Pambazuka News 562: Corporate profiteering brings famine to Africa
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Special Issues on 50th Anniversary Frantz Fanon
Foreign energy policy fuels famine in Africa
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Following your last set of reports, Oakland was looking to understand in greater depth the legal, social and economic implications of land grabs, in particular better data on land availability, better understanding of land deals, and issues around land rights. You have carried out detailed studies on a number of countries in Africa: What do they tell us about common themes related to land acquisitions in these countries that we didn't already know? And are there any important differences between the countries studied that would inform any response to these deals?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: The new set of research informs us of the following common themes:
First, energy policies of rich countries play a key role in the current trend of land grabbing:
The trend of converting fertile African land to agrofuel plantations is accelerating as more governments and corporations promote agrofuels as a solution to climate change and dependency on fossil fuels. The United States and the European Union, for example, have set targets to replace 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of their gasoline with agrofuels. They both provide subsidies to the agrofuel industry so that these targets can be met: The US government gives US$6 billion a year in federal tax credits to fuel blenders to support ethanol production, and recent European subsidies supporting agrofuel production have topped US$4 billion per year. Corporations such as Europe's largest airlines – including Lufthansa – are also increasing their reliance on agrofuels purchased from African countries. This growing market for agrofuels has set off a chain reaction of land grabs in Africa that are displacing people from their homes, draining rivers to the point of extinction and replacing valuable food crops with industrial fuel crops.
Second, so-called solutions to climate change, including carbon trade and carbon credits are green-washing the land grabs that some companies are making through land intensive Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects:
For example, a Norwegian timber company, Green Resources Ltd., plans to replace almost 7,000 hectares of natural Tanzanian grassland with monocultures of pine and eucalyptus that the company would grow to obtain carbon credits to sell to the government of Norway. In Sierra Leone SLGreen Oil has acquired 40,468 hectares for biodiesel production that will generate carbon credits through the CDM. Canadian corporation Sierra Gold has obtained 45,527 hectares of forest and grasslands destined for carbon credit programs, including a land-use CDM project that is expected to be worth more than US$714 million over 50 years. With one hectare being approximately the size of a football field, this accounts for a lot of land. The expansion of the carbon credit system will generate billions of dollars in profits through the commodification of air and forests, but is likely to turn into a disaster for indigenous and forest dependent communities in Africa who are losing their rights over grazing land and forests, which are essential elements of their livelihoods.
Third, international development agencies are playing a key role:
So-called 'socially responsible' or 'ethical' investment funds, backed by several western governments, involved with land grabs in Africa. The trend of large-scale land investment in Sub-Saharan Africa could not take place without World Bank Group support. The Oakland Institute's research uncovers World Bank Group's orchestration of a business-friendly environment for investor access to land. From helping attract investors, to shaping policy and law that allows for streamlined and lucrative investor contracts, World Bank Group's agencies – including its private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, in conjunction with the Foreign Investment Advisory Service – clearly enable and promote land investment.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: A sobering point that you make is that there is 'no going back once the damage is done' - once people have been moved off land or virgin forests and grasslands cleared to make way for agroforestry or agrofuel plantations, irreversible damage is caused to human and ecological communities - and the atmosphere. This means we need to take preventative measures rather than hoping we can reverse actions in the future. What mechanisms are open to Africans to take a stand against land grabs, when investment in agrofuels is being encouraged even at the African Union Level?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: First of all, given the general secrecy surrounding most deals, we have seen over the past few months how important it was to expose land deals and inform communities about what was happening.
For instance, in June 2011 OI released a brief on a land deal in South Sudan and made the contract available. Signed in 2008 with the Texas-based firm NTD, the 49-year land lease of 600,000 hectares for US$25,000 includes unencumbered rights to exploit all natural resources in the leased land. Local communities did not know about this deal until they heard media coverage of the OI report on the local radio, and it is only then, in July 2011, that they started to mobilise against the project.
Similarly, OI’s brief on the giant agricultural enterprise being developed in Tanzania and known as the AgriSol deal, informed civil society groups and media about this land investment. Knowledge of this deal, which was being secretly negotiated between US investors and the Tanzanian Prime Minister, has mobilised media and civil society groups locally and internationally, and the matter is now being debated intensely in Parliament.
To state the obvious, in an ideal world, communities should be aware of the deals prior to the signature of contracts between governments and foreign investors. Ideally an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study should be conducted in a systematic way, i.e. for every large investment, and its results communicated to all those concerned. Ideally communities should be consulted on that basis, so people can make informed decisions about their land and their future. Unfortunately, our analysis of over 50 deals in seven countries show that in most cases people are not consulted, or ESIA are generally not conducted, and when they are, they are not made public.
Proper information and consultation of communities is therefore critical. But it is far from enough: One should not just rely on local communities to take action for the land where they live. What is urgent is for citizens, civil society organisations, farmer groups, parliaments and political parties to engage with governments and challenge them not just on individual land deals but more broadly on the very policy choices they are making in regards to land investment and agricultural development.
This is what happened in Mozambique where different problems with foreign investors led to a freeze in large land concessions in 2009 (this governmental freeze on land grabs lasted two years, but large-scale investments have resumed in October 2011). In Tanzania too, the government has actually taken into consideration the interests of the people: some land deals were revised or cancelled because individual ministries weighed the interests of investors against the current and future land needs of the Tanzanians. Moreover, several of the large-scale investors identified did not obtain the amount of land they requested from the government – for instance the UK firm Sun Biofuels requested 18,000 ha but only obtained 8,200 ha from the government.
At international level, citizens and civil society organisations must also question the development and energy policies pursued by rich countries. Many of them are encouraging land grabs through these policies and through the direct support they provide to investors. Furthermore, as seen in Mozambique, USAID has been pushing hard to privatise land and to make it available to foreign interest.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: In your study of 50 deals in seven countries, you've found no evidence for fair financial returns to countries or their people. And not only do agrofuels plantations displace food crops, they also need twice as much water. Weighing the lack of economic benefits against the social and environmental costs, it's irrational for countries to make deals with investors. What's driving this destructive behaviour? Why are governments so willing to accept poor deals from investors?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: Many African governments fervently encourage foreign investment in agricultural land and often offer what some investors have called ‘mouthwatering’ incentives. Some officials seem to genuinely trust that land deals will spur growth with incoming capital, assist with infrastructure, and create employment for local people. This belief that large-scale land investment will result in much needed economic development has been strongly promoted by white-collar experts from the World Bank and officials from donor countries.
The trend of large-scale land investment in Africa could not take place without the work of the World Bank over the past two decades, which has been orchestrating the establishment of business-friendly environments for investor access to land. From helping attract investors, to shaping policy and law that allows for streamlined and lucrative investor contracts, the World Bank has clearly played a key role to enable and promote land investment.
Investors also make bold promises of economic development, ‘modernisation’ and numerous jobs. AgriSol Energy Tanzania LLC, for instance, claims they will transform Tanzania into a ‘regional agricultural powerhouse’ using genetically modified crops and other technologies to increase yields.
But not all African leaders are under pressure from rich countries or are being misled by foreign experts. While OI hasn’t documented cases of corruption related to land deals, we have identified a number of instances of collusion between government officials and foreign firms. For example, the AgriSol project in Tanzania employs several former Ministers, including one, Lawrence Masha, who, while Minister of Home Affairs, has ensured that the targeted land will be cleared of its inhabitants. In Sierra Leone, Franklyn Kargbo, the head of a legal firm involved in several land deals was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General, with a key role in the development of land leases and the responsibility of the ongoing land reform process.
Such conflicts of interest should not be so surprising given the money involved in land deals: Some investments are expected to provide hundreds of millions of dollars of net profit per year to the investors. We therefore believe at OI that citizens and the justice system in Africa should exercise the highest scrutiny over the land deals that are negotiated by their governments, especially when such deals involve large fiscal incentives and little direct public revenue, as seen in many cases studied by the Institute.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: There have been a number of reports saying that the carbon markets have collapsed. Is the proportion of land grabs driven by carbon speculation significant enough that land acquisitions could start to decrease or slow? Or is this simply, as you call it, a 'green cover' for land grabs, in the way that proselytising and 'civilising' missions provided cover for land grabs in Africa in the 19th century?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: Carbon markets are only one of the drivers of land grabs in Africa. So far it seems to have been less determinant in the recent increase in land investments than the promises for high returns from timber, food, and agrofuels plantations. In particular, agrofuels, produced on a large scale by agribusinesses and promoted by many governments and institutions as a solution to the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, have become a driver of land grabs in Africa. The developed world’s demand for agrofuels is being stimulated by the United States and the European Union which have set targets to replace 30 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, of their gasoline with agrofuels. US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has stated that the American investment in agrofuels is designed to ‘end [our] dependence on foreign oil and address the climate crisis.’ It is estimated that the European Union target may result in seven million hectares to be used for the production of agrofuels.
Policymakers and the bioenergy industry have promoted agrofuels as a sustainable clean energy source. However, agrofuels are neither sustainable nor low-carbon. Agrofuel crop monocultures require large amounts of water, nutrients, and pesticides, and most agrofuel refineries and transportation methods still rely on oil and coal. In addition, agrofuel can be processed into biodiesel, which fuels the same standard diesel engines whose emissions contribute to climate change.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: With COP17 currently taking place in Durban, there is a strong focus on climate change and the environment. What impact will land deals have on the ability of communities and countries to deal with climate change?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: Taking over water, forest land, and other natural resources, current investments are transforming the African agricultural landscape into large monocultures while undermining the capacity of resilience and the traditional coping mechanisms of local populations. This is particularly obvious for pastoralists, practicing semi-nomadic livestock herding. Pastoralists do not have any formal title over the land they use, and their pastures are being eroded year after year, reducing their ability to cope with drought years.
OI research in Tanzania shows for instance that the Maasai have lost critical land that they used for seasonal grazing or access to water sources for their cattle. Current construction of dams and large-scale irrigation schemes for sugar cane plantations in Ethiopia are about to take over hundreds of thousands of hectares of pastures used by the agropastoralists populations in the South Omo Valley and around the Turkana Lake.
It is safe to say that the establishment of plantations and large scale irrigation schemes reduces the amounts of water available for farming and the availability of pastures, which will make the effects of climate change, especially droughts, far worse in the future. Furthermore, the loss of forests and the development of monocropping will increase erosion and land degradation, which will in turn, make the effects of climatic shocks, droughts and floods, more dramatic in the future.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Given all the evidence to suggest the major role industrial agriculture plays in swelling the GHG emissions which exacerbate climate change, why is the World Bank so set on exporting these harmful techniques to Africa? And why have the EU and US retained targets for increasing their dependence on biofuels despite evidence that they increase, rather than reduce carbon emissions?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: Whereas rich countries have declared the development of agrofuels as a priority in order to fight climate change, it seems obvious that a more significant reason is to reduce the dependency of the so-called ‘developed’ world over fossil fuels. The reduction of carbon emissions thus seems to be only a secondary objective for these countries.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: In 2009, Mozambique stopped large-scale land acquisitions, but in 2011 this moratorium was lifted and large-scale acquisitions continued. What measures, if any, have been put in place during the period between 2009 and 2011 to protect small-scale land users from being pushed off their land? Will these measures be effective?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: Some genuinely believe, like the current Ethiopian government, seem to have decided that whole segments of their population, especially indigenous groups and pastoralists communities, don’t matter. As a result, as seen in Gambella and South Omo region of Ethiopia, people’s land is taken away by force to make it available to investors for the development of large scale plantations.
The World Bank Group describes the exchange between developing countries and foreign investors as having enormous potential – a ‘win-win’ situation – and over the past two decades, has established a host of pro-investment structures in African countries to promote private sector development, improve countries’ investment climates, and remove barriers to foreign investment in agriculture and other sectors.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: South Sudan's transition to a newly independent state has made it especially vulnerable to land acquisitions. Can you explain how large companies and international financial institutions have taken advantage of this situation?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: Legacies of conflict have left a South Sudanese state that is weak and unable to effectively extend its control into rural areas and lacks a regulatory framework for managing an influx of investment. At the same time, cash strapped new government is supporting land investments, believing that large-scale projects are the quickest way to improve food security and bring in the necessary revenues. As a result, as long as the agreement has a gloss of legality, the companies can claim that they have obtained leasehold rights. Companies rarely consult with residents in affected communities, or conduct environmental and social impact assessments, as required by the 2009 Land Act. Nor do they feel pressure from government institutions to abide by ‘good practice’ social and environmental protections. In many respects, investments in postwar South Sudan are managed like those during the war: If you have the political and military clout, anything is possible.
This situation is compounded by international financial institutions (IFIs) and donor countries who are encouraging the government of South Sudan to make land available to foreign companies for industrial agriculture. The government of South Sudan has embarked on a campaign with a consortium of development partners, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to promote agricultural investment in South Sudan, despite the above-mentioned concerns.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: You looked extensively at the 325,000 ha AgriSol project in Tanzania, that will rely on the relocation of 162,000 people. In terms of the structure of the deal (price per hectare, length of lease, corporate tax, other incentives), please describe how this shows the way in which these deals are structured in favour of large agribusinesses?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: While claiming to benefit Tanzanians and contributing to the country’s food needs, promoting livelihoods of small holder farmers, AgriSol’s internal documents reveal its true intent and the true cost for Tanzania in promoting such foreign investments. For instance, our new Brief rebutting Agrisol’s PR campaign reveals:
- AgriSol Energy will pay Tanzania .55 cents a hectare in fees and rent for a 99 years lease.
- AgriSol’s push for ‘Strategic Investor Status’ includes its demand to receive incentives including a waiver of duties on diesel, agricultural and industrial equipment and supplies ; a 30 per cent exemption from corporate tax, production of agrofuels, and request of the government to commit and provide a timetable for the construction of a rail link for Mishamo.
- Its feasibility studies call for it to negotiate with the government for input subsidies, which for now are targeted for the smallholder Tanzanian farmers. This demand will divert scarce public resources from smallholders to large foreign investors.
- The model of ‘modern agriculture’ envisioned by Serengeti and AgriSol links crop production, livestock production, and agrofuel production through partnerships among various agribusiness conglomerates in the value chain. Its partners include Monsanto, Stine, and John Deere, among many others (as evident from the slide presentation to its investors) and the application of this model in Tanzania will basically open the country to a massive influx of the world’s largest agribusiness companies.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: You raise an interesting point about the relationship between the structural adjustment programmes of the last three decades and current land grabs in Zambia. How have SAPs paved the way for land acquisitions to take place?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: As evidenced in our country report, during Zambia’s economic crisis of the 1970s/80s, World Bank/IMF SAPs were forced upon Zambia in 1990s, as a condition of debt-servicing loans. These loans came attached with conditionalities including efforts to promote economic liberalisation, privatisation, and foreign investment.
This resulted in Lands Act passed by the Parliament in 1995 which facilitates investment in mining, agriculture, and tourism and with its passing, land could now be bought and sold freely like a commodity. Traditional leaders, civil society, church leaders, and other stakeholders expressed concern with the Bill, arguing it would put poor people at a disadvantage and undermine the authority of traditional leaders with regards to administration of customary land. The Lands Act combined reserve/trustland into customary land, strengthened state leasehold rights at the expense of customary rights, eased restrictions on foreign ownership of land, facilitated the conversion of land from customary to state, and removed the ability of the state to repossess undeveloped land. In 1996, the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) was formed to be a ‘one-stop shop’ to facilitate private investment, to privatise state assets, and assist investors through various government processes while the creation of the Zambia Investment Centre (ZIC) was a requirement of the 1995 Investment Act, mandated by the WB/IMF’s PIRC II loan.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: You mention that the World Bank’s policy glosses over critical issues of human rights, food security and human dignity, while the IFC’s ‘Performance Standards for Social and Environmental Responsibility’ lack appropriate measures on community engagement, transparency and human rights. To what extent do you think that the inclusion of such criteria would compel investors and governments to implement ‘responsible’ land acquisition deals?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: If the World Bank was to emphasise human rights, food security, and human dignity, it would mean it would stop advocating for investor friendly climate at all costs. Its ‘doing business’ ranking would be based on the prevalence of social and environmental standards instead of the lack of such basic principles. While that might not compel investors and governments to implement responsible land acquisitions, deals, it would definitely take away the pressure that “development” agencies have over the poor country governments.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: You’ve said in the past that decisions about how to use water and land resources in Africa for Africans should be determined by Africans through democratic processes. What examples of good practice we can build or draw on?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: Our new research shows that unlike large-scale irrigation, a focus on efficient small-scale irrigation, sustainable agriculture and water management methods can improve the lives of local smallholders, enhance food security and prevent environmental degradation from water depletion. All over Africa, sustainable water management and smallholder irrigation schemes have led to substantial increases in crop yields.
For instance, In Zimbabwe, sustainable water management and water harvesting systems such as those established by the Zvishavane Water Resources Project have proven very effective in increasing yields, building resilience to climate shocks and improving income and food security. In Burkina Faso like in other Sahelian countries, the introduction of Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) techniques such as planting pits (i.e. zai), stone lines (i.e. bunds) and level permeable rock dams has led to enhanced productivity, economic security, population stability, enhanced biodiversity and improved water tables. With the introduction of such techniques in the 1980s, farmers achieved 50-60 percent higher yields of both millet and sorghum.
- In Mali, the establishment of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) among smallholders in the region of Timbuktu resulted in reduced quantity of water used while rice yields increased to 9 metric tons per hectare, an increase of 50 to 100 percent over yields obtained under conventional irrigated production techniques.
- In Ghana, the production of staples such as millet and sorghum show, on average, better yields under small-scale irrigation than under large-scale irrigation. Research has showed that small-scale irrigation in Ghana contributed to 1.5 metric ton / hectare of millet compared to 0.50 metric ton / hectare under large-scale irrigation.
- In Kenya, biointensive agriculture, a low-cost agricultural technology designed for small farmers, has been shown to use 70 to 90 percent less water than conventional agriculture (due to the establishment of higher soil organic matter levels, continuous soil coverage by crops, and adequate fertility for root and plant health).
- In Lesotho, the improvement in peasants’ access to the water supply and the use of small-scale irrigation technologies, such as drip irrigation and treadle pumps have improved water conservation and the crop yields of subsistence farmers, who have been increasingly able to sell excess produce in the local market
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What has the Oakland Institute have in store for us in the next period?
OAKLAND INSTITUTE: Stay Tuned ☺
Special Investigation Phase Two: Understanding How Land Deals Contribute to Famine and Conflict in Africa
The Role of False Climate Change Solutions
The Myth of Economic Development
The Myth of Job Creation
The Role of the World Bank Group
Eight Myths and Facts About AgriSol Energy in Tanzania
Land Grabs Leave Africa Thirsty
The Role of Development Agencies
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time.
* Responses to Pambazuka’s questions were provided by Oakland Institute’s David Deng, Felix Horne, Frederic Mousseau and Anuradha Mittal.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
As the ‘humanitarian warriors’ gloat…
Here’s the key question in the Libyan War
These days the humanitarian warriors are riding high, thanks to their proclaimed victory in Libya. The world’s only superpower, with moral, military and mercenary support from the democracy-loving emirate of Qatar and the historic imperialist powers, Britain and France, was unsurprisingly able to smash the existing government of a sparsely populated North African state in a mere seven months. The country has been violently ‘liberated’ and left up for grabs. Who gets what pieces of it, among the armed militia, tribes and Islamist jihadists, will be of no more interest to Western media and humanitarians than was the real life of Libya before Qatar’s television channel Al Jazeera aroused their crusading zeal back in February with undocumented reports of imminent atrocities.
Libya can sink back into obscurity while the Western champions of its destruction hog the limelight. To spice up their self-congratulations, they accord some derisive attention to the poor fools who failed to jump on the bandwagon.
In the United States, and even more so in France, the war party poopers were few in number and almost totally ignored. But it is as good an occasion as any to isolate them even further.
In his article, ‘Libya and the Left: Benghazi and After’, Michael Bérubé uses the occasion to bunch together the varied critics of the war as ‘the Manichean left’ who, according to him, simply respond with kneejerk opposition to whatever the United States does. He and his kind, in contrast, reflect deeply and come up with profound reasons to bomb Libya.
He starts off: ‘In late March of 2011, a massacre was averted — not just any ordinary massacre, mind you. For had Qaddafi and his forces managed to crush the Libyan rebellion in what was then its stronghold, Benghazi, the aftershocks would have reverberated well beyond eastern Libya. As Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch wrote, ‘Qaddafi’s victory—alongside Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s fall—would have signaled to other authoritarian governments from Syria to Saudi Arabia to China that if you negotiate with protesters you lose, but if you kill them you win.’…”
“The NATO-led attack on Qaddafi’s forces therefore did much more than prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Libya—though it should be acknowledged that this alone might have been sufficient justification. It helped keep alive the Arab Spring…”
Now all that is perfectly hypothetical.
Whatever massacre was averted in March, other massacres took place instead, later on.
That is, if crushing an armed rebellion implies a massacre, a victorious armed rebellion also implies a massacre, so it becomes a choice of massacres.
And, had the Latin American and African mediation proposals been taken up, the hypothetical massacre might have been averted by other means, even if the armed rebellion was defeated – a hypothesis the pro-war party refused to consider from the outset.
But even more hypothetical is the notion that the failure of the Libyan rebellion would have fatally damaged “the Arab spring”. This is pure speculation, without a shred of supporting evidence.
Authoritarian governments certainly did not need a lesson to teach them how to deal with protesters, which ultimately depends on their political and military means. Mubarak lost not because he negotiated with protesters but because his U.S.-financed Army decided to dump him. In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia helps kill the protesters. In any case, authoritarian Arab rulers, not least the Emir of Qatar, hated Kadhafi, who had the habit of denouncing their hypocrisy to their faces at international meetings. They could only take heart from his downfall.
These pro-war arguments are in a class with the “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq or the threat of “genocide” in Kosovo – hypothetical dangers used to justify preventive war. “Preventive war” is what allows a military superpower, which is too powerful ever to have to defend itself against foreign attack, to attack other countries anyway. Otherwise, what’s the point of this superb military if we can’t use it, as Madeleine Albright once put it?
Later on in his article, Bérubé cites his fellow humanitarian warrior Ian Williams, who argued that the litany of objections to intervention in Libya “evades the crucial question: Should the world let Libyan civilians die at the hands of a tyrant?” Or in other words, the “key question” is: “When a group of people who are about to be massacred ask for help, what do you do?”
With this selection of the guilt-tripping “crucial” or “key” question, Bérubé and Williams sweep away all the various legal, ethical and political objections to the NATO attack on Libya.
But nothing has authorized these gentlemen to decide which is the “key question”. In reality, their “key question” raises a number of other questions.
First of all: Who is the group of people? Are they really about to be massacred? What is the source of the information? Could the reports be exaggerated? Or could they even be invented, in order to get foreign powers to intervene?
A young French film-maker, Julien Teil, has filmed a remarkable interview in which the secretary general of the Libyan League for Human Rights, Slimane Bouchuiguir, candidly admits that he had “no proof” of the allegations he made before the U.N. Human Rights Commission which led to immediate expulsion of the official Libyan representative and from there to U.N. Resolutions authorizing what turned into the NATO war of regime change. Indeed, no proof has ever been produced of the “bombing of Libyan civilians” denounced by Al Jazeera, the television channel financed by the Emir of Qatar, who has emerged with a large share of Libyan oil business from the “liberation war” in which Qatar participated.
Just imagine how many disgruntled minority groups exist in countries all around the world who would be delighted to have NATO bomb them to power. If all they have to do to achieve this is to find a TV channel that will broadcast their claims that they are “about to be massacred”, NATO will be kept busy for the next few decades, to the delight of the humanitarian interventionists.
A salient trait of the latter is their selective gullibility. On the one hand, they automatically dismiss all official statements from “authoritarian” governments as false propaganda. On the other hand, they seem never to have noticed that minorities have an interest in lying about their plight in order to gain outside support. I observed this in Kosovo. For most Albanians, it was a matter of virtuous duty to their national group to say whatever was likely to gain support of foreigners for their cause. Truth was not a major criterion. There was no need to blame them for this but there was no need to believe them, either. Most reporters sent to Kosovo, knowing what would please their editors, based their dispatches on whatever tales were told them by Albanians eager to have NATO wrest Kosovo away from Serbia and give it to them. Which is what happened.
In fact, it is wise to be cautious about what all sides are saying in ethnic or religious conflicts, especially in foreign countries with which one is not intimately familiar. Perhaps people rarely lie in homogeneous Iceland, but in much of the world, lying is a normal way to promote group interests.
The poignant “key question” as to how to answer “a group of people about to be massacred” is a rhetorical trick to shift the problem out of the realm of contradictory reality into the pure sphere of moralistic fiction. It implies that “we” in the West, including the most passive television spectator, possess knowledge and moral authority to judge and act on every conceivable event anywhere in the world. We do not. And the problem is that the intermediary institutions, which should possess the requisite knowledge and moral authority, have been and are being weakened and subverted by the United States in its insatiable pursuit to bite off more than it can chew. Because the United States has military power, it promotes military power as the solution to all problems. Diplomacy and mediation are increasingly neglected and despised. This is not even a deliberate, thought-out policy, but the automatic result of sixty years of military buildup.
THE REAL CRUCIAL QUESTION
In France, whose president Nicolas Sarkozy launched the anti-Kadhafi crusade, the pro-war unanimity has been greater than in the United States. One of the few prominent French personalities to speak out against it is Rony Brauman, a former president of Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and a critic of the ideology of “humanitarian intervention” promoted by another former MSF leader, Bernard Kouchner. The November 24 issue of Le Monde carried a debate between Brauman and the war’s main promoter, Bernard-Henri Lévy, which actually brought out the real crucial question.
The debate began with a few skirmishes about facts. Brauman, who had initially supported the notion of a limited intervention to protect Benghazi, recalled that he had rapidly changed his mind upon realizing that the threats involved were a matter of propaganda, not of observable realities. The aerial attacks on demonstrators in Tripoli were an “invention of Al Jazeera”, he observed.
To which Bernard-Henri Lévy replied in his trademark style of brazen-it-out indignant lying. “What!? An invention of Al Jazeera? How can you, Rony Brauman, deny the reality of those fighter planes swooping down to machinegun demonstrators in Tripoli that the entire world has seen?” Never mind that the entire world has seen no such thing. Bernard-Henri Lévy knows that whatever he says will be heard on television and read in the newspapers, no need for proof. “On the one hand, you had a super-powerful army equipped for decades and prepared for a popular uprising. On the other hand, you had unarmed civilians.”
Almost none of this was true. Kadhafi, fearing a military coup, had kept his army relatively weak. The much-denounced Western military equipment has never been used and its purchase, like the arms purchases by most oil-rich states, was more of a favor to Western suppliers than a useful contribution to defense. Moreover, the uprising in Libya, in contrast to protests in the surrounding countries, was notoriously armed.
But aside from the facts of the matter, the crucial issue between the two Frenchmen was a matter of principle: is or is not war a good thing?
Asked whether the Libya war marks the victory of the right of intervention, Brauman replied:
“Yes, undoubtedly… Some rejoice at that victory. As for me, I deplore it for I see there the rehabilitation of war as the way to settle conflicts.”
Brauman concluded: “Aside from the frivolity with which the National Transition Council, most of whose members were unknown, was immediately presented by Bernard-Henri Lévy as a secular democratic movement, there is a certain naiveté in wanting to ignore the fact that war creates dynamics favorable to radicals to the detriment of moderates. This war is not over.
“In making the choice of militarizing the revolt, the NTC gave the most violent their opportunity. By supporting that option in the name of democracy, NATO took on a heavy responsibility beyond its means. It is because war is a bad thing in itself that we should not wage it…”
Bernard-Henri Lévy had the last word: “War is not a bad thing in itself! If it makes it possible to avoid a greater violence, it is a necessary evil – that’s the whole theory of just war.”
The idea that this principle exists is “like a sword of Damocles over the heads of tyrants who consider themselves the owners of their people, it is already a formidable progress.” Bernard-Henri Lévy is made happy by the thought that since the end of the Libya war, Bashir Al Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sleep less soundly. In short, he rejoices at the prospect of still more wars.
So there is the crucial, key question: is war a bad thing in itself? Brauman says it is, and the media star known as BHL says it is not, “if it makes it possible to avoid a greater violence”. But what violence is greater than war? When much of Europe was still lying in ruins after World War II, the Nuremberg Tribunal issued its Final Judgment proclaiming:
“War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
And indeed, World War II contained within itself “the accumulated evil of the whole”: the deaths of 20 million Soviet citizens, Auschwitz, the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and much, much more.
Sixty years later, it is easy for Americans and Western Europeans, their lives still relatively comfortable, their narcissism flattered by the ideology of “human rights”, to contemplate initiating “humanitarian” wars to “save victims” – wars in which they themselves take no more risk than when playing a video game. Kosovo and Libya were the perfect humanitarian wars: no casualties, not even a scratch, for the NATO bombers, and not even the necessity to see the bloodshed on the ground. With the development of drone warfare, such safe war at a distance opens endless prospects for risk-free “humanitarian intervention”, which can allow Western celebrities like Bernard-Henri Lévy to strut and pose as passionate champions of hypothetic victims of hypothetical massacres hypothetically prevented by real wars.
The “key question”? There are many important questions raised by the Libya war, and many important and valid reasons to have opposed it and to oppose it still. Like the Kosovo war, it has left a legacy of hatred in the targeted country whose consequences may poison the lives of the people living there for generations. That of course is of no particular interest to people in the West who pay no attention to the human damage wrought by their humanitarian killing. It is only the least visible result of those wars.
For my part, the key issue which motivates my opposition to the Libya war is what it means for the future of the United States and of the world. For well over half a century, the United States has been cannibalized by its military-industrial complex, which has infantilized its moral sense, squandered its wealth and undermined its political integrity. Our political leaders are not genuine leaders, but have been reduced to the role of apologists for this monster, which has a bureaucratic momentum of its own – proliferating military bases around the world, seeking out and even creating servile client states, needlessly provoking other powers such as Russia and China. The primary political duty of Americans and their European allies should be to reduce and dismantle this gigantic military machine before it leads us all inadvertently into “the supreme international crime” of no return.
So my principal opposition to this recent war is precisely that, at a time when even some in Washington were hesitant, the “humanitarian interventionists” such as Bernard-Henry Lévy, with their sophistic “R2P” pretense of “protecting innocent civilians”, have fed and encouraged this monster by offering it “the low-hanging fruit” of an easy victory in Libya. This has made the struggle to bring a semblance of peace and sanity to the world even more difficult than it was already.
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* Diana Johnstone is the author of ‘Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions’.
* This article was first published in Counterpunch.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Hegemonic agenda in the Horn of Africa
How Kenya’s invasion of Somalia is a foreign project
‘For all students of human society, sympathy with the victims of historical processes and skepticism about the victor’s claims provide essential safeguards against being taken in by the dominant mythology.’ -Barrington Moore
With much bravado and arrogance, Kenya declared invasion of Somalia on October 18, 2011 in what it justifies as ‘a hot pursuit of al-Shabaab’. Several kidnappings of foreign tourists and several other shootings along the Kenyan border with Somalia presumably by al-Shabab led to the decision to engage full military invasion of Somalia to ‘inflict trauma’ on al-Shabab, according to the Kenyan authorities. Kenya invokes Article 51 of the UN Charter, which allows all countries to defend themselves against an armed attack by another state. In this perspective, Kenya’s claim of pursuing a terrorist group contradicts the letter and the spirit of Article 51.
Kenya is not attacked by Somalia, so Article 51 can’t be applied in this situation as confirmed by the International Court of Justice 2005 Advisory Opinion in the DRC v. Uganda Case (Democratic Republic of Congo V. Uganda, 2005 ICJ (Dec. 19)). Al-Shabab is erroneously used as a legitimating factor for the invasion of Somalia without any legal basis. In this view, Kenyan leadership could be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of civilian deaths caused by Kenyan military invasion. Moreover, this action underscores the rapidly deteriorating international approach of the Somali conflict and the intricate political choices Somalis have to make.
In this context, the presence of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) represents the collective choice of the African Union, EU, US, and the UN with regards to the political crisis in Somalia and the war against al-Shabab. Similarly, the Somali people have a shared resolve to defeat al-Shabab but in the face of the Kenyan aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia, all bets are off and we may see renewed support for al-Shabab as happened during the Ethiopian invasion in 2006. However, it is pertinent to point out that the Kenyan invasion is ill timed as it takes place while al-Shabab’s leadership is in disarray as they had suffered a deeply humiliating defeat in Mogadishu in the hands of the African Union and Somali forces. The tide against al-Shabab is significantly tied to the vast public support in Somalia for the defeat and elimination of al-Shabab for its violence against the civilian populations.
Moreover, since the collapse of the central State of Somalia in 1991, the Somali community in Kenya has been growing significantly and many Somalis have established their businesses there, bringing a relatively cordial relationship between the Kenyan and Somali people. For the political class of Kenya to claim that they are invading Somalia to prevent kidnappings in Kenya contradicts the interest of the two states and the action is politically dangerous and costly in the long-term for both Kenya and Somalia. At present, Somalia is facing haunting massive economic and political crises in which many people are dying from hunger and many more are displaced by endless wars. This invasion imposes new restrictions on the movement of refugees who are fleeing from these multiple threats which, if not eased immediately, may lead to significant loss of life. Similarly, Kenya’s confusion over its war aims emanates from, in part, the deep divisions within the elites and the fact that key international actors have divergent strategic objectives in the Horn of Africa that are designed to control the political decision-making processes in these countries.
In this context, recent events in Kenya can only be explained in conjunction with the broader globalisation agenda that informs particular foreign policy. As Robinson (1996) explains, after the end of the Cold War ‘diverse forces battle to reshape political and economic structures as a new world order emerges’. He argues that the focus increasingly shifted from ‘power concepts’ to ‘transnationalisation of civil society and of political processes’. This means that new political and social relations are formed to assist the emergence of a single global society in which no hostile or power vacuums are acceptable like those in ‘Somalia, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and the former Libya’ as disclosed by General Wesley Clark of the United States. In this perspective, the invasion of Somalia by Kenya can only be understood ‘as part of a broader process of the exercise of hegemony’ where Kenya and Somalia are less significant in the overall strategic objective.
This analysis seeks to discover the intricate emerging political class in East Africa and their participation in reshaping this region as part of the broader hegemonic agenda. Moreover, this analysis intends to explore crucial policy options for Kenya and Somalia to prevent extensive bloodshed in their pursuit of internal security and economic progress. In conclusion, I’ll present a compelling argument that presents alternative policy options in support of a lasting political solution in Somalia, which doesn’t threaten continued regional stability and also leads to regional security cooperation.
WRONG WAR STRATEGY
Kenya fails to consistently clarify the goals of its military adventure in Somalia. The Guardian (Nov. 8, 2011) reports that this invasion was planned long before with military advice from Western states. ‘Several sources agree, however, that the Kenyan intervention plan was discussed and decided in 2010, then finalised with input from western partners, including the US and to a lesser extent France. Nairobi seems to have seized on kidnappings of foreign nationals by Somali groups on Kenyan territory as an excuse to launch an operation ready and waiting.’ The rationale behind the Kenyan invasion of Somalia is to control parts of Somalia for political and economic motives. More importantly though, it is part of the broader US strategy to presumably ‘promote stability and prevail over extremism’ in this region in its war on terrorism and to bring the countries in the region under its political domain. In this view, for the US war has been strategically essential for the promotion of these ideals.
The current aggression against the Somali state is promoted by the US and Kenya as a limited security measure. However, this war is seriously flawed as its objectives may lead to a greater humanitarian disaster in Somalia and will surely spur new tensions between the Somali and Kenyan people. As Stoessinger (2011) puts it, war is a manifestation of organised insanity and sickness. In this context, those who wage war insanely believe that it would lead to successful resolution. This notion, Stoessinger advises, goes against the reality of war as he illustrates that ‘no nation that began a major war in this century emerged a winner’. In this context, Hitler of Germany, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Milosevic of former Yugoslavia are all examples of aggressions that failed to achieve their objectives. Inadvertently, Kenya has succumbed to this temptation and has become fully merged with the US cause and accepts the conceptualization of US security framework.
In this perspective, Kenya has joined the US in its treatment of international law as what Bobbitt calls as ‘an inconvenient obstacle’ to be cast aside to pursue its state interest as it violates Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter and gravely misrepresents Article 51 in its claim to have the right to invade Somalia according to this article. From the US security perspective, Somalia poses a great challenge as it is considered to host multiple threats to US interest including a political vacuum that offers bases for terrorism and piracy that threatens international trade. Moreover, the Somali people have endured continued violence internally and suffered from complex political crises owing to external interference and military interventions for two decades. As a result, Somalia has become the object of contradictory international policy instruments; all seeking to, simultaneously, resolve humanitarian, political, social, economic, and security issues.
In this effort, the US has effectively enlisted the support of the countries surrounding Somalia to assist the US policy towards Somalia. These are Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti where the US has been building military bases such as Manda Bay in Kenya, Camp Lemonier in Djibouti and the remote southern Ethiopia airfield in Arba Minch where Reaper drones are flown to attack targets in Southern Somalia at present. In this context, the mission to deal with the ‘Somalia problem’ as the State Department describes it has created a joint battle by all government agencies in these countries, military and non-military actors. As the US government increased its Foreign Military Financing program (FMF), the countries surrounding Somalia have also received large military financial assistance as part of counterterrorism funding according to the US Defence Department.
Kenya has, for example, received an increase of ‘roughly 15 times its previous value’ for its cooperation, and its military receives free education at military academies in the US, making sure that Kenyan forces become more effective in combat missions in Somalia. Kenya has been a key US military partner and major military assistance recipient since the 1998 twin bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The formation of military and intelligence cooperation with the countries surrounding Somalia makes US operation in Somalia relatively inexpensive and obscures its military footprints while it guarantees unsurpassed military presence in the Horn of Africa. However, according to the Arms Trade Resource Center, this means that more violence is likely to engulf the countries involved. Countries that have received weapons and military training during the Cold War from the US have ‘experienced violent conflict and, in fact, many of the top US arms clients of the Cold War – Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, and Zaire (now the DRC) – have turned out to be the top basket cases of the 1990s in terms of violence, instability and economic collapse.’ The Cato Institute presents a more ‘disconcerting’ picture as it draws our attention to a study conducted by the US Army's Strategic Studies Institute (2008) in which it asserts that ‘a well-trained and armed (African) force of elite soldiers’ trained by US military become a threat to their own countries as soon as the ‘US withdraws (financial) support for its SSR programs and funding.’
While the Cold War strategy was to defeat communism and propping up repressive governments was a small price to pay in the minds of policy makers, it is becoming awfully clear that, while the objective now is to secure democracy and good governance, Africa is in repression and human rights violations abound. Military assistance in Africa has a predictable outcome, according to Arms Trade Resource Center. ‘Often, the US offered weapons and military assistance to repressive governments with one hand while raising the other in the name of securing democracy and promoting stability. Inevitably, somewhere down the line the regime collapses, and US policy makers are left struggling to re-write their lines. Once a new government takes power, the cycle re-emerges with the same old offers of US military training to help secure democracy.’
From this perspective, the US military assistance will likely result in the disintegration of the current establishments in Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti and the likelihood of civil war increases. Moreover, Kenya’s invasion of Somalia underlines a growing concern that this military escapade is likely to lead to the radicalization of the Somali people and a bloody blowback as a consequence. There are growing tensions already in Nairobi and other cities in Kenya. The US State Department is warning its citizens to be alert in that part of the world.
SECURING PEACE AT HOME
Today the discourse on human security revolves around two perceived threats. From the Western perspective, the usual suspects are in the developing world and view threats by non-state actors such terrorist organisations, piracy, migration, and transnational organized crime demand strong ‘military, economic and political intervention (Duffield and Waddel 2006). In contrast, there are those who advocate that security be linked to global economic justice and hold the view that ‘freedom from fear and violence’ will not be achieved as long as the gap between poor and rich is growing. Similarly, following the tragic 11 September 2001 attacks, many scholars and US officials have encouraged increased development assistance to the developing world as they concluded that there was a strong connection between poverty and terrorism (Laura Tyson 2001).
Others (Kreuger and Maleckova, 2003) have suggested that terrorism is ‘a response to political conditions and long-standing feelings of indignity and frustration.’ This means that political persecution and lack of freedom in the hands of dictators and puppets lead to anger, dissent, rebellion and sometimes terrorism. Since its independence in 1963, Kenya has maintained close relations with the Western world and had been impacted by the growing economic globalisation and political liberalisation agenda. Due to donor conditions, Kenya has adopted many of the international organizations’ development schemes to deal with its human security needs. These included a range of international projects including food security, HIV, corruption, organised crime, conflict management and host of other schemes. However, Brown (2003) argues that ‘donor-sponsored political liberalisation indirectly resulted in the rise of ‘ethnic clashes’ in Kenya.
In addition, Brown asserts that the Kenyan state has not only failed to provide security to its people, it has actively participated and sometimes ‘instigated much of the violence in the country. Ethnic clashes have spiked since 1990 and ’resulted in the deaths and displacement of thousands of people.’ On August 7, 1998 the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed by al-Qaeda terrorist group. Following the attack, Kenya has been officially added to the US Anti-terrorism Assistance (ATA) Program (Whitaker 2008), making Kenya a partner in the struggle against terrorism. The purpose was to assist Kenya with its domestic security threats but everything changed after 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks inside the United States. Kenya has become a key African ally in the war on terror. The Bush Administration’s 2002 security strategy characterised Kenya as an ‘anchor for regional engagement’ (New York Times, 20 September 2002).
But many Kenyans remain sceptical about the outcome of the war on terror and blame the US for the increasing terrorism in Kenya. Whitaker (2008) asserts that many in Kenya believe that they are victims of America’s counter-terrorism policy. Kenya has a large Muslim population which is an integral part of the Kenyan society and since the onset of the war on terror, tensions between the Muslims and non-Muslims are on the rise. Similarly, Lind & Howell (2010) conclude that many Kenyans believe that their leaders are ‘forced to cooperate’. The invasion of Somalia by Kenya raises important questions. Given that Kenya has serious security shortcomings, how can invading Somalia help the domestic security vacuum in Kenya? The Economist (10 August 2002) has concluded that crime rates in Nairobi are ‘worse than in notoriously dangerous central Johannesburg’.
The current invasion of Kenya is of great concern from security perspective for both Somalia and Kenya, but even more so for Somalia in particular as this spurs ‘a devolutionary cycle’, to borrow Dr. Weinstein’s insightful analysis with regards to this unending crises in Somalia, whereby external forces with divergent and sometimes convergent interests re-escalate the crises in Somalia whenever a solution is feasible and nearer. This illegal Kenyan invasion reignites al-Shabab’s resolve and gives respite to the losing al-Shabab as the wider Somali public grows more cynical with unending foreign intervention.
With respect to the legality of the invasion, it is obvious that the justification given for the invasion of Somalia speaks volumes of the unspeakable misconduct of the Kenyan regime. In its pursuit of terrorist forces in Somalia, Kenya fails to apply ‘right reasons’ under international law with regard to the exercise of ‘the right to self-defense’ by misrepresenting Article 51 of the UN Charter and criminally using disproportional force in its attacks of civilian populations and non-military facilities inside Somalia. The Article 51 of the UN Charter is not open-ended and allows states to fend off an imminent military invasion with consultation and guidance of the Security Council. This means that there must be practical grounds to engage in military battle but only for defensive principles, and only when you are in pursuit of enemy combatant. Moreover, there must be an exit schedule under international law.
With this illegal invasion Kenya has used its military muscle to invade another sovereign nation and is inside Somalia more than a month after its forces crossed in; that is not pursuit of al-Shabab but an illegal invasion of killing and maiming innocent civilians inside Somalia and the silence of the international community gives a tacit support for the invasion which equally amounts to violations against innocent civilians and is as guilty as Kenya. Cahill (1996) referring to the former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Eliasson, writes that, ‘prevention of conflicts is a moral imperative in today’s world … it is a political necessity for the credibility of international cooperation, in particular for the UN.’ Given that the UN through its UNPOS in Kenya is witnessing all of this but failing to condemn, the credibility of the world community is undermined and the Somali people are rightly becoming more resistant to any international solution.
Moreover, it is important to look at the invasion through the lens of empire building agenda, as the USA uses Kenya as one of its client states in the war against terrorism – in essence the US is coercing Kenya for its global agenda just as it is using other draconian states and dictators as clients in its fight against terrorism. Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Djiboutian political class benefit from aid flows as a reward for their proxy status in the war against terrorism and their allegiance to Washington. However, the people in the Horn of Africa will pay a hefty price as increased military assistance and militarisation of the region will lead to greater instability and civil strife.
Stability in the region can be achieved through a genuine peace building initiative in Somalia in which the Somali people are assisted to pursue a restoration of law and order, a free society characterised by independent media and judiciary and a government accountable to its citizens. Al-Shabab is no match to a Somali people united for the common good, but this potential is weakened by the constant external interventions that continue to recreate and strengthen groups like al-Shabab and the warlords who continually pose an existential threat to the Somali State. In contrast, a strong democratic Somali tate poses no threat to international security and stability.
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* Abdi Dirshe is a political analyst and the current President of the Somali Canadian Diaspora Alliance.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Africa and the West in global economy
An interview with Dr Rosetta Codling
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: What are the links between globalisation, capitalism and access to free labour?
ROSETTA CODLING: Prior to the intrusion of the Iberians in the 1400s, Africa was sought by Europe for intellectualism, minerals and human labour. The Greek civilization, the catalysis for Western thought discussed in the Richard Poe’s book, ‘Black Spark, White Fire: Did African Explorers Civilize Ancient Europe?’ spawned the development of Roman intellectualism. However, much of the ancient Greek civilisation and thought was derived from the Egyptians.
The classic ‘Black Athena’, a scholarly text illustrating the African imprint upon Greek civilisation, explores the African practices of engaging conduits and the harvesting of crops, took seeds, which later blossomed into Western agricultural science. Most importantly, African principles regarding Philosophy, Mathematics, Medicine and Politics also took seed and became rooted in the basis of Western thought.
The famed researcher, Chiek Anta Diop, details in his treatise, ‘The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality’, the role of Africa as a founder of Western civilisation and of contemporary commerce. Yet, with the commencement of a new globalisation, or the making of the Atlantic World, in the 1400s, things changed for Africa. The new globalisation became an enterprise to bring together the diverse economic aspirations of Europe. Industry and trade were organised and centralised for the mutual benefit of all European parties. In other words, capitalism was at the forefront of the making of the Atlantic World. There were no altruistic or religious motives involved. Profit was the objective and the means to achieve it was cheap labour.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: What roles did America and Europe play in this emerging world market?
ROSETTA CODLING: America played a role through the discovery of the continent. America's wealth was not to found precious metals. It offered a new and inexhaustible market for European commodities. According to the book, ‘Capitalism and Slavery’, by Eric Williams, America was able to ‘raise the mercantile system to a degree of splendour and glory, which it never otherwise would have attained.’ America's rise led to an enormous increase in world trade. For Britain, the triangular trade of slave served as ‘the first principal and foundation of all the rest and the mainspring of the machine, which sets every wheel in motion.’
From its inception, America has played a vital role in globalisation. The colonial Americas played a vital role in the advancement of trade for England, France and Spain by becoming a base for exports, ships, African slaves, plantations and materials. Africa was an integral core of the operations for globalisation, the triangular trade, and the making of the Atlantic World. Yet, Africa was the loser while Europe and Europeans reaped the profits.
Commerce and trade with Africa started out as an enterprise among equals and regressed to a policy of exploitation. Africa was ravaged and depreciated of its human and natural resources. Previously, within the ‘Annuals of the famed Equiano’, as stated in ‘The Life of Gustavus Vassa’, all of West Africa enjoyed a healthy climate of free-trade along the coast, but this climate was short-lived and the ensuing changes summoned the decline of the continent and the ascent of Western culture and industrialisation.
Eric William's book, ‘Capitalism and Slavery’, reveals that the industrial revolution obtained capital through slavery's free labour. In current times, with people of African ancestry’s relocation movements such as the Windrush Era of the Caribbean in England and the Great Migration in the United States, old policies of exploitation re-emerged. Within these new exploitative policies, the involuntary relocation and dislocation of peoples of colour further sponsored globalisation.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: What was the goal of making the Atlantic World at Africa's expense?
ROSETTA CODLING: John Thornton's work, ‘Africa and Africans: The making of the Atlantic World’ and Adam Smith's ‘The Wealth of Nations’ share a similar perspective regarding the objective and focus of the making of the Atlantic World. Ironically, within these works, the self-serving role of slavery is conveniently glossed over. Theories presented in these Eurocentric publications assert the noble objective of Europeans to forge a broader scope to be known as the Atlantic World. However, Africa did not harbour romantic notions of the European presence in Africa and in African affairs in the 1400s. Thornton cites the indigenous people's initial naval resistance.
The Iberian raid and trade practices weren’t met with approval. Africans forcibly demanded that trade be conducted voluntarily and between equals. According to Thornton, the Portuguese Crown needed instructions to relearn these lessons in equitable trade several times or risk losing their license to trade on Africa's West Coast. Portugal, an early interloper in African affairs, eventually gained the upper hand and seized Angola to establish a colony for the sole purpose of developing a commercial factory. Also, Portugal needed to regulate trade from Ndongo. This endeavor had no benevolent utopian goal. Raw, unwavering and capitalist greed was the goal. Walter Rodney's work, ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’, exposes the true nature of Europe's African enterprise. Capitalism and the notion of a global economy are concepts rooted in the exploitation of one group for the furthering of another.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: How did the process impact Africa?
ROSETTA CODLING: European trading with Africa enhanced capitalistic objectives. The act of 'trading with Africa' declined to 'stealing from Africa.' This policy was not restricted to Africa alone. The Atlantic Slave Trade extended to India, the Pacific Islands, South America and the Caribbean Islands. In an essay written by Elika M'bokolo, she states: ‘The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible routes including from across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic Ocean for more than four centuries of regular slave trade, which began from the end of the fifteenth to the 19th century to build the Americas and the prosperity of the Christian states of Europe.’
M'bokolo's essay, ‘The impact of the slave trade on Africa’, presents figures regarding the numbers of individuals enslaved. She estimates four million were exported via the Red Sea, four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, and perhaps as many as nine million along the Trans-Saharan Caravan Route, and 11 to 20 million, depending on the author, were exported across the Atlantic Ocean.’ Africa reaped the agony and Europe reaped the benefits of this mode of trade.
M'bokolo states that the great slaving companies were formed in the second half of the 17th century. America and other countries of the world benefited from the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas and various papal edicts which reserved African districts for the Spaniards, the Portuguese and other nations of Europe. In essence, Europe – France, England, Holland, Portugal, Spain, and even Denmark, Sweden and Brandenburg – shared the spoils, and established a chain of monopoly companies in Africa. Sporadic raids by the Europeans soon gave way to regular commerce. African societies were drawn into the slavery system under duress.
Slavery was vital to funding the global economy in Europe. The European powers including France, England, Holland, Portugal, Spain, Denmark and Sweden needed cheap labour to sponsor their advancements. Unfortunately, the old manner of accessing cheap labour force from the African diaspora was not forgotten in the post-modern world.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: Discuss the involuntary funding of globalisation through the relocation and dislocation of Africans and people of African ancestry.
ROSETTA CODLING: Professor Thomas Holt's current treatise, ‘Children of Fire: A History of African Americans’, provides the most concise account of the legacy of African Americans in America. He relates the fact that: ‘Although much of their history is likely to remain enigmatic, we can be fairly certain that the twenty Africans on that Dutch man-of-war were at the apex of a triangle formed by Europe, Africa, and America. At that moment, in particular, three European powers – England, the Netherlands, and Spain, struggling for supremacy in Europe – were pushing the boundaries of their conflict into Africa and the Americas. Twenty Africans landed at Jamestown as part of a cargo of slaves on a Portuguese ship.’
Africans, in terms of globalisation during the 1600s, were an integral part of the European economic venture into the Americas. Africans became the transferred chattel of this new group of European 'Creoles' known as Americans and the continued containment and displacement of people of African ancestry still thrives today.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: How was early slavery facilitated?
ROSETTA CODLING: The famed text, ‘The Willie Lynch Letter’ and ‘The Making of a Slave’ whose authenticity is often disputed reveal the science of enslavement .Yet, the logic and the utilitarian purpose of such a philosophy is undeniable as it expresses the materialistic viewpoint of southern plantation owners in America and the West Indies. Slavery was a business and slaves were pawns in an economic game of debauchery and cross-breeding.
The conditioning of slaves was vital to the survival of plantation life. Certain codes, edicts, or principles, facilitated their domination. They were repressed, perceived as unequal or inhuman. Therefore, they were cross-bred, raped, and conditioned without feeling any guilt. William Lynch, a southern plantation owner, stated, in an address titled, ‘The Willie Lynch Letter’, six cardinal principles which directed slave owners to govern their slaves as livestock, break their spirit, cross-breed, enforce a new, colonial language, and contain the slaves psychologically and physically. If these edicts were followed, a person would be a slave for life. Economically, these principles were feasible and sound.
The acceptability of Willie Lynch’s theories must be reviewed with the results, which indicate that slavery was successful and profitable. The cotton, sugar, and tobacco exported from the Americas to Europe reaped profits. Such trade was vital to the Western and global economy. America's Civil War, which was not fought to abolish slavery but to save the nation because internal disputes regarding slavery imperilled the union of the American states, was costly to trade and suffered during the war.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: How was the post slavery psychological and economic slavery of people of African ancestry facilitated?
ROSETTA CODLING: Jim Crow laws, which impeded African-American freedom, were developed in the south after the Civil War. These laws maintained the order of slave society and the north covertly sanctioned the American apartheid system to politically appease the defeated Caucasian southerners. American farmers gained confidence and assurance, through Jim Crow laws, that coloured, indentured groups would still work their lands after emancipation. Thus, African-Americans in the south were restricted. However, a new global world was on the horizon with the Second World War. Industrial labour markets in the northern cities of America needed cheap labour to work the factories and African-Americans were lured north with tales of equality and higher wages. Subsequently, southern family farms in America became a dying industry and the Great Migration began.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: Discuss the Great Migration. How did it impact African Americans?
ROSETTA CODLING: The Great Migration is the term for the mass exodus of African-Americans from southern, agricultural states to northern, industrial cities. When a train's whistle was heard across the cotton fields, scores of African-Americans defected from sharecropping, domestic servitude, manual labour and even families. People immediately left siblings, spouses and children without notice. They left everything, jumped on trains in pursuit of the northern cities’ ‘Promised Land’ and as a result, African-Americans, again, experienced displacement and relocation to the unwelcoming hostile territories of the northern cities.
The writers of this period described the disillusionment and despair. Richard Wright wrote ‘American Hunger: Native Son, and Black Boy’. James Baldwin wrote ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’. Ralph Ellison wrote ‘Invisible Man’. Each writer sounded the cry of a people manipulated again. Later, Claude Brown wrote ‘Manchild in the Promised Land’ and Toni Morrison wrote ‘Jazz and Sula’. A current study of the Great Migration is provided via Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts' book ‘Harlem is Nowhere’. She gained residence in Harlem to write a retrospective glimpse into the pilgrimages of the early African American settlers in Harlem, New York. Her study reveals that African-Americans came buying land and developing the disfavoured community of Harlem, but they were met with hostility and anger. The 1900's caucasian residents of Harlem preferred to let properties decay, rather than sell to African-Americans. Currently, Harlem is morphing into a Caucasian community again. African-American families were displaced because they were priced out of the real estate market. The nouveau pursuit of capitalistic progress finds African-Americans standing in the way of the globalisation and gentrification of the ‘new’ Harlem. The historian Thomas C. Holt chronicles these current events in his study titled ‘A History of African American’. The chapters ‘Ragtime’ and ‘A Second Emancipation’ focus on this dilemma. Again, relocation and displacement serve the global minded Capitalist and not the workers.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: Discuss the post-modern deployment of African resources to aid globalisation through England's Windrush Era?
ROSETTA CODLING: Andrea Levy's novel, ‘Small Island’ tells the story of the migration of Caribbean people from small islands to a mythical ‘Mother Island’ named England. The Windrush Era was a modern day plan for the relocation and displacement of the descendants of the original Atlantic Slave Trade. ‘Small Island’ illustrates the bittersweet chronicle of several people that find their way through this tumultuous period in the diaspora's history. From 1947-1954, post-war England sought the energy and vitality of their Caribbean chattel. Caribbean people were seduced to come and work in the most deplorable conditions in England's cities. For a paltry sum, the illusion of opportunity and kinship, Caribbean people answered the call to come to England.
In reality, British capitalists only needed a cheap labour force, again. Overt slavery was politically incorrect in the post-modern world. This new, labour force had to be lured, voluntarily. Historical records indicate that these brave Caribbean people reminiscent of slavery travelled by boats provided by England. Upon arrival, they disembarked from the ships, gracefully and in such finery that was exclusively Caribbean that the English locals were astonished and responded to the newcomers with vile hostility and utter racism. However, there were labour shortages in the UK and cheap labour was needed, so the British capitalists weren’t troubled by the frustration and anger of their beleaguered underclass citizens. The capitalists weren’t concerned about the welfare of the newcomers who served the purposes of industry.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: What did that lead to in England?
ROSETTA CODLING: It led to incidents including the infamous April 11 1981 Bloody Saturday in Brixton which was the result of brewing racial clashes. In South London, riots developed initially to protest the stabbing, improper care and death of a black youth by the police. However, the continued unrest was rooted in the despair stemming from poverty, joblessness and the segregation of the Black populous into red-lined communities in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.
The rationale for the relocation and dislocation of Caribbean, Indian and Brown peoples was no longer viable for the England of the 1970s and 1980s. A second generation of Caribbean people was not needed. The second generation of these immigrants was problematic. They sought better jobs and opportunities that were never envisioned for them by the British society. In fact, the permanent, Caucasian underclass of British society was still scampering in the 1970s and 1980s for limited jobs. All of England was wrestling with a crippling recession in the 1980s, which continues to this present day.
The Caribbean people and the Caucasian underclass began to clash in semi-and organised fashions. Anger against the upstart, Caribbean people rose. Eventually, England rescinded its policy of freely admitting Caribbean people and other Commonwealth peoples. This shift in policy took the form of definitive legislation that required that a prospective Caribbean immigrant prove that he or she had a parent in the UK, or a bona fide relative possessing the status of British subject. Abruptly, Caribbean people were no longer welcome in England after the 1980s.
The 1995 Brixton riots and the 2011 riots across England were replays of similar circumstances which led to the 1981 Brixton riots. Despair erupted into smouldering flames; ignited by the mistreatment of people of African ancestry by the British police and resulting in violence fanned by feelings of disenfranchisement and disillusionment of minority youths. These young people were mostly Caribbean, Indian and Brown peoples, but many were also from the Caucasian underclass.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: How did America respond to Britain's immigration policy changes?
ROSETTA CODLING: America granted free access to Caribbean and other peoples of colour to come to America in 1965 because African-Americans in the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s refused the menial labour of their forefathers. Great social changes, which were the catalysts for major shifts in America's immigration policy, were led by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The Civil Rights Movement made things difficult for accessing cheap, indigenous, and coloured labour in America, and America, like Europe, needed cheap labour for production to compete globally. After the passage of legislation, during the John F. Kennedy administration, America freely opened its doors to those once restricted.
Previously, preference was given to European immigrants. Adam Smith in his text, ‘The Wealth of Nations’ stresses this point. The Caribbean Islands were traditionally under the Commonwealth protection and parentage of the ‘Motherland,’ but, with Britain's abdication/retreat from open immigration, America tapped a new, cheap labour market. The pattern was repeated and globally, people of African ancestry continued to meet the needs of another market.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: What is Africa's continued role in globalisation and China's success?
ROSETTA CODLING: The Atlantic World continues to expand and encompass the Pacific World. China and India are developing world powers which require raw materials, and Africa is once again, the source for human and mineral resources. China's ventures in Africa are supposedly, purely mercantile. Still, one must critically wonder due to history.
China conducts trade in Africa by extracting raw materials, which ravages the land, for a moderate price. There appears to be little concern for the harm inflicted upon the land, and the environment. Humans and animals suffer the consequences. China brings trade to African nations through the business conducted; however, African workers are rarely hired by Chinese firms in Africa. China imports Chinese workers for the most lucrative and professional positions. Few African are hired in unprofessional capacities, poorly paid and vulnerable to injury or death because there are no labour laws protecting their interests. China isn’t concerned with the violation of human rights. One might construe that China's venture in Africa is a self-serving pursuit. History is repeating itself as an emerging global power, currently China, is gaining strength at Africa's expense.
Africa's oil industry, not the Middle East’s, supplies most of America's fuel. America's oil interests in Africa including Nigeria's Niger Delta exploit and disenfranchise the local people and blatantly ignore human rights violations. England, again, prompts cause for concern in Africa. The vast oil reserves found in many African countries are exploited by England too and Africans obtain little of the profit because of the neo-colonial governments installed by European global powers. Belgium and France, in the pursuit of the minerals like coltan, which is vital for making computer chips and cell phones, incite internal disputes in African nations in places such as Congo. Companies such as Nokia, Ericsson, Intel, and Sony lust for African resources, consequently, a dozen years of war over tin and coltan mines – minerals vital to modern technology – have created the largest humanitarian tragedy in modern history with women being the most common victims: and the West largely ignores this.
Many other legitimate sources of these minerals are available in Western countries such as Canada, Australia and even in South America. For example, Brazil has vast mineral reserves, but the focus is on Africa because resources are obtained in Africa for little or no fee. Likewise, the global diamond market is almost entirely dependent on the cheap labour and minerals found in places like Namibia and South Africa. Internal civil wars and conflict are inspired and/or supported by European powers that profit from African strife.
SUSAN MAJEKODUNMI: What is your assessment of the current state of Africa in the global market?
ROSETTA CODLING: Africa of the past and present offers little hope for the future because Africa's rich human and mineral resources, historically, has been vulnerable to Europe’s and America’s selfish aspirations. Now, China assumes a similar self-serving role. When will real global trade be realised, where all parties reap the same benefits? Africa awaits such a venture and future of a mutually beneficial partnership amongst equals.
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* Susan E. Majekodunmi is a freelance journalist and writer. She is a contributor to The Women's International Perspective (The WIP), Jamati Online, The New Ghanaian, New African Analysis, World Press, and Africa News. She is also the Editor-In-Chief of Sociable Susan Magazine. She lives in Maryland, USA.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
COP17: The great escape III
After nine days of negotiations there is no doubt that we saw this movie before. It is the third remake of Copenhagen and Cancun. Same actors. Same script. The documents are produced outside the formal negotiating scenario. In private meetings, dinners, which the 193 member states do not attend. The result of these meetings is known only on the last day. In the case of Copenhagen it was at two in the morning after the event should have already ended. In Cancun, the draft decision just appeared at 5 pm on the last day and was not opened for negotiation, not even to correct a comma.
Bolivia stood firm on both occasions. The reason: the very low emission reduction commitments of industrialised countries that would lead to an increase in average global temperatures of more than 4° Celsius. In Cancun, Bolivia stood alone. I could not do otherwise. How could we accept the same document that was rejected in Copenhagen, knowing that 350,000 people die each year due to natural disasters caused by climate change? To remain silent is to be complicit in genocide and ecocide. To accept a disastrous document in order not to be left alone is cowardly diplomacy. Even more so when one trumpets the ‘people’s diplomacy’ and has pledged to defend the ‘People’s Agreement’ of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Bolivia last year.
Durban will be worse than Copenhagen and Cancun. Two days before the close of the meetings, the true text that is being negotiated is not yet known. Everyone knows that the actual 131-page document is just a compilation of proposals that were already on the table in Panama two months ago. The formal negotiations have barely advanced. The real document will appear toward the end of COP17.
But more importantly, the substance of the negotiations remains unchanged from Copenhagen. The emission reduction pledges by developed countries are still 13 percent to 17 percent based on 1990 levels. Everyone knows that this is a catastrophe. But instead of becoming outraged, they attempt to sweeten the poison. The wrapper of this package will be the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and a mandate for a new binding agreement. The substance of the package will be the same as in Copenhagen and Cancun: do virtually nothing during this decade in terms of reducing emissions and get a mandate to negotiate an agreement that will be even weaker than the Kyoto Protocol and that will replace it in 2020. ‘The Great Escape III’ is the name of this movie, and it tells the story of how the governments of rich countries along with transnational corporations are looking to escape their responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead of becoming stronger, the fight against climate change is becoming more soft and flexible, with voluntary commitments to reduce emissions. The question is, who will step up this time to denounce the fraud to the end? Or could it be that this time, everyone will accept the remake of Copenhagen and Cancun?
The truth is that beyond the setting and the last scene, the end of this film will be the same as in Copenhagen and Cancun: humanity and mother earth will be the victims of a rise in temperature not seen in 800,000 years.
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* Pablo Solon is an international analyst and social activist. He was chief negotiator for climate change and United Nations Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (2009-June 2011). He blogs at pablosolon
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
A dirty deal coming down in Durban
What, now, are the prospects for a climate deal by Friday?
The biggest problem is obvious: COP17 saboteurs from the US State Department joined by Canada, Russia and Japan, want to bury the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol treaty. Instead of relaxing intellectual property rules on climate technology and providing a fair flow of finance, Washington offers only a non-binding 'pledge and review' system.
This is unenforceable and at current pledge rates – with Washington lagging everyone – is certain to raise world temperatures to four degrees centigrade, and in Africa much higher. Estimates of the resulting deaths of Africans this century are now in excess of 150 million. As former Bolivian Ambassadar to the UN, Pablo Solon said at last week’s Wolpe Memorial Lecture, “The COP17 will be remembered as a place of premeditated genocide and ecocide.”
Within the International Convention Centre, everyone in their right mind should resist this. First, it is patently obvious, after the 1997 Kyoto negotiations where Al Gore promised US support in exchange for carbon trading, and after Hillary Clinton’s 2009 promise of a $100 billion Green Climate Fund – both reneged upon – that Washington cannot be trusted. Lead negotiators Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing should be isolated, an international climate court should be established, and preparations made for comprehensive sanctions against US goods and services.
Second, it appears that the European Union (EU), South Africa (SA) and the Climate Action Network – the latter representing big international NGOs mostly without any commitment to climate justice – are pushing what is called a 'new mandate'. And not surprisingly, Pretoria’s team and the biased pro-Northern chair, SA foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, appear ready to sell out the African continent.
Some countries, led by Mali and Egypt, are holding firm on demands by the African Group, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Latin American ‘Alba’ countries for binding northern emissions cuts of 50% by 2020 and 95% by 2050. These are critical targets to get the overall climate change to below 1.5 degrees. At 2 degrees, the UN estimates, ninety percent of current African agricultural output will cease.
If African countries fold in coming hours, even the traditional leaders of science-based demands – Bolivia, Tuvalu and a few others – probably cannot block a sleazy Durban deal.
Unfortunately, the SA and EU delegations are behind-the-scenes managers devoted to bringing emissions trading markets into this new mandate, largely because of the vast investment that Europeans have made in now-failing carbon markets. Jacob Zuma’s endorsement of the World Bank’s 'Climate Smart Agriculture' scheme last week is a return to nakedly neoliberal management of society and nature – an approach that over the last decade proved so disastrous in water privatization and carbon trading.
Explains Anne Maina of the African Biodiversity Network, “Climate Smart Agriculture comes packaged with carbon offsets. Soil carbon markets could open the door to offsets for genetically-modified crops and large-scale biochar land grabs, which would be a disaster for Africa. Africa is already suffering from a land grab epidemic – the race to control soils for carbon trading could only make this worse.”
Zuma is not well advised by is climate team, for the carbon markets upon which the strategy rests are dying. The Union Bank of Switzerland, Europe’s largest, last month estimated the price per tonne collapsing to just 3 euros in 2013, down from a peak of over 30 euros five years ago and around eight euros at present. If forest credits are also sold into the markets, as proponents hope, it will swamp supply and crash the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme to the level of Chicago's: around zero.
By all accounts we need prices of at least 50 euros/tonne for market incentives to begin substantively switching us out of carbon and into renewable energy and public transport. Can we trust maniac bankers to deliver the planet's salvation?
Face it, the neoliberal strategy is failing on its own terms. As a result, Trevor Manuel’s idea that half the Green Climate Fund should be drawn from carbon markets instead of stingy Northern governments and corporations is fatally flawed.
There is a tiny remaining hope for COP17, but only if we soon see a 1999 Seattle-style move by African delegates who know their constituents will be fried if the rich countries and SA have their way. Exactly twelve years ago, the African delegates refused to let the World Trade Organisation do a deal against Africa’s interests. SA's trade minister at the time, Alec Erwin, tried but was unable to prevent this sensible obstructionist approach.
This time it will be harder, not only because Nkoana-Mashabane presides over COP17, but also because of Ethiopia’s tyrant ruler Meles Zenawi, a top African Union negotiator who ‘sold out’ the continent in 2009-10 by halving finance demands and endorsing the Copenhagen Accord, according to Mthika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.
Since the African Group represents 53 countries, the Group of Least Developed Countries represents 48, and there are a half-dozen more in the Alba block, it is not impossible that this shifting alliance can overcome the rich countries' power and the tendency of the four leading middle-income countries – Brazil, China, India and SA – to represent their own national interests.
As German NGO activist Rebecca Sommer of Ecoterra sums up, “Developed nations are trying to shift their responsibilities for drastic emissions cuts onto developing countries that have done the least to cause the problem. Rich industrialized countries are busy trying to carve out new business opportunities for multinational corporations and their financial elites. It would be disastrous if the internationally binding emission reduction commitments would lapse or end altogether in Durban.”
Most likely, our city will go down in infamy as the site that the temperature was dialed up on Africa. Against that, a spirited march on Saturday passed the ICC but its impact was tempered by what climate justice activists called the ‘Green Bombers’ (named after Robert Mugabe’s paramilitaries).
Complained march organizer Des D'Sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, “About 300 protesters, dressed in official COP17 volunteer uniforms, tore up placards, physically threatened and attacked activists participating in the march. In spite of heavy police presence throughout the march, including mounted police, riot police, air-patrol and snipers, and requests to address this disruption, police did not take any action.”
The group had “green eThekwini tracksuits with city branding and emblems, but acknowledged themselves to be ANC Youth League supporters, displaying pro-Zuma and anti-Malema placards,” says D'Sa, with the message “100% COP17”. And that tells you all you need to know about the stakes and dirty politics in play here in central Durban.
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* This article first appeared in Eye on Society, The Mercury, 6 December.
* Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society and authored/edited two new books: ‘Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below’ (UKZN Press) and ‘Durban's Climate Gamble: Trading Carbon, Betting the Earth’ (Unisa Press).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
African climate CDMs ‘Can’t Deliver the Money’
Patrick Bond and Michael Dorsey
Africa is being cooked by climate change, and those causing the crisis should compensate the victims. This is probably the only hope for any top-down action at the Durban COP17 this week, with the Green Climate Fund design committee co-chaired by Trevor Manuel now searching for the US$100 billion promised by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Copenhagen two years ago.
One dangerously dysfunctional vehicle for delivering money to Africa is the Clean Development Mechanism, the CDM, which was included in the Kyoto Protocol as a way for Third World projects to get resources. But it isn’t delivering the goods, for a variety of reasons that mean Durban should host a rethink.
The aim is to facilitate innovative carbon-mitigation and alternative development projects by drawing in funds from northern greenhouse gas emitters in exchange for their continued pollution. It is the use of ‘market solutions to market problems’ so as to lower the business costs of transitioning to a post-carbon world. After a cap is placed on total emissions, the idea is that high-polluting corporations and governments can buy ever more costly carbon permits from those which don’t need so many, or from those willing to part with the permits for a higher price than the profits they make in production or energy-generating or transport activities.
With Europe as the base, world emissions trade grew to around US$140 billion in 2008 and although markets then went flat due to economic meltdown, increasing corruption investigations and Copenhagen-induced despondency, the trade in air pollution was at one point projected to expand to US$3 trillion/year by 2020 if the US were to sign on. The US$3 trillion estimate didn’t even include the danger of a bubbling derivatives market, which might have boosted the figure by a factor of five or more.
In November 2010, a new estimate of up to US$50 billion/year by 2020 in North-South market-related transfers and offsets emerged from a United Nations High-Level Advisory Group on Financing for climate mitigation and adaption, including Manuel. World climate managers evidently hope to skimp on grants and instead beg business to push vast monies into CDMs instead.
Durban is an important guinea pig, for at South Africa’s lead CDM pilot, the Bisasar Road landfill, methane from rotting rubbish is converted to electricity. After helping set it up, the World Bank refused in August 2005 to take part in marketing or purchasing Bisasar Road emissions credits. Local activists say the reason was growing awareness of Durban’s notorious environmental racism.
In March 2005, just as the Kyoto Protocol came into force, a Washington Post front-page story revealed how community organiser Sajida Khan suffered cancer from Bisasar Road’s toxic legacy. Back in 1980, the landfill – Africa’s largest – was plopped in the middle of Durban’s Clare Estate suburb, across the road from Khan’s house, thanks to apartheid insensitivity. Instead of honouring African National Congress politicians’ promises to close the dump in 1994, the municipality kept it open when US$15 million in emissions financing was dangled.
After Khan died in mid-2007 after her second bout with cancer – which she believed was landfill-induced – Clare Estate civic pressure to close Bisasar subsided and Durban began raising €14/tonne for the project from private investors.
In 2009 the Financial Times reported, ‘The CDM inherits the UN’s suffocating bureaucracy, so smaller projects struggle to gain approval. But more important than what it keeps out is what it lets in. The criterion of “additionality” is supposed to rule out projects that would not be undertaken without CDM payments. Not only is this counterfactual approach utterly unverifiable; it is also an ideal target for gaming.’
Since then little has changed, as this week’s United Nations Executive Board meeting at Moses Mabhida Stadium will again witness bureaucratic impotence, cronyism, and a handful of powerful countries controlling nearly three-quarters of the credits produced. The CDM is neither reducing emissions nor securing its promised sustainable development.
The Executive Board suffers from inadequate governance. UN rules specify that ‘members, including alternate members, of the [Clean Development Mechanism’s] Executive Board shall have no pecuniary or financial interest in any aspect of a CDM project activity or any designated operational entity.’
Despite this rule, CDM Board members often maintain multiple roles at the same time, many of which are lucrative. Board members serve as negotiators during UN climate talks. They represent their countries’ national authorities, or act as managers of large government CDM purchasing programs. Yet the NGO CDM Watch reports that ‘a conflict of interest is only noted in 4 out of 64 meeting reports of the Board.’
The inability to adequately to prevents conflicts is exacerbated by the CDM’s opaque decision-making. Again, UN rules mandate meetings of the Board ‘shall be open to attendance, as observers, by all Parties and by all UNFCCC accredited observers and stakeholders, except where otherwise decided by the Executive Board.’ However, due to a rising number of discussions on individual cases, large parts of the meetings of the Board take place behind closed doors. When interested third parties seek access to attempt to hold the CDM-EB accountable they are regularly denied access.
The CDM gives primacy to its ties to large corporations while often overlooking and even ignoring its foundational institutional mandate to sustainable development on behalf of Africa. The US based, Global Justice Ecology Project describes the CDM as the ‘Corporate Development Mechanism’ and the ‘Corrupt Development Machine.’
The CDM socialises the harms of unfolding climate change – by failing to move funds to those harmed first and most, like communities across Africa; and it privatises benefits for increasingly small cadres. The top four beneficiary countries – China, India, Brazil and Mexico – received three quarters of CDM project support, with China alone generating more than half.
The only real winners in emissions markets are speculators, financiers, consultants (including some in the NGO scene) and energy sector hucksters who make billions of dollars in profits on the sale of notional emissions reduction credits. As the air itself became privatised and commodified, poor communities across the world suffer, and resources and energy are diverted away from real solutions.
Last month at Durban’s UN CDM meeting, a barrage of reports critical of the UN’s CDM strategy were released by academics (including ourselves) and NGOs, and the credibility that carbon trading needs to gain traction going into the COP has been eroded. This is good, because only by leapfrogging market ‘solutions’ that depend upon chaotic, unfair financial markets will we get to the genuine solutions so desperately needed to solve the climate crisis.
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* Dorsey and Bond are professors at Dartmouth College and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, respectively.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Reactionaries and revolutionaries
Every few weeks a discussion pops up around African awakenings/uprisings, but I am not wholly convinced this is a reality beyond Tunisia and Egypt at least. The articles from Pambazuka’s excellent Fanon special issue are a reminder of the lack of real distance we have travelled as people and nations since the independence movements in the 1950s and 60s.
Last week the Nigerian Senate passed the third reincarnation of an anti-homosexuality bill which began back in 2006. The 2011 Same-Sex Marriage Bill (SSMB) expands the existing legislation on homosexuality to include organisations and individuals who ‘register operate or participate in gay… organizations’.
The same old reactionary Biblical language and cultural references were used to justify the bill and from the hundreds of comments battering the blogosphere, there was much cheering and very little jeering from the Nigerian public. The few who spoke out against the bill made sure they let it be known that they were most definitely heterosexual (For example, Chxta who thinks homosexuality is abhorrent but 14 years is a bit steep, or Linda Ikeji who doesn’t understand homosexuals but isn't too happy with death and imprisonment).
On Twitter, people tended to be a little more forthright – but even here the Bill was turned into a joke. The Bill has still to be passed by members of the lower house, who received it on Wednesday 7 December; from accounts they remain determined to pass it despite outrage from the West. From there it must be signed by the president and even if he refuses the Senate can still pass it. It’s still within the realms of possibility that it will be quashed but there is every chance it will resurface.
Again (maybe I missed something), I haven’t seen the same level of outrage from the Nigerian blogoshere or twittersphere on the real, and not imaginary danger of Climate Change as it is affecting the country, such as the farming and fishing communities as explained by Justice in Nigeria:
‘A woman clears weeds on her farm in Kano Northern Nigeria. Like their counterparts who make a livelihood from fishing, African women who farm are also facing problems caused by climate change. In Northern Nigeria AND BORDERING REGIONS, declining rainfall and desert encroachment which are both attributed to climate change have seriously affected women farmers.
‘The West African State of Niger has also been affected. Aminatou Daouda Hainikoye a lawyer from the country says available water for farming has been declining over the years. Hainikoye, who is a legal advocate for small farmers, says women are at a disadvantage in securing access to the shrinking supply of water for agricultural use.....The lands closest to the rivers are the most expensive. The prices of such lands have been on the increase, because they contain the water that can be used for farming. Now where will poor women get the money to purchase expensive lands? We did a study and we found out that men are the owners of all the lands close to the rivers.’
COP17– climate change talks in Durban 2011has an excellent series of blog posts spelling out the urgency in responding to the UN climate change conference taking place in Durban, South Africa:
‘The biggest problem is obvious: COP17 saboteurs from the US State Department joined by Canada, Russia and Japan, want to bury the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol treaty. Instead of relaxing intellectual property rules on climate technology and providing a fair flow of finance, Washington offers only a non-binding “pledge and review” system.
‘This is unenforceable and at current pledge rates – with Washington lagging everyone – is certain to raise world temperatures to four degrees centigrade, and in Africa much higher. Estimates of the resulting deaths of Africans this century are now in excess of 150 million. As former Bolivian Ambassadar to the UN, Pablo Solon said at last week’s Wolpe Memorial Lecture, “The COP17 will be remembered as a place of premeditated genocide and ecocide.”’
Meanwhile, the false solution of market based mechanisms in the form of carbon trading is highlighted by the Occupy COP17 movement:
‘The same institutions, corporations and governments who have led the world into economic chaos are leading us towards climate chaos.
‘However, the cracks in the façade are starting to show. Carbon trading and offsetting, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) have failed to cut carbon emissions, which reached record high levels in 2010, whilst further impoverishing the worlds poorest people, facilitating the largest land grab in history, destroying biodiversity and trampling the rights of indigenous communities.’
Over at Kubatana, performance poet Comrade Fatso makes a suggestion which should make the oblivious party-goers happy especially since there is also money to be had (gleefully rubbing hands together!):
‘Comrades I’m sure you’ve heard of the crisis in the world today
Floods in France, disappearing islands and droughts in Zimbabwe
How do we deal with all our carbon emissions rising
With global warming, increased instability and insane petrol pricing
Comrades I would like to announce my brand new policy
I call this policy C…E…E…
Its simply entitled Climate Economic Empowerment
How to make money from mother nature and from the environment
Because climate is the new bling
The new diamonds, the new shiny, spangly thing
We’ve run out of ways to make money for a living
But, comrades, now we have carbon markets and carbon trading
So will we save the planet? Hell muthafukking no!
But we’ll have the biggest, most fantastic party til we hit ground zero.
So lets co-opt the NGO’s and some scholarly scholars
Coz we wanna go green like freshly minted US dollars So in that sense yes we are the real green party
Because nature is time and time is money
So give us your money and give it to us by the tonne
Put it in my bank account – it’s called the Green Climate Fund!’
To return to the theme of African awakenings – which includes getting rid of dictators, repressive and corrupt leaderships – African Dictators puts out a call to ‘Hacktivists’ to help fight the ‘butcher’ of Rwanda.
‘Dear AD and readers, especially members of Diaspora, do we have some techies to help fight our butcher? What if AfricanDictator closed – and others such as Umuvugizi, then what?
‘Why do we just sit there while our butcher kills us one by one and intimidates us? Why is he shutting down our sites and gets away with it? Are we cowards – so cowardly that we can’t fight him even on the net? We can’t learn from the experience of how other people have used the social media to defeat tyrants?
‘Look, some 1,000 brave Rwandans stood up against our butcher in Gitarama last week. How did we use that spark to extend our pen fight? Nothing!
‘I am writing this message to younger members of our Diaspora – aren’t some of you techies like other young people world-over?’
On Black Looks, Rumbidzai Dube calls out Zimbabwe for unilaterally changing the theme of this year’s ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence’, from militarism to… well, no theme.
‘Is anyone wondering why the Zimbabwean government changed the theme?
‘Maybe this should bring us to the question of what militarism is, in the context of gender based violence. It is an ideology. That ideology creates a culture of fear. It condones violence and induces fear by cultivating a culture of terror among populations through the use of military warfare, aggression or other forms of violence.
‘Why must we reject it?
‘Militarism has grave consequences. It is coercive, intrusive on the dignity of people and poses a huge challenge to human security. Since it is a way of looking at the world; it influences how we perceive those who surround us; family, neighbours, the general public and the rest of humanity. If we embrace militarism then we are condoning a culture that perceives every individual as the enemy and embracing violence as the only effective way to resolve disputes. That is unacceptable!’
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
There is no doubt it is murder
Cutting AIDS funding will cause deaths in Africa
With your indulgence, I’m going to deviate from the assigned topic. I shall address the Millennium Development Goals, but not in the way that was anticipated. There are two reasons. First, I want to speak in an unusually personal way, and from the heart, and in a fashion that leaves no room for ambiguity. Second, I consider the attack on the Global Fund to be the most serious assault it has endured in its ten-year history. I would feel utterly delinquent to let the issue slide.
I am seized by frustration and impatience. Let me explain. I’m thrilled when UNICEF tells us of the possibility of the virtual elimination of paediatric AIDS by 2015. But I know — as knowledgeable people in this audience know — that it remains an unlikely prospect, but more important, that we lost several precious years during the last decade where we simply didn’t apply the knowledge we possessed to prevent vertical transmission. It was a terrible failure on the part of international agencies and governments. Worse, the mother barely factored into the so-called ‘PMTCT’ equation at all. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress, I cannot forget the millions of infants who died unnecessarily and the women who were never given treatment.
I’m thrilled at the creation of UN Women, and the possibility, once they join as a formal co-sponsor of UNAIDS, that the focus on women will be given a new lease on life. But I can’t dislodge from my mind the experience of my years in the role as envoy, and subsequently working with AIDS-Free World, when it became clear that in every aspect of the pandemic women were rendered subordinate. Gender inequality doomed their lives. Sexual violence fed and feeds the virus. The entire survival of communities and families was placed on their shoulders. Men were the social determinants of women’s health, and men simply didn’t care. As we come to this thrilling moment of potential progress, I can’t avoid the spectral faces of stigma, discrimination, isolation and pain, and they are the faces of women. That doesn’t mean that women aren’t the core of courage and strength in this pandemic; it simply means that they have to struggle valiantly to challenge the phalanx of male privilege, of male hegemony. Just a few days ago, coincident with World AIDS Day, the Harvard School of Public Health held a symposium called AIDS@30 to assess the past and plot the future. The symposium had a Global Advisory Council of 19 eminent experts on the pandemic: 17 men and two women. It is ever thus. It’s the rare woman indeed who doesn’t ultimately report to a man in the world of HIV, or who can command, ever-so-rarely, the place and presence that legions of men command automatically.
I’m thrilled when I hear animated talk of male circumcision. But I know that we didn’t need to wait for the results of the three studies in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. Nothing would have been lost if we’d focused immediately on making circumcision safe and available for informed parents to choose for their male babies; it’s a minor procedure that has been performed for centuries. Instead, during nearly a decade as the evidence piled up that circumcision was a defense against AIDS — evidence provided by experts in the field — we waited and waited and waited, in that self-justifying paralysis of excruciating scientific precision. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress I cannot forget the numbers of lives that might have been saved had we acted sooner.
I’m thrilled with all the talk of ‘Treatment as Prevention’ and how it has suddenly become the mantra of the international AIDS community. But back in 2006, I sat beside Dr. Julio Montaner, about to become president of the International AIDS Society, when he first expounded the proposition at a press briefing at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto. His evidence and argument were rooted in science and common sense in equal measure. But he had to endure scorn and derision, and we had to endure a five-year delay until Treatment as Prevention was definitively authenticated by the National Institutes of Health in Washington. Julio’s theory suddenly became the 96 percent solution five years later, and it doesn’t—I emphasize—it doesn’t apply only to discordant couples. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress, I cannot forget the numbers of lives that might have been prolonged if we hadn’t waited nearly five years to create the momentum that now propels us.
I’m thrilled with the turnaround in South Africa. The dramatic rollout of treatment is nothing short of miraculous. But I remember all those years of denialism, and not a single voice at the most senior levels of the United Nations — Under-Secretaries-General, the Secretary-General himself. Not one of them said publicly to Thabo Mbeki, ‘You’re killing your people’. Oh, to be sure, it was said in private by everyone. They took Thabo Mbeki aside and begged him to reverse course. He didn’t budge an inch. Around him, in every community in South Africa, and in communities throughout a continent heavily influenced by South Africa, were the killing fields of AIDS. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress, I can’t forget the millions who died on Thabo Mbeki’s watch, while those who should have confronted him before the eyes of the world stood mute.
I’m thrilled by the embrace of the slogan ‘Know Your Epidemic; Know Your Response’ and the current concentration on high-risk groups. But I note that there were many voices, over the years, not all of them eccentric, calling attention to concurrent sexual partners and discordant couples, to MSM and sex work and sexual violence, and particularly injecting drug use, and they were contemptuously dismissed. I cannot but remember that magnificent gay activist from the Caribbean, Robert Carr, who died such an untimely death … back at the pre-conference on MSM in advance of Vienna last year, Robert made one of those speeches that leaves you gasping. When you hear what the experts say, said the normally tactful Robert, it’s bullshit – and he repeated bullshit so many times in the course of thirty minutes that the crass word became a cry of mobilizing dignity. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress, I can’t forget the casual delays in responding to vulnerable groups. Experts fiddled while human rights burned.
So if you sense a certain impatience in me, you’re right. We don’t have another day to lose. Peter Piot did the arithmetic yesterday … 1,350,000 put on treatment in 2010; 2,700,000 new infections, exactly double the number in treatment in the same year. It works out to 7,397 new infections every day. And it’s 2011, for God’s sake. It’s appalling that such numbers continue to haunt us; it’s heartbreaking beyond endurance to contemplate further exponential agony. We cannot delay another minute in putting the ‘prevention combination’ to work.
And I think, judging from the mood in the corridors, that’s what seizes this conference. But right at the moment when we know, irrefutably, that we can defeat this pandemic, we’re sucker-punched at the Global Fund.
What’s a sucker punch? It’s when a boxer in the ring gets a punch below the belt that he doesn’t see coming. No one expected a complete cancellation of Round Eleven, with new money unavailable for implementation until 2014.
It’s just the latest blow in a long list of betrayals on the part of the donor countries, in this instance the Europeans in particular. I’ve heard from several people that the politics of the Global Fund meeting in Accra two weeks ago, when the decision was made, were not just complicated, but amounted to miserable internecine warfare. Certain governments on the board of the Global Fund simply discredited themselves. They give a soiled name to the principle of international solidarity. The chair of the board, in a remarkably convoluted effort, tried to explain things in a press release. He would have done far better to remain silent.
The decision on the part of the donor countries is unforgiveable. In a speech a few days ago, I addressed the Global Fund predicament by talking of the moral implications of a decision that you know will result in death … death on the African continent.
I asked: ‘Do they regard Africa as a territorial piece of geographic obsolescence? Do they regard Africans themselves as casually expendable? Is it because the women and children of Africa are not comparable in the eyes of western governments to the women and children of Europe and North America? Is it because Africans are black and unacknowledged racism is at play? Is it because a fighter jet is worth so much more than human lives? Is it because defense budgets are more worthy of protection in an economic downturn than millions of human beings?’
These are not phrased as rhetorical questions. I mean each and every one of them.
Spare me, I beg of all the speakers … spare me the economic crisis. Everyone knows that when it comes to financing wars, or bailing out the banks, or bailing out Greece, or reinstituting corporate bonuses, or even responding to natural disasters that threaten economies, there’s always enough money. We’re drowning in crocodile tears. It’s not a matter of the financial crisis; it’s a matter of human priorities. We have a right to ask the G8: what do you sanctify as governments: profits and greed or global public health?
That’s especially true in the case of the United States. I was, like everyone else, delighted by President Obama’s endorsement of the proposition that PEPFAR could treat a total of six million people rather than four million people by 2013 with the same money. And I congratulate Ambassador Goosby for seeing that through. It’s wonderful. No one would take issue. How could you? There’s no additional money involved: it’s just greater efficiency and more targeted spending.
And then the president went on to affirm his support for the money that’s supposed to be destined for the Global Fund … $4 billion over three years, 2011-2013; $1.3 billion a year.
Now let me take you back a step. In 2010, when the three-year pledge for the Global Fund was being discussed, the activists in the United States were asking for $6 billion over three years, believing that this was a fair share for the United States and an inducement to all the other donors. They feared that the president would stay at $3 billion over the next three years … roughly the previous allocation for the Global Fund. When he endorsed $4 billion, it was considered a partial victory.
In my respectful submission, it’s time for the United States to take a hard look at $6 billion. Many American speeches glow with the words that the US is the largest donor to the Fund. Well of course they’re the largest donor; they’re the most dominant and wealthy economy in the world. I really think that apart from calling on the European governments to reverse their decision, President Obama should tell Congress he wants a full $6 billion.
I don’t expect that anyone ever listens to me. But I do point out what was emphasized at the opening of the conference: money to do battle against HIV/AIDS is the singular non-partisan issue in Congress. Even those irascible philistines who want to cut foreign aid, or global health, have shown in the past that they’re prepared to shore up funding for HIV/AIDS. It seems to me that President Obama should put his moral authority on the line, and ask Congress to raise the ceiling from $4 billion to $6 billion for the Global Fund.
It’s not a matter of comparison with other countries; it’s a matter of doing what’s right. And that means doing your fair share regardless of whether others are doing theirs. There are many commentators who agree that the salvation of George Bush’s presidency was PEPFAR. President Obama doesn’t need salvation. But I can’t imagine a greater act of statespersonship than to say to the world: I, Barack Obama, cannot stand the thought of another unnecessary death; if the United States of America has to bail out the Global Fund, we will.
Is the extra $2 billion dollars outrageous? The economist Jeffrey Sachs has answered that question. He points out that the United States defense budget amounts to $1.9 billion a day. In other words, we’re asking that HIV/AIDS receive an additional amount, over three years, that equals American military spending in one day.
It seems to me that that’s an argument that African political leaders can effectively pursue amongst the many arguments they should employ in dealing with the donor community. I agree with Michel Sidibe — who’s given significant and visionary leadership to this struggle — that there must be a high-level crisis meeting, and that Prime Minister Meles Senawi should convene it.
We’ve waited for this moment for a long time. This is an opportunity for the African political leadership to show its muscle, and to demand that the Global Fund be restored to its intended level. Remember, at the last formal replenishment in 2010, the funding came in at a dismal $11.7 billion, far short of the $20 billion that the Global Fund really needed in order to scale up to meet universal access. Now we’re being told that even the $11.7 billion is out of reach. It’s unconscionable, indefensible, outrageous. It’s murder, that’s what it is: murder. And the donor countries expect to get away with it because there’s a culture of fiscal impunity.
As I wind my way to a conclusion, let me relate an anecdote that I think is relevant.
When I left my diplomatic post at the United Nations in 1988, I took on a role as the Secretary-General’s Advisor on Africa. (I admit that seems odd, but there is an explanation that more or less justifies the appointment.) There was an Inter-Agency Task Force established, and there was a kind of executive committee of four. The chair was the noted African economist, Professor Adebayo Adedeji of Nigeria and at the time Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa; the vice-chair was the remarkable, brilliant Richard Jolly, Deputy-Executive Director of UNICEF; the rapporteur was the accomplished economist Sadig Rasheed, also with the ECA, and I was the fourth, a sort of honorary post. (Note that then, as now, men were tapped to lead the way.)
We met, often in Addis – where the ECA was and still is located – with many of our colleague agencies working in Africa. The World Bank was almost always in attendance, and intermittently, the International Monetary Fund.
It was the height of ‘structural adjustment’ programs. Every meeting was a battleground, filled with heated imprecations, accusations and malice. Our little executive cabal of four detested the international financial institutions, and they detested us.
In the midst of endless angry discussions of conditionality, we looked carefully at the financial data and suddenly realised a staggering truth: when you took into account the interest payments and some capital payments as well, and ran the statistics carefully, it became clear that Africa was paying out far more than it was taking in … hundreds of millions more. The continent was financing the World Bank; the World Bank wasn’t financing the continent.
And it continues to this day. Again, I remind you of Peter Piot’s reference yesterday. I have a close friend who writes columns for the newspaper The Globe and Mail in Canada. Commenting on the study that Peter Piot referenced, the title of his column was, ‘Africa: The World’s Most Generous Foreign Aid Donor’. It confirms the fact that a study of nine African countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe showed that they had exported doctors to Canada, the United States, the UK, and Australia, costing Africa between $2 billion and $13 billion in education and training, and saving the four western countries more than $4.5 billion in education and training. The nurses’ financial ratios would be even higher.
This is an AIDS conference. We talk endlessly about capacity building. Africa desperately needs its doctors and nurses. Instead, in the vital field of health professionals, Africa loses billions in exporting its human resources.
I say all this to challenge the artificial debate on dependency. From slavery to today’s extractive industries of minerals and oil, Africa is financing the world. The modern world’s economy was built on Africa’s human and natural resources, and it depends on them to this day. The money from the Global Fund and PEPFAR amount to partial reparations. Western donors are not engaged in some kind of financial philanthropy: we owe Africa what we give to Africa. And a hell of a lot more to boot.
That’s the debate that Prime Minister Meles should induce. The donor countries to the Global Fund, having ransacked the continent for six hundred years, have no right to withdraw. They must be confronted. And all of you, who make up civil society in so many countries, must press your presidents and prime ministers into action.
Let me end by coming full circle to the Millennium Development Goals. Africa will never reach the MDGs if AIDS is not vanquished. AIDS adds to the desolate state of poverty. Obviously, it affects both maternal and child health. It continues to leave children parentless (though the millions of orphans whose plight seemed a priority at past AIDS gatherings, increasingly, mysteriously, disappear from view). Gender equality is a mockery in the face of AIDS. And the so-called partnership between the haves and the have-nots is rendered laughable. Even sustainable development is influenced, because climate change feasts on weakened populations.
If the MDGs are as important as everyone says, then AIDS must be subdued.
As a last parting thought, in respect of the Global Fund, I beg you to mobilise as a truly civil society and stand up to the reckless nation-states who dare to decide whether Africans will live or die.
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* Remarks by Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS-Free World, delivered at a plenary session at the 2011 International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, December 6, 2011.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh's re-election
Alagi Yorro Jallow
This is the beginning of the end of an era in Gambian politics. The Gambia is now at a crossroad between the past and the future. The past can never be restored, and the present cannot be sustained. The future is uncertain. Its course will be influenced by a people who are economically poor, heavily downtrodden, emotionally battered and physically robbed, and who face the prospect of five more years under the regime of President Yahya Jammeh.
Gambians are still reeling from the surprising results of the 24 November presidential election in which the incumbent president was re-elected for a fourth term. During the election, 83 per cent of eligible voters in The Gambia purportedly participated in the election. It was the highest voter turnout since the country gained its independence in 1965. The surprise was not so much that Jammeh won but that he won a ‘landslide victory’ in spite of a high voter turnout and running against two opponents, Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party-led alliance (who received 17 per cent of the votes) and Hamat Bah of the United Front-led alliance (who received 11 per cent of the votes). Despite having two opponents, President Jammeh won the election with 72 per cent of the votes.
Despite the high turnout, many citizens chose to not vote as a way of expressing their dissatisfaction with the Jammeh administration. Some Gambians are frustrated because the opposition political parties failed to unite in their campaign against Jammeh’s ruling party. Moreover, the opposition failed to refuse the constitutional amendment removing the second round of voting to change the system to a simple majority, which benefits the incumbent. Further, the Gambian opposition again failed to contest the legal structures of the Independent Electoral Commission, to the detriment of the opposition.
Throughout the campaign period all Gambians have witnessed foreign nationals meddle in the electoral process in total violation of Gambian laws and electoral rule. The actions taken by the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) violate section 104 (7) of the Election Act 2001, which prohibits the use of foreign money in Gambia’s elections. It states, ‘A political party shall not receive any contribution from any person who is not a citizen of The Gambia, or from any corporate or incorporated body.’ President Jammeh ignored this provision and did so publicly by accepting hundreds of thousands of dalasis from Mauritanian, Lebanese, Senegalese and Guinean business tycoons with business interests in Gambia. Yet incredibly, despite all these violations the Gambian opposition and civil society remains mute.
It is uncertain how Gambians will contend with the challenge of living under a repressive system for another term. They face another five years of poverty, blatant disregard for human rights, and state-sanctioned public mismanagement of resources. Can they endure another five years of the kidnapping, killing, and maiming of dozens or hundreds of their kith and kin? Will they tolerate another five years of an arrogant leader who puts no value in the lives of decent human beings?
If President Jammeh has indeed lost the confidence of his people and is not supported by the majority of Gambians, how did he manage to win the election? What factors influenced the outcome? Why is something taken for granted in many other countries – a fair and effective electoral process – absent in the Gambia?
One factor may have been a lack of adequate campaigning by the opposing parties. Before and throughout the campaign period, no portraits of the opposing candidates were displayed in public, not even a flag representing their parties. Very few people were seen wearing their T-shirts or displaying any of their party and campaign paraphernalia. On the other hand, Yahya Jammeh’s portraits, pictures, and other campaign paraphernalia could be seen everywhere, even on public buildings and government vehicles.
In recent years, the whole country has been so intimidated and hounded by Mr Jammeh’s thuggish regime that anyone who openly manifests his or her support for the opposition is inviting trouble. In addition, incumbency was exploited by the APRC to the extreme by mobilising human and material resources of the state to their advantage. In stark contrast, opposition parties and their candidates were too poor to afford even the basic necessities of an election campaign.
Furthermore, President Jammeh’s party, the APRC, as indicated above, had an overwhelming margin of material and human resources. Governors of divisions, chiefs of districts, heads of villages, heads of institutions, prominent members of the business community, the army, police, and the National Intelligence Agency were all associated with the president’s campaign.
Another factor that affected the electoral outcome were the votes of under-aged Gambians who acquired their voting cards illegally by providing false information to the registering officers. In addition, non-Gambians had acquired voters’ cards illegally by posing as Gambian citizens. Each of these groups voted heavily for Jammeh.
In reality, all public servants were required to support the APRC or risk losing their jobs, despite the Commonwealth Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the regime and the opposition in February 2006, which prohibits such actions. Media coverage of the election showed many senior security personnel and civil servants blatantly wearing the regime attire during Jammeh’s victory celebration after the results were declared. Gambians saw civil servants clapping and grinning for him, endorsing every disrespectful remark he made, including his statement saying that he is prepared to kill journalists at any time. In his words, ‘the journalists are less than 1 percent of the population, and if anybody expects me to allow less than 1 percent of the population, you are in the wrong place.’
‘Those who want to be president in this country, they have to wait like a vulture, patiently, for a very long time,’ Jammeh stated at a rally of his supporters. ‘They have to wait at least 30 years,’ he said, adding that he would consider handing over power only once he had succeeded in his ambition of turning The Gambia into an oil producer and a role model for Africa. That is his vision for the country by 2020. At this point, The Gambia produces peanuts but has not struck crude.
President Jammeh met with the press a few hours after the official declaration of his victory. The president, whose hostility to the independent media is well known, has not held a press conference of this kind since 1994. He normally talks only to handpicked representatives of the friendly media houses. Most members of the independent private press are routinely left out of state functions and other newsworthy events.
The state of the media in the Gambia can best be described as catastrophic. The president has virtually succeeded in breaking the backbone of the independent media, by either illegally closing down the media houses that were critical of his regime or reducing them to mere praise singers. Other newspapers have been transformed into mouthpieces for the APRC or have been subjected to heavy censorship. For example, reports on Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) focus on Jammeh’s ‘achievements’ and such things as his farming skills, while ignoring the most newsworthy happenings in the country.
‘If I want to ban any newspaper, I will, with good reasons,’ he said in a press statement. ‘This is Africa and this is Gambia, a country where we have very strong African moral values. . . . If you write “Yahya Jammeh is a thief,” you should be ready to prove it in a court of law. If that constitutes lack of press freedom, then I don’t care.’
The president, 46, a former soldier, also denied that security agents were involved in the 2004 killing of newspaper editor Deyda Hydara. ‘I don’t believe in killing people. I believe in locking you up for the rest of your life,’ Jammeh said. ‘Then maybe at some point we say, “Oh, he is too old to be fed by the state,” and we release him and let him become destitute.’
Throughout Jammeh's reign, Gambia has been a place of oppression of the media. Reacting to a documented increase in violations of press freedoms and human rights and a skyrocketing corruption index, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Board of Directors suspended the Gambia’s eligibility for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). In its press release announcing the suspension, the MCC noted, ‘A 2004 law forced media outlets to reapply for their licenses and established harsh sentences for all press offenses, while changes in the criminal code enable the state to confiscate any publication deemed seditious without judicial oversight. Since then, there have been multiple documented cases of unexplained arrest and detention of journalists, as well as threats, arson attacks, or official raids on independent media houses. There are also increased reports of arbitrary arrests and torture by security forces.’
President Jammeh first took power in Gambia at the age of 29 after leading the 1994 coup. Last year, tribal chieftains around the country attempted to rally support for his coronation as king. They were unsuccessful, but the fact that he won this most recent presidential election does not bode well for Gambian's future. As one American journalist stated, Jammeh ‘could well be Africa's biggest psychopath.’ The question is, how and when can the The Gambian people continue to live under Jammeh’s ‘Tangal Cheeb’ administration.
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* Alagi Yorro Jallow is founding managing editor of the banned Independent newspaper in The Gambia. He lives in the US.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The imperatives of living by our constitution
Mr President, Mr Prime Minister, Mr Speaker, Mr Vice President, the Chair and Members of the AU Panel of Eminent Persons, retired presidents, friends, colleagues, fellow citizens, it is an honour to have received invitation to address you today particularly on an issue no less important than that of living by our constitution. I want to thank Dr Kofi Anan and his panel both for their courageous and selfless service to this nation at a difficult time and also for hosting this conference to enable us as a country to reflect and look into the future.
There is an influential section of legal scholarship that has made the argument that the crisis of governance in contemporary Africa has been a deadly combination of bad constitutions, often imposed and subsequently serially amended to create imperial presidencies on the one hand, and an absence of constitutionalism – the absence of a culture to obey and respect rules, on the other. Coupled with bad leadership and general institutional malaise, the transition to democracy has been inchoate, dominated by reversals at every stage. The result: a tortured population inhibited from realising its full potential; an institutional culture of timidity, even where no threats exist; and a society and politics characterised by violence, fragility and instability. The economic, political, and human costs have been incalculable. Hence the reason we must not be blithe and casual in our treatment of constitutional texts, once freely enacted, after years of struggle and sacrifice.
There is no doubt that Kenya has a very progressive constitution. It is long not just in size but also in aspirations – an ambition of a nation codified and expressed in very clear accents. And it was also long in coming, itself a denotation or proof of the importance of this social contract. But we will only live it if we understand it; only if we embrace it; and only if we respect it. As leaders and citizens, these are the three simple tests we must meet in order to breath life into this constitution.
For those who may be tempted to bear the illusion that Constitutions are mere pieces of paper, I want to invite you to reflect on this fact: It is not by accident that when state officers take office, whether in the executive, legislature or judiciary, or even in other independent constitutional offices, they are required to take an oath as prescribed in the constitution. If it did escape your attention before, now it must not: whereas those oaths bear different textual forms, there is always a common refrain: ‘to protect, defend and uphold the constitution and other laws’. The meaning of this ubiquitous line is direct: all state officers are creations of the constitution and the law. Its implication is plain and simple: in the words of a philosopher who was here long before us – be ye so high, the law is above you. Its political and philosophical foundations very clear: the constitution is a social contract among citizens and once leaders are elected or appointed into office they are sworn and bound to respect this contract.
Citizens and leaders of this country must internalise and understand why the assumption of high office is preceded by the taking of an oath that constantly binds them to act in accordance with and defend the provisions of the constitution. Understanding the import of this basic act is the beginning of living our constitution. Any leader who doesn’t is unfit to be in office. Any citizen who hasn’t is failing the test of good citizenship. Strict compliance with the constitution and the law is so important that it forms the first ground for impeachment of the president.
But this law that is above all of us, and which we must do our duty to obey, is not an imposition. It is a product of popular will and consent to be ruled by its edict.
The excitement and good spirit of this conference today, may very easily obscure or conceal its tragic origins. These series of dialogues are an expression of institutional failure. It is because of a failed electoral system, a failed judiciary, a failed police force and a general failure of the state in 2007/2008 that provided the basis for this and other consultations before it. Restoring confidence and faith in our institutions is part of living our constitution. It is the small things that we do as institutions and citizens that begin the process of building confidence.
The promulgation of the constitution on 27 August 2010, was a historic moment in our country. The constitution was a culmination of the work of a lifetime for most people in this gathering and many other Kenyans not at this meeting. It may also stand out in history as the singular achievement of Kenyans in this time. Needless to say, many Kenyan persons paid for the achievement of this constitutional dispensation with their tears, blood, and sweat. Lives and personal liberty were lost, friendships were strained and families were shattered. It is all too easy to forget these heavy prices paid by our compatriots. In short, we need to remember that the consideration for this social contract that is Kenya’s constitution was the highest possible price the citizens could have paid for it.
For that reason, the taking of effect of this constitution is an achievement of a once far-off dream. Yet, my concern is that there appears not to have been a proper appreciation of the essence of this constitution after its promulgation. From the statements, actions, inactions and perfidy that is evident among some citizens, some authorities and persons are signals of another reversal in our democratic transition that has been the bane of most African countries is becoming evident. Some of these actions are by default; others are by design but the category does not matter for their cumulative effect is the same. I have come to the inescapable conclusion that there are Kenyans at all levels who are yet to make the mental shift to the national and individual conduct that the constitution heralds.
It is depressing that one year after the promulgation of the constitution, the country falls in the corruption index, we still hear of extrajudicial killings, institutions and leaders play fast and loose with constitutional deadlines and so on. Constitutional provisions are there to be obeyed and any public or state official who finds certain clauses administratively inconvenient must be reminded that vacation of office is a honourable option if one no longer feels capable of honouring his or her oath of office to protect, defend and uphold the constitution.
There is discernible stonewalling by certain sections of this country to the establishment of the institutions that are required to be formed, deliberate disregard to the rights of the citizens and utter refusal to incorporate its principles in the instruments of governance.
My response is this: living by the constitution of Kenya is not a choice for any individual, institution, office or authority. All Kenyans must comply and live within the edicts of the constitution.
Compliance with the constitution is not about picking those that afford us our desired rights and ignoring our responsibilities therein. It is not an all or nothing situation. Kenya must comply with the whole constitution all the time and in every office. From the tiniest hut to the State House, this constitution must apply, to the lowliest hawker no less than it will apply to the corporate titan, to the governor no less than the governed. That is what the rule of law means. It is what equality before the law requires.
I do not underestimate the difficulty of living by this constitution.
Yet the rule of law is not for the faint-hearted. There is not time or opportunity to implement the constitution in half-measures.
We cannot live only with our likes and ignore your dislikes. This is particularly true in light of the fact that it may be possible that there are certain clauses that may be more appealing to us than others. For those of us within the arms of government, we must remember that we are under obligation to abide by the whole constitution not individual clauses.
We must foster the realisation in all that this constitution is for all Kenyans. That is why its destiny has been placed upon all of us. It has placed responsibilities to ensure its implementation on all. No one is immune from the duty to uphold the constitution. In short, we must be each other's keeper in ensuring that the constitution is lived to its fullest.
Therefore, living by this constitution means that we must do what it requires to be done, when it is required to be done whatever the cost in finance, in effort and in personal convenience. Secondly, we must reconstitute, reform and dismantle those institutions and offices it compels us to.
Public participation is one of the fundamental principles in the new
constitution. It runs the entire gamut of the document. Citizen vigilance is important in protecting and promoting our constitution.
But the public should not merely demand of their leaders to respect the constitution, they must also live by its edicts. It worries me when I see daily individual transgression where citizens routinely violate the rights of other citizens. Living the constitution is not a preserve of the leadership; it is an obligation that reposes in the citizen as well. In your daily conduct, in your relationship with other Kenyans, in exercising your right to choose leaders you have a responsibility in giving life to the constitution.
If you choose to elect a leader who fails the test of Chapter Six, you will be as guilty of undermining the constitution as a leader who thinks that ignoring court orders is an act of nobility. Choosing to support extrajudicial killings, as opposed to submitting to due process, amounts to killing the constitution. In choosing the path of electoral violence, instead of a free, fair, and peaceful electoral process is to subvert the constitution. In choosing to play ethnic politics, instead of patriotic politics contributes to the killing of the constitution.
Fellow citizens, we have made a contract with ourselves; let us perform it. The constitution is the performance contract we have signed among us as citizens as well as between citizens and the governed. Every single day, we must ask whether we are hitting our constitutional targets in this performance contracting.
The business community must learn that it is in its long term interest to have a constitution that works, and a country that respects the rule of law. The effort it put in the referendum after years of mistaken belief that the constitution was not its business will be wasted if it does not pay attention to the implementation of the constitution. I also want to recognise the immense contribution of the international community to the struggle for the new constitution. They provided significant resources and support at critical stages and still have a responsibility to continue supporting this country in building its democracy.
The judiciary will play its role as mandated by the constitution. As I said in my statement during the inaugural sitting of the Supreme Court, we shall not blink or flinch in interpreting the constitution and also remaining true to the oath of office we took. The constitution has radically changed the way the judiciary is organised and operates. Every day we are doing our part to live by the constitution. The judiciary will play its role as mandated by the constitution.
That is why we have embarked on an ambitious transformation framework for a functional judiciary which is a major determinant for good politics and good business. For the security of tenure you have given us, the judiciary must and will show its independence.
We shall not hesitate to act as long as we are doing so within the confines of the law. It is a commitment I want to give to the country: that when it comes to upholding and protecting the constitution, the judiciary will not be for turning.
To the two principals, I have this to say: You have made your own sacrifices to have this constitution. I remember your struggles on the trenches for a better Kenya and a new constitution. I particularly recall your participation in the National Convention Executive Council and the mass action of 1997.
It is a good thing that you have ascended to high office.
However, I hope that you appreciate that the biggest legacy that you will leave for this country is not so much the fact that you ascended to power but that you facilitated the delivery of a new constitution and defended it when it was under attack.
To fail to protect this constitution will be a betrayal of your own struggles; a betrayal of your own oaths of office and a betrayal of the struggles and aspirations of the many Kenyans.
Fellow Kenyans, we must all go back and read the constitution.
Each institution must go back and read the constitution and systematically understand what it means for their work.
Living by our constitution demands that we learn and know its contents not through some remote imbibing or ‘I hear the constitution says, type
of discussions – it means taking individual responsibility to read and
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS.
* Justice Dr Willy Mutunga is chief justice and president of the Supreme Court of Kenya. This speech was delivered at the Kenya National Dialogue Conference in Nairobi on 5 December 2011.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Democracy is more than voting and elections
Lessons from Guyana and the Caribbean
In this time of seismic changes internationally, it is becoming clearer each day that new forms of politics are needed to give expression to the deep desire for transformation of this social system that places profits before humans. From Egypt to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the people are finding out that the entire process of voting and elections is stacked against change. After rising up against the Mubarak regime in January and February, the electoral process in Egypt has handed a parliamentary majority to social elements who want to roll back the rights of women. In particular, the Salafists (one of the more conservative branches of the Islamic faith) have risen to second place after the November ‘elections’ in Egypt. Those who were able to use the mosque as a platform for political engagement during the era of repression have emerged with over 60 per cent of the Parliamentary seats, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists.
The Salafists, whose members follow a strict form of Islam, benefit from support from the most conservative forces in Saudi Arabia.
The other recent lesson has been that of the DRC where the state structures of Mobutism are now occupied by a clique around Joseph Kabila. This society which is larger than the size of Western Europe lacks the infrastructure to organise real elections but the United Nations and all of the top members of the United Nations Security Council supported a farcical procedure where voting was supposed to have taken place. As I wrote this article, the press reports were that Kabila was ahead of Mr Etienne Tshisekedi, the principal contender out of a field of more than nine presidential candidates.
Most of the media reporting on the elections in the DRC focused on logistical questions about how to count the votes of more than 30 million voters in a society where there were more than 18,000 parliamentary candidates competing for 500 parliamentary seats. As in many parts of Africa, politics is now a vocation for those involved in influence-peddling so that many of the politicians are not interested in question of social justice. This does not mean that the people do not want justice.
Today I draw from the lessons of the recent elections and the aftermath in Guyana in South America to draw attention to the clear reality that prolonged political mobilisation is needed for a new form of politics, because, even when people vote, their votes are not respected. The shooting of unarmed protesters in Georgetown Guyana, this week holds a very bad omen for the manipulation of racial divisions so that a discredited leadership can stay in power.
AFTERMATH OF ELECTIONS IN GUYANA
Another front in the global struggle for social justice is now opening in Guyana. Guyana, we should recall, was the home of Walter Rodney, who was assassinated in 1980. Much like the struggles now taking shape in the USA, the Middle East, and other places, workers, students, mothers, fathers, and the population of this South American nation have once again joined the global struggle for political and economic change. Since political independence, Guyana has been overseen by political careerists who manipulate racial insecurity between the Indian and African workers.
Some Pambazuka readers will recall that when Forbes Burnham was president of Guyana, he ruled by mobilising Afro-Guyanese against their fellow Guyanese who were of Indian descent. Walter Rodney was assassinated in 1980 when he challenged the regime and sought to mobilise the Indian and African workers to fight for basic rights of decent jobs, the rights of workers and all of the rights won by working people. The organisation that he worked with was appropriately called the Working People’s Alliance. This was one of the only progressive formations that survived the assassination of Rodney and the implosion of the left in Grenada in 1983.
The party that claimed to be a progressive left party in Guyana was called the People’s Progressive Party. This party came to power in 1992 and for 19 years held power in a society where conditions deteriorated so badly that Guyana was one of the countries where the population was decreasing because of outmigration. On 28 November, there was an election in Guyana. The traditional People’s National Congress and sections of the Working Peoples Alliance had entered into an alliance called ‘A Partnership for National Unity’ (APNU). When the election results were announced, the APNU rejected the results and called for a clear publication of the Statement of Polls.
OCCUPY MOVEMENT REACHES GUYANA
On Tuesday 6 December, supporters of APNU staged a peaceful protect in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana. Attempts to occupy public squares and protest have followed in the wake of disputed election results, which gave the ruling party the right to form the government. This is in spite of the fact that according to the published results, the incumbent party received less than 50 per cent of the votes. Given the closeness of the announced results and the anomalies exposed by the misuse of power over the election machinery by the incumbent party, the main opposition political force has called for verification and audit of the election results.
The weakened neoliberal government of the People’s Progressive Party opened fire on peaceful protestors with rubber bullets. The swiftness with which the government moved to put down the Occupy movement in Guyana is reminiscent of the ongoing attack and removal of protestors in the United States and in other countries. After all the Occupy Wall Street Movement had created new platforms for democratic engagement with their general assemblies and vigorous educational campaigns. It is not by chance that one of the chants of the Occupy Wall Street Movement is, ‘This is what Democracy looks like.’
The Occupy Georgetown movement wanted to democratise the public spaces in Guyana but the nervous government reacted with force. Reports emerging from Guyana speak about the ways in which the movement is reorganising and regrouping to put pressure for verification of the election results, and to change and bring reform to this small South American nation to benefit the ordinary people. The people are demanding that their votes be counted, and have vowed to remain mobilised to fight against the scourge of corruption in leadership, through which a new super elite now control power. The disputed election in Guyana and the rise of a movement to enlarge democracy is another example of the rising of popular movements against neoliberal governments.
INTERNATIONAL STRUGGLES AGAINST NEOLIBERALISM
Guyana was among the first set of countries in the late 1980s to adopt lock stock and barrel, new economic policies directed by Washington and Wall Street, when it implemented the IMF and Paris Club-imposed structural adjustment policies in 1989. Such policies – which were imposed on Guyana and in many other countries of Africa, Asia, and the Third World – have served to increase the inequalities between the elites and the ordinary people. Today, Guyana ‘ranks among the most corrupt countries’ in the world. One popular daily newspaper in Guyana recently reported that ‘in a survey of 180 countries, Guyana fell to 126 with a score of 2.6 out of 10’ of the most corrupt countries in the world. ‘It is the lowest ranked English-speaking Caribbean nation on the list and the second lowest ranked Caricom (Caribbean) territory behind Haiti.’ The report further stated that Guyana shares its ranking with seven other countries: Indonesia, Honduras, Ethiopia, Uganda, Libya, Eritrea and Mozambique.
While the struggle for political social justice in Guyana is much more reminiscent of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, the underlying factors which exacerbates growing inequality between the rich and poor is reminiscent of the on-going struggles by the 99 per cent movement in the USA and some parts of Europe. It represents a growing global consciousness movement against the excesses of the banker class, whose unbridled power over the global economy has unleashed the most corrupt leaders and institutions ever let loose on the poor.
Over the last 30 years we have witnessed the damage done to the democratic ideal in most parts of the world, as a new class of corrupt leaders has emerged to represent the interest of drug barons, local and international warlords, and the global banker class. Hence, governments have become hostage to this new class. In countries like Guyana the government answers and represents the interest of the underworld, while in countries such as the USA, political operatives answer and have become hostage to big money. This is leading to ineffective governmental responses. What appears to be governmental response to the issues of inequality has emerged as fronts for more profit making of private capital. This is leading to more inequality.
ELECTIONS UNDER THE WATCH OF DRUG BARONS AND ARMED CAMPS
The Guyanese struggles for democracy and democratisation are part of a wider struggle in the Caribbean. While tensions simmer in Guyana, the ruling Jamaica Labour Party in Jamaica has announced that elections will be held in that island society on 29 December. The ruling party is the party that had been associated with the alleged drug baron, Dudus Cooke, who was extradited to New York after fierce gun battles in one of the top Garrison communities in West Kingston last year. Bruce Golding, the Prime Minister who was accused of sheltering Cooke, has stepped down for a younger leader, Andrew Holiness. This new leader and his supporters are doing everything possible to avoid the real discussion of Issues in the Jamaican elections.
But even more challenging for the democratisation of the Jamaican society is the choke hold of the IMF over the society. Jamaica has one of the worst debt burdens in the world, with a gross public debt of 123 per cent of GDP. None of the two mainstream Jamaican Parties, the People’s National Party or the ruling JLP dares to make repudiation of the debt a central issue for the forthcoming elections of 29 December. Mark Weisbrot, from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. has written on the ways in which this debt burden has impoverished the people and stifled the possibilities for breaking out of external domination.
Weisbrot and many others have brought to international attention the reality that the interest burden of the debt for Jamaica has averaged 13 per cent of GDP over the last five years.
He wrote that:
‘This is twice the burden of Greece (6.7 percent of GDP), which is in turn the highest in the eurozone. (It is worth keeping in mind that the burden of the debt can vary widely depending on interest rates, and on how much is borrowed from the country's central bank -- Japan has a gross public debt of 220 percent of GDP but pays only about 2 percent of GDP in annual net interest, so it doesn't have a public debt problem.)
‘Not surprisingly, a country that is paying so much interest on its debt does not have much room in its budget for other things. For the 2009/2010 fiscal year, Jamaica's interest payments on the public debt were 45 percent of its government spending.’
The political parties discourage real debate on this issue. One small group that sought to make the cases of Dudus Cooke and the IMF debt burden the central issue called for the start of the Occupy movement in Jamaica but this call was rubbished by the media and the talking heads who use talk radio to divert the oppressed in Jamaica and the Caribbean from the issues of democratic control by the working people.
Both Jamaica and Guyana, as in most oppressed countries, push on with the sheer perseverance of the people. Remittances from abroad by the sons and daughters overseas ensure that the basic requirements of life continue. While those outside assist those inside to keep body and soul together. The governments are under the heel of the IMF the police for the international bankers who represent the one per cent of the world.
DEMOCRATIC CHANGE WILL NOT BE REGISTERED IN PARLIAMENTS
The experiences of Greece and Italy have demonstrated that as the chronic crisis of capitalism deepens, the international financial oligarchs want to take away the democratic rights of working peoples. Both societies are now being governed by unelected technocrats who are prepared to impose ‘austerity’ measures on the working peoples. Both the leaders of France and Germany are scheming for a reorganisation of political power within Europe that would take away the basic democratic rights of the peoples of the European Union. These leaders see the so-called markets as being more important than the wellbeing of the people and want to see ‘balanced budgets’ irrespective of the costs.
In all of the cases mentioned we can see that elections and parliaments are spaces that can only serve the people when the popular powers of the people are realised elsewhere. As C. L. R James mentioned in another revolutionary era:
‘Revolutions are not carried out in Parliaments, they are only registered there.’
The mass mobilisation for social justice that has been spreading across the world has the seeds of prolonged popular struggles for democratisation and democratic change. Progressive forces must work hard to ensure that these struggles are not derailed by those who will mobilise racial and religious divisions to weaken the 99 per cent.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
From Citizen to Refugee
Ugandan Asians come to Britain
‘YOU’RE COLD. Why don’t you go downstairs and get a warm sweater and a coat? It’s free. There’s a women’s voluntary organisation that hands it out. Come, I’ll show you where it is.’ Ben led me downstairs, to the WRVS clothing room.
‘OK, Mr Mamdani. I have got a coat just for you. It’s a Parisian cape. Only slightly worn. Not more than two years old. And a hat to go with it. My, it’s from Harrods too.’ She examined the hat, and then added, ‘Harrods – that’s where the rich in this country do their shopping.’
Fitted in my Parisian cape and a Harrods’ bowler hat, with wire-rimmed glasses, a bushy moustache, and curly black hair coming out from under the black hat, I must have looked quite ridiculous. As I strolled out into the car park that fills the space between the two large concrete buildings that were the camp, the young Nigerian car attendant looked me up and down:
‘Hey man, what you need is an umbrella.’ He broke out into peals of laughter.
Standing next to me was a smartly dressed middle-aged lady, waiting to pay her parking fee. Trying hard to conceal the smile on her face, she turned to her dog, a well-groomed white poodle that she led by a chain. I followed her gaze. Heavens, even the dog was clothed! There seemed a curious similarity between the poodle and me: both dressed in the ways of an alien world. For a few seconds, the car attendant and the lady seemed to share this realisation – and they laughed freely. The next moment, however, the lady seemed embarrassed and apologetic; she hurried through the ticket payment and hastily walked to her car. The Nigerian just shook his head.
‘The Man’s got you, boy.’ I wondered whatever he meant, if anything at all.
What I couldn’t miss was the fact that there was something wrong with the cape–hat–Asian combination. Once back in the room, I discarded the bowler hat. It was time for my morning visit to my parents.
Unlike most other couples, who shared rooms with single and other married people, my parents had a room all to themselves; two beds fitted into a six by eight box-room. I met my father in the corridor. Mother had been sick the night before, with vomiting, fever and fainting spells. Would I take her downstairs to the Red Cross? At the Red Cross – a storeroom converted into an emergency health centre – there was a line of eight people, most of them down with flu. It meant a 45-minute wait.
‘You have a slight fever. Look, why don’t you take some codeine water? Four times a day. It will also help you sleep.’
That night, however, the vomiting increased and the fever would not subside. The next day, the lady at the Red Cross arranged an appointment with a local doctor.
‘Take her in a taxi. I’ll reimburse you.’
Partly dazed, mostly ill with fever, Mother could hardly walk. I helped her into a taxi, and to the doctor’s.
‘She’s in a terrible shape. Could she please see the doctor immediately?’
‘Yes, but first her name and address.’
The doctor looked an amiable person, immaculately dressed. His office seemed more like a lawyer’s library.
‘She has been here before, hasn’t she?’
‘No she hasn’t.’
‘And you’re quite sure?’
‘Well, they all look the same, don’t they?’
I gritted my teeth, blood flowing to my eyes. I tried to look at my mother, and think of her illness, and forget about this doctor.
Back at the camp, I walked up to the canteen. A meeting was in progress, addressed by the camp administrator and his assistant, Mrs Maxwell.
‘I don’t want to see anybody but camp residents eat here. If you have any friends or relations from Leicester or Southall coming to visit you, you must come to me before you take them into the dining room with you. For each guest, you’ll have to pay 25p. And remember, only I can grant permission.’
‘Under what circumstances would you refuse permission?’ I asked.
‘Do you live here?’
‘Well, that’s for you to find out.’
The meeting moved onto the next point on the agenda: the menu. There had been complaints about the monotony of the diet.
‘This is not your home. It’s a refugee camp, remember. You can’t expect everything here.’
‘Sir, it’s not that the diet is monotonous, it’s deficient. You can see the lines of people at the Red Cross every morning. All we eat is starch: rice, wheat, flour and potatoes.’
‘Yes, but remember it’s you people who want to cook your own vegetarian food. The non-vegetarian kitchen has no such problems.’
‘True. But, don’t you think you should ask a dietician to look at the menu, and then, if need be, add things like cheese, eggs and greens?’
‘Hindus won’t eat eggs.’
‘Not all. Many vegetarians will. The others will eat greens and cheese.’
At this point, Mrs Maxwell came to the rescue: ‘What we need is a catering committee. Mr Mamdani, since you are so concerned, why don’t you join it?’
‘Certainly, I’d be delighted.’
‘And yes, that reminds me, we also need a welfare committee to deal with the problem of cleanliness. In fact, it should meet tomorrow. And there should be a catering committee person on it. Mr Mamdani, could you be that person?’
The next morning, at 10am, the welfare committee met. Mrs Maxwell took the lead.
‘Now, cleanliness is a primary problem. The toilets need to be watched everyday. Children are sometimes very careless. Many adults, used to Asian toilets [where the toilet bowl is in the ground and the person squats over it] are finding it difficult to use European toilets. People can take turns keeping watch. The rooms are not always clean. There must be inspection every once in a while. No socks on the floor or on the radiator. Clothing should be in suitcases or cupboards, where these are provided. Beds should be made and floors swept. We’ll need a voluntary committee for this, to keep watch and inspect. The welfare committee can’t do everything. Every room must have a representative who is responsible for its cleanliness.’
Quite incredible, I thought; the response to every ‘problem’ is another committee! Pretty soon, we will have another problem: too many committees.
‘But surely, Mrs Maxwell, you don’t want to turn this place into a boy scout camp, with guards and inspections all over the place,’ I interrupted.
‘No, not quite like that. But we need some order. Otherwise the situation will deteriorate.’
After some more discussions on how and when these committees were to be elected, the meeting focused on catering.
‘Mr Mamdani, you’re the catering representative. Do you wish to say anything?’
‘Yes, I have decided to call a meeting of those who eat in the vegetarian kitchen this evening. We can have a thorough discussion on the menu, and on cooking and cleaning responsibilities.’
‘Have you checked with the camp administrator?’
‘Well, I suggest you get his permission first.’
‘His permission? Just because we are going to meet and talk about food? I see no reason for that.’
‘I strongly suggest you do that. If you insist on making trouble he could take action against you.’
‘Action? Like what?’
‘He could throw you out of the camp.’
‘OK, I’ll talk to him.’
The next afternoon the catering committee met with the camp administrator. I had been elected ‘Chief Catering Officer’.
‘So, Mr Mamdani, you want every person in this camp to have milk, besides drinking it with their tea and coffee?’
‘How can I sufficiently impress upon you, Mr Mamdani, that milk in liberal quantity is drunk only by a small minority of wealthy people in this country. This is not East Africa. Perhaps you should go to Leicester and Southall and see what people drink down there.’
‘Well then, you must have a substitute for milk. Surely you realise that for most of us, this is our first winter. We need a healthy diet. Already a quarter of the camp has succumbed to flu.’
The next week, the health visitor came. Sure enough, he found the vegetarian diet deficient. His recommendation was that it be daily supplemented with a pint of milk for children, and a half pint for adults, two ounces of cheese, dry or tinned fruit, and greens for everyone.
To the outsider, the vital issues of the camp would seem petty. The most important were: Is anyone using more blankets than they are entitled to? Did anybody consume more milk than they were entitled to? Why did Mr Patel take food into his room? Does Mr Desa have the doctor’s permission to eat in his room?
In the camp there was no personal life, and this was not just because of the technical limitations of space. Far more important was the way the camp was run. The dictum that an administrator must gain the greatest familiarity with those who live and work under him had been closely and faithfully followed by the camp authorities. It was, however, the familiarity the master has with the affairs of the servant, not the familiarity a member of a family has with another. The contacts between the officials and the residents were thus limited to formal ones. But for these, the separation between the staff and the residents was complete.
An event which highlighted this separation was New Year’s Eve. The canteen at the camp had two rooms. For two days prior to New Year ’s Eve, one of them was decorated rather colourfully. On the final day, a record player with loudspeakers was installed. The New Year ’s Eve party, however, was exclusively for the staff of the student centre and the camp administrators. Music blared while wine and champagne flowed. Guests came and went in flowing gowns and formal attire. In the next room were the camp residents, some watching television, others playing darts and the rest writing letters. For us, it was just another evening.
The only exception to administrative exclusiveness were the volunteers, two women: one American and the other English, both students. As time went on, however, and ‘trouble’ began to brew in the camp, their sympathies with the residents disqualified them as ‘loyal’ members of the staff.
Under such circumstances, the way an administrator gained familiarity with a resident was by collecting information about them. But what meant familiarity to the administrator spelt control to the resident.
With a limited staff of fewer than ten, and residents numbering over 250, only limited control was possible. The administration, however, had sole control over resources: possible job and accommodation opportunities. These opportunities were never advertised on the camp bulletin boards. The larger of the two boards displayed a notice in bold capital letters: HAVE YOU CONSIDERED EMIGRATING? And then gave a list of emigration opportunities to Sweden, Iran, Chile, Argentina, etc. The second board contained scores of short notices on internal camp affairs: meal times, committee meetings, etc.
Information about jobs and accommodation – information that a resettlement board should freely provide – was carefully guarded by the camp staff. Around it, an elaborate system of patronage developed. Access to this information was given as a reward to those who donated voluntary services. It was tacitly understood by all that voluntary services were not just confined to the physical work that would have to be done in any institution: washing, cleaning, keeping records, etc. Voluntary work also meant, to put it bluntly, informing on fellow residents: from reporting those who consumed more than their fair share of milk or took their food upstairs to their room, to noting down the names of those who spread ‘dissatisfaction’ about the camp. Not surprisingly, those who felt the most inadequate in the English environment, and the least able to carve out an existence for themselves, were the most apt to offer these services. Gradually, a most unhealthy environment developed.
On my second day at the camp, a friend, Ben and I were sitting in the room reading. Mr B, a voluntary messenger, came in and turned to my friend.
‘You are wanted in the office.’
‘Me? Why? I haven’t done anything wrong. Did I do anything?’ Written on his face, unmistakably, was the expression of fear. The camp administrator seemed omniscient. Or, as Ben put it more graphically: ‘If I fart in this room, Mr Engel knows about it.’
For the first few days we were not really interested in the camp. What preoccupied our attention was the world outside the camp: Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street. As time went on, however, it became impossible not to become aware of the camp, not just the people who lived in it, but the camp as an institution. The camp was run by a core of people hired by the Uganda Resettlement Board. The board had apparently decided that the top brass should be individuals familiar with Uganda, preferably with Uganda Asians. Given the historical relationship between Britain and Uganda, these people were inevitably colonial civil servants or soldiers. The administrator of the Kensington camp had previously been a CID officer in Uganda.
In the person of a colonial bureaucrat one found both the eternal quest of the bureaucrat for the perfectly ordered universe and the rather blunt conviction of a colonialist that there existed a natural hierarchy in the world, that some people were just born better than others. It was a view of the world that seemed to permit of only two kinds of people: friends or adversaries. In other words, you were guilty until proven innocent.
The staff was also all bureaucratic personnel, most of them highly trained in the administration of things. Together, they had successfully turned the camp into a total institution, like a prison or an insane asylum. With the distinction between private and public life obliterated, with all living subject to control and reduced to dependence, complete with an elaborate network of informers, the Kensington camp gradually became a nightmare in totally controlled living. There was no escaping the camp. On the face of it, life in the camp, with its surface calm and order, presented a sharp and favourable contrast to the open terror living in Uganda. But it was the Kensington camp, and not Amin’s Uganda, which was my first experience in what it would be like to live in a totalitarian society.
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* Mahmood Mamdani is director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research.
* This extract is taken from Mahmood Mamdani’s ‘From Citizen to Refugee: Uganda Asians come to Britain’ published by Pambazuka Press (ISBN-10 1-906387-57-5).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The history of Africans in Britain
They came before the SS Empire Windrush
In that moving, intensely expansive exposition on the subject of history in James Baldwin’s ‘Just above my Head’, the narrative voice states:
‘To overhaul a history or to attempt to redeem it – which effort may or may not justify it – is not at all the same thing as the descent one must make in order to excavate a history. To be forced to excavate a history is, also, to repudiate the concept of history, and the vocabulary in which history is written; for the written history is, and must be, merely the vocabulary of power, and power is history’s most seductively attired false witness.’
Baldwin’s interest in history and power, of course, focuses on world history and its aftermath during that crucial, unprecedented epoch of globalisation, namely the 15th-20th centuries. In ‘Just above my Head’, as well as in his other novels, writings and lectures, Baldwin is wrestling with the position and impact of this history and power on African peoples, peoples of African descent in the United States and elsewhere. Baldwin’s interest is not predicated on merely assessing and classifying the obvious balance of forces of the principal national/racial/class/continental participants in this interplay of conflict relations, important as this goal may be, but much more in engaging in a challenging enterprise to, to use his word from archaeology, ‘excavate’ the critical agencies at work in the process, during the epoch.
We should now focus more closely on Britain, our own regional tributary in this global stream of history, and explore its variegated course and profile. Contrary to the ‘conventional wisdom’ which is all too eager to limit our comprehension of African-descent presence in Britain to the post-Second World War era, I am not aware of any historian who has categorically stated that the origin of the presence of African peoples, African descent peoples, in Britain began in 1948 with the Tilbury port docking of the ‘SS Empire Windrush’ ship from Jamaica with 492 African Caribbean immigrants on board. What is true, however, is that few historians have found it expedient to challenge this seeming ‘orthodoxy’ for all kinds of reasons that would become apparent shortly.
The truth is that African-descent peoples have lived in Britain, in varying numbers, for several centuries. There were African soldiers in the Roman legions that invaded Britain thrice (in 55BCE, 54BCE, 43CE) including those who embarked on the Roman occupation of the country in 43 CE. For the interested researcher, there is a veritable storehouse of sources that catalogues the African presence across the ages at the British Library, the London Records Office, local history libraries, museums, churches, art galleries, local governments, municipal councils, health authorities, trading companies, the merchant marine and military records.
These records show that African-descent peoples have maintained a continuously expanding permanent presence in London since 1507. Subsequently, the presence of African peoples in London and elsewhere in Britain, in varying numbers and circumstances, would be inextricably woven with that of British history itself through enslavement, mercantile capitalism, industrial/monopoly capitalism and enhanced global conquest and hegemony. The visit to England in 1555 by five West African merchants from Shama was an opportunity seized by English traders involved in the lucrative West African gold, ivory and pepper business. The English were keen to dislodge the Portuguese from their dominance in the ‘external’ sector of the trade. With the beginning of the European enslavement of African peoples in 1562 (first evidence of enslaved Africans physically sold in England was in 1621) and following the outbreak of the Spanish war of succession in the early 1700s, African peoples began to arrive in Britain in droves.
By the 1750s, the African-descent population in Britain was approximately 20,000 with the majority living in the London area (10-15,000). Soon, it was ‘fashionable’ for members of the British aristocracy and the emerging bourgeoisie to own one or more enslaved African. Those Africans who became free (the enslaved became free by either buying back their freedom through an agreed payment to their owner/owners or, more audaciously, by escaping from the bondage!) earned their living as entertainers, artists, craftspeople, cleaners or street beggars. In a celebrated painted panel of the royal court at Kenilworth in the 1570s, Queen Elizabeth I is shown being entertained by a group of African musicians and dancers. Soon, the essentially racist stereotype of the African, particularly the diasporan African in the West as a ‘natural entertainer’ was developed.
More institutionalised caricatures of the African-descent presence, especially in London, were expressed in the naming of streets and pubs. From the mid-16th to mid-19th century, a total of 61 streets in London were named Black Boy Lane (One still exists in Tottenham, borough of Haringey[!] and there are still popular public houses in Reading, Winchester, Banbury, Caernarfon, Oxford and elsewhere called ‘Black Boy’ Pub/Inn from the same period. In the latter example, Oxford University students tried unsuccessfully to have the pub’s name changed in 1999 because they felt that the name ‘caused offence’.) and 51 taverns were called ‘Blackmoor Head’ (‘blackmoor’, ‘blackamoor’, ‘n[****]’ and ‘c[*******]’ were some of the other English epithets used in describing Africans during the era).
For African peoples, generally, life in Britain was indeed harsh, turbulent and grim. It was a social existence of deprivation, hopelessness and humiliation – a ‘Babylon’, to borrow the popular imagery of the Rastafarian movement. Africans were subjected to life on the edge of society. Quite often, in spite of this obvious marginalisation, the African-descent population was blamed for society’s ills and misfortunes. For instance in 1596, during a devastating famine in the country, Queen Elizabeth I signed a decree ordering the deportation of all Africans from the land. She simply felt that the Africans were responsible for the scourge of the times! This was the same monarch who 30 years earlier had made fortunes from the African enslavement traffic. Apart from handsomely decorating John Hawkins, the first principal English enslaver of the African mission, the queen also lent Hawkins a ship during his second enslaving voyage to the West Africa coast and the profits made by that mission were shared by both.
Huge surpluses generated by Britain during the 350 years as the leading enslaver-power in Africa (a position it had taken over from the Iberian states of Portugal and Spain) were later used to finance its spectacular industrial revolution, finance its invasion and occupation of India and emerge as the first truly expansive global power by the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century. Cities such as London, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow became extremely rich, showcasing the spectacular transformation that each had undergone from being key destinations of prime investment of profits accruing to the British treasury from the enslavement of the African humanity. Thereafter, Britain became the epicentre of the intellectual activity of an ever-expanding collective of scholars, scientists and writers who offered the ‘requisite’ cultural/scientific/literary rationalisation for the African holocaust. As for the Africans, the cataclysmic consequences of this phenomenally long-stretched dehumanisation on themselves and on their African homeland and the new spaces of enforced habitation in the Americas, Britain and elsewhere in Europe are well documented.
FORTITUDE AND RESILIENCE
But the African experience and presence in Britain was not just a long, dreadful, and uninterrupted age of woe. It was also an epoch when African intellectual ingenuity, artistic expression and activist involvement in the host society’s social struggles flourished. Utilising these crucial socio-cultural arenas, even if at times uneven and contradictory, Africans mounted their resistance and embarked on clearly marked liberatory initiatives here and there in Britain. Phyllis Wheatley, the poet, became a celebrity in literary circles in 1773 when her poems (‘Poems on Various Subjects’) were published. Wheatley had been kidnapped from contemporary Senegal at the age of eight and transported to Boston (United States) where she became a child prodigy and later arrived in England in 1772.
In the 1780s, two Jamaicans, William Davidson and Robert Wedderburn, emerged as leading organisers of the Spencean revolutionary socialist movement in London. The Spenceans (followers of Thomas Spence) were the most radical organisation at the time, which included agrarian communalists, factory workers, tradespeople, shoemakers and a few sailors and soldiers. Wedderburn was later jailed and his address to the people before he was marched off to prison became an enduring inspiration to the African population:
‘Oh ye Africans and relatives now in bondage … because you are innocent and poor; receive this the only tribute the offspring of an African can give, for which, I may ere long be lodged in prison … for it is a crime now in England to speak against oppression … I am a West-Indian, a lover of liberty, and would dishonour human nature if I did not show myself a friend, to the liberty of others.’
William Cuffay, who was most likely from present-day Ghana or Côte d’Ivoire, was one of the principal leaders of the chartist movement (the first mass political organisation of the British working population) which fought for the human rights of the people, including universal adult suffrage. Cuffay’s militancy and astute political leadership were often satirised in the media, with the ‘Punch’ once depicting London’s chartists as the ‘Black man and his party’. Cuffay was later deported to Australia for his work in the movement.
Africans usually found it tactically perspicacious to participate in the great social struggles of the oppressed and disadvantaged sectors of the British population and then use the opportunity to broaden the scope of the protests to incorporate their own worse condition. A notable example was the African-descent involvement in the gripping Gordon Riots of 1780. This was a campaign that initially began as a protest against the social position of rich Catholics. Soon, this turned into a generalised political struggle by the people against the nobility and the political establishment. During the march, state institutions such as the City, Westminster and the Lord Mayor’s office were attacked. A number of leaders of the uprising were later executed at Tower Hill including the prominent Africa activist, Charlotte Gardens. Ignatius Sancho, the African grocer and diarist, recorded this historic event and his account was published posthumously as ‘Letters of the Late Ignatius, an African’ in 1782.
There was another aspect of British society in which Africans played an important role. This was in military service. Africans began to serve in the British armed forces in the late 18th/early19th century. Military historians note that the origins of African active service (earlier on in the 17th century, African service people had been restricted to music duties in band regiments) could be traced to the US war of independence when some Africans fought for the British. After Britain’s defeat, the African soldiers were promised refuge and settlement in England and a large number of them arrived here in 1784. On the whole, the rehabilitation of these ex-service people did not materialise and many of them joined the rank of the very deprived African population. But Britain would in future always resort to this population and those of their cousins in Africa, the Caribbean and South America to fight its wars – most often, ironically, its wars of conquest and occupation across the world. It was in one of such wars, this time in the Crimea, that the services of a legendary African-descent woman must be recalled – Mary Seacole from Jamaica.
Seacole, from relative obscurity, volunteered her services and projected herself on the international scene of her day and through extraordinary selfless care for the wounded and suffering at war, anticipated the massive humanitarian concerns and support that the world and the British Red Cross would be contending with just a few decades away. A dispatch sent from the Crimea in 1855 by a British assistant field surgeon serving with the British 90th light infantry is a moving reminder of Seacole’s legacy:
‘She did not spare herself … In rain and snow, in storm and tempest, day after day, she was at her self-chosen post, with her stove and kettle, in any shelter she could find, brewing tea for all who wanted it and there were many. Sometimes, more than 200 sick would be embarked in one day but Mrs Seacole was always equal to the occasion.’
INTELLECTUALS FOR FREEDOM
Another prominent member of the Africa population in London during this period was the Igbo intellectual, diarist, orator, sailor, explorer, entrepreneur and political organiser named Olaudah Equiano. Equiano had been captured and enslaved in Igboland at the age of 10. He purchased back his freedom in 1766. In the following year, he emerged as leader and spokesperson of the African-descent population in London and campaigned extensively across Britain for the termination of African enslavement. Equiano was appointed commissary of stores for the Sierra Leone resettlement scheme but was outraged by the corruption of government agents who spent much of their time pilfering the basic settlement necessities required for the scheme. Equiano’s outspokenness on this situation and his subsequent volte-face on the entire Sierra Leone programme cost him his job. He was later accused by the authorities of inciting an increasingly restive African population. When in 1789 Equiano published his autobiography, ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African’, it was received with popular acclaim and became a seminal contribution to the African enslavement abolitionist movement.
Equiano’s organisation with those of Paul Cuffee’s and Ottobah Cugoano’s, a Fante, another influential resident African, constituted, in essence, an incipient pan-African consciousness that would be transformed into a full-blown liberation movement uprising in subsequent epochs to free European-occupied Africa and the Caribbean and Guyana (South America) as well as the parallel African American civil rights uprising influenced and led by a range of intellectuals such as Sojourner Truth, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, James Africanus Beale Horton, King Jaja of Opobo, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Harriet Jacobs, George Washington Carver, Ras Makonnen, Eric Williams, Aimé Césaire, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, John Henrik Clarke, Abdulrahman Mohammed Babu, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Léon-Gontran Damas, Marcus Garvey, CLR James, Countee Cullen, Malcolm X, Léopold Sédar Sénghor, E Franklin Frazier, Martin Delaney, Cheikh Anta Diop, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, George James, Ama Ata Aidoo, Walter Sisulu, Louis Armstrong, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Duke Ellington, Nicholás Guillén, Mahaila Jackson, Agostinho Neto, George Lamming, Theophilus Enwezor Nzegwu, Ivan Van Sertima, Louis Mbanefo, Ousmane Sèmbene, Charlie Parkar, J.F.K. Aggrey, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Mingus, Nelson Mandela, Billie Holiday, Mbonu Ojike, Amiri Baraka, Frantz Fanon, Gani Fawehinmi, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, James Baldwin, Onwuka Dike, Thelonious Monk, Patrice Lumumba, Miles Davis, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Julius Nyerere, Dizzy Gillespie, Chinua Achebe, John Coltrane, Okot p’Bitek, Jacob Caruthers, Christopher Okigbo, Eric Dolphy, Ladipo Solanke, Molefi Kete Asante, Steve Biko, Walter Rodney, Chike Obi, Bob Marley and Théophile Obenga.
We should conclude by returning to Baldwin’s ‘Just above my Head’. The narrative voice ends those intense reflections on history and power by stating, ‘Our history is each other. That is our only guide. One thing is absolutely certain: one can repudiate or despise no one’s history without repudiating and despising one’s own’. It does appear that these thoughts, made in the mid-1970s as Baldwin writes ‘Just above my Head’, underline the thinking being vocalised more keenly by intellectuals, statespersons and many others in our current era in a new millennium – namely, that we are now in a more ‘interdependent’ world which inevitably calls for an honest, multiple, uninhibited flows of our collective narratives of experiences and aspirations, however, uncomfortable these may be. There cannot be a hegemonic reading of our disparate historical experiences and discourses without simultaneously creating the marginalisation, alienation and subjugation that characterise that overwhelmingly tragic globalisation heritage of the 15th–20th centuries.
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* Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe’s latest book is entitled ‘Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature’ (Dakar and Reading: African Renaissance, 2011).
* An earlier version of this essay was a lecture given during the 2009 British Red Cross African-descent History Month, British Red Cross Headquarters, Moorfields, London, 6 October 2009. I wish to acknowledge that the phrase, ‘They came before’, in the essay caption, is borrowed from the title of the path-breaking study, ‘They came before Columbus’ by Ivan Van Sertima, the distinguished African-Guyanese historian and linguist. ‘They came before Columbus’ was published by Random House in 1976.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Secrets of the Dead: Slave ship mutiny
Here’s the introductory part of the documentary’s transcript:
Narrator: Hidden in these tattered books is a story about one man’s fight for freedom.
His battle took place nearly 250 years ago, on a slave ship bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
A free man named Massavana… enslaved through deception… and determined to return to his home any way he can, seizes a notorious Dutch slave ship.
Onboard, a life and death struggle between slaves and sailors takes place.
There can only be one victor.
Today, the ship lies buried under these waves at Cape Agulhas, the southern-most tip of Africa.
This slave ship mutiny has been largely forgotten.
But now, three people are uncovering these remarkable events and learning the story of Massavana, the man now being hailed as one of South Africa’s first freedom fighters.
Professor Nigel Worden studies the history of Cape Town under Dutch rule and is researching how and why the rebellion happened.
Slave descendent Lucy Campbell wants to know: who Cape Town’s slave ancestors were… and how they struggled for their freedom.
And marine archaeologist Jaco Boshoff is hunting for the remains of the slave ship at the heart of this story.
It was called: The Meermin
It sailed from Madagascar in January 1766 with more than one hundred and forty enslaved people aboard.
This would be its final voyage.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Meet Kenya’s unsung heroes!
Picture of Resistance tells the story of ten of Kenya’s unsung heroes who carry forward the tradition of the thousands of nameless freedom fighters of Kenya’s long path to liberation. These activists were part, over the last year, of the inaugural Fahamu Pan-African Fellowship (FPAF) programme. With local action and an African vision, the FPAF aimed to support a cadre of energetic, visionary and innovative activists.
The Picture of Resistance documentary and accompanying picture book [PDF] record the contribution of ten of Kenya’s community activists who daily resist oppression and dare to build alternatives. These are the Kenyans who organise rather than agonise.
For more information, visit: www.fahamu.org/fellowship
Perspectives on Emerging Powers in Africa: Latest newsletters available
Ms Sanusha Naidu participated in first China-Africa People’s Forum in Nairobi recently. She comments on the nature of the event, its outcomes and possible future role in the development of civil society engagement between Africa and China. Prof K Mathews then provides an overview of bilateral ties between India and China in light of a newly proposed trilateral cooperation between India, China and Africa and concludes that it could provide an opportunity for the two emerging powers to “forge partnerships for facing common challenges”.
October edition available here.
Rahul Goswami provides his observations on Indian investments in Africa, specifically in the context of India’s domestic development challenges. He notes that the human impact of large investment activities should not be overlooked, as social justice is denied in favour of profit seeking motives. In our second commentary piece, Prof Adams Bodomo, University of Hong Kong, provides an overview of the first China-Africa Think Tank Forum that took place recently in China, bringing together experts, researchers, policy makers and politicians amongst others to discuss topics under various themes of Sino-Africa relations.
November edition available here.
Ethiopia’s Awramba Times: More powerful than ten thousand bayonets
Alemayehu G. Mariam
“Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets,” fretted Napoleon Bonaparte, dictator of France, as he summed up his determination to crush that country’s independent press. For dictator Meles Zenawi, Awramba Times, the tip of the spear of press freedom in Ethiopia, is more to be feared than ten thousand bayonets. Two weeks ago, Awramba Times, the last popular independent weekly, stopped publication after its outstanding managing editor and recipient of the 2010 Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award, Dawit Kebede, was forced to flee the country. Dawit was tipped off about Zenawi’s decision to revoke his 2007 “pardon” for a bogus treason conviction and throw him back in jail.
Needless to say, all dictators and tyrants in history have feared the enlightening powers of the independent press. Total control of the media remains the wicked obsession of all modern day dictators who believe that by controlling the flow of information, they can control the hearts and minds of their citizens. But that is only wishful thinking. As Napoleon realized, “a journalist is a grumbler, a censurer, a giver of advice, a regent of sovereigns and a tutor of nations.” It was the fact of “tutoring nations” -- teaching, informing, enlightening and empowering the people with knowledge-- that was Napoleon’s greatest fears of a free press. He understood the power of the independent press to effectively countercheck his tyrannical rule and hold him accountable before the people. He spared no effort to harass, jail, censor and muzzle journalists for criticizing his use of a vast network of spies to terrorize French society, exposing his military failures, condemning his indiscriminate massacres of unarmed citizen protesters in the streets and for killing, jailing and persecuting his political opponents. Ditto for Zenawi!
But enlightened leaders do not fear the press, they embrace it; they don’t condemn it, they commend it; they don’t try to crush, trash, squash and smash it, they act to preserve, protect, cherish and safeguard it. Enlightened leaders uphold the press as the paramount social institution without which there can be no human freedom. “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government,” asked Thomas Jefferson rhetorically, “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” George Washington was no less enthusiastic in recognizing the vital importance of the free press in “preserving liberty, stimulating the industry, and ameliorating the morals of a free and enlightened people.” It should come as no surprise that the Frist Amendment to the U.S. Constitution imposes a sweeping prohibition: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” NO government, NO official and NO political leader in America can censor, muzzle or persecute the press.
The American press, protected by the plate armor of the First Amendment, dutifully serves as the peoples’ eyes, ears and voices. In America, government trembles at the prospect of press scrutiny. In Ethiopia, government terrorizes the press. In America, government fears the press. In Ethiopia, the press fears government. In America, the press censors government. In Ethiopia, government censors the press. In America, the press stands as a watchdog over government. In Ethiopia, government dogs the press. That is the difference between an enlightened government and a benighted one.
Faced with a Jeffersonian choice, dictator Zenawi decided there shall be no independent newspapers or any other independent media in Ethiopia; and the only government that will exist shall be his own enchanted kingdom of venality, brutality, criminality and inhumanity. For years now, Zenawi has been shuttering independent newspapers and harassing, jailing and exiling journalists who are critical of his dictatorial rule earning the dubious title of “Africa's second leading jailer of journalists.” On September 29, 2011, The Economist reported:
‘An open letter by international journalists to the Ethiopian foreign minister highlights broader abuses: ‘Ethiopia's history of harassing, exiling and detaining both domestic and foreign reporters has been well-documented. Ethiopia is the second-leading jailer of journalists in Africa, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Over the past decade, 79 Ethiopian reporters have fled into exile, the most of any country in the world, according to CPJ data. A number of these have worked as stringers for international news agencies. Additionally, since 2006, the Ethiopian government has detained or expelled foreign correspondents from the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, Bloomberg News, the Christian Science Monitor, the Voice of America, and the Washington Post. We are also concerned by the government's recent decision to charge two Swedish journalists reporting in the Ogaden with terrorism.’
Zenawi has indefatigably continued to swing the sledgehammer of censorship and finally succeeded in smashing and trashing Ethiopia’s free press. On November 11, 2011, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported, “A judge in Ethiopia's federal high court charged six journalists with terrorism on Thursday under the country's antiterrorism law, bringing the number of journalists charged under the statute since June to 10.” On November 15, newspaper satirist Abebe Tolla, better known as Abé Tokichaw, fled Ethiopia fearing imprisonment in retaliation for critical news commentaries. On November 21, Dawit Kebede, was forced into exile. Zenawi had long dangled the bogus 2007 pardon as a Sword of Damocles over Dawit’s head.
Over the years, I have written numerous commentaries in defense of the free press and press freedom in Ethiopia. A year ago this month, I penned “The Art of War on Ethiopia's Independent Press” predicting the eventual shuttering of Awramba Times and Zenawi’s final solution to his problem of press freedom in Ethiopia:
‘Against the onslaught of this crushing juggernaut [of press repression] stand a few dedicated and heroic journalists with nothing in their hands but pencils, pens and computer keyboards, and hearts full of faith and hope in freedom and human rights. The dictatorship is winning the war on the independent press hands down. Young, dynamic journalists are going into exile in droves, and others are waiting for the other shoe to drop on them. The systematic campaign to decimate and silence the free press in Ethiopia is a total success. One by one, the dictatorship has shuttered independent papers and banished or jailed their editors and journalists. The campaign is now in full swing to shut down Awramba Times. The dictatorship's newspapers are frothing ink in a calculated move to smear and tarnish the reputation of the Awramba Times and its editors and journalists. For the past couple of years, Awramba Times staffers have been targets of sustained intimidation, detentions and warnings.’
Today Zenawi stands triumphant over the ashes of Awramba Times; and the destruction of press freedom in Ethiopia is now complete. There is no doubt Zenawi has won the war on Ethiopia’s independent press by total annihilation. But Awramba Times and its young journalists also stand triumphant. They have fought and won the most important war of all – the war for the hearts and minds of 90 million Ethiopians. Team Awramba Times fought Zenawi with pens and pencils and computer keyboards. They brought a ray of light into a nation enveloped by the darkness of dictatorship. They defended the truth against Zenawi’s falsehoods and exposed his lies and deceit. They stood up for the peoples’ right to know against the tyranny of ignorance. They made Zenawi squirm, squiggle, wiggle, fidget, twitch and go through endless sleepless nights. Zenawi persecuted and prosecuted them as enemies of the state, but they shall forever remain the true and loyal friends of the people. Zenawi accused them of being terrorists. That is true: They struck terror with the truth in the dark heart of tyranny. They unleashed terror in the minds of tyrants with demands for legal and moral accountability.
In the title of his commentary in the very last issue of Awramba Times, Dawit asked a simple but profound question: “Frankly, whose country is this anyway?” In the piece, Dawit explored many issues of vital interest to all Ethiopians. But in some of the most stirring words ever written against tyranny, Dawit informed the world why he decided to flee the country he loved so much:
‘When a man cannot live in his own country in freedom, faces privation and feels completely helpless, and where government, instead of being a shelter and sanctuary to its people, becomes a wellspring of fear and anxiety, it is natural for a citizen to seek freedom in any place of refuge.’
Long before Dawit, Benjamin Franklin, “The First American” and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the man who declared, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God”, summed it all: “Where liberty is, there is my country.” So Dawit, welcome to America, the land of free press!
A TRIBUTE TO AWRAMBA TIMES AND ITS YOUNG JOURNALISTS
I write this commentary not to denounce the wicked villains and enemies of press freedom in Ethiopia, but to praise and celebrate the heroes and heroines of Ethiopia’s independent press. I write this commentary not as a eulogy to the late Awramba Times but as a living and loving tribute to the heroic and dedicated young men and women who shed blood, sweat and tears and overcame daily fears to keep Awramba Times and press freedom alive in Ethiopia.
But how does one give tribute to the young heroes and heroines who risked their lives to defend press freedom and human rights in Ethiopia?
I wish I possessed the “eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination or that brilliance of metaphor” to express my deep pride and joy in Awramba Times and its young journalists. I wish I possessed the talent, the insight and sensibility to tell the world of the sacrifices and contributions of these young people for the advancement of press freedom not just in Ethiopia but in all of Africa, and indeed the world.
Lacking that eloquence, I ask myself: What words can I use to express my gratitude and appreciation to these young people who toiled day and night to speak truth to tyranny? What can I possibly say to console these young truth tellers in a country that has been rendered the land of living lies? How can I show my respect, admiration and awe to these young people who soldiered for freedom and human rights in Ethiopia armed only with pens, pencils and computer keyboards? How do I acknowledge the historic contribution of the young journalists of Awramba Times and others like them who struggled beyond measure to keep the candle of press freedom flickering in the darkness of dictatorship?
THANK YOU AWRAMBA TIMES!
Thank you Awramba Times! Thank you Dawit Kebede, Woubshet Taye (recently jailed by Zenawi), Gizaw Legesse, Nebyou Mesfin, Abel Alemayehu, Wosenseged G Kidan, Mekdes Fisseha, Abe Tokichaw and Mehret Tadesse, Nafkot Yoseph, Moges Tikuye, Tigist Wondimu, Elias Gebru, Teshale Seifu, Fitsum Mammo and [not pictured] Ananya Sori, Surafel Girma and Tadios Getahun. I thank you all; but I thank you not out of formality, obligation or courtesy. No, I thank you for
- being the voice of the voiceless, the powerless, the voteless, the nameless and faceless. You kept on preaching the good news even when the tyrant sought to replace the peoples’ courage with cowardice, their faith with doubt, their trust in each other with suspicion and their hopes with despair.
- teaching us all the meaning of responsible journalism. You pages shined with integrity, accuracy and truthfulness. You informed us of the most pressing issues of the day. You offered us critical but balanced perspectives to make us think and understand. You did it all with professionalism, with malice towards none.
- teaching us the meaning of ethical journalism. You revealed the truth and told the story without sensationalism and distortions. You held yourselves accountable by maintaining high standards and being responsive to your readers. You showed supreme moral strength in the face of corruption, preached truth to tyranny and made superhuman efforts to open the minds of the narrow-minded.
- showing Zenawi what it means to have and be a free press. You have taught him that a free press is a mirror to society. Whenever he looked in the mirror of Awramba Times, he saw the image of brutality, inhumanity, criminality and venality. But the mirror does not lie; it only reflects what it sees. Smashing the mirror does not obliterate the image; it only fragments it into 90 million pieces.
- giving us a platform on which to exchange policy ideas and discuss problems of governance.
- being a class act! When the pathetic, vulgar, pandering and pitiful state media launched its vilification and fear and smear campaign and brayed to have Awramba Times shuttered, you responded with decency, civility, dignity, propriety, honesty, integrity, rationality and humanity. You even treated the tyrants with respect, honor, dignity and courtesy. What a class act you all are! I have never been more proud!
All of the young journalists of Awramba Times are my personal heroes and heroines. As I write these words, I am overcome with emotion of admiration, pride and joy; but Team Awramba Times does not need my praise or recognition. Team Awramba Times does not need my words to document their heroic struggle; they have inscribed their own glorious history of press freedom on the calloused breast of tyranny. Because of Awramba Times, generations of young Ethiopians to come will learn and appreciate the true meaning of human freedom and the need to maintain eternal vigilance over tyranny.
Awramba Times shall rise from the ashes of tyranny, and press freedom will be reborn on the parched landscape of dictatorship in Ethiopia. A new world rising over the horizon as the sun sets on tyranny and dictators sweat to cling to power in the Middle East. The wind of freedom shall blow southward from North Africa. A brave new world of knowledge, information, ideas and enlightenment awaits young people all over Africa. In this new world, ignorance, the most powerful weapon in the hands of African tyrants, is useless. It is easy to misrule, mistreat and enslave a population trapped in ignorance. But “A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.” It was the religion of ignorance and its high priests in Ethiopia that Awramba Times and its young journalists were sworn to oppose and expose.
I have never met any member of Team Awramba Times. But I have read every issue of Awramba Times since it became available online. Awramba Times was not only a source of news, informed analysis and opinion for me, I regarded it as the ultimate symbol of press freedom in Ethiopia. Those of us who are blessed to live in a land where press freedom is valued higher than government itself pledge to uphold our oath proudly inscribed on a frieze below the dome at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man [and woman]." Amen!
Thank You Awramaba Times! Thank you Dawit, Woubshet, Gizaw, Nebyou, Abel, Wosenseged, Mekdes, Abebe, Mehret, Nafkot, Moges, Tigist, Elias, Teshale, Fitsum, Ananya, Surafel, and Tadios. I also thank the indomitable Eskinder Nega (recently imprisoned by Zenawi), Serkalem Fasil, the internationally acclaimed journalist, former political prisoner and wife of Eskinder Nega, Sisay Agena and so many others!
I salute you! I honor you! I stand in awe of your achievements and struggle for press freedom in Ethiopia!
Long Live Awramba Times!
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* This article first appeared on Al Mariam’s Corner.
* Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
New academy to propel women into leadership
Zaya Yeebo and Scholastica Marenya
Africa today is undergoing tremendous change. This fact is reluctantly acknowledged by the international community, which continues to see Africa through the prism of ignorance and obfuscation. Part of this change affects women, and the women’s rights movement all over the continent. While universal principles are good for advocacy, unless these principles are domesticated, they are of little value in the struggle for equality and social justice. That is why talking about ‘gender equality’ and women’s leadership will remain empty glib talk unless concrete practical actions are taken by national authorities, non-state actors, and people with leadership responsibilities to treat this as a national emergency. This is precisely the trend in Kenya, where a new Amkeni Wakenya-led Women’s Leadership Academy is addressing the thorny issues of women in political leadership beyond the rhetoric of numbers to actual skills development and monitoring of how women can revolutionise leadership in Kenya under the 2010 constitution, which has been judged to be revolutionary.
The newly adopted constitution has been celebrated as a landmark document in Africa. Top among its most admired clauses is the section dealing with socio-economic rights and liberties. However, most observers have pointed to the fact that none of these clauses will make sense to ordinary people unless and until the constitution is fully implemented. While the business of implementing the constitution has been left to the Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC), actualising the constitution requires more than legalistic frameworks.
In furtherance of this, a number of women’s organisations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its flagship programme for enhancing the role of civil society in democratic governance, called Amkeni Wakenya, have launched a far reaching programme to develop the skills of women political leaders across Kenya. The Women’s Leadership Academy, aims to mobilize a sizeable proportion of ambitious Kenyan women leaders in every village, town, county or constituency, and build their skills to the level where they are able to compete with men for the various political positions under the constitution.
Amkeni Wakenya is a UNDP-led facility set up to promote democratic governance in Kenya. Established in 2008, Amkeni Wakenya was previously known as the Civil Society Democratic Governance Facility (CSDGF) and works through civil society organisations in the areas of democracy, human rights, governance reforms and the integration of a rights-based approach in social and economic reforms in Kenya.
The long-term outcome of Amkeni Wakenya is to enable citizens to benefit from a more accountable, just, transparent and democratic society and to support civic engagement which empowers all people to influence public policies. Amkeni Wakenya supports activities to strengthen participatory democracy, social justice, the rule of law and protection of human rights and facilitates citizens’ active engagement in development processes.
Amkeni Wakenya’s Women’s Leadership Academy is aimed at promoting women’s role in governance through a multiplicity of methods; top among them is ensuring that Kenya’s legislature benefits from an increase in women representation at the 2012 elections. At present percentage of women legislature in the Kenyan parliament stands at a paltry 9.8 percent. Amkeni is poised to work with a number of women’s organisations across Kenya to ensure that women and girls participate effectively and benefit from Kenya’s ongoing national reform process and the constitution.
THE CONSTITUTION AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADVANCING WOMEN’S RIGHTS
In August 2010, Kenyans approved a new national constitution through a national referendum after a long process drawn out over several years. The new constitution offers opportunities for legal and institutional reforms necessary to transform the lives of poor and marginalised communities. In particular, it presents several gains for women’s rights that were absent in Kenya’s former constitutional dispensation. The 2010 Constitution invalidates any customary or religious laws that are inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution and therefore effectively prohibits discriminatory laws against women’ and states that ‘treaties or conventions ratified by Kenya will form part of the law – this will include all the women’s rights related international instruments that the country has ratified in the past but has failed to implement, therefore creating a crucial platform to hold the government accountable to its women’s rights commitments. But most important of all, the 2010 constitution compels ‘the state to take legislative and other measures to ensure that at least one third of members in elective or appointive bodies are not of the same gender’ and sets out guidelines for the representation of women in the national assembly, the senate and the county.
Amkeni believes that these gains will be wasted if women at various levels of society who stand to benefit most are not aware of them. Amkeni’s Women’s Leadership Academy seeks to ensure that all women from the local to the national level participate in on-going national processes geared towards the reconstruction of Kenya.
The academy seeks to work assiduously with women to ensure that as many women at the county level emerge to take advantage of the new political opportunities. This can only be done if women are prepared to seize these opportunities and overcome many hurdles, some cultural others professional. As noted by Priscilla Nyokabi, executive director of Kituo cha Sharia, ‘there is an urgent need for a critical mass of knowledgeable and effective women leaders in the various decision-making spaces connected to the implementation of the constitution’. Amkeni believes that these can be anticipated and mitigated as early as possible through education and planning.
History has taught that without the active participation of women at all levels of decision-making, national development cannot be achieved as noted by Margaret Thatcher former British Prime Minister. ‘In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman’. This means that those conscious efforts should be made to cultivate, support and build women’s leadership at all levels of decision making. In the past, several factors prevented women from exercising their constitutional right to vote, to seek political office and participate fully and equally in national decision-making. Apart from negative public perceptions of and biases against women’s leadership abilities, the threat of and actual violence against women seeking elective positions such as physical violence including sexual abuse, low self confidence among women constitute some of the barriers women candidates are likely to face.
With history and experience as teachers, the Women’s Leadership Academy will promote women’s transformative leadership in Kenya by cultivating and nurturing a collection of influential, knowledgeable and accountable potential women leaders at local and national level with the necessary skills to shape effective public policy and leadership practice. It will focus both on ‘getting the numbers’ and ‘going beyond the numbers’ to ensure that when women attain positions in elective and appointive bodies, are effective and accountable leaders. The programme will therefore address the continued need for multi-level advocacy around women’s political participation and for a collective voice of women in Kenya for human rights, peace and security, good governance and democracy. Additionally it will build on the existing opportunities for networking, peer learning, information exchange and mutual capacity building among women leaders across the country.
Finally the programme will seek to garner public support for women’s leadership at community level through targeted civic education and advocacy campaigns. Apart from mass mobilisation and education that will target both men and women, it will also deliberately target the female electorate at county level for civic education on the opportunities for women under the new constitution.
The academy has so far organised three training sessions in Kisumu, Kakamega, and Nakuru for 60 women in each course/training session. The Academy utilises the skills of women leaders from both the political and civil society sector to train women leaders. The training in Nakuru was led by the Women’s Empowerment Link (WEL) and targeted 60 women leaders, some of whom were Councilors, and aspiring parliamentarians. Commenting at the end of the Nakuru leadership workshop, Daisy Amdany, Director of the Community Advocacy and Awareness trust, noted that, ‘Over the years, there have been concerted efforts on the part of women’s activists and organizations focused on women’s empowerment to demand for women’s space in the leadership arena’.
The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 has heralded a new beginning for Kenyan women because for the first time in our history, a deliberate effort has been made to ensure that women will have a critical mass in leadership and decision-making. This presents a huge opportunity for women to make a difference at both the county and national level enabling them to be catalysts for positive change. These sentiments represent the hope that the Leadership Academy seeks to instill into aspiring women leaders and young girls in Kenya. It will be among many initiatives, but the UNDP and Amkeni sees this initiative as a long-term investment, which will nurture women leaders from various stages of their development into a formidable force for changing Kenya for the better.
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* Zaya Yeebo and Scholastica Marenya work for Amkeni Wakenya Civil Society and Democratic Governance Facility.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Reorienting Kenyan youth towards constructive change
Throughout African history, the youth have always played a positive role in the struggle for self-emancipation and change. It is difficult to see a situation of change in which the youth were either left out completely or were mere bystanders. The anti-colonial struggle for self-emancipation in West Africa was led by various amorphous youth movements. The same goes for the struggle for emancipation in Ethiopia against the Mengistu regime, or in the struggle for independence from Portuguese colonialism. In most of these struggles, the youth were fired by a nationalistic and patriotic instinct and not by the forays of busybodies with lots of dollars in their back pockets.
However, the situation in Sierra Leone and Liberia poses a different set of questions. In Sierra Leone, youth became such avid abusers of the rights of women and children that it was almost unimaginable. This situation was exacerbated mainly by the lack of political and ideological clarity on the part of the United Revolutionary Front, whose youth fighters, fired by drugs, turned to hacking off arms of children and women, killing the very population they had set out to ‘liberate’. Eventually, it took a combined armed effort of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its peacekeeping force to end the carnage.
Which of these scenarios do the youth of Kenya want to emulate? Debate about the role of youth in Kenyan politics is usually devoid of political analysis and ideology. The youth are presented as some kind of homogenous group, all contributing to the struggle for a better Kenya. This situation is further exacerbated by the numerous nongovernmental organizations claiming to be working with and among the youth. These have a positive role to play, as I can attest from Amkeni Wakenya-supported youth groups. However, there also seems to be a culture among development partners which assume that the solution to the problem lies with pumping more dollars into ‘youth projects’. To my horror, the more I read about these, the more I conclude that there is a deliberate attempt to deconscientise the youth; that is, no sense of promoting consciousness among young people of the type of society they want Kenya to become for the next generation. The most dangerous social forces are youth with no hope in the future of a country and without political consciousness or love for their country because they feel alienated and excluded from society. For instance, the youth ‘bulge’ is presented as something that is dangerous; the youth are presented potential hordes of unmitigated disaster waiting to happen. On the other hand, ‘youth bulge’ could be seen as something that contains positive energy to be harnessed for nation building through youth volunteering schemes for building roads, hospitals, clinics and youth centers across Kenya. In fact the youth could become civic education ambassadors in 2012.
The National Youth Council elections and attempts by the Ministry of Youth and Sports to bring the youth together under a government-led umbrella is a positive move which should be celebrated rather than undermined by parallel processes. A government-led national youth movement can mobilise the youth for reconstruction, for volunteer projects in the rural areas and for instilling pan-African consciousness in them. It is only the government of Kenya which I believe should have that mandate. This will then be complemented by various independent youth organisations or formations. As a former Minister of Youth and Sports in Ghana, I can attest to the positive energy of the youth and children, whom we mobilised for national reconstruction and change at difficult times in Ghana’s history.
The problems facing the youth in Kenya have been narrowed down to unemployment. How about the drugs culture on the Coast? How about bright young people who cannot afford an education for one reason or the other? How about the early marriage or abuse to which the girl child is subjected? I could go on and on for pages. What is important is for the youth to clearly identify the challenges they face and engage the government of Kenya is a positive dialogue for durable, home grown solutions.
But most important of all, the current euphoria about the ‘youth’ is deliberately skewed so that politics is left out of the debate. Do the youth of today understand the anti-colonial struggle in Kenya and the role of their forefathers? How many of them can discuss and appreciate sacrifices of their forefathers? How about neo-colonialism and the continuing attempts to re-colonise Africa? How does the history of Kenya affect them today? Is settler colonialism a thing of the past? Who owns Kenya, and do ALL the youth have a stake in Kenya?
These are issues of politics and ideology. Any serious efforts to jolt the youth of Kenya into action should go beyond he scramble for dollars sprayed around by the US embassy in Nairobi, to a more rigorous interrogation of the problems facing Kenya. This will enable individual youth to situate themselves in the quagmire and determine where they belong in the debate. Are they agents for positive change or for the continuation of the present moribund neo-colonial system? Do the youth understand the rights of children, of women, of people with disability? Can the youth be supported to discuss, interrogate, the difference between the various political parties, the socio economic groups, and the structural causes of poverty in Kenya. It is only through such engagement that the propensity towards violence after elections will reduce.
The absence of such clarity can lead to situation in which youth become gangs for hire to the highest bidder. Without a clear ideological orientation, youth can become abusers, are attracted to gangs because there is no option. It is not enough to decry the gang culture, or so-called, ‘negative ethnicity’ when there are no alternatives to gang culture. If the youth of colonial West Africa, of a despotic Ethiopian regime and youth fighting against all odds could overturn years of neglect by despotic military regimes in Ghana, and against Portuguese colonialism the youth of Kenya could also do the same to change the current political impasse and a dog-eat-dog system which keeps them perpetually in bondage.
The cliché that youth ‘are the leaders of tomorrow’, is becoming precisely that: a cliché. The more you look at Kenyan youth, the less you see. But if you look closer, it is obvious. There is a subtle attempt to keep Kenyan youth from the light of revolutionary consciousness to the point at which they see tribes, tribes and more tribes. Or they develop ‘the leader syndrome’ which means they support demagogues parading themselves as leaders of the people. They youth lie in wait, ready to be called upon to rise up because the leader has been cheated out of a ticket to the proverbial ‘House on the Hill’. The youth of Ivory Coast, of Liberia, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), of Angola, are all waiting to rise up to support their leaders, who encourage them from the roofs of their Castles to demand democracy. Yet in any ideological struggle, there is only one question, and one answer: are you with or for the people (and their interests) or are you with the oppressors and their foreign backers?
The history of Kenya also shows that with courage, determination, and some ideological clarity, the strength of the youth can be harnessed for change they believe in. As a youth leader in Ghana, my friends and I realised very quickly that land grabbing, ethnic/regional discrimination, abuse of power, and the neglect of marginalized communities will not end unless the structural problems of unequal distribution of power, marginalization of communities and inequality based on gender are addressed by a government that is responsive, pro-people and pro-development. That transparency and accountability are empty words unless there is a will on the part of those with power to live up to these ideals; that impunity had become endemic. But we did not wait for power to be handed over. We mobilised popular masses of farmers, rural youth, market women; students, urban workers, etc. to demand change in a positive way. Money or the lack of it was never an excuse not to do anything. Ghana is different now for all those struggles. Power will not be handed to youth on a silver platter, neither will unmitigated violence on behalf of the ‘leader’ bring about employment, redeem the youth of Kibera and other settlements from poverty.
The 2010 Constitution of Kenya is forward looking and seeks to address issues of accountability and transparent leadership, end impunity and corruption. The youth of today need to work assiduously to change the mindset of this generation. Contrary to popular beliefs, these groups are not awash with money. I have met youth groups who believe that unless their counterparts become politically engaged, work assiduously in the community, and create the basis for change through action, opportunities will be lost. Their weapons are commitment to change, enthusiasm, creativity, vitality, patriotism and a belief in a future that is full of promise. A courageous and steadfast belief in the ability of the youth to change today’s world for tomorrow’s brighter future is all that is required. In essence, it is up to the youth of today to reclaim the Africa continent from doomsday analysts, comics and from western celebrities who turn settlements like Kibera into zoos of gratification. As Frantz Fanon noted, ‘every generation, out of relative obscurity, must discover its own mission, fulfill it or betray it’.
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* Zaya Yeebo is programme manager Civil Society Democratic Governance Facility.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa launches at COP17
Report highlights essential climate change solution for African farmers
African farmer and civil society groups in Africa are celebrating the launch of a ‘network of African networks’, called the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). They have released a report emphasising that Food Sovereignty can cool the planet, while feeding the world and regenerating ecosystems.
PRESS RELEASE Monday 5 December 2011
African farmer and civil society groups in Africa are celebrating the launch of a “network of African networks”, called the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). They have released a report emphasising that Food Sovereignty can cool the planet, while feeding the world and regenerating ecosystems.
“There are so many challenges facing our continent,” says Anne Maina of the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), one of AFSA’s member networks. “As 14 PanAfrican networks, representing a huge constituency in Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone Africa, we are in agreement that Food Sovereignty must be way forward to ensure resilient food systems and ecosystems in the face of climate change and destructive development.”
“Food Sovereignty is an approach to agriculture that is radical, but it is self-evident too. It holds the interests of small-scale food producers, their communities and ecosystems, as critical to strengthening resilient food systems. For too long, food policy has focused on yield at any cost – and undermined the very systems and people on which food production depends. Food Sovereignty is a powerful concept and framework that is clear about embracing solutions, and challenging the threats.” Said Million Belay of Melca Mahiber, an Ethiopian member of ABN.
Officially launched on Sunday 4th December, AFSA began amid joyful singing from African women farmers; sobering facts about the multiple threats from climate change and false solutions such as the Bill Gates-funded Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), GMOs, biofuel land grabbing and carbon trading; and inspiring discussions about agroecological solutions for food, farmers and biodiversity.
“The Alliance for Food Sovereignty is working to promote agroecology as a solution to climate change, feeding people, biodiversity, livelihoods and healing the soils. It is about using and conserving the resources that are freely available to communities. These are appropriate for our economies, and our small scale farmers, who don’t need the expensive chemical inputs that are being pushed on us.” Said Agnes Yawe of Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM), a network with members in 10 countries.
Mpatheleni Makaulule, indigenous community leader from Mupo Foundation in Venda in the North of South Africa, and a member of ABN, emphasises the importance of indigenous wisdom, and how her community sees the challenge of climate change and harmful development. “We cannot have health in a sick climate. In our territories, the soil, water and indigenous forest is already in disorder, and that affects the ecosystem. The indigenous seeds from the indigenous knowledge are our hope to adapt with this climate change, and this is why we want food sovereignty.
“Our lands and community in Venda are now faced with being destroyed by a huge open cast coal mine. This will finish our last remaining water, and kill our last indigenous trees and sacred sites. But these are the richest ecosystems, and they bring the rain. This mining is going to make climate change worse. We cannot guarantee the future if this mining continues. The coming generation will realise that money cannot be breathed or chewed.”
Simon Mwamba of the East African Farmers’ Federation (ESSAFF) adds, “The COP17 negotiations should not be used to advance the push for the Green Revolution in Africa, which traps farmers into cycles of debt and poverty. The green revolution will just enhance the corporate grip over agriculture and farmers, thereby threatening food sovereignty. Such practices force smallholder farmers to be dependent on agrochemicals, while eroding the seed diversity that Africa needs for resilience to climate change and a food secure future. Genetically Modified (GM) crops will be even worse ”
Mamadou Goita of ROPPA, the farmers’ federation for West Africa, emphasised that the threats facing Africa are numerous. “Land grabbing for biofuels and industrial food export is one of the biggest weapons to kill food sovereignty and excluding family farmers from food production.”
Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Africa, and chair of Friends of the Earth International, said “Climate Change is killing our continent and peoples, but so are the so-called solutions proposed by profit-hungry corporations. This is why we are coming together as AFSA, to speak out for African solutions to the problems caused by the industrialised North.”
1) The report “Food Sovereignty Systems: Feeding the world, regenerating ecosystems, rebuilding local economies, and cooling the Planet – all at the same time” can be downloaded from http://www.africanbiodiversity.org
2) Monday 5th December has been declared “Food Sovereignty Day” by AFSA member La Via Campesina, and farmers are marching through Durban today to celebrate.
Anne Maina: African Biodiversity Network, firstname.lastname@example.org SA Tel: 0849 280 367
Gathuru Mburu: African Biodiversity Network, email@example.com SA Tel: 0717847999
Mamadou Goita, Network of Farmers' and Agricultural Producers' Organizations of West Africa (ROPPA), firstname.lastname@example.org SA Tel: 0849 280 367
Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth, email@example.com SA Tel: 0716392542
Agnes Yawe, PELUM Association, firstname.lastname@example.org SA Tel: 0748076540
Simon Mwamba, Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF), email@example.com Tel: +26099828109
Jennifer Koinante, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +25472 012 1850
La Via Campesina Durban Declaration
Assembly of the Oppressed, 5 December 2011, Durban, South Africa
La Via Campesina
Articles pictures and videos from Durban on www.viacampesina.org
As the Assembly of the Oppressed we are gathered here to demand the transformation of the entire neo liberal capitalist system. The fight against climate change is a fight against neo liberal capitalism, landlessness, dispossession, hunger, poverty and the re-colonization of the territories of the people’s of Africa and the global South. We are here to declare that direct action is the only weapon of the oppressed people of the world to end all forms of oppression in the world.
We are here in Durban, South Africa where the 17th United Nations Conference of Parties is taking place and are discussing false solutions to the climate crisis. And we can see that the future of Mother Earth and of humanity is in peril as those responsible for nature’s destruction are attempting to escape their responsibility and erase history.
We, La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasants, small-scale and agricultural family farmers, is severely dismayed at the attempts of the developed countries to further escape their historic responsibility to make real emission cuts and push for more false and market based solutions to the climate crisis.
Here in Durban, they are discussing a “new mandate” as an outcome of the COP 17, one which contains market mechanisms and a voluntary pledge system in order to move away from the mandated program of working towards legally binding commitments to cut emissions. Also, developed countries are working hard to escape their historical responsibility and not pay their climate debt by pushing for a green climate fund that involves private capital and the World Bank. Finally, there is a push to include agriculture in the negotiations, treating agriculture as a carbon sink rather than a source of food and livelihood. For La Via Campesina, with this trend of negotiations, it is better to have no deal than a bad deal that condemns humanity and our planet to a future of climate catastrophe.
We are now at the worst moment for agriculture and small farmers and for nature. The impacts of climate change are steadily worsening, leading to harvest failures, destruction of habitats and homes, hunger and famine and loss of lives. The future of humanity and the planet is in critical danger and if these false solutions push through, it will be a catastrophe for nature, future generations and the whole planet.
We therefore demand to all governments in the negotiations:
- For all countries from the global South to stand up for their people and to defend the people and the planet with dignity and conviction. The government of South Africa has already sold out its people in this regard.
- For all the developed countries to live up to their historical responsibility of causing this climate crisis and to pay their climate debt and commit themselves to at least 50% domestic emission reductions based on 1990 levels, without conditions and excluding carbon markets or other offset mechanisms.
- Stop industrial farming that promotes pollution and climate change through high levels of use of petroleum based chemicals
- Governments must support agro-ecology
- For all countries to listen and work for their people and not be under the control of transnational corporations.
- For all countries to stop trying to save capitalism and making the people, including small farmers, pay for their economic and financial crisis.
We as La Via Campesina, demand the implementation of the people’s global agreement on climate agreed on in Cochabamba. And here in Durban and in a thousand Durbans, we strongly reiterate our solutions to the climate crisis.
- Further global warming must be limited to a rise of 1 degree Celsius only.
- Developed countries must make domestic emission reductions of at least 50% based on 1990 levels, without conditions and excluding carbon markets or other offset mechanisms.
- Developed countries must commit to payment of their climate debt and give funding from at least 6% of their GDP. All funds for this climate finance must be public and be free from the control of the World Bank and private corporations.
- All market mechanisms must be stopped, including REDD, REDD++ and the proposed carbon markets for agriculture.
We reiterate that there will be no solution to climate change and the predatory neo-liberal system that causes it, without the liberation of women, and rural women in particular, from age old patriarchy and sexist discrimination. We therefore demand as part of comprehensive action against patriarchy and sexism:
The promotion of women’s land access and rights through targeted redistribution
Laws and policies must be made responsive to the particular needs of women
We as La Via Campesina, demand an end to the commodification of our Mother Earth reject the mechanisms of the carbon market. Furthermore, we reject the proposed inclusion of a work program on agriculture in the negotiations and reject all proposals of market mechanisms surrounding agriculture.
We as La Via Campesina and the people of the world have the real solutions to the climate crisis and we call on all governments to heed them before it is too late. At this assembly of the oppressed we declare to the people of the world that the solutions are in their hands. Through building social movements and mobilizing popular struggles for social change the world’s people will overcome the close alliance between governments and multinational corporations that is strangling the world. In Africa at the moment this alliance is perpetrating one of the biggest land grabs in history, which would mean more chemical-industrial farming, more poverty and exploitation, and more climate change. The only serious counter to this is the land occupations initiated by the landless themselves. From the perspective of food sovereignty, agrarian reform and climate justice, these land occupations deserve the fullest support.
Sustainable peasant’s agriculture and agroecology cool down the planet.
Food Sovereignty is the solution!
Peasant agriculture is not for sale!
Globalize the struggle, Globalize the hope!
Media contacts: email: email@example.com
local number: +27(0)736509229
La Via Campesina
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
Green Climate Fund – or Greedy Corporate Fund?
Third World Network
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, Dec. 1, 2011— Today 163 civil society organisations from 39 countries released a letter exposing an attempt led by the US, the UK and Japan to turn the Green Climate Fund into a “Greedy Corporate Fund” at UN climate talks in South Africa. 
The Green Climate Fund was created to support people in developing countries – people who are the most affected by the climate crisis but are the least responsible for it. At the climate negotiations this week, developed countries are trying to allow multinational corporations and financiers to directly access GCF financing. This means companies could bypass developing country governments and their national climate strategies to get to public money.
“Turning the Green Climate Fund into a Greedy Corporate Fund would be shameful, yet this is what is being attempted at the Durban climate talks,” said Meena Raman from Third World Network.
Karen Orenstein from Friends of the Earth US commented that communities need this money to address climate change and to finance their own development – without repeating the same mistakes that rich countries have made. “Led by the US and the UK on behalf of Wall Street and The City, this attempt to hijack developing countries’ funding is outrageous.”
“The role of private investment in financing climate activities must be decided at the national and sub-national levels in line with countries’ priorities, not corporate bottom lines. The move to allow the private sector to go directly to the Green Climate Fund for money undermines the possibility of a democratic, participatory process for meeting the needs of communities struggling to fight climate change,” said Lidy Nacpil of Jubilee South Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development.
Few adaptation measures in developing countries will be attractive to the private sector, as they will not generate revenue. Some key mitigation programs may also not be financially lucrative. Groups also warned against closed door negotiations on the Green Climate Fund by South Africa, the US, and other developed countries.
“Whatever happens in Durban must be fully transparent. We are deeply concerned by reports that South Africa is informally consulting behind closed doors on the Green Climate Fund decision,” commented Bobby Peek of groundwork / Friends of the Earth South Africa. “This will greatly undermine the legitimacy, and ultimately the effectiveness, of the Green Climate Fund.”
The concerns expressed in the letter come on top of the long-held rejection by many in civil society of any role for the World Bank in the Green Climate Fund.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Meena Raman, Third World Network, Mobile: + 27 (0) 72 26 18 870 (valid only until Dec. 9)
Lidy Nacpil, Jubilee South Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, Tel: + 27 (0) 767342705 (valid only until Dec. 9)
Karen Orenstein, Friends of the Earth US: Tel: + 27 (0) 72 04 32 655 (valid only until Dec. 9)/ +1-202-640-8679 (US mobile)
Bobby Peek, groundWork/Friends of the Earth South Africa, Tel: +27 (0) 82 46 41 383
Murray Worthy, World Development Movement, Tel: +27 (0) 83 96 89 917
Janet Redman, Institute for Policy Studies, Tel: +27 (0) 713861216 (valid only until Dec. 9)
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 A copy of the letter is online at http://libcloud.s3.amazonaws.com/93/b8/c/895/2/12-1-11_priv_sect_facility_GCF_lett_FINAL_w_sigs.pdf
A background briefing highlighting key considerations for the debate on the Green Climate Fund is online at: http://libcloud.s3.amazonaws.com/93/c4/5/896/2/GCF-COP17-key-considerations.pdf
Sponsoring organisations include:
Action Aid, Campaign to Reform the World Bank, Friends of the Earth International, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Jubilee South - Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, Institute for Policy Studies, World Development Movement.
End ‘global apartheid’ at COP17
Bishop's calls to governments
South African Bishop Geoff Davies has called on governments to end the era of 'global apartheid' which is dictating the UN climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday the Anglican minister urged decision makers to put the wellbeing of people before profit. Bishop Davies said: 'Climate change is a moral issue and it must be met by the moral principles of justice, equity, compassion and love.
'We need to put the wellbeing of the planet and people before self-interested, financial considerations. 'We are being driven by almost evil forces that care just about profit.
'Here we are on South African soil where apartheid was defeated. Yet we are seeing a global apartheid. Rich countries are keeping wealth and power for themselves.'
Negotiations on a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, the only international law limiting carbon emissions, remain in the balance. Decision makers are also working to follow through on promises made last year to set up the Green Climate Fund which would see funds made available to help the world's most vulnerable countries adapt to climate change.
Bishop Davies, who is a partner in the We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice campaign, said it would be immoral to allow global warming to exceed 2 degrees celcius.
'If temperatures go up to four or five degrees it will catastrophic,' he said.
'In Africa we are concerned. African temperatures will increase twice as much as the global average. 'It is immoral for nationals to say we will continue to emit carbon until we hit two degrees.
'We worship a creator God and we are in the process of destroying that creation.'
With ministers from around the world having arrived in Durban, this week marks the high level segment of the talks where politicians need to agree on emissions cuts and a financial package to protect poor countries which despite having the least responsibility for climate change are suffering it's most destructive effects.
Carbon Markets, trading our future
New film and report show failures of carbon markets and foresee their collapse
As COP17 draws to a close the only game in town are the market-based mechanisms that are false solutions to climate change. The same institutions, corporations and governments who have led the world into economic chaos are leading us toward climate chaos.
However, the cracks in the façade are starting to show. Carbon trading and offsetting, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) have failed to cut carbon emission, which reached record high levels in 2010, whilst further impoverishing the worlds poorest people, facilitating the largest land grab in history, destroying biodiversity and trampling the rights of indigenous communities.
In a new video released today, critics of the markets and even the architects and gatekeepers of climate finance admit to its failure.
Martin Hession, Chairman of the CDM Executive Board says:
‘We have had allegations in respect of a project in Honduras, people have been killed by people associated with the CDM project…. I don’t think the CDM can take on the job of being a human rights commission, I don’t think the CDM can take on the job of resolving every social problem in every country.’
This lack of looking at climate change in the wider context of climate justice is leading to gross human rights violations as well as environmental degradation. Those involved are economists and financiers who are just looking at the numbers and seeing if they create a positive balance in their books.
As Prof Michael Grubb, Senior Research Associate, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge says:
‘Having created a market-based mechanism to cut carbon a lot of people seem to expect it to behave in a non-market way and deliver poverty alleviation, deliver sustainable development co-benefits, but fundamentally; you create a market, it’s behaving the way markets do, it chases where are the most cost effective things, where can they make the most profits and I think that anyone who didn’t expect a market instrument to behave in that way didn’t understand what they were doing.’
So why are these carbon market mechanism now dominating the Un climate negotiations? Larry Lohmann, Co-founder, Durban Group for Climate Justice explains: ‘The biggest buyer of carbon pollution rights, these offsets bought in from countries in the Global South today, the biggest buyers are not actually polluting firms in Europe, they’re not actually the steel mills, they’re not actually the electricity generators, although of course they also do buy pollution rights, the biggest buyers are Wall St and the City of London, they’re financial actors. Why are they buying these pollutions rights? Obviously they’re not buying them because they need to offset the huge amounts of smoke coming out of their smoke stacks in the City of London, they’re buying them to speculate with, they’re buying them because profits are to be made in the trading of them. Carbon markets are not a way of solving the climate problem, the impetus for them is not coming from people who are suffering from climate change, the impetus for them is not coming from environmentalists even, the impetus is largely coming from people like Fortis Bank.’
As with all markets, the carbon market is subject to fluctuations and crashes. The price of carbon is already at an all time low, which has lead the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) to oppose the European Energy Efficiency Directive because they claimed it would have a negative effect on the price of carbon.
We now find ourselves in the insane situation where we have schemes designed to cut emissions being blocked by those whose ability to profit from climate change is predicated on emissions continuing and climate change getting worse.
There is no doubt that money is needed to tackle climate change and to help developing countries adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. But the volatility and single-minded nature of the markets is clearly not the way to do it. Developed nations must pay their historical climate debt, and this payment should not be in the form of loans, but rather in reparations. They may claim that there is no money available, but this is patently nonsense when trillions of dollars miraculously materialise when there own economies are in peril, only to vanish into the never-ending coffers of their financial institutions.
We support the People’s Agreement on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, agreed by more than 30,000 people from over 100 countries who took part in the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
We consider inadmissible that current negotiations propose the creation of new mechanisms that extend and promote the carbon market, for existing mechanisms have not resolved the problem of climate change nor led to real and direct actions to reduce greenhouse gases.
For more information please see: www.cop17carbonmarkets.com
Contact for interviews and comments:
Prof. Patrick Bond, Director, Centre for Civil Society, UKZN, +27 (0) 83 425 1401.
Prof. Michael Dorsey, Dartmouth College, +27 (0) 79 863 8756
Andrew Butler, Occupy Cop17, +27 (0) 79 032 2347
Download the Carbon Markets, Trading Our Future film.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Desmond Tutu calls for Mumia's release
DA drops death sentence
Prison Radio News
‘Now that it is clear that Mumia should never have been on death row in the first place, justice will not be served by relegating him to prison for the rest of his life — yet another form of death sentence. Based on even a minimal following of international human rights standards, Mumia must now be released. I therefore join the call, and ask others to follow, asking District Attorney Seth Williams to rise to the challenge of reconciliation, human rights, and justice: drop this case now, and allow Mumia Abu-Jamal to be immediately released, with full time served.’ - Desmond Tutu
The news that the DA’s Office of Philadelphia is no longer seeking the death penalty for Mumia is no news to supporters of the nearly 30-year Pennsylvania death row prisoner. However, because Mumia has for 30 years been subjected to torture on death row and because he is innocent, justice for Mumia will not be served by life imprisonment, but by his release from prison.
Mumia’s case is like thousands of other cases in Philadelphia in which the prosecutor, the judge and the police conspired to obtain a conviction. One of the most important and least known facts of this case is the existence of a fourth person at the crime scene, Kenneth Freeman. Within hours of the shooting, a driver’s license application found in Officer Faulkner’s shirt pocket led the police to Freeman, who was identified as the shooter in a line-up. Yet Freeman’s presence at the scene was concealed, first by Inspector Alfonso Giordano and later, at trial, by Prosecutor Joe McGill. Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice asserted that withholding evidence of innocence by the prosecutor warrants the overturning of a conviction.
The police investigation that led to Mumia’s conviction was also riddled with corruption and tampering with evidence. The recently discovered Polokoff photographs that were taken at the crime scene reveal that officer James Forbes, who testified in court that he had properly handled the guns allegedly retrieved at the crime scene, appears holding the guns with his bare hands. The photos also discredit cabdriver Robert Chobert as a witness; his taxi, contrary to his testimony, is pictured facing away from the fallen officer’s car. This evidence hasn’t been reviewed by any court.
Our call to Seth Williams is that he honor DA Lynn Abraham’s 1995 promise to the city of Philadelphia that she would discard any cases where evidence surfaces that even one of the officers involved in an investigation lied in court or in written reports.
The DA may think that the case can be laid to rest by sending Mumia off to life in prison. But an aroused public, with the Supreme Court ruling the death sentence to be unconstitutional, is ready to challenge anew the entire trial. The same judge, jury, and DA that were involved in the unlawful sentencing process committed equally egregious violations in the conviction. This is not an ending, it is a new beginning for the movement supporting Abu-Jamal’s quest for release.
The December 9 forum at the National Constitutional Center, featuring Prof. Cornel West, will be preceded by an 11:30 a.m. Press Conference, at the American Friends Service Committee building, 1501 Cherry Street. Then the following day there will be a full-day of organizing and fundraising activities, Saturday December 10, at the Germantown Event Center, 5245 Germantown Avenue, beginning at 12 Noon.
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* For an Interview or media contacts, photos or audio of Mumia, email NMH1; 215-535-3757, 415-706-5222
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Communications scholar Alfred Opubor dies
ADEA Working Group
The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) Working Group on Communication for Education and Development regrets to announce the passing away of Professor Alfred Opubor. This sad event occurred in the late hours of the night of 2 December 2011, following a brief admission at the university teaching hospital in Cotonou, Benin
Professor Alfred Opubor was one of the first generation of specialists in the field of communication as a behavioural science. He graduated from Michigan State University, in the United States, with a PhD degree in 1969.
His expertise was in communication theories and message systems and their applications in development. A former university professor and head of department of mass communication, Professor Opubor was also a researcher, government policy adviser and senior communication specialist in the United Nations system. He has been an international consultant in strategic communication and media development.
For nearly a decade (1990-1998), he served as Senior Technical Adviser in Information, Education and Communication for Reproductive Health with the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, first in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, subsequently moving to the Country Support Team, CST, in Harare, Zimbabwe, covering more than 20 countries in East, Central and West Africa.
His expertise in strategic communication has been requested by several national, regional and international organisations, especially within the United Nations system.
· In 1999, UNFPA and UNAIDS assigned him to lead the team of consultants that prepared a report on HIV/AIDS advocacy based on field research in six African countries.
· With the World Health Organisation Africa Regional Office (Harare, 1999), he prepared projects on the future of health communication in Africa.
· In 2000, he led a consultation organised by FAO and ECOWAS in defining procedures, manuals and tools for the establishment of national communication policies in West Africa.
· In 1999 he was a communication consultant to the World Bank for the urban water reform in Ghana, as well as the preparation of a development communication strategy for the Government of Ghana.
· In 2007 he was an invited consultant/ participant at the 10th United Nations Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication for Development in Addis Ababa, which aimed at developing a UN system-wide common approach to Communication for Development in the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
As Senior Consultant to the Chairman of the African Union Commission, he proposed the conceptual framework and operational procedures for the establishment of a pan-African radio and television network in 2005-2006.
Between 2003 and 2007, Professor Opubor served as the Coordinator of the ADEA Working Group on Communication for Education and Development (WG COMED) where he passed on his passion for communication to all those who worked with him. His contribution to ADEA was exceptional, and in particular to the setting up and consolidation of the Working Group COMED and the Africa Education Journalism Award.
Between 2008 and 2009 he designed the institutional communication strategy for the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, entitled ‘From a Community of States to a Community of People’.
In 2009 he undertook missions on behalf of UNESCO headquarters, Paris, to prepare analytical studies on the integration of communication for development in the CCA/UNDAF of Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, within the context of the UN system’s ‘Delivering As One’ reforms. He also provided capacity development for members of the UN Communication Group in these countries. He was appointed a member of the Experts’ Group on Media Data and Indicators of the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Montreal, undertaking missions in 2009 to India (March), Paris, (May) and Costa Rica( November) .
Since 2003 until his death on 2 December 2011, he was secretary-general of the WANAD Centre in Cotonou. He was also vice-chairman of the board of directors of the Panos Institute (West Africa), and member of the Africa Board of Inter-Press Service, IPS, the Rome-based international news agency with regional headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Professor Opubor was 75 years old. He is survived by his spouse, Antoinette, and children and grand-children. May his soul rest in peace.
A condolence book is opened at the WANAD Centre in Cotonou and visitors are invited to come and sign it as from Monday 5 December, 2011.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Remembering Nigerian secessionist leader Ojukwu
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was born on 4 November 1933 in Zungeru, Niger State. He grew up the son of one of Nigeria’s earliest millionaires, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, and attended the best schools in Nigeria before going to Britain where he studied at Epsom College and Lincoln College, Oxford. Upon returning to Nigeria, he took up a job with the civil service, refusing to work for his rich father. He eventually went on to join the military believing that it was the best place to be, saying ‘[i]t seemed to me that the only truly federal organisation in Nigeria that appeared likely to remain intact was the Army.’
But as predicted, things fell apart. Unfortunately for Ojukwu, the very military in which he placed his trust also imploded when in 1966 a military coup by junior officers resulted in the death of then prime minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and other politicans as well as some senior army officers. The murders of these men, primarily from the northern part of the country, was seen by northern elites as a tribal attack. An interim government, led by an easterner, Aguiyi Ironsi, placed Ojukwu as the head of the Igbo dominated eastern region, which his family called home.
A retaliatory coup in July led by northern military officers resulted in Ironsi’s murder. Despite the change in leadership, Ojukwu remained in his role as head of the east, maintaining order. Two months after the second coup, however, 20,000 of his fellow Igbos were brutally murdered across the north in acts of tribalism and over two million fled to the east for protection. Ojukwu declared the pogroms ‘fratricide’ and his demands for compensation for the families affected were ignored. By the end of 1966, he had announced that taxes from the Eastern province should not go to the federal government.
Negotiations in January 1967 failed and by 30 May 30 of that year, Ojukwu had declared the secession of the eastern states from the larger republic. The proclamation was made in a radio address and included a gun salute and celebrations. The Democratic Republic of Biafra, named for the Bight of Biafra, which is now commonly referred to as the Bight of Bonny, was born on that day. Renowned author Chinua Achebe supported the secession, saying that ‘[a] state that failed to safeguard the lives of its citizens has no claim to their allegiance.’ Biafra only comprised an area of about 30,000 square miles, but with its creation came three years of civil war that left over a million people dead, many more starving and a fractured nation that some still believe is irretrievably broken.
The war was one-sided from the beginning with the Nigerian military receiving weapons, artillery and planes from Britain and Egypt. Television programs and news reports carried the story of Biafra’s starving children, resulting in humanitarian aid from around the world, including the United States, which chose to remain neutral in the conflict. Five countries, however, recognized Biafra during its brief three year existence: Gabon, Zambia, Haiti, Tanzania and the Ivory Coast, to which Ojukwu later fled into self-exile once it became clear that the war was lost in 1970.
Twelve years later he received a full pardon from the Nigerian government and he soon returned to the country. Ojukwu co-founded the All Progressives Grand Alliance party but failed at repeated presidential attempts. In a July 2007 BBC interview, he again insisted that the original reasons for Biafran secession: lack of true federalism and second-class treatment remained, and that ‘the only alternative is a separate existence.’
On 26 November 2011, just three weeks after his 78th birthday, Ojukwu passed away in London. Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan said of the late general that it was Ojukwu’s ‘immense love of his people, justice, equity and fairness which forced him into the leading role he played in the Nigerian civil war.’ He was married three times, and is survived by his last wife, former Nigerian beauty queen, Bianca Ojukwu, nee Onoh, to whose marriage was thought scandalous. She was the daughter of his childhood friend and 30 years his junior. Ojukwu is also survived by several children.
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* Funmi Feyide-John is a lawyer, political commentator and aspiring author. She is a director at ExecAide LLC, a US based management consulting company, and a 2010 Associate of the Nigeria Leadership Initiative.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Language of literature: The African Francophone novel
A review of ‘Indigenization of Language in the African Francophone Novel: A New Literary Canon’
Ken Walibora Waliaula
Peter Vakunta’s ‘Indigenization of Language in the African Francophone Novel: A New Literary Canon’ revisits the age-old question of the language of African literature, with, as the title suggests, the Francophone novel as its centerpiece. Vakunta rehashes the old debate on whether or not African Europhone literature is indeed African as well as sheds light on the tension inherent in the African writer’s choice of a European language to capture his or her African experience.
Using three Francophone Africa novels, namely Ahmadou Kourouma’s Les soleils des indépendances (Suns of Independence), Nazi Boni’s Crépuscule des temps anciens and Patrick Nganang’s Temps de chien, Vakunta illustrates the extent to which the African novel in French, like its Anglophone counterpart, tends to domesticate or as he puts ‘indigenise’ the language of the European master and to shape and mold it into a peculiarly African character and flavour. This process of indigenisation necessarily, Vakunta posits, entails deconstructing the colonial language.
The book is divided into three chapters besides the introduction and conclusion. In chapter one, Vakunta focuses on the trajectory of conceptual debates regarding post-coloniality. He argues that for the postcolonial African literary text the use of the master’s language is replete with subversive tendencies as well as conscious and unconscious infusion of elements culled from oral tradition. This idea of subversion and infusion of orality into literature is the bedrock of the postcolonial writer’s appropriation of the European and African sources of creative projects. Also, embedded in this fusion of the European and the African elements as building blocks of the Europhone African novel, Vakunta refreshingly argues, is a form of ‘translation’ conceived in very broad terms. In this translation, the African cosmos is translated and therefore made intelligible to the outside world in a European language that is extensively and deliberately Africanised.
Chapter two is preoccupied with the orality-literacy continuum debate, particularly the transition from the oral to the written word in African literature. Reinforcing his broad conception of ‘translation in literature,’ Vakunta argues that the transposition of elements borrowed from folklore into African writing is a form of ‘conscientious translation paradigm’ that typifies the African novel in European languages.
In chapter three Vakunta, embarks on a critical reading of the three carefully selected texts to illustrate numerous instances of his indigenisation premise as a remarkable characteristic of the Francophone African novel. ‘Indigenization of Language in the African Francophone Novel’ is remarkable both in its analysis of primary texts and synthesis of various strands of theoretical and critical debates on the core and inexhaustible question of the language of African literature.
If postcolonial theory is notorious for its selective silence with respect to Francophone literature, then clearly Vakunta’s text is an important step toward filling this void. Despite or because of the so-called death of postcolonial theory, this new title is a welcome addition to the corpus of studies on postcolonial literature originating from the post-colonies in Africa.
Vakunta's language of communication in his new book is clear and accessible to the neophyte and professional alike. Students and professors of African literature would find this theoretical book an indispensable research tool. It is worth its price.
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* Ken Walibora Waliaula teaches African Literature in the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States of America. He is specialist in Swahili studies.
* Peter Vakunta’s ‘Indigenization of Language in the African Francophone Novel: A New Literary Canon’ is published by. New York: Lang Publishing, Inc. New York. 2011, 178pp. Hardcover $72.95. ISBN 978-1433112713
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
A response to ‘False News on Pambazuka - Editor dangerous’
Pambazuka News editors
Pambazuka News responds to an email from Global Peace-keepers Team claiming that:
‘The Editor of Pambazuka who supported the illegal actions of NATO and Rebels against the legitimate State of Libya which led to the deaths of over 150,000 Libyan Citizens, is now supporting the false reports of Aisha Gaddafi calling for the overthrow of the new Libyan Regime.’
They further alleged that by posting this summary Pambazuka News has put at risk the lives of Aisha Gaddafi and relatives since her statement was an apparent breach of her conditions of exile in Algeria.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS RESPONDS:
The Monday edition of Pambazuka News, entitled 'Links and Resources' is a service that, for more than 10 years, has provided readers of Pambazuka News with summaries of information on other sites that we think would be useful for readers to be aware of. Earlier this week (see Links and Resources issue 560) we included the following item:
LIBYA: OVERTHROW NEW LIBYAN GOVERNMENT, SAYS QADDAFI'S DAUGHTER
Muammar Qaddafi's daughter has urged Libyans to overthrow their new rulers, possibly violating the terms of her exile in Algeria. In an audio message broadcast on Syria's al-Rai television station, Aisha Qaddafi called for a revolt against the men who overthrew her father, the government she said 'arrived with the planes of NATO'.
Shortly after publication, we received the above email from a group calling themselves ‘Global Peace-keepers Team’, with the subject ‘False News on Pambazuka - Editor dangerous’ which was circulated to dozens of other recipients.
Our response to these ridiculous claims is as follows:
First, as readers will know (and anyone can check this freely on our website), Pambazuka News has been in the forefront of publishing analyses and commentaries denouncing the US/NATO military invasion of Libya, the summary execution of Gaddafi, members of his family and of his supporters. Quite how these so-called 'Peace-Keepers' can conclude on the basis of what has been published to date in Pambazuka News, or from the act of including this short news item, that we support the NATO invasion of Libya is hard to fathom, but in the world of fantasy (or is it fanaticism), facts apparently don't matter.
Secondly, the claim that including a summary of a report about Aisha Gaddafi's proclamation constituted putting her life at risk is patently absurd given that there are at least 160 other sites on the internet where the same report appeared (indeed, appeared before we provided readers with a summary of the report). Furthermore, the 'peace-keepers' conveniently fail to point out that the Algerian government had already responded angrily to Aisha Gaddafi, suggesting that they too were apparently guilty of making 'false claims' against Aisha Gaddafi! The implications for relations between Algeria and the new junta in Libya are clear, and that is why it was relevant for us to include reference to this story in Pambazuka News. It's hardly our fault that Aisha Gaddafi made whatever comments she did nor can we be held responsible for how they are reported by others.
One of their worthy 'peace-keepers' – Farouk James – followed up on these allegations with a threatening email to the editor:
Subject: Fwd: False News on Pambazuka - Editor dangerous
‘Hey Asshole, stop putting people's lives at risk you stupid bastard, stop your crap or expect a visit from Karma. What goes around comes around you fuckin idiot.’
Such eloquence is, presumably, an example of the kind of peace-keeping to which this group aspires.
The circulation of libellous statements, denunciation and abuse is unacceptable behaviour and should be roundly condemned. We will not be bullied or intimidated. We demand that the 'Global Peace-keepers Team' publicly retract their statement, issue a public apology, and take necessary action against Mr Farouk James.
Africa: New century, more colonising
This Newsclick video examines the role of Indian companies in African land grabs, highlighting how these companies are moving into Africa to take advantage of a lack of governance and laws when it comes to land.
Dimensions in dance
In this edition of Africa Today, host Walter Turner interviews Dimensions Dance Theatre artistic director Deborah Vaughan. The theatre company has become widely recognised for its presentation of both traditional dances and contemporary choreography drawn from African, Jazz, and Modern dance idioms,
Global: Documentary expose on carbon trading
As COP17 drew to a close last week the only game in town was the market-based mechanisms that are false solutions to climate change. The same institutions, corporations and governments who have led the world into economic chaos are leading us towards climate chaos, says the Durban Climate Justice blog. In a new video released at COP17, critics of the markets and even the architects and gatekeepers of climate finance admit to its failure.
Global: Update on 10 on the 10th Campaign
Mary Lawlor, Director of Front Line Defenders updates the '10 on the 10th campaign', one year after it was launched on International Human Rights Day.
South Africa: Blikkiesdorp residents interviewed in youtube video
This CTV programme followed Blikkiesdorp resident, Jerome Daniels, as he took us through his journey from living on the pavements of Symphony Way; Delft; to being one of the 45 people who wrote and published their own collection of stories in the book titled NO Land! NO House! NO Vote!
Zimbabwe: Mugabe insists on re-election bid
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said it would be an act of cowardice for him to retire ahead of elections expected to be held next year. Closing his party's annual conference, Mr Mugabe, 87, condemned the current power-sharing government as a 'monster' which should be buried. Resolutions were passed endorsing Mr Mugabe as candidate, in spite of reports he is suffering ill-health.
Zimbabwe: The Cablegate implications
WikiLeaks’ archive of US State department cables on Zimbabwe has highlighted human rights abuses, corruption, and profound divisions within both the ruling party and the opposition, shaking the establishment in Zimbabwe. Political analysts suggest that the revelations may have brought the party to a breaking point. This post summarises the revelations that have been revealed by WikiLeaks.
Egypt: Male-dominated parliament worries experts, candidates
The results of the first round of parliamentary elections indicate that female representation will be minimal, if not nonexistent - a phenomenon experts and candidates attribute to cultural barriers. Not a single woman earned a seat in parliament in the first round, nor did any female candidates contest the run-offs.
Egypt: Women call for parallel parliament, greater rights
A group of Egyptian women’s rights advocates in Alexandria organised a protest recently calling for greater participation for women in public and political life, coinciding with the anniversary of the human rights declaration. The stand was organised by the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women in Alexandria and took place outside the Alexandria library. The participants called for a parallel parliament for women, where their causes are presented and discussed away from the shortcomings of the current political system that helped eliminate female participation.
Global: Climate change impact worse for women, says expert
The dramatic changes to weather patterns as a result of climate change will have dire consequences for agriculture, the major source of food and income for Africa’s small-scale farmers, most of them women. Millions of people will be forced to migrate, seeking better environments to sustain themselves and their families as the land becomes unproductive. Not enough is being done in national adaptation strategies to acknowledge the different gender dimensions of climate change and migration.
Global: New task force on gender inequality
A new High-Level Taskforce on Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV for Eastern and Southern Africa was launched at the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). The Taskforce will engage in high-level political advocacy in support of accelerated country actions and monitoring the implementation of the draft Windhoek Declaration for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV.
Morocco: Political reform and gender equity
The feminisation of poverty, limited social mobility for women and discriminatory gender practices tied to culture are limiting factors for women's rights, says this article. With some political reforms in Morocco, can political statements contained in the new constitution be translated to tangible outcomes? And how long will it take to secure the promised women’s rights?
Angola: End violence against peaceful protests
The Angolan government should end its use of unnecessary force, including by plainclothes agents, against peaceful anti-government protests, Human Rights Watch says. On 3 December, police and plainclothes security agents violently dispersed a peaceful rally of about 100 youth in Luanda, the capital, and injured at least 14, one of whom had a serious face wound, Human Rights Watch said. The demonstrators were protesting the 32-year rule of President José Eduardo dos Santos, whom they blame for rampant corruption, widespread poverty, and political repression.
Egypt: Amnesty calls for arms trade treaty in wake of US-made teargas use
Amnesty International called for enforcing an effective global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in light of Egyptian security forces’ use of foreign-made teargas and other ammunition. The United States’ supply of ammunition to Egypt’s security forces prompted Amnesty’s call for munitions use to be included among the conventional arms regulated by the treaty. 'An effective Arms Trade Treaty, which includes a comprehensive scope and robust national licensing controls, would help ensure that arms exports of the USA and other major arms-transferring countries, do not fuel serious human rights abuses,' said Brian Wood, Arms Control Manager of Amnesty International.
Egypt: US repeatedly shipped arms supplies to Egyptian security forces
Data obtained by Amnesty International shows that the US has repeatedly transferred ammunition to Egypt despite security forces' violent crackdown on protesters. A shipment for the Egyptian Ministry of Interior arrived from the US on 26 November carrying at least seven tons of 'ammunition smoke' - which includes chemical irritants and riot control agents such as tear gas. It was one of at least three arms deliveries to Egypt by the US company Combined Systems, Inc. since the brutal crackdown on the '25 January Revolution' protestors.
Global: Activists demand the immediate release of Razan Ghazzawi
A coalition of 170 Egyptian, Arab, and international human rights activists called on the Syrian government to immediately release blogger and activist Razan Ghazzawi, along with all other prisoners of conscience detained in Syria. 'The Syrian government’s attempts to curtail the freedoms and muzzle the mouths of those like Razan who defend their rights is the biggest evidence of the fragility of the regime and its failure,' stated Ramy Raoof, an Egyptian blogger and human rights activist, in a press release on the 'Free Razan' Facebook page.
Africa: Israel okays funding to block African migrants
The Israeli government has voted unanimously to launch a $160 million program to curtail illegal African migrants ability to enter the country from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The program will boost the country’s ability to build a large border fence and will also expand a detention center able to hold thousands of new illegal arrivals.
Global: Opportunity, migration changing nature of global inequality
Economic inequality is on the rise worldwide - the rich are richer than ever before and their distance from the poor is greater - yet the character of that inequality is changing, according to Branko Milanovic, an economist at the World Bank. Poor people in rich countries have an income vastly higher than their counterparts in poor countries. The Occupy Wall Street protesters, who declared themselves part of the 99 per cent of poorer Americans, are still within the 95th percentile of 'world income distribution', Milanovic said. 'What we have now is the world of migrants,' he told researchers at a Cairo forum titled 'Inequality in the Arab Region,' organised by the Economic Research Forum.
South Africa: DRC refugees clash with cops over election results
Election violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) spilled over in the Cape Town CBD last week as DRC refugees sympathetic to opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi protested against President Jacob Zuma’s perceived support of incumbent Joseph Kabila. Frustration among DRC refugees has mounted as election results, the provisional figures which were due to be announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) yesterday, put Kabila in the lead over his closes rival Etienne Tshisekedi, resulting in demonstrations in London, Brussels, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
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...
China lays out conditions for legally binding climate deal
China's top climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua on Sunday laid out conditions under which Beijing would accept a legally-binding climate deal that would go into force after 2020, when current voluntary pledges run out. The conditions included a renewal of carbon-cutting pledges by rich nations under the Kyoto Protocol, along with hundreds of billions of dollars in short- and long-term climate financing for poorer countries.
India emerges as chief opponent of a new global-warming treaty
India is now the leading opponent of a new comprehensive global-warming treaty, it became clear at the weekend after the first week of negotiations at the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa. The world's second most populous country has resolutely set its face against a fresh climate deal that at some stage would involve every country in the world cutting its carbon emissions in an effort to bring climate change under control.
India, China, US snub EU's plan on binding treaty
The slugfest on legally binding nature of any future climate treaty got intense on Monday with the European Union proposing a declaration of "reassurance" from individual nations on wrapping up negotiations on such a treaty by 2015. The move aimed to get some promise on a binding treaty --- central point of debate in Durban -- before the high level segment of ministers start on Tuesday earned an immediate rejection from China and India.
Africa test for China's climate policy
Resource-hungry China's ever growing interests in mineral-rich Africa could be a factor pushing it to appear more flexible at global climate talks, with its image on the continent at risk if it seen as sinking the discussions. A breakthrough to set new binding cuts on the heat trapping-gases is out of the question, envoys say, but there could be pressure to strike a deal that covers more middle ground then many are expecting.
BASIC countries remain united over climate change: Chinese delegate
Brazil, South Africa, India and China, known as "BASIC countries", remained united over major issues in relation to climate change, a senior Chinese official on climate change said here on Tuesday. BASIC countries are united and demand that the second commitment of the Kyoto protocol "is a must," Xie Zhenhua, who led a Chinese delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, told a joint news briefing with his South African, Indian and Brazilian counterparts.
2. China in Africa
China-Africa Fund Finds Investing Harder Than Expected, CEO Says
The China-Africa Development Fund has found investing in the African continent more difficult than expected after committing almost all its first $1 billion, Chief Executive Officer Chi Jianxin said in an interview. The state-owned private equity fund, which began in June 2007, has not been able to exit any of its investments to realize a profit, Chi said yesterday in Beijing. It is still seeking a “beneficial result” in the long term, he said.
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China’s Envoy to Africa Expresses Concern Over Sudan Oil, Border Disputes
China’s top envoy for Africa urged Sudan and South Sudan to resolve disputes over oil and their mutual border, citing concern that future instability may harm its investments in the region, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said. Liu Guijin made the comments after arriving in Khartoum today for talks with Sudan’s foreign minister and officials from the Oil Ministry, al-Obeid Murawih, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said in an interview in the capital city.
China to support South-South Co-op
China is playing its part in projects of the United Nations to improve global food security under the framework of South-South Cooperation (SSC), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday. FAO recently co-signed two new tripartite agreements with China, Liberia and Senegal respectively to support implementation of a series of food security initiatives and projects in Liberia and Senegal, the organization said in a press release.
China, Seychelles to boost bilateral ties
Seychelles President James Michel met here Friday with visiting Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, saying Liang's visit will enhance the friendly and cooperative ties between the two nations and the two armies. Michel, also the country's defense minister, said Seychelles attaches great importance to Liang's visit, the first by a Chinese defense minister since the two countries established diplomatic ties 35 years ago.
Cameroon PM, Chinese state councilor hold talks on cooperation
Cameroon Prime Minister Philemon Yang held talks with visiting Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong here on Monday on strengthening cooperation between their two nations. Philemon Yang said that Cameroon and China have a relation of sincere friendship and a close partnership. The two countries have gained fruitful cooperation in economy, trade, health, agriculture, infrastructure as well as culture.
SOEs building bilateral ties in South Africa
China's State-owned enterprises have created job opportunities and show commitment to their corporate social responsibilities in South Africa, said a senior trade official in the country. "Their presence has added to the value of products here - benefiting not only the country but the continent as a whole," Lionel October, director-general of South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry, said during the country's recent exposition, its largest-ever in China.
The Second China-Africa Industrial Cooperation and Development Forum was held in Beijing
The Second China-Africa Industrial Cooperation and Development Forum supported by CAPFA and UNIDO and organized by China Africa Industrial Forum successfully opened on November 28 afternoon, 2011. International officials, foreign Representatives to China, African leaders, African envoys to China, African representatives of Entrepreneurs, famous African policies and economic issues, experts and scholars attended this forum more than 500 people.
Chinese ambassador presents letter of credence to AU chief
Xie Xiaoyan, the newly appointed Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union (AU) on Friday presented his letter of credence to Jean Ping, chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC) at his office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After presenting the credential letter to Ping at the AU headquarters, Ambassador Xie held talks with the AUC chief on the relations and cooperation between China and the union of 54 member countries.
3. India in Africa
India looks to Africa for secure energy supplies
As part of India’s effort to counter the growing Chinese influence in Africa and provide a fillip to India’s efforts to secure hydrocarbon assets in the continent, at least 16 countries will be participating in the third India-Africa hydrocarbons conference starting on 9 December. India’s efforts are targeted towards diversifying its import basket and come in the backdrop of China organizing similar conferences previously.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
Brazilian mission to Mozambique, Angola and South Africa generates business deals worth estimated US$122 million
The 53 Brazilian companies that took part in the recent Trade Mission to Mozambique, Angola and South Africa are expected to have done business deals worth US$122 million over the next 12 months according to export and investment promotion agency Apex-Brasil. Apex-Brasil said that the Brazilian companies that travelled to the three countries took part in 1,154 meetings with local businesspeople and are expected to have done deals worth US$19 million in Mozambique, US$51 million in Angola and US$52 million in South Africa.
Brazil, Angola to Review Bilateral Agenda
Foreign ministers Antonio Patriota (Brazil) and Georges Chikoti (Angola) will discuss the main issues on the bilateral agenda, with particular emphasis on the Strategic Alliance agreed in 2010. On Monday and Tuesday, Chikoti will pay an official visit to Brasilia, invited by his Brazilian counterpart.
Chinese, South African Ministers of Mining to Visit Sudan
The Ministry of Minerals has invited the Ministers of Mining of the People's Republic of China and South Africa to visit the country in the coming period. The Director of the Department of the Technical Foreign Cooperation at the ministry, Dr. Ibrahim Shaddad, said that the visit comes in the framework of the openness of Sudan to benefit from the international experiences in the field of mining.
BRICS to boost grain yield
The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries should increase their ability to produce grain to ensure food safety, said a Chinese political advisory official. Bai Lichen, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's political advisory body, also called for strengthened agricultural and food cooperation to increase production in the BRICS countries.
BRICS nations keen to team up on new energy
The five BRICS nations intend to focus and work together on developing alternative energy sources. When Bu Xiaolin, vice governor of China's coal-rich Inner Mongolia autonomous region, spoke over the weekend in front of hundreds of BRICS delegates on regional energy strategies, she mentioned little of the fossil fuels that have long contributed to the region's growth.
Russia extends olive branch to Zambia
RUSSIAN businessmen want to invest in education, agriculture, construction and mining among others, Russian Ambassador Boris Malakhov has said. Mr Malakhov said there are a number of well established Russian companies willing to invest in Zambia among them Zarubezhstroy Translating Foreign Construction, Reinova, Renaissance Partners and Nornickel. The companies are all highly acclaimed globally and have a long history of investments in Africa and other continents.
Forget China, invest in Africa says Russia's Renaissance
Investors should forget China and park their money in sub-Saharan Africa if they wish to benefit from the growth in emerging markets, the chief investment officer at Russia's Renaissance Asset Managers said on Friday. "Africa reminds me of China back in 1999. If you missed China then, don't do that now," Plamen Monovski told Reuters in an interview. "It's the last place in the world that is due for that rapid change and advancement."
Cote d'Ivoire: Post-Gbagbo legislative elections take place
Ivorians voted Sunday to elect a new parliament in a poll boycotted by the party of former strongman Laurent Gbagbo, who is awaiting trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity. With Gbagbo sitting in an International Criminal Court (ICC) cell, the coalition backing President Alassane Ouattara is widely expected to gain a majority of the 255 seats in the new assembly. The vote comes only a year after the poll that brought the world's top cocoa producer, once a beacon of stability in the west African region, to the brink of civil war in a conflict that claimed some 3,000 lives.
DRC: Congo vote battles intensifies
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s election standoff intensified on Sunday after a team of international observers reported that incumbent Joseph Kabila’s win was so flawed it lacked credibility. Kabila, in power since 2001, was on Friday named the winner of the November 28 poll, but runner-up Etienne Tshisekedi immediately rejected the result and declared himself president.
Egypt: Ganzoury's 'salvation government' sworn in amid skepticism
Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzoury’s 'national salvation government' was sworn in on Wednesday 7 December, with the mysterious name of interior minister disclosed just hours before for alleged 'security reasons.' The new government includes 12 ministers from former premier Essam Sharaf’s Cabinet - two of which have been in office since ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s reign: Electricity Minister Hassan Younes and International Cooperation Minister Fayza Aboul Naga. The choice of General Mohamed Ibrahim, former head of the Giza Security Directorate, as the new interior minister heightened the agitation of activists towards the new Cabinet.
Egypt: PM names new cabinet
Egypt's caretaker premier named a new cabinet on Wednesday 7 December charged with tackling worsening crime and a sliding economy after the first round of elections showing a landslide victory for Islamist parties. Interim PM Kamal al-Ganzuri announced his administration following nearly two weeks of delays, reportedly caused by problems in finding a suitable candidate to fill the highly sensitive interior ministry post.
Gambia: Opposition urges Jammeh to retract his 'arrogant statement'
Gambia’s opposition coalition, the United Front, has urged President Yahya Jammeh to retract his 'no coup or elections can remove me' from office statement, PANA reported. The coalition, consisting of four opposition parties that supported an independent candidate, Hamat Bah, made the call in a statement issued on the heels of the country’s just-concluded presidential election.
Ghana: Pre-election Ghana and the role of news media
With a national vote set for 2012, Ghana is already in pre-election posture, and the concept of purely reflective media could prove increasingly dangerous as the vote draws nearer, says this article on Al Jazeera. 'Politicians have been boiling over with dangerous remarks - that the election period will be like the Rwandan genocide, for example - and the media is over-reporting these statements, handing out public platforms without adequate consideration for the consequences. While there is debate and dialogue about all the inflammatory rhetoric, no one has seriously implicated the media in the overall mix.'
Libya: Should the graffiti in Libya be erased?
The graffiti and street art in post-revolution Libya is a constant reminder of what most fought for this year. Some of the picturesque artistry in bright and warm tones depicts nature and Libyan traditions. There are also caricatures mocking the late Muammar Gaddafi - no longer a symbol of fear.
Mauritania: Police break up Mauritanian youth rally against government
Anti-riot police Monday 5 December broke up a 'Day of Anger' rally by Mauritanian youths demanding the ouster of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, detaining about 20 protesters. As the tide of Arab uprisings swept to the west of Africa, police used tear gas on hundreds of demonstrators who sought to enter a square in downtown Nouakchott that has been declared off-limits for protesters since rallies began in late February.
Tunisia: Neo-liberalism the issue, not Islam
On the verge of officially forming a coalition government to run the country and rewrite the nation’s pre-revolution constitution, Tunisia’s dominant, Islamist political party Ennahda has come under fire for its economic neo-liberalism, both from opponents and from coalition partners. While Ennahda has been able to placate secularists by officially advocating personal and religious freedom, it is reaching out to the international financial community and big business by pledging to counterbalance its left-wing coalition partners.
Mozambique: Mozambique most corrupt in region
Mozambique is the most corrupt country in southern Africa, with 68 per cent of people having paid a bribe in the past year, according to a survey by Transparency International and Gallup. More than a third of those using health services or education had to pay a bribe.
Africa: EPAs not a priority for Africa – AU
The deputy chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Erastus Jarnalese Onkundi Mwencha, says the structure of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the continent and the European Union is not to Africa’s advantage. 'Our advantage is regional integration. Can EPA help us to integrate our markets? If anything it will stall us. I don’t think EPA is a priority for Africa,' Onkundi Mwencha told Business and Financial Times in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the 7th ordinary session of African Union Ministers of Trade conference in Accra.
Africa: Grassroots voices informing policy and practice in Africa: launch of the Grassroots Focus Index
The Grassroots Focus Index (GFI) is an index that determines the extent to which the grassroots are prioritized in development. It is an instrument that allows development actors to listen more closely to the grassroots perspectives in a systematic and methodologically sound manner.
07 December 2011
GRASSROOTS VOICES INFORMING POLICY AND PRACTICE IN AFRICA: LAUNCH OF THE GRASSROOTS FOCUS INDEX
The grassroots poor are not adequately prioritized in development by development actors including government, and donors. This emerged from pilot findings conducted in Cameroon, South Africa and Nigeria, by African Monitor using the Grassroots Focus Index (GFI) tool. On a GFI scale of 0 to 100, with 0 representing no grassroots focus and 100 representing total grassroots focus, the grassroots communities scored Cameroon at 43, Nigeria at 39.7 and South Africa at 38.5.
The Grassroots Focus Index (GFI) is an index that determines the extent to which the grassroots are prioritized in development. It is an instrument that allows development actors to listen more closely to the grassroots perspectives in a systematic and methodologically sound manner. The GFI approach is unique in that it takes the perspectives of the poor as the starting point in development of the index. It then uses these perspectives to define grassroots focus, to define development progress and to construct the indicators to measure these elements. The GFI reminds us that it is not enough to measure development from the perspective of the elites and those in power, but that the realities and aspirations of the grassroots poor should be the starting point. As such the GFI provides a solid base for alignment of policies and interventions to the realities and aspirations of the grassroots communities as a way of enhancing impact and sustainability on the ground.
The Grassroots Focus Index Approach shows and enhances our understanding of what matters to grassroots (through revealed perceptions of grassroots focus). Some of the revealed issues that constitutes ¨grassroots focus¨ and regarded as important by grassroots communities include; opportunities and an enabling environment for grassroots to realize their capabilities, alignment of development policies and interventions to the realities and aspirations of grassroots, skills development, access to information that prompts action from grassroots with focus on amount, quality and language, enhanced access to policy makers, improved accountability for development policies and interventions, enhanced mechanisms and channels for resource flows to grassroots, enhanced capacity to influence and be involved in development policy chain, among others.
Against the background of an increasing perception among development actors that Africa is on the brink of a major development breakthrough, variously referred to as the “African Moment”, “Africa’s star is rising”, etc; the GFI shines the light on the realities and aspirations of the grassroots communities as the bedrock of unlocking, realizing and sustaining this African Moment.
To date the GFI has been received with great excitement and enthusiasm by development actors ranging from policy makers, donors, civil society as well as private sector. Its utility has also been confirmed by academic institutions as well as international bodies such as the African Development Bank, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Development Bank for Southern Africa, among others. This points to its relevance and wide applicability in addressing development challenges.
African Monitor was established in 2006 as an independent continental body to monitor development funding commitments, funding delivery as well as the impact on grassroots communities. It works towards bringing strong additional African voices to the development agenda. African Monitor’s vision is a continent rapidly achieving its development potential, whose people live in dignity, in a just society where basic needs are met, human rights are upheld, and good governance entrenched. As such, over the years African Monitor has done considerable advocacy work at both the grassroots and policy level.
For more information contact;
Ethiopia: AU conference on new minerals policy starts
An international conference on mineral rosources began Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss ways of changing the current mineral policies and regimes in African countries to enable the people benefit more from resources in their countries. PANA reports that African senior officials, representing their various countries, will Monday prepare agendas and reports, including framework report on Africa’s mineral regimes, which will be adopted by their ministers when they meet here 15–16 December.
Ethiopia: Illicit outflows doubled in 2009, new report says
Ethiopia lost $11.7 billion to outflows of ill-gotten gains between 2000 and 2009, according to a coming report by Global Financial Integrity. According to GFI economist Sarah Freitas, who co-authored the report, corruption, kickbacks and bribery accounted for the vast majority of the increase in illicit outflows. 'The scope of Ethiopia’s capital flight is so severe that our conservative US$3.26 billion estimate greatly exceeds the US$2 billion value of Ethiopia’s total exports in 2009,' Freitas wrote in a blog post on the website of the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development.
Global: Income inequality rises in OECD states
Income inequality in South Africa as measured by the Gini co-efficient widened from the early 1990s to the late 2000s despite government efforts, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. In a report entitled 'Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising', the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) notes that income inequality in OECD member states, which are developed nations, has widened over the same period, while in emerging market economies (EMEs) it has narrowed.
Zimbabwe: Billions in contracts go to Chinese companies
Foreign companies have snatched $553 million worth of contracts for different projects in the country, with the Chinese getting the lion’s share, Parliament was told. Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion Paddy Zhanda made the disclosure while presenting a report on the 2012 National Budget. '$553 million worth of contracts were awarded to foreign companies and most of these to Chinese companies,' said Zhanda. 'Zimbabwe has a very high unemployment rate and a liquidity crisis and we implore the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, to stop this bleeding,' he said.
Cameroon: Moves to strengthen anti gay laws
Alternatives Cameroon, an LGBTI organisation, reports that government policy makers last week convened to endorse a preliminary draft of a law that imposes harsher penalties for homosexual acts. The organisation revealed that the government convened a validation meeting on Friday 2 December during which a revision of the current law regarding homosexuality was discussed.
Malawi: Malawi to review homosexuality law
Malawi will review a series of controversial laws, including a ban on homosexual acts, Justice Minister Ephraim Chiume has said. Chiume said the review was in response to 'public opinion'. Western governments criticised Malawi last year for jailing a gay couple on sodomy charges.
On Tuesday last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would use foreign aid to encourage countries to decriminalise homosexuality.
Nigeria: Campaign groups protest anti gay bill
Members of the campaign group, Nigerians in Diaspora Against Anti Same-Sex Laws held a protest in front of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in New York on Monday, 5 December. A Nigerian representative in New York met with the protestors to receive the petition letter to the Nigerian President with 53,000 supporters.
South Africa: Xenophobia at public hospitals
'I must admit that hospitals always remind me that I am living far away from my country, that I am not welcome. The nurses do not even bother to hide it. It is the same scenario every time I go alone or with my small child. Whenever I get up in the morning knowing that I am going to the hospital, my heart beats faster. It is like having a nightmare while daydreaming. It is so depressing that I pray everyday not to get sick so that I would not have to go to that hell.'
South Africa: Xenophobia is still alive
Every once in while, xenophobia against men and women from other African countries living in South Africa hits the headlines. Recently, there were threats in Alexander Township, and not too long ago, Somali businesses were the target. Yet, what’s missing from the media and the public eye is the everyday harassment and indifference that migrants face from those who are expected to serve and protect them. These everyday tragedies may not be enough to generate headlines, but they have a profound impact on the lives of men and women, their families, and the community as a whole.
Africa: Africa will cook, warn experts
Two weeks of discussions at the 17th annual Conference of the Parties (COP17), which ran through Friday and Saturday nights, resulted in sleep-deprived negotiators attending numerous closed meetings and missing flights. These groups have been disappointed by the outcomes, and the consequences that will be shouldered by developing nations, especially those in Africa.
'Delaying real action until 2020 is a crime of global pro-portions,' said Nnimmo Bassey, chairman of Friends of the Earth International. 'An increase in global temperatures of 4ºC, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, small island states, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apart-heid, whereby the richest 1 percent of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99 percent.'
Egypt: Industrial intrusions in the Wadi Degla nature protectorate
At the southeastern edge of Cairo, only 10km from downtown and 15 minutes from Maadi, a lonely desert valley called Wadi Degla spreads some 30km from west to east. Cairo’s most popular urban protectorate was established in 1999 in an effort to tame urban and industrial expansion from engulfing into the delicate and so far untouched area. Sadly, today, this very expansion is jeopardising the protected area.
Global: Anti-coal seminar takes place at COP17
On 2 December Earth Life Africa held an anti-coal seminar at the Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard campus). The seminar titled 'Anti-Coal Movements in Germany, South Africa and beyond?' highlighted many of the negative consequences associated with coal energy, and some of the concerns and desires in terms of climate change and energy. Makoma Lekalakala, the programme officer of Earthlife Africa Jhb. expressed her concerns regarding Eskom’s plans to improve the electricity shortage that South Africa has been facing.
Kenya: People connected by a warming ocean
Just 8 kilometres South of the Kenya/Somali coastal border, 60 kilometres parallel to the northern coast of Kenya lies Kiunga Marine National Reserve. It is a marine reserve made up of a chain of about 50 coral islands, lying some 2 kilometres offshore and inshore of the fringing reef. This marine reserve is home to coral reefs, coral gardens, sea birds, rare endangered sea turtles, mangrove forests and a vibrant underwater world. But this once pristine environment is slowly taking a beating from a dramatic change in climate. Fishing has been the main economic activity in this area for centuries. But with the catch getting smaller every day, fishermen are worried.
South Africa: Activists protest at COP17 in Durban
In solidarity with the millions of people already feeling the impacts of climate change, hundreds of people protested in the halls of the UN Climate Talks last week to demand that nations not sign a 'death sentence' in Durban. The march filled the hall outside of the main negotiating room in Durban just as the afternoon round of talks were scheduled to begin. Standing side-by-side with delegates from some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, civil society representatives sang traditional South African freedom songs and chanted slogans like, 'Listen to the People, Not the Polluters'.
South Africa: COP17 succumbs to climate apartheid
Decisions resulting from the UN COP17 climate summit in Durban constitute a crime against humanity, according to Climate Justice Now! a broad coalition of social movements and civil society. 'Here in South Africa, where the world was inspired by the liberation struggle of the country’s black majority, the richest nations have cynically created a new regime of climate apartheid.'
South Africa: Farmers and farm workers march in Durban
More than 1,500 people took part in a march of Durban streets on 5 December to voice their concerns about climate change and agro-ecology. Banners and posters in hand conveyed messages like 'We are for cooling down the earth' as people from countries as far as Mali, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Germany, Brazil and The Philippines took part. The event was also to bring awareness to the food sovereignty campaign, which promotes principals such as equal participation, fights against greedy farm or agriculture owners, and a fair rewarding system for farm workers.
South Africa: ‘Land occupations are the new way of doing land reform'
The Food Sovereignty Campaign believes the time has come for land occupations. This movement of emerging farmers and farm dwellers is based in the Western and Northern Cape provinces. ‘Land occupations are the new way of doing land reform,’ says Johan Jantjies, the convenor of the Food Sovereignty campaign. ‘Recently the government brought out a Green Paper on Land Reform. They made it clear they have no plan of how to get the land from the capitalist owners. Without such a plan how can you even talk about land reform? We have a plan and that is for the landless to occupy the land.’
Tanzania: AgriSol lands another 10,000 ha amid growing public outcry
The US-based AgriSol Company has landed another lucrative land deal involving 10,000 hectres amid growing public outcry about the recent land deals sealed by the company in Rukwa region. The company, mid this year, came under attack from land rights activists and politicians, especially Members of Parliament for acquiring over 300,000 hectres located at Mishamo and Katumba areas in Mpanda district for agricultural development.
Africa: Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) launches at COP17
African farmer and civil society groups in Africa are celebrating the launch of a 'network of African networks', called the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). They have released a report emphasising that Food Sovereignty can cool the planet, while feeding the world and regenerating ecosystems. 'There are so many challenges facing our continent,' says Anne Maina of the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), one of AFSA’s member networks. 'As 14 PanAfrican networks, representing a huge constituency in Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone Africa, we are in agreement that Food Sovereignty must be way forward to ensure resilient food systems and ecosystems in the face of climate change and destructive development.'
Africa: Carbon markets will be a disaster for Africa
South African president Jacob Zuma has declared his intention to have a decision on Agriculture at the UN COP17 climate negotiations in Durban last week; while the World Bank is promoting so-called 'Climate Smart Agriculture' and carbon offsets as the future of African agriculture and climate solutions. But civil society groups in Durban are concerned that this vision for African agriculture will lead to land grabs, farmer poverty and food insecurity, and only worsen global climate change.
Africa: 52 journalists jailed in Africa, says reports
There are currently 52 journalists imprisoned in Africa, in nine countries. More than half the jailed journalists are held in that scourge of media freedom - Eritrea. The most disturbing news to come out of Committee to Protect Journalist's recent report on journalists behind bars, is that the trend of imprisoning journalists - often on trumped-up charges – has seen a sharp increase over the last decade.
Cote d’Ivoire: Court frees detained pro-opposition journalists
A criminal court in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire, on 6 December 2011 dismissed criminal charges brought against three staff members of the pro-opposition Notre Voie newspaper accused of insulting President Alassane Ouattara in articles published in the newspaper on 21 November 2011. The Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) correspondent said the three were tried on new charges of 'violating the press laws' after the Public Prosecutors Department had amended the earlier charges of 'incitement to theft, looting and destruction of the property of others through the press'.
Egypt: Blogger's sentencing postponed
Standing outside the c28 military court on Wednesday 7 December, the tiny group of around 15 supporters of Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil were hopeful the young man, jailed for months by the ruling military junta, would walk free. However, the court adjourned, yet again, delaying the verdict, 'for no apparent reason', according to a lawyer close to the family.
Ethiopia: Awramba Times is latest Ethiopian paper to vanish
A couple of weeks ago, newspaper editor Dawit Kebede, an International Press Freedom award winner, fled Ethiopia. Sadly, Dawit's Awramba Times is the latest in a long list of Amharic-language private publications to vanish from the market following the incarceration or flight into exile of their editors. Awramba Times was a breeding ground of young Ethiopian columnists. Apart from the usual news and sports reporters, the weekly had correspondents specialising in parliamentary affairs, health issues, women's issues, satire, and folklore. There were also featured guest columnists such as university professors and opposition party members.
Gambia: Sons of murdered Gambian journalist seek justice
Two sons of murdered Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara have filed a suit before the regional court of Ecowas in Abuja, Nigeria, in an effort to seek justice. Ismaila Hydara and Deyda Hydara Jr called for proper investigation into the death of their father who was killed on December 16, 2004. The African Regional Office of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ-Africa) is also an applicant in the case.
Global: US losing information war to alternative media
The US is losing the global information war, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared while appearing before a congressional committee to ask for extra funds to spread US propaganda through new media. Clinton said existing private channels are not good enough to handle the job, naming as rivals Al Jazeera, China's CCTV and RT - which she watches, she added.
Kenya: Journalist forced to delete photos of wounded soldiers
Police in Garissa recently forced a Star journalist to delete photographs of 25 injured TFG soldiers. The wounded soldiers had been airlifted from Somalia after a firefight with al Shabaab at Hayo camp, 25 kilometres from Afmadow. Star correspondent Stephen Asteriko chanced on the soldiers who had been admitted to the Garissa General Hospital before being flown to Nairobi for further treatment. The soldiers, mostly below the age of 20, had received serious injuries to the head, chest and leg.
South Africa: COP17 and the media
On Monday 5 December MediaClimate held a seminar titled 'Media meets climate: A problem or a solution for social movements' at the Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard campus. MediaClimate is an international research group that looks at media coverage of the annual UN climate summits. The aim of the seminar was to explore the relationships between COP17, the media and the different angles of the stories. One of the issues raised was that COP and climate change terms are often difficult to understand.
South Africa: CPJ calls on South Africa to drop secrecy bill
South African authorities should heed widespread calls to drop a 'secrecy bill' that opponents say will criminalise whistle-blowing and stifle investigative journalism, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. The Protection of State Information Bill, which makes possessing or publishing anything the government deems 'classified' an offense punishable by up to 25 years in prison, was passed by the National Assembly last month and now must be approved by the upper house of Parliament before President Jacob Zuma can sign it into law. During a fact-finding and advocacy mission to South Africa this week, CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe, along with CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney, met with a broad spectrum of journalists, editors, press freedom advocates, and civil society leaders to discuss the bill.
Uganda: Rwandan journalist killed
Charles Ingabire, an online Rwandan journalist and genocide survivor, is the latest victim in a series of bloody attacks targeting Rwandan journalists. Ingabire was killed in apparent execution style outside a Kampala bar on Sunday, 30 November 2011. Another journalist, Charles Rugambgage, was murdered in June 2010 in Rwanda.
Africa: Child nutrition crisis in Sahel region
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that more than a million children in the Sahel region of West Africa were at risk of severe and life-threatening malnutrition over the coming year as a result of ongoing food shortages. UNICEF in a statement made available to PANA in New York, said it would require an initial US$65.7 million to respond to the crisis. It stated it was already ordering therapeutic foods and distributing emergency stocks in affected countries. It said that the biggest caseload is in Niger Republic, where an estimated 330,600 children under the age of five were at risk.
Burundi: Peace hurt by human rights challenges, killings, says UN envoy
Burundi has made some progress in consolidating peace, but recent developments could reverse gains, according to the UN top envoy in the country. Karen Landgren told the UN Security Council that efforts to preserve the peace are being marred by human rights challenges and politically-motivated killings.
Kenya: Policeman killed, soldiers injured
A Kenyan policeman was killed and 11 soldiers were wounded after twin blasts near the Somali border with Kenya, a military spokesman said Sunday. Police said the police officer, who died in one of the explosions, unknowingly stepped on the landmine, killing him instantly.
Libya: Gunfight erupts near Tripoli airport
Gun battles broke out near the international airport in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, army officials said. An army spokesman told Libyan TV two gunmen opened fire on Saturday on a convoy accompanying army chief Maj-Gen Khalifa Haftar but called it an 'isolated incident'. It was reportedly followed by hours of clashes along the coastal road. The violence adds to concerns over stability in Libya after the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi earlier this year.
Libya: Huge arsenal test for Libyan rulers
Militias outside the control of Libya's central government are holding vast stores of tanks, rockets and small arms in the city of Misrata, an arsenal that will test the ability of the country's new rulers to assert their authority. A Reuters team gained rare access to militia warehouses in Misrata and counted thousands of boxes of arms and ammunition, most of it seized from forces loyal to ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi and hauled back to the city in trucks.
Nigeria: 15 feared dead in Kaduna blast
It was tragedy in Kaduna on 7 December as more than 15 people lost their lives and several others injured following a bomb blast that hit the heart of the city. The incident occurred shortly after the elders in the North ended the Peace and Unity Conference intended to find solution to the insecurity posed by the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram in the country.
South Sudan: Civilians flee as rebels hit South Sudan village
Fresh fighting broke out in South Sudan on Sunday following a rebel assault on civilian and police bases in Pigi County in the troubled Jonglei state, officials said, four days after an earlier attack in Jale Payam in the same state. Militiamen loyal to rebel leader and former army renegade General George Athor Deng attacked Atar village from four directions, killing scores and wounding others, deputy governor Hussein Maar Nyuot said.
South Africa: November Biowatch Bulletin out
The highlights of the November issue of the Biowatch Bulletin include a GM update for South Africa and an article on building resilience through farmer exchanges and seed rituals. To read the full issue and to subscribe to future editions, please visit their website.
University of Oxford: Part-time Masters in International Human Rights Law
Admissions open for five scholarships for candidates from African Commonwealth countries
The Department for Continuing Education and the Faculty of Law at Oxford University are very pleased to announce that admissions are now open for five scholarships for candidates from African Commonwealth countries to study for the part-time Masters in International Human Rights Law at the
University of Oxford, starting September 2012. The course website can be found at http://bit.ly/s37dHr and details about the scholarships, including eligibility criteria and how to apply, can be found on the Fees and Funding pages at http://bit.ly/ugKcPf
A call for research help
Are you interested in global food justice? Are you curious about how the world will eat in the future? Will you have some free time in the next six to ten weeks? Are you familiar with at least one of the countries listed below and/or knowledgeable about one of the topic areas? We are looking for interns around the world to do foundational research for a new trans-media project on the future of the global food system.
Agrarian Dreams: A Call for Research Help!
Are you interested in global food justice? Are you curious about how the world will eat in the future? Will you have some free time in the next six to ten weeks? Are you familiar with at least one of the countries listed below and/or knowledgeable about one of the topic areas? We are looking for interns around the world to do foundational research for a new trans-media project on the future of the global food system.
Marketing, advertizing campaigns & psychology
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
Consumer Food Legislation
Gender, women & food
Immigrants, labor & food
Soil, ecology & alternative agriculture
JOB DESCRIPTION: Research Associates will work part-time (approximately 20 hours per week), for six to ten weeks. They will work independently to gather in-depth information on the state of food systems research, and food justice movements, in their chosen country. Methods of research include but are not limited to: online databases (IMF, census information, World Bank, FAO, etc), scholarly journals, reliable news sources, interviews, and site-visits. Check-ins every couple of weeks will help keep research on track. At the end of the research period, the Research Associate will submit a literature review of food debates in their assigned country, as it relates to the larger Ag Dreams project. A properly-referenced bibliography and supporting materials, preferably made in EndNote, will accompany this review. While this internship does not offer any paid compensation, interns will be recognized in acknowledgements and credits for work using their research, and there is the possibility of salaried in-country research work as the project evolves.
EDUCATION: Minimum requirement of a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent, with exceptions for people with long-term involvement and experience working with and/or writing about the food justice movements of interest.
EXPERIENCE: Experience, involvement or familiarity with social movements and/or food system organizations. Experience in research and in-depth investigation, ideally, using online databases, primary material, interviews, and site-visits to gather information. You should have familiarity with the country and/or topic being researched.
SPECIAL SKILLS & QUALIFICATIONS: Ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing. Must be highly organized, analytical, and accurate. Must have some knowledge of standard reference/information sources and library skills; the ideal candidate will be familiar with and have access to EndNote for bibliographic references. Must be able to work independently. Must have internet access.
There are three parts to your application.
1. A CV or Resume.
2. A writing sample.
3. This online application (click here).
Please send the CV or resume and the writing sample to AgDreamsProject@gmail.com
DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS:
December 15th, 2011
Please contact Meredith Palmer at AgDreamsProject@gmail.com if you have any questions!
London or the region: Researcher – Sudan Team
Amnesty International (AI)
Location: London or the region
Salary: £41,124 if London based, or suitable competitive salary if based in the region
Fixed term contract of up to two years in duration
About the job
As a research-based campaigning organization, investigating and documenting human rights issues is fundamental to our advocacy and lobbying work. Our Sudan team requires a researcher to take the lead in initiating human rights research and action by providing regional and thematic expertise, excellent research skills and sound political judgement. A campaign oriented approach to your work is essential. You will be required to conduct and co-ordinate research activities, monitor, investigate and analyse political, legal and social developments and human rights conditions, give authoritative advice on these areas and prepare human rights action materials.
With experience of working on human rights issues, you must have first-hand in-depth knowledge and experience of Sudan and an understanding and awareness of the cultures of the East and Horn of Africa. You’ll have a background in activism, academia, law or journalism with the ability to identify and thoroughly investigate those issues and ensure our voice has authority. You will need proven research and communication skills, impartial political judgement, coupled with strong strategic thought. Fluency in English and Arabic is essential, including excellent writing skills.
Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over 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.
To find out more about this and all our other opportunities, and to apply online, please visit www.amnesty.org/jobs
Closing date: 8th January 2012
Africa: Dictators used SA surveillance equipment, says WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks announced a new project on 2 December that they say aims to 'reveal the details of which companies are making billions selling sophisticated tracking tools to government buyers, flouting export rules, and turning a blind eye to dictatorial regimes that abuse human rights'. The whistleblower website calls their latest release 'The Spyfiles' and launched it with 287 files available for download. Among these files are presentations and product brochures for two South African companies: VASTech and Seartech. WikiLeaks said one of the companies sold equipment that could permanently record the phone calls of entire nations.
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