Pambazuka News 553: Nato occupies Libya; Famine, genocide and the Senegalese Spring
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Immediate reaction to the assassination of Gaddafi
Death of Gaddafi
The news of the killing of Colonel Gaddafi in the battle to take Sirte marked one more episode in this NATO war in Libya and North Africa. The killing has all of the hallmarks of a coordinated assassination, synchronized between NATO aircraft and forces on the ground. The reports are that Gaddaffi was attacked when he was attempting to leave Sirte in a convoy. The convoy was attacked from the air. The National Transitional Council has announced that the war is over but the very nature of this execution guarantees that this uprising will not end soon.
This execution comes one day after the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the United States openly called for the political assassination of Col Gaddafi, the Libyan leader. "We hope he can be captured or killed soon," This statement guaranteed that although Gadhafi was captured alive he was killed while injured.
The very management of the news of this execution represented efforts to influence the continued political/military struggles within the divided forces. The hijacking of the body and its transportation to Misrata was one more indication of the internal struggles in the NTC and Libya.
It is still urgent that the African Union and the United Nations work for the demilitarization of Libya and for the work to organize an inclusive government in Libya. The execution of Gaddafi comes in a week of heightened military action in parts of Africa, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and the Horn.
This remilitarization of Africa and new deployment of Africom is a new stage of African politics. Remilitarization, killings, and death will not answer the cries for democracy, peace, and food in Africa and other areas of the world where the exploited and marginalized are raising their voices against oppression. A new revolutionary energy is sweeping the world manifest in the current general strike by workers in Greece and the massive occupy wall street movement with 900 manifestations all over the world last weekend.
In every case over several decades, examples of militarization and remilitarization have increased the anguish of those living on the margins of wealth and power. I am certain that careful investigation will expose the callous disregard for human life, what in NATO and Western Military language is called "collateral damage." Given the cloud that hangs over this killing that it was most likely a coordinated execution - those of us who are on the side of peace and justice asks the following questions:
Why did the West want him dead?
Did they have something to hide?
The answers to these and other questions now lie with the corpse of a man who was more friendly to capital than to his people.
Peace and justice forces must work harder to end wars, plunder and western military interventions in Africa.
* 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, and a contributing author to African Awakening: The emerging revolutions. He is currently Visiting Professor, Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
Somalia: Manufacturing a famine
How the crisis became a fund-raising opportunity
On July 18 this year, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea tabled a report to the UN Security Council.
The report stated that United Nations agencies, international humanitarian aid organisations and local Somali non-governmental organisations had been forced to move their operations or cease them entirely in many parts of Somalia, mainly due to “an alarming void in international humanitarian aid and development assistance,” and also because of “threats from elements of Al Shabaab,” who control much of southern Somalia.
Two days later, the UN’s World Food Programme — the largest distributor of food aid to Somalia — declared that Bakool and Lower Shebelle, two regions in southern Somalia, had been hit by the worst famine in 20 years.
The UN agency further claimed that 3.7 million people across the country — almost half the total Somali population – were in danger of starving, of which 2.8 million were in the south.
This declaration led to a massive multimillion-dollar fund-raising campaign by UN and international humanitarian agencies. Meanwhile, journalists began referring to the famine as a “biblical event.” By September, Time magazine was reporting that the famine had expanded and that a full 12.4 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda were at risk from hunger.
The magazine also stated that in southern Somalia, 63 per cent of the population was either starving or at risk of it.
These figures did not convince many Somali analysts, including Ahmed Jama, a Nairobi-based agricultural economist and former consultant with the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation.
“I was disturbed by the WFP announcement because Lower Shebelle is Somalia’s breadbasket and had even experienced a bumper harvest last year,” he told this writer.
UN agencies, including WFP, use an Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) scale developed by the FAO-managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) to determine levels of food insecurity, which range from “generally food secure” to “famine/humanitarian catastrophe.”
IPC uses a number of indicators to pronounce a famine: Acute malnutrition in more than 30 per cent of children; two deaths per 10,000 people daily; a pandemic illness; access to less than four litres of water and 2,100 kilocalories of food a day; large scale displacement; civil strife; and complete loss of assets and income.
Jama says that the IPC scale is too broad to be useful because it could apply to virtually every African country, where malnutrition and poverty levels are generally high.
“In the case of Somalia, the timing of the UN’s famine appeal appeared suspect, as it coincided with the beginning of the peak harvest season in July and the start of the short rains, known as Deyr, in September,” he adds. “And this is not the first time that a famine has been declared. It seems that in the past 20 years, Somalia has been in a permanent state of crisis, instead of moving towards development despite the myriad development agencies operating in the country.”
“Historically, people from Bay and Bakool move to Lower Shebelle during a drought and go back during the short rainy season between August and September,” says Jama. “So, even if there are people who face starvation in food insecure areas, their migration to Lower Shebelle is usually temporary, and does not warrant a declaration of famine.”
Luca Alivoni, the head of FAO-Somalia insists, however, that the food crisis in southern Somalia affected farmers more than pastoralists in the north because farmers tend to stay on their farms “to protect their crops”, whereas pastoralists migrate with their animals to areas where there is pasture.
“Farmers cannot move with their land, so when there is a famine, they face starvation,” he says. “And that is why Lower Shebelle was so affected.”
But was there really widespread famine, or were the famine figures exaggerated or misinterpreted? FSNAU’s estimates for Somali populations “in crisis” in the period August-September 2011 were highest in the most fertile southern parts of Somalia, and were highest in those areas controlled by Al Shabaab.
Significantly, there were only 490,000 people (less than one-eighth of Nairobi’s population) in Somalia who were experiencing what the IPC classifies as “famine” or a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
In fact, about half of the nearly four million people that the WFP claims are starving are actually experiencing what is known as a “humanitarian emergency”; the rest are in an “acute food and livelihood crisis.”
Therefore, I think the widely reported “famine” in Somalia is highly exaggerated. What Somalia is experiencing is generalised food insecurity, not widespread famine. Unfortunately, most media organisations have failed to mention or comprehend this fact.
Is it possible that the “famine” in Somalia was “manufactured” to raise funds? The sequence of events leading to the famine appeal certainly raises suspicions. According to Jama, the timing of the famine declaration in July was probably a response to the shortfall of funds that WFP has recently been experiencing and also to divert attention from the criticism that the UN agency was subjected to after the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia released its 2010 report in March last year.
Then, WFP was castigated by the UN Monitoring Group for colluding with corrupt Somali contractors who are known to sell or divert food aid. Sources interviewed by the Monitoring Group — an entity mandated by the UN Security Council to monitor arms embargo violations in Somalia — estimated that up to half of the food aid reaching Somalia was regularly diverted, not just by Somali transport contractors, but by WFP personnel and NGOs operating in Somalia. That 2010 report led some donors, notably the US, to withdraw funding to WFP’s operations in Somalia.
However, the European Commission is one of the major donors that has continued to support the UN’s efforts in Somalia since 1995.
The EC has been providing core funding to various projects to enhance food security in Somalia, which are implemented by various UN agencies and international NGOs, including FAO. Currently, the EC has committed a total of 175 million euros to various programmes and projects throughout Somalia that deal with governance, security, health and education. In Lower Shebelle, the bulk of the EC’s assistance goes towards rural development and food security projects, mainly for irrigation rehabilitation and crop diversification. The share of rural development and food security projects receiving EC funding is also high in the Middle Shabelle region, where almost half the EC funding goes towards these projects.
Given the high level of EC investment towards rural development and food security in the past 15 years, it is paradoxical that southern Somalia should continuously suffer from acute food insecurity. Georges-Marc André, the European Union representative to Somalia, told this writer that this could be due to the fact that the full impact of EC investments have not yet been realised in Somalia. Besides, he adds, much of the agriculture in Somalia is rain-fed and poor rains last year could have contributed to the famine this year.
Alivoni, on the other hand, blames lack of sufficient investments in Somalia’s agricultural sector. He says that while the EC funding is welcome, it is just a drop in the ocean, and a lot more funds need to be devoted to agriculture to prevent another famine.
Jama, who has studied EC-funded rural development projects in Somalia, finds these arguments weak, considering that much of the EC funding is ostensibly used to rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure and to improve the capacity of farming communities. “Clearly, there is a mismatch between the resources made available by the EC to UN agencies such as FAO and the dismal picture emerging from what are generally considered the most agriculturally productive regions of southern Somalia,” he says.
“How is it possible that millions of euros of investment could not avert a famine in those regions?”
Assessment and monitoring of project success or failure is further complicated by the fact that the EC is not in a position to evaluate projects it funds in Somalia; that job falls on the implementing agencies. According to André, “The EC is not entitled to do external audits of the UN agencies that it funds,” thanks to a 2003 Financial and Administrative Framework Agreement (FIFA) that permits UN organisations to “manage EC contributions in accordance with their own regulations and rules”.
In essence, this means that the UN agencies that the EC funds monitor and evaluate their own projects, without recourse to an external auditor or evaluator. And because the EC is a donor, and not the implementer of projects, it largely relies on the UN to provide it with the data and performance reports on projects that it funds. This is problematic, because it means that the UN agencies can easily manipulate the data and the reports to suit their own agendas, needs and funding requirements.
UN ‘SLOWING DOWN’ SOMALIA’S RECOVERY
The EU representative to Somalia, however, cautiously admits that the EC is concerned that its efforts in Somalia are being hampered by UN agencies that are flooding Mogadishu with food aid. In an environment where free food is readily available, he explains, farmers do not get value for their produce, which suppresses food production.
Agencies also often work at cross-purposes, with the lack of co-ordination meaning the work of one agency could in effect cancel out the work of another. André says that UN agencies such as WFP and UNDP could actually have “slowed down” Somalia’s recovery by focusing exclusively on food aid, instead of supporting local farmers and markets.
Phillippe Royan, a technical adviser to the EC’s Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), says that a number of donor agencies are also beginning to question WFP’s ability to deliver food aid in all regions of Somalia. “It seems that most of the food aid is concentrated in Mogadishu and does not extend beyond Gaalkacyo (in central Somalia),” he notes.
“This means that affected populations have to walk long distances to reach the food, which carries other hazards. For instance, they could die on the way or be raped. ”
WFP has conducted a very aggressive fundraising campaign to cover the needs of south and central Somalia till the end of the year, says Royan. But what are those needs, and who is assessing them?
According to Royan, FSNAU — which is funded by the EC, and partly by USAid, the Italian government and WFP — is the only setup that provides data on food insecurity in Somalia. Almost every humanitarian organisation relies on its data to assess malnutrition and famine levels in the country. However, given the fact that almost a third of Somalia is “governed” by Al Shabaab, which has banned most UN agencies from operating in areas that it controls, the question arises how FSNAU managed to get so much detailed information on regions such as Bakool and Lower Shebelle, which are Al Shabaab strongholds.
Grainne Moloney, FSNAU’s chief technical advisor, says that her unit’s nutrition surveillance project has 32 full-time Somali field staff and a part-time enumerator network of some 120 people all over Somalia who gather data and do surveys on food security and nutrition.
“There is a common perception that (aid) agencies don’t operate in the Al Shabaab-controlled areas,” she says, “but many agencies work well and quietly in those areas. However, most agencies do not publicise their presence for security reasons.”
What is surprising in the case of Somalia is that the FAO does not see the contradiction between implementing multimillion-euro rural development and food security projects in southern Somalia and at the same time declaring those regions as food insecure. If the projects had been successful, there might not have been a food crisis in the country — with or without Al Shabaab. And if they were not successful, then are the EC funds not wasted in Somalia?
The FAO-managed FSNAU says that the latest crisis in Somalia is due to the failure of the Deyr rainy season last year and poor performance of the long Gu rainy season from April to June this year, which resulted in the worst crop production in 17 years.
The question we might ask is: Why are Somali farmers still relying on the rains when EC and other donors have contributed millions towards irrigation rehabilitation projects?
It is possible these projects were not successful – that most of the funds went to administrative overheads or were mismanaged by project implementation agencies.
Whatever the case, the crisis in Somalia should prompt a rethink at every level of the aid effort.
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* This article first appeared in The East African
* Rasna is a columnist with the Daily Nation.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
German denial of Herero genocide
Skulls returned to Namibia
Namibia has just repatriated the dead heads (skulls) of their great grandparents who were hacked and beheaded genocide-style by the German colonial settlers.
The history of truth is being re-written as Africa gets so much angry when we see the very killers trying to play super masters instead of bowing down and apologising to Namibians and Africans for their ancestors’ bad behaviour and colonial mentality.
Our organization is very annoyed and angry looking at the behaviour that white people from the colonial states show against Africa and Africans. The inhuman treatment that Germans gave on the handing over of the skulls to the Namibian delegation reminds us of the way these same white people are doing things in our continent.
White people are happy and eager to try our African brothers and sisters at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the past mistakes that took place between Africans against Africans. The international media make headlines and sell a lot because of African stories, but when it is the Germans facing justice and truth against Africans of Namibia, the media is deaf and mute; the international community is quiet as if the skulls are not of human beings violently butchered.
If it is Charles Taylor facing justice, all media of the world will be there; when it is the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the whole universe is awoken.
This has been the case with apartheid South Africa where black peoples’ voice of passion for the freedom of their country fell on deaf ears at the UN and other international arenas. When Africa was crying for freedom, no one cared.
According to current reports, the very same white people have been on a conspiracy trying to undermine the cause of freedom for the African people.
The fall of Kwame Nkrumah, death of Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara and so many nationalist Africans – they were deposed, killed or detained under the influence of the white people in order to stifle Africa’s total liberation.
What the German government did recently in Berlin by not according a better reception to the delegation who went to collect the skulls of the Namibian people who lost over 85 percent of the population has opened the wounds of the African people; where every time white people want to look superior and behave like they created Africa.
This is the same with the American, British and French governments who took slaves from Africa and are failing to come into the open to apologise and pay compensation to Africa and Africans.
Evidence is still coming that proves that the British and Americans enjoyed slavery as the tool for their economic growth and industrialization.
This pulls back our belief and trust of white people; we see them as enemies of our African future.
White people continue to try to control Africa by manipulating African leaders. The speech of the ambassador of Germany on our own soil when the skulls were accorded a state funeral was very appalling and disgraceful.
Namibia and Germany with or without the genocide were supposed to be involved in bilateral relations in development, but to deny that there can never be special reparations and compensation of the Herero and Nama victims is a joke of present day neo-colonialism and no African citizen will buy that story.
Does Germany have no embassy in Israel? Doesn’t Germany have bilateral relations with Israel? Why did the Germans pay the Jews? Is it because Herero and Nama people are black Africans?
This is why we are writing to all Africans to realize that whatever we do with white people in Africa is in the interest of the white people, not us Africans.
History itself explains why Namibians were beheaded and their heads taken to Germany. It was an insult to the race of Africans as a whole.
This issue alone of testing the brains and other features of the skulls demands compensation of billions of Euros; though money cannot buy back their lives, it will heal and justify the cause of justice among all the people of the world in disregard of race or colour.
The behaviour of the Germans keeps digging up the buried history of scramble, slavery, partition, colonization and other ills these white people harshly perpetrated on African people across the continent.
Their evil deeds killed so many Africans and paralysed the whole continent in sectors of human civilisation.
They committed terrible and horrible atrocities on African people that included hacking, cutting into parts, beheading, hanging and raping of our grandmothers.
That resulted in modern-day Africa having over a third of the population with a biological connection to the bloodline of those shameless occupiers. Yet no African could touch a white woman.
The late former president of Botswana Seretse Khama was barred from taking over his paramount chieftainship because of his love for a white woman from the UK. He was prohibited and sent into exile because he had committed the grievous crime of marrying a member of the ‘superior race’. He nearly faced imprisonment under the rule of the white occupiers.
Indian people consider it taboo and an abomination for an Indian woman to be married to a black African; not even just falling in love. But male Indians and white people have impregnated so many African women across the continent without being questioned or imprisoned. This is evil that Africans cannot tolerate today.
It is this occupation that brought draconian rules in Africa, some of which are still in practice today in so many countries. Governments that wanted to adopt African ways of doing things – our own Ubuntu –were overthrown. Kwame Nkrumah and Muammar Gaddafi are notable examples, as is Patrice Lumumba.
Under the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was forced to sign for independence that did not show any significance in terms of granting total freedom to the African people of Zimbabwe. Mugabe wrote: ‘I felt cheated after signing the draft document and lamented that we could achieve more freedom in the bush than what we achieved on the table of negotiation.’
Zimbabwe was robbed of its true freedom by the document which favoured and supported the interests of the occupiers – this made sure that land, which was the main reason for fighting in the liberation struggle, would remain in the hands of the colonial settlers. This is one reason Africa must fight for restorative justice and compensation without beating about the bush by the language of diplomacy.
This has been the white man’s policy and agenda of handing over power to the owners of the African continent. This is meant to enable the departing settlers to keep holding on to the land and other resources. As for Namibia even livestock and wildlife are in the hands of these very people who proudly castigated and mistreated the descendants of the owners of the skulls returned from Germany; that government refuses to apologise and take responsibility for their atrocities in this country.
Germans in Namibia have pushed the citizens to the corner, while they own and keep large arable land with kudus, buck, cattle and zebras close to cities and towns.
The biggest economy of Africa (South Africa) is another victim of a big shame, because the very people who pushed the ruling African National Congress (ANC0 into exile and placed most of its members under solitary confinement in inhuman prisons of Africa are calling the shots in a free South Africa today, while the citizens are living in the bondage of shameful poverty.
They have manipulated the system of economy and orchestrated xenophobia against Africans who helped the very apartheid government to develop; they calculated a move to make any black government look like a failure, and that is sparking riots, strikes and protests every now and then.
This is a move to make these agents prove to their masters in the UK, USA and France that the country was better off under apartheid.
All this is happening while arable land remains in the hands of the white people (a clause that is constituted in the agreement for independence signed beforehand) while black Africans have nowhere to call home – living in shacks and in shelters without proper sanitation.
Today the people who fought for the country are being denied friends to visit them because South Africa will jeopardise good relationships with her trading partners; therefore the Dalai Lama cannot enter South Africa to visit a long-time friend, Desmond Tutu. How long are we as Africans going to keep singing the foreign song of praise when our own people who played a role of freeing our states are being sidelined? What is wrong with Africa? I don’t understand.
In Kenya the Mau Mau was another victim in the hands of the British whose cause has been denied for a very long time.
The issue of the Mau Mau is not any different from the Herero and Nama. If in Kenya the former freedom fighters have succeeded in taking the British to court, what can stop the Herero and Nama from suing the Germans who have evidence in their backyard? Africa must support and encourage Namibia to take this case further for justice and restoration
Not just because the Germans are refusing to take responsibility and are unwilling to bury the past with an apology, but because anything that had gone wrong in the past must be verified and corrected in the modern world of today; and those who did wrong have to be held accountable and be made to pay the reparations and compensation for their actions in order to stop such actions from taking place again in future.
Because of this, Namibia has a case with the Germans to correct the wrongs. Reconciliation cannot heal the wounds without proof. We cannot sit back and promote reconciliation when the other side does not want the same to happen. It is inhuman to keep quiet when Injustices were perpetrated on African people just because white people started castrating our voices of Ubuntu from as early as 1500 BC.
In this 21 century, we would like to define the concepts of independence and reconciliation as follows: Independence means freedom from bondage, freedom from control of others and freedom to do what one chooses with what is rightfully yours.
Reconciliation means the application of justice and truth, giving back what was lawfully or unlawfully taken without the consent of the owner, either by grabbing, stealing, force; it also means revealing truthfully how something that does not belong to you was taken, and openly apologising with all the heart and leaving it in the hands of the victim to declare whether you are forgiven or not.
But what is being preached in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa is not reconciliation. It is called perseverance; meaning that those who felt pain must live with pain and say nothing, while those who perpetrated agony on others must continue to live as such, proud of their bad actions. This is the time to review and bring real reconciliation that will be felt by Namibians from all walks of life.
The land that belonged to us must be returned to the owners. South Africa and other states must follow suit. Until the time when we are able to see white people call themselves Africans and act as true Africans, we will not trust their intentions.
We cannot sit side by side and talk freely without grudges in our hearts when we know that these people did what they did to us and seeing those skulls lingering in the museum when we know that in Germany we were not treated with respect. ‘(Kako)(Tats eta//hein xa//kawa !ho-he tite)’ – we will extend a hand of genuine rapprochement and reconciliation with them the day we will hear apologies and reparation paid into our hands.
Africans have observed double standards in world bodies such as the UN which are controlled by the west. We have had some hope in China, supporting our governments in their engagements with the east. But the attitude of China in trying to dictate what type of friends Africa must choose is very worrying. We do not see why the Dalai Lama can be stopped from visiting an individual in South Africa. Are we not running away from the west because of the same attitude of the dictators and going to the east to be treated in the same manner?
The youth of today have so many questions for our leaders and we are getting impatient because poverty is killing our citizens. Recently, Namibia adopted tax hikes for foreign investors for the benefit of citizens but within 72 hours, the government reversed the decision leaving the citizens to pay the higher tax hikes. Something is very wrong in Africa.
We refuse the freedom of sweet talk when our bellies are empty. People want to eat food, have good houses, work and earn good salaries, send their kids to good schools and live better lives. Ever since independence African people have been promised a good life and plenty of food but they have consumed nothing at all – the promises are still being made. Black people are not free yet, and the struggle and fight for freedom has to be re-started.
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* This article was first published in New Era newspaper
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Morocco continues attacks on Western Sahara
Detained Saharawis tortured and forced to sign confessions
Morocco’s human rights record in occupied Western Sahara has always been poor. But since the peaceful protest by tens of thousands of Saharawis (Western Sahara’s indigenous population) near El Aaiun in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara in October last year– the so-called Gdeim Izik protest camp that was the largest ever protest in the occupied territories –t his record is becoming increasingly poorer.
On September 25 this year, Moroccan settlers and security forces again attacked peacefully protesting Saharawis, this time in Dakhla in occupied Western Sahara. Many were injured in these attacks, including women and children, and 28-year-old Saharwi activist Maichan Mohamed Lamin Lehbib was assassinated by Moroccan forces, according to the Saharawi liberation movement, Polisario.
And on Monday, 10 October, Moroccan forces brutally attacked peaceful protesters in El Aaiun in the occupied territories. According to the Polisario, approximately 30 Saharawis were injured and many others arrested.
In Gdeim Izik, as in the other demonstrations, the protesters were intent on showing their frustration with the lack of progress in the co-called Western Sahara conflict, the plundering of their resources by Morocco and the arduous and discriminatory conditions they live under. They have endured 36 years of illegal colonisation, abuse and discrimination by Morocco, as well as nearly 20 years of waiting for a referendum on the status of Western Sahara that is demanded by international law and promised by UN.
Moroccan forces clamped down heavily on the peaceful protest in Gdeim Izik, injuring many of the protesters, killing a 15-year-old Saharawi boy, Nayem Elgarhi, and imprisoning several of the participants.
According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the Moroccan authorities allegedly torture many of the Saharawis whom they have detained, the most common methods, according to Amnesty International’s 2011 report being “beatings, electric shocks and threats of rape.” The detainees are also often forced to sign confessions and brought before military courts on more or less trumped up charges.
Abba Malainin, Polisario’s representative in Denmark, tells Africa Contact that he is ‘very worried that the Moroccan authorities maintain their torture against the protesters, that they will not be given a fair trial and that their health situation is deteriorating.’
‘There were 23 Saharawi human rights activists arrested after the crackdown against the protest camp, Gdeim Izik, last year. They are now in Sale prison near Rabat waiting to be presented to a military court,’ Malainin says.
‘One of these, Cheikh Banga, has been doing a hunger strike since 15 September. His life is in danger. Another, Sidahmed Lemjiyed, President of the Saharawi Committee for Protection of Natural Resources, was detained on 25 December 2010 in El Aaiún. Since then, he has been imprisoned without being accused of a crime and without having been before a court. According to an international group that visited Morocco this week, his health is deteriorating.’
But as Morocco maintains a virtual media blackout in occupied Western Sahara and has banned NGOs from operating there, independent information about the situation in occupied Western Sahara is hard to come by.
‘Morocco is still banning the entrance to Western Sahara of the Media and Independent observers,’ says Abba Malainin. ‘And Morocco has in the past few days banned an international human rights delegation, the Spanish International Association for the Observation of Human Rights (AIODH), from visiting the imprisoned Saharawi human rights activists in Morocco. Also, Saharawis in occupied Western Sahara have no right to free expression or free association.’
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WESTERN SAHARA MEDIA RESOURCES:
Sahara Press Service, press agency of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (proclaimed Saharawi state of Western Sahara in exile)
Sahara Libre, news from Western Sahara
ASVDH, news about HR-violations in occupied Western Sahara
Reuters, Western Sahara
The Guardian, Western Sahara
* Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact, Denmark
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
A Senegalese spring?
The June 23 Movement and democracy in Senegal
This paper intends to analyse the impact of the social movement M23 on civil society activity and democratisation in Senegal. The movement was born into a political system that has historically been described as a healthy democracy, an exception in the region of West Africa, with periodic multiparty elections, an elected national assembly and a strong president.  The constitution guarantees civil liberties such as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religious practice. But this democracy with its rare – for Africa – stability could be under threat, as discussed in Section A. Whether it survives may depend on the efforts of an extraordinary alliance of politicians, activists and ordinary citizens.
In 2000, long-time opposition politician Abdoulaye Wade won the presidential election and overturned 40 years of unbroken rule by the Socialist Party (PS). It was hailed as an historic victory for democracy and the new president promised that the country would never again come under de facto one-party rule for decades on end. But only ten years down the road, Wade’s own government is threatening to become that which it fought so hard to reject. 
First, President Wade has attempted to extend his time in office beyond the two terms permitted by the constitution. He argues that, since he was elected before the current constitution came into force, his first term only began in 2007, a full seven years after he was first elected. Thus he argues that he is still eligible to run for a ‘second’ term in 2012, even though this would theoretically allow him to remain in power until 2019 – 19 years after he was first elected.
In a further attempt to ease Wade’s re-election, the Council of Ministers in June 2010 drafted and adopted a constitutional amendment bill to be submitted to parliament. The amendment sought to amend the Constitution of the Republic of Senegal of 22 January 2001 to introduce the office of vice-president and to lower the threshold for winning the presidency from 50 percent to 25 percent of the vote in just one round, instead of two. It is widely believed by Senegalese voters that these steps, taken together, add up to an attempt by President Wade to win the presidency for a third time, despite a much reduced share of the vote, and to appoint his son as vice-president, putting the latter in pole position to succeed when his father, officially 86 but almost certainly at least 90, passes on.
However, Wade’s plans have been met with extraordinary reluctance from the Senegalese people. Their resistance boiled over on the morning of the 23 June 2010, when hundreds of Senegalese people rallied throughout the country to oppose the tabling of Wade’s constitutional amendment bill in parliament. The mobilization was one of the biggest ever recorded in the history of Senegal and resulted in the withdrawal of the bill.
It was an unprecedented defeat for Wade. But more importantly, it was a striking assertion of democratic values by the citizens themselves. The collaboration - dubbed M23 (June 23 Movement) - of political leaders, civil society, artists, independent personalities, religious leaders and many civilians was fundamental to the success of the campaign.
The campaign against the constitutional amendments was initiated on the 17 June, when RADDHO (Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits des l’Hommes), a world renowned human rights organization based in Dakar, organized a press conference in partnership with different organizations including Amnesty International, the Senegalese League of Human Rights and civil society organizations working around elections, to denounce the proposed bill. They argued that the proposed amendments were incompatible with the Senegalese constitutional regime and would have dire consequences for the 2012 presidential elections and the future stability of the country.
Later, this group established a committee and met with political leaders who shared their concerns about the president’s plans. Out of this meeting the slogan ‘Hands off my constitution! emerged which emphasised the power placed on the constitution in protecting the rule of law and rights of people in Senegal. The objectives of the movement were: (i) to respect and safeguard the constitution and democratic principles; (ii) to promote transparency and fair elections; and (iii) to advocate for the adoption of urgent measures of good governance.
It is open to question how far the coalition of activists that has emerged in Senegal represents the majority of the citizens, or how far counter demonstrations by Wade’s supporters are authentic. What is undeniable is that this new model of civil society collaborating with the opposition, clergy and other actors is becoming a common feature in African democracies. Is it reasonable to postulate a growing recognition that achieving political and social change requires collective consciousness and organisation and cannot rely on the short-term impact of street protests or the individual efforts of any one party?
THE SENEGALESE SPRING?
This paper intends to analyse the impact of M23 on civil society activity and democratisation in Senegal. Since the beginning of 1990, there has emerged in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa (and other parts of the world) an unmistakable and almost inexorable process of democratization, variously named the ‘second African independence’ or ‘second liberation’. Rather than fighting for freedom from foreign rule, Africa is on a new path, in Larry Diamond’s words, ‘to freeing African peoples from the domestic tyranny, oppression, corruption and gross misgovernance that have characterized the political experience of most African States since decolonization in the 1960s.’
In West Africa, there has been an emerging trend towards democratic regression, as reflected in new cases of military coups and truncated electoral processes marred by malpractices and violence enshrined within manipulative constitutional processes with little or no regard for the rule of law.  Instances abound of multi-party elections taking place, often with no change resulting but accompanied very often by electoral fraud and corruption. These elections have at times resulted in deadly post electoral violence as was the case in Togo, or in civil war as in Côte d’Ivoire, causing the international community to intervene. In other countries like Niger, the government that swore to protect the constitution after coming in through constitutional means was the very one determined to affront the constitutional order. A few countries, however, went through exemplary democratic transition programmes, like Mali and Ghana. In spite of difficulties, they have continued to strengthen their democratic steps.
However, the recent political developments in francophone Africa have been marked by the crude phenomenon of constitutional manipulations, like those proposed by President Wade, and democratic order aberrations. The notorious examples are evident in Niger, as already stated above, Burkina Faso and Senegal. It is within this context of democratic regression that there is an emphasis on development of new approaches to fight against corrosion of the rule of law and democracy and towards a second revolution.
In this context Senegal has seen the rise of new entities within civil society – alliances that cut across class, identity and interest lines – where political opposition meets civil society, and cultural/religious leaders. These entities are discouraged in traditional liberal democracies because of the emphasis on the balance of power through independent sectors of society representing different interests. But the Senegalese citizenship is charting its own course, recognizing that traditional democratic structures do not suffice in checking power and ensuring that the peoples’ needs are met on the ground.
The formation of M23 – a new movement born out of the 23 June protests against President Wade’s proposed constitutional amendments – is the latest result of African democracy at work. Here different (and sometimes opposing) voices join together to create a singular organization for a common cause to protect and promote the constitution and democratic principles. Instead of adhering to rules about what traditional democracy is and what traditional relationships it permits, M23 went back to the basics in defense of the common good, hence bringing together very diverse sections of society.
Its impact has been both immediate – halting the adoption of the proposed amendments in parliament - and there seems to be potential for the development of a longer lasting impression where civil society has a strong voice in the halls of power. However, this phenomenon will be tested in the upcoming 2012 election when the question of whether the movement was the voice of particular interest groups or truly has the peoples' interests at heart will be answered.
This new feature developing in Senegal is supported by developments in democratic theory that aim to understand democracy in terms of its substantive implications. In terms of Senegalese democracy, M23 can be seen as a physical manifestation of Dahl’s understanding of ‘procedural democracy’ that emphasises principles of political equality, effective participation, enlightened understanding, final control of the agenda and inclusiveness.
Traditional liberal democracy has become trivialized in Africa ‘to the extent that it is no longer threatening to those in power or demanding to anyone’.  Advocates of social justice in Africa have to sharpen their tools of analysis to provide directions for non-violent revolutions and to think creatively about the new forms of socio-political organisations that will provide genuine representation. M23 presents a united voice for a common cause that showed itself as a real threat to those in power through its mobilization of ordinary citizens and organization of countrywide demonstrations, as well as its successful engagements with parliament.
The movement emphasises the need for a strong civil society that will facilitate more discussion and inclusiveness. Civil society is the space of uncoerced human association and relational networks formed for the sake of family, faith, interests and ideology.  Supporters of civil society have argued that this conglomeration of networks and organizations has helped to fuel democratic aspirations and channel democratic demands in Africa. Proponents maintain that civil society serves as a counter to the actions of the predatory African state, which seeks to limit individual freedoms and to encroach on societal resources.  By questioning the acts of state officials and by challenging state policies, civil society organizations can pressure the state to be more accountable and transparent and can facilitate a positive deconcentration of political power. A plural, vibrant civil society encourages political liberalization and the development of a democratic and legitimate state. 
The emergence of the M23 movement in Senegal as an unusual partnership between civil society groups, opposition parties and other individual actors is a trend that has been severely criticized. There is a view that if NGOs and other civil society groups get too involved with specific political parties (as opposed to causes, or various components of democracy) then they would become defunct when their party loses an election. The purpose of human rights NGOs and civil society groups, which challenge state power, stretches beyond mere political terms of office. Moreover, there is a fear that co-opting with political parties would taint the ultimate vision of the movement in promoting and protecting the constitution and the rights of the people of Senegal. Many Senegalese people have asked what the role of M23, and its component organizations, would be if the partnership opposition came into power and began to similarly undermine democracy and rule of law in the state.
However, in the process of democratization, where the executive becomes too powerful, it seems that this trend can be used as a tool to protect the rule of law and constitutionalism. It has been very interesting witnessing M23's effective collaboration between civil society, religious groups, youth and opposition parties in checking the power of the executive to change the constitution. However, the question remains whether M23 as a movement is a permanent feature of the Senegalese democratic landscape or 23 June a one-off occurrence, never to be repeated again demonstration, aimed at sending a message to those in power that they should play the game according to the rules?
The future of the movement will be defined by the future path of politics within Senegal. The members agreeing that whenever there is a threat to constitutionalism and democracy in the country, the movement will engage actively in defining the priorities of the country. For this to happen, this new form of democratic entity – expressing often unheard opinions of the people on the ground – is clearly necessary. 
Although the civil society movement in Senegal had made important gains over the past six months, there are nevertheless weaknesses that could hamper its effectiveness going forward. The first challenge is the lack of civil society solidarity for the future path of M23. This weakens the possibility for real change because the divergent views for the vision of M23 represented from different interest groups threaten to tear the movement apart. It is imperative that the civil society members of M23 continue to dialogue to ensure that if the movement continues its vision is clear.
The second challenge is the democratic nature of the movement itself. If the movement does not follow democratic procedures among its members then it is not able to externally challenge repressive state actions and facilitate democratic development.  The movement is centralised in the capital city, represented by certain organizations and may thus potentially lose credibility amongst the citizenry and government. This raises the question about how the movement will encourage a level of trust among common citizens. This ultimately weakens the ability of movement to make significant contributions to the democratic progress in Senegal.
The third challenge is the contentious role of politics in the movement. Potentially the partnership with opposition politicians may lead to M23 being labelled by government as part of the opposition and not as a democratic entity that aims to protect rule of law, constitutionalism and democracy in the country. This may limit the effectiveness and ability to negotiate successfully with government to achieve its goals of promoting the interests of Senegalese people. The movement must find a means to show that it is not the machinery of hidden political powers but based in the constitutional democratic nature of the country, representing the voice of the people.
Moreover, the composition of the movement includes entities and figures that are associated with the incumbent government that further delegitimises the ultimate cause of the movement. There is a fear that the values and vested interests of the powerful sponsors of the current status quo (both parties in power and opposition parties) are not interested in the ultimate goal of improving the lives of the Senegalese people but are mainly interested in democracy as a means to power. 
Finally the last challenge goes to the base of democracy in Africa. The major challenge for this movement will not be administrative but rather the temporary nature of these partnerships. If this movement aims to make a change in the democratic fabric of Senegal, its voice cannot be a one-off demonstration but must entrench a long-term creative force that constantly engages with government and other democratic structures. The assizes nationals are an existing political mechanism within Senegalese politics, resulting from creative self-funded initiatives between civil society and past politicians. There are possibilities presented here for M23 to engage with this instrument to maintain the momentum in the movement, ensuring all voices are heard.
In conclusion, M23 creates a new force within democracy that does not merely follow the traditional liberal democratic rules of due process and literal application of the law but rather seeks the development of socio-political mechanisms for political accountability. The 2012 elections will be a decisive time for the future of democracy in Senegal and the question remains whether M23 will be a permanent presence and play a pivotal role in defining the agenda in the Senegalese constitutional and democratic architecture.
 A Patterson’ A reappraisal of democracy in civil society: evidence from rural Senegal’ 36 (1998) The Journal of Modern African Studies 426
 ‘A Niang ‘Between centralization and decadence: Senegalese politics under Wade’ (2009) Pambazuka News available here
 T Ginsburg ‘Senegal: will the Arab Spring travel South?’ (2011) Pambazuka News available at Senegal: will Arab spring travel south?
 M Owusu ‘Domesticating Democracy: Culture, Civil Society, and Constitutionalism’ in Africa’ Society for Comparative Study of Society and History (1997) 131
 A Loada ‘Constitutional Challenges and Lessons from Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger’ in Democratic Recession in West Africa: Challenges of Revivalism (2010) 46
 As above
 P Spicker ‘Government for the people: the substative elements of democracy’ (2008) International Journal of Social Welfare 17
 C Ake “Is Africa Democratising?” 1993 Guardian Lecture, The
Guardian on Sunday (Lagos) December 12.
 M Walzer ‘The idea of civil society’ 38 (1991) Dissent 293
 Above n 5 426
 J Bayart ‘Civil Society in Africa’ in P Chabal Political Domination in Africa (1986)
 N Chazan ‘Africa’s democratic Challenge’ 9 (1993) World Policy Journal 280
 S Diop ‘ Senegal: Twilight of a regime or dawn of a new era?’ (2010) Pambazuka News available here
 R Putnam Making Democracy Work (1993) 87
 C Ake “The unique case of African democracy” 69 (1993) Journal of International Affairs 242
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Ella Scheepers is pursuing an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
* This article was first written for Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits des l’Hommes (RADDHO) Dakar, Senegal
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Egypt: Diary of a revolution
We went to Tahrir Square with family and friends on 1 February and met lots of friends and old acquaintances there. We all enjoyed the mood. It gave us courage to believe that the revolution would be victorious in the end.
The demonstrators had by now agreed amongst their different factions on a few common goals that were published: abdication of the president, ending of the emergency law and of all laws restricting freedom, cancellation of the faked parliament, an intermediate government of representatives of democratic parties until the new elections and re-writing of the constitution.
Hosni Mubarak, though, did not think of abdicating. He only nominated Omar Suleiman as vice president and promised ‘reforms’. He reshuffled five ministers in the cabinet. That was it.
The emergency law that had made the oppressive interior politics possible for 30 years was never mentioned and most sanctions against the people were upheld.
The government had issued an order of curfew. The times changed every day and no one was sure about when or for how long it was on. It wasn’t taken too seriously. The government threatened to enforce the curfew with utmost measures, but that was a debatable threat - so far there was no police to enforce anything. At night private people still guarded the roads and mobility was restricted by private road blocks. Nevertheless, I was out and about every day and night, as were many others. Cafés and restaurants closed latest at 5pm or 6pm due to the curfew, therefore the streets in downtown seemed pretty dead at night.
Then the attack on Tahrir Square happened. The regime took brutal revenge with a massacre. On Wednesday, 2 February, the so-called pro-Mubarak demonstrators stormed the square and tried to clear it of demonstrators. There was a terrible fight.
Before that, members of parliament and representatives of the government had been sighted in the poorer quarters, offering huge sums of money for participation in the ‘pro-Mubarak’ demonstration, and even higher sums for clearing the square. Other people amongst this crowd were paid thugs from the private troops that most rich and corrupt regime profiteers keep and some policemen in plainclothes. This is not just an idle statement; there is official proof of it. Amongst those hired were even some horseback riders and men on camels.
The demonstrators had only allowed unarmed people onto the square, whereas the ‘pro-Mubarak’ demonstrators were heavily armed with knives, sharp stoners and clubs.
The Military police that had controlled the streets around the square had let the armed vandal troops to pass, so one cannot talk about any neutrality on the army’s side or their eagerness to protect the people.
The shock was felt by the whole country; we had suddenly sobered up. The mood was sad. All people felt united by a deep inner anger and frustration about the injustice. We felt so helpless having to face this brutal oppression. As always, the regime had tried to secure its power, and it had done so at the cost of lives. We felt discouraged and full of fear and grief.
The day before, we had been on Tahrir. Many others had been there too. Mobile service was on again, and just this Wednesday we had the feeling that life had gradually returned. Some people had gone to work, petrol stations had opened again and there was traffic on the streets. Nobody had expected such a coup.
We had also planned to go to Tahrir that day, but a series of coincidences had kept us from going till late afternoon. Then we heard about the massacre. Lots of our friends were on the square. We tried desperately to reach anyone. No one answered his phone. It was catastrophic.
Sarah, my daughter, had helped out that day at a German speaking TV station whose offices were located near Tahrir square. She saw the ‘pro-Mubarak’ demonstrators move towards the square. The meagre groups of shabbily dressed wretches waving banners were not to be taken seriously; they were by far outnumbered by anti-Mubarak demonstrators. Later though, when the army of professional and hired thugs gathered, the situation became very dangerous and Sarah witnessed from the office window a vicious battle amongst those fleeing and those hunting them. She was deeply shocked.
Those who courageously defended the square did it at the risk of their lives. They knew that they could not just give up, since their lives would be worth nothing once the government won. They fought and they managed to stand their ground.
Egypt suddenly made it to the news worldwide. Initially, there were reports that ‘Mubarak supporters’ and ‘Mubarak opponents’ had fought, just as if there were any Mubarak supporters who stood on his side out of their free will and without being paid for it. ‘Civil war’ was another much used keyword. Only later was there an understanding that civil war meant a war of citizens against citizens, but this was a war of the government against its people.
Western politicians carefully condemned the massacre. ‘Not this way, Mr. Mubarak’. For the first time the demonstrators were granted their right to freedom of speech. It took President Obama or Merkel some days to finally distance themselves from Mubarak for good. At least world politics had begun to acknowledge that the Egyptian people had had enough. Western TVs suddenly showed critical reports about the country’s circumstances of power and powerlessness.
The city was dead the following day. Most people didn’t dare to venture outside. The mood had changed. There was high tension. Many people were discouraged and depressed and stayed home in spite of the ongoing protests throughout the country and on Tahrir Square. Many were disheartened and wondered whether the protests could ever topple the regime. They feared that the old situation would be restored in the end.
The friendly, helpful Egyptian people had vanished. Whoever went out into the streets was confronted by groups of aggressive young men passing by, and it was not discernible whether they were simple civilians or police in plainclothes and secret police.
The government spread distrust against foreigners via state TV, and claiming that the protest were instigated by foreign secret services. There were attacks on foreign journalists and foreign TV stations. I went the next day to substitute for Sarah at the TV station and witnessed myself the danger for the foreign reporters. We had to lock ourselves in and barricade the doors, and we had to switch the lights off and work in the dark by the light of the computer screens to avoid becoming targets.
Some foreigners went through unpleasant situations. It was astounding how fast manners had changed on the streets. In the night, on the way home from work, I was not treated with the usual courtesy. I felt threatened for the first time. At a road block, a group of young men rushed towards my car and abruptly yanked the door open, overexcited to have caught a foreigner. The wild mob accompanied me to the military post who had no clue what to do with me and sent me away. This scene was repeated at further road blocks. The drive home through a deserted main road in a poor area turned into a nerve wracking experience.
The return to work, driving through empty streets early next morning, was equally exciting. Normally the streets should have been free at this time of day, but a gang of grim young men had erected another road block on a main road. They controlled passports and car trunks and discussed heatedly whether they should let a foreigner like me pass. Then one of them gave orders to let me go. Who these guys were I cannot say; they wore plain clothes. One of them had a police ID. Maybe they were placed here officially, or they were secret police who usually wore plainclothes.
I had to walk the last two kilometers, since the Cornice, the riverside road, was still blocked by tanks. The military police perused my papers several times and tried to send me back. They let me pass only reluctantly.
The military was noticeably not supportive of the demonstrators. It wanted to exclude foreigners from the scene and tried to hinder reporting. It has been said that the military would not shoot the people, but it certainly did not help with access to the Tahrir area either.
It was not yet clear how things would develop, but the situation gave reason to fear of worse things. A lot of foreigners and worried Egyptians were leaving the country by now. Some of the elite in power were leaving also, in their private jets. There were no regular flights anymore, but the embassies had organised evacuation flights. The German government had not yet given out an absolute warning, so the evacuation flights had to paid for by the evacuees (about 700 Euro). Most organizations, though, sent their people home, and it was strange to have to say goodbye so abruptly to many friends and acquaintances.
I decided to stay. In German history the state has been known to stir up its people to act against humanity, but I could not imagine that the friendly Egyptians would turn against foreigners after only two days of the campaign. I still felt safe at home. I had a feeling that the ailing government was playing a trick on the Egyptians to isolate them with the specific actions against foreigners.
Nevertheless, I considered getting my daughter evacuated. She wouldn’t hear of it, though, for fear of leaving me behind in danger. It was no easy decision for her to stay, since staying here put her under a lot of pressure too. The revolution days weighed heavily on our nerves; it wasn’t easy for us.
It wasn’t easy telling whether one’s decision was right. Those who stayed felt burdened by the insecurity about that, a topic often discussed in conversations. After all, it wasn’t clear whether escape would be possible later in case things worsened again.
I was ready to bear the disadvantages of a restricted lifestyle under difficult circumstances and felt a lot of solidarity with the Egyptians, whose country has also been my home for many years. To put my daughter at risk by this decision was not easy though.
Nevertheless, the impressive capacity of the Egyptians to get organized made assured me that they would reasonably manage their country once they had gotten their aim. I felt much less worry about ‘later’ than what was discussed in the media. There are enough intelligent people in Egypt to govern this country much better than now.
The focus was now on Tahrir Square. There, lots of demonstrators kept their stance. There were bitter fights all over the country, but Tahrir had become an international symbol for the Egyptian people’s search of freedom. The demonstrators kept demanding the abdication of the president, cancellation of parliament, an end to the 30-year emergency law and the re-writing of the constitution. Because of the emergency law, the existing constitution had been partly invalid for many years and had served as a tool to justify the regime’s injustices and the repression of the people’s demands for democracy.
It was sad that, in spite of all the demonstrations, there was no quick decision. Nothing happened except Mubarak naming a vice president, Omar Suleiman. There was no hope of the president’s abdication. I saw a lot of people lose their nerve those days and no words helped to soothe their minds. After the euphoric first days, the old regime’s brutality had thoroughly disheartened the people. There was still a lot of tension in the air in those days following the massacre at Tahrir Square.
The city stirred and slowly awoke; people reluctantly began to live their everyday life. Internet was on again and many tried to get back to their work. Even the banks were said to open soon to pay out money. This was of utmost importance since practically no one had cash anymore.
The drop in income was noticeable everywhere. I returned to my work but had considerably fewer patients. Who could pay for therapy when survival itself was at stake?
The people kept supporting the demonstrators who so far had held out for two weeks on Tahrir Square. With the uncomfortably cold and windy nights at this time of the year, their determination was all the more admirable.
In the daytime, all that could spare a bit of time went there as well, though the odyssey through all the blocked passages and checkpoints wasn’t easy.
I had been there myself on two days. I found that this was not only a revolution of the Facebook generation, as propagated by the media. Yes, the Facebook generation might have pushed to make things public through their photos and reports, but it was noticeable that, from the beginning, Egyptians of all generations, classes and levels of society had participated in this revolution.
For instance, at a checkpoint, I stood amongst a big crowd of poor people who obviously had come to town from the villages on purpose. On the square then, I didn’t only see men but also lots of women and children. Some of the women wore long dresses and headscarves, others were unveiled or were dressed highly fashionably, and some wore very casual western styles.
I met acquaintances who worked at universities as professors and lots of people from the political left, who had been active for many long years in the opposition. Some had slept overnight at the square; as well as many simple people who had shared the cold night with them.
While I was resting in the sun, I saw one of my clients arrive with her whole family. As usual she wore rich gold jewelry and her Louis Vuitton bag. Her father had a Rotary pin in his lapel. They also sat with the demonstrators for some hours to show their solidarity.
I was very touched by a woman and her daughter. The woman smiled at me and asked whether I was there for the first time. Her clothing showed that her background was simple: she was veiled with a long sleeved blouse and long skirt. Mastering English reasonably, she preferred to speak Arabic. She radiated quiet dignity.
She told me that she and her family had slept on the square since 25 January. They all had left their work to help win the revolution. This was the most important thing at the moment, she declared. Later there would be time to go back to work; now all that mattered was creating a life worth living. I asked her how long she planned to stay. She looked at me and said firmly: ‘Till he abdicates!’
The square was extremely well organized and there was a peaceful and positive atmosphere. Outside, the government executives controlling admission had tried to make believe that the protests had ended now and that only a few crazy troublemakers were keeping the square. Inside, one was all the more impressed how many different people coexisted there and managed to voice their opinions, and how they all had one common goal.
It was clean, people continually cleared trash away. Everywhere, people held up posters they had made. A wall with photos of the people killed during the revolution reminded us all that this was not just another big party. Conservatives and progressives discussed animatedly. There were people who prayed regularly; and there were art corners where people painted; artists organized special performances and one could hear drums everywhere that supported the rhythm of the ongoing protest slogans. There was a stage on which more or less well known supporters of the revolution made speeches, and there were various discussion forums for the intellectual exchange amongst the different groups. At the exits, doctors had built makeshift clinics to treat the sick and the wounded.
Army tanks flanked the square. Men and youths sat around them, and on the wheels and chains, to prevent them from moving further into the square so that they would not restrict room for the demonstrators.
I had an experience that showed that consciousness for their rights had awoken amongst the simple people. One morning I went to Tahrir Square with two bags of croissants, in order to bring food for the protesters. An army officer held me back at the checkpoint claiming it was ‘forbidden’ to take food inside. I would have liked to demonstrate in protest right in front of the barbed wire fence the army had put up. I asked another person who came with food to start protesting with me. He declined and rather gave up his food, and since the officer threatened to make trouble with my passport, I also gave up my bags in order to get onto the square.
It annoyed me, though, to see all those food bags being thrown onto a huge pile and I couldn’t accept it easily. So I went back later and asked them to give me back my bags. They were just loading everything into a tank. Then I really started a fuss until they were willing to return my bags.
In the meantime more and more people came with food bags and bags of clothing or blankets, and they refused to let everything go. Suddenly, a man dressed like an ‘omda’, a village chief, called out to the others to sit down. The men were mostly poor men coming from the south of Egypt, who had come with their big plastic bags in order to stay on Tahrir Square.
By then I had got my bags back from the soldiers and went over to the men and sat amongst them. It was the spontaneous demonstration I had secretly wished for. One invented the slogan, ‘sitting strike till the food gets in’. He shouted the slogan loudly and angrily and all the other people repeated it in chorus. The crowd grew quickly. Soon we were hundreds, a sitting strike occupying space up to near Kasr El Nil bridge. All held up some food in their hands. It took a good half hour before the army guys lost their nerve and let us in - with our bags! It was quite uplifting. Before, the people were not aware that they had some power. There never was fearless protest before or such solidarity amongst the people.
On Thursday we were sure the time had come. The whole day there had been rumours that the military would clear the square by force, maybe using nerve gas and live ammunition. The rumour was based on reliable information that had leaked from army circles and it caused great upset and tension. Nevertheless, the demonstrators were adamant about staying, even if the price was high. I phoned several friends on the square. They saw no other solution. We worried terribly about them.
It had rained at night and the cold and stormy weather reflected the general dark mood. Finally, in the early evening, an army general came to the square to talk to the people and to calm them down. He announced that Mubarak would later make a speech. Darkness fell soon. No one knew what the night would bring. It was a situation hard to bear.
I was asked to help out again in the correspondent’s office and quickly left home to drive to the office. There were still some people on the streets, curfew really didn’t impress many, but in general the streets were quite empty and driving was smooth.
Once at office, things were very hectic. Foreign news services called from abroad to get news directly. People came and went. There were calls coming in from people on the square and the television hummed nonstop in the background. Then the speech by the president began.
He looked as usual, well groomed, smooth, unmoved, untouchable. Quite artificial, considering he was well over 80 years old and very ill. Later it was said that this speech had been pre-recorded and that he had collapsed several times during recording, but there was no trace of this when he appeared on the screen. With a serious face he generously announced some reforms. He was going to hand over the power to Omar Suleiman in some respects, but certain presidential decisions would continue to be his privilege.
The anger that this speech provoked was immediately perceivable. From the office window we could overlook the Cornice (the street on the eastern bank of River Nile) in front of the state television building. We saw thousands of people stream angrily towards the TV building. The Cornice quickly filled up with demonstrators. Instead of leaving, Mubarak had only offered another delay of the unavoidable. People were not willing anymore to accept that. The frustration made the people all the more bent on getting their voice heard.
In anticipation of the people’s reaction, the TV building had been surrounded by the army. Barbed wire coils fenced off the area. Only one row of soldiers stood behind the barbed wire coils, shoulder by shoulder, weapons casually touching the floor. This was demonstrative of non-violence; the army was just to protect the TV building, a state institution, in case it proved necessary. The soldiers stood still without moving a limb. Behind them one could see their superiors walking up and down restlessly, walkie-talkies pressed to their ears.
Soon thousands had congregated in front of the fence. They had come to stay until their demands would be met, - this was clear. The demonstrators were well organized. No wonder after all these weeks on Tahrir. Within a very short time they erected a small clinic in the back and spread out blankets and sleeping bags in other areas.
War drums sounded with a deep rhythmical boom - that’s how I perceived the drums that accompanied the continuously repeated calls for Mubarak to abdicate. It transported immense energy. The demonstrators showed their decisiveness not to give up by any means.
More and more people arrived in the early morning. All who were angry and frustrated about Mubarak’s speech were coming towards Tahrir Square, pushing through the crowds on the Cornice in front of the TV building. Lots remained here. There were tens of thousands very soon.
It was a tight, pulsating crowd reaching from the barbed wire all the way to the banks of the Nile in the back. In between, other demonstrators constantly pushed through in a stream towards Tahrir. It was scary and impressive to watch from above. The sharp blades of the barbed wire threatened to hurt people standing in the front rows, and with the shoving and pushing crowd there was a strong risk of mass panic in case people got wounded. Some people could not bear the pressure of the crowd and fainted. They were carried away on raised arms high above the heads of the crowd.
More and more drums joined in and the protest slogans became more intense, just as if the people were to change things only by their voice. The choir of the tens of thousands of voices transported immense power.
One is used to news pictures of anarchy and vandalism as a reaction to the people’s frustration with the system. Here we witnessed something completely different. The people remained disciplined and in control.
The demonstrators just showed their joint fearlessness and they demanded a common goal. They kept on demanding, on and on, without getting tired of it. The presence of the others encouraged them to go on and the power of their choir strengthened their hope. They would never give up.
Tension and impatience grew from the early morning to dawn, but nothing much happened on the government’s side. We had a prime view of the happenings and witnessed some exciting moments during that day.
The reverberations of the war drums had accompanied our work all day. We saw the swirl and pulsation of the crowd in front of the barbed wire fence around the TV building and the few impassive soldiers on the other side.
Suddenly there was a common outcry and hundreds of demonstrators pulled back at the same time. They pulled with them the supports that held up the barbed wire and the fence came down. Before the masses could storm the TV building, the soldiers blocked the breach. Their officers spoke to the demonstrators urgently. The situation was on the brink. Then the demonstrators at the front turned around and called out to those behind them. The fence was pulled up again. Now there was a row of demonstrators facing the crowd behind the fence holding back the crowd together with a row of soldiers. Soon after, things had quieted down considerably. The demonstrations continued in the same intensity as before.
The office phone rang incessantly, many foreign news services and broadcasting stations asked for information. Suddenly the phone connection broke. A loose wire had finally broken completely. In the midst of chaos we frantically repaired the connections and fixed them with some tape. Improvisation holds this country together, this was a typically Egyptian situation. But this was to end, at least on the political level - that is what the demonstrators had made clear. Although, even in the later afternoon, it was not yet clear whether they would get what they had asked for.
It worried us greatly to observe what was happening behind the building, out of view of the demonstrators. The soldiers loaded the machine guns on the tanks with live ammunition. Were they preparing for a shootout? What would happen? And what about us, would we still be safe up here in the midst of all this? Which room would be the safest to hide in?
But again, nothing more happened. Later, the soldiers handed out biscuits to the demonstrators who gave them cigarettes. It was an eerie situation considering the armed weapons in the back.
Darkness fell. The demonstrators were getting exhausted. Protests had continued incessantly the whole day but seemed not to have moved anything. Protests were still ongoing and we wondered what would happen if the government refused to react before the evening ended.
Suddenly there was a message of relief. Vice president Omar Suleiman would address the people. He read his speech stone-faced. A sudden outcry from the masses. Mubarak had abdicated!
People embraced; tears flowed in an incredible burst of tension; happy laughter reflected the intense feeling of liberation…
What a party! People brandishing the Egyptian flag stormed the streets everywhere and streamed towards Tahrir Square. More and more people came, it was unbelievable. The sound of jubilation! Singing, slogan chanting, cars honking, the sudden ecstatic rhythm of the drums, leading the crowd into a frenzy of dance and cheers...
Everyone participated, the old and the young, men and women and children. It was an incredible celebration.
No one thought about tomorrow. For now it didn’t matter that the army had taken control of the government and not a democratic alliance of the people’s representatives. For now it didnt matter that a lot of the old ministers who represented and supported Mubarak were still in power. For now it didn’t matter that emergency law and the curfew was still on. And for now it did not matter that democracy was still far way ahead. All this was not important at that moment. What mattered was celebrating the victory.
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* Read Part 1.
* This article first appeared in Transform
* Gabriele Habashi works as a therapist and journalist in Hamburg and Cairo
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Popular Socialist Alliance: New leftist party in Egypt
An interview by Lillian Boctor
Ola Shahba lives in Cairo, Egypt and is a member of the Socialist Renewal Current, the Youth for Justice and Freedom Youth Movement and is on the workers and youth committees of Egypt's leftist Popular Socialist Alliance Party. She worked alongside Mina Daniels, one of the martyrs of the Egyptian military's massacre of peaceful protesters on October 9/10, 2011 who were protesting for equal rights for Egyptian Copts.
The Popular Socialist Alliance party members have been mobilising youth, workers and people in rural and marginalised areas. The party was founded after the Egyptian Revolution began, with the aim of uniting different leftist groups. It was the first left party formed after the January 25 Revolution to successfully register for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Participating in the November elections will give the party a chance to introduce their social and economic justice platform, monitor any inconsistencies in the elections, and possibly gain some seats in the People’s Assembly.
The party left the Egyptian Bloc Coalition because other parties in the Coalition introduced candidates that belonged to the now defunct National Democratic Party, Mubarak's former political party. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has refused to introduce a law that would block former NDP members from participating in the People's Assembly elections.
In this interview, recorded at a downtown Cairo cafe on June 26, 2011, Ola Shahba speaks about the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, their vision for Egyptian society, the coming wave of the Revolution and the upcoming elections.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South African shackdwellers: ‘We are all S’bu Zikode’
Abahlali baseMjondolo is a movement of the poor that struggles to protect, promote and advance the dignity of the poor in South Africa. One of our roles is to bring the government to the people and the people to the government. We have marched to take our demands to councillors, mayors, premiers and the president. We have had many meetings but in Durban, the city where our movement was founded six years ago, we have never, despite all the marches, ever had a meeting with the mayor to discuss our demands.
When Obed Mlaba was the Mayor and Mike Sutcliffe ran this city for John Mchunu there was no hope for any kind of meaningful engagement between the organised poor and the City. But when James Nxumalo became Mayor we had real hope that things would be different. He was respected as one of the few politicians that could humble himself and engage the poor with respect.
On Thursday, 13 October 2011 at 13:30pm we finally had our first meeting with the Mayor. There were fourteen Abahlali members elected to represent the movement at this meeting. There were also officials from the eThekwini Municipality's Department of Human Settlements and councillors, including the Chairperson of the Housing Portfolio Committee and Infrastructure, Nigel Gumede. It was a promising meeting. We had hope that when we met with the
Mayor, our hopes might be rebuilt again.
Mayor Nxumalo humbled himself with respect and apologised to Abahlali for cancelling, at the last minute, the first meeting that had been arranged. However as the Mayor was so humble and respecting the presence of Abahlali Nigel Gumede interrupted and introduced himself as a murderer (“Ngingumbulali mina”). He attacked Zikode threatening to beat him saying “uZikode akakaze ashaywe”(Zikode has never been beaten). He said that “uZikode akabazi abantu" (Zikode doesn’t know people). He also said that the ANC is at war with AbM and that he has to go to the bushes for Zikode. In Zulu idiom this is a clear threat – a threat of attack, a threat of ambush. The mood was sensitive and fragile.
The dawning of democracy was supposed to mean that the time of the politic of war had passed. Those who are trying to bring it back are a threat, a deep threat, to our society. The new Mayor has a lot of work to do in teaching people like Gumede what it means to be in a democracy. Gumede has served more than 5 years on his portfolio and he still fails to respect the public, especially the poor. Gumede is disrespectful not only to the poor but even to the Mayor himself, for he has attacked the guest of the Mayor in front of the Mayor. Everyone in the meeting expected the Mayor, who chaired the meeting, to protect Zikode. It is the responsibility of a chair to protect anyone who is victimised by anyone at a meeting. This meeting expected the chair to call Gumede into order but he did not. His silence raised a lot of questions about the role of the chairperson of this meeting and the role of any chairperson at any meeting.
In September 2009 our movement was attacked by the ANC in the Kennedy Road settlement. The attackers said that they wanted to kill S'bu Zikode and other leaders. They demolished and looted our leaders' homes while the police did nothing. Our leaders were forced to flee and to become refugees. For months
death threats were openly made against a number of our leaders.
In 2009 Nigel Gumede praised this. He saw an opportunity to go to the Kennedy Road settlement and rubbish the work of Abahlali. He promised the Kennedy Road residents that he would build them houses in February 2010 and said that if he failed to deliver the houses the community must chase him out. His comments at the Kennedy Road settlement after the attack were filmed by the film makers
that made Dear Mandela. They are on record.
ANC people attacked us in Kennedy Road in 2009 and we have now been threatened by a leading ANC member in Durban in the Mayor’s office.
This has not moved us from our stand that we demand that Nigel Gumede must resign. He has got no manners for the public. He has become a serious threat to the organised poor by using his powers as the Chairperson of Housing Portfolio Committee and Infrastructure to threaten our leader. After we were attacked in 2009, had our homes destroyed and looted, and were repeatedly and publicly threatened with death it is deeply irresponsible for a leader of the ANC to openly say that the ANC is at war with Abahlali and to threaten to beat and attack our best known leader. We came to this meeting to negotiate. The Mayor made it clear that he is willing to negotiate. He has instructed his officials to examine all of our demands and to report back to us in a second meeting in two weeks time. But Gumede declared war on our movement and threatened violence to our best known leader.
What kind of politician declares war on a democratic poor people's organisation? What kind of politician declares war on people asking to negotiate? What kind of politician declares war on people who are still suffering from recent violence and threats at the hands of the ruling party and have come to a meeting to discuss healing?
If any of us committed any crimes the government has the power to arrest us and to have us charged with those crimes. Yet they don't arrest us. They don't arrest because they know that there is no court that can find us guilty of exercising our democratic rights. Instead we are slandered, attacked and openly threatened with attack.
They have all the money. They have the police and the intelligence services. They have musicians and journalists and as many lawyers as they want. They can send bulldozers to evict us at any time or the securities to disconnect us. All that we really have is our togetherness. We are not paid to struggle. We are just poor people that are taking our lives seriously. Yet we are presented as a threat to society.
Nigel Gumede needs to understand that S'bu Zikode gets his mandate from the people. S'bu Zikode takes no decisions for the people. He, with many other leaders in our movement, tries his best to faithfully carry out the decisions taken by our members. Whatever he has to say does not come from him but from Abahlali. In our movement direction comes from below. S'bu Zikode is not Abahlali baseMjondolo but we as the membership form the organisation. If you attack S'bu Zikode, who is mandated by us, that means that you are attacking all of us. We are all S'bu Zikode.
We have more than 10 000 members in 64 different settlements – 49 in KwaZulu-Natal and 15 in the Western Cape. We are all S'bu Zikode.
Nigel Gumede is very angry that S'bu Zikode has gone abroad. This was raised after the attack in 2009 and again at this meeting where Gumede threatened Zikode. In the past Zikode has been questioned by intelligence agents after travelling abroad. But every citizen of this country has the same right to go abroad. It is not a crime to go abroad. And it is not only S'bu Zikode who goes abroad to represent Abahlali. All active members may be elected to represent the movement abroad and to tell the untold stories and share the perspective that the shack dwellers have developed in our discussions in Abahlali. We are always the marginalised and always the talked about. We are always known to be those that are poor, that are uneducated and that can’t speak for themselves. But the only difference between the poor and the rich is money. We can all take decisions for ourselves and talk for ourselves.
S'bu Zikode was elected to lead our movement for six years in a row. He often asked to be allowed to step aside to find work and focus on his family. But the members insisted that he stay on and, after discussions with his family, he agreed. He has always led our movement with courage, dignity, gentleness and humbleness. He has worked days and nights and weekend after weekend for years.
He has paid a high price for this commitment. He has been arrested, tortured, slandered, chased out of two jobs and severely beaten. He has had his home destroyed and looted and has had to become a political refugee. His family have paid a high price for all of this.
No one in Abahlali would deny that S'bu Zikode has been a powerful leader or that he has been such a powerful leader because he has always insisted that his only role is to support people to organise themselves and to struggle for themselves. But this does not change the fact that S'bu Zikode does not make us struggle. It is oppression that makes us struggle.
Even though Nigel Gumede has attacked the poor we would like to acknowledge the humbleness and respect of the Mayor who has shown that he has got a heart for the people. As a movement we are looking forward to having a good relationship with him because we have seen his willingness to cooperate with the poor. We continue to see his appointment as the Mayor as a real opportunity to move towards a politic of discussion and negotiation in Durban – a real partnership between government and the people.
But Nigel Gumede must go. Gumede has gone too far with his threats. He has no respect for the public and the elected leaders of the public. We are not threatening him but we are telling him that he needs to step down in the interests of democracy. We cannot allow the politic of war and killing to be brought back into this country. We wish to make it very clear that if anything happens to S'bu Zikode we, and all our comrades, will hold Nigel Gumede responsible.
All politicians and officials must learn to respect everyone who they lead or represent without any regard to their gender, race, age, language or socio-economic or political background. No politician can run a City Hall like its their own Spaza Shop.
Democracy cannot be reduced to voting. Democracy is also the right of all people to organise freely and to speak freely. Democracy is not just for members of the ruling party and the middle classes. Democracy is for everyone and that includes the poor. We have the same rights as everyone else to organise freely and to think and speak for ourselves.
We are calling on all democrats, in and outside of the ANC, to support this call to defend our hard won democracy. We are calling for clear statements of support for S'bu Zikode and all other activists facing intimidation and repression. We are calling for practical action to support S'bu Zikode and all other activists facing intimidation and repression. We are also calling on all democrats to work to isolate the warlords, the authoritarians and all others in the ruling party, and in other organisations, that are vandalising our democracy. We cannot go back to a politic of war.
For more information please contact:
Bandile Mdlalose: Abahlali Secretary General 071 424 2815
Mazwi Nzimande: Abahlali Spokesperson 031 304 6420
Mzwakhe Mdlalose: Abahlali baseMjondolo President 072 1328458
Nokuthula Nyawo: Abahlali baseMjondolo Co-ordinator 083 9491379
It is not just in our movement that we say “We are all S'bu Zikode”. At
short notice this statement is also supported by the following organisations.
We expect other organisations to also issue statements of support once they
have had the opportunity to discuss this issue.
Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape – Mzonke Poni, 073256 2036
Landless People's Movement – Maas Van Wyk 079 267 3203
Rural Network – Reverend Mavuso Mbhekiseni 072 279 2634
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance - Des D'sa 083 982 6939
Students for Social Justice - Ben Vogel 071 224 6524
Unemployed People's Movement – Ayanda Kota 078 625 6462
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Statement on threats made to S'bu Zikode
Bishop Rubin Phillip
When we heard that eThekweni Mayor, James Nxumalo, agreed to meet with a
delegation from the shackdwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM),
we were hopeful that a new page was being turned. Perhaps now there can
be meaningful engagement between the organised poor and the City of Durban.
But if there is to be real progress, then the actions of Nigel Gumede
(Chairperson of the Housing and Infrastructure Portfolio Committee) in that
meeting must be condemned. Gumede made angry and violent threats against S'bu
Zikode, AbM Chairperson. We must insist that for genuine partnership to be
built, it must be on the basis of respect for all people. The fragile prospects
of new beginnings in Durban cannot be undermined by Gumede's ongoing hostility
and disrespect. This sort of behaviour cannot be allowed to impede the full
flowering of our democracy.
Issued by: Bishop Rubin Phillip,
Bishop of the Diocese of Natal, Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
Date: 18 October 2011
Endorsed by: Church Land Programme with unanimous support from all participants
at the Diakonia Council of Churches reflection day on prophetic ministry, being
held today at Marianhill, KZN.
Fighting for our right to work
Organising the unemployed in South Africa
‘There is no third force, political party or communist academic behind our struggle. It is oppression at the hands of the African National Congress that has driven us into the rebellion of the poor. We are in rebellion because we are being forced to live without dignity, safety or hope.’ (Unemployed People’s Movement)
How do you keep members interested in a movement with no resources or immediate solutions at hand? What can you offer discouraged members when you are unemployed yourself, and when local politicians have consistently turned down your demands, including the most basic ones?
Unemployment is structural and rampant, and organising the unemployed is a fulltime job. As Ayanda Kota, chairperson of the UPM in Grahamstown, says, ‘We are living in a radically unjust society. We live below the poverty line. We live in shacks with no electricity and running water. If RDP houses were built they are now crumbling down due to poor workmanship and corruption. Our democracy means the progress of the few while the majority of people are left behind to starve for death. We talk about our situation in our dusty and at times muddy street corners, in our shacks.’
To organise the unemployed means going to informal settlements every day to inform people about their conditions and rights while trying to address the bigger struggles at hand. It means giving back hope, a sense of dignity and purpose to the dismayed. According to the UPM, the poor need help from a third force to organise. Bheki Buthlazi, a coordinator in Durban, explains how he strives to interest people in joining a network of individuals afflicted with the same problems. ‘People need to be reminded that they have a right to decent work and a right for a guaranteed income even if unemployed, that it’s a fight we need to coordinate in order to be more powerful. As people, we have a right to work, and it’s all too known that jobs are only given to people who are connected through corruption and nepotism.’
Decisions are taken at general meetings in different communities. The UPM executive committee’s job is to run day to day affairs, to run around filling in forms for municipalities to make sure marches are registered, sit with communities, design banners and placards, distribute fliers, communicate the decisions with other communities, write press releases for the media, listen to individuals…An organisation with no resources, they have to strategise with no offices and no material support whatsoever, collecting coins and asking around for financial help when possible. They are left to depend on non-governmental organisations and non-profits. In spite of this, they run crèches, lobby local councillors, run political educational classes, collaborate with unions and introduce the working class to unemployment programmes.
The UPM is thus engaged in demands at many different levels. One of them is the fight for decent housing and for the upgrading of informal settlements. As one organiser says, ‘Sometimes people have just invaded land without knowing what their rights are. We want the informal settlements to be formalised and we know that we can train our communities to do so through cooperatives. It could be perfectly easy to borrow money from government and to use the skills we have to reconstruct. We know better how to prioritise for ourselves.’
If a community runs out of water, the UPM will hold meetings and demand information from the municipality. After engaging with the municipality, they hold demonstrations if their demands are disregarded and ignored and continue demanding for decent houses. The UPM is aware that the issues are structural. Still, they have decided to be the protagonists of their lives and to overcome the apathy, resignation and the lack of self-awareness to articulate solutions and to construct ‘alternatives to the man’. They realise that they are their own liberators and can no longer be spectators in a game that they are supposed to be playing.
The problem of poverty remains, and keeping the unemployed interested in their movement seems to be one of the hardest tasks for the UPM. A lot of the unemployed today are young people, and the youth is easily distracted while wanting instantaneous work. ‘Their typical attitude is that they want a job now and cannot wait for tomorrow. We have to make the youth understand the reality of life and of the struggle, and that’s why we need to organise them within the UPM strategies.’
As Peter Banda, a coordinator in the Northern Province, explains, it is incredibly hard to keep members involved, as they are pressurised to extract themselves from the vicious poverty cycle. They often end up taking the first opportunity at hand and withdraw their efforts with the UPM -to come back only when they are jobless again. With such a high exit rate, the UPM has to keep members interested, which is a constant challenge. As one says, ‘We need a lot of help in terms of education because we really need to conscientise our members; they need to understand that we are in a struggle that is a long journey. Fighting the system and our constitution is a very long battle, and what we need the most in this struggle is continuity.’
The UPM places a lot of hope in its political education classes; they use them as a vector to raise awareness and engage members to fight for their right to work. They want to see their problems constitutionalised and a guaranteed income for all those who do not have work. Many people who are working remain poor and many are unemployed. As part of a growing solidarity and militancy, the UPM also demands a living wage for every worker and a real commitment to take immediate radical action to create jobs for all.
Organising the unemployed sector is truly difficult. ‘No wonder Cosatu abandoned the task,’ says Ayanda Kota. ‘Resources are always a major challenge. Our meetings are disrupted by the ANC Youth League; we are branded as counter-revolutionary and a third force. We are organising ourselves at a time when our struggles are being criminalised by the ruling party. Councillors ban our meetings, saying that we must first obtain permission from them. We are no longer seen as political agents, but rather as obnoxious nuisances.’
There are positive results to their efforts. Recently, the UPM in Grahamstown exposed the financial year disclaimer and is now busy with submissions to the Public Protector. They have helpful collaborations with unions. ‘We are able to stand up and speak against adversity and hostilities. The system will not liberate us. The movement is growing. We participate and become active. We are organising in our communities and take our decisions. We run our crèches, netball teams and soccer teams in our different communities. We attend council meetings and IDP meetings. We call councillors to attend our meetings, but so far they have never done so…’
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* This article was written with the help of the UPM, most particularly Ayanda Kota, Peter Banda and Bheki Buthlazi.
* This article was first published in Amandla! magazine (www.amandla.org.za).
*Jeanne Hefez is the editorial assistant of Amandla! magazine in Cape Town, South Africa.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Ubuntu blues: We are all Zimbabweans
Charles Nhamo Rupare
We are all part of a collective struggle. I say this on good authority and many who realise that being an Afrikan means living on the fringes of the free share my viewpoint. We need to build one another to totally break free.
The xenophobic attacks witnessed in South Afrika demonstrated the ‘brokenness’ of our way. We all know that Zimbabwe and Mozambique helped South Afrika attain its freedom. These two nations, amongst others, reached out in solidarity and unity during the dark days of apartheid. Our grandfathers worked in the mines, gardens and kitchens of South Afrika. They had the same masters. We all had the same oppressors. I grew up on stories of Sophiatown narrated by uncles returning from Egoli where they had gone to work. Some of them brought back wives from Qumbu and Ixopo. This is how Afrikans have always lived their lives before colonialism and long after it. The only difference between Dandora, Kenya and Alex in Johannesburg is geographical. Our villages look the same, our townships have the same original purpose and lobola is our attempt at ‘ties that bind’ marriage philosophy.
We share a path well travelled by our ancestors. We share languages, ideologies, values and a shade darker than blue. Sadza, Sima, Nshima, Posho, Ugali, Ngima, and Oshifima are no different from Pap. The ‘Zulu’ surname can be found at Kwa Ngilazi in Enkonjeni, Kwazulu Natal and around the corner from Mwinilunga Bar in Matero, Lusaka.
All these things led me to believe that killing another Afrikan is like killing your own brother or sister. The ideology is not indigenous to South Afrika but to Sub-Saharan Afrika. The Zimbabweans call it unhu. The Burundians call it ubuntu and in Uganda and Tanzania it’s known as obuntu. Our way is linked and it’s up to us to exercise unity and humanity to advance our legacy.
‘A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you is able to improve?’ – Nelson Mandela.
Our kinfolk on the continent look to South Afrika because they believe in South Afrika not only as a country but also as a beacon of democratic freedom. The vicious attacks on fellow Afrikans by South Afrikans show a lack of civil education within the general population, the very foundation of ‘ubuntu’. Apartheid left a legacy in us that is only coming to the fore now - that Black is bad, therefore a Black foreign national coming from another Afrikan country is even worse.
Afrikans cannot pay the price for poor local service delivery because of their mere addition to the population. I’m a Zimbabwean and I say we are all Zimbabweans. I have Shangani roots but apparently this might be a problem to some of our brothers and sisters. We are all related to one tribe or the other, but it’s critical to acknowledge the unity that exists in a shared destiny. No South Afrikan can deny the inspiration Zimbabwe brought to peoples’ hearts when it attained its independence. Our continent rejoiced when South Afrika shook off the shackles of apartheid.
Hate is a weapon for the feeble mind and I know that South Afrikans are of just minds and generous hearts. I have lived in this country long enough to realise that common understanding is an instrument of peace when wielded appropriately. We are a people of just minds and generous hearts but some of us got kicked so far into the dark by the oppressors’ magic that co-operative opportunities go unclaimed. Some of us think that getting rid of all foreign Afrikans will solve problems. We are all Zimbabweans I tell you and we are Afrikans too.
We must abhor this aggression and ask the spirits to take away the anger, misery, strife, pain, oppression, frustrations and confusions that we all carry - from Naija to Mzansi. The media wrote that South Afrika is a nation at battle with itself and the horrific images plastered across newspapers and websites bear testament to the calamity of the situation. This is not only in South Afrika but also across the continent. What do we need to do to grow as a collective? How do we right the wrongs of the past and restore pride and dignity in our people?
‘A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others and does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.’ – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Elder Drake Koka spoke of freeing the mind and liberating Afrikan genius. This is what we all need to strive towards. The lack of passion on the part of South Afrika’s government to increase people’s wealth and health has resulted in our people being deprived of basic education and a sense of comfort in their own abilities. Our problems have been reduced to economic casualties of war. We are foreigners on our own soil and to practice our humanity is to move away from the hand that feeds you. South Afrika’s national intelligence was caught unaware when the attacks started spreading. One hopes that they would have the relevant intelligence that informs the situation in its totality but these pockets of incidents are far removed from the tourism shots of South Afrika.
These are issues that have long since been part of an oppressed mind - hate, worthlessness, rage, helpless, trepidation, dehumanised. Some of us might feel that this rage is justified and the actions are - well, actions. The fringes of freedom brings with it stress, anxiety, disappointment and in some of us, the illusion of freedom. Sometimes this illusion can become too much to bear.
Our former freedom fighters are getting bloated on wine, big cars and suburban bliss but on the other hand there are those freedom fighters that are about the people and for the people. These are the people who gave their time, prayer, property, and a shoulder to cry on during the aftermath of the attacks. These are the people who symbolise the possibility of a unified Afrika.
I have been hearing a lot of debates by our so-called celebrities who are using the activist platform to project a façade of personality and purpose. We need national, local, traditional, social, religious, and spiritual leaders to use their persuasive skills to ignite a movement of intervention and unity. People are poor in Afrika and poverty is not only in South Afrika but a part of our communities across the continent. The only way to fight it is to get involved beyond the public debates or music shows and just get on with it.
The mob mentality seems to be lingering on and in most cases it’s always done on behalf of everyone. We had ethnic cleansing in Rwanda and most recently Kenya where the mob mentality was also evident. South Afrika’s xenophobic mobs grouped the Venda, Shangani, and Tsonga into one ‘kwerekwere’ tribe, but are they not South Afrikans too? Are we not all Afrikans? If a man is judged by the contents of his pockets then the state of affairs favours those with deep pockets. This dichotomy ultimately divides kinships and perpetuates envy and territorialism.
These mobs are not mobs but actually our uncles, brothers, aunts and friends. They are frustrated, deprived and tired of suffering. How do we address this? Those without fight each other to get a piece of the pie, which is still nothing in the end. Those with deep pockets keep finding ways to make their pockets deeper. Our people need to know our history. We need civil education to be implemented by our leaders and we need to identify issues that hold us back and not group people on colour, geography and social class.
We want our collective intelligence to be the backbone of our progress on this continent. We want our children to be proud of their roots not only as children of a tribe but also as children of Afrika. What we witnessed was a destructive mentality and the ‘let down’ by our leaders who occupy positions given to them by the people to meet their mandate. Our people are part of a scramble for scraps from the rich and as long as they do not have the bare necessities to function as honourable citizens an outlet will always present itself. We are all Zimbabweans and we share the same destiny. Our worth is always reflected in our behaviours. To forget this is to forget our humanity.
None of us are illegal on our own soil. The invisible borders created by past injustices create an illusion that breaks our common bond.
Mr. President, we want action on your part. As the highest civil servant in the land your allegiance and promise to the people should be displayed. We all want to think with just minds. We want the state hospitals to provide the care that is needed. We want the education system to become the most important tool to progress our nation. The police should be our protectors and not conspirators. Afrikans should not be known as refugees. We are neighbours on this continent and an act of neighbourliness should be evident in your actions as this is what inspires a nation. Roll up your sleeves and tell us what’s on your mind. Vent if you must but please do not approach us with a cold, placid expression on matters that need your most urgent service. Our people need support and provision. This is your job Mr. President. Your service to us determines the nature of our nation and right now Mr. President; our nation is confused and embarrassed. Brothers and sisters need jobs. They also need to be armed with education that will enable them to understand who and what made South Afrika beyond the tourism money-shots and façades. They need to be armed with the right facts and ultimately education that will enable them to fight intelligently - with their minds.
They say black man you are on your own. The scramble for scraps does create this perception. Xenophobia is an ignorant condition that needs mind therapy. I hear this in airports and hotels on this continent where natives of this continent speak of South Afrika with fear and pity. They say capitalism has confused us. They say we have an inferiority complex. They say we also have a god complex. They say our false sense of progress will be our demise. I tend to believe them in some cases but we are Afrika’s children and we have it in us to exercise our humanity.
Someone asked me why we say ‘South Afrika and Afrika’ as if they are two different things. We are being left behind in moral development. We continue to delay the process of taking education to the people. We need to teach to build and not to create one-dimensional workers.
It was inspiring to read about and be part of many events that took place across the world denouncing this criminal behaviour, but we need to use this as a wake up call. We cannot hide in the suburbs and think we are far from the war zone. The battle is being fought in front of us and we fail to realise this. Our Afrikan leaders need to realise that unity in governance and progress with solidarity will affect the way people act out their frustrations. The detachment of South Afrika from the rest of the continent has been proven and for those who see no boarders the task of educating the ‘least of these’ begins. Brother Sly Stone told us we are everyday people. Change is at its most potent when it manifests in the hands of everyday people. We are all Zimbabweans, Azanians Mozambicans, Angolans, Nigerians, Ghanaians, Congolese, Somalians, Basotho, Malawians, Batswana, Kenyans, Ugandans, Guineans, Tanzanians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Ivorians, Central Afrikans, Djiboutians, Gabonese, Burundians, Togolese, Gambians, Chadians, Sudanese, Zambians, Senegalese, Cameroonians, and Rwandese. We are all children of Afrika and our future is in our actions and relations.
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* Charles Nhamo Rupare is of Shona origin and lives life through the creative eye. He dreams of Afrika regaining her dignity and her sons and daughters developing the necessary mental freedom to love peace and communal co-existence. He 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. He is a consultant to various organisations on Afrikan music, art, brand building and social development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Not reporting Angola
Why nation is ignored by international media
'What does it take,' an Angolan political activist asked me recently, 'to get the BBC interested in what we are trying to do?' He was referring to a series of demonstrations that have been taking place in the Angolan capital Luanda since the 7 March this year.  The focus has been on President José Eduardo dos Santos's 32 years in power. The most recent was held on Saturday 15 October and, according to Voice of America, involved about a thousand people, which is impressive given the level of fear that characterises oppositional politics in Angola. 
Indeed, it is the very rarity of crowds of people openly expressing their disgust at the president that makes these demonstrations important. And it is this that vexes the activist. Desperately, he asked me, 'What would make the BBC consider us newsworthy? What do we need to do to get attention?' Trying another angle, he made a suggestion: 'Perhaps you know someone at Al Jazeera, someone who could sneak our cause into the news through the backdoor or under the floorboards.'
These questions raise two troubling, yet contradictory, lines of thought about the relationship between the mass media and political life today. First, that Angola, for some reason or other, is of little interest to two of the world's largest media corporations. A politician, writing to me from Luanda with as much concern as the activist, suggested that the country's massive oil resources might explain the consensus of silence. In other words, if Britain had no interest in Angolan oil, the protests might have been covered by BBC television crews. But if that were the case, one might ask why the BBC and the British mainstream press report ongoings in Nigeria – another major oil producer of significant interest to Britain - much more than they do Angola.
Perhaps then, a lack of interest in Angola lies in Britain's colonial history. Most former colonial powers seem stuck in a time-warp, preferring to focus their media energies on their former colonies. So Portugal obsesses about Mozambique, Cape Verde, Angola and so on, whereas Britain ties itself in knots over Zimbabwe especially and to a lesser extent Kenya, Nigeria and other countries where English is spoken, South Africa in particular. While this might go a little way to unravelling the BBC's lack of focus on Angola, it does not explain Al Jazeera's.
The Qatari corporation has an office in Johannesburg from where, like the BBC and other media corporations, it covers many African countries. According to one insider, what deters Al Jazeera from visiting Angola is language (apparently no one in their Johannesburg bureau speaks Portuguese, let alone an indigenous Angolan language), the very high costs of staying in Luanda and the difficult task of getting Angolan visas. Contacts at the BBC offer a similar range of excuses. Language, they say, is a problem. Few staff members speak Portuguese, even less since the BBC Portuguese for Africa Service was closed down earlier this year as part of the cuts. But this does not explain the lack of English-language coverage, especially on the mainstream television channel, which covers many non-English-speaking countries. One former colleague suggested that the BBC has simply never caught up with Angola since the war ended nine years ago. 'We are unsure of the narrative,' she said.
An investigation exploring why the mass media picks some countries to focus on and not others would be a valuable piece of work, but I do not have the space for that here. I want to move on to the second troubling set of ideas that are implicit in the questions posed by the Angolan activist. His desire for news coverage from major media corporations conjures the notion that the courageous efforts of a minority of young Angolans this year are of little importance if they are not documented by the international media. This is not a new idea. The US author and critic, Susan Sontag, famously wrote, in On Photography (1977), 'Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we're shown a photograph of it . . . A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened.' More apposite to this discussion are the observations of British cultural theorist, Stuart Hall, who said, in a lecture about the mass media, that 'an event has no real meaning in the obvious sense until it has been represented... in a way, it doesn't exist meaningfully until it has been represented'.
The very complex matter of representing Angola with integrity has troubled me ever since I first went to work there as a BBC correspondent in 1998. Within days of my arrival the war between UNITA and the MPLA erupted once again. Quickly I began to feel like a conveyer of statistics – of the dead and the starving, of tonnages of aid supplies and military hardware, of ambushes and anti-tank mine explosions, diplomatic visits, UN speeches and the occasional Miss Angola event to lighten things up. Although I tried hard to produce more optimistic, complex and varied news, I came to believe that no matter what I reported, none of it, to borrow from the Palestinian literary theorist, Edward Said, was 'free'. My reports could never gain autonomy from all the other images and accounts of events and people in Africa that had also been seen and read by BBC audiences across the world. The meaning of my work was always set in a broader, biased history of the representation of an entire continent.
When the Angolan war finally ended in 2002, aside from the initial international media frenzy around Jonas Savimbi's death and the subsequent peace deal, foreign media interest in the country quickly waned. Once labelled by many foreign journalists as the country with 'the forgotten war', Angola became the country with a forgotten peace. In 2007, when I was briefly back reporting in Luanda, one BBC producer advised me that unless the situation became considerably worse, the corporation would not be wasting its precious budget covering matters Angolan. It was at around this time that an assassination attempt was made on the UNITA leader, Isaías Samakuva. While the BBC spewed out endless reports on an appalling assault on Zimbabwe's Morgan Tsvangirai, they almost completely ignored the parallel attack on Samakuva. I was infuriated by what I felt were hypocritical news values.
Over time however, I have begun to wonder about the value of intense media interest in a place, event or person. In the case of Zimbabwe, the British media obsession has, at times, been bulimic. In the mid-noughties, partisan reports pitched precariously on the triumvirate of President Robert Mugabe, the war veterans and the white farmers, dominated our screens, airwaves and papers for months on end. Subsequently, devoted long-term research into the complexity and even success of the land reform policy – for example, ‘Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and Realities’ written by a group of respected academics from Zimbabwe and Britain – has barely been noted. 
With this in mind, I have pondered the benefits of trying to increase mainstream media interest in Angola. The activist, who wrote to me in September, seems to have some faith that coverage on BBC television and Al Jazeera will strengthen Angola's oppositional movements, lending more power to the protesters. From this point of view, the foreign mass media offers a means of transferring knowledge from one part of the world to another, just as one might transfer clothes from a Chinese factory to a Primark store in Leeds. He – and others – have told me of their desperate desire to be heard by powerful groups and individuals outside Angola. They want the ear of the United Nations Security Council primarily and the United States government among others in order to add pressure to their cause to push Dos Santos from power.
This presents us with a paradox. It requires little imagination to understand why a section of the Angolan population is longing for major changes to their country's political and economic landscape. However, as a British journalist based in London, I feel increasingly uneasy about media representations of the politics and people of southern Africa. Although I have written two commentary pieces about the Angolan demonstrations for the British newspaper website, Guardian online, this year I worry that in the minds of many British readers, my work has merely reproduced the stereotype of the African dictator and the put upon citizen. You only have to read the comments to get a pretty clear idea of what some readers, at least, are thinking.
'Wow, isn't Africa great?' wrote one albertcornercrew in response to the September piece. 'Another example of how postcolonial governance is hardly worth the bother. Slink into anarchy and expect the world to pick up the bits. Again!'  In response to the first piece I wrote in March, SharminMann wrote: 'Hang on. I thought that Angola had liberated itself from Colonialism and Imperialism back in the 1970s. Surely, its problems have now been solved. So why would they need to have any sort of demonstration?'
Leaving aside the curious use of the capital letter in SharminMann's views, the sarcasm oozing from both commentators is alarming. Although two individuals are not representative of the entire reading public, their views nevertheless underline the fact that we cannot control the way our work is interpreted. Meaning is given to a piece of journalism more by the viewer, listener or reader than the initial author. While I have no difficulty in stating that Dos Santos's leadership broadly fits the definition of an autocrat, I feel uneasy about promoting an idea of Angola that risks reinforcing yet more profound ignorance.
To challenge the stereotype requires much more space and time than any mainstream British media outlet seems prepared to give, and certainly to pay for. An audience might only begin to understand a country more fully if they are provided with complex and subtle reporting by well-informed journalists over many months and years – not to mention the broader political, intellectual and artistic culture available too. If, as is usually the case today, one is given 800 words or less to explain a complex news event, it becomes very hard to do much more than peddle a few facts placed within a broader historical framework.
So what to do? Write nothing and avoid provoking banal even racist responses to the African continent, or write something – however short, however infrequent – to try and maintain some sort of public awareness of a particular place or group of people? Some might argue that the best thing to do is to write positive stereotypes in a bid to somehow erase or neutralise the negative ones. But this strikes me as equally unsatisfactory. Not only do positive stereotypes carry their own risky relationship to truth, they are also prone to misunderstanding. There is, in other words, no guarantee that it will work.
This leaves me wondering – as I have elsewhere in the past – whether foreign journalism has any value at all. In desperation, I find myself looking to academia as a better alternative for pursuing knowledge and, dare I say it, truth. There again, however, I am confronted by the problematic Said posited in 1981 in his brilliant book ‘Covering Islam: how the media and the experts determine how we see the rest of the world’. At the very beginning of Chapter Three, on knowledge and power, he admits 'it may seem exceptionally futile to ask whether, for members of one culture, knowledge of other cultures is really possible.' Of course, Said was writing about the relationship between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’, but 30 years on, I believe this conundrum is as relevant today as it was then. Certainly, it is as relevant to the relationship between ‘the West’ and ‘Africa’ as it was and still is to ‘Islam’.
 The Guardian
 VOA News
 The Guardian
 The Guardian
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* Lara Pawson is a freelance journalist and writer who has been working in and travelling to Angola since 1998.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Sexual preferences are a private matter
There is something very wrong with collectivised morality, especially when it comes to the subject of sex. For starters, it is one such issue that rarely finds comfort in public conversation. Even in private, it sort of has to wait till after a measure of some substance enhancer, insanity or as part of delinquency. Even amongst those who have just had it.
Words referring to sex cannot be uttered without being offensive or socially inappropriate. Even amongst those who do it in the acceptable setup – heterosexual married couples. Unless one borrows the language of external societies for whom sex and sexual expressions are not taboo. So whereas we can say without shame words referring to our sexual organs by name in English, Spanish or French, we couch in shame and contempt when the local vernacular is used. We can freely describe objects or those who look sexually appealing publicly as being ‘sexy’ – with not consequences but for an envious stare – but the same description or word would get you plucked horns should you give it an approximate translation in our own languages.
It has been argued, probably rightly so, that this moral ‘correctness’ about the subject of sex, including subtracting it from acceptability from general discourse, explains why our people, more than any other race or ethnic group, have suffered the most from diseases that are sexually correlated. Our intervention programmes have tended to be too moralised for quite obvious a subject. They are laced with doses of contempt. Never an acceptability that sex is a fundamental necessity for every adult, both for pleasure as for physiological needs.
But even more disturbing and in need for an unambiguous challenge is the whole manner in which society has increasingly poked its head and is now finding comfort in the bedrooms of other adult citizens. Consenting adults are deprived the freedom to choose how and with whom they should have sex. There is always a moral police somewhere ready to pounce on those considered sexual deviants. Even worse when these, men and women, perhaps lacking enough gratification in their own lives and therefore quite finding it vexatious that others can enjoy it variedly, find themselves in positions of authority.
There is no suggestion of names here. But if we look closer into the abuse of religion and the State to brutally blackmail and attack those whose sexual conduct they do not agree with. This is irrespective of two fundamental codes: That those people whose sexual preferences and acts they would condemn are consenting adults, and that their acts, privately engaged in, have no physical effect on the persons who find these acts contemptuous.
The arguments raised to criminalise sexual gratification among consenting adults that is not deemed in synch with dominant views are just as ambiguous. These range from religious ones, concerning how God and nature made things a certain way, to an Afro-ethnic uniqueness of particular forms of how to have sex. These arguments are often presented in a hacking manner – where emotional and physical battery follows any attempts to rebut these so dismissible rationalisations. This explains why gays, lesbians, transgender and the women’s sexuality lobby demands greater support from civil society, and protection by the State.
We might not agree with other people’s sexual preferences. But where these preferences are confined to consenting adults, they really are of no business to any other person. That a woman, or a man for that matter, chooses to charge another to have sex is his or her own matter. Those who do not agree with paying for sex have a ready recourse: Not to seek those who sell it. Same applies with those who do not agree with gays and lesbians: Stick to your preferred sex. You should not conflate your subconscious fears or ultra egos and imposing your preferences on other persons.
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* Tapera Kapuya is a democracy activist from Zimbabwe.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Development vs human rights: Where do we draw the line?
When does exercising the right to development, as envisioned by a sovereign government, conflict with human and peoples’ rights (HPR)? More specifically, is this conflict, if it can be proved to cause greater damage than benefit, potent enough to halt national development, usually pitched in the name of the greater good?
Where do we draw the line? Who decides? On what basis?
Recently, the Tanzanian government, motivating for the US$480 million 800km ‘Superhighway’ through the Serengeti National Park, learned the hard way that the architecture of development has to be placed in the context of rights talk, extending to the panoply of ratified HPR instruments – national, regional, continent-wide, and even international. Failure to do so arguably pits justiciable rights, defined and enforced by various layers of the law, against notions of ‘one-size-fits-all’ development.
Last year, the complainants, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) filed a lawsuit with the regional powers – the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), seeking to restrain the proposed construction, claiming that such would constitute, ‘irreparable and irreversible damage to the environment of the Serengeti National Park and the adjoining and inseparable Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.’
The EACJ is the legal mechanism through which conflicts between EAC members are resolved, using the instrument of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC) – which ANAW claims the Tanzanian government stands in violation of.
The group is attempting to prevent the Tanzanian government from:
‘constructing, creating, commissioning or maintaining a trunk road or highway across any part of the Serengeti National Park…degazetting (removing) any part of the Serengeti National Park for the purpose of upgrading, tarmacking, paving, realigning, constructing, creating or commissioning’ the highway, and ‘removing itself from UNESCO obligations with respect to the Serengeti National Park.’
This, they hoped to accomplish, through the interim order ceasing development as well as a permanent injunction. ANAW attorney, Saitabao Mbalelo, dismissed the notion that the suit vied to undermine the government’s ‘right to development’, contending instead that the way in which the right was exercised unlawfully infringed on the Treaty, constituting the root cause of the problem.
The Tanzanian government countered that the proposed highway was firmly within the government’s sovereign right to determine how such would occur within national boundaries.
‘Nothing can prevent a sovereign state from undertaking development of infrastructure within its boundaries and the EACJ does not have jurisdiction to grant the declaration sought,’ said Tanzania’s Yohan Masala.
The government further claimed that the EACJ lacked the mandate to issue the permanent injunction, stating that the EACJ’s regional authority was limited to interim injunctions only.
While acknowledging the government’s right to development, the EACJ ruled that ANAW was fully within their rights to refer the legality of the case to the regional court. Justice John Mkwawa, citing Article 1, 23 (1) and 27 (1), affirmed the substance of the suit, regarding the ‘legality of any act, regulation, directive, decision or action of a Partner State’, confirming also that it was within the Court’s power to issue a permanent injunction.
As the terms of the Treaty requires the Tanzanian government to stand accountable for potential trans-boundary impacts, ranging from shared ‘common’ resources to destructive social and environmental impacts, the Court’s decision is final.
The case constitutes one of several examples where ‘rights talk’ has torpedoed ‘the right to development’ where such was devised exclusively of crucial considerations, extending from cultural to economic rights.
KENYA: DEVELOPMENT TALK, WRONG WALK
Most notable was the recent landmark decision by the African Union to recognise the rights of Kenya’s displaced Endorois peoples, by endorsing the stance of African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR).
Four decades ago, in 1973, 20,000 semi-nomadic pastoral Endorois, residing near Lake Bogoria, were evicted by the Kenyan government to facilitate the development of a tourist resort and game reserve. Not only did the Kenyan government consign these Kenyan citizens to a class of landless squatters, mired in poverty and inequality, but under the guise of development, deprived them of compensation for the value of the land, dismissed religious and cultural ties to the land, and undermined their socio-economic means of survival.
The Endorois, supported by NGOs such as Witness and the Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), took the case to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), representing the Charter legally upholding first and second generations rights for Africans through ratification by African governments.
After years of deliberations, in May 2009, at the ACHPR’s 45 session in Banjul Gambia, the Commission issued the declaration that the Kenyan government had violated the rights of the Endorois on several counts, disproportionate to any perceived or public or general interest ie: development concerns.
This included, claimed the Commission, displacement from ancestral land, failure to provide compensation for property, violation of the community’s pastoral enterprise, violations of the right to practice culture and religion, socio-economic disturbance, and the disruption of the process of development of the Endorois peoples, whose welfare should have been central to the development of the tourist resort, rather than a hindrance.
The Endorois and their partner NGOs presented the argument that Article 14 of the Charter – the right to property, was fundamentally violated as for centuries, ‘the Endorois have constructed homes, cultivated the land, enjoyed unchallenged rights to pasture, grazing, and forest land, and relied on the land to sustain their livelihoods around the Lake.’
That is, while the strictures of legalism did not allow for formal recognition of customary collective ownership, the Endorois, ‘exercised an indigenous form of tenure,’ reflecting, ‘traditional African land ownership, which was rarely written down as a codification of rights or title, but was, nevertheless, understood through mutual recognition and respect between landholders.’ The plaintiffs argued that even under colonial rule, the British recognised the Endorois’ rights to occupy and use the land and its resources.
Last year, when the AU upheld the decision of the ACHPR, the Kenyan government – which had prior failed to address the wrongs, and compensate accordingly, became immovably bound to the agreement which they had ratified.
That is, the Kenyan government could no longer rely on the use of the language of transformation to exclude citizens from the processes of development and ‘externalise’ the impacts of social, economic and cultural rights deprivation emphasised in the ACHPR.
In the context of global ‘rights talk’ the ACHPR’s focus on the class of rights (or entitlements) known as ‘second’ generation ie: economic, cultural and social, as well as third generation rights i.e.: Group and peoples’ rights, constitutes a revolutionary position.
Developed nations, especially those comprising the world’s super powers’, namely the US, actively discourage second generations rights – considered ‘soft’ and ‘positive’ laws, knowing full well that such would require a political redistribution of resources in a national and international context. These governments opt for the class of rights known as first generation (political and civil), enforcing a minimalist legal approach toward the fulfillment of human and citizens’ rights.
AFRICA: THE RIGHTS REVOLUTION
In his seminal paper, ‘What Future for Economic and Social Rights’, David Beetham draws attention to the barbarity of rights deprivations, writing, ‘By the same token, our paradigm for a human rights violation is state-sponsored torture or “disappearance” rather than, say, childhood death through malnutrition or preventable disease.
‘The normal processes of the international market, which tend to benefit the already advantaged, have been intensified by the effects of deregulation and the cutting of welfare provision, to the further disadvantage of the deprived in many societies. There has indeed been a politics of redistribution at work, but it has been a redistribution from the poor to the well-off, within and between countries: an upwards flood rather than a “trickle down”.* In the process the capacity of governments to control their own economic destinies has been significantly eroded, as collective choice has been displaced by market forces, and economic policy has been conducted under the scrutiny of what ‘average opinion’ in financial circles ‘believes average opinion to be.’
He quotes the acknowledging statement of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights conference, held in Vienna in 1993, ‘The shocking reality…is that states and international community as a whole continue to tolerate all too often breaches of economic, social and cultural rights, which, if they occurred in relation to civil and political rights, would provoke expressions or horror and outrage, and would lead to concerted calls for immediate remedial action. In effect…violations of civil and political rights continue to be treated as though they were far more serious and more patently intolerable than massive and direct denials of economic, social and cultural rights.’
While first generation rights may be fully justiciable as ‘hard’ laws – and proposed as the panacea for Africa’s ‘democracy deficit’ – the continent’s most revered liberation heroes, including Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, readily affirmed the very same: That without the basic means of survival, political and civil rights were derisory by nature.
This is especially the case in the context of maldeveloped areas inhabited by peoples like the Endorois, where those most vulnerable, such as rural and indigenous peoples, are least able to access the institutions through which rights should be accessible and implemented.
It is, surprisingly, Africa’s unique historical realities – characterised by the brutality of rights deprivation in the context of Europe’s ‘colonial’ project, as well as the dire need to provide means of material sustenance, that compelled several African leaders, including The Gambia’s former President, Dawda Jawara, to catalyse the legitimisation of the full rights spectrum.
In fact, years prior – in 1978, Jawara stated to the 33rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, ‘With the attainment of self-determination and independence, it would be ironic indeed if the freedom from the defeat of colonialism, should be denied to our people by our own leaders. After centuries of a deliberate policy of dehumanisation, subjugation, and oppression, the minimum our people expect and must have is the full enjoyment of their political, economic, social and cultural rights…It should be the duty of all us to ensure that the people enjoy their rights…’
Certainly, the move to institutionalise human rights in Africa began long before, in the 1960s, when Africa’s independent nations became members of the UN, ratifying the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights. Between 1960 and 1979, an estimated 12 meetings focusing on a range of human rights issues took place across Africa.
But it was not until 1979, in the wake of bloody dictator Idi Amin’s brutal slaughter, that the continent’s primary political instrument, the OAU, began to sit up and take notice. In that year, during the OAU Summit held Monrovia, Liberia, the African Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.
According to the article, ‘The Organization of African Unity’ (1979), though democratic states like Senegal played a role, ‘much of the credit for making it a priority belongs to The Gambia’s Jawara, who runs a small model republic, and has placed himself at the forefront of the human rights campaign on the continent.’
Immediately following the OAU Summit, African governments led by The Gambia, motivated for the establishment of a permanent human rights commission. Legal experts from across African met to draft part of what would become the foundation of the Charter from November 25 to December 2 1979. Participants agreed to convene in The Gambia’s Banjul, seat of the ECOWAS chair, and a critical hub that facilitated the intervention by ECOMOG in Liberia.
WHY ‘BANJUL CHARTER’?
Political conflicts prevented development of more than a handful of articles (just 11) during the meeting in June 1980. But judging from his statement to OAU General Assembly, in Sierra Leone, the following month, Jawara was realistic about the process: ‘The United Nations General Assembly of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly more than 30 years ago... the subsidiary covenants on civil, political, economic and cultural rights were adopted some 20 years later. It took another ten years before the instruments came into force.’
Nonetheless, The Gambia pushed to host the 2nd Ministerial Meeting on the Draft Charter, in 1981, which brought about the full development and conclusion of all 68 articles.
In recognition of Jawara and The Gambia’s role, various relevant authorities proposed titling the draft, ‘the Banjul Charter’, with the OAU thereafter officially placing the office of the African Commission in Banjul. The Gambia Times (1988) quotes President Kenneth Kaunda as stating, ‘Addis Ababa is synonymous with the OAU; Banjul is synonymous with the promotion of human and peoples.’
But this is the case no longer: Though Banjul is still officially ‘home’ to the Commission, in 1994, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) came into power after a bloodless coup, removing Jawara from power for the first time in 24 years. AFPRC was initially said to be supported by a significant percentage of Gambians, frustrated with the lack of development in The Gambia. But with the coup, and military control, came suspension of aid and frosty relations with important multilateral powers like the World Bank.
The coup came about when Gambia lost its primary protector: Neighbouring Senegal, after Dakar, in 1993, decided to close transit borders to use of The Gambia as a ‘black hub’ of trafficking, eroding Senegal’s fiscal base. It was Senegal that provided Jawara with the geo-strategically critical political and military force protecting Africa’s smallest mainland nation from internal and external threats. In 1981, for instance, Senegal militarily intervened to protect Jawara’s regime from an attempted. Yet until 1983, the country did not have the resources – financial and otherwise, to create and maintain a national army. It was not until 1990, that a small band of 800 was finally stitched together.
From 1981-1994, for instance, over 85 per cent of Gambia’s development programme was financed by external sources – 75 per cent in the form of loans. But the flipside of loans was debt and Gambia (US$136 million in 1981 to US$245 million in 1985). By 1986 this debt represented 229 per cent of GDP. Foreign loans declined from US$19 million in 1984/5 to US$11 million in 1985/1986 and development grants fell from US$9m to US$5m during the same period.
In reality, the Gambia’s political vulnerability and economic dependence informed much of the government’s foreign policy, of which ‘human rights promoter’ was part and parcel. Jawara’s boycott of OAU activities in 1982, for example, was largely because of the belief that Libya, under Gaddafi, financed the attempted coup. Jawara was incensed when the OAU did not take a hardline on Gaddafi.
Unlike many African governments, the Gambia also refused to recognise many liberation movements, even those long legitimised by the majority of other African states such as the MPLA. When the OAU – alongside 50 states, recognised the SADR with regards to the Saharawi territory, despite the latter enjoying majority support from the population, controlling over 90 per cent of the territory and pledging support for UN and OAU charters, Jawara’s regime refused to stand against Morocco. At the time, and until today, Morocco’s human rights violation in this region is well known.
This reveals that at least a considerable factor driving The Gambia’s role as Africa’s HPR prophet, was a canny strategy to tap into foreign donor wallets, rather than a thorough commitment to ‘rights’.
WHEN DOES THE EARTH HAVE RIGHTS?
Initially, in spite the revolutionary nature of the rights enshrined in the ACHPR, modeled on the UN Human Rights Committee, the Commission, from the outset, held aspirational, rather than binding powers.
It was not until mid 2004 when the Charter was given teeth after African states agreed to integrate the African Court of Justice with an African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, merging to become the African Court of Justice and Rights. The new court required a similarly new rationalisation: The Draft Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Human Rights and Justice (adopted in July2008).
What makes the Court powerful is that maintains jurisdiction over all human rights issues and instruments, whether African or international in nature, extending access to NGOs, individuals, States party for and against complaints, States who citizen is a victim, the Commission itself, intergovernmental organisations, and other parties relevant or holding an interest in the case.
But what of the rights of the ecosystem, especially in the context of the climate crisis, already exacerbating continent-wide inequalities, catalysing mass ‘eco-refugees’?
Though genocide is a well-established justiciable atrocity, the same cannot yet be said for ‘ecocide’, whether from ‘development’ strategies such as mega-dams, water depletion and pollution, externalised impacts from mining including acid mine drainage (AMD), extraction and use of fossil fuels, exploitation of oceanic fisheries, gross agricultural ‘run-off’ and factory farming, or even just the environmental impacts of war, such as nuclear weapons or carpet bombing.
Celebrity intellectuals such as Jeffrey Sachs and Jared Diamond often use the convenient anthem of ‘environmental determinism’ to wish away the root causes of poverty, rather than identify the correct causes of maldevelopment – an inequitable global financial and trade architecture sustaining inequality.
But moves are afoot to alter this unjust status quo: thought leaders like Cormac Cullinan, an environmental lawyer and author of Wild Law, have long since proposed locating ecosystems – or the earth, at the center of the world’s legal system. According to Cullinan, whose book was published a little under a decade ago, ecosystems, from rivers to forests, have the legal right to exist, live and thrive. In just a few years, countries like Ecuador have already recognised the innate rights of ecosystems. Doing so upends the right of man-induced exploitation, including the symptoms of such, evident in the climate crisis.
Other countries, like Bolivia, also made history by recognising 11 ecological rights: ‘the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered,’ reported the UK’s Guardian in an article titled, ‘Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth.’ The article continued, ‘Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”’
Yet, like Tanzania, the Bolivian government led by the left-talking former union leader, Evo Morales, has proposed a $US410 million ‘highway’ through the Amazon’s 3.4 million acre Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Reserve and National Park, also known as Tipnis.
While Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere region, is known for the Pachamama or ‘Mother Earth’ movement, it is also dependent on the exploitation of oil, gas and other finite extractive resources. The country also hosts a large and underdeveloped rural majority.
Similar to the Gambia, earnestly peddling the country as an icon of ‘rights talk’, Bolivia too struggles with inconsistency innate to the characteristics of economic woes and political vulnerability.
Thus, though ecological rights are crucial as the next logical and necessary step toward protecting and promoting an equitable justice system, it presents difficult questions that, once again, strike at the heart of the fundamental debate between conventional notions of development and human rights as they are accessible to peoples.
If the Africa were to ratify the ‘Declaration of Natural Rights’, mining in South Africa – producing lethal acid mine drainage (AMD) in a water-scarce country, would not logically be allowed to continue - ditto for oil and gas extraction in Nigeria’s bloodied Niger Delta, and a host of other replicated circumstances.
This would, by default, remove the power of rent-seeking elites, eager to cash in on unearned resource revenue, and with it, the elimination of various forms of threats affecting ecosystems and peoples, including corruption, militarisation (often financed by resource wealth), war, displacement, and illicit flight, to name a few.
But it would also kick away what is perceived to be a crucial development ladder in Africa: exploiting resources for development revenue.
Yet, as the World Bank itself admitted in a report titled ‘Where is the Wealth of Nations’, assessing the natural, produced and intangible wealth of 120 nations, even disregarding hard figures of illicit flight – in Africa, estimated at US$148 billion minimum annually, many African nations, including South Africa, are left with a negative ‘genuine savings’ rate, after resources have been exploited.
Already, it seems, before any climate crisis, civil wars, ecological scarcities, and resource-fueled wars, nations that are democratic like South Africa, who consider the vast national resources (gold, coal, diamonds, platinum etc) as the financial fuel for development, are at a loss. Meanwhile, countries like Nigeria – exploiting oil under the guise of development, but losing over US$400 billion to illicit flight since the 1960s, have received no benefit, only suffering.
Africa’s current status – though emitting just 3 per cent of global carbon dioxide (significant quantities of which are caused by Shell’s gas flaring in Nigeria) is that we stand on the frontline of climate change, and the continent declared most likely to bear the harshest consequences.
Strangest of all is that most of the circumstances resting at the base of global misery: Unemployment, poverty, ecological degradation, and lack of access to resources, are produced by these systems that are interlocked.
The climate crisis, like poverty, therefore, requires a systems change, rather than a solution that is isolated from the full context of the problem. And this system change, it seems, can only be produced if a clean break occurs i.e.: Casting aside ‘reform’ in favor of rights through redistribution of power and resources.
Were the African Union to endorse natural rights, and take a stance forbidding the extraction of any fossil fuels, well, it would seem a very natural progression of the continent’s already revolutionary path toward an inclusive justice for all.
Africa would then take its place as the birthplace of humanity in a world where too much of mankind has consigned one another – as neighbours, communities, nations and even entire continents, to the junk pile.
The question of rights and ‘right’, appears, after all, to be very straightforward indeed.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Saving Africa’s free trade area from failure
In June 2011 African leaders unveiled concrete plans to create an African-wide free trade area when they announced that 26 African nations will join the three existing, but often overlapping regional trade blocks. Their ambition is to create a duty and quota free movements of goods, services and business people by 2016, and an Africa-wide economic and monetary area by 2025.
There are very obvious advantages of an African free trade area. Pooling their markets may help African economies better take advantage of new growth opportunities offered by the rise of powerful new emerging powers. It may also help African economies overcome new challenges caused by the decline of some of the old industrial powers in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
Given the debt crises in the US and the EU it becomes even more important for African countries to integrate closer and quicker, because better intra-regional trade can provide a protective buffer from global shocks. Furthermore, it may provide a protective wall to African countries to beneficiate their economies from single-commodity dominated ones and nurture new manufacturing and services industries.
Many African economies are so tiny they are unviable on their own. Pooling African economies will bring larger economies of scale and markets which has the potential of expanding production and demand. Currently African countries trade more with the rest of the world, mostly former colonial powers, than with each other.
What should be done differently to prevent the idea of an African grand free trade area turning into a grand failure?
The first requirement is political will – at the heart of many African development failures.
There are a number of regional trade blocs in Africa, all with different rules, regulations and are at different stages of integration – all which could slow the building a free trade area.
Whatever the level of integration within these regional groupings, all of them have struggled to free the movement of goods, labour and services.
There are high levels of protectionism between African countries. Restrictive trade permits requirements and frequent bans on imports from neighbours persist. Economic disparities between African countries are further obstacles. Smaller countries fear domination by bigger neighbours, while bigger ones, fear a grand free trade area would lead to domination by South African produce. Non-trade tariffs such as travel restrictions, poor physical infrastructure, incompetent public administrations and rampant corruption are major stumbling blocks.
Political instability in many African countries is a major problem. Most of African economies are based on one raw material or agricultural products. African countries typically export raw materials abroad and buy finished products at higher prices.
Africa’s rising growth has mostly been because of a boost in mineral exports, increased local demand at home due growing domestic markets fuelled by a rising African middle class, and increased trade with new emerging powers, such as China, India and Brazil. However, Africa’s current growth spurt is following the old pattern of being based on exporting raw materials instead of diversifying into manufacturing, services and value-add products.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan rightly calls this African growth spurt, ‘low-quality’ growth. The growth has remained ‘inequitable, jobless, (and) volatile’ and if continued on current patterns unlikely to lead to widespread job creation and poverty reduction. A report by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU) released in July 2011, titled ‘Economic Report on Africa 2011’, urged Africans to diversify production and exports through improving ‘competitiveness by tackling supply-side constraints as well as improving infrastructure and productive capacities, among other things’.
Weak logistics and supply chains, and scarce bank finance are other obstacles.
Africa imports most of the manufacturing and services it could arguably produce at home from abroad – this will have to be rectified.
The challenge is for individual African countries within a grand free trade area to specialise: One country must produce what another country can’t, but needs. In fact, each African country should pick the manufacturing and service sectors they may have competitive advantages, and then trade or barter with each other. At the moment if one African country needs manufactured products, few neighbours can provide it.
Each African country should be required to cobble together an industrial policy which at its heart should have diversifying from one agricultural product or commodity to value-added products.
All the individual country industrial policies must feed into a regional industrial policy; which in turn should be connected to a continental-wide industrial policy for Africa. Developing regional supply chains for products can help African economies against global shocks, such as the current debt crises in the Eurozone and US. The bulk of the indigenous sectors of most African economies are in the informal sector, that’s also where most of the jobs are being created. A free trade zone among Africans will be useless unless it includes small traders in the informal sectors, who are often face formidable bureaucratic barriers.
The existing regional blocs should be turned into regional economic growth zones. Infrastructure - power, transport, telecommunication networks and so on - should be developed within each country, within and between the regional economic growth zones.
A continental infrastructure grid must connect the regional economic growth zones.
Up to this day most infrastructure networks in most African countries have not changed since colonialism. Colonial powers constructed infrastructure networks in the countries under their control from the small areas that produced the one commodity or agriculture product to the coast for export to the ‘mother’ country. The colonial infrastructure networks rarely connected neighbouring countries.
Sadly, African countries during the post-colonial period have left such infrastructure arrangements untouched and even unmaintained.
All the regional blocs must work towards macro-economic convergence – setting basic prudent standards for fiscal and monetary policy. Exchange rate volatility – often because of poor monetary policies – has been a particular problem in Africa.
Convergence of macro-economic policies will be a challenge given the history of African countries over-emphasising political and economic sovereignty.
Most African countries have trade agreements with former colonial powers which often undermine integration with other African countries. The European Union’s economic partnership agreements (EPAs) demand that African countries declare the EU as ‘most favourite nation’. Under the United States African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA), the US signs trade arrangements with individual African countries – rather than with regional blocs. This undermines African regional integration and the formation of regional supply chains.
It would naïve to think that the new emerging powers such as China and India would suddenly open their markets for African products. In reality it is very difficult for African manufactured products and services – to penetrate China and Indian markets.
African countries will have to trade more smartly – together – with their new emerging market friends as well as with old industrial powers. Given the impact of the global financial crisis on industrial countries it is unlikely that high tariff barriers and subsidies in industrial nations and new emerging powers are going to decline significantly – in many cases they may become more protective and cut development aid.
It will also be silly to think that if industrial nations and new emerging powers suddenly lift tariff barriers and subsidies to African products that many African producers will be able to compete. Most African countries are uncompetitive – compared to industrial nations and some new emerging market players – when it comes to manufactures and services. However, African produce and services may perhaps be uncompetitive for whatever reasons in industrial markets – but African countries can trade these products with each other, if they off course can bring down the costs of infrastructure, red tape and corruption.
For another, the big challenge also for Africans is going to be to set out a legally binding mechanism – and penalties – to get signatories to the free trade area to stay the course. Africans will also have to set up more effective dispute resolutions to deal with inevitable trade disputes between members. Lastly, better African leadership and greater democracy remains a crucial barrier in creating an effective free trade area. African citizens – farmers, traders, civil society and individual citizens’ – must actively participate in building a grand free trade area, if it is to be durable.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article first appeared in BBC Focus on Africa.
* William Gumede is Honorary Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and Development Management, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is the co-editor of The Poverty of Ideas, published by Jacana.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Global: Search for material for a book on new movement, new politics
We, as editors, are searching for material for a book that is tentatively titled 'Worlds of Movement, Worlds in Movement' (or 'New Movement, New Politics'). This note is to invite your help in finding such material, either written or produced by you yourself or by someone you know.
Search for material for a book on new movement, new politics
We, as editors, are searching for material for a book that is tentatively titled Worlds of Movement, Worlds in Movement (or New Movement, New Politics). This note is to invite your help in finding such material, either written or produced by you yourself or by someone you know.
This will be the fifth of a series of books that we as editors have been working on over some years now, looking at current world movement, collectively titled Challenging Empires. The first volume, in 2004, was titled World Social Forum : Challenging Empires (http://www.choike.org/nuevo_eng/informes/1557.html), and was brought out in other languages and then in a second and updated edition in 2009 (http://www.blackrosebooks.net/wsf.htm). The third one, due out shortly, is titled World Social Forum : Critical Explorations, and the fourth one The Movements of Movements : Struggles for Other Worlds.
As with the third and fourth books, this book will initially be published by OpenWord in India (http://www.openword.in); we are also in discussions with other publishers in the global south (in particular at the moment, in South Africa and Peru) for them to bring out other editions. OpenWord was created in and from the South, and wants to contribute to the publication and publicisation of knowledges of the global south.
All of these books have contributions from women and men of different ages, from many points of view and from many parts of the world. We encourage all our authors to critically engage with what they are writing on – delving deep into their experiences and understandings, and asking hard questions. Wherever appropriate, we also encourage our authors to, in their essays, allow their own roles with respect to the movements to come through – whether as participants or as researchers – and to try and reflect on and discuss their own roles and contributions. In addition, in all our books we try to speak to younger women and men – students, workers, activists, professionals – and more generally to the general public, rather than only to academia (or to seasoned activists). All these are the hallmarks of our books.
On Worlds of Movement, Worlds in Movement / New Movement, New Politics
The book we are inviting you to help us with has 2-3 specific aims : To document movements and struggles over the past 15-20 years and in different parts of the world; in particular to try to bring out the many new political practices that have been forged and practised in this time and to critically discuss and reflect on them; and most especially, to attempt to generate material from within and/or by movements.
To do this, we want to make a book where, alongside essays by those whose profession it is to write about movement and politics (scholars, journalists, scholar-activists), there is also generous space for essays by people from within movements (activists, movement supporters, and also occasional participants and sympathisers) : For their knowledges. (We already have in hand some material by ‘professionals’, and so we are especially looking for the latter.)
In addition, we want to draw not only on the experiences and perceptions of better-known, visible movements but also from within less known and less articulated movements, including the countless groundswells, stirs, and heavings that are today so visible around the world.
And we are also very interested in hearing from the everyday ‘movements’ that are part of the struggle of daily life. Here, we start from the perspective that the social, cultural, political, and economic orders that we all live within – at local, national, and world levels – are created not only by institutions up there but also by the myriad ways peoples all over the world engage and struggle with the world systems they confront. Especially at this time in history, we want to try and find ways to make visible these practices and political levels that are often invisible.
We are open to receiving material that explore these questions in different forms: In addition to normal essays written as prose and analysis, poems, songs, and diaries, and transcripts of (say) especially striking vimeos or audio-recordings, or plays are also welcome. All must however have at their core a critical presentation, exploration, and/or engagement with ‘new’ political practices; and all must be in text form, for us to consider. (We don't have the resources to convert them.)
As editors, we are however willing to work with contributors to give shape to their writings and to achieve the qualities we are looking for – which we hope will take writing on political practice to new levels. The contributions will be not only on politics ‘out there’ but also on the politics within us, as individuals and as collectivities such as movements; and on dissent within movement as well as on agreement and assent. We believe that it is when we touch this depth that both comprehension and richer conversations begin. Through creating this collection, we hope to push beyond normal boundaries of social and political dogma and doctrine, and to open up new thinking, new conversations, new syntheses, new visions; and just maybe, new theories and new practices.
We’d like to invite your help in finding such material, either written or produced by yourself, or by people you know. Thanks!
Jai Sen, Michal Osterweil, and Peter Waterman, editors, October 2011
email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Koroga, another African story
A small number of photographers and poets in Kenya have started the second phase of a creative project called ‘Koroga’. Photographers create stunning, ‘alternative’ images of Kenya and poets add short text to create slides, the ‘Koroga’, that say something imaginative, something new. All of the very accessible and diverse slides are ‘free to view’ online.
View From Somewhere
From the very first notes of her a cappella solo that introduce this album, it's clear that Amira Kheir is not afraid to take risks. Born in Italy of Sudanese parents and now residing in London, Amira draws upon her own multicultural background to create a unique and compelling acoustic amalgam. View From Somewhere is her debut album, but it's not happened just by chance. Rather this recording is a signpost on an ever-extending road, and since 2009 Amira has performed at the Albany for the London Jazz Festival, the Queen Elizabeth Hall for the African Music Festival, and at the Southbank for the Celebrating Sanctuary Festival.
From the very first notes of her a cappella solo that introduce this album, it's clear that Amira Kheir is not afraid to take risks. Born in Italy of Sudanese parents and now residing in London, Amira draws upon her own multicultural background to create a unique and compelling acoustic amalgam.
Inspired by traditional Sudanese singing and instrumentation, blended with elements of Jazz and Soul, Amira effortlessly switches between Arabic and English with an unabashed self-confidence that those less relaxed with their roots might find difficult. In Amira's world, such a cultural mosaic is a simple fact of life.
View From Somewhere is her debut album, but it's not happened just by chance. Rather this recording is a signpost on an ever-extending road, and since 2009 Amira has performed at the Albany for the London Jazz Festival, the Queen Elizabeth Hall for the African Music Festival, and at the Southbank for the Celebrating Sanctuary Festival.
She has also appeared online and on-air for the BBC World Service, the BBC Arabic Service, for VoxAfrica.co.uk, and featured in international print publications including the German 'Die Welt', the Pan Arab newspaper 'Alsharq Alawsat', and the 'Philips De Pury' contemporary arts magazine. With charm and elegance, Amira Kheir demands to be heard.
“Bold and poetic… beautiful and fearless” – Songlines
“A charming performer who’s captured her live acoustic sound well on this debut album” – The Independent
“A stunning set infused with many influences but anchored in the sounds and identity of her homeland Sudan” – Fly Global Music
“Amira Kheir sings from the heart and soul” – Inside World Music
Cessation threat delayed, not withdrawn
Fahamu protection campaign continues : Rwandan refugees in Africa need legal representation to defend against deportation
On 7 October, the UN News Centre released ‘Rwanda and UN refugee
agency agree to step up repatriation efforts', announcing that, as a
result of meetings between the Government of Rwanda and UNHCR in the
margins of the recent session of the latter's Executive Committee (of
which Rwanda holds only observer status) in Geneva, ‘UNHCR will
recommend to States that they invoke the cessation of refugee status
by 31 December 2011, to become effective on 30 June 2012.’
This is a partial victory for Fahamu and others who have raised the alarm over stripping tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees of protection in light of the repression, continuing human rights violations, and instability of the situation in that country. At the NGO Consultations last June, UNHCR had promised to release a ‘roadmap’ to implementation of cessation in a few weeks but, four months later, they still have not done so. We suspect that the delay in this and in the date of implementation may be rooted in the procedural nightmare that awaits UNHCR. (If cessation is done properly, refugees stripped of their status would have the right to be considered for another 'durable' solution; a right that many, perhaps most, will likely invoke. Since the host countries of most of them lack adequate processes, the burden will likely fall on UNHCR.)
The struggle is far from over and the anxiety and uncertainty for refugees over their status will only continue and mount. The Government of Rwanda and UNHCR plan to ‘call a meeting of all relevant States and other actors in December to achieve increased voluntary repatriation and find greater opportunities for local integration or alternative legal status for refugees in countries of asylum.’ If the past is any guide, however, pressure to repatriate, even involuntarily, will be the principle result. If you or your organisation have not yet endorsed the international civil society petition to halt this measure, please do so now and circulate it to your networks!
‘Hope and Challenge’: A little known part of Tunisia's historic election
Tunisia's first free elections will be held this Sunday 23 October. With more than 100 parties, there are feelings of great uncertainty as well as excitement. Different regions are setting up further independent electoral lists, trying to express the values that drove the revolution – dignity, liberty – and to campaign on the needs that still face everyone in Tunisia: Employment, social justice, an end to impunity.
There is a useful though not radical guide to the largest 15 Tunisian political parties, by Daphne McCurdy of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), and a valuable overview of the way that all the Arab revolts are being framed and limited in western media worldviews, by Professor Anastup Basu in Mute magazine.
Till now, the only party I've encountered personally through my solidarity tour to Tunisia in April is the smallest of the top 15, the Tunisian Party of Labour. Supported by some of the trade unionists and human rights activists who hosted the tour for guests from the World Social Forum, the PTT's initial manifesto stood for:
'1- Democracy, 2- Socialism, 3- Enlightenment, contemporaneity and modernity'.
But yesterday I received the manifesto of one of the small independent electoral lists.
‘Espoir et Defi’ – ‘Hope and Challenge’ – is linked to the Karama association for unemployed graduates based in Kasserine, a town in the Tunisian interior which lost the largest number of lives in the revolution. I have been reporting on Kasserine and its struggles through my correspondent Nasri Charfeddine:
Nasri has now sent a beautifully made handbook for ‘Espoir et Defi’ . I'm sorry not to send the pictures, but here is the manifesto. I received two subtly different versions, by post and by email, so have tried to include as much as possible of each.
To our beloved dead
To our beloved bereaved
To our beloved activists
To our beloved companions -
Here is our independent electoral list:
HOPE AND CHALLENGE
for the district of Kasserine, city of martyrs.
1) OUR VISION FOR TUNISIA.
Liberty, democracy, justice. Breaking the web of corruption.
Combating poverty - unemployment is our enemy, work is our concern, we are always seeking engagement.
The principles of citizenship, fellowship, solidarity and social justice.
Independence and transparency at every level of every institution.
Investment, a spirit of enterprise.
Freedom of thought.
'Youth is our partner in the present and our stake in the future'.
The issue of Palestine is OUR issue too.
2) OUR VISION FOR KASSERINE.
Complete and lasting economic development for the region.
Infrastructure must equal the sacrifices that young people have made:
creation of a local radio network, a court of appeal, a sports complex.
Employment is always at the heart of our vision.
The unemployed - whether graduates or not - have the right and need to work.
ORDER OF CANDIDATES ON THE ELECTORAL LIST.
Leader: Nasri Bassem
Members: Jabbari Raouf
Mohammed Taher Chaabani
All candidates are unemployed graduates, except for Jabbari Raouf who was one of Kasserine's wounded during the Tunisian revolution.
TUNISIA IN OUR VISION:
Freedom and democracy.
Defence of the Constitution and its supreme importance in law.
Breaking away from anything second-rate in our past.
Complete economic development in every region of the country.
Equality between women and men.
Sentencing the killers from the time of the Tunisian revolution.
Compensating bereaved families and widows for their loss.
Maintaining our Arab identity, and Tunisia as an Arab muslim country.
A drive for citizenship and modernity, fellowship, solidarity and social justice.
Health, housing and the right to happiness and relaxation.
Security for everyone in Tunisia on land or sea.
Safeguards for freedom of thought and belief.
Protection for free investment and personal enterprise.
Sustaining our share in the present and our stake in the future world.
Supporting and protecting international human rights and liberties, especially in the case of Palestine.
KASSERINE IN OUR VISION:
Full and ongoing regional development.
Infrastructure is our major concern.
Motorways, water supplies, electricity.
Drainage canals in the rural districts.
Industrial zones and green belts.
Reviving and maintaining the railways in our area.
Expanding public transport.
For the people of our region:
building a local radio network;
setting up a court of appeal;
getting a teaching hospital in Kasserine, and co-ordinated health resources in the countryside;
opening an airport in the area of Talabet;
opening a sports centre on Mount Chaanbi;
encouraging tourist investment in Chaanbi and Ain Elsla, and another tourist centre in Boulaaba;
employment and job creation to combat and minimise poverty and the marginalisation of our region.
To pay homage to the martyrs of Tunisia, who died from Bizerte in the north to Ben Gardene in the south, here is the free voice of a young graduate who has been unemployed since 17 July 2001, and wants the world to hear.
Imagine a baby without milk, imagine France without the Eiffel tower, Egypt without its pyramids, that's me. The only space to breathe - to take a great gasp - is the space for writing and resisting. Creating a clear picture of a young unknown, obscure Tunisian, 35 years old and blocked by one full stop of unemployment, heavy as a nightmare and more unbearable than toothache on a winter night.
This is for my aged parents, Audai Zorgui and Iade Dabbar, my sisters and my brothers; for my comrades here, elsewhere and across the world, and for Amanda Sebestyen the journalist.
REPORTER: Nasri Charfeddine, unemployed graduate, Kasserine, Tunisia.
EVENT: Elections for the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia, 23 October 2011.
I do not want to get in a fight over one party or another, I do not want to blame or insult them or even to search out their mistakes and faults.
I am not against atheists, muslims, christians or any other religion -
as long as they do not harm anyone.
Likewise I am not against the socialists, the communists, liberals or other parties as long as they don't attack others, and act for their values and not in the pursuit of power. Whatever their party, religion or race, people are not all the same, there are good and bad everywhere.
I am for respecting others: for their beliefs, for their race, for their customs, for their manners, just as I want people to respect me for what I am.
I want peace in the world to start with my own country.
I condemn all those manipulations, injustices, deceptions; all these violations of the rights of men, women and children. I condemn everything which reason, love and justice must condemn.
I would like us to stop fighting each other and fight together for something better for ourselves, our children, our country.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Kenya and the ICC: The power of apology
The ICC Kenya trials that are riveting the country have taken an ironic turn. Kenyan activist, Onyango Oloo, revealed that the defence lawyer for the victims of Kenya's post-election violence, Sureta Chana, was the state senior counsel who prosecuted him for sedition under the repressive Moi regime. Oloo was jailed for five years, alongside hundreds of other Kenyans who exercised their human rights to freedom of expression and association.
Journalist Tom Maliti, in his latest report on the ICC Kenya Monitor, questioned Sureta Chana about this history. She responds:
‘There was no freedom of anything in Kenya at that time. It was a very difficult time for everyone. But every time I would prosecute a case I would make sure that there is proper evidence for that because at the time sedition was crime. And that’s a crime on the Kenyan books.’
This evasion is more than disheartening. It is tragic.
In essence, Chana pleads the Nuremberg Defense: ‘I was just following orders.’
When she is, of course, deeply familiar with Nuremberg Principle IV, which speaks of ‘a moral choice’ as being just as important as ‘legal’ decisions.
Nuremberg Principle IV states:
‘The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him’.
Chana has spoken eloquently of the longing of the victims whom she represents for an apology from those responsible for Kenya's post-election violence. Therefore she also understands that the intangible, immaterial word of remorse, acknowledgment of harm done, recognition of the harmed person as an equal human being, is of immeasurable value. It sutures the raw wounds in the national and individual psyche.
What a gift it would be to all Kenyans if Chana could lead the way, set a precedent, for all those who have done terrible things in their public capacity, by making a full, unreserved apology to those she harmed. What a healing it might be for her own heart and conscience. For the hearts of those she sent to jail, who can never recover the stolen years of their lives. For all of us who struggle towards a peace and justice in the present that does not erase the violations of the past.
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* Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet, playwright and activist.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Occupy Grahamstown: Hope for South Africa’s left?
October 15th marked the official “Occupy Everywhere” day in in 952 cities located in 82 countries. The message even reached my sleepy university town of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. I joined a group of my fellow students and marched to the town square marked for Occupation to join with comrades from the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) and the Rhodes university-based Students for Social Justice (SSJ).
Grahamstown is a microcosm of contemporary South Africa, basically it has institutionalized Apartheid inequality and geography. The town is home to one of South Africa’s elite universities and my alma mater—aptly named after one of the great colonial bastards of all time—Cecil John Rhodes and some of the country’s most elite private high schools.
On the other side of town lies a different reality, the majority of Grahamstown’s black residents live in stark informal settlements, in which such basic services such as electricity, sanitation and decent housing don’t exist. Most of the people who live there are forced to shit in buckets, as the government has failed so far to deliver on its promises of toilets, yes in South Africa toilets are a highly politicized issue. Much of the political debate surrounding recent local elections in South Africa revolved around the failure of both the major political parties to build decent toilets in various constituencies, either they gave out buckets and expected people to shit in them or they built open air toilets in the middle of settlements.
Unemployment in Grahamstown is unofficially hovering around 70% and last year the local African National Congress mayor could not account for around 21 million rand (around 3 Million USD) out of a budget of 61 Million Rand or $10 Million (while another 20 million Rand was unspent). In this context, a coalition of activists planned an occupation of Grahamstown’s central Cathedral Square.
Around 200 people showed up, which was not too bad considering the call for the protest only went out the previous weekend and almost the whole Occupy South Africa initiative was social media-based and South Africa is a incredibly internet poor nation. After a series of speeches by members of the community detailing some of the problems facing residents in Grahamstown, such as residents of informal settlements having to battle snakes drawn to the heat of fires in people’s houses in winter. The general corruption and incompetence of our municipal government and the need for a more equitable distribution of resources and power in South Africa (we have recently topped Brazil as the most unequal nation in the world) featured heavily in the discussion as well. One of the popular struggle songs, sung at protests across the country goes like this:
“My mother was a kitchen maid/my father was a garden boy/ that’s why I am a socialist/ I am a socialist.”
Unusually for a protest in South Africa there was no police presence. The South African Police Service (SAPS) essentially are sort of a synthesis between a culture of corruption and a leadership whose vision of policing seems inspired by Michael Bay films. They bear the institutional legacy of a police state in which brutality towards those of a darker skin was the job description.
The South African Police have begun a process of remilitarizing following last year’s World Cup, which largely consists of introducing military ranks and having our police general Bheki Cele boast of his shoot-to-kill policy towards criminals, last year the police killed around 600 people. Tear gas and rubber bullets are a feature of many protests across the country and earlier this year an innocent man, Andreis Tatane, was murdered by the police on live television at protest against local government corruption. Our previous chief of police is in jail following a long relationship with a drug baron and godfather wannabee, which involved shop shopping and drug trafficking.
We were joined by a few reporters from local media and one TV crew from the national broadcaster (SABC) who kept on demanding that the occupiers produce a spokesperson for movement (they failed to understand the whole thing was organized in an ad hoc fashion). After some deliberation we decided to move the protest to the Muncipal Offices facing just opposite the square, to face the enemy directly.
It was also decided to fetch some of the buckets which function as toilets in the townships were to be brought to the offices as protest against local government’s inability to even get the toilet question right. Following some fiery speeches by the chairperson of the UPM Ayanda Kota, academics and students it was decided that the shit in the buckets would be dumped in the municipal buildings. After dumping the human waste in the heart of the local corruption, the protest moved back to the square and food was brought for everybody and the police finely turned up, while the municipal buildings were shut down for the remainder of the day.
Although reports from other occupations in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban were mixed, it seems that the Occupation of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange failed completely and the protestors were cleared out. Occupy Grahamstown offers hope to the South Africa left, as it shows that radical students and the poor can form a political alliance based upon equality and solidarity, which could perhaps emulate the United Democratic Front achievements in the 1980s by seriously threatening power in South Africa. Hopefully, Occupy South Africa can move beyond a few disgruntled leftists and link up with the growing social movements in the country and throughout the world.
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* This article first appeared in Jacobin.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Africa Region 2: Declaration of the Via Campesina training on agro-ecology
We are more than thirty (30) small holder farming women and men , working on land and sea , coming from 7 farmer organizations of the Africa 2 region of la VIA CAMPESINA, representing millions of peasant families and Mozambique, from Sri Lanka and Mexico. Hosted by ECASARD in Techiman in Ghana from September the 5th to 11th 2011 for a political training on agro-ecology, we have come together to re-state:
- Our commitment to defend the family farming based on agro-ecology and food sovereignty
- Our right to keep up-holding our own identity, our cognitions and secular practices as farming men and women in perfect harmony with our environment which is both natural and societal
- Our conviction that the agro-ecology locally adopted practices , are applicable everywhere by respecting the eco-system and are the key to cool the planet and grant a future to the next generations
- Our opposition to the « false solutions » : the agro-fuels , the GMO and any mutant plants , carbon credit , the REDD+ because agro-ecology is the only healthy and sustainable alternative
- Our perseverance of fighting against the seizure of the multinationals over the living, their speculative willingness to develop only cash crops in our countries that is killing the family and crop farming, and this, with most of the time in complicity with of our states, elites, donors , and some NGOs.
Our force to stop any land grabbing and to engage in land reforms in favor of to the family farming.
- Our capacity already underway with millions of farming women and men through organizations of LA VIA CAMPESINA to put agro-ecology practices at human services
- Our willingness to strengthen and develop an agro-ecological and food sovereignty network
We ,representatives of the African continents, we commit ourselves to acting at all the levels to promote agro-ecology , fundamental practice for our family farming, the one feeding and which will feed the generation to come.
That is why , we members of la VIA CAMPESINA, we are mobilizing from farm to farm , from neighbor to neighbor , from elected body to elected body , government after government , institution after institution, every where for, another world for today and tomorrow.
WE COMMIT OURSELVES TO :
- No longer buying chemical products , commercial seeds… at any alienations that make us lose our autonomy, our know-how and our dignity
- To cultivating produces that are both healthy to our nature and our body to feed our families rather than the markets
- To collectively fighting so as to value our rights for both an equitable and fair world
WE DO GALVANIZE OUR GOVERNMENTS AND THE SUB-REGION DECISION INSTITUTIONS TO PUT INTO PLACE PUBLIC FARMING POLICIES:
- To put the family farming and agro-ecology at the heart of their concern and programs
- To set up fair and equitable conditions for both the world farming men and women to access land, water, natural resources and that they be protected ,
- To create a favorable frame to preserve , multiply and disseminate the local seeds varieties
- To support and promote productions from agro-ecology by relocating them at the level of the production , processing and marketing ,
- To support the raise of awareness, information and the training on agro-ecology by and for the farmers and particularly to give a future to the youth
- To implement the international reforms such as IRCCARD, the right to food, the respect for human rights and farmers rights (TIPAAR)
- To support the FAO guidelines on the natural resources and land tenure as defended by the civil society and opposes to the responsible investments proposed by the investors themselves and supported by the World Bank
- Not to let ourselves be deceived and corrupted by the false solutions proposed by different institutions such as the World Bank
- To strongly protect agriculture at the frontiers’ level and to take the farming away from the WTO
- To comfort and strengthen the alliances
TO GET OUT OF THE CRISES PERPETRATED BY CAPITALISM AND THE NEO-LIBERALISM SYSTEM:
- which is making the world population go hungry every day and particularly the farming communities
- which is polluting the soils , earth, air , water and making us sick
- which is , every day, grabbing our lands , natural resources , our know- how and cultures
- which is , every day , making only a handful of persons richer
- which is ,every day , hampering our rights and fundamental freedom
- which is ,every day , threatening our social cohesion, our sovereignties
we member of La VIA CAMPESINA let ‘s gather our strengths , our capacities and our know-how to transform this society by practicing agro-ecology in the framework of food sovereignty, by mobilizing each farmer whose rights are neglected , behind each farming organization permanently shaken ,by calling on the decision makers for other public policies targeting the farming communities , agro ecology, the relocation of productions, lands , water and natural resources redistribution …
we, more than 200 millions of farmers la VIA CAMPESINA are a transformation moving force on the whole planet , rich in our know-how and cultures , and will be up and ready at anytime the need arises .
Our vigilance is constantly on alert and wherever we can act, make pressure; we will not fail to do so. We will constantly put into practice our ideas in order to strengthen and develop our network and always contribute to a better future for all.
Within the perspective of DURBAN meetings on climate change in December 2011, we do denounce the maneuvers of the World Bank desiring to fool the African leaders over « False solutions » on the carbons credit.
We, ECASARD-Ghana, CNOP-Mali, CTOP-Togo, CNCR-Senegal, PFP-Niger, CNOP-Congo Brazzaville, - ROPPA – Bissau Guinea, UNAC-Mozambique,…farming organizations of la VIA CAMPESINA call upon all the African leaders not to sign « the false solutions » of the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) of the United Nations Frame on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will be taking place in Durban in South Africa from November 28th to December 9th 2011.
This process initiated by the World Bank , the corrupted governments and elites, the multinationals, that are proposing development speculative strategies to fight the changing climate over the interest of the planet and the populations and particularly farming and indigenous communities
Instead, we do call upon the African leaders to promote and develop agro-ecology, defended and practiced by la VIA CAMPESINA, at the heart of their concerns to feed and cool the planet in the interest of all. The practices of the ecology, agro-forestry favor and amplify the fight against the global warming, because agro-ecology is environmentally and economically sustainable and socially and culturally acceptable and fair.
La VIA CAMPESINA will be present and will have its say in DURBAN.
The world is not goods.
Agro-ecology is not for sale.
« Stop to land grabbing »
The farmers feed the world with agro-ecology and cool the planet.
Let’s globalize the fight, let’s globalize hope.
Issued in Techiman on September 10th 2011
Via Campesina is an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers. We are an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent of any political, economic, or other type of affiliation. Born in 1993, La Via Campesina now gathers about 150 organisations in 70 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
International Operational Secretariat:
Jln. Mampang Prapatan XIV no 5 Jakarta Selatan 12790, Indonesia
Civil society continues fight against land grabbing
Rome, Italy, 17 October 2011 - As the 37th session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) begins at FAO, civil society organizations (CSO) welcome Saturday's results of the second round of negotiations on the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, and urge governments to conclude negotiations as soon as possible.
After an intense week of negotiations, 74 percent of the text of the guidelines was adopted, including crucial issues for social movements and organizations, like the recognition and protection of customary systems of land tenure, forest and fisheries, and protection of the defenders of the rights of farmers, fishermen, indigenous peoples, pastoralists and nomads, as well as a commitment to not criminalize social struggles in defense of their natural resources.
"The adopted text reflects the fact that we were here, reminding government officials that they have an obligation to ensure our interests," said Kalissa Regier, Canadian farmer, on behalf of La Via Campesina.
The CSOs also presented the Dakar Appeal Against Land Grabbing, endorsed by 870 organizations around the world, to the chair of CFS, Dr. Noel D. De Luna. They asked that this appeal be considered in the negotiations and for a ban on land grabbing. However, this and other proposals of the CSOs were strongly rejected by several governments.
"I saw several governments attempt to get rid of the human rights approach to the governance of natural resources. It was a tough fight, "said Sofia Monsalve Suárez, a key negotiator and representative of FIAN International. "The use of natural resources for food production is a matter of right and cannot be commoditized."
Because of the complexity of the text, the negotiations were not concluded. Several contentious issues, such as investment in agriculture, still remain. The Committee on Food Security, the new governing body of agricultural and food policy, will determine when the next negotiations will take place and in the coming week will discuss about others important issues as food price volatility and trade policies.
Some of the main events organized by CSOs around this week:
Monday, 17 October
12.30 - 14.00 Lebanon Room (D209)
o "The NGO/CSO Forum" Side-event with a focus on Land Grabbing and civil society expectations for the CFS.
Tuesday, 18 October
12.30 - 14
Iran Room (B016)
"Africa can Feed Itself" Side-event, a dialogue between African governments and African family farmers which will focus on what investments are needed to promote sustainable agricultural development.
Wednesday, 19 October
13.00 - 13.30
Outside FAO (Food sovereignty tent, Piazza di Porta Capena/Salita di San Gregorio)
Press Conference and Via Campesina action "Small Farmers for a Corporate Free Agriculture"
Strategy meeting: WTO negotiations and CFS role on food trade governance
Friday, 21 October
14.30 - 16.00
Iran Room (B016)
CSM Evaluation of the CFS 37
Kalissa Regier, Sofia Monsalve Suárez and other civil society representatives are available for interview.
For more information contact:
* Monica Di Sisto Fair/Cisa, Fair/Italian Committee on Food Sovereignty, monicadisisto [at] gmail.com, +49 157 8188 6732
* Marina Litvinsky, FIAN International, litvinsky [at] fian.org, +39 335 8426752
* Annelies Schorpion, La Via Campesina, a.schorpion [at] eurovia.org, +39 331 9209210
Wilma Strothenke, Coordinator Communication, FIAN
FIAN International Secretariat
Willy-Brandt-Platz 5/ D-69115 Heidelberg Germany
Tel +49(0)6221 65300 56/ Fax +49(0)6221 830545
Postal Address: PO Box 102243/ D-69012 Heidelberg Germany
e-mail: strothenke [at] fian.org/ www.fian.org
FIAN is an international human rights organization that has been advocating the realization of the right to food for more than 20 years. FIAN consists of national sections and individual members in over 50 countries around the world. fian.org
End of Barrick Gold’s lawsuit
Écosociété settles out of court
Montréal, 18th octobre 2011
After a three and a half year legal battle, Les Éditions Écosociété has reached an out-of-court settlement with the multinational mining company Barrick Gold. In order to put an end to the proceedings that Barrick Gold instituted against it in April 2008 for the sum of 6 million dollars, and for this reason only, Éditions Écosociété is ceasing the publication of the book Noir Canada.
This withdrawal does not constitute a disavowal of the work of the authors, Delphine Abadie, Alain Deneault and William Sacher, nor of the editor. In a few years of existence, Noir Canada (Richard-Arès Award 2008) has reached thousands of readers. The book’s analysis of the activities of Canadian corporations in Africa has launched a necessary debate concerning the “judicial shelter” that Canada has become for mining companies operating internationally, and it has helped many Canadians to realize that their savings have been invested in controversial activities.
Les Éditions Écosociété remains convinced that Noir Canada had to be published.
Based in the ample amounts of documentation collected by international observers, Noir Canada is asking for an independent commission of inquiry to shed light on the numerous cases of abuse that have been committed throughout Africa. Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada will continue to demand that such a commission be held.
During this three and a half year struggle for the basic freedom of expression, freedom to publish, and the right to information, Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada have received the support of thousands of citizens, hundreds of university professors, dozens of jurists, and numerous organizations and public personalities. The steps taken by Écosociété contributed to the enactment of the Act to amend the Code of Civil Procedure to prevent improper use of the courts and promote freedom of expression and citizen participation in public debate. We take this opportunity to thank all the people and organisations that have supported us since the beginning of this case.
Éditions Écosociété intends to continue its work as a critical, committed, and independent publisher. It resolves to continue, in spite of the threats that weigh against independant books and thought, to defend the freedom of expression that is essential to public debate, critical thought, and democratic life. It equally prides itself in continuing to publish the author Alain Deneault, whose writings constitute a precious contribution to critical thought.
Moreover, it is announcing herewith the publication this fall of his next work, Faire l’économie de la haine (The Economy of Hate), a collection of texts expounding cultural forms of an “insidious censure” aiming to impede critical reasoning.
With this settlement, Éditions Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada will be spared a 40-day process and multiple procedures. The legal procedures alone represent a colossal financial, human, and moral cost, despite the provision of $143 000 for expenses that judge Guylaine Beaugé ordered Barrick Gold to pay them on August 12. She concluded in her judgement that the lawsuit had the appearance of abuse.
Indeed, although the Barrick Gold litigation is now behind its defenders, Éditions Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada still face a 5-million-dollar defamation suit, instituted by the multinational Banro in Ontario. They are still awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court so that the suit may be repatriated to Québec, Ontario having not yet adopted an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law.
It is well understood that an urgent debate should take place at this time concerning the access to justice and the huge costs it involves.
‘Les auteurs de Noir Canadan'ont sans doute rien fait de plus que le travail auquel on s'attend des penseurs et des chercheurs au sein de chaque collectivité. Derrière la poursuite dont ils sont l'objet, demeure une question fondamentale: peut-on encore être critique dans notre société? Le pouvoir (et l'argent) doit-il toujours l'emporter sur le droit de savoir, ou du moins sur le droit de s'interroger publiquement? Au-delà de ce que recouvre la notion d'atteinte à la réputation, c'est donc l'avenir de la pensée qui se jouera ici.’
Pierre Noreau, « Le pouvoir...contre le savoir ? »,
Le Devoir, 10décembre2010
Source: Éditions Écosociété
Contacts : Anne-Marie Voisard, pour Écosociété (514) 704-4980 ;
Elodie Comtois pour entrevue avec Alain Deneault (514) 521-0913 poste 21 /
The Blue Planet Project seeks local reports on Right to Water
Corporations are scrambling to take advantage of increasing economic instability and an ever-deepening global water crisis to promote the commodification of water through the so-called green economy, austerity measures, land grabs, water markets and the privatisation of water services. Over a year after the historic UN resolutions recognising water and sanitation as a human right, it is imperative that communities and civil society define this right on our terms and demand its implementation.
Earlier this year, the Blue Planet Project launched Maude Barlow's report: ‘Our Right to Water: A People's Guide to Implementing the United Nations' Recognition of Water and Sanitation as a Human Right’.
We are now hoping for domestic right to water plans along the same lines. With this in mind, the Blue Planet Project is seeking requests for proposals on the following:
1. A 10-15 page report examining violations of the right to water within the context of mining, large dams, austerity measures, land grabs, water privatisation, discrimination, climate change, free trade or hydraulic fracturing. The paper must include recommendations for the implementation of the right to water domestically.
2. A 10-15 page action plan for a civil society campaign on the right to water within a local context. Questions explored may include:
- What measures need to be taken to ensure the local implementation of the right to water?
- How can civil society promote the right to water locally?
- Where are the gaps that need to be addressed?
These papers will form a local sixth chapter to Maude Barlow's five-chapter report.
Deadline: Please provide a detailed outline by 4 November.
We will contact the selected authors about producing a final draft for 9 February 2012. We have limited funds and will only be able to select the first three submissions that meet our criteria.
To make a submission or for further information, please contact Meera Karunananthan: email@example.com
Review: ‘Fanonian Practices in South Africa’
This is a refreshing and imaginative reading of Frantz Fanon’s groundbreaking thoughts regarding the theory and practice of revolutionary transformation.
In 272 pages, Nigel Gibson has found an exciting voice to re-energise the transformation discourse in post-apartheid South Africa – at least for those who will be reached by his work here.
He studies the social trajectory of Fanon’s ideas from the formulations of Steve Biko during apartheid all the way to Abahlali baseMjondol – an organisation of landless inhabitants of informal settlements across the country.
Gibson is clear to make the point that his aim here is not to recuperate the historical Fanon. The object of his book is to recreate Fanon’s philosophy of liberation in a new situation – to articulate the state of Fanon’s revolutionary humanism in the experience of South Africa’s constitutional democracy.
This is to say that Gibson’s book endeavours to place himself in the footsteps of Steve Biko’s work of the early 1970s when he formed the foundation for Black Consciousness in Fanon’s philosophy.
It is also important not to mistake this for a research project. It is a work in search of revolutionary praxis. In other words, Gibson seeks to uncover Fanon’s teaching in action on the ground – in the shacks, on the township streets and everywhere South Africans are engaged in revolutionary action.
So the central question addressed by this timely text is: “What does Fanon mean for the damned, marginalised and disenfranchised of the world struggling for social change?”
This text is presented in simple enough language to be accessible to non-specialist readers. After turning these pages and reflecting on its meaning, Fanon still emerges as a valuable critique of post-apartheid South Africa – to ground a new emancipator movement.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This review first appeared in City Press.
* Nigel C. Gibson’s ‘Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo’ is published by UKZN Press (ISBN: 9781869141974)
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Rwanda 17 years later: what is the truth?
The editors of ‘Remaking Rwanda’ tell us they are presenting ‘a comprehensive account of post-genocide reconstruction…Debates on contemporary Rwanda are often polarized and polarizing,’ they understand, and promise to do better. ‘We have tried to offer a more nuanced appraisal, though one that is ultimately critical.’
Such a book would be welcome, even indispensable, to illuminate a country and especially a government that attract wildly different points of view. But this is not that book. Despite the promise of its editors, ‘Remaking Rwanda’ is another pure example of how utterly unbalanced the RPF’s critics can be, so blind to their own biases they apparently cannot even recognise them. Only such blinkers can explain how a book that is anti-Kagame from the first to the last page, that entirely fails to mention, let alone record, the miracle of reconstruction that has taken place in the country in the 17 years since the genocide, can be presented as comprehensive and nuanced.
Don’t get me wrong. It is only right and proper to recount, as a number of chapters do, the disappointing record of human rights violations and democratic abuse that has characterised much of the RPF’s period of governance as well as the notorious record of the Rwandan Defence Force in the Congo. Indeed, this book was completed prior to the squalid events of the past 18 months or so, more or less the period surrounding the 2010 presidential election, so that this period is not included. Throughout 2010, in what sometimes seemed like an unending torrent, story after story poured forth of beatings, killings, attempted killings, harassment, arrests, abuse and intimidation of politicians, journalists and former comrades who had in common their opposition to the RPF government.
Of course in a tragic sense, the RPF’s human rights record is just one more example of the way so many of Africa’s leaders have betrayed their people for the past half-century. But there are two reasons why the RPF so often comes under fire. First, if it is held to a higher standard than most of its peers, which it often is, that’s because their leaders have always presented themselves as operating at a higher standard than other governments. Second, while Rwanda has genuine security needs that might call for harsh measures, few of the human rights and democracy violations and few of the killings in the Congo can be justified by these needs.
So there has been no shortage of reasons to criticise Kagame and his government, and Straus and Waldorf had little difficulty pulling together the work of some 18 foreign scholars and eight human rights activists, supplemented by two Rwandans, all of whom share a deep loathing for Paul Kagame and his government. All have spent time in Rwanda, many of them (even some that go overboard) contain important information, and many of their criticisms seem to me justified. In the end, this makes the unrelenting negativism and the total lack of balance all the more disappointing.
For the volume contains not a single essay, and barely a single word, recounting the astonishing recovery the country has made since July 1994 and demonstrates little or no sympathy for the enormous, almost intractable, challenges the RPF government has confronted since then. When in history has a post-conflict government, taking over a devastated and traumatised nation, been faced with the spectacle of survivors resuming their lives in the very same community (or on the same hill) as those who tried to exterminate them?
This failure is a shame. It sets the book up for easy dismissal both by the Rwanda elite, in the contemptuous way they demonstrate for criticism of any kind from outsiders, and by the blindly adoring political, corporate and religious VIPs whom Kagame has attracted. But how can they take seriously a book that offers not a clue why so many African visitors to Rwanda envy Rwandans so deeply? They return home railing bitterly at the failure of their own governments to provide the services Rwandans take for granted like safe, clean, orderly cities, decent roads, and officials and cops who do their jobs without demanding bribes.
Readers would learn nothing about the modest health insurance available almost universally, the professional care that mothers get in giving birth, the milk that malnourished children receive, the all-but universal enrolment of all children in primary education, the vast expansion of higher education, all with no one asking about their ethnicity. They’d know nothing of the relative sophistication of its HIV/AIDS program, the efficiency of the public service, the professionalism of government ministers, the pleasure UN agencies and foreign embassies find in working with a government that actually works.
They’d have no idea Rwanda was one of the four countries in sub-Saharan Africa to meet the Millennium Development Goals on sanitation. They’d never know that most corruption has been eliminated, that women play a major role in all aspects of governance, that violence against girls and women is being combated, that attacks on gays, unlike in so many African countries, were quickly snuffed out by the government, that capital punishment has been abolished, that Rwandan soldiers and police officers play a significant role in UN and African Union peacekeeping operations.
These things matter when you’re judging a government. It doesn’t mean that they compensate for, or minimise, the abuses noted earlier. But they are integral to a genuine overview of a very complicated country that cannot be described in either the one-dimensional blackness of some of its critics or the purer-than-pure whiteness of its local partisans and foreign groupies.
One might also have thought that in 25 essays on post-conflict Rwanda, at least one could be devoted to the phenomenon of genocide denial. Yet in the entire volume there are fewer than two pages on the subject, tucked into an essay by Lars Waldorf. And might we not reasonably have expected a chapter or two on the real menace from unrepentant Hutu extremists in the west and the FDLR criminal militia in Congo whose leaders operate freely in Europe and the United States? And on the threats from those muzungu like Gerard Prunier and disaffected diaspora Rwandans who openly promote the bloody overthrow of the Kagame government. Rwanda remains vulnerable in real life, but not in the pages of ‘Remaking Rwanda’.
OPPOSITION POLITICS AND THE GACACA EXPERIMENT
Perhaps it is the passionate hostility to the RPF government on the part of so many of the contributors that leads them to so many distortions, oversimplifications, double standards, and such lack of perspective and context. Take, for example, Joseph Sebarenzi, one of the two Rwandans represented in the book, a Tutsi genocide survivor who later fell out with Kagame, fled, and wrote a damning book about his experience.
It is perverse of Sebarenzi to claim that presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire returned from Holland to Rwanda in 2010 intending to mount her campaign based on ‘constructive opposition’. It is only too evident that Ingabire, who was known to consort in Europe with some dubious allies, pitched up determined to provoke the government, as both her statements and her relationship with American lawyer Peter Erlinder did. Erlinder, a long-time active denier, surely was begging for trouble when he suddenly materialised in an already tense country to assist Ingabire. In my view, government officials were strategically foolish in both cases for taking the bait and for their wretched treatment of Ingabire, her assistant and Erlinder.
Indeed, ‘Remaking Rwanda’ co-editor Lars Waldorf, in his essay on how the RPF has exploited genocide (undoubtedly true at times), agrees. In choosing Erlinder as her lawyer, he observes, Ingabire ‘showed spectacularly poor judgment or perhaps something more sinister. Either way, it played straight into the government’s hands, seeing to confirm some of the charges against her.’ Far more of such empathy for the government’s perspective would have made this book considerably more convincing. But there is precious little.
Or take the chapter on the plight of the multitude of prisoners locked up after the genocide by Carina Tertsakian, a human rights activist. That they were held in abysmal conditions I’ve never heard anyone deny. Here’s Tertsakian’s conclusion: ‘Just as prisoners were at the bottom of the government’s list of priorities in the years following the genocide, so former prisoners remain at the bottom of the pile today…There is no recognition of the hardships they have suffered and, correspondingly, no support for them whatsoever. There are no counseling services, at least none that they feel able to use, as they tend to assume that these are reserved for genocide survivors…’
Frankly, this sounds like a delusional rant from someone from a galaxy far far away. Prisoners are at the bottom of the priority list in virtually every country in the world, rich and poor. No prize for guessing how many of them receive counseling services or help finding a job.
The gacaca experiment is duly covered in ‘Remaking Rwanda’, and the assessments are predictably negative. Personally I have been persuaded by Phil Clark’s latest study that these harsh judgments and those by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are largely unfair. (See my review of Clark’s ‘The Gacaca Courts, Post-Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda: Justice without Lawyers’, in Pambazuka News,) Clark was a speaker at one of the conferences on which ‘Remaking Rwanda’ is based but he has no article in the book. I have no idea why.
Human Rights Watch’s show-no-mercy approach to Rwanda, which characterizes too many of the essays in ‘Remaking Rwanda’, was spectacularly demonstrated again as recently as June with HRW’s latest gacaca report, ‘Justice Compromised: The Legacy of Rwanda’s Community-Based Gacaca Courts’. Leslie Haskell, the author, introduced her report to an audience in Kigali. Despite the title, Haskell told the audience that she didn’t actually believe gacaca was a failure though she did think the courts had violated some rights. Asked what alternative to gacaca she would have recommended, she surprised her listeners by saying the gacaca courts were really the best solution to Rwanda’s challenges. Finally, the Dutch ambassador, Frans Makken, told Haskell that he considered the title of her report to be quite inappropriate and that he found the entire document to be ‘harsh, unfair and unbalanced’. That stands as a general indictment of a great many HRW reports on Rwanda over the past decade, and those of Amnesty International too for that matter, both of which are cited often by contributors to ‘Remaking Rwanda’.
In Rwanda in July, a well-connected friend and other officials insisted to me that the government was well aware of the bad press it had been receiving for its abuses of democracy and human rights and was taking active steps to address them. For example, prompted by Cabinet, parliament is about to pass a Freedom of Information Bill, described by the organisation ARTICLE 19, which campaigns for free expression, as ‘one of the hallmarks of government accountability to its people because it facilitates citizen participation in decision-making processes’. The group is cautious, going no further than stating that the bill offers ‘a glimmer of hope’ for more free expression in Rwanda.
Welcome developments are also afoot in the field of media, at least officially. Rwanda TV and Rwanda Radio are to become public broadcasters instead of state broadcasters, in theory a world of difference to be enthusiastically embraced. But even in countries where the public broadcaster is a key component of the broadcasting system, such as Canada, no government ever appreciates being criticised by the broadcaster that the same government funds. Of course the funds belong to the country, not the government, but it’s a distinction many governments tend to forget. Some Rwandans themselves wonder whether their government will end up allowing anything like the independence that the BBC and CBC have. We will know soon enough.
The government is also moving to introduce self-regulation for the media in place of state regulation. Ending government interference in media content should be a huge step forward. But if self-regulation merely means self-censorship, with wary journalists censoring themselves when it comes to criticising the government and the president, it will be dismissed as merely a propaganda stunt by a government that still can’t abide criticism by a free press.
There is also an initiative to modify the much-criticised genocide ideology law, used too often to silence any criticism of the government and to disqualify opposition politicians who can’t possibly be considered promoters of genocidal ideology. But the balance is a fine one - the right to free expression but not the right to incitement. This is a real issue, not to be scoffed at. Freeing the Rwandan press in the early 1990s by then-President Habyarimana led directly to the emergence of flagrantly anti-Tutsi hate media, which played a central role in the subsequent genocide. No one in government forgets this, nor should they be expected to. While the government must learn that not all disagreement is subversive, good-faith critics of the government (and many critics show little good faith) must recognise that not all criticism is legitimate dissent, especially in Rwanda.
Whether these related initiatives are anything more than an elaborate public relations exercise designed to counter the negative attention Rwanda has attracted in the past year is too early to say. We can simply hope.
A repeated theme of ‘Remaking Rwanda’ focuses on the ongoing economic problems that Rwanda faces and I applaud the essays that make this point.
‘Rwanda’s high growth rates are deceptive in that they hide large and growing inequalities between social classes, geographic regions and gender…Wealth is concentrated disproportionately in the hands of a small group, primarily anglophone returnees from Uganda…That trend appears only to be getting worse…Economic progress has been particularly limited in rural areas; the benefits of economic growth remains concentrated in the hands of a small class of agricultural entrepreneurs while the majority of Rwandan peasants confront worsening living conditions.’
An Ansoms, a specialist on poverty and inequality in the Great Lakes region, is appropriately trenchant here as she brings together two areas that have received inadequate attention from outsiders, agriculture and ideology:
‘The new elite portray the solution to rural poverty as a matter of adopting “a good mentality”. The president frequently states that each citizen has a responsibility to overcome her own poverty…The Strategic Plan for Agricultural Transformation refers to the peasant’s ignorance and resistance to productivity-enhancing measures that go beyond traditional subsistence farming. This elite view disregards the institutional barriers that small-scale peasants face such as land scarcity, climactic change, crop diseases, limited options to diversify incomes, no cash reserves, and the lack of safety nets…There is a profound mismatch between the Rwanda elite’s ambitions and the rural realities on the ground.’
These are important points well worth making. But again a larger perspective would have been useful. Increased inequality has become a characteristic that defines our era. (I write as the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon spreads around the globe.) What’s true of Rwanda could be said about most of the world. This is no singular misdeed of the Kagame government, as these essays almost imply. Yes, growing inequality is largely a function of the free market dogmas the Rwandan government so zealously embraces and which ‘Remaking Rwanda’ resolutely fails to explore. But the analysis applies equally to all those governments around the world that have succumbed to the false promise of neoliberalism as peddled by much of the economics profession and the IMF and World Bank.
THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
There is great self-satisfaction among RPF officials and supporters about the remarkable strides their country has made in the past 17 years. In July 1994, or even when I first visited the country five years later, today’s progress would have seemed literally unimaginable. From that point of view, the self-congratulations that characterises any gathering of the elite is quite understandable. But the line between a realistic sense of accomplishment and hubris, or excessive, distorting pride, is a thin one, as some of the leadership have begun to understand. There may even be an internal struggle within the government between hard-liners who will hear no criticism of any kind and those who know the government has made serious mistakes that must be faced up to. The need to find the right balance between legitimate security needs and acceptable dissent is not a simple one, but it is urgent.
Of course other immense challenges still flow directly from the genocide. As both Armenians and Jews can testify, even after 96 and 66 years the burdens of such a catastrophe do not disappear. Seventeen years is just a beginning. Issues of justice and reconciliation, of security, of survivors’ needs both material and psychological, all are still urgent and difficult.
But there are other hard trials yet to face. For all its post-1994 progress in so many areas, Rwanda has a long way to go. If it’s UN Human Development Index is trending up, it’s because it was so far down; even now, it stands only at 155th of 172 countries measured. If steady advances in health care and rudimentary social services have occurred, two studies released in 2009 reported that half of Rwandan children suffered from malnutrition and 51 per cent of those under five suffered from moderate or severe stunting. If Rwanda is doing better than other African countries in approaching some of the Millennium Development goals, these data on hunger and malnutrition place it among the 10 most affected countries globally, even worse off, unbelievably enough, than DR Congo. While campaigns to stop violence against women are to be applauded, their need was great; as of 2008 figures, 31 per cent of females were experiencing violence, most often from a partner or husband. A Gallup Poll last year found that 79 per cent of Rwandans see rape as a major problem.
Rwandans proudly trumpet their determination to be self-reliant and dependent on no outsiders, yet half of the country’s budget comes from foreign aid. For 2009-10 that budget was under $1.5 billion for a country of over 10 million people (and a birth rate growing far too fast), with GDP at about $12 billion. Singapore, the government’s avowed role model, equally resource-poor, has a population of under 5 million, a budget of around $30 billion and a GDP at $290 billion. Rwanda remains one of many very poor undeveloped African countries.
Earlier this year, writing in the Guardian, Stephen Kinzer, author of ‘A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It’, summed up a view held by many foreigners of good will who have Rwanda’s best interests at heart:
‘When President Paul Kagame of Rwanda won re-election in August , he could look back with pride on his accomplishments. Rwanda has emerged from the devastation of genocide and become more secure and prosperous than anyone had a right to expect. The central task of his second seven-year term, which by law must be his last, is to add broader democracy to this security and prosperity.’
Anyone who has read Kinzer’s book knows of his admiration and respect - though not blind respect - for Kagame. Yet here he pleads with Kagame to forfeit the authoritarianism that was perhaps once justifiable, to end the ‘paranoia and ruthlessness’ that a guerilla war may have necessitated, and to embrace instead ‘tolerance, compromise and humility’. What Rwanda needs, he too agrees, is much more political space.
‘[Kagame] still has the chance to enter history as one of the greatest modern African leaders. There is also the chance, however, that he will be remembered as another failed African big-man, a tragic figure who built the foundations of a spectacular future for his country, but saw his achievements collapse because he could not take his country from one-man rule toward democracy.’
Just as it was the absence of political will that led the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council in 1994 to abandon Rwanda, so it is now the political will of the RPF government that will decide the future of the country. The leadership speaks eloquently about Rwandans determining their own destiny, shaping their own fate. In terms of creating a genuinely democratic culture constrained only by legitimate security issues, it has a reasonable opportunity now. For worse and for better, Rwanda has made history repeatedly in the past 17 years. For better or for worse, it is bound to make history again.
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Decade of People of African Descent appeal letter - Sign on ASAP
Peoples' and Civil Society letter to the United Nations Member States calling for the UN General Assembly to declare 2012-2022 as the International Decade for People of African Descent.
The undersigned peoples and civil society organisations, including those representing People of African Descent, wish to express their appreciation to the UN member states who introduced and cooperated in the process of adopting the decision to commemorate 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent.
We recognize that the International Year for People of African Descent with the widely accepted theme of "People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development" has brought important international attention to the plight of People of African Descent suffering from centuries of racism and denial of human rights. Yet its purpose can not and has not been accomplished in one year.
We now call on the United Nations General Assembly to declare 2012 to 2022 as the International Decade for People of African Descent with the theme "People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice, Development".
As the call for the UN to declare an International Year for People of African Descent originated from the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent set up to promote the rights for People of African Descent contained in the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) we find it mandatory that the General Assembly place the adoption of the International Decade within the agenda item and framework of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
We insist on the General Assembly at this session to officially adopt "People of African Descent: recognition, Justice, Development" as the theme of the Decade. The theme, originating from non-governmental organisations (NGO's) and proposed by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent became widely accepted during the International Year and officially adopted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as its theme for its activities during the International Year.
We furthermore call for the International Decade to be developed with the full involvement of People of African Descent and supported by Civil Society and that a fully funded Programme of Activities should be adopted next year by the General Assembly taking account of proposals from the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, People of African Descent and Civil Society organisations.
I Almost Lost My SELF!!
It used to amaze me that even though
Dressed in khanga from head to toe,
Carrying my babies on my back
Basket on my head
Chewing sugar cane sticks
pepper sprinkled muhogo roasts…
Just like everybody else…
…before I even opened my mouth to speak
They could somehow tell that I was
I couldn’t hide it even though I tried
In my freshly landed Just-got-off-the-boat enthusiasm
Of living in Africa,
I tried to Blend,
The essence of what made me who I WAS and AM…
Who grew up in and was molded by
The ‘hoods of America,
I almost lost that distinctive stride that signals
“She ain’t from here!”
(ANATOKA MAHALI INGINE, BWANA!)
I almost lost my fierce, laughing,
In yo’ face SISTAH tone of voice
“You ain’t ‘BOUT to tell
I tucked that ‘me’ tightly under my khanga wraps
Soft, gentle handshake
I almost lost it, in giving it up…
I woke up just in time…And place…And attitude
I had to learn to remember that the
“I” that is “ME”
Has a history as rich and as valid as anyone born
with the dust of our African Ancestors squished lovingly between their baby toes
I learned to remember that the
Middle Passage memories still twisting in my DNA
(causing frequent bouts of claustrophobic episodes)
are as real as the recollections of those who had never
Been ripped from the reassuring womb of
I learned to remember that the French etymology of my name
Was just as valid
Habiba’s or Amina’s or Aisha’s
‘cause it was given to me in love,
By those who loved me
And marked me as surely as the eternally swollen scarification cuts
I learned to reject feelings of embarrassment at having been born
An African in America,
Thousands of miles
From where I might have been
Had those captors not had such a pressing need for
I’ve learned to remember and bring honor to the fact that
The fly in the ointment
Lump in the clotted cream
Wrinkle in the dried cloth
Hard green pea under the stack of mattresses!
And after having lived in Africa for going on 40 years…
It no longer bothers me that folks STILL ask me
(even after I’ve explained that I’ve lived in a village
In the heart of WaMeru homeland…
For years and years and years…
Probably even before they were born)
It no longer bothers me, I tell you…
when they say in response to my explanation…
I do understand that
(now watch out…here it comes…here it comes!...)
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Zimbabwe: Branson plotted to oust Mugabe
Yes, there was a secret plot to oust President Robert Mugabe. Yes, Sir Richard Branson was one of its ringleaders. But the British billionaire has vehemently denied last week’s extraordinary claims that he once offered a £6.5 million bribe to persuade the Zimbabwean leader to stand down. The mogul told The Independent exclusively that in 2007 he orchestrated covert meetings between Jonathan Moyo, a minister in Mugabe’s government, and several respected African statesmen.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabweans 'sent to die', says newspaper
Senior officials of the Hawks and the South African Police Services are conducting an illegal 'rendition' with their Zimbabwean counterparts, the Sunday Times has reported. The newspaper reported that the government agencies arrest 'suspects' and illegally send them across the Beit Bridge border to be murdered. Rendition is the illegal kidnapping and transfer of prisoner from one country to another.
Africa: Youth, ICTs and FGM
This book, 'Confronting Female Genital Mutilation: The Role of Youth and ICTs in Changing Africa' reports on an innovative research and action project amongst girls and boys in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal to explore whether young people's use of information technology could contribute to the abandonment of FGM. It shows how, in the era of 'globalised citizenship', a cross-sectional vision that puts young people and gender at the centre of development can produce real change.
Egypt: Did women win the revolution only to lose out?
In the immediate aftermath of this spring’s revolution, something new and unfamiliar happened in Egypt: women and men participated equally in political events. But this article also notes: 'Yet today, political, economic and cultural barriers prevent women from being accepted as full members of society. Egypt’s dwindling economy prevents women from landing jobs in the public sector - which used to offer guaranteed employment.'
Global: Because I am a Girl: So, what about boys?
'Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2011 - So, what about boys?' is the fifth in a series of annual reports published by Plan examining the rights of girls throughout their childhood, adolescence and as young women. The report shows that far from being an issue just for women and girls, gender is also about boys and men, and that this needs to be better understood if we are going to have a positive impact on societies and economies.
Global: Forced and coerced sterilization of women worldwide
Women worldwide have been forced or coerced by medical personnel to submit to permanent and irreversible sterilisation procedures, says this report. 'Despite condemnation from the United Nations, cases of forced and coerced sterilization have been reported in North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Women who are poor or stigmatized are most likely to be deemed “unworthy” of reproduction. Perpetrators are seldomly held accountable and victims rarely obtain justice for this violent abuse of their rights.'
Global: Tool available to map violence against women
This mapping-tool supports NGO's and service providing organisations to get an overall picture of Violence Against Women (VAW) in their country/region. What is the prevalance of the various forms of VAW? What measures are being taken by governments, service providing organisations and NGOs to address VAW? Who is working on which topic, and what are the blind spots? The tool helps to collect, to structure and to evaluate relevant information.
Algeria: The French-Algerian massacre
17 October marked the 50th anniversary of the 'French-Algerian Massacre', when at least 200 Algerians living in Paris were killed by French police and another 11,000 or so were arrested while protesting for Algerian independence from France, says blog Africa is a Country in this post. This post remembers the date in the context of modern-day immigration to France.
Global: Civil society and national human rights bodies
This report, 'A Partnership for Human Rights: Civil Society and National Human Rights Institutions' (NHRIs) encourages close cooperation between national human rights institutions and civil society. It has been deliberately designed to be a constructive point of engagement to improve the relationship between NHRIs and civil society. The report makes practical suggestions on how engagement can be used, and has been optimised in the past, to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in the Commonwealth.
Kenya: Chief justice unveils judicial reforms road map
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has outlined an ambitious road map to improve service delivery in the courts and restore public confidence in the Judiciary. In his address on the state of the Judiciary, on the eve of Mashujaa Day celebrations, Dr Mutunga also said he will strive to help ease backlog of cases and tackle corruption in the corridors of justice. 'We found an institution so frail in its structures, thin on resources, low in confidence, deficient in integrity and weak in its public support,' he said in a candid assessment of the institution.
Kenya: ICC judges urged to dismiss Uhuru, Ali plea
International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and victims’ lawyer Morris Anyah have asked judges to dismiss the challenge on jurisdiction lodged by two of the suspects in Kenya’s second post-election violence case. The two have told the Pre-Trial Chamber II that Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and post-master general Maj Gen Hussein Ali erroneously applied the law when they presented their challenges at the beginning of their Confirmation of Charges Hearings.
Malawi: Journalists must be allowed to investigate student death, says media group
Robert Chasowa, a student and political activist, was found dead on the campus of Malawi University Polytechnic on 24 September in circumstances that were far from clear. 'Reporters Without Borders deplores the death of this activist and is surprised at the pressure being put on journalists investigating the case,' the organisation said. 'We urge the judicial authorities to conduct an impartial investigation into Chasowa’s death, which took place in particularly worrying circumstances and in a climate hostile to freedom of expression.'
Senegal: Opposition condemns jail term for activist
Senegalese opposition parties are incensed after a court sentenced an activist to two years in prison. Mr Malick Nozel Seck was charged with issuing death threats to the five members of the country's Constitutional Council. In a two-page document sent to the Council three weeks ago, Mr Seck allegedly said that the lives of the members would be endangered if they approved the candidacy of President Abdoulaye Wade for next year’s polls.
Uganda: Malaysia frees Ugandan women in trafficking operation
Malaysian police say they have broken up a ring of human traffickers who forced Ugandan women into prostitution. Twenty-one women, mainly in their 20s, have been released in a sting operation by the police. They were lured with promises of lucrative jobs, before being sent to China and then Malaysia where they ended up as sex slaves.
Uganda: Two killed as voters protest
Two people were killed on 17 October during clashes between security operatives and supporters of two LC5 contenders in Nebbi District. One of the victims, Henry Okwai, a trader, was shot as police and army fired live bullets in the air to disperse supporters of Mr Ezrom William Alenyo and Mr Robert Okumu. An eyewitness said Okwai, a resident of Pangero Village in Koch Parish, Nebbi Sub-county was shot in the ribs as he sold secondhand clothes at the Market Square.
East Africa: Dialogue on migration urges close cooperation to promote regional integration
A one-day high-level dialogue on international migration took place 17 October at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The dialogue was attended by senior African policy-makers and academics to discuss collaboration to ensure that migration is beneficial to economic growth and regional integration on the continent. In her opening remarks to the meeting, the director of ECA’s African Centre for Gender and Social Development, Ms Thokozile Ruzvidzo, pointed out that many studies have confirmed that migration is beneficial to both the countries from which the migrants originate and the countries of destination.
Global: Spike in industrial country asylum applications
On 18 October, UNHCR released the companion to its annual Global Trends publication. The report, 'Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries: Statistical Overview of Asylum Applications Lodged in Europe and Selected non-European Countries', finds that industrialised countries experienced 'a 17 per cent increase in asylum applications in the first half of this year, with most claimants coming from countries with long-standing displacement situations'.
Kenya: Urban refugees need legal clarity, says report
Tens of thousands of refugees living in Kenyan cities will continue to suffer police harassment, lack of protection, violation of their human rights and discrimination, as long as the government fails to properly implement recent legislation, says a report by the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG), International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK). 'The rights of such refugees to move freely within Kenya and reside in urban areas are currently unclear,' Sara Pavanello, a researcher with HPG at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), said during the launch of 'Hidden and Exposed: Urban Refugees in Nairobi'.
Mali: Pro-Gaddafi Malians begin returning home
Libyans of Malian origin who had taken Libyan citizenship have started returning following the crumbling of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Mali was this week reported to have made preparations for the returnees including some thought to have fought for the on-the-run former Libyan leader. Among those expected to return are mercenaries recruited by Col Gaddafi in his fight against the National Transitional Council fighters.
South Africa: SADC urged for policies to recognise migrants
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC) is calling for Southern African Development Community (SADC) governments to put in place policies that recognise the rights of migrants and to join forces with regional humanitarian organisations to eliminate problems faced by migrants in the region. IFRC Southern Africa representative Ken Odur said migrant 'needs' must be addressed irrespective of their legal status in a host country. IFRC and its member National Red Cross Societies in the Southern Africa region have launched a long-term and intra-region initiative that seeks to address migration-related humanitarian challenges while promoting respect for diversity and social inclusion in Southern Africa.
South Africa: Urban refugees in Johannesburg, South Africa
Johannesburg, South Africa, is home to more than 450,000 forced migrants, including 51,300 legally recognized refugees, 417,700 asylum seekers and others in refugee-like circumstances, says this report from the Women's Refugee Commission. 'A combination of high immigration and high unemployment means many forced migrants face xenophobia daily, resulting in discrimination, exploitation and abuse, often at the hands of the police and government. Women are particularly at risk of sexual harassment and violence every time they sell goods on the street or in flea markets, go to work or take public transportation. Denied access to proper employment, informal outdoor selling is the main occupation of urban forced migrants.'
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
Chinese mine reinstates sacked Zambian workers, Minister
A Zambia-based Chinese mining company on Friday reinstated the 2,000 workers it fired two days earlier over a pay dispute, Mines ,minister Wylbur Simuusa confirmed. “After a tripartite meeting with stakeholders involved, management has agreed to reinstate all workers unconditionally with immediate effect,” said Mr Simuusa at a media on Friday after closed-door talks with Non-Ferrous China Africa (NFCA) management and the workers’ union.
China ups investment in Africa's manufacturing
While the natural resource and infrastructure sectors attract the largest share of Chinese foreign direct investment to sub-Saharan Africa, investment in manufacturing is increasing. This is according to the October 2011 Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday.
FG Adopts Chinese Farming Option
As part of efforts to ensure that quality food is made available to all the citizens, the federal government has engaged Chinese local farmers to teach their Nigerian counterparts how to grow more food with less physical energy. Speaking during this year’s Agricultural Show, which took place on Keffi road, Nasarawa State, the coordinator, South-South Corpor-ation, Alhaji Gidado Bello, said the partnership, which started since 2003 across the 36 states of the federation, had yielded much results.
Mozambique Strengthening ties with its old friend, China
Brimming with resources that include minerals, fossil fuels, abundant water, marine life and fertile, arable land, Mozambique offers huge possibilities for treasure seekers. A strikingly beautiful tropical country on the south east coast of Africa, the country is one of the most sparsely populated on the continent, with just 23.4 million people. Having enjoyed high growth rates of around 8 percent year on year between 1994 and 2006, Mozambique is on course for more as mega- projects in mining and energy take off. Collaborations on these, and the infrastructural development of roads, bridges, railroads, airports and seaports from Chinese partnerships will be crucial if the nation is to reach its full potential.
President Receives Chinese Delegation
President Yoweri Museveni has told a Chinese delegation that Uganda needs more investors, tourists and trainers in skills from their country. President Museveni was meeting a delegation from the Chinese Free Trade Union at State House Nakasero today. The delegation was led by Mr.LI Shiming, one of the leaders of the Chinese Free Trade Union. The delegation was accompanied by leaders of the Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions (COFTU) who included its Chairman, General Christopher Kahirita and Secretary General, Dr.Sam Lyomoki, among others.
2. India in Africa
Tata eyes Ethiopia’s tea sector
The Tata group plans to grow tea in Ethiopia and is working towards setting up an automobile assembly plant in Mozambique as it seeks to expand business interests in Africa. The group, owner of the Tetley tea brand, has approached Ethiopian authorities with a proposal to venture into tea farming in the landlocked country, said Esayas Kebede, director of Ethiopia’s agriculture and rural development ministry.
Zimbabwe to revise iron ore reserves deal with Essar Africa
According to Mr Gift Chimanikire Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister of Zimbabwe, the government will not surrender 90% of the iron ore reserves it had parceled out to Essar Africa Holdings as that provision of the agreement was wrong. He said that the government wants to reopen negotiations on a deal it made with Essar Africa Holdings of India to relaunch the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company, now called New Zimbabwe Steel Limited.
India, S. Africa ink long-term contracts for raw materials
India and South Africa have decided to enter into long term contracts for purchase of raw materials and commodities. The Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister, Mr Anand Sharma — who participated in a meeting of the Trade Ministers from India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) in Pretoria (South Africa) on Tuesday — asked the public sector MMTC to work expeditiously on the proposal for such long-term contracts. MMTC had recently opened an office in South Africa.
India, African nations to work closely on traditional medicine
Aiming to give a boost to traditional medicines, representatives of India and 27 African countries (Union Commission of Africa) prepared a draft proposal in this regard on the last day of the three-day India-Africa workshop on Thursday here. The proposal advocated for forming a core group or a working group of officials of the participating nations to work for the benefit of traditional medicines.
African delegation visits India for trade institute
An African delegation, led by the Ugandan commissioner of external trade, is visiting the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) here to discuss measures for setting up a similar institution in Africa. "Tremendous opportunities exist for cooperation in the field of capacity building and imparting professional knowledge between the institute and the African countries," IIFT director K.T. Chacko said. "This step will only accelerate institute's efforts in internationalising its reach and imparting knowledge beyond borders, especially in Africa," he added.
Rwanda looks to India for fresh investment
Building upon a new business synergy between India and Africa, a 25-member business delegation led by Rwanda's former prime minister Bernard Makuza will be here this week to explore new investment opportunities. Makuza, a close aide of President Paul Kagame who had served as prime minister of Rwanda for over a decade, was replaced Oct 6 and appointed to the Senate. The highlight of Makuza's visit will be a business roadshow focussing on trade, investments, joint ventures, technology supplies and sourcing of expertise across a wide spectrum.
3. In Other Emerging Powers News
IBSA needs to step up pace on trade within the grouping and security
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here on Monday for the Fifth IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) Summit at a time when all three are serving concurrently as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and there are questions about its relevance after South Africa joined the BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China) grouping in which it was the only one among the three excluded till the Sanya summit held in April.
SA achieving Ibsa trade success – Zuma
South Africa is achieving significant success in trade with its Ibsa partner countries, India and Brazil, President Jacob Zuma said at a press conference on Tuesday. South Africa has been hosting the fifth Ibsa (India, Brazil and South Africa) Dialogue Forum summit in Pretoria. "I am pleased to note," he said, "that although South Africa is only 8.2% of the combined GDP [gross domestic product], we contributed 25% of Ibsa trade in 2010, and in 2009 we contributed the largest share, 38%."
South Africa faces COP 17 balancing act
At a national government level, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is the COP 17 president, and her department would be handling the logistics arrangements of the conference, as well as facilitating a successful outcome at COP 17. The Department of Environmental Affairs would ensure that South Africa’s interests were properly represented at the negotiations. South Africa also faced divergent expectations and needs from various groupings and was under significant pressure, Parramon said.
IBSA call for ambitious outcome at Durban climate talks
India, Brazil and South Africa today called for "comprehensive, balanced and ambitious" outcome at the fortnight-long Durban climate talks scheduled to begin late next month. "The outcome of Durban should be comprehensive, balanced and ambitious, within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and in accordance with the provisions and principles of the Convention, in particular the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," said a joint declaration issued after the 5th IBSA Summit.
Russia's Russneft plans investment in Nigerian oil
Russian oil and gas firm Russneft, which is partly owned by oil-to-telecoms group Sistema , told Nigeria's vice president on Thursday it was ready to invest in Africa's largest oil and gas industry. "We came to inform the Nigerian government of our interest to invest in the country's oil and gas industry. We have the capability and the finance if given the approval to invest," said Russneft director Sergey Bakhir.
Brazil's Rousseff praises 'brother' Angola
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Thursday described the post-war reconstruction of Angola as an example for the continent, during a visit to the oil-rich nation on Thursday. "Angola's relaunch is a paradigm for other countries in Africa in terms of economic and social stability. It is an example for hope," she told the country's parliament. Rousseff was in Luanda on the third and final leg of an African tour which took her to South Africa and Mozambique.
4. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
A vision for the Indian Ocean
Recent developments in the Indian Ocean region demand attention. Look at a sample collection: Somali pirates, operating in waters off the Horn of Africa with impunity, are now coming closer to our coast; China has commissioned its first aircraft carrier; an Indian company's hydrocarbon exploration activity in Vietnam's waters is being contested by China; a former Japanese Prime Minister visiting Delhi calls for closer cooperation among “maritime democracies,” and every move by Beijing to cement its ties with our immediate neighbours is seen as vindication of the “string of pearls” theory.
Russian business in Africa: missed opportunities and prospects
Rusal, LUKoil, Gazprom, Renova, Norilsk Nickel, Alrosa, Rosatom, Rosoboronexport, and sundry telecom and financial corporations – these are only some of Russian companies that have set up operations in Africa. Until recently, they mostly invested in the mining industry, but economic cooperation is expanding. However, Africa still accounts for just 1.5% of Russia’s foreign investment – a drop in the ocean. It must be admitted that Russia’s economic policy in Africa lacks dynamism. African countries have been waiting for us for too long, we lost our positions in post-apartheid Africa and have largely missed new opportunities. Currently, Russia lags behind leading nations in most economic parameters in this region.
Can Brazilian Agribusiness Create Prosperity in Africa?
Today’s guest post comes from a writer I’ll call Paul Gayle. Paul is an American journalist who lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a strong interest in sustainability. (His employer would prefer that he not blog under his real name.) He maintains his own blog, called Lungs of the Earth, about environmental issues in Brazil. Here, Paul reports on an unusual deal between the government of Mozambique and Brazilian farmers, who have been given the use of 6 million hectares – an area equivalent to two thirds of Portugal – to farm.
Algeria: Divisions rack Algeria's FLN
Algeria's ruling party is facing the biggest internal crisis in seven years. The divisions have surfaced between the National Liberation Front Secretary-General Abdelaziz Belkhadem and some reformist elements within the party. Some 600 party dissidents recently held a meeting authorised by the interior ministry amid tight security measures. The reformists debated three topics: the condition of the ruling party, evaluation of the party reform movement and political reforms initiated by the government.
Angola: Seized Angolan activists whereabouts unknown
The whereabouts of 25 lobbyists who were arrested on Saturday 15 October in Angola’s capital Luanda remains unknown. The 25 were seized while protesting against rights violations, poverty and the 32-year rule of President José Eduardo dos Santos. One of the organisers of the demonstration, Mr Carbono Casimiro, told the local Ecclesia Radio that police descended on peaceful protestors and journalists with unnecessary force before seizing them at the Independence Square, while accusing them of several political crimes.
Gambia: Jammeh boost as opposition fail to agree on candidate
Gambia's opposition will go into the 14 November presidential election as fractured parties after talks to field a single candidate to unseat incumbent Yahya Jammeh failed. President Jammeh, the favourite, has been in power since 1994 when he took power in a coup before holding a civilian election two years later. He has won three subsequent elections since then and will be seeking a fourth five-year term.
Guinea: 51 in custody over assassination attempt on Guinea leader
Guinea’s Justice ministry has confirmed that 51 persons have been arrested and detained in connection with the failed assassination attempt on President Alpha Condé last July. The figure contrasts with another one given by Attorney-General William Fernandez last Saturday. Mr Fernandez had told a press conference that only 38 people were in custody over the case, among them 27 military personnel.
Madagascar: Cabinet resigns
Madagascar's de facto premier has resigned along with his cabinet, paving the way for the formation of a new government by consensus, according to a letter. The official letter of resignation was the first step towards ending two years of political stalemate in the country. Albert Camille Vitalis resigned as premier, so a new person could be chosen for the job by November, to create a transitional government that would lead the country to elections in about a year.
Morocco: Protesters call for election boycott
Thousands of Moroccans demonstrated against the government in the North African kingdom's biggest city, threatening to boycott the upcoming elections. The weekly demonstration by the pro-democracy February 20 movement on Sunday 16 October attracted around 10,000 people in Casablanca, making it the largest demonstration in months.
South Africa: Call for release of local councillor
The Democratic Left Front (DLF) has called for the immediate release of Simphiwe Zwane, the Operation Khanyisa Movement (OKM) councillor in the Johannesburg City Council. On Friday 21 October 2011 Zwane was arrested at her home in Thembelihle – the shack settlement in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, where there have been sustained community protests for services, housing and unemployment. She is being held at the Lenasia Police Station cells. 'Zwane’s arrest confirms that the repressive organs of the state are directed at people and workers engaged in protest action.'
South Africa: Occupy Wall Street uprising could be 'explosive'
Occupy New York's Wall Street. Occupy Cape Town's Company Gardens. Occupy mailboxes of senators and congressmen. Occupy your mind...The millions of unemployed around the world can, finally, find an occupation these days, it seems, as momentum from the camped protest at New York's Zuccotti Park near Wall Street continues to spread to other cities in the United States and beyond American borders to Australia, the Czech Republic and South Africa. In South Africa, an academic in Durban, who chose to remain anonymous, said: 'The protest here is being organised totally arse-backwards.' The Facebook campaign, the Occupy Durban City Hall page, has 126 people confirmed to attend the protest. It was being run 'by white kids who are not usually plugged into social activism or to activist networks. I think it will be a massive fizzle-out, but I'm still going.'
Tunisia: Votes counted in historic free election
Tunisian election officials are counting votes after Sunday's election, the first free poll of the Arab Spring. More than 90 per cent of registered voters turned out to cast their ballots, officials say. Tunisians are electing a 217-seat assembly that will draft a constitution and appoint an interim government.
Uganda: Clashes over renewed walk to work protests
Teargas and gunshots rocked Kampala on 17 October as police clashed with protestors who turned up for the second phase of the Walk-to-Work demonstrations. Organised by pressure group Activists for Change (A4C), the protests, whose first phase began on 11 April leaving several people dead, maimed or detained by the security forces, are aimed at shedding light on the plight of Ugandans suffering due to high fuel and food prices and rising cost of living.
Equatorial Guinea: Luxury cars seized
On 28 September, French authorities seized 11 luxury cars belonging to the family of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema as part of an ongoing corruption investigation, reports www.egjustice.org 'The seizures are part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the “ill-gotten gains” of African leaders Dennis Sassou Nguesso of Congo, the late Omar Bongo of Gabon, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea. A judicial inquiry began after the NGOs Transparency International France, Sherpa, and the Arab Commission for Human Rights filed a complaint in 2007. In 2009, France’s Supreme Court ruled to admit the case, a landmark decision in the anti-corruption battle.'
South Africa: Zuma 'needs time' to decide on Cele and Shiceka
President Jacob Zuma needs more time to decide if any remedial action will be taken against Minister of Cooperative and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka and national police commissioner General Bheki Cele. On Monday, Zuma's spokesperson Mac Maharaj told the Mail & Guardian the president is still 'applying his mind' on the two matters, despite them first having come to his attention several months ago. Shiceka and Cele find themselves in hot water after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela delivered two separate, damning findings into the duo's actions while undertaking official duties.
Zambia: Ex-Zambia president denies gold, car scams
Zambia’s former president Rupiah Banda has spoken out for the first time since leaving office three weeks ago, denying links to a gold scam and purchase of luxury vehicles.
Africa: Governments fail to invest in drylands areas
For millennia, people have coped with drought in the Horn of Africa, comprised mainly of drylands. Yet today, more than 13 million people there are starving because of political instability, poor government policies and failure to invest in the world's poorest people, say experts here in Changwon. Two billion people, half of whom are extremely impoverished, live in drylands around the world, according to Anne Juepner of the Drylands Development Centre at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Nairobi. Governments often invest very little in infrastructure like roads and schools in these poor regions. Similarly, development agencies and other donors don't think these are the best places to make investments, according to Juepner.
Global: Economic pressure threatens subregion
Negative developments in the global economy could exert pressure on Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) sovereigns over the coming months, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said. This is although SSA economies have been expanding since the global economic downturn of 2008-09, S&P’s said in a new report ‘Renewed External Pressures Could Cloud Sub-Saharan Africa Sovereign Ratings Outlook’. For the region as a whole, a drop in global risk appetite could also erode the confidence that foreign investors have shown in SSA markets since 2009.
South Africa: Global slowdown would hit SA hard, says IMF
Sub-Saharan Africa's economy is expected to grow by 5.25 per cent in 2011, but if global growth slows, South Africa will be particularly hard hit, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Wednesday. The IMF predicted that the region's economy would grow 5.75 per cent in 2012. South Africa, a middle-income country with slower growth compared to the regional average, had yet to see its output and employment return to pre-crisis levels.
Uganda: US denies interest in Uganda oil
The US has denied that its renewed interest in Uganda is a strategy to get hold of the newly found oil in the country. The US government has announced that it will deploy troops to help Uganda fight the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who are currently in the Central African Republic. Critics have said that the only reason that America seems to be coming up strongly to offer troops to help in fighting Kony when they did not when he was killing people here was because of the oil.
Africa: New vaccine 'to cut malaria risk by half'
A new vaccine against malaria will help reduce African children's risk of acquiring the disease by about half, according to the first results of an ongoing phase III trial. The vaccine has been developed by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline's lab in Belgium. Known as RTS, the vaccine is the first of its kind to attempt to block a parasite, rather than bacteria or viruses.
Uganda: Government sued over maternal deaths
In this video, Al Jazeera reports on a coalition of activists who have taken the Ugandan government to court in a landmark lawsuit regarding the cases of two women who bled to death unattended while giving birth in hospitals. The activists argue that the women's rights to life and to maternal healthcare have been violated.
Zimbabwe: Diarrhoea outbreak kills seven children
At least seven children have died from a suspected diarrhoea outbreak which has affected over 6,000 children in two towns in Zimbabwe over the past week, a state newspaper said. 'Seven children died in Masvingo and Kadoma last week following a diarrhoea outbreak which has seen a total of 6,472 cases being recorded in the two towns,' The Sunday Mail reported. 'The main problem has always been unclean water and poor sanitation,' the newspaper quoted Portia Manangazira, director for disease control in the health ministry, as saying.
Africa: Non-traditional teaching promoted for girls
Making some simple, basic changes in education policy can result in many more girls attending school, experts said at a meeting here this week on Gender Equality in Education. Take the case of Kenya. The United Nations says that the country has made huge strides towards the goal of education for all by incorporating gender awareness in school administration. 'We offered free lunches, but not only that, we make sure that sanitary towels were available in schools, and that decreased absenteeism enormously,' Kenya’s minister of education, Prof. Sam Ongeri, told IPS.
Africa: African Charter belongs to all regardless of sexual orienation
Coalition of African Lesbians press release
'As we observe the 30th anniversary of the African Charter, there are reports of continuous harassment, arbitrary arrests, rapes and murders of Africans on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Such is the case in Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, among others. In many other African states the criminal laws against same sex sexual conduct continues to expose an already marginalized population of people to abuse and violation.'
Boksburg, South Africa
October 20, 2011
The Coalition of African Lesbians recognizes the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights
The Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) joins the African Union member states, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the members of African civil society organizations and their international partners in the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
The African Charter was adopted on the 27th of June, 1981, in Kenya with the objective to promote and protect human and people’s rights and freedoms in the African continent. The duty to interpret and oversee the implementation of the Charter was tasked to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACmHPR), which was officially inaugurated on the 2nd of November 1987 in Addis Abba, Ethiopia.
CAL commends the ACmHPR on the establishment of special mechanisms such as special rapporteurs and working groups to assist the investigation and reporting of human rights violations in the member states. These special mechanisms have provided a platform for effective monitoring of human rights concerns in the continent, human rights defenders and communities at risk to report.
However, we are concerned by the ACmHPR’s selective definition of what constitutes human rights. This was illustrated by it denying the observer status to CAL in 2010 on the basis that ‘the activities of the said organization – CAL do not promote and protect any of the rights enshrined in the African Charter’. It is noteworthy that CAL is a non-governmental organization whose mandate is the actual promotion and protection of the human rights of lesbians, bisexual and trans-diverse people in Africa.
As we observe the 30th anniversary of the African Charter, there are reports of continuous harassment, arbitrary arrests, rapes and murders of Africans on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Such is the case in Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, among others. In many other African states the criminal laws against same sex sexual conduct continues to expose an already marginalized population of people to abuse and violation.
We, the Coalition of African Lesbians, strongly demand that the ACHPR formally acknowledge and recognize sexual orientation and gender identity as a basis upon which human rights violations are committed, every day in Africa, and condemn them as human rights violations. We further call for special measures to eradicate and eliminate discrimination and violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. We demand that the ACHPR embrace the true diversity of humanity through the promotion of the universality, inviolability and indivisibility of human rights. The African Charter is universal; it applies to all of us regardless of whether we are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-diverse persons!
For more information, please contact:
The Coalition of African Lesbians
The Coalition of African Lesbians
Global: The myths and realities about lesbian health
Stereotypes and misconceptions linked to sexual orientation and gender can have adverse consequences on the health of lesbians. The aim of this project from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association is to demystify 'myths and realities' on certain aspects of lesbian health, such as breast and cervical cancers, HIV and sexually transmitted infections and well-being.
Kenya: Popular TV drama introduces high profile gay character
The popular MTV drama Shuga is back on Kenyan TV for a second series and the introduction of new characters including a high profile gay character. Speaking about Shuga’s inclusion of an LGBTI character in their show, Denis Nzioka former PR, Media and Communications Officer of Gay Kenya said, 'I believe there is an attitude shift in Africa. This move indicates an open, accommodation and recognition of gay persons as part of Kenya’s society.'
Africa: From Kyoto to Durban - Will Africa be incinerated?
'From Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cochabamba, Cancun and to Durban: will Africa be incinerated?' is a document issued as a tool for popular education and mobilisation. Of the four documents set out one has been in the centre stage of official negotiations since its origin at the Kyoto Conference of 1997.
At COP15 held in Copenhagen the so-called Copenhagen Accord was contrived by a handful of countries with the aim of truncating accountability in efforts to fight climate change and instead promoting an era of voluntary emissions reduction targets that is not based on science.
Global: Climate solutions need strong decision-making
The year 2010 endured 950 natural disasters, 90 per cent of which were weather-related and cost the global community well over 130 billion dollars. From wildfires in Brazil to record rainfall in the United States to the severe drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, it has become clear to many that quick and radical decisions need to be made about the world's future. One of the biggest advocates of this position has been the Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI) which, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Bank released a report recently calling on decision makers to enact quick and efficient resolutions to multiple and chronic environmental crises.
Global: GM crops a failure in developing countries, says Friends of the Earth
In this video, Nnimmo Bassey, head of Friends of the Earth International, dismisses the biotech industry's claims that GM crops require fewer pesticides and produce higher yields.
South Africa: CO2 emissions cap on the cards
The South African government will enact an emissions cap and new energy industry regulations in an effort to spur development of alternative, clean and renewable energy and mitigate climate change. The new regulations will penalize heavy polluters that don’t comply with greenhouse gas emission limits with fines.
Global: 'Big business has failed – We small farmers can feed the world'
On the occasion of the 37th session of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) where a delegation of farmers from La Via Campesina will be present along with other actors from civil society to follow the discussions and participate in the debates, La Via Campesina has reiterated its demands for solutions based on the principles of food sovereignty. Important issues such as land tenure, price volatility, gender issues and nutrition as well as agricultural investments are on the agenda.
Tanzania: Imminent land grab threatens 162,000 people
The Oakland Institute has launched a campaign against Iowa-based investor Bruce Rastetter and fellow investors in the industrial agricultural corporation AgriSol Energy’s attempt to acquire 325,000 hectares of land in Tanzania that is home to 162,000 people. According to the institute the proposed site is inhabited by former refugees from neighbouring Burundi.
Tanzania: Stop imminent land grab that threatens more than 162,000 people
Iowa-based investor Bruce Rastetter and fellow investors in the industrial agricultural corporation AgriSol Energy have their sights on 800,000 acres (325,000 hectares) of land in Tanzania that is home to 162,000 people. The proposed site is inhabited by former refugees from neighboring Burundi. Most of the residents, several generations of families who have successfully re-established their lives by developing and farming the land over the last 40 years, will be displaced against their will. They will lose their livelihoods and their community. Once they are gone, Agrisol Energy will move in. Despite rising international criticism of the proposed plan to evict the residents in the proposed lease areas for foreign investors, the Tanzanian government plans to move forward with the project. We need your help today to make sure that won’t happen. Please send a message to Bruce Rastetter, other principal investors, and the Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, to urge them to drop this project.
Africa: African civil society statement on World Food Day
'The current food crisis in East Africa is an extreme example of the broken food system. In a world with enough food for everyone, over 13 million people are fighting for their lives. It’s the world’s worst food crisis in many years. Droughts may be inevitable in this region, but disasters are not. Years of neglect of pastoralists and small scale food producers - those who can, with the right support, significantly boost the availability of food locally – has been a key contributor to the crisis. Action to address the long-term issues that make people vulnerable in the first place, like the right investment and like ensuring climate change does not intensify the challenges facing the region, means disasters will not be inevitable.'
Africa: Rumpus over GM food aid
Genetically modified (GM) food aid bound for Africa has long been a bone of contention among governments, scientists, activists, consumers and aid workers. On 18 August a drought-affected Kenyan government fired the head of its National Biosafety Authority for expediting the process to import milled food aid which might have contained genetically modified organisms (GMO). In the weeks preceding and after the incident, public debate on the issue was distorted by extreme positions either for or against GM food, say this IRIN report.
Global: 450 economists call on G20 finance ministers to stop speculation fuelling hunger
More than 450 economists from over 40 countries have called on the G20 finance ministers, who met in Paris recently, to take urgent action to stop financial speculation in commodity markets driving up food prices and fuelling hunger. 'Excessive financial speculation is contributing to increasing volatility and record food prices, exacerbating global hunger and poverty,’ say the economists in a letter to the finance ministers. ‘With around 1 billion people enduring chronic hunger worldwide, action is urgently needed to curb excessive speculation and its effects on global food prices.'
DRC: First feature film for 25 years opens in 18 countries
Its gritty portrayal of sex, violence and gangsters in Kinshasa will come as little surprise to people who live there. The unknown quantity is how Congolese film Viva Riva! will play from Kenya to Senegal, from Zimbabwe to Burkina Faso, reports The Guardian. 'The award-winning thriller is set for release in an unprecedented 18 African countries, its producers say, signalling hopes that a new generation of African cinema-goers will watch home-grown productions instead of foreign imports. Viva Riva! is the first film shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the industry was shut down by President Mobutu Sese Seko 25 years ago.'
Egypt: Lawsuit over TV protest coverage
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information says it has filed a lawsuit against the military council, prime minister, and minister of information for the misinformation and incitement against the protesters by the state TV during the events at Maspero. 'A group of Egyptians organized a peaceful March on 9 October that started from some areas in Cairo, heading to the area of Maspero. Once they had arrived there, violence erupted and nobody knows who instigated it. On the other hand, the Egyptian TV deployed all its vast potentials to outrage and incite the public opinion against the peaceful protesters.'
Egypt: State media role in violence denounced
Freedom House says it is deeply troubled by the recent outbreak of violence in Cairo that resulted in the deaths of more than two dozen Egyptians and has condemned the manipulation of the media by the ruling authorities. 'While events were ongoing, the state-controlled television claimed that violent protesters had attacked the military and three officers were killed...Egyptian authorities stormed buildings hosting two independent channels and cut electricity to the office of newspaper Al-Shorouk, apparently due to their coverage of the violence.'
Ethiopia: Global call for dismissal of terror charges against journalists
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has urged the authorities to drop accusations of terrorist activities leveled at five journalists including two Swedish reporters whose trial was due to start in Addis Ababa but was adjourned until 20 October 2011. The arrests of the journalists have sparked widespread criticism from the IFJ European and African groups, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) as well as the Eastern Africa Journalists Associations (EAJA) which have all accused the Ethiopian government of waging a campaign of intimidation against independent media under the cloak of anti-terror legislation.
Global: Covering trauma, a training guide
Experiencing a traumatic event affects survivors in many ways. This guide gives working journalists concrete tools for understanding the effects of trauma and for conducting sensitive reporting and writing on trauma stories.
Malawi: Concern over death threats for journalist
'The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is disturbed with reports that Nation Publications Limited (NPL) Journalist Phillip Pemba is receiving death threats over an article that revealed that Robert Chasowa had dealings with the police before he was murdered. We are also disturbed with reports that the police summoned Weekend Nation Editor George Kasakula and Malawi News Deputy Editor Innocent Chitosi of Blantyre Newspapers Limited - papers that carried detailed insights into Chasowa’s death and dealings with the police - for questioning over recordings of the articles.
Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
13 October 2011
The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is
disturbed with reports that Nation Publications Limited (NPL) Journalist
Phillip Pemba is receiving death threats over an article that revealed
that Robert Chasowa had dealings with the police before he was murdered.
We are also disturbed with reports that the police summoned Weekend Nation
Editor George Kasakula and Malawi News Deputy Editor Innocent Chitosi of
Blantyre Newspapers Limited - papers that carried detailed insights into
Chasowa’s death and dealings with the police - for questioning over
recordings of the articles.
Pemba’s article, published in Weekend Nation of October 8, gave an insight
into what could have led to Chasowa’s death and exposed his dealings with
police to help stop the planned August 17 protests against government.
‘One of the callers said they know where I stay and another one asked why
I mentioned the name of Inspector General of Police (IG Peter Mukhito) in
my story. He said I will die over the story. They said i would have been
safe if I left out the names of the police officers involved.’ Pemba is
quoted as saying in The Nation of Wednesday, October 12.
MISA Malawi considers these threats as well as the summoning of editors
Kasakula and Chitosi as deliberate attempts to muzzle journalists and
instil fear in the media sorority. As always stated in our statements,
these acts instil fear and curtail meaningful dialogue and debate on
pertinent issues that affect our country, the murder of student Robert
Chasowa for example.
These developments are barbaric, retrogressive and superfluous in an open
and democratic Malawi and require collective condemnation.
We therefore call upon the authorities to openly condemn and call for
thorough investigations into such threats. We also call upon the police to
support and work with media in uncovering the truth about Chasowa’s death
and not to intimidate and gag journalists. The media helps the country
expose various ills that affect our country and summoning and intimidating
them over the Chasowa article will only raise suspicions than answers.
We applaud the police for launching an investigation into Chasowa’s death.
MISA Malawi is, however, calling on IG Peter Mukhito to openly denounce
such barbaric acts and for the law enforcers to protect journalists and
indeed members of the public who are constantly receiving threats from
IG Peter Mukhito and Southern Region Police Commissioner Rodney Jose, who
were both mentioned in the article by Pemba and subjects of the death
threats, have chosen not to comment on the threats levelled against Pemba.
The article by Pemba indicated that Commissioner Jose took late Chasowa
and his colleague to Lilongwe on August 7 to meet Mukhito over the deal to
foul the August 17 demonstrations. The story revealed that the IG gave
them Chivas Whisky and MK50, 000 each. Jose confirmed taking the group to
Lilongwe to meet Mukhito.
MISA Malawi is thus appealing to the IG and Commissioner Jose to openly
denounce the death threats on Pemba and summoning of editors whose papers
published the insightful articles. Malawi Police is supposed to protect
and ensure peace and security and should therefore condemn and distance
itself from these death threats which are most likely tarnishing the image
of the service and its top brass.
Finally, we appeal to journalists to be professional, alert and to openly
report threats of any nature to relevant authorities.
MISA MALAWI CHAIRPERSON
Tanzania: Stakeholders' proposal on media services bill
In October 2011, ARTICLE 19 analysed the Tanzanian Stakeholders’ Proposals on the Media Services Bill. The overall assessment of ARTICLE 19 of the Bill is positive. If enacted, the Bill would be bringing Tanzania closer with international legal standards and best practice governing the right of freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
South Africa: Investigating refuse collection in informal settlements
The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) has observed that refuse collection in informal settlements is often irregular and of very poor quality. Refuse is often left rotting for days or weeks, contributing to the spread of disease. All refuse collection for informal settlements in the City of Cape Town is outsourced to private contractors, which in our view limits accountability and recourse. In addition, the provision and maintenance of sanitation services, which are also outsourced, are either non-existent or of a poor quality. Since 19 September 2011, Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) (a partner organisation of the SJC) has requested the Supply Chain Management (SCM) office in the City of Cape Town to provide the public with access to the Service Delivery Agreements (SDAs) that govern the provision and maintenance of sanitation services, as well as the provision of community-based refused collection services, in informal settlements. Despite sending several emails and letters, making several phone calls, and threatening legal action, we are yet to see the SDAs which by law should in any event be immediately available to the public.
Swaziland: Will social services continue?
Swaziland’s parliamentarians are questioning the purpose of a social safety net covering children, the elderly and the disabled. One dismissed it as little more than a public relations exercise, but in the teetering economy the recipients often depend on these small grants and pensions for survival. Donor-dependent Swaziland has been plunged into a financial crisis since receipts from the Southern Africa Customs Union dried up in the wake of the global 2008 slowdown, but finance minister Majozi Sithole recently conceded that government corruption cost the country nearly twice the annual amount budgeted for social services.
Global: Africa and diaspora studies
DePaul’s Program in African and Black Diaspora Studies provides its students with a systematic, interdisciplinary, and integrated course of study of Africa and the Black Diaspora. Students will have an opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in African and Black Diaspora Studies with a concentration in Africa, Black America, or Afro-Caribbean and Latin America.
US Supreme Court confirms ruling lifting Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death penalty
'For years since the dramatic 2001 decision by Federal District Judge William Yohn overturning Abu-Jamal’s death sentence on grounds that the trial judge’s instructions to the jury had been faulty and that the jury verdict form was dangerously misleading, Abu-Jamal has remained stuck in brutal solitary confinement at SCI-Green,' writes Dave Lindorf, the author of 'Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal'. 'That’s the super-max facility that houses Pennsylvania’s condemned prisoners, where Abu-Jamal and the others who are actually facing death are denied any human contact either with each other or with close relatives and friends.'
Africa: Middle East and North Africa arms transfers
Lessons for an arms trade treaty
The USA, Russia and European countries supplied large quantities of weapons to repressive governments in the Middle East and North Africa before this year’s uprisings despite having evidence of a substantial risk that they could be used to commit serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said in a new report. 'Arms Transfers To The Middle East And North Africa: Lessons For An Effective Arms Trade Treaty' examines arms transfers to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen since 2005.
CAR: Rebels sign truce, await disarmament
Two former rebel groups behind fighting in Central African Republic that claimed over 50 lives last month have signed a truce, government mediators said. The fighting was over control of a diamond mine near the town of Bria 600 km (360 miles) from the capital Bangui and risked escalating into a broader tribal conflict with reports of fighters going house-to-house hunting ethnic rivals.
Egypt: Behind Egypt's role in Israel/Palestinian prisoner swap
Egypt's apparently crucial role in orchestrating the Palestinian prisoner swap with Israel leaves those who have observed the cooling relations between the two countries wondering what more the deal signals. Omar Ashour, the director of Middle East Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter told Al Jazeera that, while many Egyptians view their government's involvement in the deal with pride, there was also a sense of 'bitterness and frustration'. Deals like this, he said, spell 'continuity rather than change in foreign policy.
Equatorial Guinea: SA backed coup plot
South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) gave the green light to the 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup attempt, along with the intelligence agencies of America, Britain, China and Spain, mercenary Simon Mann has claimed. Mann told London’s Daily Mail on Saturday night: 'I believe Britain and America had full visibility on what we were doing. The South Africans passed on intelligence to the UK and the USA, who had vested interests.'
Global: America’s secret empire of drone bases
A ground-breaking investigation examines the most secret aspect of America's shadowy drone wars and maps out a world of hidden bases dotting the globe, according to www.alternet.org Using military documents, press accounts and other open source information, an in-depth analysis by AlterNet has identified at least 60 bases integral to US military and CIA drone operations. 'Over the last decade, the American use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has expanded exponentially as has media coverage of their use. On September 21st, the Wall Street Journal reported that the military has deployed missile-armed MQ-9 Reaper drones on the “island nation of Seychelles to intensify attacks on al Qaeda affiliates, particularly in Somalia.” A day earlier, a Washington Post piece also mentioned the same base on the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, as well as one in the African nation of Djibouti, another under construction in Ethiopia, and a secret CIA airstrip being built for drones in an unnamed Middle Eastern country (suspected of being Saudi Arabia).'
Kenya: Al-Shabab threatens to attack Kenya
Fighters from Al-Shabab will attack Kenya unless it withdraws its troops from Somalia, a spokesman for the group has warned. Analysts say the group will try to follow through on its threat. Hundreds of Kenyan troops entered Somalia on Sunday, backed by helicopters and tanks; officials in Somalia also said that jets had bombed al-Shabab camps, though Nairobi would not confirm the jets were theirs.
Kenya: Inter-ethnic clashes result in deaths, school closures
A flare-up in inter-ethnic fighting between communities in the northern Kenyan region of Isiolo over pasture and water has left at least 14 people dead and affected learning as schools closed amid rising insecurity, say officials. Borana and Turkana pastoralists clashed several times between 13 and 18 October, according to UN reports. On 14 October, for example, seven people were shot dead in Tractor village, Ngaremara Division, Isiolo. According to local media reports, they included two 12-year-old children, who were dragged out of their huts and shot as their parents watched.
Kenya: Police blame Shabaab for Nairobi grenade attack
Fourteen people were rushed to hospital after what police say is a grenade was lobbed into a bar in Nairobi around 1am on Monday. Anti-terrorism police have sealed off the bar - Mwaura's club - following the blast that comes soon after Kenya's recent offensive into neighbouring Somalia in pursuit of the al Shabaab militia. Witnesses said two of those removed from the bar after the blast appeared dead, but police told Nation.co.ke they could not confirm any deaths.
Kenya: US planes join Kenyan battle
Al Shabaab militants were on the back foot on Saturday evening as they faced heavy bombardment from multiple fronts from a combined force of Kenyan troops, US drones, African Union peacekeepers and Transitional Federal Government fighters. Reports from the battlefront indicated that Kenyan troops were advancing towards four al Shabaab-controlled towns as they launched a final push to capture the Kismayu port and Afmadow in Central Jubaland.
Libya: Growing revulsion at the treatment of Gaddafi's body
The international acclaim for the Libyan revolution is being tempered by growing revulsion at the treatment of the bodies of Muammar Gaddafi and his son Mutassim. The UN has called for a full investigation into the circumstances of the dictator's death. Video footage recording the minutes after Gaddafi's capture last Thursday, when his convoy came under Nato and rebel attack, shows an alive but injured Gaddafi pleading for his life.
Libya: NTC declares 'Liberation of Libya'
The National Transitional Council (NTC) has declared the liberation of Libya, eight-months after the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule began. The NTC's forces were largely comprised of loosely organised local armed groups that sprang up in towns where citizens wished to see Gaddafi's rule ended. These groups remain armed, and it is unclear what role they expect to play going forward following the announcement.
Nigeria: Dutch officials wade into Niger Delta crisis
Top officials of the Dutch government at the weekend kept on the front burner efforts to bring lasting stability to the Niger Delta. The position of the government was articulated by Dutch parliamentarians and a representative of the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in charge of the Horn of Africa, East and West Africa. A Dutch parliamentarian, Sharon Gesthuizen, specifically tasked Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to clean up oil spill in all contaminated sites in the Niger Delta. Shell admitted that oil spill in the Niger Delta was wrong and it would do its best to remediate areas affected.
Nigeria: Ship attacked at Exxon Nigerian oil platform
Gunmen attacked a ship supplying an Exxon Mobil oil platform off the Nigerian coast, the company said on Tuesday, less than three weeks after someone was kidnapped from a vessel at one of its facilities in the same waters. The incident was the latest in a string of attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea that experts say is threatening an emerging trade hub and growing source of oil, metals and agricultural products to world markets.
Sudan: Bombing the homeless
Tens of thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands of people – are scattered throughout Blue Nile state in Sudan after fleeing their villages to avoid aerial bombardment. Blue Nile state lies south east of Khartoum and borders Ethiopia. The rebel Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) says Sudan is waging a war of terror from above against civilians. 'The main strategy of Khartoum to bomb the civil population is to break the will of the combatants,' Malik Agar, leader of the SPLM-N, told IPS.
Sexual exploitation and abuse in fragile, conflict and post-conflict situation
Call for applications
Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) has become a major peace and security issue. In order to fill some of the training gaps observed within the subject area, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) will be running a course on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) in Fragile, Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations. The course will run from 14 to 25 November 2011.
Call for Papers
Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts
Topics of inquiry can include but are not limited to:
- How race relations impact the accessibility to land and land distribution in marginalized communities.
- How ethnic minorities define their rights and access to land in the age of economic neoliberalism and market fundamentalism.
- Have land deals, as experienced in many African countries, for example, undermined or increased social stratification in terms of class, gender, and ethnicity?
- How is the current trajectory of land grabs changing the nature of land use and land rights and the structural balance of production, social norms, and gender roles?
Identity: Kenya's gay and lesbian and sex worker magazine
Identity serves a large demographic that includes the LGBT community in Kenya, sex workers and likewise, the straight population.
Campaigner – Central Africa
Amnesty International (AI)
About the role
We’re looking for a Campaigner to contribute to our campaign against human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Working at the International Secretariat, you will contribute to a range of projects, including our campaign for the protection of civilians involved in armed conflict. You will act as a focal point, providing advice and support to our worldwide membership, including devising campaigning strategies, preparing written and other campaigning materials and providing research support.
You will have excellent communication, campaigning and research skills and a demonstrable commitment to human rights. Ideally you will also have specialist knowledge of the DRC and experience of campaigning in a membership organization. While there is no line management responsibility, you will participate in coordinating the work of the team. Fluency in French and English is essential.
Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, fairness, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of almost three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.
For further information about this and our other current vacancies, and to apply online, please visit our website www.amnesty.org/jobs
Closing date: 9th November 2011
CVs will not be accepted.
Egypt: Senior ICT Officer
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) has a job opening for a full time Senior Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Officer for a minimum of two years subject to renewal.
Jobs at the Coalition on Violence Against Women – Kenya
COVAW (K) works to promote and advance women human rights through working towards a society free from all forms of violence against women. Since inception, COVAW (K) has fought and continues to fight valiantly to influence the public opinion on violence against women so that it would be regarded as a crime and a human rights violation instead of a commonplace domestic habit.
Jobs at the Coalition on Violence Against Women – Kenya
Call for Applications
Program Officer, 2 positions
Context and overview of COVAW (K):
COVAW-K is a registered, non-partisan and non-profit making national women's human rights non-governmental organization. COVAW (K) works to promote and advance women human rights through working towards a society free from all forms of violence against women. Since inception, COVAW (K) has fought and continues to fight valiantly to influence the public opinion on violence against women so that it would be regarded as a crime and a human rights violation instead of a commonplace domestic habit. Towards that end, COVAW-K has successfully spearheaded campaigns and advocacy against this violation that continues to threaten the personhood of women. COVAW is part of the women’s movement in Kenya and our work is fundamental to the advancement of women rights.
COVAW’s vision is a society that is free from all forms of violence against women (VAW) within the domestic, private, public and political institutions. The National Advocacy Officer will be involved with dealing with response mechanisms at different national levels whereas the Community Advocacy Officer will be in charge of collective action and organizing at the community level.
Program Officer, National Advocacy
Program Officer / National Advocacy/ Location: Nairobi, with travel to project sites and international travel / Closing date: October 31, 2011
This is an opportunity to be a part of a national organisation that works to ensure that women live lives free of violence by ensuring legislative and policy responses to addressing VAW. The purpose of the position is to manage the day to day implementation and management of the activities of the National Advocacy Programme which includes designing, reviewing and monitoring of advocacy strategies in line with COVAW’s mission and mandate.
• In collaboration with the Executive Director and programmes team, design and review regularly a comprehensive advocacy strategy.
• Identifying, researching, preparing documents, litigating and preparing monthly reports on Public Interest Litigation cases (PIL).
• Develop curriculum and calendar and ensure training of judicial officers and other service providers.
• Effectively lobbying for amendment of Bills that are of interest to COVAW’s mission
• Monitoring proposed amendments of relevant bills and effectively participating in processes for the same.
• Ensuring policy reform issues on violence against women are taken on board by relevant government ministries and departments.
• Lobby for ratification of select international and regional instruments that promote women’s rights.
• Facilitating the intersection between law and health in the promotion of women’s access to justice in addressing VAW.
• Participating in the production of COVAW-K’s training materials.
• Preparing periodic analytical reports on projects activities, collecting relevant legal articles, annual status reports on violence against women at all levels among others
• Identifying and promoting networking activities with similar organisations and government bodies.
• Timely implementation of project activities and budget tracking to ensure that all activities are implemented within the available budgets.
• Monitoring and evaluation to ensure that the activities and plans directly contribute to COVAW’s strategic outcomes.
Program Officer, Community Advocacy
Program Officer / Community Advocacy/ Location: Nairobi, with travel to project sites in Kajiado and Laikipia, International travel/ Closing date: October 31, 2011
Purpose: This position provides an opportunity to be involved in building social movements and defenders of women’s rights purposefully for the eradication of violence against women at the community level. The job holder is expected to undertake the day-to-day implementation and management of the activities of the local community capacity advocacy with strong community mobilization, movement building and capacity building components.
• Mobilizing communities of various target groups identified for purposes of implementation of plans to address VAW including CBO’s, law enforcement agencies, opinion leaders, and school administrators, among others.
• Marketing COVAW-K’s products to the community and key messages on VAW.
• Initiating and facilitating processes that lead to collective action and organizing to intervene and/ or stop various forms of VAW.
• Conducting and facilitating training sessions for the various identified target groups, such as paralegals, CBO’s, teachers, and other service providers.
• Making follow up on activities being implemented by various resource persons trained in the community.
• Ensuring that paralegals document and keep their records properly.
• Facilitating the trained CBO’s / teachers, paralegals/ law enforcement Agents (LEA) establish community based referral networks jointly with other resource persons in the community.
• Identifying schools to collaborate with and facilitate processes for creation of awareness on VAW and women’s rights among young people in schools.
• Building capacity of teachers to enable them facilitate student activities on women’s rights.
• Facilitating and guiding communities in organizing campaigns on VAW.
• Maintaining accurate and up to date records of all programme activities.
• Participating in the development of resource materials.
• Ensuring implementation of project plans and that the budgets are adhered to.
• Monitoring and evaluation to ensure that the activities and plans directly contribute to COVAW’s strategic outcomes.
- University degree in related field; law or social sciences
Expertise & Skills
• Creative thinker and analytical skills
• Demonstrated excellent writing and editing skills, ability to analyze information across a range of disciplines and able to extract relevant analyses
• Strong organizational skills and an attention to detail
• Ability to work independently and to set and meet goals in fast-paced environment and to prioritize accordingly
• Team spirit and respectful working style
• Strong project management experience; ability to develop, coordinate implementation, monitor and evaluate a project plan with multiple deliverables, stakeholders and deadlines
• Ability to multi-task and willing to perform diverse tasks as needed in a timely manner
• Able to work independently with minimal supervision and as part of a team
• Demonstrated capacity in complex problem-solving, displays good judgment
• Able to absorb new skills and information quickly
• Demonstrated ability to work effectively in fast-paced, high-stress contexts
• Excellent negotiation skills; presents ideas clearly, negotiates confidently and persuasively
• Excellent communication skills
• Fluency speaking and writing in English and Kiswahili
Knowledge & Other Requirements:
• Familiarity with international and regional women’s rights organizations and networks
• Demonstrated commitment to advancing women's rights and gender equality
• Committed to the principles and values of feminism, anti-discrimination and anti-oppression
• Relevant experience working on women’s rights issues or with similar NGOs preferable.
• Good knowledge on the provisions of women’s rights in the constitution specifically applicability in addressing VAW.
• A good understanding of the Sexual Offences Act and other gender based violence (GBV)- related laws including pending Bills in Parliament.
• Good knowledge of the global women’s movement and trends affecting women at the local and regional levels.
• Excellent understanding of the changing social, economic and political context in Kenya and how it influences new trends and various forms of VAW.
At least 3 years experience:
• With national/ community advocacy project planning and management
• Proven interest and experience in legal rights and social justice specially VAW issues. Experience with survivors of VAW and service providers on the same considered an asset.
• Proven interest in addressing the socio-cultural and economic obstacles to enjoyment of women’s rights/ addressing VAW.
• Contributing substantively and administratively to program work in the area of women’s rights.
• Working in a multi-cultural team.
• Working with non-governmental organizations (NGO) or similar not for profit organisations.
We are looking for individuals who are committed to the principles and values of feminism, anti-discrimination, and anti-oppression. The ideal candidates will have excellent writing and editing skills, ability to analyze information across a range of disciplines and able to extract relevant analyses, demonstrated capacity to think strategically and analytically, and have strong project management skills. If you are able to work independently with minimal supervision and enjoy working on women’s rights and with a diverse staff, we would love to hear from you!
How to Apply:
1) Current CV and cover letter (addressing how you meet the necessary qualifications and outlines why you want to work for COVAW-K)
2) A personal statement, of not more than 500 words expressing why you think you are best suited for this position.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (please include “National Advocacy or Community Advocacy” in the subject line of the email)
No phone calls please. Only email and faxed applications will be accepted. The application closing date is Monday, October 31, 2011. We thank all who apply, but only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. COVAW encourages, promotes and supports diversity in all aspects of its work.
To learn more about COVAW and our programs, please visit our website at www.covaw.or.ke .
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