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Pambazuka News 610: Confronting Western hypocrisy about Africa

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CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Comment & analysis, 3. Advocacy & campaigns, 4. Books & arts



Features

Africa’s wealth and Western poverty of thought

A response to J. Peter Pham’s New York Times’ article on the Congo, November 30, 2012

Toussaint Kafarhire Murhula, S.J.

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85765

A recent article on the Congo replete with fallacies and half-truths is challenged by Toussaint Kafarhire Murhula, S.J., who argues it is time to end this Western poverty of thinking toward Africa and a promotion of Africa without Africans

Unlike in the past, the current situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) seems to capture both the media attention and scholars’ opinion and reflection in the West. This rise in interest and attention, however, is dubious for two reasons. First, the focus has been gradually shifting away from the alleged plausible causes of the enduring civil wars in the DRC to advocacy of quick fix solutions – like in Mr. Pham’s article of November 30 in New York Times. Second, few if any among these proposed sustainable solutions to Congolese crises show any concern regarding what the Congolese people think about their future, and how they feel about the present situation. The storyline often portrays DRC as a country that is rich in natural resources with a band of predatory chiefs who are fighting each other for control of the land to access these resources, but there are no people with faces, feelings, stories to tell and dreams to pursue. What kind of country could this be? Pham’s article that is replete, of erroneous and incomplete narratives, erroneous diagnoses and solutions ‘[t]o save the Congo’ by ‘[l]et[ing] it Fall Apart’, is the latest representation of this flawed advocacy with which take serious issue.

LET THINGS FALL APART (ILL)LOGIC

Specifically and to begin with, Mr Pham offers a cost-effective alternative to the squandering of international humanitarian resources that could be reallocated in a better way to relief and development, if the Congo were allowed to fall apart and to break into smaller states that would better governed. He views the UN Security Council’s support of the ‘sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity’ of what he characterizes as a fictional state as a costly in terms of lives and resources. While this proposal has some appeal because smaller countries like Rwanda and Uganda seem to be much better ran than the giant neighbouring Congo, the proposal is fallacious and too ideological. It not only fails to address the ethnic identity variable and the putative claim to state protection made by ‘Congolese’ Tutsi irrespective of the size of the country, but it also obfuscates the real underlying causes of the apparent grievances: political distribution of power and resources, territorial ambitions by Rwanda, and unfettered access to Congolese resources by Rwanda, Uganda, and their co-predators in DRC and their international sponsors in the West. The case of Southern Sudan speaks eloquently to this argument. Thus, advocating for consolidation of democratic institutions, instead, would bear greater political value and economic returns to both the West and to Africans.

OMITTING THE ROLE OF IMPERIALIST SUPPORT

Secondly, the shallowness with which Mr Pham understands the history of the Congo is lamentable. Of course, one might argue that this is for the sake of brevity. Yet, again, the interpretation he makes of Congo’s political history as a succession of ruthless and predatory leaders fails to do justice to the Congolese people. For instance, the claim that ‘Congo’s mineral wealth has brought only an endless procession of unscrupulous ruler’ without mentioning the responsibility of those who have created and maintained in power these rulers (e.g. Mobutu, Tshombe, Laurent D. Kabila, Joseph Kabange Kabila) in spite of popular resistance and protests is another syndrome of colonial literature. One wonders why the key historic facts are omitted in Pham’s write up. As one Congolese voice once remarked, ‘Changes through democratic means and the rule of law in Africa are not as deserving of unequivocal support as changes through the barrel of a gun.’ (Nzongola-Ntalaja 2003)

A PEOPLE’S WILL IGNORED

Thirdly, Pham’s claim the international community has turned a blind eye to the reality of separatism in the Congo. I do not know from what reliable historic source he extracted this claim. Anyone who is familiar with the DRC’s political history (e. g. O’Brien 1966, Ndaywell 1998, Hochschild 1998, Nzongola-Ntalaja 2002) will wonder if this assertion is a scholarly blunder or an ideological and purposeful harkening back to Walter H. Karsteiner’s advocacy of the breakup of the Congo (1996; 1998). It is misleading to ignore that the Congo, as fictitious as it might be (just like most others in the world), has been able to maintain its unity against Rwandan and Ugandan military regimes’ balkanization at attempts since 1996. This is an eloquent testimony of its people’s strong collective will to remain one nation. To evoke the Katanga secession in the early days of independence as an illustration of the lack of unity and nationalism is to conveniently ignore the then pervading cold War politics, the Belgians mineral interests and the manipulation of Congolese leaders in Katanga (cf. O’Brien 1966). The Belgian-created Katanga secession cost the life of one of the greatest political leaders in the World (Patrice E. Lumumba), with the help of the CIA (cf. Weissman 2010; The ‘Church Commission Report’ and the ‘Belgian Parliamentary inquiry report on the Assassination of Lumumba.’)

FALLACIES AND HALF-TRUTHS

Fourthly, one of the greatest claims made in this article, which makes us believe that the text may be following some hidden agenda to spread falsehood about the Congo in the American public opinion, is to lump together the M23 rebellion with the fighting of former Hutu génocidaires. By now, this should be regarded as a worn-out and fallacious connection! While it tends cunningly to legitimize any Rwandan overt or covert invasions DRC’s territory since 1996, it is ideologically charged and overlooks the many years that the Rwanda-Uganda coalition occupied the Congo for plunder, murder of millions of Congolese, and counter-genocide indiscriminately of Hutu in DRC, instead of tracking down the real Hutu génocidaires (cf. UN Report of October 1, 2010). Besides, anyone seriously concerned with the security situation in the African Great Lakes Region would acknowledge how violence and threat to ‘human life and human dignity’ have indistinctly affected people of various ethnic groups but not only a single one. The current genocide and atmosphere of terror in Eastern Congo is a result of repetitive wars by the CNDP, recently re-incarnated as M23.

PROMOTING AFRICA WITHOUT AFRICANS

I believe it is time to end this Western poverty of thinking toward Africa, a promotion of Africa without Africans. While Congolese civil society has a different approach to the crisis of identity, M23 rebels do not represent the Congolese people in anyway. They are no more than warlords who seek wealth and power opportunities with guns, while masquerading as victims of an incompetent and failed state under Kabila. What the people want is peace and security, which can be provided only through democratically established institutions that are governed under the rule of law, but not predatory strongmen. Pham would make an important contribution to the NYT readership by questioning US foreign policy toward the region, whether in supporting Mobutu, Museveni or Kagame, instead of engaging in half-truths. Would Pham have advocated the break-up of the US during the Civil War under the same logic?

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World Bank owes people of African heritage apology

An open letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim

Justice for Blacks

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85762

Claims of institutional racism against black people have dogged the World Bank for decades. The current president has a real opportunity to end the scourge

Dr. Jim Yong Kim
President
The World Bank

Dear Mr. President

We, the undersigned, are executive committee members of Justice for Blacks, a group consisting of current and former World Bank staff organized to restore the human dignity and rights of people of African heritage in the World Bank. Racial discrimination is a violation of human rights that is unequivocally condemned by a multitude of international human rights instruments. It robs black people of their inalienable and inviolable rights. It also seriously impairs the Bank’s legitimacy as a leading global development institution.

We are writing to urge you to take immediate and concrete steps to put an end to what is degrading and dehumanizing to black staff and damaging to the long term mission of the World Bank. We are encouraged by the brilliant speech you delivered in Tokyo during the Annual Meetings that underlined your reverence to Dr. Martin Luther King and his quest for justice. We sincerely hope that your presidential mantle will draw its strength from the gravitas of justice than from the inertia of the status quo.

BACKGROUND: A CULTURE OF RACIAL BIAS

Systemic racial discrimination in the World Bank was first raised formally in 1971 when a group of black employees mounted complaints. Their efforts were to no avail. African members of the Board of Governors discussed the issue at the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Belgrade in 1979 and called for a reform. Their concerns were twofold. Racial discrimination is in contravention of international human rights laws, and it denies Africa the voice of her learned sons and daughters in shaping the Bank’s development policy that affects the continent’s destiny. Unfortunately, the problem continued unabated.

In 1996, a director of the Bank’s loan department explained why he was not hiring black professionals in an open meeting stating: “Blacks make poor accountants and the department could not hire too many blacks as the department would look like a ghetto.” He suggested blacks should be kept in the “African ghetto.” According to the Bank’s own 1998 report, interviews with Bank managers revealed cultural prejudices among some managers, “who rated blacks as unsophisticated and inferior.”

In 2003, a World Bank commissioned study conducted by a private law firm reaffirmed the presence of “systemic” discrimination and noted that compared to equally qualified persons of any other race, being black is associated with a 36.3 percent reduction in the odds of being manager. It should be noted that the comparison is “with any other race” not with our “white counterparts.” In the Bank’s caste system blacks are lined up behind the beyond and stacked down beneath the underneath. In 2005, the Staff Association reported “The status of racial discrimination in the Bank is very bad.” The report highlighted in five years, over 450 victims of discrimination filed complaints with the office of the then Senior Advisor for Racial Equality. This represented about 50 percent of the Black staff at the time.

In 2009, in an op-ed article in Foreign Policy in Focus, Bea Edwards, the Executive Director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP) wrote:

“Eleven years have passed since the 1998 World Bank Task Force quantified the impact of discrimination on black African and black American employees at the World Bank. Indications are that nothing has changed for the better. If anything, the situation has worsened.”


DENIAL OF DUE PROCESS: ACKNOWLEDGED AND IGNORED

It has long been recognized that victims of racism in the Bank have been denied legal redress by the Bank’s Administrative Tribunal, since it was established in 1980. The Tribunal is seen as “neither fair nor credible” by the World Bank Grievance Process Review Committee (1998); “ineffective in addressing complaints of bias and harassment” by US Government Accountability Office and by the US Treasury (1999); having a “disturbing” track record of dismissing all racial discrimination cases filed by black complainants, by the US Government Accountability Project (2009); and a “broken” justice system by the Staff Association (2010). A 2010 independent scholarly study concluded International employment Tribunals, such as the World Bank’s Administrative Tribunal “are a fig leaf of justice, internally controlled fictions of due process.” http://www.unjustice.org/Parish.pdf

In the above-noted article, Bea Edwards described the impact of the absence of legal redress succinctly: “The pattern of discrimination at the World Bank and the lack of vindication for complainants at the Tribunal translate into an environment of impunity where breathtakingly racist incidents can still occur.” Her article was triggered by repeated “Niggers go home” graffiti in the corridors of the Bank’s Main Complex. Ms. Edwards is not the only one to use such a strong language. We invite you to read Elaine Coleville’s forthcoming article, “The US and UK Ignore the Plight of Blacks in the World Bank,” particularly the section “All Rise, World Bank’s Jim Crow Tribunal is in Session.” Having extensively reviewed the Tribunal’s judgment on a particular racial discrimination case, she concluded that the Tribunal’s ruling is “profoundly beyond the pale of human decency…and represents judicial misconduct bordering on the criminal.” We are sending a copy of her article to your office.

The current state of race relations in the World Bank resembles a lingering remnant of Apartheid of yester-century than a failed attempt at embracing a post-racial 21st century. Over the last three months alone several articles have been written, including:

1. Investigate ‘Ghetoization’ of Blacks at the World Bank (The Ethiopian Reporter);
2. World Bank Reforms Must Embrace Racial Equality (Guardian UK);
3. Report Details Shocking Racism at the World Bank (The Atlanta Black Star);
4. Unmasking Racist World Bank (Pambazuka.com) -- Reprinted in several countries;
5. Neo-Apartheid World Bank: It is the Culture (www.africaw.com).

OUR OPTIMISM FOR CHANGE

We are writing to you with optimism. We draw our optimism from a statement you made at the 2012 Annual Meetings in Tokyo. Reflecting on the state of matters 50 years ago, you said:

“Back then, in Africa, the wave of independence was opening new opportunities for self-determination. And in America, institutionalized racism was being confronted by a civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. captured this universal quest for progress and dignity when he said: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Dr. King's statement revealed a fundamental optimism about the human condition, an optimism which has fueled my life and which I carry with me to the World Bank Group. The transformations that took place five decades ago reveal how individuals working together can bend the arc of history toward more opportunities for more people.”

In the above-noted article, Professor Simms wrote: “If Jim Yong Kim wants to 'bend the arc of history', he should start by addressing long-standing inequalities in his own organisation.” We wholeheartedly agree!

Your speech at the Annual Meetings had many remarkable points -- points that only a person who had been long enough in the trenches of the underprivileged world can grasp and articulate. It is this quality that separates you from your predecessors. It is this quality that inspires our confidence in you. One point in your speech that struck us the most is your statement that “poverty inflicts violence on people’s bodies and spirits.” You noted “This makes all of us less human” and wondered “why we tolerate it.” One can substitute the word poverty with “institutional racism” and make an equally powerful statement. Institutional racism inflicts violence in people’s spirits. It makes all of us less human. Why have the Bank’s leadership and its Board of Directors tolerated such a plague for decades?

You have eloquently and genuinely talked the talk. We hope that unlike the previous Presidents you will walk the walk. You spoke so elegantly of the arcs of moral universe and history. We would hasten to note that where the arc of moral universe meets the arc of history resides the altar of accountability.

OUR REQUESTS: THERE IS NO JUSTICE WITHOUT ACCOUNTABILITY AND REDRESS

Justice for Blacks believes three critical steps are needed for justice to prevail:

1. The first is issuing a formal apology without qualification to all current and former black employees for decades of institutional racism they endured. The fact that there are seven internal reports establishing systemic racial discrimination over a span of several decades without accountability and/or redress demands such an apology.

2. The second is establishing an external commission to review all racial discrimination cases the Tribunal summarily dismissed and taking corrective actions to redress grave injustice inflicted upon those who have suffered discrimination and been denied due process.


3. The third is granting those who have pending discrimination and related-retaliation cases an alternative judicial process outside of the Bank’s Tribunal system. Insisting that the Bank enjoys sovereign immunity and requiring victims of discrimination to only take their cases to a widely discredited Tribunal would be tantamount to saying “Blacks Need Not Apply for Justice.”

OPENING A NEW CHAPTER AND REDEEMING THE BANK’S LEGITIMACY AND CREDIBILITY

As the first Asian-born president of the World Bank and as one nominated by the first African American President of the United States, your appointment signifies a break from the past in more ways than one. Your Tokyo speech, anchored in an iconic line by an iconic American civil rights leader, signals a new light. We are confident that your presidency will open a new chapter and the flickering light we are seeing will shine even brighter. We are hopeful you will restore the human dignity and rights of people of African origin and redeem the Bank’s legitimacy and credibility as a global leader in the quest for human development. Only then can you say “individuals working together can bend the arc of history toward more opportunities for more people.”

On behalf of all members of Justice for Blacks, we take this opportunity to thank you for your consideration. It is with high hopes and raised expectation that we look forward to receiving a favorable response. Please accept assurances of our highest regard.

We remain sincerely,

Yonas Biru (PhD)
Ibrahim Elbadawi (PhD)
Phyllis Muhammad (JD)
Eugene Nyambal (PhD)
Salomon Samen (PhD)
Adrienne Smith (MBA)

Contact Person: Fatuma Mokaba - [email protected]

……

We Call upon Civil and Human Rights Leaders to Join Our Call for Justice
We Call upon African Members of the Bank’s Board of Governors to Support our Demand
Readers of this letter can make a difference by signing our petition: www.change.org


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US and EU ignore plight of blacks at World Bank

Elaine Colville

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85764

Blacks at the World Bank have been subjected to degrading and dehumanizing treatment for long. In one particularly astounding case, a highly successful official was denied a deserved promotion because “Europeans are not used to seeing a black man in a position of power”

Countless articles have been written adding their voice to the growing chorus demanding that black African, African American and Caribbean staff at the World Bank be treated as human beings with dignity and rights accorded to them by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are excellent articles not only in forcing the issue of racial discrimination to the fore, but also in exposing three disturbing points. First, they expose how far the Bank would go to cover up for accused managers. Second, they lay bare the World Bank Tribunal as a cruel caricature of Jim Crow courts from America’s dark past. Third, they throw light on donor nations’ thinly guised indifference ranging from “[we tried], but we believe further engagement with the World Bank would not be productive” (US) to “we cannot get involved in individual cases of this nature” (UK). They leave no doubt in the reader’s mind that US’s, EU’s and other donor countries’ international aid human rights conditionality policies carry zero weight. With donor countries controlling the overwhelming majority of the voting rights of the World Bank there is very little African governments can do to protect the rights of their citizens in the World Bank, even if minded to do so.

VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 7 OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Article 7 dictates: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” Because of the Bank’s immunity from US courts, victims of discrimination are confined to an Administrative Tribunal that has denied them the protection of the law for decades. A 1999 report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), found the Bank’s grievance system “did not protect grievants’ rights or hold managers accountable in discrimination and harassment cases.” The US Treasury Department concurred writing that: “We believe that the GAO report presents a fair and accurate statement.” Since then, four independent reviews have reached the same conclusion.

The purpose of this article is to put a face and a name to an issue that has been mostly framed in general discussions and abstract numbers. I will present one case that I found profoundly beyond the pale of human decency: AI v. World Bank (2010). The story has been independently reviewed and verified by the US Government Accountability Project (GAP), the World Bank Staff Association, the US Treasury Department and the US Executive Director (ED) to the World Bank. This is not an isolated case, but a reflection of breathtaking injustice that blacks are subjected to. Here is the story as summarized independently by GAP and Justice for Blacks. I am liberally borrowing from their reports where needed to avoid the risk of misrepresentation.

Dr. AI was charged by the World Bank to reform its International Comparison Programme (ICP) after an independent evaluation established the Programme was on the verge of collapse. The team Dr. AI led worked with the Bank’s external partners and built a highly successful programme. His performance was rated “outstanding” and he was praised by his superiors in his official evaluation record for “an excellent job of developing global and regional proposals, building partnerships, working with the team and bringing together research, advocacy, financing, project planning…”

Shortly thereafter, his director told him that the Programme had become too “high profile” for him and a white Global Manager (GM) was hired. Between 2002 and 2008, Dr. AI served as deputy GM. In this position he was charged with managing the Programme in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. His annual performance evaluations were consistently “Outstanding” and “Superior.” Once again, the Bank was faced with a dilemma when the GM retired. Dr. AI was in line to become acting GM or GM, but the Bank was not prepared to appoint a black man as Acting GM or GM for a high profile global programme. The solution the Bank chose was to retain the retired GM as a consultant with GM title. The problem with this was Bank rules do not allow consultants to work full-time or perform managerial duties. As a result, Dr. AI was asked to “take over all the day-to-day coordination of the program and the Global Office team” without Acting GM or GM title. Meanwhile, a short-term consultant was fronted as GM to the external world for close to two years without working fulltime or managing anything.

At first the Bank blamed its external partners … Dr. AI was told the Bank could not appoint him GM because “Europeans are not used to seeing a black man in a position of power.” He filed complaints and his case was reviewed by the Bank’s Appeals Committee. Three Bank officials including Dr. AI’s director testified under oath before the Appeals Committee that (i) “filling the GM post was the authority of the Bank’s external partners and the Bank had no hand in appointing GM;” and (ii) “the Bank advocated to appoint Dr. AI to GM position, but the external partners opposed.” All this was patently false and the Bank’s external partners were prepared to testify, but the Appeals Committee rejected Dr. AI’s basic due process right to call witnesses. In its ruling the Committee took note that some of the Bank’s actions could not be explained by “business reasons.” As such, it “strongly recommended” the Bank “immediately resolve the complaint through mediation.” The Bank rejected the Committee’s recommendations and subsequently terminated Dr. AI.

The Bank’s complex web of lies began to unravel after Dr. AI took his case to the Tribunal … The Tribunal allowed the Bank’s external partners to testify and they testified under oath that the Bank’s sworn testimonies during the Appeals Committee’s proceedings were patently false. Having faced total rebuke from its external partners, the Bank had to concoct a new storyline that was starkly different from what it established under oath. The new story line was that Dr. AI lacked relevant ICP experience and, therefore, did not qualify for GM position. There was problem with this claim. Dr. AI’s official HR record included a statement written and signed by his director stating:

“[Dr. AI] has been Deputy Global Manager of ICP. He is a very strong performer managing one of the most critical programs the Bank has ever managed. He has multiple roles in the global management of ICP. He is praised for his many skills.”

To give credence to the new claim the Bank falsified Dr. AI’s HR record and declared that the above quoted and many other similarly laudatory remarks in his official HR file are “overinflated” and therefore they are effectively null and void. Every project that Dr. AI managed and for which he was given “outstanding” performance evaluation for six years was totally erased from the record. Having erased and or declared null and void substantial chunks of his employment record, the Bank claimed he could not be appointed GM for ICP because he lacked “proven direct management experience.”

Over a dozen high level officials of international and national organizations (including heads and chief economists) sent written testimonials confirming Dr. AI’s outstanding role as deputy GM and rejecting the Bank’s false claims, but the World Bank stood firm with its forged documents and false claims. Even the judgment report by the Bank’s Appeals Committee that “recognized Dr. AI as a tenured, talented and hard-working staff member who has earned the opportunity to perform the GM functions” was recanted by the Bank with the help of forged documents.

ALL RISE! THE WORLD BANK JIM CROW TRIBUNAL IS IN SESSION!

The Tribunal’s proceedings and judgment represent systemic and gross judicial misconduct bordering on the criminal. Dr. AI took his case to the Tribunal alleging that he was denied GM position because of the colour of his skin. The first question one of the judges asked him at the hearing was: “what was it being designated Global Manager that is so magical to have led you to this stage where you think it was a loss to the rest of the world?” Dr. AI’s lawyer interjected: “May I ask a clarifying question?” The judge snapped back: “No, You can't ask me questions, obviously.”

In contrast, the accused was treated with utmost respect. During the course of the hearing, the President of the Tribunal asked Dr. AI’s director, who is an Iranian: “The controversy about discrimination, what do you have to say about that?” She responded: “I don't know what to say, I mean, seriously. You see I'm not sort of a European blonde… How could I discriminate against somebody else?” The President, who happened to be a European blonde, ended his question with a polite “Thank you.”

The example below shows the Tribunal’s total disregard for basic due process. This is one of over two dozen egregious examples of violation of due process. One of Dr. AI’s primary allegations was that the Bank used a white consultant, who was not managing anything, to front as a manager when it was he who was actually managing the programme but kept behind because of the colour of his skin. The Tribunal asked the Bank to provide “a comparative list of the tasks managed by Dr. AI and the tasks managed by the [consultant]” during the period under investigation. The Bank, however, changed the question and submitted a response under the title “Comparative List of Tasks between Dr. AI and the [consultant].” Conspicuously, the Bank dropped the two references to “managed by” because it could not say the person managed anything as a short term consultant and cannot admit Dr. AI managed anything after his managerial record was wiped out. The list presented all the tasks that the person supported as a consultant, but did not manage. The Tribunal not only allowed the Bank to change the question but also accepted its response to the modified question and ruled “The Bank has provided a non-discriminatory business rationale for its decision” and summarily dismissed Dr. AI’s claim.

Dr. AI’s Attempt to Salvage His Future

Having spent over $80,000 in legal fees and presented over 2,300 pages of well-founded claims to no avail, Dr. AI came to terms with the gross injustice and focused his energy on salvaging his future. His lawyer approached the Bank and proposed to drop his termination claims in exchange for an official letter from the Bank confirming his management roles and responsibilities. Dr. AI provided a sample letter including strictly direct quotations from his old HR files. He explained that he needed his official management track record to seek employment elsewhere. After a meeting with the Bank’s lawyers, Dr. AI’s lawyer sent him an email:

“… The Bank did agree to a letter of ‘recommendation,’ although they insisted it would have to be purely factual and not characterize your work in any way, so your proposed letter would have to be substantially edited, but still might give you something – but not much… I am certain this is the end of the road as far as settlement is concerned.”

The Bank insisted Dr. AI’s official employment history needed to be substantially edited. This apparently would involve deleting all the “outstanding” performance ratings of Dr. AI’s official evaluation ratings record fearing that releasing any statement from his unadulterated HR record would expose the perjury its senior managers and high-powered lawyers committed.

US GOVERNMENT'S FAILURE TO ENFORCE THE LAW OF THE LAND

On July 8, 2010, the GAP submitted a 10-page report to the US ED establishing the Tribunal’s violation of Dr. AI’s due process rights and asking his assistance to accord Dr. AI access to an external arbitration to resolve his pending termination case. The US ED, in turn, involved the US Treasury. Having extensively reviewed the Tribunal’s miscarriage of justice, the US Treasury concluded the request for external arbitration was warranted and asked the Bank to resolve Dr. AI’s pending termination claims through external arbitration. The request was based on the Lugar-Leahy Amendment that requires the Bank to avail whistleblowers such as Dr. AI access to an independent adjudicative body. Unfortunately, the Bank rejected the request and the US Treasury told Dr. AI there was nothing more the US government could do. Alas, forget the constitutional guarantee of due process and equal protection of the law.

Dr. AI was left with no choice but to appear before the same Tribunal that denied him justice in his prior case. The Tribunal reviewed his termination and found it was "unlawful", "arbitrary," “capricious,” “a violation of due process,” and “an abuse of discretion,” yet ruled that the Bank should not reinstate him. The judgment stated: “Neither the Tribunal’s Statute nor its Rules require that the Tribunal must order reinstatement when it finds a termination decision to be arbitrary.”

UK’S BREACH OF ITS MORAL AND LEGAL OBLIGATIONS

Having exhausted all the proper administrative and internal justice systems, a group of current and former black staff contacted several EDs to intervene in light of systemic discrimination and gross violation of due process of the law. Many did not even bother to respond. The former ED to the UK responded saying “Neither my office nor the Secretary of State for International Development is able to get involved in individual cases of this nature, which need to be pursued through the proper channels.” This is substantially incorrect and misleading. As ED both she and the International Development Secretary, who is the UK Governor of the Bank, have an institutional obligation, as well as other international obligations at law to look into systemic human rights violations of this very nature.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Shedding light on the MDBs financial structures, policies, practices and internal administrative policies, Percy Mistry (a former high-level official at the World Bank) wrote that members of the Board of Directors from developing countries are seen as “supplicants if not mendicants” with little if any power to exercise. Ignored by the powerful Governors of the Bank and denied access to legal redress, blacks at the World Bank have been subjected to degrading and dehumanizing treatments for decades and there is no abatement in sight. Apparently, this is why Nick Chiles, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist wrote in the Atlanta Black Star: “the bigotry inside the World Bank headquarters is so pervasive that massive internal change is needed if the situation is going to improve—change that likely will come from outside pressure because the racist culture inside is too ingrained.” It is time that American Civil and Human Rights leaders say in unison: “Not in our backyard and not in our time!”

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* Elaine Colville, a British citizen, is a former World Bank staff. She can be reached at [email protected]


Dismantle AFRICOM!

General Carter Ham makes the case?

Horace G. Campbell

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85780

There is enough evidence that the US Africa Command has increased resource exploitation and imperial expansion, instigated more violence, intensified regional conflicts and undermined the authority of regional organizations and the African Union

INTRODUCTION

On Saturday December 8, 2012, General Carter Ham, Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) spoke at the 2012 Achebe Colloquium and Africa at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The thrust of his presentation was the role of AFRICOM in relation to the theme of the Colloquium: Governance, Peace and Security in Africa. From the content of his presentation, this writer discerned that his arguments could be a very good justification for the dismantling of AFRICOM. In the past few weeks, General Carter Ham has been giving public lectures raising the alarm about the rise of the threats of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This message was repeated at the Achebe Colloquium. These speeches came after President Obama designated a new commander for AFRICOM on October 18, 2012 and formed part of an intense tussle within the administration over the future of the budget of the Department of Defense. On November 30, exactly one week earlier, Jeh C. Johnson, the General Counsel for the Department of Defense of the United States gave a speech to the Oxford Union in the United Kingdom entitled, “The War on Al Queda and its affiliates: and how it will end?” In this speech, Jeh Johnson said, “The war on terror is not an endless conflict and the US is approaching a ``tipping point'' after which the military fight against al-Qaeda will be replaced by a law enforcement operation.” This speech formed part of the divide within the military establishment about the future of the war on terror.

On December 1, the Washington Post carried a lengthy report, “DIA sending hundreds more spies overseas.” The essence of the news report was that the growth of terrorism in the world required additional intelligence assets overseas, especially in Africa. To seal this line that Africa was a new hotbed of terrorism, the Wall Street Journal carried the front page headline on December 7, “Terror Fight shifts to Africa.” In this contribution by Julian E. Barnes and Evan Perez, readers were warned of the dangers of Al Queda extremists in North Africa. This article continued the narrative of the sections of the Pentagon that warned associated Al Queda groups in Africa “present significant threats to the United States”.

From the Washington Post came another voice, that of Fareed Zakaria. “End the war on terror and save billions.” In his submission, Zakaria implored President Barack Obama to end the war on terror or more realistically, “to start planning and preparing to phase it out.” One major step towards this goal of ending the war will be to end the barrage of negative images and racist presentations that are disguised as ‘humanitarian ‘partnerships’. The argument of this paper is that it will require popular mobilization to reduce the big budget of the Pentagon and new engagement by the peace movement to fight against the austerity measures proposed in order to protect bankers. It will be the task of a literate peace and social justice movement to work for the dismantling of the US Africa Command and to pursue goals that support education, health, building the infrastructure and the cleaning up of the environment in Africa.

It is in the context of these debates raging inside the United States where this writer wants to reflect on the strong reasons for ending the war on terror, especially in Africa. From the point of view of this analysis, what was important about the speech of General Carter Ham at the Achebe colloquium was that the general entered the space of intellectuals from Africa. This is itself a shift in the balance of forces since November 6, 2012. His prepared text covered areas of ‘progress’ with respect to the role of African peacekeepers, AMISON in Somalia and the success of the African Union Mission in Darfur. General Ham praised the patient and consultative mechanisms of the African Union and spoke of future ‘partnership’ with African states. Ham repeated claims that have gained currency in the Western media that northern Mali had become a ‘terrorist’ haven and that Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) posed such a danger that, “As each day goes by, Al Qaeda and other organizations are strengthening their hold in northern Mali. There is a compelling need for the international community, led by Africans, to address that.”

Carter Ham stressed the work of AFRICOM in maritime security in both the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. I will share with readers my notes and observations from the content of the speech, especially my view that if analyzed very carefully, his speech as a very good case for why the US Africa Command should be wound down and dismantled. I will also make this argument in relation to what was left unsaid. The three outstanding events that were not mentioned were the ongoing wars in the eastern Congo (especially the recent capture of Goma and other towns by rebels supported by Rwanda), the role of AFRICOM in current instability and support for extremists in Benghazi, Libya, and the role of the US military in the training of Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, the architect of the military coup that has destabilized Mali since March 2012.

This short paper will start with the setting of the Achebe Colloquium with the emphasis on the ideas about peaceful negotiations that came out of this meeting. The paper will share with readers my notes of what this author considered the main thrust of the arguments of General Carter Ham in the context of the search for peace and security in Africa. The mission statement of the US Africa Command as stated on their web page is,
“Africa Command protects and defends the national security interests of the United States by strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and regional organizations and, when directed, conducts military operations, in order to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and development.”

The evidence is now clear that the existence of AFRICOM has not provided ‘a security environment conducive to good governance and development.’ More than four years ago, I had joined with the scholarly community of the Association of Concerned Africans (ACAS) in opposing the establishment of AFRICOM and the militarizing of the study of Africa in the United States. I have over the years written extensively on the evolution of AFRICOM after writing the article, “Remilitarisation of African Societies: Analysis of the planning behind US Africa Command.” ACAS members have contributed significantly to the body of scholarly literature with special meetings and bulletins. For a short while, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) hosted a group of activists who organized the ‘Resist Africom’ campaign. Staffers from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) wrote periodic updates on AFRICOM but these writings never critically dealt with the opposition to AFRICOM from Africa. Other sections of the bureaucracy and the think-tanks wrote critiques about the need to strengthen Africom. The activists from Resist AFRICOM differed significantly from the researchers at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) where the new resources for the study of Africa were being deployed. Both Abdi Samatar and Jeremy Keenan have written extensively on the militarization of the Horn of Africa and on the Maghreb. Kennan’s work was most direct in stating that the Western forces and their allies were fabricating terrorism in North Africa in order to prop up repressive governments.

Drawing from the short five years of the existence of this Africa Command, the paper will agree with those African policy makers who have argued that the US military is one of the principal obstacles to peace and stability in Africa. Added to this destabilization of Africa is the ways in which the militarizing of the study of Africa has affected genuine academic research about Africa in US universities. The conclusion will join with the small group that in the past organized to resist Africom and the present peacemakers who call for an end to the militarization of African politics. This paper will argue that the current phase of the end of the war on terror provides the context for the dismantling of the US Africa Command. Carter Ham has argued that the largest disbursements to Africa are in the areas of health education and agriculture. The establishment of AFRICOM has not served the best interest of the African peoples, and the argument that the deployment of this military command is fuelled principally by humanitarianism has proved to be faulty. In the past five years there have been a number of false claims about the dangers of groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army with the hype about violence presented by an organization called Invisible Children. Kony 2012 film exposed the need to educate the society about the realities of what is happening in Africa in order to rise above the ‘saviour’ syndrome.’

THE SETTING OF THE 2012 ACHEBE COLLOQUIUM AFRICA

Professor Chinua Achebe is the internationally known writer and teacher who for the past four years hosted an annual colloquium on Africa. At the age of 82, Achebe was hosting this event for the fourth time under the title of “Governance, Security and Peace in Africa.” In their press release the organizers said of the meeting that it would ‘highlight security issues that challenge the establishment of institutions and principles of good governance on the continent.’ Invited panelists were called on to discuss the complex security issues confronting nations on the continent; security challenges surrounding the proliferation of small arms and lights weapons; piracy and terrorism; and the continuance of ethnic and religious conflict.” This colloquium featured many key figures in African Affairs including Dr. Mo Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, former Managing Director of the World Bank; Babatunde Fashola, (SAN), the Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria; Emira Woods (IPS), Professor Abena Busia of Rutgers University, Professor V. Y. Mudimbe of Duke University; Ephraim Isaac, Director, Institute for Advanced Semitic Studies; Jendayi Frazier, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Bush administration, two former ambassadors to Nigeria, Walter Carrington and John Campbell; William Bellamy, retired US Ambassador, US Ambassador to the Republic of Niger, Bisa Williams, and thirty other distinguished scholars, ambassadors and dignitaries.

In addition, novelist, activist and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga from Zimbabwe spoke at this colloquium. There were also two performances by singer, poet and lyricist Nneka who also participated in the deliberations. It was only two days before the colloquium that the organizers sent out a press release to state that General Carter F. Ham, Commander, United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), would address a plenary session and participate on a panel with former ambassadors to Nigeria, Walter Carrington and John Campbell along with John Pelletier of the Department of State.

The first sessions on Friday afternoon were noteworthy in so far as both Mo Ibrahim, the billionaire investor, and Babatunde Raji Fashola stressed the need for good governance and the demilitarization of African politics. Mo Ibrahim was most explicit that Africa needed investments and new educational linkages and not more military investments. Babatunde Fashola linked the issue of governance to the struggles against organizations such as Boko Haram stressing the need for social programs to tackle impoverishment and poor services. Shehu Sani, the Nigerian activist and author, Chairperson of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, also made the point of the social and economic context of dissatisfaction that fueled the recruitment of youths into Boko Haram. Uzodinma Nwala, Professor of Social and Political Philosophy in Nigeria, also gave a coherent account of the historical foundations of the militarized forms of opposition in Nigeria and warned against facile label of ‘Al Queda affiliate’ to characterize what was going on in Nigeria. These presentations helped to support the position of policy makers in the US who refuse to place Boko Haram on the list of international terrorists.

ENTER GENERAL CARTER HAM

It was at this meeting where General Carter Ham made his presentation. First, he acknowledged his lack of experience and knowledge on matters relating to Africa before he took up the position of Commander of the US Africa Command. Stating that the Command came into existence less five years ago and was the youngest of the six geographic commands, he told the audience that in the twenty months that he has served he had travelled to 42 different African countries. Of the other 13 states he said, “some don’t want me to come visit, and others my government doesn’t want me to go.” What was significant was that his mandate did not make the artificial division of the US State Department that divides sub-Saharan Africa from North Africa and the Middle East.

General Carter Ham categorized key US security interests in the continent of Africa into four areas:

1. Addressing and countering a variety of violent extremist organizations that are in Africa. He accorded this the highest priority.
2. Maintaining global access, improving access for own economic growth and for the international community.
3. Preventing or deterring conflict. Keeping a clear understanding of the many non-state actors fomenting conflict.
4. Humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, mass atrocity and response options.

VIOLENT EXTREMISTS IN AFRICA

From this introduction, the general went on to elaborate on his first point of the growing threat of violent extremist organizations in Africa. This is a theme that has been recurring in the speeches of General Ham that are posted on the web site of AFRICOM. Of the evolving threats, Al Qaeda’s core has been weakened and resulted in affiliates growing in importance. Ham spelt out for the colloquium the existence of the ‘network of Al Queda and its affiliates’, warning that these networks are changing in ways that increase threats to states but also regional stability. In his words, what was particularly worrisome was not each individual group, but the growing connectivity between groups. General Ham told his audience that the Al Queda networks were starting to form a network with indications of communications of training, sharing funding and weapons. He spelt out that this process was most mature in the Maghreb where Al Queda was well funded by outsiders and that they increased their capabilities through kidnappings and criminal activities. The three dominant extremists that were featured by the General were Al Shabaab in the Horn of Africa, Boko Haram group in Nigeria and AQIM. These groups were increasing collaboration and he cited developing linkages between Al Shabaab and AQAP in Yemen. In particular, the idea that AQIM was a major threat was presented earlier in the week at George Washington University.

AFRICAN SUCCESS IN COMBATTING EXTREMISM

Despite this gloomy picture of the growth of extremism, General Ham went on to praise the regional efforts to counter extremism in Africa, especially in East Africa. He noted that, ‘It was easy to get captured by the negative, but also there were very good efforts underway.’ The AMISON mission of the African Union in Somalia was a success story because the situation has changed to the point where the people of Somalia and their representatives have been able elect a president, a parliament and has begun to establish embassies overseas. Al Shabaab has largely been removed from Mogadishu and the port of Kismayo in just a year. For General Carter Ham, the important lesson was that the nations of East Africa and the African Union decided to take action. “It was not the international community and certainly not the United States; it was regional states making that decision.”

Carter Ham then reported on a heated meeting among general and intelligence chiefs on how to dismantle al Shabaab. After the discussion, the military chiefs then turned to US and said what AFRICOM needed to do. What Carter Ham neglected to say was that the United States was not the only non-East African represented at those discussions and offering assistance.

General Ham pointed out that AMISON was not the only success story of regional initiatives in Africa to combat extremism and insecurity. Carter Ham brought attention to the increased political will inside the African Union since 2007 and pointed to the fact that patience is necessary for these AU operations and that one should think of the long term.

MAINTAINING GLOBAL ACCESS

On the point of maintaining global access, General Ham addressed the need for maritime security in Africa. This had been very important in East Africa where the waters of the Indian Ocean had been plagued by piracy. General Ham reported that in 2009 the waters of the Indian Ocean had the highest rates of piracy anywhere in the world. At great expense, private shipping has increased security so that instances of piracy have declined since 2009. Carter Ham spoke of the great expense in fighting piracy and that only two wealth states in Africa, Nigeria and South Africa, had the capacity to deploy maritime resources.

NON-STATE ACTORS FOMENTING CONFLICT, HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE, DISASTER RELIEF, MASS ATROCITY AND RESPONSE OPTIONS

Of the third and fourth points, General Ham highlighted the role of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as a non-state actor terrorizing citizens in Eastern and Central Africa. Again, General Ham pointed to regional efforts by African states to counter the LRA. Referring to this organization as the embodiment of ‘evil,’ the Commander of AFRICOM gave a selective history of the origins of this ‘army’ in Uganda and that the Uganda government had pushed out this movement out and that this ‘army’ was now scattered in the areas of Central Africa, South Sudan and the Congo. He reported that there were 100 Special Forces in various locations providing training, communications, medical and logistical support for African forces. “The Africans are out trying to get Joseph Kony.” “The United states brought unique support in fixed lift, communications support, solicit volunteers for regional communications.” He revealed that AFRICOM has provided special communication networks so that villagers could call for help if threatened by Lord’s Resistance Army. As a result of this assistance, there have been increased defections from the LRA and fewer attacks and increased cooperation. “But he is still at large,” and the “fundamental mission is to bring him to justice.”

MALI AND INSECURITY IN WEST AFRICA

General Ham expanded on the threats to the peoples of West Africa since the Malian military coup in March 2012. He communicated to this audience that since the coup and the collapse of the government in Bamako, there has been a breakdown in security with the establishment of a safe haven for Al Queda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Carter Ham reported that AFRICOM was working to address four interrelated problem sets in Mali. First: restoration of constitutionally based government. He noted that it was difficult to proceed with peace and security until a legitimate government was restored. Second: address legitimate concerns of an underappreciated and often neglected demographic group in Northern Mali, mostly Tuareg. Third: there is a terrorist problem in Northern Mali. He noted that there was a ‘relatively small hardcore of terrorists.’ And fourth, there was the need for continuing humanitarian assistance in the Western African region of the Sahel.

The strategy of AFRICOM was to deal with all four issues but the solution had to be African-led with support from the international community. General Ham said that he believed that there was the need for a negotiated solution and ways to separate the people from terrorists. He referred to organizations in the country of Mali that have aligned ‘somewhat’ with the terrorists and said that it was necessary to prepare for military intervention. The mandate for such intervention had to come from the Security Council of the United Nations and with such a mandate the US planners had to work alongside African planners. He noted that the African planners had not yet requested US help but there would be need to assist with “logistics, financial support, intelligence, training and equipping.” General Carter Ham did not see the role of the AFRICOM in any combat operations and that the efforts to combat AQIM should be “African-led.”

DEVELOPING PARTNERSHIPS WITH AFRICANS

General Carter Ham concluded his presentation by justifying the mission to advance US security interests across Africa. This was best achieved by advancing African countries. Military force was often essential but a non-decisive component in addressing many of the challenges that present themselves. General Ham then drew from official statements of the US government especially the updated US National Security Strategy in Africa that had been spelt out by the White House on June 14, 2012.

In that document signed by Barack Obama it was stated that the United States will partner with sub-Saharan African countries to pursue four interdependent and mutually reinforcing objectives:

(1) strengthen democratic institutions;
(2) spur economic growth, trade and investment;
(3) advance peace and security; and
(4) promote opportunity and development.

General Ham repeated these objectives and stated that stability and security were necessary preconditions for others to take hold.

The second document to which Carter Ham referred was the January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. This document provided guidelines for the priorities of the military and what armed forces are expected to do. General Ham then spoke of the challenging ‘development’ issues in Africa and that Africans were seeking to bring the military under civilian control while investing in people. In Africa there was the effort to uphold legitimate civilian control, under rule of law where the military was respectful of human rights. The military in Africa needed to be seen as ‘servants of the nation, rather than oppressors.’ He noted that this was ‘easier said than done.’

His final comments were that while the security challenges were complex and diverse, it may be easy to come away and worry yet he was optimistic about the future. He then reported a dialogue that he had with a high ranking African official who said to him that, “more than assistance or help, we want your partnership—treat us like equals, with dignity and respect, recognize this is my country, not your country. Yes we need help, but that we stand shoulder to shoulder together.” General Ham did not disclose which country the speaker was from but underlined that the right word to describe the work of the United States Africa Command was ‘partnership’ in describing what we seek to achieve….almost always closely aligned with African states.

Was this a case for or against AFRICOM?

There was a spirited question and answer session. The first question related to the importance of oil from Africa. The questioner told the audience that it was necessary to grasp the conjuncture why there was the deployment of the US Africa Command at this time. It was brought to the attention of the colloquium that up to 25 per cent of the petroleum needs of the United States were supplied by Africa and that Africa was now more important than the Middle East in the supply of oil. The speaker from the floor then drew attention to how the United States was a major weapons supplier to Africa and that these weapons undermined the stability of Africa. The point was made that there was near universal opposition in Africa to the hosting of AFRICOM and that there was only one state, Liberia, that offered to host AFRICOM. The speaker made references to the plunder of resources in eastern Congo and the relationships between the US military and the militaries in Rwanda and Uganda. There was then reference to the major land grab in Africa and why a conference on governance, peace and security should devote more time to the issue of land grab.

Carter Ham stated that the US military was not an independent actor in Africa, that the actions were guided by the Secretary of Defense and the president. He pointed out that there was a very deliberative process in the Department of Defense. The Africa Command did not provide weapons to governments. That weapons transfers came under the purview of the Department of State. There was a process of background checks before the US government provides weapons. These background checks were carried out by the Department of State. He noted that the US military provided training and equipment and the US reserved the right to monitor how training and weapons are applied. “Is it failsafe? No. Is it in accordance with laws and standards - yes.” The military was not operating as an independent actor in Africa. “We are one small part of US effort. If we look at US spending in Africa -- military is dwarfed; most US spending is in health, education and agriculture. That reflects our values. We invest in human capital.”

These last words in the mind of this author were the clearest argument for the dismantling of AFRICOM and this author said so in his question to the general. If the United States and its government were serious about investment in human capital, then the present dominance of the military over aid and education ventures would be reversed.

Prior to the conference when there was a press release that General Ham would address the meeting, this author had second thoughts on participating but reflected that the gathering was more important than one single presentation from General Carter Ham. After listening to the presentation, I brought to the attention of the general the inconsistencies in his argument by pointing out that the successes that he referred to had been successes generated by African peacekeepers. Granted, the general claimed that these successes were possible with the collaboration of AFRICOM, but from the point of view of this author, most of the ‘partners’ of the United States military were states that did not derive their legitimacy from democratic participation and expression. This author brought to attention the fact that the general did not make reference to or comments on the ongoing war in the eastern Congo and the role of ‘allies’ of the USA such as Rwanda and Uganda in supporting the ‘rebel’ group, M 23.

I called to the attention of the General that his presentation omitted to mention Libya which is now overrun with militias and that one year previously, AFRICOM was claiming credit for the ‘success’ of the NATO intervention. This author brought to the attention of the audience the reports in the US government press that the president had appointed a new commander for AFRICOM after the investigation on what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2102.

I reminded the audience that the present insecurity in Mali emanated from a military coup d’état that was carried out by a captain who had received military training in the United States. Bearing in mind the fact that the United States had expended more than one billion dollars in Mali on ‘development and military training’ this author reflected on the musings of one former US Ambassador to Mali who wrote and posted pictures of himself and Captain Sanogo under the caption, “ Sanogo: A hero or a mutineer.”

This author repeated the call for a thorough evaluation of the role of the United States and NATO in Libya and for a full disclosure of the relationship between the US AFRICOM and the current instability in Mali. It was the incongruence between the media hype about AQIM and the reality that the present insecurity in the Maghreb was generated by the past US military activities from the period of the Pan Sahel Initiative to the NATO intervention in Libya that is the most persuasive argument for the dismantling of the United States Africa command. None of the member states of NATO want a proper inquiry of the impact of the NATO intervention on West Africa. It has been the position of the South African representative in the Security Council that South Africa has been calling for a proper acknowledgement of the direct impact of the NATO intervention in Libya on the Sahel, as well as an appreciation by the Council of the role of the AU in bringing the problems to the Council’s attention.

I inquired from General Ham whether he agreed with the recent speech of Jeh Johnson that there were reduced terror threats around the world and that the war on terror could be dealt with as a law enforcement matter instead of a military counter-terror matter. General Carter Ham replied that he knows Jeh Johnson well and that he had spent year implementing a study on ‘don’t ask don’t tell.” Carter Ham said that he agreed with Johnson that is was time to have this debate.

MORE ARGUMENTS FOR DISMANTLING AFRICOM

The plenary session of General Ham was followed by a panel discussion by three speakers, Walter Carrington and John Campbell (both former ambassadors to Nigeria) and Michael Pelletier of the State Department. Both former ambassadors spoke vigorously on the current climate created for the diplomatic corps of the United States by the activities of the US Africa Command. Walter Carrington specifically spoke on the hype that was being created by the discussion on ‘extremism’ in Mali commenting on the fact that the coup maker in Mali had been sent to the United States on numerous occasions. “The engagement with military personnel such as Sanogo only increases their appetite.” Carrington reflected on his opposition to dictatorship in Nigeria when General Abacha was in power and noted that he could not have survived with the present interagency format that subordinates all foreign policy activities of the United States to the Department of Defense. It was in this panel where the general was notified that if the United States wanted to go after extremism in Africa, it was necessary to go to the source of the financing, which is in Saudi Arabia. It was stated that Saudi Arabia was most responsible for radicalizing the population of young followers of Islam in Africa. Both Carrington and Campbell drew attention to the features of African society that made it difficult for the Saudi type of radicalization to succeed in the long term. This week, it was reported by the U.S Government that the international banking group HSBC Exposed U.S. Financial System to Money Laundering, Drug, Terrorist Financing Risks.

Despite the evidence of the role of this bank in supporting drug traffickers and moving money from Saudi Arabia for extremist networks, this bank was fined and none of the executives was incarcerated. A Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations probe had found that, “Global banking giant HSBC and its U.S. affiliate exposed the U.S. financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering (AML) controls.”

FROM RESISTANCE TO DISMANTLING AFRICOM

Numerous writers have drawn attention to the criminal activities of the financiers and the banks in promoting insecurity globally. These financiers have now moved to control private military firms and are busy planning to expand their activities in Africa. Many of these financiers are integrated into the military-industrial complex. Charles Ferguson in his book, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America, spelt out how the Ivory Tower and the academic establishment has been corrupted by the predators. The Association of Concerned Africans has joined in the critique of the US military in Africa drawing attention to the increased funding for the military and the diminished resources for established Title VI centers. Through the financing of programs such as the Minerva Research Initiative and the Human Terrain System (HTS), millions of dollars have been diverted from genuine scholarly research to priorities determined by the military. David Wiley in his critical analysis of how the study of Africa has been corrupted by the millions of dollars routed through the Pentagon noted,

“Now, for the first time in twenty-nine years, as U.S. military activities expand all across Africa — much of it hidden from public view and inaccessible to African and U.S. researchers — Africanist scholars can no longer say to their African hosts that the U.S. Africanist community stands together in not taking military or intelligence funding that could affect their choice of research topics, how their results will be used, and how they and their students will be viewed in Africa.”

What has emerged from an examination of the research projects financed by the Pentagon and routed through entities such as the National Defense University is the intellectual shallowness of the enterprise. It is difficult for the researchers to start from any serious historical background because from the moment there is serious engagement with the history and culture of Africa it can be understood that the U. S Military has always been on the wrong side of history in Africa. Whether it was the placing of Nelson Mandela on the list of terrorists or the collusion for the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the experience of the US military has been to lay the basis for genocidal violence and the plunder of resources in Africa. Patricia Daley brought out the reality that Africans have to learn from the protracted processes for peace such as that which was guided by Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela in Burundi. Participants in the Achebe colloquium heard of the importance of the elders in Africa and how these social forces are necessary for building peace.

In the final analysis of the intended benefits versus consequences of the establishment of AFRICOM, the balance sheet weighs heavily against Africa’s continental good. The current instability in Libya and Mali are directly related to the military planning and activities of AFRICOM. It has been documented by a number of books that US Africa Command has increased resource exploitation, imperial expansion, instigated more violence, intensified regional conflicts, undermined the authority of regional organizations like IGAD, SADC, EAC, and eventually the African Union. As such, AFRICOM as a formal vehicle of US imperialism is a disaster. Although the Resist Africom formation no longer exists in a formal sense, their platform for the resistance fertilized and offered another way to get beyond the arguments of the military information operations of AFRICOM.

Of the three areas of ‘terrorist’ activities in Africa, the case can be made that military engagement by Britain, France and the United States will only provide the rationale for increasing militarization. It should be of the highest importance for activists and scholars to push back from the argument that associated Al Queda groups in Africa ‘present significant threats to the United States.’ This is an exaggeration. Second, the issues of reducing militarism and insecurity in Nigeria cannot be separated from the exploitation and oppression of the Nigerian people. Third, after 20 years, the situation of peace in Somalia can only be solved in a regional context where there is cooperation among democratic states. The peoples of Africa need international partners but Africans cannot accept partnership from a society where the military industrial-complex abroad fortifies the prison-industrial complex at home where African descendants are warehoused.

AFRICOM is not what the people of Africa need and it is not what will achieve long-term stability on the continent. The struggles against militarism and exploitation in the United States cannot be advanced by a military command that serves the interests of oil companies and private military contractors. Mo Ibrahim spoke for many Africans at the colloquium when he said that it was time that US oil companies were as aggressive in cleaning up the African oil spills as they were in opening new oil platforms. The call for resistance can now bring up to date the concrete experiences of the US military and mobilize for the dismantling of the US Africa Command. General Carter Ham sought to use the space of a scholarly platform to justify the need for the existence of the US Africa Command. Instead the content of his message provided some of the clearest reasons why the war on terror has passed the tipping point.

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* Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. He is also a Special invited Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘Global NATO and the catastrophic failure in Libya’.

ENDNOTES

[1] Horace Campbell, “War on Terror: Not endless? A Pan African View, Pambazuka News , December 6, 2012, http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85698

[2] Julian E. Barnes and Evan Perez, “Terror Fight Shifts to Africa U.S. Considers Seeking Congressional Backing for Operations Against Extremists,” Wall Street Journal, Dec 3, 2012. See also Craig Whitclock, “U.S. expands secret intelligence operations in Africa,” Washington Post, June 13, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/ck6xj4x

[3] These remarks were made four days earlier at George Washington University, see Eric Schmitt, “American Commander Details Al Qaeda’s Strength in Mali, “ New York Times, December 3, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/aol4kew

[4] See web page of the US Africa Command, http://www.africom.mil/AfricomFAQs.asp,” USAFRICOM is responsible for U.S. military relations with 54 African countries including the islands of Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe, along with the Indian Ocean islands of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles. U.S. Central Command maintains its traditional relationship with Egypt, though USAFRICOM coordinates with Egypt on issues relating to Africa security.”

[5] For the history of the Association of Concerned African Scholars see, William martin, Ed, “ACAS Thirty Years On,” Concerned Africa Scholars, Bulletin, No 81, 2009, http://concernedafricascholars.org/docs/acasbulletin81.pdf

[6] Horace Campbell, “Remilitarisation of African Societies: Analysis of the planning behind US Africa Command, International Journal of African Renaissance Studies. 2008

[7] Lauren Ploch, “Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa, “ Congressional Research Service, Report RL34003

[8] “Strengthening AFRICOM’s Case.“ by J. Stephen Morrison, Mark Bellamy and Kathleen Hicks, CSIS, March 5, 2008, http://csis.org/publication/strengthening-africoms-case-0 See also, Stephen Burgess, “US AFRICA COMMAND, CHANGING SECURITY DYNAMICS, AND PERCEPTIONS OF US AFRICA POLICY,” U.S. Air Force Academy, Institute for National Security Studies, USAFA,CO,80840 http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a539969.pdf

[9] Jeremy Keenan, The Dark Sahara: America's War on Terror in Africa, Pluto Press, London 2009. See also Abdi Samatar, The Islamic Courts and the Mogadishu Miracle: What comes Next for Somalia: Review of African political Economy, Fall 2006 and “The Dialectics of Piracy in Somalia: the Poor versus the Rich,” Third World Quarterly, December 2010. The work on the funding of AFRICOM by Daniel Volman, “OBAMA, AFRICOM, AND U.S. MILITARY POLICY TOWARD AFRICA, “ Program of African Studies, PAS Working Paper Number 14, Northwestern University, 2009

[10] David Wiley, “Militarizing Africa and African Studies and the U.S. Africanist Response, African Studies Review, Volume 24, No. 2, 2012

[11] http://brown.edu/conference/achebe-colloquium/registration-0, See also Rachel Margolis,

“Colloquium to address turbulence in Africa,” Brown Daily Herald, December 5, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/cbewqyt

[12] The six geographic commands are: The Africa Command, The European Command, the Pacific Command, Central Command, the Northern Command and the Southern Command. There are three other combatant command structures in the US military. These are: USSOCOM: U.S. Special Operations Command, operating from MacDill Air Force Base, FL., USSTRATCOM: U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, NE, and USTRANSCOM: U.S. Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base. See Andrew feikert, “The Unified Command Plan and Combatant Commands: Background and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, July 17, 2012, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42077.pdf

[13] Notes taken at the Colloquium by author.

[14] Eric Schmitt, “American Commander Details Al Qaeda’s Strength in Mali, New York Times , December 3, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/bw4yx3a

[15] The point about stressing maritime security reflected different lines of the five services of the US military, See Vice Adm. Robert Moeller, “The Truth About Africom: No, the U.S. military is not trying to take over Africa. Here's what we're actually doing., “ Foreign Policy, JULY 21, 2010 , http://tinyurl.com/bnklden

[16] The basic arguments about piracy in the Eastern Africa region have been written up by Laura Ploch, Christopher Blanchard, Ronald O’Rourke, R. Chuck Mason, and Rawle O. King, “Piracy Off the Horn of Africa, Congressional Research Service, Report 40528, Washington, D. C, 2009, For alternative views on the basis for piracy see Abdi Ismail Samatar, A., Lindberg, M., & Mahayni, B., 2011. “The dialectics of piracy in Somalia: the rich versus the poor.” Third World Quarterly, 31(8), pp. 1377-1394 and Pham, P., 2010. “Putting Somali piracy in context”. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 28(3), pp. 325-341

[17] It was reported by Voice of America on October 19, 2012 that, “Obama Nominates New Chief for US Africa Command.” http://tinyurl.com/c7qs6pl

[18] Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo the leader of the military coup in Mali had received military training in the United States visiting the most prestigious academies over 5 times since 2001. “In the past decade, the U.S. alone has poured close to $1 billion into Mali, including development aid as well as military training to battle an al-Qaida offshoot in the north. In doing so, the U.S. unwittingly also helped prepare the soldiers for the coup: Sanogo himself benefited from six training missions in the U.S., the State Department confirmed, starting in 1998 when he was sent to an infantry training course at Fort Benning, Ga. He returned in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010 to attend some of the most prestigious military institutions in America, including the Defense Language Institute at the Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He took a basic officer course at Quantico, Virginia, and learned to use a light-armored vehicle at Camp Pendleton, Calif. See http://tinyurl.com/6pu23o4

[19] John Price, “Sanogo_ a hero or Mutineer,” http://tinyurl.com/bwzokz2

[20] “Senate Subcommittee Holds Hearing and Releases Report,” New York Times, July 16, 2012. See also the full report, http://tinyurl.com/cdgfffn

[21] David Wiley, “Militarizing Africa and African Studies and the U.S. Africanist Response, “ African Studies Review, September 2012. See also Maximilan Forte, “Militarism, Militarization, the Academy, and the Human Terrain System,” Zero Anthropology,June 22, 2011 http://openanthropology.org/za/?p=316

[22] Patricia Daley, Gender and Genocide in Burundi: The Search for Spaces of peace in the Great Lakes Region, James Curry, Oxford,2008


Africa’s ridiculous ‘rising’ and overdue uprising

Patrick Bond

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85767

In some quarters it is believed Africa is ‘rising’ due to a commitment to export-oriented, petro-minerals-centric, finance-driven ideologies. Patrick Bond questions such a paradigm and argues that hope lies in the popcorn protests in Africa

Either:

1) Africa owes its takeoff to a variety of accelerators, nearly all of them external and occurring in the past 10 years:
• billions of dollars in aid, especially to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria;
• tens of billions of dollars in foreign-debt cancellations;
• a concurrent interest in Africa’s natural resources, led by China; and
• the rapid spread of mobile phones, from a few million in 2000 to more than 750 million today.
Business increasingly dominates foreign interest in Africa. Investment first outpaced aid in 2006 and now doubles it.

Or:

2) Africa owes its economic decline (running at more than 6 per cent of gross income per year once nonrenewable resource depletion is considered) to a variety of accelerators, nearly all of them external and occurring in the past centuries during which slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism locked in the continent’s underdevelopment, but several of which – along with climate change – were amplified in recent years:

• stagnant overseas development aid – around 60 per cent ‘phantom’, anyhow – to most African countries, except to 14 ‘fragile states’), with Washington leading further cuts in funding to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria;
• tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt cancellation (of what was mainly unrepayable ‘Odious’ loans to dictators) in 2005 yet at the same time a squeeze on low-income African finance ministries that immediately afterwards caused a dramatic rise in debt repayments (from 5 to 8 per cent of export earnings);
• a concurrent looting of Africa’s natural resources, led by China and the West, resulting in dramatic recent falls in mineral and petroleum wealth (when calculated as ‘Adjusted Net Saving’ to incorporate resource-stripping); and
• the rapid spread of mobile phones, which because of high costs and low internet connectivity, has done very little to solve the digital divide.
Banking increasingly dominates foreign interest in Africa, as elite disinvestment into Western and Eastern financial markets continues to outpace aid and investment, amounting to an estimated $1.4 trillion in capital flight from the continent – both SubSaharan and North ends – from 1970-2010.

AFRICA LOSING OUT

From Time magazine’s December 3 cover story comes the first ‘graf (all that’s missing is hackneyed praise of Africa’s supposedly vast new ‘middle class’, which in reality is a tiny group). The biases of its author, Alex Perry, are out of control. In 2010, intoned Perry, ‘Independent Congo gave the world Mobutu Sese Seko, who for 32 years impoverished his people while traveling the world in a chartered Concorde.’ Rebutted Julie Hollar of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, ‘If you’re going to charge Congo with being ‘what’s wrong with Africa,’ you’d better give credit where credit is due. Independent Congo didn’t give the world Mobutu; that gift belongs to the US and Belgium, who supported the overthrow and assassination of democratically-elected Patrice Lumumba and helped prop up the horror that was Mobutu for decades afterward.’ Replied Perry, without irony, ‘The idea that the US created Mobutu and maintained him in power belittles Africans and is typical of the kind of racism that dogs analysis of Africa.’ This was two years after Perry authored another DRC story for Time, ‘Come Back, Colonialism, All Is Forgiven.’ (The spin-doctoring demonization of Lumumba just prior to his assassination by Time – working closely with the CIA – is lovingly recalled by Jonathan Schwarz.)

Reading Perry or even the DailyMaverick report last month on a Washington-based International Institute of Finance (IIF) study of African growth (‘It’s the real thing’), one would not suspect the sub-continent is actually losing a net 6 per cent of our continent’s gross national income each year thanks to the Resource Curse. But we are, if we take seriously recent recalibrations of Gross Domestic Product that measure raw materials stripped from Africa’s soil not just as once-off credits to GDP, but also as debits: the decline in ‘natural capital’ that occurs because the minerals and petroleum are non-renewable.



The World Bank’s 2011 book The Changing Wealth of Nations – from where the 6 present figure comes – is rather conservative in calculating non-renewable resource depletion, leaving out several important minerals, and also neglecting the tax fraud and transfer pricing associated with transnational capital. These problems are documented by my colleague Khadija Sharife in Tax Us If You Can and by Leonce Ndikumana and James Boyce in various studies of capital flight that deserve much more attention, e.g. their recent book on Africa’s Odious Debts.

According to the Changing Wealth of Nations, even South Africa’s annual ‘adjusted net savings’ – correcting income especially for the value of minerals stripped from the soil and never again available for future generations –was negative R2150 per person in 2005, a figure that has no doubt worsened since. In contrast, the wealth of resource-based countries Canada and Australia soared because their extraction is done largely by home-grown companies that reinvest and return profits to local shareholders; most of the extractive corporations operating here send profits to London, New York, Melbourne and Toronto.

In most Afro-optimist reports, information about the role of these firms – whether from the West or BRICS countries – in causing the African Resource Curse is scarce, although Perry does cite Marikana as indicative of South African crony capitalism. Yet most such authors are informed by export-oriented, petro-minerals-centric, finance-driven ideologies, and Time is no exception (perhaps for advertising-related reasons). To illustrate, other telling quotes Perry uses this week are from the inimitable Bob Geldof:

‘Africa is in the midst of a historic transition, and during the next few decades hundreds of millions of Africans will likely be lifted out of poverty, just as hundreds of millions of Asians were in the past few decades. Bob Geldof’s evolution from Live Aid organizer to, this February, the founder of a $200 million Africa-focused private-equity fund is emblematic of the transformation. ‘This could be the African century,’ he says. ‘There is a new Great Game being played out in Africa,’ says Geldof. ‘Yet much of the West ignores this geostrategic giant’ That will inevitably change. Mozambique’s offshore Rovuma-1 block has bigger natural gas reserves than all of Libya, while initial estimates are that Somalia has as much oil as Kuwait. The continent has 60% of the world’s unused arable land. As Geldof says, ‘In the end, we all have to go to Africa. They have what we need.’ And it is in that second scramble for Africa that the continent’s best hopes lie, because if the first scramble for Africa – as historians dubbed the period from the 1870s to 1900 – was a European imperialist carve-up, the second should leave Africa as the big winner.’

AN ‘AFRICAN CENTURY?’

More likely, Africans will be the big losers of a BRICS sub-imperialist carve-up of the continent’s land, minerals and hydrocarbons. More likely, Durban in March 2013 and subsequent BRICS summits will resemble, economically, the political deals of Berlin in 1885. ‘They have what we need’ says it all. This debate – which I had argued a couple of years ago with the Bank’s lead neoliberal economist for Africa, Shanta Davarajan – is critical to assessing whether the continent wins or loses from the status quo.

Under these circumstances, an ‘African century’? Moreover, with climate change causing only a 2 degree average warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that Africa’s crop revenue will fall by 90 present by 2100. Last month even World Bank president Jim Yong Kim expressed concern about a 4 degree rise, ‘which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes’ (including his own institution’s world-leading financing of fossil fuels, which appears set to continue). Already 400 000 die from climate change each year, and Christian Aid estimates that 185 million Africans will perish this century. As the Doha COP18 and Durban COP17 and every other climate gathering shows, those with power from Washington and Brussels to Beijing and Pretoria don’t really care. Neither Perry nor the IIF mention climate change even in passing.

LOOTING AFRICA CONTINUES

Much more could be added about the other ‘ecological debts’ owed by the Western and Eastern corporations to Africa (as well as other non-remunerated value transfers), the continent’s excessive financial and trade integration into a volatile world economy, the propping up of Africa’s dictators and parasitical elites by Barack Obama and other Western and Eastern elites, and so many more processes of extreme uneven and combined development that contribute to the looting of Africa.

But so as to not end in despair, it is also crucial to recall growing evidence of Africa uprising, from Egypt and Tunisia, to Senegal and Nigeria, to Kenya and Uganda, to the militant poor and working people of southern African. The best information about the continent's social struggles comes from the ezine Pambazuka, but there are other sources. Using data gathered even before Marikana, the Davos World Economic Forum’s 2012-2013 World Competitiveness Report gave SA workers the gold medal for class struggle, against 143 competitors, a soaring improvement over the 2011-12 rating of South Africans as only the world’s 7th most feisty workers. It is the intensity of these Africans’ critique of status quo political economy – and perhaps, soon, a growing breadth and depth, as strike committees fuse with community groups and environmentalists to transcend South Africa’s fabled popcorn protests – that provide the only real hope for a durable rising by a very oppressed continent’s peoples.

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* Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society.


Susan Rice and Africa’s unholy trinity

Alemayehu G Mariam

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85768

The US Ambassador to the UN has coddled, pampered, nurtured and protected the ruthless dictators of Eastern Africa, shielding them from legal and political accountability

Susan Rice, the current US Ambassador to the UN, has been waltzing (or should I say do-se-do-ing) with Africa’s slyest, slickest and meanest dictators for nearly two decades. More cynical commentators have said she has been in bed with them, as it were. No doubt, international politics does make for strange bedfellows.

MATRIARCH OF THE UNHOLY TRINITY

Rice’s favourite dictators in Africa are the ‘Unholy Trinity’ — Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and the late Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia — all former rebel leaders who seized power through the barrel of the gun and were later baptized to become the ‘new breed of African leaders’ (a phrase of endearment coined by Bill Clinton to celebrate the ‘Three African Amigos’ and memorialize their professed commitment to democracy and economic development). She has been best friend for life and the acknowledged Guardian Angel, champion, apologist, promoter, advocate, grand dame and matriarch of the trio. She has shielded the ‘Fearsome, Threesome’ from legal and political accountability, deflected from them much deserved criticism and thwarted national and international scrutiny and sanctions against them.

RICE & THE GENOCIDE THAT WAS NOT

In April 1994, when the Clinton Administration pretended to be ignorant of the unspeakable terror and massacres in Rwanda, Susan Rice — who by her own description ‘was a young Director on the National Security Council staff at the White House, accompanying the then-National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake’ — and currently the putative heir apparent to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, was unconcerned about taking immediate action to stop the killings. Rather, she was fretting about the political consequences of calling the Rwandan tragedy a ‘genocide’. In a monument to utter moral depravity and conscience-bending callous indifference, Rice casually inquired of her colleagues, ‘If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?’ Rice later shed crocodile tears for having made her senseless statement while simultaneously claiming she does not quite remember making it, but regretted ‘if I said it.’ Lt. Colonel Tony Marley, the US military liaison to the Arusha peace process (the Arusha Peace Accords which resulted in the 1993 agreement for power sharing between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda) was so baffled by Rice’s statement, he observed, ‘We could believe that people would wonder that, but not that they would actually voice it.’

In less than 100 days, 800, 000 Rwandans by UN estimate had been killed in the genocidal madness. For weeks, Rice, her boss Lake and other top US officials laboured and agonized not to call the monstrous Rwandan genocide, a genocide. They continued to play their sinister semantic bureaucratic games to make sure there were no official references to ‘genocide’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘extermination’ and the like in connection with the Rwandan tragedy. But far from regretting her role in underrating the Rwandan genocide and the massive and gross violations of human rights, over the past decade and half Rice has turned a blind eye, deaf ears and muted lips to extrajudicial killings, suppression of the press, decimation of opposition parties and imprisonment of large numbers of dissidents in Africa and aided and abetted Africa’s dictatorial trio. She has coddled, pampered, nurtured, protected and sang praises for these ruthless dictators.

US policy in the 1994 Rwandan genocide will remain a testament to shame, diplomatic duplicity, bureaucratic sophistry and plain old fashioned callous deceitfulness. On 6 April 1994, the plane transporting Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, Burindian President Cyprien Ntaryamira and other officials was shot down as it returned from Tanzania. The prime suspects in the assassination are believed to be elements of the Rwandan Armed Forces (RAF) who had rejected a power sharing agreement Habyarimana had reached with the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) a year earlier. Immediately following Habyarimana’s assassination, RAF members aided by extremist militia elements known as the Interahamwe (which in Kinyarwanda means ‘those who stand/work/fight/attack together’) went on a rampage indiscriminately killing government officials, ordinary Tutsis and other moderate Hutus.

Rice and other top US officials knew or should have known a genocide was underway or in the making once RAF and interahamwe militia began killing people in the streets and neighbourhoods on 6 April . They were receiving reports from the UN mission in Rwanda; and their own intelligence pointed to unspeakable massacres taking place in Kigali and elsewhere in the country. In a Memorandum dated 6 April1994, the day of the Habyarimana assassination, Deputy Assistant Secretary Prudence Bushnell, the State Department’s number two official for Africa matters, predicted:

‘If, as it appears, both Presidents have been killed, there is a strong likelihood that widespread violence could breakout in either or both countries, particularly if it is confirmed that the plane was shot down. Our strategy is to appeal for calm in both countries, both through public statements and in other ways…’

On 11 April 1994, in a Talking Points Memorandum prepared for the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Africa concluded:

‘Unless both sides can be convinced to return to the peace process, a massive (hundreds of thousands of deaths) bloodbath will ensue that would likely spill over into Burundi. In addition, millions of refugees will flee into neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania and Zaire…Since neither the French nor the Belgians have the trust of both sides…, there will be a role to play for the US as the “honest broker.”’

But Rice and company intentionally chose to minimize the extreme nature of the violence and kept on issuing empty declarations, pleas for a cease fire and calls to the parties to come to the negotiating table.

Two weeks into the genocide on 22 April, presidential National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, Rice’s boss, issued a statement ‘expressing deep concern over the violence that continues to rage in Rwanda following the tragic deaths of Rwandan President Habyarimana and Burindian President Ntaryamira two weeks ago.’ Lake called on ‘all responsible officials and military officers’ to bring the ‘offending troops under control’ and implement a ‘cease fire and return to negotiations.’ By late April, the US was still playing a ‘see no genocide, hear no genocide and speak no genocide’ public relations game. On 28 April, Bushnell ‘telephoned Rwandan Ministry of Defense Cabinet Director Col. Bagasora to urge an end to the killings.’ Bushnell told Bagasora that in the ‘eyes of the world, the Rwanda military engaged in criminal acts, aiding and abetting civilians massacres’ and demanded that the Rwandan ‘Government make every effort to implement the peace accords.’ Three weeks into the genocide, Bushnell was still talking about ‘massacres’ as others ‘expressed deep concern over the violence’.

On 1 May, the central issue facing the Defense Department intra-agency group established to generate proposals on what to do in Rwanda was how to characterize the mindboggling genocidal carnage (excuse me, ‘massacre’). According to the ‘Discussion Paper’ of this group, participants were warned not to use the ‘G’ word because using that label could result in US taking preventing action, exactly the same kind of concern explicitly raised by Rice:

‘Genocide Investigation: Language that calls for an international investigation of human rights abuses and possible violations of the genocide convention. Be careful. Legal at State was worried about this yesterday– Genocide finding could commit USG to actually “do something”.’

By 5 May, the US had considered jamming Rwandan radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines which was coordinating attacks and broadcasting highly inflammatory ethnic propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission in Rwanda resulting in thousands of deaths. That idea was discarded as ‘ineffective’ and ‘expensive costing approximately $8,500 per flight hour’.

A little over one month into the genocide, a Defense Intelligence Report dated 9 May 1994, concluded:

… ‘In addition to the random massacre of Tutsis by Hutu militias and individuals, there is an organized, parallel effort of genocide being implemented by the army to destroy the leadership of the Tutsi community. The original intent was to kill only the political elite supporting reconciliation; however, the government lost control of the militias, and the massacre spread like wildfire. It continues to rage out of control.’

By 21 May, six weeks into the genocide, incredibly, US officials were still debating whether they should call the carnage a ‘genocide’ despite the open and notorious fact that tens of thousands of Rwandans were being slaughtered. In a 21 May ‘Action Memorandum’ sent to Secretary of State Warren Christopher the question presented was ‘Has Genocide Occurred in Rwanda?’ under the heading ‘Issue for Decision’, the Memorandum formulated the policy question as follows:

Whether (1) to authorize Department officials to state publicly that “acts of genocide have occurred” in Rwanda and (2) to authorize US delegations to international meetings to agree to resolutions and other instruments that refer to ‘acts of genocide’ in Rwanda, state that ‘genocide’ had occurred.

Of course, there was no question genocide was taking place in Rwanda. The Legal Analysis drafted on 16 May, five days preceding the ‘Action Memorandum’, left no doubt about the occurrence of genocide. After citing the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which the US is a party, the Legal Analysis concluded:

THE EXISTENCE OF GENOCIDE IN RWANDA

There can be little question that the specific listed acts have taken place in Rwanda. There have been numerous acts of killing and causing serious bodily or mental harm to persons. As INR [Bureau of Intelligence and Research] notes, international humanitarian organizations estimate the killings since 6 April have claimed from 200,000 to 500,000 lives. (INR also notes that this upper figure maybe exaggerated, but that is not critical to the analysis).

[The UN estimated the number killed in Rwanda in less than 100 beginning on 6 April 1994 as 800,000; the Rwandan Government estimated 1,071,000 were killed in the genocide.]

Despite public protestations of ignorance of the Rwandan genocide, rivers of crocodile tears of not having done something to prevent it and moral expiations about Clinton’s ‘worst mistake of my presidency’, Rice, Lake, Christopher and others high in the Clinton Administration knew beyond a shadow of doubt that genocide was in the planning or underway from the day Habyarimana was assassinated.

LOOKING THE OTHER WAY

In 1996, two years after the end of the genocide, on the pretext of pursuing Hutu insurgents and militia who were responsible for the Rwandan genocide and to prevent their incursions into Rwanda from bases in the Congo (at the time Zaire), Kagame began arming ethnic Tutsis in the eastern part of that country. He also sent Rwandan troops to support them. The so-called Congo Wars were underway and continue to rage to the present day resulting in millions of lost lives.

The First Congo War lasted from November 1996 to May 1997. Congolese rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila overthrew long ruling dictator Mobutu Sésé Seko. The Rwandan-created destabilization in eastern Congo was the decisive factor in the fall of Mobutu’s regime. Kabila seized power in May 1997 and was assassinated by one of his bodyguards in January 2001. In March 2012, former Kagame right hand man and secretary general of the RPF, Theogene Rudasingwa made the shocking revelation that ‘it’s Paul Kagame who assassinated the Congolese President, Laurent Desire Kabila; Kagame is the murderer of the Congolese President Kabila.’ The Second Congo War began shortly after Kabila took power and continued until 2003. Eight African countries and dozens of armed groups were involved in the conflict.

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DRC

In March 2009, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) signed a peace accord with National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) - an armed militia established by Laurent Nkunda in the eastern Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in December 2006 - making the CNDP a political party. In April 2012, several hundred ethnic Tutsi members of the CNDP turned against the DRC government over alleged lack of implementation of the March 2009 Accords and formed the M23 Movement [a/k/a Mouvement du 23-Mars] under the leadership of the notorious war criminal General Bosco Ntaganda, (a/k/a ‘The Terminator’). Ntaganda was initially indicted by the International Criminal Court on 22 August 2006 for recruiting child soldiers and committing atrocities. He was indicted by the ICC for the second time on 13 July 2012 on three counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes including murder, rape, attacks on civilians and slavery. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Ntaganda’s boss and co-defendant, was the first person ever convicted by the International Criminal Court in July 2012. Last month, Ntaganda’s M23 rebels took control of Goma, a provincial capital with a population of one million people causing some 140,000 people to flee their homes. They were ‘persuaded’ to leave mineral-rich Goma in early December under international pressure although they presumably rejected similar calls by Kagame and Museveni.

SHIELDING UGANDA AND RWANDA

Kagame and Museveni of Uganda have been the prime supporters of M23. Various UN and other international human rights organization have documented Rwanda’s and Uganda’s on-going support for M23. According to a recent UN Report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (October 2012),

Rwanda officials coordinated the creation of the [M23] rebel movement as well as its major military operations. Senior Government of Uganda officials (GoU) have also provided support to M23 in the form of direct troop reinforcements in DRC territory, weapons deliveries, technical assistance, joint planning, political advice and facilitation of external relations. Units of the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) jointly supported M23 in a series of attacks in July 2012 to take over the major towns of Rutshuru territory, and the forces armees de la RDC (FARDC) base of Rumangabo. Both governments have also cooperated to support the creation and expansion of M23’s political branch and have consistently advocated on behalf of the rebels. The M23 and its allies includes six sanctioned individuals, some of whom reside in or regularly travel to Uganda and Rwanda.

Museveni secretly met with Ntaganda and M23 rebels. Prof. Howard French of Columbia University, in his NY Times article ‘Kagame’s Secret War in the Congo’ described the conflict in the Great Lakes Region (the seven great lakes in the Rift Valley region) since 1996 in which six million people have died in the form of armed conflict, starvation and disease as an epochal event of the twentieth century. He argued:

‘Few realize that a main force driving this conflict has been the largely Tutsi army of neighbouring Rwanda, along with several Congolese groups supported by Rwanda…. Until now, the US and other Western powers have generally supported Kagame diplomatically. Observers note that Rwandan-backed forces have themselves been responsible for much of the violence in eastern Congo over the years… The Rwandan Patriotic Front was directly operating mining businesses in Congo, according to UN investigators; more recently, Rwanda has attempted to maintain control of regions of eastern Congo through various proxy armies.’

Rice has been shielding Kagame and Museveni from scrutiny and sanctions in their role in the DRC. She has made every effort to suppress UN investigative reports showing Kagame’s role in supplying and financing M23. According to the National Journal, Rice ‘has even wrangled with Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, and others in the department, who all have been more critical of the Rwandans.’ The Journal reported that Rice was dismissive of the French ambassador to the UN who advised her of the need for the UN to do more to intervene in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She reportedly told the French Ambassador, ‘It’s the eastern DRC. If it’s not M23, it’s going to be some other group.’ The Journal quoting Prof. Gerard Prunier of the University of Paris reported:

When Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice came back from her first trip to the Great Lakes region [of East Africa], a member of her staff said, 'Museveni [of Uganda] and Kagame agree that the basic problem in the Great Lakes is the danger of a resurgence of genocide and they know how to deal with that. The only thing we [i.e. the US] have to do is look the other way.'

Such is the true nature of Rice’s crocodile contrition for the Rwanda genocide. Simply stated, Rice’s attitude towards Africa’s Unholy Trinity can be summed up as ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’ of genocidal dictators.

ADORATION OF MELES ZENAWI

On 2 September 2012, Rice sent three tweets to her followers in Twitter-dom as she prepared to deliver her funeral (ad)oration for Meles Zenawi:

‘Palpable sorrow felt here in Addis Ababa. We extend our condolences & best wishes to the Ethiopian people.’ ‘Meles leaves an indelible legacy for the people of #Ethiopia, from opposition to extremism to support for the poor.’ ‘I am honoured to represent the United States at the funeral of late PM Meles Zenawi of #Ethiopia.’

Rice may have believed she ‘represented the United States’ in her appearance, but her funeral oration for Meles Zenawi was personal and bordered on beatification. She described Meles as ‘an uncommon leader, a rare visionary, and a true friend to me and many.’ She said he ‘was disarmingly regular, unpretentious, and direct. He was selfless, tireless and totally dedicated to his work and family.’ Rice reminisced about her close familial ties and deep friendship with Meles:

‘Whenever we met, no matter how beset he was, he would always begin by asking me about my children. His inquiries were never superficial. He wanted detailed reports on their development. Then satisfied, he would eagerly update me on his own children. Meles was a proud father and a devoted husband. As he laughed about his children’s exploits and bragged about their achievements, a face sometimes creased by worry, would glow with simple joy. In his children and all children, Meles saw the promise of renewal and the power of hope.’

She said Meles ‘retained that twinkle in his eye, his ready smile, his roiling laugh and his wicked sense of humour.’ In an incredibly insensitive and callous manner, she related how Meles ‘was tough, unsentimental and sometimes unyielding.’ She announced that Meles ‘of course had little patience for fools, or idiots, as he liked to call them.’ (These ‘fools’ and ‘idiots’ are, of course, Ethiopian opposition leaders, dissidents, independent journalists, human rights advocates and regime critics.)

But Rice’s adoration of Meles would put the Three Magi who followed the star to Bethlehem to shame:

‘For, among Prime Minister Meles’ many admirable qualities, above all was his world-class mind. A life-long student, he taught himself and many others so much. But he wasn’t just brilliant. He wasn’t just a relentless negotiator and a formidable debater. He wasn’t just a thirsty consumer of knowledge. He was uncommonly wise – able to see the big picture and the long game, even when others would allow immediate pressures to overwhelm sound judgment. Those rare traits were the foundation of his greatest contributions.

Still, there was no shortage of occasions when, as governments and friends, we simply, sometimes profoundly, disagreed. But even as we argued – whether about economics, democracy, human rights, regional security or our respective foreign policies – I was always struck by two things: Meles was consistently reasoned in his judgments and thoughtful in his decisions; and, he was driven not by ideology but by his vision of a better future for this land he loved. I will deeply miss the challenge and the insights I gained from our discussions and debates.’

In her adoration, Rice was completely blinded to Meles’ atrocious human rights record. She was wilfully ignorant of the findings of her own State Department US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia issued on May 2012, which stated:

‘The most significant human rights problems [in Ethiopia] included the government’s arrest of more than 100 opposition political figures, activists, journalists, and bloggers… The government restricted freedom of the press, and fear of harassment and arrest led journalists to practice self-censorship. The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) continued to impose severe restrictions on civil society and nongovernmental organization (NGO) activities… Other human rights problems included torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces; harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; detention without charge and lengthy pre-trial detention; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; allegations of abuses in connection with the continued low-level conflict in parts of the Somali region; restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and movement; police, administrative, and judicial corruption; violence and societal discrimination against women and abuse of children; female genital mutilation (FGM); exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities; clashes between ethnic minorities; discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation and against persons with HIV/AIDS; limits on worker rights; forced labour; and child labour, including forced child labour.’

On 27 October 2012, Rice attended a ‘Memorial Service for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’ at Abyssinian Baptist Church and gave a second eulogy:

‘I come again both as a representative of the US government and as a friend of a man I truly miss… The Meles I knew was profoundly human and down to earth. He probably often figured he was the smartest person in the room, and most of the time Meles was right – at least about that. His legacy is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. He laid the foundations for Ethiopia’s sustainable development. He gave new momentum to Africa’s struggle to address climate change. He spurred his nation to double its food production and redouble its commitment to forestall another famine that could snuff out so many innocent lives. He played mid-wife to the birth of South Sudan and worked energetically to help South Sudan and Sudan resolve their differences peacefully. Last month’s accords, though fragile, are a monument to his unyielding efforts. Meles helped build the African Union. He sent peacekeepers to the world’s hottest spots and countered terrorists such as al-Shabab who target the innocent… May the spirit of Meles Zenawi spur us all to work ever harder, together, for a better Ethiopia, a better Africa, and a better world.’

Rice completely ignored the fact that 200 unarmed protesters were massacred in the streets and nearly 800 seriously wounded by police and security forces under the personal command and control of Meles following the 2005 elections. She turned a blind eye to crimes against humanity committed in Gambella in 2004 and war crimes committed in the Ogaden in 2008. She had forgotten the stolen election of 2010 and fact that Meles’ party won 99.6 per cent of the seats in parliament. She was completely oblivious of the thousands of political prisoners, including jailed opposition leaders, dissidents and journalists, rotting in Ethiopian prisons as she was waxing eloquent in her emotional eulogy. She could see Meles’ ‘brilliance’ but not his arrogance. She could see his ‘world-class mind’ but not his black heart. She said he was ‘uncommonly wise’, but could not see his common folly. She ‘profoundly disagreed with him on democracy and human rights’, but she would ignore all his crimes against humanity because he was ‘a true friend’ of hers.

The words of contrition Rice gave when she visited Kigali on 23 November 2011 could have been incorporated in her eulogy in Addis Ababa on 2 September :

‘Today, I am here as an American ambassador. But I also will speak for myself, from my heart. I visited Rwanda for the very first time in December 1994, six months after the genocide ended. I was a young Director on the National Security Council staff at the White House, accompanying the then-National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake. I was responsible then for issues relating to the United Nations and peacekeeping. And needless to say, we saw first-hand the spectacular consequences of the poor decisions taken by those countries, including my own and yours, that were then serving on the United Nations Security Council.

I will never forget the horror of walking through a church and an adjacent schoolyard where one of the massacres had occurred. Six months later, the decomposing bodies of those who had been so cruelly murdered still lay strewn around what should have been a place of peace. For me, the memory of stepping around and over those corpses will remain the most searing reminder imaginable of what humans can do to one another. Those images stay with me in the work I do today, ensuring that I can never forget how important it is for all of us to prevent genocide from recurring.’

How important is it for all of us, particularly Susan Rice, to prevent extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, detention without charge and lengthy pre-trial detention, infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, illegal searches, restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and movement on the African continent?

RICE AND THE GHOSTS OF ETHIOPIA

On 2 September and 27 October 2012, Rice had no idea, no recollection, no remembrance of the hundreds of unarmed protesting Ethiopians who were massacred in the streets, the thousands of political prisoners and hundreds of dissidents and journalists languishing in jail in Ethiopia today. In 1994, Rice was wilfully blind to the genocide in Rwanda. In 2012, she was wilfully blind to the long train of human rights abuses and atrocities in Ethiopia. America does not need a friend and a buddy to African dictators as its Secretary of State. America does not need a Secretary of State with a heart of stone and tears of a crocodile. America does not need a ‘see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil’ Secretary of State. America needs a Secretary of State who can tell the difference between human rights and government wrongs!

Is it not true that one can judge a (wo)man by his/her friends?

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* Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a lawyer.


A letter from Kuje Prison, Nigeria

Charles Okah

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85763

Charles Okah has been in prison for two years over what he believes are trumped-up charges. He has suffered torture and inhumane treatment in the hands of heartless prison officers. Meanwhile the wheels of justice turn ever so slowly

INTRODUCTION, BY SABELLA OGBOBODE ABIDDE

The Kuje Prison is located in Abuja, Nigeria. Though not as well-known as the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos, its notoriety is growing. In the 1990s, Kuje established its unsavory reputation as the place pro-democracy activists and critics of government were sent by the military regime.

Smuggling letters out of prison is not new. From the moment governments and governing authorities began constructing and imprisoning people, detainees and sympathizers have been smuggling letters and other items in and out of those horrible confinements. This was true of labour camps and prisons in places like North Korea and Communist China and Nazi-Germany, and in those horrible Soviet Gulags. This is also true of any system anywhere in the world.

Contrary to what the Nigerian government or the Nigerian Prisons Service may tell you, the Nigerian prisons are not the place people go to get rehabilitated or get re-oriented. In many cases, it has nothing to do with justice. In fact, the vast majority of those who are sent there go there to suffer, to get dehumanized, and or to die (mentally or physically). Often, government sends individuals to jail without just cause. They may do so using the cover of the Judiciary to detain people for long and inhumane period. This is the case with Mr. Charles Tonbra Okah.

Charles is being detained – not because the Goodluck Jonathan government has a shred of credible evidence against him regarding the Independence Day Bombing or any other criminal or terroristic activity – but because he is Henry Okah’s brother. What follows is a letter written by Mr. Charles Okah and which was smuggled out of Kuje prison.

******************************************************************************

Charles T. Okah November 19, 2012
Single Cell Block
Kuje Prison
Abuja, Nigeria.

His Eminence
Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie
c/o Catholic Church Secretariat
Lagos, Nigeria.

Your Eminence:

OCTOBER 1, 2010 BOMB BLAST SETUP AND GOVERNMENT DOUBLE STANDARD


Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I hope this letter meets you well. The reasons I choose to direct this letter to you are that I am a Catholic and you are an old boy of my alma mater, St. Gregory’s College, Lagos.

I write from Kuje Prison Abuja where two other Catholics and I have been languishing in solitary confinement for two years on trumped-up charges relating to the October 1, 2010 bomb attack claimed by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

My name is Charles Tonbra Okah, aka Billy Bones. On October 16, 2010 my residence in Apapa GRA was invaded by operatives of the State Security Services on the warrant that I was the suspected spokesman for MEND using the pseudonym “Jomo Gbomo.” My eldest son, visiting from the United States where he attends the University of Kansas (KU) was also arrested.

At the SSS Headquarters Abuja where we were flown to blindfolded with our legs and hands bound, my ‘cooperation’ was solicited for something completely different, to my surprise. My captors threw me a lifeline; offering me our freedom and a lucrative contract in exchange for false testimony against my younger brother Henry, who is resident in South Africa. I was to write a false statement claiming to have been told by Henry about the bomb plot and naming the following persons as his conspirators: Former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, Chief Timipre Sylva, and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. I bluntly refused.

To maintain pressure on me, I was told that my son would be implicated in the bomb matter, my containers of legitimate imports then at the Tin Can Port would be impounded and my business destroyed. I still did not budge, tossing their lifeline back with royal disdain.

When they realized I was not going to connive in their scheme, they became formal and reverted to the main reason for my arrest. I was asked for the MEND password which I told them I did not know. They bound me in a chair, took off my trousers and clamped a device to my penis. My legs were then put inside a basin of water. The device when turned on passed a high voltage of electricity to my body and I lost consciousness. This was on Monday October 18 at about 6pm. When I regained consciousness, I discovered I was at the National Hospital emergency room. I remember the doctors asking why I had trauma marks on my chest where the SSS doctor performed Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). The SSS operatives were evasive in answering questions at the hospital. That night I was released and taken to rest for the night at the State House Clinic. That was the last time a torture was carried out on me.

My son was eventually released after Mr. Femi Falana visited in the company of my wife after a month of being denied access to a lawyer. However, my containers have been impounded up to date and my bank account frozen.

The SSS stopped asking about the MEND password after Jomo Gbomo made another statement while I was in their custody but still refused to let me go because I did not cooperate earlier with them. Meanwhile in the ongoing trial in South Africa, Henry is accused of being the same Jomo Gbomo by the same people who say I am JG.

DOUBLE STANDARDS IN KUJE PRISON

On December 24, 2010 we were remanded in Kuje Prison as a result of our application to be removed from the SSS detention cell. Unknown to us, the SSS passed instructions from “above” to the prison authorities to carry out “special treatment” in order to stampede us into a trial towards conviction. For two years we have been locked up in solitary confinement, are not allowed to exercise or get sunlight outside and are forced to sleep on the floor when bunk beds are available. Even a court order by Justice Gabriel Kolawole to the prison for a change in our confinement style was ignored after it was superseded by an “order from above.”

In late 2011, while locked up inside our cell block, prison officials clothed in protective apparel, face masks and gloves carried out fumigation without opening for us to wait outside. Our protests fell on deaf ears and by the time they were finished we were in distress. The Youth Corper doctor on call tried her best within her limits to the emergency she was confronted with. The poisonous gas and barbaric action reminiscent of the Nazi concentration camp infamous gas chambers eventually led to the death of one Francis Osuwo, aka Gboko, also roped into this case by the SSS and a man I have never met before. Interestingly, the four persons in detention were strangers to each other except for one Obi Nwabueze who is a family friend and close associate of Henry.

The fumigant whose chemical constituents were never relayed to us has affected my neurological system and I have been on a daily prescription of strong neurological medication prescribed by a neurologist of the National Hospital, Professor Bwala.

While the Boko Haram suspects at Kuje prison are allowed to worship in the prison mosque, we have never set foot in the prison chapel. They are also enjoying privileges such as cable television, radio, liberty to move within the prison walls, bunk beds to sleep on and phone calls to their families. We are denied all of the above.

When I asked the current Controller of FCT Command the reason for the disparity, he said “the fear of Boko Haram is the beginning of wisdom.” He further said the Moslem community was concerned about their welfare in custody.

DOUBLE STANDARDS IN THE COURT

Even in the courts where justice is supposed to be blind, the double standards are glaring. While Senator Ndume, accused of being a financier of Boko Haram, was given bail by the same judge presiding over our case, we have been denied bail.

I understand that this Senator was permitted by the same court to travel on his religious obligation to Mecca for the lesser Hajj while we are refused from attending mass in a chapel less than 50 meters from our cell block.

The court is willing to permit the Senator to travel abroad for his medical check up if he can provide proof that such check up is not done locally. Meanwhile, I have been denied my application to go on a compulsory check up which in my case is mandatory for a kidney donor, having donated my left kidney to my mother 30 years ago.

Our cases have been adjourned repeatedly for cruelly long durations. The last time I appeared in court was March 2012 and the next adjourned date is January 31, 2013, that is if that date will not be shifted again under a flimsy excuse.

All we ask is for free and fair justice from an independent Judiciary that should release us instead of holding us as scapegoats over an obvious power show. While this government continues holding us hostage, our families are becoming destitute.

Our right to freely worship as Catholics is being infringed by the state who have more respect for Islam when all religions should be treated equally.

DOUBLE STANDARDS IN THE POLITY

The National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd.) was quoted as saying that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan has the phone numbers of suspected Boko Haram sponsors. Later the Inspector General of Police said certain individuals had been put on a “watch list” as suspected Boko Haram sponsors.

Now the big question is why did the government not simply have our phone numbers and put us also on its “watch list” while we move about freely? They did not hesitate to arrest us, clamp us on trumped-up charges and detain us on flimsy excuses. They did not merely talk, they took action even in South Africa where my brother was arrested since 2010. Is there a better word to describe this other than hypocrisy?

The same government eager to negotiate with Boko Haram who claimed responsibility for over 100 attacks where Catholics have suffered the brunt, has refused to negotiate with MEND and continue to delude themselves that all is well.

Why would this government expect Boko Haram to unmask it leaders and negotiate when they can see that perceived leaders and supporters of MEND are being persecuted and jailed?

I welcome a fact-finding visit from the Church in the company of credible human rights groups to verify our allegations.

On the two occasions Kuje Prison was visited by the bishop of Abuja during the Christmas of 2010 and 2011, he was surreptitiously steered away from where we are held hostage and I believe he has no idea of what is going in inside Kuje prison.

Our prayer is that leaders of our Churches will be more sensitive and proactive in politics of the land that touches the lifes of their followers and not leave delicate issues solely in the hands of corrupt and selfish politicians, and majority of the population rid of a “Potiphar” mentality who believe lies when told by SSS.

May God save our beloved country.

Yours Sincerely,

Charles T. Okah

CC: Pope Benedict, Vatican, Rome
Catholic Bishop of Abuja Diocese, Abuja FCT


“I…was…sick…and in prison, and you visited me.”
-Mathew 25. 35, 36

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Tanzania’s Mtabila Camp finally closed

Lucy Hovil and Theodore Mbazumutima

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85766

For the international community and the government of Tanzania, closing Mtabila Camp and emptying it of refugees might make it look like the problem has been solved, but in reality it has only displaced or dispersed it to Burundi and elsewhere in the region

The residents of Tanzania’s Mtabila refugee camp are currently being returned to Burundi against their will. This population, most of whom fled to Tanzania in the 1990s, has been facing increasing pressure to return to Burundi for several years in something of a battle of the wills: on the one side has been the government of Tanzania which has been increasingly withdrawing services, banning planting of crops and offering incentives to leave the camp, and on the other has been a group of refugees who have dug their heels in and refused to move.[1]

REFUGEE CESSATION

Yet it has been a battle of unequals with most of the power on one side. And finally those with power – and, they would argue, the law – on their side, have won through the invocation of refugee cessation. Cessation is one of the mechanisms in refugee law through which refugee status can be withdrawn in certain circumstances. In August 2012, after an individual status review that examined whether or not there were continuing valid claims to protection, cessation was applied to the majority of the group in Mtabila: the government of Tanzania, with the support of UNHCR, finally had the legal, if not moral, approval to return the refugees.

Consequently, on 31 October 2012 this group of Burundians finally ran out of options. With the assistance of the Tanzanian army, they started being loaded onto trucks and taken to ‘receiving centres’ in southern Burundi. Phone conversations the next day with those still in Mtabila suggested that there was confusion and a degree of coercion on the first day, with allegations of violence. These allegations were supported by a conversation that one of the authors had in person in Burundi with a returnee on the night of the night of the 31st, with a woman who had a swollen leg. She said she had been beaten by army elements as they forced her into the truck without any of her personal belongings. She only had the clothes she was standing up in.

By the second day, the refugees had apparently been cowed into submission – no doubt for the pragmatic reason that not resisting allowed them to collect the few belongings allowed within the UNHCR transportation allocation – and further violence was avoided. Since then, 16,500 have apparently left the camp and are now back in Burundi. Some have reportedly fled elsewhere in the region.

BURUNDI WELCOMES REFUGEES

On the Burundi side, a real effort has been made to receive the returnees appropriately. According to eyewitness accounts, returnees in this forced process were subjected to the regular procedures that are applied to any voluntary returnee, and were quickly moved to communal centres. Staff in the reception centres worked hard to process people, staying up until one or two in the morning to do so. In addition, Burundi’s Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender came and offered words of welcome and comfort to those who had returned. However, as more refugees return and increasing pressure is put on services that were already stretched, there is considerable concern that they may reach a breaking point and the long-term viability of the process may be undermined.

YET DANGERS IN RETURNING HOME

Of course, closing the camp allows UNHCR and the international community to draw a tidy line underneath the humanitarian operation and move elsewhere. But returning ‘home’ for these refugees is not as easy as it sounds. Some feel that it is dangerous for them because they are identified with the wrong political group, and Burundi of late has been accused of showing intolerance towards those who do not share the ruling party’s political views. While these claims should, in theory, have been considered in the cessation screening process and anyone with a genuine fear given permission to stay, the procedural problems with the process including a lack of clarity about its purpose and lack of assistance to refugees in making their cases (outlined in a previous IRRI briefing paper) [2] have raised fears that not all in this category might have been identified.

For others, it means having little, if any, access to livelihoods in a country that is almost exclusively dependent on subsistence farming and yet is chronically short of land. As refugees in the camp are all too well aware, many of those who have returned to Burundi in the past few years still have no access to their land and have been forced to live in ‘Peace Villages’ which, as previous research has shown, are deeply unpopular. (See, for example, the report "Two people can't wear the same pair of shoes"). It means relocating their family into a situation that may be economically precarious, with no guarantee that their children will be able to eat let alone go to school.

CHOICE ABSENT FOR REFUGEES

At the end of the day, therefore, no amount of legal or humanitarian language can mask the fact that these refugees did not want to repatriate and had expressed this vehemently for many years. Choice has been completely absent for this group of refugees and it remains to be seen how they will fair in Burundi, and whether or not they will be forced to flee again.

For the international community and the government of Tanzania, closing Mtabila camp and emptying it of refugees might make it look like the problem has been solved, but in reality it has only displaced or dispersed it to Burundi and elsewhere in the region. In many ways the assumptions surrounding the tidy categories of refugee humanitarian response continue to fail refugees. For as long as policy makers continue to see physically ‘returning home’ across the border as the lens for understanding the optimal end to exile – and, therefore, to push for it regardless of the cost – the problems that create displacement are not going to go away.


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ENDNOTES:

1. See, the International Refugee Rights Initiative and the Rema Ministries, Resisting Repatriation: Burundian Refugees Struggling to Stay in Tanzania, September 2011, and the Centre for the Study of Forced Migration and the International Refugee Rights Initiative, ‘I Don’t Know Where to Go: Burundian Refugees in Tanzania under Pressure to Leave,’ September 2009.

2. International Refugee Rights Initiative and Rema Ministries, ‘An urgent briefing on the situation of Burundian refugees in Mtabila camp in Tanzania,’ 10 August 2012.


Why Malawi can’t just legalise homosexuality

Sitinga Kachipande

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85774

The debate about decriminalising homosexuality must be strategically taken to Malawian people. One cannot simply change the law on such a sensitive issue without first addressing attendant social and religious concerns

The heated debate on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Malawi has resurfaced, which is not surprising as one can’t simply legalize homosexuality and then expect a nation to conform. On November 5 the Malawian government suspended all laws that criminalised homosexuality. Ralph Kasambara, Attorney General and Justice Minister, ordered police to not arrest LGBT individuals until parliament reviewed the laws, then backtracked three days later after criticism from Malawian civil society groups. Attempts to legislate change in support of LGBT rights without engaging the population are simply are not popular or sustainable. Greater efforts are needed to assess and address the social environment in Malawi which is complicating the sustainable decriminalization of anti-gay laws.

RELIGION, I PRESUME?

Like in much of Africa, Malawi’s leaders argue that homosexuality is alien to its cultural, traditional and religious values. The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) and Christian conservatives are at the forefront of the country’s anti-gay sentiments, and Christianity is central to Malawian history and society. The famous Scottish explorer David Livingstone is credited for introducing the religion to Malawi as he paved the way for colonial expansion. By the end of the 1900s, there were several Christian missions across the Lake Nyasa region. Today Malawi is 83 percent Christian and 13 percent Muslim; the remaining 1.9 percent, follow other beliefs, including indigenous religions. Both Islam and Christianity traditionally reject homosexuality.

Malawi identifies itself as a Christian nation and with no religious conflict. Citizens proudly see themselves as ‘peaceful’ and ‘non-violent’. However, these identities are at times at odds with attitudes towards LGBT individuals. Although Malawi has fewer reported violent crimes against the LGBT community than countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Cameroon, and Nigeria, Malawians typically stop short of violence towards LGBT individuals. Malawi is mostly a socially conservative country that is intolerant to a homosexual lifestyle. Being a homosexual in Malawi comes with a hefty sentence of between 5-14 years in jail, with hard labour. Two Malawian men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, received this harsh sentence after holding a traditional marriage ceremony as recently as 2010. But the late President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them following intense international pressure. Homophobic sentiments in Malawi are due to the dominance of the Christianity.

Homophobic attitudes in Malawi derive from the teachings in the country’s largely conservative Christian churches; therefore, any attempts to redress anti-gay legislation need to involve the church. The dominance of the Christianity and Judeo-Christian conservative values in Malawi makes it difficult to address homosexuality simply as a legal issue. Albeit being an independent, secular state, the Malawian state willingly operates under conservative colonial Christian ideologies: in practice, the state and church are not always separate. Public officials and private citizens often refer to themselves first and foremost as Christian and to the nation as “God fearing”. Religious culture is therefore inextricably intertwined with traditional western Judeo-Christian attitudes towards homosexuality and Malawi’s legal framework.

Arguments against homosexuality are less likely to engage legal obligations of the state and more likely to be presented as Biblical, moral arguments. The moral guide used in Malawian law stems from homophobic Western sentiments that were legislated by its former colonial governments and sustained by President Kamuzu Banda. Contemporary Malawian and Western Christian evangelicals also continue to influence legislation. Western evangelicals in particular are known to be powerful anti-gay legislation lobbyists in Africa. There is a need to engage Malawi’s Christian leaders and the MCC at religious levels – fight the Bible with the Bible. Even though objections to homosexuality are based on Biblical interpretations, the Bible is ambiguous about homosexuality and gay marriage.

Engaging the church community religiously in support of legislation against inequality can work and has worked. Malawian churches proactively supported democracy and human rights during the transition from dictatorial rule. It was a pastoral letter that helped galvanize the public to support Chakufwa Chihana, force Kamuzu Banda’s resignation and usher in democracy. However, the church community is largely unwilling to engage in the same ideals over the LGBT debate. Many Malawian churches are against a law that decriminalizes homosexuality, even if the current law suppresses sexual minorities. Religious justifications are, for the most part, used to repress Malawian LGBT citizens instead of liberate them.

Incidentally, similar Christian ideologies were used to justify the oppression of Black Africans. Africans were regarded as heathens because of the way they danced, dressed, or copulated — if the popular anecdotes state that the term "missionary position" originates from Christian missionaries’ teachings that this position was the appropriate way to engage in sexual intercourse is to be believed—and were deemed ‘ungodly’. These religious sentiments often influenced colonial laws towards Africans. Many traditional dances were banned by colonialists who deemed them as inappropriate and unchristian. Similarly, traditional marriages (non-Christian) or polygamous ones were not recognized as legitimate.

This repression gave rise to Malawi’s Black liberation theology and movements, which was spearheaded by the country’s national hero Reverend John Chilembwe. The theology adapted colonial Christian ideology and made it relevant to the African colonial experience. It used the liberating and inclusive tenets of the Bible to liberate African Malawians from oppressive social hierarchies. Conservative Christian Malawians seem to have well forgotten this in the LGBT debate. Malawi’s debate over LGBT rights should engage Biblical interpretations about homosexuality, leaders in religious theology. This should involve faith-based civic society and NGOs that support dialogue on Biblical teachings. Consistent with Chilembwe’s ideologies, Christianity in Malawi should be used to teach about justice, tolerance, equality and inclusivity. It should promote democracy and human rights for the whole society.

SOCIETY, I PRESUME?

Another common claim is that homosexuality is foreign, un-African and not a part of Malawian traditional culture. Homosexuality, some argue, is Western and its acceptance is a condition for development aid. However, historical data indicates that homosexuality did occur in pre-colonial Africa in countries like Benin, Congo, Burkina Faso and South Africa. A large portion of ethnic groups that settled in Malawi migrated from these areas. Pre-colonial attitudes to homosexuality were either negative (since it was not widely practiced) or neutral (it was seen as a normal gender ascription). Gender roles, as in the majority of Africa, were more fluid in pre-colonial than in contemporary Malawi. What foreigners brought to Africa was an increase in the rigidity of gender roles and homophobia. Similar to the altered attitudes towards African dress and dance, colonial practices influenced perceptions towards relationships by using religion. Attitudes towards African models of relationships such as polygamy, non-Christian traditional marriages and same partner relationships changed. Penal codes, such as those that criminalized homosexual relationships, preserved the changed attitudes.

In the post-colonial era, Malawi’s government did little to change these laws. Kamuzu Banda made efforts to change some of the unpopular tenets of colonialism but he largely continued oppressing Malawians to consolidate his own power. The routine suppression of groups like LGBT or Jehovah’s Witness’ was common in Banda’s autocratic Malawi. After the Banda era, most Malawians knew LGBT individuals could be found in the country but did not discuss the issue publicly. For example, the presence of ‘beach boy’ culture— young males who work on the beach as tour guides or organizers of entertainment that also engage in homosexual sex with tourists —on Malawian beaches supports the tourism industry but is rarely discussed by tourism or health authorities. Rather than deny its existence or focus on blaming foreigners, Malawians should be conscious of their own historical reality with LGBT community. This relationship is hard to define because foreign governments use the lifting of anti-gay legislation as a condition for aid. Doing so presents homosexuality as foreign and blames the LGBT community for funding and fiscal limitations. It also diminishes support for President Joyce Banda who is often accused of being too heavily influenced by foreigners because she supports LGBT rights as human rights.

OR DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT?

Equally important is the legal process: Malawians seem to desire upholding the law, albeit some motivated by homophobia. If Malawian homosexuality legislation is changed, citizens want it done legally and constitutionally. Malawians already saw their constitution flouted during former President Mutharika’s second term. The country had become increasingly dictatorial because Mutharika enacted new laws that limited freedom and civil rights. When Mutharika suddenly died in early 2012, democracy was threatened during an attempted constitutional coup: staunch Mutharika supporters made efforts to circumventing the constitution. Malawians celebrated when the constitution was upheld and Joyce Banda became president in what was considered a victory for constitutional process.

Consequently, there is general low tolerance in Malawi for those that do not follow legal processes and protocol. Part of the new president’s agenda is to realize human rights for all Malawians. When Malawians heard that the Banda administration suspended anti-gay laws without due process there was resistance. Even those who would otherwise have supported decriminalizing homosexuality sided with the constitution. The Malawi Law Society (MLS) stood alongside the MCC in the debate due to their commitment to upholding the constitution. They argued against the suspension on legal grounds, stating that ministers had no right to freely suspend laws and that doing so set a dangerous precedent.

Although international human rights groups tout the suspension as a victory for human rights and LGBT rights, supporting the undemocratic methods that brought it about contradicts the democratic process. This only heightens anti-gay sentiments and weakens credibility. Realizing Malawian LGBT rights won’t be popular or possible if due legal process is circumvented. The fight and argument needs to be tackled in parliament with input from those who have support and backing from constituents. This means the debate has to be strategically taken to Malawian people and one cannot simply decriminalize homosexuality before changing social attitudes Social and religious concerns must be addressed with a public that also needs to be sensitized on the issues of concern. Additionally, there should be an introspective look at Malawi’s religious and pre-colonial history. Further, Malawians should be familiarized with democracy and the role of government – this was never adequately done during the transition to multi-party rule and former President Muluzi’s rule.

Government and civil society need to guide the debate. The government needs to clearly define what they want to achieve for the country by decriminalizing homosexuality and communicate that the state is mandated to protect all citizens, not just straight ones. Social marketing campaigns and public service announcements that aim to change attitudes towards homosexuality and the LGBT community should be developed. Some Malawians still debate over the differences between calls to ‘decriminalize homosexuality’ versus calls to ‘legalize gay marriage’ and a sizeable number believe is it the same issue. Biased media reporting on the issue is common. Success and sustainable change can only come from and be measured by a change in public perceptions as well as the law.

Addressing the religious and social attitudes, as well as legal concerns, is central to Malawi’s LGBT debate. Although homosexuality is a contentious issue in the county, part of the population does support the community. Many—liberal Christians, heterosexuals, those interested social justice for all, and other Malawians—support its decriminalization. Tiwonge Chimbalanga was often sympathetically referred to as ‘Aunt Tiwo’. The threat of undermining the constitution is too real for Malawi so supporting change that circumvents the law is bound to backfire. LGBT rights activists need to be more strategic and focus on protecting all rights for all citizens.

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* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

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* Sitinga Kachipande is a Pan-African Studies student and blogger, currently a research and communication intern at TransAfrica. Views expressed are her own.

REFERENCES

Blessing-Miles, T., 2010. African Myths About Homosexuality. The Guardian, 23 March.
Central Intelligence Agency, 2012. CIA World Factbook - Malawi. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mi.html
[Accessed 29 11 2012].
Frazer, P., 2009. How Malawian Boys are Being Sexually Exploited. African News, 30 September, p. 22.
Kaoma, K. J., 2012. Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, Somerville: Political Research Assocaites.
Mitchell, M., 2002. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. "Living Our Faith:" The Lenten Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Malawi and the Shift to Multiparty Democracy, 1992-1993, 41(1), pp. 5-18.
Monroe, I., 2012. Malawi's LGBTQ Community's Short-Lived Freedom. Huffington Post: Gay Voices, 15 11.
Reuters, 2012. Churches Force Malawi to Change Tune on Anti-Gay Law. Reuters, 8 11.
Rotberg, R. I., 2005. Brief Life of an Anti-colonial rebel: 1871?-1915. Harvard Magazine, March-April, Volume March-April, pp. 36-37.
Rukweza, J., 2006. Is Homosexuality Really "UnAfrican". Pambazuka News, 23 March.
Segueda, E., 2012. Little Support by African Churches for Gay Rights. Deutsche Welle, 27 11, p. 1.
Smith, D. & Mapondera, G., 2012. Malawi lawyers’ group questions legality of suspending anti-gay laws. The Guardian UK, 8 11.
Stewart, C., 2012. Malawi is Homophobic, but is Learning About Gays. [Online]
Available at: http://76crimes.com/2012/11/05/malawi/
[Accessed 29 11 2012].
Tenthani, R., 2012. Malawis Anti-Gay Laws Under Review, May be Suspended. Huffington Post, 8 11.




Comment & analysis

Tackling HIV and AIDS through taxation in Uganda

Jamie Hitchen

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/85773

A new tax on goods and services is being proposed in Uganda to fund HIV and AIDS prevention and protection programmes. But the idea has sparked a debate about government performance in managing funds

In the early 1980’s Uganda had an extremely high rate of HIV and AIDS infection that was a serious social problem. President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, has been applauded for his pro-active approach to HIV and AIDS and for being a leader in Africa on prevention methods. He spearheaded a mass education campaign promoting a three-pronged ‘ABC’ HIV and AIDS prevention message: Abstinence from sexual activity until marriage; Be faithful within marriage; and Condoms as a last resort.

He was ably assisted by significant foreign aid; most notably the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). From 2004-2011, for example, Uganda received US$1.8 billion in direct funding.

Despite the continuation of this financial support, since 2007 HIV and AIDS infection rates have stagnated and even show a small increase from 6.4 to 7.3 percent.

Is a fresh, more sustainable approach, now needed? And what might this look like?

WHAT IS BEING PROPOSED

A working paper released in September 2012, Justification for Increased and Sustainable Financing for HIV in Uganda, proposes the creation of a fund specifically designated to assist projects for HIV and AIDS prevention and protection.

The fund will generate cash through levies on bank transactions and interest, air tickets, beer, soft drinks and cigarettes, as well as taxes on goods and services traded within Uganda. In addition a small tax will be added to telephone calls and to each kilowatt of electricity consumed (equivalent to 1 Ugandan Shilling (0.025pence) per phone call).

The revenue generated is expected to be spent on condom distribution, reducing cases of sexually transmitted infections and in the prevention of mother to child transmission.

In discussing the thinking behind the strategy David Apuuli Kihumuro, director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission outlined the need for Uganda to fund its approach to HIV and AIDS without such heavy reliance on international support:

“[Currently] 68 percent of Uganda’s HIV funding comes from donors, and 20 percent from HIV-positive people and their families, while only 11 percent comes from the government and 1 percent from the private sector.”

REACTIONS TO THE TAX

The reactions from ordinary Ugandans have not been particularly favourable. It’s not been so much about the idea of a HIV and AIDS tax being proposed that is drawing dissent, but it is more revealing of the absence of faith held in the government not to pocket the funds.

The current scandal at the Office of the Prime Minister discovered in October by the country’s auditor general– the theft of €12 million committed by workers based at the Office of the Prime Minister, taken from joint donor funds from Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden that was ear-marked for peace and development programmes in Northern Uganda – is still fresh in the memory and has led to several international organisations and governments withholding or suspending aid.

These kinds of breaches of trust felt by Ugandans and donors provide the backdrop to nearly all political debates in Uganda. Although people I have spoken to do not necessarily think the HIV and AIDS tax idea is a bad one, there are still those who don’t support it based on “official” Uganda’s recent record. Most people believe that the practices of managing and enforcing the tax would fail to achieve the results it sets out to in the first place. Two of the most repeated questions I have heard again and again were:

Who would be in charge of dispersing the funds?

And how would accountability for the funds be created?

Citizens are also asking why the current funding, which remains high, around $400 million in 2010-11, is not preventing an increase in the rate of infection.

Three issues remain problematic:

1) There is a failure to properly engage with the root causes of the problem in rural areas. Knowledge levels of prevention methods remain at just 33%.

2) The key driver of infections in adults is complacency, both amongst citizens themselves and the government lessening it as a policy priority.

3) Lack of trained public health officials with the outreach and equipment to have an impact.

Questions therefore need to be asked as to whether it is a shortfall in funds that is the problem or the attitude and approach to tackling the issue which needs re-thinking.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES?

Other African countries have also trialled or are considering similar measures and so this debate is not just taking place in Uganda.

In Kenya the National Aids Control Council (NACC) is proposing that the government enforce a 2 percent tax on mobile phone airtime, to raise $153 million over five years. It has even been reported that the country’s largest mobile phone network has expressed a willingness and support to participate in such a programme.

Kenya is already part of an air ticket funding scheme, whereby a small levy on airline tickets and cargo goes towards HIV and AIDS programmes. The money raised is specifically used to buy anti- retroviral drugs.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe has also a strategy which raises funds for HIV and AIDS prevention through taxation at 3 percent. This was a policy forced on them in 1999 by declining donor support brought about by political developments in the country. Low salaries and weak state structures have made collecting this difficult. Recent years have seen revenues of $20.5 million collected from this scheme but while it is undoubtedly an improvement more is needed to tackle the HIV and AIDS problem in Zimbabwe.

FINAL COMMENTS

The idea of levying a small tax on everyday goods such as petrol and phone tariffs is an innovative, bold solution and one that, at least in theory, has merits for ensuring sustainable funding that isn’t dependent on international support.

Ugandan scepticism-at-large about the transparency of parliament and the air of resignation about official corruption held by the public and by government officials are at the core of why meaningful debates about a HIV and AIDS health tax are being held back.

Is this method of collecting revenues the right solution for Uganda?

How can the money be best spent to get Uganda reducing its HIV and AIDs infection rates?

These are just some of the questions that should be driving the debate, and hopefully will. An announcement of a renewed commitment to tackling HIV AIDS by the government on 3 December 2012 may be a start but there is a need to involve all Ugandans in a national debate. HIV and AIDS affects a huge percentage of the population, directly and indirectly, and their views cannot, and should not be ignored.

Opinions about how to tackle HIV and AIDS may differ but the ideal of a society free of the illness is a vision shared by all.

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Jamie Hitchen currently lives and works in Kampala, Uganda. Having obtained a Masters in African Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) he now works for the Human Rights Centre Uganda (www.hrcug.org).

* This article was first published in developmenteducation.ie.


Chinese car making in Cameroon? A romantic notion

Samba Tata

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/85777

Talk about Chinese investors venturing into vehicle manufacturing in Cameroon is certainly hot air. The central African nation is ill prepared for such an industry

An article by Chris Mbunwe in the Cameroon Post Line last November talked about the Chinese opening a car manufacturing plant in Bamenda. What a romantic notion! It is a notion shared by many a politician and others who have no clue as to what it takes to open an assembly plant. And it will continue to be an elusive concept for a long time.

If the Chinese are that interested in developing a manufacturing base in the northwest, a good starting point (unless they are afraid of competition) would be to invest and work with the locals on light manufacturing especially of the consumer goods that the Chinese flood the rest of the world with including the ubiquitous motorcycle. The light manufacturing could include food and wood processing, plastics, soaps and other detergents, tires, simple auto parts such as clutch plates, gears, batteries, and seats; and cell phones. Did I forget toothpicks! The list of consumer goods is endless. There are advantages to this approach: capital investments (for light manufacturing) are more affordable. You build a skill base of technicians and craftsmen that are necessary for auto manufacturing. Auto assembly is at the pinnacle of industrialization and the Chinese are still struggling with that.

The presence and interests of Chinese is much stronger in a lot of other African countries such as Angola, Sudan and the DRC. In Angola they have been criticized for not involving and employing a large number of Angolans. This creates a vacuum in technology transfer. They haven’t set up auto assembly plants in these countries. The incentives are just not there.

Here is why I know the talk of an assembly plant in Bamenda is just that.

Infrastructure, which refers to roads, ports and the rail system, are a must. Roads are necessary to transport raw materials (components) to the assembly facility and transport the finished product away. The wear and tear resulting from the heavy load require constant repair. Bulky parts such as frames, axles and sheet metal cannot be transported readily by road. They require rail transport right to the point of use. A rail system is just as important for the finished product. Quite frequently there are unpredictable breakdowns or parts shortages in the production process and those parts have to be flown in by air. Proximity to a functioning airport is a necessity.

Abundant and reliable water supply is required for capture (waste paint) and booth balance processes in the paint shop and cooling elsewhere within the plant. For example welding robots in body and white (body shop) require cooling. Large volumes of water are required for waste water treatment.

Power supply should be reliable and adequate to support the numerous assembly processes and operations. Power outages do have adverse consequences resulting in rework or reprocess which are costly. In some instances the product, typically paints, can be completely damaged beyond reprocess. This requires backup generators which add to operating costs.

Equally important is compressed air for assembly tools. Compressed air, as the name implies is generated from large bulky equipment known as compressors and boilers. Special skills are required to keep this equipment operating 24/7.

There is always a supplier network (which also depends on developed infrastructure) within proximity to support the assembly plant. This network includes suppliers for paint, sheet metal, tires, drive train or chassis as well as trim components. It is estimated that for each job in a car factory there are about 15- 20 supporting jobs.

A distribution or dealership network helps sell the product since it is unlikely that that the entire product will be exported. There has to be a significant domestic demand to justify locating the plant in the first place.

One major consideration is the labor force or human capital. Cameroon has one of the highest literacy rates (estimated at 69 percent) in Sub Saharan Africa. The workforce can be easily trained for basic assembly operations. Unfortunately it still lacks critical skills in the form of programming electricians, millwrights, pipefitters and toolmakers. These are the trades that support the daily activities of a car factory. This skill set takes time and effort to develop. It is simply lacking in Cameroon at this time.

When it comes to locating a car factory there is international competition in the light of the attendant economic benefits (competitive wages and the creation of a middle class). In addition, it costs well over US $600 million to build a car factory. With this kind of capital investment the investor would need to build about 200 units/day to break even and about 400 units/day to realize a return on investment within a 5-year frame.

Finally, let’s face the political reality in Cameroon. If there were sound economic prospects for a car manufacturing plant in Cameroon, the project would have been diverted to the South or similar Region in the country. Bamenda would be last on the selection list.

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

* Samba Tata has over 25 years of automobile manufacturing experience and was involved in the launch of popular brands such as the (Dodge) Durango. He can be reached at: [email protected]




Advocacy & campaigns

221 US academics petition Obama on DR Congo maelstrom

Association of Concerned Africa Scholars

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/85770

The scholars are calling on President Obama to take bilateral actions and actions through the United Nations to protect civilians in the conflict zone of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

December 10, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

We, the undersigned 220 scholars of Africa and members and associates of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars, join Amnesty International in being deeply dismayed about the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We urge you to lead the international community in taking forceful action to seek to end the human rights violations that are being committed and to press all involved parties to ensure the protection of civilians. Specifically:

- Press the Security Council to ensure protection of civilians from further abuse and ensure support for the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONU) so that it has adequate resources and mandate to fulfill its protection role.

- Support a Security Council resolution requiring Rwanda and Uganda to immediately withdraw any support to the M23 armed group.

- Publicly recommend to the UNSC that officials within the Rwandan Ministry of Defence be added to the list of designated individuals targeted by the UNSC Sanctions Committee.

- Mandate the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to fully implement the Sec 1502 disclosure requirement of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requiring U.S. companies to disclose any products they manufacture using conflict minerals sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo or contiguous countries.

- Press the Congolese government to stop violations being committed by the Congolese army as well as entering into alliances with armed groups, and fully implement the Public Law 109-456: The DRC Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006 (Obama Law).

- End the waiver of Child Soldier sanctions on the Congolese Government and extend the sanctions to include nations that support guerilla movements like M23 that recruit child soldiers.

Signed by 220 academics and scholars of Africa in the United States and sent to President Barack Obama, 12/11/2012

ACAS Co-Chairperson: Prof. Noah Zerbe, Humboldt State University, [email protected]
ACAS Secretary: Prof. Leslie Hadfield, Brigham Young University, [email protected]
ACAS Demilitarization TF Chair: Prof. David Wiley, Michigan State University, [email protected]


Call for Action: Fight the European Union's ocean-grabbing

Joint statement by Africa Contact (Dk), Spire (No), World Forum of Fisher Peoples (Intl)

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/85769

Should the neo-colonial fisheries partnership be agreed upon, it would give economic and political support to the Moroccan regime's occupation of Western Sahara, while furthering imperial resource-grab

Western Sahara is currently being occupied by Morocco and has been so since 1975. On Monday 10 December the international solidarity network, Western Sahara Resource Watch, who works closely with Polisario Front, initiated a campaign to stop the European Union's attempt to renegotiate a Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) with Morocco.

The FPA - in itself a neocolonial instrument in the guise of a 'partnership' - includes the resource-rich waters off the coast of Western Sahara. Should the FPA be agreed upon, it would give economic and political support to the Moroccan regime's occupation of Western Sahara, while furthering the imperial resource-grab of what rightfully belongs to the Saharawi people.

After a several years long campaign, a similar EU-Morocco FPA was rejected by the European Parliament in December 2011. If this happens again with the agreement currently being negotiated, we hope that this could be an important step in fighting the EU's pillage-and-plunder fisheries policy that rewards the European industrial fishing fleet, while undermining struggles for democracy, food sovereignty, climate- and social justice.

We urge you to show your solidarity with the Saharawis' on-going struggle for independence as well as your resistance against the EU's neo-colonial ocean-grabbing by supporting the campaign with your individual and/or your organisation’s signature here.

In solidarity,

Mads C. Barbesgaard, Board member, Africa Contact - Denmark // www.afrika.dk

Harald Sakarias Hansen, President, Spire - Norway // www.spireorg.no/english

Naseegh Jaffer, Co-Chairperson, World Forum of Fisher Peoples - International // representing millions of fishers and fish workers in approximately 40 different countries


Darfuri students found dead after protests

Arry Organisation

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/85776

Sudanese authorities should investigate the death of four Darfur students and the disappearance of another three last week. Police should stop using excessive force against student protestors

On 7 December 2012 in the morning three bodies of Darfuri students in Gaziera University were founded in a small water canal near Madani, the capital city of Aljazeera state. That afternoon a fourth body was found. The students found dead were:

1. Mohamed Younis Alnil
2. Adil Mohame Ahmed
3. Mubarak Tebin Saeid
4. Alsadig Abdu Allah Yaqoub

Days earlier on December 3 , hundreds of students from Darfur states had protested against the administration of the Gaziera University’s decision to deny the tuition waiver granted to the Darfur students in the public universities by the peace agreement in Doha and the previous peace agreements. The security forces cracked down the protesters, with the support of the university administration. That day 80 students were detained and released later, except one student.

On December 5, the students protested for the same reasons against the administration and called for the freedom of their detained colleague. That day clashes took place between the ruling party student supporters and Darfur students. The security officers attacked the students and they ran away for fear of detention and arrest toward the nearby water canal and jumped in. Police were using electric sticks, according to witnesses, to prevent the students from getting out of the water. Later that day, seven Darfuri students went missing. Four of the missing students were found dead, while the remaining three were still missing:

1. Alnoaman Ahmed
2. Faysal Yaqoub
3. Adam Mansour

Arry Organization calls on the Sudanese authorities to immediately conduct investigations on the death of the four students and present to justice the responsible persons regardless of their positions. Arry organization also urges the government to end the use of extreme violence against student protestors.


South African NGO wins international award

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/85772

Shine Centre encourages children to develop and nurture a love for reading and highlights the many benefits of reading

London 13.12.12: The STARS Foundation has selected The Shine Centre as this year’s recipient of the Africa-Middle East Rising Star Award, which includes $15,000 of unrestricted funding and tailored consultancy support. The organisation was selected for its contribution to promoting reading as an empowering skill amongst children and their families primarily in the greater Cape Town area. With the slogan ‘Words can Change Worlds’ at its core, and through community involvement and partnerships, Shine aims to inspire South Africa to become a nation of readers.

Shine aims to address the high illiteracy rate in South Africa by improving literacy levels among children in schools and disadvantaged communities. It does this by running a structured language and literacy programme, training organisations to encourage children to read together, equipping schools with the necessary resources, empowering parents and caregivers to participate in their children’s literacy development, and advocating for policy changes.

In addition to its own flagship centres, the organisation facilitates the establishment of social franchises and reading clubs called Shine ‘Chapters’. Training workshops for this highly replicable model consist of a two-part course called ‘Shine in a Box’. Part One provides training on simple methods, tools and activities to strengthen the early literacy development of children and to encourage a love of reading and books. Part Two, which focuses on operational issues and the methodology surrounding the bespoke Shine Literacy Games, is offered in addition to organisations or individuals who wish to set up Shine ‘Chapters’ (social franchises).

“The work of the Shine Centre encourages children to develop and nurture a love for reading and highlights the many benefits of reading. This simple act that so many of us take for granted has the power to not only increase the self-confidence of the child but also empower entire communities. In addition, the organisation’s highly replicable operating system carries huge potential and can easily be applied nationwide, which is why the STARS Foundation has awarded the Shine Centre this year’s Africa and Middle East Rising Star Award,” said STARS Foundation Programme Officer, Samia Zoued.

Since its establishment in 2000, Shine’s work and reach has grown significantly as the organisation’s innovative programmes encourage children, parents, communities and businesses to work in partnership towards securing a better education for the children of South Africa. One such collaboration has resulted in eye testing in schools and the provision of free spectacles.

“Shine believes that targeted early literacy support for children fosters independent learning habits, instils confidence and curiosity, and is key to raising literacy rates and wider educational standards in South Africa. With the additional unrestricted funding provided by the STARS Foundation, we will invest in and consolidate our current systems and expand our literacy programme into different provinces in South Africa,” said Shine’s Executive Director, Maurita Glynn Weissenberg.

In addition to awarding the Africa-Middle East 2012 Rising Star Award to the Shine Centre, the STARS Foundation also selected The South Africa Education & Environment Project (SAEP), also from South Africa, as this year’s Africa-Middle East ‘runner up’. SAEP’s holistic programme works to improve the lives of children and youth in South Africa’s disadvantaged township communities by providing educational support at every level of their academic development. SAEP’s high school programmes support high-potential students, teach advanced computer skills, offer art workshops, and run environment clubs. SAEP also offers programmes for early childhood development.


ABOUT THE STARS FOUNDATION IMPACT AWARDS

The STARS Foundation improves the lives of disadvantaged children and their communities globally and believes that local organisations are best placed to respond to the needs of their communities and the children in their care. Through the Impact Awards, STARS helps already effective organisations become even stronger by enhancing their capacity to deliver vital services on the ground. It does this by offering recipients a unique package of unrestricted funding and tailored consultancy support.

To celebrate its 10-year anniversary this year, STARS has committed to affecting the lives of 20 million people across 100 countries by 2020, by focusing on two key programmes:

1. Expanding the STARS Impact Awards (building on its success of 40 Awards, 1.5million people reached) to strengthen more outstanding NGOs working with disadvantaged children and communities in the categories of Health, Education, Protection and WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) in the countries ranked highest for under-five mortality rates by UNICEF.

2. Launching a new operational unit called STARS Game Changing Initiatives, which will incubate and develop new solutions, in the form of innovative products and ideas, to pressing development needs in collaboration with companies, high performing local NGOs and the communities they serve.

NOTES TO EDITORS

For further information or interview requests, please contact Mona Samari, email: [email protected], telephone: +44 (0) 7515 828 939 (Case studies and photography are available).


Two human rights defenders detained in Sudan

SUDO UK

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/85775

Human rights lawyers Magdi Saleim and Mohammed Zein Osman have been arrested in Wad-Madani, Sudan, in the context of student protests and the killing of students at Al-Gezira University

Magdi Saleim, a well known lawyer in Wad-Madani was arrested on Saturday the 8th of December. He was taken from his home at 1:00 AM by six members of the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), who came with a pickup to arrest him.

It is believed that Magdi Saleim was arrested because of his support and defence of students from Darfur at Al-Gezira University. He is being held without charge or access to his family and lawyer which puts him at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Mohammed Zein Osman, also a lawyer from Wad-Madani, was arrested on Sunday 9th of December in relation to his support and defence of Darfuri students at Al-Gezira University.

Sudan Social development Organisation (SUDO UK) calls on the authorities to:

- Immediately and unconditionally release human rights defenders Magdi Saleim and Mohammed Zien Osman;
- Ensure that both lawyers are not tortured or ill-treated and allow them immediate access to their families and lawyers.
- Guarantee that human rights defenders in Sudan can undertake their legitimate activities without harassment.




Books & arts

A child’s life for €375: My life has a price

Fahmida Khan

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/85779

In the raw testimony of her torture and abuse, Tina Okpara paints an unforgettable portrait of a child determined for a better life. This powerful memoir will force any parent to think twice before disposing of essential responsibilities for their child.

'My Life Has a Price' by Tina Okpara (Amalion Publishing: Dakar, October 2012, ISBN 978-2-35926-016-8, 192 pages, Price: £13.95)
Amalion Publishing
133 Cité Assemblée
Ouakam
BP 5637 Dakar-Fann,
0004 Dakar,
Sénégal
Tel/Fax (221) 33860 19 04
Email: [email protected]

In the grim world of human trafficking, Nigeria is just one of the many African countries where girls in their adolescence are exploited for the purposes of forced labour and sexual abuse. Equally, many people from these same countries are eager to move away from their native land with the hope of escaping repression, whether it be based on gender, religion, social or economic factors. They want freedom and independence. However this is the irony of Tina’s story.

Tina Okpara’s ‘My Life Has A Price’ takes us on her five-year journey to hell. She is transported from a loving yet poor childhood in Nigeria to the home of a celebrity footballer where she is repeatedly abused - raped, beaten and tortured. Initially captivated by her adopted parents, the realities of modern slavery soon kick in. It is interesting to observe that deeply embedded within the father is the superficial idea that a foreign land is the source of success. Whether it is naivety or selfishness, to him Okpara’s offer of adoption is Tina’s lucky break. Tina’s slim yet powerful memoir about this experience will force any parent to think twice before disposing of the responsibilities for their child.

It is the dream of gaining a good education which lures Simon Omaku into giving her up to the hands of Godwin Okpara and his wife Linda. Normal to childhood, it is a family environment of love, care and innocence; however this is all snatched away from Tina at the price of €375 – the sum given to Simon Omaku by Godwin Okpara. Tina firmly believes her father did not expect the cruel ordeal that later faced her and therefore is not to blame.

Her tragedy starts when she loses her biological mother, which she blames herself for. Her father quickly re-marries, giving Tina a stepmother and a house full of commotion. To escape this, her father decides it would be best for Tina to live with her uncle; a place where she is loved and given adequate care. However she is soon removed from this safe haven when her best friend’s mother succeeds in her plan to adopt her and transport her to a wonderful life in a foreign land. But instead, she is not a sister to her best friend but a slave - made to do all the housework and forced to sleep in the cellar, isolated from the other children.

As the dream of education becomes ever distant, Tina seeks comfort in tattered books found in the bin. Writing becomes her friend and therapy. Despite the fatigue, she always finds energy to confide in her notebooks. In secret, she tells the pages the events of her day and it is where she takes out her anger and fury of a broken dream. Her story resonates with the lives of many where the parallel lines of reality and dreams never meet. But unlike most, her only dream is to have the normal childhood promised to her; to study and to have friends to laugh with.

Continuous criticism endured from her adopted mother appears to be painless in comparison to the beatings. Using the heels of her shoes, Linda Okpara would bald Tina’s scalp. When her step father Godwin attempts to come to her rescue, she is labelled as a slut and he is accused of sleeping with her. Although this is not true at the time, it eventually becomes a reality, and Linda takes all of her anger out on Tina, scarring her for life.

To the outside world, the Okparas are an enviable family, one with a ‘genteel’ lifestyle whilst Tina’s life is invisible to the world. She does not know anyone who can help her and being unable to speak French, hinders this. Although her four new siblings witness the daily trauma she goes through, there is little mention of them in the book and while it appears that they try and ease the tension whenever they can, they fail to seek help for her.

Each attempt to run away and gain her freedom is a climatic point in the book itself, as she meets people who are willing to help her but eventually only direct her to the French authorities. As soon as she mentions her surname she is handed back to the Okparas. It is as if the famous can do no wrong.

13 August 2005 is a day Tina will never forget. It is the day she finally manages to escape. She runs away after Godwin once again tries to rape her. After nearly five years of abuse, it is on her third attempt to escape that she finally meets people who believe her story and take her to the authorities. Police accompany her to the house and demand her papers. The police are denied entry by Godwin and this is the beginning of Godwin Okparas exposure to the life he has subjected Tina too.

In the raw testimony of her torture and abuse, Tina Okpara paints an unforgettable portrait of a child determined for a better life. Her endurance through pain and struggle provides hope for those who may be undergoing similar tribulations. This absorbing book of survival is a moving testament of how time heals.

The genuine and simple tone of the memoir reflects Tina's pre-teen voice and readers are effortlessly able to picture her excruciating experiences. The book details her ordeals in a very descriptive yet clear manner leaving no truth untold. It is very easy to empathise with her and it is difficult not to feel that you want to intervene in her life. Undoubtedly, the story will arouse emotions and reflections about the sad state of what many African children may be undergoing today. This book will certainly shock readers and ask the question - how can a mother of four be so cruel to another woman’s child?

Tina’s gripping memoir starts as a tragedy yet ends celebrating life - a real life story of hope, compassion and survival.

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

* Fahmida Khan is a law student and a budding writer who researches and explores social troubles faced by teenagers and young adults through fiction and non-fiction.


Dust, spittle and wind

Sonwabiso Ngcowa

2012-12-13

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/85778

In Sanya Osha’s suspense-filled novel, society is on the verge of irreparable breakdown but manages somehow to pull itself back up from the abyss

I was talking to Katleho Shoro from the Anthropology Department at the University of Cape Town about a workshop that was to be organised where two African authors were coming to speak about their novels. When I left the building I had the book ‘Dust, Spittle and Wind’ (2011) in my hand. The title of the book already captured me. From these words my mind turned inquisitive. It could just barely offer visuals.

In the train to Fish Hoek that day I sat and thought about the dust. I pictured the spittle and wondered which wind direction inspired the book. Could these winds be persistent, strong and irritating? What we refer to as the black South Easter in Cape Town? I could not wait to learn.

Looking through the train window, I noticed things I had forgotten to look at. We passed Claremont, Wynberg and Retreat. All these places were different and had their own stories to tell. Soon after that I was sandwiched between a mountain and a sea on my left. When I had passed all this scenery, I got home and opened the book by Sanya Osha.

In the book I met Olu Ray who is the main character that the author follows. We are first introduced to Olu through learning about his dilemma. He had been struggling to make the decision between going to the border to do the national service or remaining in his home town. Though the reluctance still poised in his mind, in the end he decided to go. How does a soldier fend in a land that seemed as foreign as a dry place in the moon? By this time I had developed a drooling sensation to carry on and uncover these questions.

What would Olu go through? How would he experience this different part of Nigeria? I cared because I had come to like the dimensions of the character in Olu. He was human, had things he feared, didn’t claim to be the master of everything (even in his mind) and had strengths and weaknesses. He came from the south of Nigeria and had fears about joining the military camp in the north.

In the military camp Olu came across many identities that carried different ideologies. In a quest to find a home he was rejected by homosexuals for his rather inconsiderate ways. In one instance Olu spotted,

“....he had a camera and he asked if he could capture their most climatic moment for posterity. Gerrout or I’ll give you a dirty kick in the balls.”

This happened when Olu spotted a moment that he felt had to be immortalised. It was not taken very kindly. It is in this way that we are able to diligently deal with the taboos of society.

Amongst the ideologies were also those of the poets who poured their hearts out about their romantic subjects. The poets only tolerated him. Olu was no poet in the making, yet the poets’ yearning for love was a subject Olu soon came to understand. He came to understand its cry for he too struggled to find love in the camp.

When the time set to be on the site ended, everyone needed to make a plan. Hazy, together with Beatrice got redeployed to places of their choices. These girls knew where to focus their attention around sex hungry men in superior positions. The post-coital transaction was a life of luxury for the girls.

With nothing to ‘offer’ and no ‘power’ in the sexual politics, Olu saw the girls to always be in a rush. They would not give in to anyone who had little money or no money. Olu failed to strike a sexual relationship even with Hazy who liked his gentleman personality. How does then Olu’s relationship continue with the ladies around him? Where would he be redeployed with little influence or no power at all to manipulate the decision?

It was in the time of a major change like redeployments that Olu decided to tour the surrounding area. He went on a walk about, got a ride on a motorcycle and ate at a food stall where hungry kids hovered around for leftovers. This was to be his luck in meeting a friend in Hugo, another soldier. Olu felt they had some things in common. They were both travellers on a strange land. Olu soon learnt that Hugo’s passion lay in creating catalogues of erotic impulses. Could rejection from girls have led to Hugo working on images that aroused sexual desire?

Part of what antagonised Olu was the norms and values of senior officials in the army. These were some of his inner conflicts. He felt a bit lucky when he got posted to a state-owned bank. The conditions there were better, though they did not fully fulfil his preference. It was here where Olu met Friday, a joker and pleasant man to be around. He started to thoroughly enjoy the company of Friday and other flat-mates.

However, their brotherly love in the flat was not going to last for long. Two girls brought a letter from higher authorities bearing the strict instruction that Olu and his friend Friday needed to vacate their rooms to make space for the girls. Voluptuous girls had been pulling out flat occupants by getting the authorities on their side. How does a serving soldier continue to navigate life in north Nigeria? I remained eager to know.

Olu moved to town where he got a nice room through a well-connected man he had met at the bank. He enjoyed the town, spending time at bars that sold hard liquor. In these bars, sex workers were readily present. His times there led him to meeting Oskar who worked for a state-owned newspaper. Through visiting Oskar at the quarters where he lived, Olu met Stephanie. Olu got struck by Stephanie’s physique, which was pleasing to the senses. He also learnt that Oskar worked on a project on female eroticism inspired by Stephanie, the likable sex worker.

After the death of Amaka, Stephanie’s friend in prostitution, one would have thought that she would stop her work. Stephanie too had a bad experience with one of her clients who died after an engagement with her. Specifically, only after this incident, Stephanie vowed that she would not continue with sex work. She was too frightened by what had happed. How does she then live as an ex-prostitute? What was to come?

After rejecting many men, she fell for Ahmed Zoro, a brigade colonel. He gave Stephanie ‘the life’; she had things of luxury she previously could not afford. The colonel left Stephanie alone for long periods at a time. She became bored and invited Oskar. After many days of enjoying each other at the beautiful place the colonel had made available, things turned very bad for Stephanie and Oskar. When the colonel found out that Stephanie had been cheating on him he ordered his men to shoot Oskar and leave him to die.

Determined to change her ways, Stephanie struck a deal with Olu where she would source work and Olu would tutor English. Hajia Habiba, married to a rich civil servant is his first learner. Things develop between the instructor and the learner and Olu finds himself in bed with this most beautiful woman. Tasha, who is Olu’s second learner, is a bit hard to penetrate. In the end Olu sleeps with her too. At this stage he cannot believe his luck.

Owing to the wish of not wanting to give too much away, I stop describing what happened in the story. Significantly, the whole book has a poetic flow that works for both a teenager and an older reader.

When I thought about my observations in the train on my way home that day I remembered I had read the blurb at the back of the book. “In Sanya Osha’s telling, society is on the verge of irreparable breakdown but manages somehow to pull itself back up from the abyss.” These words as well as from having read the rest of the story reminded me that with changes in our lives we are offered the opportunity to discover ourselves. We meet the side of ourselves we would never have known without change. The personalities that we meet awake the unconscious side of ourselves.

Furthermore, it is the high level of verisimilitude that kept me thinking between the pages. The plausibility of Sanya Osha’s story telling remains unquestionable. This is my sentiment after being captured by artwork that awakened the mother of suspense in conflict. By this I am referring to the texture of the story; it is that of the truth. ‘Dust, Spittle and Wind’ is Osha’s story in which modest yet intriguing hurtles of climaxes lead to the main one at the end.

The “bitter-sweet journey of loss and self-realisation” as the subject statement is immaculately captured. The reader has been respected to the pleasing extent that issues that would normally be hidden, forbidden and repressed in society are brought to the fore and discussed. Osha is not scared to go there, he writes about some of what I think but am too scared to say.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sanya Osha in a workshop in Cape Town. He has an awesome presence and is a good listener. He is a soft spoken man with passion for honesty - he told us that he is a failed poet. However, I would not quickly associate the word failure with him.

This book still rates high in the books I have read. The one small issue I had was that I found it to be a bit short. It is a thick plot that the author could have worked with to make the book over 200 pages.

I would recommend this book for the teenage and older reader. The reason for this is that the more observant we are as individuals, I feel, the more we see our sense of being in the world. The display and discussions of societal issues in Osha’s work quenched the need to initiate dialogue about the very issues.

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

* Sonwabiso Ngcowa is poet based most of the time in Cape Town, South Africa.





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