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Features

How Washington helped foster the Islamist uprising in Mali

Jeremy Keenan

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86053


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As the French-led military operation continues, Jeremy Keenan reveals how the US and Algeria have been sponsoring terror in the Sahara.

On 12 October 2012, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favour of a French-drafted resolution asking Mali’s government to draw up plans for a military mission to re-establish control over the northern part of Mali, an area of the Sahara bigger than France. Known as Azawad by local Tuareg people, northern Mali has been under the control of Islamist extremists following a Tuareg rebellion at the beginning of the year. For several months, the international media have been referring to northern Mali as ‘Africa’s Afghanistan’, with calls for international military intervention becoming inexorable.

While the media have provided abundant descriptive coverage of the course of events and atrocities committed in Azawad since the outbreak in January of what was ostensibly just another Tuareg rebellion, some pretty basic questions have not been addressed. No journalist has asked, or at least answered satisfactorily, how this latest Tuareg rebellion was hijacked, almost as soon as it started, by a few hundred Islamist extremists.

In short, the world’s media have failed to explain the situation in Azawad. That is because the real story of what has been going on there borders on the incredible, taking us deep into the murky reaches of Western intelligence and its hook-up with Algeria’s secret service.

Azawad’s current nightmare is generally explained as the unintended outcome of the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar al-Qadafi. That is true in so far as his downfall precipitated the return to the Sahel (Niger and Mali) of thousands of angry, disillusioned and well-armed Tuareg fighters who had gone to seek their metaphorical fortunes by serving the Qadafi regime. But this was merely the last straw in a decade of increasing exploitation, repression and marginalization that has underpinned an ongoing cycle of Tuareg protest, unrest and rebellion. In that respect, Libya was the catalyst for the Azawad rebellion, not its underlying cause. Rather, the catastrophe now being played out in Mali is the inevitable outcome of the way in which the Global War On Terror has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the US, in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since 2002.

WHY ALGERIA AND THE US NEEDED TERRORISM

When Abdelaziz Bouteflika took over as Algeria’s President in 1999, the country was faced with two major problems. One was its standing in the world. The role of the army and the DRS (the Algerian intelligence service) in the ‘Dirty War’ had made Algeria a pariah state. The other was that the army, the core institution of the state, was lacking modern high-tech weaponry as a result of international sanctions and arms embargoes.

The solution to both these problems lay in Washington. During the Clinton era, relations between the US and Algeria had fallen to a particularly low level. However, with a Republican victory in the November 2000 election, Algeria’s President Bouteflika, an experienced former Foreign Minister, quickly made his sentiments known to the new US administration and was invited in July 2001 to a summit meeting in Washington with President Bush. Bush listened sympathetically to Bouteflika’s account of how his country had dealt with the fight against terrorists and to his request for specific military equipment that would enable his army to maintain peace, security and stability in Algeria.

At that moment, Algeria had a greater need for US support than vice-versa. But that was soon to change. The 9/11 terrorist attacks precipitated a whole new era in US-Algerian relations. Over the next four years, Bush and Bouteflika met six more times to develop a largely covert and highly duplicitous alliance.

ALGERIA'S 'STATE TERRORISM'

In January 1992, legislative elections in Algeria were on the point of being won by the Front Islamique du Salut, which would have resulted in the world’s first democratically elected Islamist government. With a ‘green light’ from the US and France, Algeria’s generals annulled the elections in what was effectively a military coup d’état. It led almost immediately to a ‘civil war’ (known as the ‘Dirty War’) that continued through the 1990s, allegedly between the Islamists and the army, in which an estimated 200,000 people were killed.

By 1994, the Algerian regime’s secret intelligence service, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), had succeeded in infiltrating the main armed Islamist groups, the Groupes Islamiques Armées (GIA), to the extent that even the GIA leader, Djamel Zitouni, was a DRS agent. Indeed, many of the killings and civilian massacres were either undertaken by the DRS masquerading as Islamists or by GIA elements tipped off and protected by the DRS.

John Schindler, a former high-ranking US intelligence officer and member of the National Security Council and now the Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, recently ‘blew the whistle’ on Algeria’s creation of terrorists and use of ‘state terrorism’. Writing about the 1990s, he said:

‘The GIA was the creation of the DRS. Using proven Soviet methods of penetration and provocation, the agency assembled it to discredit the extremists. Much of [the] GIA’s leadership consisted of DRS agents, who drove the group into the dead end of mass murder, a ruthless tactic that thoroughly discredited GIA Islamists among nearly all Algerians. Most of its major operations were the handiwork of the DRS, including the 1995 wave of bombings in France. Some of the most notorious massacres of civilians were perpetrated by military special units masquerading as Mujahedin, or by GIA squads under DRS control.’ [1]

By 1998, the killing had become so bad that many Islamists abandoned the GIA to form the Groupe Salafiste pour le Prédication et le combat (GSPC) but it soon became evident that it too had been infiltrated by the DRS.

Although the ‘Dirty War’ began winding down after 1998, it has never really ended. The GSPC, which changed its name to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2006, is still operative both in northern Algeria and the Sahara-Sahel.

In many respects, little has changed since the 1990s in that the DRS is still creating terrorists and using ‘false flag’ incidents and ‘state terrorism’ as fundamental means of control. The DRS has certainly not changed: its head, General Mohamed Mediène, who was trained by the KGB and once referred to himself as ‘The God of Algeria’, [2] was appointed in 1990 and is still in post. He is regarded as the most powerful man in Algeria.

As for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, its leaders in the Sahara and Sahel regions, namely Abdelhamid Abou Zaid, Mokhtar ben Mokhtar and Yahia Djouadi (all have many aliases) are either agents of the DRS or closely connected to it.

My first book on the Global War On Terror in the Sahara, The Dark Sahara (Pluto 2009), described and explained the development of this extraordinary relationship. It revealed why it was that the Bush administration and the regime in Algiers both needed a ‘little more terrorism’ in the region. The Algerians wanted more terrorism to legitimize their need for more high-tech and up-to-date weaponry. The Bush administration, meanwhile, saw the development of such terrorism as providing the justification for launching a new Saharan front in the Global War On Terror. Such a ‘second front’ would legitimize America’s increased militarization of Africa so as better to secure the continent’s natural resources, notably oil. This, in turn, was soon to lead to the creation in 2008 of a new US combat command for Africa – AFRICOM.

The first US-Algerian ‘false flag’ terrorist operation in the Sahara-Sahel was undertaken in 2003 when a group led by an ‘infiltrated’ DRS agent, Amari Saifi (aka Abderrazak Lamari and ‘El Para’), took 32 European tourists hostage in the Algerian Sahara. The Bush administration immediately branded El Para as ‘Osama bin Laden’s man in the Sahara’.

RUMSFELD’S CUBAN BLUEPRINT

The US government has a long history of using false flag incidents to justify military intervention. The thinking behind the El Para operation in 2003 can actually be traced directly to a similar plan conceived by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff 40 years earlier.

In the wake of the 1961 Bay of Pigs disaster – when a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles, supported by US armed forces, attempted unsuccessfully to invade Cuba and overthrow the government of Fidel Castro – the US Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up plans, codenamed Operation Northwoods, to justify a US military invasion of Cuba. The plan was presented to President John F Kennedy’s Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, on 13 March 1962. Entitled ‘Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba (Top Secret),’ the Northwoods Operation proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war that the Joint Chiefs of Staff intended to launch against Cuba. It called on the CIA and other operatives to undertake a range of atrocities. As US investigative journalist James Bamford described it: ‘Innocent civilians were to be shot on American streets; boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba were to be sunk on the high seas; a wave of violent terrorism was to be launched in Washington DC, Miami and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer [Chair of US Joint Chiefs of Staff] and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war against Fidel Castro’s Cuba.’

The plan was ultimately rejected by President Kennedy. Operation Northwoods remained ‘classified’ and unknown to the American public until declassified by the National Security Archive and revealed by Bamford in April 2001. In 2002, a not dissimilar plan was presented to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board. Excerpts from its ‘Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism’ were revealed on 16 August 2002, with Pamela Hess, William Arkin and David Isenberg, amongst others, publishing further details and analysis of the plan. The plan recommended the creation of a ‘Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group’ (P20G as it became known), a covert organization that would carry out secret missions to ‘stimulate reactions’ among terrorist groups by provoking them into undertaking violent acts that would expose them to ‘counter-attack’ by US forces.

AL QAEDA IN THE ISLAMIC MAGHREB

My new book on the Global War On Terror in the Sahara (The Dying Sahara, Pluto 2013) will present strong evidence that the El Para operation was the first ‘test run’ of Rumsfeld’s decision, made in 2002, to operationalize the P20G plan. In his recent investigation of false flag operations, Nafeez Ahmed states that the US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh was told by a Pentagon advisor that the Algerian [El Para] operation was a pilot for the new Pentagon covert P20G programme.

The Sahara-Sahel front is not the only case of such fabricated incidents in the Global War On Terror. In May 2008, President George W Bush requested some $400 million in covert funding for terrorist groups across much of the Middle East-Afghanistan region in a covert offensive directed ultimately against the Iranian regime. An initial outlay of $300 million was approved by Congress.

Since the El Para operation, Algeria’s DRS, with the complicity of the US and the knowledge of other Western intelligence agencies, has used Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, through the almost complete infiltration of its leadership, to create a terrorist scenario. Much of the terrorist landscape that Algeria and its Western allies have painted in the Sahara-Sahel region is completely false.

The Dying Sahara analyzes every supposed ‘terrorism’ incident in the region over this last, terrible decade. It shows that a few are genuine, but that the vast majority were fabricated or orchestrated by the DRS. Some incidents, such as the widely reported Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attack on Algeria’s Djanet airport in 2007, simply didn’t happen. What actually transpired was that a demonstration against the Algerian administration over unemployment by local Tuareg youths ended with the youths firing shots at the airport. It was nothing to do with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

In order to justify or increase what I have called their ‘terrorism rents’ from Washington, the governments of Mali, Niger and Algeria have been responsible on at least five occasions since 2004 for provoking Tuareg into taking up arms, as in 2004 (Niger), 2005 (Tamanrasset, Algeria), 2006 (Mali), 2007-09 (Niger and Mali). In July 2005, for example, Tuareg youths rioted in the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset, setting ablaze some 40 government and commercial buildings. It was finally proven in court that the riots and arson attacks had been led by Algeria’s police as agents provocateurs. The matter was hushed up and some 80 youths freed and compensated. But the object of the exercise had been achieved: the DRS’s allies in Washington were able to talk of ‘putative terrorism’ among the Tuareg of Tamanrasset, thus lending more justification to George Bush’s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative and the Pentagon’s almost concurrent ‘Operation Flintlock’ military exercise across the Sahara.

Around the time of the El Para operation, the Pentagon produced a series of maps of Africa, depicting most of the Sahara-Sahel region as a ‘Terror Zone’ or ‘Terror Corridor’. That has now become a self-fulfilled prophecy. In addition, the region has also become one of the world’s main drug conduits. In the last few years, cocaine trafficking from South America through Azawad to Europe, under the protection of the region’s political and military élites, notably Mali’s former president and security forces and Algeria’s DRS, has burgeoned. The UN Office of Drugs Control recently estimated that 60 per cent of Europe’s cocaine passed through the region. It put its value, at Paris street prices, at some $11 billion, with an estimated $2 billion remaining in the region.

The impact of Washington’s machinations on the peoples of the Sahara-Sahel has been devastating, not least for the regional economy. More than 60 kidnappings of Westerners have led to the collapse of the tourism industry through which Tuareg communities in Mali, Niger and Algeria previously acquired much of their cash income. For example, the killing of four French tourists in Mauritania, in addition to subsequent kidnappings, resulted in only 173 tourists visiting Mauritania in 2011, compared with 72,500 in 2007. The loss of tourism has deprived the region of tens of millions of dollars and forced more and more Tuareg (and others), especially young men, into the ‘criminality’ of banditry and drug trafficking.

MALI’S CURRENT MESS

While it will be clear from all this that Mali’s latest Tuareg rebellion had a complex background, the rebellion that began in January 2012 was different from all previous Tuareg rebellions in that there was a very real likelihood that it would succeed, at least in taking control of the whole of northern Mali. The creation of the rebel MNLA in October 2011 was therefore not only a potentially serious threat to Algeria, but one which appears to have taken the Algerian regime by surprise. Algeria has always been a little fearful of the Tuareg, both domestically and in the neighbouring Sahel countries. The distinct possibility of a militarily successful Tuareg nationalist movement in northern Mali, which Algeria has always regarded as its own backyard, could not be countenanced.

The Algerian intelligence agency’s strategy to remove this threat was to use its control of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to weaken and then destroy the credibility and political effectiveness of the MNLA. This is precisely what we have seen happening in northern Mali over the last nine months.

Although the Algerian government has denied doing so, it sent some 200 Special Forces into Azawad on 20 December 2011. Their purpose appears to have been to:

• protect Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which had moved from its training base(s) in southern Algeria into northern Mali around 2008

• assess the strengths and intentions of the MNLA, and

• help establish two ‘new’ salafist-jihadist terrorist groups in the region – Ansar al-Din and MUJAO.

The leaders of these new groups – Ansar al-Din’s Iyad ag Ghaly, and MUJAO’s Sultan Ould Badi – are both closely associated with the Algerian intelligence agency, the DRS. Although Ansar al-Din and MUJAO both started out as few in number, they were immediately supported with personpower in the form of seasoned, well-trained killers from the DRS’s Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb brigades. This explains why the Islamists were able to expand so quickly and dominate the MNLA both politically and militarily.

Although Algeria’s strategy has been effective, at least so far, in achieving its object of weakening and discrediting the MNLA, it has already turned the region into a human catastrophe. Foreign military intervention now looks increasingly likely. That is something to which Algeria has always been strongly opposed in that it regards itself, not France, as the hegemonic power in the Sahel. The UN Security Council’s 12 October Resolution effectively gave Algeria a last window of opportunity to ‘rein in its dogs’ and engineer a peaceful political solution. But, as anger against the Islamists mounts and the desire for revenge from Mali’s civil society grows ever stronger, a peaceful solution is looking increasingly unlikely.

MALI'S TUAREG REBELLIONS

The Tuareg people number approximately 2-3 million and are the indigenous population of much of the Central Sahara and Sahel. Their largest number, estimated at 800,000, live in Mali, followed by Niger, with smaller populations in Algeria, Burkina Faso and Libya.

There have been five Tuareg rebellions in Mali since Independence, in addition to three in Niger and sporadic unrest in Algeria. The latest Tuareg rebellion in Mali, by the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), began in January 2012. The MNLA comprised Tuareg who had returned from Libya around October 2011, rebels who had not laid down arms after the 2007-09 uprising and others who had defected from the Malian army. Their number was estimated at around 3,000. By mid-March, they had driven Mali’s ill-equipped and ill-led forces out of most of northern Mali (Azawad), meeting little resistance.

Following this humiliation of Mali’s army, soldiers in the Kati barracks near Bamako mutinied on 22 March, an incident that led to a junta of junior officers taking power in the country. Within a week, the three northern provincial capitals of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu were in rebel hands, and on 5 April the MNLA declared Azawad an independent state.

The declaration of Azawad’s independence received no international support. One reason for this was because of the alliance between the MNLA and Ansar al-Din, a newly created jihadist movement led by a Tuareg notable, Iyad ag Ghaly, and another jihadist group, Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa – MUJAO). Both Ansar al-Din and MUJAO were connected to and supported by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). By May, it was these Islamist groups, not the MNLA, who were calling the political and military shots in Azawad.

By the end of June, tension between the MNLA and the Islamists broke into open fighting, resulting in the MNLA being driven out of Gao and becoming increasingly marginalized politically. Since then, the Islamists have imposed strict sharia law in Azawad, especially in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. Summary executions, amputations, stonings and other such atrocities, as well as the destruction of holy shrines in Timbuktu – UNESCO world heritage sites – are currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court. By August, nearly half a million people had fled or been displaced.

I have warned on numerous occasions in the past decade that the way in which terrorism was being fabricated and orchestrated in the Sahara-Sahel by the Algerian DRS, with the knowledge of the US and other Western powers, would inevitably result in a catastrophic outcome, quite possibly in the form of region-wide conflagration. Unless something fairly miraculous can be achieved by around the turn of the year, northern Mali looks like becoming the site for the start of just such a conflagration.

Having said that, there is the prospect of one appalling scenario that is being raised by some of the local, mostly Tuareg, militia commanders. They are postulating as to whether Algeria’s DRS and its Western allies have been using the Azawad situation to encourage the concentration of ‘salafist-jihadists’ into the region – in the form of the long-talked about ‘Saharan emirate’ – before ‘eradicating’ them. In that instance, Algeria’s DRS would pluck out its ‘agents’ and leave the foot-soldiers – the Islamist fanatics – to face the bombardment.

But whatever dire scenario develops in Mali, when you hear the news stories related to it, do not by any means think: ‘oh, just another war in Africa’. Remember this murky, squalid background and how Washington’s Global War On Terror has come home to roost for the peoples of the Sahara.

END NOTES

1.US Joint Chiefs of Staff, ‘Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba (Top Secret)’, US Department of Defense, 13 Mar 1962. It was published online in a more complete form by the National Security Archive on 30 April 2001.

2.James Bamford, Body of Secrets, Doubleday 2001.

3.Defense Science Board, ‘DSB Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism’. Available at fas.org/irp/agency/dod/dsbbrief.ppt

4.Pamela Hess, ‘Panel wants $7bn élite counter-terror unit.’ United Press International, 26 Sep 2002.

5.William M Arkin, ‘The Secret War,’ Los Angeles Times, 27 Oct 2002.

6.David Isenberg, ‘“P2OG” allows Pentagon to fight dirty’, Asia Times Online, 5 Nov 2002.

7.Chris Floyd, ‘Into the Dark: The Pentagon Plan to promote terrorist attacks,’ Counterpunch, 1 Nov 2002; Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, ‘Our Terrorists’, New Internationalist, Oct 2009.

8.Seymour Hersh, ‘The Coming Wars: What the Pentagon can now do in Secret.’ The New Yorker, 24 Jan 2005.

9.Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, op cit.

10. eTN Global Travel Industry News, 19 Nov 2008, eturbonews.com

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Mali, France, and chickens

As in: come home to roost

Conn Hallinan

2013-01-23

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86045


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The instability in Mali is a blowback from the NATO invasion of Libya. Conn Hallinan examines French interests in Mali and its former colonial empire arguing that chickens have come home to roost

It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts.’ -- Charlie Marlow from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The vision that Conrad's character Marlow describes is of a French frigate firing broadsides into a vast African jungle, in essence, bombarding a continent. That image came to mind this week when French Mirages and helicopter gunships went into action against a motley army of Islamic insurgents in Mali.

That there is a surge of instability in that land-locked and largely desert country should hardly come as a surprise to the French: they and their allies are largely the cause. And they were warned.

HISTORY IS IMPERATIVE

A little history. On 17 March 2011, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 1973 to ‘protect civilians’ in the Libyan civil war. Two days later, French Mirages began bombing runs on Muammar Gaddafi's armoured forces and airfields, thus igniting direct intervention by Britain, along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Resolution 1973 did not authorize NATO and its allies to choose sides in the Libyan civil war, just to protect civilians, and many of those who signed on-including Russia and China-assumed that Security Council action would follow standard practice and begin by first exploring a political solution. But the only kind of ‘solution’ that the anti-Gaddafi alliance was interested in was the kind delivered by 500-lb laser-guided bombs.

WESTERN ARROGANCE SIDESTEPS AU

The day after the French attack, the African Union (AU) held an emergency session in Mauritania in an effort to stop the fighting. The AU was deeply worried that, if Libya collapsed without a post- Gaddafi plan in place, it might destabilize other countries in the region. They were particularly concerned that Libya's vast arms storehouse might end up fuelling local wars in other parts of Africa.

However, no one in Washington, Paris or London paid the AU any mind, and seven months after France launched its attacks, Libya imploded into its current status as a failed state. Within two months, Tuaregs-armed with Gaddafi's weapons cache-rose up and drove the corrupt and ineffectual Malian army out of Northern Mali.

The Tuaregs are desert people, related to the Berbers that populate North Africa's Atlas mountain range. They have fought four wars with the Malian government since the country was freed from France in 1960, and many Tuaregs want to form their own country, ‘Azawad.’ But the simmering discontent in northern Mali is not limited to the Tuaregs. Other ethnic groups are angered over the south's studied neglect of all the people in the country's north. The Tuaregs are also currently fighting the French over uranium mining in Niger.

The Gaddafi government had long supported the Tuaregs’ demands for greater self-rule, and many Tuaregs served in the Libyan army. Is anyone surprised that those Tuaregs looted Libyan arms depots when the central government collapsed? And, once they had all that fancy fire power that they would put it to use in an effort to carve out a country of their own?

The Tuaregs are nomads and had little interest in holding on to towns like Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal in northern Mali, and after smashing up the Mali army, they went back into the desert. Into the vacuum created by the rout of the Malian army flowed Islamic groups like Ansar-al-Din, al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It is these latter organizations that the French are bombing, although reports are that civilians are getting caught in the crossfire.

The US is also involved. According to Democracy Now, the Obama administration is moving French troops and equipment into the area, and deploying surveillance drones. And with the war spreading into Algeria, where almost two-dozen westerners, including several Americans, were kidnapped in retaliation for the French attacks in Mali, the US may end up with boots on the ground.

WHY ARE THE FRENCH FIRING INTO A CONTINENT AGAIN?

First, France has major investments in Niger and Mali. At bottom, this is about Francs (or Euros, as it may be). Some 75 percent of France's energy needs come from nuclear power, and a cheap source is its old colonial empire in the region (that besides Mali and Niger included Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Chad, Algeria, and the Central African Republic). Most of its nuclear fuel comes from Niger, but Al-Jazeera reports that French uranium, oil and gold companies are lining up to develop northern Mali. Lest one think that this ‘development’ is good for the locals, consider that, according to the UN's Human Development Index, Niger is the third poorest country in the world. There are other issues as well. Like a Napoleon complex.

‘The French, like the Americans, judge presidents on their ability to make tough decisions, and there are few tougher ones than to send young men into battle,’ writes New York Times reporter Steve Erlanger in a story on French President Francois Hollande's decision to intervene in Mali. Titled ‘Hollande, long seen as soft, shifts image with firm stance’ (which makes it sound vaguely like a Viagra ad), the article quotes ‘defense expert’ Francois Heisbourg praising Hollande for acting ‘decisively’ and ‘demonstrating that he can decide on matters of war and peace.’

Actually, back in 1812 that ‘war and peace’ thing came out rather badly for the French, though today's new model Grande Armee will not face much in the way of snow and ice in Mali. But Mali is almost twice the size of France - 478,839 vs. 211,209 square miles-which is a lot of ground for Mirages to cover. In fact, the French warplanes are not even based in Mali, but neighbouring Chad, some 1,300 miles away from their targets. That is a very long way to go for fighter-bombers and gives them very little time over the battlefield. Apparently the US is considering helping out with in-air refuelling, but, by any measure, the French forces will face considerable logistical obstacles. And while Mali's geography may not match the Russian steppes in winter, its fierce desert is daunting terrain.

Lastly, Hollande would like to take some pressure off his domestic situation. There is nothing like a war to make people forget about a stagnant economy, high unemployment, restive workers, and yet another round of austerity cuts.

But this war could get very nasty, and if you want the definition of a quagmire, try northern Mali. Instead of being intimidated by the French attacks, the insurgents successfully counterattacked and took the town of Diabaly in Central Mali. If Paris thought this was going to be a simple matter of scattering the wogs with a few bombing runs, one might suggest that Hollande revisit his country's past counterinsurgency campaigns, starting with Vietnam.

The Islamic groups appear to have little local support. Mali is a largely Islamic country, but not of the brand followed by the likes of Ansar al-Din or AQIM. But if you hand out lots of first-class fire power-which is exactly what the war to overthrow Gaddafi did-than you do not need a lot of support to cause a great deal of trouble.

The rebels are certainly not running into any opposition from the Mali army, whose US-trained leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, overthrew his country's democratic government two months after the Tuaregs came storming out of the Sahara to take Timbuktu. Apparently a number of those US-trained troops switched sides, taking their weapons and transport over to the insurgents.

There is evidence that the Mali army may have provoked the Tuaregs in the first place. It appears that, rather than using the millions of dollars handed out by the US over the past four years to fight ‘terrorism’ in the region, the Mali army used it to beat up on the Tuaregs. That is until the latter got an infusion of superior firepower after the fall of Gaddafi.

The French plan to put about 2,500 troops in Mali, but are relying on the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) to raise an army of 3,300. But the ECOWAS army will have to be transported to Mali and trained, and someone will have to foot the bill. That means that for the next several months it will be the French who hold down the fort, and that is going to cost a lot of Euros, of which France hardly has a surfeit.

The people of northern Mali have long standing grievances, but the current crisis was set off by the military intervention in Libya. And if you think Libya created monsters, just think of what will happen if the Assad government in Syria falls without a political roadmap in place. Yes, the French are very involved in Syria right now, a civil war that is increasingly pitting Sunnis against Shiites and has already spread into Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. Next to Syria's weapons hoards, Libya's firepower looks like a collection of muskets and bayonets.

Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister of France and a sharp critic of the US invasion of Iraq, recently wrote in the Journal du Dimanche: ‘These wars [like Mali] have never built a solid and democratic state. On the contrary, they favour separatism, failed states and the iron law of armed militias.’

So what do Mali and the French intervention have to do with chickens?

They always come home to roost.


Source: http://www.fpif.org/blog/mali_france_and_chickens Foreign Policy In Focus

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* Conn Hallinan


This article was previously published in Foreign Policy in Focus- fpif.org January 19, 2013


Obama’s second inauguration and the new terrain of struggle

Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall

Horace G. Campbell

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86055


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President Obama is on a collision course with the social justice forces that elected him. Beneath the soaring rhetoric of his ‘progressive’ inauguration speech lay the reality that after four years in office, the oligarchs are stronger that they were in 2009

When Barack Obama was sworn in as the President of the United States for the second time on January 21, 2013 in the 57th presidential inauguration, the forces that mobilized to reelect Barack Obama temporarily celebrated. The Presidential Inaugural Committee had mined all of the symbolism of the day of the varying liberation struggles in the United States to maximize participation: A gay Latino poet, Richard Blanco read a poem (a first in the history of inaugurations), Beyonce sang the National Anthem, James Taylor, the legendary guitarist and songwriter, kicked off the musical performances, strumming his guitar and singing, "America the Beautiful." Kelly Clarkson followed with an arrangement of "My Country `Tis of Thee." Later at the inaugural balls, other singers and activists such as Stevie Wonder linked the past civil rights struggles to the current struggles. Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and numerous others brought the music of struggle to the occasion.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, delivered the invocation at the inauguration events. Throughout the succinct 18 minute address, President Obama invoked names and imagery from freedom struggles, as well as the battles fought by immigrants, women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In his reference to the struggles of Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall, President Obama was stating clearly that one could not separate struggles, thus giving the battle for gay rights the historical weight of the fights for gender and racial equality.

The 44th President was sworn in on the Martin Luther King Jr Holiday, on two bibles – one belonging to Martin Luther King Jr and the other belonging to Abraham Lincoln. The historic nature of the occasion also included the fact that 2013 was 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln and 50 years after the Historic March on Washington when MLK delivered the “I have a Dream” speech.

More than one million had flocked to the Washington Mall to participate in the festivities. Millions more in all parts of the world watched and followed by television or listened on the radio. The second inauguration of Barack Obama was an event of historic importance in the midst the worldwide capitalist depression. This writer watched and noted that there was genuine joy among sections of the oppressed, especially from the black and brown, the poor and the gay and lesbians. Many of those who celebrated were clear that they will have to be vigilant and redouble their efforts to beat back the conservatives and militaristic forces who want to take the society to war. Covert and overt wars abroad and repression at home awaits the majority of humanity in the midst of the crisis of capitalism and the peace and social justice forces know that there are powerful elements that want to further militarize the US society. Obama stated, “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”
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This was another clear indication of the ongoing battles inside the Pentagon over the future of the military budget.

In our contribution this week we will look at seven of the major forces that organized to re-reelect Barack Obama. The independent organizational capabilities of these constituencies will be severely tested in the next four years. Beyond the soaring rhetoric of Obama and the press reports that Obama made a ‘progressive’ speech lay the reality that after four years in office, the oligarchs are stronger that they were in 2009. Yet, these oligarchs were not satisfied with the tenure of Obama. They made it clear that Mitt Romney was their standard bearer.

During the election phase, the conservatives were confident that with their billions of dollars they would again seize the Executive. But the people were not frightened. They organized; they mobilized and they went out to the polls to vote. Some commentators were taken back to see people waiting in queues for eight to ten hours to vote. They were not waiting to vote for Barack Obama. They were waiting to register their desire for a break with the Old and New Jim Crow. The alliance that voted for Obama will be tested in the next period as the Obama Administration continues its appeasement of the financial oligarchs. Obama’s inauguration speech went a long way toward acknowledging the massive grassroots mobilization that guaranteed victory.

While some sections of the population are looking to Obama to implement change, this contribution will argue that the decisive aspect of change will come from the political mobilization and organization of the networks of social justice activists. There are numerous social justice networks in the United States, but this contribution will focus on seven decisive forces that will shape the immediate future on whether Barack Obama will be a transient historical figure or a real history maker who was pushed beyond the confines of the narrow partisanship of the present two party system.

FIRST, THE BLACK WORKING PEOPLES – THE SELMA REFERENCE

From the pictures of the celebrants at the inauguration, the happiness of African Americans was everywhere on display. The inauguration was a definite celebration of the Civil Rights struggles that made it possible for Barack Obama to be elected President of the Uniuted States of America. Whether it was in the invocation and prayer by Myrlie Evers-Williams or the reference to Selma in that historic paragraph, Obama acknowledged the long struggles for civil rights and voting rights inside the United States.

Many younger readers would not have known of the epic struggles for voting rights more than sixty years ago. The reference to Selma in this speech brought back the memories of those epic marches from Selma to Montgomery Alabama in 1965 where Martin Luther King and the youths fighting for Voting Rights were brutally attacked and beaten. Today, the Edmund Pettus Bridge stands as one of the monuments to the long struggles for freedom and battles of peaceful demonstrators against white supremacists on March 7, 1965. Older citizens will remember the audacity of the segregationist governor of Alabama, George Wallace, who wanted to stop the march of history.

Just as how the Civil Rights activists had stood their ground in the sixties so a new generation had come out in 2012 to ensure that the voting rights act was not reversed. The black voter bloc proved decisive as the backbone of that sector of the society that would not be intimidated and coerced. It was this bloc that came out and defended the gains of the Civil Rights Revolution that were won in the second half of the twentieth century. Prior to the elections, there were numerous expedients under the banner of voter identification laws to roll back the right to the franchise for non-white voters. For the black voting block they were aware that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was at stake.

There were numerous commentators who noted that Obama did not especially do anything for the poor and the blacks, but the poor and blacks understood concretely that the various initiatives for voter identification across the country were expedients to roll back the hard-won rights of the Black working people. This bloc voted massively with 95 percent of the Black vote going to Barack Obama. Obama was explicit in his inaugural address when he gave notice that the Justice Department would be fighting to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote,” he said.

THE SECOND BLOC: THE LATINO VOTE

The second constituency that was decisive was the immigrant vote, especially that section of the immigrants that hail from South and Central America, called Latinos. In his Inaugural speech of 2013, Obama said, “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”

For decades one wing of the neo-conservatives had courted this constituency and believed that with the influence of the conservative Cuban exiles in the USA, the Republicans would dominate this constituency. However, the racist policies of the conservatives, especially the idea promoted by the Republican candidate Mitt Romney that some immigrants should self-deport awakened a new level of mobilization. The Latino voters understood that as the fastest growing demographic, their voices would go a long way toward shaping the politics of the United States in the 21st century. This Latino constituency came out and voted in significant numbers for Obama by 71% to 27% with the political power of the Latino vote manifesting itself in state and local elections in many states across the Western States of the United States. It is in a big state such as Texas where in the next ten years the political power of the Republicans will be threatened. This shift has led to a new push by the Conservatives to find ways of dividing the Latinos and to promote hostility between the Black and Latino citizens.

SENECA FALLS

The third constituency that proved decisive in the election was that of the women’s vote. Throughout the speech on inauguration day, Obama acknowledged the straggles of women. From the dawn of the Republic, women have been fighting with Black women such as Sojourner Truth, Harrriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells Barnett and Fannie Lou Hamer standing out in the ranks of the struggle for gender rights. In the official canon of US women’s history the historic meeting of first women’s rights convention, Seneca falls, New York in 1848 had marked a seminal moment in the history of the struggles for democracy in the USA. In his speech, Obama acknowledged this history stating, “We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labour liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”

Later in the speech Obama reiterated, “For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.”

For decades the neo-conservatives had been spooked by the demographic shifts in the United States and had mobilized a major campaign to roll back the rights of women in relation to reproductive rights. The right to choose and for control over the bodies and brains of women were two dominant themes of the 2012 elections. When the neo-cons had controlled the Executive, they had supported very conservative Christians who called themselves Christian fundamentalists to oppose abortion rights for women. In some states, these neo-cons were willing to enact bizarre plans such as transvaginal ultrasound test before granting permission for terminating a pregnancy. The Supreme Court legislation of Roe Vs Wade had given women basic rights of choice but the big push was to mobilize women, especially those deemed as white, to be supporters of the Republican Party. January 22, 2013 was the fortieth anniversary of the Supermen Court decision to recognize the reproductive rights of women.

Added to the question of reproductive rights was the entire system of domination by men in the society. Liberal feminists had sought to confine the questions of the rights of women to equal rights. However, while questions of equal pay for equal work were crucial questions, the more conscious women understood that they were fighting for more than equality. Conservative women such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann epitomized the kind of conservative white women who wanted to mobilize women on the basis of whiteness and Christian conservatism. These forces were diminished in the 2012 elections

THE WORKING CLASSES OF THE UNITED STATES

In the midst of the capitalist crisis, the push of the Conservatives was to roll back most of the democratic gains of the working class that had been won in the twentieth century. The overt measures to roll back collective bargaining rights as well as rights relating to healthcare, pensions, occupational safety and a whole host of other rights were on the line. Organized and unorganized workers made a tremendous contribution to the network of networks that provided the ground forces to knock on doors. In the large industrial states that in the past had been called the rust belt states, (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin etc) the trade unions and the worker centers proved to be the key to the victory. Numerous pundits had paid close attention to the battle for a large industrial state such as Ohio. It was in such a state where the workers proved to be decisive.

STONEWALL

The most progressive and far-reaching content of the inaugural address was to be found in the fullthroated defense of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community in the United States. This was the fifth major constituency in the alliance that elected Barack Obama in 2012. The Obama administration rescinded the “don’t ask, don’t tell” farce and it was in the past four years when many states granted the right to gays and lesbians to marry.

The reference to Stonewall was to the historic battle between the police and gay activists in Greenwich Village in New York City, June 28th, 1969; Barack Obama linked the struggles for women’s rights to civil rights to the rights of gays and lesbians.

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

Later in the speech, Obama said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

This acknowledgement of the centrality of the rights of same gender loving persons was a major progressive step in mainstream US politics. It was the first time that a President had openly supported gays and lesbians in an inaugural address.

Obama was aware that the mobilization of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT) community was key node in the network that turned the elections. This community had been threatened by the aggressive measures of the neo-cons to criminalize same gender loving persons.

In previous election cycles, the neo-conservatives had mobilized the Christian fundamentalists to organize against the rights of the LBGT community under the banner of ‘family values.’ The progressive coalition mobilized and defeated the ideas of the conservatives. Having lost the argument at home, this neo-conservative force has now moved to align with very conservative forces internationally who not only want to deny rights to people with diverse sexual preferences, but want to mobilize to kill these persons.

MOBILIZATION OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FORCES

The record of the Obama Administration had been unremarkable in relation to supporting the Environmental Protection Agency and standing up to the Oil, Gas and Coal lobby in the United States. The Environmental justice forces had to mount their own campaign against the Republicans; Obama had not been courageous on questions of defending the people against the big tycoons. In his address, Obama was making a pitch to this important constituency saying,

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

Obama was taking the conservative line ‘on climate change’ and in the four years in office Obama had used his administration as a stumbling block to international efforts to curb global warming. The position of the United States in Copenhagen 2009 and Rio 2011 ensured that the conferences were substantive failures.

However, as the leading environmentalists argued, Barack Obama cannot stand against nature and against Physics. Weeks before the elections, the massive Hurricane Sandy pointed to the fact that a new mode of economic organization had to be created if we are to have a liveable planet by the end of the century.

THE PEACE COMMUNITY AND ELECTIONS

The record of the Obama Administration had been terrible in the context of the deployment of force overseas and the continuation of the Bush wars. Barack Obama intensified the use of drones and targeted killings. It was under his watch when NATO invaded Libya and created turmoil. This Administration had reneged on its plans to close down the dreaded Guantanamo Bay prison. Inside the Middle East, the Obama Administration did not sufficiently stand up to the Israeli lobby.

The organizational work of the peace community had pushed the military establishment to experiment with new forms of warfare involving Special Operations, Drones, private military contractors, third party combatants and information warfare. This experiment shattered in Libya with the colossal failure ending with the death of the US Ambassador to Libya.

The opposition of the top military brass to Obama, especially the Crusaders complicated the picture of the US military posture. The peace community did not become derailed by the internal fights at the top and continued the anti-war pressures. These pressures inspired more support for new organs such as Wikileaks.

The questions of war against Iran and the encirclement of China are two dominant issues that will challenge the peace movement. In his inaugural address, Obama states that, “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

In expressing what could be considered a wish, Obama stated, “A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun.”

For the millions of peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America who still feel the scourge of the US military machine, this statement about ending a decade of war rung hollow. However, in the context of the infighting at the top of the imperial military machine, the statements about perpetual war reflected a long standing battle inside the Administration. In November 2012, Obama had sent his top lawyer in the Pentagon to deliver a speech in Oxford to state that the War on terror was not endless. Less than a month later, the counsel was out of the Pentagon.

The peace movement had been weakest in relation to its grasp of the wars that are now being unleashed in West Africa.

The Obama Administration will be pushed by that section of the peace movement that opposes the US Africa Command. The current debacle in Mali has exposed the duplicity of the military that had ploughed half a billion dollars to support the very same elements who are now locked in war in Mali and the Sahara. This was a major test for the peace and justice forces. Peace activists oppose the jihadists. Equally, the peace and justice forces oppose French imperialism in Africa. The question of the future US relations with Africa will be a major test in the second period. It is here where the peace and justice forces in Africa will have to work closer with the peace and social justice forces in the United States.


LESSONS FROM THE SECOND INAUGURATION OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

With the historic memory of 150 years since the Emancipation Declaration, it was inevitable that comparisons were made with the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. Just as Obama had acknowledged the centrality of the black citizens in his victory, so in 1865, Lincoln had recognized that it was the organized and unorganized activities of the African Americans that had tipped the balance in the Civil War. In his second inaugural address, Lincoln had said,

“Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”

C.L.R James had noted the revolutionary content of this speech by Lincoln and that in that speech in 1865, there “was the recognition at last of what the Negroes had done for America, and of what America had done to the Negroes – and the determination at whatever cost to break the power of the reactionary slaveholders.”

This determination to break the back of the slave holders cost Abraham Lincoln his life.

Since the period of the reconstruction in the nineteenth century, capitalism in the United States had depended on the divisions between the black and white workers to maintain power. The tenacity of the black working people over the past 150 years has brought US society to a point where the society will have to make a choice between the reactionary white supremacists and the new directions for the society. Numerous commentators have stated that this capitalist depression is worse than 1929. The question that must be posed is, If this depression is worse, then will the recourse to militarism and fascism be worse?

The seven constituencies that I have highlighted in this analysis of the second inauguration of Barack Obama have given notice that they will be a force against reaction and militarism. While there is disagreement among the left about the real meaning of the speech of Obama, there is agreement that the mobilization of the social justice forces that culminated in the Occupy Wall Street Movement marked a shift in US politics.

The self-mobilization and self-organization of the youth was another node in the network of progressives. These youths had mobilized the Occupy Wall Street Movement to shift the politics away from the deformed energies of the Tea Party. In bringing to the fore the concentrated wealth of the top one per cent these Youths exposed for all, the rising inequality gap between the rich and the poor. These youths pushed the arguments about democracy and the 99 percent to new levels.

The Obama Administration is on a collision course with the social justice forces that elected him. As President of the United States, the dominant social forces as represented by the financial oligarchs have decided that the recomnposition and reconstitution of capitalism must be the work of the Obama Administration. This recomposition cannot take place outside of a context of deepening the oppression at home and abroad.

The vote for Obama was a vote against the financial oligarchs and one day after the lofty speeches, reality set in.

For this author, the second inauguration day of Obama was like Christmas during the period of enslavement. For a week, the enslaved partied and made merry but after the Christmas vacation, they knew that they had to go back to struggle to overthrow slavery. The current struggles against wage slavery and all forms of oppression call for new energies and new forms of politics. It was the same C.L.R James who stated that revolutions are not settled in parliaments, they are only registered there.

The re-election of Barrack Obama in 2012, did not resolve the class warfare in the United States and the battles over the future mode of economic organization. Obama tapped into a progressive tradition to deliver a memorable speech. It will be up to the organized forces to push the administration away from the moorings of the oligarchs and to ensure that in his second term, the Administration will make a break with the inglorious past.

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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 Li


The Tutsi contradictions: A response to Jean-Paul Kimonyo

Antoine Roger Lokongo

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86051


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Rwanda’s criminal involvement in the wanton violence in eastern DR Congo is neither deniable nor defensible. It is a sad irony that Rwanda now sits in the UN Security Council while aiding and abetting crimes against humanity

Despite the fact that Pan-Africanism is considered by France as a “threat to Western interests in Africa”, as a French defense report indicated in October 2012, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is Patrice Lumumba’s land of birth, will always remain a “hotbed” of Pan-Africanism whose main attributes are African solidarity and hospitality. This explains why whenever Tutsi and Hutu have taken turns to slaughter each other in Rwanda or Burundi, the DRC has always welcomed both Tutsi and Hutu refugees alike with open arms. Bosco Ntaganda is just one of the beneficiaries of such hospitality. But now the Congolese people are paying a heavy price for their hospitality.

Pan-Africanism does not mean fellow Africans coming to Congo to wage war on the Congolese so as to cleverly deprive the Congolese of their land and their natural resources through rape as a weapon of war and genocide with the backing of western powers. True Africans do not kill each other, not in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi or in other African countries. True Africans do not give in to "Western divide and rule" policy and subject each other to genocide. True Africans are able to say "NO" to Western machinations in Africa. Hence the importance of African ideological, political, economic and social unity.

1. NTAGANDA IS NOT CONGOLESE

Although Africans holds a communitarian worldview, in each village every family builds its own house out of which the sharing takes place. As an African, I always say, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa (taken as an examples) are my other houses. My own house is Congo. I have always said that Ntaganda is not a Congolese, not because I am anti-Tutsi but because this is a fact and he and his fellow Rwandans, Hutu and Tutsi alike, who fled ethnic strife in Rwanda are spitting on the hand that is feeding them or cutting the tree branch on which they are sitting.

Pan-Africanism does not mean condoning criminal behavior and untruth. If Congo with its fertile lands, waterfalls (hydropower potential), forests, natural and mineral resources, fauna and flora, rich cultural diversity, benign climate, geostrategic position in the heart of Africa succeeds, the whole of Africa will. Why can't Rwandans and Ugandans understand and believe this instead of playing the role of western powers' dogs of war? Yes, there is corruption in Congo, so it is in Rwanda and Uganda. The truth is corruption in any African country automatically affects other African countries. Narrow, mono-ethnic and corrupt type of governance in Rwanda and Uganda is automatically affecting the whole region of the Great Lakes. So if each country does its own homework, Africa will soon become a paradise.

Anyway, for now, if you do not believe me, believe at least the 15 May 2012 BBC report according to which Bosco Ntaganda was born in 1973 in Kiningi, a small town on the foothills of Rwanda's Virunga mountain range, famous for its gorillas; not because I rely on the BBC, but because the report lends support to what I have always said. Moreover, the Kagame regime which backs Ntaganda is backed by Britain and America; that makes this BBC report very unexpected and Jean-Paul Kimonyo should not just rejoice when the truth suits him and loudly denounce the so-called “blaming Rwanda narratives” and “discrimination against the Tutsi in eastern Congo” when the truth does not suit him.

If the Tutsi are discriminated against in the DRC, how come Nkundabatware and Ntaganda became generals in the Congolese army and Ruberwa became a vice-president in Congo? Goma is now completely destroyed. Does Jean-Paul Kimonyo call the acts of looting, raping, killing, fighting, a noble cause for democracy and inclusiveness? No, that is barbarism and savagery! In fact, the Bongando people of the DRC have a saying which goes that, “If a parrot which comes from a far away land perches on your mango tree, it will not spare any of your mangoes. It will cut them all, even those which are not ripe yet”.

This rings true! The BBC reported that as a teenager, Ntaganda fled to Ngungu, in eastern DR Congo, following attacks on fellow ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda. He attended secondary school there - but did not graduate. In 1990, at the age of 17, he joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels in southern Uganda. He fought, under the command of RPF leader - now Rwandan President - Paul Kagame, to end the genocide. After Rwandan unrest spilled over into DR Congo, he started to flip between fighting rebellions and serving in national armies - both Rwandan and Congolese. In 2002, he joined the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots in the Ituri district - and spent the next three years as Thomas Lubanga's chief of military operations.

Ntaganda then joined yet another rebel group - the CNDP - under the leadership of Laurent Nkunda, a key power-broker in the east of the country who, like Gen Ntaganda, had started his military career in the Rwandan rebel force led by Kagame. With the backing of Rwanda, he went on to overthrew Gen Nkunda and took over the leadership of the CNDP militia. Despite being wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes, by 2009 Ntaganda was soldiering on the side of President Kabila - and was promoted to general. He was based in Goma, where he was in charge of up to 50,000 soldiers, many of them former rebels who remained personally loyal to him. According to a UN investigation, Ntaganda has built a lucrative business empire for himself in North and South Kivu - reportedly collecting taxes from mines controlled by the soldiers under his command, charcoal markets and illegal checkpoints.

2. WHAT IS M23?

The so called “M23 rebellion” traces its roots back to a peace deal signed on March 23, 2009 by the Congolese government and the "Congolese Tutsi" National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) and 30 other armed groups operating in eastern Congo. The CNDP was not the only one but it gained notoriety because it was a Rwandan-backed rebel group largely made up of former “Tutsi Congolese” soldiers who began an armed “rebellion” (just agitate that Tutsi face another genocide and everything immediately goes. What about the genocide the Rwandans, Hutu and Tutsi alike, have committed and still commit in Congo?) . But then the CNDP accepted a government offer to let them become a political party and integrate their troops back into the Congolese army.

Now, three years later, a faction of the "Congolese Tutsi" mutineers say that the government isn't keeping its promises and has renewed the uprising in the form of the M23 rebellion. They've so far been fighting for control of the resource-rich North Kivu region, where Goma is a provincial capital.

3. SO FAR NO UPRISING AGAINST JOSEPH KABILA

I do not work for the government of Congo. But I can see that if Joseph Kabila was not properly elected by the Congolese people, the M23 would already be in Kinshasa now. But so far there is no uprising against Joseph Kabila. Instead, the “Congolese Tutsi” change their demands and claims like the weather. First they were fighting for citizenship. After the citizenship was granted, they said they were fighting to eliminate the Hutu genocidists who represent a security threat to Rwanda. After the Hutu genocidists were almost completely neutralized, they changed their version again. They said they were fighting because other Congolese were excluding them.

After appointing them to top ranks in the army and government, the war did not end and they did NOT want to serve in other parts of Congo other than near the Rwandan border and gold and coltan mines. They changed their version yet again and said they were fighting for good governance. After the international community suspended all budgetary support for Rwanda and Uganda for lack of good governance, corruption and abuse of human rights (a Rwandan opposition leader and president of the Green party was beheaded not long ago in Rwanda), now they are saying they are better off administering eastern Congo by themselves. That is going too far, the unacceptable balkanization of the DRC.

4. NOT TUTSI VULNERABLE IN CONGO, CONGOLESE ARE

The Tutsi have been the perpetrators of a genocide in Congo. It is unacceptable for them to use blackmail so as to entice the international community to sweep the crimes they have committed in Congo under the carpet and make themselves the untouchables - including Ntaganda who is wanted for crimes against humanity - and continue to loot the wealth of Congo, rape, kill, occupy land from which Congolese have been forcefully removed. Numerous UN Security Council reports have ascertained this and the fact that Rwanda now sits in the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member could not be more ironical.

5. DOES UN WANT TO MAKE WAR IN CONGO?

We say the UN is an accomplice in the Rwandan and Ugandan war against Congo, backed by Britain and America. Despite the fact that Goma airport is still controlled by MONUSCO, the latter could not hide their complicity with Tutsi insurgents. MONUSCO did not engage M23 in battle in Goma, according to a South African soldier who did not give his name.

“We [MONUSCO] have had no trouble with M23, to be honest,” he said (Pete Jones and David Smith 2012). That tells it all and justifies current protests throughout Congo against MONUSCO’s presence.

The African Union’s position also remains ambiguous. The AU Commission chair Dlamini-Zuma, speaking in Washington after meeting Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, said "finger pointing" at Rwanda was not helpful, Reuters reported on 28 November 2012. Who does not know that Rwanda’s implication is not a secret? According to the BBC, Rwanda even wanted to open new rebel front in South Kivu to demoralize the Congolese government (BBC, 29 November 2012 ).

6. IS KAGAME COMPARING HIMSELF TO SADDAM?

First of all, Rwanda is now part of the UN system. Yet Rwanda strongly opposes a recent proposal by the UN that it would use surveillance drones to monitor the security situation along the border between Rwanda and Congo. In an article published by the News Of Rwanda on 11 January 2013, the American-backed Kagame regime went even so far as accusing America and other major powers of having used drones to surreptitiously to collect intelligence on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's military; one of the reasons why developing countries oppose any attempt to have drones hovering above their territories.

Is Kagame comparing himself to Saddam Hussein? We know how Saddam Hussein ended: an ally of America turned an enemy of America. Western powers do not have permanent friends, they only have permanent interests. Mobutu came to the realization of this truth only weeks before he was overthrown. Kagame should use this time to make this truth sink in his heart and mind.

Second, we find it very strange! If Kigali reckons that eastern Congo-based Hutu genocidists still represent a security threat to Rwanda, why wouldn’t Kagame welcome the use of drones to monitor their movement?

Third, if drones are equipped with infrared technology which can detect troops hidden beneath forest canopy or operating at night, allowing them to track movements of armed militias, assist patrols heading into hostile territory and document atrocities and they are about 150 miles and are able to hover for up to 12 hours at a time, Kagame used almost the same methods to capture Goma recently after deploying several battalions of fighters, well equipped with GPS and night-vision equipment allowing them to fight at night, including the googles as well as 120 mm mortars (some say American made) who captured Goma and dislodged the Congolese army after a stiff resistance.

Is Kagame afraid that the same methods would be used against him or help capture Bosco Ntaganda by identifying his whereabouts? But then why would this happen to Kagame since Rwanda has now become the "CIA listening post" in the region from a station built on top of Mount Karisimbi? Well, maybe Kagame’s days are numbered if we have to believe American investigative journalist Howard French, who, on 14 January 2013, explained in an article published in the Newsweek Magazine “why the celebrated Rwandan president really deserves an indictment!”.

“Will Rwanda explode again?” asks Howard French, concluding that, “the big, looming issue is whether Kagame will leave office in 2017, as the Constitution calls for. With so much to answer for, few expect a straightforward exit”. Let us wait and see!

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* Antoine Roger Lokongo, Chinese name: 龙刚(Long Gang) is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is a journalist and PhD candidate at the Centre for African Studies, School of International Relations, Peking University, Beijing, China.


In search of independence for African waters

Chika Ezeanya

2013-01-23

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86047


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The African Union is at the conclusive stages of fashioning an African cabotage regime that will ensure that only vessels owned by Africans will trade within the continent’s coastal waters

The legislation when in force will be a much needed, though daring move to liberate African coastal waters from age-long dominance by overseas entities, and a significant step towards the march to a more unified continent.

The history of maritime trading within African coastal waters, particularly south of the Sahara, is a study in foreign domination and exploitation. For over four centuries, European vessels traversed African coastal waters, hauling human cargo in millions from Africa to Europe and the Americas. With the abolition of the slave trade, 19th century West Africa saw vessels belonging to the Royal Niger Company and others strutting the upper and lower Niger River on behalf of the British empire. The reigning trade was the exchange of mostly factory damages and trash from Europe, for palm oil, rubber, cotton and other commodities.

In Southern Africa, the Dutch East Indian Company set several trading vessels to sail along the rocky shoreline of the Cape in the 17th century. The huge profits from the trade, coupled with the excellent weather of the area, turned what started out as a trading mission into a permanent settlement. What followed were years of brutal oppression of African natives, which culminated in the apartheid era.

In late 19th century East Africa, the Congo River played host to numerous vessels belonging to the International African Society, a private holding company of King Leopold of Belgium. The company enslaved the entire Congolese population, maiming and killing men, women and children, for ivory and rubber destined for European markets.

In the 21st century, not much has changed in terms of the companies sailing on African coastal waters and the products traded. African commodities and raw materials are still freighted aboard foreign vessels and exchanged for oftentimes sub-standard, over-priced, finished goods from the rest of the world. African coastal waters remain largely unregulated and any shipping vessel from any part of the world is, for the most part, at liberty to sail from one coast of the continent to another. African countries are grossly disadvantaged, economically and otherwise, under this enduring and tolerated imperial arrangement.

Contrast the African situation with what obtains in other parts of the world where there are regulations governing the carriage of cargo from one point to another by a vessel registered in another country. Known as cabotage, these laws comprise of strict rules to be adhered to, and necessary permissions (if at all) that must be secured before one country can operate transportation service within another’s territory.

In the People’s Republic of China, cabotage is addressed by the Article 4 of the Maritime Code, which states that “shipping and towage services between the ports of the People’s Republic of China shall be undertaken by ships flying the national flag of the People’s Republic of China.” Other related laws mandate that “foreign invested enterprises and Sino-foreign joint-ventures” are not allowed to engage in coastal and inland waterway transport in China, without due clearance from the authorities.

In the United States, a federal law that regulates maritime trading in between U.S. ports, demands that all “goods transported by water between U.S. ports should be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the U.S., possessed by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens (75% at least).” India’s cabotage regulations demand that coastal trade is strictly restricted to Indian flag-bearing vessels. This is in recognition of the fact that coastal transportation of bulk and oil cargo through cost effective, secure and fast moving vessels “contributes significantly to India’s economic growth.” Africa is a continent but the sum total of its economic production and related transactions does not equal that of the individual examples given.

Africa’s maritime economy has been estimated at $1 trillion a year, a figure that represents over 90 per cent of the region’s entire commerce. 38 out of Africa’s 54 countries are coastal islands or island nations. Since Independence in the 1960s, African countries have foregone enormous economic advantages by allowing foreigners unfettered access to the continent’s coastal waters. Although few individual African countries such as Nigeria have cabotage laws in place, these are more or less pretentious attempts at legislation. Individual African countries face dire challenges to effective implementation of cabotage laws, owing to inadequate infrastructure, lack of skilled manpower, and high operating costs, even for a ‘wealthy’ country like Nigeria.

The advantages of a unified African cabotage law, championed by the African Union are numerous. African maritime industry will be injected with huge native capital that will circulate to the local population, and attract more funds from within and outside the continent. African maritime practitioners will gain more skills, and employment will also be created for aspiring practitioners. African countries can pool human and material resources together to ensure effective implementation. Further, African countries will have greater control over maritime security, and can cooperate in protecting the continent’s coastal waters from piracy, bunkering, illegal fishing and other such acts. Very importantly, also, the often undocumented human rights abuses encountered by African nationals working on foreign vessels that ply the continent’s coastal waters will be highly reduced. Other longer term benefits for the continent include the growth of a strong shipbuilding and operating sector, reduction of the security risks incurred as a result of exposing the continent’s coastal waters to foreign and oftentimes exploitative vessels, and the growth of a strong financial services sector.

But beyond the euphoria of the Declaration of Independence for African coastal waters by the African Union, there are sobering points that must be noted and immediately addressed for a successful take-off of the African cabotage regime. Issues of capacity comes to the fore; of the world’s cargo carrying fleet of 55,138 (as at 2011), African countries, combined, own less than 5%. Questions of operating costs and adequate infrastructure also come into sharp focus. It is also very important that implementation strategies be duly thought through and strong enforcement mechanisms instituted well before take-off.

The African Union should to understudy other cabotage laws, but be wary of copying them. Africa has been in the habit of copying other nations to its detriment. The temptation could be there to copy the Indian model, for instance, where foreign shipping companies can buy 100 per cent into Indian subsidiaries and be allowed to fly Indian flags and ply the country’s coastal waters. There are several disadvantages and loopholes in this approach and it could prove unmanageable to Africa when it comes into force.

Essentially, the impending African cabotage law is giant leap towards the actual economic independence of Africa. The law when it takes off will prove to be a major unifying factor in the continent’s drive towards a more united economic and geopolitical bloc. As the next economic frontier for the world to conquer, Africa can no longer afford to enthrone and celebrate the colonial divisions that have chiefly served the purpose of empowering other continents to her own detriment. Only when African countries unite will they collectively stand up against the impending scramble for the continent’s resources by the rest of the world.

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* Chika Ezeanya blogs at www.chikaforafrica.com Her book Before We Set Sail was shortlisted for the Penguin Publishers Award for African Writing.


Haiti is open for exploitation

Humanitarian pillage and racism continue

Sokari Ekine

2013-01-23

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86048


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Beneath a duplicitous discourse of humanitarian and development assistance to Haiti, economic exploitation continues in the consolidation of the Free Trade Zone and creation of a mega assembly line in Caracol. Sokari Ekine traces this exploitation to the founding of the world’s first black republic in 1804

The three year anniversary of the 12 January 2010 earthquake in Haiti was marked yet again by a flood gate of new reports, opinions, fact and figures. A repetition of the past two years on the lack of progress in reconstruction, the use and abuse of Haitian people by NGOs, failure to provide housing and other basic amenities for hundreds of thousands who remain in the camps and the exploitation of workers in the new now ‘open for business Haiti’ as hailed by the overseer President Martelly. To try to understand the logic of the present western [imperial] relationship with Haiti it is necessary to look back to 1804 and the founding of the Republic. Readers might well say, yes but that was 208 years go but a close examination will show a surprising consistency in the subjugation and exploitation of Haitian people underpinned by a blatant and paternalistic racism and overall fear of the power of the black masses.

SETTING THE HISTORICAL RECORD STRAIGHT

We should begin in 1825 with France's demand of an indemnity of 150 gold francs as payment for loss of their plantation economy including slaves in exchange for diplomatic recognition and thereby the ability to trade. The repayment of the debt which ended in 1947 cost Haiti as much as 80 per cent of its national revenue. But debts continued to pile up. Borrowing to pay back the French debt, resulted in new debts incurred during the US occupation from 1915 to 1934, a period which consolidated the US imperial domination over the country. A new constitution abolished a law prohibiting foreign land ownership and thereby allowed US companies to purchase huge tracts of land displacing an estimated 50,000 peasants. [1] In addition a $40 million loan was provided along with the takeover of the national bank and treasury. The cycle of new debt for old has continued through to the post earthquake period. In 1934 the US ended it's occupation but not before creating two militarized forces , the National Guard and 'gendarmerie' which would be used to keep the population under tight control by successive dictatorships up until the brief presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. [2] Further loans of $250 million were provided to the Duvalier regime, and $158 million to the US backed government of Henry Namphy by the World Bank. The Inter American Development [IDB] bank also lent $110 million to the Haitian government prior to Aristide's presidency yet only agreed to lend his government a mere $12 million. [3] This clear distinction between democratically elected leaders and US backed unelected leaders continued when in 2003 the IDB agreed a loan of $200 million, the majority of which was only disbursed after the kidnapping of President Aristide on 29 February 2004. Aristide put it like this:

‘The reason is very clear: when it's people who are serious, who will spend money for the country? These foreign banks hold on to the money. When it's thieves who will misuse the money, with their acolytes, no problem’. [4]

US INTERVENTION IN THE CARIBBEAN

Haiti was not the only Caribbean island subjected to US intervention and imperial power. Nearby Cuba was briefly under direct US control and only agreed to Cuban independence on condition the US retained rights to operate a military base at Guantanamo Bay. In fact from the end of the 1898 Spanish American war, US policies towards Cuba and Haiti have been intertwined with a mix of human subjugation, material exploitation and vagrant disregard for international law. [5] Much of this has been couched in the language of humanitarian intervention, similar to the post earthquake period. And who can forget the audacious US invasion of Grenada in October 1983 which was preceded by various attempts at economic strangulation. Again the justification was a 'rescue' mission as well as a pre-emptive strike against Americans being taken hostage even though there was no evidence to suggest this might happen. [6] The three Caribbean nations which have either attempted to or successfully established autonomous governments for and by the people have been victims of US terror. A. Naomi Paik, also makes the point that the ‘simultaneous renewal of the Guantanamo lease and the end of the Haitian occupation [in 1934] are not isolated events’. On the one hand the US required a permanent naval base in the eastern Caribbean and on the other an assembly line of cheap resistance free labour and for this a pact was made with Jean Claude Duvalier and subsequently his son 'Baby Doc.’ The result of the violent regime of Duvalier was thousands of refugees fleeing to the US. Again Paik explains the logic behind the US hostility towards Haitian refugees which was a double edged sword. Thousands of black bodies on the shores of the US, and the fact of its own 'friendly' self-interested relationship with a brutal dictatorship is the double edge. The US attempted to shy away from this fact by claiming the refugees were ‘economic' rather than political - in reality this is an inseparable distinction.

FEAR OF HAITIAN REFUGEES ON AMERICAN SHORES

‘This distinction, no matter how specious, never less legally justified US non-recognition of Haitian refugees, a non-recognition that essentially made the Haitian refugee into a political impossibility. The United States could not sustain its relationship with the regimes that fostered political and economic violence and simultaneously acknowledge the fact that thousands of Haitians feared for their lives in their own country. Its action in dealing with Haitians in Haiti and in its own territory, and in the waters between the two countries was rooted in logic of self-interested violence that disregarded Haitian lives.’ [7]

The specific policy towards Haitian refugees was known as the Haitian Program which entailed ‘multiple state agencies collaborating’ to deport Haitians already in Florida and discourage others from leaving Haiti. In her essay, Paik cites a number of legal petitions by the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami which expose the blatant disregard for international and humanitarian laws and the biased decisions by US courts. Haitians refugees were singularly excluded, describing them as a threat to 'community's [US] well-being. Eventually during the Reagan presidency, the Haiti Program was extended to include "interdiction" of refugees by the US coastal guard in international waters which is illegal and later detention without due process at Fort Allen in Puerto Rico. The justification for the illegal interception of Haitian boats in international waters was configured as a humanitarian intervention that would save Haitian lives.

‘Interdiction exemplifies how human rights advanced US nationalist and imperialist interests. A Janus faced policy, it utterly denied Haitians the possibility of finding refuge from violence while simultaneously casting its mission as humanitarian investment in saving Haitians from the dangers of open waters.’ [8]

Though the US made plain its 1915 invasion was to protect its financial interests, such as the Haitian American sugar company, HASCO subsequent interference, occupation and policies towards Haitian refugees has been under the guise of 'humanitarian' intervention. [9] Saving Haitians from the open seas, from disease [HIV/AIDS] and from themselves has hidden the truth behind, on the one hand the fear of thousands of Haitians 'invading' US shores and on the other, the opportunity for a cheap labour force just a few hundred miles away. It was only during the democratically elected presidency of Bertrand Aristide that the number of Haitian refugees significantly decreased only to begin again after the September 1991 coup which forced him into exile in the US. It was at this time that thousands fleeing Haiti were sent to Guantanamo Bay and again Haitian boats were intercepted in international waters and forced to return. Those who refused were hosed down and forced off the boats. [10]

Working in parallel with the Haitian Program, the US was also busy supporting the military junta of coup maker General Cédras and inventing and facilitating ways to suppress Lavalas, the party of Aristide, and prevent his return. The suppression was brutal from the start.

‘…to steady their nerves, ordinary soldiers received up to $5000 a piece. As crowds gathered in defense of the government [Aristide] the army opened fire, and kept firing…..the soldiers shot everything in sight. They ran out of ammunition so fast that it seems the US had to re-supply them with night-time helicopter flights from Guantanamo. At least 300 people were killed in the first night of the coup, probably many more.’ [11]

Again the strategic importance of Guantanamo is displayed both as a detention center and a launching pad to terrorize Haiti and no doubt any other Caribbean nation that would dare to create an autonomous government.

US RACIST DISCOURSE TOWARDS HAITIANS

But it was with the detention of HIV and suspected HIV that the 'Haitian Program' really came into being. Paik points out the detention of HIV-positive Haitians, by the US at Guantanamo are not just part of the historical ‘[neo] imperialism in Haiti’ but also a continuation of a racist discourse which sees migrant and in particular migrant black bodies as ‘carriers of contagion.’ [12] The marking of Haitians as carriers of AIDS goes back to the early 1980s when the Center for Disease Control [CDC], identified 4 high risk groups, known as the pejoratively named ‘4-H club' – ‘homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users and Haitians’ - the first time a disease was tied to a nationality but not the first time black bodies have been tied to racist notions of deviance and contagion and of being a threat to whiteness. [13]

Again the justification for imprisonment of HIV-Positive Haitians was humanitarian - to provide them with ‘shelter, food and medical care.’ In reality they were being detained in dehumanizing conditions such as given maggot ridden food, forced to take blood tests and birth control injections. In fact one US official on hearing complaints about the appalling conditions responded that they were going to die anyway.

PLUNDER BY US COMPANIES OF HAITIAN LABOUR

The immediate reaction of the US following the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent 'restoration policies’ need to be seen in the above historical context of exploitation, subjugation and US domestic immigration policy. There was a decision to prioritize security over real humanitarian need, such as the deployment of troops throughout Port-au-Prince in the immediate days after the earthquake; the consolidation of NGO rule [they provide 80 per cent of basic public services] [14]; the consolidation of the Free Trade Zone and the January 2011 creation of a mega assembly line in Caracol [PIRN]. A deal signed by the 'Haitian government', the US Secretary of State [on behalf of US tax payers], Korean textile manufacturer, Sae-A Trading, and the IDB. With the sweep of a pen, 300 locally owned plots of land were converted into an industrial park. [url=http://haitigrassrootswatch.squarespace.com/11_6_eng]A report by Haiti Grassroots Watch[/ur], provides some of the reasons behind PIRN which should also be of importance to US workers.

‘Ultimately, in the case of the PIRN at least, US taxpayers are making it easier and cheaper for foreign and local clothing and textile companies firms to set up (sweat)shops in Haiti, lay off better paid workers in the US and other countries, and increase their profits. If Levis and the GAP can get their clothes stitched in a place that pays US$5.00 a day rather than US$9.00 an hour (approximately the lowest wage paid in US-based clothing factories), with new infrastructure, electricity, UN peacekeepers to provide security, and tax-free revenues and other benefits, why not?’

And what’s in it for the main investor , Sae-A Trading? Massive profits from the HELP Act which allows textiles to enter the US from Haiti, tax free and a US-Korea Free Trade Agreement giving new meaning to the manufacturing methods of JIT [just in time]. The location of the industrial zone at Caracol also has serious environmental impacts as explained in this report by Alter Presse. Apart from the loss of farming livelihood to some 1000 farmers and turning them into cheap production labour, archaeological sites will be destroyed, 'water appropriated polluted and made more expensive', by destroying the farmland the workers will be forced to ‘buy subsidized US food.’

And most recently the signing of mining leases. In Haiti’s Gold Rush [Guernica Magazine] Jacob Kushner writes that ‘mineral explorers have long suspected Haiti could be sitting on a large gold deposits’. But in speaking to a number of Haitians they say the local people in the northern mountains and elsewhere have always known there was gold in the ground and US and Canadian mining exploration companies have been testing the region on and off since the 1970s. Permits have been given to two Canadian companies, Majescor to explore 450 sq kilometers, and Eurasian 1,770 sq kilometers. Whilst US companies, VCS Mining have rights over 700 sq kilometers with Newmont Ventures having the largest share. As of December last year mining permits were given to Majescor and VCS Mining. The deal for the mining corporations is the gift from Haiti to multinational capital.

ENVIRONMENTAL DECAY FOLLOWS CAPITALIST EXPLOITATION

‘Since 2009, Haiti’s government ministers have been considering a new convention. This would allow Eurasian, Newmont’s business partner, to explore an additional 1300 square kilometers of land in Haiti’s north. But according to Dieuseul Anglade, Haiti’s mining chief of two decades, unlike previous agreements, this one doesn’t include a limit—standard among mining contracts worldwide—on how much of a mine’s revenue the company can write off as costs. Without any cap, a mining company can claim that a mine has an unusually low profit margin, allowing it to pay fewer taxes to the Haitian state; Anglade opposed these terms, and was fired in May.’

Kushner also points out the poor environmental record of Newmont for example in 2010 a cyanide spill in Ghana killed fish and destroyed drinking water. There are also questions around the number of possible employees and the conditions under which they would work. Going by the environmental and social devastation of other resource rich regions such as in the Niger Delta, DRC and Ecuador, and the weakness of the Haitian government, rule by NGOs and an overall carpet bagger mentality, its hard to imagine mining bodes well for local people. An investigation by Haiti Grassroots Watch found behind the mining contracts were ‘backroom deals, players with widely diverging objectives, legally questionable “memorandums, “and a playing field that is far from level.’

The hills in the Cap Haitian region are the hills of the revolution. They are also the hills where the indigenous people of Haiti, the Taino, were slaughtered by Christopher Columbus. These are now the hills owned by foreign multinational mining corporations. President Martelly’s song that ‘Haiti is open for business’ should include the line – ‘going for a song.’ Humanitarian aid in Haiti has always been aid in the interest of the donor country, whether it be to keep out Haitians from US soil or to exploit their labour on Haitian soil and make even more money for companies in donor countries. It has never been about the Haitian masses.

I have very briefly attempted to outline a few complex historical events in the hope that those interested will seek out further reading such as the following sources used in compiling this piece:

1. Haiti's New Dictatorship: The Coup, The Earthquake and the UN by Justin Podhur
2. Haiti - Haitii? Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization by Jean-Bertrand Aristide
3. Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti by Jeb Sprague
4. Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward

ENDNOTES:

1. A Naomi Paik Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo: Legacies of US Imprisonment of Haitian Refugees, 1991-1994 published in Radical History Review Issue 15 /Winter 2013]
2. Justin Podur [2012] Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation, Pluto Press, 2012
3. Jean-Bertrand Aristide [2011]Haiti-Haitii! Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization”, Paradigm
4. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti-Haitii!
5. A Naomi Paik Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo
6. Terry Nardin and Kathleen D Pritchard Ethics and Intervention: The United States in Grenada, 1983 [http://bit.ly/W7MrKo]
7. A Naomi Paik Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo
8. A Naomi Paik Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo
9. Justin Podur [2012] Haiti’s New Dictatorship
10. A Naomi Paik Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo
11. Peter Hallward Damming the Flood: Aristide and the Politics of Containment
12. A Naomi Paik Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo
13. A Naomi Paik Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo
14. Justin Podur [2012] Haiti’s New Dictatorship

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*Sokari Ekine is the founder of Black Looks and a 2013 IRP New Media Fellow.


Changing value systems: one village at a time

Nidhi Tandon

2013-01-23

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/86046


cc W L
Food production systems in Africa are founded on values centered around incomes and profitability that Nidhi Tandon challenges. Unless and until the over-emphasis on the values that underpin the global market economy is reversed, equality and equity for women is doomed.

If there is one core factor underpinning systemic power imbalances between women and men in the food system, it is the overriding influence of the ‘market place’ on society. Societal power and earning capacity make up the two sides of the same coin – one feeds the other. The more financial leverage one has, the more likely one is to project power: gain voice, respect, independence, and the ability to negotiate terms and indeed get a more favourable hearing before a court of law. This sounds simplistic, even glib, but it is a reality that especially affects women. The rights that women have fought to secure are under siege by the dominance of a globalized market society.

One approach to enhancing women’s power, supported by Oxfam, is to position women ever more ‘strategically’ into the ‘value chain’ of globalized production, on the assumption that if only they had the opportunity to earn the equivalent of their male peers, they might earn an equivalence of power and influence. In so doing, a fundamentally flawed food system is being further ‘propagated’, in effect out-casting other food systems.

Women are generally solid about their pivotal role in securing daily food and water. But when they join global supply chains, women, like men, become complicit in a livelihood system that keeps the family in a state of permanent impoverishment.

From my conversations with women in rural communities, it is apparent that they would like to see their roles properly dignified, valued, acknowledged and supported.

This is not about ‘fixing a broken food system’; it is about changing the model and its values entirely. We cannot assume that women are seeking high incomes at any cost. They don’t necessarily share those values! Other values are much more important – including health, food, consumption or other lifestyle choices; these are the values that need to be weighted heavier than earning income.

VALUES AND THE TWO PARALLEL FOOD PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

At the extreme ends, there are two parallel systems of food production: one values sustenance and nutrition, the other values profits. In the food system that is primarily about local production for local markets, the decisions and to some extent the control over what is grown, distributed, cooked and consumed rests with women. They deliver a steady supply of sustenance and nutrition despite lacklustre public or private-sector support.

Seed preservation continues to be an important activity of rural women, ensuring that families have a wide variety of foods which are entirely outside the market. Their land-use decisions are bound up with secure employment and with agro-biodiverse ways of farming in a symbiotic relationship with water, forests and nature’s biomes.

In the parallel food system at the other extreme, women are but cheap labour in commercial enterprises at scale. Plantation workers, who have tended to be male although increasingly female, work in unprotected conditions and are impoverished. Family and community life is disrupted by the violence of displacement and evictions that plantations cause. [1]

EARNING INCOME IS NOT NECESSARILY EMPOWERING

A common argument put forward by those seeking equality between men and women goes like this: ‘poor rural women need equal employment opportunities to earn income for medicines, education, food and clothing and to become economically empowered.’ The problems with this argument are:

To begin with, inserting a small farmer into the commercial exchange system of the international market is exploitative to the farmer no matter what. They are not, in the scheme of things, economically empowered.

Secondly, taking the best farmland away from cultivation for local consumption and converting that land to farming for export puts local people in a situation of dependence on a profit-motivated market over which they have absolutely no control. With this dependence comes vulnerability.

Thirdly, the international economic model does not work for small farmers. Consistent evidence [2] shows how market liberalization has been designed to benefit the rich while poor people simply do not matter.

If in the course of earning income, you can expect to be systematically exploited, have decision-making choices over what is grown and how taken away from you, and be left with denuded natural environs, then this is a heavy price to pay for so-called empowerment.

ARTICULATING A VISION – CHANGING VALUES

Unless and until the over-emphasis on the values that underpin the global market economy is reversed, equality and equity for women is doomed. For men’s and women’s roles to be rebalanced in a just food system, other values must be reasserted on an equal if not dominant footing: societal perceptions must equate ‘power’ with the know-how of doing as opposed to the know-how of selling and buying.

When traditional knowledge, science and common sense are combined on the farm, and the roles of both men and women in building smart communities around food are re-established, there is much more of an imperative for mutual respect between men and women. Where farmers supplying local markets invest time and labour (and equity in terms of care and energy) in a diverse set of activities – the socio-economic, community and ecological rewards are far higher than any financial transaction returns.

This reversal of values can only take place at a human level; money cannot be thrown at it. It is inter-generational work that places a central value on enviro-cultural relationships between humans and the lands that they inhabit, a movement that reinstates values from one village to the next, from one community to the next. These relationships are essentially priceless – and the sea-change needed to retain and change perceptions of values needs to happen on many different levels, from education systems to the politics of trade and investment. [3]

If we are willing to stand by only the principles of gender equality and by extension accept and even determine that the fate of poor women should be equal to that of their poor male counterparts, then there is something fundamentally amiss in our interpretation of human rights and development. The problem is larger, systemic, and structural. It is not reducible to individual rights.

The values that underpin the food system today are about food for profit, as opposed to food for those who produce it! The conversation needs to begin with a national reassessment of how globalization is impacting society rather than pushing for women to be inserted into an iniquitous system, and what it will take to thrive and to protect what is important in a rapidly changing world – where the winners take all and the losers have everything to fight for.

ENDNOTES:
1. Several studies show how the contract labour system is responsible for family breakdown; increased alcoholism, drug use and crime; the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV AIDS; as well as perpetuating a cycle of poverty that entrenches poor nutrition, inadequate education, and illness. All of these factors reinforce each other and the negative costs on community are enormous and long term.

2. The 2000 Trade and Hunger series give ample testament to this fact – see http://www.grain.org/article/entries/212-trade-and-hunger

3. Farida Akhter: Seeds in Women’s Hands: A symbol of food security and solidarity Food security in Development 2001 The Society for International Development. SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)

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* Nidhi Tandon is originally from East Africa and is based in Toronto, Canada where she works as an independent consultant. Nidhi is a social activist, animator and writer working with women and with marginalized communities to raise their voices in a globalized economy.




Comment & analysis

France’s just war in Mali

Food for thought for Francophobes and opponents of the FrançAfrique?

Afrooptimist

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86052

When a country desperately calls for help to regain its territorial integrity finds a helping hand not in its neighbouring countries but in France, what does this say about the progress of pan-Africanism? What message does it send to young generations of Africans looking for models?

I am admittedly a Francophobe. More than two days’ transit through Paris is the maximum I could ever stomach of the “Country of human rights”, just long enough to enjoy fresh croissants at Paul’s, a pint of pineapple juice at Monoprix and, on a good day, a trip down to the 1st arrondissement to eat delicious “crêpes au citron” at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. But by the end of the second day, I start to literally feel choked, oppressed anew by the cultural arrogance of the French you feel like claws on your throat when you buy a train ticket or just sitting at a café, the deterioration you see on their train going from the 1er arrondissement to Sarcelles or any other of their “banlieues”, true human guts where African immigrants amass like rats, and of course, that plaque on their Arc de Triomphe “a nos morts pour la patrie”, a very moving plaque for any tourist reading this, but for me, revolutionary daughter of the 21st Africa, in between the lines all I read are the words not spoken.. “and to the millions of other drafted men from our colonies of Africa and Indochina whom we never retributed decently, even bombarded them to silence when they dared make qualms in Thiaroye!). Yes, by day two, I am always ready to run back to the airport to catch the first plane out of the land of such non-humble people.

But today, for the first time in my life, I am rethinking my Francophobia…

Last week’s push of the jihadists towards the South of Mali, where lies the strategic capital city of Mali, Bamako, found me in Bamako. That fateful Thursday, January 10, we really thought we were dug in. This was it, the moment we were all dreading for months. The crazed Islamists, set on installing strict Sharia law across the entire Muslim West Africa, too liberal and laic for their taste, were going to march towards Bamako, met by no resistance from the unorganized, leaderless and disorganized Malian army. I was packed up, purchased a one-way ticket for Dakar, and was ready to fly out on the first flight out of the city.

Then that evening the Malian president addressed a letter to the French president François Hollande pleading for international support to push back the jihadists before it was too late. The French took this plea to the UN Security council for an international seal of approval. The next day, the first French planes were flying over Bamako on their way to the North, to seize back the city of Konna, first city of the South seized by the jahadists the day before. The rest is now history…

2,000 French troops are today in Mali, in a massive French effort to push back Islamist terrorists and help Mali regain its territorial integrity, an operation named “Serval”, after a small animal of the desert.

“Le Mali Un et Indivisible, au côté des français” we can read today everywhere. Mali, one and indivisible. But not with our African brothers by our side, but with France by our side.

French flags are flying all over town, proudly displayed side-by-side with the Malian flag on two-wheelers, on car windows, in front porches of homes and businesses, as the pictures below display.

The tri-colored Malian flag side-by-side with that of the former French colonialist… Who would have ever thought this day possible in the 21st century? Kwame Nkrumah is probably turning in his grave.

This moment is an important one in our history. And bodes to me of where we are heading in our globalized “one village” world, where citizen alliances and national sentiments will not go towards (as assumed) more Pan-Africanism, but towards where concrete fellowship and benevolent partnership will be forthcoming, be it from France, China or any other nation.

Serval is the savior of the day. Not Operation Misma that has been “under discussion” for almost a year now, at the innumerable CEDEAO and AU special summits held on the Mali impending crisis. Where is Misma today? It is the typical chronicle of a predicted catastrophe.

Ten days after the assault on Konna, when we escaped extinction here in Mali, it is shocking to see that the pledged 500 Senegalese troops are still not here. Senegal is the closest neighbour to the West, in geography and history - reminding that Senegal and Mali used to be one single nation between 1960-62, and cultural kinship could not be highest anywhere on the continent as between these two countries, which still share the same flag (at least one star) and emblem (one People-one Nation-one Faith). Nigeria, Chad, Togo and Niger at least have begun sending in their men, battalions of one to two hundred men at a time, slow drops of water to a parched tongue. But the truth remains that it is the French troops that are holding the front and manning the brunt of the war effort.

In these dire times of need, when a country, making the weightiest statement a sovereign country could ever make, calls for help to regain its territorial integrity and escape from extinction, finds a helping hand not in its neighbouring countries, but in France, what does this say about the progress of pan-Africanism? What message does it send to young generations of Africans looking for models?

What are we doing with ourselves, most of all, fellow Africans? More than half a century after Independence, we still are not able to agree to have a regional army able to protect our common borders and fight transnational threats? We are still incapable of coming to the rescue of a fellow country that is faced with a threat that could have happened to any of us? We are all Malians today, by the sheer fact that the Jihadists, had they been allowed to reach Bamako, could have been next at the doorsteps of Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Burkina Faso, in a heartbeat. The Malian problem is a regional problem, which should have been addressed through a regional solution and response. But the truth of the matter is: West Africa countries are not capable of bringing a regional response, not out of lack of desire to make Misma work, but out of limited means and national funds allocated to Pan-Africanist efforts. We prefer to invest in national armies and national priorities, not understanding that our minute national armies and markets are not the “way out”. But Pan-Africanism is still not a priority. And here is the outcome…

Once again, the thunder was stolen. Once again, we Africans missed our moment of glory. And instead of entering Mali as saviours, applauded by local populations who could have seen in practice the heights we reach when united as Africans, we are diminished to pronouncing accolades for the French president (every president has made a speech thanking France, once again), even stating to be “in heaven” after France’s intervention in Mali (the very words of the head of the Africa Union, Yayi Bonni, Togolese president). What a shame...

Well, I say kudos to François Hollande’s France. And shame on our African countries. I am no less a skeptic of the French, but today one courageous act of a man, François Hollande, at the right time, saved my life and that of millions here in Mali, in the first act of a Just War I have seen in this new century. This I can attest to.

Every generation seeks models and heroes to inspire it and guide its actions, and catalyze its most productive energies. In 1968, it was the winds of independences that moved millions of university students to riot all across Europe and the world. Following our Independences, a generation of revolutionary African heroes, from Thomas Sankara (Burkina) to Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Frantz Fannon (Algeria) and later on Mandela inspired the generations of our parents to fight on, to secure substantive socio-economic rights for our nations. Their ideas are very much alive today, and held on to desperately like flames of lingering hope by today’s generation of youth, but no leader is presently on the front scene to catalyze them into action. Our leaders prefer to applaud François Hollande’s heroism, instead of being heroes themselves for all of us.

My tenacious Francophobe friends say we wait a few years to see what the REAL covert intentions of the French were in reality in engaging in this war. Qui vivra, verra. We shall see!

But what remains is that it is the French who saved the day. Not the Africans. Once again, African leaders were not able to stand as one to uphold the priorities/deliver on the needs of their people, opening the space for jihadist terrorists to have such an appeal – at least they offer concrete opportunities of power, fellowship and money-making that are appealing to the young Somali who has no opportunities.

Will we be moving towards more sporadic terrorism and a turn towards hardliner Islamism in the region? Towards a new era of FrançAfrique relations, based on true partnership, respect and fellowship this time, doing good at long last on our histories’ collisions, which thrust us into each other’s national destinies?

We shall see, indeed!

But for now, lots of food for thought…

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Africa’s responsibility to protect

Sankara Kamara

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86056

The crisis in Mali has once again revealed that African unity is the only means to build the economic, political and military institutions needed to solve problems on the continent

Earlier this month, French troops were sent to Mali, an African country once colonized by an expansionist French state. Unlike the 1980s when Paris periodically sent troops to protect its neocolonial interests in Africa, France’s military objectives in Mali in 2013 are perceptibly different. France is in Mali to carry out preemptive attacks on Islamic extremists and their Al Qaeda affiliates, who have poised to seize that West African country by military means. Lying close to North Africa and speedily dissolving into chaos, Mali represents a sub-regional threat that cannot be ignored. France particularly sees an Al Qaeda-controlled Mali as a cancer that can easily spread across the Mediterranean and into the streets of Europe, attacking democracy and spilling blood with nihilistic abandon. France’s mission in Mali, at least for now, is to reverse a transnational threat arrayed against African and European states, a convergence of interests bringing European and African soldiers onto the same battlefield against a common enemy.

As the world turns into a global village of interconnected people, international security remains one of the most topical issues on the minds of policymakers. Over the past decade, the African continent has tried to transform itself, from a promoter of sovereignty, to a cautious recognizer of newer norms, ready to oppose military coups whenever power is usurped in an African jurisdiction. Indeed, the continent has come a long way from the days when the Organization of African Unity, (OAU), served as the arbiter of interstate relations among Africans. Formed immediately after independence in the early 1960s, the OAU was largely a reflection of the nationalist sensibilities which prompted the anti-colonial struggle. Unlike the African Union, the OAU believed in the principle of “non-interference in the internal affairs of member states.” The OAU’s principle of “non-interference” was so salient that African leaders wasted a whole generation, advertising the sovereign statuses of member states, while violating human rights inside the newly-independent states.

Throughout the lifespan of the OAU, it was convenient for African leaders to argue that human rights violations in an African state, amounted to nothing more than the “internal affairs” of the offending state. The truest epitaph one can write about the OAU is that the organization tasked with defending sovereignty and promoting African unity, failed to achieve both objectives. Ensnared by the divisive politics of the Cold War, the OAU was neither able to keep imperialists at bay, nor unite its diverse people behind a strident, Pan-African voice. Long before its official death in 2002, the OAU’s ignominy was already living with us when the murderous Idi Amin was chosen to lead the organization, from 1975 to 1976. By the time Idi Amin stepped down as Chairman of the OAU in July 1976, the organization was already a white elephant, sapping African resources for its yearly jamborees. Although the OAU was able to cost Africa millions of dollars through its summit meetings and presidential banquets, nothing serious was done to unite the African continent.

Africa now lives in an era where international expectations obligate states to recognize “The Responsibility to Protect.” As far as this norm is concerned, sovereignty can no longer be used as a figleaf to protect murderous regimes against external outrage. Sovereignty has become an obligation to protect, not a license to kill, the citizens of a state. A government must either protect its citizens from mass-murder, genocide and crimes against humanity, or forfeit its sovereign status. With its collection of postcolonial states, most of which are weak and prone to chaos, Africa should especially embrace “The Responsibility to Protect.” Mali, for example, has become the latest African country to be hijacked by a military coup, subsequently crumbling under the assault of transnational terrorists.

Accepted, the imbroglio in Mali is partly a byproduct of NATO’s actions in Libya. However, Mali’s disloyal army simply accelerated the chaos in progress by rebelling against the state it was supposed to defend. Since the illegal government in Mali can neither protect its citizens nor hold the country together, the “Responsibility to Protect” Malian citizens became an international task. Disunited and militarily weak, Africa dithered as Mali inched towards dismemberment. The political and military crises in Mali have once again revealed that African unity is the only means we can use to create the economic, political and military institutions needed to solve problems and pacify the African continent. French soldiers are in Mali because Africa’s military muscle is too dangerously weak to question the intentions of a European power in an emergency.

In the past, military coups were the main source of subversion within the African state. In the post-Cold War era, transnational violence has become a major source of strife, stalking weak states and the breeding grounds such states provide for anarchism. Unlike military coups—which occur within identifiable borders—Jihadism remains amorphous, adapting to various international milieus in order to gather strength and replace governments with theocratic lunacy.Africa needs to be equally adaptive by moving towards more meaningful forms of continental unity. Encouragingly enough, the African Union has been relatively practical, taking a stance against military coups and supporting elected governments threatened by illegitimate violence. As practical as the African Union may appear, Africa remains a shirker when it comes to continental unity.

Although poverty, disease, wars and imperialist machinations continue to dehumanize Africans, the continent’s political systems still lack the courage, and indeed the finesse, to move towards bolder forms of integration. Few people need unity more than Africans, a people once enslaved, colonized, and granted political independence, only to be fettered by the imperialist chains of unfair trade and indebtedness. Africa is NOT, and will NEVER be, in control of its natural resources as long as the continent continues to be governed by separatist states. Transnational violence and its Jihadists have compounded Africa’s dysfunctionality, making it doubly necessary for Africans to unite and prevail over the disabilities of continental impotence. Mali, Somalia and the incipient Jihadism in Kenya, are the freshest examples of African societies chafing under transnational lawlessness.

The “African Dream” remains sonorous in its requirements, bearing the same message it echoed at the dawn of political independence in the early 1960s: UNITY through economic, political and military integration, remains the ONLY way we can regain control of our natural resources, rid the continent of all forms of imperialism, and enjoy the SECURITY that comes in tandem with self-sufficiency. African unity is NOT an idealistic proposition. African unity is an attainable goal, languishing in the doldrums of shortsighted leadership. It must be stated that the responsibility to protect Africans from wars, poverty and imperialism, can only be possible in a continent that acts and speaks with a unified voice that draws sustenance from the United States of Africa.

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* Sankara Kamara is a Sierra Leonean political scientist and journalist.


US recognition a walker for united Somalia

Mohamud M Uluso

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86057

The US diplomatic recognition of the government is an important step in the ongoing restoration of the country and gives hope to millions of Somalis languishing in refugees camps in the neighboring countries or in internally displaced people camps

January 17, 2013 is a memorable day for the entire people of Somalia. It will be marked as a day for jubilation. It is the day the US government abandoned its misguided policy towards Somalia and formally recognized the central government of Somalia after 22 years of avoidance, indifference or miscalculation. US diplomatic recognition symbolizes a walker or underarm crutch for united Somalia to stand up and walk. To move fast forward, two challenges that need quick actions are the mobilization of international aid package and the overcoming of internal divisions based on clan loyalty, past injustices, collective mistakes, fear of the future or political self interest.

The people and government of Somalia are now delighted and grateful for the surprise decision of President Barak Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not only to liberate Somalia from Al Shabab, pirates but also from foreign subjugation and manipulations as well as from self destructive Hobbesian mind-set. This historical move must be a vindication come late for the former US State Department Political Officer for Somalia Michael Zorick who was removed in 2006 from his position after he dissented from the G. W. Bush Administration’s counter-terrorism policy towards Somalia and late congressman Donald Payne who challenged Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia. The announcement is also a triumph for Professor Michael A. Weinstein of Perdue University who consistently spoke for the best interests of the powerless and voiceless Somalia, for John Prendergast who wrote in 2006 the article Our failure in Somalia, for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for its report Pathways to peace in the Horn of Africa: What Role for the US?, the Human Rights Watch, and for Somalis who sacrificed their lives, resources and time for the dignity, freedom, unity and respect of Somalia.

Indeed, many were disappointed, skeptical or critical about the US policy focused on war on terror and foreign intervention without commitment to the restoration of the Somali State. Now, with its diplomatic recognition, the US government joined the forces for peacebuilding and statebuilding strategy in the fragile states through the New Deal Framework in opposition to the forces for trusteeship administrations, mediated models of governance, clan based building blocks or fragmented community governance. In response to a question from Falastin Ahmed Iman of VOA on the now abandoned controversial dual track policy, the Secretary of State Clinton said categorically, “But our position now is the work that we did to help establish a transitional government, to support to fight against Al Shabab, to provide humanitarian assistance, now is moving into a new era, as the president said. I believe that our job now is to listen to the government and people of Somalia, who are now in position to tell us, as well as to other partners around the world, what their plans are, how they hope to achieve them.” I truly hope that the substance of this message is clear to all leaders of the Republic of Somalia.

The people of Somalia find themselves in the miserable life of fear, distrust, selfishness and aggressiveness harrowingly described by the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. The interest of the Somali people, of the United States and the international community at large lies in the establishment of an absolute but democratic, accountable sovereign central authority in Somalia. Here again, in her remarks, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphatically declared that the establishment of new government through democratic process was a personal priority for her during her time as a Secretary of State and that the US government finds admirable the level of commitment shown by the newly elected leaders of Somalia for carrying out their hard work mission of nation building.

The US diplomatic recognition of January 17 gives hope to millions of Somalis languishing in refugees camps in the neighboring countries or in internally displaced people camps. Surely, huge challenges and responsibilities are coming with the bold action of Obama Administration. It is up to the people of Somalia to step up and make responsible decision on their future. According to words of the Secretary State, the US Government has promised nation to nation relation, a steadfast partner to Somalia as Somalia makes the decisions on its own future.

Between 2009 and 2012 the US government spent close to 1.4 billion dollars on Somalia’s problems. The human and material costs inflicted on defenseless Somali civilians are immense. The Obama administration took long time to change the shortsighted US policy inherited from the G. W. Bush Administration. The path followed to arrive to today’s turning point was tortuous, troublesome and tarnished. For example, the constitution making process and resultant provisional constitution have sowed political and constitutional confusions that could undermine the huge benefits expected out of the US diplomatic recognition. Nevertheless, the future role of the US Administration as described by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could mitigate those flaws:

“The president had a chance to meet President Obama earlier today at the white house, and that was a very strong signal to the people of Somalia of our continuing support and commitment. So as you, Mr. president and your leaders work to build democratic institutions, protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, respond to humanitarian needs, build the economy, please know that the united states will be a steadfast partner with you every step of the way.”

For the first time in the world history, a formally recognized functioning government of Somalia which got independence on July 1, 1960 completely disappeared on January 26, 1991 when national and local institutions imploded and late President Gen Mohamed Siad Barre and his cabinet fled the country. No central or local authority replaced the government overthrown by the people. Thus, Somalia became a stateless (failed state), an unprecedented situation that has threatened the international peace and security because all malevolent forces have been thriving under it, e. g., warlordism, radicalism, terrorism, piracy, human and drug trafficking, money laundering, violence and illegal waste dumping. As failed state, Somalia ceased to provide state functions to its people and started feeding national despair, distress and survival of the fittest.

Somalia is now a bankrupt country, which owes billions of dollars to international creditors while it urgently needs billions of dollars in grant in the next 10 years for rehabilitation and recovery. The federal government lacks political and institutional capacity necessary to navigate through the complex conditionality procedures regulating countries in arrears or debt default with the international lenders like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank or get access to international financial markets. Therefore, Somalia needs the power and voice of the US government for solution. The Secretary of State offered hopeful commitment on this issue by saying:

“So today is milestone. It’s not the end of the journey but it’s an important milestone to that end. We respect the sovereignty of Somalia, and as two sovereign nations we will continue to have an open, transparent dialogue about what more we can do to help the people of Somalia realize their own dreams.”

It’s not secret that Somalia is not yet a solidly cohesive society. However, without immediate collective action, the new momentum could be lost and the consequences could be disastrous for all Somalis. Genuine, practical, respectful, and responsible dialogue among Somali stakeholders and elite is the path for win-win outcomes.

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* Mohamud M Uluso can be reached at: mohamuduluso@gmail.com


Swaziland elections predicted to be ‘a fraud’

Richard Rooney

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86050

As Swaziland prepares for elections this year, international expectation is that the process will be a mockery of democracy in the kingdom where King Mswati has the sole say

The tiny kingdom of Swaziland in southern Africa is getting ready for a national parliamentary election this year, amid expectations that the outcome will be a fraud on democracy.

All political parties are banned in the kingdom where King Mswati III is generally considered to be the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa.

Elections are held every five years. At the last vote in 2008, the Commonwealth Election Team, which has global experience monitoring national elections, declared that the voting was so badly flawed Swaziland needed to rewrite its constitution, if it ever wanted to ’ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal’.

In a report on the elections it said: ’It is widely accepted internationally that democracy includes the right of individuals to associate with and support the political party of their choice.’

It added: ‘Yet in practice this right currently does not exist.’
The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) also denounced the poll because political parties were not allowed to take part.
Mary Mugyenyi, the head of the PAP mission, said at the time: ’The non-participation of political parties makes these elections extraordinary from any others but we hope with time things will change.’

The European Union declined even to send a delegation to monitor the election, declaring that it could not be free and fair if political parties were banned. In 2008 Peter Beck Christiansen, the EU Ambassador to Swaziland, told a press conference there were ’shortcomings in the kingdom’s democracy’.

He said: ’It is noted that the Prime Minister is not elected by Parliament.’ He added: ’The same applies to Cabinet Ministers, they’re not appointed by Cabinet.’

He also said: ’It’s clear that the [Swazi] constitution has some shortcomings.’
Following the election, the International Commission of Jurists criticised the Swaziland Supreme Court for siding with the Swaziland state and confirming a constitutional right to ban political parties in the kingdom.
In January 2012, Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the Swaziland Government, confirmed that there would be no changes from previous years to the way the national elections would be run and political parties would remain banned.

King Mswati’s supporters dismiss criticisms that the kingdom is un-democratic, saying Swaziland has a ’unique‘ democracy. This is built on a system of 55 Tinkhundla (local councils) and all candidates for election are required to stand as individuals and if elected personally represent the ordinary people in their local constituencies.

There are two chambers of parliament, the House of Assembly and the Senate. Of the 65 members of the House, 10 are chosen by King Mswati and 55 are elected by the people. In the Senate, King Mswati chooses 20 of the 30 places. The other 10 are chosen by members of the House of Assembly. None are elected by the people.

Despite the claims that ordinary Swazi have representation in parliament, King Mswati is in complete control of his kingdom. Last August, at the Sibaya People’s Parliament (a quaint idea of democracy where people turn up at a cattle byre and voice their opinions on topics of concern to them) speakers overwhelmingly called on the government to resign, citing its inability to control an economy spiralling out of control as a major reason.

In October, the House of Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister and cabinet. In such circumstances the constitution requires the monarch to sack the government (he has no discretion in the matter), but King Mswati ignored this and put pressure on the House to re-run the vote, this time ensuring that it did not have the required majority to pass. Members of the House did as they were told and the government continued in office.

A number of prodemocracy groups have called for a boycott of this year’s election. These include the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and the Swaziland United Democratic Front, which describes the Swazi system of governance as ’illegitimate, unpopular and a mockery to democracy’.

King Mswati has yet to set a date for the election. He has sole say over its timing. In 2008 he kept people waiting for most of the year before declaring the poll would be in September, leaving only three days for people to declare their candidacy and there was no voter roll to determine who was eligible to vote.

While we await the election, the king continues to live a lavish lifestyle. He has 13 palaces, one for each of his wives, and owns fleets of BMW and Mercedes Benz cars and a private jet aircraft. Forbes magazine estimated that he has a personal fortune of US$100 million. Meanwhile, seven in ten of the 1 million population of Swaziland live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day. Swaziland also has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.

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* Richard Rooney blogs at Swazi media Commentary www.swazimedia.blogspot.com


Boko Haram: Last gasps of a killer group

Abdulrazaq Magaji

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86049

Over the years, Nigerian forces seem to have succeeded in containing Boko Haram terror group. In disarray and having realised they cannot win their war, the group has grown desperate and resorted to attacks on traditional rulers to try and rally locals

The terror group Boko Haram would have been history by now had its bandits been operating in Niger or Chad. This is for the simple reason that security agents in those countries are abreast with terror groups and their antics and could have easily routed them. The troops in Niger and Chad are battle tested in the real sense of the word. This explains why Ansar- u-Deen chose Mali, not Chad or Niger, two places where it would have been easier for them to converge. Of course, Al Qae’da clearly avoided Nigeria for very tactical reasons: they would have had no hiding place as the skin colour of most of their fighters would easily give them away. So it was convenient to train local, dark-skinned Nigerians to do the dirty work of the predominantly fair-skinned Al Qa’eda fighters.

One may be right to wonder why terror groups are operating with relative ease in Afghanistan since Afghan troops are, to a large extent, equally battle tested. The answer is simple: since the forebearers of the Mujahideen forced the British to abandon Afghanistan in 1922, to the war against Soviet invasion from1979 until they too fled in 1989, many Afghans have come to view militant opposition to foreign intervention as a patriotic call to duty. This is the way many Afghans today view the American intervention. It has nothing to do with reviving Islam; Islam was merely a rallying point, an effective battle cry against the British and the former Soviets and now the Americans. After all, what other brand of Islam is the Taliban bringing to a people who subscribe to the basic tenets of Islam? This says a lot about the failure of the Fulani Jihad of 1804 in the defunct Kanem Borno Empire. By the time the Fulani Jihadists threateningly arrived the shores of Borno, they met a people deeply steeped in Islamic practices and were accordingly questioned by Borno Ulamas as to their motive since Borno had embraced Islam at least one thousand years before the Sokoto Jihad. Which Islam then is Boko Haram reviving in today’s Borno? What on earth is Ansar-u-Deen doing in Gao and Timbuktu?

Back to Boko Haram! All thumbs should be pointing skyward for Nigerian troops who must be commended for rising to the occasion. Unused to counter insurgency and unfamiliar with fighting urban guerrillas, Nigerian troops have, under three years, succeeded in containing and localising Boko Haram. There should be no surprises on the day Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, is captured. Of course, he will appear sober, as most gangsters are wont to be and probably in disguise: no long, unkempt beard, no over sized chewing stick, no turban and probably spotting a French suit. Despite an increase in serial killings, he no longer appears to be in control of his group which is in complete disarray. They may continue to target prominent and not too prominent northerners and continue in their unislamic practice of bombing innocent people in their places of worship but truth is that they have come to the grim realisation that they cannot win their misguided war. They have reached the end of the road and are desperately clawing at straws in their bid to avoid the deep blue sea. One instance of clawing at straws is the 19 January attack on the Amir (Emir) of Kano, Dr. Ado Bayero.

Northern Nigerians have serious issues with their traditional rulers and many wish to see traditional institutions abolished. Many see traditional rulers as part of their problems because most of them have been compromised: they do not speak for their people and have teamed up with politicians who mindlessly corner the common wealth. Some traditional rulers are happy playing court to politicians who come calling with bags of ill gotten wealth, and simply turn a blind eye to the many atrocities committed by the politicians. Some of the juiciest government contracts are reserved for traditional rulers who see nothing wrong with indulging in monthly federal allocations that should be used to provide infrastructure for communities. Of course, their children pick some of the best jobs in the land without having to break a sweat. It is now an open secret in many communities in northern Nigeria that voters remain undecided until traditional rulers decree who they should cast their votes for. Having failed to use religion to rally the people to support their wrong-headed campaign, Boko Haram must have reasoned that exploiting this genuine anger of the people against their traditional rulers would do the magic. This thinking informed the failed attempt on the life of the Shehu of Borno last year as well as the attack on the Amir of Kano, two traditional rulers who should feel genuinely insulated from allegations of greed.

Like the failed bid to exploit religion, the attack on traditional rulers is a desperate change of tactics, a counter-productive move that has further widened the gulf between the people and Boko Haram. Aside the usual Allah ya isa or God dey, or such invectives as azzalummai which people employ to describe their traditional rulers, very few right thinking Muslims and Christians of northern Nigerian extraction, despite their genuine anger imagine that killing traditional rulers is part of the solution to the many problems of the north. Of course these are polluted, hateful and hate filled times but despite the madness of the moment, many northerners do not imagine that killing innocent Nigerians, Muslims and non Muslims, in their homes, in market places or at their places of worship or killing policemen, be they Christians or Muslims, is the way forward. Only criminals who read their religious books upside down do.

Like a bad dream, Nigerians will outlive the ongoing madness. The attack on Dr. Ado Bayero was probably intended to be a game changer. A punch drunk boxer will gasp for breath to muster all effort in the hope of landing a killer punch to turn the tables against a better prepared and more determined foe. That is what Boko Haram’s daredevilry of 19 Januaryrepresents.

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* Abdulrazaq Magaji, writer, journalist and former history lecturer, lives in Abuja, Nigeria and can be reached at magaji777@yahoo.com


Honor Dr. King by rejecting Obama phenomenon

Ajamu Baraka

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86054

On a number of occasions Martin Luther King Jr condemned the violence, warmongering and colonialism of the U.S. But Obama’s position is that, historically, U.S. military actions have provided global security.

Last year, as part of the annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, one of President Obama’s top advisors paid a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Dr. King’s former church. The advisor, Valerie Jarrett, received a standing ovation from the assembled congregation when she credited President Obama for the killing of Osama bin Laden as members of his family looked on. I share this strange and surreal scene from Ebenezer Church, where the largely African American congregation endorsed the killing of another human being – while in church - because I think it captures the vast historical and moral distance between two distinct periods, which, when linked, serve as a confirmation of the moral decline of liberalism among white and black people over the last four decades.

Dr. King was the product of the black struggle for democratic and human rights in the U.S. and became the standard-bearer for an oppositional moral stance and hope for the future globally. For Dr. King, the war in Vietnam and the support given to it by the majority of the American people was a “symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.” War and the fixation on violence, the ideological justifications and rationalizations for racism, economic inequality and all forms of oppression - they were all interrelated, for Dr. King.

But Barack Obama has a different view. In his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize speech, Obama presented an argument for the concept of a “just war.” Startling many in the Oslo audience, he forcefully asserted in what many would begin to refer to as the “Obama doctrine” that: “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

And while Dr. King on a number of occasions condemned the violence, warmongering and colonialism of the U.S. historically and in Vietnam specifically, Obama’s position is that, historically, U.S. military actions have provided global security.

Obama’s defenders argue that the differences in philosophy and positions between Dr. King and Obama are due to the fact that Dr. King was a public figure and not tasked with the heavy responsibilities of governing, with all the complexities that entails. And they would be right. His position as “Commander-in-Chief” can easily explain why he was silent about the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2008-09; boycotted the Durban Conference on Racism follow-up process; continued and expanded the repressive domestic policies of the Bush era with the National Defense Authorization Act; signed-off on drone kills, including the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki and his sixteen-year-old son; and supported the NATO “war of opportunity” in Libya and the current funding, arming and political legitimacy to Islamic fascists in Syria. For these are the positions one takes when one is the head of a desperate and declining hegemon committed to using subversion, deception, repression and direct military violence to maintain its global empire and, by extension, the collective colonialist interests of the white West.

What cannot be easily explained, however, is how the vast majority of African Americans have been taken along this ride to neo-conservatism. And not just African Americans – the whole liberal establishment, from human rights activists who give political cover for the arrogant and racist assumptions contained in the doctrines of “humanitarian intervention” and the “right to protect,” to the business labor unions, anti-war activists, women’s organizations, civil rights groups, and mainstream media – all of these groups have suffered a moral and political collapse that has allowed “normal” politics in the U.S. to be moved to the border of right-wing fascism.

Today, the dream of more equitable income distribution; a government restrained in its use of war; racial justice; environmental protection; gender justice; and a vision of a United States that has been decolonized, in the literal sense of the word, is further from being realized than ever.

Liberalism has collapsed politically and morally. Even those people who self-identify as progressives and radicals are either silent or supporting policies and positions they would never support if those policies were being pushed by Republicans. The phenomenon of “Obamaism” has required all of us who understand the real legacy of Dr. King and the moral movement he represented to engage in a psychological and political struggle with our friends, colleagues and family members to shake them out of the strange, hypnotic trance that has gripped liberals and progressives of all stripes.

As we ready ourselves for four more years of an Obama Administration, let those of us who are not afraid of being ostracized, condemned and even persecuted use the occasion of Dr. King’s birthday and Obama’s re-inauguration to re-commit to a vision – not a dream, but a life-affirming vision – of a society and world in which the fundamental human rights of all to a socially productive job at a livable wage; education; free health care; public services to address public needs; adequate housing; a clean environment; democratic participation in every sector of life, including in the economic sector; and a life not destroyed by the scourge of war are respected.

This is the reality of a new world that Dr. King could see from the mountaintop – and that a visionless technocrat like Pres. Obama and a moribund liberalism can never imagine.

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* This article is an excerpt from “From King to Obama: The Nobel Peace Prize as a Marker of Liberalism’s Moral Bankruptcy.”

* Ajamu Baraka was the founding Director of the U.S. Human Rights Network until June 2011. A long-time human rights activist and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and central American solidarity movements in the United States, Baraka has been at the forefront of efforts to develop a radical “people-centered” perspective on human rights and to apply that framework to social justice struggles in the United States and abroad. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he is editing a book on human rights entitled “The Fight Must be for Human Rights: Voices from the Frontline.” The book is due to be published in 2013.


Don’t you dare conflate MLK and Obama

Glen Ford

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/86058

If Dr. King were alive today, there might be a Black president, but he or she would certainly not get MLK’s support if he behaved like Barack Obama. Dr. King would oppose Obama’s wars, “make Wall Street scream, and attempt to render the nation ungovernable under the dictatorship of the Lords of Capital.”

Back in 1964, under prodding from a BBC interviewer, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. predicted that a Black person might be elected president [8] “in 25 years or less.” Four years later, shortly before his assassination, King confided [9] to actor/activist Harry Belafonte that he had “come to believe we're integrating into a burning house." We now see that the two notions are not at all contradictory. At least some African Americans have achieved deep penetration of the very pinnacles of white power structures – integrating the White House, itself – while conditions of life for masses of Black folks deteriorate and the society as a whole falls into deep decay.

The fires lit by the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism” that Dr. King identified in his 1967 “Beyond Vietnam: Breaking the Silence [10]” speech are consuming the world, now stoked by a Black arsonist-in-chief. Domestic poverty hovers only a fraction of a percentage below the levels of 1965 [11], with “extreme poverty” the highest on record. Black household wealth has collapsed to one-twentieth that of whites. Today, more Black men are under the control of the criminal justice system than were slaves in the decade before the Civil War, according to Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow.

The intervening years have shown that Dr. King’s 1960s visions were not in conflict: the rooms at the top floors of the national house may have been integrated, but the building still burns.

The deepening crisis of capitalism, the triumph of Wall Street finance over industrial capital, the increasing imperial reversion to international lawlessness in a desperate bid to maintain global supremacy – all this was predictable under the laws of political economy. Had the assassin’s bullet not found him, Dr. King would have continued his implacable resistance to these unfolding evils, rejecting Barack Obama’s invasions, drones and Kill Lists with the same moral fervor and political courage that he broke with Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War. Absolutely nothing in King’s life and work indicates otherwise.

One school of thought holds that corporate servants like Obama could not have taken root in Black America if Dr. King, Malcolm X and a whole cadre of slain and imprisoned leaders of the Sixties had not been replaced by opportunistic representatives of a grasping Black acquisitive class. In any event, had King survived, his break with Obama would have come early. Surely, the Dr. King who, in his 1967 “Where Do We Go from Here [12]” speech called for a guaranteed annual income would never have abided Obama’s targeting of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the weeks before his 2009 inauguration. Forty-five years ago, King’s position was clear: “Our emphasis must be twofold: We must create full employment, or we must create incomes.” The very notion of a grand austerity bargain with the Right would have been anathema to MLK.

Were Martin alive, he would skewer the putative leftists and their “lesser evil” rationales for backing the corporatist, warmongering Obama. As both a theologian and a “revolutionary democrat,” as Temple University’s Prof. Anthony Monteiro has described him, MLK had no problem calling evil by its name – and in explicate triplicate. His militant approach to non-violent direct action required him to confront the underlying contradictions of society through the methodical application of creative tension. He would make Wall Street scream, and attempt to render the nation ungovernable under the dictatorship of the Lords of Capital. And he would deliver a withering condemnation of the base corruption and self-serving that saturates the Black Misleadership Class.

He would spend his birthday preparing a massive, disruptive action at the Inauguration.

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* Glen Ford is the executive editor of BAR. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com

* This article was first published by [url=http://blackagendareport.com/content/don%E2%80%99t-you-dare-conflate-mlk-and-obama]Black Agenda Report.

LINKS

[1] http://blackagendareport.com/category/us-politics/austerity
[2] http://blackagendareport.com/category/africa/beyond-vietnam-breaking-silence
[3] http://blackagendareport.com/category/us-politics/grand-bargain
[4] http://blackagendareport.com/category/africa/johnson
[5] http://blackagendareport.com/category/africa/king-breaks-president
[6] http://blackagendareport.com/category/africa/martin-luther-king-birthday
[7] http://blackagendareport.com/sites/www.blackagendareport.com/files/MLK and Pharoah photo-3.jpg
[8] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ku_6hT6gHJM
[9] http://www.scu.edu/ethics/architects-of-peace/Belafonte/essay.html
[10] http://academic.udayton.edu/race/2008electionandracism/raceandracism/race18.htm
[11] http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3580
[12] http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/where_do_we_go_from_here_delivered_at_the_11th_annual_sclc_convention/




Advocacy & campaigns

Anglo Plats crisis demands decisive steps

Nationalise mines for climate jobs

Democratic Left Front

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/86063

The move is part of the bosses’ counter-offensive to break the new spirit of labour militancy

Anglo Platinum’s announcement that over 14,000 mineworkers are to be retrenched at its Rustenburg operations demands decisive steps from the South African labour movement. Last year’s strike-wave, which began on the platinum belt and spread through the gold and other sectors, has exposed how far the South African mining industry continues to rely on apartheid-era mechanisms of exploitation, and has inspired the fight for a living wage among the mass of the poorest paid, not least the farm workers.

The Amplats announcement is clearly part of the bosses’ counter-offensive to break this new spirit of militancy. It coincides with Harmony’s indefinite lockout at the Kusasalethu goldmine, while the four shafts targeted for closure in Rustenburg have the highest concentration of AMCU members. Yet, in the first half of 2012, these same shafts achieved labour-productivity and output increases of over 20% and 30% respectively, according to Amplats’ own figures.

And this is just the beginning. The big investors are urging more cuts across the platinum sector to restore their profits and roll back the challenge to the low-wage economy that underpins South African capitalism.

Zwelinzima Vavi is therefore right to declare that COSATU will resist the Amplats assault with “everything in its power”. But these words must now be put into action. The entire labour movement must be mobilised and placed on a war footing. Every effort must be made to support the elected workers’ committees - which have led the struggle for a living wage - regardless of their union affiliation. The Amplats workers must know that when they strike, there will be massive sympathy action. They are now on the frontline of a struggle whose outcome will shape the future of every worker and their dependents.

At the same time, the Rustenburg retrenchments reflect a deeper crisis in the platinum industry. This, however, is a crisis of the bosses’ own making and demands radical solutions. Amplats complains that it is the victim of the global recession and that its profits have been hit by the downturn in platinum prices. But its problems, and that of the wider platinum industry, are over-exaggerated. It is certainly true that world platinum prices have fallen since the financial crash of 2008. However, they are still on average almost double those of the ‘boom’ period of the early to mid-2000s and almost three times the average platinum price in the 1990s.

At the same time, Amplats and financial analysts alike have repeatedly stated that the industry’s future prospects are good. In its interim financial report (June 2012), Amplats not only says that ‘despite the current short term challenges, the longer term outlook for the platinum business remains attractive’, but boasts that ‘with its superior asset base in terms of extent and reef type, [Amplats] is well positioned to adjust project prioritisation and scheduling to match future demand’. This gets to the heart of the matter. 88% of the world’s platinum reserves are concentrated in South Africa and Amplats alone accounts for 40% of global production. Rather than being a ‘price-taker’, it is uniquely empowered to ‘make’ the world price by controlling supply – the essence of its long-term strategy.

During the boom years Amplats and its competitors rushed to expand production. However, when the global crisis hit in 2008, Amplats sacked 19,000 workers, suspended three shafts and borrowed heavily from parent company Anglo American. Despite posting record earnings of $13.3 billion at the end of 2011 and paying out R1.1-billion in dividends, Amplats launched its operational review in February 2012 to boost flagging prices by further cutting production. This is the source of the current jobs massacre, but the shafts will be kept ticking over for when market conditions improve.

The ANC has publicly reacted to Amplats’ announcement with anger and has threatened to revoke its Rustenburg mining licences. This is simply rhetoric. It was the ANC government that allowed Amplats and the other SA mining giants to move overseas in the first place, and Susan Shabangu’s silence on the lock-out of workers at Harmony Kusasalethu goldmine, whose chairperson is Patrice Motsepe, indicates that her outburst has little to do with the well-being of workers. But even if Shabangu and co did see their threat through, the licences would be allocated to another capitalist who, regardless of the colour of their skin, would simply add to the problem.

It is time for workers in the platinum sector to stop paying the price of the anarchy of the market. The industry as a whole must be nationalised under workers’ democratic control in conjunction with the local communities in the mining areas. Only then can production be planned on the basis of need rather than falling victim to the private corporations, whose competitive scramble is the root cause of the sector’s recurrent crises of over-accumulation. There must be massive state investment in industries that use platinum in socially useful products like catalytic converters and fuel cells, which hold out the hope of eliminating environmentally harmful emissions. The platinum sector must be a driving force of a new green economy that creates hundreds of thousands of quality climate jobs that are well-paid and secure. It must benefit the majority that produce the wealth rather than the minority who steal it, and create havoc, misery and despair for us all in their endless pursuit of profit.

For further comment on this press release:

Noor Nieftagodien 082 457 4103

Niall Reddy (079) 5129584


French imperialism out of Mali!

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/86059

Black is back Coalition for Reparations and social justice and the Patrice Lumumba Coalition are calling for a demonstration outside the French embassy

·We demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of French troops from Mali!

·We are opposed to imperialist wars! And this is an imperialist war of aggression in Mali.

African people must rise to the challenge to stop the parasitic European and US imperialism from shift their crisis on the African world by military occupation and terror.

When: Friday 25 January 2013
Time: 12.00-14.00
Where: French Embassy
·58 Knightsbridge Road, London,SW1 X7JT
·Tube: Knightsbridge
Contact: Phone number: 07862 294 364


No to planned US military intervention on terrorism in Nigeria!

Labour and Social Justice Institute

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/86061

Imperialism and neo-liberal policies imposed by the west are the basis of terrorism

We are vehemently opposed to the planned drone attacks by the United States’ military on terror groups in Nigeria, while we equally oppose the maiming of lives and properties by the terror groups themselves. We hold that the imperialist military intervention being contemplated by the United States will exacerbate the heightening rate of tensions in the country. We hold that the imperialist powers themselves and the twin forces of exploitation, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, with their neo-liberal policies being implemented by successive regimes of the ruling class should be held responsible for the underlying basis for terrorism in Nigeria.

We contend that just as the imperialist intervention of France in Northern Mali is currently amplifying tensions in the West African sub-region, the intervention of the United States will herald an era of unimaginable chaos and crisis. Already, terror groups in Nigeria with links with the Mali rebels have been laying siege on Nigerian military convoys to Mali and this will explode with a direct military intervention by the United States.

We call on workers, youth and poor masses to build mass –based and democratically controlled defence committees up to armed self-defence under the control of the communities, to repel and liquidate terrorist elements everywhere. We are equally opposed to the current intervention of France in Mali and demand that the Jonathan regime immediately withdraw troops from Mali. We are opposed to the terror forces currently holding Northern Mali by the jugular and demand that the Tuareg people should be democratically allowed to determine their future through a referendum. We hold that the independent movement of workers and the poor for system change in Mali is the key to the current crisis in that country.

We call on the leadership of the trade union movement (NLC,TUC) and the mass organizations in the workers and youth movements(JAF,UAD,LASCO,ERC,CLAPS) to reject this planned intervention and be prepared to lead mass opposition against the planned US imperialist military intervention and the ongoing French intervention in Mali .This must be in an international solidarity and struggle of the working people in Nigeria, the entire African continent, France and the whole Europe with the entire world against war and terror to fight for a worldwide democratic socialist solution of determined resistance and overthrow of capitalism and imperialism to herald an egalitarian milieu wherein the enormous resources of humanity would be utilized for the fundamental interests of the world working masses.

We call for the building of action committees nationwide by workers, youth, students and the poor to resist the artificial fuel scarcity and imminent fresh fuel price hike, non-implementation of minimum wage, mass unemployment, education attacks, etc in a determined mass movement including national mass protest rallies ending up in a two-day general strike, for a start. We call further that the action committees to take initiative beyond the legendary and reactionary incapacity of petit-bourgeois trade union bureaucrats and struggle for system change.


SA toy store ends support for Israeli firm in protest

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/advocacy/86062

Last year, hundreds of South Africans of all races and religions protested against the company’s support for the firm and its complicity in Israel's forced removals of the Palestinians

The new owners of South Africa's major toy retailer, "Reggies", Mr. Christian Larsen and Mr. Mohsin Mia, have gone on record confirming that Reggies Toy Stores have ended their relationship with the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an Israeli para-statal directly involved in Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. Reggies Toy Stores had previously endorsed, partnered and financially-contributed to Israel's JNF.

Larsen, speaking to a community radio station, noted that the new Reggies Toy Stores owners (represented by himself and Mia) have nothing to do with any affiliates of the previous owners, he said: “there is nothing that we are hiding; there is nothing that we are doing that we are ashamed of".

This decision by Reggies Toy Stores follows and is a result of nationwide South African protests and other activism against Reggies Toy Stores. Making headlines late last year, hundreds of South Africans of all races and religions protested against the South African company’s support for the JNF and its complicity in Israel's forced removals of the Palestinians.

The JNF, in close conjunction with the Israeli government and the implementation of its “Prawer Plan”, is currently involved in the expulsion of 30 000 Bedouin Palestinians because, as non-Jews, they are considered a demographic threat. In turn, the Israeli government and the JNF plan to move 250 000 Jews into Jewish settlements in this area - even building these Israeli Jewish settlements on top of the recently removed and destroyed Palestinian Bedouin villages (see: http://tinyurl.com/cc2dtub)

The campaign against Reggies Toy Stores and their relationship with the Jewish National Fund (JNF), is led by the South African chapter of the global StopTheJNF campaign. The StopTheJNF South Africa chapter was initiated in 2012 by a group of concerned Jewish South Africans, representing a growing number of Jews from around the world who are increasingly opposed to Israel's discriminatory policies and the JNF’s complicity in Israel's ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Shereen Usdin, from the StopTheJNF South Africa chapter, has welcomed the decision by Reggies Toy Stores to drop the JNF: “We warmly welcome the position taken by Reggies to end its endorsement and financial support to the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Reggies has chosen to stand on the right side of history by taking this ethical position and should be commended. However, the larger StopTheJNF campaign will continue for as long as the JNF operates in South Africa. We are in the process of approaching other South African organisations and companies with ties to the JNF to highlight and inform them of the human rights violations that they are linked to by way of the JNF.”

Press statement issued by Allan Horwitz, spokesperson for the StopTheJNF South Africa.

Alan Horwitz, national spokesperson of StopTheJNF South Africa:
- +27 82 512 8188
- stopthejnf.rsa@gmail.com
- www.stopthejnfsa.org




Obituaries

Tribute: Professor Tony Martin is now an Ancestor

Cecil Gutzmore

2013-01-24

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/obituary/86060

A committed Garveyite and Pan-Afrikanist, Prof Martin was peerlessly rigorous in his research and writing on the contribution of these important subjects in the experience of the Afrikan nation

News of the passing of our Brother Tony Martin was unexpected and deeply disturbing. There was no prior notice of illness and the Biblical 'three score years and ten' (70/seventy years) is nothing these days. He had recently resettled in the Caribbean and appeared full of productive, committed energy.

Prof Martin and I were last in contact over an invitation to him to come to the UK to deliver the 2012 Third Annual Marcus Garvey Memorial Lecture at Birkbeck University of London, as well as talking over the possibility of a UK launch for his last major publication, Caribbean History: From Pre-Colonial Origins to the Present, published by Pearson in 2012. We last met in Senegal where he was a most distinguished guest and plenary presenter at a gatherings of Afrikan Intellectuals organised by President Wade.

When he joined the Ancestors Tony Martin was Professor Emeritus of Afrikan Studies at Wellesley College, Amhurst University, Massachusetts USA where as a long-established Professor he triumphed in an existential attack upon his person and reputation by rabid Zionists determined to silence him on the major role of the Jewish people ('some Jews’ only, they say) in the Atlantic enslavement and genocide of Afrikans. Prof Martin documented the episode in his book The Jewish Onslaught: Dispatches from the Wellesley Battlefront, published by The Majority Press - his own exemplary Afrikan, Garveyite self-help publishing house - in 1993. He taught at Wellesley from 1973 to 2007.

Prof Martin was part of the UK Afrikan community: as a child of the post-World War II/'Empire Windrush' Caribbean labour migration to the UK where his formal education was completed. After that he took what the - under-researched- next step for many Caribbean UK migrants, and beat a path to the United States of Amerikkka, with its known opportunities for able, aspiring Caribbean folk. Close family members of his remain domiciled in the UK.

A committed Garveyite and Pan-Afrikanist, Prof Martin was peerlessly rigorous in his research and writing on the contribution of these important subjects in the experience of the Afrikan nation. Tony Martin qualified as a lawyer before switching fields and making his name with the publication of his doctoral thesis that appeared as Race First: The Ideological and Organisational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) through The Greenwood Press, in 1976. With this book Tony Martin contributed massively to the rescue of Marcus Garvey's reputation and the record of his achievement from politically backward and racially disparaging academics like David Cronon. His Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, that appeared in 1955. Tony’s work was also seriously influential against the perspectives of the able but non- (even subtly anti-) Garveyite Jamaican scholar Professor Robert A. Hill. Hill must be given credit for applying his own high level research skills and practices to the valuable objective of pulling together into one place - the Marcus Garvey Centre in California - and publishing them in an appropriately monumental multi-volume work, The Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, California University Press since 1983 - continuing. Another key contributor to positive Garvey studies is Professor Emeritus Rupert Lewis who, with his genuinely scholarly wife, Maureen Warner-Lewis, and working out of both the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica and the exciting project Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey with its journal, 76 King Street has done much to explicate and make available Garvey’s Jamaican years as well as his massive role in Cuba.

Before his Wellesley period, Prof Martin taught at the University of Michigan-Flint, the Cipriani Labour College (Trinidad), and St. Mary's College (Trinidad). He has been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, Brown University, and The Colorado College. He also spent a year as an honorary research fellow at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Professor Martin has singly authored, compiled or edited some 14 books. Race First aside – and everyone should read it in homage to Tony Martin, Ancestor, I greatly appreciated the typically scholarly and beautifully judicious works that is his excellent biography of the first wife of Marcus Garvey, entitled Amy Ashwood Garvey: Pan-Africanist, Feminist and Mrs. Marcus Garvey No. 1, Or, A Tale of Two Amies (2007). I also greatly respect other parts of Tony’s wide-ranging output and have a special affection for Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance (1983) which explored revealingly that key terrain and moment in Afrikan-Amerkkkan experience.

Professor Tony Martin, the lawyer, scholar-historian, Pan-Afrikan activist and family man will be sorely missed. He will be fondly and gratefully remembered.





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