intended, at least in part, to monitor Chinese activities. In 2003, India signed a defence cooperation agreement with Seychelles and in 2006 signed a defence agreement with Mozambique to provide arms and to conduct regular naval patrols off Mozambique’s coast (Vines, Chapter 11 in this volume; Vines and Oruitemeka 2008).
The Indian government has launched a number of initiatives to strengthen economic cooperation between Africa and India. This engagement takes three forms: development assistance, foreign direct investment and trade, and diplomacy. There are two instruments through which India extends development assistance: the LOC extended by the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of India and the traditional technical assistance predominately managed by the country’s ministry of external affairs. Overall, Indian development assistance has grown from Rs.9.2 billion in 2000 to Rs.25 billion in 2009 (Ministry of Finance 2009). Needless to say, it is difficult to ascertain precisely the volume and types of India’s development assistance to Africa because complete and disaggregated data is hard to find (Jobelius 2007; Kragelund 2008; Rowlands 2008). The available data does not make a distinction between what the OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) development action committee would define as aid and what is export credit, a problem that also holds true to Chinese aid to Africa (Brautigam 2009). As will be made clear later in this chapter, a large part of what India spends on development assistance in Africa is nothing more than an export subsidy scheme for surplus Indian goods (Agrawal 2007; Mawdsley and McCann 2010).
The share of India’s official development assistance going to Africa is relatively small compared with aid going to India’s Asian neighbours (Mawdsley 2010). In the fiscal year 2009–10, a mere Rs.20.53 billion was allocated to the whole of Africa, compared to the Rs.400.00 billion allocated to Afghanistan. The bulk of Indian development assistance to Africa is devoted to training, capacity building, project-related consultancy services, deputation of experts, study tours and other ‘soft’ investments, although the country also supports a number of capital projects financed by export credit extended through the Exim Bank (Katti et al 2009; Sinha 2010).
Among the most important technical assistance programmes are the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme and the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme for Africa (SCAAP). Under ITEC and SCAAP, some 1,000 African experts are given short-term training in India every year in a number of technical fields — from public administration to agricultural research and computer literacy. In addition, the ITEC programme provides scholarships to African students who take regular academic courses in India (Katti et al 2009).
Increasingly, however, commercial interests have become embedded in India’s foreign policy. As India faces a potential energy crisis, Africa has entered centre stage in India’s foreign policy priorities and development assistance is channelled to achieve this goal (Mawdsley and McCann 2010; Obi 2010; Vines and Campos 2010). Currently, about 24–30 per cent of India’s crude oil imports is sourced from Africa (Obi 2009). Consequently, India has stepped up its diplomatic offensive in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, where 70 per cent of African oil is extracted. Indian oil companies, such as the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Limited (OVL), have invested heavily in equity assets in Sudan, Ivory Coast, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Gabon and Angola. India has also recently completed a $200 million project to lay pipeline from Khartoum to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Indian companies have invested in exploration and production blocks in Madagascar and Nigeria (the latter currently accounts for between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of India’s total oil imports, estimated at 400,000 barrels per day and is the second largest source of Indian imports).
During a visit to Abuja the Nigerian capital city, as part of a four-nation Africa tour in January 2010, Murli Deora, India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, announced the country’s commitment to invest $360 million to develop two oil blocs (Oil Prospecting Licenses 279 and 285). Also included in the package was a deal between ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) Mittal and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to establish a refinery and explore the possibility of cooperation between GAIL (India) and India Oil Corporation in the Nigerian liquefied natural gas sector (Ezigbo 2010). Deora’s tour marked the latest endeavour of India’s burgeoning African petro-diplomacy. For example, it represented a follow-up to the second India–Africa Hydrocarbon conference in New Delhi in December 2009, and underscored the industry of the Indian state in pursuing India’s energy security interests in Africa in the face of competition from China and western oil-import dependent countries.
The Focus Africa Programme launched in 2002 by the Ministry of Commerce and administered by the Exim Bank of India aims to provide financial assistance to various trade promotion organisations and export promotion councils. The programme now covers some 24 African countries and has been instrumental in encouraging and assisting the tremendous growth in Indian exports to sub-Saharan African countries. The programme has particularly targeted regional economic blocks, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa as critical nodes to expand Indian exports to the sub-regions by extending to them LOC.
Two years later, the Techno-Economic Approach for Africa- India Movement (TEAM-9) for cooperation between India and eight West and Central African countries situated in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea was initiated to promote trade and investment (Beri 2008). This is essentially a credit facility with a volume of $500 million for Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal. The aim is to promote economic development in these countries through access to Indian technology. Some of the projects established under this initiative include $30 million for rural electrification in Ghana, a $4 million bicycle plant in Chad, a $12 million tractor assembly plant in Mali and a $15 million potable drinking water project in Equatorial Guinea (see Vittorini and Harris, Chapter 12, this volume).
Another novel initiative by India has been the launch of the Pan-African e-Network in February 2009. The aim of the project is to bridge the digital divide and accelerate development on the African continent. The project, which is expected to cost $1 billion, supports tele-education, tele-medicine, resource mapping and e-commerce. For example, major hospitals in many African countries are now connected through the e-network with the leading Indian hospitals and receiving real-time instructions and assistance to provide advanced medical services to their patients (Modi 2009). State-owned Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd will implement the network, which India will manage for five years before turning it over to the Africa Union (AU).
In April 2008, the first official India–Africa Summit was held in New Delhi, indicating the coming of age of India’s relations with the African continent. Among the many initiatives that India announced at the summit were:
- An increase of the existing level of credit to Africa from about $2 billion to $5.4 billion by 2013.
- A duty-free tariff preference scheme for 34 least developed African countries. The scheme will cover 94 per cent of total tariff lines and products, such as cotton, cocoa, aluminium ores, copper ores, cashew nuts, cane sugar, clothing and nonindustrial diamonds.
- The doubling of trade from $25 billion to $50 billion by 2011.
- A $500 million budget allocation for capacity building and human resource development, expanding existing training programmes for African students and technocrats.
- Support to Africa’s regional integration efforts and provision of financial support to the AU and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). This includes a $200 million line of credit to NEPAD.
The second India–Africa Summit will take place in the spring of 2011 and is expected to review implementation of the agreed goals of the first summit and promote new initiatives to expand the economic and political relationship between Africa and India. The picture emerging thus far is that, despite a slow start, India’s strategy toward Africa is becoming more focused, and policy coherence between the activities of various Indian economic agents and the Indian state has improved significantly during the past three years. With a huge Indian diaspora in Africa, English as the principal working language for the Indian private sector and the government bureaucracy, and given its proximity to the continent, India is steadily consolidating its expanding and much closer ties with Africa. In the medium to long term, it could conceivably close the gap with China on the continent.
THE INDIAN PRIVATE SECTOR
Unlike the predominantly state-driven approach of China, India’s entry into Africa is spearheaded by private companies covering sectors such as telecommunications, agriculture, hotels, mining, rail and road infrastructure and pharmaceuticals. Buoyed by the economic boom in India, the easy availability of capital and the search for new markets, Indian companies such as Kirloskar Brothers Limited, the Tata Group, Mahindra and Mahindra, Fortis, Escort and Apollo have begun looking to the continent of Africa as a source of raw materials and markets. There are longestablished trade relations between Africa and India, yet according to many commentators and businesspersons African nations are interacting with a renewed wave of Indian exporters in sectors in which Indian light engineering products, consumer goods and intermediate products can compete on price and are well adapted to local conditions. Indian companies are also seeking to mine gold, diamonds, manganese, bauxite, iron ore and chrome, either by operating new mines or by forming local partnerships with local firms to exploit existing ones.
The dramatic growth of the Indian private sector in Africa has taken place under the stewardship of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the publicly owned Exim Bank of India and the captains of major Indian companies. Between 2004 and 2011, the CII and Exim Bank have jointly organised seven major meetings that brought together key Indian and African private sector organisations and government representatives to discuss and review the progress made in deepening economic engagement between India and Africa (Bhattacharya 2010; Modi 2010).
In addition to the Indian private sector, Indian state-owned corporations, such as the Indian Telecom Industries, Rail India Technical and Economic Services (Rites), Konkan Railways, the ONGC and many others are also very active in the extractive sector as well as in large-scale construction projects, such as roads, railways, telecommunications and the building construction sectors. For example, although Rites and IRCON, the two large state-owned infrastructure and engineering companies have been engaged in construction of rail networks and the leasing of locomotives in Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique, companies such as Kalapaaru Power Transmission Ltd have secured major contracts to build power transmission sites. In general, the state-owned enterprises work very closely with the Indian private enterprise and operators in both sectors draw a great deal of support from the Exim Bank through its LOC programme.
The Exim Bank has been a key institution and has played a critical role in facilitating the entry of Indian private sector companies into Africa, including the financing of major capital projects on the continent (Mawdsley and McCann 2010). It has done this through its LOCs to African governments, parastatal boards, regional entities such as the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank, the West African Development Bank, and the East Africa Development Bank to promote Indian exports and consultancy services to Africa. According S.R. Rao, the Chief General Manager of the Exim Bank of India, some 30 LOCs were in operation in Africa in 2006 alone, totalling about $1 billion (Rao 2006, p. 21).
At the end of March 2009, almost $2.27 billion (or 60 per cent of total Exim LOCs of $3.75 billion) went to African countries. In the financial year 2008–09 alone, the Exim Bank extended 25 LOCs worth $479 million to Africa (Exim Bank 2008). Total LOCs are expected to reach $5.4 billion over the next five years. Examples of funded projects in Africa executed by Indian companies include: supply of pharmaceuticals (Uganda, Ghana); building of transmission lines (Kenya); telecom projects (Malawi); a railway construction project (Tanzania); the erection of a sugar plant (Nigeria); and a sewerage study (Ethiopia) (Rao 2006).
Although the increasing volume of LOCs to individual African countries, regional multilateral bodies by the Exim Bank is a good indication of the private sector-led thrust of India’s Africa policy, there is a risk of adding to Africa’s debt burden. Great care must be taken to balance credits destined to promote mere consumption of Indian luxury goods versus credits to support investment aimed at raising African productivity, increasing income and reducing poverty in the long term.
Furthermore, the OECD has been extremely critical of both India and China’s approach to trade with Africa, arguing that both the Asian giants are mainly interested in securing raw materials and energy from Africa and finding new markets for their cheap goods and services. Because this could lead to ‘Dutch disease’ in African countries, it is not to their advantage in the long term (Goldstein et al 2006). This conclusion has already been assigned to Chinese investments in Africa and India will not be able to escape the same criticism if it fails to heed African concerns.
In addition to providing export credits, the Exim Bank has bought equity stake in the Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), the West African Development Bank and the Development Bank of Zambia. It also has a strong relationship with the African Development Bank (AfDB), and as a non-regional member of this bank has been able to assist Indian companies to bid successfully in AfDB-financed infrastructure projects in Africa. It also influences private sector development in Africa through its consultancy and advisory services to numerous African governments and the World Bank Group, resulting in the participation of Indian companies in projects financed by the International Finance Corporation under its Africa project development facility, the Africa Enterprise Fund and the Technical Assistance and Trust Fund in a number of African countries (Rao 2006).
On the diplomatic front, both India and China compete fiercely to win the hearts and minds of African leaders for their respective foreign policy goals. The big prize for China is winning the support of Africans for its ‘one China’ policy over Taiwan; for India, the big prize is securing a seat at the UN Security Council (Schaffer and Mitra 2005; Suri 2007). As noted earlier, India’s pitch has been to underscore its long-standing relationship with the continent, its track record of solidarity with Africa in struggles of decolonisation and the quest for development. Indian diplomats and government officials are quick to emphasise that far from being a fair-weather friend, India offers a unique model of engagement with the continent based on equality, mutual respect and benefits. As Tharoor recently asserted, ‘we do not wish to go and demand certain rights or impose certain rights or projects or impose our ideas in Africa. But we want to contribute to Africa’s development objectives’ (Indiainteracts 2010). However, like China, India has hosted African summits, which have been (at least partially) concerned with the promotion of Indian business and hydrocarbon interests.
There is also the fact that India is a multiparty democracy, which acts as a form of leverage and legitimacy in its dealings with Africa but also constitutes a bureaucratic bottleneck preventing quick and timely decisions with regard to its interests in a rather competitive African scene. But the recent upsurge in visits by Indian high-ranking officials to strategic African countries and the engagement of Africa’s regional organisations point to greater Indian presence and influence on the continent. By seeking to differentiate its model of engagement with Africa from that of China and the western powers, India is no doubt attempting to carve an image for itself as an alternate and beneficial partner as it seeks to out-manoeuvre a more endowed and aggressive China that has so far outpaced it in the ‘new’ scramble for Africa.
Another aspect of India’s Africa diplomacy that deserves some attention is its role in the training of Africa’s militaries and peacekeepers. India continues to be one of the largest contributors to peacekeeping missions in Africa (Singh 2007). According to Singh (2007), India has been a part of all UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. Although Indian peacekeepers had to be withdrawn from Sierra Leone, reports of India’s involvement in peacekeeping operations on the continent have been largely positive. India is also the third-largest troop contributor to UN African peace operations (Singh 2007), and its efforts in supporting peace operations on the continent cannot be separated from its efforts to promote peace and its influence in Africa, while also playing a positive role in world affairs.
Following the lead of many European donors, India has also been supporting African regional institutions, such as the AU and NEPAD, ECOWAS and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as stated above. Indeed, the India-South African relationship was formalised through the formation of the SADCIndian Forum in 2003, and within the context of the tripartite India- Brazil-South Africa institution. India has contributed $200 million for the implementation of various projects under NEPAD. Also the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) have signed a memorandum of understanding with ECOWAS on trade relations (Afrique en ligne 2010).
To underscore its strategic partnership with Africa, India and the AU have recently ‘finalised a Plan of Action of the Framework for Cooperation of the Indian African Forum Summit’ (NetIndian 2010). The framework is both to guide the implementation of the agreements reached at the first India–Africa Forum Summit and set the stage for the second summit planned for the spring of 2011. In this regard, the programme sets out the details for establishing several institutions to promote Indo-African relations. These include the India Africa Institute for Foreign Trade, India Africa Diamond Institute, India Africa Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, India Africa Institute of Information Technology, and the Pan African Stock Exchange (NetIndian 2010).
PROSPECTS FOR INDIA–AFRICA RELATIONS
India is moving fast to consolidate its growing footprint in Africa as it competes with China and with developed countries to secure energy, raw material resources, and markets to fuel its growing economy and export its manufactured goods and services. India’s active engagement with Africa is motivated by a general desire to exert greater influence in global affairs and more specifically to secure African diplomatic support in New Delhi’s quest to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Although China currently dominates the African market, India will more likely gain the comparative advantage in the medium to long term: its strong diasporic community on the ground in Africa, its proximity to the continent, its use of historical ties and special niches to promote its cause of African friendship, its first-class education system and its enduring democratic tradition will contribute towards making it more competitive than China (Modi 2010).
For the Indian private sector to succeed in doing business in Africa, it requires elaborate and proactive state guidance. At the moment, such guidance does not exist in a coordinated way and is only just being constructed. The democratic setup of India, which will be an advantage in the long term, can in the short term also fetter business process because of the bureaucratic state machinary. Furthermore, with an aggressive free press, transparency in business contracts needs to be maintained. The challenge for the government is how to actively support India’s private business in Africa while staying firm on the need to uphold the principles of democratic practice and corporate social responsibility in the areas of labour standards, environment sustainability and respect for human rights.
Needless to say, there is a growing concern in Africa that the increasing engagements of the Asian giants in their search for energy, minerals, markets and influence, if not managed properly could turn out to be just as bad as the scramble for resources that led to the colonisation of the continent during the second half of the 19th century. Some of the risks include:
- Increasing ‘securitisation’ of African international relations (Volman 2009)
- Weak governance standards and misallocation of receipts from high raw material prices
- A weakening of the still low local standards and regulations on environment and labour
- The destruction of local economies unable to compete with China and India’s hyper-competitive manufacturing sectors
- Political support to African regimes that are not open to democratic governance (Goldstein et al 2006; Cheru and Obi 2010).
Unless India is prepared to address these critical African concerns, the red carpet rolled out to welcome it to the continent will quickly be rolled up and taken away, and the stigma of India as a new coloniser will take decades to erase. In the final analysis, the prospects for India–Africa relations contributing positively to African development ultimately lie in the hands of Africa’s political and economic elites, their fulfilment (or betrayal) of the visionary and transformative potential that the diversification of African production and exports represents in the context of an emergent shift in post-cold war global power from the West to the East.
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Rwandan genocide survivors still waiting for reparation
At a conference organised in Kigali last month by three organisations that work with genocide survivors - REDRESS, African Rights and IBUKA – survivors stressed once again that they considered that justice without reparation is not justice.
Attempts to provide reparations for survivors have largely failed so far. Before 2001, Rwandan courts awarded millions of dollars in compensation to thousands of survivors who had brought civil claims against individual perpetrators and the Rwandan Government, which were heard at the same time as domestic genocide prosecutions.
As of today, none of these judgments have been enforced and survivors have yet to receive reparation. Similarly, awards made by local gacaca courts to compensate survivors for material damages were only enforced in a few cases, as perpetrators were indigent, refused to pay or bribed those in charge of the execution of judgments to avoid payment.
After recognising that compensation awards could not only depend on the perpetrator’s ability to pay, in 2001 the Rwandan Government drafted a bill on compensation that sought to establish a compensation fund. However, this bill was never adopted and no compensation fund was ever created, though a humanitarian fund to support needy survivors has been in operation for some time.
At the international level, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), established by the UN Security Council in November 1994 to try the masterminds of the genocide, doesn’t allow survivors to claim compensation. Their role before the Tribunal is limited to that of witnesses.
In 2000, the then president of the ICTR, Judge Pillay, urged the Security Council to consider establishing a specialised agency to assist survivors to receive compensation. According to her, compensation for victims was essential if Rwanda was to recover from the genocidal experience. However, this was never put in place.
The right to reparation for survivors of the most serious crimes is well established in international human rights and humanitarian law. Even though it is impossible to fully compensate for crimes such as genocide, compensation is important for survivors as it can serve as an acknowledgment of the crimes that were committed and allow survivors to move on with their lives in dignity.
In their response to the genocide, the Rwandan Government and the international community have prioritised until now the large task of bringing genocide suspects to justice. As part of their efforts, 1.5 million perpetrators have been convicted in Rwanda so far, according to the Rwandan Government, and a further 38 by the ICTR in Arusha. Less vigour has been applied to find avenues for reparation.
The Rwandan Government has stated that it simply lacks the means to afford reparation. It has also emphasised that it already contributes 6% of its budget to the national FARG fund. The Fonds National pour L’Assistance aux Rescapés du Génocide provides critical education, health and housing assistance to those survivors most in need, yet the vast majority of survivors do not qualify for the funds.
Survivors participating in the conference in Kigali said that they believed the Government of Rwanda should be responsible for establishing a compensation fund. They also thought that resources of the fund could come from the state budget as well as contributions from third countries, the international community, and assets of convicted perpetrators.
Survivors also expressed their fear that with the closure of the gacaca courts this December their right to reparation will be ignored forever. Then, genocide cases will be prosecuted before ordinary courts, and it is still unclear what impact this will have on survivors’ right to claim for compensation.
The fact that the government is drafting legislation to establish a mechanism that will handle issues that have not been addressed by the gacaca courts offers an opportunity to include at last a clear provision for compensation. These efforts should be encouraged as without adequate reparation, accountability efforts run the risk of being meaningless to survivors.
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* Juergen Schurr is legal advisor and expert on universal jurisdiction at REDRESS, a London-based NGO that helps torture survivors worldwide obtain justice and reparation. More information about the organisation can be found at www.redress.org
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Rwanda's mother and son genocidaires
She’ll die in prison.
The only woman indicted for rape and genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, was sentenced to life imprisonment on 24 June 2011. Her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, called ‘Shalom’ (meaning peace), was also given a life sentence for rape, genocide and crimes against humanity. Shalom’s wife, Beatrice Munyenyezi, having fled to the US and claiming asylum, is also now in jail; she was indicted for falsifying her refugee application, and charged with encouraging rapes and slaughters during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Through luck and guile, I was able to speak to Nyiramasuhuko alone which no other journalist or lawyer, other than her own, has been able to do. She was incarcerated at the Detention Center of the ICTR where she was allowed no interviews, only visits by her family. She was awaiting trial that first time I saw her in September 2003. She complained that she was lonely, being the only woman there. ‘It’s very difficult for me. I don’t have my own doctor. I do get to see Shalom, but only once a week,’ she said. It was reported that Nyrimasahuko’s main concern was for Shalom. Although she had special female guards, she said, ‘They don’t speak French and I don’t like them.’
The 57-year old, portly woman, who sat before me, her guard having left us alone, insisted, ‘I’m not guilty of rape and crimes against humanity.’ She, being a part of the Hutu political elite, claimed that the 1994 Rwandan genocide was committed by the former Rwandan rebels from Uganda, the Rwanda Patriotic Front that now controls the country. ‘It was the Tutsis who massacred the Hutus,’ she said. Nearly all the defendants and defense witnesses made this claim.
Dressed in a navy-blue, nondescript dress only brightened by a floral scarf around her throat, Nyiramasuhuko spoke with me cordially. I attributed her warm attitude to the fact that, as the only interviewer to see her, she hoped I’d tell the world of her innocence; she offered to give me documents to prove it. But when I returned the next day to get those documents, my entry to the Detention Center was barred by the UN Detention Facility Commanding Officer. He was distressed that I had previously gained access to the Center.
In the years since that meeting Nyiramasuhuko’s appearance changed dramatically and accusations against her were increasingly proven. She gradually lost a great deal of weight and dressed in brighter, more flattering colours with her head wrapped in African fashion. One of her judges, Arlette Ramaroson, told me in her chambers, ‘She’s now wearing a gold cross around her neck; I never saw that before.’ Numerous witnesses testified about Nyrimasuhuko’s involvement in the Rwandan genocide which lasted over a brief 100-day period, killing 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, mostly with machetes. Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped, a minimum of 2,500 a day, many with machetes, rifle butts and broken bottles.
As the former minister of Family and Women’s Affairs, Nyiramasahuko, instead of protecting women, incited her son and others to rape and kill Tutsi women as she stood in a military uniform at roadblocks, sometimes carrying a machine gun. She even included in her diary, admitted as an exhibit, lists of victims killed during the genocide, with, in a different ink, checkmarks after each name. On the same pages there were also domestic jottings detailing what she spent on vegetables, sugar and rice.
‘She makes me ashamed to be a woman,’ said Angelina Muganza, a former Rwandan minister of Gender, when I told her that I interviewed Nyiramasuhuko. Under Muganza’s leadership, a five-year program was initiated to improve women’s rights, including their right inherit land, which they previously were unable to do. Having grown up in a Ugandan refugee camp, Muganza returned, as many others did, to serve her country. She always greeted me warmly when I saw her during my many trips to Rwanda to do ethics and gender-sensitivity trainings for the justice system.
The Presiding Judge on The Prosecutor v. Nyiramasuhuko et. al. case, William H. Sekule, said ‘evidence clearly established Nyiramasuhuko’s direct role in ordering Interhamwe (the Hutu militia) to rape Tutsi women…..and (she) is responsible as a superior for rapes committed by members of the Interhamwe.’ The previous landmark Akayesu case at the ICTR established that rape is a crime against humanity and superiors will be prosecuted under the theory of ‘command responsibility’ for the acts of their inferiors. But the presiding judge also said that the mother and son defendants could not be charged for genocide for the rapes because the ‘Indictment was defective in failing to plead rape as genocide.’
The Trial Chamber also found that Nyiramasahuko along with her son, accompanied by Interhamwe and soldiers went to government offices where Tutsis had sought shelter and assaulted, raped, abducted and later killed them. ‘Both Nyiramasahuko and Ntahobali ordered killings. They also ordered rapes. Ntahobali further committed rapes, and Nyrimasuhuko aided and abetted rapes,’ said the Presiding Judge.
The US State Department lauded the ICTR’s verdict and said that, ‘This ruling is an important step in providing justice…for the Rwandan people and the international community…this conviction is a…milestone because it demonstrates that rape is a crime of violence and it can be used as a tool of war by both men and women.’ Hopefully, these words are sincere and not just guilt for having persuaded the international community not to interfere when the UN was warned that there was going to be a genocide.
Mother and son were tried in the largest and longest case at the ICTR. It included four other Hutu leaders accused of genocide. All were from Butare, a city in Southern Rwanda, near where Nyrimasuhuko was born in humble circumstances. She later became a lawyer and married the rector of the National University in Butare, formerly the president of the National Assembly. Nyiramasuhuko had four children and became part of the presidential inner circle, making her a principal political personality.
Arrested in Kenya in 1997, Nyiramasuhuko was later transferred to the ICTR along with Shalom. In 2001, their trial began. The case lasted ten years. It took so long, not only because there were 189 witnesses but also because every witness had to be cross-examined by each of the six defendants’ counsels. Nyiramasuhuko’s lead lawyer, Nicole Bergevin, initially pleasant, later refused to speak me, possibly because she learned I had talked to her client.
I traveled to Butare, a two-hour drive from the capital, Kigali, to see where the atrocities had taken place and where Nyiramasuhuko and Shalom had lived. The family owned and lived in the Hotel Uhiliro, where Shalom set up a roadblock and raped and killed Tutsis. Their house, which had overlooked the National University, was razed to the ground shortly after the Rwandan Patriotic Front, comprised of Tutsis from the Ugandan diaspora, had stopped the genocide. Butare, long considered the intellectual capital of the country, is the site of the National University of Rwanda, and the National Institute of Scientific Research. The National Museum is close by as is a major genocide site that was a former technical school. It houses 50,000 skeletons and skulls, many of young children, who sought refuge in the former school. The site incongruously sits on a lush green hill that overlooks a flowering valley below. The hill, if not its people, has retained its quiet calm for centuries.
The only woman charged with rape and genocide at an international tribunal, Nyiramasuhuko was also convicted of conspiracy to commit genocide, of ordering the killing of Tutsis, extermination and persecution as crimes against humanity, rape as a crime against humanity as a superior of the Interhamwe, whose members raped Tutsis and outrages upon the personal dignity as a war crime. Shalom was convicted of genocide, extermination in killing Tutsis and a young girl at the Hotel Ihuliro roadblock and ordering the massacre of Tutsis taking refuge at government offices and schools, rape and persecution as crimes against humanity and violence to life and outrages upon personal dignity as war crimes. Also given a life sentence was the former mayor of a Butare commune. A former police commander was given a 30-year sentence, a former prefect of Butare got 25 years and former mayor of another Butare commune was sentenced to 35 years.
As a former prosecutor on the case, Gregory Townsend, said to me, ‘It was a long road with many participants but we got the just result.’
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* Copyright ©2011 Elizabeth Barad
* Elizabeth Barad practices international human rights law, gender and intellectual property law. As Chair of the New York City Bar's Rwanda Legal Task Force, Elizabeth organised two ethics seminar and a gender-sensitivity workshop for the Rwandan justice system.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
‘Biko lives!’, 34 years later
On 11 September 1977, apartheid police loaded Steve Biko in the back of a pickup truck. Tortured, dehumanised, naked and restrained in manacles, he began the 1,100km trek to Pretoria where he would purportedly be imprisoned in a facility with medical amenities. So severe were the injuries Biko sustained at the hands of the police during his detention that he died shortly after his arrival at the Pretoria prison. It was 12 September 1977. State officials claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions, and that he ultimately succumbed to a brain haemorrhage from the severe injuries to the head. To everybody outside the state apparatus, it was clear that Biko had been brutally clubbed by his captors. It was Helen Zille, back when she was just a journalist, as well as Donald Woods, another journalist and close friend of Biko, who eventually exposed the shocking truth behind Biko's death.
Thirty-four years later, Helen Zille is the leader of the Democratic Alliance, the opposition party taking the fight to the ANC, and Biko haunts the political subconscious of the “new dispensation”.
“Steve Biko… we say Biko lives. Steve Biko lives,” insists Mngxitama, “The biggest mistake of the apartheid regime was to think they could kill him and his ideas.” Mngxitama believes Biko himself understood the need for longevity in his ideas when he wrote, “It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die.” Steve Biko is certainly more than a T-shirt. His were ideas that galvanised the struggle against the apartheid and a realisation of self-worth among black people themselves.
Mngxitama believes that time will prove the memory of the contribution of Biko to the struggle to be greater than even Mandela. “Today we see young people outside of the political formation trying to read and understand Biko, try to make sense of Steve Biko in a country which remains basically anti-black. So, from this point of view, it is very clear that Biko lives,” says Mngxitama. While the ANC may claim to espouse the ideas of Biko, Mngxitama believes “Biko is a threat to the current set-up that started in 1994 which continues to treat black people as sub-human. The ANC is basically managing the architecture which is anti-black”. Two weeks ago, at the opening session of the Mail and Guardian Literary Festival at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, Mngxitama shocked the audience when he said, “South Africa is a white country under black management”.
“The best tribute we can pay to Steve Biko is to fight to realise his vision of what it means to be free. It is not the picture it is now. (Biko’s vision) is simply a cantering of black people and their dignity so that every policy, every law, every act by our government is postulated to make… Right now this is not happening,” Mngxitama continues. While the palpability of Biko’s ideas in South Africa is certainly debatable, there is little doubt that Biko’s legacy is indeed a powerful one.
“I think the idea that blacks can be the bosses of their own destiny is the most powerful, distinct legacy of Biko,” says Mngxitama. “You must remember that until the emergence of black consciousness in our country, black people had given up hope. 1976 is in a sense the culmination of Biko’s teachings. And we all know that it proved be a reinvigoration of the PAC and the ANC leaders in exile, and gave hope to the leaders on Robben Island when there was no hope.” He points out that the “democracy we have today it is unimaginable without Biko’s contribution”.
It is telling that on Monday, while many self-proclaimed acolytes of Steve Biko remembered Biko by replacing their own avatars online with an image of Steve Biko, Mngxitama replaced his Facebook avatar with a picture of a student politician at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Ziyana Miché Lategan. While Nkosinathi Biko, son of Steve Biko regaled among others, Helen Zille with a timely reminder of Biko’s message at UCT, Lategan a fierce proponent of Biko’s principles of black consciousness, was contesting a seat in an SRC election. Mngxitama lobbied support for Lategan who he says confronted no less than Trevor Manuel earlier with the message that he “was a servant of capitalism and imperialism with his anti-black Gear policies”. For all the quotations proffered in deference of Biko, the reality of his message is not an entirely palatable one. Biko will not be easily made into an anecdotal teddy bear.
Among the newly crowned gentry that is the black middle class, Mngxitama is himself seen as an elaborate joke for his staunch black consciousness ideals. While he is grudgingly feted for pushing the agenda of the advancement of the lives of black people, he is lambasted for driving the debate about white privilege into circles.
While he often sounds alarmingly like Julius Malema, Mngxitama is no praise singer for the embattled ANC Youth League leader. Hours after the Johannesburg High Court ruled against Malema’s right to sing the struggle song, “Dubula iBhunu”, Mngxitama said he believed Malema was a tool in a highly contrived scheme concocted by the ANC to divert attention from the realities of South Africa’s lack of transformation. “Malema did not have to jump up and down to sing the song,” he says, but goes on to opine that the ruling proves the lack of transformation in the South African judiciary. “Increasingly, we are seeing the Constitution as a tool for extreme right-wingers,” says Mngxitama.
His vision for South Africa, he says, espouses the ideas of Biko and is one of “justice and equality”. “When I read Steve Biko carefully, I have come to the conclusion that Steve Biko must have been a black socialist because when he was asked the question ‘Are you a communist?’ he replied ‘No.’ But when he was asked ‘Are you a socialist?’, he said, ‘Yes’.”
But is Andile a socialist? Only “if you say socialism will maximise democratic life and the democratisation of wealth…” he says cautiously. Ultimately Mngxitama says his vision for South Africa is one “where communities are happy and secured”.
But how often does Mngxitama comb his hair? He laughs heartily, and then says very seriously: “No, never”. “Let me answer the question this way,” he continues, “For those who take a position against the system, there is a particular beauty in revolution.”
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* This article first appeared in the Daily Maverick.
* Khadija Patel is a journalist with the Daily Maverick.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The politics of everyday racism
A friend of mine was recently ranting after attending a predominantly ‘white’ social gathering where she was repeatedly introduced to the only other person of colour in attendance. It happens often, the underlying assumption being that ‘they’ must have something in common, owing simply to their shared race.
It is not useful to only speak about racism with reference to Eugene Terreblanche, Steve Hofmeyer or Julius Malema. Politics is also about the everyday lived reality of you and me. It is about the relations between people that make up ‘society’. In our supposedly ‘post-colonial’ society, we need to return once again to thinkers like the revolutionary Martinican philosopher Frantz Fanon to interrogate what has now become the catchphrase of politicians, ‘decolonisation’. What does this process really require of us? Are we working at fulfilling it? Or is this process perceived as already fulfilled since we gained the right to vote?
Racism, Fanon tells us, is the objectification of another. In a racist society we find ourselves as ‘objects amongst other objects’, with the freedom to choose from a range of options available to us, limited by the colour of our skins. This remains an everyday lived reality for millions of South Africans. The moment of contact between a person of colour with the white world is one of totality: all at once you represent an Indian, African or coloured person, and you represent all African, Indian or coloured people, a synecdoche which seems to be constantly reproduced.
Take for example my other less angry than amused friend who told me how racist assumptions sometimes worked in her favour. Being granted extensions for deadlines seemed easy for her because being Indian the assumption that she was ‘studious’, ‘hard-working’ and relatively ‘tamed’ in the social world always seemed to give her more flexibility with the rules. She also had the bewildering experience of being asked if she knew ‘Trish’ by a person to whom she had just been introduced. Upon inquiring why the sight of her would evoke such a seemingly arbitrary question, the boy replied: ‘Trish is also one of those “alternative” Indians who don’t think they are Indian.’
While it is easy to laugh these experiences off, and share a joke with people whose lived experience is also raced, there is an obscene underside to these seemingly unimportant encounters. It is the infernal circle that Frantz Fanon speaks about in his book ‘Black Skins, White Masks’ – the black person is locked into the colour of their skin.
In all these encounters my friends were at once responsible for their entire racial history, their ancestors, their culture, religions, traditions and rituals. At once the whole weight and burden of their existence and all those who came before them bore down on them. Indeed, they were experiencing what Fanon refers to as ‘totalising moments’: at once your entire meaning and being is conferred upon you, leaving no room for you to construct your own identity or, worse, to be unlike the identity created for you.
It reminds me of what the great Palestinian scholar Edward Said referred to as ‘the stubborn continuity of European views in the 21st century’, the rampant perpetuation of the idea that only Western cultures have the capacity and ability to evolve, grow and change. It confers on the ‘Restern world’ static homogeneity which people of colour bear the brunt of everyday. This may be in the form of a concerned inquiry, by an innocently and blatantly ignorant acquaintance, as to whether you might have to suffer an arranged marriage someday.
Ato Sekyi Otu, a leading Fanon scholar from Ghana, believes all constituencies of meaning are historically created and bare the marks of domination and alienation, and so they need to be re-examined. Decolonisation requires from us only one thing: reinvention. Everything in our colonial and apartheid histories has been constructed through domination and alienation. What we need, and what Fanon calls for, is ‘to wipe the slate clean’. This may seem like an authoritarian nationalist idea to some, but national culture is not ‘braai days’ and ‘Mandela days’ (the horrible nation-building efforts thrown at us by the media in order to brush over repressed cultures and traditions trying to bestow upon us some form of homogenous and affirming South African identity).
It is rather ‘a radical decision for this nascent (post-colonial) community to tell a story about itself’, to speak in order to reinvent itself from the clutches of colonial history. It is a dialogue, with the everyday and with the lived reality of all South Africans. It requires us to consider other people and ourselves as ‘subjects among subjects’, neither of us assuming qualities of the other, regardless of whether these qualities may in fact be as you might have assumed.
For example, you might meet many Indian people who ‘love their chilli and Bollywood movies’; you may also meet many who will have no such inclination and might feel immediately objectified (and inclined to mental vexation) when you confer this identity on them and in effect limit their freedom, as the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre asserts.
The question then remains, where are these voices? Why have we seen absenteeism in the voices that speak to people’s everyday lived realities? Has the pressure to speak about the ‘big issues’ in order to appear serious led to a denial of people’s rights to speak for and about their intimate selves and their everyday experiences? Isn’t it strange that the only contact we seem to have in the media with people who are from a variety of different cultures, traditions and class levels should be through cheap recreations of static identities in our stereotypical advertising industry (all puns intended)?
Where are the spaces in our media, and by extension in our society, for people to speak and not ‘authorities?’ Or have these days passed because what is termed our ‘democracy’ is no longer in need of dissenting ideas and thoughts? It is time for ordinary people to speak about their ordinary experiences and it is time for all to listen. This reciprocity will lead to what Fanon refers to as ‘the veritable creation of a new humanity’, a reclaiming of an equal right to be present in our social spaces on our own terms and a deepening of our democracy through a dialogue of equals.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
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Kenya: The tribal factor in the Attorney General nomination
Samuel N. Omwenga
By nominating Professor Githu Muigai to the office of the attorney general (AG), President Mwai Kibaki has accomplished something of a rarity for a meek but sleek politician: he has flipped the finger at Kenyans and flipped the finger at Kikuyu lawyers and all Kenyan women lawyers.
The position of Kenya’s attorney general was held by the venerable Charles Mugane Njonjo from our country’s independence through 1979. James Karugu, another lawyer from central Kenya, took over in April 1980 and was succeeded by Joseph Kamere from the same region as well. Amos Wako took over the portfolio in 1991 from the only other non-Kikuyu AG, Mathew Guy Muli, and clung to it in good times and bad times until this August when the new constitution forced him to exit – smiling.
President Kibaki nominated Githu Muigai to succeed Wako and he has already taken office.
What is wrong with this picture? First, it’s wrong to have public officers serving this long in any office.
Second, when I implored Kibaki recently to lead in ending tribalism in Kenya and asked our brothers and sisters from central to do the same thing, a blogger commented on my efforts as being a waste of time for, according to him, Kibaki is the most tribal president we have ever had.
I don’t know about all that but Kibaki has done nothing except propagate this belief among many citizens with his nomination of Muigai as the AG. Surely, he could have found an equally, if not more, qualified Kenyan from other tribes instead of returning the portfolio to a fellow Kikuyu.
Again, before I hear this from someone, let me hasten to add that there is nothing tribal in saying what I am saying. I would still say so, if it was a fellow Kisii doing the same thing.
But why did the president nominate yet another Kikuyu to be the AG? It was not as if the president was unaware of what that would suggest. He was, in my humble view, flipping the finger at all of us. After all, he is the president and is serving the last months of his last term.
In other words, he and his advisers must have told themselves: ‘We can do this; what is anybody going to do about it?’ The timid Kenyans that we are, we must accept that as the reality and move on, so the belief goes. They may have a point, but change is coming where these will be truly attitudes of the past.
But beyond Kenyans as a whole, the president has flipped an even bigger finger at two specific groups: the first one is the rest of his brethren from central. After his earlier botched attempt to install Muigai, only to be foiled by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Kibaki should have altogether let go the idea of installing Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s cousin as the AG. If he and his advisers believed so strongly that a Kikuyu must be appointed to the position, then he should have at least identified and appointed one from among the many other Kikuyu lawyers in the country, rather than the man he clearly failed to ram through the process last time.
Instead, Kibaki has chose to return to the same man, which can only mean he has concluded this is the only qualified Kikuyu lawyer in the country fit for nomination and appointment to the position of AG. To those who think otherwise, especially my learned Kikuyu friends, the president is flipping the finger at all of you. Again, the question he and his advisers must have asked and answered in the negative is: what are you going to do about it?
Women have not fared any better in Kibaki’s thinking and calculations. With the new constitution, which Kibaki gets partial credit for helping get passed, the role of women in government is greatly encouraged and, in fact, mandated. Kibaki would have acted by the letter and spirit of the constitution by appointing a woman as our first woman AG.
Instead, Kibaki has remained true to tradition and practice in appointing yet another man to this important position, which can only mean he concluded there was no qualified woman. To those who think otherwise, especially my learned sister friends, the president is flipping the finger at all of you too. Same question they have asked and answered in the negative: what are you going to do about it? Kibaki is, after all, the president and is serving his last months of his presidency.
All this is sad but true, I believe.
I know the question running in some of your minds is: where is Raila in all of this? Didn’t the president make these nominations upon consultation with the PM? From what I can tell by merely putting two and two together, and not based on any first-hand or second-hand information, Raila has not objected to the appointment of Githu Muigai because he does not have a legal basis to do so.
The PM was successful in thwarting Kibaki’s efforts the last time he attempted to illegally nominate and appoint Muigai and other allies to the various constitutional offices because Kibaki was clearly acting in violation of the constitution and the public was not going to stand for that flagrant abuse of power, unlike in the past.
In this case, however, we are told the president consulted the PM before re-nominating Muigai. The constitutional requirement of consultation was therefore satisfied, unlike the last time. The requisite consultations having occurred, the PM either had to agree with the nomination, or object to it. One can only conclude that the PM did not object because he could only do so based on a sound legal ground and one which Kibaki could ignore only at his own peril. I see none this time around.
Muigai is, for all I know, well qualified to be the AG. None of what I say here is legal basis to oppose his appointment. What I say here, however, is a moral basis to oppose his appointment, which would have been counter-productive for the PM, given the fragile coalition government we have.
Besides, if the PM doesn’t really care about the appointment, he can show Muigai the door once he is elected president – if Kenyans give him the nod as expected, given that the AG does not have security of tenure. In other words, Raila comes out of this the statesman he is; why pick up fights that don’t improve the situation but could make it worse instead? As Kenney Rogers sings in the ‘Gambler’, you have to know when to count them and when to fold them. There are some battles not worth fighting.
Knowing how some of my readers misread what I say, let me reiterate that what I say is merely an expression of an opinion and has nothing to do with the PM’s thinking. Mine is simply an analysis, based on publicly available information. I say this because many times we express an opinion and people automatically jump to ascribe same views upon those we support, forgetting or ignoring the fact that the two are not always the same.
In sum, Kibaki’s nomination of Githu Muigai goes to confirm what I have been saying all along, that is, ending tribalism in Kenya is a tall order. But I still have faith we shall slay the ugly animal sooner than later. And, yes, I still have faith that Kibaki and our brothers and sisters from central have a big role to play in this effort. I continue to urge them to do just that.
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* Samuel N. Omwenga is a Washington DC-based Kenyan lawyer.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Uganda: Confrontation won’t end teachers’ salary stand-off
Tumusiime Kabwende Deo
Sometimes I wonder who advises government on some of the miserable standpoints that are being taken in various ministries in reaction to pertinent issues affecting the people of Uganda. One day you have a minister justifying use of excessive force to arrest unarmed citizens; another day another minister wants traders in Owino still nursing fresh wounds after an inferno that gutted their businesses entirely; the president justifying the current economic madness as good for the country; Makerere University gets closed and lately the prime minister directing striking primary school teachers to end their ongoing industrial action over low salaries and return to class or lose their jobs. Goodness me, can we have some sanity return to our dear country! Please.
In the latest development, I think it’s not even necessary to try and spread the teachers’ plight across the board by arguing that everybody else is suffering similarly and thus salary increases cannot be accorded to just one sector. Someone’s got to admit that something is terribly wrong with the teachers’ remuneration scheme, and this has not just started today. What these people need is not the endless rhetoric, but tangible solutions that will enable them to put food on the table for their starving children and to afford decent clothing in order to appear presentable before the children they are teaching. The teachers badly need someone to offer a shoulder to lean on because their misery has reached uncontrollable levels.
One parent recently shared an experience where she was being asked by her child’s teacher to help find her another job! Does anyone expect such a teacher to be imparting sensible knowledge to the children she teaches when her entire mind is unfocused, when she is not sure of whether she will have the next day’s meal? And this is just one example of someone who was open enough to share their experience - how many more teachers are dying quietly in their misery?
I never stop wondering where this policy of paying so little to people who work so hard emanated from in our country. When you picture the work done by teachers, policemen, soldiers, Askaris, office attendants and drivers, you simply cannot compare the effort they invest with their take home pay. As if that is not enough, the government is further shamelessly taxing these people’s meagre earning through the automatic deduction of Pay As You Earn, the ultimate utilisation of which leaves everyone guessing.
I think that the way critical affairs are being run in this country has become blatantly provocative. Failure by our leaders to tone down their pride and address logical concerns logically could have far reaching negative implications. We do not need to push citizens to the wall, because once we do so, they will have no option but to revolt. Any such revolution will not only force the government to address the citizens concerns belatedly, but it will pound more pressure on the already flickering economy.
It may be understandable for the government to say that the teachers’ demands may not be immediately met in entirety, but at least something tangible must be seen to be done. Of course in the short run, some teachers may return to class under fear of losing even the little they have, but I can already predict that our innocent children and parents will most likely suffer the brunt of such an action - but how merciless this would be!
As of today the closure of Makerere University has cost students more than two weeks of study. Government is applying double standards by giving primary teachers ultimatums while possibly contemplating special solutions for their more volatile professor colleagues. However, all the signs point to a fragile situation that requires really strong leadership on all fronts in order to come up with a winning formula. Let’s admit that things are really bad, and if it means borrowing funds from our international friends to mitigate the situation in the short run, let it be. I reiterate that the way anger is building up across various sectors, there’s absolutely no more room for complacency.
We may force these horses (teachers) to the river, but we may not successfully force them to drink (impart knowledge). Let those who have ears, listen.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Ethiopia: Missing a ‘large chunk’ of territory?
Alemayehu G. Mariam
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH
When the going gets tough, the tough go looking for distractions and diversions.
The past few weeks have been tough going for dictator Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia. Secret cables released by WikiLeaks provided stunning revelations on Zenawi’s secret world. The US believes Zenawi’s security forces staged a bomb explosion in 2008 and blamed an opposition group for committing terrorism. Zenawi made a thinly-veiled solicitation to the Americans to ‘remove the Bashir regime’ in the Sudan. The Americans knew Zenawi was cooking the economic numbers to show economic development unseen anywhere in the world. They called his claims ‘mythic economic growth’. Torture is routinely practiced in Zenawi’s prisons – and the list of horrors goes on and on. Famine is spreading throughout Ethiopia and the Horn according to the recent US Senate testimony of one high-level American official. The Ethiopian economy is in shambles, according to a secret International Monetary Fund report which Zenawi has requested not be made public. Inflation is no longer galloping; it is flying high in the Ethiopian stratosphere. It’s bad news for Zenawi all around.
When the going gets tough, Zenawi always finds something to distract the people’s attention and show that he is still in total control. Last week, he paraded out two Swedish journalists and charged them with terrorism. He also arrested dozens of imaginary opponents. To put the icing on the cake, he even jailed Debebe Eshetu (first jailed after the 2005 elections), one of the greatest and much-loved Ethiopian stage and screen actors of all time. Nice try but…
WHAT HAPPENED TO A ‘LARGE CHUNK OF ETHIOPIAN TERRITORY’ IN 2008?
Some of my readers may recall that in July 2008 I gave a long speech challenging Zenawi’s factual basis and the legality of the secret giveaway of Ethiopian land to Sudan. I argued: ‘Zenawi’s defiant refusal to be transparent and open in making public an “agreement” (treaty) that gives away a large chunk of Ethiopian territory to another country is a monumental breach of constitutional duty for which he should be held accountable.’
WikiLeaks now provides confirmation to the widely held belief that Zenawi had secretly handed over Ethiopian land to Sudan. According to highly placed sources briefing American officials, in a move to deal with ‘ongoing tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan’, Zenawi had turned over land to Sudan ‘which has cost the Amhara region a large chunk of territory’ and tried to ‘sweep the issue under the rug’.
This revelation is solid confirmation of the slow and methodical dismemberment of Ethiopia. First, the Port of Assab was given away in the mid-1990s; Ethiopia became a landlocked nation. In 1998, Badme in northern Ethiopia was invaded; after 80,000 Ethiopians sacrificed their lives and repelled the invaders, Zenawi delivered Badme to the same invaders in international arbitration. In the last several years, Indian, Middle Eastern and other ‘investors’ have been handed free land without even asking for it. Then there is the insidious ‘ethnic federalism’ which has created the equivalent of Bantustans (ethnic homelands) for the Ethiopian people.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN WESTERN ETHIOPIA IN MAY 2008?
On 11 May 2008, Zenawi issued a statement which categorically denied the transfer of any Ethiopian land to the Sudan. That statement accused the ‘media’ and ‘irresponsible’ elements outside the country for creating fear and alarm over something that did not happen. When Sudanese officials publicly announced the acquisition of territory from Ethiopia in mid-May, Zenawi’s officials started backpedalling on the initial story. They said only preliminary work on border demarcation had been done, but nothing had been finalised. Within days, they changed the story once more and announced that they were merely ‘implementing prior agreements’ concluded by the imperial/Derg regimes with the Sudan.
As the Ethio-Sudan Border Affairs Committee began to aggressively investigate what was really happening on the ground in the western border areas, Ethiopians victimised by land giveaways began giving interviews to the Voice of America and other international media outlets. They complained bitterly that they had been driven out of their ancestral lands by occupying Sudanese forces. Their farm machinery and tools had been confiscated and scores of Ethiopians had been arrested and detained in Sudanese jails. The victims also reported that they were attacked by helicopter gunships of Zenawi’s regime for defending their homes, farms and towns. At that point, Zenawi had no choice but to ‘fess’ up, and on 21 May, Zenawi publicly described his agreement with al-Bashir of Sudan:
‘We, Ethiopia and Sudan, have signed an agreement not to displace any single individual from both sides to whom the demarcation benefits… We have given back this land, which was occupied in 1996. This land before 1996 belonged to Sudanese farmers. There is no single individual displaced at the border as it is being reported by some media.’
Zenawi insisted on keeping the actual agreement secret, but his public statement provided important clues on the basic terms and nature of the secret agreement. Zenawi’s statement provided solid confirmation of the existence of an actual ‘agreement’ that has been ‘signed’ either by Zenawi or someone authorised by him. While the detailed terms and conditions of the land giveaway remained secret, Zenawi put on the record the nature of the subject matter in the agreement which included: 1) the question of non-displacement of persons in the giveaway territories; 2) the preservation of benefits of all persons affected by border demarcation; 3) restoration of land rights to Sudanese farmers on land supposedly occupied illegally by Ethiopian farmers; and 4) cession of lands (‘give back of land’) ‘occupied’ by Ethiopia ‘in 1996’ back to the Sudan.
It is important to underscore the fact that ‘the agreement’ Zenawi ‘signed’ with al-Bashir, by his own description, has nothing to do with the so-called Gwen line (setting the ‘frontier between Ethiopia and Sudan’) of 1902. It also has nothing to do with any other agreements drafted or concluded by the imperial government prior to 1974, or the Derg between 1975 and 1991 for border demarcation or settlement. Zenawi’s agreement, by his own public statement, deals exclusively with border matters and related issues beginning in 1996, when presumably the alleged occupation of Sudanese land took place under his watch.
WHERE IS THE AGREEMENT?
Why has Zenawi kept the actual text of ‘the agreement’ secret from the public and the ‘Council of Representatives’ in violation of Art. 55 (12) of the Ethiopian Constitution? Zenawi as a ‘public official’ has an affirmative constitutional duty to perform his official responsibilities in an open and transparent manner. This duty is unambiguously mandated under Article 12 of the Ethiopian constitution, which provides, ‘The activities of government shall be undertaken in a manner which is open and transparent to the public… Any public official or elected representative shall be made accountable for breach of his official duties.’ Article 12 applies to all ‘activities of government’ and to all government officials. It makes no exceptions for secret deals by ‘prime ministers’. Transparency and openness in government is a mandatory constitutional duty of all public officials, not an optional or discretionary one. The refusal to make public an agreement that gives away a large chunk of Ethiopian territory to another country is a monumental breach and evasion of constitutional duty.
There is one question that needs to be answered now that the world knows the truth: Why does Zenawi keep secret and refuse to make public an agreement that gave a ‘large chunk’ of Ethiopian territory to Sudan?
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* This article was first published by Open Salon.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Cape Town: Open letter to Mayor Patricia de Lille
Calls for genuine dialogue around housing needs
Dear Mayor de Lille
I wish, at the outset, to make it clear that we, as Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape, and the many organisations in solidarity with us across Cape Town, appreciate some aspects of your speech yesterday.
We appreciate the fact that you acknowledge that shack dwellers, including backyarders, are living as we are as a result of a history of oppression and not because there is something wrong with us. Once this fact is acknowledged then it becomes obvious that we need justice and not charity to help us to survive poverty for another day or education to train us to accept our poverty. What is required is an end to poverty.
We appreciate the fact that you acknowledge that political freedom did not mean economic freedom for the majority. Once this fact is acknowledged then it becomes obvious that we cannot continue with an economic system that has made the rich richer and the poor poorer after apartheid. What is required is to think about the housing crisis outside of the logic of the economic system that has worsened the inequalities inherited from apartheid.
We appreciate the fact that you acknowledge that people have been waiting for houses for many years and so have had to seek alternatives on their own. Once this fact is acknowledged then it becomes obvious that we cannot continue to criminalise the survival strategies of the poor like land occupations, self-organised electricity and water connections etc. When we do criminalise the survival strategies of the poor we are criminalising poverty itself. In a country where CEOs are earning R2 million a month this is disgraceful. In a city where property developers, working closely with the DA (Democratic Alliance) municipality, are making fortunes by taking the best land for the rich, this is disgraceful. Poor people building shacks on an empty piece of land are not a threat to society. It is the alliance between politicians and elite property developers that are a real threat to the integrity of this city.
We appreciate your honesty in being open about the fact that according to your statistics there are 450,000 families needing houses in Cape Town and that the number is growing by 16,000 a year but that the city is building less than 7,000 houses a year. For too long politicians have told shack dwellers that we must be silent and obedient because shacks will soon be eradicated. This is a lie and it is a lie that has enabled politicians to present our struggles as a conspiracy by the 'third force' when in fact our struggles come out of the real and serious crisis of our situation. The truth is that if things stay as they are most of us will die in shacks. This is why we cannot accept any way forward that accepts the limits of current situation as if they were cast in stone when in fact they come from the choice to privilege the interests of elites against those of the poor.
We appreciate the fact that you say that you believe in open and honest engagement. We also believe in open and honest engagement. However, if you think about it for a few seconds you will see, we are sure, that open and honest engagement is not a few people listening to a stage-managed PR exercise organised by the city. Open and honest engagement actually means open and honest engagement – i.e., a free and open discussion by all who want to participate. Yesterday you ran away from open engagement. Your staff said that our wish to talk to you was a 'security risk' and a 'disruption'. If you are serious about your stated commitment to open and honest engagement then we expect you to condemn those in your staff who fear the poor, to put aside their stage-managed PR exercises and to engage with us in open assemblies.
However, we are deeply concerned about the fact that you said nothing about the necessity for us all to struggle to change the situation in which the number of people without houses is growing every year. You want us to be patient while you work to make some small changes within this oppressive situation. This is not acceptable to us. You are asking is to abandon all hope for our lives. This we cannot do. We need to struggle against this situation that oppresses us. We need to demand a solidarity tax on the super-rich to finance housing, we need to place large taxes on elite property developments, we need to expropriate land – well-located land – for housing, we need to kick the tenderpreneurs out of housing development. We need to be clear that for as long as the state is failing to house people land occupations must be encouraged. We need to be clear that for as long as the state is failing to provide water, electricity and sanitation people must be encouraged to appropriate these services for themselves. We need to be clear that for as long as Cape Town is dominated by elite interests the poor need to refuse all instructions to be patient and, instead, to organise ourselves, to build our collective strength and to challenge the elite interests.
We are also concerned about your failure to acknowledge the fact that in Cape Town, as in ANC-controlled cities like Durban and Cape Town, the state is recreating apartheid-style spatial segregation. Poor people are being dumped in the middle of nowhere. We are committed to an equal right to the cities for all people.
We are also concerned about your failure to acknowledge that it is unacceptable that in post-apartheid South Africa the houses that are being built for the poor are worse than the township houses that were built under apartheid.
We are deeply concerned about your failure to condemn Blikkiesdorp and all other TRAs as an absolute disgrace to our City and its people. We hope that you will commit to moving all residents of TRAs into decent and well-located housing immediately and to never, never building one of these monstrosities again.
We are also deeply concerned about your failure to acknowledge the unlawful state violence that has been deployed against the poor by the DA in Hangberg and Mitchell’s Plain. For as long as the DA, like the ANC elsewhere, continues to respond to land occupations with state violence the open and honest discussions that you say that you want will be difficult to achieve. It is common knowledge that you can’t negotiate with people that are using violence against you. If you are serious about negotiating with the organised poor then you should issue a moratorium against state violence against land occupations.
We are not struggling because we like to struggle. We are struggling because we live in the middle of a crisis every day and the state has no plan to resolve this crisis. We are struggling because if we don’t struggle we will, like Irene Grootboom, die in our shacks.
We are keen to negotiate with the state to try and come up with solutions to resolve the housing crisis. But we see no point in being part of stage-managed PR exercises where there is no willingness to engage in real discussion.
If you are willing to engage in real discussion we will welcome you to our communities and we will engage with you openly and honestly. But if all you want to do is organise stage-managed events where you try to legitimate your complicity with an oppressive situation we will continue to organise against a city that treats us with contempt. We will continue with protests, road blockades and land occupations. We will have no choice but to organise, through struggle, a popular vote of no confidence in your administration.
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* Find out more about Abahlali baseMjondolo at their website: http://www.abahlali.org/
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
African lesbian makes US history
On 24 July 2011, Kelebohile Nkhereanye and Renee Boyd confidently walked up a flight of stairs inside Brooklyn’s Municipal Building City Hall on a sweltering Sunday morning. The same-sex lesbian couple were among a group of gay, lesbian, transgender, queer folk in New York making US history by breaking social taboo, vowing to cement their lifelong commitment to each other through marriage, illegal in New York State before then.
Both Renee and Kelebohile, a native of the mountainous southern African country Lesotho, sustained a committed relationship for over 20 years which, Kelebohile admits, had its ups and downs, just like any other relationship. Getting married wasn’t a testament to mutual commitment in the face of uncertainty; it offered their relationship legal opportunities that honor their journey as a couple with a shared history based on 20-plus years of rock solid, tried and tested love.
A few months after their intimate ceremony, this citizen journalist (Nick Mwaluko) spoke with both newlyweds during a candid interview discussing their decision to marry, its impact on their relationship as a lesbian couple of African extraction, and what marriage might mean to Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora.
NICK MWALUKO: What does marriage mean to you?
KELEBOHILE: It’s for people who love and are committed to one another. For people who honour one another. People who are ready to share their life together as long as they can. You shouldn’t be with someone if you’re not 100 per cent happy. All the emotional stuff, personal and within the relationship, should pretty much be in place before you decide to marry.
NICK MWALUKO: What does marriage mean to you as an African lesbian?
KELEBOHILE: It’s one aspect of who I am. It doesn’t mean I will follow the traditional African ways like automatically change my last name or have a child, all of which wouldn’t make sense. We are two women so whose name should I take? Who is the father? What I appreciate about being a lesbian, an African lesbian who is married is that I don’t have to do what my culture and tradition taught me to do just because I’m an African woman, why? Because I am an African lesbian and so the same rules don’t apply in the exact same way because it’s not the equivalent of what my culture or tradition defines as ‘marriage’. For one, I am married to a woman so who is the African man in this relationship? Eh, where’s Mr. African Romeo? In my marriage drama it’s Juliet plus Juliet! Number two, my wife Renee is of African descent as an African-American so which African tradition should I honour –mine, hers, or a combination? Third, my lesbian marriage is outlawed in most parts of Africa so which African tradition would work if our marriage is illegal? Even though my grandmother raised me to do certain things once I marry, I don’t have to do them as an African lesbian who is married. I must leave out some things because they don’t serve me or my understanding of what marriage is, of what a relationship is between me and my wife Renee.
NICK MWALUKO: Did marriage solidify your love?
KELEBOHILE: Solidify in the sense that I can make important, meaningful, legal decisions in a hospital, at funeral arrangements as her wife – finally. Before, I wasn’t allowed in the room, leave alone participate even though we shared a meaningful life together as lovers, life partners. Now, I am her woman, her wife, hers and she is mine. So, in that sense it solidified something, otherwise I still loved her even before we got married.
NICK MWALUKO: You had two ceremonies. Can you describe them in detail and say why two rather than one wedding.
KELEBOHILE: Well, we didn’t plan on getting married on 24 July 2011. Bad timing. It was summer and we both love the fall, right Baby? Look how cute she is, Renee smiling at me. Anyway, so we entered the lottery for fun, to try our luck.
NICK MWALUKO: What lottery?
KELEBOHILE: Look it up, how? Google.
According to online government sources, New York State issued a lottery for same-sex couples wanting to marry on 24 July 2011 to make US history, but the lottery option, which included picking from 764 available slots, was expanded to include everyone, all 823 couples who applied to marry on that historic day.
RENEE: We won – like everyone else. We were excited. We were making history and her/story. It’s as if our whole lives had come full-circle. We both went to Albany to advocate for Marriage Equality in 2009 and 2011, so our wedding day was proof that when you fight hard for what you believe in, stay committed to the cause, one day you’ll win.
KELEBOHILE: We were there with other same-sex couples, trans folks, queers, on a long line inside Brooklyn’s Municipal Building getting married. Even if your friends couldn’t show up for your big day, you had your gay brothers, lesbian sisters, trans siblings – they were and are your queer family making the exact same statement about equality. Staff and public officials were supportive. The judge smiled. When we left the building, marriage license in hand plus a sign that read ‘Just Married’, it was a breakthrough historic moment for us.
NICK MWALUKO: What about the church ceremony?
Kelebohile: It was the highlight of my African spirituality because I grew up in a church and my love for God is pure no matter what people think of my sexual orientation. As a spiritual African woman of deep faith, I regularly attend Middle Colligate Church where our Pastor, a fierce advocate for Marriage Equality, invited us to share our commitment along with two other gay male couples a week later, on 31 July 2011. Our families came to that ceremony where, in front of an affirming church community, three homosexual couples renewed their spiritual commitment through marriage. I praise God that my family and church family were able to witness my special love for my wife because God wants everyone to feel special in a house of worship.
NICK MWALUKO: ‘Special’ to a point, right? Describe your family’s reaction.
KELEBOHILE: You know what a big, big, big deal African weddings are, especially celebrations the night before the big day, they’re enormous. My wedding wasn’t celebrated at all and I can’t help but think if I were marrying a man my family’s reaction would’ve been very different. My mother, my sister, they didn’t invite anyone, not even one friend. No food was made. No big fuss or big event was made of one the biggest days in my life. Nobody volunteered to do anything. When my sister married her husband, it was a big, over-the-top wedding event for every family member plus African friends for what seemed like an eternity. Why not me? The lesson is this: Don’t expect anything from family the moment you become LGBT. Family has expectations that I haven’t met as a lesbian, especially being an immigrant. They are so worried what others within the African immigrant community would think of them because of me that they forget I’m their daughter, sister who would do almost anything for family so why cater to a judgmental outsiders who know nothing of my personal life?
NICK MWALUKO: You said your marriage is illegal in most African countries yet champion its benefits. Is marriage the answer for Queer Africa?
KELEBOHILE: No. It’s an individual choice. But if you think by NOT getting married you’re going to make decisions for your partner – medical, AIDS – really think what might happen to you and yours in crisis.
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* Copyright Nick Mwaluko, 2011.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East are just the first step
As rebels moved into Tripoli, Libya’s capital, US president Barrack Obama said that ‘The Gaddafi regime is showing signs of collapsing. The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator’. Months before, in January of this year, the Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak met a similar fate in February. There have been movements – successful or not – in Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria and Syria amongst other places.
As early as 1961, the Martinican revolutionary Frantz Fanon warned of the dangers of governments following their own agendas and losing touch with the people they are meant to be serving. This is deeply expressed in his essay on ‘The Pitfalls of National Consciousness’ in his famous last work, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’. It seems almost poetic, that 50 years after his death, many of the governments in Africa (and the Middle East) that have fallen prey to a toxic mix of authoritarianism and elite predation are now crumbling under the weight of the people.
Many different countries, like the USA, are celebrating the destruction of these blatantly oppressive regimes, and the introduction of a free era for these countries. We are being told that these people fought, bled and died for this freedom, and should be hailed as heroes in the fight for universal freedom. We are being told that they have won political and civil freedom and are now well on their way to join with the rest of the ‘free world’. What more is there to say?
Many people, however, appear to neglect the sometimes inconvenient fact that the ‘free world’ has many of the deepest and darkest forms of oppression. In even the most advanced societies, there are undercurrents of oppression, most notably marginalisation which can lead to outright violence towards a specific group – the eery memories of the burning man and the other 60 or so victims killed in May of 2008, along with thousands of people forced out of their homes simply for being ‘foreign’, still rings in the memory of all South Africans. Throughout history, groups have been marginalised on the basis of characteristics and physical appearance. These groups extend further than just race or class, as they encompass groups such as the physically and mentally disabled, the homeless, the elderly, followers of minority religions and even single mothers. These groups have been dealt with in a range of ways – ranging from rehabilitation to outright extermination. These groups very often find themselves materially deprived and socially excluded and more often than not, at the mercy of the very institutions that are meant to be helping them. These groups appear to be viewed, and as a result, appear to internalise the view that they are little more than a burden on society. Society finds its methods of removing these burdens, such as putting the elderly and the disabled – especially the mentally handicapped – in homes and asylums, or relocating the homeless from the cities during mega-events like the Olympics or the Soccer World Cup. Fanon in his first book, ‘Black Skins, White Masks’, stated that in post-war France ‘the white man is sealed in his whiteness, the black man in his blackness’. Today in much of the 'free world' the disabled are sealed in their disability, the homeless in their homelessness.
Fanon cries out, ‘I, the man of color, want only this … That it be possible for me to discover and to love man, wherever he may be.’ This is a cry that has been echoed across the lands; across all the perceived races; across the classes; all the genders; sexual orientation; the able-bodied as well as the disabled. It is a cry that every individual can and should listen to, but a cry that has very often been ignored, whether purposefully or unintentionally. This is a cry to allow for the discovery of true humanity, not a humanity that has been killed somewhere along the current path of inhumanity. It is a cry for recognition of a humanity that is being denied, the same recognition that has been fought for by countless individuals.
We should not try to take away from the momentous victories that are being won across North African and the Middle East. We are certainly witnessing an important step in a direction of greater freedom, one in which Fanon would undoubtedly be proud. However, freedom extends deeper than just having political and civil rights. It is the full recognition of each person’s humanity that allows for greater freedom, and the creation of a better world. We can watch in awe as political and civil rights are won, and then continue with our daily lives, or we can remain faithful to the deeper desire for change that has animated these revolutions and continue on passed the toppling of dictators to go on to root out oppression in all forms. Frantz Fanon, Stephen Biko, Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others saw and experienced unspeakable horrors of oppression committed by their fellow human beings, but – to use an old cliché – they also saw the potential greatness and ability to overcome these horrors. A true humanity beckons us. Shall we follow?
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* Tristan Gevers is in the Department of Politics, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Africa: Four days to stop the secrecy bill
In four days, MPs could pass an outrageous secrecy bill that undermines the constitution and South Africa's democracy - helping the government keep wrongdoing from the people and enabling cover-ups of corruption and human rights abuses. But there are four people that could make or break this bill: the Chief Whips.
Call to Durban
Peasant and indigenous people have thousands of solutions to confront climate change
La Via Campesina calls on social movements and all people to mobilize around the world.
The international peasant's movement La Via Campesina and its South African member the Landless Peoples Movement are mobilizing for the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will take place in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December 2011.
Caravans of African farmers from Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and other countries will reach Durban to join other farmers and social movements from all parts of the world to demand climate justice.
African women farmers, members of La Via Campesina, will participate in the 2nd Southern Africa Rural Women Assembly, from November 30 to December 2, in Durban (co-organized by la Via Campesina Africa 1, TCOE, Women on Farms Project, Lamosa, ESAFF, UNAC, Namibian National Farmers Union, among others).
La Via Campesina will also take part in the Global Day of Action on December 3, with thousands of other activists to demand climate justice.
La Via Campesina and other African food and farmers groups in Africa are also inviting all movements, allies and activists to a special Mobilization Day for Agroecology and Food sovereignty on December 5 in Durban and around the world. (co-organised by ESAFF regional, ESAFF Uganda, ESAFF Zimbabwe, ROPPA, TCOE, Surplus People Project, etc.)
Climate negotiations are turned into a market place
At COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico, most of the world’s governments, with the notable exception of Bolivia, met not to seriously address climate, but rather do business with transnational corporations that traffic in false solutions to climate change like REDD and other carbon market mechanisms, agrofuels and GMOs. They have turned the climate negotiations into a huge market place.
Our governments accepted a “business as usual” framework that condemns Africa and South Asia to virtual incineration, in which the very first victims are the farmers of these two continents, as rising temperatures create an even more hostile environment for crops, livestock and human beings. Most governments ignored the Cochabamba Principles, which provide a clear framework for seriously addressing global warming and protecting the Earth.
Under the UNFCCC, Developed Countries and polluting corporations, historically responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions, are allowed all possible tricks to avoid reducing their own emissions. For example, the carbon market and carbon offset mechanisms allow countries and companies to continue polluting and consuming as usual, while paying small amounts of money to help poor people in developing countries reduce their emissions. What actually occurs is that companies profit doubly: by continuing to contaminate and by selling false solutions. Meanwhile, under REDD, poor people are stripped of many of their multiple rights to use communal forest lands, even as new land-grabbers emerge to consolidate large tracts by evicting farmers in order to traffic in carbon credits.
We know that the keys sources of climate-altering emissions are the globalized corporate food system based on industrial agriculture for export and for agrofuels, a transportation system based on private automobiles instead of public transport, and the polluting industries of transnational corporations. Without real and enforceable commitments to transform this, , there is no hope to prevent the virtual incineration of our farm lands and ability to feed the world.
We are peasants, small holders and family farmers, who today produce the vast majority of food consumed on this planet. We, and the food we produce, are being placed in danger, as temperatures rise, planting dates become unpredictable and there are ever more severe droughts, hurricanes and monsoons. Yet we also offer the most important, clear and scientifically-proven solutions to climate change through localized agroecological production of food by small holder farmers under the Food Sovereignty paradigm.
The global food system currently generates at least 44% of all greenhouse gas emissions, through long-distance transport of food that could easily have been grown locally, by excessive use of petroleum and petroleum-based agrochemical inputs, by monoculture, and by forest clearing for the industrial plantations we call “green deserts.”
We can drastically reduce or even eliminate these emissions by transforming the food system based on food sovereignty, i.e. producing locally for local consumption, a diverse production based on peasant families and communities, with sustainable practices
Agroecology is Not for Sale!
We reject any attempt to extend the carbon market and offset mechanisms of REDD to soil carbon, even when this comes dressed up by the World Bank as support for small farmer agroecology or “Climate Smart Agriculture,” because:
- Just as in the case of REDD for forests, the carbon in our soil will essentially become the property of polluting corporations in the North. This amounts to the sale and privatization of our carbon. “Our Carbon in Not for Sale”!
- The voluntary soil carbon market will be just another space for financial speculation, and while farmers receive pennies, speculators will make any real profits.
- This is just another way for polluting industries and countries to evade real reductions in emissions.
- It is also a way to divert attention from the massive carbon emissions produced by industrial farming and agribusiness, especially in the North, and place the burden of reducing emissions on peasants in the South, while nothing is done about carbon emissions from industrial agriculture.
- If we as farmers sign a soil carbon agreement we lose autonomy and control over our farming systems. Some bureaucrat on the other side of the world, who knows nothing about our soil, rainfall, slope, local food systems, family economy, etc., will decide what practices we should use or not use.
- Agroecology provides a wealth of benefits to the environment and farmer livelihoods, but by reducing the value of agroecology practices to the value of the carbon sequestered, not only are these other benefits devalued, but it can create perverse incentives to alter the agroecological practices (and opens the door to technologies like GMOs) to only maximize carbon rather than provide all the other benefits of agroecology.
- It is inseparable from the neoliberal trend to convert absolutely everything (land, air, biodiversity, culture, genes, carbon, etc.) into capital, which in turn can be placed in some kind of speculative market.
- If the currently low value of soil carbon were to rise on the speculative market, this could generate new land grabbing to charge soil carbon credits, as land consolidation is a prerequisite for making soil carbon credits profitable.
How peasant's agriculture Should be Supported by Public Policy
- Support farmer-to-farmer training programs administered by farmer organizations
- Support the agroecology training schools of farmer organizations
- End all open and hidden subsidies to industrial farming
- Ban GMOs and dangerous farm chemicals
- Offer production credit to small farmers who produce agroecologically
- Direct government food procurement for hospitals, schools, etc., toward buying ecological food at fair prices from peasant farmers
- Support ecological farmer’s markets for direct sale to consumers
- Transform agronomy curricula to emphasize agroecology and farmer-to-farmer methodology
- Create fair price incentives for locally produced ecological food
Commitments of La Via Campesina
While we make many legitimate and urgent demands on our governments to seriously address climate change, we pledge to continue to build agroecology and Food Sovereignty from below. We pledge to take the following practical steps:
- We continue to strengthen the movement of agroecology in the grassroots level to adapt to changing climate patterns.
- We will work to “keep carbon in the ground and in trees” in the areas under our control, by promoting agroforestry, tree planting, agroecology, energy conservation, and by fighting land grabs for mining and industrial plantations.
- We will engage and pressure governments at all levels to adopt food sovereignty as the solution to the climate change.
- We will fight the inclusion of peasant agriculture in carbon financing mechanisms.
- We will continue our struggle for agrarian reform to distribute land to family farmers and to oppose all forms of land grabbing.
- We will build a powerful smallholder farmer and peasant voice to be present with other sectors of civil society at COP-17 in Durban, and at Rio +20 in Brazil, with the message that we oppose false solutions to climate change and demand the adoption of the Cochabamba Principles. We will insist on Small Holder Sustainable Agriculture and Food Sovereignty as the most important true solutions to climate change.
Ethiopia: Land and water grabs threaten half a million lives
Oakland, CA- A new Land Deal Brief from the Oakland Institute (OI) exposes that the controversial Gibe III hydroelectric project located in Ethiopia's Omo Valley, portrayed as development, is facilitating the take over of 350,000 hectares (ha) of land for sugar cane and cotton plantations and 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 (OI) was contacted by a growing number of people on the ground who reported 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 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."
Dowload a copy of the Brief: http://media.oaklandinstitute.org/land-deal-brief-ethiopia-lower-omo
Learn about OI's project, Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa:
The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time.
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Final declaration of 2nd Continental Encounter of Agroecology Trainers
The world is caught in a series of crises generated by the inherent greed of the capitalist system, characterised by control by capital over natural resources. These include the food crisis and the climate crisis.
The fact that the number of hungry people in the world has risen from 800 million to one billion in recent years, coupled with the terrible famine in Somalia, shows us that the dominant corporate food system is unable to feed the world, while greenhouse gas emissions produced by the same agricultural model heat up the planet and threaten the Mother Earth.
Capital, represented by its transnational corporations, the media, formal education, landowning elites, and agribusiness, have now changed their discourse by appropriating terms and concepts constructed over generations by peoples’ movements.
La Via Campesina (LVC), on the other hand, defends peasant, indigenous and community-based agroecological farming as a cornerstone in the construction of food sovereignty. This model of agriculture produces healthy food, based on crop diversification and on new relationships between men, women and nature, while eliminating the use of pesticides and GMOs reducing dependence on the capitalist system.
We must protect our traditional knowledge from corporations that try to transform everything into a commodity, we cannot let them steal our concepts and use them as private property at the service of a capitalist logic. Today we face a situation where the World Bank, bought off governments and transnational corporations want to steal the concept of agroecology through the COP-17 and Rio+20 processes. Their aim is to justify their deception of soil carbon markets. Faced with this threat, we say that Agroecology is ours and is not for sale.
Peasant agriculture is part of the structural transformation of our society as well part of the solutions to the current crisis of the system. In this context we reaffirm that indigenous, peasant and family farm agroecology feed the world and cool the planet.
La Via Campesina has organized several regional and continental meetings where we have had the opportunity to deepen our debates on how we view the world and on our different models and visions of agroecological farming.
In August 2009, the first Continental Encounter of Agroecology Trainers in LVC took place at the Paulo Freire Latin American Institute of Agroecology (IALA) in Barinas (Venezuela). Following this in May 2010, the Asian continent of LVC held a meeting on agroecology in Colombo (Sri Lanka). In the African continent, LVC agroecology trainers met in Masvingo (Zimbabwe) in June 2011.
Thus, we have developed a process for approaching the concept of agroecology, which has enabled us to strengthen the foundations that guide the organisations of La Via Campesina. We recall that the 1st. Continental Encounter of the Americas said that agroecology:
- 'is necessary for ensuring food and energy sovereignty for human emancipation, in addition, agroecology is vital to peoples' struggles toward building a society without private ownership over the means of production or natural resources, a society without any kind of oppression or exploitation, whose final aim is not accumulation
- 'should be massive and international, so that the knowledge accumulated by the people, contributes to the development of new productive forces of nature and human labour, so that we have time and resources to organise all the other dimensions of our life such as our struggles, communities, culture, education, and festivals, among other things
- 'include the care and protection of life, of food production, of political consciousness, moving forward in strengthening cooperation and collective small-scale agroindustries, exchanging experiences and promoting an alliance between the people of the city and countryside.'
This first meeting also noted that the second meeting should deepen our dialogue in LVC between historical materialism and the indigenous and peasant cosmovisions, which we have done here.
In the II Continental Meeting Agroecology Trainers in LVC which took place from 28 July to 3 August 2011 in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, we peasants, family farmers, farm workers, indigenous peoples and afro-descendents, representatives of 49 organisations in 20 countries, wish to reaffirm our commitment to the construction and defence of agroecology.
We denounce the capitalist system of production and its domination through agribusiness and mining, its land-grabbing and re-concentration of resources, its displacement and criminalisation of organised peasants and indigenous families and its over-exploitation of the workforce and nature. Additionally, this system imposes a production model based on monocultures, declining biodiversity, pesticide use, GMOs and the patenting of peoples' cultural heritage (seeds, ancestral knowledge, technologies and practices).
We defend genuine and comprehensive land reform as part of transformative food sovereignty policies, strengthening people’s autonomy and self-determination. We defend the right to decide our own agricultural policies and to develop new relationships and values between men, women and nature.
We believe in agroecology as a tool in the construction of another way to produce and reproduce life. It is part of a socialist project, a partnership between workers and grassroots organisations, both rural and urban. It should promote the emancipation of workers, peasants, indigenous peoples and afro-descedents. True agroecology, however, cannot coexist in the context of the capitalist system.
We affirm that agroecology is based on ancestral knowledge and practices, building knowledge through dialogue and respect for different knowledge and processes, as well as the exchange of experiences and use of appropriate technologies to produce healthy foods that meet the needs of humankind and preserves harmony with Pachamama (the Mother Earth).
We as La Via Campesina, a multicultural network of organisations and movements, will continue to recognise and strengthen the exchange of experiences and knowledge among peasants, family farmers, indigenous peoples and afro-descedents, spreading and multiplying our training and education programmes 'from farmer-to-farmer' (campesino a campesino), through both open, formal and informal education spaces as well as in community-based and territorial processes.
We recognise the fact that this meeting has been held on Mayan territory, where the campesino-to-campesino movement began, based on a process that builds unity, erases borders and creates horizontal and comprehensive exchanges of experiences and knowledge.
We understand that there are no standardised methods or recipes in agroecology, but rather principles that unite us, such as organisation, training and mobilisation.
Our quest to understand our world in relation to time, to its creative energies and forces and to our historical memories (of agriculture and humanity) is complemented by an historical materialist and dialectical interpretation of reality. Together we seek to develop our political and ideological understanding through a dialogue among our cosmovisions to achieve structural change in society, thus liberating us and achieving 'buen vivir' (the indigenous concept of 'living well' in harmony with the Mother Earth) for our peoples.
System change, not climate change!
The Mother Earth cannot be bought or sold, she can be recovered and defended!
Agroecology and seeds are the heritage of our peoples which we place at the service of humanity!
Globalise struggle! Globalise hope!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article was originally published by Vía Campesina
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Declaration by Palestinians and Israelis in support of social protest, anti-colonial struggle
September 2011 -- Translated by International Viewpoint --
Some 20 political parties and social movements from both sides of the Green Line issued an historic declaration in support of the social protests currently rocking Israel and their necessary linkage to the struggle against Israel’s occupation and colonial policies.
We are united for putting an end to occupation and racism, in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people to attain their national rights and against national and social oppression
Even in the light of the encouraging developments in the Middle East, the wave of social protests and the awakening of the peoples’ struggles for freedoms and the right to live in dignity, the Palestinian people still live under the yoke of the Israeli occupation, despite their persistent and ongoing struggle for freedom. The international community, for its part, demonstrates its helplessness and does not lend a hand to support the Palestinian struggle for liberation and justice.
The protest movements and the winds of change blowing in the Arab world have aroused excitement throughout the world among freedom seekers, encouraging many to adopt the model of popular struggle.
These protest movements have had a deep impact on various groups in Israel, among both Jews and Palestinians, and made an important contribution to the rise of the popular protest movement within Israel for social justice.
Moved by our aspiration to attain a just and fair peace in the region, a peace that is truly essential for the peoples of the region and can assist in promoting the struggle for justice and progress for everyone, we – Palestinian and Israeli social and political forces, representatives of women’s associations and young people from both sides of the Green Line – emphasise the need for a joint struggle, with the goal of liberating the peoples of the region from colonialism and hegemony, particularly that of Zionism, halting the occupation and Israeli military aggression and supporting the just struggle of the Palestinian people for fulfillment of its right for self-determination in accordance with the decisions of the international community.
We look forward to the liberation of all the region’s peoples from dictatorship, ruling tyranny and from all forms of national, social and economic oppression. Therefore, we the signatories on this document, emphasise:
1. We support the Palestinian September initiative in the United Nations, the body which carries responsibility for laying the foundations of peace internationally, in order to demand full membership for Palestine in the UN and recognition of a Palestinian state in the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to strengthen the efforts to end the occupation of the Palestinian people’s lands, with preservation of the right of the Palestinian people to oppose the occupation and the right of return of the refugees in accordance with United Nations Resolution 194.
In this context, we emphasise that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) is the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, deriving its legitimacy both from the Palestinian people in the homeland and exile and from the recognition it received from the Arab League and the United Nations.
The UN initiative is a legitimate step. The United Nations must fulfill its responsibility to realise its responsibility to establish peace and justice on the international level. This is a step that strengthens the rights of the Palestinian people and in no way represents a threat to Israel, despite the great efforts of the Israeli government to present this step to the Israeli people as a declaration of war or harming the legitimacy of the existence of Israel.
2. We understand that one of the primary reasons for the social and economic distress of citizens in Israel, in addition to capitalist economic policies, is the continuation of the occupation and excessive security budgets, which Israel’s government seeks to justify as needed for defending the security of the settlements on the one hand and the state borders on the other. We therefore believe that an end to the occupation and establishment of a fair and just peace are essential for a life of peace and welfare.
We welcome the participation and integration of the Palestinian population in Israel in the social protest. This is an important opportunity to present before various groups within Israeli society the distress of the Palestinians and the injustices caused to them, so that these groups can take responsibility in the struggle against the marginalising policies and ongoing discrimination against the Palestinians in Israel, for putting an ending to confiscation of lands and full equality, and an end to the occupation of the Palestinian lands that were occupied in 1967.
We warn again the familiar attempts by the occupation government to evade the crises and its internal crises and the pressure of the protest waves through the politics of fear which point to an external threat: whether by presenting the Palestinian appeal to the UN as a “danger” or by military actions, as we have witnessed in the past few days in light of the harsh escalation in bloodletting of the Palestinian people in Gaza.
3. We recognise the right of the Palestinian people, living under occupation, to make use of all the legitimate forms of resistance in accordance with international norms for removing of the occupiers from its land and for self determination. In this context, we emphasise the importance of the joint popular struggle of Palestinians and Israelis. A popular joint struggle is one of the central guiding principles in the struggle against the occupation, the settlements, racism, colonialism, against policies of exclusion, weakening, impoverishment and racist separation within Israel.
Signed: Political parties, social organisations and Palestinian and Israeli activists (in alphabetical order).
Association of Palestinian Democratic Youth (Palestine)
Association of Progressive Students (Palestine)
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (Palestine)
Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Israel)
Democratic Teachers’ Union (Palestine)
Democratic Union of Professionals in Palestine (Palestine)
Democratic Women’s Movement in Israel (Israel)
Israeli Communist Party (Israel)
National Campaign for Return of the Bodies of Arab and Palestinian
Martyrs Captured by the Israeli Government (Palestine)
Palestinian People’s Party (Palestine)
Popular Campaign for the Boycott of Israeli Products (Palestine)
Progressive Workers’ Union (Palestine)
Tarabut-Hithabrut -– Arab-Jewish Movement for Social and Political Change (Israel)
The Alternative Information Center (Palestine/Israel)
Union of Palestinian Farmers’ Unions (Palestine)
Union of One World for Justice (Palestine)
Union of Palestinian Working Women (Palestine)
Workers’ Unity Bloc (Palestine)
‘When Innocence Isn't Enough: A Documentary About Troy Anthony Davis'
My name is Naji Mujahid. In July 2007, while working with the DC Radio Co-op/Peoples' MEDIA Center and reporting for Free Speech Radio News, I went to Atlanta and Savannah, GA to cover the Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles hearing on the case of Troy Anthony Davis. At the time, Troy was scheduled to be executed, but fortunately was granted a stay of execution at the very last minute. Following that decision, I traveled to Troy's hometown and was able to interview Troy, his mother Virginia Davis, and others. The documentary, ‘When Innocence Isn't Enough: A Documentary About Troy Anthony Davis, is the product of my research and reporting.’
At this critical juncture, I am sending this link out in the hopes that it can be used to increase people’s awareness about his case and support his cause. Please forward this far and wide, post it on your website, download it, copy it, distribute it, play it in part or in whole*.
*As with any journalistic work, give credit to the author; Naji Mujahid of the DC Radio Co-op and Peoples' MEDIA Center.
* For further information about how you can help, please visit http://troyanthonydavis.org.
Cornell University: An open response to Dean Peter Lepage’s plans for Africana Studies
As alumni of the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, we are deeply troubled by the most recent development regarding the Africana Center’s future. In a recent Cornell Chronicle article, Peter Lepage, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, announced his plans for the Africana Center to “flourish” at Cornell University. Beneath a camouflage of concern, this decree rests on blatant misinformation and a reckless disregard for the integrity of Africana Studies and—by extension—the credibility of Cornell University as an institution of higher learning.
Over the past year, Provost Fuchs and Dean Lepage have repeatedly implemented unilateral mandates that are in direct opposition to the Africana Center’s best interest, and now the Center has, in effect, been placed in receivership. Cornell’s administrators have flagrantly violated even the most fundamental concepts of faculty governance. They have refused to acknowledge and to consider the national outcry and advocacy for the inclusion of Africana faculty voices in the process of reconfiguring the Center’s relationship to the university. Instead of engaging in open and honest dialogue, Provost Fuchs, with the support of President Skorton and now Dean Lepage, have operated in a tyrannical and despotic manner—with a penchant for decree over dialogue. The authoritarian and destructive processes by which this restructuring plan has transpired evoked condemnation from members of the Africana faculty, the two leading professional organizations in the field (the National Council for Black Studies and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History), numerous alumni, students, the country’s leading Black intellectuals and more than 2,500 petitioners. Furthermore, Provost Fuchs also refused to even meet with Africana Studies and Research Center alumni. This blatant disregard for the integrity of Africana Studies and its constituent community of scholars, activists and students raises serious questions about the credibility of the leadership at Cornell University. There was indeed widespread and diverse opposition to Provost Fuchs’s move to undermine the Africana Studies and Research Center. However, it is also clear that leading Black intellectuals were among the most vocal critics. We believe that the ease with which the Cornell administration dismissed national calls for an alternative course of action is rooted in an underlying racist paternalism which has no place in an academy of higher learning.
We are also appalled at the distortions and outright misinformation in Dean Lepage’s announcement, which reflects the “official line” put forth by Provost Fuchs. As a result, we would like to clarify several key points:
1. PhD PROGRAM—The Africana Center’s faculty members were already developing plans for a PhD program long before the Provost announced his plans to move the Africana Center. The Africana faculty had been discussing a PhD program for some time, and began drafting plans to establish the PhD program as early as 2005. The Provost and Dean have continued to spin the story as if they somehow granted the PhD program as a gift and a sign of good favor to the Africana Center. This is patronizing and downright dishonest. Moreover, we insist, as we have previously, that there is nothing about the nature of a PhD program which requires the Africana Center to be housed within the College of Arts and Sciences. If Cornell University is committed to creating a PhD in Africana Studies and would like to dedicate funds to that effort, then they should feel free to do so under the same administrative structure that has allowed Africana Studies to thrive for more than 41 years. Instead, in a disturbingly paternalistic fashion that evokes centuries of institutional racism, Cornell’s administration is only willing to infuse money into Africana Studies if the Africana faculty is stripped of control over every aspect of the program including hiring, promotion and tenure, curriculum development, and faculty governance.
2. LEADERSHIP—In his recent announcement, Dean Lepage stated, “Over the past several months, the College Deans and Provost Kent Fuchs worked with Africana faculty to identify new leadership…Ultimately, we weren’t able to identify a faculty member who was both willing to serve and acceptable to a substantial majority of the Africana faculty…” This is a blatant lie. There are faculty members in the Africana Center who are willing and able to serve in the capacity of Director, and faculty members should be afforded the opportunity, as they have in the past, to hold elections and to determine their own fate. Yet, here again, the administration has held true to its recent pattern of excluding faculty participation, dialogue, and democratic rule in favor of authoritarian fiat. Perhaps most disturbingly, the administration’s choice to place the Africana Center under the control of two Associate Deans, neither of whom has any academic background in Africana Studies, is tantamount to placing the Center into receivership. Such extreme action should only be taken when a department is bereft of leadership, and there is no other recourse. That is certainly not the case here, and this administrative abuse of power is absolutely unwarranted.
3. HIRING—Both Dean Lepage and Provost Fuchs have made promises to increase the faculty of the Africana Center. However, they hinted at a process that favors joint appointments (though they have remained secretive about this initiative). Such an approach would undermine the Center’s longstanding ability to control its own hiring practices, tenure processes and allocation of faculty lines. Africana will, instead, be forced to hire and tenure only at the whim and discretion of other departments. This is a crucial point—one that has been largely overlooked, but is central to the fate of Africana Studies at Cornell and across the nation. For many of us, the actions of the Provost and Dean harken back to the 1997-1998 Humanities Report, which advocated for Africana Studies to be housed in Arts and Sciences on the grounds that the Africana Center posed an “especially difficult problem for University politics and policies.” In short, the report demanded that Africana be relocated under the jurisdiction of Arts and Sciences because the university administration wanted greater control over the Center politically, socially, and economically. Ironically, the Humanities Report—once it was exposed—went down to crushing defeat because, as the report itself acknowledged, “It would be shortsighted to envisage reforms or radical restructuring of departments and programs on the basis of misperceptions, poorly informed investigations, dubiously conceptualized arguments, or extremely limited visions of the University and its needs. It is all too easy to destroy strengths through ill-conceived innovations and institutional schemes.” (Emphasis added). Yet, here we are, more than a decade later, and the university has done precisely what it warned against. Administrators have destroyed one of the university’s true strengths, by implementing ill-conceived innovations and schemes. If the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell can be stripped of the right of faculty governance and denied the ability to be self-determining in regards to hiring, tenure, curriculum, and all other matters, every department across the nation is at risk.
4. FUNDING, ENDOWMENTS, & GIFTS OF CONVENIENCE—Over the past several months, both Dean LePage and Provost Fuchs have continued to make public announcements about increased funding, endowed chairs and other gifts to be granted to the Africana Center. Yet none of these things have been documented on paper, or articulated with any specificity. Instead, they are nothing more than empty promises that have conveniently projected a false picture of administrative support to the public. Moreover, as additional evidence of its disregard for the Africana faculty, the administration has not discussed any of its plans directly with the faculty. Administrators have chosen, instead, to hand down decrees rather than to engage and to consult with their own faculty. Indeed, over the course of the past year, the Africana faculty has received most of the administration’s announcements concerning Africana’s future at the same time as the rest of the general public. This level of disrespect would not be tolerated in any other department, and should not be acceptable in Africana Studies either.
5. DISMANTLING OF BLACK ADVOCACY PROJECTS ON CAMPUS—The restructuring of Africana is emblematic of a larger assault on Black advocacy projects at Cornell University. This move is an extension of the decline of Ujamaa Residential College, in which longtime residential housing Director Ken Glover was removed—with no explanation or justification—despite widespread support among faculty, parents and students. Additionally in June 2011, the administration restructured and diminished COSEP, the program designed to recruit and support the matriculation of Black and minority students. These decisions are part of a larger political project to dismantle many of the hard-won gains of Black students over the last 40 years and to punish those who maintain that legacy. The dismissal, disrespect, and alienation of certain faculty, community members and programs are tantamount to political persecution, and such behavior must be nipped in the bud before similar trends are allowed to flourish across the country.
Finally, as alumni, we want to reiterate our strong opposition to the administration’s conspiratorial decision to appoint Associate Deans Elizabeth Adkins and David Harris as the new “leadership” of the Africana Center. Not only is this move unprecedented in Cornell’s history; we also believe it to be regressive and colonial in nature. If “faculty enthusiasm is critical to effective long-term leadership,” as Dean Lepage contends, then why hold the Africana Center hostage under an externally appointed administrative regime? As the administration moves forward with its plans for the Africana Studies and Research Center, it must understand that the manner in which it has facilitated this move has not only compromised the integrity of Africana, but it has undermined the integrity of Cornell University in general. This deceptive, dishonest and unethical behavior is shameful for an institution of higher learning and directly contradicts the very principles that Cornell claims to espouse.
Leslie M. Alexander, Ph.D.
Jared Ball, Ph.D.
Monique Bedasse, Ph.D.
Scot Brown, Ph.D.
Jonathan B. Fenderson, Ph.D.
Frances Henderson, Ph.D.
'Manilal Ambalal Desai'
The Stormy Petrel
Zarina Patel a historian and activist provides here a well-researched work on Manilal Desai, one of the foremost political leaders of Kenya. She provides kaleidoscopic images of Manilal Desai's life in South Gujarat and eventual migration to Kenya in 1915 where he went on to become a vibrant journalist, politician and institution builder.
Zimbabwe's Book Cafe wins 2011 Prince Claus Award
Zimbabwe's Book Cafe, flagship venue of Pamberi Trust, is a laureate of 2011 Prince Claus Awards. It is amongst the most prestigious global awards in culture, presented annually to individuals and organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean for outstanding achievement in culture and the positive effect of their work on the wider cultural or social field. Quality is a sine non qua for an Award.
The award has been described as “a momentous achievement for Zimbabwean performing arts, and for Book Cafe”, which becomes one of the first live performing arts venues of this kind in the world, built on a platform of freedom of expression and focusing across music, poetry and theatre with public discussion, film and multi-disciplinary arts, to win the acclaimed global award. Book Cafe was awarded the prize for its role in “culture and development”.
Four African recipients in performing arts have previously received the award; Baaba Maal (Senegal, music), Werewere Liking (Ivory Coast, spoken word), Yousour N'dour (Senegal, music) and Zimbabwe's Edgar Langeveld (comedy), who fittingly achieved his major successes in Book Cafe. Coincidentally, the award for Book Cafe comes as it commemorates its own 30 years of history (including Grassroots Books, the famous radical bookshop that transformed into Book cafe in 1997).
The Jury Report for the 2011 Price Claus Award to the Book Cafe reads:
“The Book Café (launched 1997, Harare) is a vibrant platform for free cultural expression in a country suffering political and economic upheavals, repressive laws, stringent censorship and a lack of cultural infrastructure. Operating under the umbrella of the Pamberi Trust, with creative director Paul Brickhill, and a dedicated team of staff, this unassuming café and bar presents more than 600 cultural events a year to enthusiastic capacity audiences of people from all racial and cultural groups and all sectors of Zimbabwean society.
“Its open door policy welcomes all genres and disciplines as well as new fusions and experiments. Live performances encompass spoken word, poetry slams, stand-up comedy, literary readings, drama and all types of music, from traditional mbira, blues and jazz to hip hop and rap. It has developed strong links with the African music scene, frequently organising exchanges and hosting visiting musicians including stars such as Abdullah Ibrahim. Many of its performers, like Chiwoniso Maraire, have gone on to develop international careers.
“The Book Café runs artistic workshops and practical training programmes throughout the year, and provides access to rehearsal space and equipment. It emphasizes gender equality and youth development, running special initiatives such as FLAME (Female Literary, Arts and Music Enterprise) to promote women in the arts, and BOCAPA (Book Café Academy of Performing Arts) open-mic sessions which are well-subscribed opportunities for new talent. Home to Zimbabwe’s thriving movement of protest poets, the Book Café is renowned for debates on current issues such as land justice or journalistic ethics, and for staging often controversial performances.
“The Book Café is awarded for its exemplary support of culture and development in Zimbabwe, for the diversity, quality and wide reaching impact of its activities, for stimulating creativity and fostering aspiring young talent, and for its tenacity and commitment in upholding freedom of expression in a difficult context”.
Each year the Prince Claus Fund invites 250 international experts with expertise in the field of culture and development to nominate candidates. It is not possible to nominate oneself or one’s own organisation. Nominations are confidential. The Fund receives about 80 nominations and thoroughly researches the nominations and asks for advice about the nominations from advisors in its network. The Prince Claus Awards Committee meets twice a year to decide the final laureates.
The Award is extremely broad in scope, and mainly presented to individuals across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean. In winning the award Book Cafe joins a world-acclaimed group of philosophers, choreographers, writers, architects, fashion designers, art critics, film makers, fine artists, cultural magazines, publishers, comedians, cartoonists, photographers, radio and TV stations, poets, book fairs, festivals and carnivals, record producers, dramatists, music schools, museums, curators and designers.
The principle Prince Claus Award for 2011 went to Cape Town's arts magazine, "Chimurenga" which has broken new ground in cultural journalism in South Africa. Chimurenga is a pan-African publication on culture, art and politics. It is an innovative platform for free ideas and political reflection by Africans about Africa.
The other laureates, joining Zimbabwe’s Book Cafe in 2011, include Kazakh artist Said Atabekov, Nicaraguan rural community arts organiser Nidia Bustos, the photographer Rena Effendi from Azerbaijan, Guatemala’s radical performance artist Regina Galindo, the Ilkhom Theatre from Uzbekistan, Haitian writer Kettly Mars, performance artist Rabih Mroué from Lebanon, the RIWAQ Centre for Architectural Conservation in Palestine and Tibetan writerTsering Woeser.
'I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb'
'I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb' highlights 125 black and white photographs of African daily life combined with related proverbs, which were used, and are still being used, to instruct members of the African society how to think, how to behave and how to have a better life. This book will make a significant educational and artistic contribution to the appreciation and understanding of African culture and society as well as our own.
The title of the book comes from a well-known proverb I am because we are: we are because I am attributed to South Africa. It speaks to the interconnectedness and responsibility that we have for each other. It embodies the concept of Ubuntu, the African idea of living harmoniously in community.
The black and white photographs of unique moments in African daily life taken by Betty Press, combined with related proverbs, illustrate traditional African wisdom.
Together they tell the story of life, moving through:
family, home, education, relationships, work, leisure, environment, conflict, peace, music, dance, religion, wisdom, old age, and death.
Finally it comes full circle with hope, as life goes on with the descendants and the living community.
For more than 20 years, Betty Press has photographed in East and West Africa, including eight years as an international photojournalist while she lived in Nairobi, Kenya. She has been widely published and exhibited.
The proverbs in this book have been compiled by Annetta Miller who has been collecting proverbs for more than 30 years. Ms. Miller, an American born in Tanzania, has worked in East Africa for most of her life. Currently she is retired and lives with her husband in Nairobi, Kenya. She has published several daily calendars featuring proverbs. She also published a book in 2003 entitled Sharing Boundaries: Learning the Wisdom of Africa.
'I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb' is being published in partnership with Books for Africa whose mission is to end the book famine in Africa.
An exhibition, which includes 20-40 black and white images selected from the above mentioned book is available to be shown with a book signing and talk.
'The Non-Linearity of Peace Processes'
Theory and Practice of Systemic Conflict Transformation
Berghof Conflict Research
It is with great pleasure that we announce the publication of our book 'The Non-Linearity of Peace Processes – Theory and Practice of Systemic Conflict Transformation' edited by Daniela Körppen, Norbert Ropers and Hans J. Giessmann.
This is the first comprehensive volume analysing the value added by integrating systemic thinking into peacebuilding theory and practice. The aim of this book is to link the most recent debates in the peacebuilding field, e.g. on liberal peace, on the non-linearity of conflict dynamics and on bridging the attribution gap, with various systemic discourses, discussing the extent to which systemic thinking and methods are helpful to further develop existing approaches to conflict transformation.
FROM THE CONTENTS:
Daniela Körppen & Norbert Ropers, Addressing the Complex Dynamics of Conflict Transformation´
I. CONCEPTUALISING SYSTEMIC THINKING
- Sirin Bernshausen & Thorsten Bonacker, A Constructivist Perspective on System Conflict Transformation
- Peter T. Coleman, Robin Vallacher, Andrea Bartoli, Andrzej Nowak & Lan Bui-Wrzosinska, Navigating the Landscape of Conflict: Applications of Dynamical Systems Theory to Addressing Protracted Conflict
- Oliver Ramsbotham, Radical Disagreement and Systemic Conflict Transformation
- Daniela Körppen, Space Beyond the Liberal Peacebuilding Consensus – A Systemic Perspective
- Danny Burns, Facilitating Systemic Conflict Transformation Through Systemic Action Research
- Dirk Splinter & Ljubjana Wüstehube, Discovering Hidden Dynamics: Applying Systemic Constellation Work to Ethnopolitical Conflict
II. IMPLEMENTING SYSTEMIC THINKING
- Luxshi Vimalarajah & Suthaharan Nadarajah, Thinking Peace: Revisiting Analysis and Intervention in Sri Lanka
- Norbert Ropers, Peace Processes as Corridors for Systemic Change: Insights from Sri Lanka 2002–2005
- David Peter Stroh, The System Dynamics of Identity-Based Conflict
- Robert Ricigliano, Planning for Systemic Impact
- Peter Woodrow & Diana Chigas, Connecting the Dots: Evaluating Whether and How Programmes Address Conflict Systems
- Oliver Wolleh, Comparing Systemic Therapy and Interactive Conflict Resolution – Commonalities, Difference and Implications for Practice
- Juba Khuzwayo, Berenice Meintje & Usche Merk, Integrating African Meaning Systems and Systemic Thinking –The Sinani Approach of Working with Conflict Communities
To order, please visit the publisher’s website.
* '[url=The Non-Linearity of Peace Processes -Theory and Practice of Systemic Conflict Transformation' edited by Daniela Körppen, Norbert Ropers and Hans J. Giessmann, is published by Barbara Budrich Publishers, Opladen / Farmington Hill, 2011. (ISBN 978-3-86649-406-0)
Latest edition: Emerging powers news roundup
1. China in Africa
China offers $14 million worth of food to Zimbabwe
China announced Thursday that it will offer emergency food aid worth 90 million yuan (14 million U.S. dollars) to Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Commerce said.
NEPAD agency signs MoU with China ...agree to strengthen cooperation in agriculture and rural transformation
On Wednesday, the 7th of September 2011, the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD Agency) and the Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China (MoA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that is aimed at providing a framework for cooperation and coordination between the two organisations. The agreement is intended to accelerate agricultural growth and productivity to reduce poverty and hunger, by eliminating underlying constraints in aspects of the African agricultural sector.
Africa’s friend China finances $9.3 billion of hydropower
When completed in 2013, Gibe III on Ethiopia’s Omo River will be Africa’s tallest dam, a $2.2 billion project that conservationists say will deprive birds and hippos of vital habitat. Some 600 miles (965 kilometers) to the north, Sudan is preparing to build the $705 million Kajbar dam on the Nile, which would inundate historic towns and tombs of the Nubian people, descendants of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The $729 million Bui project on the Black Volta River, to be finished in 2013, will boost Ghana’s hydropower capacity by a third -- and flood a quarter of Bui National Park while displacing 2,600 people.
China targets civil society in final onslaught on West’s hold in Africa
Speakers from civil society at the China-Africa people’s forum organised recently by the Kenya NGOs Coordinating Board and the Chinese NGOs for International Exchanges were wary of the rapprochement between the two governments, saying corruption and conflict did not seem to deter China in its hunger for oil and minerals. They said this resulted in it overlooking these factors when making investment decisions.
China leads the renewable energy investment in Africa
Africa is the poorest of all continents and it needs all the help it can get from other rich countries before being able to develop strong renewable energy sector. In the last few years the investments into African renewable energy sector have been primarily coming from China. China is now the Africa's biggest trading partner, accounting for close to 15% of Africa's total trade.
The rise and rise of China in Zambia
Although Zambia is nowhere near China's biggest African partner, the country's relationship with the Asian investor is growing rapidly. Trade exchanges rose from $100-million in 2000 to $1.45-billion in 2009, doubling last year to a whopping $2.8-billion. In July, China's Sinohydro began work on a $2-billion hydro plant, courtesy of financing from the China Development Bank. Last month the Lusaka branch of the Bank of China became the first in Africa to offer renminbi banking services, which means you can now make deposits in the Chinese 'people's currency' and even withdraw yuan (a unit of the renminbi) from the tellers.
Feature: Chinese-built demonstration center to revolutionise Zimbabwe's agriculture
China may have provided Zimbabwe with food aid in the past but that gesture appears to have ignited its interest to help Zimbabwe enhance food security. Under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China pledged to construct 14 agricultural technological demonstration centers in Africa and later increased the number of centers to 20. Zimbabwe was chosen among the beneficiaries.
2. India in Africa
India pledges $8 million to famine-stricken Horn of Africa
With a crippling famine ravaging the Horn of Africa, India Wednesday pledged $8 million to Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti and said it was considering assistance to Somalia for developing a counter-piracy strategy. 'India will provide humanitarian assistance of US$ 8 million to the countries afflicted with severe famine and drought in the Horn of Africa i.e. Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti,' the external affairs ministry said here. The assistance will be provided through the World Food Programme.
Indian firm secures Dar deal to construct power line to Zanzibar
KALPATARU POWER Transmission Ltd, an Indian engineering, firm will start construction of a single circuit 132 kilovolt overhead transmission line from the Tanzania mainland to Zanzibar under a $9 million project. Kalpataru will construct the overhead transmission line from Ubungo substation to Tegeta and Ras Kiromoni on the shores of the Indian Ocean off the Tanzania Mainland before it goes undersea to Ras Fumba in Zanzibar and is transmitted overhead to Mtoni substation in Zanzibar.
India talks tough on climate issues
After showing flexibility for over two years India has toughened its stand on climate issues, refusing any verification regime for voluntary climate actions and seeking a re-look at Cancun agreements to include equity as an 'essential' parameter for further talks and extension of Kyoto Protocol. Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh had shown flexibility but the new minister Jayanthi Natarajan abandoned the soft approach after her first meeting on climate change issues with 150 environment ministers in South Africa.
[url=http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-talks-tough-on-climate-issues/Article1-746139.aspx] Read More [/ulr]
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
U.S. ‘not encouraged’ by India, South Africa, Brazil at UN
Splits between the so-called IBSA group of countries and the U.S. arose as protest movements swept the Middle East. India and Brazil, along with Russia, China and Germany, abstained from a UN resolution that formed the legal basis for military intervention in Libya. As Syria sent troops out to suppress protesters, Brazil, India and South Africa blocked UN moves to pressure the Assad regime and sent diplomats to Damascus last month to engage leaders there. All three countries are serving two-year temporary terms on the Security Council and aspire to permanent seats, a goal the U.S. may block.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Brazil - emerging soft power of the world
In the words of Mr. Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., the US ambassador to Brazil, Brazil's emergence as an important global player is one of the most significant events in this century. Its ability to use democracy and markets to deliver economic development, address entrenched social inequalities, promote regional integration, and build consensus in support of a globalised trading system sends a profound and powerful message to countries facing similar challenges.
North African democracy looks to China for the aid it needs most
The West has proven a valuable source of democracy-building and development aid for Somaliland, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it republic in northern Africa. But it is China that has been willing to gamble big on the economic-development projects it needs most. 'When you talk about infrastructure development, China is one of the leading countries in the world,' said Somaliland Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Omar, who is in Washington this week. 'You cannot get roads built and bridges done, and ports done and airports, with humanitarian and development assistance.'
Blood brothers in Tripoli
NATO and NTC in Libya
Zimbabwe: 'The Axe and the Tree' documentary
Zimbabwe’s legacy of political violence
The documentary film 'The Axe and the Tree: Zimbabwe’s Legacy of Political Violence' screened in Johannesburg at The Bioscope on Thursday 8 September at 6:30pm, followed by a Q&A with the director, Rumbi Katedza. More screenings are scheduled during the Tri Continental Film Festival.
Zimbabwe: Illegal sanctions delay new constitution
The constitution-making process in Zimbabwe is being derailed by the existence of the unjustified sanctions imposed on the country by Britain the U.S. and the European Union, a senior Zanu-PF official has said.
Africa: African women becoming more involved in political sector
In Africa, access to positions of political responsibility remains an exception for female politicians. But this is changing. In 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first woman elected at the head of a country: Liberia. Today, women candidates are increasing and the next African elections will open new perspectives to all who have pledged to stir things up in Africa.
Guinea-Bissau: New law prohibits female genital mutilation
This past June, the National Popular Assembly (ANP) of Guinea-Bissau approved a law prohibiting female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) nationwide. The controversial law had been on the table for discussion for 16 years, before it was ultimately approved by 64 votes in favour to 1 vote against.
Kenya: Sex-trafficked women also vulnerable to organ trafficking
With the highest rate of human trafficking in East and Central Africa, several non-governmental organisations in Kenya are now under investigation by INTERPOL. The trail of corruption may also reveal human trafficker’s collusion with Kenyan authorities including the police and intelligence, as well as the judiciary.
South Africa: AIDS as mass femicide
This study by Diana E. H. Russell and Roberta A. Harmes (Eds) finds that the lethal impact of AIDS on many women and girls must be recognised as a form of mass femicide that is devastating women throughout the world. These femicides are occurring as a result of the overlap of four gender-related problems: AIDS, male sexism and domination, genital mutilation, and rape.
Angola: Experience in divulgation of respect for human rights
Angola's state secretary for Human Rights António Bento Bembe has said in an interview with ANGOP that the country is working to respect human rights with the experience of other countries. 'We have been working... with other countries such as England, Norway, Spain, Brazil and others with which we have very good relations,' he said.
Angola: HRW calls on authorities to release unfairly convicted demonstrators
The Angolan authorities should immediately drop politically motivated charges against 18 people who were convicted after unfair trials for their participation in an anti-government demonstration in Luanda, Human Rights Watch said.
Botswana: Increase in child workers worrying
Child labour is a problem in many countries, Botswana included. With poverty increasing in these harsh economic times many communities are putting their children to work. The Media Officer of Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Thuso Galeitsewe has revealed that according to research, the agricultural sector is where many young children are subjected to work in the fields and large farms.
Ethiopia: Detention of two prominent opposition politicians
Two prominent Ethiopian opposition politicians have been detained, at least one of them on terrorism-related charges. But opposition leaders are questioning the charges, saying the detentions appear politically motivated.
Libya: Rights group reports abuses
Amnesty International has released a report on human rights abuses committed during the movement to topple Libyan fugitive leader Muammar Gaddafi. The 122-page report consisted mainly of damning examples of violations by Gaddafi's regime, saying the strongman's forces are guilty of crimes against humanity, but it also says the National Transition Council (NTC) is guilty of human rights violations, and appears unwilling to hold its fighters accountable for them.
Malawi: Rights body says president inciting violence
Malawi’s Human Rights Commission has accused President Bingu wa Mutharika of inciting violence against critics that has led to petrol bomb attacks on the properties of two leading activists. Mutharika riled activists when he threatened attacks against his opponents who staged an unprecedented protest against his government in July.
South Sudan: CRAI submission to AU PSC on citizenship issues
The Citizenship Rights in Africa Initiative sent an appeal to the AU Peace and Security Council in January expressing concerns about the possible treatment of Southerners in the North following the secession of South Sudan. Since South Sudan became independent in July, the government of Sudan has adopted new legislation on nationality which may strip a large number of individuals of Sudanese nationality and create problems for southerners trying to regularise their stay in the north.
Libya: Immigrants imprisoned, tortured
Non-governmental organisation Defense of Foreigners has accused Libya's new authorities of jailing and torturing some 300 foreigners, mostly Tuaregs from Mali and Niger, suspected of being backers of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Libya: IOM urges warring parties to protect migrants
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is making an urgent appeal to warring parties in southern Libya to respect international humanitarian law and ensure no harm comes to the more than 1, 200 migrants seeking refuge at an IOM-established migrant transit centre in the town of Sebha while it works out how best to evacuate them, APA learns in a statement issued in Nairobi.
South Africa: Feature film highlights plight of migrants
The IOM office in South Africa is backing the production of a feature film which seeks to explore the complex themes of migration, xenophobia, identity, fear and reconciliation. The movie titled 'Man on Ground' is centred on Ade, a successful Nigerian banker based in the UK and Femi, his estranged brother who lives and works in South Africa.
South Sudan: U.S. to grant citizens protected status
The Obama administration has decided to add the Republic of South Sudan to the list of countries included under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programme, Sudan Tribune has learned. The move comes as South Sudan gained its independence in July and the United States swiftly recognised it.
Sudan: More than 100,000 displaced in Blue Nile
More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been displaced as fighting between the Sudanese armed forces and rebels in the country’s Blue Nile state continues, the United Nations (UN) reported. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that tens of thousands of displaced people cannot be reached by relief agencies due to movement restrictions against UN staff imposed by the government in both Sennar and Blue Nile states.
Egypt: Global consciousness is shifting
Arguably the repression of activists and journalist by Egypt’s interim military government is a sign of how strong citizens’ movements are and how frightened the regime is of losing power as the country moves toward elections and drafting a new constitution, writes Rick Rowden for Goethe-Institut.
Africa: Three terrorist groups pose threat to U.S.
The New York Times reports that Commander Gen. Carter F. Ham, the top officer at Africa Command, has claimed that 'three violent extremist organisations on the continent were trying to forge an alliance to coordinate attacks on the United States and Western interests.'
Libya: Africa Command learns from operations
A U.S Department of Defense release on its website says that Libya was the first major combat operation for U.S. Africa Command, and its men and women 'responded well', the unit’s commander said. 'Still, Africom - the military’s newest combatant command - is assessing the lessons learned from Libya and will make necessary changes,' said Army Gen. Carter F. Ham.
Cameroon: Longtime leader to seek re-election in October
Cameroon’s long-time president, Paul Biya, stands a good chance of re-election this October against what analysts say is a weak and divided opposition. Election officials in Cameroon are reviewing applications from 51 presidential candidates, including Biya, who filed his papers just before the deadline.
DRC: Election may be delayed
Voting equipment for Democratic Republic of Congo's election is stranded abroad and costs are spiralling, according to documents and officials, threatening to delay a poll that is due at the end of November. Opposition politicians have already accused President Joseph Kabila of trying to rig his re-election in the vast, mineral-rich country's second vote since its 1998-2003 war.
DRC: Pre-election violence
Arsonists target DRC TV station
Unidentified armed men torched the studios of a private television station that aired programmes favorable to Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, local journalists and news reports said.
Liberia: Poll in October
Liberian voters rejected plans to move the presidential election to November. The the poll will thus take place on its original date of October 11. Liberian lawmakers had proposed changing the date so that the vote missed the rainy season.
Nigeria: CPC planning to destabilise Nigeria – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that it has uncovered plots by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to destabilise Nigeria. The party has called on security agencies to be alert and monitor the activities of CPC and its members, especially against the backdrop of present security challenges in the country.
Zambia: Elections in Zambia
The names may change, but the policy agenda will remain the same
On 20 September 2011, Zambians will go to the polls to elect its next president. As is often the case with elections in this part of the world, questions have been raised about the likelihood of the elections leading to violence, writes Judy Smith-Höhn, Senior researcher, African Conflict Prevention Programme, ISS Pretoria Office.
Africa: Mobile-mapping corruption
A new application called Bribespot helps ordinary people report on instances of corruption they witness in their daily lives. According to this piece, users can download a mobile app for Android, which they can then use to submit specific instances of bribes. (Users can also submit through a website). A central office checks the submission and removes identifying information before posting to a database.
Africa: The Queensway syndicate and Africa trade
An article in The Economist examines how China’s oil trade with Africa is dominated by an opaque syndicate. Ordinary Africans appear to do badly out of its hugely lucrative deals.
Africa: China/Africa development lessons
While the rising economic involvement of China in Africa has drawn wide attention in recent years, there has been significantly less attention to the impact of the Chinese model in thinking about development strategies in Africa. A new joint report from the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC) and the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, made up of the developed countries, is an index of the growing impact of such reflection. The report excludes issues on which significant disagreement would be likely, such as the roles of democratic institutions and civil society.
Africa: Leaders urge new approach to development
An IDN report finds that in the run-up to an important global forum on aid effectiveness, African leaders from fragile and conflict-affected countries have called for new approaches to development in the region and a reassessment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The call emerged from a regional meeting on peace- and state-building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 7-9, 2011.
Africa: New paradigms for development and solidarity
The current state of the global economy poses an unsolvable paradox to the traditional neoliberal doctrine of development. While economic modernisation based on Western models has long become unattainable for developing nations, wealthy countries are proving to be less and less willing to assist poorer nations in their road towards 'development.' To overcome this paradox, Francine Mestrum of Global Social Justice calls for a new paradigm based on self-steered development and global solidarity.
Ghana: IFC helping Western multinationals exploit water crisis
The water supply crisis in Ghana is being exploited by all manner of pro-market corporate bodies ranging from the World Bank to Coca-Cola. While the World Bank is licking its wounds from failed private water management initiatives, such as the Aqua Vitens Rand Limited management contract in Ghana, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), its private sector arm, is investing in small-scale private water ventures via WaterHeath International (WHI).
Global: Navigating complex dilemmas
The World Bank on violence, conflict and peace building
'The World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development' is shifting the language of international policy on supporting peace and development in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Monica Stephen of International Alert examines how the World Bank’s operations need to adjust to support peace and development.
Somalia: Aid groups are misleading the public
The head of an international medical charity has called on aid agencies to stop presenting a misleading picture of the famine in Somalia and admit that helping the worst-affected people is almost impossible.
Somaliland: 'African game changer'
The consequences of Somaliland's international (non) recognition
After a series of field trips to the Horn of Africa region conducted by the Brenthurst Foundation over several years, most recently in Somaliland in June 2011, the Foundation made a documentary film to tie-in with the publication 'African Game Changer? The Consequences of Somaliland’s International (Non) Recognition'. The film is based on interviews conducted in Somaliland in June 2011. It explores the issue of recognition/non-recognition through the eyes of Somalilanders, as well as the social and economic challenges they face in their daily lives.
Africa: Applications open for 2012 STARS Impact Awards
STARS Foundation has announced the launch of the 2012 STARS Impact Awards recognising outstanding organisations working in children's health, education and protection. Organisations working with children in Africa, the Middle East, Asia or Pacific are invited to apply. This year, thanks to a partnership with the Ashmore Foundation, STARS is able to increase the number of Awards it intends to offer to 14. Of these, 6 Awards are made up of US$100,000 of unrestricted funding and additional consultancy support and the other 8 Awards will range in value from US$15,000 to US$60,000.
Africa: Better information for better mental health
The Mental Health and Poverty Project (MHaPP) is a 5- year study of mental health policy development and implementation in four African countries: Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. Following broad situation analyses in each of the four countries, three areas of intervention were identified.
Africa: Malaria: Influential study questioned
Severe malaria threatens tens of millions of lives across the globe. Up to a million children, most in Africa, succumb to it each year. The survivors risk life-long neurological deficit and other serious problems. Accurate diagnosis and injectable treatment are urgently needed to deal with the condition. Yet, children with signs of severe malaria often reside in remote locations. Professor Karim Hirji of Muhimbili University in Tanzania describes the significance of his own research.
Kenya: Breaking with tradition on reproductive health
Most Somali women fleeing to Dadaab in northeastern Kenya have never visited an antenatal clinic, let alone given birth in a hospital. Most of the 470,000 refugees in Dadaab are from Somalia, where about 80 per cent of deliveries take place at home or with unskilled traditional birth attendants, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO). With an estimated 1,400 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, WHO describes maternal and prenatal health in Somalia as being 'of pressing concern'.
Uganda: High HIV prevalance in Nebbi attributed to ignorance
The high rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence in Nebbi district has been attributed to lack of sensitisation of the community on the danger of the disease, says Rev. Fr. Juvenile Ayelangom, the Nebbi director of Caritas, a Catholic church organisation.
Africa: In universities, quantity threatens quality
Uganda's Makerere reflects the crisis facing many African universities – how to fund higher education amid rising demand for places and concerns about falling academic standards, argues a piece on The Guardian's Poverty Matters blog.
Africa: Medical education in sub-Saharan Africa
This review synthesises research published in the traditional and ‘grey’ literature to promote a broader understanding of the history and current status of medical education in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
Africa: Where does the money go?
Public spending on education in Africa has been increasing annually according to a new report, but how is the money distributed? A report examined by The Guardian reveals that in some countries in Africa development aid accounts for 50% of government education budgets.
Kenya: 12 challenges facing computer education in schools
While ICT continues to advance in western and Asian countries, African countries still experience a lag in its implementation, and that continues to widen the digital and knowledge divides. A study by Kiptalam et.al observed that access to ICT facilities is a major challenge facing most African countries, with a ratio of one computer to 150 students against the ratio of 1:15 students in the developed countries.
Kenya: Teachers strike paralyses learning
Teachers across Kenya boycotted classes as schools in that country reopened for their final term in this academic year. A nationwide teachers strike now threatens to disrupt preparations in the run up to this year's national examinations by standard eight and form four candidates.
Uganda: Komo Learning Centres
A Noerine Kaleeba initiative
The Komo Learning Centres (KLC) was established in 2008 as a non-profit (501c3) corporation dedicated to providing community-based educational opportunities for vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Uganda. With the third highest fertility rate in the world, Uganda’s education system is burdened with overcrowded classrooms, a scarcity of teachers and dilapidated schoolhouses.
Africa: Africa and Middle East in spotlight
Group launched to tackle homophobia
An international pressure group is to be launched in Britain to tackle the rise in homophobic violence around the world, with a focus on Africa and the Middle East. The UK's three main political parties have declared their support for Kaleidoscope, an independent group campaigning for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, after a series of high-profile attacks on sexual minorities in developing countries.
Africa: Homophobia in Africa
In a blog post, Peter Kenworthy explores how many African leaders in particular see homosexuality as 'un-natural' and 'un-African' and do not believe that homosexuals should have any rights at all. Homophobia is therefore not only illegal and punishable in many African countries, but also legitimised by the leaders of these countries, and African homosexuals are frequently assaulted, expelled from their jobs, or chased from their homes. The cultural claims that homosexuality is alien to Africa are rarely if ever substantiated, however, and homophobic laws and opinions could alternatively be seen as colonial imports based on European 18th or 19th century Puritanism.
Cameroon: Stand with Alice
Alice N'Kom is one of the only attorneys in Cameroon who defends people who've been jailed for the 'crime' of being gay. In the last 2 weeks, gay men have been snatched from their homes and public places and thrown in jail just for being gay. The situation is approaching a crisis and Alice and her colleagues are ready to confront the President to demand the release of those arrested and an end to laws that make being gay a crime. But she needs the support of people around the world.
Nigeria: FIFA to investigate homophobic women's football coach
The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) say they have opened an investigation into homophobic comments made by Nigerian football coach Eucharia Uche.
Nigeria: Persecuted for being gay
Bisi Alimi contributes to a series by The Guardian on voices of people from around the world who have found themselves stigmatised for their sexuality. While at university in Nigeria and standing for election, a magazine wrote about him and exposed him as being gay. This led the university to set up a disciplinary committee.
Uganda: Bishop calls Christian America to 'stop exporting hate'
The work of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a retired Anglican Bishop from the Diocese of Western Uganda, has become increasingly vital over time, heightened by the intensifying persecution of homosexuals in his country. Taking the courageous step of ministering to LGBT people in his country, the Bishop is calling on America to 'stop exporting hatred' as he continues to advocate for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Uganda: ‘Family’ campaign calls for progress on anti-gay bill
A ‘family’ campaign in Uganda is urging lawmakers to pass the notorious anti-homosexuality bill. The Family Life Network and Uganda Coalition for Moral Values says the government should do the 'right' thing, rather than bow to international pressure.
South Africa: Malema found guilty of hate speech
A South African court has found Julius Malema, the fireband leader of the youth brigade of the country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), guilty of hate speech. The court ordered the youth leader to pay costs for singing an apartheid-era song that advocated the killing of white farmers.
South Africa: The ebony ceiling and affirmative action
The South African Civil Society Information Service points to two reports that find that whites dominate management positions in South Africa and that white people continue to be appointed and promoted in empowering positions in the workplace while blacks are constantly overlooked. The 11th CEE Report further argues that employers are more likely to employ white females and Indians from the designated groups 'when compared to the African and Coloured population groups at nearly all occupational levels.'
Africa: Africa keen to ensure Kyoto Protocol survives
Laura Lopez Gonzalez interviews Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo
Durban should not be the burial ground for the Kyoto Protocol, says Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, about his expectations from the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change happening in his hometown in South Africa later this year.
Africa: Facing climate change head on
FAO and African leaders are working together to move quickly to adopt a 'climate-smart' approach to agriculture to fight the impacts of climate change and increasing scarcity of natural resources.
Africa: Irrigation and climate change
While attention has, appropriately, been focused on getting food and medicines to the victims of the famine in the Horn of Africa, many observers are asking about longer-term solutions, especially if droughts such as the current one become more frequent with climate change. One possibility is to expand irrigation.
Africa: Mollusc stocks at risk from ocean acidification
Fishermen in Haiti and some African countries could lose their livelihoods as ocean acidification causes a decline in mollusc populations, a study has found. Human industrial activities release carbon dioxide, which dissolves in sea water, increasing its acidity. This higher acidity damages the mollusc stocks on which many fishermen in Gambia, Haiti, Madagascar, Mozambique and Senegal rely.
Kenya: Kenya to develop new wildlife policy
Kenya's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has come up with a new policy that will see the ministry take responsibility in wildlife conservation, compensation of wildlife related damages on crops, properties, death and injuries.
Africa: Africa must reject land grabs
Letter to China, India, Harvard, Egypt, Kuwait, et al
Guest blogger Andy Kristian, a US based Ugandan photographer, writes that Africa is on the brink of losing her land. The telescopes of several countries and corporations are on Africa, which until recently still possessed vast areas of arable and virgin land. This shift is due to rising food prices, climate change and massive populations in Asia, particularly, China, Arab Countries such as Egypt and Kuwait, and India.
Africa: New scramble for Africa threatens water resources
A new scramble for Africa is under way. As global food prices rise and exporters reduce shipments of commodities, countries that rely on imported grain are panicking. Affluent countries like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, China and India have descended on fertile plains across the African continent, acquiring huge tracts of land to produce wheat, rice and corn for consumption back home.
Africa: World Bank policies 'enabling' land grab
New research accuses the World Bank Group's policies of facilitating land grabs in Africa and favouring the interests of financial markets over food security and environmental protection.
Global: Right to housing and to land
Resistances and alternatives are the key words chosen by the Liaison Committee, established during the World Assembly of Inhabitants (WAI) in order to unify the Global Campaign for the right to housing and to land from the 15th september until the 31st october this year. The central focus is the struggle against expulsions, evictions, the land grabbing and the persecution of activists. This year, these matters involve not only the organisations that have long been committed to the World Zero Evictions Days and other campaigns, but the entire world.
Africa: Famine in Africa
Can reforestation improve food security?
Deforestation worsens famine in Africa, but drylands restoration could help. Millions of people across the Horn of Africa are suffering under a crippling regional drought and tens of thousands have died during the accompanying famine. The best hope in the short-term is food aid and logistical support, but in the longer term, dryland reforestation efforts may help improve food security, argues a new report from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which links human-caused land degradation, including deforestation, to intensified drought.
Africa: Helping Africa to feed itself
Understandable concern exists over the state of hunger in Africa: almost one third of the population are estimated to be hungry, while more than a quarter of infants are underweight in the countries to the south of the Sahara. Moreover, parts of Africa are all too often hit by sharp increases in hunger when harvests fail or strife breaks out. Can Africa feed itself? And what needs to be done? This report reviews the evidence and opinions drawing on available statistics, the considerable literature and interviews by telephone and email with key informants.
Africa: How rising global food prices could affect Africa
Africa Monitor reports (includes video) that higher global food prices are likely to spell trouble for aid organisations working to relieve famine in the Horn of Africa. Food prices are on the rise again, according to a new report issued last week by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Global: Climate conversations - micro-irrigation
A new way to beat hunger
Fearing a repeat of hunger riots around the world in 2007-2008, international policymakers are putting agriculture high on the agenda. The G20 agriculture meeting in Paris in June issued an action plan aimed at increasing global agricultural production by 70 per cent in the next four decades in order to address the challenge of trying to feed an expected 9 billion people by 2050 – a challenge that is growing harder with climate change. One priority target to boost world food security should be the millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries who live on less than two hectares – some of the poorest people on the globe.
Somaliland: Journalist beaten by police
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is outraged by the savage beating of 'Waheen' newspaper journalist Saleban Abdi Ali by the Somaliland Police's Special Protection Unit (SPU). The incident took place on 10 September 2011 in Hargeisa, Somaliland.
Somaliland: Journalists continue to be targeted
Authorities in the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland are obstructing independent journalists from covering government politics, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. Four reporters have been harassed and arrested while on assignment since early September.
South Africa: Journalists declare against POIB
The 'Journalist Declaration on the Protection of State Information Bill' is an urgent petition that is calling upon all community, public, commercial and trade journalists to speak up against the Secrecy Bill and other proposed legislation. Organisers plan to release the list of endorsements before the National Assembly votes for or against the Secrecy Bill on Tuesday, 20 September 2011.
Africa: Independent living of persons with disabilities
The Independent Living Institute takes a look at this important subject and finds that little has been written about people with disabilities in Africa. Reference material has been drawn from the general textbooks of social sciences and principles of community health on the epidemiology of diseases.
Africa: The visual du jour – more planet of slums
An infographic by the Global Sociology Blog details the slum population in urban Africa by country.
Algeria: Protestant churches approved for government registration
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) was granted government approval in July to officially register congregations throughout the country. Algerian Christians view the decision as a positive step toward repealing a law that restricts Christian worship.
Ghana: Squatter's Paradise
Discover the ins and outs of Sodom and Gomorrah slum in this documentary. Close to 80,000 people live in Sodom and Gomorrah, a slum on the edge of the polluted Korle Lagoon. The processing of electronic waste near the lagoon leaches toxic substances like lead into the soil. The place sprang up in the 1980s when thousands of people fleeing bloody ethnic clashes between the Kokomba and Nanumba in the north poured into the capital.
Nigeria: Growing 'prosperity' churches
An increasing number of Nigeria's 70 million Christians are following so called 'prosperity teachings' - the belief that prosperity is a blessing. Services are held in mega-churches, with millionaire pastors preaching the word. Tomi Oladipo reports for the BBC.
Africa: Diaspora women using fashion for change
Sheila Ruiz, programming and communications consultant for the Africa Centre in London's Covent Garden, put together a list of 7 African diaspora women in London who are using fashion for progressive change.
Africa: For expat Africans, patriotism may pay
Remittances from Africans abroad are booming, growing fourfold in the past 20 years and shrugging off the global financial crisis, to total $40 billion a year. 'Tapping into this money with so-called diaspora bonds could help provide Africa with the equipment and services it needs for long-term growth and poverty reduction,' World Bank policymakers Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Dilip Ratha wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times.
Cote d’Ivoire: ECOWAS road map for resolution of post-conflict challenges
The ECOWAS Commission has proposed a road map to address the post-conflict challenges faced by Cote d’Ivoire, which includes restoration of peace and security, repatriation of refugees and settlement of displaced persons.
Egypt: Court to hear testimony from top officials
The court trying Hosni Mubarak over the killing of protesters in January summoned the head of Egypt's ruling military council and other top officials to give testimony that could prove decisive in determining the fate of the ousted president.
Kenya: Gasoline pipeline explosion in Nairobi
At least 75 dead
Greenpeace, in response to an explosion at a leaking gasoline pipeline in an industrial area of Kenya's capital in which at least 75 people were killed and 112 hurt, urged the Kenyan government to support its citizens in the wake of this incident. 'This again is a reminder to our African leaders to move away from the dangerous and dirty fossil fuels towards a renewable energy path with cleaner jobs, greener economies and a safer, more sustainable future for Africa's people,' Greenpeace said.
Libya: Political repression 2.0
An opinion piece in the New York Times looks at the sophisticated electronic equipment that powered Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s extensive spying apparatus, which the Libyan transitional government uncovered.
Libya: The Libya hoax
How the West cooked up the 'people’s' uprising
In a post on the Huffington Post Union of Bloggers, the writer exerts that the 'people’s revolt' against another tyrant is unquestionably exciting, and the demise (political and/or otherwise) of Muammar Qaddafi will be widely hailed. But below the surface something else is going on, and it concerns not the Libyan people, but an elite. In reality, a narrowly-based Libyan elite is being supplanted by a much older, more enduring one of an international variety.'
Libya: The real reason for the war
Jean-Paul Pougala answers questions from readers concerning his article 'The Lies of the Western war against Libya', which was translated into forty languages.
Libya: What is new democracy if built on racial hatred?
Guest blogger, Ahmed Sule, shows that attacks on both African immigrants and black Libyans (part of the legacy of 19th Century slave trade) have largely remained on the periphery of mainstream media. The political establishment, supporting the rebels, have done even less to acknowledge these atrocities that tarnish the rebels’ pursuit of democracy.
Niger: Fears of influx from Libya of soldiers loyal to Qaddafi
The New York Times carries a report that officials in Niamey, Niger are warily watching and bracing for what they call the disaster scenario that has not yet happened: a huge influx of defeated soldiers loyal to the fallen Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Africa: A bright future
E-applications and value-added services will see Africa emerge as a major contact centre hub, with significant concentrations in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius and South Africa. This was one of the micro-trend findings that emerged at a Frost & Sullivan congress, which took place in Cape Town.
Africa: Africa leads solar-powered laptop revolution
The world’s first solar-powered netbook, Samsung Electronics’ NC215S laptop, is the ideal product for a continent where electricity access can be limited, but sunlight is never in short supply. The solar-charging capability means that it is also the first genuine environment-friendly product of its kind, with a lower carbon footprint than any other laptop on the market.
Africa: Home-grown innovations can boost maternal, infant health
Sub-Saharan African countries should scale up innovations that utilise internet, cell phones and other modern communication gadgets to national level, to benefit a critical mass of women and children in need of quality healthcare. Tore Godal, the Special Advisor to the Norwegian Prime Minister and co-author of a landmark report 'Innovating for Every Woman, Every Child', says that healthcare innovations can flourish in Africa in the light of greater political will, financing and policy support from central governments.
Africa: Making the most of mobiles
While mobile phones are ubiquitous in Africa, the internet has nothing like the same penetration and is almost non-existent in rural areas. Ken Banks, founder of Kiwanja.net, advocates going back to basics – using mobile phones rather than the internet, and pretty basic phones at that.
Africa: Using social media in citizen engagement
It is now common knowledge that ICTs play important roles in the development process. In West Africa, projects such as Esoko, Grameen MoTech and Project ABC are confronting the challenges of development from different angles. Another interesting area with great potential in this sphere is the role of ICTs, social media in particular, in citizen engagement.
Africa: Nile Valley Conferences II
Africa Today speaks with Professor Manu Ampim and Dr. Charles Finch on the upcoming Nile Valley Conferences II, 20-24 September 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia, a gathering for the study, discussions and analysis of the legacy of African peoples throughout the world.
Pan African Conference on Access to Information (PACAI)
This gathering, the PACAI, capitalises on the 20th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, to make a difference to information access. The event is convened by the Windhoek+20 Campaign on Access to Information in Africa in conjunction with UNESCO, and possibly the African Union. It will be one of several conferences taking place simultaneously in Cape Town, and it will share an opening session with them. The totality of events will come together for a joint closing session, dubbed as the Africa Information and Media Summit (AIMS).
South Africa: Afri-Tech Technology & Digital summit
The Afri-Tech Johannesburg summit is bound to unravel new areas of research and collaboration – with unlimited possibilities of enriching human lives in Africa and around the globe. The framework of this conference is intended to create cross-functional solutions in the areas of health care, education, banking & finance, networking solutions, digital marketing and science & technology.
South Africa: Highway Africa Conference 15
Subscribe to Highway Africa’s Email Alerts or RSS feed for regular updates. Sustainable development in the face of climate change is the theme of the 15th annual Highway Africa conference currently underway in South Africa.
Africa: 'To See the Mountain and Other Stories'
'To See the Mountain and Other Short Stories' is a compilation of Caine Prize 2011 Shortlisted Stories and the Caine Prize African Writers’ Workshop Stories 2011. The Caine Prize for African Writing, an annual literary award, recognises talents from all corners of the African continent and the globe. First presented in 2000 to Sudanese author Leila Aboulela for her story, 'The Museum', the award seeks to find the best original short story, published in English, by an African writer, whether situated in Africa or abroad.
Nigeria: Programme Director, West Africa
Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership (DCGEP) is a 501(c)3 organisation dedicated to using the power of media to transform education and improve lives in the developing world. Position Summary: The Programme Director, West Africa, will report to the VP, Global Education Programmes. Success in this position will hinge on effective management of current school-based projects in West Africa in accordance with organisational priorities and donor contracts; fully engaging donors and government partners; and spearheading new partnerships and funding for expansion in the region.
Ghana: Wikileaks 'exposes' fight in government control of oil
The latest release of leaked diplomatic cables by the whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks has revealed some persons around the presidency have tried to use their influence to manipulate control of the country's oil resources for their personal gain.
Madagascar: US view on Ravalomanana's leadership
Wikileaks has exposed a US cable examining Marc Ravalomanana's landslide re-election victory which saw him emerging ahead of 13 other candidates with 55 per cent of the vote. 'At the same time, rather than growing more relaxed and comfortable in power, he appears increasingly to see enemies around him, broaching little dissent as he becomes more isolated and autocratic,' says the cable.
Zimbabwe: Threats to shut down newspapers over WikiLeaks
The Zimbabwe government is threatening to shut down 'private and foreign' news media organisations that it says are 'abusing their journalistic privileges by denouncing the country and its leadership.' The threat comes just days after the release of new US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks revealed widening rifts within the country’s dominant party, ZANU-PF.
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