Pambazuka News 552: Occupation, land and peace: Organising from below
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
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On the Wall Street occupation
What it will take to win concrete victory
In ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, John Steinbeck's novel about the Great Depression, Tom Joad, the novel's central character, a man who has been made poor and who is on the run from the law, tells his mother in the climactic scene that: ‘I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin' fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin'. And I been wonderin' if all our folks got together....’
That wondering is a red thread woven through American history with the promise of a way out of what Martin Luther King called ‘life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign’. In recent years a lot of Americans who were not born to life in that desolate corridor have been forced into it. The time when each generation could expect to live better than their parents has passed. Poverty is rushing into the suburbs. Young people live with their parents into their thirties. Most cannot afford university. Most of the rest leave it with an intolerable debt burden. It's the same in Spain, Greece and Ireland. England is looking pretty grim too. The borders that surround the enclaves of global privilege are shrinking in from the nation state to surround private wealth.
If the problem was that there just wasn't enough money to go round, people would have to accept the situation. But when there is plenty of money, when there is, in fact, an incredible abundance of money but it is being held by a tiny minority, it is perfectly logical to start wondering along Tom Joad's lines. The financial elite who had for so long successfully presented themselves as the high priests of the arcane arts of economic divination, on whom our collective well being was dependent, caused the financial crisis of 2008. The problem was not a miscalculation in some algorithm. It was the greed of a caste that had been allowed to set itself up above everyone else. As a character in a Bruce Springsteen song about the deindustrialisation of America observes, ‘Them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do’.
This caste has developed so much power over the media and politicians that it has been allowed to dictate the resolution of the crisis. Their plan, of course, comes down to the proposal that they should continue to profit while the shortfall is recovered from society. That means more people losing their homes, no longer able to afford health care or child care, dropping out of university, sliding deeper into debt and working two or three crappy jobs just to keep going. There was resistance from the start. But for a long time it looked like right wing populism would be the dominant popular response in America. But with the occupation of Wall Street inciting occupations and planned occupations in cities throughout the United States, and as far away as Hong Kong and South Africa, it seems that a response that targets the real source of the problem is gaining more traction.
The choice of Wall Street as the target for the occupation is, in itself, a perfectly eloquent statement. And slogans like, ‘We're young; we're poor; we're not going to take it any more’, are incisive enough. But if the occupation of sites of symbolic power in cities across North America is to win concrete rather than moral victories, and to make a decisive intervention against the hold that finance capital has taken over so much of political and social life, it will have to do two things. It will need, without giving up its autonomy, to build links with organisations like churches, trade unions and students groups that are rooted in everyday life and can support this struggle over the long haul. It will also need to find ways to build its own power and to exercise it with sufficient impact to force real change.
Wall Street is usually a world away from Main Street and bringing it under control is no easy task. But it is encouraging that what links Tahrir Square to Liberty Plaza, the protests in Athens and Madrid and the movements that have emerged in the shack settlements of Port-au-Prince, La Plaz, Caracas and Durban, is a concern with democracy. In Tahrir Square the primary point was to unseat a dictatorship but elsewhere there is a global sense that the standard model of parliamentary democracy is just not democratic enough. This is a crucial realisation because, in many countries, America being one of them, you just can't vote for an alternative to the subordination of society to capital. But a serious commitment to dispersing power by sustained organising from below can shift power relations. It is the only realistic route to achieving any sort of meaningful subordination of capital to society.
The idea of an occupation as a way to force an exit from the long and desolate corridor to which more and more Americans are being condemned is not new. Martin Luther King dedicated the last years of his life to the Poor People's Campaign. In 1968 he travelled the country aiming to assemble ‘a multiracial army of the poor’, ‘a new and unsettling force’ that would occupy Washington until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights providing decent housing and work or a guaranteed income for all. Reader's Digest warned of an ‘insurrection’. King was assassinated on 4 April 1968, but the march went ahead on 12 May 1968. Up to 50,000 people marched on Washington and occupied Capitol Hill. Thousands built a shanty town known as Resurrection City and held it for six weeks, in which it seemed to rain incessantly, before it was bulldozed.
In that same year there was mass protest, sometimes verging on insurrection, from Prague to Berlin, Paris and Mexico City. Much of it was inspired by the war in Vietnam and much of it took the form, against both the state and the authoritarian left, of direct democracy and collective self-organisation. In 1968 armed third world peasants became the most compelling image of a revolt that, while not global, was certainly international. With the defeat of these struggles the human rights industry was able to recast the third world poor as passive victims requiring charity and guidance from the North.
Debt, often mediated through dictatorship, became a key instrument through which the domination of the North was reasserted over the South. Debtors don't just have to wring every cent that they can from life. They are also without autonomy. But the servitude of the debtor is increasingly also the condition of home-owners, students and others in the North who are paying for much of the financial crisis.
When some people are living like pigs and others have land lying fallow, it is easy enough to see what must be done. But when some people are stuck in a desolate corridor with no exist signs and others have billions in hedge funds, derivatives and all the rest, it can seem a lot more complicated. And, of course, it is more complicated in the sense that you can't occupy a hedge fund in the same way that you can occupy the fallow land of a billionaire.
But the point about finance capital is that it is the collective wealth of humanity. The money controlled by Wall Street was not generated by the unique brilliance, commitment to labour and willingness to assume risk on the part of the financial elite. It was generated by the wars in the Congo and Iraq. It comes from the mines in Johannesburg, the long labour of the men who worked those mines and the equally long labour of the women that kept the homes of the miners in the villages of the Eastern Cape. It comes from the dispossession, exploitation, work and creativity of people around the world. That wealth, which has been captured and made private, needs to be made public. Appropriated or properly taxed under democratic authority it could fund things like housing, health care, education, a guaranteed income and productive investment.
When a new politics, a new willingness to resist, emerges from the chrysalis of obedience, it will, blinking in the sun, confront the world with no guarantees. But we need to get together and commit what we can to try and ensure that 2011 turns out differently to 1968 or, for that matter, 1989. Here in South Africa the immediate task for the young people inspired by the occupations that have spread from Cairo to New York via Madrid and Athens is to make common cause with the rebellion of the poor.
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* Richard Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University
* This article was first published by SACSIS
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Beware ‘social justice’ promises by international bankers
In these days of dire economic and environmental crisis, with political elites under attack from Athens to Washington, the establishment is desperate for legitimacy. Even International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff now publicly endorse ‘social justice’ at the same time they tighten austerity screws.
Recall the context. The 2008-09 financial meltdown was supposedly solved by throwing money at bankers in Wall Street, the City of London, Frankfurt, Paris and Tokyo. But it didn’t work, and on BBC’s Newsnight last Friday, Robert Shapiro of the Georgetown University Business School blew the whistle on the European debt crisis.
‘If they cannot address it in a credible way I believe within perhaps two to three weeks we will have a meltdown in sovereign debt which will produce a meltdown across the European banking system,’ warned Shapiro. ‘We are talking about the largest banks in the world, the largest banks in Germany, the largest banks in France, that will spread to the United Kingdom, it will spread everywhere.’
Shapiro also happens to be a consultant to the IMF. Facing a new meltdown of reputational confidence, the institution’s panicked press office quickly tweeted, ‘IMF notes Shapiro is not IMF Adviser on European activities.’ Instead, said the IMF with typical blind arrogance, ‘Europe’s growth potential is remarkable. With steady implementation of the right policies, it can be achieved.’
Here in South Africa, we should be paying closer attention because Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last week offered our tax monies as an emergency US$250 million bailout loan from Pretoria to Brussels via the IMF. This comes on the heels of his US$300 million bailout offer to Swazi dictator King Mswati, in spite of widespread opposition by civil society in Swaziland and South Africa.
What Gordhan explained to national SAfm radio audiences about the European emergency credits last week was chilling, especially because I will never forget the Natal Indian Congress classes on revolutionary politics he gave at the Gandhi settlement in Durban's Phoenix community a quarter century ago.
SAfm’s Alec Hogg asked, ‘Even if it is only a small amount, relatively speaking, that we are putting in, many African countries went through hell in the seventies and eighties because of conditionality according to these loans. Are you going to try and insist that there is similar conditionality now that the boot is on the other foot, as it were?’
‘Absolutely,’ replied Gordhan, ‘The IMF must be as proactive in developed countries as it is in developing countries. The days of this unequal treatment and the nasty treatment, if you like, for developing countries and politeness for developed countries must pass.’
Gordhan’s call for more proactive nastiness by the IMF and its Brussels allies against the Greek, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish poor and working people, throws African National Congress (ANC) traditions of international solidarity into disrepute. (It is not likely that the neoliberal nationalists running the ANC will do anything about it, unlike their anger at ANC Youth League president Julius Malema who called the Botswanan government a puppet of Washington and called for regime change, thus landing him in a potentially game-changing disciplinary hearing whose outcome we will know in coming days.)
The same attacks are underway in Egypt, where tens of billions of dollars were funnelled to the ultra-corrupt Hosni Mubarak regime from the State Department, Pentagon and IMF/World Bank. In June, the IMF offered a US$3 billion loan to Egypt so that it could repay the IMF and other lenders the interest coming due on Cairo’s US$33 billion foreign debt. A genuinely free democracy would have grounds to default on that debt, because of its ‘Odious’ nature in legal and technical terms.
But as if to whitewash over decades of illegitimacy, acting IMF Managing Director John Lipsky proclaimed on June 5, ‘We are optimistic that the programme’s objectives of promoting social justice, fostering recovery, and maintaining macroeconomic stability and generating jobs will bring positive results for the Egyptian people.’ Added the IMF’s Egypt mission head, Ratna Sahay, ‘Following a revolution and during a challenging period of political transition, the Egyptian authorities have put in place a home-grown economic program with the overarching objective of promoting social justice.’
The following week, Cairo’s military government began implementing a controversial law banning strikes and the finance minister not only promised a continuation of neoliberal policies but cancelled a proposed capital gains tax.
In addition to IMF staff, another man who spent nearly three decades causing immense suffering at the World Bank, Ismail Serageldin, was recently invited to deliver the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, which he titled, ‘The Making of Social Justice.’
At Durban High School’s Seabrooke Theatre on Tuesday, at a videoed repeat of his speech, we heard Serageldin calling social justice ‘the foundation of the modern Republic of South Africa… The light shining from South Africa has finally reached the northern part of the continent, where I live.’
Shining light? Does Serageldin – a long-time Mubarrak supporter – not know that inequality, unemployment and environmental devastation have soared since 1994, thanks mainly to Pretoria’s adoption of World Bank and IMF policies?
He may simply not care. In an interview with the NGO Share International a few years ago, Serageldin was asked, ‘The World Bank has received a fair amount of criticism in recent years for its policies toward the poor and the environment. How have those policies changed during your tenure at the bank?’
The answer was as chilling as Gordhan’s: ‘I totally reject the criticism that's being brought forward against the Bank.’
The follow-up question: ‘One of the most controversial areas of involvement for the Bank has been its structural adjustment programs. Some people argue they hurt the poor by forcing governments to reduce or eliminate subsidies for basic goods in exchange for getting World Bank loans. Is that still something that the bank is involved with?’ Replied Serageldin, ‘Sure.’
Serageldin is best known for his prophetic 1995 statement, ‘Many of the wars this century were about oil, but those of the next century will be over water.’ As if to ensure this would be true, Serageldin became a leader of the water privatisation lobby’s World Water Council. Under his tutelage its main commission aimed ‘to help formulate global water policies.’
The World Bank push to end operating subsidies and privatise water was relentless, with Serageldin’s commission arguing that governments should ‘treat water like any other commodity and open its management to free market competition.’ As he explained in 2003, ‘We pay for food. Why should we not pay for water?’
In Johannesburg as well as Argentina, Bolivia and many other sites, this philosophy ensured the early 2000s witnessed water wars of World Bank projects run by French, British and US multinational corporations against poor people.
If, as it seems, the Mandela Foundation and a Johannesburg audience were fooled by Serageldin, this only makes it more important for us here in Durban, in Egypt and everywhere else to ask tough questions to bankers who talk ‘social justice’ but who walk with a stick that always applies ‘nasty’ economic pain to society’s most vulnerable.
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* Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The ill-gotten gains behind Angola's Kilamba housing development
Rafael Marques de Morais
Since last July, thousands of Angolan citizens living in Luanda have been making desperate efforts to acquire state-funded public housing apartments in the Kilamba development. The private real estate company hired to sell the apartments and funded by the state, Delta Imobiliária, charges prices ranging from US$125,000 to US$200,000 per apartment. These unaffordable prices, and the disclosure of the names of Delta Imobiliaria's shareholders, reveal yet another corruption scandal.
Contrary to the government’s established ceiling prices for state-funded social housing, Delta is overpricing the units by two to three times. On 5 August 2010, the President of the Republic, José Eduardo dos Santos, announced that struggling Angolan families would be able to buy state funded social housing for a maximum price of US$60,000 per unit. He made the announcement during his speech at the meeting of the National Program for Social Housing, held at the presidential palace.
In the run up to the 2008 legislative elections, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos made an electoral promise to build one million houses over four years. Such a promise was seen as crucial to the ruling party's election triumph. Although limits in building capacity caused it to be scaled down to just a few thousand houses, the Kilamba social housing project became a symbol of what had been promised to the people.
The project, carried out by the Chinese state-owned company CITIC, initially involved the construction of a total of 2,000 residential buildings and support infrastructure, to a total value of US$3.5 billion, according to data posted on the construction company’s website.
CITIC proceeded to hand over the first batch of 115 buildings, containing 3,118 apartments, in a ceremony presided over by President dos Santos on 11 July 2011. The President, in his first ever state of the nation address in the National Assembly, on 15 October 2010, had acknowledged that ‘the sector in which the situation is very bad is housing. More than 70% of Angolan families still do not have a decent house. In this area, we have to make an enormous effort to reverse the present situation.’
The people of Angola have been at the receiving end of a wave of indifference in the speeches and contrary behaviour of their rulers, which has had egregious consequences for society. Although Angola is a country rich in petroleum, most Angolans are among the poorest people in the world. The gross domestic product per capita is US$4,941 per year while more than half the population (54.3 per cent) lives below the poverty line, on less than US$1.25 per day. On the one hand ordinary Angolans hear of the noble idea of building social housing, and on the other they witness exorbitant speculation, along with policies that ensure the social, economic and political exclusion of the very people at whom the project is supposedly aimed.
In his speech for the partial inauguration of the Kilamba social housing project, President dos Santos called it ‘the largest housing project ever built in Angola, [constituting] on a global scale a profound example of social policy put in place to solve the housing deficit.’ The president eloquently affirmed that his executive would ‘pioneer here a new model of urban management, that will be functional, simple, rational and will serve its purpose, and be able to find the best solutions to improve citizens’ quality of life.’
This investigation focuses exclusively on the management of the project and its transparency. Delta Imobiliária - Sociedade de Promoção, Gestão e Mediação S.A, which was given responsibility for selling the apartments, was created on 27 December 2007. Its shareholders are the chairman and CEO of the National Oil Company Sonangol, Manuel Vicente; the minister of state and head of the military bureau (Casa Militar) in the presidency, General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias ‘Kopelipa’, and his top advisor General Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento. The company is fronted by officers from the military bureau of the presidency - Colonels José Manuel Domingos ‘Tunecas’, João Manuel Inglês and Belchior Inocêncio Chilembo - as well as General Kopelipa’s private assistant Domingos Manuel Inglês, ‘Avô Inglês’. These men between them hold only 0.16 per cent of the company’s shareholding.
A Nova Centralidade do Kilamba, as the project was officially named, was supervised until the end of 2010 by the then Office of National Reconstruction (GRN), which was part of the military bureau of the presidency, and was headed by General Kopelipa. This office was created in 2004 to deal with the application of Chinese loans, to date worth US$15 billion, to national reconstruction projects as defined by the GRN itself. The GRN was also responsible for financial management and for supervising the work.
On 27 September 2010, Dos Santos formally transferred all of the GRN’s responsibilities on Kilamba and similar projects in the Luanda area to Sonangol Imobiliária, a subsidiary of the state oil company.
Despite the absence of an official justification for handing over a major state social housing project to Sonangol, Chinese analysts offer this possible explanation: ‘CITIC has been trying to finance the project with its own money, because the government does not yet have [the money]. It handed over the project to Sonangol, which recently paid for services that were in arrears. CITIC had to invest US$350 million from its own bank to continue the project and to keep the 10,000 Chinese workers on the site.’
No matter which option the state chose, it continued to inject public funds into the project, in this instance by direct investment from Sonangol, whose boss, Manuel Vicente, ranked alongside Kopelipa as the central figure in the negotiations with China. The loans are paid in consignments of crude oil.
By contracting Delta Imobiliária to sell the apartments in the Kilamba social housing project, Sonangol arrogantly and thoroughly broke the laws that are in force. The Law on Administrative Probity defines as ‘an act of corruption conducive to illegal enrichment’ the receiving of economic advantage as commission in a direct or indirect form, among other acts, through an action ‘arising from the duties of a public servant’ (art. 25, 1, a).
Manuel Vicente, as the highest official of Sonangol, is doing business with himself when he arranges for his private company to receive a contract from the state business that he manages. He is in the process of receiving fabulous profits for his personal enrichment from the sale of the apartments, through the commission that Delta Imobiliária will receive on the deal. The same legal argument applies to General Kopelipa, since he is both a shareholder in Delta Imobiliária and the top manager of the Kilamba project, as well as having undoubted influence on President dos Santos, who has the last word on the management of the project.
Despite this criminal situation, the president greeted the inauguration of Kilamba and the way the sale of the apartments had been managed as a great success. ‘We consider that this promise has been met, and the government had released a communiqué in which it announced the criteria of access to the apartments built at Kilamba, fulfilling the promise made to the people,’ the minister of state and chief of staff of the president, Carlos Feijó, said in his thrice-yearly briefing on the performance of the executive.
A MODEL OF CORRUPTION BECOMES A VISITING CARD
José Eduardo dos Santos’s government presented the Kilamba social housing project as a great model for its social policy.
In the past two years the Angolan authorities have enjoyed considerable success in inviting foreign dignitaries to visit the Kilamba project, bestowing upon it not only international renown but also internal legitimacy. The project’s managers use the stamp of foreign approval to quieten complaints from at home, at the same time as they have ‘privatised’ the project for their personal and illegal enrichment.
The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, was the most recent head of state to visit the project on 12 September 2011, and described it as ‘grand and impressive’ according to the state news agency, Angop.
Last August, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza visited the project and described it as a ‘marvel’. King Mswati II of Swaziland was also present.
When Namibian President Lucas Pohamba visited the project last June, the Angolan Minister of Urban Planning and Construction, Carlos Fonseca, spoke on his behalf. ‘The President very much liked this introduction, naturally he drew many lessons from this great development and we believe we will be able to give all our solidarity and support to the Namibian people where projects like this are concerned.’ The minister went on to say that ‘we are giving an example to all of Africa from the perspective of our youth who are longing for the opportunity of development, and this residential complex will show that we have made a promise with our youth and with our people.’
Last June, the President of East Timor, Ramos Horta, also visited the project, and added his voice to the chorus of official propaganda: ‘The government is to be congratulated for this project and for its vision, which meets the concerns and the dreams of young people, of Angolan families.’
The Chinese Vice-President, Xi Jinping, whose country provided the credit for the project, made an inspection visit to Kilamba on 20 November 2010, according to the state newspaper, Jornal de Angola.
One can say that the Kilamba project, a veritable model for African corruption, has become the main visiting card for the Angolan authorities. The use of Chinese credit, intended for social projects for the disenfranchised sectors of society, has become another unobstructed path for Angolan leaders to loot and further increase their ill-gotten wealth.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 United Nations Development Program. ‘Human Development 2010’, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010:145, 162.
 Commarmond, Cécile de. ‘China lends Angola $15bn, but few jobs are created’, Agence France Presse, 6 March 2011, http://bit.ly/qRIo8l
Beyond Malawi’s academic freedom debate
Envisioning a new African university
The month of October marks eight months since lecturers at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, stopped teaching, demanding guarantees of academic freedom. Despite verbal assurances from President Bingu wa Mutharika for a win-win solution to the problems that have brought Chancellor College to a halt, it remains closed.
The latest bone of contention has been the firing of four lecturers, including Dr. Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, acting president of the Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (CCASU). The University Council has remained steadfast in its refusal to reinstate the four lecturers, and the union has remained steadfast in its refusal to return to classes.
Commentary in the Malawian media and online has come to one conclusion: it is up to President Bingu wa Mutharika, Chancellor of the University of Malawi, to allow for the four lecturers to be reinstated, and therefore for normality to return to Chancellor College. But the president has made no such indication of changing his mind, and there is no end in sight to the standoff.
Returning to a basic question about what exactly caused this crisis, a political science lecturer, Dr. Blessings Chinsinga, mentioned the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to illustrate a point during class. A student in the class reported the matter to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Peter Mukhito, who summoned Dr. Chinsinga. Dr. Chinsinga reported the summons to CCASU, and the union issued a statement asking for an apology from the Mukhito, and an assurance of academic freedom. President Bingu wa Mutharika stepped in and declared that the Inspector General would not apologise. CCASU decided to boycott classes, citing fear of spies, a relic from the one-party regime that ended in 1994. The University Council the dismissed four lecturers, including Dr. Chinsinga. There have been several court sessions on various aspects of the crisis, but the matter has now come to rest on the firing of the four, who include the union’s legal advisor, Dr Garton Kamchedzera from the University of Malawi’s School of Law, and Mr. Franz Amin, General Secretary of CCASU. In the eyes of most Malawians commenting on the issue, the origin of the crisis is 12 February, the day Dr. Chinsinga met with Mr Mukhito.
But one question that has not been asked is whether the roots of this problem may lie much deeper, in the very nature of the Malawian public university in particular, and the modern African university in general. Notwithstanding the contradictory, ill-tempered mishandling of the problem by the president and the University Council, is it possible that the events of 12 February and thereafter happened due to the way Malawi has always envisioned higher education, since independence? Could the deeper problem lie with how modern, postcolonial African universities were created, modelled after European systems of higher learning, managed through borrowed European political structures, and therefore not entirely relevant to problems of postcolonial Africa?
These and similar questions ought to be at the centre of new ways of envisioning what universities in Africa ought to look like, as has been argued by Professor Mahmood Mamdani. They are the types of questions Africans ought to be asking as they re-imagine the place of the university in Africa and what role it could play in revitalising the continent. For Malawian universities, these questions are even more poignant now, given how the presidency’s political control of the public university system since independence has led to the current crisis, and other such crises before. This article takes up Professor Mamdani’s questions about the nature of the modern African university, and argues how the crisis in Malawi’s public university system might be better understood from the perspective of questions about how the modern African university was established. The article also suggests how unless addressed, undue political control will continue stifling the role universities might otherwise play in the production of African knowledge to address Africans realities.
Professor Mamdani is a Ugandan who is director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), at Makerere University in Uganda. He has held this position since mid-2010, when he returned to Uganda in 2010 after more than a decade at Columbia University in New York City, in the United States. He still maintains an endowed professorship at Columbia University. On 11 April 2011, Professor Mamdani presented a paper at the Makerere University Research and Innovations Dissemination Conference, in Uganda. Titled ‘The Importance of Research in a University’, the paper was published in issue 526 of Pambazuka News.
Mamdani’s key proposal in his paper was that Africa must train its next generation of scholars in African institutions, rather than in institutions outside Africa. He argued that this would address the fundamental problem underlying modern African universities: a model borrowed from European Enlightenment and out of touch with African realities. The Enlightenment was a period in 18th century Europe in which science became a dominant way of understanding the world. The Age of Enlightenment promoted reason and rationality, and influenced social changes away from religion and superstition. Scholarly traditions have since that time promoted Europe as the birthplace of science and reason, attracting, in the process, other scholarly traditions that critique the same Enlightenment claims. Mamdani poses a poignant question: ‘If the Enlightenment is said to be an exclusively European phenomenon, then the story of the Enlightenment is one that excludes Africa as it does most of the world. Can it then be the foundation on which we can build university education in Africa?’
Transplanted onto African soil, modern university systems have been blighted by several problems. In postcolonial Africa, universities have been developed as parastatals, an arrangement that has opened the door to government and political interference, undermining academic freedom. To deal with fundraising problems, African universities have been transformed into consulting agencies, with the consequence that independent research has all but died. Mamdani gives the example of his time at the University of Dar es Salaam in the 1970s. As a parastatal, academic freedom was undermined, but the university managed to create a ‘historically-informed, inter-disciplinary curriculum’. The University of Dar es Salaam developed a generation of public intellectuals who became widely known beyond Tanzania and Africa, but Mamdani cites Dar’s failure to nurture a new generation of public intellectuals as one of its weaknesses.
Later Mamdani moved to Makerere University, where he witnessed an attempt to commercialise the university. He says while the university was able to broaden its financial base, commercialisation also ‘opened the door to a galloping consultancy culture’. Neither Makerere nor Dar developed a post-graduate programme. The assumption was that post-graduate training would happen overseas.
Mamdani says the consultancy culture at African universities has changed the nature of research. Consultancy is about finding answers to a problem presented by a client, whereas genuine research is about ‘formulating a problem’. The ‘NGO-isation of the university’, as Mamdani calls it, has turned academic papers into ‘corporate-style power point presentations’, with the result that academics no longer read as much as they used to. Because of the consultancy model, and because funds for big research projects come from outside Africa, most research on the continent today is designed to answer questions that have been formulated outside the continent.
Mamdani says this happens not only in terms of geographical ‘location but also in terms of historical perspective’. In other words, the modern African university operates on a European paradigm, a complete break from Africa’s own ancient traditions of higher education that occurred in West and North Africa, in places such as Morocco, Mali and Egypt centuries before Europe developed its first university. There are no African paradigms determining the direction of research in Africa and formulating frameworks to better understand the root causes of African problems today.
In his paper, Mamdani argued that the solution to problems facing African universities was to educate a new generation of academics, researchers and public intellectuals. He said this new generation must be trained in the conditions they will work in. That is, they must be trained at home, on the African continent. Mamdani went ahead to outline a new, inter-disciplinary PhD programme that his Makerere Institute of Social Research is embarking on. This new PhD programme will, in his words, ‘challenge the foundations of the prevailing paradigm which has turned the dominant Western experience into a model which conceives of research as no more than a demonstration that societies around the world either conform to or deviate from that model.’ It is a model that ‘dehistoricises and decontextualizes other experiences, whether Western or non-Western’. The new PhD programme at MISR will seek not to ‘oppose the local to the global’, but to ‘understand the global from the vantage point of the local’. The idea will be to ‘nurture a scholarly community that is equipped to rethink - in both intellectual and institutional terms - the very nature of the university and of the function it is meant to serve locally and globally.’
It is undisputable that training the next generation of African researchers and intellectuals at home will be part of a new paradigm to make African universities relevant to the African context. Amongst the factors that have worsened the problem of transplanting European systems onto African soil has been the postcolonial political systems in Africa, themselves European transplants onto African contexts. This is not to suggest that borrowed systems are always flawed, no. What is more important is to handle the borrowing process with enough care so as to adapt and modify where necessary.
Malawi is planning six new universities in the next ten years, seen as a solution to the problem of access, quality and relevance that has bedevilled the country since independence. It is incumbent upon Malawians to sort out the issue of academic freedom, quality education and relevance before these six new universities take off, as UDF parliamentarian, Atupele Muluzi, said in parliament (Malawi News, 18 June, 2011). The key challenge in the intermediate period will be for Malawi and other African countries to find ways of supporting and strengthening universities with every resource at governments’ disposal, without due political interference.
Mamdani explained, in emailed correspondence, that in Uganda direct government control of public universities was in 2001 replaced with council governance, although government retained some control over the council’s membership. The same is true of Malawi. But Uganda went a step further to make the vice chancellorship, deanships and department headships elected positions. The government is said to be calling for new legislation to retain greater control, according to Mamdani.
The issues raised by Mamdani might help us see the events of 12 February in Malawi, and their aftermath, as being occasioned by the nature of the university system in Malawi and elsewhere in Africa. To the extent that breaches of academic freedom in African universities are a frequent occurrence, the deeper problem does lie with how modern, postcolonial African universities were created, modelled after European systems of higher learning and managed through borrowed European political structures. This raises the issue of the African university’s relevancy to problems of postcolonial Africa. Post-colonial African universities, and universities in other parts of the world, routinely face similar struggles for academic freedom.
For Malawi and other countries in Africa and elsewhere, as long as divisive and uncalled for political interference continues to be a determining factor in the running of public universities, the struggle for academic freedom will continue. The key challenge for African universities in the long term will be the one Mamdani is posing: the development of a scholarly and intellectual community able to rethink and reconceive a different type of African university that seeks to better understand African problems, and to deal with the ‘global from the vantage point of the local’.
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* Steve Sharra, Ph.D, is a Malawian teacher educator and educational researcher. He blogs at Afrika Aphukira and at Global Voices Online.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Celebrating China’s national day: One hundred years of revolution
From 1-7 October, the people of China celebrated Golden Week. October 1, 1949 is the day when the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) was founded with a ceremony at Tiananmen Square. Since 1949, China has grown to be the second largest economy in the world, with a population of more than 1.3 billion. It is a new global player both within the international community and in the formation called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The new shopping malls across the grand urban conurbations, the gleaming airports, together with high-speed trains, the Beijing Olympics and major nuclear-power expansion, serves as a marker for the China’s emergence as a new contending force. In every part of China the bursting of energy and work to change is everywhere and also manifest in the National Day celebrations. There was a great outpouring of pride for a week as millions of citizens were on the , going home to see family and visiting historical sites to celebrate the history and culture of China and Chinese revolutions. This is the celebration of the revolution that brought the unity of the society and brought Communist Party of China (CPC) to power in 1949.
October 1, 2011 marked 62 years since the victory of the revolution that had been led by Chairman Mao Ze Dong and the Communist Party. This communist party survived the zigs and zags of great leaps, cultural upsurges and the period of the fall of the socialism that was practised in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. During this Golden Week, there were over 300 million people on the move, putting the transportation system of a planned economy to the test. The management and protection of national heritage sites was also put to the test as millions and millions of citizens who were proud of their country thronged to shrines, temples, and geoparks at the more than 119 designated scenic and historic spots. The national media reported that there were more than 24.3 million visitors to the spots that kept records. We do not know of the millions more who were on the move going to meetings and other forms of social connecting.
On 1 October 2011, hundreds of thousands of proud Chinese converged on Tiananmen Square to celebrate on a square that was decked with floral decorations and pay tribute to the revolution. When I looked at the pictures of the millions streaming past the Mao picture to go to the Forbidden City in Tiananmen Square, I wondered how the people viewed the events on the same square in 1989. In these 62 years the Chinese people have transformed their society and the challenges of the future consolidation of a socialist revolution are everyday manifest in this moment when the traditions of the 1911 and 1949 revolutions point to differing paths possible for revolutionary processes.
On October 10, 2011, there was another major celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. This was the revolution that overthrew the last imperial dynasty, the Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Out of this revolt and uprisings of 1911 emerged the great nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen, and the establishment of the Republic of China.
For nationalists all over the world, Sun Yat-sen. was a visionary leader who worked for the ideas of national unity and an internationalism that was based on Pan Asianism. However, this Pan Asianism foundered on the principles of western modernisation that found its ultimate glory in Japanese imperial military aggression across Asia.
Among Chinese people at home and abroad, the ideas of Sun Yat-sen and the traditions of the 1911 revolution morphed into a long struggle between different ideas about social development in China. On one side were those forces that called themselves nationalists and formed the Kuomintang. On the other side were the forces that subscribed to socialism led by Mao. The nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek, claimed to be the true heirs of Sun Yat-sen and this branch of the 1911 revolution aligned itself with western forces and viewed communists as a greater danger than imperialists. Chiang Kai-shek represented the kind of nationalist leader, who will speak of national pride in order to keep power, but the organisation of the Chinese poor by a disciplined communist party united the people and the cultural nationalist branch of the 1911 revolution was ultimately defeated in 1949 by the socialist forces.
Today the People’s Republic of China celebrates the victory of socialism at a moment when revolutionary ruptures from Tunis, Tahrir Square (Cairo), Athens, Madison (Wisconsin), and New York point to the fact that we have passed the tipping point for new revolutions in the 21st century. China is celebrating 90 years of the founding of the Communist Party of China and it is clear from the hot-house of accumulation and construction that there will be efforts to clarify the meaning of communism in this century. The Chinese workers and peasants are the numerical force in the society and are yearning for the full manifestations of worker power.
I had the opportunity to travel during Golden Week and spent my time in Henan Province, a province of over 100 million people. It was an experience to get into the villages and towns, where one could see the continued struggles for social transformation beyond the glitz of Shanghai and Beijing. In this week’s article, I reflect on Golden Week and the reality that revolutions never follow a straight line. As I celebrated with the Chinese people, I followed the news of the fall-out of the banking crisis in Europe and the new revolutionary energy that is now flowing into international politics through the Occupy Wall Street movement.
CELEBRATING OCTOBER 1 IN CHINA AND THE SOCIAL DIVIDE
This semester I am teaching at Tsinghua University. The premier University in China, it has produced great engineers and scientists; this year it celebrates 100 years since its founding. I was invited by my colleagues to travel with them to Henan province in central China. This is an agricultural province with more than 100 million people and it was difficult to think of the social challenges of dealing with 100 million people at the provincial level.
During this visit it was vividly clear that the task of transforming the quality of the lives of the Chinese workers and peasants is still work in progress. More than 80 per cent of society still lives from agriculture and while there may be a new crop of billionaires in China, (along with a new class of millionaires) there are over 800 million people in rural China who want a better quality of life.
One of the pictures on television that struck me was the interview of a migrant worker who was coming off the train in Beijing with his bundle being carried on his back. This migrant, one of the more than 200 million migrant workers in China, told the interviewer that he was a construction worker in Beijing but had used Golden Week to go home to work on the farm to help his family with the harvest. Such is the life of citizens who continue to work on the land and in sites of accumulation in a society that is teetering between socialism and an uncertain future. This worker represented a new mobile force that is in touch with both his rural community and the hustle and bustle of the challenges of urban life and at the same time being exposed to what is going on in the wider world.
Having lived on four continents, I have been witness to many national holidays when people celebrate their independence. When I lived in Africa, the political leadership had cheapened independence to the point where there was no way to instill pride in children over national holidays. Even today, in one of the most recent countries to consolidate power in the name of the majority, the political leadership cannot point to real achievements on national days.
This year, I had the opportunity to travel and commune in China with a cross section of people from Henan. The journey out of Beijing was itself instructive because of the millions of Chinese who were on the move. From the reports in the media, there were millions on the roads with the rail and bus services tested to the limits. In Zhengzhou city, my first stop in this province, I could see the social divide between those who could afford to pay the fees to shrines such as the Shaolin Temple or the more humble families who took their families on walks and rides at the park on the Yellow River. In China, where under the law it is only permissible to have one child, one could see that the most precious thing in the lives of the Chinese was their children. In parks and public places it is common to see three generations enjoying their family life together.
It is at places like the Shaolin Temple where one sees the influence of Buddhism across society and how the aspiring classes turn to higher powers to guide them to prosperity. In an area such as Sheqi County, one of the central points of the old great Silk Road trade of the pre-capitalist era, I could discern (despite my language limitations) the relationship between trade and religion. At the Shanxi-Shaanxi Commercial Guild Hall the contributions of the old style bankers and traders to Chinese history and culture are on display with important messages about how pre-capitalist societies were able to contain the influence of bankers.
In reflecting on the role of bankers in the contemporary society, it is very instructive to learn how previous societies confined the bankers and traders to certain limits. The Guild Hall and theatre of Shanxi Shanxi that was built by the bankers and those in the long distance trade is also another monument that demonstrates that in previous societies, citizens did not hide their money in far offshore sites, but contributed to society.
It was in Shanxi-Shaanxi where I saw people dancing on the square late in the evening. This was itself a treat for the people were creating their own entertainment with equipment that did not have the power of the boom boxes of the Bronx. In every city where I travelled, the parks and places of public intercourse are of special importance and the safety of the population in these spaces is assured. It is in these spaces where one sees hundreds of elderly pensioners gathering every morning for Tai Chi exercises.
It was also in Shanxi Shanxi where I visited the family of my colleague and saw the reality that the people were eking out an existence and that life for the ordinary Chinese was still hard. Many foreigners believe that Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou , Hangzhou, Shanghai and other major political and commercial behemoths represent the totality of China but going through the rural counties brought one face to face with another China beyond the known accomplishments of the government of China since 1949.
PANGU HOLDING UP THE SKY
In the Chinese understanding of the world, Pangu is the first human being. During Golden Week there was a festival to celebrate Pangu in Tong Bai County. The monument to Pangu is built in the Tongbai Mountains. Travelling through the rural countryside on the road to Tong Bai, I saw that the peasants used the same means to winnow and thresh their harvest as the poor peasants in Africa. It is the Tongbai Mountain what there is a large sculptural depiction of Pangu who divided heaven from earth and held up the sky. To reach the monument dedicated to Pangu, one traverses through very beautiful scenery with steep peaks, deep woods, and numerous waterfalls. One of the waterfalls in these mountains claim to be the most picturesque in the world and it is in these mountains where one met the secular and the spiritual. I did not say anything about Mosi-oa-Tunya (which the Europeans call Victoria Falls).
While there is great reverence for Pangu who holds up the sky, it is also to these mountains that lie between Henan and Anhui provinces where the forces of communist party had to develop great skills in guerilla war in the fight against the Japanese and the nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai Chek. The Revolution of 1911 had broken the power of Qing dynasty but had not broken the deep-seated patriarchy and war-lordism of the society. The socialist forces of revolution worked hard to break all forms of patriarchy and this was best expressed when Mao proclaimed that women hold up half the sky. In societies, there is a difference between proclamation and actual change of social relations; so after the 62 years of socialist revolution in China, society is still locked between Pangu holding up or women holding up half the sky.
Three of the ancient capitals of China are located in Henan and in the city of Kaifeng. In Kaifeng and all over the region of the Yellow River one was confronted by the reality of the contradictions between humans and nature. Kaifeng is located on the Yellow River and in this ‘small’ city of 5 million; one is reminded that half of the old city is buried by floods. The Chinese state structure had been heavily influenced by the need to control flooding and the engineering and control of water resources continue to be a priority for China. The President of China received his degree and graduated in hydraulic engineering in 1965 from Tsinghua University.
WHAT IS A THOROUGHLY MODERN, NATIONAL AND DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION?
Travelling back to Beijing, we passed through Hebei province and saw the fields of cotton with the workers harvesting the cotton. In our collective history, the role of cotton and revolution has been stark, especially in the USA with both the Civil War and the Civil Rights revolution as turning points. I reflected on the future of these cotton pickers and the future of cotton and agriculture in the further construction of socialism. Yet, as I cycled around the University campus, I wanted to understand the long-term vision of the society as it related to the poor in Tongbai country and Sheqi. Tsinghua University is at the centre of what is called Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Stem) education. Many of the top leaders of the communist party are engineers and as China embarks on another great engineering South-North Water Transfer Project, I am reminded of the Grand Canal of ancient China and how the work of engineers remains central to the construction of a society that fulfils the needs of the peoples. The South-North Water Transfer Project is a massive multiyear and multibillion infrastructure projects to divert water from the Yangtze River to the Yellow River and North to the regions around Beijing where there will be great water shortages as the urban areas grow.
The ideological and political paths that inspire engineering for future transformation remain in balance as there is great affection in the society for what is called ‘modernisation’ and working for ‘prosperity.’ The full environmental consequences of this ‘modernisation’ and prosperity are not always factored into the grand schemes. The themes of nation building – unity, people’s livelihood and democracy had been the clarion call of Sun Yat-sen in the revolutionary period of 1911. At that time in 1911, the environmental consequences of massive industrialisation had not been clear to humanity, so it would be expected that in the planning for ’modernisation’ today, the environment would be at the top of the agenda.
On the evening of Sunday 9 October, there was a grand banquet at the great hall of the people in Beijing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1911 Xinhai Revolution. In the midst of thousands of party luminaries, the president and leader of the party President Hu Jintao was flanked by the former President Jiang Zemin. The ideas of Sun Yat-sen were remembered and some of the ideas of modernisation were given a Marxist bent when President Hu Jintao declared in his speech that the 1911 revolution was a thoroughly modern, national and democratic revolution.
In the past, some Marxists had put forward the formulation of stages of human development from feudalism, capitalism to socialism and had theorised the necessity of a phase of acceptable capitalism that is called the national democratic stage of the revolution. In this national democratic stage, the patriotic capitalist work for the building of a national economy and provide the conditions for the rise of the working class. In the absence of a rigorous Marxist debate, it is not clear what happened to this national democratic revolution. Prior to 1949 the Chinese national capitalists were subservient to foreign capital and the independence and unity of China was guaranteed by the victory of the socialist forces in 1949. Today, the theme of modernisation and development appear in the official literature and the boom in the economy is sharpening the divide between social classes.
The linearity and predictability of the national democratic path to socialism fit the new role as a global power that some sections of the leadership have assigned to China in the current international political economy. While there is news of the banking crisis and the contagion across the world that is precipitating peoples response, in China one sees a boom in real estate, construction and mega projects. There is no doubt about the positive efforts of the stimulus programmes that had been embarked on in China since 2008 to escape the worst of the capitalist crisis.
But in the rush to invest in big projects, there are great dangers and this came to the fore in the society when shoddy workmanship led to the collapse of buildings after mild earthquakes or in the Hangzhou-Wenzhou high-speed train accident of July of this year. This crash of the bullet train was like a metaphor to the society that the hot-house of accumulation and changing property relations must be reconsidered. As the property boom throughout the country displaces millions, one hears of actions by the poor to defend their spaces and their homes, but the growth and strength of the modernisers is making itself felt, with their growing political and economic force. It is the China with more than two trillion dollars in reserve where a new class has grown by leaps and bounds.
The impact of the modernisers is not only felt in the countryside, it is being reproduced at the ideological level where the idea of development is carrying forward its own logic. Communists of another era will remember when there was another communist party that worked under the mantra of catching up and surpassing the West. This discourse of catching up is now presented as peaceful development. In September 2011, one month before the celebrations the Office of the State Council produced a White paper on China’s Peaceful Development.
The language of this White paper on China working for harmonious development ignores the current serious crisis of international capitalism. I wondered how harmony could be achieved with great inequality. In my discussion with my Chinese colleagues, I recommended to them that they should read Ernest Mandel’s ‘The Meaning of the Second World War’ to see how another society ignored the warnings of a depression and the lack of harmony that came from the financial oligarchs. In 1938 and 1939 when Joseph Stalin had t that socialism in one country could protect the then Soviet Union from the capitalist depression, the full impact of the crisis and fascism engulfed all of Europe and the Soviet Union was not spared. Today, the day-to-day news of the growth of the most right wing forces in Europe is increasing, as every day there are emissaries from Western Europe travelling to China, calling on it to bail out the European banks.
In September, I was particularly intrigued by the statement of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who, in speaking at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, stated that China is willing to help European nations, but wanted them to recognise the mainland as a ‘full market economy’ at the WTO. Wen Jiabao also told Europe and the United States ‘to get their house in order.’ These words were issued in the midst of a rush of European courtiers to China seeking assistance from China to buy European debt. Is China caught in a trap of its so called ‘modernisation process’ where today China became the EU’s largest single trade partner, notably the largest destination for Chinese exported goods. What does it mean to shape Chinese/ European cooperation in the 21st century, especially in the light of ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’?
BEYOND CATCHING UP WITH THE WEST
In their speeches, the political leaders have been celebrating revolution at the moment when they were negotiating to be accepted as a market economy when the market was plunging. What the forces of the 99 per cent around the world are now calling for is a regulation of those who want a market to control power.
At the 1911 celebration, the Chinese President said the masses of the people were emancipated from thousands of years of oppression and fear. Chinese President Hu Jintao said the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation must be achieved by adhering to socialism with Chinese characteristics. This vague formulation of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the kind of formulation that can find resonance with even the political leaders in Singapore. I am reminded within the University of the Role of overseas Chinese in the 1911 revolution and continue to see how those who believe in modernisation are enamored by the political system in Singapore.
Lew Kuan Yew represents one branch of Chinese nationalism that is proud of the traditions of Sun Yat-sen and there is unity between a new class of Chinese in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and certain parts of the mainland on the future role of China as a super power in the 21st century. One of the code words for this new status is prosperity with Chinese values and ethics. It is not clear whether these values are the values of Pangu as the supreme patriarch of China or the values of women holding up half the sky.
The rush to the sky and catching up with the West was in full display two days before the celebration of the 62nd anniversary of the socialist revolution. China launched its first space laboratory module. This was a step toward a manned station orbiting Earth. All of the top leaders of the society were mobilised to celebrate this major accomplishment of the Chinese revolution. I watched on my English language CCTV station as President Hu Jintao was shown watching the launch from the control centre in Beijing. Premier Wen Jiabao was at the launch site in Jiuquan, Gansu province. The lift-off of this space laboratory module was a great achievement and represented part of a programme that aims to put a man on the moon by 2020. This achievement will be followed very closely by all, especially by those from the poorer countries of the world who want to see space used for peaceful development. After decades of working to develop their capabilities in space, the US military has now outsourced their space programme as the military planners there move to new capabilities consistent with the physics of the 21st century.
The massive expenditure of the US military on resources for war along with the current depression point to the growing contradiction in international politics where the military capability of the United States is bankrolled by China, which holds part of the US debt.
It is in moments of celebrating revolutions where the past and future revolutions can be reflected upon. One of the clear lessons of the revolutionary traditions in China over the past 100 years has been the resilience of the poor who rose up against the Kuomintang and against the Japanese imperial overlords. Pan-Africanists today will learn the positive and negative lessons of Pan-Asianism as those struggling for unity in Africa and in China recognise that prosperity for one part of humanity cannot be built on the exploitation on the other part of humanity.
The Chinese people learnt this lesson painfully from the Opium wars and the new opium of financialisation is putting the 100 years of revolutionary traditions to a new test.
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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 horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Sugar vs. reason in Uganda: Democracy unplugged
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni won the presidential elections in February 2011 by a landslide, cementing his two-and-a-half-decade-long hold on power. Just when he could have sailed into his fifth term as Ugandan president on a comfortable mandate, Museveni plunged his country head-on into a political crisis that analysts find hard to explain. In the face of stiff opposition from all political quarters, even members of his own party, the president, in August 2011, decided that 7,100 hectares of Mabira Central Forest Reserve be degazetted, cleared and given to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda for cultivation of sugarcane. The Mabira forest case brings home an important lesson: Camouflaging autocratic decision-making with the trappings of a democratic state may trigger the very crisis of legitimacy that the model of electoral democracy sets out to address.
ELECTORAL POLITICS IN DIVIDED SOCIETIES
Political theory, a discipline dominated by western academic institutions, has come a long way from portraying elections in a multi-party system as the mainstay of democracy. Engaging with the argument that elections constitute the lynchpin of democratic governance, Frederick Jjuuko, a law professor from Makerere University, in a telephone interview conducted with the author in 2011, pointed out that in Africa western notions of political fair-play did not necessarily translate into participatory decision-making at the grassroots-level. The question of accountability of state power would not get resolved, he ventured, unless and until the issue of legitimacy of the state was addressed. Of course, the elephant in the room is ‘tribalism’ or what Onyango-Obbo (2010) calls ‘the sweet and sour pork of African life’. Today it seems possible to look at the bright side of ethnic and cultural diversity, to understand, in the words of Onyango-Obbo, that it makes you ‘accept “otherness” as normal, and you learn to discount the hostility of other tribes toward your own’. But for the generation of freedom fighters moulded in the spirit of pan-Africanism it took time to realise that ethnicity, as Le Vine (2008:165) put it, ‘remains an unavoidable fact of political life’.
Related to, and yet separate from, the issue of ethnicity is the nexus between power and incumbency. In a 2009 telephone interview with the author of this article, Justice Mulenga, judge of the East African Court of Human Rights, noted that there seemed to be a case for arguing that ‘those with the power to make things happen give priority to self-interest’. Mulenga said he did not think this was an ‘African phenomenon’, but in Africa it was ‘more pronounced because of our level of development’. He stressed that it was not unreasonable to hope for bad practices to be rectified and the state of affairs to be ‘ameliorated through institutional advancement’. As things stand now, however, ‘the desire to remain in power makes [for a situation where] any opposition raising its head is crushed. And that’s how human rights are violated irrespective of [constitutional pledges]’. The argument here is that in ethnically polarised societies the casting of a ballot at election time may just not be enough to ensure participatory decision-making, the hallmark of democratic governance. In the following, it will be examined how this point is borne out by the Mabira forest case.
SAY ‘NO’ TO MABIRA DEFORESTATION
In his campaign for the 2011 elections, President Museveni focused on jobs, growth and industrialisation, all three he claims, post-elections, will be created by giving Mabira land to the sugar industry. The electorate, in what seems to be an overwhelming majority, has not been willing to buy into that logic. Museveni’s decision on the Mabira forest sparked a controversy so fierce that commentators have privately started asking whether the president is driven by the political will to deliver on electoral promises or has other interests in mind. Stopping short of questioning the motives behind the president’s initiative, Golooba-Mutebi (2011) writes that the Mabira forest issue has spawned talk of Museveni’s ‘detachment from reality and his growing unwillingness to listen to reason’. Criticism is being expressed on a variety of grounds.
First, the environmental impact of cutting down a quarter of Mabira forest, an area more than 20 times the size of Central Park in Manhattan, is certain to be significant. In the last decade, Africa has seen a growing movement for the preservation of its green lungs. Late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai (2009:257) wrote that ‘participatory tree-planting programs that serve as carbon offsets for industrial-country emissions are an important mechanism to support responsible global warming mitigation efforts in developing countries’. Apart from adversely affecting biodiversity in Uganda, the deforestation of parts of Mabira reserve will strike a blow to an ecosystem already under stress. The Mabira forest in central Uganda constitutes an important catchment area for lakes Victoria and Kyoga. Lake Victoria, the biggest in the Great Lakes region, has seen a steady decline in water levels over the years, increasing the concentration of toxic substances and jeopardising the survival of its fishing industry. The National Association of Professional Environmentalists (2011) argues that by allowing for part of Mabira forest to go, fresh water supplies will be further diminished. In addition, the government will surrender an estimated US$316 million in terms of UN certified carbon credits, according to media reports.
Second, the hard-headedness displayed by the Museveni government on an issue as sensitive as Africa’s chances of winning the race against the clock of climate change provokes comparisons with Uganda’s colonial past. Mueni wa Muiu (2010:1314) maintains that what gave colonial powers the ‘impunity that came to be the hallmark of the colonial state’ was a ‘sense of ownership over everything African’. The colonial powers, not the colonised people, decided who were to be the colony’s trading partners and ‘what crops were suitable for growing’. In pursuit of the colonial master plan, ‘cash crops were introduced without detailed studies on the impact or the environment and the water supply’ and ‘[f]orests were cleared without any consideration to environmental or religious importance’. Set against the historical backdrop of how decisions in the colonies were taken, repeating the mantra of development without consulting the people raises questions of history repeating itself. The decision of the government to hand over parts of Mabira to the Mehta Group for sugarcane cultivation has particularly angered the Baganda, many of whom feel that the political establishment has sold out to profit-driven neoliberal capitalism at the expense of traditional values represented by the Kabaka (who had opposed the government move on the grounds that the reserve was to be preserved as Buganda land). Supporters of the Kabaka claim that President Museveni’s determination to keep a lid on the Buganda question deepens a rift running through society and might easily result in ‘another meltdown’.
Third, the decision to give Mabira land away defies economic logic. The beneficiary of the land deal, the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (SCOUL), presently jointly owned by the Ugandan state and a private investor, is the least productive of the three major sugar producers in Uganda and reportedly incurring substantial losses. The media is rife with speculation that once the land deal is complete, the government will part with its stake in SCOUL for a price, leaving in charge Mehta Group, a business conglomerate operating in four continents and holding assets in excess of US$400 million. Boasting a workforce of 15,000 worldwide, Mehta Group (2011) is adamant about its ‘humble origins’, stating on its website that its founder, after whom the company is named, ‘left his native land [India] at age 13 in a country vessel bound for Africa’ to engage in trade with the local tribes that was paid for in ‘Cowrie Shells’. Given the image Mehta is inadvertently portraying of itself, namely as a foreign-owned company dispossessing indigenous populations by trading in shells, it is no wonder that for environmental and social activists the Mabira forest matter is fast becoming a tale of neoimperial market forces wreaking havoc on the environment and the life-worlds of Ugandans.
Fourth, the Mabira business deal flies into the face of all notions of democratic governance. Governments all over the world have more and more come under scrutiny for the way they frame policies on land, air and water. It is increasingly understood that policy-making on the use of the commons requires a careful calibration of multiple concerns, environmental, developmental, social and political. For leftist anti-poverty campaigners Mabira therefore is an open-and-shut case. But even those willing to work within the four corners of the capitalist system find fault with the Ugandan government for its handling of the Mabira forest issue. Godber Tumushabe, executive director of the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, a think-tank based in Kampala, takes exception on public policy grounds, arguing that it is ‘unfair to Ugandans for our President to be acting like the public relations officer of a corporation’ (Habati, 2011). Legally, he claims, the Mabira forest is a resource that the government holds in trust for the people of Uganda. However, no consultative process was observed in reaching a decision on degazetting Mabira. What muddies the waters further is that the business deal with Mehta Group is far from transparent. Information on how the Ugandan exchequer stands to benefit from the proposed transaction is nowhere to be found.
Last and not least, Museveni is said to have unnecessarily embarked on a collision course with his critics, squandering all space for compromise. The Buganda kingdom and the Mukono Anglican Diocese offered alternative land to be given to Mehta. In response, Museveni added fuel to the fire: ‘Tell anybody out there that I am ready for war on sugar’, the president is quoted as stating in a meeting with representatives of the Kampala City Traders Association, adding: ‘I am not ready to listen to anybody who is saying that I save Mabira’ (Bareebe, 2011). The talk of war has observers baffled. It is not forgotten that the government’s first attempt to give away Mabira land resulted in what has come to be known as the ‘Mabira riots’, resulting in the death of several protesters. That was in 2007 and the government had just won general elections the previous year.
WHY THIS WAR ON SUGAR?
Observers who follow the saga unfolding around Mabira from close quarters claim that there is more to Museveni’s declaration of ‘war on sugar’ than meets the eye. Museveni himself is reported in the media as stating that all the chairman of Mehta cares about is the land and ‘he does not mind what Ugandans think’ (Bareebe, 2011). Accusing the Mehta Group of indifference to public concerns over the impact of the Mabira sugar plant extension, while brushing aside all criticism as irrelevant, is not only cynical but also politically hazardous. It is no secret how the Ugandan public was once before led to believe that Ugandans of Asian descent were the source of their misery. Following his military take-over in 1971, Idi Amin launched an expropriation and expulsion campaign against ‘Ugandan Asians’ on the grounds that they were ‘sabotaging Uganda’s economy and encouraging corruption’ (Manby, 2009: 54 and 96). It is hard to believe that Museveni is unaware of the implications his loose talk might have for social peace in the country. Stoking anger over Indian-owned big business might be part of a strategy designed to conceal how little accountable Museveni has become, in the eyes of many observers, to the institutions of parliamentary democracy.
The sensitivity of the Mabira forest issue is accentuated by yet another factor that few believe will have escaped the attention of policy-makers in State House. The Mabira forest is situated in the kingdom of Buganda and considered part of the land taken away from it when it was gazetted as a ‘protected area’ by the British colonial administration in 1932. Museveni’s capture of power in 1986 is largely seen as the result of his alliance with the Buganda movement, which supported his armed struggle originating in the Luwero triangle, Baganda land. Due to disagreements over the question of ‘federo’, at the heart of which lies the restoration of dignity and autonomy to Buganda, and the administration and ownership of land in Buganda, the relations between President Museveni and Kabaka Ronald Mutebi II have long been strained. That was before the Kabaka was prevented from visiting Kayunga district, located in his kingdom, leading to the ‘Buganda riots’ in 2009, and the destruction, in mysterious circumstances, of the Kasubi tombs, the burial ground of the Kabaka dynasty and a UNESCO world heritage site, in March 2010. Today it is hard to find anyone willing to comment openly on the nature of the relationship between the president and the Kabaka of Buganda. However, in private conversation, observers close to the Buganda movement suggest that Museveni might be using the Mabira forest issue to show the Kabaka his place.
THE BIG PICTURE
The ousting from power of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar El Gaddafi in Libya has found plenty of echo in sub-Saharan Africa. Gaddafi, in particular, was considered a strategic asset for the Ugandan president and a fellow contestant in the arena of political longevity. However, the differences between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa are many and it would be simplistic to construe Gaddafi’s exit as a prelude to Museveni’s departure. Emboldened by the 2011 election results, Museveni is said to be tempted to clamp down on the political opposition with renewed vigour. Tellingly, the massive police crackdown on the ‘walk-to-work’ campaign, which the political opposition had organised in Kampala to protest against rising living expenses, coincided with the democratic uprising in a variety of capitals in North Africa and West Asia. It is not lost on observers that State House rhetoric no longer distinguishes between ‘lawful and unlawful dissent’ on constitutional grounds, but ‘loyal and disloyal opposition’, as measured by the government.
The discovery of oil in Uganda brightens an otherwise sombre picture, with inflation remaining an acute threat to food security. Coming into its own on the energy security front, Uganda may be seeing a fresh attempt by its political leadership to assert itself on the economic plane and, as a corollary, an unravelling of the consensus on democratic ideals. A growing strand of analysis in Africa claims that western democracies have a tendency to use ‘aid, bribes, sanctions or open invasions’ in order ‘to push the democratic agenda on countries where other forms of leadership exist’ (Serunkuma, 2010). In aid-dependent Africa and the oil rich nations in the Middle East, so goes the argument, leaderships demand literally nothing from the public at large and so they are not pressed to give anything in return. It was time to ask whether for that particular bracket of countries ‘the rule of the few’ was actually not better suited than democracy, ‘the rule of the crowd’. Echoing Dambisa Moyo’s controversial call for a ‘decisive benevolent dictator’, Serunkuma goes on to explain that ‘benevolence is a marker of patriotism’, showing the ability of a leader to ‘rally the general populace behind a common object’.
There is no gainsaying the possibility that Museveni may come around to embrace the rhetoric of economic development, at the expense of building institutions. Notwithstanding the strides East Africa has been making in recent years with respect to integrating its economies (or some say as a result of it), a slide of democratic standards is feared by many in the region. If indeed the public demands nothing of its leadership, Uganda may even have its modest democratic gains reversed. Concern over securitisation, de-politicisation and ritualisation of democratic procedures is already routinely expressed in conversation about the state of affairs in Uganda. Olive Kobusingye (2010:193) states that ‘Uganda remains a country committed to perpetual electioneering’. Irrespective of the outcome of the Mabira forest row, whether business interests or reason prevails, whether a new round of violence can be averted or not, the fact that Museveni has used tremendous political capital to bulldoze an array of dissenting voices, not on policy grounds, but by way of declaring a personal ‘war on sugar’ brings home the fallacies of a concept of electoral democracy that focuses on compliance with electoral procedures rather than the basic rules of the democratic game.
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* Dr Patrick Hoenig is visiting professor at the Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He has been in East Africa and the Great Lakes region regularly since 2004.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Museveni polled 68 per cent of the vote, while long-term political rival Kizza Besigye came in as a distant second with a mere 26 per cent of the vote. Acknowledging defeat, Besigye has publicy announced that he will run only one more time as presidential candidate, in 2016. No such intentions have been declared by Museveni.
 It should be noted that Olive Kobusingye is the sister of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, a fact, however, that does not in itself detract from the quality of her analysis.
Bareebe, Gerald (2011) ‘[Museveni]: ‘I am ready for war on sugar’’, Daily Monitor, 19 August
Golooba-Mutebi, Frederick (2011) ‘Here Comes Mabira II, and it looks like all Uganda is lined up against Museveni’, The East African, 22-28 August
Habati, Mubatsi Asinja (2011) ‘Museveni shouldn’t be Mehta spokesman’, interview with Godber Tumushabe, The Independent, 26 August-1 September
Kobusingye, O. (2010) The Correct Line? Uganda Under Museveni, London, AuthorHouse
Le Vine, V. (2008) ‘Nation-building and informal politics’, International Social Science Journal, vol. 192, pp. 155-67
Maathai, W. (2009) The Challenge for Africa: A New Vision, London, William Heinemann
Manby, B. (2009) Struggles for Citizenship in Africa, London and New York, Zed Books
Mehta Group (2011) ‘About Mehta Group’, http://www.mehtagroup.com/about_mehta_group.html, accessed 8 September 2011
Muiu, M. (2010) ‘Colonial and Postcolonial State and Development in Africa’, Social Research: An International Quarterly, vol. 77, no. 4, pp. 1311-38
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (2011) ‘Mabira Petition to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda’, http://www.redd-monitor.org/2011/08/31/can-redd-protect-the-mabira-forest-in-uganda, accessed 10 September 2011
Onyango-Obbo, Charles (2010) ‘Tribalism is the sweet and sour pork of African life’, The East African, 12-18 July
Serunkuma, Yusuf (2010) ‘Is it time to support liberal autocracies?’, The Independent, 2-8 July
Jjuuko, Frederick, Law Faculty, Makerere University, telephone interview, August 2011
Mulenga, Joseph, Judge, East African Court of Human Rights, telephone interview, June 2009
South Sudan: The scramble for land
On 9 July 2011 South Sudan became Africa’s 54th nation, after the vast majority of its people voted for secession from the North. The ink has barely dried on the documents formalising South Sudan’s self-determination, but the scramble for its land is already in full swing. Over the last two years, researchers estimate that approximately 10 per cent of Africa’s most fertile land in over 20 countries, has fallen into the hands of foreign companies and speculators seeking to exploit its resources. South Sudan has simply become one of the latest investment frontiers for foreign speculators, prompted in large part by its newly found independence.
The struggle for Southern Sudan’s independence began in 1955 and cost the lives of millions, displacing many more within their own homeland. At the centre of this struggle for independence was the desire for the people of South Sudan to control and benefit from their own resources and land. Yet according to a report released by the Oakland Institute earlier this year, 9 per cent of South Sudanese land has already been bought or rather leased to foreign companies and governments.
The irony of the situation is astounding and deeply troubling. According to a Norwegian People’s Aid report authored by David Deng over ‘28 foreign and domestic investments are planned or underway across the ten states of Southern Sudan totaling 2.64 million hectares of land in the agriculture, forestry and bio-fuel sectors alone.’ The total land area is larger than the entire country of Rwanda. The investors include several North American, British, Finnish, Egyptian, South African and Emirati companies.
A brief history of US and European involvement in Sudan’s peace process can shed light on the current scramble for land. It appears the same governments –and the corporations affiliated with them – who took an interest in Sudan’s peace negotiations over a decade ago, are now involved in acquiring some of the South’s most fertile, oil and mineral rich regions. Before the discovery and flow of oil in Sudan beginning in 1999, the Sudanese peace process was dominated by neighbouring African countries. The Clinton Administration was in fact criticised by Jimmy Carter for previously undermining the Sudanese peace process by militarily supporting Southern Sudanese rebels in an effort to destabilise and overthrow the Northern regime.
Once it became clear that 80 per cent of Sudan’s oil was located in the South, the calculus for US and European oil interests and policy shifted towards supporting a peace process which would likely lead to the South’s secession. Clinton-era sanctions, had previously made Sudan's oil, mineral and agricultural sectors off limits to North American and European investors. As a result, these sectors were dominated by Chinese, Malaysian and Indian companies. With the emergence of an independent South Sudan comes an opportunity for US, Canadian and European companies to now invest in these sectors.
The fragility of South Sudan’s transitional period and the legal ambiguity that surrounds it is a big draw for investors. A recent Rolling Stone article on foreign landholders in Africa appropriately refers to them as ‘Capitalists of Chaos.’ Phil Heilberg, who was interviewed for the article and now owns over 800,000 hectares of land in South Sudan through the New York based Jarch Management group speaks openly about his motivation to invest in the region. ‘I saw the Soviet Union split up,’ he recalls. ‘Saw it up close. I realized there was a lot of money to be made in breakups, and I vowed that the next time I’d be on the inside…The world is like the universe – ever expanding,’ he adds. ‘I focus on the pressure points.’
Due to South Sudan’s fragility and underdevelopment, foreign businesses that are purely profit-driven, can seize opportunities to operate under the guise of agriculture or infrastructure development while capitalising on the nation’s resource wealth. While some foreign companies are supporting the development of the new nation by building schools, roads and hospitals, others are undermining the creation of democratic institutions and laws that will protect its citizens from exploitation. A closer look at a deal struck between a US-based investment firm and a local cooperative three years ago, reveals these dynamics poignantly.
In 2008, the Texas-based firm Nile Trade and Development and the local Mukaya Payam Cooperative negotiated one of the biggest land deals in South Sudan. ‘The 49-year lease of 400,000 hectares of central Equatoria for around $25,000 allows the company to exploit all natural resources including oil, timber and minerals.’ According to the Oakland Institute, it also allows the company to engage in agricultural activities and to sublease the land to a third party.
A key element in this deal, as well as other similar deals, is that they all relied on one determining factor: South Sudan’s imminent and inevitable independence. In February of 2009, two years prior to South Sudan’s referendum, US and British business executives co-founded Kinyeti Development a company dedicated to supporting the ‘emergence of the human resource, logistical and economic basis for a new South Sudan dedicated to improving the living standards of its people within a framework of civic peace, free market economies, democratic institutions, and regional cooperation.’ Nile Trade and Development is one of its subsidiaries.
The company’s website includes maps of Sudan’s oil concessions and ethnic make-up along with rather extensive biographies of its three foreign partners. In May of 2009, a delegation of South Sudanese government officials interested in developing a green economy was invited to a smart-grid fact finding mission in Texas. The effort was headed by former US Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs Howard Eugene Douglas. Douglas made the seamless transition from diplomacy to international business in the 1990s and now heads both Kinyeti Development and Nile Trade and Development. In brief, he has put years of diplomatic experience and political knowledge of the region to use in developing lucrative business ventures for prospective foreign investors in Africa’s newest nation.
But contrary to its stated mission, Kinyeti Development has done little to ensure that these land acquisition ventures take place in a transparent, lawful and democratic manner. The Mukaya Payam cooperative, which originally negotiated the lease of land in Central Equatoria for instance, is said to be fictitious according to the Oakland Institute’s research findings. The agreement, which guarantees the cooperative will receive a percentage of the lessor’s profits, was in fact signed by ‘one Mukaya Paramount Chief on behalf of the Cooperative, and witnessed by two others – a judge and a lawyer’ without the knowledge or input of the community affected. The Government of South Sudan has not officially recognised the deal, which is currently under scrutiny due to pressure and protests from members of the affected community.
The Southern Sudanese government also has yet to establish land and mining laws that would protect the nascent nation from foreign resource exploitation. Most importantly, no laws have been created to ensure that the communities affected by land acquisitions and foreign investments are protected from imminent displacement. The area designated for Nile Trade and Development has a population of approximately 90,000, largely dependent on land for survival. According to the Norwegian People’s Aid Report:
‘Even if companies were to invest in a manner that does not require resettlement of local communities, such extensive development would still significantly affect patterns of land access and use for tens, or even hundreds of thousands of people.... a number of the investments are located in highly populated areas where tens or even hundreds of thousands of people rely on land and natural resources for their daily livelihoods. If the project proponents choose to deny local populations access, it could have devastating impacts on rural communities whose lives have already been sorely affected by poverty, food insecurity, and conflict.’
While Nile Trade and Development agreed to finance the development of the land they leased by building roads and schools for the community, these promises have failed to materialise over the last three years. Moreover, an upsurge of post-referendum clashes between the South Sudan army and militia factions, has already led to the displacement of hundreds, in areas leased to Jarch Management. According to a Sudan Tribune article published in April of 2011, ‘hundreds of civilians were displaced in Mayom County as a result of clashes between the South Sudan army (SPLA) and militia loyal to Peter Gatdet, Unity state officials say.’ Peter Gatdet incidentally serves on the board of Jarch Management. One can only speculate about the role Jarch Management has been playing in the recent events that have occurred.
It becomes clear from these examples that some foreign interests have never been committed to true self-determination for the people of South Sudan. Instead, they supported secession in order to clear the way for resource exploitation. To recover from decades of war and promote development, South Sudan is in need of both foreign and domestic investors. But they must operate within a legal framework, which ensures that its citizens will benefit from their country's resource wealth. Without such a framework, the scramble for land and resources will continue, with potentially devastating effects on the new nation’s most vulnerable communities.
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* Nisrin Elamin is a Sudanese educator and activist living in New York City. She is the coordinator of the Support Darfur Project which documents and supports Sudanese-led grassroots initiatives and blogs at www.supportdarfur.org.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 See MacKenzie Funk “Capitalists of Chaos: Who’s Cashing in on Global Warming?” Rolling Stone, 27 May 2010, p.60.
 See David Deng “The New Frontier: A baseline survey of large-scale land-based investment in Southern Sudan.” January 2011.
 See The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council “The Search for Peace in Sudan: A Chronology of the Sudanese Peace Process 1989-2001.” May 2002. http://www.sudanoslo.no/PDFs/search_for_peace.pdf
 See MacKenzie Funk “Capitalists of Chaos: Who’s Cashing in on Global Warming?” Rolling Stone, 27 May 2010.
 Ibid. p. 59 and p. 61.
 See Oakland Institute “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa Nile Trading and Development, Inc. in South Sudan Land Deal Brief,” June 2011.
 See kinyeti.com
 After serving as US Ambassador at large and Coordinator of Refugee Affairs (1981-1985) he served on the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. Department of State and the Executive Committee of the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief of the Episcopal Church as well as the Presidential Commission on the Ukraine Famine. He continues to be a member of the Foreign Policy Association; the Council of American Ambassadors and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
 See Oakland Institute “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa Nile Trading and Development, Inc. in South Sudan Land Deal Brief,” June 2011. See also James Okanya Lomerry, and Lonya Bany Banak, “Southern Sudan Land Grabs: A Case on Mukaya Payam Land Issue,” unpublished work for Agency for Independent Media, commissioned by Oxfam International, Juba: October 2010.
 See David Deng “The New Frontier: A baseline survey of large-scale land-based investment in Southern Sudan.” January 2011, p. 27.
 Ibid. p. 28.
 See Micheala Rhode, “Is South Sudan's Largest Land Deal a Land Grab?” ThinkAfricaPress, 7 September, 2011. http://thinkafricapress.com/south-sudan/largest-land-deal-land-grab
 See Bonafacio Taban Kuich, “Unity state: Gatdet’s forces clashes with SPLA in Mayom County.” Sudan Tribune, 20 April, 2011. http://www.sudantribune.com/Unity-state-Gatdet-s-forces,38627
 See kinyeti.com.
Recovering from AIDS: Re-balancing social health priorities and practice
Brian K. Murphy
‘Schmalhausen’s Law is a general principle that organisms in unusual or extreme conditions, at the boundary of their tolerance for any one aspect of their life conditions, are extremely sensitive to stressors in all aspects of their life conditions … A whole-system strategy for confronting infectious disease has to be much broader than traditional medical and public health efforts. Health is determined in a much larger arena that includes land use, demography, pollution and waste disposal, wildlife and agriculture, poverty and inequality’. – Richard Levins, Harvard School of Public Health
Bjørn Lomborg is the head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, and adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He is also the influential, and controversial, author of two books on climate shift and how to deal with it: ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ and ‘Cool It’.
Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus Center have turned their attention to HIV and its impact, especially its impact in the Global South. Noting that Bernhard Schwartländer of UNAIDS has calculated that spending of at least US$22 billion per year will be needed by 2015 to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support, Lomborg states:
‘The lamentable reality is that securing US$22 billion in annual funding by 2015 will be practically impossible. So, it is worth asking another question: what could we achieve with just a small increase in the current funding?’
To answer this question the Center, in partnership with a new entity called the Rush Foundation, have created a new initiative, ‘RethinkHIV’. The initiative promises to ‘engage some of the world’s top HIV economists, epidemiologists, and demographers in this vital discussion about priorities’:
‘Teams of researchers have written 18 papers identifying the most effective ways to tackle the epidemic, looking at what has been proven to work, and at what could be scaled up or replicated elsewhere in Africa.
‘All of them calculate the costs and benefits of their proposed solutions, and will compete to convince a panel of five world-class economists, including three Nobel laureates, that they have the very best solutions. The Nobel Laureates’ findings will point to the most effective avenues for additional funding. This approach, the “Copenhagen Consensus” process, is the same one that has been applied every four years to global challenges, and will next take place in 2012.’
It is too early to tell whether this initiative will bear fruit. None of the papers have been released, the deliberation hardly begun, and the biases, pre-dispositions – and perhaps, self-interest – of the various participants remain to be scrutinised. But the very fact of the initiative may be an opportunity for those working on-the-ground within civil society to come forward to share their own experiences and conclusions about the way forward. Such input could very usefully emphasise the need for such any ‘re-thinking’ to go beyond consideration of HIV, to focus as well on other variables implicated in the AIDS phenomenon.
Since the very outset of the crisis there have been attempts to introduce a more dynamic, comprehensive, and critical discourse that treats the phenomenon of HIV and AIDS in a more holistic socioeconomic frame of reference. Such a framework is essential to assist our assessment of current health practice, and guide reform for the future. An important contribution that collected some of the alternative discourse was the 2004 collaboration between the South-Asia-based People’s Health Movement (PHN) and Third World Network (TWN), which resulted in the excellent primer, ‘AIDS: In Search of a Social Solution’,  an indispensible collection for anyone investigating variations on the prevailing paradigm, and political-economic approaches to addressing the condition and its devastating effects.
Within the alternative spectrum there inevitably exists a diversity of experiences, views and approaches, as the collection published by TWN and PHM reveals. Within this diversity lies the potential for substantive exchange of experiences, ideas, and learning. At the same time, building such an exchange will also mean being open to challenging the hegemonic quality of the dominant discourse, and the power of the global institutions that drive the international development and health agenda, now including the most powerful philanthrocapitalists in the world, such as Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation. In the face of this dominance, it has been difficult to ground alternative perspectives sufficiently to launch a broader critical dialogue capable of affecting the way things are currently seen and done. The People’s Health Movement, with its ground-breaking ‘Mumbai Declaration’ from the Third International Forum on People’s Health in January 2004, represents perhaps the most significant attempt, although even this effort as it has developed is not inclusive of all perspectives that need to be brought into a circle of exchange and sharing.
Still, it is possible to find common threads that comprise a base for building a dialogue toward a more comprehensive discourse that situates HIV and AIDS in a broader frame of social health and political-economic justice.
At the core of an alternative perspective is that AIDS is a syndrome (AIDS is an acronym for ‘acquired immune deficiency syndrome’). Rather than one discrete disease, it is a condition in which a person’s immune system is severely compromised and left vulnerable to a broad range of infections and diseases that debilitate and can lead to death. It is a definitional construct that captures many pre-existing disease phenomena in one basket for purposes of investigation, diagnosis and treatment. The most determinant predictors of immune suppression and associated disease, in the north and the south, are factors related to social and economic status or to medical treatment itself. And increasingly, many in the campaign against acute immune deficiency and its effects are asking that resources be prioritised in the area of basic health promotion and social-economic transformation, rather than merely on pharmaceuticals that at best can reach only a small minority, and even then, with mixed results.
This is a perspective that should be given special attention by the ‘RethinkHIV’ initiative. In an important paper prepared in cooperation with Third World Network, Richard Levins, from the Harvard School of Public Health wrote in 2003:
‘Schmalhausen’s Law is a general principle that organisms in unusual or extreme conditions, at the boundary of their tolerance for any one aspect of their life conditions, are extremely sensitive to stressors in all aspects of their life conditions. Thus malnutrition inhibits the immune system and makes people more vulnerable to infection. Pesticide poisoning can prevent absorption of vitamin A, and this in turn reduces the T-cells and macrophages that are part of the body’s defences. Diabetes makes bacterial infections more dangerous. Diarrhoea can make it easier for pollutants to pass through the lining of the gut, while any sexually transmitted diseases that irritate the reproductive tract facilitate the entry of HIV. Social and emotional stress and anxiety reduce immune capacity. Poor people are often afflicted by multiple insult, allowing even more ailments to accumulate. Therefore any struggle against poverty and racism and abuse based on gender is also a public health issue, and the health of a community has to be looked at not only disease by disease but also as a whole. Vulnerability itself becomes an object of study…
‘The single-minded reliance on chemical therapies leaves us vulnerable … A whole-system strategy for confronting infectious disease has to be much broader than traditional medical and public health efforts. Health is determined in a much larger arena that includes land use, demography, pollution and waste disposal, wildlife and agriculture, poverty and inequality.’
There has been a tendency to obscure this fundamental understanding for fear of ‘confusing’ people, undermining prevention programmes, and eroding support for programme funding and investment in pharmacological treatment and research.
Those advocating a comprehensive approach to health programming and public education do not insist that poverty is the sole cause of extreme and chronic immune deficiency, nor that viruses and microbes have no role. In fact, most resist precisely the notion that acute immunodeficiency is a single phenomenon or that it has a solitary cause. They do say that the factors and conditions that lead to such immune suppression are dominant among poor populations, that the poor are the most vulnerable, and that it is on poverty and its roots that we should focus. A virus is a convenient target to rationalise financial resources and medical responses, but it also obscures other factors in the political economy that would focus responses on long-term social and economic transformation of the conditions that make people vulnerable to the diseases that take advantage of chronic immune deficiency. More discussion of these dilemmas is necessary, and this new initiative provides an important opportunity for independent, alternative input that should not be missed.
In his text, ‘Rethinking Aids: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus’ Robert Root-Bernstein described a host of factors in the development of acute immunodeficiency. In common with most health activists who seek a broader social health approach to AIDS, Root-Bernstein does not dismiss the role of HIV as one of many possible co-factors in what he proposes as a synergistic model of the AIDS condition. But this model also incorporates an extensive list of proven non-viral causes of immuno-suppression, many of them treatment-related (such as chronic antibiotic use, or blood transfusions), or social/health factors (such as malnutrition, unsafe sexual practices, and stress), as well as endemic diseases and environmental factors. The ‘RethinkHIV’ initiative will need to ensure that the purview of research is sufficiently broad to include these critical factors, and the interactions among them, exploring the broader phenomenon of widespread acute and chronic immunosuppression, rather than examining HIV exclusively.
WHO reports that well over 20 per cent of the Earth’s more than six billion people are sick or malnourished at a given time, with the ten leading maladies being: Hepatitis B (2 billion); Tuberculosis (1.7 billion –WHO estimated in 2003 that almost 33 per cent of the human population passively carried the TB bacillus, although only about 2-3 million acutely vulnerable people are actually stricken with the disease); Anaemia (1.5 billion); Hookworm (ancylostomiasis – 700-900 million) ; Roundworm (ascariasis –700 million); Diarrheal diseases (amoebiasis and giardiasis – 680 million); Whipworm (trichuriasis – 500 million; Malaria (270 million); Iodine deficiency (200 million); and Schistosomiasis (parasitic infection – 200 million). Obviously many of these maladies are suffered concurrently by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, most in the Global South, and many such as tuberculosis are increasing yearly.
Every one of these most-common inflictions are also serious factors leading to the development of chronic life-threatening immunodeficiency. When suffered in combination with chronic malnutrition and its vitamin deficiencies (particularly vitamins A, B6, B12, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, nicotinamide and carotene), critical immunosuppression is inevitable and, if not remedied, so are the plethora of opportunistic infections that lead to death. The link between immunosuppression and historic endemic conditions and diseases underscores the importance of focusing on socio-economic factors in the prevention and treatment of chronic life-threatening immunodeficiency.
Malnutrition is universally prevalent in countries and regions identified as epicentres of AIDS. Malnutrition is known to increase susceptibility and vulnerability to parasitic infections and their effects. As well, the immunodeficiency that accompanies malnutrition – as result, for example, of even small deficiencies of critical nutrients such as Vitamin A – leads to a marked increase in mortality during other infectious disease.
In addition, the rarely-publicised problem of the ‘antibiotic epidemic’ in the Global South exacerbates the already existing risks of chronic life-threatening immunosuppression. The widespread and indiscriminate over-the-counter black market trade in antibiotics and self-diagnosis and treatment of incidental and chronic infection, creates pervasive immunosuppression among populations where these practices exist.
This is the history of the poor, not only in the Third World but also in the more affluent industrialised country where by far the majority of diagnosed, and undiagnosed, acute immunodeficiency occurs among the poor, the socially marginal (particularly ethno-minorities), and the uprooted. The preponderance of chronic life-threatening immunodeficiency is related to long-standing social and endemic causes that increase people’s vulnerability to all infections. In recent times, attention is also being focused as well on non-communicable diseases, which are becoming recognised as a ‘hidden’ curse among the poor, in the north and the south.
The perception of acute chronic immunodeficiency as a single-factor disease has been critical in influencing how AIDS is dealt with everywhere in the world. This is particularly so in the Global South, as governmental aid donors, multilateral organisations, and the international non-government sector participate in promoting and implementing AIDS programmes in virtually every country. We have seen a diversion of attention worldwide from the chronic problems caused by the conditions of poverty, war and repression – realities that kill countless millions every year. The amount of international aid money devoted to HIV-related programs has skewed health funding to the extent that a preponderance of health spending goes into such programs, and obscures other development issues that demand critical attention.
This model has not merely impacted the emphasis of funding but has also influenced the way that health care is carried out. We have seen the practice of medicine skewed, to the detriment particularly of the weakest and most marginalised, and to women. Most people in the Global South suffering from various endemic conditions are left without appropriate treatment, in a cruel system of triage that also brings with it the stigma and social isolation that flows from the constant association of HIV with illicit and ‘un-natural’ sexual practices. Indeed, the fixation on (imagined) African sexuality and norms within the conventional HIV/AIDS paradigm only underscores the need for a broader and more critical discussion.
Of greatest concern is how the AIDS model has intruded on the reproductive health and rights of women. Pregnant women and their children have become the single most important target of formal interventions. It is they who have become the test subjects, and it is on their backs that the quest to halt the spread of HIV has been placed.
Fortunately some of these excesses have begun to be turned around, although the stigma on breast-feeding continues to be a significant problem in areas where fear of HIV infection dominates other health concerns. Further, we are seeing new initiatives gaining ground that once again undermine the reproductive freedom and the rights of women, such as the call for ‘voluntary’ sterilisation of African women.
In addition, the anti-viral chemotherapies prescribed to gestating mothers and their infants can be toxic both to the woman and to her developing child in the womb and in the first months after birth – especially if they are already immuno-compromised through illness, malnutrition or other factors. Recently the risks of such treatments have been acknowledged more publically, and important advocates have spoken out against the use of at least some of the most common ARVs, such as nevirapine. But a more extensive conversation is required about the practice and its justifications.
Finally there is the grave question of human experimentation. Vaccine research now leads the way, but all manner of human drug testing is being undertaken in Africa, and elsewhere, with the support of national governments. This trend is reinforced by the global preoccupation with HIV that dominates foreign aid budgets of virtually all OECD nations, and the funding priorities of major globalised philanthro-capitalist institutions such as the Gates Foundations.
OBSCURING INJUSTICE: THE MEDICALISATION OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT
After all these years public attitudes are still dominated by ignorance and prejudice that represent a threat to the human rights and quality of life of AIDS victims, as well as for those suspected of carrying the virus. Groups in society considered susceptible are also the most vulnerable – the indigent poor, minorities wherever they live, women and children as described above, and immigrants and refugees seeking entry to industrialised nations from ‘non-white’ Third World countries, especially from Africa, and the Caribbean.
Yet to challenge current practice is difficult, because in questioning the priorities of the international public health establishment, we risk falling into a polemic that diverts attention from the reality that legions of poor and marginal around the world are ill and dying as a direct result of the wretched conditions of their lives, and the acute immuno-suppression that is the chronic condition of the poorest and least defensible.
But the reality remains that neither prevention nor treatment are currently available to those most at risk. They are certainly not available among the most marginal populations in the Global South and will never be accessible to them on any meaningful scale. This is the very premise of the initiative announced by the Copenhagen Consensus Center. To the limited extent that pharmaceuticals do become available to some, it will be at the expense of investments in community health and social transformation that, in the final analysis, are the most effective responses to the phenomena presently attributed solely to HIV.
More critically still, even if less harmful drugs were to be finally made sufficiently available, the infrastructure required to safely administer and monitor the use of the drugs and other medicines is not available in any of the regions and locales currently portrayed as epicentres. The investment that is required to build and support such infrastructure has been diverted to developing and purchasing the drugs themselves rather than to building health systems that are a precondition to sustained and effective universal treatment, let alone the effort required in disease prevention and mitigation through social and economic interventions.
Building such health systems has to become the first priority, along with an intense re-emphasis on public health and social medicine, bolstered by sustained measures to increase economic and social equality.
Meredith Turshen of Rutgers University and her French colleague, Annie Thebaud-Mony, long ago – at the very outset of this disaster – warned that AIDS is merely the most recent manifestation of what they referred to as the ‘medicalization of underdevelopment’ This warning is at the heart of the issue. As with Richard Levin, quoted earlier, Robert Root-Bernstein emphasises:
‘…the continued validity of one of the oldest and most fundamental truths of medical science: Public health measures are always more effective in controlling disease than are all the medicines in the world ...If we want to control Aids…[W]e need to solve the social, economic, health education and medical care problems that create the conditions that permit AIDS to develop in the first place.’
These are social problems rooted deeply in global economic structures and require political and social interventions. More than philanthropy, what is required is social and economic justice. Without justice, the scourge of chronic acute immunodeficiency and its associated opportunistic conditions will remain as universal as will the existence of poverty itself.
© Brian K. Murphy, 2011
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* Brian K. Murphy is an independent policy analyst in global development issues, formerly with the Canadian social justice organisation, Inter Pares. In addition to major papers and journal articles, he has contributed to several books and is the author of ‘Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World, An Open Conspiracy for Social Change’, ZED Books (London) and Fernwood (Halifax), 1999.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 See, Lomborg, Bjørn, Rethinking the Fight against HIV: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/lomborg76/English
 See http://www.rushfoundation.org/
 See: http://www.rethinkhiv.com/
 The web site of the Rush Foundation states: “The Rush Foundation was set up in September 2010, when its founders were granted the right to negotiate an access agreement on behalf of UK company SEEK, whose HIV vaccine has successfully completed phase II human trials in July 2011. The foundation will negotiate, at the time of the licensing process, a low-income country distribution/pricing concession from the licensor which licenses the IP for commercial development. The Rush Foundation’s objective is to ensure that the vaccine is available at minimal cost to the most affected regions of the world, and in particular sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to our work on the access agreement, we aim to alleviate suffering on the ground by sponsoring sustainable innovative initiatives, pioneer new behavioural change campaigns, as well as stimulate policy debate at the top, in order to generate new thinking and new solutions. We seek to stay away from well-beaten tracks and focus on areas that are either ignored or poorly served by previously existing efforts.”
More information about the UK company, SEEK, is available at http://www.seekacure.com/ The site explains that SEEK is a trademark of PepTell Limited, a UK registered company, based in London. The claims that a HIV vaccine developed by the company has successfully completed Phase II Human Trials can be seen at [url=http://www.seekacure.com/news/110718_SEEK_announces_clinical_proof_of_efficacy_in_HIV_vaccine.html]http://www.seekacure.com/news/110718_SEEK_announces_clinical_proof_of_efficacy_in_HIV_vaccine.html[/url
 See, as just two examples: Murphy, Brian K, “The Politics of Aids”, in Resurgence, Vol 47, June, 1994, pp 33-40, published by Third World Network (Penang); and Decosas, Josef (Southern African AIDS Training Programme, Harare, Zimbabwe), The Social Ecology of AIDS in Africa. Draft paper prepared for the UNRISD project, HIV/AIDS and Development, March 2002: http://bit.ly/oztwCi Also see Robert Root-Bernstein and Stephen J. Merrill, “Etiology and Pathogenesis of AIDS”, in: Standish, LJ, C Calabrese, ML Galantino, eds. AIDS and Complementary & Alternative Medicine: Current Science and Practice, St. Louis, MO, Churchill-Livingston/Harcourt/Mosby, 2001.
 AIDS, In Search for a Social Solution, produced by Third World Resurgence, published by Third World Network (Penang) and People’s Health Network (Bangalore), 2004.
 See Edwards, Michael, Just Another Emperor, The Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism, Demos, 2008, available at http://www.futurepositive.org/emperor.php and/or http://bit.ly/pC1lgN
 For discussion of some of the generic issues concerning the influence of such foundations on public health policy, see Wiist, Bill, Philanthropic Foundations and the Public Health Agenda, Corporations and Health Watch, August 2011, available at:
 This document is reproduced on pp 150-151 of the above-cited, AIDS, In Search for a Social Solution, as is the “Asian People’s Charter on HIV/AIDS”, presented at the XV International AIDS Conference in July, 2004 (pp148-49). For more on the People’s Health Movement: http://www.phmovement.org/ .
 Levins, Richard, “The re-emergence of infectious diseases on the public health agenda”. The paper appeared in Third World Resurgence #155/156 (Third World Network, Penang), and was submitted by TWN at the October 12-15, 2003 conference, “Within and Beyond the Limits to Human Nature”, sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Institut Mensch, Ethik und Wissenschaft. The full paper is available at: http://www.biopolitics-berlin2003.org/docs.asp?id=176 One of the world’s foremost biomathematicians, Richard Levins is the John Rock Professor of Population Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health and a visiting scientist at the Institute of Ecology and Systematics in Cuba.
 Root-Bernstein, Robert, The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, MacMillan/Free Press, NY 1993.
 Root-Bernstein is one of the world’s most eminent scientists and science historians, whose formative years included extended stints as a research assistant to both Thomas Kuhn and Jonas Salk. See the extensive curriculum vitae for Root-Bernstein at http://www.pwias.ubc.ca/geninfo/people/cv.root-bernstein.pdf
 See for example, Root-Bernstein, Robert S. and Stephen J. Merrill, “The Necessity of Cofactors in the Pathogenesis of AIDS: a Mathematical Model”, J. theor. Biol. (1997) 187, 135–146, available at https://www.msu.edu/~rootbern/
 The range of such infections and conditions is documented more extensively in my paper: Murphy, Brian K, The Political Economy of Aids (2004), originally published by the late Nick Regush on his RedFlagsWeekly site, now available at http://aras.ab.ca/articles/popular/20040217-PoliticalEconomyOfAIDS.pdf
 See, The Global Health Council, The Impact of Infectious Diseases, available at:
http://www.globalhealth.org/infectious_diseases/ ; and, WHO, The global burden of disease: 2004 update http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/2004_report_update/en/index.html ; also WHO: http://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/2010report/en/index.html ;
 Root-Bernstein, Robert S. and Stephen J. Merrill, “The Necessity of Cofactors in the Pathogenesis of AIDS: a Mathematical Model” , op cit. See also: Root-Bernstein, Robert, “The Cofactor Theory of AIDS”, in AIDS Vaccines and Related Topics, pp145-159; Editor: Aldar S. Bourinbaiar, Research Signposts, Kerala, India, 2004.
 See for example, Antibiotic use "excessive", say specialists; Drug misusage is problematic in Southeast Asia, IRIN, 14 April 2011: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=92475
 “… while long seen as illnesses of the industrialised world, the “big four” non-communicable killers – cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory illness and diabetes – are now also responsible for the majority of deaths in the developing world, outstripping infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria everywhere except in parts of Africa.” .See, Jack, Andrew, “World leaders debate disease burden”, Financial Times, September 18, 2011: http://on.ft.com/qnUu0N; Manson, Katrina, “Africa struggles to control a prolific killer”, Financial Times, September 16, 2011: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b438139c-e07d-11e0-bd01-00144feabdc0.html ; See also, Freudenberg, Nicholas, “Corporations Undermine UN Effort to Reduce Chronic Diseases”, September 24, 2011, CommonDreams.org: http://bit.ly/qm5X7a
 See, for example, Blystad, Astrid and Karen Marie Moland , “Technologies of hope? Motherhood, HIV and infant feeding in eastern Africa”, in Anthropology & Medicine, Volume 16, Issue 2, 2009, pp. 105-108 (Research conducted under auspices of the Centre for International Health, University of Bergen, Norway): available at http://bit.ly/n8jw6i
 See, Tamale, Sylvia (Editor), African Sexualities, A Reader, Fahamu Books/Pambazuka Press, 2011: http://bit.ly/nTkNG1
 See, Geshekter, Charles, A Critical Reappraisal of African AIDS Research and Western Sexual Stereotypes, prepared for Presentation to General Assembly Meeting Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa [CODESRIA] Dakar, SENEGAL 14-18 December 1998, REVISED – May 5, 1999; available at http://bit.ly/p963bG Also useful on this theme, although not focusing specifically on Africa or the Global South, are: Walldby, Catherine, Aids and the Body Politic, Biomedicine and Sexual Difference, Routledge, (London & New York), 1996; and Sontag, Susan, AIDS and its Metaphors, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York), 1989.
 Blystad, Astrid and Karen Marie Moland, op. cit.
 Anso Thom, “US project planning to sterilise HIV+ women in SA”, Health-e—South African Health News Service, April 11, 2011: http://bit.ly/mUHSjM
 See Bosley, Sarah, “UN accused of risking women and children's health”, The Guardian, December 17, 2010, http://bit.ly/oVCYri
 Wiist, Bill, Philanthropic Foundations and the Public Health Agenda, op cit.
 See Turshen, Meredith and A. Thébaud-Mony, "Combattre le SIDA au nom de la "civilisation"? in Le Monde Diplomatique, April, 1991:24.
 Root-Bernstein, Robert, The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, op cit, pp 367-368.
Egypt: Military crackdown at Cairo protest
An interview by Lillian Boctor
Yehia el Gammal
Refugees resist repatriation
Thousands of Burundians struggle to stay in Tanzania
Thousands of Burundian refugees in Tanzania are coming under increasing pressure to return ‘home’. The most visible group of refugees, those living in Mtabila camp (one of the last camps remaining open in Tanzania), have been resisting return for more than two years despite significant pressure from the governments of Burundi and Tanzania.
Although a number of deadlines to return have already passed, a new date of 31 December 2011 has now been set; and this time, the deadline has been reinforced with the threat of cessation. Cessation is the mechanism in refugee law through which refugee status can be withdrawn in situations in which there is no longer need for international protection. And there is serious concern that should cessation be invoked, it will lead to the forcible repatriation of approximately 38,000 refugees who remain in the camp.
Under international law, the return of refugees to their country of origin must be voluntary. However, serious questions need to be raised given the voluntariness of this particular exercise. Findings from a recent visit to the camp show that refugees are feeling under considerable pressure to repatriate. In fact, many said they have been told unofficially that they will be repatriated by force if they refuse to go ‘voluntarily’. This pressure is evidenced by the refugee’s understanding that refugee status may be withdrawn if they opt to stay (removing their protection against deportation), that the camp will be closed, and that services in the camp will continue to be severely limited.
As a result, these refugees are living in a state of poverty and fear. In order to ‘encourage’ refugees to return, services have been steadily withdrawn from the camp, and refugees are not allowed to subsidise their rations: they are forbidden to do anything that is income-generating, including any form of cultivation, and thick vegetation is growing up around refugees’ homesteads. The camp commandant, apparently, is enforcing this.
The camp authorities have also closed down all the schools that had previously been available to refugee children. When refugees attempted to set up informal schooling for their children as an alternative, this was considered ‘illegal’ and was stopped by the authorities. Not only does this policy violate the fundamental right of children to basic education, it also contributes to the perception that this small piece of Tanzanian land increasingly exists outside of national and international law. As a result, many families are suffering the social consequences associated with children having nothing to do.
Freedom of movement is also restricted. Earlier this month, more than 100 refugees from Mtabila were arrested by Tanzanian authorities accusing them of leaving the camp: many were apparently in the 4km zone outside the camp where they understood that they would be able to circulate. Restrictions on freedom of expression are also adding to the climate of fear, as evidenced by the clandestine way in which the interviews had to take place during our research.
Events that took place on World Refugee Day when a delegation of government, UN and non-governmental organisations personnel came to Mtabila confirm this. Apparently a refugee choir sang a song that included the words, ‘We did not pay money to become refugees, it is not a blessing for anybody’. Officials from the government of Tanzania, taking the view that this song was insulting and undermined the theme of the day (‘the future of our lives resides in our own country’), proceeded to ban the choir from singing any more songs and its members were summoned to the camp commandant to explain themselves. If singing songs of mild protest is treated almost as a criminal offence, it is hardly surprising that refugees believe that they will not be permitted to freely express their opposition to return.
So why, after hosting refugees from across the region for decades, is Tanzania putting so much pressure on these refugees to repatriate? Although the answer to that question is likely to be complex and multi-faceted, it is certainly true to say that it reflects a broader trend in large-scale repatriation initiatives in the Great Lakes region. After decades of conflict, the region is seen to be in a new era of relative stability and governments are keen to remove the refugee ‘burden’ of the past decades. The government of Tanzania is frustrated that the end of the civil war in Burundi has not resulted in the dutiful return of all refugees, no doubt exacerbated by the fact that the government has offered almost 200,000 Burundian refugees who fled in 1972 the option of naturalisation.
For sure, if one puts aside the fact that governance in the region ranges from poor to chronically repressive, and that there is ongoing violence in many areas such as in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the logic of repatriation makes sense: countries that in the last decade had generated large flows of refugees now appear to have reached greater stability, and it is time for everyone to go back to where they came from. After all, no-one actually wants to be a refugee and, despite the many problems associated with ‘home’ it is unlikely that anyone would choose to stay in a refugee camp – designed to keep you separate from the host population, existing on hand-outs that constantly remind you that you do not belong – unless there was good reason for doing so.
However, for many people across the region going home is not seen as viable: there are multiple reasons why it is suboptimal, or even dangerous, for them to return. As a result, a number of individuals and groups of refugees continue to resist return, including those living in Mtabila. These refugees have chosen to contend with increasingly difficult living conditions in Tanzania rather than return to Burundi. And if the camp really should close in December, they will be forced to choose between going home to Burundi and living clandestinely and illegally in Tanzania, becoming so-called ‘irregulars’. This predicament raises not only serious questions with respect to the legality of the current effort, but also its durability and effectiveness as a long term solution.
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* Lucy Hovil is Senior Researcher, International Refugee Rights Initiative
* This article is based on a longer report, launched on 4 October 2011. Read the full report here.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
‘Mighty be our powers’: peaceful women and the global south
Nada Mustafa Ali
The significance of the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to three women from the global south extends way beyond the Arab world and Africa.
For me, the award to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman is recognition of the great achievements of these women in challenging contexts of repressive and post-conflict settings, and of the specific ways in which conflict, peace-building and post-conflict processes affect women. The award also recognises the peace and security activism and strategic advocacy of the global women’s movement, and of national and local women’s groups, in Africa and the Middle East since the late 1990s. It is this kind of activism that has succeeded in placing issues of gender equality, gender-based violence and meaningful participation for women on the global security agenda.
As the first elected woman president in the African continent, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led Liberia through the difficult challenges of post-conflict reconstruction; and she did so with grace, firm leadership, and with a certain humility and firm practicality that is reminiscent of the attitudes of busy and wise grandmothers in many parts of the continent. I listened to her speak at the United Nations in New York last year, where she outlined some of the milestones Liberia has achieved under her leadership, and discussed the challenges, too. In the discussion that followed her talk, a young New York-based Liberian woman lawyer spoke of the role of the African diaspora in rebuilding Liberia and said she really wanted to contribute to reconstruction in the country but that she did not know how to go about doing that. President Sirleaf’s answer was: ‘I am pleased to give you an air-ticket to travel to Liberia.’ She then asked the young lawyer to see her after the event.
Leymah Gbowee's activism for peace in Liberia is documented in the award winning film ‘Pray the Devil Back to Hell’, and Gbowee’s book, ‘Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War’. When the Liberian war started, Leymah Gbowee was only 17 years old and she later said the war transformed her from a child into an adult ‘in a matter of hours’. She later became a trauma counsellor for child soldiers and wrote about her work earlier this year on Open Democracy in ‘Child soldiers, child brides: wounded for life’. As a member of the Women in Peace Building Network, she worked with other Liberian activists to organise both Muslim and Christian women in a movement that was able to pressurise the dictator Charles Taylor into promising to take part in peace talks in Ghana, and the warring parties to reach a peace agreement. So painful and inspiring, so resonant to the experiences of many women in areas affected by war, ‘Pray the Devil Back to Hell’ can bring an entire audience to tears. I remember watching the documentary film last year in Juba, South Sudan, at a ‘Sisterhood for Peace’ conference that My Sister’s Keeper organised, which brought together women from different parts of Sudan, including Darfur, South Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, Eastern Sudan, as well as women protesting the building of a dam in Hamadab, Northern Sudan. After the film, most of the Darfuri women were in tears as they said what they saw reminded them of their own experiences. Some of the most meaningful and difficult discussions followed the documentary.
Tawakkul Karman’s activism started at the grassroots level, in response to the tyranny of a tribal leader who forced the local population out of their land in the Ibb area of Yemen. Her activism continues in a context where women’s public roles are curtailed. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Tawakkul, the first Arab woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, received so many of the congratulations and salutations - many in Arabic - on the twitter-style ‘Greetings to the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates’ on the official Nobel website. The recognition of Tawakkul's work as a journalist and human rights and democracy activist, acknowledges the strong role youth and women are playing in the Arab spring protests. While I do not necessarily share her political convictions, Tawakkul Karman is one of many courageous activists working in challenging circumstances. Despite this important role, women and women’s groups in countries like Egypt have protested their exclusion from decision-making and the neglect of women’s human rights following the protests. The Nobel Committee is conscious of this fact. The chair of the prize committee Thorbjoern Jagland told the Associated Press, ‘We have included the Arab Spring in this prize, but we have put it in a particular context. Namely, if one fails to include the women in the revolution and the new democracies, there will be no democracy.’
For me, this year's Nobel Peace Prize speaks to the gender-specific impact on women of conflict, repression, and the political processes of peace-building, post-conflict reconstruction, and building truly inclusive democracy. The awarding of this year's prize recognises the price paid by women in the struggle for democracy - including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Zimbabwe, South Sudan and my country, Sudan. In Sudan, women activists and journalists are often the targets of government violence. In Darfur, the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan, women have been the subject of killings, forced displacement, and gender-based violence, and now whole communities are facing a looming food crisis.
The prize also honours the consistent organising and strategic advocacy around peace and security by women’s and peace groups at the global, regional, and national levels. It is not a coincidence that the Nobel Committee’s citation includes a reference to UN SCR 1325 on women, peace and security, which emphasises the gender-specific impact of conflict on women, and the importance of women’s participation at all levels in peace-processes and in post-conflict reconstruction. And so as women’s groups and activists commemorate the 11th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the jubilation and celebration of the accomplishments and contributions of Leymah Gbowee, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman, should energise activists even further to push governments, political parties and movements to make gender equality central in peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction, and to ensure women’s human rights and full participation in decision making at all levels to build democratic reform. Indeed, as the Nobel Committee stated in a press release on 7 October: ‘We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.’
‘Mighty be our Powers’.
The struggle continues.
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* Nada Mustafa Ali teaches Global Studies at the New School University in New York, and is the author of United States Institute for Peace’s upcoming report on 'Gender and State-Building in South Sudan'.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
* This article is part of Open Democracy 50.50's new dialogue.
A female president is no guarantee of peace
In the short space of just two weeks, Africa lost Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, who transitioned on 25 September, and gained two more, Leymah Gbowee and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, both of Liberia. For those not altogether familiar with Wangari Maathai’s work, Africa Today hosted a series of ‘first voice discussions’ which included Musimbi Kanyoro of Global Fund for Women and Keguro Macharia of the Concerned Kenyan Writers Collective. As we celebrate the achievements of Leymah Gbowee and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, we should be mindful that womanhood is not synonymous with sainthood. Liberian activist, Korto Williams quoting Stephanie Horton, reminds of the need to ‘interrogate’ women in leadership, which can lead to the silencing of our voices:
‘I lost the fire in my belly; the flame that gave me fire to light the torch to fight for women’s rights and gender equality. It is missing somewhere between what Stephanie Horton refers to as the “psychology of the ovary phenomenon” and the international accolades Liberia receives for electing the first female president in Africa …“We are held captive by the psychology of the ovary phenomenon. Ovaries alone do not confer those ‘maternal’ caring qualities we seem to yearn for. We have deified and elevated female leadership to sainthood in Liberia, even while the most horrific manifestations of sexual gender based violence (SGBV) continues unabated and intensifies. We have been led to believe that women will save us where men have failed. At the same time, there is the complex suggestion that women have to be tempered ‘iron’, presumably hard like men, and must shed those nurturing qualities associated with the feminine in order to operate within a male domain. It's a brilliant political strategy and it works. Having women in power has silenced and intimidated vocal discourse”’ (Stephanie Horton)
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf remains the only African leader to offer to host the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), one of the primary functions of which is increased militarisation of African countries – which has historically led to tyrannies against women. Robtel Pailey, who has worked for four years with Johnson Sirleaf skims over this fact as she highlights the similarities between the two Nobel Prize winners:
‘Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and peace activist Leymah Gbowee, also from Liberia, became the second and third African women to be awarded the Nobel peace prize on 7 October.…Gbowee and Johnson Sirleaf have forever transformed the image of Liberia, from a pariah nation of warlords and gun-slinging, drug-induced prepubescent boys, to a country clawing its way back to civility and normality…Their journeys to this prestigious award, announced just four days ahead of Liberia’s high-stakes presidential and legislative elections – elections that will determine the country’s development trajectory and democratic consolidation – signify Liberia’s journey to consciousness.’
Finally, after five years of postponements, four men were convicted of the murder of Zoliswa Nkonyana. Three others were acquitted of the original nine arrested. This is the first case in South Africa to recognise sexual orientation and lesbians as a motive for murder and violent crimes. Zoliswa, 19, was murdered on 4 February 2006 after being chased by a group of men because of being a lesbian. She was beaten, stabbed and strangled. It has taken five years of constant delays – which meant two of the witnesses were only able to testify years after the murder. In ‘Road to the End of Justice’, The Free Gender group, which has been covering the trial summarised the court hearing and verdicts.
‘The Magistrate reviewed the entire case, including the three “trials within trials” regarding the confession of Accused #4, the DNA evidence taken from blood found on Accused #5′s tekkies, and the police statements made by other accused. The confession and the DNA, which demonstrated that the blood on the shoes belonged to Zoliswa, were found admissible into evidence. However, the police statements made by the other accused were not. The Magistrate stated that on this point that the statements were not admitted because of the “sloppy manner” in which those statements were taken by police.’
Whilst the South African courts have made preliminary steps towards recognising sexual orientation as a motive for violent crimes, there are many in the country such as the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) and Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, who attempt to justify prejudices and discrimination under the banner of culture and tradition. Their aim is to create a two-tier system whereby traditional courts operate outside of the state constitution and to remove the protection given to sexual orientation. Melanie Judge of Queery asks whether it is not possible and right that ‘non-discrimination emerges as a shared cultural value, an honoured tradition, owned by all who live in South Africa?’:
‘The NHTL, and its bedfellow the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, claims a monopoly on defining “African traditions and values”. In assuming the right to define what constitutes “tradition”, and what not, these “traditionalists” seek to be arbiters of “legitimate” cultural expression. In doing so, they aim to hegemonise particular concepts of “African culture”. According to this cultural script, homosexuality is “unAfrican”. Both queers and other non-conforming genders and sexualities are disavowed within such an exclusionary manufacturing of culture.
‘The traditionalist lobby would wish for a social order that is re-rooted in immutable apartheid and colonialist categorisations of black/white, man/woman, gay/straight. It’s no coincidence that these are the very planes of difference upon which power and privilege have been historically enacted, and which continue to mark the frontiers of current day inclusions and exclusions.’
Zimbabwean blogger, Rumbidzai Dube (Jambanja) has been working as in intern in Cairo for the past six months. Her sister blogger Fungai Machirori is in Harare. Both have experienced sexual abuse in the past week and for Rumbidzai, the sexual abuse was compounded by accompanying racism. Both tell their stories of violations in public and private spaces. Both seek explanations which you many not necessarily agree with, but their conclusions are the same. We have a right not to be sexually abused – not to be leered at, touched or spoken too and treated as sexual objects.
‘The first one slid his hands onto my lap, groping at my thighs and touching my breasts. Lesson Number one- never sit in the front seat of a taxi in Egypt unless you have other people you know with you in the same car. He was a taxi driver. I had not given him permission to touch me. I walked out of a moving taxi. My body is my sanctuary and if I cannot have total control over it then what am I-A tree that bears fruit but cannot eat of it?
‘The second one stalked me. I remember he was smartly dressed in khaki pants and a sky blue shirt, but beneath his neat exterior lay a rotten mind and rotten intentions- to harass me because I am a woman.
‘The third one grabbed my buttocks as I made my way into the subway station. I shouted at him and he ran away. Of course he had to, I was furious to say the least. I used to be feisty but Egypt has turned me into a fierce tigress. That is the only way to deal with a culture that is so pervasive it is almost normal.
‘The fourth, fifth and hundredth all whispered obscenities in my ears as they passed me by. They whistled and passed snide remarks as I passed by. They ‘accidentally’ brushed their hands against my breast and my behind as they passed and when I turned my head to ask they raised their hands to say ‘I did not mean to.’ Of course what they all did not mean was to get caught and be embarrassed for it.
‘The one who drove me to write this story also grabbed my buttocks on the subway on the morning of Tuesday 4 October.’
Fungai’s experience was at home in a shared house – the abuser, one of her flat-mates, started with what appeared to be a friendly exchange but which became increasingly abusive ending with him touching her.
“I have had saviours. And today, I know how to stand up for myself. But what about those 10-year-olds who don’t have adults looking out for them? What about those women who get fondled then beaten then raped then try to speak but get a laugh of ridicule thrown into their faces, or worse still, that wagged finger of blame. It was all your fault.......I am angry beyond imagining, beyond words, beyond anger itself. I am angry because though I stood up for myself, I am still left with that feeling of fear. What if I’ve just fuelled a fire? Did I overreact? Would I feel less awful if I’d have just kept quiet?........Isn’t this why so many of us keep quiet until something “really serious” happens? In our minds, we somehow justify that it was all well-meant and that to say anything would be to blow it all out of hand........Well, I am not playing that game. If I let you touch my waist, then where next will your hands feel comfortable to navigate? Will it be my back, my butt, my breast?! No thank you. Your hands have absolutely no business on any inch of my skin, unless I allow them there. My skin is like fine silk and my body is a queendom.’
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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.
Liberia: Nobel for president, no-water for residents
Thomas C. Mountain
The most likely ex-President of Liberia has been given a share of one of the western world’s most prestigious awards, the Nobel Peace Prize yet the residents of the capital Monrovia have not had running water for the full 6 years of her term in office.
Think about it, if after six years and $100’s of millions of western aid the residents of the capital have no running water how desperate must it be in the rest of Liberia?
Access to clean drinking water is the first of the fundamental human rights, including food, shelter and medical care, that make up the most primary of all human rights, the right to life itself.
Lack of clean drinking water has killed more people in Liberia, as a part of the world as a whole, than all the violence and wars combined.
The UN may only have recognized clean drinking water as a right last year but for so many in the third world it is the most pressing daily need.
While the western human rights corporations may preach oh so vociferously about human rights being elections and freedom of the press, they some how neglect to rate the worlds leaders by how well they are making sure all their people have the first of the basic human rights to life, clean drinking water.
It is little wonder why the Liberian President is so unpopular in Liberia? She has been an utter failure in the human rights department as far as her citizens are concerned, no matter how many Nobel prizes she may receive from her overlords in the west.
Again, think about it, how is a modern city supposed to function without running water? And this utter failure of an African leader got the most prestigious award the west bestows on its vassals?
As for the Liberian Presidents peace building credentials it was just this year that Liberian based paramilitary death squads, armed and supported by the French, helped invade the Ivory Coast to overthrow the Gbagbo government, and in the process murdered untold thousands of Ivorians, with 800 massacred in just one town.
One hell of a peace builder wasn't she, but then it maybe unfair to blame her for everything gone wrong in Liberia for many claim that she is little more than Mayor of Monrovia and its environs, that warlords, paramilitary militias and bandits actually control most of the country.
Crisis Management is the USA’s preferred policy in Africa as in create a crisis and then manage the subsequent chaos, the better to loot and pillage west Africa’s resources. Liberia has long been a poster child for murder and mayhem, though much hope had been placed in Africa’s first “democratically elected woman President”.
But after 6 years, beau coup millions of dollars and still no running water in the capital of the country one should expect a Nobel prize, at least? For a job well done as far as the western banksters, Firestone Rubber and their minions in the media are concerned.
So remember, its a No-bel Prize for Liberia’s President and No-water for Liberia’s residents, all thanks to an unhealthy dose of western style “democracy”.
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* This article first appeared on Countercurrents.org.
* Thomas C. Mountain is the only independent western journalist in the Horn of Africa, living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain at yahoo dot com.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Kenyans should reject proposed security law
The National Security Intelligence Service Bill 2011 is draconian
Atunga Atuti OJ
It is not lost on Kenyans that once upon a time when we were working on the final draft of the constitution ahead of the referendum, some clever fellow who we never got to know inserted the words ‘subject to national security’ which would have altered the spirit and effect of the Bill of Rights in the new constitution. What the clever fellow failed to achieve is now being effected through the back door. This attempt is the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) bill. It is a dangerous piece of law, drafted like we never promulgated a new constitution; that we never transited from the days of the ‘nyayo errors’; that we never learnt from the lessons of history. We also never learnt from others, including the lessons of the American intelligence cock-up that threw the entire world into meaningless and endless wars which the world is trying to extricate itself from. Essentially, the bill suggests that we never learnt anything.
The NSIS bill, if enacted in its present form, will create an institution operating in its own realm, on its own former images, opaque and answerable to none other than itself! All this on our taxes and in an era when the rest of the world is moving towards democratic control over security agencies.
The bill seeks to create an institution that derogates from and claws back the principles of national security as provided for in the constitution. According to the constitution, national security shall be premised on the protection from external and internal threats to Kenya, her sovereignty, people, their rights, freedoms, property, peace and stability, prosperity and other national interests. The constitution further provides that the pursuit of national security must comply with the law and uphold utmost respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and freedoms. In a nutshell, national security is subject to the authority of the constitution and parliament. The envisaged institution is a threat to these fundamental provisions rather than a guarantor of the same.
Whereas the functions as provided for in the proposed law in many respects tally with the provisions of the constitution in respect to the NSIS, there are a number of clauses especially those relating to the limitation of rights, oversight, operational transparency and accountability that are wanting. While we appreciate the need to strike a balance between the rights of people working for the agency as provided for in the constitution and the need to safeguard the sensitivity and confidentiality of information they will come across in the course of their work, the provisions on limitations of rights do not meet the constitutional threshold in accordance to Article 24 in terms of their specificity.
There also are a number of other reasons why this is a dangerous piece of legislation that seeks to negate the provisions of the constitution: first, it has been drafted with the singular aim of perpetuating the institution as it exists today. It does not present much progression in tandem with the new constitution. There are limited oversight provisions regarding the recruitment of the director general. This in a way explains why the president re-appointed the current director general Michael Gichangi without following the spirit and letter of the constitution pertaining to such appointments. In many respects the procedures for the appointment of the director general in the bill do not meet the constitutional threshold for such recruitment.
As pertains to oversight, even though the constitution is clear that the NSIS is subject to the constitution and parliament as per Article 238 (2a), the bill seeks to institute a procedure where it will ‘vet’ members of parliament (MPs) who will sit on a proposed oversight committee to be known as the Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee (PIOC). Even though Article 38 recognizes that this committee shall be constituted in accordance with parliamentary standing orders, this provision is oblivious of the fact that parliament operates on its own rules and standing orders and is not subject to the direction of any body. But even then the same article states that members of that parliamentary committee shall be subject to vetting (Article 38 (3) by the same institution over which the committee is supposed to exercise oversight.
The bill further seeks to legislate that the NSIS and its director general are not subject to any court, tribunal or commission of inquiry (Article 40 (2). How can an institution that subsists on taxpayers’ funding be insulated from public accountability and scrutiny? If this were the case, would we have known what information was available long before the madness of December 2007 and January 2008? Would we have known the various acts of omission and commission the NSIS and other agencies engaged in and how useful the intelligence in their possession and further actions would have been in avoiding the post-election violence?
With regard to information held by the service, Article 39 provides that the director general shall make decisions on what information and classified documents are to be kept and what is to be destroyed and the procedures thereof. What will stop the director general from being at the peck and call of certain interests if they have unfettered authority and the final word on the destruction of documents? It should be noted that there are established best practices from around the world on the preservation of documents and their eventual de-classification.
There is no mechanism to insulate the service from the whims of a rogue director in respect to preservation of the integrity of the institution and its accumulated resources, memory and documentation. Whatever information the service will gather constitutes part of our national treasure, heritage and history and should be preserved. What will stop an outgoing director general from prescribing the destruction of all information gathered in his or her tenure of service? There are a lot of advances in information and communications technology that can enable the service to archive most if not all the information instead of discretionary destruction of material gathered at taxpayers’ expense.
The bill does not mention at all that officers in the service will have police powers, nor does it provide for the procedures for their interaction with the public. But, there is a curious provision, in Article 20 Part III, which prohibits the service from ‘torture or any other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’. Though in the face of it this is a mundane provision, nowhere in the bill is the service allowed detention or custodial powers. How, then, can the proposed law purport to prohibit the service from torture? The mischief in this is the possibility that the service could run what has now come to be referred to ‘safe houses’-illegal detention centres that are not covered by any law. There is evidence in the public domain regarding the cooperation between Kenya and foreign intelligence services.
It is also instructive to note that there is evidence that Americans have been running such facilities around the world that are now the cause of international furore, where torture and other inhumane acts took place. Such facilities would not be allowed to operate in US soil hence they had to be established elsewhere. Has the service been complicit in these acts in association with foreign powers? Is there more than we know in the fight against terrorism? If the entire bill does not mention any custodial facilities, at what point will citizens and others come into contact with the service to the extent of being tortured? Will the agency have police powers? Will it be dealing directly with the public on a day to day basis and if so, what will be the nature of such interactions and under what law?
But more worrying is the tone and choice of words that the drafters of the bill have used. Take for example the following two instances: Article 38(4) ‘the committee shall conduct its functions within a ring of secrecy’… and Article 40 (2) gives absolute immunity to the director general and his officers from disclosing information in any proceedings in a court, tribunal, commission of inquiry or any other body....All these on our taxes. So the bigger question is, what kind of national intelligence agency does this proposed piece of law intend to create?
It is for these reasons and in the interests of living the spirit and letter of the constitution, participation, transparency and accountability and of disabusing this institution of its past hangovers of secrecy, torture and acting like a law unto itself, that we Kenyans must reject this law.
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* Atunga Atuti O.J. is the Chief Executive Officer of The East African School of Human Rights (email: email@example.com)
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Cote d’Ivoire: Picking up the pieces
Drogba’s Country looks at four major challenges facing the Ouattara regime in Cote d’Ivoire, while commenting on the rapid pace of normalisation in the country just months after the formal end of the civil war:
‘I haven’t seen too much analysis on the challenges facing Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara. What I have seen is very dominated, as my recent thinking has been, with talk about ‘recovering from the post-election crisis’. I’m beginning to think that there’s a risk of missing some bigger issues.
‘How can you get anything more difficult than recovering from a conflict, you might ask. Well, few thought that the threat of violence from the pro-Gbagbo camp would dissipate so quickly – leading diplomats here expected at least some terrorist style attacks on pro-Ouattara figures or some coup d’état/rebellion plots hatched from the exterior. I’m beginning to think that outside of the unrest in the West, there isn’t a major pro-Gbagbo military threat now.
‘The conflict also left the country’s infrastructure largely untouched – with 5.3% negative growth this year and 8-9% next year (IMF estimates) the recovery looks to be rapid. Abidjan does not resemble Tripoli and visitors I’ve had in the last few weeks had to search harder than you might expect to see find signs of a conflict…
‘It’s quite clear that Abidjan is looking in better shape than it has done for years and there are numerous signs of a new serious and disciplined government prepared to work for the good of its citizens. Yet, the vast programme of destruction known as “Operation Clean Country’, has bulldozer-ed hundreds if not thousands of small businesses. However noble the motivation, small entrepreneurs from the lower ends of society have lost the businesses they spent years establishing. Maybe they will quickly re-establish, legally, elsewhere. I hope so.’
Hotel Ivory shares this feeling of cautious optimism amid signs of post-war recovery:
‘Abidjan taxi drivers are almost all Ouattara supporters so they are a bit biased, but on issue of road conditions I think their assessment is as accurate as it gets. And what they say is that roads for the first time in a long time are getting better, pot holes are getting fixed, roads paved, and often they point out a stretch of road which they say previously was impassable.
‘Beside roadworks, another striking thing is that Abidjan has gotten cleaner. I mean there is still a lot to do, and you still see trash along the roads, in the lagoon and well everywhere, but it’s gotten better, and you see teams of cleaners at work all over the city.
‘Then we have the rush hour traffic jams which have moved two hours earlier in the morning due to the new administration emphasising punctuality and work ethic throughout the public sector.
‘All in all there are tons of undeniable signs that things are changing (and almost always for the better) which creates a sense of optimism. I have heard people say that one can start to be proud to be Ivorian again, and that under his first few months Ouattara has done more than Gbagbo did during 10 years…
‘Hopefully, the increased trust in Ivory Coast’s institutions is not just short term effect that will be eroded by corruption, but is based on fundamentals that are here to stay.’
Meanwhile, 1 October 2011 was the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the British Southern Cameroons and the French-speaking Republic of Cameroun. The highlight of the anniversary was the arrest of hundreds of Anglophone Cameroonians calling for a separate Southern Cameroons state. With presidential elections scheduled for October 9, Product from my Past wonders what the future holds for what the Washington Post described in 1967 as a ‘loveless African marriage’:
‘It is hard for this union to be seen as credible when until recent history, the English-speaking regions had no universities, all resources are administered centrally out of the Francophone capital Yaounde and Biya, a self-proclaimed “man of the people” hardly knows Anglophone Cameroon, visiting Bamenda – the heartland of the Anglophone opposition – last December for the first time in 20 years. Even for a reclusive leader, that’s some hiatus.
‘Still this forced marriage continues. The main reason highlighted in Stuart Notholt’s book, Fields of Fire: an atlas of ethnic conflict: “70% of Cameroon’s natural resources are located in Southern Cameroons.”
‘So knowing the history and the hangover from a partnership never fully, consciously entered, what next for Cameroon? Neither of the books I’ve read put forward any specific course of action…
‘So, the days roll on and the election draws nearer. In the absence of any robust campaigning or indeed any sign that the winds of change are blowing, many watch and wait, resigned to Biya’s return. As for the state of Southern Cameroons, we are left with the words of warning written by Dr Bernard Fonlon, an academic and intellectual, in a letter to Ahmadou Ahidjo, first president of Cameroon: “Let us not lose sight of the fact that seeds of discontent exist in our Federation. There is also frustration in the Federation.”
‘Those words, quoted from Imperialistic Politics in Cameroun, were written in 1964, three short years after Southern Cameroons joined la Republic du Cameroon. It seems not much changes.’
Sahel Blog comments on the national census in Mauritania which has once again highlighted racial tensions in that country:
‘“Afro-Mauritanians” fears that the government will manipulate census data reflect Mauritania’s history of racial conflict, but those fears also reflect worldwide trends. In many divided societies, there are communities who fear that governments will use population counts to control, favor, or under-represent different groups…
‘The census conflict points to the country’s racial tensions, but its also important to understand that race relations are not static in Mauritania. Since the 1970s, anti-slavery organizations and other political activist groups have changed the position of non-white groups in Mauritania, especially the haratine or “black Moors.” Earlier this year at Northwestern I was lucky to see a presentation by Dr. Zekaria Ould Ahmed Salem of the University of Nouakchott, who talked about how some haratine figures are breaking into public and community life in new ways, for example by becoming imams. I am not saying this to minimize Mauritania’s conflicts or downplay its problems, but to point out that the racial picture there changes in profound ways over time. Even these current protests, from the little I know of Mauritanian history, would have been unthinkable fifty years ago, and can therefore be seen as another sign of change.
‘The government’s determination to complete the census means it will go forward, but the protesters stand as a warning to the government that a significant segment of the population is watching carefully to see how it uses the data.’
The Zambian Economist revisits the election of Michael Sata as President of Zambia with an article by Michael Meyer:
‘The result of the presidential election in Zambia – scarcely made a blip. True, Zambia is a small African country, far from the international spotlight. Events there seldom reverberate globally. Certainly, the Zambians’ achievement cannot compete with the intervention in Libya or the drama of the Arab Spring. And yet, what happened in Zambia is related to those developments – and thus relevant everywhere.
‘What made Zambia’s election so important is that the challenger won. Indeed, he defeated an incumbent who really wanted to keep his job, and who might reasonably have been tempted to follow the lead of other African leaders defeated in a popular vote by simply refusing to accept the result. After all, smooth transitions of power are not to be taken for granted.
‘In 2005, government forces in Ethiopia shot opposition supporters following a contested election. Kenya erupted in violence in 2007, after a presidential election in which the voting, and the subsequent counting of ballots, was deeply suspect. In 2008, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe refused to accept his loss in a first-round presidential ballot and forced his opponent to drop out for the second…A similar scenario played out in Côte d’Ivoire…
‘Contrast all this to Zambia. There, election officials announced the result of the vote – 36% for President Rupiah Banda versus 43% for his opponent, Michael Sata. Hackers broke into the election commission’s Web site, delaying the announcement. But there was no challenge, either from the government or the opposition. On September 23, Banda conceded, with remarkable grace. The people had spoken, he said; he would abide by their wishes.’
Scribbles from the Den carries the English version of a recent interview in Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe contends that regime change cannot occur in Cameroon via the ballot box:
“In the current circumstance, regime change is not possible through the ballot box. Change in this country will come through an armed rebellion spearheaded or not by a political organization or by foreign forces (as was the case in Cote d’Ivoire); through the natural death or assassination of the autocrat; or even through a coup de force by dissident elements within the army. Beyond that, all paths to a peaceful change initiated by Cameroonians themselves are blocked. From this perspective, the forthcoming election is a non event...’
So why has President Biya been able to stay in power for 29 years? According to Mbembe:
‘The regime has largely succeeded in imposing a generalized tonton-macoutization of minds. Objectively, it no longer needs to use physical force….
‘The President is surrounded by scores of elderly individuals who are determined not to die alone. They, therefore, keep watch over diverse concentric circles, and fan the embers of hate and jealousy among social juniors whom they dominate. Like in ancient despotic regimes, Biya has perfected the art of manipulation. People live on the hope of being appointed, at a future date, to a high ranking position in government, from where they will enjoy the honors and prebends that come with positions of power within the state apparatus. The president uses this grim desire as a tool to literarily cast a spell on, and paralyze society. Appointments, dismissals, falls from grace, loss, and imprisonment, then spectacular returns to grace, are strategies that successfully keep the elite on a tight leash.’
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* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Making access to information a reality in Africa
Last month the world observed the 9th International Right to Know Day. More than 90 countries across the globe have laws guaranteeing access to government-held information. However, the move towards getting such a law in Africa has been painfully slow. Only eight countries in Africa—South Africa, Uganda, Angola, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Nigeria and Niger—have access to information laws. Although the process of building an access to information regime is going on in Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia, it lacks the support that it needs from the political spectrum, and until it gets that support, obtaining information held by public authorities will continue to be a struggle.
To bolster the right to information campaign in Africa, the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACPHR), has undertaken the task of developing a model access to information law which is expected to serve as a guide to the member states of the African Union in their adoption or review of access to information laws. Once finalised, it is expected that the model law will be adopted by the ACPHR at its 50th Ordinary Session, to be held from 24 October to 7 November in Banjul, The Gambia. The draft being developed by ACPHR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in consultation with various stakeholders was opened for public consultation in April 2011. This window for public comments is open until 31 October 2011. We must endeavour to put in our feedback and have our say on this precedent-setting document before the window closes.
While the present draft has many elements of a strong access to information law, it can be improved. There are areas where strengthening is desirable; for instance the manner in which the term information has been defined can be improved upon in order to make it more focused and inclusive while allowing scope for coverage of newer forms of information that may be created in future. A case in point may be Ugandan Access to Information Act which defines information as including written, visual, aural and electronic information. Such formulation, which is inclusive and yet not vague, will help remove ambiguities in the minds of requestors and help them in drafting their requests.
Moving ahead into the definitions section, the draft gives three categories of bodies that may be considered information holders for the purpose of this law – public bodies, relevant private bodies and private bodies. This may be confusing for a layperson. Bodies covered by this law can be neatly segregated in just two categories for the sake of simplification – one, bodies is in the state sector may be put in the category of public bodies and two, any entity that does not receive any funds from the state or does not perform a public function may be categorised as a private body.
Under the present scheme in the draft, an information holder, in ordinary cases, may take up to 30 days to respond to an information request. This period seems long when compared with standards set in some of the African countries with access laws. A shorter time limit is found in Uganda where response to an information request under its access to information law must be given in 21 days. An even shorter time limit of just seven days is specified in the recently enacted Nigerian Freedom of Information law. In places where information about basic services — such as water, sanitation, electricity, subsidised food, health, and education — is not available or accessible to the common citizen, timely access to information can be a matter of life and death. In the absence of information, one may not know their entitlements; the services offered by the government and its functionaries; or the remedies available in case of violation of their rights. In this scenario, access to information is directly linked to one’s right to life. The draft could opt for a shorter time limit so as to facilitate not only people’s access to information but also access to services that are due to them.
Going deeper into the draft, one finds that it does not hold strong on proactive disclosure. This is the backbone of any access to information regime. Proactive disclosure is, essentially, disclosure of information on a regular basis by bodies covered under the law without people having to file applications for such information. The list of categories of information required to be disclosed proactively under the present draft is much smaller than the ones found in the laws in place in some countries like Nigeria, Mexico and India. The addition of more categories of information to this list — such as salaries and remuneration of officers and employees; details of expenditure on subsidy or social welfare programmes; and details of recipients of permits, authorisations, concessions and contracts — can ensure reduction in the number of formal requests for information. Regularly putting such information to the scrutiny of the public eye would enhance accountability and reduce corruption. People would be able to assess whether expenditures carried out by public bodies match the budget laid out; whether public officials have more assets than they can account for; and whether people being shown as beneficiaries of schemes are indeed the ones enjoying that benefit.
Surprisingly, while the draft permits an information officer to reject a request on the grounds of it being frivolous or vexatious in nature, it contains no provision for compensating a requester who suffers any loss from an unlawful denial of an information request or unreasonable delay in providing the information. Rather than changing the age-old power imbalance between the ones who govern and the governed, this perpetuates the unfair advantage of those in power.
The above observations, reflective of international best practice principles, if built upon while strengthening the current working draft of the model law, member states of the African Union can look forward to an effective access to information model that would boost transparency and accountability in public life.
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* Vrinda Choraria is Project Officer, Access to Information programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
* CHRI prepared a preliminary analysis of the Draft Model Law for African Union Member States on Access to Information which can be accessed: here
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Haiti, occupied country
You can consult any encyclopedia and ask which was the first free country in the Americas. You will always receive the same answer: the US. But the US declared its independence when they were a nation with 650,000 slaves (who remained so for another century) and in its first constitution they established that a black slave was equal to three-fifths a person. And if you ask any encyclopedia which country first abolished slavery, you will always receive the same answer: England. But the first country that abolished slavery was not England; it was Haiti.
The black slaves of Haiti defeated Napoleon Bonaparte’s glorious army. Europe never forgave that humiliation. Haiti paid huge compensation to France for over 150 years, but not even that was enough. That black insolence still hurts to the world's white masters.
Of all this, we know very little or nothing. Haiti is an invisible country. It only attained fame after the earthquake of 2010 which killed more than 200,000 Haitians. The tragedy fleetingly gained the spotlight of the media. Haiti is not known by the talent of its artists, of its scrap magicians capable of transforming garbage into beauty, or for its historical feats in the war against slavery and colonial oppression. It's worth repeating once again so that the deaf can listen: Haiti was the founding country of the independence of America and the first one that defeated slavery in the world. It deserves a lot more than the fame sprung from its misfortunes.
At present, the armies from several countries, including mine, are still occupying Haiti. How is this military invasion justified? It is alleged that Haiti puts international security in danger. Throughout the 19th century, Haiti's example was a threat to the security of countries that still continued practicing slavery. Thomas Jefferson had already said: from Haiti came the pest of rebellion.
In South Carolina, for example, the law allowed the imprisonment of any black sailor while his ship was at dock, simply because of the risk that he might spread the antislavery pest. In the 20th century, Haiti was invaded by the marines for being an insecure country for its foreign creditors. The invaders gave the National Bank to the City Bank of New York. Since they were already there, they decided to stay another 19 years.
The crossing of the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti is named the wrong step. Maybe the name is a call to arms: you are entering the black world, the world of voodoo, the religion that slaves brought from Africa and was nationalised in Haiti and that has no right to be called religion. From the point of view of the proprietors of civilization, voodoo is a black thing symbolising ignorance, backwardness and pure superstition. The Catholic Church, with plenty of followers capable of selling the saints’ fingernails and the feathers of Archangel Gabriel, made sure that this superstition was officially forbidden in 1845, 1860, 1896, 1915, and 1942.
But for a few years now, the evangelical sects are in charge of the war against superstition in Haiti. These sects come from the US, a country that doesn't have 13 floors in their buildings or line 13 in their airplanes and is inhabited by civilised Christians who believe God made the world in one week.
In that country, the evangelical preacher Pat Robertson explained on television the earthquake of 2010. This shepherd of souls revealed that the Haitian blacks had achieved their independence from France through a voodoo ceremony, invoking the devil's help from the depth of the Haitian jungle. The devil that gave them their freedom, had sent the earthquake.
How long will foreign soldiers remain in Haiti? They arrived to stabilise and help, but have been having breakfast, and destabilising this country that doesn't want them for seven years. The military occupation of Haiti is costing the UN more than 800-million dollars annually. If the UN dedicated those funds to technical cooperation and social solidarity, Haitians would be given a boost to their creative energy. Then they would be saved from their armed saviours who have a certain tendency to violate, kill, and transmit fatal illnesses. Haiti doesn't need anyone to come and multiply its misfortunes. Neither does it need anyone’s charity. Or, as an ancient African proverb goes, the hand that gives is always above the hand that receives.
But Haiti does need solidarity, doctors, schools, hospitals, and a true collaboration that makes possible the rebirth of its alimentary sovereignty, killed by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and other philanthropic societies. For us, Latin Americans, that solidarity is a debt of gratitude: it will be the best way to say thanks to this little and great nation that in 1804 opened for us, with its contagious example, the doors of freedom.
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* This is based on a text read by Eduardo Galeano on 27 September at the national library in Montevideo in the panel-debate ‘Haiti and Latin American’. This article is dedicated to Guillermo Chifflet, who was forced to give up the Chamber of Deputies of Uruguay when he voted against the sending of soldiers to Haiti.
* English translation by Cubasi Translation Staff.
* Originally published at Cubasi.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Let us soar!
The call of Peter Tosh is still urgent today
Comrades and friends,
We are gathered here today to commemorate and celebrate the life and works of Winston Hubert McIntosh, also known as Peter Tosh. Peter was born on the 19 October 1944 and assassinated as we observed the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Bantu Stephen Biko, that is on 11 September 1987. This means that Sunday, 11 September 2011 marks the 24th anniversary of Peter’s brutal slaying.
Peter used to keep birds at his home in Jamaica. Some of these birds were wild ones that he had caught by hand. And he often laughed and spoke of the day when he would really surprise people – like the tales told by African slaves about the ones with secret wings who flew to freedom. And people would comment: ‘Look at that Peter Tosh now – he’s flying!’
Peter demonstrated to black people the world over that it is worthless to live on your knees. You need to hold your head up and look Babylon straight in the eye. I promise that if you do that, Babylon will blink.
The vampire that Peter described in his song of that name sank its teeth first into Steve, and almost to the day ten years later, it sank its teeth into Peter. Peter sang that that the ‘old vampire’...‘drink up the old wine have no place for the new mind.’
A reporter from ‘Reggae Beat’ asked Tosh: ‘In the song, ‘Vampire’, who is the vampire?’ Peter’s reply is worth quoting:
‘Well you know of them. They are the ones who suck the blood of the innocent ones. Invisible vampires, because according to technology, vampires don’t come out and bite your neck anymore. They cause a plane to crash [remember Samora?] or something destructive to happen that blood has to spill and these invisible vampires will still get their meals. It shall be eradicated.’
You know, Peter once described himself as ‘optimistic’. This is usually the sentiment either of blind Pollyannas or people who have some sense of what they are up against and are rising to meet it. I have no doubt that Peter fell into the latter category.
Black consciousness (BC) in this land took cognisance of the fact that the struggle of black people manifests itself in intensely cultural forms. In fact, the BC philosophy was expressed initially in dance, poetry, music, literature and theology and the likes of Theatre Council of Natal (TECON) and the People’s Experimental Theatre (PET) were amongst the seminal BC formations. No other liberation movement in our land has had a similar genesis.
BC took cognisance of the fact that blacks conduct a class struggle in and through race. The BC of race and class cannot be empirically separated. That is the equivalent of attempting to unscramble an egg.
BC expressed as Rastafarianism is an authentic oppressed class ideology, the property of the oppressed masses of the Caribbean which has been shared with humankind in every corner of the inhabitable globe. It is a mistake to get stuck in Rasta’s negative paradoxes without taking into account that there was no other way for an oppressed ideology to emerge among people who were left to fend for themselves and build their own livelihoods.
To summarise Michael Thelwell’s novel, ‘The Harder They Come’, Ivan, a Kingston ‘rude boy’ (ghetto youth in and around the Jamaican music scene) tries to visit his family’s home in the mountains after several years of living in the city:
‘Nothing was familiar...Bush-bush full up everywhere. But... Dis coulden the right place after all? Right down dere should be the tin roof. You mean say bush-bush grow up, cover it?...
‘There was no evidence of the passage of his generations, the ancestors whose intelligence, industry and skill had created a self-sufficient homestead there. None – at all...’
His grandmother who had raised him up there had died several years earlier; his mother was back down in Kingston working at starvation pay as a washerwoman; his uncles were long gone off the land and had met their ends all over the globe. One died in World War II fighting for the British; another went to cut cane in Cuba and was never heard from again; another was serving a life sentence in the Kingston penitentiary for killing his wife.
‘Ah shoulda did stay an’ tek care of de place, he thought. The worst insult that people has was sneering, ‘Cho, you no come from nowhe”... He wanted to get a machete, to cut a path to the graves and clear the bush away. But...what de raas is de use...What’s the fucken use? He felt empty, and frightened, futile, miserable, and very alone. He would never, he swore, come back ever.’
He continued down the road to the former house of Maas’ Nattie the man who had raised him like a father, and discovered that two American tourists had taken over the backyard and were lazily smoking ganja and sunbathing, stark naked. Ivan watched while one of them tried to milk a male goat, then jumped on his motorbike in disgust and sped over the mountains and through the foothills choked with bauxite dust, back down to Kingston.
From that moment on, he refused to look back, and with nothing to lose, he shot cops and sang his way to fame and notoriety. He was an outlaw, and a fearless hero to those being ground up in this new urban ‘promised land’ – a concrete jungle where you couldn’t even find a clean glass of water, let alone a day’s work. It is in the context of Ivan’s story that we can better appreciate what is easily Peter’s anthem, ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ (Marley/Tosh 1978):
Get up, stand up
Don’t let them push you ‘round
Stand up for your rights
Brother [and, we add, sister]
Get up, stand up
Be brave now
Don’t give up the fight
Get up stand up
Stand up for your rights
Don’t let them hold you down
Get up stand up
Don’t give up the fight.’
Mark you, there is no flying back to the past. The future and the world beckon. Listen well to the deep baritone voice of teacher and preacher Peter Tosh:
‘I’m like a flashing laser and a rolling thunder
I’m like a steppin’ razor
Don’t you watch my size
I’m dangerous, dangerous...’
As the contributions of Peter find their way into the hearts, cassette players and iPods of the Ivans of Azania and the world, let us look to the likes of Mao Tse Tung and Steve for political and philosophical guidance. We have work to do to bury the shistem; let us get down to doing it. And if all the steppin’ razors come together we will undoubtedly soar!
Let us soar! Azania ke ya rona!
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This was an address delivered by Imrann Moosa on the occasion of ‘Verses for Biko and Tosh’ organised by the Slam Poetry Operation Team in conjunction with the September National Imbizo (‘SNI’) at Uprising Restaurant, Bat Centre, Durban on Saturday,10 September 2011, commencing at 12h00. This piece is based on the article ‘Azania salutes Tosh’ by Frank Talk Staff Writers in Frank Talk, Volume 3 (February 1990) and has been edited to restrict its focus to Peter Tosh.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter - October issue
In addition to remarks and letters on the Cessation Clause, this month's issue includes writing on international law in domestic courts; a workshop on asylum-seeking children; Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network's proposal for a new approach to regional cooperation on refugee protection; advocacy training for refugees in Egypt; the refugee situation in Korea; the new Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers; a new legal aid clinic for asylum seekers in Estonia; the Irish asylum system; Iraq's mistreatment of Iranians in Camp Ashraf; how Asylum Access Thailand uses the FRLAN; a Q&A on whether a European can gain asylum in another EU country; and a workshop on cultural expertise in English courts – and the usual job opportunities, event and funding announcements, requests and new resources
Wangari Maathai is not in heaven
It does not look like that great daughter of the motherland, Prof Wangari Muta Maathai, is now resting somewhere in heaven as recently suggested by the celebrated public intellectual Gado in one of his Daily Nation cartoons. (The Tanzanian academic Issa Shivji tells us that a public intellectual is a person ‘whose vocation is to comment, protest, caricaturise, satirise, analyse and publicise the life around him or her.’ Gado is definitely one such.)
But why is his suggestion of heavenly bliss for Wangari Maathai doubtful? The distinguished environmentalist, social justice activist and winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize for Peace died on September 25, 2011 and was accorded what was billed as a state funeral on October 8. Maathai’s remains were cremated in accordance with her wishes. Gado had depicted her being received with jubilation at heaven’s gates. That seems quite unlikely.
First of all, if one agreed with Nation writer Gitau Warigi that Maathai shunned elitist life, how is it conceivable that she would want to spend even one minute of eternity in heaven, which is touted by preachers as the abode of ‘the chosen few’? Maathai loved the earth and all its different peoples. Inclusiveness was her ethic.
Second, Maathai’s view of Christianity would certainly be at variance with what has been taught by generations of preachers ever since the missionaries landed here to capture native hearts and minds for the colonizer. It is Africa’s wealth – from the days of the Slave Trade – that built the West, including those magnificent cathedrals in Europe.
Probably realizing this, as a young woman Maathai dropped her baptismal name Mary Josephine, preferring her Gikuyu name Wangari Muta. As a rule, a Christian name means a European, or at least a foreign, one. Could heaven’s gatekeepers forgive Maathai’s radical decision?
And third, it can be supposed that, were Kenya not a ‘God-fearing nation’, Maathai (who for the love of trees did not want to be buried in a wooden coffin) would most certainly have openly protested at the cutting down of trees to make church pews where poor people sit down to be taught to accept oppression – to ‘turn the other cheek’ instead of standing up to the oppressor.
If our gallant freedom fighters, whom we shall celebrate on Mashujaa Day, 20 October, had embraced this piece of pacifistic nonsense, we would still be in colonial chains. Had Maathai and the heroes of the second liberation ‘turned the other cheek’, Daniel arap Moi and ‘the 40 thieves’ would still be tenants at State House. There would be no new constitution.
What is more, in her private life Wangari Maathai chose the painful option of divorce when she realized her marriage was essentially dead. She refused to remain in that union till death. That is a serious sin.
So, Wangari Maathai is not the kind of person who dies and goes to heaven. She rests in the bowels of Mother Earth. She will become part of the natural environment of Africa and the world. Her spirit, like those of the other great women and men who once walked our land, will continue to live in our midst, nudging us to overcome our little fears and confront injustice wherever we sniff it; urging us to dream dreams that are bigger than ourselves.
Yet cartoonist Gado is free to hold the opinion that Wangari Maathai was met with great jubilation in heaven. It is his inalienable right to ‘caricaturise, satirise, analyse and publicise the life around him’ as he sees it.
Plenty has been written and said about Prof Maathai since her physical death and more is sure to come. That is as it should be. But we must guard against vultures swooping down to feast on Wangari. For example, in his message of condolence President Mwai Kibaki said:
‘In politics, the late Professor Maathai will be remembered for the role she played in agitating for political reforms that paved the way for the country’s second liberation. In her quest to serve Kenyans in different spheres, the late Professor Maathai vied and became the Member of Parliament for Tetu and an Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.’
That is spin. Things did not happen quite like that. A year before Maathai was honoured with the Nobel Prize for Peace, she had won the Tetu seat and President Kibaki appointed her an assistant minister. That is how he appreciated the woman who ’will be remembered for the role she played in agitating for political reforms that paved the way for the country’s second liberation’.
The truth is Kibaki really did not think that highly of Prof Maathai. He dumped her in the assistant ministers’ rank, effectively equating her with intellectual midgets and colourless politicians like Kalembe Ndile, Bifwoli Wakoli and Ferdinand Waititu. How did the country’s chief executive, elected to actualize the second liberation, appoint Prof Maathai an assistant minister while reserving a full cabinet post for the graying semi-literate tycoon and Moi’s bosom buddy Njenga Karume?
Would Prof Maathai have been treated that way, especially after the Nobel Prize, if she had been a man? Would her voice on important national issues have been so ignored?
Listen to Nation columnist Rasna Warah: ‘Unfortunately, for all her efforts, Wangari Maathai remained a prophetess and heroine who was better recognised abroad than at home. Derided and scorned by the Moi government and grudgingly tolerated by Mwai Kibaki’s administration, Maathai was a general in an army that was unconscious of its own might.’ That is precisely what happened.
Speaking of recognition abroad, the editor of an Australian Christian newsletter apparently struggled to get a church angle for the Maathai story and settled on this headline: ‘Loreto convent education led to Nobel Prize.’
Another spin. The only reference in the article to Maathai’s high school education and its supposed effect on her winning the Nobel Peace Prize was this: ‘She was the eldest of six children and graduated in 1959 from Loreto Limuru Girls' High School run by Catholic nuns.’ There is no evidence anywhere of how Catholic nuns sowed in Maathai the seed of her prodigious contribution to Kenya and the world. Her own story is that she first developed her love for the environment and for social justice from her childhood and the reality surrounding her.
President Kibaki declared two days of national mourning in Maathai’s honour, which meant flying flags at half-mast. Just that? At what point did the Kenyan people decide that that is the proper sign of national mourning? Where are those flags to be found in the country except in schools and public offices? How was that national mourning?
There was also the state funeral where, mercifully, politicians were not allowed to make speeches – Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka did speak briefly, though. As Kenyans, we need a serious discussion about who deserves a state funeral and what that should involve. Maathai was the third Kenyan to receive the honour, after the first president Jomo Kenyatta (1978) and Vice President Michael Kijana Wamalwa (2003). Moi, who conspicuously said nothing about Maathai’s death and who skipped her funeral, will certainly receive a state funeral as well when his time comes.
A funeral - whatever pomp and pageantry attend it - is always about the disposal of a dead person. Is that a fitting acknowledgement of our heroes and heroines? Is Moi one of them?
Finally, across the road from Freedom Corner at Uhuru Park in Nairobi where reformists have for years waged their campaigns against misrule, where Maathai’s funeral was held, stands a huge monument featuring a raised arm clasping a club. Everyone knows what that is: it is a monument to Moi’s tyranny – appropriately located a short distance from the infamous Nyayo House torture chambers. That evil monument stands in the park which Maathai saved from Moi who wanted to build a skyscraper there in 1989. Why shouldn’t that edifice be knocked down and in its place a monument erected to the great memory of Prof Wangari Muta Maathai?
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Henry Makori is Editorial Assistant at Pamabazuka News.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
World Mental Health Day: Appeal for a focus on refugee mental health
Refugee Law Project
World Mental Health Day on 10 October is designed to raise public awareness about mental health issues, and was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organisation.
Each October, thousands of supporters worldwide come together to celebrate this annual awareness program designed to bring attention to mental health and the major effects of mental illness on peoples’ lives worldwide. This year's theme is ‘Investing in Mental Health’.
Refugees manifest high levels of mental ill health, yet this has yet to draw significant attention on World Mental Health Day. Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), depression and anxiety disorders are manifestations of the terrible experiences many have been through, whether prior to leaving their country of origin, during their flight to safety, or in their place of asylum.
Many of the Refugee Law Project’s clients need psychotherapy and psychiatric interventions to improve on their mental health, but access to these interventions remains a huge challenge.
The primary one is that Uganda does not prioritise mental health for its own citizens, let alone for refugees. As a result there is low awareness on mental illness, response and where to go for treatment. Additionally, there are few staff competent in handling mental health problems. The National Mental Referral Hospital at Butabika has only two clinical psychologists and eight psychiatrists, while the National Referral Hospital at Mulago has less than 10 psychiatrists and no clinical psychologist. This in a country with 33 million inhabitants.
Many in the various refugee communities are not aware of mental ill health, do not know how to support those affected and even where to take them for treatment. Some, believing that the ill-health is caused by evil spirits, revert to traditional healers in their search for remedies. Refugees’ in most case have low or no income and cannot afford transport to hospitals and health centres which are situated far from where they live, are unable to purchase drugs that have been prescribed but not provided, and cannot afford the regular meals which are prerequisite before administering psychotropic drugs.
The few refugees who are able to access Uganda’s limited mental health services are confronted by language barriers which hinder proper access to services, lead to errors in diagnoses, prescriptions, and instructions on how to use drugs.
Addressing refugee mental health thus remains a big task, but the Refugee Law Project seeks to improve refugee access to mental health services through the provision of counselling services, including a clinical psychologist who addresses psychological problems, and through availing community interpreters to enhance communication between the refugees and service providers. This includes interpreters accompanying refugees to the hospital.
As we joined the rest of the world in celebrating this day on 10 October, the Refugee Law Project appeals to everyone to focus on refugee mental health. We invite you to watch a short video clip highlighting the gaps in Uganda's mental health services and the challenges refugees in Uganda face as they try to access those services.
For further information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Nhamo Rupare
An interesting mêlée happened in Zimbabwe eight months ago. A Bulawayo resident, Vikas Mavhudzi was arrested on charges of using a Facebook posting to urge Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to topple President Robert Mugabe – Arab spring style or as the government called it – ‘subverting a constitutional government’.
Eight months down the line Vikas walked free. It was alleged that Comrade Vikas sent a message to fellow comrade Tsvangirai’s Facebook wall which read: ‘I’m overwhelmed; don’t know what to say, Mr. PM. What happened in Egypt is sending shockwaves to all dictators around the world. No weapon but unity of purpose. Worth emulating hey’.
The presiding magistrate Rose Dube dismissed the case after police failed to produce evidence of the Facebook comment in court. The prosecutor, Detective Inspector B. Samakande of Bulawayo central police said, ‘assistance was sought from experts in the information technology section without success. It would appear the message was deleted from the network’.
Funny thing is; Vikas’ post is still on his page which he posted on 13 February and he still has 97 friends. This occurrence sparked a tumulus debate in my mind. Is Sub-Saharan Afrika ready for a social network revolution? From comrade Vika’s case, it appears the state and the general populace are yet to grasp the full power of Twitter, Facebook or communication in general as revolutionary weapons.
We were all held captive by how activists in Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, and Libya used social networks to mobilise and organise. The Arab spring as it was aptly named inspired the world to critically examine their leaders with courage and purpose. I remember the courageous images that were posted on Twitter and how they depicted a collective spirit for freedom. Sub-Saharan Afrikans whispered in hushed tones that this courageous stance against oppression should be emulated in our own countries. It’s interesting how we could not speak with loud voices about this giant leap. Are we scared and immobilised by political rhetoric from our leaders? I say we are.
For those who are on Twitter or Facebook, the inter-connectedness of social networking has dominated our lives. There are many social tools to use, for example Wikipedia, podcasts, YouTube, photography, video, email and instant messaging. This social idea of cyber utopianism or Internet democracy has not fully been realised by Afrikans.
The power of an interactive dialogue has come to define the way we communicate. A new language has been born from these networks and with it a new mindset. The positive outcome of the Arab spring should be viewed with a veil of caution by the rest of us in Sub-Saharan Afrika. Social networks can be a curse to the masses and can easily be used by oppressors to monitor and prosecute inciters of revolutionary thought. We have all read about Yahoo’s Chinese webmail that was used to identify and jail activists. Blogger and writer Michael Anti’s use of Facebook to call for Internet freedom in China and the subsequent deletion of his account by Facebook has now become the stuff of Internet folklore. The use of social networks as tools for change is the future but not all spheres of the world are ready to harness this power.
The optimists will say I’m anti revolutionary, but before you banish me to the same dark Dictators’ Island as Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak or Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi allow me to state my case. There are 17 million Facebook users in Afrika and most of these are in urban centres. The rural areas where most dictators have strongholds have not progressed beyond mobile communication and State owned television. Afrikan countries with large social network users are South Afrika, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana. Countries that matter do not have a large internet user base, although cellphone penetration is large but somewhat limited.
Unlike the Arab world, Sub-Saharan Afrika does not have a collective dialogue platform to spread messages on political issues through the use of the Internet. We also do not have a Pan Afrikan media powerhouse such as Al-Jazeera or CNN to carry our collective voice. This leads to out of context representation and lack of exposure. Unlike North Afrika, people are bound by culture and a loyalty to ‘founding fathers’ that liberated them. Social or economic issues and not repression largely dominate the political landscape of Sub-Saharan Afrika.
Sub-Saharan Afrika’s population is young. The median age is 15 which means most of these youngsters are still respectful of their elders and as such, the courage to use their social network voices is yet to be realised. The youth have three things on their minds – education, jobs and economic freedom. The desire to emulate the Egyptian youth is evident but the self-actualised will is yet to be realised.
The North Afrika revolts were a uniformed experience – an interpretation of suffering common to all. We do not have the sophisticated networks to pull it off. Our colonial past created a fragmented Afrika where we do not share a common language to voice our collective thoughts. Suffering differs per region – the sufferings of Nigerians are different from those of Ethiopians.
Sadly political independence has become an opium and religion a tranquiliser for the masses. These two tools of oppression are deep rooted in our culture and social lifestyles. Until we shake these subliminal prisons off our consciousness we will not realise our true potential as a people. The lack of credible political opposition that wants real change remains a hindrance to courageous self-expression.
There is however light at the end of the tunnel. If we examine revolutions in Afrika we come to the realisation that political will exists in all sections of our society. Kofi Annan said we have the means and the capacity to deal with our problems, if only we can find the political will. We have learnt that where there is suppression or oppression people react the same way. What holds us back from utilising tools at our disposal to topple dictators is the loyalty that state organs have to political leaders. With the support of defence forces and the police we can stage a credible revolution. This was evident in North Afrika.
The current state of our countries calls for revolts and not revolutions – but only for now. Sub-Saharan nations hold recurring elections which are largely dominated by entrenched dictatorships with a smattering of emerging and reluctant coalitions of the unwilling. We have witnessed this in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cote D’Ivoire. These elections do not propel real change and as such, become a muddled affair of corruption and political undermining. The stage for real change has to be set in the rural areas where the majority of Afrikans reside. Revolutions occur not because of the Afrikan community, which remains intact but the Afrikan state, which remains unbalanced and unreflective of Afrikans’ innate democratic feelings.
We need to organise ourselves not just on social networks but also within our own communities. There are many groups on Twitter and Facebook that address issues that face the youth, women and social integration. The magic lies in find a common thread to connect our shared experiences and mobilising our viewpoints as a collective. These efforts can further be strengthened by technological advancements in rural communities as well as backing from the diaspora network. Until then, the era of old school revolutionaries standing on armoured cars, sloganeering, waving AK 47s and blasting out the Afrikan dictatorship will continue but these days are numbered. We are in an era of Social network mobilisation. The inspiration from the Arab spring will manifest in a glorious summer of Afrikan freedom.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Charles Nhamo Rupare is an award-winning Afrikan-centred brand specialist, percussionist, writer and a Pan-Afrikan thinker. He is chief editor of www.kush.co.za, a co-founder of Kush Kollective and a Partner of TEDx Soweto.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
How to end domestic violence
Review of ‘Pulling the punches: Defeating domestic violence’
Violence is integral to our current world. The global war on terrorism, vicious wars in Latin America, in Africa, Asia and Europe have prevailed in much of the 20th century. Whilst war is the public face of violence that is waged for ostensibly ‘good’ causes (that is, the concept of the ‘just war’ and the recent NATO fig-leaf of ‘responsibility to protect’), the violence that is perpetrated within households is hidden, tolerated, silent and oftentimes taboo in many societies around the world. The central questions are: why do some men (and a minority of women, particularly in the developed countries) perpetrate violence against their spouses? What are the causes of domestic violence? How can it be eradicated? This commendable book provides the answers to these critical questions.
Domestic violence is a microcosm of the brutalizing would we live in and the perspective Luke Daniels brings to this highly important issue is one that is not only holistic but thoroughly political (that is, about power and where power lies and ought to lie) and politicized in that it connects the issue to much wider societal issues of subordination and the necessity for liberation to free both men and women. He combines a profound understanding of the origins of domestic violence to the larger oppressive societal values of ‘might is right’ and that ‘a man’s home is his castle’, as well as the patriarchal structures of society, sexism and socialisation.
Domestic violence perpetrated by men occurs in many countries, from the developing countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia to the developed countries of the Middle East, the US and Europe. Written as a self-help manual, Daniels’ book is presented in a highly accessible and personalized style. He writes with enormous empathy, compassion and integrity as a former perpetrator of domestic violence. He is candid in sharing some of his personal experiences with the reader. Such experiences are cogently and usefully weaved in the book and therefore he is highly qualified as a result of such past experiences to counsel perpetrators.
The book is structured into six chapters: The roots of domestic violence; Men’s liberation; Women’s liberation; Giving up addictions; Parenting for change and Building loving relationships. As an interactive manual to be used in counselling sessions, each of the six chapters provides practical exercises for the reader to engage in and the author stresses the importance of engagement in these tasks for confronting the deep-seated behavioural responses, attitudes, values and expectations that are often rooted in negative past experiences of perpetrators.
In the first chapter, the author defines the manifestations of domestic violence as physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse that is demonstrated in attitudes and actions inside the home or outside of it on children by women or men or someone closely involved in the family; that is, an uncle or nephew or grandparent. He places the domestic relationship within the wider context of society by asserting that: ‘If our leaders continue to rely on wars to settle political differences, men will always be socialised to be violent. Real solutions involve outlawing all forms of violence and teaching an ethos of non-violence’ (p. 54). For Daniels the root causes of domestic violence lie in perpetrators themselves having experienced violence in their childhood; sexist attitudes and learnt control patterns that require unlearning as well as a recognition of the ‘triggers’ that initiate violent action. However, he insists that ‘making the decision to give up controlling behaviour will help eliminate the trigger’ (59).
In Chapter Two, the author argues that men are also oppressed despite the fact that they do not like to think of themselves as victims as it undermines their self-image of being superior to women. The reality is that men control the major institutions in our society: the government, army, police and law systems and therefore they are simultaneously oppressed and oppressor. Moreover, men have also internalised their oppressive behaviours, values and stereotypes. ‘The socialisation for violence is what makes war possible; there would be no wars if men refused to fight,’ writes Daniels (p. 84). Furthermore, ‘the states’ dependence on men being prepared to fight is one reason why the socialisation for violence is one of the most important factors in the oppression of women’ (p. 84).
Whilst he discusses how war impacts negatively on children and draws on Iraq where thousands of children have been orphaned by war and witnessed the brutalities of war, there is the omission of the devastating wars that have raged in Africa, particularly Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somali where child soldiers, involving young boys alongside adult men, have carried out acts of shocking violence. Similarly, the author mentions how women have been affected by war in Kosovo, yet examples of women in the aforementioned African countries give shocking examples of how rape has been used in many political conflicts all over the continent.
The book is a springboard for inter-cultural and cross-cultural discourse on how healing from violence – whether domestic violence or the outcome of political warfare – must deal with the damaged bodies, scarred minds of men, boys, women and girls who have survived amputation or rape, or have been the perpetrators of such crimes in many societies around the world.
In Chapter Three which examines women’s liberation, the author contends that ‘defeating patriarchy will require fighting at both the personal and political levels’ (p.105). The deeply rooted ideas of sexism that both men and women have been conditioned since birth and through deep-seated cultural values to accept as the natural order of things is pervasive and often unnoticed and unchallenged in many societies. The author believes that understanding how sexism works (how it operates in use of language, subtle behaviours and not so subtle language; that is, the derogatory language used to describe women) is important in defeating the oppression of both women and men.
In the fourth chapter, Giving up addictions, the author challenges the perpetrators of domestic violence to confront addictions that are often a root cause or contributory factor in their violent behaviour. Addiction to drugs such as alcohol, cannabis, gambling etc is often symptomatic of the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that perpetrators harbour. Therefore the issue of addiction – particularly, giving up such addictions - must be integral to the awareness-raising and altering of thought patterns and negative actions that trigger violence.
Chapter Five, Parenting for change, is very important as it addresses the question of how the cycle of violence can be broken. For Daniels it lies in a conscious engagement with how children are brought up as well as perpetrators confronting the fact that they are most likely to have been hit as children. It is also about cultures allowing boys to show and learning to in order to be in tune with their emotions. Not doing so transmits messages to boys (and girls) that tears are for girls and women and a sign of both weakness and inferiority.
The final chapter looks at how new relationships built on genuine love can be built and sustained. In terms of who would benefit from this book, it is certainly the case that perpetrators who are committed to seeking to change their behaviour, counsellors in women’s organisations and other health professionals – those dealing with alcohol or drug addiction for example –will find it a rich resource. Governments, institutions and civil society organisations, grassroots community organisations genuinely committed to eliminating the vice can do so through the strategies and approaches examined in this important book.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* ‘Pulling the punches: Defeating domestic violence’ by Luke Daniels is published by BogleL’Ouverture Press, 2009.
* 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.
No court poet for Mugabe
A review of Tendai Mwanaka’s ‘Voices in Exile’
‘Court poets sung praise to power and excesses’ but Tendai Mwanaka ‘speaks truth to power directly’, writes Philo Ikonya in a review of a recent collection of works by the Zimbabwean writer, ‘filled with strong and open political poetry.’
Court poets sing praise to power and its excesses. Tendai speaks truth to power directly. Greed is indicted. Mwanaka has suffered in his flesh and blood. The metaphor he uses cuts. Politicians have to hear that they are gorging themselves. Living on corpses. Tendai Mwanaka left Zimbabwe to live in exile in South Africa where he had temporary visas. His whereabouts today are unknown. Mwanaka is a prolific writer and has poems published in over 50 magazines. Since he was 20 years old he has been writing. He worked on several manuscripts over the years. These include poetry (six collections), short stories (two collections), non fiction (one manuscript) and a full length novel.
Before exile, Mwanaka has been to a place which one never forgets: Prison cells. The reason, his voice. He was in Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Zimbabwe. In ‘Brutal Times’, the first poem in the book, he writes of the ‘beatings and gorging, chopping... of steady howling, sexual and psychological abuse.’ He has endured much. The world’s attention may have departed Zimbabwe but Mwanaka is still talking and watching. He lifts his voice... his pen. He writes in ‘A war memorial for Mugabe’:
‘How could a single man wipe out millions?
In and outside his country
and gorge thousands in daylight,
for over three decades
Whilst the whole world keeps mum?’
Mwanaka reminds me of South African poet Ingrid Jonker’s words in ‘The Child is Not Dead’:
‘... the child lifts his fists against his
Who shouts Africa
Shouts the breath of freedom and the veld.’
Mwanaka’s voice, still laden with metaphors such as the child for the land, is filled with strong and open political poetry. A child of his times, he does not hide names. He tells South Africa’s Zuma quite clearly that he played a poor role in helping South Africa. Read his thoughts on more leaders in Africa, the AU, the UN, SADC and the world. In the tone of a voice in exile we find betrayal, anger, sadness, sombre reflection, pain, doubt, suffering and a feeling of being hedged in – even hanged – expressed. But the poet and the desire for change are not dead. Mwanaka still believes Afrika. His style is free. He is lyrical, rhyming where he wills.
When an identity is confronted with a crushing power at so many levels, a sense of alienation can be overwhelming. All valves of expression can burst open or be lost. Mwanaka has known abuse of human rights. He knows of dignity flattened until it becomes a milk song. He expresses it through his cat Marvin not without a little humour:
‘I gave Marvin some milk to drink
But she just smelled it
And refused to drink it.
I spoke of the D.R.C
But she just stared at me.
‘I spoke of the elections in Nigeria and Kenya
She started jumping up and down the table.
I spoke of Zimbabwe’s problems
She stopped, and stared at me again.
‘I said it is all because of Mugabe
She just smiled at me like some elfin child.
I spoke of South Africa
And of how Jacob Zuma is good for this country.
She started mewing and growling
And moved out of the room.’
The cat goes away. Mwanaka stays in the room writing. People like Thabo and Zuma deserve no break. They are neighbours who watch Zimbabwe dying. In a few crisp lines full of images none in power will like, he does them a Zapiro, his lines like a simple sketch of a brilliant cartoon:
‘Mugabe protects himself,
From western angers
By using South Africa.
As a condom.
‘Whilst he kills
Just like Zuma
From corruption charges
By using a shower cap and baby oil.
Whilst he rapes
Lady-justice South Africa.’
A young poet carries a continent alive in him examining its rot and its corruption. Looking all around the earth, he stands like Atlas. At some stage he will parade all the people he sees as The ‘Axis of Evil’ in the world, and he will ask the world a brave question. Should he exit from the human race?
‘MY AXIS OF EVIL
SOUTH AFRICA, CHINA, RUSSIA,
VIETNAM AND BURKINA FASO
(for blocking the sanctions resolution on Zimbabwe, especially South Africa for its
moral bankruptcy and ineptitude to deal with the Zimbabwean situation, and China
for sending arms to Mugabe, the weapons which were used to kill innocent people).
SADC, AU, UN (for their procrastinations and their failure to deal with most of the disturbances in Africa and the whole world). And the list is longer, and a typical poem does not serve him. He short prosaic breaks in between.
‘ZANUPF supporters, all Zimbabweans wherever there are now,
including me, and whilst I am still at Z, I am tempted to include
Zuma (for corruption, AIDS denials when he was deputy to the
Chief-denialist Mbeki, and for his stupidity, honestly he galls me
and reminds me of that ominous pestilence in the Mugabe-form
and making. If you were me you would run like I am already doing).
Lastly the international court of whatever justice, for letting the
‘PS. I am tempted to include FRANCE, PORTUGAL, for inviting
Mugabe to meetings in their countries
‘PPS. Not to forget USA, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, Italy,
New Zealand, Germany and Japan (for their becoming irritating
noises, useless pollution!), and all the other countries in the world, you
would think they would do something about it!
‘And always the last question. To be or not to be in all this?
“One wishes one could emigrate from the entire human race,
death (DYING!), that too!”’
Ingrid Jonker committed suicide at 32 years of age in 1965 in South Africa. It is clear that regardless of her own upheavals, her sharp pen and soul could not contain the gloom that ensued in the recognition of a humanity so bereft of substance, joy and meaning which bubble in the undying energies a child brings with it.
But the child is not dead. It is the undying expectation and the longing that people will together stand up for a better world that is betrayed. The child lives no matter how the agony deepens, no matter how subjective the poet is alive. His longing is that others realise that no part of the world can be in suffering and the rest be well. It is as simple as the body. If the little finger is sick, the person is unwell.
You would have to be strange if in poetry coming out of Zimbabwe you did not see HIV/AIDS and currencies; souls as destroyed as monies in millions, lives extirpated and the helplessness of opposition politics in the whole game:
‘Now they each have a free ministry
to bleed out gazillions of Zimkwachas
and farfillions of the coveted US$ and Rands
That Gono, steal, another boy
from antiretro viral funds and programmes.
Whilst Mugabe elects himself and acts
as the President, Prime minister, and
the Parliament, in the absence of
Tsvangirai who now acts as Zimbabwe’s
ambassador to Botswana.
At least with no passport of his own.
But who shall act for Zimbabweans
with nowhere to go?’
It is easy then to see that often literature is a ‘Literature scourging history’. It is also literature testing the present to see what past made it. It is literature searching timelessly. Time changes in exile:
‘To smell the heat still rising in our birth place
We are the way to the way it used to be
Foreigners in a new place, still waiting
Waiting for light, space and time’
Mwanaka writes then pouring out his soul, sees himself made into violent bombs, and he writes love and hope:
‘No one ever listens to us
So give me all your fears
Let me hold all your sorrows in my heart
This poem is yours
To harvest that which has been lost’
He says a lot but Mwanaka writes the ‘Said and the Unsaid’ as the last poem. But it is what Mwanaka writes in the poem ‘Coming Home’ that has me arrested, my mind restive and I have to hold a long silence. You will read it and walk along the village paths he is still familiar with finding things have changed. That Thomas his childhood friend who did not leave Zimbabwe went mad:
‘I was later told that he had developed
Anger inside his heart
and that he ran and ran on roads
away from what he didn’t know
in his heart, and that
he kept saying the demon’s name
and paid the price of a broken will
and vanished into the depths.’
The poet has been in two worlds, grappling with the guilt of leaving in his safer haven all the time. From South Afrika back to Zimbabwe, Mwanaka wrote this poem. It reveals that everyone at home was living in exile at home:
‘The kitchen’s doors were opening and closing
always watching, waiting for him?’
One would that there was still something in the hearts of those mad men who destroy nations that could be touched by such words coming so innocently from a man not so long ago a child himself.
That there would be more men like Mandela who would read Ingrid Jonker’s ‘The Child is not Dead’ in all our nations seeing that as it is clear that most of these countries need a re-birth, a natural one, the touted renaissance perhaps having aborted the poet does not express sensing hints of it anywhere.
‘Coming Home’ is another call that for both Thomas and Ingrid’s child we must all keep vigil and throw off the invisible and visible notorious passes:
‘Strolling along the road
But this day, without a map
I walk home
and sit on the cement bench
that surrounds the better half
of my mother’s kitchen
and had a plateful of Sadza.
Although the Sadza here
is still as good as I remember
so much has changed.’
Mwanaka’s poem, ‘Coming Home’ is the poem that will always bring me back to this volume of ‘Voices in Exile’ to feel, hear and smell the place the child seeks to call home in Afrika. The place a poet cannot lose in themselves and in our societies.
It is a long and hard walk into that hidden place with daring hearts, a sacred place. Afrika seen as our open temple, that has also been so ruthlessly destroyed and which Mwanaka wants to re-construct by meeting those ordinary friends, people he knows.
Somehow, the realisation that things will never be the same makes us press home to Afrika harder rather than lose the hope which the Child in the poet brings us. It is that hardened silence that the poet hears that calls urgently home, and I know I see him with others in exile and in the diaspora, determined to be back, to nurse the loneliness that hugs entire villages there. Before more Thomases, more Tendais are dead or maddened, take your visions home:
‘But tomorrow I will go to the meadowlands.
May the wide meadowlands still be there?
For me, unlike Thomas.
That borders on those north knolls
which seems so small, so sweet, so soothing
like when we were small and chasing rainbows.
The rush of these memories
greying with this day.
Realising another irreplaceable loss
of some fine company.
Leaving me again in sadness.’
I hope that Mwanaka can one day write new poems in the meadowland, Let us ask Mugabe, where is Tendai Mwanaka? Why are so many Zimbabweans mourning in their meadowlands, Mugabe?
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Tendai Mwanaka’s ‘Voices in Exile’ is published by Lapwing (2010).
* Philo Ikonya is a Kenyan poet and activist.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Gong of death
In remembrance of Wangari Maathai
Dennis Dancan Mosiere
The gong of death
Is going to silence
The life bells
And snatch my soul
Take it into deep wells
Dark and unknown
In resounding decibels
This gong shall cause
A mass celebration in demise
Recounting a life lived in torrents
It shall cause heartbreak
Leave less a mark to walk
It shall provoke
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Dennis Dancan Mosiere aka Grandmaster Masese is a poet, musician, writer and Fahamu Pan African fellow For Social Justice.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Kenya and women in kadhis courts
Not quite the role for women the Chief Justice has in mind!
Selling our OWN to China
China in Zambia
al-Shabaab in Kenya
Three famous apples...
Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe offers Rowan Williams tea but little sympathy
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams presented Robert Mugabe with a dossier of alleged abuses perpetrated against worshippers over the past four years. In response, the president delivered a history lesson on Anglo-Zimbabwean relations, detailed his own religious upbringing and reminded Williams that the Church of England is 'a breakaway group' from the Catholic church. Despite persistent rumours over the 87-year-old president's health, Williams commented: 'He's on top of things intellectually.'
Botswana: Gender and employment
This report on Botswana is the first of two country studies (the second concerns Mali) that examine gender and employment in Africa. The study is informed by two broad development frameworks. The first is the Millennium Development Agenda that views Millennium Development Goal 3, Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, as a critical determinant in the attainment of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and more broadly, poverty reduction. The second is the African Development Bank’s Managing for Development Results (MfDR), the organisation’s blueprint for development effectiveness.
Côte d’Ivoire: 100 female candidates for elections
The chairperson of the Coalition of Ivorian female leaders (CFELCI), Mrs Mariam Dao-Gabala, has launched a sensitisation campaign for the mass participation of women in the country's parliamentary elections, scheduled for 11 December. Entitled 'Why not female MPs?' the campaign aims at mobilising women to break from the past and participate massively in the elections.
Global: UN chief wants resources to go to rural women
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the international community to give rural women the same access to productive resources as men, noting the huge benefits that would ensue. 'Despite the heavy responsibility rural women shoulder, they lack equal access to opportunities and resources,' Ban stated in a message, released ahead of the International Day of Rural Women.
Kenya: Female judges irk Kenya muslims
A decision by Kenya’s chief justice to introduce the post of female judge in Shari'ah courts is sparking a heated controversy in the African country, with Muslim scholars lashing out at the move. Kenyan Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has earlier unveiled plans to introduce a post of female magistrate in the Islamic courts. He said that the move is part of judicial reforms in the African country, a claim rejected by Muslim scholars.
Kenya: Widow’s determination inspires others to improve their livelihoods
Phyllis Hakola Jimmy lost her husband in a road accident ten years ago. With six children to look after, life was not easy for the 57-year-old widow. Hakola struggled to feed her children and pay their school fees. Then in 2006, she decided to act, reports Farm Radio Weekly. She met with three other widows. She says, 'I...told them that we cannot just stay with the children without looking for ways to make ends meet.' She asked them to help her form a widows’ group. She wanted to find a way for widows to help themselves and improve their livelihoods. For three years, the widows’ group has been able to access bank loans. Each widow manages her own income-generating activities. But the women also farm collectively. Every member repays a specified amount on pre-determined dates. In this way, each of them contributes to repaying the loan.
Madagascar: Women tackle population growth
In Madagascar the minimum legal age for women to marry is 14 years, and girls under the age of 18 can be married without giving their consent, providing their parents agree. A 2004 UN report estimated that 34 per cent of Malagasy girls between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed, and more than a quarter had at least one child. The organisation Femmes Interessee au Development de Antalaha (FIDA) provides information about reproductive health and better access to contraceptives, but funding is becoming hard to come by.
Ethiopia: UN Demands urgent Answers over Gibe III Dam
The UN’s growing concern over Ethiopia’s construction of the controversial Gibe III dam has prompted it to demand urgent information from the African state. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has given Ethiopia until the end of January 2012 to provide reliable evidence that independent assessments have been carried out, and that tribal people in the region have been properly consulted.
Gambia: Jailed minister protests tough jail conditions
Lawyers for a Gambian minister charged with treason have said that his health is at risk as he was being held in a filthy prison cell. Mr Borry Touray told the high court in Banjul that former information and communication minister Amadou Scattred Janneh is confined in a leaking and dirty prison cell that could harm his health.
Guinea: Worst forms of child labour still widespread
The law does not necessarily make much difference when it comes to child labour: in Guinea and Mauritania the worst forms of child labour persist despite it being banned by law, leading child protection experts to call for a better understanding of the dynamics behind it. West Africa adviser for child protection at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Joachim Theis told IRIN: 'Until now there has been very little discourse which makes the links between strategies taken by parents to find a solution for each child in the context of informal employment, and the application of international norms.'
Libya: Concern over detainee abuse
In 'Detention Abuses Staining the New Libya', Amnesty International reveals a pattern of beatings and ill-treatment of captured al-Gaddafi soldiers, suspected loyalists and alleged mercenaries in western Libya. In some cases there is clear evidence of torture in order to extract confessions or as a punishment. 'There is a real risk that without firm and immediate action, some patterns of the past might be repeated. Arbitrary arrest and torture were a hallmark of Colonel al-Gaddafi's rule,' said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Malawi: Death of a student activist and a campaign of terror
Early on the morning of 24 September, University of Malawi Polytechnic student Robert Chasowa was found dead. Initial reports were that the death was as a result of suicide, but since then speculation has grown about the cause of the student activist's death. This Global Voices article looks at the reaction of blogs and official media channels to the death.
Mauritania: Group warns against violence
The African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights (Raddho) has urged Mauritania's government to opt for dialogue over a census under way and to reject 'blind police violence'. One man has been killed and at least 15 others have been injured, according to Mauritanian rights groups, in southern Mauritania since 24 September during clashes between police and black opponents of the census.
Rwanda: Short film on genocide case
REDRESS – a London-based charity that works with victims of torture, many from Africa - has produced a short film on the trial of Joseph Mpambara, an important genocide case. In July, a Dutch court sentenced Mpambara, a businessman from Mugonero, Rwanda, to life imprisonment on war crimes. The trial took place on the basis of universal jurisdiction. The film offers a very rare opportunity to see the inside work of the appeals court in the Netherlands, as its judges try to establish if Mpambara was responsible for war crimes that took place in 1994 in Rwanda. The film is available from the REDRESS website.
Uganda: Death row inmates to get free legal services
Human rights activists have launched a project expected to provide free legal assistance to inmates on death row. The development will also see the mitigation of the inmates’ sentences in the High Court. The project is part of an ongoing advocacy to scrap the death penalty in the country. Under the project, planned initially to benefit at least 15 death row inmates, human rights activists will also lobby for law reforms and conduct public education for various stakeholders as well as dissemination of sentencing guidelines.
Côte d'Ivoire: Conditions for displaced worsening
Almost half a million Ivoirians remain displaced five months after the country’s post-electoral civil conflict ended, afraid of returning to their homes for fear of reprisals, while a sluggish response to funding appeals means living conditions for many are getting worse. A 12 October report by NGOs Oxfam, CARE and the Danish Refugee Council warned of a two-thirds shortfall in the UN appeal for emergency funding to deal with around 450,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country, as living conditions for many deteriorated.
Kenya: Protesting IDPs storm out of Mawingu camp
Mawingu internally displaced persons stormed out of the camp on Monday protesting government’s failure to purchase land for them. Led by their chairman Peter Kariuki and other officials, they regretted that the government had failed to respond to their request to have them resettled on a 6,000 acre piece of land that they had identified at Wiyumuririe in Laikipia.
Somalia: Thousands displaced as fighting flares in Mogadishu
Hundreds of families are on the move in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after three days of fighting between government troops supported by African Union peacekeeping troops (AMISOM) and Islamist insurgents, local sources told IRIN. 'We don’t have exact numbers but hundreds of families are on the move, particularly from Heliwa, Suuqa Xolaha, Karan [north Mogadishu] and Dayniile [northwest],' Abdullahi Shirwa, head of Somalia's National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), told IRIN.
South Africa: Living the SA dream on borrowed time
Despite years of trying to obtain legal documents of his citizenship and residency status, Jabulani Sibanda remains undocumented. Without them, he is resigned to living quietly and unobtrusively under the radar of officialdom. 'I always find myself back at square one,' he said, shrugging at the repeated obstacles he faces. 'I know no other life but one of being sent from pillar to post, begging and ingratiating myself into and out of situations. It is my life.' Sibanda's problems started when he was seven, when he and his mother crossed illegally from Zimbabwe into South Africa.
Latest edition: emerging powers news roundup
In this week's edition of the Emerging Powers News Round-Up, read a comprehensive list of news stories and opinion pieces related to China, India and other emerging powers...
1. China in Africa
Miners put down tools, want more money in their pockets
More than 500 Zambian workers at Sino Metals copper processing plant went on strike on Friday for higher wages, in the latest industrial action to hit Africa’s top copper producer, just two weeks after its new president took office on the promise of improving conditions at Chinese-owned mines. “The strike today spread to Sino Metals where workers want higher salaries,” National Union of Mine and Allied Workers general secretary Goodwell Kaluba told Reuters on Friday.
New Zambian President Criticizes China's Labor Mismanagement
Negligence and ignorance of Zambian labor laws by Chinese mining firms had pricked the temper of Zambian president Michael Sata, in spite admitting Chinese investments are helping his country move towards economic growth and stability. Sata said Chinese companies investing in Africa's biggest copper producer are most welcome but only if they obeyed the law, especially by employing more Zambian workers.
Health sector receives 15 Chinese experts in Luanda
At least 15 experts will reinforce, as from this month, the health services of Luanda, in ambit of a cooperation memorandum signed here between Angolan Ministry of Health and government of China. The agreement was signed on Tuesday by the Angolan incumbent minister, José Van-Dúnem and Chinese Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary ambassador to Angola, Gao Kexiang.
China, South Africa Pledge Closer Law Enforcement Cooperation
China and South Africa on Tuesday agreed to further promote law enforcement cooperation in fighting crime and maintaining public order and safety. The agreement came out of the meeting between China's Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu and South Africa's Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa in Beijing on Tuesday afternoon.
Tanzania secures China loan for 300 MW power plant
Tanzania has secured a loan from China to build a $684-million gas-fired power plant in the south of the country to plug energy shortages in east Africa's second biggest economy, the government said late on Wednesday. The 300-megawatt (MW) power plant will be built at Mnazi Bay by China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corporation (CMEC) and German engineering group Siemens, the government said.
2. India in Africa
India, AU discuss on action plan
India and the African Union have held meetings on 7 October, 2011 to discuss the Action Plan under the Enhanced Framework of Cooperation adopted at the Second Africa India Forum Summit held in Addis Ababa in May 2011. A delegation led by Gurjit Singh, Additional Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs had discussions with the African Union Commission and the Multilateral Affairs Sub-Committee of the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the African Union.
India wants contentious issues to figure in Durban climate talks
India made it clear on Monday that it wants contentious issues, including access to intellectual property rights, to be a part of the upcoming climate change talks at Durban in South Africa. New Delhi has submitted a proposal to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, asking it to include three issues in the agenda. They are: unilateral trade measures, intellectual property rights and equitable access to sustainable development.
India, South Africa to cooperate on electoral reforms
India and South Africa Tuesday decided to cooperate on election administration, management and reforms. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on this by India's Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and South Africa's Electoral Commission Chairperson Brigalia Bam. Election Commissioners V.S. Sampath and H.S. Brahma were also present on the occasion. Under the agreement, both countries also decided to exchange officers to enhance their experience in electoral management and administration.
India-Africa business partnership summit in Hyderabad from Oct 12
A two-day India-Africa Business Partnership Summit, to be organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Union ministry of commerce and industry and the Andhra Pradesh government, will be held in Hyderabad from October 12. Over 120 African and 250 Indian delegates, comprising chief executives, heads of public and private sector corporations and independent consultants, will congregate at the two-day summit to share and showcase business opportunities for Indian and African companies.
3. In Other Emerging Powers News
India, Brazil, South Africa to engage in 5th IBSA Summit
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heads for Pretoria Monday on a three-day visit to attend the 5th India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Summit Oct 17 in which global economy and security will be among issues of prime focus, officials said. The summit in the South African capital is being hosted by President Jacob Zuma and will also be attended by Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. The prime minister will hold bilateral meetings as well with the two leaders, officials here added.
Brazil eager to share agricultural experiences
Brazilian Government plans to extensively share, with African countries, data on good practices, concerns and research and development in agriculture. Joao Inacio Padilha, Brazilian Ambassador to Botswana made the announcement at the recent Botswana National Agriculture Show (BNAS) in Gaborone.
SA will not deviate from African bloc in key climate talks
South African will take an “African” position at the global climate change meeting in Durban later this year, Environmental Affairs chief negotiator Alf Wills said on Monday, while acknowledging that the continent was not united on some environmental issues. South Africa, which is the president of the Seventeenth Conference the Parties (COP 17), has key trade partners within the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and the Ibsa (India, Brazil, South Africa) grouping of countries, as well as strong relations with the US, particularly through the African Growth and Opportunity Act. But Wills said the country’s position on climate change was aligned with the African position, pointing out that Brics was not a negotiating bloc.
China's stepped up moves in Maldives worry India
Alarm bells are ringing afresh in the Indian security establishment over renewed efforts by China to expand its footprint in Maldives, even as New Delhi and Beijing continue with their strategic shadow-boxing all across the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). With China poised to establish a full-fledged embassy at Maldives, strategically located southwest of India astride major sea lanes in IOR, officials say Beijing has stepped up its "lobbying'' to bag a couple or more of crucial development projects in the 1,190-island archipelago.
4. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
China rural migrants young, restless and online: report
China's young migrant workers believe manufacturers can afford bigger pay rises and they are increasingly willing to strike to win them, according to a report that documents the spread of labor unrest across the country's export zones. The Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, which advocates stronger rights for workers, also said in the report on Tuesday the tens of millions of young migrants from the Chinese countryside are increasingly adept at using the Internet to mobilize.
If Chinese traders in Africa are exploitative, what are Africa countries doing to prevent it?
In the frequent talk about whether booming China is 'colonizing' Africa through rising trade and investment, it is usually taken for granted that the African countries are passive partners. Mention is often made of Chinese companies in Africa underpaying the locals or mistreating them in one way or another. Another common complain about the Chinese economic onslaught throughout China is that Chinese small traders are now encroaching on areas of small business that are supposed to be reserved for locals, and that this is not real 'investment.'
SA's foreign policy lacks confidence
The imbroglio caused by the Dalai Lama's visa application has added another blemish to South Africa's foreign policy, underscoring the heavy price the country is paying for its relationship with China. What we have witnessed in the past week is signs of the regressive evolution of South Africa's foreign policy, the loss of its independence and the crumbling pillars of the country's commitment to progressive values under President Jacob Zuma.
Different in Africa? Now’s India’s chance
In November 2010, India announced it was reopening its mission in Lilongwe, more than 15 years after it closed. Over the past few years, there have been regular delegations going between the two countries. Trade and investments have grown in everything from pulses to pharmaceuticals. Indian phone company Airtel is Malawi’s most popular network. For a long time, there has been a prominent community of small and medium Indian business owners in Malawi, a third or fourth generation diaspora. This means that India has an advantage over China when it comes to involvement in the country — they are seen less as outsiders, swooping in to pillage, according to one local journalist.
'India, Once Colonised, Has Turned Into A Coloniser'
The California—based Oakland Institute released a report earlier this year that documents some of the problems caused by the acquisition of land by foreign firms, including Indian ones, in Ethiopia and other African countries. Putting this global trend of ‘land grab’ under the spotlight, the report highlights the social and environmental costs of this phenomenon that have been largely overlooked by the media. Outlook interviewed Anuradha Mittal, the India—born—and—educated founder and executive president of Oakland Institute, to find out why she thinks India ought to share part of the blame of causing “depravation and destitution” in Ethiopia.
Botswana: Discontent grows
Discontent with political leaders is mounting in Botswana, which has long been held up as a model of democratic governance in Africa. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party's (BDP) secretary-general Kentse Rammidi plunged his party into a crisis by his resignation recently, bemoaning a lack of internal democracy. Rammidi's decision followed a move by Labour and Home Affairs Minister Peter Siele to declare teaching, veterinary services and diamond sorting to be essential services.
Cameroon: Opposition to ask court to annul vote
Cameroon's opposition parties said on Wednesday they would ask the Supreme Court to annul a presidential election because of widespread irregularities. Joshua Osih, vice-president of the main opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF), said evidence of double-voting and a lack of ballot papers in some polling stations meant the results, which are due in coming days, could not be credible.
Egypt: Elections set to go ahead after Coptic clash
Egypt is still set to hold parliamentary elections according to schedule, despite heightened tensions in Egypt following a military attack on a Coptic Christian demonstration last Sunday that left 25 dead and hundreds injured. Some have expressed fears that the incident and its aftermath could further obstruct the long-delayed election process.
Global: Occupy Protests live blog
On this page, Al Jazeera staff and correspondents update you on important developments from Wall Street and around the world as the 'Occupy' financial crisis protests go viral. This page includes videos, photos, tweets and comments.
Global: United for Global Change protest map
This online map shows the locations around the world where Occupy Protests have taken place. Protesters can report events for the map by sending tweet with the hashtag/s #event15oct or by filling in a form. According to the map protests took place in Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Niger and Mali.
Kenya: Amending Constitution is in bad faith
As Parliament resumes, one of the motions lined up for debate is the proposed amendment to the Constitution to change the election date and the one-third gender representation clause. Already, the government has published the proposed amendments, and despite stiff opposition from lobbyists, religious groups, the private sector and the Constitution Implementation Commission, it is hell-bent on pushing them through, says this Daily Nation article. 'If the amendments go through, the government will have a set a very bad precedent, where it resorts to changing laws whenever it is faced with difficult choices.'
Kenya: Kenyans want elections held in August
The desire to have a strong economy and employment may decide who will be Kenya’s next president, according to an opinion poll by Infotrak. The poll indicated that 86 per cent of Kenyans want to participate in the 2012 polls because they yearn for change. At the same time, half of Kenyans would like the General Election in August, while 37 per cent prefer December 2012.
Kenya: Uhuru Kenyatta blames ODM, Raila for post election violence
One of the post election violence suspects at the Hague, Uhuru Kenyatta, says that Raila Odinga, the Kenyan prime minister should take political responsibility for ordering a mass action after the announcement of presidential election winner in 2007 in which President Kibaki was declared the winner. Uhuru said that the violence could have been stopped had Raila ordered so.
Liberia: Presidential runoff after disputed election
Winston Tubman, Liberia's main opposition candidate, has withdrawn a demand for a recount of the presidential poll and said he will take part in a runoff. Latest results announced on Sunday showed that newly named Nobel Peace laureate Johnson Sirleaf was leading with 44 per cent of the votes, ahead of Tubman of the CDC party, on 32.2 per cent with 1,162,729 valid votes and 96 per cent of votes counted.
Nigeria: Presidential panel warns on revolution
The Nigerian Government Investigation Panel on the 2011 Election Violence on Monday submitted its report to President Goodluck Jonathan, warning that if the current social, economic and security situation in Nigeria are allowed to continue without addressing them it could 'escalate to social revolution'.
Uganda: Succession politics at play in oil saga
'How could they make this decision without us meeting first?' asked a visibly bemused President Museveni at a news conference, called in reaction to Parliament’s unanimous decision to set up an ad hoc committee to probe bribery claims in the oil sector. The NRM leader has every reason to worry when trusted cadres such as Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, Chief Whip John Nasasira and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who many believe has inscribed his name on the presidential door as Mr Museveni’s successor, are publicly humiliated by corruption allegations. Talk is rife of a silent rebellion within the party - not least inspired by the secrecy shrouding the oil deals.
Kenya: Report on transnational organised crime in Kenya
Transnational criminal networks are corrupting and undermining state institutions in some countries to such an extent that they pose a threat to the state itself, according to two new reports from the International Peace Institute (IPI) made public on 4 October in Nairobi. The reports, entitled 'Termites at Work: Transnational Organized Crime and State Erosion in Kenya', were launched at an event, co-hosted by the International Peace Institute and the Nairobi-based Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG).
Tanzania: Questions surround Prime Minister’s list of leading taxpayers
Addressing the closing session of the 2011/2012 parliamentary budget, the Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda, named 15 companies which he said led in tax payment in the country. However, Mr Pinda’s list did not only end up raising more questions than answers, but also helped to confirm a long held view that many big companies were not paying taxes, says the website www.corruptiontracker.or.tz
Uganda: Ex-VP Bukenya granted bail pending trial
Former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya has been granted bail pending trial, after spending a week on remand. Bukenya is charged with abuse of office for his role in the award of a deal worth Shs9.4b to supply 204 executive vehicles four years ago during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to Motorcare.
Uganda: Oil bubble bursts
A Uganda MP submitted a document that pointed a finger at several ministers, including Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, as having pocketed billions of shillings in commissions as the House opened a stormy debate on what they called the 'shameless corruption' ripping through the oil sector. The dossier titled: 'Brief on Uganda’s Oil deals' was tabled by the Youth MP for Western Uganda, Mr Gerald Karuhanga, containing alleged details of dates and bank transactions through which the illegal payments were reportedly made.
Africa: Urban Africa by numbers
Rapid urbanisation is being portrayed – by the UN, the World Bank and many others – as a potential developmental 'silver bullet' for Africa. Cities, we are frequently told, will be the drivers of economic growth and poverty reduction on the continent in the years to come. But larger concentrations of people are not automatically generating benefits – quite the opposite, says this article. 'The social, economic and political consequences of policymakers continuing to ignore the best available demographic research could be grim. For example, appropriate food supply networks and health services require sound knowledge of population distribution and migration patterns.'
Africa: Why Africa cannot spend on its citizens
Africa's debt repayments to the International Monitory Fund, World Bank and other multilateral lending institutions have choked social spending on the continent, a recent report reveals. With a combined debt standing at US$350 billion, this means whatever money comes in by way of 'aid' and 'assistance' from donor countries and institutions is meaningless and merely meant to ensure government's function sufficiently to pay off annual dues to lenders. Africa spends more than US$15b annually on servicing its debts. The report by the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD) is titled 'African Debt Crisis - A Humanitarian Perspective'.
Angola: Global financial crisis reduces Angola's GDP growth
The effects of the global financial crisis, which has hit Angola since 2009, has contributed to the slump of the average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate from 17 per cent in 2008 to two per cent in 2009 and three per cent in 2011, according to the minister of economy, Abraao Pio Gourgel.
According to the government official, this situation has occurred despite government's stimulus to economic activity, due to the dependence on the oil sector, which accounts for 45 to 50 per cent of GDP and over 75 per cent of state revenues and 98 per cent of total exports.
DRC: An environmental powerhouse beset with critical threats, UNEP Study
This Africa Files post is a summary of a UNEP report on DR Congo’s post-conflict natural resources environment. It states that the country has immense natural resources and could become a powerhouse for Africa’s development if the multiple threats to these resources are urgently addressed.
Global: Developing countries out in the cold at WTO
Developing countries, particularly from Africa, are concerned about attempts by industrialised nations to change the negotiating dynamic of the World Trade Organisation. They are worried that developed countries want to introduce new issues at the multilateral body’s eighth ministerial meeting later this year without first completing the unfinished Doha agreement. The Doha Development Agenda (DDA) trade negotiations, launched in 2001, were meant to correct the historical imbalances and asymmetries in the global trading system and were designed to enable poorer countries to integrate into the system.
Global: World Bank warns on aid cuts
The World Bank has warned rich countries against considering cuts to development assistance at a time of growing fears over a potential global recession. 'The temptation is great when a crisis looms – as it does now - for rich countries to slash development assistance. This would be a grave mistake,' World Bank Vice President for Africa, Obiageli Ezekwesili, said.
Namibia: Billions in balance if trade pact fails
Namibia will have to pay more than half a billion dollars in duties if the country has not signed the economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) by January 2014. The EU recently adopted a proposal to stop Namibia from enjoying duty- and quota-free access to its markets if the country refuses to commit to the controversial trade pact by then. The European Council still has to approve the proposal. Without preferential access, Namibia would have to pay an average of 19,5 per cent duties on all future exports to the EU.
Africa: UN alarm over cholera epidemic
A cholera epidemic sweeping through west and central Africa, one of the largest in the region's history, has killed at least 2,466 and infected 85,000 more, this year alone, according to the United Nations. Unicef, the UN Children's Fund, said the virulent disease was causing an 'unacceptably high' rate of fatalities and called for a redoubling of efforts from government agencies.
Ghana: Doctors' strike still on
Sick people have been left to their fate as Ghana’s doctors continue with their strike that began on 7 October over a salaries dispute, a move backed by the Ghana Medical Association (GMA). The actual dispute is with the government’s Fair Wages Commission (FWC) which the GMA is accusing of putting professionals with similar skills and job descriptions in different salary scales.
South Africa: Citizens need to act on HIV/Aids
The HIV and AIDS discussion needs to become inclusive of citizens so that their needs can be reflected in policy design at every level of government, says this report. When citizens become active in facing up to problems such as HIV with policy makers and planners, they develop capacity and confidence to take ownership and responsibility for common concerns in public life.
South Africa: Details on SA's human resources strategy
The training of more doctors, the refurbishment of nursing colleges, the appointment of retired nurses and specialists and the building of more hospitals and medical faculties are some of the plans presented by health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and the launch of the Human Resource for Health Strategy. 'A number of studies and our own assessment attest to significant gaps in the planning, production and deployment of human resources for health. Further evidence indicates that the training and production of certain key health worker categories has stagnated or reversed over the years. The weak management skills in the public service aggravate the situation even further,' he said.
Global: Women and the teaching profession
The study presents findings from Dominica, Lesotho, India, Samoa and Sri Lanka. It explores the feminisation debate from a variety of perspectives that have dominated much of the discourse on the role of women teachers within expanding education systems, particularly within primary education provision. The study analyses issues through a broader lens on gender equity as it pertains not just to education, but also to employment and women's rights and empowerment more generally.
Global: Gay marriage on the map
Blog Africa is a Country has a post showing a global gay marriage map. South Africa is the only African country of 10 worldwide to have national laws extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians. 'And as we know South Africa is not the most gay friendly countries,' the post states.
Kenya: LGBTI pastoralist organisation launched
Behind the Mask’s Melissa Wainaina revisits Upper Rift Minorities, an LGBTI organisation in Kenya dedicated to the nomad and pastoralists of remote northern Kenya. Behind the Mask featured the organisation in August 2011 and it was struggling to get recognition and support. Now programme officer Brian Okollan speaks of the progress the organisation has made since.
Kenya: Outrage as LGBTI activist denied visa
Kate Kamunde, a well-known Kenyan LGBTI activist has for the second time been denied a visa to attend a rights training session in Canada. The visa denial has caused dismay in civil society circles with the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi coming under fire in a letter from the Canadian organisation that had invited Kamunde for the training. Kamunde, the Program Coordinator, AFRA-Kenya was scheduled to attend a key training by the Women’s Human Rights Education Institutes (WHRI) in Canada.
Malawi: Law to ban gays from adopting children
A new law on child adoption in Malawi is proposing to ban gays and lesbians from adopting children. The law will also not allow individuals found to have unsound mind and former convicted criminals to adopt Malawian children. The proposals were unveiled by Malawi’s special Law Commission chairperson Judge Esmie Chombo in the capital Lilongwe.
Uganda: Prize awarded to SMUG
The 2011 Rafto Prize is to be awarded to Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Frank Mugisha, executive director of SMUG, will receive the award on behalf of the organisation. The prize is awarded to SMUG for its work to make fundamental human rights apply to everyone, and to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
West Africa: Concern over UK aid cut threat
A number of prominent West African LGBTI activists have urged the British government to rethink its recent threat to cut aid to 'anti-gay nations'. The activists suggest that the British government move with caution in the matter as it could result in even more homophobia when the general public and marginalised groups who rely on foreign aid for day to day survival blame the LGBTI community for the loss of their sustenance.
South Africa: Terre'Blanche murder trial enters second week
The Eugene Terre'Blanche murder trial was expected to enter its second week in the high court sitting in Ventersdorp on Monday. Last week, seven witnesses took the stand. Five of them testified that the two farmworkers accused of killing the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader had confessed to the crime. Terre'Blanche's former employees, Chris Mahlangu and a minor, are accused of beating and hacking him to death in his North West farmhouse on 3 April last year.
South Africa: Climate policy to map out transition to low-carbon economy
South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy, which was approved by Cabinet this week, would help the country map out a socioeconomic transition to a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy and society, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said on Friday. The policy would seek to balance the objectives of job creation, economic growth, environmental sustainability and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Tanzania: A case study of CDM carbon sink projects
The main aim of this Timberline report is to question the claims made by Green Resources Ltd (GRL) in pursuit of CDM registration for its Idete project, as well as to expose and highlight the
problematic nature of market-based climate change mitigation projects. Findings from studies on tree plantation afflicted areas in other countries were used for comparison and to inform the Tanzanian study so as to identify common issues and trends and therefore help establish the likely impacts of similar tree plantations in Tanzania.
Africa: PAP debates reports on land grabbing, climate change, Libya and Tunisia
The Pan-African Parliament, in a recommendation on land investments, has called for a moratorium on new large-scale land acquisitions, pending implementation of land policies and guidelines on good land governance. PAP has also called for the establishment of an African Ministerial Conference on land-based investments equivalent to the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCE) and the African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW).
Kenya: Government starts resettling evictees
The Kenya Government has started resettling people evicted from forests in Rift Valley and Western provinces with lands minister James Orengo opening bids to buy land for the evictees. Mr Orengo said those to benefit from the land to be purchased by the government are people evicted from Mau and Embobut forests. The minister denied that the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was using resettlement issues in Rift Valley as a campaign gimmick.
Kenya: Nairobi Action Plan to advance land-based investments that benefit Africa
Participants at a two-day High-Level Forum on Foreign Direct Investments in Land in Africa have resolved to promote land-based investment models that increase agricultural productivity and maximize opportunities for Africa’s farmers. The traditional leaders, government representatives, private sector and civil society actors at the Forum stressed that the majority of Africans derive their livelihoods from agriculture, including pastoralism, and that women comprise the majority of smallholder famers. The outcome - dubbed the Nairobi Action Plan - underscores the need to minimize the negative impacts of large-scale land acquisitions.
Sierra Leone: Growing tension in Malen Chiefdom
According to local sources from Sahn Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun district, the police have arrested up to 30 peaceful protesters including their spokesman Eddie Amara and took them to Pujehun. They are accused of public disorder according to the local unit commander. Land owning families are blocking the Socfin (SAC) operation area in Sahn Malen, south of the country. The company is one of the large scale investors in oil palm plantation in Sierra Leone.
South Africa: Getting customary land rights wrong
A statement authored by Ruth Hall and Andries du Toit from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) has described a proposal by the Democratic Alliance on tenure rights for poor people in former Bantustans as 'entirely unrealistic and probably almost impossible to implement'. 'The proposals they put forth are misguided, outmoded, and based on a mistaken analysis of the problem. They are likely to make matters worse, not better.'
Global: Biofuels and speculation driving up food prices
A new report on global hunger pinpoints factors at the heart of spikes in food prices it says are exacerbating the unfolding food crisis in the Horn of Africa. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) points to climate change, growing demand for biofuels, and increasing commodities futures trading in global food markets as the causes of price increases in food, which it says were also at the root of the food crisis of 2007-2008.
Global: Blog action day 2011
Since 2007, Blog Action Day has focused bloggers around the world to blog about one important global topic on the same day. Past topics have included water, climate change and poverty. This year, Blog Action Day will be held on 16 October, which coincides with World Food Day, so the theme is food.
Malawi: Farm subsidy programme shrinks
More than 200,000 Malawian farmers who depend on government subsidies to grow enough food to feed their families will have to go it alone when the agricultural subsidy programme is pruned. During the 2010/11 farming season 1.6 million farmers received vouchers to buy heavily subsidised fertilizer and maize seed, costing the government and donors 23 billion kwacha (US$152.3 million). Now, in the midst of a crippling economic crisis, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has announced that only 1.4 million farmers are eligible to receive vouchers for the 2011/12 season.
Africa: End injustice of impunity, protect safety of journalists, PAP told
The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African regional organisation of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), called on the legislative body of the African Union (AU), Pan-African Parliament (PAP) to end injustice of impunity and protect safety of journalists. 'As parliamentarians, you are readily expected by the journalists' community in Africa to end the injustice of impunity for crimes against journalists that has been rocking the continent and contributed to the lack of safety for journalists,' said Omar Faruk Osman, FAJ President, addressing PAP's select committee on justice and human rights. It was the first time since its establishment that the PAP addressed the issue of freedom of expression.
Angola: Journalist faces a year in prison
Reporters Without Borders has condemned the 'illogical' conviction of newspaper editor William Tonet for libel and an order for him to pay a 10 million kwanzas (€77,000) fine within five days or go to prison for a year. The supreme court will not agree to hear his appeal unless he first pays the fine. 'The libel has not been proven and the judge was clearly in league with those suing the journalist, who has been a target of the authorities for a long time,' the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
Kenya: Free expression standards should guide fight against 'counterfeit' mobile phones
In a country where only 8.6 per cent of the population has access to the internet - and where freedom of information is limited by a pervasive culture of secrecy - the importance of mobile phones in Kenya extends far beyond one to one communication. In this context ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned by the latest plans by the telecommunications regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), to deactivate all 'counterfeit' mobile phone handsets by the end of the year. 'In light of the importance of mobile phones in Kenya, penalising the consumer rather than the perpetrator of the fraud is manifestly disproportionate.'
Kenya: Public broadcasting and liberalisation
Kenya’s liberalisation of the airwaves since the mind-1990s has resulted in the transformation of broadcasting with numerous stations now serving as a platform for information and public debate, says this Public Broadcasting in Africa Series from AfriMAP. 'This has promoted a culture of participation in the democratic process, and has impacted positively toward good governance.' However, there is a need for media laws and regulations on the statute books to align with the country’s new constitution.
Liberia: Sirleaf angered over broadcast; state TV boss suspended
The Liberian authorities on 26 September 2011 suspended indefinitely Ambrose Nmah, the director general of the state-owned Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) over the broadcast of a press conference in which George Oppong Weah, the running mate of the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), was alleged to have verbally assaulted President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) correspondent reported that the opposition leader in a press conference on 24 September repeatedly told the media which was broadcast on LBS that 'Ellen, that lady, she brought war, she is known for bringing war not us'. Weah’s comments, the correspondent said, angered President Sirleaf and her supporters.
Malawi: Journalist receives death threats
An open death threat has been made against journalist Joseph Mwale, who was fired from the Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) radio over a leaked recording of a conversation where Foreign Minister Professor Peter Mutharika was captured discussing his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidature in the 2014 presidential elections. The message threatened the journalist that they will make him 'a villain because you will soon die'.
Nigeria: Five newspaper journalists arrested
Nigerian police on 11 October arrested five senior journalists and two other officials of a Lagos-based private newspaper, the daily said in a statement. The Nation newspaper said in the statement that it believed the arrest was in connection with its front page report last week on a 'secret' letter allegedly written by ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Jonathan. In the purported letter, published on the front page of the newspaper, it was alleged that Obasanjo had asked President Jonathan to dismiss officials of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).
Tunisia: Media reform urged ahead of elections
As Tunisia is preparing to hold historic elections on 23 October, the profound reform of the media sector is yet to take place, despite genuine initiatives taken and valid recommendations made by competent groups and voices. In this context, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), a coalition of 21 free expression groups, urges the interim government to authorise without any further delay the 12 radio and five television services recommended by the National Authority to Reform Information and Communication (INRIC), respectively on 29 June and 7 September, to start broadcasting.
Tunisia: Social media lifts the silence
After 23 years of enforced silence, media professionals and artists in Tunisia are enjoying a period in which their freedom of expression is being respected for the first time. Hundreds of cyber-activists from across the Arab world gathered in the birthplace of the Arab Spring last week at the third meeting of Arab bloggers to discuss the role of social media and cyber-activism during popular revolts that toppled dictators in North Africa.
Tunisia: TV station shut down
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has condemned the ruling of the judge in charge of state disputes to shut down the satellite channel Tunisia TV. The judge designated to state disputes decided on 9 October to shut down Tunisia TV under the pretext of broadcasting an interview with Hemma Al-Hammami, leader of the Tunisian Communist Labor Party, following the launch of the electoral campaign.
Zimbabwe: Award for reporter over rape survivor article
Global Press Institute (GPI) has announced that Gertrude Pswarayi, a GPI reporter on their Zimbabwe News Desk, won this year’s 2011 Kurt Schork Award in the local reporter category for her piece 'Political Rape Survivors Come Forward in Advance of 2011 Election', an article published last December about women who were raped and exploited in Zimbabwe.
DRC: The lasting effects of war on children
According to the 2009 United Nations Human Development Index, almost 80 per cent of households in this Central African nation now live on less than two dollars a day. Child poverty is estimated to be even higher, says the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with eight out of 10 children not having access to basic services, such as education, health, nutrition or safe drinking water. 'The situation of Congolese children is worrisome. Only about a third of children of primary school age attend primary school,' says UNICEF DRC monitoring and evaluation specialist Bertin Gbayoro.
Kenya: Obama snubs Kenya's diaspora conference
More than 500 US residents with a blood connection to Kenya gathered in Washington recently in the first conference focused on the diaspora's relationship with the homeland. One particularly prominent figure was absent however: President Barack Obama. Kenya's US Ambassador Elkanah Odembo said organisers had invited Mr Obama, whose father was Kenyan, to attend the event. The White House replied that the president's schedule did not allow for such an appearance.
South Africa: ANCYL says US has 'no respect for humanity'
The United States's incarceration of the 'Cuban Five' proves that it has no respect for humanity and justice, the ANC Youth League said. In a statement supporting the release of the Cuban Five, the league criticised the US government for its approach to international politics. 'In the spirit of international and human solidarity, the ANC Youth League is of the conviction that the incarceration of the Cuban Five by the United States government is not only unjust, but a gross violation of human rights and disrespect of the integrity and sovereignty of Cuba.'
DRC: Assessing the Dodd-Frank Act and its chances of success
The latest news about the US conflict minerals law is that California State has become the first state in the United State to pass its own conflict minerals legislation. This legislation mirrors Section 1502 of the national legislation, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which also aims at addressing the problem of conflict minerals originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). All companies, regardless of whether they are importing to the US raw or processed minerals, or as finished components, are expected to report on the due diligence they have undertaken to verify their supply chain and avoid conflict-promoting metals.
Kenya: Kenya sends troops to attack al-Shabab
Kenyan troops have crossed into Somalia and have driven out al-Shabab fighters from two bases near the border in a joint operation with Somali soldiers, according to a Somali military commander. Kenya has said it would hunt the fighters they accuse of being behind several recent kidnappings of foreigners.
Libya: Tripoli on maximum alert after clashes
The Libyan authorities have put the capital, Tripoli, on maximum alert after clashes between forces loyal to the National Transitional Council (NTC) and supporters of the former leader, Mouamar Kadhafi, left three dead and 30 injured. The clashes in the capital between NTC combatants and a group of Colonel Kadhafi’s supporters, estimated at between 20 and 50 armed men, were in the districts of Abu Slim and Al-Hadba. Kadhafi, who disappeared after NTC forces took Tripoli on 22 August used his latest audio message broadcast by the Syrian channel Arrai, to rally his supporters to fight the NTC.
Somalia: Clashes force Mogadishu hospital to close
Heavy fighting between government forces and militant Islamists in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, has forced the closure of a hospital, an aid group says. Dr Ahmed Mohamed said the shelling of a maternity unit run by SOS Children on 10 October killed one staff member and forced patients and staff to flee. This was the first time in 25 years that the hospital had closed, he said.
Sudan: Blue Nile hospital struggles to treat shrapnel wounds
Kurmuk hospital in Sudan’s southern crisis-hit Blue Nile State is struggling to cope with an influx of war wounded, according to hospital doctor Evan Atar. So far he has treated 626 people for shrapnel injuries since clashes began last month between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) opposition political party-turned-rebel group.
Uganda: Obama sends US troops
Why is the US sending its troops to finish off a fractured band of bush fighters in the middle of Africa?
President Barack Obama announced he is dispatching about 100 US troops - mostly special operations forces - to central Africa to advise in the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army - a guerrilla group accused of widespread atrocities across several countries.
Ghana: Developers nurturing big dream for African languages
Tucked away in Kumasi, Ghana’s second city, is a small office manned by four ambitious software engineers promoting African languages and cultures around the world through publishing downloadable phrase books for study. 'It started as a dream but three years after we set up Nkyea Learning Systems (NLS), the company has been able to develop software to help in the study of Akan and Swahili,' NLS chief executive officer Kwabena Sarpong told the Africa Review.
Global: Do new social media create new forms of citizen action?
Is ‘citizen action’ anything other than the struggle of people to right what they perceive as wrongs and limit the power of the cruel and the unjust? Participants at a conference in the Hague, organised by Hivos, under the title 'The Changing Face of Citizen Action: A Knowledge Exploration' noted the common assumption in the room that 'citizen action' would inevitably lead to more advancement of values the room shared - more democracy, more social justice, more respect for universal rights. But in some parts of the world, 'citizen action' is mobilising fiercely against abortion, against LGBT rights, against other sects and ethnicities.
We Have Faith climate newsletter available
The latest edition of the 'We Have Faith - Act Now for Climate Justice' newsletter, which deals with climate change and news in the lead up to the COP17 event in Durban, is now available.
DRC: Addressing spine care in the DRC
The Spine Africa Project focuses on three objectives: the treatment of those afflicted with spinal conditions, the education of local medical personnel, and social change. Each of these three factors contributes individually to what seems to be an exclusively medical epidemic. Visit their website for more information.
STARS Impact Award
Deadline: 7 November 2011
There are only four weeks left until the closing date for all Stage 1 2012 STARS Impact Award applications: the deadline is 1pm GMT, Monday 7 November 2011. To apply to the 2012 Impact Awards, visit http://www.starsfoundation.org.uk/en/impact-awards/where you can apply online or download the application form. If you have any questions about the application process, contact us at: email@example.com The STARS Impact Awards identify and support local organisations that achieve excellence in the provision of services to disadvantaged children and that demonstrate effective management practices.
Forced Migration Review issue 38 now available
The effects of changes in technology - particularly in communications technology - on displaced people and those who work with them are unevenly understood and appreciated. The 32 articles and short pieces in the feature theme section of this FMR look at some of these changes and their implications. This issue also includes a selection of general articles on migrant deaths at sea, fleeing from Cairo, language training for refugees in the Czech Republic, refugees after the Japanese earthquake, a strategy for urban areas, partner violence, transitional justice in Kenya, and local integration.
Global: Race & Class
October - December 2011
The October - December 2011 issue of Race&Class is available. It includes:
- Spaghetti House siege: making the rhetoric real
- ‘Seize the time’: an interview with Stephen Jones
- The Attica Liberation Faction Manifesto of Demands
- Mariner, renegade and castaway: Chris Braithwaite, seamen’s organiser and Pan-Africanist.
Unemployment: who's to blame
Issue No.21 of Amandla Magazine is now available. Apart from a focus on the issue of unemployment, it contains a Q&A with Ronnie Kasrils and articles on the euro crisis, the Occupy Wall Street protests and the arms deal.
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