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    Reconstruction or Haiti’s latest disaster?

    Tourism development on Île-à-Vache Island

    Jessica Hsu and Jean Claudy Aristil


    cc PZ
    Community members are resisting a massive tourism project being undertaken by the government on Haiti’s beaches. It will likely cause displacement of people, forced migration to the overcrowded capital in search of work, loss of food production in a hungry nation, further economic impoverishment and environmental and cultural degradation

    A large-scale tourism project planned for the Haitian island of Île-à-Vache targets ‘the well-heeled tourist from traditional markets…creating a place of exquisite peace and well-being,’ as described in the government of Haiti’s executive plan. The project aims to attract four character types: ‘the Explorers, the Lovers, the Rejuvenators and the Homecomers.’ The corporations behind the project intend to build 1,500 hotels and bungalows along the island’s beaches, an international airport, a golf course, island farms, and tourist ‘villages’ with cafes, shops, and night clubs.

    The government touts the project as ‘community hand-in-hand’, with ‘equitable distribution of benefits for all.’ It says the tourism will be ‘mothering [to] nature’ and is for the ‘general good.’

    The community sees it very differently. A grassroots group, Collective for Île-à-Vache (KOPI), was formed in December 2013 and immediately began organizing multiple peaceful protests, strengthening the voices of the local community, and connecting with allies.

    Community members have been mobilizing because they understand the multiple challenges ahead if the project continues as planned. Problems will likely include displacement of people from their land, forced migration to the overcrowded capital in search of work, loss of food production in a hungry nation, further economic impoverishment, and environmental and cultural degradation.

    The administration has been making empty promises and telling lies to the inhabitants of the island, while systematically violating their rights and using violence to repress and intimidate those who have been peacefully protesting.

    Special police forces, such as the Motorized Intervention Brigade (BIM) and the Intervention and Order Maintenance Corps (CIMO), have a permanent presence on the island now. Preceding the inception of the tourism project, there were only three police officers. In the last two weeks, a SWAT team has been introduced to the island. [The team was described in one account as more than 50 special police forces dressed in black with masks.]

    Vice-president of KOPI, Police officer Jean Mathelnus Lamy, was arrested on February 21. He was moved to the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince on Februray 25, where he remains without official charges.

    The ‘peace and well-being’ envisioned for the tourists have not extended to the local population. On the contrary, there is a sense of fear around what is impending. It began when the government issued an official decree on May 10, 2013 making all of the offshore islands zones of tourism development and public utility. The proposed plans for the project were created by three Canadian companies: Resonance, 360 VOX, and IBI/DAA. They have little understanding or attachment to community needs.

    Since then, the situation has gotten much worse. In August 2013, groundbreaking for the international airport flattened an old-growth forest, which was considered community land. Truxton began dredging a pristine bay known as Madam Bernard without an assessment of the environmental impact on marine ecosystems. Abaka Bay, which is one of the two luxury hotels on the island, illuminated the issue of waste management when a recent human rights delegation spotted the resort’s current method of waste disposal behind the resort. The expansion of Abaka Bay is part of phase I of the project.

    cc PZ

    cc PZ

    (Photo of part of Phase I of project – Expansion of Abaka Bay, one of two of the current luxury hotels on the island)

    Construction on a new road began in late 2013, without any notice, damaging a number of homes and taking out up to 18 coconut trees, which were a critical part of one household’s livelihood. No compensation was offered for the losses, though that is required by the Haitian Constitution. The company working on the road and airport is the Dominican Company Ingeneria Estrella. [The delegation] spoke to one elderly woman whose home is near the airport and has been marked for demolition, as she understands, by the Office of Land Registry (DGI). She stated about the Estrella workers, “They come in and out of my yard without notice and they enter without even a greeting.”

    The collective KOPI has been organizing with other grassroots and human right organizations from Port-au-Prince. The group’s demands are (1) transparency and communication about the project, (2) retraction of the May 10, 2013 decree stating that the island is for tourism development and public utility, and (3) release of KOPI’s vice-president, Jean Mathelnus Lamy, who remains in the National Penitentiary, and (4) removal of the special police forces from the island. KOPI consists of 11 steering members and seven additional members in each of the 26 localities on the island.

    Largely, the island community is not opposed to tourism. They are in favor of development which is respectful of their needs, which does not exploit nor threaten to take away their land; a project in which their participation is central and integral. However, they strongly oppose the current iteration of the project which is systematically violating their rights.

    Last week, Prime Minister Lamothe visited the island again with a government delegation consisting of the Minister of Justice and a delegate from the Ministry of the Promotion of the Peasantry. Multiple communications were issued during this visit from the Ministry of Communication and Martelly-friendly outlets, including Haiti Libre, show what appears to be the prime minister talking to a supportive population about social programs and distributing food.

    The untold story in these communications by Prime Minister Lamothe and Minister of Tourism Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin is that the population was told each household would receive 10,000 gourdes, or about US$220, during the visit to help boost microenterprise. When the delegation arrived, no money was distributed, but rather sacks of rice and crackers. Close inspection of the picture of Lamothe speaking, which was circulated by Haiti Libre and the Minister of Communications, shows the audience actually standing in a line for this hand out.

    cc FR

    While the population protested the visit with burning tires and blockades, there were few people taking to the streets because of SWAT presence which accompanied the delegation. Warrants were issued for the arrest of KOPI leaders. Many of them have left their homes and gone into hiding unable to continue with their daily livelihood activities.

    Villedrouin continues to say publicly the tourism development project is for the community, while the lies, intimidation, and repression continue. The population’s claims were verified in a report issued on April 2, 2014 [by eight Haitian human rights groups which visited the area] to investigate the tensions.

    Similar recent foreign investment schemes in Haiti, like new free trade zones, have not brought the much- touted government line of better incomes. Residents of Île-à-Vache are concerned that they will have no power to enforce even the daily minimum wage of $5.11, as has happened with new sweatshops. Further, Haiti’s tourism industry - when it was flourishing in the 80’s – created a collision of wealth and extreme poverty which promoted other informal economies, such as the sex industry which was illuminated in the film Heading South.

    Under the platform “Haiti is Open for Business”, the Martelly/Lamothe Administration continues to entice foreign investments with images of stability and security, building of infrastructure financed by PetroCaribe, and incentive policies such as a 15-year exemption from local taxes and duties exonerations on the import of equipment, goods and materials.

    Tourism is one of the development pillars of the government in reconstruction/rebuilding following the 2010 earthquake. Tourism is supported by the Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti, who speaks of “Building Back Better.” The other economic pillars include mining, free-trade zones, and monocropping for export, all of which are direct affronts to the livelihoods of the rural peasantry and to food and land sovereignty.

    The situation on Île-à-Vache is indicative of all the woes of Caribbean tourism and the model for what is to occur across Haiti. The government continues on its path to implement development to shape what it is calling “an emerging country by 2030.” In reality, these modes of development are further displacing and increasing urban migration; detaching and alienating the peasantry from the land with few alternatives.

    Villedrouin does not speak about displacements, but rather “relocation,” when addressing residents of the island, while reporting to Reuters that only five percent of the population will be displaced. Lamothe promises there will be no displacements.

    Simultaneously, there are still displacement camps in Port-au-Prince more than four years after the quake. There is no relocation plan for the residents of these camps, and in some areas of Port-au-Prince there is still rubble remaining. If this is the precedent for what happens to those who are displaced in Haiti, then the inhabitants of Île-à-Vache should be concerned about their futures.

    Will many farmers and fishers from the island end up in the shantytowns of Haiti, as have hundreds of thousands of displaced farmers before them? Those who were living in hillside shantytowns had the highest mortality rate from the earthquake. Île-à-Vache’s population continues to be unsettled, uncertain of its future.

    And so the Île-à-Vache community sings in protest:

    Nou gen kasav (We have cassava)
    Nou gen kafe (We have coffee).

    Group Response:
    Nou pa bezwen pwoje sa (We do not need this project).

    *This article is adapted from a presentation by Jessica Hsu of Other Worlds and Jean Claudy Aristil of Radio VKM Les Cayes at the Executive Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism conference in St. Georges, Grenada held from July 8 - July 11, 2014. The actual presentation with powerpoint which includes multiple images can be found on the CREST-CTO conference website



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    BRICS Bank challenges the exorbitant privilege of the US dollar

    Horace G. Campbell


    cc IBT
    Over 65 percent of the world’s nations keep their foreign exchange reserves in the US dollar, the dominant world currency. The creation of the BRICS Bank and other financial interventions will likely weaken the dollar’s dominance and contribute to the creation a new international economic order

    At the end of the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil on July 16, 2014, the leaders of the BRICS countries announced the “Fortaleza Action Plan.” This plan is in the context of the Fortaleza Declaration, where the leaders reinforced their position that BRICS would be an international force in challenging the neo-liberal policies of the Washington Consensus. Touching on areas of major destabilization in the world – from Syria to Sudan and from Ukraine to Iraq – the leaders spelt out the need for new paths to peace and for strengthening the United Nations to resolve the outstanding questions of war and insecurity. The most daring aspect of the Fortaleza Declaration was the announcement of a new financial architecture to intervene in relation to the international tensions that have arisen since the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States announced the monetary policy of Quantitative Easing This policy allows a central bank, like the Federal Reserve System, to purchase government or other securities from the market with the goal of lowering interest rates and increasing the available money supply. The BRICS summit announced two new pillars in a new financial architecture that is to be anchored with the headquarters of the New Development Bank in Shanghai, China.

    The Fortaleza Action Plan and the outcomes of this summit represented a major step in breaking the Exorbitant Privilege of the US dollar as a the dominant international currency. Along with the formal establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB), the leaders announced the launch of a Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA), which in 2013 was approved to receive a $100 billion fund to combat currency crises. The first president of the Bank will be from India, the inaugural Chairman of the Board of directors will come from Brazil and the inaugural chairman of the Board of Governors will be Russian. It was stressed in the Fortaleza proclamations that the BRICS Bank would be organized on the basis of equality unlike the current IMF and World Bank where the leader of the IMF is always a European and the head of the World Bank is always a U.S citizen. The proposal for the BRICS bank had been announced at the BRICS summit in New Delhi in 2012 and at the summit in Durban in 2013 the plan for the CRA was also outlined. The long term goal of the CRA will be to provide emergency cash to BRICS countries faced with short term credit crisis or balance of payments problems. Ultimately, in the context of the present currency wars, the CRA will replace the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the provider of resources for BRICS members and other poor societies when there is balance of payment difficulties.

    When the announcement was made of the bank to be capitalized with the US$ 50 billion and the CRA with US$100b, it was also announced that the leaders of BRICS were also considering the establishment of a BRICS Exchange Alliance to challenge the opaque derivatives market of the Wall Street oligarchs and an energy alliance to challenge the speculative activities of the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). These four institutions (a) the New Development Bank (b) the Contingency Reserve Arrangement (c) The BRICS exchange alliance and (d) the BRICS Energy Alliance - when fully operational will engender a tremendous change in the direction of creating a New International Economic Order. For as we will outline, the NDB and the CRA will not simply be like other regional development banks such as the European Investment Bank or the Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF), also known as the “Development Bank of Latin America.” The bank is emerging at a moment when the entire international financial system continues to be in a state of instability because of the recklessness of the predatory speculators of Wall Street. In the midst of this recklessness, the ruling class of the United States is stoking warfare to deflect working peoples from the crisis of global capital.


    Since the establishment of the Bretton Woods Institutions (the IMF and the IBRD) in 1944 the US dollar enjoyed the position as the dominant currency in the world. Even after the devaluation of the dollar in August 1971 when the dollar was no longer backed by gold, the dollar still maintained its position as the dominant reserve currency and as the main currency for settling international transactions. After 1971, in order to escape the domination of the dollar the Europeans had come together to establish their own currency but the Euro never emerged as a serious challenge to the dollar, since it was ‘a currency without a state.’ France and Germany had colluded to create the Euro and it was the French who had coined the phrase the exorbitant privilege to describe the unipolar position of the US dollar in the world economy.

    Under this privilege, more than 65 per cent of the countries in the world keep their foreign exchange reserves in the US dollar. The privilege of the dollar as the dominant reserve currency provides cheap finance to the United States so that the citizens can enjoy a very high standard of living while the poor countries of the world subsidize the military spending of the US to enable the military management of the international system.

    Barry Eichengreen in the book, Exorbitant Privilege: the Rise and Fall of the dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System, outlinesd the impact of major changes in the international economy and how the US took over the privilege as being the dominant currency after the collapse of the British Empire. We learn that the pound had slipped after the 1913 financial crisis in the West and that the US schemed for 31 years to replace the pound. This replacement was sealed in the midst of the rubble of the Second World War when the US called the Bretton Woods meeting in 1944. Just as how the pound reigned supreme in the heyday of British imperialism, so today, the dollar enjoys a number of advantages as the world reserve currency. Among the advantages is the reality that the world’s most important commodities (especially oil) are priced and traded in dollars, even if most of these commodities are not produced in the US. The fact that the world’s financial system is based on the dollar allows the Federal Reserve to export inflation to other countries, while the federal government runs a huge deficit with impunity. The reality that the dollar is not backed by real assets but by the US military had created disquiet throughout the world but the outrage intensified after the global financial crisis when the US embarked on the further devaluation of the dollar through a policy of quantitative easing.

    From the start of the BRICS formation, the explicit goal was to challenge the outdated global financial and economic architecture that rewarded the imperial powers. Prior to the Fortaleza Declaration, the Russians had been most explicit that with political will, BRICS could become one of the key elements of a new system for global governance, primarily in the economic and financial domains. This position was not only held by the BRICS countries. At the end of 2013 countries such as Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, India, Argentina, Ghana and South Korea were most vulnerable since there were capital flow adjustments resulting from QE tapering. Emerging market countries were among the most exposed to a reduction or reversal of financial flows emanating from QE given that they were the recipients of large amounts of capital during the quantitative easing period. Apart from the results of the crisis and the policies of printing dollars, the ways in which the US legal system supported the predatory practices of the banks created additional worries. In 2014 the US Supreme Court supported vulture fund banks against the Argentinian government. This ruling exacerbated the desire of many countries to seek an alternative financial arrangement that was not under the control of Wall Street and the US legal, military and financial system.

    This is the context for the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement.


    Numerous writers have drawn attention to the takeover of the US financial system by predators that have created a global Ponzi scheme with the requisite ideological stance that the large and sophisticated financial sector of the US economy represented a global good for humanity. This military, political and ideological power of the US financial oligarchy was severely punctured in the wake of the North Atlantic financial crisis of 2008, but even after this crisis the US embarked on a new form of war, which the Brazilian finance minister, Guido Mantega, termed a currency war. This currency war took the form of competitive devaluations by the four leading convertible currencies in the world – the dollar, the Euro, the Pound sterling and the Japanese yen. Quantitative Easing (QE) was the name of the game given by the world’s largest western central Banks, namely the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank.

    The policies of these Central Banks were supposed to mitigate the impact of the financial crisis by influencing prices and output when short-term rates were near zero by increasing liquidity, particularly by purchasing long-term assets. The ECB and Bank of Japan focused their QE programs on direct lending to banks while the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England relied mostly on purchasing bonds. While the QE programs were initially aimed to alleviate financial market distress, the policy goals soon broadened to inflation, growth, and containing the European sovereign debt crisis. In reality, the competitive devaluations strengthened the predator class of speculators so that the very same forces that caused the financial crisis were benefiting from the crisis. Austerity measures in the capitalist countries transferred wealth to the top one per cent while the poor countries suffered from the neo-liberal policies that benefited Washington.

    Because the dollar, the pound, the Euro and the yen were convertible currencies, the actions of the Central Banks had a disproportionate impact on the economies of the exploited nations – called emerging markets. Cheap finance kept interest rates low in these societies enabling the citizens of the western capitalist countries to be subsidized by the poorer nations. In the last major capitalist depression, eighty years earlier - the major capitalist countries were then colonial powers and were able to transfer the costs of the depression on to the backs and shoulders of colonized persons. In the case of Germany and Japan, these societies had embarked on aggressive militaristic actions to counter the massive crisis of the thirties.

    In the aftermath of the 2008 crisis the poor countries of the world had to increase their dollar reserves, thus providing cheap finance for the U.S external deficit. Countries such as China with over $3.66 trillion in reserves and more than IS 1.3 trillion invested in US financial instruments were most vulnerable to the instability created by the exorbitant privilege of the dollar. As Chinese economic power continued to grow, an increasing number of countries have become willing to accept the RMB -renminbi as a reserve currency. By the end of 2013, the Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) had signed currency swap agreements involving a total of 2.57 trillion yuan with 23 countries and regions.

    In the midst of the currency wars countries such as China had a number of concerns about the fall in the value of the American dollar. Quantitative Easing forced up the value of the yuan, which had a direct impact on Chinese export markets, and reduced the value of the more than $1.3 trillion of US treasury bonds that Beijing holds. It was the Russians, however, who were the most forceful in pressing for a new multipolar currency regime. In Latin America, the leaders of Venezuela were also very aggressive in establishing the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA)


    The creation of the BRICS bank came after there had been failed efforts to change the structure of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The NDB will begin with US$50 billion, divided equally between the five countries, with an initial amount of US$10billion in cash put in over seven years and $40 billion in guarantees. The BRICS bank is scheduled to start lending in 2016. In order to be a platform for the poorer nations, the BRICS bank will open its membership to other countries other than the five BRICS members. In simple terms, the New Development Bank will challenge the role of the World Bank in the current international system. However, the nature of the challenge will be very dependent on whether the popular anti-globalization forces in BRICS will become dominant over those forces within the BRICS that support the neo-liberal economic policies of the Washington Consensus. The BRICS bank is emerging at a moment when the failures of the strategies of global capital are destroying human beings and the planet earth with citizens all over the world looking for social and political formations that can accelerate inclusive sustainable transformations.

    In the field of Development funding, the World Bank lending has already been superseded by other development banks such as the China Development Bank and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). In fact, the Chinese Export Import bank (EXIM) and the Brazilian Development Bank are now much bigger that the World Bank in terms of gross lending. The BNDES has branches in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. What gives the World Bank clout is the fact that it operates as the other arm of the IMF to serve as the surveillance arm of the financial oligarchs of the West. The IMF and the World Bank serve to dominate the decisions of the Bank for International Settlement (BIS). Poor countries can be blackmailed by the BIS to come to an agreement with the IMF because without such an agreement the countries would be frozen out of international credit.

    Although commentary from the western financial papers have focused on the fact that the NDB will focus on infrastructure loans, not enough attention has bene paid to the reality that along with the establishment of the NDB will be the Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA). China will use its vast reserves to underwrite the CRA and will contribute US $41 billion of the $100 billion that will be the basis for this currency pool. Brazil, Russia and India will each contribute US$18 billion and South Africa $5 billion to CRA’s initial capital.

    While international media has been focused on the bank, the contingency currency pool is probably far more significant in so far as this CRA will be able to tide over members in financial difficulties and assist members of BRICS to escape the conditionalities and or sanctions of the IMF/Wall Street/ Treasury alliance. When the IMF was established in 1944, one of its principal tasks was to provide short term relief to countries with balance of payment problems. After the Asian financial crisis, the countries of the ASEAN states plus 3 strengthened financial cooperation and in 2010 had established the Chiang Mai Initiative with an initial foreign reserve pool of US $120 billion. In 2012, this pool was expanded to US $240 billion, but the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) is limited by three factors. Firstly, it is limited to the Asian region. Secondly, it is limited to currency swap arrangements but thirdly and more profoundly, this initiative remains linked to the public procurement law (ppl) of the IMF. In contrast the CRA of the BRICS formation will not succumb to the IMF and the conditionalities of the IMF.


    The NDB and the CRA will compleiment that BRICS exchange alliance which had been created in 2011 to cross-list their respective equity-based products. The exchange alliance brought together BM&FBOVESPA from Brazil, MICEX from Russia, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx, China), the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) and the BSE Ltd (India) and Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) from South Africa. At the first stage of this project the exchanges began the cross-listing of financial derivatives on their benchmark equity indices. This exchange alliance strikes at the heart of the massive derivatives market from which the Wall Street barons make their mega profits.

    The other major innovation that is being offered by BRICS is the proposed energy alliance. Under this Energy Association, the countries of BRICS will establish a fuel reserve bank and a BRICS energy policy Institute. This energy alliance will be a direct challenge to the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) dominated by the Western Oil companies. In the United States the Congress had established the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), but in the era of the financialization of energy markets, the oil companies –BP, Shell, Total, Eni along the banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley had established the ICE. In the past three years, the Chinese oil company PetroChina overtook Exxon Mobil as the number one oil company in the world. Along with the state owned oil companies such as Gazprom (Russia) and Petrobras (Brazil) the BRICS formation already have an interest in new financial arrangements for energy to break from the control of the link between oil and the dollar. In future, the BRICS energy alliance will have the capability to bring in state owned oil companies such the National Iranian Oil Co., Petróleos de Venezuela, Sonatrach of Algeria, and Petronas (Malaysia). State-owned companies such as the ones mentioned above along with companies from Norway, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia now control more than 75% of all crude oil production.

    One indication of the future direction of the energy alliance was witnessed earlier this year when after 10 years of negotiations, Russia's Gazprom and China's CNPC finally signed a historic gas deal with a contract worth over US$400 billion. In the same period, Russia’s second largest financial institution,VTB signed an agreement with the Bank of China on May 20 agreeing to bypass the US dollar and pay each other in their domestic currencies. This deal was one further example of the BRICS effort to remove the dollar as the central arbiter in the transaction of energy. In a context where the United States has been promoting sanctions against Russia, the BRICS energy alliance provides another theater for the current geo-political struggles as many countries seek a new multi polar system.


    In the midst of the financial crisis of the seventies when the nonaligned countries mooted the idea of the New International Economic Order (NIEO), Henry Kissinger rubbished the idea and moved to divide the NAM by seeking to break the political links between the oil producing states and the poorer states of Africa. At that time, Henry Kissinger boasted that the poorer nations only talked and could not act. In his world, the G7 would continue to dominate the world. Since the global financial crisis, the states of the world have been seeking ways to escape the strictures of the devaluation of the US dollar and the massive printing of dollars that has been given the name of quantitative easing. In a period when the stock market of the USA reached over 17,000 points, the real economy has stagnated and via currency wars the predators of Wall Street have created havoc in the period of the tapering of Quantitative easing.

    In Latin America there were discussions about the Bank of the South and the establishment of a common currency - the SUCRE. The oil producing states of the Middle East have been hoarding gold as a hedge against the inevitable fall of the value of the dollar. From Asia the ASEAN countries organized a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and established the basis for the Chiang Mai Initiative and for closer economic cooperation after 2015. Technocrats from the Asian Development Bank have been working to refine the basis for the Asian Currency Unit. The European Union had attempted to build an alternative to the dollar, but the global financial crisis exposed the full extent to which the European banks were compromised by their alliance with the US financial institutions. More importantly, the USA maintained more than 80,000 troops in Europe to ensure the subservience of European capitalists.

    Now there is another real alternative to the old Bretton Woods Institutions with the establishment of the NDB, the CRA, the BRICS Exchange alliance and the Energy Alliance.

    There is no question that these four institutions will pose as a rival to the Bretton Woods Institutions. The bigger danger for the dollar is the reality that other emerging states that want to break from the conditionalities of the IMF can benefit from the NDB and CRA. The BRICS states make up more than a quarter of the Global GDP and holds less than 11 per cent of the voting rights in the IMF. The United States holds over 16.8 per cent of the voting power in the IMF and along with the countries of Britain, France, Germany and Italy control over 34 per cent of the vote of the IMF. After the crash of Wall Street in 2008 there were efforts by the BRICS group to restructure the World Bank and the IMF to increase the influence of China and other BRICS societies. Wall Street could not countenance this restructuring because the dominance of the Bretton Woods Institutions ensured the military management of the international system in so far as the poorer countries of the world had to keep their reserves in dollars and the US could finance its expenditures from the hard earned savings of other peoples. The BRICS formation will now give the poorer societies a greater say in the international financial order. In this, the BRICS societies will be sure that Washington will not take these developments sitting down. The question is whether the cohesion from among the BRICS societies will be equal to the response from Washington. There are already some commentators who have minimized the significance of the BRICS Development Bank and argued that BRICS has no other destiny than to become co-dependent upon eco-financial imperialism. This writer believes that the future of the BRICS bank cannot be determined so flippantly but will be decided in the real world of political and ideological struggles. Progressive forces from the South will not tolerate BRICS as a replacement for western imperialism.

    * Horace G. Campbell is a Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. He is the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya, Monthly Review Press, 2013.

    [2] Barry Eichengreen, Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System , Oxford University Press, New York 2010 r
    [3] Charles Ferguson, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America, Crown Books, new York 2012



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    In Fortaleza, BRICS became co-dependent upon eco-financial imperialism

    Patrick Bond


    cc BS
    There is nothing to celebrate about the new financial architecture unveiled by the BRICS as an alternative to capitalist dominance. In fact the BRICS are happy enablers of Western capitalism and its destructive excesses

    Horace Campbell is a superb analyst but occasionally – like all of us – he gets things wrong: ‘the BRICS formation will not succumb to the International Monetary Fund and the conditionalities of the IMF... The bigger danger for the dollar is the reality that other emerging states that want to break from the conditionalities of the IMF can benefit from the New Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement.’ [See: ‘BRICS Bank challenges the exorbitant privilege of the US dollar’ in this issue].

    From that mistake, others follow. For contrary to rumour, the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa alliance confirmed it would avoid challenging the unfair, chaotic world financial system at the Fortaleza summit on July 15.

    The BRICS ‘are actually meeting Western demands,’ reported China Daily, ‘to stabilize the global financial market.’ If such BRICS subservience continues, remarked financier [url=file:///C:/Users/pbond/Documents/]Ousmène Jacques Mandeng[/url] of Pramerica Investment Management in a Financial Times blog, ‘it would help overcome the main constraints of the global financial architecture. It may well be the piece missing to promote actual financial globalisation.’

    Fawning to finance reminds us of the term Brazilian political economist Ruy Mauro Marini coined a half-century ago, ‘sub-imperialism’: i.e., ‘collaborating actively with imperialist expansion, assuming in this expansion the position of a key nation.’ Marini described Brazil’s ‘deputy sheriff’ role in Latin America, but the concept also applies to the global-scale imperialist project.

    As part of the civil society counter-summitry, we launched a collection on this theme in the Fortaleza journal Tensoes Mundiais-World Tensions, co-edited with Rio de Janeiro political economist Ana Garcia. Two dozen writers including Elmar Altvater, Omar Bonilla, Virginia Fontes, Sam Moyo, Leo Panitch, James Petras, William Robinson, Arundhati Roy and Immanuel Wallerstein grappled with the BRICS’ contradictory geopolitical location.

    By all accounts, the two overarching problems of our time – as the most recent Pew global public opinion survey confirms – are climate change and systemic financial instability. In both, the BRICS suffer what in psychology is termed ‘co-dependency.’ The word ‘comes directly out of Alcoholics Anonymous, part of a dawning realization that the problem was not solely the addict, but also the family and friends who constitute a network for the alcoholic,’ according to Lennard Davis in his 2008 book Obsession.

    BRICS are friendly-family enablers of Western capitalists who are fatally addicted to speculative-centric, carbon-intensive accumulation. Suffering what increasingly appears to be the neurological impairment of a junkie, officials in Washington, London, Brussels, Frankfurt and Tokyo continue helter-skelter pumping of zero-interest dollars, euros and yen into the world economy. This is a hopeless drug-addict’s fix: maintaining policies of economic liberalization that lower national economic barriers and generate new asset bubbles.

    BRICS elites are not enemies of the Western economic hedonists, as revealed in the Fortaleza declaration’s exceedingly gentle advice: ‘Monetary policy settings in some advanced economies may bring renewed stress and volatility to financial markets and changes in monetary stance need to be carefully calibrated and clearly communicated in order to minimize negative spillovers.’ (This refers to currency crashes suffered by most BRICS when the West began reducing ‘Quantitative Easing’ money-printing in May 2013 – yet another example of co-dependency.)

    Another fatal Western obsession facilitated by the BRICS is emission of greenhouse gases at whatever level maximizes corporate profits – future generations be damned to burn. (The last time the world’s 1 percent seriously kicked the habit – and momentarily succeeded – was in 1987 when the Montreal Protocol was signed and CFCs banned so as to halt ozone hole expansion. But since that successful Cold Turkey episode, neoliberal and neoconservative fetishes took hold. Half-hearted efforts at the UN and other multilaterals to address global-scale environmental, economic and geopolitical disasters have conspicuously failed.)

    The BRICS repeatedly enable the West’s most self-destructive habits during times of acute eco-financial crisis:

    • the April 2009 G20 bailout of Western banks via consensus on a $750 billion IMF global liquidity infusion;
    • the December 2009 Copenhagen Accord in which four of the five BRICS did a deal to continue emitting unabated (they “wrecked the UN,” according to Bill Mckibben of;
    • the 2011-12 acquiescence to the (s)election of new European and US chief executives for the Bretton Woods Institutions, for despite a little whinging, the BRICS couldn’t even decide on joint candidates; and
    • the 2012 agreement to pay over another $75 billion to the IMF even though it was apparent Washington wasn’t going to change its undemocratic ways (the US Congress has refused to allocate the BRICS a higher IMF voting share);

    Washington’s co-dependents in Delhi and Pretoria are the most blindly loyal. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reactionaries and African National Congress (ANC) neoliberals have regular economic, political and even military dalliances with Washington, and the BJP is so irretrievably backward that it won’t countenance even a parliamentary debate about Israel’s Gaza terrorism.

    Playing the role of a frosty, distant relative, the other BRICS elites in Moscow, Brasilia and Beijing occasionally fulminate against Washington’s internet snoopery and the Pentagon’s propensity to bomb random Middle Eastern targets. To their credit last September at the G20 summit, they pulled Barack Obama’s itchy trigger finger back after the Syrian regime apparently used chemical warfare against civilians. Vladimir Putin instead cajoled Assad’s chemical-weapon disarmament. And thank goodness the US whistle-blower spy Edward Snowden is at least safe in Russia. But it’s likely that BRICS promises to establish new internet connectivity safe from US National Security Agency data-thieves will be broken.

    Another Fortaleza let-down: the refusal by Moscow and Beijing to support the other three BRICS’ ascension to the UN Security Council in spite of their repeated requests for UN democratisation, because that would lead to dilution of Russian and Chinese power.

    The greatest heartbreak, however, will be the passing of sub-imperialism’s financial costs to BRICS citizenries and hinterlands. Before the Fortaleza summit, economic-justice activists hoped the BRICS would decisively weaken and then break dollar hegemony, especially given the inevitability of rising Chinese yuan convertibility and the Moscow-Beijing (non-$) energy deal a few weeks ago.

    But revealingly, both the New Development Bank (NDB) and ‘Contingent Reserve Arrangement’ (CRA) announced have this feature: ‘The Requesting Party’s [borrower’s] central bank shall sell the Requesting Party Currency to the Providing Parties’ central banks and purchase US$ from them by means of a spot transaction, with a simultaneous agreement by the Requesting Party’s central bank to sell US$ and to repurchase the Requesting Party Currency from the Providing Parties’ central banks on the maturity date.’ That’s techie talk for ongoing $-addiction: a retox not detox.

    The dollar is an inappropriate crutch in so many ways, but aside from an excellent article by University of London radical economist [url=file:///C:/Users/pbond/Documents/- http:/]John Weeks[/url], few analysts acknowledge that genuinely ‘inclusive sustainable development’ finance would not require much US$ (or any foreign-currency denominated) credits.

    Hard currency isn’t needed if BRICS countries – or even future hinterland borrowers – want to address most of their vast infrastructure deficits in basic-needs housing, school construction and teacher pay, water and sanitation piping, road building, agriculture support, and the like. The US$ financing hints at huge import bills for future mega-project White Elephant infrastructure entailing multinational corporate technology. (Like most of our 2010 World Cup stadiums.)

    Weeks continues, ‘The suspicion uppermost in my mind is that the purpose of the BRICS bank, as a project funding bank, is to link the finance offered, to the construction firms and materials suppliers located in the BRICS themselves. Certainly, the Chinese Government is notorious for doing this.’ (For example, a $5 billion loan from the China Development Bank to the South African transport parastatal Transnet announced at Durban’s 2013 BRICS Summit resulted in $4.8 billion worth of locomotive orders from Chinese joint ventures a year later.)

    As Weeks also observes, ‘the voting proposal for the BRICS bank follows the IMF/World Bank model: money votes with shares, reflecting each government’s financial contribution. The largest voting share goes to China, whose record on investments in Africa is nothing short of appalling… The warm endorsement of the NDB by the president of the World Bank suggests enthusiasm rather than tension.’

    But isn’t the CRA a $100 billion ‘replacement’ for the IMF, as was widely advertised? No, it amplifies IMF power. If a BRICS borrower wants access to the final 70 percent of its credit quota, the founding documents insist, that loan can only come contingent on ‘evidence of the existence of an on-track arrangement between the IMF and the Requesting Party that involves a commitment of the IMF to provide financing to the Requesting Party based on conditionality, and the compliance of the Requesting Party with the terms and conditions of the arrangement.’

    The neoliberal BRICS bureaucrats who laboured over that stilted language – and over the (self-obfuscating) name of the CRA – may or may not have a sense of how close global finance is to another meltdown, in part because of [url=file:///C:/Users/pbond/Documents/]relentless IMF austerity conditionality[/url]. But it does reveal their intrinsic commitment to ‘sound banking’ mentality, by limiting their own liabilities to each other. Current quotas are in the range of $18-20 billion for the four larger BRICS and $10 billion for South Africa (though the latter will only contribute $5 billion, and China $41 billion).

    Will it matter? According to Sao Paolo-based geopolitical analyst Oliver Stuenkel, ‘arrangements similar to the BRICS CRA already exist and have not undermined the IMF. The BRICS’ CRA is closely modeled on the Chiang Mai Initiative signed between the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations countries as well as China, Japan and South Korea in May 2000.’ The initiative is useless, Stuenkel observes, for no one has borrowed from it since. Likewise, he tells me, ‘The CRA is fully embedded in the IMF system!’

    What might that mean in future? The last BRICS-country default managed by Washington was when Boris Yeltsin’s Russia – with $150 billion in foreign debt – required a $23 billion emergency loan in 1998. Fifteen years later, four of the five BRICS suffered currency crashes when the US Federal Reserve announced monetary policy changes, and with higher interest rates, hot money flooded back to New York.

    An emergency bailout may soon be necessary here in South Africa, where foreign indebtedness has risen to $140 billion, up from $25 billion in 1994 when Nelson Mandela’s ANC inherited apartheid debt and, tragically, agreed to repay. Measured in terms of GDP, foreign debt is up to 39 percent and even the neoliberal SA Reserve Bank warns that we are fast approaching ‘the high of 41 percent registered at the time of the debt standstill in 1985.’

    That crisis and an accompanying $13 billion default split the white ruling class, compelling English-speaking big business representatives to visit Zambia to meet the exiled liberation movement. Less than nine years later, capital had ditched the racist Afrikaner regime, in favour of bedding down with the ANC in what Mandela’s key military strategist Ronnie Kasrils termed the ‘Faustian Pact’.

    SA Finance Minister Nonhlanhla Nene predicted that the first NDB borrowers would be African, to ‘complement the efforts of existing international financial institutions.’ But since Nene’s own Development Bank of Southern Africa is rife with self-confessed corruption and incompetence, and the two largest NDB precedents – the China Development Bank and Brazil’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development – epitomize destructive extractivism, is this really to be welcomed?

    After all, the largest single World Bank project loan ever ($3.75 billion) was just four years ago, to abet Pretoria’s madcap emergency financing of the biggest coal-fired power plant anywhere in the world now under construction, Medupi, which will emit more greenhouse gases (35 million tonnes/year) than do 115 individual countries. A year ago, as Medupi came under intense pressure from community, labour and environmental activists (thus setting back the completion two years behind schedule), World Bank president Jim Yong Kim could no longer justify such climate-frying loans. He pledged withdrawal from the Bank’s dirtiest fossil fuel projects.

    That’s potentially the gap for an NDB: to carry on filthy-finance once BRICS countries issue securities for dirty mega-projects and can’t find Western lenders. For in even the most backward site of struggle, the United States, a growing activist movement is rapidly compelling disinvestment from oil and coal firms and projects. (Here in South Durban, Transnet’s eight-fold expansion of the port-petrochemical complex is one such target of ‘BRICS-from-below’ activists, especially the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for Africa, Desmond D’Sa.)

    Of course there is a need for a genuinely inclusive and sustainable financial alternative, such as the early version, prior to Brazilian sabotage, of the Banco del Sur that was catalysed by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Launched a year ago in Caracas with $7 billion in capital, it has an entirely different mandate and can still be maneuvered not to ‘stabilize’ world finance but instead to offer a just alternative.

    To help BRICS elites stop jonesing for the Western model of exclusionary, unsustainable capitalism, a revamped 12-step program will be necessary. The first two steps of the classic Alcoholic Anonymous program are obvious enough: ‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable [and] came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.’

    The cleansing power of political-economic sanity absent in the BRICS elites comes from only one place: below, i.e., social activism. For example, just like any rational South African who loved the World Cup and hated its Swiss Mafiosi organizers from Fifa, Brazilian society remains furious about Sepp Blatter’s politically-destructive relationship with Workers Party president Dilma Rousseff. That and other neoliberal tendencies – such as raising public transport prices beyond affordability – mobilised millions of critics, which in turn was met by vicious police repression.

    In Russia, activist challenges come as a result not only of Putin’s expansion into Ukraine, but attacks on protesters. Civil society has been courageous in that authoritarian context: a democracy movement in late 2011, a freedom of expression battle involving a risque rock band in 2012, gay rights in 2013 and at the Winter Olympics, and anti-war protests in March and May 2014.

    In India, activists shook the power structure over corruption in 2011-12, a high-profile rape-murder in late 2012, and a municipal electoral surprise by a left-populist anti-establishment political party in late 2013.

    In China, protesters hit the streets an estimated 150 000 times annually, at roughly equivalent rates in urban and rural settings, especially because of pollution, such as the early April 2014 protest throughout Guandong against a Paraxylene factory. But just as important are labour struggles, such as ongoing strikes against Nike and Adidas.

    In South Africa, multiple resource curses[/ur] help explain what may be the [url=]world’s highest protest rate. Certainly the labour movement deserves its World Economic Forum rating as the world’s most militant working class the last two years. But South Africa’s diverse activists, including those who on 1882 occasions in 2013 turned violent (according to the police), still fail to link up and establish a democratic movement (though the metalworkers union seeks to change this through its United Front initiative).

    In this extraordinary context, critics are opening up two crucial debates: first, is BRICS anti-imperialist as advertised, or potentially inter-imperialist as the Ukraine battleground portends, or merely sub-imperialist where it counts most: in the ongoing global financial and climate meltdowns?

    Second, how can BRICS-from-below struggles intensify and link? The detox of our corrupted politics, a sober reassessment of our economies and fortification our ecologies – all catalysed by re-energized civil societies – rely upon clear, confident answers to both.

    * Prof Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa, which networks critics of subimperialism through ‘brics-from-below’.)



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    Kenya is ripe for the people's revolution

    Henry Makori


    cc SL
    A small elite owns the bulk of the land and wealth of Kenya while the majority suffocates under an oppressive system that condemns them to poverty and hardship. Only the people’s revolution can turn the tide to ensure everyone gets a share of the pie

    ‘We must say these things before we die!’ – Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, revolutionary founding president of the Pan African Congress, apartheid prisoner and noted pan-Africanist

    We buried my aunt last week. She had battled cancer for over three years. Given her material poverty, she stood no chance against the monster devouring her petite body. Months ago, we gathered relatives and friends to raise funds for her treatment. But we collected little. Aunt could only afford treatment at public hospitals, which, due to chronic underfunding, lack the facilities, medicines and personnel required to handle complex diseases like cancer.

    A few years ago - 2011 and 2012 to be precise - two prominent Kenyans announced that they had cancer. Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o and Beth Mugo, then cabinet ministers, flew out of the country to be treated at some of the world’s best hospitals – at public expense. They are now cancer free. Upon his return to the country, Prof Nyong’o lamented that Kenya was using technology discarded 20 years ago to fight cancer. Thousands of Kenyans continue to succumb to the illness because they cannot afford good treatment.

    Unlike ministers Nyong’o and Mugo, my aunt was on her own. She did not have the money to even go to a good private hospital in Kenya. She could not fly out to Europe or America to world-class hospitals at public expense. She was nobody, or what in Kenya is called an ‘ordinary citizen’. If the government had invested substantially in health and medical services, perhaps my aunt would now be cancer free as well.

    Most 'ordinary' Kenyans are on their own. Kenya, the famed ‘economic powerhouse of Eastern Africa’, has wealth and is discovering more in minerals, oil and gas; the citizens pay lots of taxes. Foreign loans amounting to dizzying figures are procured in their name every year. But they have to get their own money to access quality medical services, education for their children, water, personal security, housing, etc. In a nation with diminishing opportunities for most ‘ordinary citizens’, one will have to work extremely hard, deny themselves many things, ‘plant a seed’ (give money) at the altars of assorted prophets and apostles, pray and fast, steal, offer bribes, kiss the boots of the high and mighty, to get the basics of life.

    Is this normal? Is this freedom? How is this independence? Why do the people still live like this, 50 years after the formal end of British colonialism? Where is the independence dividend? Who does this kind of democracy work for?

    In recent years, sometimes up to 10 million people, or a quarter of Kenya’s population, have been without enough food, according to official statistics [1]. That is often the case in many rural areas and sprawling urban slums. Way back in 2004, the government said that 57 per cent [2] of the people lived in poverty. Ten years later, things have not improved much. The figure stands at 46 percent [3]. These figures may not give us a clear picture of what this really means. But consider this statement from UNICEF : the top 10 per cent of Kenyans earn 44 per cent of the national income, whilst the bottom 10 per cent earns less than one per cent [4]. How long will this go on? For how long will the people live like this?


    In March, Paul Mwangi [5], a former legal advisor to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, gave Kenyans a glimpse of what really ails their nation: a neo-colonial political system that serves the elite. He revealed that while in office for slightly over a year, his monthly airtime allowance in the form of cards from various telephone service providers was Sh27,000 [about $310]. Millions of Kenyans do not make that kind of money. ‘And though I took only about three to five cups of tea in the office, I learnt that my secretary was entitled to pick Sh20,000 [$230] to Sh40,000 [$460] to make my tea every month,’ he stated. Mwangi was entitled to an official car, an armed driver, an armed bodyguard and two police guards at home - on top of a hefty salary and allowances. And he was just an advisor; not even a cabinet minister.

    ‘I learnt that all senior government ministers have confidential accounts that run into millions of shillings from which they are authorised to spend money without the scrutiny of the auditor general, or the controller of budget, or parliament…I don’t know but I have heard that the president’s confidential account often runs into billions of shillings and in the last regime was the cause of the short and tumultuous tenures of many a comptroller of State House under whose office the account is operated.’ No one has come out to deny these claims.

    A perfect picture of this sickening profligacy in a land stricken by so much want emerged last year when Deputy President William Ruto reportedly hired a luxury jet at a cost of more than $1 million to tour four African nations accompanied by hand-picked politicians and aides – who, of course, collected handsome per diems and stayed in top hotels. The agenda of that tour was never made public. Although Ruto denied the jet cost that much, the matter has never been fully settled. Meanwhile, the DP’s new official residence in Nairobi cost over $5 million to construct. But he has not moved in yet, as a further $1 million needs to be poured in to refurbish sections of the new house that were allegedly poorly done.

    A lot of taxpayers’ money is gobbled up in this way, while citizens are told by the rulers that there are no adequate funds to meet their many needs. Just last month tax audit firm RSM Ashvir [6] warned that Kenya could lose well over 300 billion shillings through government wastage and shady procurement. The motorcade of President Kenyatta comprising a glitzy fleet of top-of-the-range limousines, or those of other government nabobs, always disrupts traffic in Nairobi, sometimes for hours. It is robbing the people, simple.

    A report [7] published in February, following a five-year survey, stated that a tiny clique of 8,300 super-wealthy individuals control nearly two-thirds of Kenya’s $50 billion economy. The clique of dollar millionaires is on average worth $83 million each. A small group of 105 of these super-rich Kenyans own about a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product, with each of them laying claim to about $93 million on average.

    Did these super-rich individuals work harder than everyone else to make their millions? Are they just lucky or blessed? The answer is no. The Wealth in Kenya 2014 report [8] says that a common thread running through almost all the dollar millionaires is their political connections as well as their ownership of large tracts of land. The wealthy political dynasties and billionaire landowners reflect Kenya’s top political leadership.

    The family of first president Jomo Kenyatta, whose son Uhuru is the current head of state, tops the list of the super-rich. The exact size of their massive land in Kenya is the subject of endless speculation. Besides land, the Kenyatta family has investments in banking, tourism, mining, insurance, media, airline, education, real estate, energy, telecommunications, the dairy sector and transport.

    Former president Daniel Arap Moi who ruled Kenya for 24 years has business interests in banking, media, hotel and tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, airline and education. Former civil servant and retired cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae has business interests in manufacturing, transport, farming, banking and ranching.

    Essentially, the last 50 years of independence have been about massive concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few people while the masses languish in poverty. Since independence, public office whether elective or appointive has remained the most important stepping stone to fabulous wealth through corruption, land grabbing and all manner of economic crimes against the people of Kenya.


    Two weeks ago, police told a Kenyan TV station that they receive an average of 2,000 applications every month from people seeking a licence to own a gun. This is not a small number. But there would be far more applicants if more people could afford a gun. Insecurity in Kenya is a major national crisis, ranging from gun-totting thugs to organised gangs and hardcore terrorist networks.

    But what could one expect in a country where unemployment stands at 40 per cent, and 70 per cent of the jobless people are aged between 15 and 35 years? About 800,000 Kenyans join the labour market each year, but only a paltry 50,000 succeed in getting professional jobs.

    Millions of people feel completely alienated by the current dysfunctional system. For several years now the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a secessionist movement, has been operating at the Kenyan coastal region under the slogan ‘Pwani si Kenya’ (the coastal region is not part of Kenya). Last year, MRC nearly marred the national elections through a campaign urging the people in the region not to vote. Kenya’s coast is important for the country’s tourism and has many other resources. But many local people remain very poor and are mostly landless. Who took their land and why?

    Believe it or not, it was only in March this year that the Court of Appeal overturned a verbal decree [9] issued by President Jomo Kenyatta 40 years ago requiring anyone who wanted to buy a plot on the Indian Ocean beaches to seek presidential approval. Of course it was Kenyatta’s kin, ethnic elites and cronies who got the prime beach plots!

    Until now the people of the neglected arid north and northeast of the country do not consider themselves Kenyan. It is churches and non-governmental organisations that play the role of government there. People from Nairobi and other parts of the country visiting these two regions are still greeted with the words ‘How is Kenya?’, which underline the sense of exclusion.

    National unity remains elusive. The country is deeply divided along ethnic lines. Kenya has at least 42 tribes and in 50 years of independence, the four presidents have come from two tribes, the Kikuyu (three presidents, including the incumbent) and the Kalenjin (one). The present government is an ethnic alliance between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin elites. All the presidents deepened negative ethnicity by rewarding their people with public resources and positions. They bought ethnic loyalty by similarly rewarding ethnic elites and punished entire ethnic groups by excluding them from meaningful development. As a result Kenyans generally think of themselves first as members of their ethnic groups and not citizens of a nation.

    A new constitution was overwhelmingly passed in a referendum in 2010 after a relentless and painful struggle lasting at least two decades. Its extensive Bill of Rights, provisions for devolved government, the whittling down of the previously ‘imperial’ powers of the president and creation of numerous independent bodies to oversee government, filled people with optimism. But in the first year of a government under the new constitution, President Kenyatta has demonstrated that a constitution is just words on paper; it can be ignored when it stands in the way of political expediency. The new 47 counties seem to be doing well in using devolved funds to serve the people. But corruption and misuse of taxpayer’s money remain rife in the counties. Fundamentally, there is no indication that the constitution will, in a hundred years, bridge the yawning inequalities in Kenya, end corruption or stop rampant negative ethnicity.


    In the days preceding 7 July 2014, Kenya witnessed extreme national anxiety not seen since the post-election violence of 2007-2008. Media reports said members of certain ethnic communities were fleeing their homes and places of work and returning to their ancestral homes for fear of attacks by members of other ethnic groups. Bus companies in Nairobi did roaring business transporting panicked city residents upcountry.

    Leaflets appeared in Naivasha - a town in the Rift Valley region that bore some of the worst violence in the 2007-8 ethnic conflagration - warning specifically members of the Luo community to leave or they would be slaughtered.

    A newspaper said that a major supermarket in Nairobi had reported huge sales of machetes.

    Social media was aflame, with ethnic bigots firing choicest insults and issuing dire proclamations. A state information agency said hate speech had gone up dramatically on cyberspace, although no one was charged with the crime. Other Kenyans on Twitter and Facebook posted anguished messages urging love for country and for fellow citizens.

    In Nairobi, a member of parliament called out to members of the Kikuyu community to come out in full force to defend the presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta.

    Religious leaders of all shades urged restraint, appealed for national unity and set aside days for special prayers. Long-faced bishops and ‘men of God’ of various titles declared in delirious sermons from pulpits around the country that they had ‘covered Kenya with the blood of Jesus’ and therefore the politically instigated violence of the past would not recur.

    A source visiting State House in those days described to this writer a visibly disturbed and distracted President Kenyatta scurrying from one meeting to another. Numerous delegations were at State House daily to confer with the President about the situation in the country.

    Kenya was headed to a certain apocalypse, no doubt about that.

    But what was really happening? What threw the country into such a paroxysm of hysteria? Nothing much. The opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, had announced that it would conduct countrywide rallies to press the Jubilee Coalition government to deal with a number of urgent national issues including escalating insecurity, high cost of living, extensive official corruption, tribalism in public appointments, violation of the constitution by the president and a raft of unfulfilled election pledges. Mr Odinga had called for a national dialogue on these issues. But when the Jubilee administration rejected the call, CORD announced national mobilisation.

    The rallies would culminate on Saba Saba day, which CORD had declared a public holiday. Saba Saba (7/7 in Kiswahili) refers to 7 July 1990 when Kenya’s pro-democracy brigade staged daring protests in Nairobi to demand an end to the tyrannical rule of President Daniel Arap Moi and for the restoration of multiparty democracy.

    The call for nationwide rallies sent shockwaves throughout the Jubilee government. There were fears that CORD was actually planning a people’s revolution that would depose President Kenyatta and install Mr Odinga in his place.

    The panicked government unleashed a series of strategies to counter this supposed eventuality. The Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo at first imposed a ban on all political rallies. But after this order elicited protests, he rescinded it. Next, the government embarked on a campaign of ethnic mobilisation and vilification of Mr Odinga by attempting to pin rising national insecurity on him. Internal Security Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku even made the preposterous claim that opposition leaders were working with criminal gangs and outlawed groups to destabilise the country. Yet no politician was arrested.

    Less than three weeks before Saba Saba, more than 60 people were killed in a two-day orgy of violence at the Kenyan coast. Media reports quoted intelligence reports saying police had prior information about the planning of the attacks, for which the Somali-based terrorist group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility. But instead of finding out and fixing the alleged security lapses, President Kenyatta stunned everyone when he told the nation that the killings were the work of ‘local political networks’ targeting members of one ethnic group. Most of the dead were ethnic Kikuyus, like the president.

    At the time of writing, two months after the attacks, the government has not exposed any political networks responsible for the massacres at the Coast. Nor has it explained the alleged targeting of the Kikuyu. But the message from President Kenyatta had achieved its intended political purpose: to signal to the Kikuyu that they were under attack and to unite the ethnic block solidly behind him. This makes sense when one considers that the opposition leader organising political rallies around the country was a Luo, who are political enemies of the Kikuyu.

    Another strategy employed by the government to defeat Saba Saba rallies was to heighten the fear of ethnic violence, particularly between the Luo and Kikuyu. Pro-government politicians, analysts, commentators and bloggers predicted darkly that the rallies would plunge the country into chaos.

    The Church is very influential in Kenya and solidly pro-establishment. After clerics made trips to State House, they came out scaring citizens with reminders of the post-election violence of 2007/8. Priests from the so-called mainstream churches pleaded with ‘the President and the leader of CORD to call off all political rallies, meetings and demonstrations unconditionally and indefinitely.’

    How the religious leaders, or anyone else for that matter, figured out that the political rallies would endanger peace and that it was therefore necessary to suspend the freedom of assembly guaranteed in the constitution remains unclear. No evidence was adduced to show that anyone was planning violence. The government had simply resorted to fear- mongering in an attempt to stop people from attending the CORD rallies. But people turned out in large numbers at the rallies all the same and no incidents of violence were reported.

    Another strategy deployed by the state was to prevail on Kenya’s much-vaunted ‘independent and vibrant’ media not to provide live TV coverage of the Saba Saba rally in Nairobi. Despite pretensions of independence, Kenya’s media retains umbilical links to the country’s ruling class.

    Eventually, the Saba Saba rally at Nairobi’s historic Uhuru Park took place. It was peaceful. The government poured thousands of armed police officers at the venue. A tight security cordon was thrown around State House, possibly to prevent a march to the presidency. But no such thing was even attempted.

    The events surrounding Saba Saba show one thing: Kenya is a very fragile nation. The people are restless. The government is terribly scared of them. That is why it survives on force, not popular legitimacy. The people are fed up with the pampered political class. They want fundamental change, not another package of negotiated reforms. No amount of reforms can cure the ravages of years of elite politics. Other than revolutionary change, nothing is going to improve the lives of the majority of Kenyans. The 8,300 super-rich individuals will certainly grow richer, while the conditions of life of millions of other Kenyans will worsen. The fabulous wealth of the dollar millionaires is not going to trickle down to the masses. Never!

    The people themselves must rise up to dismantle this system. And they can. Most people never thought British colonialism would end. It did. Not many people imagined apartheid could be defeated by the people of South Africa. It was. Few people thought the deeply entrenched Moi kleptocracy would go. It did. It took the single selfless protest action of a young Tunisian street vendor, Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, (not some powerful politician or grouping!) to bring down the 22-year-old dictatorship of Ben Ali in 2011.

    The revolution will not come for the political elite; not even the opposition. A new radical leadership must emerge. The people should be mobilised. They are not as helpless as some might think. They have the power to overthrow this predatory system and put in place a new one that genuinely serves their interests. We need a new consciousness. People ought to understand that their conditions of poverty, famine, disease, insecurity, unemployment, landlessness, are not the will of God- or a result of lack of faith. It is not that we do not pray enough. Or that the so-called national cake is not big enough for everyone. Rather, the people are victims of an unjust order. This order must be destroyed.

    This is the noblest cause that the ‘ordinary citizens’ of Kenya must now undertake: the struggle for their own liberation from the clutches of elite politics. It is this system that is the reason why an ‘ordinary citizen’ like my aunt dies of cancer but the Anyang’ Nyong’os and Beth Mugos of Kenya are cancer free.


    [1] See Food Security Portal;
    [2] See;
    [3] See World Bank data;
    [4] See UNICEF;
    [5] Mwangi, Paul (2014); ‘Kenya: Every day is party time in government offices’; Pambazuka News, Issue 671, 26/03/2014;
    [6] Watch NTV Kenya; ‘Kenya could save over 300 BN if government agencies cut down on wastage and shady procurement;
    [7] Mutegi, Mugambi (2014); ‘8300 super-wealthy control two- thirds of Kenya’s economy’; Business Daily, 19/02/2014;
    [8] Nzioka, Patrick (2014); ‘Political families own half of private wealth’; Daily Nation, 20/02/2014;
    [9] Machuhi, Eunice (2014); ‘Court removes restrictions on beach plot ownership’; Business Daily, 13/03/2014;

    * Henry Makori is an editor with Pambazuka News.

    * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
    * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Boko Haram born of poverty and elite politics

    Paul Jay


    cc AV
    Boko Haram represents two contradictory developments in Nigeria. One, it is a reflection of the level of poverty, disillusionment and discontent in the region where Boko Haram have their base. Two, it's also a reflection of elite politics played with the mask of ethnicity and religion


    Baba Aye, a trade union educator and Deputy National Secretary of the Labour Party, is the National Convener of United Action for Democracy, the largest rights-based CSOs coalition in Nigeria. He has been very active over the past three decades in the various trenches of struggle for democratic rights and is the author of the book ‘Era of Crises and Revolts: Perspectives for Workers and Youth’ (2012).

    PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay.

    According to Human Rights Watch, in Nigeria, Boko Haram, the group most people regard as a terrorist group, have killed in the last six months more than 2,053 civilians. Some people suggest that number has also been reached by the government of Goodluck Jonathan, who some say has killed as many people over the same period, but Human Rights Watch mentions only a few abuses in the same report.

    How does all this come to be? Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa now, more than--bigger than South Africa. It's the sixth-largest oil exporting country in the world. Why such chaos?

    Now joining us to talk about the historical roots of all of this is Baba Aye. He's a trade union educator, deputy national secretary of the Labour Party. He's the national convener of United Action for Democracy, the largest rights-based organization coalition in Nigeria.

    Thanks very much for joining us, Baba.


    JAY: So let's kind of give us a bit of a sense of where things are at now. There's lots of attention internationally still on the missing girls. There's this campaign, was on Twitter, international campaign, with ‘bring back our girls’. You have this recent report on the crimes of Boko Haram, but not a heck of a lot of contextualization about why all this is happening. Why don't you give us a sense of how this came to be?

    AYE: Boko Haram represents two contradictory developments, two contradictory phenomena. One is a reflection of the level of poverty, the level of disillusionment and discontent in the part of the country where Boko Haram have their base. That is the northeast. The northeastern part of the country has the highest poverty rate in the country, the highest level of unemployment in the country, and you have the highest proportion of children of school, elementary school, in the world in the northeast. And that is one aspect of it. And Boko Haram feeds on this discontent. It taps into this disillusionment with the system.

    The second part is this: it's also a reflection of elite politics played with the mask of ethnicity and religion, I mean, primordial sentiments, because while Boko Haram presented itself as some organization fighting against ostentatiousness, fighting against, I mean, Western civilization, in the sense of this being oppressive, so to speak, it also has close ties with ruling members of the state. And it's rather unfortunate, but it is understandable, because this is part of a pattern that goes back to the decolonization process in the country, where you found different sections of the elites playing up primordial cards so as to be able to win sections of the masses to their side as they battled amongst themselves for who gets the lion's share of access to the state treasury through access to state power.

    And as I've argued elsewhere, to understand Boko Haram and where we are now and the possibilities ahead, one needs to situate Boko Haram as an organization, as a phenomenon, within a broader perspective of political Islam as one of those elements of elite politics in the country. And as I have said time and again, were Boko Haram to be smashed today militarily, which I think is highly unlikely--it's very, very improbable - but hypothetically speaking were Boko Haram to be smashed today, a dozen Boko Harams would arise. As it is presently, you have three well-known splinter groups from Boko Haram, of which the larger of the other two smaller groups is Ansaru, which has targeted foreign nationals specifically, and with particular reference to French nationals. You have these. But in May you also had a totally unknown group in Niger state, which is in the northern region. So you have to situate Boko Haram within a bigger problem, and that problem as part of the dynamics of interclass power play based on interests, economic and political interest of the elites in the country feeding into mass poverty, disillusionment, and anger that is quite palpable not only in the northeastern part of the country but across the country as a whole.

    JAY: Baba, why would certain members of the elite want to ally or use Boko Haram--at least in this way: would they have actually supported the kidnapping of these girls, an event that's obviously going to bring such international attention?

    AYE: That's a very good question. I will say part of the elite supported Boko Haram the way Frankenstein was created, and, I mean, the falcon could no longer hear the cry of the falconer. And what do I mean by this? Let's talk concretely now. There are documented bases to reach conclusions that in 2003, when Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, for example, was contesting for the office of governor of Borno State, he courted Boko Haram. He courted Boko Haram for two reasons. The first was the mass appeal, so to speak, that Boko Haram had. There are several estimates of the membership strength of Boko Haram before it went underground when the insurgency started in 2009. I will say the most conservative and credible of these put it at over 250,000 persons, I mean, a quarter of a million persons, and mainly based in the axis of Borno/Yobe states. So Ali Modo Sheriff was trying to win what was in a sense a mass movement to his support for electoral purposes. And the second part of that coin was that these were also people that had trained, armed men. And in the Nigerian politics, where ballot-snatching is not exactly an exception, he also courted them for the strong-arm tactics that they could bring to bear to defend his influence.

    Now, Senator Ali Modo Sheriff emerged, and apart from resources being made available to Boko Haram, and with which weapons was bought and all that, apart from all this, there was an understanding that it would implement sharia. He actually did implement sharia somewhat after he came to power in 2003. But Boko Haram felt that it didn't go far enough.

    Now, Ali Modo Sheriff is axiomatic of a larger reality. And why do I say this? For example, there is a southern senator in the country of the Federal Republic of Nigeria whom it has been established had regular contact, I mean, text messages or calls that, I mean, with Boko Haram. Apart from this, also, it is very instructive that the Christmas Day bomber of 2011 who was arrested, Kabiru Sokoto, was arrested for the first time in a governor's official lodge at the federal capital territory, the official lodge of the governor of Borno State. And eventuall he escaped in very questionable manner when he was with the police, only to be rearrested subsequently. He has now been jailed for life.

    But when you also look at this, it's not--and I think that that should be perfectly clear, and this is where the argument is correct that the issue goes beyond religion. Religion here is more like the form in which the puppeteer and the puppet--.

    JAY: And that was my question. Who's the puppet? Who's the puppeteer? Who's driving--is Boko Haram using these elite politicians or the other way around?

    AYE: In this particular case, and that is why I started with the analogy of Frankenstein, it's a bit more complicated than that. There is a dimension in which you had the elite as the puppeteer and Boko Haram as the puppet, but it's now a puppet that also came to have a life of its own beyond the designs of the puppeteer.

    And a similar thing happened in the Niger Delta. A similar thing happened. But because the movement there took on a more secular garb, it wasn't seen as a religious problem. And that's why, yeah, Boko Haram is much more than a religious thing. The same 2003--and I think it's significant to understand this, in that the Republic was restated in 1999, and when it was restated in 1999, 2003 the elections were conducted under a military regime. 2003 was the first general elections under the Republic, the new republic, the Fourth Republic, as they say, though it's questionable which was the third Republic [crosstalk]

    JAY: This is after years of military dictatorship.

    AYE: Yes. The military overthrew the Second Republic on 31 December 1983. And then there was a period of diarchy, which is considered to be the Third Republic, between '86 and 1993, when a general election by the military was annulled by the--presidential elections was annulled. And then Abacha came to power, and you had a long-drawn period of some of the worst hours, most dark, the darkest hours in the country's history.

    So, now, 2003 marks the first reelection period. And just as you had politicians courting Boko Haram in the north, where it had strength, in the Niger Delta militant activists were courted by the governors. That was how a number of organizations got the resources for militants in the Niger Delta to now assume, you know, that great punch it assumes until the amnesty program under the immediate past president, Umaru Yar'Adua, who died on May 5, 2010, you know, while in office.

    So you see now that either with more secular garbs or with religious garbs, you know, the essential thing was you had a group which had its agenda, its program, but which had some level of mass followership, being courted by the sections of the elite that wanted to tap into the mass followership it had, and also the relatively--it had till before then relatively benign military capacities, you know, but placing resources before such groups, be it Niger Delta militants in the south-south or Boko Haram in the northeast, and then creating a Frankenstein which went further beyond the designs of those elites. So that is exactly the kernal of the problem.

    JAY: Now, you've written that the martial law that's been established in three of the northeastern states by President Goodluck Jonathan, that under this there's probably been as many killed by the state as there have been by Boko Haram. And you've talked about the necessity of Nigerians opposing both Boko Haram and the state of emergency. Talk about that, because one would think, given what's going on there, at least if you look at Western reporting, the state of emergency looks necessary.

    AYE: That's a very good question. And the fact of the matter is this: the state of emergency has not helped matters. It has not helped matters in any way. And I'm happy--before I even go into how it hasn't, when I wrote--some of my earlier articles on this issue were more like a lone voice in the wilderness. But, incidentally, although, I mean, they might have not necessarily altruistic reasons (and we might come to that later), in the course of the year, this current year--the state of emergency was, I mean, passed in May last year, and it's been revalidated twice now, because you can't go beyond six months without being revalidated by the National Assembly--but several elites in the northeast have also come out to speak against it, especially when it was to be revalidated. I mean, this included a former chief of defense staff of the federation, a former chief of army staff, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and so on and so forth.

    And the fact of the matter is that during the period of the state of emergency, you have had over 60,000 people displaced. In the course of this year alone, from January till date, we have had close on 4,000 people killed, of which the government forces have killed about as many people as Boko Haram has done. You have had the bulk--you have had a much more sizable chunk of persons--the number of persons, according to the federal government official statistics, that have been killed since this insurgency started in 2009 is over 12,000. And this statement was in April there, where you've had a couple of hundred of persons killed or wounded, and with over 8,000 people also crippled.

    JAY: So, I mean, the underlying issue, from what I'm getting, is that--especially in the northeast, but it's true, I guess, in much of the country, is there's such widespread poverty and desperation, and people find, somehow, some way to fight back. But Nigeria, as I said in the beginning, it's one of the biggest exporters of oil in the world. Where's all the money going?

    AYE: Aha! Very good question. According to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the anti-graft agency in the country, between 1960 when the country gained independence, on October 1, and this year, over $440 billion have been literally stolen from the coffers of the Federation by the elites, by different sections of the elite. I mean, that gives you an idea of where the money has gone to.

    A few--I think a month and a half back - the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, was asked that Nigeria is said to be one of the poorest countries in the world, and you wouldn't believe what he said. His argument was that how could people say that Nigeria is one of the poorest countries in the world when you have Nigeria having one of the highest number of persons having personal jets. The richest man in Africa is a Nigerian. He's richer than anyone in Great Britain, for example. He's about the 25th-richest person in the world.

    So what you have had is this. You have had an infinitesimal few, few, getting stupendously rich while poverty has stalked the land, while poverty has become the lived realities of the bulk, the immense majority of the population. The percentage of people living below the poverty line as at last year, from the less statistics, official statistics, is 69.5, roughly 70 percent. This is up from 54 percent barely ten years back. So you have poverty increasing while a few, a few people, a few people--. In Nigeria you have, I mean, show rooms of Ferrari, of Lamborghinis. You have a few people that--. And that's the problem, that is the problem with the country, inequality. You have insensitivity of the government, you have--.

    And to make matters worse, this is a country where the elites lack vision of investing in manufacturing. The oil wealth is so convenient for generating money for them to just dip their hands into and steal that they care less to generate value through production. It's one of the most awful cases of the rentier states, you know, the resource cost. And so of lot of Nigerians came to the conclusion a long time back that the oil boom actually was more of an oil doom. And you can see it with the lack of vision in the president of the Federation, the head of state (and that was during the military era) Gowon. When the oil boom came--he was overthrown in a coup in 1975. He said then that, I mean, for Nigeria the problem wasn't money but how to spend the money. And it's unfortunate. It's unfortunate.

    * You can watch the TV interview at []The Real News Network[/url] website.

    Witness to an international crime: Israeli state terrorism in Gaza

    Ajamu Baraka


    cc WB
    The inverted reality presented by the US corporate media of the 1.7 million captive and largely defenceless Palestinians in Gaza as vicious aggressors against the peace-loving settlers of Israel fails to recognise the nature of the relationship between Israel and Palestine. What we are witnessing is the systematic eradication of a colonised people – an international crime

    ‘Protective Edge,’ the cartoonish name given to the latest Israeli military offensive against the occupied people of Palestine, is representative of the inverted reality whereby the 1.7 million captive and largely defenceless Palestinians in Gaza are the vicious aggressors against the peace-loving settlers of Israel. Similar to the inverted reality in the US, where the myth of the innocent settler was created to justify the systematic slaughter of Indigenous peoples, the genocidal policies of Israel are camouflaged by the transformation of its position from an armed colonial invader to one of victim.

    This repositioning is aided and abetted in the US by a corporate media whose worldview and angle of reporting is framed by the innocent settler narrative. This narrative simultaneously liquidates and normalises the colonial relationship between the coloniser and the colonised so that the occupied territories are not occupied but transformed into ‘disputed’ territories and all forms of resistance on the part of Palestinians become terroristic.

    Informed by this imperial vision, the corporate media not only parrot Israel’s victim narrative but go even further with the creation of the two-equal-sides fiction. Mainstream coverage laments how both sides are locked in battle or a spiral of violence, giving the absurd impression that the violence in the occupied territories is a conflict between two forces of similar power and equal moral standing.

    It should be clear that attempting to conceptually equate the force of the state of Israel, one of the most powerful militaries in the world, with a resistance movement of a captive people trapped by land and sea in an open-air concentration camp on one of the most densely populated strips of land on the planet is a position that is fundamentally immoral. Yet for most editors and reporters in the US, pro-Zionist liberals and their counterparts in the Christian Zionist movement as well as some elements of the European press and public, the conceptual blinders of white supremacist, colonial consciousness makes it impossible to see the immorality inherent in this construction of the so-called conflict.

    The position for most of the world is that the latest assault on the Palestinian people is a war crime and an ongoing crime against humanity. That position was affirmed by the international Court of Justice, which ruled that as an occupying military power, Israel has an obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to protect the rights of civilians under military occupation [1].

    Within this legal framework, the killing of civilians under occupation, indiscriminate shelling of Palestinian communities, collective punishments, house demolitions, arbitrary imprisonment, the theft of water and other natural resources and the building of settlements in occupied territories are all considered war crimes and crimes against humanity [2].

    That is the real story that should be communicated to the general public in the US, but instead, the public is being led to believe that the Israeli military assault is a legally and morally justified response to aggression from Hamas. From this perspective there is no special responsibility on the part of the Israeli authorities to protect the rights of Palestinians under military occupation, and the actions of the Israeli government in response to the killings of the three Israeli teenagers is seen as a measured and rational response.


    Only the most naive believe the current military assault has anything to do with ‘defense’ issues related to the symbolic resistance offered from Hamas via the firing of rockets into Israel. Honest commentators on this issue know that Israel provoked the response from the Palestinian resistance with the mass repression it launched in Gaza after the killings of the three Israeli teenagers in order to use the response to justify its attack on Hamas. An attack meant to destroy the newly established unity government of the Palestinians.

    The colonialist mentality sees any resistance, no matter the form, as illegitimate, punishable by death and unrelenting terror. That message is clear for Palestinians as their homes are reduced to dust and the people dig out the bodies of their children, spouses, fathers and grandmothers. The other message communicated to Palestinians, once again, and which they understand all too well, is that compared to the lives of the settlers their lives are worthless and there is no ‘responsibility to protect’ for them.

    The assault on the people and the institutions of Gaza has as its objective the eradication of the people of Gaza – not necessarily in the physical sense, only because at this stage in global consciousness any such attempt would galvanise universal opposition, but to erase Gaza as a functioning society, to destroy it politically, culturally, spiritually and psychologically. This process, which IIan Pappe refers to as ‘incremental genocide’ [3], is terrorism in its’ most naked, brutal and devastating form, however one choses to label it.

    When genocide or systematic ethnic cleansing is not a viable option, reducing the indigenous population to a weak, terrorised and dependent condition is the next best thing for settler policy. The targeting of the civilian infrastructure and governing institutions by the Israeli military makes it clear that this is the objective of the current attack on Gaza.

    The international community has failed to hold the Israeli state accountable for war crimes and other serious violations of international law over the last four decades. Human rights organisations and United Nations special procedures have produced detailed reports on the crimes committed by Israel over the last four decades without the perpetrators being brought to justice [4]. And when it comes to Israel, humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect is exposed as the imperialist ideological construct that it is.

    Images of Palestinian children being dug out of bombed-out residential buildings have not resulted in calls for humanitarian intervention to save a population that may be the most brutalised on the planet today. Instead weak and pathetic calls are made for ‘both sides’ to show restraint and protect ‘civilians’ as though a distinction can be made or is ever made between combatants and non-combatants when it is the whole people who are seen as the enemy by Israeli authorities.

    Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights points out the hypocrisy of the West when it comes to Israel. ‘Instead of condemning such recourse to massive violence as ‘aggression’ that violates the UN Charter and fundamental international law principles, the reaction of Western diplomats and mainstream media has perversely sided with Israel. From the UN Secretary-General to the president of the United States, the main insistence has been that Hamas must stop all rocket attacks while Israel is requested ever so politely to show ‘maximum restraint’ [5].

    What is the future for Palestine? Is reconciliation possible within the context of an ongoing colonial relationship? Is a two-state solution still viable with more than 500,000 settlers occupying almost half of the land that was supposed to be the Palestinian state, a land base that is just 22 percent of original Palestine before the establishment of Israel?

    Frantz Fanon argues that: ‘One world, either that of the settler or that of the native, must be destroyed to bring the colonial system to an end. Not simply a military defeat or a political deal – the total destruction of the other mode of living.’

    As the Israelis continue to steal Palestinian land, murder, degrade and humiliate Palestinian people, and create ‘facts on the ground’ that make it impossible to establish a viable, independent Palestinian state, it is becoming clear that the only solution to the original sin of the Zionist project is authentic decolonisation where the presence, humanity and sovereignty of the colonised is restored.

    Authentic decolonisation is the only solution because the inner logic of the colonial/capitalist process suggests that Fanon’s assertion is correct – that there can be no reconciliation of Palestinian self-determination and independent development with the continuation of the Israeli state as a settler state. Because even within the framework of the so-called two state solution, the material basis of the Israeli colonial project is dependent on the continued expansion and expropriation of Palestinian land and the subordination of Palestinian people.

    So while some Palestinians and their supporters still hope for a two-state solution, Israeli rulers also understand Fanon’s position that ‘only one mode of living will survive’ and are moving to destroy Palestinian resistance. This is the real story of Gaza and all of the occupied territories – an ongoing crime that degrades all of us who are forced to witness it.

    * Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. His latest publications include contributions to two recently published books ‘Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA’ and ‘Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral.’ He can be reached at [email protected] and


    [1] See ‘Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,’

    [2] For a summation of the relevant articles of the convention related to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, see Francis Boyld, ‘The International Laws of Belligerent Occupation,’


    [4] The reports on Israeli violations are too numerous to detail here but the comprehensive UN examination of Israeli violations reflected here: is an example of detailed violations without any effective follow-up.
    [5] Tormenting Gaza, Aljazeera,



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

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


    Call for participation to the 8th Pan African Congress


    The next Pan African Congress will be held in four months time. Nations, organizations and individuals from around the Pan African world are invited to offer support prepare for this event


    On behalf of the International Preparatory Committee (IPC] for the Pan African Congress, I would like to invite you and your organization to participate at the congress scheduled to be held in Accra, Ghana, 4-9 November 2014. The congress in keeping with the broad character of all previous congresses, 1900- 1,994, will be open to all shades of opinion, groups and individuals in the whole Pan African world. In addition, African governments on the continent and in the Diaspora will participate on an equal footing with other delegates. The African union and its organs and institutions as well as regional economic blocs and platforms will also participate.

    Recognizing the African Union vision of “Peace, Prosperity and Unity", the broad theme of the Congress is: “The pan-African World We Want: Building a people’s movement for just, accountable and inclusive structural transformation.”

    The Committee has put forward the following issues for discussion at the Congress, without any prejudice to the right of all participants to include other matters or topics on the Agenda:

    • The foundational roots of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance/Contemporary dynamics of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance in the 21st century
    • Global African citizenship and the struggles for human and peoples' rights, dignity, popular democracy and social justice
    • Reparative justice for historical and on-going injustices
    • State and conditions of the Africans and Afro-descendants on the continent and in the global African family
    • People of Faith, Secular States and communities in the Pan-Africanist world
    • Creating a Union of African States and conditions for Africans on the o continent and in the global African family for full unification of the Africa
    • Governing migration (forced and voluntary), free movement of people, and realizing full African citizenship
    • Education, science, innovation and technology for liberation
    • African arts, culture and media
    • Transforming, integrating and governing the African economy (including natural resources management and ecological justice):
    • Environmental justice and the right to a healthy ecology
    • Democracy, governance, peace and security as key pillars and enablers for Ethe advancement of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance (examine the roles of the state, private sector and civil society in propelling Pan- Africanism and the African Renaissance).
    • Pan-Africanism ,the emancipation of women, women,’ rights, humanization of men and leadership of the women's movement: gender, masculinities & power dialogue
    • Pan-Africanism, youth leadership, participation and empowerment: lnter- generational dialogue

    • Pan-Africanism and the role of the Global Pan African community - beyond States and inter-governmental bodies
    • Addressing last outposts of colonialism
    • Addressing all forms of sexism, racism, xenophobia and intolerance - Equality, identity and inclusion
    • Africa's relations with the rest of the World (East, West and South-South) in the context of globalization and threats of re-colonization;
    • Challenges and prospects for the revival and sustenance of the pan Africanist Movement-Organization, Mobilization & Representation

    Individual and group positions and representations are encouraged. However, we are particularly encouraging various national/region at committees of the Congress and thematic groups to hold broad discussions and mini-congresses of their own before November 20L4 so that delegates of the Congress will spend longer time examining the practical and action implications of the Positions from thematic clusters and regional committees. It is the overriding desire of the Planning Committee that the Congress is not just a forum for ideas but a holistic opportunity to formulate a Plan of Action.


    To ensure depth of discussions and effectiveness of the Congress, it has been necessary to limit the number of delegates (with full voting powers on the programme/policy matters) to a maximum of 2 for every organization. However, organizations can sponsor as many individuals as possible to be participants. Due to limitation of resources and vast nature of the task of convening the congress, we are appealing to invited delegates and organizations to solicit sponsorship for their own participants. The IPC, Governing Council and Government of Ghana will endeavour to provide meeting venues, visa facilitation and to a limited extent domestic transportation. Traditionally /historically this self-reliance has always been our strength and the reason why as a people inspired of all the historical pillage, genocide and damnation that we have suffered we are still surviving.

    We are looking for alternative material and human resources to maintain the PAM Secretariat, capacitate the Ghana Local Organizing Committee (LOC) to perform all necessary tasks leading to the Congress. Before we look outside it is only proper to look within amongst ourselves first. In this vein, we are asking all participating organizations to make contributions of the equivalent of USDS300 towards running costs of the congress. Should you not be able to afford this, we shall gratefully receive any amount you can avail. No amount is too great or too little.

    I will shortly share with you and post of the PAM Secretariat website a copy of the concept Note developed by the Planning committee to guide the organization of the congress. Also posted on the website is a call for institutional and individual volunteers. The 8th PAC will consist of Core- organized and Self-organized events with the 8th PAC Village/space. You will be expected to share a one-page abstract of proposed self-organized events and approximate number of participants to enable us to allocate space and include on the expanded 8th PAC programme.

    The time to the Congress is very short, but our collective swift action will enable us to convene a successful 8th Pan Africanist congress.

    We look forward to hearing from you very soon.

    Major-General Kahinda Otafire, Chairman Pan African Movement

    The 8th Pan African Congress: Pre-Congress meeting of the North American Delegation


    The goal of the Pre-congress meeting is to mobilize Pan African organizations and activists in North America to organize and engage in the process leading up to the 8th Pan African Congress to be held in Ghana in November


    Organized by African Studies Department at Howard University and The International Organizing Committee of the 8thPan African Congress Pan African organizations and activists from across the United States and Canada are invited to participate in the first North American preparatory meeting for the 8th Pan African Congress to be convened in Accra, Ghana November 4 - 9, 2014 hosted by the Government of Ghana with the support of the African Union. Recognizing the African Union vision of “Peace, Prosperity and Unity," the theme of the Congress is: “The Pan-African World We Want: Building a People’s Movement for Just, Accountable and Inclusive Structural Transformation.”

    The goal of the Pre-congress Meeting is to mobilize Pan African organizations and activists in North America to organize and engage in the process and develop recommendations and strategies for incorporation into the November congress plan of action.

    Prof. Horace Campbell, a member of the International Organizing Committee, explained that at the top of the agenda are “ the Global rights of all Africans, the unification of Africa and building on the strengths of the Pan African Women’s Liberation Organization (PAWLO). In addition, questions of infrastructure, climate change, reparations peace and demilitarization will be addressed." Voting by representatives of different organizations and parties is limited to two each for both the Pre-Congress meeting and the actual Congress to be held in Ghana.

    Kahinda Otafire, Chairman Pan African Movement, stated: “The congress, in keeping with the broad character of all previous congresses, 1900-1994, will be open to all shades of opinion, groups and individuals, in the whole Pan African world. In addition, African governments on the continent and in the Diaspora will participate on an equal footing with all other delegates. The African Union and its organs and institutions as well as regional economic blocs and platforms will also participate”.

    Historically, the 8th Pan African Congress represents a direct link within the Pan African movement from the first Congress organized by Henry Sylvester Williams in London in 1900. The last major Congress was held in Kampala in April 1994. The last Secretary General of the Pan African Movement was the late Dr. Tajudeen Abdul Raheem.

    To confirm participation: Email to [email protected]

    For more information go to the website:

    Comment & analysis

    11 years of the Maputo Protocol: Women's progress and challenges

    Faiza J. Mohamed


    Some significant steps have been made around Africa regarding the rights of women since the adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa 11 years ago. But some challenges still remain, which require renewed efforts

    Eleven years ago, African states made formidable progress by jointly adopting the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol - regarded as one of the most progressive women’s and human rights instruments in the world. Its signing, ratification and implementation would have a momentous effect on the rights of women on a continent that has historically seen women bear the multiple brunt of poverty, exclusion and experience wars and civil unrests. In the journey towards its adoption, the courageous women and men of this continent did not see this as a reason to shy away but rather felt that this was precisely why such a legal instrument was needed – as a way to hold governments to account on the rights of women and girls.

    They saw it as a bridge to protecting women during armed conflict, ensuring a right to the education of women and girls all over the continent, as a step towards the right to participate in making decisions that regard them politically and socially, social and welfare rights for all including widows, the aged, the physically handicapped and distressed, just to name a few. To achieve this progress meant that different African states had to work towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, do away with harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage that were limiting the potential of women and girls in the name of tradition and give women full access to information and justice in matters regarding reproductive rights but also in marriage, separation, divorce and annulment of marriage among others – not as a secondary but as an equal stakeholder. These have been sensitive issues traditionally as well as religiously, and getting there was going to be an uphill task.

    Adopting a legal instrument is one thing, but ratifying or rather endorsing it officially is an additional process that required the same tireless women and men of the continent who believe in its potential to pick up their advocacy tools and convince different states to join in the campaign. After years of imperialism, concepts such as “rights” are at times misunderstood and either viewed with suspicion as “Western Concepts” - particularly by sensational African politicians. In order to break ground, campaigners needed to recruit women’s organizations that understood the context – organizations that work with women facing the challenges aforementioned on access to justice, who see the challenges faced by those who go through harmful traditional practices and who interact with those denied the right to make decisions that pertain to their own bodies and lives. There are now 44 organizations across 24 African countries that have joined the campaign to make sure that their governments ratify the Maputo Protocol and then implement and domesticate (make part of their own laws) the Articles within the instrument. This homegrown approach has borne fruits over the past 11 years.

    Yet challenges continue to require that tools are not stored away and each celebration is swiftly followed by a strategy to combat the next challenge. Take for instance the country of Sudan. Despite being one of the original State Parties that contributed to the drafting of the Maputo Protocol and one of the first African countries to sign the Protocol in 2008, Sudan has stalled in ratifying the essential women’s rights instrument. As such to a certain extent, regionally, Sudan has remained unaccountable for the continuous and significant abuses being subjected onto the country’s women and girls. Although Sudan’s initial step in signing the Protocol was a positive reflection of the country’s commitment towards advancing and ensuring women’s rights and protection, efforts to domesticate and implement such measures have stalled significantly attributable to internal conflict, subsequent separation from South Sudan in 2011, and continued political conflict between the Army of Sudan and Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). Any efforts to develop and advance human rights measures have slowed significantly. While CSOs, NGOs, and private actors continue work to ensure that such development continues, it is ultimately the responsibility of the State to ratify and implement such measures. Without laws and means of accountability in place to ensure their protection and equality, women on the continent remain particularly vulnerable to grave abuses. Ratifying and incorporating the Protocol into domestic laws is a step towards making sure that issues disproportionately affecting women would be addressed and at the same time meet international standards of fundamental human rights.

    Certain countries have exhibited commendable efforts in measures to safeguard and advance the rights of women and girls. Algeria, Kenya, Senegal and Zimbabwe are among thirteen countries who have reformed their laws over the past ten years in a bid to address gender discrimination, particularly those that concern passing on nationality to their spouses and children. Twenty out of twenty-nine countries that traditionally practiced FGM have specific laws against the procedure across the continent. It is through an African led coalition that the United Nation declared a ban on the practice of FGM in 2012 (Resolution 67/146), giving a much-needed boost to the campaign globally. Governments are adopting maternal healthcare practices across the continent with maternal mortality declining by nearly half since 1990 – but the aim is to achieve universal healthcare for all by 2015 (Millennium Development Goals). Enrolment of girls has seen considerable increment with gender gaps almost firmly closed in all countries, and family planning is becoming a reality for women in rural and urban areas. Women’s representation and participation in the labour market and in politics is a reality in countries such as Rwanda with healthy quotas of gender parity in others that promises sustainable change in coming years. Only four countries – Botswana, Egypt, Eritrea and Tunisia have neither signed nor ratified the instrument. Yet even those who have signed and ratified are a work in progress in as far as implementation of the rights enshrined within the Protocol is concerned. Harmful traditional practices such as FGM in countries such Mali, Liberia and The Gambia continue, and governments here have not come out strongly by establishing structures and measures to protect women and girls by introducing a law. Nigeria’s dire security situation has been exposed in the recent past where abductions of girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram demonstrated that political battles continue to be fought over the bodies of women. Civil unrest in Libya has undone years of progress and recently, where activists such as recently slain Salwa Bughaighis are killed in broad daylight. The Democratic Republic of Congo bears the shameful title of the world’s rape capital, with rape being used as a warfare tool, in a country that abounds in wealth ranging from fertile soils to numerous minerals that benefits only a few, while the violence in Central African Republic has flourished unabated.

    Within their capacities, SOAWR coalition organization and others are working to ensure that the Protocol remains on the agenda of policy makers and to urge all African leaders to safeguard the rights of women through its ratification and implementation. These organizations give visibility to both progress as well as violations of the rights enshrined therein. There are organizations working within the law systems to bring violations of rights to book, particularly for women and girls with little or no access to justice. Others carry out research in a bid to boost documentation of the dynamics that are taking place in different countries from the eyes of those who experience it on a day to day. By networking with each other, they have brought the articles of the Protocol to life and both directly and indirectly are shaping policies that positively impact not only on the lives of women, but on their countries. Even with States where governments continue to show reluctance to ratify and implement the articles of the Maputo Protocol, the wave of progress means that they are forced to recognize the changes taking place in the region. This has sometimes lead to an unpleasant backlash of repression, arrests and closure of organizations, particularly in the field of human rights. Recent incidences include the arrest of human’s rights defenders in Egypt and the closure of Salmmah’s Recource Centre in Sudan.

    2015 will be a year of reckoning as the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals expires, and examination of each country will reveal varying disparities. It will also see the African Union dedicate the AU’s summit theme to be "the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards African’s Agenda 2063”. These are fantastic opportunities that cannot be missed. It will be an opportune time for those who believe in the rights of the girls and women of Africa to demonstrate that an instrument that works hard for its constituents already exists and all we need to do is put it to work to see progress, including the MDGs, become no longer a dream, but a reality.

    *For more information on the states that have signed, ratified and not-ratified the Protocol , please see here.

    American and Israeli war crimes

    Margaret Kimberley


    How should one describe the U.S.-Israeli relationship? “Co-conspirators”? “Co-dependents”? “Frenemies”? “The corporate media in the United States and other western nations ignore, minimize or tell outright lies about the ongoing massacre” of Palestinians, but surely the Israeli media would do the same for the U.S. How about “Co-enablers in War Crimes”?

    Of all the partners in international crime in existence right now, the United States and Israel are the worst. Along with their less powerful cohorts like Saudi Arabia they have instigated occupations and carnage on a mass scale. Yet while one hand washes the other, it isn’t always clear who controls whom. Israel uses the political and economic muscle of its supporters to keep American politicians in line, but it also doesn’t have to work very hard to find a receptive ear in Washington.

    After killing American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011, the Obama administration refused to disclose the legal rationale for the assassination. Fortunately, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that Israel’s war crimes were used as pretexts for American wrong doing.

    A Department of Justice memorandum written by David Barron, now an Obama-appointed federal judge, legitimizes extra judicial killings on the grounds that Israel does the same thing. A 2006 Israeli Supreme Court decision ruled that targeted assassination of hundreds of Palestinians were legal and did not violate international law.

    Actions by foreign governments are rarely used to justify American policy decisions. On any other subject Obama claims that the United States is exceptional and must be not just a leader in the world, but THE leader in the world. Apparently, claims of exceptionality end when it comes to explaining away state sponsored terror.

    Israel becomes the convenient excuse for American criminality but it also acts like this country’s worst enemy. Israel has been caught spying on the United States numerous times. It killed 34 sailors when it attacked the USS Liberty in 1967, murdered United States citizens Rachel Corrie and Furkan Dolgan and uses the threat of electoral defeat to keep American politicians in line. None of these outrages ever damage Israel’s ability to get its way in Washington. Even local and state legislators around the country are loath to stray from the Zionist party line.

    Yet Israel is also the tool for American imperialism. Its purported need for security is used as an excuse to destroy the Iranian economy with sanctions, or anything else which also serves U.S. imperial interests. The two countries are true “frenemies,” dependent upon one another while also engaging in high level dysfunction.

    Right now Israel is getting its way in Gaza as it kills men, women and children with impunity. The story is the same. Israelis in Sderot sit on a hilltop and watch bombs fall on homes, schools and hospitals that have now killed at least 185 people. Only one Israeli was killed by the Hamas rockets which Americans are told are a threat to Israel’s existence.

    The corporate media in the United States and other western nations ignore, minimize or tell outright lies about the ongoing massacre. In the most egregious example, ABC news used video showing destruction in Gaza and claimed the footage came from Israel.

    While it is true that the photos and videos of maimed and dead children are hardly top secret in the age of the internet, one must be extremely committed to finding information on the scale of the slaughter and of Israel’s policy of targeted assassinations of entire families. Certainly the networks and the major newspapers could make this same information available but they dare not oppose the political order.

    Barack Obama and his other partners in world gangsterism such as the prime ministers of Canada, the United Kingdom and other NATO countries blurt out the same lying rhetoric. Like robots they report the same mantra that only Israel, the country with almost no casualties, has a right to defend itself. The Palestinians only have the right to be killed.

    Americans are like the wronged lover who is the last to know. Thanks in large measure to media and government propaganda they have no idea who is the aggressor and who is the injured party. Millions of people all over the world are outraged and hate not just our president and congress, but all of us as individuals. The Israeli and American governments have put a bull’s eye on all of our backs and citizens of this country are largely ignorant of the risk to us all.

    War crimes prosecutions are never meant for the powerful countries and their friends. If that were so, Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu and Tony Blair and King Abdullah and George W. Bush and Paul Kagame would all be in the dock. They are definitely criminals but they are the top ranked criminals or their henchmen. They never pay the price but people in Gaza still do.

    * Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report
    , and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at

    Burundi: The wrong man behind bars

    Continued Detention of Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa signals bid to stifle critics

    Aloys Habimana


    The continued detention of a prominent human rights defender highlights worsening repression of state critics ahead of elections next year, an issue that has received wide condemnation even from the UN

    It's been two months since Burundian authorities detained prominent human rights defender (HRD) Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa. What keeps the 66 year-old HRD at Mpimba central prison, in Bujumbura, is deeply disturbing as in the run up to the next elections in 2015 it sends a message to political activists and human rights defenders that the government may be preparing to take a much more hardline approach to its critics and opponents. The activist attracted police attention days after he took part in a discussion on a local radio station about the reported presence of Burundian soldiers in Eastern Congo. He had simply called for an independent investigation into the matter. Choosing to shoot the messenger rather than look into the issue, the authorities have chosen to investigate the human rights defender instead.

    By keeping Mr. Mbonimpa behind bars, the government is telling civil society it has no right to question the government on issues of 'national security'. But at the same time, putting him on trial may eventually lift the lid on a Pandora's box of revelations about cross-border military and para-military activities with their attendant effects on human rights, a situation that leaves the activist's fate hanging in the balance. The case of Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa is a test case for the issue of freedom of expression in Burundi, the rights of human rights defenders and the future of a vibrant civil society in the country.

    I recently visited Mbonimpa during my recent field trip to the Great Lakes region. It was an encounter that left me with mixed feelings. True, the internationally respected and honored HRD appears to be in good spirits, despite all this time spent in detention. He is also busier than ever: his presence in Burundi's major prison has meant a lot for many inmates who now have easy access to him whenever they need advice on their personal cases. In what must be a surreal scene for prison officials, at times, the inmates have to line up for an appointment with a man who has dedicated his career to the defence of prisoners' rights.

    Despite repeated calls for his provisional release, a court in Bujumbura recently validated his preventive detention and confirmed that the criminal case against him would proceed. As a result of his comments on radio, Mbonimpa faces charges of “threatening state security” and “forgery and use of false documents.” The bone of contention is whether he told the truth when he claimed to have evidence of some youth, affiliated with the ruling party, receiving military training by Burundian armed forces on Congo's soil. Rather than investigate the evidence and examine its credibility, the government's arrest of an activist sounding an alarm on an issue of major public concern and its wild allegations against him is both inappropriate and counterproductive.

    I first met Mbonimpa 16 years ago, and have known him to be a vocal critic of government excesses, but one whose work has always been fact-based. He is a role model and a mentor to many human rights defenders in the Great Lakes region. It is worth noting that those irritated by his reports have generally had no choice but to accept the fact that Mbonimpa is a meticulous researcher who never gives in to intimidation.

    His passion for human rights and his selfless dedication to the welfare of Burundian society led him, in 2000, to set up the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Prisoners (APRODH), which has become one of the strongest human rights organisations in the country. Mbonimpa has since then served as the organisation's chair, and has done amazing work promoting prisoners' rights. As a result of his outstanding human rights work, Mbonimpa has earned international recognition, including the 2007 Martin Ennals Award and the 2011 Henry Dunant Award.

    That notion that Mbonimpa harboured malicious intentions to harm any person, or even the state, defies common sense. The only possible interpretation of the ongoing judicial harassment against him is that it is a thinly-veiled message to civil society that criticism won't be tolerated and that a line has been drawn as to how far anyone can go in probing government action. In the past few years, Mbonimpa has spoken out vigorously against the increase in extra-judicial killings in his country; and while addressing the media, he often stopped short of accusing the government of direct responsibility for the killings. So I ventured to ask him, “If you didn't cross the line then, why now?” He didn't know either, so he just donned his typical disarming smile, as if telling me to address the question to those who jailed him.

    During a recent interview with journalists from Radio France International (RFI) in Paris, the Burundian president, Pierre Nkurunziza, sought to justify the incarceration of Mbonimpa by stressing that “freedom of expression has limits”, before making the all-too-familiar argument that one should let justice take its course. But the problem is that Burundi might still have the same type of “justice” that, in 1998, convicted Mr Nkurunziza himself of treason and sentenced him to death!

    In a recent visit to Burundi, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic expressed his concern at a recent spate of attacks on opponents of President Nkurunziza, apparently involving the Imbonerakure or youth wing of the ruling party. He said “Special attention must be paid to the full respect for freedom of expression, including for journalists and human rights defenders,” The international community must in turn keep up its pressure on the government of Burundi to ensure that the elections are free and fair. Respect for the right to freedom of expression and the role of human rights defenders will be a key indicator of the govenment of Burundi's commitment to that principle. A first step to delivering on that promise would be the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa.

    * Aloys Habimana is the Protection Coordinator for Africa at Front Line Defenders – The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

    Eritrea’s continued progress in combating HIV/AIDS

    FikreJesus Amahazion


    cc Wiki
    Eritrea’s remarkable success in combating HIV/AIDS is founded upon a multisectoral approach that involves the targeting of harmful societal behaviors and traditions like banning child marriage and female genital cutting

    According to UNAIDS, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains the region most heavily affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Specifically, of the 35 million people living with HIV, 25 million are living in SSA, and the region accounted for 74 percent of all the people dying from AIDS-related causes in 2013.[1] However, amidst these stark figures and though HIV/AIDS remains one of Africa’s most significant public health challenges, [2] significant progress has been made. For example, prior to 2001, HIV/AIDS treatment in Africa was nearly nonexistent; yet, now some 86 percent of people living with HIV who know their status in SSA are receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), and nearly 76 percent of them have achieved viral suppression. [3]

    While many countries – both in SSA and around the world – have shown significant progress in combatting HIV/AIDS, Eritrea’s strong record battling HIV/AIDS stands out positively. Located in the fractious Horn of Africa, Eritrea is on pace to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goal related to combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.[4] Further, its HIV-related figures are distinguished as amongst the best, both within the region and comparatively across the continent (see Table 1 and Table 2).

    Table 1

    cc UN

    *Source: UNAIDS 2014 (Prevalence amongst 15-45 year olds)

    Table 2

    cc UN

    Percentage Decline in AIDS-related Deaths (2005-2013)
    *Source: UNAIDS 2014

    Eritrea’s success in combatting HIV/AIDS is founded upon multisectoral approach that also involves the targeting of harmful societal behaviors and traditions. The country has: targeted traditional and patriarchal stereotypes and practices - banning child marriage [5] and FGM/FGC [6]; focused on improving gender equality and decreasing the burden of poverty borne by women; and sought to reduce stigma and discrimination. Further, community awareness programs have been vigorous and effective in the social marketing of condoms, communicating safe practices, offering educational programs, and providing youth or peer counseling.

    The country’s commitment to the health of citizens living with HIV/AIDS is also clearly illustrated by considering the national provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART helps to avert HIV/AIDS related deaths, while being a critical factor in driving down the rate of new infections. [7] Like its other HIV/AIDS-related figures, Eritrea’s ART coverage stands out positively in comparison with SSA or its regional neighbors (see Table 3).

    Table 3
    Percentage of Adults with HIV receiving Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) - 2013
    *Source: UNAIDS 2014

    Overall, considering its figures in the context of its various socio-economic, development, and regional challenges or in comparison to other countries throughout Africa, Eritrea’s success becomes particularly striking. Potentially serving as a model for Africa, Eritrea’s HIV/AIDS success also illustrates what can be achieved with a self-reliant approach, a capacity to adapt, effective coordination, and cost-effective projects. [8]

    At the same time, the potentially devastating consequences posed by HIV/AIDS – in terms of severe human toll and national developmental disaster – mean that Eritrea has little room for complacency. Rather, the country must continue to augment its existing programmes and further promote effective initiatives and interventions in order to control and reduce the harmful impact of HIV/AIDS.


    [2] {LINK}
    [4] a) {LINK} and b) {LINK}
    [5] {LINK}
    [6] Proclamation 158/2007: A Proclamation to Abolish Female Circumcision. Available at: {LINK}
    [8] {LINK}
    [9] UNAIDS. 2014. The Gap Report.

    Interim report of the AU commission of inquiry on South Sudan below expectations

    Odora-Obote Alex


    The African Union-appointed commission set up to investigate the current conflict in South Sudan has been a virtual paper tiger to date. The commission needs to provide unflinching recommendations aimed at stabilizing the country’s social, political, economic and military situations.

    The crisis in South Sudan was avoidable and a self-inflicted disaster created by the political and military leadership of that country. There is no excuse or justification for the war that started on 13 December 2013. Most scholars, researchers and experts on South Sudan generally agree that the underpinning causes of the armed conflict in that country include weak governance, poor leadership, weak institutions, and conflation of personal, ethnic and national interests, including unchecked corruption, particularly at the leadership level. The civilian population, unfortunately, is left to fend for themselves with no functional schools, hospitals or public utilities.

    However, the immediate cause of the armed conflict is believed to be President Salva Kiir’s irresponsible political decisions to sack his deputy, Dr Riek Machar, several cabinet ministers and other senior government and ruling party Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) officials, including Mr Pagan Amum, the party Secretary-General. These political disagreements between top SPLM leadership very rapidly transformed into an ethnic conflict, a conflict between the Dinkas and the Nuers, each allied to their respective sub-ethnic groups. This ethnic division was replicated in the army, government and all public institutions. Soon after the armed conflict commenced in December 2013, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) unilaterally entered Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and took a side in the internal armed conflict by supporting President Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against the sacked Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer.

    The response of the African Union (AU) to the now political-cum-ethnic conflict between the Dinkas, the Nuers and their respective allies was slow in containing the violence at an early stage, deploying a neutral force to protect the civilian population, and failed to follow examples of the UN Humanitarian organizations in providing protection to civilians most vulnerable, particularly women and children. Later, indeed much later, the AU appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the carnage unfolding in South Sudan (the Commission). As far as many AU analysts are concerned, the slow process adopted by the AU in the appointment of the Commission was an afterthought.

    The Commission, chaired by Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria (the other members were Prof Mahmood Mamdani, Justice Sophia AB Akuffo, Ms Bineta Diop and Prof Pacifique Manirakiza), had the mandate to investigate human rights violations and other abuses committed during armed conflict in South Sudan and to make recommendations on the best ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudanese communities.

    To be fair to the Obasanjo Commission, its mandate is a tall order and was unlikely, in any event, to be concluded within the limited three-month period allotted to conclude investigations and submit its report to the AU, particularly as the Commission appears to have an open-ended mandate. Its temporal jurisdiction runs from 15 December 2013.

    The Obasanjo Commission submitted its Interim Report to the AU at its 23rd Ordinary Session held on 26-27 June 2014 at Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. And, as expected, the Commission also requested for extension of time to finalize the report (Assembly/AU/19(XXIII)).

    The Interim Report, as acknowledged by the Obasanjo Commission, is inconclusive and makes no specific recommendation save to request for extension of time for the purpose of writing a final report. The Commission sees its challenge in implementing its mandate as the exploration of relationship between reconciliation, truth, justice and healing. The Interim Report appears to relegate the issue of criminal accountability to the bottom of its priority list. In its work, the Commission adopted an expansive understanding of the concept of accountability and defined it as encompassing four aspects: criminal accountability, civil accountability (reparation), administrative accountability (lustration) and truth telling. Along the way, the principal objective of the Commission to seek justice—as well as to protect the civilians in an ongoing conflict, recommend for a functional ceasefire, impose sanctions on parties that are in breach of the ceasefire and name individuals responsible for violations of international humanitarian law—got lost in the process. The Obasanjo Commission spent an inordinate period of time travelling to neighbouring countries and interviewing some leaders who, for all practical purposes, are accomplices to crimes that have been or are still being committed in South Sudan. It is surprising that the entire Interim Report has just two paragraphs on accountability (para.84 and 85), comprising 13 lines in the 26-page report.

    According to the Interim Report, the Obasanjo Commission recognizes that there is credible evidence of widespread and systematic attacks against the South Sudanese civilian population, rape and sexual attacks on women and girls and widespread destruction of public utilities, infrastructure, public and private buildings, particularly in Malakal, Bentiu and Bor. The Commission also confirmed the discovery of mass graves and interviewed witnesses to the commission about the crimes, including crimes of sexual and gender-based violence. These acts, as identified by the Obasanjo Commission, constitute serious violations of international humanitarian law and are also violations of Common Article 3 of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol II of 1977. At this stage, the Interim Report ought to have made specific recommendations on how to address these violations of the laws of war and whether to investigate the perpetrators with an objective to prosecute them.

    However, the Commission made no recommendations on what to do with the perpetrators of the crimes. The purported reason as articulated by the Commission is that it was: ‘still in the process of collecting information and investigating various allegations of human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law’. It then concluded that it was ‘not yet in a position to pronounce itself definitively on whether some of these acts [mass murders and sexual attacks] amount to international crimes...’ This conclusion contradicts the Commission’s findings, especially when there is credible evidence of the discovery of mass graves, widespread and systematic attacks including rape and sexual violence and destruction of infrastructure and of public and private property.

    I submit that the Commission’s mandate is not to make a legal conclusion on whether serious international crimes were committed, or to identify all possible perpetrators before submitting a final report but rather, to report its findings and recommendations to the AU. It is for the AU to determine whether violations of international humanitarian law occurred by appointing a body of investigators and experts in the field to conduct further investigations and report their findings and recommendations to the AU for further actions.

    The Obasanjo commission’s call to the warring factions to respect international humanitarian law without indicating any specific threat of sanctions is not a novel idea. It is, in fact, a standard practice to urge all parties to a conflict to cease violations of humanitarian law and to draw their attention to the fact that responsibility will attach to such actions. It is also common practice to urge individuals in positions of authority or command to take all measures to ensure that those under their command do not engage in violation of humanitarian law. What the Commission did, in urging the combatants to respect the law was, to that extent, not new. Urging combatants to respect rules of engagement is good practice. However, experience suggests that combatants often act when there is a credible threat of sanctions and criminal prosecution. Combatants do not respond to abstract threats.

    To underscore the point, when the Commission obtained credible evidence that atrocity crimes were committed, it ought to have recommended to the AU that it appoint expert investigators to investigate alleged crimes with a view to prosecuting the perpetrators.

    On healing and reconciliation, the Commission correctly noted that the war of liberation, the multiple conflicts that accompanied it, as well as the subsequent conflicts, have wrecked relations among South Sudanese communities. These factors underpinned the Commission’s conclusion of there being an urgent need to institute genuine national efforts at reconciliation to facilitate healing.

    However, instead of making specific recommendations to address these acts of mischief, the Commission laments that ‘once it has engaged further with grassroots communities, and drawing on successful past experiences, [will] make comprehensive recommendations on reconciliation and healing’. There appears to be no sense of urgency on the part of the Commission, considering that various NGOs and UN humanitarian organizations have publicly expressed their concerns about the dire humanitarian situation in the country.

    On the question of foreign troops, the Commission ‘[urged] an end to any form of military support to the belligerents that fuel and encourage hardening of positions and continuation of hostilities’. This vague statement alludes to the presence of the UPDF in South Sudan. The UPDF has taken a side in the conflict. Not being neutral, the UPDF has been asked by the international community, including the United Nations and the SPLM in Opposition, to withdraw. The Ugandan government has ignored those requests.

    The bias of Uganda in favour of President Kiir’s SPLM faction is demonstrated by President Museveni’s lone presence at the 3rd Independence Day anniversary celebration of the Republic of South Sudan. All of the other leaders of IGAD, currently mediating the peace process between the two warring factions of the SPLM, though invited, declined to attend. On his part, President Museveni, when addressing the crowd in Juba, announced that Uganda lost ‘less than 10 soldiers’ but managed to destroy the rebels. This says a lot about Uganda’s neutrality.

    The other armed force in South Sudan is the Ethiopian People’s Defence Force (EPDF). However, EPDF, to its credit, is in the country under the auspices of the IGAD.

    The Commission made no findings or recommendations on the unilateral deployment of UPDF in South Sudan and on its refusal to withdraw. The Commission’s silence is significant since presence of the UPDF in the country is one of the reasons cited by SPLM in Opposition for the continuation of the armed conflict.

    The Obasanjo Commission also made no recommendations on violations of ceasefire agreements. There have been two ceasefire agreements. The first was signed by the warring parties on 23 January 2014. It was largely ignored by both parties. The second was signed on 9 May 2014. The protagonists have not complied with the ceasefire and the many breaches are routinely recorded by the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mission. The Obasanjo Commission, however, ‘welcomed the March 2014 decision of the IGAD Head of States to deploy a regional force…’ but did not expressly condemn the presence of foreign troops in South Sudan or the combatants’ failure to respect ceasefire agreements. Yet, the Commission, in calling for deployment of a regional force, must also be aware of IGAD’s financial constraints. In all its activities, but for donor funding, IGAD often does not meet its financial obligations. Waiting for foreign donors to fund IGAD’s regional force is not one of the best strategies for the AU or South Sudan to protect the civilian population in South Sudan during the present crisis.

    Finally, there is the problem of the applicable law to regulate the armed conflict. South Sudan is yet to ratify any of the major international instruments, whether regional or international, that regulate the conduct of armed conflict. As a matter of international treaty law, instruments not ratified by a state-party do not constitute sources of binding obligation for South Sudan, save laws that are already part of customary international law such as the four 1949 Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocol II of 1977. It would have been helpful for the Interim Report to make some form of recommendation on this point.

    Overall, the Obasanjo Commission could do more and could do better to assist the AU in speedily bringing this conflict to realistic conclusion by putting in place structures that protect and defend the people of South Sudan from a political leadership that has gone rogue. The present Interim Report is too vague to provide a useful guide and falls short of expectation.

    * Dr Obote-Odora is a Consultant in International Criminal Law and Policy.

    * Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
    * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Rwanda: The forgotten victims

    Kaitlin Bardswich


    Two groups of people deeply affected by the genocide are rarely mentioned in the news or the academic literature: the Batwa and children conceived through rape during the genocide

    ‘No one should be punished for the sin of the father.’
    - Verodiane Nyirasinamenye, Amahoro Orphanage, Musanze, Rwanda

    Twenty years ago this month, the Rwandan genocide came to an eventual end as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), based in Uganda, gained control of the country sparking one of the largest refugee crises in history as millions of Hutu fled to neighboring DR Congo, Zaire at the time.

    Many articles over the past few months have written a variation of the following: ‘Over 100 days, 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred.’

    But there are two groups of people deeply affected by the genocide that are rarely mentioned in the news, or the academic literature: the Batwa and children conceived through rape during the genocide.


    Five years ago, I traveled to Rwanda to conduct research for my Masters dissertation (I was attending the London School of Economics, completing an MSc Human Rights) on the rights of those children. I had also recently completed a 3-month placement as a gender intern with Minority Rights Group International (MRG), working on violence against Dalit and Batwa women and girls, among other issues.

    I felt that I was fairly well-versed on the Rwandan genocide before starting my research. After all, I’d been immersed in learning about egregious human rights violations since I was 1 year old, when my aunt took me to my first political advocacy meeting, on the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.

    But even I had never heard of the Batwa, the pygmy people of Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were maybe 1-2% of the Rwandan population in April 1994, but more than 30% of their population was killed during the genocide (in comparison to about 14-20% of the entire Rwandan population and 70% of the Tutsi population). They were often caught in the middle of the violence, and accused of taking one side or the other.

    I’ve watched a lot of movies on the Rwandan genocide – Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs, Sometimes in April, The Day God Walked Away – but in only one have I noticed a Twa* character, and that was in Kinyarwanda.

    The Batwa continue to live in extreme poverty, most are landless, and Tutsi and Hutu continue to discriminate against them. They are also invisible. In a February 2009 response to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, when asked about Pygmy (Twa) children, the government of Rwanda’s response was, ‘The country of Rwanda does not have Pygmy children.’ When dealing with a government that refuses to acknowledge a victimized minority group, it is extremely difficult to achieve change. How does one advocate for a group that does not exist? For more on the Batwa, see Minority Rights Group International’s publications.


    With children born of rape, they’re only just beginning to receive some attention in the popular media. An article in The Guardian in April profiled some of those children, for example.

    NGOs estimate that at least 250,000 women were raped during the genocide, and possibly as many as 500,000. Rwanda’s National Population Office estimated that, as a result of this violence, between 2,000 and 5,000 children were born. Many victims’ groups state that there are 10,000 such children, while some NGOs, such as Foundation Rwanda, quote a much higher number – 20,000 children.

    But when I was conducting my research, there really was very little out there. For example, in 2003 Human Rights Watch had a report on children in post-genocide Rwanda, called Lasting Wounds: Consequences of Genocide and War on Rwanda’s Children, and children born of rape were conspicuously absent.

    Why is this the case? For one, sex is a very taboo topic in Rwanda, as it is in many countries, let alone sex outside of marriage. There isn’t even a kinyarwanda (the local language) word for ‘rape.’ Rather, rape victims would use phrases such as ‘married until I couldn’t breathe’ and ‘I had no choice but to be a wife to him.’

    Secondly, and this may seem like a technicality but it is quite important, these children are not considered survivors because they were not alive during the genocide. They were born afterwards, and consequently are not viewed as survivors by NGOs such as Fond d’Assistance aux Rescapes du Genocide (FARG). While I was in Rwanda, one situation was related to me of a child whose siblings had their education paid for by FARG, but not her own, as she was not considered a survivor. Her mother was left to explain the situation of her birth when she asked questions.

    Thirdly, and this is only relevant for some children born of rape, only Tutsis are considered survivors. Official state policy is that there are no longer any tribes or ethnicities in Rwanda. In fact, it is illegal to use the words ‘Twa,’ ‘Tutsi,’ and ‘Hutu’ in public political discourse. Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa no longer exist; everyone is ‘Rwandan.’ However, in practice, this is certainly not the case. In order to be viewed as a survivor in Rwanda today, a person must be Tutsi. According to the RPF-dominated government, no Hutu are survivors, even if their own Tutsi relatives, such as a spouse or child, were killed. Those Hutu women who were raped during the genocide are therefore also not considered survivors. In fact, even those Hutu who have relatives who participated in the genocide, but did not participate themselves, can be labeled ‘génocidaires.’

    This sentiment, that only Tutsi are survivors, is also found in state laws, such as Law No69/2008 of December 30, 2008, regarding the establishment of the fund to assist survivors of the genocide (FARG). Throughout the law, and in its title, survivors are called ‘survivors of genocide against the Tutsi.’ There is a disconnect between the state’s attempt to eradicate ethnicity from public discourse, and a discriminatory policy that only helps Tutsi survivors, but not Hutu or Twa. The children born to Hutu or Batwa mothers are doubly affected; not only are they not survivors because of when they were born, but their mothers are not considered survivors either. There are even some people, such as an employee of one survivors’ foundation I interviewed, who claim that no Hutu woman was raped during the genocide.**

    And lastly, these children are usually considered to be their rapist fathers’ children, both by their families and by wider society. They are called such things as ‘children of hate’ and ‘little interahamwe.’ There are fears that the children will ‘rise up and join their fathers.’ Many newborns were abandoned on the steps of government buildings, their mothers saying they were ‘the state’s problem.’ According to the Family and Promotion of Women Ministry of Rwanda in 1995, more than 80 percent of mothers were abandoning their babies. In other cases of genocide and ethnic cleansing, such as Bosnia, there were reports of women killing their babies shortly after birth. I have not read about any such case in Rwanda, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Others were kept by their mothers, with both mother and baby driven out by the mother’s family because the child was a ‘child of the enemy.’ There are cases, as well, of children being kept by their mothers and raised in loving extended families.

    I won’t get into the details that consist of my Masters dissertation, but suffice it to say that children born of war in Rwanda faced stigma and discrimination due to the circumstances of their birth, which often lead to violations of their rights to life, security of the person, education, health care, an identity, and birth registration. But there are some great organizations like Foundation Rwanda working to rectify that situation (in Foundation Rwanda’s case, its focus is on education).


    Many of the articles written over the last few months spoke of how well Rwanda is doing twenty years later. And economically, it is, especially compared to many of its neighbouring countries. Yet, there are countless stories of political dissidents, opposition leaders, and journalists being killed or ‘disappeared.’ Does anyone wonder how or why Paul Kagame is still in power, twenty years later?

    And as stated above, people cannot speak openly about ethnicity in the country. For a persecuted minority like the Batwa, this is extremely problematic. How can organizations work to further Batwa rights (e.g. land, poverty, the belief that sleeping with a Twa woman cures backache) when they can’t look at the Batwa as a separate group?***

    Yes, Rwanda has come a long way, but it’s not all the way there yet. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

    * Twa is for a single person; Batwa is plural. Technically, Hutu should be Bahutu and Tutsi should be Batutsi when speaking about groups. I decided to use the more common Hutu and Tutsi terms in this article.

    **When pressed, the employee softened that statement by adding the phrase ‘to my knowledge.’

    *** I met with a representative of a Batwa organization in Rwanda while conducting research there; we had to be very careful, and he ended up meeting me at my hotel as a tall, blonde, white woman like me would have caused too much unwanted attention by showing up at their office.

    * The writer is a volunteer with Africafiles.

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

    The Al-Shabaab distortion

    Somalia’s real challenges lie elsewhere

    Dominik Balthasar


    The approach to Somalia’s problems and that of Al-Shabaab should go beyond militaristic solutions and lie in genuinely dealing with the socio-economic problems of the country in terms of job creation and participation of Somalis in institution building

    The duty of the protector, the chagrin of the perpetrator

    Mutuyimana Manzi


    Since 2009, Rwandan rulers have pressured for the “premature” and “ungrounded” application of the cessation clause on the refugee status of Rwandan refugees.

    The opposition in Nigeria: How many divisions does it have?

    Uchenna Osigwe


    In Nigeria there is a dangerous perception among elements of the elite that elections are a form of warfare. Soldiers have recently been used in a few states by the incumbent political party to entrench the kleptocratic oligarchy by rigging elections

    Winston Churchill in volume 1, chapter 8 of his book “The Gathering Storm” (1948), quoted the response of former Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin (1879-1953), to the French Foreign Minister who requested, on 13 May 1935, that the Soviet Union should encourage Catholicism so as to propitiate the pope: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” By division Stalin meant military divisions. Stalin was coming from a world in which might is right.


    When the notorious election rigger, Chris Uba, was fighting with the man he rigged in as the governor of Anambra state in 2003, he wondered aloud why he shouldn’t be allowed to reap the fruit of his ‘labor.’ Uba, whose minions call “Ochiagha” or warrior, said he thought election was like war where he who has the most arms and troops wins. He let it be known to anybody who cared to listen that he single-handedly put everyone who ran under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in power, from the governor and the house of assembly members to the senators and house of Representative members, all of them! In fact, he was so powerful that he even changed names of candidates who had already won elections so he could put in those who were more loyal to him. And he did it with impunity because he had the support of the armed forces behind him. When he couldn’t change the governor, he resorted to chasing the governor’s convoy out of the way with his own heavily armed escort. He and his goons, tacitly supported by the police, went on a rampage in the state, destroying government property worth billions, and injuring many hapless citizens. The aim was to make the state so ungovernable that Obasanjo, who was the big masquerade behind it all, would declare a state of emergency, thus effectively returning the control of the state coffers to his protégés. Luckily for Ndianambra, it didn’t work. It was the major reason why the great Chinua Achebe rejected the offer of a national honor by the Obasanjo and Jonathan regimes. Up to now nobody has asked Uba to account for that wanton destruction of public property. Instead he got promoted within the PDP to the board of trustees. Jonathan has simply taken over from where Obasanjo stopped; and has taken it to a more dangerous level. Uba is now being exported to other states to ply his rigging trade.


    That Chris Uba was one of those sent to militarize the election in Ekiti state this last June, would be harrowing to those who want to see free and fair elections entrenched in the country. The military and the police were under strict orders not only to prevent the All Progressives Congress (APC) figures from entering the state but also to prevent the ruling party in the state from holding rallies. Opposition figures in the state were picked up by armed men and detained until the election was over. Meanwhile PDP goons like Uba were given free reign as they moved about with military and police escort, doing what they know best. After all, Chris Uba described elections as war! As the outgoing governor revealed recently, those armed men were given specific instructions to unleash bloodbath in Ekiti should the election not go the way of the man who sent them. Already one person was killed days before the election as a result of the fracas following the vice president’s order that the governor be teargassed during a political rally.


    The same operation was planned to capture Edo State two years earlier, but informed sources said the big man at the palace told the president in no uncertain terms to back off. And so the PDP lost in a landslide. This time, the khaki boys were sent to Ekiti State to oversee the reverse of what happened in Edo State, or else...

    But just before Ekiti, we saw the same militarization play out in Kano as the city chose its new emir. The same militarization recently played out in Adamawa. It is currently playing out in Borno State where no one, including the governor of the state, is allowed to use the airport which is under heavy military watch. But PDP goons could use the same airport. Other states will follow as the impeachment of non PDP governors gathers steam. Osun state may also go the way of Ekiti State. The soldiers are on their way.


    The game plan is clear to even the most casual of observers. In Opposition one is a security risk. Once one has moved over to the PDP, s/he gets a red carpet reception. S/he becomes a first class patriot, to be protected by the military and other well-paid thugs. The 2015 general elections have already been CAPTURED, if what happened in Ekiti is any indication of how those elections will be decided. And let nobody be fooled by the so-called international community. They don’t want to risk the emergence of a truly good government in African countries, especially those with lots of natural resources like Nigeria. They don’t want a government that could possibly say no to the poisons of the IMF and the World Bank. So, let soldiers be used to rig the Nigerian elections, the ‘International Community’ will endorse the elections even before the khaki boys take off their fatigues. If in doubt remember how they ordered Abiola, the only Nigerian to have won a truly free and fair presidential election in the country, to renounce his mandate. And when he refused, they served him tea, brewed overseas! Going to the tribunal would also be a waste of time and resources given what happened to Justice Salami.

    What is happening in the Nigerian presidency is a kleptocratic diarchy: the military generals are stealing as much as their civilian counterparts. The judiciary has been whipped into line and the media is under heavy assault. And hapless Nigerians remain not only increasingly impoverished but also forlorn of any hope of a meaningful government in the country in the near future.

    When the kleptocratic oligarchs said they’ll rule the country for 60 years, they knew what they were talking about. And most importantly, they also know quite well that their real obstacle to fulfilling such a feat is FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS because only the select few who have cornered power are stealing the people blind while the majority of the people are being increasingly impoverished. It is then imperative that in order to achieve their aim of ruling as long as they wanted, they must disregard the people. So they started, after being jolted by Abiola’s victory, by giving themselves the power to appoint the electoral umpires, and made sure they enshrined it in their Constitution. How can an employee fire his or her employer? Then they bought off the top military and police brass. The people, as far as they’re concerned, just don’t count. The periodic elections they organize are just a façade to avoid international isolation and to continue to steal with impunity.

    The ‘results’ of those elections are written in advance. In a Freudian slip, one of the OFFICIAL presidential election results of 2007 bore the date of a Sunday, more than a week before the actual election! Again, the authenticity of the materials used in elections in Nigeria has always been in doubt. As a result, free and fair elections have become the exception, not the rule.

    Chris Uba wrote election results in his home, based on fake ballot papers. Peter Obi, with the help of forensic technology, was able to prove that at the election tribunal where he recovered his stolen mandate. After the 2011 presidential election, the petitioners wanted to subject INEC’s ballot papers that gave the PDP its victory to forensic test. It was because Salami wanted to allow such a test that he got illegally fired by Jonathan.


    So, when an opposition party, no matter how large, says it’ll dislodge the PDP from the centre, the question is: How many divisions does it have? How many billions of dollars do they have? How many pliant judges does it have? How many election umpires does it have?

    The situation may seem hopeless, but there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel: Military might hasn’t made Chris Uba any less a thug than he has been all along. That he’s able to slap his toadies or fly in the most expensive private jet or travel in a convoy of a million cars cannot change that fact. Jonathan, through military might, might rule Nigeria for the next hundred years, but that wouldn’t make him any less mediocre, any less dishonest, any less a nincompoop nor any less corrupt. In fact the opposite, if history is our guide, is likely the case: military might makes those who depend on them dangerously foolish. And thus they book their place in history’s hall of shame. Power is invariably very fleeting. Those who wield brutally repressive power are invariably consumed by it. Unfortunately many of those who wield it manage to insulate themselves from that fact, inevitably to their detriment.

    Any ruler that claims to be running a democratic government but uses soldiers to bulldoze his way to power is setting the stage for his or her tragic downfall. It happened most recently in 1983 when parts of Nigeria were heavily militarized in the run up to the presidential elections of that year.

    The only legitimate use of political power is quality service to the people.

    *Uchenna Osigwe


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

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


    Campaigner – Southern Africa (Lusophone Countries)

    Location: Johannesburg Type: Permanent

    A I

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. In order to be effective, Amnesty International’s (AI) International Secretariat needs to change how we work. That’s why we’ve opened a hub in Johannesburg. And why we need your campaigning expertise with us on the ground.


    Our Lusophone Campaigner will tackle issues like freedom of expression and association, forced evictions, and abuses in the criminal justice system. As a Campaigner, you can expect to have a direct impact on these key areas, as well as our overarching regional campaigning and research strategies. Focusing mainly on Angola and Mozambique you’ll develop effective, strategic campaigning plans and work with both AI colleagues and external partners to deliver them. You’ll also create clear and compelling campaigning materials for a range of audiences, writing reports and public statements, making videos and web features, and raising awareness and mobilizing our members to effect human rights change. And you’ll constantly look for ways to improve your work too, researching effective campaigning methods, monitoring impact and staying up to date with the latest human rights developments.


    A practised campaigner, you’ll know how to create successful campaign strategies and build awareness through powerful actions and recognized techniques. You’ll also understand the importance of flexibility and be ready to adapt and evolve your plans. We’ll expect you to understand human rights and the political landscape within Southern Africa, both in general terms and specifically, with knowledge of Angola and Mozambique and key thematic areas. You’ll be able to translate that knowledge into campaign materials and creative initiatives that inspire activism online and off, and have the fluency to express complex ideas in English and Portuguese. You’ll have a network of civil society and government contacts and the clout to represent AI to audiences ranging from civil society groups and governments to our global membership. Beyond that, you’ll be a real team player relishing close collaboration with our researchers, colleagues and partners.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    For more information and to apply, please visit

    Closing date: 3 August 2014

    Country Campaigner – Great Lakes

    Salary $48,254 Location: Nairobi, Kenya Type: Permanent

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. In order to be effective, Amnesty International’s (AI) International Secretariat needs to change how we work. That’s why we have opened an East Africa Regional Office in Kenya. And why we need your campaigning expertise with us on the ground.

    Our Great Lakes Campaigner will tackle issues like protection of civilians in armed conflict, criminal justice reform, and freedom of expression and association in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As a Campaigner, you can expect to have a direct impact on these key areas, as well as on our overarching regional campaigning and research strategies. Focusing mainly on the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, you’ll develop effective, strategic campaigning plans and work with both AI colleagues and external partners to deliver them. You’ll also create clear and compelling campaigning materials for a range of audiences, writing reports and public statements, making videos and web features, and raising awareness and mobilizing our members to effect human rights change. And you’ll constantly look for ways to improve your work too, researching effective campaigning methods, monitoring impact and staying up to date with the latest human rights developments.


    A practised campaigner, you’ll know how to create successful campaign strategies and build awareness through powerful actions and recognized techniques. You’ll also understand the importance of flexibility and be ready to adapt and evolve your plans. We’ll expect you to understand human rights and the political landscape within the Great Lakes Region of Africa, both in general terms and specifically, with knowledge of Rwanda, Burundi and DRC, as well as key thematic areas. You’ll be able to translate that knowledge into campaign materials and creative initiatives that inspire activism online and off, and have the fluency to express complex ideas in English and French. You’ll have a network of civil society and government contacts and the clout to represent AI to audiences ranging from civil society groups and governments to our global membership. Beyond that, you’ll be a real team player relishing close collaboration with our researchers, colleagues and partners.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    For more information and to apply, please visit

    Closing Date: 24 August 2014

    Refugee Officer

    Nairobi, Kenya Permanent Salary: $48,254

    A I

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. Our East African regional office will work to ensure respect for human rights, and for equal and just societies throughout a vast and diverse geographical area. You’ll contribute to this by supporting our work on refugee rights.


    Based in Nairobi, you’ll work with the East, Horn of Africa and Great Lakes teams to ensure that their information on refugees is accurate and their interventions timely. That means maintaining a broad overview of relevant political and human rights developments in the region and would drive forced migration; systematically collating and analysing information on refugees; liaising with relevant national and local contacts and monitoring media updates and internet searches to keep team members and other regional hubs up to date on refugee trends. You’ll take charge of the regional offices' work with refugees in Kenya and other relevant countries – everything from monitoring the situation of refugees in Kenya and other relevant countries; carrying out case work and making referrals as needed; participating in field research missions and developing campaigns and other interventions to improve the situation for refugees.


    Thanks to similar experience working with refugees, you’ll have no problem systematically documenting and analysing the situation as pertains to refugees; prioritising and coordinating multiple cases and issues. A clear, articulate communicator, you’ll have a high standard of English and French, Arabic or Somali. And as you’d expect, you’ll need excellent research, writing, administrative, and organisational skills as well as plenty of initiative and a proactive approach to problem solving. You’ll show agility and resilience when dealing with change, crucially backed up by your sound knowledge of the East African region. Add to this the political awareness to make sound judgments, and you could soon prove yourself indispensable to the committee members.
    About us
    Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people standing up for human rights. Our network extends to more than two million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries around the world. Each one of us is outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world – and together we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity.

    Closing Date: 24 August 2014

    For more information and to apply, please visit:

    Regional Researcher – Great Lakes

    Salary: $68,699 Location: Nairobi, Kenya Type: Permanent

    A I

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. In order to be effective, Amnesty International’s International Secretariat needs to change how we work. That’s why we have opened an East Africa Regional Office in Kenya. And why we need your field research expertise with us on the ground.


    As a research-based campaigning organization, investigating and documenting human rights issues is fundamental to our advocacy and lobbying work. Our Great Lakes Researcher will take the lead in initiating human rights research and action from the East Africa regional office by providing regional and thematic expertise, excellent research skills and sound political judgement. A campaign oriented approach to your work is essential. You will be required to conduct and co-ordinate research activities, monitor, investigate and analyse political, legal and social developments and human rights conditions, give authoritative advice on these areas and prepare human rights action materials.
    With experience of working on human rights issues, you must have first-hand in-depth knowledge and experience of Rwanda and Burundi and an understanding and awareness of the cultures of the Great Lakes Region. You'll have a background in activism, academia, law or journalism with the ability to identify and thoroughly investigate those issues and ensure our voice has authority. With your extensive experience of working from the region you will have a strong network and rich experience of undertaking this kind of sensitive work in the field. A natural collaborator, you will need proven research and influential communication skills, impartial political judgement, coupled with strong strategic thought. Fluency in English and French is essential, including excellent writing skills.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they're denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we're applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we're all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    For more information and to apply, please visit

    Closing Date: 27 August 2014

    Research, Campaigns and Communication Assistant

    Salary: $37,131 per annum Location: Johannesburg, South Africa


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. Our Southern African regional office will work to ensure equality, democracy and fair and just societies throughout a vast and diverse geographical area. You’ll provide the support they need to succeed.


    Based in Johannesburg, you’ll support the Southern Africa team as they develop and roll out research, campaigning, communication and growth strategies. That means maintaining a broad overview of relevant political and human rights developments; liaising with national and local contacts and monitoring media updates and internet searches to keep team members and other regional offices up to date. You’ll also take charge of the admin – everything from planning field research missions and making travel arrangements, to scheduling meetings and drafting and producing vital documents. Producing regular reports on the budget for the department, you’ll closely monitor expenses throughout the financial year. And coordinating the work of the team in response to crisis, you’ll be central to their ongoing success.


    Thanks to similar experience in a high pressure environment, you’ll have no problem prioritising and coordinating multiple projects with minimal supervision. A clear, articulate communicator, you’ll have a high standard of English and be able to work in Portuguese. And as you’d expect, you’ll need excellent administrative, secretarial and IT skills as well as plenty of initiative and a proactive approach to problem solving. More than that, you’ll show agility and resilience when dealing with change, backed up by regional knowledge of the Southern Africa region. Add the financial awareness to produce accurate budget reports, and you could soon prove yourself indispensable to our regional office team.

    About us
    Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people standing up for human rights. Our network extends to more than two million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries around the world. Each one of us is outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world – and together we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. Southern Africa is an important priority for Amnesty International and its human rights work, therefore you will be joining an exciting team of highly driven human rights advocates and professionals dedicated to deepening the culture of human rights.

    Closing Date: 17th August 2014

    Apply here:

    Researcher - Southern Africa (Lusophone)

    Location: Johannesburg Type: Permanent

    A I

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. In order to be effective, Amnesty International’s (AI) International Secretariat needs to change how we work. That’s why our Southern Africa Regional Office needs your research expertise with us on the ground.


    Our Southern Africa Researcher will tackle issues like freedom of expression and association, forced evictions, abuses in the criminal justice system and international justice. In order to get the word out about these violations, we need expertly developed research and campaigning strategies. And in this key role, that’s exactly what you’ll deliver. As well as developing specific research projects and strategies, you’ll lead our research and investigations into human rights developments yourself – both at your desk and in the field. Ready to lead assessments of crisis situations and able to prepare thorough security assessments and political briefings, you’ll work as part of a team to make sure our hub research function is as flexible as it is effective. You’ll also understand that building a strong contact network and representing AI externally are central to ensuring your research has impact, as is the credibility and accuracy of your reports.


    A tried-and-tested human rights researcher, you’ll have specialist knowledge of human rights issues and a well-developed understanding of the political landscape in Southern Africa. You’ll have proven your ability to write and adapt research materials for a range of audiences too, and be confident communicating AI’s message externally, both in English and Portuguese. In addition to your meticulous research skills and sharp political judgement, you’ll know how to engage with survivors of human rights abuses. You’ll be an effective multi-tasker able to meet deadlines and manage priorities, and know how to work effectively in a team. Crucially, you’ll have an unwavering commitment to human rights.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    For more information and to apply, please visit

    Closing date: 3 August 2014

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