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    Biometric smart ID cards: Dumb idea

    Jane Duncan


    cc MSN
    Countries in the South have jumped on the biometric bandwagon, including South Africa, in spite of the many red flags about the technology. Citizens need to be aware that the ID cards allow governments to carry out surveillance of people considered to be a threat to the interests of the ruling classes

    Mauritius is known to South Africans mainly as a holiday destination, brimming with idyllic beaches, luxurious hotels and stunning scenery. However, there are other, less well-known ties that bind the two countries together.

    At the moment, both countries are introducing ‘smart’ ID cards, requiring their citizens to give biometric information to the government in the form of their fingerprints, to establish their legal identities. This information will also be recorded in national population registers.

    Biometrics involves the use of unique physical characteristics to verify a person’s identity, stored in a digital format and analysed by computers. Biometrics are being used increasingly for an array of public administration purposes, and fingerprints are the most commonly used, but facial or voice recognition may also be used too.

    Both governments give similar reasons for these schemes: the cards are secure, they argue as their personal information, including their fingerprints are stored in contactless microchip that is difficult to tamper with. They argue that these security measures will stamp out identity fraud and theft.

    These initiatives sound laudable, yet Mauritians are rising up and opposing the ID cards, claiming that they threaten privacy and even democracy itself. Three court cases have been brought against the system on constitutional grounds. Mauritius’s plans are much more draconian than South Africa’s, as the former requires people to enrol in the new system and carry their identity cards at all times, yet this is not the only reason why Mauritians are objecting.

    One organisation involved in the struggle, Lalit de Klas, is arguing that the system, dubbed ‘big brother’, will allow the government to build up a profile of individuals that could be used against them in future if they are considered to be threats to government interests.

    Many other countries are attempting to introduce biometrically-based national population registers, and many citizens have opposed them too. They have opposed what has been called ‘dataveillance’, where electronic databases enable lifelong surveillance by allowing the government to build up a clear picture of peoples’ ongoing movements, habits and preferences. The amassing of this information can allow governments to profile those who could be political threats to ruling interests.

    In fact, centralised biometric databases are the perfect police state tool. Since the September attacks on the US, governments are turning themselves increasingly into one-way mirrors, where they can see into more aspects of peoples’ lives, while their own actions are becoming more opaque due to excessive secrecy. These databases can act as powerful mechanisms of social control, as citizens may become more subservient because they fear that the state is watching.

    What are the issues? Biometrically-based identity verification is susceptible to error, as it offers only a probability of a match based on the likeness of stored physical characteristics; it cannot verify identities with certainty. Some people, such as miners and others who work with their hands, have difficulties enrolling as they may not have well-defined fingerprints; this means that biometric technology is inherently discriminatory.

    Biometrics also suffer from controversial margins of error, including false matches (‘false positives’), or biometrics not being recognised (‘false negatives’). Fingerprints have the highest rate of error. In extreme situations, a person could even become a criminal suspect based on false information; in 2004, US attorney Brandon Mayfield was falsely linked to the train bombings in Madrid on the basis of a false match.

    Criminals can also synthesise (or ‘spoof’) fingerprints and create fictional identities. Electronic databases are also vulnerable to hacking, which can lead to biometric information being stolen, altered or even destroyed. Yet if this happens, then the consequences could be much more serious than breaches involving databases that are not biometrically-based. Peoples’ identities are compromised permanently when their biometrics are compromised, as they cannot replace their fingers, eyes or voices. Such breaches create the risk of someone becoming an ‘un-person’, unable to prove that they are who they say they are.

    Identity theft is more common in single reference systems such as centralised national population registers, as they create a single point of failure, and centralisation increases rather than reduces the potential for fraud. Doppelganger matches also become more likely in large scale databases. These uncertainties mean that there needs to be a record to refer back to, such as physical fingerprints. Yet too many governments are failing to build these safeguards into these systems, in their overzealous bids to ‘modernise’ and transform themselves into paperless societies.

    The dangers became apparent in Israel in 2006, when the personal information of nearly every Israeli citizen was stolen from the country’s national population register, sent to the criminal underworld and then dumped on the open internet. As Lalit’s Rajni Lallah has observed, ‘So, one of the most “national security obsessed” states in the world cannot even ensure the security of its citizens’ personal data once it has centralised it’.

    Biometric information may also be used for purposes for which it was never intended when the person enrolled. This ‘function-creep’ risks violating a person’s right to data sovereignty in the process, which is the right to determine how your personal data is used.

    Fingerprinting is also inherently associated with criminality. Sorting individuals according to their physical characteristics is dehumanising, and can become a dangerous tool in the hands of authoritarian governments bent on social sorting according to particular characteristics such as race, gender or age.

    Given the dangers, the tide has begun to turn against centralised biometric databases in the North, and an increasing number of countries have lost the political will to establish them.

    In the UK, a single-issue campaign against state control of personal identity, called No2ID, successfully opposed the government’s attempt to introduce biometric ID cards and database. They warned against the dangers of what they called the ‘database state’, which they claimed operationalised the government’s wish to manage society by keeping a constant check on its citizens. The government eventually scrapped the plans. US plans to introduce a similar scheme have all but ground to a halt.

    Germany has forbidden centralisation of population information, because of its historical experience with Nazism, which used population records to practice one of the most ghastly cases of discriminatory social sorting the world has ever seen. Some countries have resorted to local storage of biometric data, which is embedded in the chip on the ID card or passport, without being saved in a centralised database.

    However, countries in the South have jumped on the biometric bandwagon, including South Africa, in spite of the many red flags about the technology. The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol), the World Bank, and private security multinationals have worked tirelessly to promote biometrics in the South, to manage what they perceive to be problem populations and to keep them out of an increasingly fortified North. Some Northern countries that have refused to subject their own populations to biometrics, have nevertheless implemented the technology in border control.

    Yet, opposition is growing in the South, too. Recently, the Indian Supreme Court directed the government to withdraw orders making the card mandatory for providing any service, and disallowing it from sharing any ID information without the prior permission of the card holder.

    South Africa has had a centralised national population registry for many years, the Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS). Unlike Mauritius, South Africa is not compelling its citizens to enrol and carry ID cards; but, there is compulsion by stealth, as people will gradually be unable to undertake basic civil functions without a card.

    Why have biometric databases not become as controversial in South Africa as they have elsewhere? According to Wits University academic Keith Breckenridge, opposition usually begins when engineers and scientists, who understand the technical issues, team up with journalists, civil society and grassroots movements to publicise the dangers.

    In South Africa, low levels of public awareness of the dangers allowed biometrics to be introduced to the social security system, and then extended to the national population register. The technology press have tended to publish fawning articles extolling the virtues of biometrics, while the investigative press have focussed on corruption and mismanagement in the Department. The fact that the reportage has been confined to a fairly narrow range of issues, has left the broader issues around privacy and surveillance largely unaired. With one or two notable exceptions, the technical part of society has not spoken out.

    The Department is idealising biometric technology, arguing that not only will the system prevent identity theft, but it will also become a gateway to service delivery and a lynchpin of all citizen engagements with government.

    In fact, the Department has said that, in future, South Africans may use just one card for all their official documentation requirements, including identities, driving licences, National Health Insurance and social grants. As several other departments had expressed interest in becoming involved in the project, the Department would look into how it could upscale the chip on the cards in order to accommodate them.

    The Department’s statements suggest that data sharing across departments is envisaged, and that function creep is considered unproblematic. They are also being vague about the future shape of the system, and have, for instance, floated the possibility of extending the system into electronic purses. In response to a Parliamentary question on this very issue, the Department said that the card ‘…will include, amongst others, demographic information which is in the current green bar-coded ID book, a picture, fingerprint biometric security features and other security information which cannot be disclosed for security reasons’.

    This reply implies that the number of registerable facts is likely to increase in time, and the mind boggles at what is meant by ‘security information’. The Department needs to be much clearer about the purposes the ID card and database will be put to. To its credit, though, it has instituted an elaborate audit trail to deter officials from mis-using the database to commit fraud, but this is unlikely to deter hackers.

    Freedom of expression has been hugely controversy in South Africa, yet the related right to privacy has attracted practically no debate, possibly because the right lacks a dedicated civil society champion. How much information should the state have about its citizens, who have already been ‘RICA’d’, ‘FICA’d’, ‘e-Natis’d’ and ‘e-tolled’? In the absence of this debate, South Africa is well on its way to becoming a database state.

    The one ray of hope is the newly-promulgated Protection of Personal Information Act, which promises to stop misuse of personal data. The Act is lauded widely as a very good law, but it remains untested, especially when it comes to national security matters. Also, much depends on the robustness of the soon-to-be-created Information Regulator, meant to investigate breaches of the Act.

    The Act applies to criminal justice and national security matters only if they do not offer sufficient privacy safeguards. In cases where these safeguards don’t exist sufficiently, then the Act forbids further processing of information by state bodies, unless it is necessary to avoid prejudice to the maintenance of the law by any public body: a rather fluffy formulation.

    However, the dangers of centralised biometric databases go beyond the Act; they call into question the very wisdom of biometrics itself, given that the solution that it offers to problem of identity fraud may well be worse that the problem itself. Biometric technology on a large scale is untested and by no means infallible, and when put in the hands of a state that is increasingly at war with its citizens, it can become a dangerous technology too. In fact, in time, people may come to recognise biometrically-based databases, including those back-ending ID cards, for what they are: a dumb idea.

    **The Department of Home Affairs was contacted to provide answers to questions on its biometric ID card system, but did not respond, despite several requests to do so.

    * Jane Duncan is a Professor of Journalism at the University of Johannesburg.

    This article was reprinted from:



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    The BRICS: A response to Yash Tandon

    Mike Davies


    cc Wiki
    In the Pambazuka special edition on “Revisiting the sub-imperialist BRICS,” Patrick Bond and other writers were critical of the role of BRICS . Later Yash Tandon wrote a rejoinder to such BRICS bashing. Below is a piece that calls progressive forces to address the agency of local elites in colluding with capitalism and imperialism and oppose both global imperialism and local tyranny

    Yash Tandon opens with a semantic discussion, initially querying the credentials of the term “sub-imperialism”, but ending with an explicit and snide attack on theorists for having an “exuberance of their conceptual creation” to discredit the term. This is disingenuous at best – a term is useful or not, irrespective of its historical antecedents: a neologism may offer a clarity denied to worn-out words whose meaning is obscured by over-usage. The historical roots of the term ‘sub-imperialism’ may be of interest to lexicographers but irrelevant to the legitimacy or otherwise of an argument.[1]

    One may make a semantic critique of “sub-imperialism” as a definitional category. It implies an imperialism that roots itself in an archaic sensibility. While many governments demonstrate an imperialistic arrogance in their foreign policies, imbued with a notional self-righteousness, I would think it more useful to seek a neologism that incorporates but does not echo the Age of Empires which one hopes is behind mankind. Perhaps the old term “sub-hegemon” might be better although it lacks the “layering” implied by “sub-imperialism.”


    However a primary objection to the term is that it establishes a false dichotomy by simplistic reductionism that marginalises the nuances of power at the national, regional and global levels. Is the Mugabe regime’s exploitation of the Marange diamond fields not a form of internal imperialism whereby resources are appropriated by the centre at the expense of the periphery?[2] The regime uses military force as well as opaque partnerships with external corporations while practising blatant corruption as a few of its tools. Mugabe as a proto-Leopold is not an untenable image, underpinned by helicopter gunships maintaining a monopoly of primitive accumulation.

    Africanists often use this tactic of reductionism to present a simplistic dichotomy between the ‘bad’ West and the ‘good’ South that ignores the agency of local elites in the global South or anti-elite activities within Western states. Thus, for example, we see claims that Cleopatra was ‘black’ as if this re-casting is a triumph for Africa while ignoring the brutalities of pharaonic rule.[3]

    Tandon then dismisses critics of the BRICS sceptics for shallowness and ‘distraction[4]’ as if his ex cathedra pronouncement is sufficient argument to dismiss the typology. He further undermines his own argument by personalising these critics as Patrick Bond and his acolytes: such ad hominem attacks are the most base of false refutations since they insinuate an unspoken illegitimacy that appeals to people’s personal regard or not for Bond and his students.

    While he claims that arguments based on ‘empirical observation’ are ‘inadequate’, or, worse, non-sense, unless ‘located in some theory’, I would suggest that verified observation is the foundation of the scientific process, that, rather than squeezing the data to conform to a pre-determined theoretical straight-jacket, the honest analyst derives theory from observation and interpretation. However such undergraduate perplexity about deductive versus inductive reasoning should not intrude into grown up journals

    The tactic of claiming that Bond’s arguments ‘resonate’ with “some parts of the popular media in Africa as also in the West”, that Bond makes ‘journalistic forays’ is a poor attempt to delegitimize by association. Placing inverted commas around the word 'authorities' implies a dismissal of their legitimacy and Tandon wonders “if they would support Bond”. A more honest approach would be to examine the substance of Bond’s use of these references and directly answer the merits or not of such references.

    Tandon poses some ‘questions for further discussion’ accusing Bond et al yet again of ‘empiricism’. While a network analysis of the SA elite would be useful, its omission is hardly an indictment. Tandon dislikes the idea of a hierarchy of sub-imperialism - perhaps he missed the “big fish eat little fish” story in kindergarten – and proceeds to belittle the hypothesis with ridicule, plaintively asking “who is left in Africa who is not either a sub-imperialist or an agent of sub-imperialists?”


    But the real reason I suspect Tandon is so vociferous is the inconvenience Bond’s analysis creates for his faux pan-Africanism, for the delusion that local elites are in some way spearheading an indigenous Southern anti-imperialism. They are not: Africa’s leaders are colluding with the world’s political and economic hegemons to maximise their own interests, no less in the 21st century than in the 18th.[5] Does Tandon really think the EPAs are entirely one-sided creations that have no buy-in from African elites?

    He conflates an imaginary class of elite warriors with the real struggle waged by activists to the detriment of the latter. Our struggles will be more successful if we address the national class question honestly, acknowledge the comprador factor, and build genuine trans-national people-to-people solidarity to confront and neutralise these local agents.

    He lapses into a thoroughly disreputable device – “the people” – to justify a simplification that we are all one in the struggle, a reductionism that marginalises and trivialises the internal dynamics of our countries. Just ask a survivor of Operation Murambatsvina living in a ‘temporary camp’ outside Harare for the last 9 years who is the architect of her suffering or who are her comrades in the struggle for security and dignity. Tandon finds such nuances ‘dis-empowering’ – I find his simplification dis-empowering because it reduces our struggles to a North-South dichotomy. Regionalism as practised in Africa is an elite project that generally excludes ordinary people. Cosying up to national elites is a dangerous game for activists who face co-option or irrelevance as a result.


    At one point Tandon realises he is stepping into dangerous territory and covers himself (“This is not the place for an elaboration of this”) but is he really raising the bogeyman of “national self determination” in Africa? I doubt it, for this is one thing that will keep us mired in the kind of internecine warfare that Europe lived through for centuries. Are groups like the Mtakwazi Liberation Front in Zimbabwe or Uganda’s LRA a valid expression of this struggle? A progressive would seek to transcend ethnic and historic divisions through a genuine regionalism that is based the interests of working class people and peasants rather than national elites. And isn't “self-determination” a worn-out device yet, one that masks the rise of national elites who have perpetuated the authoritarianism of the colonial State?
    He implicitly recognises Bond’s radicalism but can only use “the friend of my enemy is an enemy” argument. Is Tandon really a friend of Mugabe, Museveni and the other ‘Big Men’ in Africa who have ruthlessly entrenched their own power at the expense of the basic rights of citizens? Some of us can multi-task though, and oppose both global imperialism and local tyranny.


    [1] In fact even a cursory online search pushes back the term’s origin e.g. Roberts A. D (1962) The Sub-Imperialism of the Baganda The Journal of African History Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 435-450

    [2] Or even an ‘under-development’

    [3] E.g. Diop, Cheikh Anta (1974) The African Origin of Civilization. Chicago, Illinois: Lawrence Hill Books

    [4] Not just once but twice : “Otherwise their critique is a distraction from real issues of concern to progressive forces” and in the following paragraph “It is a distraction from real issues of concern to progressive forces everywhere.”

    [5] E.g. the posturing of Mugabe is a rhetorical device that creates a veneer of legitimising anti-imperialism that masks the ruthless primitive accumulation going on in Zimbabwe as part of a new class project.

    *Mike Davies is a Zimbabwean researcher and activist. He is the Interim Coordinator for Southern Africa of the International Alliance of Inhabitants - a global solidarity network of local activists fighting evictions. He also is a researcher for the Research and Advocacy Unit and was chair of the Combined Harare Residents Association from 2002 to 2008.

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    Inside or outside?

    The perpetual dilemma of what constitutes the best interests for children with mothers in prison

    Irene Sithole


    cc NR
    Should little children be allowed to stay with their mothers in prison or they should be separated? This is a difficult question, but there are some suggestions on what should be done for the best interests of the child

    ‘Zimbabwe: First Female Open Prison for Marondera.’ This was the headline of a story published in the Herald of 6 February 2013. The story went on to relate how Zimbabwe’s intentions to build an open prison were being delayed by lack of financial resources. According to the story, at the time there were 16, 315 people in Zimbabwe’s prisons of which 587 were women. There were also 16 babies living with their mothers in prison. Children’s rights activists and other duty bearers are continually faced with the dilemma on what to do when a woman with an infant has to serve a prison sentence or when a mother gives birth in prison. Generally it is agreed that prison conditions are not conducive for a child’s welfare but the other side of the coin is whether separating the child from its mother is the best option for the child. An open female prison is one way of sheltering the innocent children from the harsh prison life but it only applies in cases where the mothers are serving light sentences. The construction of the female prison is not likely to take place soon and in the meantime the debate on what is best for these children should remain alive.


    Section 58 of the Prisons Act [Chapter 7:11] states that

    ‘Subject to such conditions as may be specified by the Commissioner, an unweaned infant child of a female prisoner may be received into prison with its mother and may be supplied with clothing and necessaries at the public expense

    ‘Provided that when such child has been weaned, the officer in charge on being satisfied that there are relatives or friends of the child able and willing to support it shall cause such child to be handed over to such relatives or friends, or if he is not satisfied shall hand such child over to the care of such welfare authority as may be approved for that purpose by the Commissioner.’

    It is through this piece of legislation that mothers are permitted to bring their children to prison. In practice, mothers have been allowed to keep their children up to the age of between 18-24 months. However, it is important to note that the language used in the Act seems to favour separation. The use of the words ‘may’ in the legal provision gives the Commissioner of Prisons the discretionary powers to receive or not to receive the unweaned child and whether or not to supply the child with clothing and necessaries. In the same breath, the proviso uses the words ‘shall’, which are mandatory regarding the removal of a child from prison after being weaned. The child is to be handed over to relatives or friends who are willing to take care of it or to any approved welfare authority. One can appreciate the legislative intent to protect children from harsh prison conditions but the question still remains about what the long term effects of separating the child from its mother are. No wonder prisoners’ children have been often referred to as ‘orphans of justice’ [Shaw 1992].


    Mothers who have experienced prison life have to contribute their voice also on what they think is best for their children. Some of the views from mothers in prison have already been recorded in a book titled ‘A Tragedy of Lives Women in Prison in Zimbabwe’. In the book those who went to prison with their children and those who left them with relatives both narrate their experiences. One of the women Maureen said that when she got out of prison:

    ‘At first sight, my children they looked like scarecrows. Their skin was chapped and they had no shoes on.’

    The children were being looked after by relatives and she had been in prison for four years. According to the interviewers, another woman sobbed throughout the interview because she had left her two-year-old daughter in the care of her 70-year-old visually impaired mother. In addition to the fear that her mother would not be able to care for the child, she was also afraid that when she came out of prison her child would not be able to recognize her. These are just a few examples of the many stories in the book where women said life would have been better for their children if they would have gone with them to prison.

    However, those who took their children with them also felt that their children suffered in prison. One former inmate, Lillian, stated that:

    ‘Prison life is tough especially if you have a child. Your child would be exposed to bad language. The child picks up vulgar words. Some were reckless with their use of language. It harmed the children. The worst thing was that my child was older than the rest. Children do not forget. She still shocks me with her prison experiences. She cannot forget. For instance sometimes when I am bathing and I take long, she will stand at the bathroom door and shout, mama if you are late ambuya gadhi [female prison officer] will beat you up’.

    Lillian’s story is a sad one as it shows the negative influence that prison life can have on a child. The child appears to have been traumatized by her experience as she relates to prison events as if there are still part of her present world. These stories are anecdotal evidence of the effects of mothers’ imprisonment on children. While these cannot be used as conclusive evidence, they show that taking children to prison or leaving them may both have negative consequences. The decisive factor may not just be the place but the quality of care which the child receives. Is it not possible then to make prison a conducive environment for child care and delay the separation between the mother and child to allow for parental bonding?



    This discussion began with Zimbabwe’s intention to build a female open prison. Sadly, the Herald story ended by saying that the plans to construct the prison are being shelved due to financial constraints. An open prison, while catering for prisoners serving light sentences, allows the prisoners considerable freedom of movement and access to their homes. Thus those with children can still take care of their children while serving their prison sentences. Considering the benefits of the prison not only to inmates but also to children who are innocent victims of the system, construction of the prison should be prioritized and all development partners urged to support the project.


    Prison nursery programs allow a mother to parent her infant for a finite period of time within a special housing unit at the prison. They are common in most states in the United States of America but the period for which children can be cared for in the nurseries differs from place to place. The range is from 30 days to 3 years. In order to achieve the goal of keeping mothers with their children, this program would be ideal for those serving short sentences. It means those serving 3 years and below can serve their sentences and go back to their communities without being separated from their children. Although the children will still have limited freedom of movement, they will be able to relate with their mothers and enjoy a relatively normal life at the nurseries.


    Unfortunately for mothers serving long sentences, separation is unavoidable as it is not practical to have children staying in prison for a long time. The children will need to go outside where there is freedom of movement and resources required for the program would be insurmountable. Therefore where a child is handed over either to relatives or any other welfare authority, the state should still take an active role in monitoring the care of the child. Such monitoring should be used as a strategic measure to ensure that the child is not abused and adequate care is being provided to the child. Wherever possible, the child may also be assisted to keep contact with the mother through periodical visits to the mother’s place of incarceration.


    This discussion is by no means conclusive. The issues raised are only meant to be thought provoking and kick start an indepth debate among state actors and development practitioners on how best to protect and fulfill the rights of children with mothers in prison. The basic argument in this discussion is that an armchair approach which only looks at the potential harmful effects of prison life on children without looking at the effects of the severance of the mother to child bond particularly on infants may be inappropriate. Further research is required before the dilemma of whether to leave the infants in prison with their mothers to allow bonding or take them out to protect them from harmful effects of prison is resolved. In addition to research, there will be need for commitment to invest resources into whatever programs will be deemed to be the best.

    * Irene Sithole is an independent consultant and gender equality and children’s rights advocate in Zimbabwe


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    Afro-Uruguay: A brief history

    George Reid Andrews


    cc WWC
    Afro-Uruguayans have contributed to the construction of Uruguay as a consequence of enslavement. They have set up important organisations such as Mundo Afro to lobby the national government to recognise its black minority as an equal member of the national community

    When we think of the great nations of the African diaspora—Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, the United States—the South American republic of Uruguay is not one of the first names to come to mind. To the contrary: the recipient of almost 600,000 European immigrants between 1880 and 1930, Uruguay has long presented itself to the world as one of the two “white republics” of South America (its neighbor Argentina is the other). In the national household survey of 1996, 93 percent of its citizens classified themselves as white, a figure significantly higher than in the United States (where 75 percent of the population classified itself as white in the 2000 census).

    Yet in common with other Latin American countries, during the last 25 years Uruguay has experienced a significant upsurge in black civic and political mobilization. Organizations such as Mundo Afro (Afro World), the Asociación Cultural y Social Uruguay Negro, the Centro Cultural por la Paz y la Integración, Africanía, and others have pressed the nation to acknowledge its black past and present and to work toward the full integration of its black and indigenous minorities into national life.

    These recent organizations are the latest chapter in a long history of black mobilization that began in the early 1800s with the salas de nación, mutual aid societies organized on the basis of members’ African origins. Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, was a required port of call for slave ships bringing Africans to the Río de la Plata region. Most of those Africans continued on to Argentina, but during the late 1700s and early 1800s some 20,000 disembarked in Montevideo and remained in Uruguay. By 1800 the national population was an estimated 25 percent African and Afro-Uruguayan.

    A list from the 1830s of thirteen salas de nación in Montevideo shows six from West Africa, five from the Congo and Angola, and two from East Africa. The salas bought or rented plots of land outside the city walls, on which they built headquarters to house their religious observances, meetings, and dances. They collected money for emancipation funds to buy the freedom of slave members, lobbied public officials, and provided assistance in disputes and conflicts between slaves and their owners.

    Free and slave Africans and Afro-Uruguayans served in large numbers in the independence wars of the 1810s and 20s and in the civil wars of the 1830s, 1840s, and the second half of the 1800s. Slave military service was rewarded first by the Free Womb law of 1825 (under which children of slave mothers were born free, though obligated to serve their mother’s master until they reached the age of majority) and then the final abolition of slavery in 1842.

    Once free, Africans and Afro-Uruguayans demanded the full civic and legal equality guaranteed by the Constitution of 1830. In theory, these rights applied equally to all citizens; but in practice, Afro-Uruguayans faced pervasive discrimination and racial prejudice. In response, Afro-Uruguayans created the most active (on a per capita basis) black press anywhere in Latin America. Between 1870 and 1950 black journalists and intellectuals published at least twenty-five newspapers and magazines in Montevideo and other cities. This compares to between forty and fifty black-oriented periodicals during the same period in Brazil, where the black population is today some 400 times larger than Uruguay’s; and fourteen in Cuba (black population twenty times larger than Uruguay’s).

    This flourishing of Afro-Uruguayan journalism was at least in part a reflection of the country’s economic and educational achievements during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Exports of meat and wool formed the basis of one of South America’s most successful national economies. By 1913, Uruguay had the highest per capita GNP and tax receipts, the lowest birth and death rates, and the highest rates of literacy and newspaper readership, anywhere in Latin America. National educational reforms in the 1870s and early 1900s made Uruguay a regional leader in educational achievement; under these conditions, Afro-Uruguayans were far more literate than their counterparts in, for example, Brazil.

    Relatively high educational achievement in Uruguay provided favorable conditions for an active black press, as well as for Afro-Uruguayan social and civic organizations more generally. Afro-Uruguayans formed social clubs, political clubs, dancing and recreational groups, literary and drama societies, civic organizations, and in 1936 a black political party, the Partido Autóctono Negro (PAN). The PAN was one of three such parties in Latin America, the other two being in Cuba (the Partido Independiente de Color, 1908-12) and Brazil (the Frente Negra Brasileira, 1931-38). The PIC and FNB were both eventually outlawed by their respective national governments; the PAN, by contrast, was permitted to function freely but never succeeded in attracting significant electoral support. During the 1800s and most of the 1900s, Uruguayan politics was dominated by two main parties, the Blancos and Colorados. Afro-Uruguayan voters split their allegiances between those parties, with most favoring the Colorados. Unable to make any inroads into that two-party system, the PAN disbanded in 1944.

    During the 1940s and 1950s Uruguay experienced its most intense period of economic growth and expansion. Exports to the Allies during World War II, to a shattered Europe in the years after the war, and to the US during the Korean War, sustained a boom period remembered today as a golden age, the years of “como Uruguay no hay” (there’s no place like Uruguay), a semi-official slogan at the time. Those years should have provided ideal conditions for black upward mobility; but prejudice and discrimination continued to obstruct black advancement. A celebrated case of discrimination in 1956, in which an Afro-Uruguayan schoolteacher suffered blatant harassment from two principals at schools to which she was assigned, provoked a national debate on racial conditions in the country. A journalist investigating employment conditions in Montevideo at that time found that of 15,000 service workers (hairdressers, waiters, hotel chambermaids, bus drivers, etc.) in the city, only eleven were Afro-Uruguayan—less than one per thousand in a city that was probably 5-6 percent Afro-Uruguayan. The country’s leading university, the publicly funded Universidad de la República, was found to have awarded degrees to only five Afro-Uruguayans between 1900 and 1950.

    Conditions had apparently changed little by 1980, when a Uruguayan writer reported that in the downtown commercial districts of Montevideo, “in dozens and dozens of shops, the total number of black employees does not reach ten… There are no black hairdressers… Except for very low-class bars, there are no black waiters, nor in hotels, restaurants, or cafes.” During the 1980s and 90s, however, Uruguay experienced the same wave of black civic mobilization that swept over much of Latin America at that time. In Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Peru, and other countries, Afro-Latin Americans organized to combat racism and discrimination. The most important such group in Uruguay was Mundo Afro, founded in 1988.

    Demanding that Uruguay recognize its black minority as an equal member of the national community, Mundo Afro successfully lobbied the national government to gather racial data (for the first time since 1852) in the national household surveys of 1996 and 2006. Those surveys showed Afro-Uruguayans constituting either 6 percent (1996) or 9 percent (2006) of the national population (3.3 million in 2006). And as in Brazil and the United States, where racial data are routinely included in national censuses, the two surveys left no doubt concerning levels of racial inequality in the country. Afro-Uruguayan incomes are on average 60 percent of white earnings; whites are twice as likely as blacks to have a university degree; black poverty rates are double those of whites; black unemployment rates are 50 percent higher; and so on.

    In the face of such conclusive data, and in preparation for the 2001 U.N. Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Xenophobia, held in South Africa, Uruguay’s government committed itself to policies aimed at combating racial discrimination and inequality. In 2003 the municipal government of Montevideo created an advisory Unit for Afro-Descendent Rights; at the national level, President Tabaré Vázquez (2005-10) appointed a presidential advisor for Afro-Uruguayan affairs and created programs for Afro-Uruguayan women and Afro-Uruguayan youth in the Ministry of Social Development.

    Paralleling and at times converging with the history of Afro-Uruguayan civic mobilization is the history of Afro-Uruguayans’ role in creating Uruguayan popular culture. To summarize very briefly, one of the principal functions carried out by the African salas de nación in the first half of the 1800s was to hold candombes, public dances for their members. In the 1860s and 1870s, the Africans’ Uruguayan-born children and grandchildren combined African musical elements (particularly the use of African drums and other percussion instruments) with instruments, chords, and rhythms from Europe and the Caribbean (especially Cuba) to create a new musical form called both tango and candombe.

    This new, syncopated music proved wildly popular—so popular that young white men wanted to get into the act as well, creating their own tangos and candombes. The vehicle through which they did so were the comparsas: musical groups that paraded in Carnival each February and March, playing music composed especially for those events. Seeking to imitate their black models, the white comparsas paraded in blackface make-up and “African” costumes. The result was a “troubling hall of mirrors,” to quote historian John Chasteen, in which white performers imitated blacks while black performers in turn imitated whites’ imitation of blacks.

    By 1900, previously segregated black and white comparsas had fused into racially integrated groups that in most cases were, and are today, majority white in composition. They present themselves to the Montevideo public as sociedades de negros, “black” drummers, singers, and dancers performing the “black” music of candombe. In so doing, they have become the most popular and applauded element of Montevideo’s Carnival. But the images of black life that they present hark back a century or more to racial stereotypes dating from the late 1800s. Blackness is presented in highly sexualized ways and as having a special relationship to primitive powers of rhythm, dance, magic, and sex.

    The worlds of politics and candombe have often intersected. Some of the best-known comparsas have been closely tied to the Colorado party; in the 1960s groups of candombe drummers appeared with Afro-Uruguayan Senator Alba Roballo in her electoral campaigns. In 2006, Afro-Uruguayan Congressman Edgardo Ortuño proposed the creation of a national holiday, the Day of Candombe, Afro-Uruguayan Culture, and Racial Equality. Conceived as a Uruguayan version of similar commemorations in the United States (Martin Luther King Day) and Brazil (Black Consciousness Day), the Day of Candombe (celebrated on December 3) is intended to provide space for a day of reflection on racial conditions in Uruguay and the road remaining to be traveled to achieve true racial equality. Whether the holiday will serve that purpose remains to be seen; but certainly it provides clear evidence, if any were needed, of the centrality of candombe and Afro-Uruguayan culture in Uruguayan national life.

    *George Reid Andrews is author of ‘Blackness in the White Nation: A History of Afro-Uruguay’ (University of North Carolina Press, 2010) and Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2004).

    - This piece was printed in:



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    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

    Understanding the Emerging Powers Footprint in Africa: A Civil Society Perspective and Guideline

    Online course


    Ten sponsored places are available for applicants for this course that intends to strengthen civil society's understanding of and engagement with Global South nations whose presence is growing in Africa

    Administered by: Tuliwaza Programme – Emerging Powers Project

    Based at: Fahamu - Networks for Social Justice

    The Emerging Powers programme based at Fahamu is offering a 10-day online course analyzing the footprint of Africa’s engagements with emerging powers from the Global South. The course provides a unique opportunity for civil society practitioners (in particular activists, community-based leaders, undergraduate and postgraduate students, commentators, journalists and trade unionists) to unpack and debate the nature of the relationship between Africa’s regional economic communities and key actors from the Global South. The course is designed to provide insights into the linkages and influences these emerging powers have had on the ‘Africa rising’ narrative and the continent’s integration into the international system.

    Undoubtedly, the rise of Southern actors (such as Brazil, China, India, the Gulf States, South Korea, and Turkey) has unleashed a new wave of research and media inquiries into the impact that these actors are having on continental processes, especially on intra-regional trade, natural resource governance, social development, nepotism and corruption, environmental concerns related to infrastructure projects and extractive industries as well as the pending effect on Africa’s development prospects and public diplomacy. While African governments have enjoyed a more than robust and warm engagement with some of the actors, African civil society groups have found themselves at the margins of trying to shape the debate and actually play a monitoring role. This has led to differentiated responses and reactions by civil society actors in trying to serve the interests of their constituencies in formulating a sustained response in holding these actors and respective African governments accountable and transparent about the nature of the footprint of the emerging powers in the continent’s external engagements. As a contribution to empowering civil society actors in gaining the appropriate knowledge and developing the necessary tools to articulate an informed perspective on the emerging powers in Africa and the corresponding impact, this 10-day course is aimed at building the following competencies:


    • To be able to define, discuss and compare the relationship between the various Emerging Powers and African governments in respective sub-regional settings;
    • To distinguish the political, social and economic footprint of the Emerging Powers in Africa’s landscape.
    • To gauge the strengths and weaknesses of Africa’s relationship with the Emerging Powers.
    • To understand what factors and issues shape Africa’s engagement with the emerging powers and vice versa?
    • To assess the impact the emerging powers have for Africa’s broader external engagements with traditional actors and global processes?
    • To evaluate whether African states can formulate a regional or continental response to their engagement with the Emerging Powers?
    • To critically evaluate the impact of the Emerging Powers on Africa’s identity in global politics.


    • To understand how civil society actors and social justice movements can apply the knowledge on the Emerging powers to their specific needs.
    • To develop monitoring and evaluation strategies on the engagement between African governments and the Emerging Powers.
    • To formulate a critical knowledge base on the behaviour of the emerging Powers in Africa.


    • To strengthen a track two civil society platform on the emerging powers in Africa;
    • To advance online debates, advocacy campaigns, and developing coalitions and partnerships across the spectrum based on collaborative research projects, joint programmes of action and lobbying interventions.
    • To host and develop more people focused forums as alternative platforms to the BRICS Summit, the Forum on China-Africa Forum, World Economic Forum, and the India-Africa Forum Summit.
    • To garner the necessary knowledge tools to engage with regional economic communities and the African Union around a CSO policy response to Africa’s interactions with the Emerging Powers.

    This is an interactive online course, which will be conducted via live Google Hangout video calls and emails between the faculty and participants.
    The last three days are devoted to an assignment that will involve designing an advocacy plan for policy engagement on the Emerging Powers. It is intended that the product of this assignment will be something that you and your organisation can use in the future to help guide your campaigning work. You will be guided throughout the course by an online course tutor.

    Find the course outline here


    There are 10 sponsored places available on this course.
    The current deadline for this round of applications is 25th July 2014.

    Applicants should send an up-to-date CV of not more than 3 pages and a motivation letter outlining their interest in this programme and the Emerging Powers in Africa discourse and the benefit their being part of this programme will add to your organization.

    Applications should be sent to [email protected]

    For further information please contact

    Sanusha Naidu Email: [email protected]
    Edwin Rwigi Email: [email protected]

    * Fahamu ( is committed to serving the needs of organisations and social movements that aspire to progressive social change and that promote and protect human rights. Fahamu has extensive experience in distance learning for human rights organisations.

    The course will be conducted online via Google +Hangouts. Kindly look through this pdf guide on how to use it.

    PAMBAZUKA SPECIAL: When will peace be created for the people of the DRC?


    The special issue on the DRC seeks to expose not only the realities of war that continue to have a traumatic and tragic impact on the lives of those directly affected, but also to address the complex realities and issues that the Congolese have faced in the past since the assassination of its valiant leader, Patrice Lumumba

    The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been sporadically in the Western media during the last 5 years. The dominant issues reported in the Western media and often in the African media, which mimics the presstitutes of its former colonial masters, is the ongoing proxy war in the eastern part of the DRC. Recently, some Western journalists have exposed how the war has been aided and abetted by the governments of Uganda and Rwanda via military support for several of the many rebel groups in the eastern Congo such as the M23 rebels.

    Another issue that has caught Western media attention has been the use of rape as a weapon of war and the exploitation of the phenomenal economic resources of the Congo. The capricious nature of the Western media fails to keep a continued focus on the development and resolution of the problems in the DRC. Perhaps this is because it is in the interests of Western governments and multi-national companies to sustain the status quo as a united DRC would threaten their continued benefits from the illicit gold, diamonds and of course coltan that is use to make mobile phones, video games and air planes?

    The brutal war has taken the lives of up to 6 million Congolese since 1996 to date. This certainly needs to be acknowledged but more importantly there is a need to address how to end the conflict that has created refugees in neighbouring countries; how do we work with the Congolese to bring about peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa; what are the demands of the various rebel groups; what are the demands of women and youth in the Congo? How can genuine peace be created in the DRC? What are the necessary steps and mechanisms that need to be put in place to cultivate peace by all parties?

    Therefore, this special issue on the DRC seeks to expose not only the realities of war that continue to have a traumatic and tragic impact on the lives of those directly affected. The issue also seeks to address the complex realities and issues that the Congolese have faced in the past since the assassination of its valiant leader, Patrice Lumumba, and the neo-colonial government that was established with the installation of Mobutu and continued in Laurent Kabila and his incumbent son, Joseph Kabila.

    Aside from the conflict that is affecting the eastern region of the country, it is important for outsiders and Africans not to conclude that conflict is the reality for all the 70 million citizens who make up the huge country. What are the realities for other Congolese unaffected directly by war, for example those who live in the capital, Kinshasa, or in Lumumbashi, Kananaga or Bandundu i.e. other regions of this vast country? What realities, concerns, issues do Congolese citizens face in their day to day life? What aspirations do they have for their country? Aside from the war that is affecting the eastern region what are Congolese community groups, farmers, writers, poets, nurses, teachers, lecturers doing in other parts of the country that are not consumed by war? What is the African Union’s role in establishing peace in the Congo through its Peace and Security Council?

    Other issues to consider in this special issue are: what is the role of AFRICOM, Chinese investment and the impact of industrial mining on the socio-economic and ecological development of the country? What challenges are faced by Congo’s rainforest from the building of major dams or drilling of oil in environmentally sensitive areas? What is the significance and role of the Congolese Diaspora in the future of the country’s socio-economic and political development?

    Articles can be on any aspect relating to the history of the DRC; contemporary internal politics of the DRC; contemporary regional politics and economics; culture and socio-economic problems; short stories and poems.

    DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF ARTICLES: Friday 18 July 2014 for publication in August 2014.

    LENGTH OF ARTICLES: Articles are to be written in Microsoft Word, Font: Times, size 12, and between 1000-3000 words

    Please submit a two line biography at the end of your article and send to: [email protected]

    PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Call for volunteer translators


    Pambazuka News needs volunteers to translate articles. Published weekly in English and French, and every 15 days in Portuguese, our electronic newsletter sometimes translates articles from one language to another. Through this, we aim to break down language barriers, give more audience to relevant analysis for our contributors and encourage exchanges between linguistic communities in Africa and around the world. In this Pambazuka is unique.

    To deal with our increasing translation needs, we are looking for volunteers to strengthen our team of volunteer translators who assist us in this task and contribute to what Pambazuka is.

    We engage to sign all translated articles with the name of their authors.

    If you are a student or professional translator, we are counting on you. Write to the editors at the following address: [email protected]

    Comment & analysis

    Battling impunity

    What next after the AU undermines the jurisdiction of its own court?

    Obote-Odora Alex


    Leaders who fail to follow the law must be accountable for their actions before courts of law. But the Protocol adopted by African leaders on 4 July turned this basic legal principle on its head.

    On Friday, 4 July 2014, the African Union (AU) amended the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to provide for blanket immunity from prosecution for African leaders and their ‘senior government officials’. The language of the amended Protocol is clear and succinct: ‘No charges shall be commenced or continued before the court against any serving African Union Heads of State or Government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity, or other senior state officials based on their functions, during their tenure of office.’

    The language of the Protocol protects a broad range of perpetrators. It extends unfettered immunity from criminal prosecution in any jurisdiction in Africa. The amendment also creates an ‘exceptionalism’ that is enjoyed only by African leaders. It shields the leaders and their cronies from accountability. This obnoxious law must be challenged by all persons of good will.

    It is regrettable that other democratic states in Africa, such as South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Ghana and Senegal did not stand shoulder to shoulder with Botswana to oppose this antiquated law. Instead, they allowed themselves to join the ranks of unsavoury dictatorship like Egypt, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); other failing states such as Somalia, Mali, Libya, Niger, Central African Republic (CAR); and ungovernable states like Nigeria whose writ does not cover northern Nigeria, thanks to Boko Haram. These undemocratic states have ceased to represent the interests of their people or to act on their behalf.

    In democratic countries, the lines between the citizens and the state are based on recognition of a citizen’s individual rights which are then framed in terms of what the state needs to do to protect those rights. The state, through its leadership, neither murders its citizens, nor gets away with it subsequently. The rights of leaders are always tempered and balanced by their duty and obligation to protect the rights of its people. All acts of a leader must be carried out within agreed legal framework. Leaders who fail to follow the law must be accountable for their actions before courts of law. The Protocol adopted by African leaders on 4 July, turned this basic legal principle on its head.

    The new ‘impunity law’ ignores Africa’s history of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s when military dictatorships and one-party state governments brutalized their citizens without any form of accountability. Some of these ‘criminal’ leaders of the 70s, 80s, and 90s are still in power today and were instrumental in the adoption of the ‘impunity law’. More recently, between 2000 and 2014, more than 6 million civilians were murdered in the DRC by its government and the governments of neighbouring states after invading the DRC; in South Sudan, troops from neighbouring states have joined the blood-letting. It is some of these criminal acts that are the forces behind the ‘impunity law’. Africa cannot close its eyes and hide behind the facts that Bush and Blair have not been prosecuted and therefore African leaders should not be prosecuted. Charity begins at home, and it is important that Africa puts its house in order before it begins finger pointing at leaders of foreign nations. After all, African leaders pride themselves of ‘African solutions to African problems’. Well, Bush and Blair are not Africa’s problem; leave them to the ICC to handle. On the other hand, you African leaders are Africa’s problems and the African Court must handle you. That sounds fair, isn’t it?

    There are more serious and pressing problems for the AU to address, and that problem is battling impunity. Nigeria, the biggest economy in Africa and the most populous state on the continent, with excellent record of peace keeping, cannot protect its own children from Boko Haram militia; Libya, a wealthy nation, cannot protect its sovereignty as militias divide the country; Egypt, a country with a rich history, is busy murdering its own people; and CAR is heading towards genocide while South Sudan is falling apart through political and tribal vendettas. Instead of seeking solutions to these, and other grave issues, African leaders are more concern on protecting themselves from criminal prosecutions.

    Any good student of history easily recognizes that mere existence of immunity clauses in any legal framework, regardless of how it is used, is itself sufficient to create conditions under which impunity flourishes. A citizenry that is always abused by those in authority, eventually becomes used to the idea of abuse, develops a compliant mode and fearful, and even possibly an accomplice to his/her degradation and humiliation.

    Impunity unites governments of otherwise remarkably divergent political creed: from Cairo to Kampala; Bangui to Harare, these governments share one thing in common – terrorizing the civilian population without accountability. Besides Botswana, the lone sane voice at the AU summit, all states whose constitutions’ guarantee individual human rights and free access to court, ganged up to grant to themselves and their cronies immunity from prosecution for atrocity crimes.

    The ability for an ordinary citizen to murder a person and get away with it is already bad enough, particularly when police investigators need to be bribed before they can perform their official duties. For Heads of State or Government to give themselves a right to murder hundreds or thousands of people, without any form of accountability, vests immense power in these leaders who, whether properly elected, rigged elections or gained power through armed rebellion, have no right to pass such a law without the consent of the people. It is particularly disturbing that the representatives of victims, NGOS and human rights organizations were denied access and the right to participate in deliberations leading to the adoption of the ‘impunity clause’. It is particularly distressing when one of the objectives of the Constitutive Act of the AU, as stipulated in Article 3(h), is dedicated to “promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.” With the recent adoption of the ‘impunity clause’ to protect heads of state and government from prosecution, this makes the provision hollow and a mockery of justice.

    Overall, the decision by the AU leaders granting themselves immunity from prosecution is gross abuse of power and a dereliction of duty. I know from my years of experience in the conduct of international criminal prosecution that the AU’s ‘impunity clause’ can be viewed by some analysts and critics as abstraction, one that is difficult to get people to care about viscerally. What is more, the issue of international criminal prosecution is invariably complex, making it even harder to engage the public in a widespread and positive way because of the experiences of the challenges encountered by the ICC in prosecuting past and present Heads of State and Governments. But what is pertinent is to separate the issues that undermines the good work of the ICC from justification being peddled around to demonise not only the ICC but international criminal justice wholesale. The fact that the ICC has encountered difficulties in prosecuting Heads of State does not translate into extending immunity to all African leaders.

    * Dr Alex Obote-Odora is an advocate, legal consultant and a writer.



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    When will Africa overcome the pitfalls of foreign investment growth?

    People want genuine development, as demonstrations, strikes spread across continent

    Abayomi Azikiwe


    With Africa firmly integrated into the international financial order, there is almost no potential within the existing political arrangements for substantial advancements in the socio-economic status of workers, farmers and youth.

    How long and deep can the current character of foreign direct investment (FDI) penetrate the social legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism in Africa? Proclamations of economic growth throughout the continent are being received with much skepticism and consequently prompting the desire among many to address the persistent poverty, inefficiency and growing class divisions.

    In a recent report issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) entitled ‘Catalyzing Investments for Transformative Growth in Africa,’ it is revealed that the rate of FDI in Africa is significantly lower than what exists in other so-called developing regions. These figures indicate that the reliance on western capital to fuel growth and development absent of a program for national reconstruction will not work.

    According to Ghana Web ‘Africa’s investment rate is low compared to the average for developing countries and relative to what is considered necessary to achieve development goals, the 2014 Economic Development in Africa report has established.’

    Therefore based on an annual average, ‘the investment rate for Africa was about 18 per cent over the period 1990–1999 as compared to an average of 24 per cent for developing economies as a whole. The report said similarly, in the period 2000–2011, the average investment rate for Africa was about 19 per cent as compared to 26 per cent for developing economies generally.

    These statistics could represent a lag in overcoming the development challenges which have been imposed by colonialism and neo-colonialism. Nonetheless, the consistently expanding oil and natural gas industry in various regions of Africa should translate into higher levels of investment as well as growth rates being discussed in the financial media.

    Other factors may also include unresolved and burgeoning civil conflicts and inter-state border disputes. The Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast of Nigeria has led to the intervention of United States intelligence and military interests.

    Since late 2010, the North African nations of Tunisia and Egypt have not stabilized economically since the uprisings in those states. The Horn of Africa country of Somalia and the eastern regional state of Kenya are both embroiled and inter-connected in a counter-insurgency campaign with the high level interventions of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Pentagon and the European Union (EU).

    All of these factors influence whether or not Africa will achieve genuine development or merely economic growth that does not fundamentally alter the international division of economic power and labor. If Africa cannot effectively stabilize its own internal situation then no one can honestly say that actual progress is being made which is sustainable.

    Events in several African states clearly make the case for re-examining the notion of western investment-led growth. From Southern Africa to the West African state of Ghana and the North African country of Egypt, socio-economic problems are escalating requiring a new approach to the organization of society and its economic structures.


    On July 1 the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) embarked upon a strike which is demanding a 15 percent across the board pay hike and a R1000 housing allowance. Representatives of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA) said that talks with NUMSA leaders on July 4 failed to reach an agreement on their economic demands.

    The industrial bosses affected by the NUMSA strike and other labor unrest in South Africa can only respond to workers’ demands through threats of mass lay-offs and capital flight. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) fresh from another majority victory in the national elections of May 7, does not have control of the major industries inside the country and therefore cannot impose a settlement that would raise wages and improve working conditions for employees.

    NUMSA pointed out that the metal industry has shed 250,000 jobs in the last five years in South Africa. The bosses utilize this fact, which is a direct result of the world capitalist crisis of overproduction internationally, to rationalize the wiping out tens of millions of jobs throughout the globe.

    According to CEO Gerhard Papenfus of the industrial owners’ group NEASA, ‘The metal industry and South Africa face extremely difficult challenges. On the one hand there are workers who struggle to make ends meet and on the other hand SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises) simply cannot meet workers’ wage expectations.’ (Citizen, July 7)

    Papenfus continued saying that ‘Unless we find ways to break the chains on this industry, as NEASA is proposing, the future of manufacturing in South Africa is bleak. We will not be party to any agreement responsible for the further destruction of the industry.’ (Citizen, July 7)


    The West African state of Ghana has been championed over the last several years for its phenomenal economic growth. With the discovery oil and the country’s vast deposits of gold and other strategic minerals, foreign investment has poured into the state which was a pioneer in the African liberation movements during the post-World War II period.

    Ghana’s first prime minister and president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah led the former British colony in its positive action campaign of the early 1950s creating a coalition government resulting in full-independence in 1957. In 1960 Ghana became a republic. However, the Nkrumaist program of Pan-Africanism and socialist development was overthrown at the aegis of the CIA and international finance capital in early 1966.

    Although the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) under President John Mahama is considered more progressive than the main conservative opposition forces of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), both political formations remain trapped in the dominant world system of capitalism which places the interests of corporations and banks far ahead of those of workers, farmers and youth. At present there are burgeoning economic issues impacting Ghana including high unemployment, fuel shortages and a lack of confidence in the current political dispensation.

    A so-called Occupy Flagstaff House (presidential headquarters) demonstration was held in conjunction with Republic Day on July 1 which brought out hundreds of disgruntled mainly middle class Ghanaians. Officially the organizing group known as the Concerned Ghanaians for Responsible Governance (CGRG) was not connected with the opposition NPP, despite the claims made by supporters of the NDC government.

    In a report published in the Ghana media “The CGRG on July 1, Republic Day organized the Occupy Flagstaff House demonstration that saw about 300 largely middle class people who defied rainfall to march in protest at what they described as the worsening economic conditions in the country. The demonstration which was almost disallowed by the police finally came off under heavy security presence. [The government] Chief of Staff who accepted a petition on behalf of the president assured the demonstrators that their request will be duly addressed.” (, July 4)

    Coinciding with the CGRG demonstrations outside Flagstaff House were complaints regarding huge delays in fuel purchases for motorists. In a country which is an emerging oil-producing state such bottlenecks reveal serious issues within the infrastructural development of the country.

    Other problems are surfacing in the education sector where the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) has warned the Mahama government to keep its hands off their pension fund. The group opposes the restructuring of the pension system through the appointment of a so-called “fund manager”.

    These problems with the sustainability of public pensions are reminiscent of the crisis facing Western European and U.S. systems where major struggles are emerging over the purported under funding of these schemes. Nonetheless, the capitalist governments throughout the world promote the rising profitability of banks and other corporations and this is usually manifested in the worsening conditions for workers, farmers and youth.


    With the conclusion of a controversial election in Egypt during June, the military leader turned head-of-state Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has assumed office amid a monumental boycott by opposition forces at the polls. Immediately Al-Sisi was invited to address the recently-held African Union 23rd Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea despite the deaths and imprisonment of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and other opposition forces since July 3, 2013 when the army formally retook control of the state.

    Those who hailed the seizure of power by Gen. Al-Sisi last year claimed that the military intervention amid the June 30 protest actions constituted a “second revolution.” However this second revolution comes at an enormous price to the Egyptian masses.

    One aspect of this new political arrangement is the announcement by Al-Sisi on July 4 that the price of fuel would be raised by 78 percent. This is the direct result of the reduction in fuel subsidies which constitutes 25 percent of the national budget.

    Al-Sisi asked Egyptians to sacrifice in light of his austerity measures that are in line with the international financial system which is imposing higher prices and lower salaries on workers throughout the world. Prices for electricity usage also rose at the beginning of the month.


    These events in the three above-mentioned African states provide glaring examples of the ongoing economic crises taking place on the continent. With Africa firmly integrated into the international financial order of labor and mineral exploitation at the expense of the much-need improvements in the salaries and living conditions of the majority of people, there is almost no potential within the existing political arrangements for substantial advancements in the socio-economic status of the workers, farmers and youth.

    The rising expectations of working people related to the FDI-led policy orientations will undoubtedly prompt social unrest through strikes, mass demonstrations and other forms of resistance. If the notions of phenomenal growth within the neo-colonial African states cannot produce hope for the people then the much coveted political stability will remain unrealized.

    Considering the tremendous reservoir of oil, natural gas and strategic minerals in Africa, there is no reason for the continent to remain trapped in the cycle of economic dependency on the imperialist states. Resources which belong to Africa must be effectively utilized for the betterment of the people.

    This much-needed shift in economic and political policy formulation and implementation must take place within a continental socialist framework. If there is no serious effort to foster and mandate the equitable distribution of wealth and power, then the AU member-states will surely fail in their mission to accelerate the living standards on the continent.

    The reported discussions about an African Monetary Zone and military Stand by-force cannot be implemented until the extraction, trade and distribution of resources of the continent can serve to benefit the still-impoverished masses. As long as African leaders look to the West for direction and fair treatment the existing class divisions will accelerate precipitously and the unity of the continent under socialism remains a far distant objective.

    * Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire



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    Africa, climate change and low-carbon economies: Is there room?

    Gussai H. Sheikheldin


    Thinking about the problem of climate change in Africa from the angle of low-carbon economy can be useful as it addresses environmental, economic and technological matters of development all at the same time

    Climate change is a topic that is of major concern to Africa, primarily because climate scientists argue, with evidence, that Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change while being the least able to adapt to its impacts [1]. This means that climate change has, and is expected to have, major impacts on the lives of Africans and their environment. From my experience, this topic receives less attention than it should among our otherwise educated and scientifically-inclined African youth. Climate change is also a social problem, because responding to it requires social changes. The purpose of this article is to steer some attention towards the interface of technology and development in Africa from a climate change perspective.

    Climate change has already started to affect the continent. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: ‘In the [Sudanic] Sahelian region of Africa, warmer and drier conditions have led to a reduced length of growing season with detrimental effects on crops. In southern Africa, longer dry seasons and more uncertain rainfall are prompting adaptation measures’ [2]. For obvious reasons, the economic resources of African countries are directed towards a list of priorities other than climate change. For example, while growing forests mitigate climate change, things are not that simple on the real ground. Livelihood demands, especially for rural communities, make 70 percent of the African population dependant on forest consumption for fuel-wood. Also, there is an increased demand for energy, from the cheapest and most polluting resources to meet basic needs of economic development that are yet to be fulfilled. Such conditions indicate why adaptation to climate change in Africa is one of the toughest environmental and developmental challenges to the present and near future generations.


    A low-carbon economy, or a decarbonised economy, is one where the supply chain of products and services is attentive to its carbon footprint and effectively integrates changes that lower that footprint to significant degrees [3][4]. Carbon dioxide emitted from human consumption of energy, as an unintended consequence, is considered by far to be the single most contributing element to climate change. This consequently calls for the need for strategies to reduce carbon emissions on local and global scales.

    Let us briefly address the role of technology and policy in defining low-carbon economies. Then we shall also address some challenges to economic development that are posed by the concept of low-carbon economy in the context of Africa.


    In scenario forecasts and computer models that help foresee the impacts of different approaches of adaptation to climate change, technological means of adaptation are generally not included as a factor [5]. This means that the climate change debate often under-emphasizes possibilities of future technological advances, changes and breakthroughs as solutions for climate change. While it is understandable, to a degree, that one cannot base scenario forecasts on a big assumption that some technological innovations will appear and become game-changers, this always leaves us with the possibility that technological adaptation to climate change is an area that should continue to be explored.

    Everett Rogers, in his book ‘Diffusion of Innovations’, provides a tidy conceptual definition of technology: ‘A technology is a design for instrumental action that reduces the uncertainty in the cause-effect relationships involved in achieving a desired outcome.’ [6]. Usually, he continues, a technology has two components: (1) Hardware aspect, represented by the material or physical embodiment of a tool; and (2) Software aspect, represented by the information base for the tool. Based on this definition, the climate change problem has all the criteria of a technological problem. We need instrumental action to reduce the uncertainty of the global living conditions affected by climate change, and the desired outcome is to abate and mitigate the threats facing humanity due to climate change. While the hardware aspect, in Rogers’ definition, is self-explained, we can also say that the software aspect represents the social structure of understanding the purpose of the technology and the proper way to use it. The building of that social structure is a mission of policy making and implementation.

    Johan Galtung, in a study paper sponsored by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and titled ‘Development, Environment and Technology: Towards a technology of Self-reliance’, suggests that technology implies human modification of natural ecological cycles thereby turning ecological cycles into economic cycles. Technology, therefore, is modification of ecological cycles into economic cycles—and there are different kinds of technology: of extraction, of transportation/communication, of production, or consumption, and of ecological balance.

    Social arrangements are critical in this process: ‘Tools do not operate in a vacuum; they are man-made and man-used and require certain social arrangements to be operational.’ [7]. While the general purpose of technology could be perceived as the betterment of human conditions, Galtung points out that not all modifications of natural ecological cycles seem to achieve that; indeed some seem to do quite the opposite (such as military technology, for example). In the policy sector, there needs to be a framework that guides technological endeavors towards goals that are consistent with the good of humanity. Between the two of them, technology and policy provide a strong team to address climate change challenges.

    Investing in technological R&D (research and development), promotion, and implementation can prove to be highly critical for shifting climate change mitigation strategies towards more optimistic scenarios. For example, France is hailed by many is an energy model of the future due to the fact that 75 percent of its electricity is generated from nuclear energy stations, which make France the leading low-carbon economy among the industrialized countries and arguably in the world. Also, the Canadian province of Ontario generates 50 percent of its electricity through nuclear power stations. The Ontario Power Generation Corporation states that nuclear energy “has two major benefits - low operating costs and virtually none of the emissions that lead to smog, acid rain or global warming.’ [8].

    Other nations may have to take bolder policy decisions and shift to nuclear energy, especially that the popular perceptions about the dangers of nuclear energy do not match the empirical data and the majority voice of technical experts [9]. And while solar, wind, tide and geothermal energy sources are not yet strong, affordable or efficient enough to replace fossil fuels, there is certainly more room for improving the quality and quantity of these renewable resources.

    Germany, for instance, has been able to produce 18 billion kilowatt-hours from solar photovoltaic energy in 2011, and is planning for a target of 35 percent of its power generation from renewable energy sources by 2020. Some sources are even hopeful that 100 percent of Germany’s power – with the right technology and policy combination – can be generated from renewable energy sources by the year 2050 [10]. Other parts of the world which are endowed with more solar and/or wind energy exposure than Germany – such as Africa – can invest more on that track. The main recipe, that is required for these types of responses to climate change to work, has both technology and policy as critical ingredients. This is why the OECD recommends technology and policy packages to achieve low-carbon economies [11].


    Some of the positive aspects of the low-carbon economy concept are that it addresses carbon dioxide directly as a main target, and that the concept seems to support continuous investment in technological R&D for reducing carbon emissions. Some problems exist, however, with the concept and its indicators. One problem is that it obscures the reality of challenges to sustainable and equitable economic development around the world. The terminology of low-carbon economy, because of over-generalization, does not say anything of value about the reality that within each national or regional economy there are unequal consumers; hence unequal polluters.

    In addition to that, indicators such as carbon emission by unit of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) further propagate the process of ignoring the existence of unequal polluters. While some countries can be considered low-carbon economies due to their conscious investment in energy production without greenhouse gas emissions, other countries are low-carbon economies due to the fact that they are still struggling economically to provide sufficient power to the majority of their citizens. This means that, from an equitable economic point of view, you would expect the former countries to decrease their carbon emissions even more, while you should expect the opposite from the latter countries. Even within big-polluter countries that are expected to lower their carbon emissions, that responsibility does not rest evenly upon all the citizens, since they are not equal in their contribution to the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Another problem is accounting for the amount of pollution done by transnational corporations that are based in some rich-industrialized countries but carry their heavy-pollution activities elsewhere around the world. The concept of low-carbon economy can sometimes obscure these complex details.


    Perhaps a number of alternative policy perspectives can help keep the positive aspects and resolve the negative aspects of the concept of low-carbon economy. Thinking about the problem of climate change in Africa from the angle of low-carbon economy can be useful as it addresses environmental, economic and technological matters of development all at the same time, and in a realistic fashion. I am going to conclude this article by questions that aim to stir thoughts and debates about the topic:

    Question one: How can Africa achieve prosperity for the majority of its inhabitants who are currently living in unfavourable conditions, without taking the same path of modernization that was taken by the industrialized regions of the world—i.e. without human exploitation and environmental pollution?

    Question two: With all the many pressing problems to worry about, is there room for African countries and communities to prioritize matters of responding and adapting to climate change? How would that rank with respect to “other” pressing priorities of education, health, economic self-reliance, and peace and security? How would/should resources be organized to address these overwhelming matters all at once?

    Question three: What changes could be made to the concept and framework of low-carbon economy to suit the African context? And what role would technological solutions play in these changes?


    [1] Martin Parry, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Matthew Livermor (2005). “Climate change, global food supply and risk of hunger.” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 360(1463): 2125-2138.

    [2] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - IPCC ( 2007). Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers. Pg. 3.

    [3] Tom Delay (2007). “Low-carbon Economy: What are the opportunities?” The EIC guide to the UK environmental industry. Retrieved October 14, 2013 from:

    [4] Greenpeace (2010). “Decarbonised Economy: Opportunities and responsibilities of the ICT sector in a changing climate.” Retrieved October 14, 2013 from:

    [5] Stephen Devereux & Jenny Edwards (2004). “Climate Change and Food Security.” Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Bulletin, Vol. 35(3): 22-30.

    [6] Everett Rogers (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.) Toronto: Free Press. Pg. 13.

    [7] Johan Galtung (1979). Development, Environment and Technology: towards a technology for self-reliance. New York: United Nations. Pg. 6.

    [8] Ontario Power Generation Inc. – OPG (2000-2013). “Nuclear Power”. Retrieved October 15, 2013 from:

    [9] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – OECD (2010). Comparing nuclear accident risks with those from other energy sources. Report No. 6861 by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

    [10] Paul Hockenos (2012). “Germany's Grid and the Market: 100 Percent Renewable by 2050?”. Renewable Energy Retrieved October 15, 2013 from:

    [11] OECD (2010b). Transition to a Low-carbon Economy: Public Goals and Corporate Practices.

    * Gussai H. Sheikheldin is a Sudanese, post-graduate student at the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, Canada.



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    Ethiopia: The crime of extraordinary rendition

    Alemayehu G. Mariam


    Extraordinary rendition violates every rule in the human rights book. The process invariably involves forceful abduction, detained incommunicado for an extended period, interrogation and torture

    Last week, the regime in Ethiopia announced its abduction of Andaragatchew Tsgie, General Secretary of the Ethiopian opposition group known as Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy, with smug delight. According to the regime, the “Ethiopian national security service coordinating with its Yemeni counterpart had detained and transferred to Ethiopia [Andaragatchew Tsgie] as he tried to enter Eritrea through Sanaa [Yemen].” Andargatchew is a British national of Ethiopian origin. Yemeni officials denied Adargatchew access to British consular officials, legal representation and contact with family members before subjecting him to extraordinary rendition to the regime in Ethiopia.

    In what appears to be a secretly recorded 63-second video clip released by the regime, Andargatchew is seen stoically reflecting on his abduction. He declares, among other things, that he is “at peace” with himself and has “no anger or ill-will” towards his captors. Is the man shown in the video clip speaking freely or repeating what he is told to say by his captors? Was Andargatchew aware that he was being secretly videotaped for propaganda purposes when he made his “statement”? Does the video clip depict a man speaking words of quiet defiance or pleading for mercy before his abductors? Is the whole drama staged in the video an attempt by the regime to hoodwink Andargatchew’s supporters, international human rights organizations and the British government? What did they do with Andargachew for over two weeks before officially announcing his capture and extraordinary rendition? I do not know the answer to these questions, but I was surprised by the stoicism, composure and calmness exhibited by a man trapped in laughing hyenas’ den with glinting teeth bared at him.

    It is not clear to me why the regime released the video clip of Andargatchew’s “statement” over 2 weeks after his reported arrest and rendition on June 23. I believe the regime aimed to achieve a number of propaganda objectives with the “statement”: 1) Prove to Ginbot 7 and other opposition elements that the regime has intelligence and tactical capabilities to act against its enemies and opponents at least within the broader Horn of Africa region. (By the way, the regime’s arrest and rendition of Andargachew reminded me of the interview given by an Addis Ababa police chief known as Zemedkun to a Voice of America- Amharic program reporter. After berating the VOA reporter on the air, Zemedkun warned the reporter, “I don’t care if you live in Washington or in Heaven. I don’t give a damn! But I will arrest you and take you. You should know that!!) It seems the regime delivered on Zemedkun’s threat in Yemen when it arrested Andargachew. The regime wants to send the message out that they will get their enemies in transit in Yemen, living in Washington or even if they have gone to Heaven.) 2) Disprove any claim that Andargatchew has been physically or psychologically tortured, mistreated or abused. 3) Prove that Andargatchew is actually being treated well and in a dignified way (Andargatchew appears physically unharmed (at least his face does not appear to show any visible signs of trauma). He appears in the video clip in his regular causal wear in a room that appears to be a stark police interrogation chamber). They also wanted to show a “relaxed” Andargatchew who does not exhibit the usual disorientation, stress, anxiety and depression of victims of extraordinary rendition. 4) Preemptively and proactively deflect any criticism or complaints from human rights groups and others that Andargatchew has been or is highly likely to be tortured in detention. 5) Embarrass Ginbot 7 and its leadership by demonstrating that the regime has penetrated and compromised that organization’s internal security by planting a mole (a deep cover agent) to report on sensitive organizational activities. 6) Prove that the Ginbot 7 organization is effectively neutralized and fatally incapacitated with the capture of Andargatchew and any information they could extract from him by torture and other means. 7) Demoralize the whole Ethiopian opposition and psychologically paralyze them from mounting an effective challenge in the fake election scheduled for 2015. 8) Prove that the regime can flout the rule of international law and get away with it -- without the objection and implicit blessing of the Western donors and loaners-- as it has done dozens of times before. I am sure conspiracy theorists have their own explanations.

    It remains to be seen whether the regime has achieved any or all of these objectives by abducting Andargatchew. However, I am reasonably sure that regime members have popped crates of champagne bottles and done do-si-does right into the night for a well-concocted and -executed abduction. Should the regime now do a final victory lap over Andargatchew’s abduction? I doubt that any one person could be the soul, body and mind of any organization (with only one exception, Meles Zenawi). It seems reasonable to conclude that Andargatchew’s abduction could be a significant setback for Ginbot 7. I doubt it will necessarily spell doom for that organization. Similarly, time will tell whether those who asserted Andargatchew will be tortured for information are correct. Nonetheless, the social scientific data and analyses show compellingly that torture in ordinary criminal investigations and in extraordinary renditions produces lies not truth.

    For the record, I have never met or spoken to Andaragatchew Tsgie. I have seen his videotaped interviews and read some public statements he has made online. I know that the regime has convicted Andaragatchew of committing “terrorism” and sentenced him to death in the regime’s kangaroo courts. It is precisely this question of kangaroo justice and the flagrant violation of the rule of international law in Andargatchew’s extraordinary rendition that compels me to write this commentary.


    The hallmark of any failed state is the absence of the rule of law. The hallmark of the failed criminal state is the flagitious violation of the rule of constitutional and international law. I see little difference in principle between what Boko Haram did in Nigeria to abduct nearly 300 young women three months ago and what the regime in Ethiopia has done in the abduction of Andargatchew Tsgie. The regime argues that Andargatchew is a “terrorist” and has been sentenced to death in absentia under the so-called anti-terrorism law (Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009 ). As I have demonstrated in dozens of commentaries since 2006, the prosecution of political opponents for “treason” and “terrorism” in Ethiopia is a legal persecution and lynching of political opponents in kangaroo court. As numerous annual U.S. State Department human rights reports have documented, Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism “law” is merely a convenient mechanism for “politically motivated trials and convictions of opposition figures, activists, journalists, and bloggers, as well as increased restrictions on print media.” A conviction and a sentence of death for those charged with “terrorism” is foreordained and a foregone conclusion. The fact of the matter is that a sentence of death on a person charged with “terrorism” in Ethiopia’s kangaroo courts is like a sentence of capital punishment on an antelope at a convention of hyenas. In a country that lacks judicial independence and where judges are instructed to make legal determinations, no conviction and imposition of the death penalty could stand fair and independent legal scrutiny.

    It is a misnomer to call the regime’s “anti-terrorism” proclamation a “law”. Proclamation 652 is “law” of the bush, the jungle. As I have demonstrated in my commentary, “Ethiopia: Dictatorship is State Terrorism”, Proclamation 652 is an arbitrary and capricious diktat conceived and crafted by the late Meles Zenawi and approved by his rubberstamp parliament. That proclamation has been thoroughly condemned and criticized by all of the major international human rights organizations. For instance, Human Rights Watch criticized that “law” for providing “an extremely broad and ambiguous definition of terrorism that could be used to criminalize non-violent political dissent and various other activities that should not be deemed as terrorism.” Even the U.S. State Department expressed its disapproval of the “extremely harsh and politicized use of Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law” in persecuting political opponents. To add insult to injury, in every single suspected case of “terrorism”, Meles Zenawi and his spokesmen made outrageous and prejudicial public comments and levelled angry and unsubstantiated accusations against “terrorism” suspects while trials were underway, violating the suspects’ constitutional right to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial. It is also a fact that all suspects accused of “terrorism” by the regime have been denied right to counsel and other constitutional rights during interrogations and subjected to physical and psychological torture. The regime has also exerted political pressure on the courts to make findings of guilt in “treason” and “terrorism” cases.


    I have always said that preaching the rule of law to the regime in Ethiopia is like preaching Scripture to a gathering of deaf, mute and blind heathen or pouring water over a slab of granite. It goes in one ear, passes through a vacuum, and out the other. As a constitutional lawyer who takes great pride in defending the rule of law, I must keep on preaching, teaching and defending the rule of law with full knowledge that the regime in Ethiopia does not give a rat’s behind about the rule of law, due process, international law, its own Constitution, and least of all, anything I have to say. Regardless, I must speak out because I have a moral duty to do so. Those who practice silence when the rule of law is trampled are passive accomplices in the triumph of the rule of thuggery over the rule of law.

    What the regime did in abducting Andargatchew with the active cooperation of the Yemeni government is an act of thuggery called “extraordinary rendition”. It is a fancy phrase coined by the Central Intelligence Agency to justify the secret extrajudicial arrest, detention and extradition of an individual suspected of “terrorism” to the custody of another state. It is essentially a form of outsourcing interrogation by torture to countries where torture is commonly practiced. Logistically, individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism are captured and detained by foreign authorities on foreign soil and transferred to another state for interrogation under conditions of torture and physical and psychological abuse.

    The regime in Ethiopia is not new to the criminal practice of extraordinary rendition. In fact, it is one of the top practitioners of that criminal activity. Beginning in 2007, a total more than 100 terror suspects have been arrested in Somalia and Kenya and transferred to Ethiopia to face interrogation by regime and US intelligence and law enforcement officials. None of the rendered prisoners was given access to or allowed to retain counsel during interrogation. Many were interrogated under circumstances of physical and psychological torture. In specific cases, among others, the regime in Ethiopia has hosted the interrogation of Yasser Tinawi, who was subsequently flown to Egypt and rendered to Syria. Mohammed Ali Isse and Omar bin Hassan were also rendered to Ethiopia. Isse was tortured with electric shocks by his Ethiopian interrogators.

    Extraordinary rendition violates every rule in the human rights book. The rendition process invariably involves forceful abduction or kidnapping. The victim is detained incommunicado and without due process of law for an extended period of time. They are often interrogated for extended periods and subjected to physical and mental torture. The victim of rendition is not afforded an opportunity to contact consular officials before being whisked away to the rendition destination. Rendition victims are prevented from having access to family members, friends and health care providers. They are often held in solitary confinement in secret prisons and prevented from challenging their detention in a court of law.


    The right to be free from government-sponsored torture is a fundamental and universal right recognized under the highest principles and conventions of international law. States are also under the absolute and unconditional obligation to subscribe to and practice the principle of non-refoulement (not returning a person to a place where that person is likely to face persecution, torture, etc.). This obligation is so “fundamental that it is binding on all states, and no nation may derogate from or agree to contravene them.” It also applies to all states irrespective of whether they are signatories to any particular treaty prohibiting refoulement and torture such transfers and regardless of the offenses allegedly committed or the danger posed by the individual concerned.

    The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been signed (by “accession”) by Ethiopia (March 14, 1994) and Yemen (November 5 1991) (CAT). Article 3 of the CAT specifically provides that “[n]o State Party shall expel, return (“refouler’), or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.” Article 1 defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession… [and] … when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

    Torture and ill-treatment are tools of trade for the regime in Ethiopia. Confinement in the stinking prisons and jails in Ethiopia is itself torture and a monumental crime against humanity. One need only read the regime’s secretly commissioned report of the prison system by retired British Colonel Michael Dewars to get a glimpse of the horrific and shocking conditions of penal servitude in Ethiopia. Human Rights Watch has documented incidents of torture and ill-treatment by Ethiopian security forces in a range of settings. “Torture and ill-treatment have been used by Ethiopia’s police, military, and other members of the security forces to punish a spectrum of perceived dissenters, including university students, members of the political opposition, and alleged supporters of insurgent groups, as well as alleged terrorist suspect. The frequency, ubiquity, and patterns of abuse by agents of the central and state governments demonstrate systematic mistreatment involving commanding officers, not random activity by rogue soldiers and police officers. In several cases documented by Human Rights Watch, military commanders participated personally in torture.” Torture techniques and methods vary. “Repeated and severe beatings with sticks, electric cables, rifle butts, iron bars, or other hard instruments is the most frequent method of abuse. Occasionally, police and soldiers resort to other methods, such as immersing victims' heads in water; beating and kicking victims while they hang bound upside down; tying bottles of water to testicles; and forcing detainees to run or crawl barefoot over sharp gravel for several hours at a time. Some victims have suffered serious permanent injury; a few have been tortured to death… Although Ethiopia has criminal code provisions and other laws available to enforce its international and domestic obligations, they are seldom enforced. Very few incidents of torture have been investigated promptly and impartially, much less prosecuted.”

    There is considerable concern expressed by various international human rights groups, Ginbot 7 and others that the regime will torture and abuse Andargatchew in an effort to extract information from him. This concern cannot be easily discounted. The regime in Ethiopia has a long history of using torture dating back to their days in the bush. I submit four notorious cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the regime. Birtukan Midekksa, the first woman political party leader in Ethiopian history, was held in solitary confinement for months and subjected to psychological and physical torture after she was jailed by the late Meles Zenawi in 2008. When asked about Birtukan’s condition in solitary confinement in 2010, Meles Zenawi joked, “The health situation of Birtukan, the last I heard, is in perfect condition. She may have gained a few kilos, but other than that, and that may be for lack of exercise, I understand she is in perfect health…” I have documented Meles’ sadistic treatment of Birtukan in numerous commentaries. In 2010, Ethiopia’s foremost defenders of press freedom, the husband and wife team of Eskinder Nega and Serkalem Fasil wrote in their letter to Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger describing the inhumane and barbaric treatment they received in the regime’s jails. “… Severely underweight at birth because Serkalem’s physical and psychological privation in one of Africa’s worst prisons, an incubator was deemed life-saving to the new-born child by prison doctors; which was, in an act of incomprehensible vindictiveness, denied by the authorities.”

    In 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) documented the abuse and ill-treatment Reeyot Alemu, a young woman journalists, suffered in the regime’s prison. CPJ wrote, “Prison authorities have threatened Reeyot with solitary confinement for two months as punishment for alleged bad behavior toward them and threatening to publicize human rights violations by prison guards, according to sources close to the journalist who spoke to the International Women's Media Foundation on condition of anonymity. CPJ has independently verified the information. Reeyot has also been denied access to adequate medical treatment after she was diagnosed with a tumor in her breast…” In March 2014, seven young Semayawi (Blue) Party women members were arrested, beaten and jailed for demanding the release of political prisoners and respect for their basic human rights during a 5k run. I need not mention the tens of thousands of men – opposition party leaders and members, dissidents, civil society leaders, human rights advocates and others -- who have been subjected to torture, ill-treatment and abuse at the hands of the regime in Ethiopia.

    I suspect there are some in the regime who want to see Andaragachew humiliated, embarrassed and disgraced. Revenge, retribution and retaliation is like mother’s milk to them. Careful examination of the anecdotal evidence of the regime’s record of treatment of their enemies and opposition suggests that they are extremely vengeful, vindictive, unforgiving and sadistic. I have come to the conclusion that the regime relishes seeing their victims in pain and enjoy inflicting suffering on them. The late Meles Zenawi, the “enlightened visionary leader” of the regime, was a man who derived sadistic pleasure from humiliating and degrading his opponents. I was outraged and inflamed by his calculating and sadistic dehumanization and degradation of Birtukan Midekssa. Meles suppressed any trace of human compassion, decency and mercy he may have had by acting sadistically against Birtukan. The point is that I expect Meles’ apostles to follow their visionary leader and sadistically deal with Andargatchew. I do not think the hard-core members of the regime will be satisfied by Andargachew’s capture and detention. It is not enough for them to have “won” the war against Ginbot 7. The only thing that will soothe their tortured souls is to see their nemesis tortured, humiliated, tarred and feathered. Power in the hands of the unenlightened breeds sadism.


    A state which knowingly aids or assists another state in the commission of a violation of international law (extraordinary rendition) is liable for accomplice liability. Yemen by knowingly rendering Andargachew to the regime in Ethiopia (which is notorious for using torture, secret detentions and enforced disappearances) is in clear violation of the CAT. The government of Yemen is accountable for accomplice liability for knowingly detaining, providing practical and logistical assistance and delivering Andargatchew to the intelligence service of the regime in Ethiopia with full knowledge that there are “substantial grounds for believing that Andargachew is in danger of being subjected to torture.”

    Article 3 of the CAT requires an assessment of “all relevant considerations” relevant to any “consistent patterns of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights,” when determining whether an individual held for rendering or extradition is likely to endure torture upon his return. Yemen callously disregarded this essential requirement when it delivered Andargachew to the regime in Ethiopia. Indeed, the Yemeni regime did not even bother to seek diplomatic assurances from the regime in Ethiopia that Andargatchew will not be tortured once he is turned over. On July 7, Yemeni Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid Al-Awadi told the Yemen Times “that Yemen extradited Andargachew Tsege, secretary-general of the banned Ethiopian opposition movement Ginbot 7, to Addis Ababa in accordance with an agreement on the exchange of wanted individuals signed between the two countries in 1999.” What about Yemen’s obligations under the CAT? Yemen is liable as an accomplice under the CAT for its extraordinary rendition of Andargachew.


    There are 177 state parties to the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR). Ethiopia, and a dozen other countries including, among others, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Palau, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Sudan have failed to sign the Convention.Yemen became a party to the Convention by accession on April 10, 1986.

    Article 36 of the VCCR provides that when a national of a foreign country is arrested or detained on criminal or immigration charges, the detainee must be advised of certain rights. Specifically, Article 36 requires states to 1) inform without delay the consular post in their jurisdictions concerning the detained person, 2) advise the detained person of his/her right to contact consular officials and 3) facilitate visits of the detained person by consular officials.

    Yemen knowingly and intentionally violated the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by rendering Andargachew to the regime in Ethiopia without informing the British embassy and consular office in Sanaa. The British Foreign Office said in a statement that it had made “consistent requests for information from the Yemeni authorities, the lack of any notification of his detention in contravention of the Vienna convention and our concerns about the death penalty that Mr. Tsige could face in Ethiopia.” Crocodile tears from the British Foreign Office? A double standard in the protection of naturalized British citizens and those born on British soil?


    The “war on terrorism” should not be a war on international law where anti-terrorism efforts become a convenient justification for thuggery. Nations have the duty to combat terrorism and prevent future terrorist attacks by capturing or containing members of those groups who seek to inflict damage on them. Defeating international terrorism also requires international coordination between law enforcement, intelligence and foreign policy officials. But such efforts must not and cannot be carried out illegally or in flagrant violation of treaty obligations and customary international law.

    Following the rule of international law is not aiding or facilitating terrorism. It is upholding the rule of law which separates civilized people from terrorists and thugs. States have a variety of legal mechanisms and tools to apprehend and prosecute suspected terrorists. Extraordinary rendition is not one of the. Extraordinary rendition is a crime under international law. No state has the right to “extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture”. This rule of international law is non-derogable under any circumstances.

    The struggle for the rule of (international) law is the unending struggle of civilization against savagery, brutality, depravity and inhumanity. Savagery against the rule of law is not limited to wild-eyed murderous terrorist. It is equally the stock in trade of those who claim to follow the rule of law by practicing the rule of thuggery. A luta continua! (The struggle continues!)

    As a constitutional lawyer, I wholeheartedly agree with Louis Brandies, one of the most learned U.S. Supreme Court Justices, who said, “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example…. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law into himself; it invites anarchy.” It diminishes the moral standing of the good guys against the bad guys. It erodes moral support for counter-terrorism efforts worldwide. An outlaw government invites terrorism. A criminal government that practices extraordinary rendition breeds terrorism by its own example!

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



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    Sobukwe: A leader who walked the political talk to the finish

    Motsoko Pheko


    cc PZ
    Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe is not as well known as he should. The founding president of the radical Pan African Congress, Sobukwe was the single most potent threat to apartheid. Without the fire in his breast and the unshakable conviction of his mind, it is unlikely that apartheid would have collapsed when it did.

    [This Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe memorial lecture was delivered at the Methodist Black Consultation Springs Gauteng, South Africa, 12 July 2014.]

    Programme Director, distinguished guests, memorials help a nation to preserve its history and pass it on accurately from generation to generation for knowledge storage. Thank you for inviting me to give a memorial lecture on Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, this giant Pan Africanist leader. The title of my lecture is: A LEADER WHO WALKED THE POLITICAL TALK TO THE FINISH.

    Prof. Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe is a leader who walked the political talk to the finish. In the Biblical language, he ran the race and kept the faith. He went through a glorious contest with distinction. This is a man that the apartheid colonialist regime so silenced that even his closing speech in Court Case Number 173/60 was expunged from the Court record.

    Researchers and film makers thirsty to find his voice in radio stations have searched in vain. The enemy destroyed anything he ever said audibly. He was a banned person to his grave.

    As a young man Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe was an omnivorous reader. At school, right up to the University of Fort Hare, he was an outstandingly brilliant student and great thinker. He grew to be a person endowed with profound intellect, revolutionary vigour and deep spirituality. He had exceptionally disarming humility towards everybody, friend and foe alike. Unashamed of his humble beginnings from which he came, he declared, ‘I am the son of Sobukwe born in Graaf-Reinet that land of goats....’

    Leadership is responsibility and duty to serve the people. Leaders who are servants of the people defend the poor and the powerless and work in their interest. They are not afraid to stand against the mighty. They reject the false philosophy that ‘might is right.’ Might has been found wrong many times.

    In the politics of South Africa Sobukwe introduced a new style of leadership. Leaders were to be in front. Indeed, he himself showed the way and many followed him, especially to Robben Island.

    Of leadership, he declared, ‘True leadership demands complete subjugation of self, absolute honesty, integrity and uprightness of character, courage and fearlessness, above all a consuming love for one’s people.’ He never called a spade a big spoon. He refused to compromise the birthright of his people – land repossession.

    Let me give you a few thoughts of those who observed Sobukwe’s life on the impact of the politics of this country, Africa and internationally. After the Sharpeville Uprising exploded like a huge bomb on apartheid South Africa, Lewis Nkosi, a highly respected journalist described Sobukwe as ‘...a tall, distinguished African prisoner, a university lecturer and political leader who at the age of 36 has a rare distinction of having scared the South African government out of its wits....’

    Lewis Nkosi elaborated: ‘Sobukwe helped to orchestrate a crisis that panicked the South African regime and nearly brought about the kind of political situation which too often makes the transfer of power overnight.’

    A.P. Mda who was the President of the 1912 ANC Youth League after the death of Antony Muziwakhe Lembede and was then a prominent lawyer said, ‘I found that Sobukwe believed that a leader must have total commitment to the struggle of the African people for national emancipation, no matter what hardships maybe or what the obstacles maybe.’

    When the University of Ahmadu Bello in Nigeria conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on Sobukwe posthumously, the dean of the faculty chanted, ‘Honourable Chancellor, I present to you this courageous African revolutionary, this strong believer in the principles of Pan Africanism, this great fighter for the liberation and unity of all African peoples, this symbol of the struggle against apartheid and colonialism; for the posthumous conferment of the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws....’

    Sobukwe understood that the struggle in South Africa was fundamentally an anti-colonial struggle, not a mere civil rights struggle against apartheid. Apartheid was the symptom of the disease brought about by the Berlin Act of 26 February 1885 which enabled Europe to partition Africa into its colonies, robbed African people of their countries and used the riches of Africa to develop Europe and under-develop Africa.

    Sobukwe knew how land dispossession of the African people came about in South Africa and that a doctor who treats the symptoms of a disease and not the disease itself is bound to fail. He recognised all African kings who fought against the colonial land dispossession of the African people in South Africa.

    Some of these are ‘Uphaqa njelanga, Inyathi yasenhlakanhlakeni, Unokuzila ukudla kwamagwala. Amagwala adlu bubende.’ That is King Cetshwayo – the architect of the Battle of Isandlwana – where African spears triumphed over the guns of a well-armed British army.

    In today’s Eastern Cape, King Hintsa fell in the Sixth War of national resistance against British colonialism in 1834. The colonial soldiers were commanded by a British Colonel Harry Smith. He still has a town in ‘New South Africa’ named after him. Another one called Ladysmith is named after his wife.

    In July 1959, Sobukwe paid tribute to all African Kings. They were the first freedom fighters in this country against colonialism. Among other things Mangaliso Sobukwe said:

    ‘Sons and Daughters of Afrika, we are going down the corridor of time renewing our acquaintance with the heroes of Africa’s past – those men and women who nourished the tree of African freedom and independence with their blood, those great Sons and Daughters of Afrika who died in order that we may be free in the land of our birth. We meet here today, to rededicate ourselves to the cause of Afrika, to establish contact beyond the grave, with the great African heroes and assure them that their struggle was not in vain. We are met here Sons and Daughters of the beloved land to drink from the fountain of African achievement, to remember the men and women who begot us, to remind ourselves of where we come from and restate our goals. We are here to draw inspiration from the heroes of Thababosiu, Isandlwana, Sandile’s Kop and numerous other battlefields where our forefathers fell before the bullets of the foreign invader....’

    A generation that is ignorant of its past has no past and no future. A generation that does not know its past does not know even its present. It, therefore, cannot understand its present and plan its future intelligently. The past has determined how the present must be handled.


    He did not forget that if a realistic and just society is to be created in South Africa, the facts of the political history of this country must not be swept under the carpet. Have you ever read the Union Of South Africa Act 1909 and the Native Land Act 1913? These are the two pieces of legislation that created South Africa. The Native Land Act 1913 legalised the unjust distribution of land and its riches. It created massive poverty and alarming economic inequalities affecting the African people today.

    This same law is today hidden in Section 25 (7) of the South African Constitution under a new name – ‘property clause’ - while, the country’s majority people is property less. Millions live in filthy shacks not fit even for pigs. These shacks often catch fire or flood killing many people.

    The rulers dangle before the dispossessed of this country ‘land claims’ from the crumbs of 13 percent allocated to the African people in 1913 and 1936. They are now offered to buy back the property of their ancestors through a dismally failed policy of ‘willing seller and willing buyer.’ But even this is merely their land which was further seized from 13 percent through the Group Areas Act of 1950.

    Indeed, the country Sobukwe fought for is like the one which Prophet Isaiah described in Chapter 1 verse 7 of his book, when he said, ‘Your land is desolate...Your land, strangers devour in your presence.’ Sobukwe knew that this would happen if some liberation struggle leaders in this country would confuse the symptoms – apartheid - for the disease of colonialism itself.

    The apartheid colonialist regime feared Sobukwe. Johannes Balthazar Vorster, the regime’s Minister of Justice called Sobukwe a ‘heavy weight boxer’ when compared to his political opponents in South Africa. Sobukwe understood the essence of the African liberation struggle too clearly to be misled or compromised. He is the only political leader in the history of South Africa who was imprisoned on Robben Island without even a mock trial. After serving a three-year prison sentence at Stofberg Prison for leading the Sharpeville Uprising, he was imprisoned on Robben Island in solitary confinement. He was guarded by five prison warders with two fierce Alsatian dogs.

    In the entire history of the world no parliament ever made a law to govern one man. But in South Africa, the ‘Sobukwe Clause’ was legislated hurriedly by the apartheid colonial Parliament to do precisely that. Commenting on the ‘Sobukwe Clause,’ the apartheid regime’s Minister of Justice, Johannes Balthazar Vorster said:

    ‘Then we come to the Sobukwe Clause....I appreciate that the principle of this clause is drastic....It is imprisonment that is concerned with the security of the state. It does not relate to any other crime....I have respect for the attitude of the Member for Houghton [Helen Suzman]....But I want to say to her...if her amendment were to succeed and Robert Sobukwe were released we would have a fine job to do in this country.’

    Some Members of the apartheid parliament visited Sobukwe on Robben Island after some years. They voted that Sobukwe must be kept in Robben Island Prison because he had not changed. A member of parliament who was in the group that visited Sobukwe said:

    ‘I asked Sobukwe, have you considered changing your ideology? He replied: ‘Not until the day of the resurrection.’


    He preached Africanism and Pan Africanism in South Africa when these concepts were frowned upon by his political opponents as ‘anti-white.’ But of course, today there is the Pan African Parliament. There has been the Organisation of African Unity. It has been succeeded by the African Union.

    It is very clear that if Africa does not unite, she will not defeat the onslaughts of a new form of colonialism threatening Africa’s people. Situations such as Libya, Central African Republic, Somalia, Mali, South Sudan, Boko Haram in Nigeria show that no African state can go it alone.

    Sobukwe was an ideological brother and comrade of Pan Africanist luminaries such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Modibo Keita, Ahmed Sekou Toure and Patrice Lumumba.

    He was a strong advocate of a United States of Africa. He declared, ‘Besides the sense of a common historical fate that we share with other [African] countries, it is imperative for purely practical reasons that the whole of Africa unite into a single unit....Only in that way can be solved the immense problems that face the Continent.’

    Sobukwe died on 27 February 1978. He had envisaged that ‘By the end of 20th century, the standard of living of the masses of the African people would undoubtedly have arisen dramatically....’ He pointed out that ‘The potential wealth of Africa in minerals, oil, hydro-electric power and so on, is immense. By cutting out waste through systematic planning a central government can bring the most rapid development.’

    There is an unfounded criticism against Sobukwe by his opponents. For instance, the author of ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ has written: ‘I was keen to discuss policy issues with Sobukwe, and one of the matters I took up with him was the PAC slogan ‘Freedom in 1963.’ It was already 1963 and freedom was nowhere to be seen.’

    It is not clear whether this was just the usual slanting of facts. The official slogans of the PAC has always been ‘Izwe Lethu!’ or ‘Africa for Africans, Africans for humanity and humanity for God!’ Anyway, this is what Sobukwe wrote in the Drum Magazine March 1959:

    ‘Nobody disputes our contention that Africa will be free from foreign rule. What is disputed by many, particularly the ruling white minorities is that she will be free ‘within our life time or by 1963 or even by 1973 or 1984. However, the African nationalist movements which met in Accra in 1958 put 1963 as the target for freedom for all of Africa.’

    There were only eight African States when Sobukwe said this. But by 1963, there were 32 African States and the formation of the Organisation of African Unity on 25 May 1963. By 1984 only South Africa remained an apartheid colony.

    Sobukwe was never naive about the hardships of the liberation struggle he led. Long before the Sharpeville Uprising, Robben Island Prison, armed struggle that was initiated by him and his colleagues such P.K. Leballo, Zephania Mothopeng and Nyathi Pokela, Sobukwe had warned:

    ‘There is plenty of suffering ahead. The oppressor will not take this lying down. But we are ready, come what may.’

    Without Sobukwe’s leadership, the United Nations would never have been seized with the problem of South Africa for over 30 years. As Frantz Fanon the author of ‘The Wretched of The Earth’ writes, it was through the Sharpeville Uprising led by Sobukwe which made the vile system of apartheid known internationally.

    Without this Uprising, there would never have been a United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid. This world body would never have declared apartheid a crime against humanity. As a result of Sobukwe’s leadership the United Nations in honour of the martyrs of Sharpeville Uprising, declared March 21 International Day For The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination. Without Sobukwe’s actions, there would never have been Robben Island Prison. Robben Island Prison was primarily meant for Sobukwe and PAC members. That is why they were the first to be imprisoned on Robben Island from 12 October 1962. That is also why neither Sobukwe nor any PAC leaders and members were transferred to comfortable prisons such as Pollsmoor and Victor Vester.


    In a court of law in which he and his 23 colleagues were convicted of leading the Sharpeville Uprising, he stated that he believed in one race only. Asked, ‘Do you imply that the Africans,... and the whites of this country belong to this race?’ He replied, ‘Correct.’
    It is Sobukwe’s organisation that coined the phrase ‘non-racial’ in South Africa. The others were multi-racialists. Sobukwe said there was enough racism in South Africa to multiply it. The experts of English language those days said, there was no such word in English.

    Today the constitution of this country talks of non-racial society. Unfortunately, no English experts ever afterwards came forward to thank Sobukwe and his movement for giving the English language a new word - non-racialism. They just quietly put it in their dictionaries.

    Sobukwe was a pace setter in the politics of South Africa. When he formed a military wing of his party, others did the same. When he went to Robben Island they followed him there.

    Let me give one example. When he appeared in court on 4 April 1960, he reminded the Magistrate:

    ‘Your Worship, it will be remembered that when this court began we refused to plead because we felt no moral obligation whatsoever to obey laws which are made exclusively by a white minority....But I would like to quote what was said by someone before, that an unjust law cannot be justly applied....We stand for equal rights for all individuals....We are not afraid of the consequences for our actions and it is not our intention to plead for mercy. Thank you, Your Worship.’

    Two years six months later, after Sobukwe had addressed a colonial court in this mood, a rival political leader in 1962 followed on the hot pace that Sobukwe had set.

    He said, ‘I challenge the right of this court to hear my case. Firstly I fear that I will not be given a fair trial. Secondly, I consider myself neither legally nor morally bound to obey laws made by a parliament in which I have no representation.’ (Old Synagogue Court Pretoria 15 October 7th November 1962)


    His revolution began with the destruction of the enslaving pass laws – the Dom Pass which had conditioned the African people to regard their colonial masters as demigods. They suffered the terrible disease of inferiority complex. For Sobukwe the Dom Pass symbolised men who could never become owners of products and masters of their destiny. They were mentally damaged by the system of apartheid and colonialism and had helplessly accepted their inferior status in the land of their ancestors.

    Today, when you look at the mineral complex of our country, both these issues directly contest white minority ownership of land and mineral resources. Sobukwe worked on distinct fronts as thought leader. These were:

    1. Africans must be owners of the means of production
    2. Africans must be owners of land and minerals
    3. Africans must declare their freedom from mental slavery by thinking, working and behaving like free men and women without the continuing mental chains of the Dom Pass that Sobukwe and his colleagues paid high price to destroy through the Sharpeville Uprising.

    These are still the biggest challenges faced by our country. Without attainment of these three objectives, there will be worse Marikanas. At some stage the slave conditions of employment, especially in mines and farms and unjust distribution of land and its resources according to population numbers, will create more uprisings.

    Sobukwe became the main target for the racist colonial regime because of these objectives. They knew just how the economic consequences would be for their colonial paradise that economically excluded the indigenous African population.

    Sobukwe was a man of deep spirituality. He was an inspiration not only as a political leader, but also as a spiritual man. He found fortification, solace and courage in his Christian faith. He defied the demigods of white supremacy who wanted to destroy the image of God in Black people. He refused to bow to the forces of tyranny. In turn they destroyed him physically. But they could not destroy him spiritually. While people were sending him messages of sympathy for his suffering in Robben Island for no sins of his, he in turn was encouraging them.

    There is this letter he wrote to one of his Party members. It read: ‘I came across some beautiful sentiments, the other day, and I intend to pass them on to you because I know you will appreciate them as I did. This man Gilbert is commenting on 1 Samuel 12:24.’

    He says, ‘The Christian fears God, but for that reason he does not fear men. The Christian believes in God, but for that very reason he will not have men tell him what he may believe or not believe. The Christian is dependent on God and that is why he is independent of men. The Christian is humbled before God as his Maker and Lord, and that is why he cannot bow to human masters.” ‘I say Amen to every word,’ Sobukwe concluded.

    The deep spirituality of Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe is manifested also in his favourite English poem:

    ‘To every man upon this earth
    Death comes soon or late
    And how can man die better?
    Than facing fearful odds
    For the ashes of his fathers
    And for the temples of his Gods?’

    Prof. Ivan Sertima, a Pan Africanist scholar in the Diaspora was correct when he wrote: ‘When a star dies, it does not vanish from the firmament. Its light keeps streaming across the fields of time and space, so that centuries later we may be touched by a vision of the fire and brilliance of its former life. The lives of truly great men are just like that.’

    Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe is that kind of a star. Freedom is not free. Its price is sacrifice. Sobukwe walked the political talk against fearful odds, with extra-ordinary patriotism and consuming love for Africa. God Bless Africa, her Sons and Daughters.

    * Dr. Motsoko Pheko is a historian, political scientist, lawyer, theologian and author of several book such as The Hidden Side of South African Politics, The True History of Robben Island Must Be Preserved and 100 Years Native Land Act 1913 – Womb of African Poverty And Marikana Massacre.



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    Advocacy & campaigns

    Civil society organisations condemn approval of EPAs by ECOWAS leaders


    Many reputable organisations have over the years demonstrated that the EPAs are against the fundamental developmental needs of the economies of West Africa. The EPAs will lead to the collapse of the domestic manufacturing and other productive sectors due to undue pressure from the subsidized goods from Europe and loss of revenue from trade taxes

    The Economic Justice Network of Ghana (EJN), unequivocally condemns, the decision of the West African leaders to approve the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. This decision, taken at 45th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government on July 10 2014 in Accra, runs counter to the long standing views and positions expressed by several groups of stakeholders and ordinary citizens and corroborated by institutions of high repute such as the United Nations and the African Union. Faith-based organisations, trade unions, farmer-based organizations, women groups and private sector players have repeatedly demonstrated over the years that the EPA are against the fundamental developmental needs and imperatives of the economies of West Africa.

    Judging by the terms and provisions in the text approved by the Heads of State, EPA will lead to the collapse of the domestic manufacturing and other productive sectors due to undue pressure from the subsidized goods from Europe and loss of revenue from trade taxes. The agreement also commits the sub-region to have developed, within 6 months of its adoption, a road map and modalities for an agenda of further liberalisation and deregulation of a whole range of areas – such as Services, Investment, Government Procurement, Intellectual Property and even other areas that have never been part of the EPA negotiating agenda, such as Capital Accounts, none of which are required by any international rule or obligation undertaken by the government.

    The cumulative effect of all these will be to take away ability of West African governments to deploy the range of policy instruments that are critically needed for development in our Region.

    Furthermore the agreement subjects the dynamics of West Africa’s internal regional trade and development, as well as its relationship with the other regions of Africa and the South to the imperatives of its dealing with the European Union. It is sad for the West African leader to make mockery of our own regional integration agenda by this decision.

    All these negative consequences inflicted on West Africa are in return for a paltry aid promised by the European Union, as well as an attempt to save a few groups of exporters, when indeed credible alternatives exist which could have addressed the concerns and needs of all stake-holders.

    This agreement cannot be accepted by the ordinary men and women of this country who struggle daily in the midst of the precarious economic situation. Citizens should call upon their elected representatives in Parliament to demonstrate due leadership when this inimical agreement is presented to Parliament for ratification.

    For further clarification contact the following: Sylvester Bagooro (TWN-Africa) on 0269613132; Edward Kareweh (GAWU) on 0244 529484; Bernard Anaba (ISODEC) on 0244584565; Ibrahim Akalbila (GTLC) on 0509610294;

    Issued by the Economic Justice Network, Ghana on 11th July 2014

    Draft Appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

    A Call for Assistance in the Efforts to Halt Racism, Racial Discrimination and Acts of Genocide Directed Towards the People of the City of Detroit in the United States of America


    Two organizations allege that deliberate actions by the State of Michigan through its Governor Rick Snyder and majority right-wing legislative bodies are calculated and well-planned to foster the disempowerment of the African American people

    [NOTE: The following draft appeal was submitted and accepted by the United States Human Rights Network (USHRN) to be included in their report related to the gross human rights violations being committed inside the country. This appeal is an important contribution to the annual submission by the USHRN that is designed to point out the violations by the U.S. government of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The appeal requests the direct intervention by relevant UN agencies including, but not limited to, the High Commissioner for Human Rights based in Geneva, Switzerland.]

    This appeal is directed towards the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and all other agencies of this international body concerned with the prevention and halting of institutional racism, racial discrimination and genocide. Two organizations which have played a leading role in opposition to the imposition of austerity, the racist denial of the right to vote and due process under the law in defense against the predatory actions of multi-national corporations and international financial institutions in the City of Detroit, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), founded in 2002 and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs, founded in 2008, are making this appeal to the United Nations due to the failure of the local, state and federal governmental structures to uphold the fundamental civil and human rights of the majority African American population of Detroit, but not limited to this predominant segment of the people, and encompassing all those who are impacted by the current policies enacted by a system of emergency management, forced bankruptcy and restructuring of the City of Detroit.

    We are charging that deliberate actions by the State of Michigan through its Governor Rick Snyder and majority right-wing legislative bodies are calculated and well-planned to foster the disempowerment of the African American people. This program is specifically designed to destroy the political and social gains made by the African American people, but also severely impacts negatively the labor movement, social justice organizations and all other historically affected groups facing national discrimination and class oppression in the United States.


    These policies implemented by the State of Michigan are being carried out against the political will of the majority of people not only in the City of Detroit but throughout the state. In November 2012, an election was held on a proposal to change the Michigan state constitution specifically designed to take full control of municipalities such as Detroit with majority African American populations and impose emergency managers who are non-elected officials appointed by the Governor who work exclusively on behalf of the interests of banks and large corporations and results in their unjust further enrichment through the seizure of public properties, homes, school systems, municipal pension funds and healthcare programs.

    The Michigan statewide election of November 2012 voted down decisively the emergency manager bill known as Public Act 4. Despite this overwhelming vote against emergency management that is tantamount to municipal and school systems dictatorship, the right-wing Governor and legislative body drafted a new law, Public Act 436, which essentially re-imposed the same legislative proposal rejected by the state electorate. The imposition of Public Act 436 was designed so that it would be referendum proof. Efforts to overturn Public Act 436 within the federal courts have been met with judicial stalling allowing the total eradication of fundamental civil and human rights within the City of Detroit and those impacted cities in the State of Michigan.

    Since the implementation of Public Act 436 the erosion of the civil and human rights of the residents of the City of Detroit has been implemented with rapidity and without consideration of the popular will of the people of the City and the State. Governor Snyder in March 2013 appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy lawyer, to manage all aspects of the affairs of the City of Detroit. Orr is a former partner of the Jones Day law firm which is currently administering the affairs of the City of Detroit in contravention to the wishes of the majority of the people within the municipality.

    Later in July 2013, Orr filed for municipal bankruptcy when the emergency manager office was subjected to numerous legal challenges and broad public opposition to the imposition of this form of dictatorial rule. Later in December 2013, Federal Court Judge Steven Rhodes ruled that the bankruptcy filing done by Jones Day law firm was legitimate and deemed that the largest of such bankruptcies in U.S. municipal history could go forward.


    In the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War during 1861-1865, there was the passage of the 13th Amendment which ostensibly granted freedom to nearly four million Africans from chattel slavery. Later in 1868, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress to grant purported citizenship rights to the former enslaved Africans and other people of African descent recognizing the right to due process, i.e., the right to have access to public institutions, to serve on juries and to be treated equally under the fundamental constitutional law of the U.S.

    These petitioners are claiming that the letter and spirit of the 14th Amendment guarantees are being denied to the majority African American population of Detroit and others who reside inside the City. These attacks on the right to due process are manifested in the action being implemented through emergency management.

    During the course of the federal court hearings on whether the City of Detroit was eligible for bankruptcy restructuring, hundreds of people had filed legal objections to this effort. Mass demonstrations were held opposing the bankruptcy filing outside the federal court between July and December of 2013 involving City of Detroit retirees, municipal workers, community activists, religious figures, etc. There were no demonstrations held in support of the bankruptcy or the continuation of emergency management.


    Since the appointment of the emergency manager and the forced bankruptcy, a series of actions have been taken against the residents of Detroit, its employees and retirees. In March 2014, the healthcare coverage of the more than 30,000 municipal retirees and their families were abruptly cancelled even through these medical programs stemmed from contractual agreements that had been in force for several decades.

    The cancellation of medical coverage for tens of thousands of retirees and their families has caused grave hardships on these former City employees. At present the federal court bankruptcy Judge Rhodes has allowed the cancellation of these healthcare programs despite the fact that a final “plan of adjustment” aimed at ostensibly “restructuring of the City of Detroit” has not been decided on by the court. A hearing on the plan of adjustment is not scheduled until mid-August of 2014.

    Many former employees of the City of Detroit suffered injuries on the job which necessitates ongoing and specialized medical attention. Lifesaving medications which are essential for the survival of these retirees and their families are no longer being paid for by the City of Detroit despite previous contractual agreements. Other employees, many of whom are of advanced age, have been left with no medical coverage or forced to enroll in the federal government’s Affordable Care Act healthcare programs, which are not affordable.

    Former employees are being required to pay insurance premiums to private firms anywhere ranging from $600-$3,000 per month in order to maintain coverage through the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare. Most retirees and their families are not able to pay such high premiums and are now facing the possibility of worsening healthcare crises and even death.

    Other actions taken by the emergency manager at the aegis of the Governor include the massive shut-off of water services to thousands of households throughout Detroit in an effort to break-up and privatize a publically-owned water system which is one of the most advanced in the U.S. The United Nations has already spoken out against the inhumane character of the massive water shut-offs which are endangering the health and well-being not only of the households impacted but the overall population and environmental quality of all residents of the City of Detroit and its environs.

    Efforts aimed at the privatization of the public water system in Detroit which provides fresh water to suburban and other regional communities has not been seriously questioned or halted by the federal bankruptcy court. These efforts related to the water system are being also carried out against other publically-owned assets of the City of Detroit.

    Belle Isle, a large public park located between the city and Ontario, Canada, has been seized by the State of Michigan over and above the desire of the City Council and the people of Detroit. The Detroit Public Lighting (DPL) System is currently being privatized and may be taken over by the DTE Energy Corporation, one of the largest utility firms in the U.S. which has over $20 billion in assets.

    The Detroit Public Works (DPW) has been privatized as well. In addition, the world-renowned Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is being threatened with seizure by the emergency manager where the treasured art works worth billions of dollars could be sold on auction by the dictatorial imposed leadership from State in order to pay off questionable and illegal debts to the banks.


    It is the contention of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and MECAWI, that the egregious policies of the banks and corporations are responsible for the underdevelopment and impoverishment in the City of Detroit. The targeting of Detroit and other majority African American municipalities in the U.S. by banks has been well-documented in numerous legal actions where financial institutions have agreed to pay billions of dollars in damages not necessarily to the victims of such actions but to the federal and state governments.

    Resources which should be utilized to keep people in their homes who have been subjected to predatory lending, as well as the payment of restitution and reparations to communities negatively and disproportionately affected by the actions of unscrupulous banks, has not taken place. In the State of Michigan over $500 million allocated through the so-called “hardest hit” program to assist distressed homeowners have not been utilized to prevent mortgage or tax foreclosures.

    These same funds however now, are being utilized to identify homes to be torn down, many of these houses and small business were abandoned as a direct result of the predatory actions of the banks. A Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) has been established and is currently seizing thousands of homes and vacant lots without any consultations with residents of the affected neighborhoods in Detroit.

    A Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, which works in conjunction with the DLBA, has been established with open collaboration of the administration of President Barack Obama. A private meeting held involving Dan Gilbert, the owner of Quicken Loans, one of the many predatory loan firms operating in Detroit and around the country, along with other corporate heads, was convened at the White House in early 2014. With the endorsement of the White House, the wholesale seizure of monies supposedly designed to assist distressed homeowners are being utilized to obtain title and raze properties. These actions raise serious questions about the role of the Obama administration in the ongoing emergency management and forced bankruptcy of Detroit.

    The Obama administration submitted a brief in the federal bankruptcy during 2013 saying that actions taken by the emergency manager in Detroit was constitutional. No consideration of the blatant violation of the 14th amendment protections of due process were taken into consideration.

    The 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution passed by an act of Congress in 1870 was designed to grant the right to vote to the former enslaved Africans. Despite the nullification of the statewide vote in December 2012 against emergency management, the U.S. Justice Department and the White House are apparently collaborating with State of Michigan officials by fostering the blatant violation of the 15th Amendment along with the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    An appeal to the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2013 by several elected political officials requesting the intervention of the federal government in reviewing the denial of the right to vote and due process as protected under the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, and other acts of Congress including Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws, has gone unanswered. In addition to the legal brief submitted to the federal bankruptcy court by the Obama administration in support of the emergency management and forced bankruptcy of Detroit, the administration has endorsed the privatization of the administration of federal grants that had been previously handled by the City of Detroit departments and employees. The expropriation of these federal grants from the City of Detroit and turning them over to private foundations located outside the City has resulted in the termination of employees and departments that previously administered such grants where employees paid into the pension systems that are now under attack by the emergency manager.

    At present retirees are being threatened with the theft of their pensions. As early 2013, the emergency manager Kevyn Orr had warned that pensioners could suffer up to an 84 percent cut in their monthly checks. Public pensions are protected by the state constitution of Michigan yet federal bankruptcy Judge Rhodes ruled in conjunction with the eligibility for bankruptcy that the pensions of municipal retirees could be impaired.

    Nonetheless, the banks and corporation which are responsible for the destruction of the city through the outsourcing of jobs, the closing of factories, schools and other businesses and the targeting of the City of Detroit through usurious municipal financial loans and bond issues have gone unpunished by the emergency manager, the State of Michigan, the federal government and the Jones Day law firm which is administering the municipality.

    In a series of hearings on the status of an interest-rate swap deal in operation from 2005-2014 issued by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) beginning in late 2013 and early 2014, it was exposed by Atty. Jerome Goldberg acting on behalf of City of Detroit retiree David Sole, that the predatory nature of such financial deals had and still does have a detrimental impact on the residents of the City. After rejecting two previous proposals to terminate the interest-rate swap deal drafted by Jones Day and the banks, federal Judge Rhodes agreed to turn over another $85 million to these financial institutions despite the fact that the City of Detroit residents through their tax dollars had already paid over $300 million to these banks which help to drag the City into financial distress.

    Although Judge Rhodes appeared to have agreed with the arguments put forward by Atty. Goldberg acting on behalf of David Sole in his Jan. 16, 2014 ruling, this was reversed in a later ruling in March 2014 which allowed Jones Day law firm to turn over the additional $85 million to the banks. In the earlier ruling Rhodes intimated that the City of Detroit, or Jones Day, which is acting illegally on behalf of the City of Detroit, would have solid legal grounds in pursuing actions against Bank of America Merrill Lynch and UBS for the predatory character of the interest-rate swaps, however, this was dropped in the later ruling.

    The Moratorium NOW! Coalition has put forward the demand that the illegitimate debt purportedly owed to the banks should be cancelled. If such actions were carried out the City of Detroit would have adequate resources to re-structure the municipality based upon the interests of the residents of the City, its employees and retirees.


    The Moratorium NOW! Coalition and MECAWI are requesting specific actions by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, other agencies concerned with the prevention of racism, racial discrimination and genocide, sympathetic governments and non-governmental organizations affiliated with the international body. We are requesting that sanctions be implemented against the U.S. government for its failure to protect the residents of the City of Detroit, in particular its majority African American population.

    These sanctions could involve the denial of recognition of the U.S. within relevant United Nations agencies and activities. Sympathetic governments could refuse to trade and engage in investments in the United States and its interests outside the country.

    A statement condemning the failure to protect the civil and human rights of the people of Detroit and the complicity of the Obama administration, the State of Michigan, the emergency manager Kevyn Orr in the deliberate denial of these rights, should be introduced and passed within the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly. These sanctions and resolutions of condemnation should be based on the violations of not only U.S. Constitutional law but those Conventions within the United Nations system designed to prevent racism, racial discrimination and genocide.

    According to the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination drafted in 1965 and fully adopted in 1969, all relevant member-states of the United Nations in accordance with Article 2 requires that:

    “1. States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races, and, to this end: (a) Each State Party undertakes to engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions and to ensure that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with this obligation;
    (b) Each State Party undertakes not to sponsor, defend or support racial discrimination by any persons or organizations;

    “(c) Each State Party shall take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists;

    “(d) Each State Party shall prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including legislation as required by circumstances, racial discrimination by any persons, group or organization;

    “(e) Each State Party undertakes to encourage, where appropriate, integrationist multiracial organizations and movements and other means of eliminating barriers between races, and to discourage anything which tends to strengthen racial division.

    “2. States Parties shall, when the circumstances so warrant, take, in the social, economic, cultural and other fields, special and concrete measures to ensure the adequate development and protection of certain racial groups or individuals belonging to them, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. These measures shall in no case entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights for different racial groups after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved. “

    Since the local, State and Federal governments of the U.S. including its courts have apparently conspired to deny the fundamental rights under domestic law to protect the rights of the residents of this majority African American municipality, it is necessary that the United Nations undertake immediate actions design to halt such gross violations of both civil and human rights laws and conventions. As was demonstrated during anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles during the period of the 1960s through the 1990s, the United Nations is well within its authority to enact sanctions against States which deliberately engage in racism, racial discrimination and acts of genocide against population groups.

    Also we firmly believe that the calculated denial of such rights constitute a conspiracy to commit genocide against the majority African American population of Detroit, but not limited to this racial group, but all other nationalities residing in the City as well as former employees now residing outside the City. Passed in December 1948 and enforced by the United Nations as of January 1951, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is extremely relevant to the conditions being imposed on the people of the City of Detroit through the denial of basic civil and human rights.

    The Convention defines genocide within Article II stating that “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

    Sections a, b and c are particularly relevant to the conditions being imposed on the people of Detroit and its majority African American population but not limited to this segment of the population and impacting all residents and retirees of the City of Detroit. The Convention also provides guidance on the acts committed which are punishable by the United Nations related to acts of genocide.

    A section with the Convention notes that:

    Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:
    (a) Genocide;
    (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
    (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
    (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
    (e) Complicity in genocide.

    The contention of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and MECAWI is that these actions enacted by the emergency manager, the State of Michigan, the multi-national corporations and banks with the complicity of the federal government and courts constitute deliberate acts designed to further oppress and repress City of Detroit residents through the denial of due process, the nullification of votes, the privatization of public assets, the theft of healthcare systems and pension funds from employees as well as the termination of thousands of household’s water services, is and will further result, in the causing of great bodily harm, mass deaths and the forced and systematic removal of the majority of the population currently residing in the City.

    Finally, we are requesting that the United Nations Human Rights agencies with deliberate speed convene an International Tribunal on the Crimes of Racism, Racial Discrimination and Genocide being perpetuated against the people of Detroit and the State of Michigan. This tribunal should be held in the City of Detroit and be open for testimony and observation by all residents of the City of Detroit as well as all other interested parties, governments, non-governmental organizations and other relevant United Nations agencies.

    Submitted on Monday June 30, 2014 by:
    Abayomi Azikiwe on Behalf of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI)
    [email protected]

    Our struggle to be counted as part of the public continues


    The cases of two women who were arrested for protesting against the demolition of their homes were dismissed last week. It is a positive sign, but the struggles of the shack-dwellers against state neglect and violence continue

    On the 5 of September 2013 Sibongile Msiya, Nokulunga Magobongo and Bhekani Mzinhle were arrested in Cato Crest. Their homes in the Marikana Land Occupation had just been illegally destroyed by the eThekwini Municipality. The residents responded by organising a road blockade. When the first police officers arrived on the scene the three comrades showed them a court order interdicting the Municipality from carrying out evictions. When the Superintendent, Mganga, arrived the three comrades were arrested on the spot. They were all charged with ‘public violence’. Their real ‘crime’ in the eyes of Mganga was that they were standing up for their rights and showing the police that the Municipality’s actions were illegal and criminal acts against the public.

    The two women, Sibongile Msiya and Nokulunga Magobongo, were seriously assaulted in the Cato Manor police station. The movement was able to secure police bail for all three comrades at R500 each. When Sibongile and Nokulunga were released their clothes were torn and they had visible injuries. This was police violence against the public.

    After numerous appearances in court the case of the Cato Crest Three went to trial on Monday and Tuesday last week. The three comrades were represented by a legal aid lawyer. The two police officers that testified claimed that the three had stoned a police car. This was not true. The two police officers gave such contradictory and obviously unconvincing evidence that the case against Nokulunga was dismissed on the first day of the trial. The case against the Sibongile and Bhekani was dismissed on Tuesday.

    The road blockade organised by the residents of the Marikana Land Occupation in Cato Crest on 5 September 2013 did not result in any harm to any person or any damage to any property. But as usual burning tyres are taken as violence. The fact is that on this day the eThekwini Municipality was guilty of illegally destroying people’s homes, in violation of the law, the Constitution and a court order. It is also a fact that two women were severely beaten by the police for trying to show that the actions of the Municipality were illegal. Yet no one from the Municipality or the police has been arrested for these crimes. We all know that no one from the Municipality or the police will ever been arrested for these crimes. We all know that there will be no arrest for the murder of Nqobilie Nzuza by the police in Cato Crest on 30 September 2013. A police officers can shoot a 17 year old girl in the back of the head in front of a large number of witnesses and he will never be arrested.

    It is clear that it is taken as a criminal act for us to stand up for our rights. It is clear that we are not taken as being part of the public. We are the people that can be evicted, beaten and killed with impunity.

    Since our movement was formed in 2005 we have constantly been arrested on charges of public violence. Not one person arrested on this charge has ever been convicted. For years the charges would always be dropped just before the cases went to trial. Now that the state is taking the cases to trial they are not getting convictions. The power of arrest is being systematically misused as a form of political intimidation.

    We were scheduled to return to court for the trial of the eKuphumeleni Three (Shallcross) tomorrow but the case has just been adjourned, at the last minute, ‘for further investigation’. Of course this means that there is no evidence against the accused. The trial of the Ridgeview Twelve is set for 30 and 31 July 2014. The trial of the Umlazi Seven is set for 6 August 2013.

    Last weekend our attempt to hold a meeting in Madlala Village had to be abandoned due to intimidation. We are pleased to be able to report that on Sunday we were able to hold a successful meeting in the community which has now been renamed Sisonke Village. Some of the men who were involved in the intimidation last week came to the meeting to apologise for their action. They explained that they had been misinformed about our movement by the local ANC.

    For further information and comment on the dismissal of all charges against the

    Cato Crest Three please contact: Sibongile Msiya @ 071 165 6742 Ndabo Mzimela @ 072 401 5974

    For further information and comment on case of the eKuphumeleni Three please contact:

    Albert Ngubane @ 079 482 0904 Makhosi Khumalo @ 079 261 6716

    For further information and comment on the situation in Sisonke Village please contact:

    Mam Bhemu 083 5879313 Mam Zulu 084 2003916 Mam Dodana 083 9741223

    Protest letter to PCEA Moderator Rt. Rev. David Gathanju on Destruction of Kibagare Wetland


    Two members of civil society were attacked and wounded by goons hired by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa last Saturday when they visited Kibagare wetland where PCEA has begun construction of luxury apartments. Now civil society wants the PCEA leadership to stop the destruction of the wetland

    14 July 2014


    Rt. Rev David Gathanju
    Moderator PCEA
    Jitegemea House,Muhoho Avenue, South 'C'
    PO Box 27573, Nairobi-00506,
    Tel: 254-020-6003608/6008848
    Mobile: 0722-205051, 0734-333040
    Fax: 254-020-6009102, E-mail: [email protected]

    Dear Sir/Madam


    For years, renowned Kenyan environmental activist and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the late Professor Wangari Maathai, fought to protect over 10 acres of wetland on Lower Kabete Road/Peponi Road [in Nairobi].

    Kibagare wetland is an ecological haven for numerous tree, plant and bird species, as well as a source of income for an estimated 300 plant and pot sellers and other people who have been working in the area for over 15 years.

    It has come to our attention that the piece of land was allocated to the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) by the Kenyan government in compensation for land the church had lost elsewhere.

    Note that your action is against the Environmental Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission whose intention is to work to inspire and equip all congregations and presbyteries including the PCEA to work for Ecological Justice for all of God's earth.

    Other functions of the ministry include:

    To produce, promote and distribute faith-based environmental resources for individuals, congregations and presbyteries

    To link Presbyterians to resources on issues such as water, climate change, fracking, and even eco-justice worship

    To oversee the Earth Care Congregations program, which encourages Presbyterian churches PCEA included to care for God’s earth and certifies those that have affirmed the Earth Care Pledge and taken holistic actions in earth care in the fields of worship, education, facilities and outreach

    To establish an Eco-Justice network dedicated to environmental wholeness with social justice, seeking to be a prophetic voice for substantive change in the church and in the world among others.

    This therefore means that the action of PCEA does not only contravene the Kenyan law but also the tenets to which PCEA subscribes to hence this petition to PCEA to drop the planned construction of luxury apartments at the Kibagare Wetland as it shall lead to wanton destruction of biodiversity.

    We therefore advise that PCEA STOPS with immediate effect the planned construction of the luxury apartments as this is bad PR to the PCEA especially given the fact that we have informed all the Presbyterian Networks across the globe.

    We are open to discussing this issue in a constructive way, should you wish to get in touch with us.

    We look forward to your response


    Karanja Njoroge
    Centre for Environmental Action
    144 Mimosa View, P.O. Box 63170-00619
    Nairobi, Kenya.
    Phone: 254 729030301 / 721527983
    E-mail: [email protected]

    David C. Otieno
    Coalition for Constitution Implementation
    +254 708 566012
    [email protected]
    Twitter: @cidioti

    Zahra Moloo
    Journalist | Producer
    Nairobi, Kenya
    +(254) 724 568 164

    And Members of Civil Society in Nairobi

    Urgent call from Gaza civil society: Act now!


    Numerous Palestinian civil society organisations are calling on people and nations of the world to demand and end to the orgy of brutal violence conducted by the Israeli government in Gaza. Without international pressure, Israel will continue the massacres

    We Palestinians trapped inside the bloodied and besieged Gaza Strip call on conscientious people all over the world to act, protest and intensify the boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel until it ends this murderous attack on our people and is held to account.

    With the world turning their backs on us once again, for the last four days we in Gaza have been left to face massacre after massacre. As you read these words, over 120 Palestinians are dead now, including 25 children. Over 1,000 have been injured including countless horrifying injuries that will limit lives forever –- more than two thirds of the injured are women and children.

    We know for a fact that many more will not make it through the next day. Which of us will be next, as we lie awake from the sound of the carnage in our beds tonight? Will we be the next photo left in an unrecognizable state from Israel’s state-of-the-art flesh-tearing, limb-stripping machinery of destruction?

    We call for a final end to the crimes and oppression against us. We call for:

    • Arms embargos on Israel, sanctions that would cut off the supply of weapons and military aid from Europe and the United States on which Israel depends to commit such war crimes;
    • Suspension of all free trade and bilateral agreements with Israel such as the EU-Israel Association agreement;
    • Boycott, divestment and sanctions, as called for by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society in 2005

    Without pressure and isolation, the Israeli regime has proven time and time again that it will continue such massacres as we see around us now, and continue the decades of systematic ethnic cleansing, military occupation and apartheid policies.

    We are writing this on Saturday night, again paralyzed in our homes as the bombs fall on us in Gaza. Who knows when the current attacks will end? For anyone over seven years old, permanently etched on our minds are the rivers of blood that ran through the Gaza streets when for over three weeks in 2009 over 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including over 330 children.

    White phosphorous and other chemical weapons were used in civilian areas and contaminating our land with a rise in cancers as a result. More recently 180 more were killed in the week-long attacks in late November 2012.

    This time what? 200, 500, 5,000? We ask: how many of our lives are dispensable enough until the world takes action? How much of our blood is sufficient? Before the Israeli bombings, a member of the Israeli Knesset Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party called for genocide of the Palestinian people.

    “They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes,” she said. “Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.” Right now nothing is beyond the murderous nature of the Israeli State, for we, a population that is mostly children, are all mere snakes to them.

    As said Omar Ghraib in Gaza, “It was heart shattering to see the pictures of little boys and girls viciously killed. Also how an elderly woman was killed while she was having her iftar at Maghreb prayer by bombing her house. She died holding the spoon in her hand, an image that will need a lot of time to leave my head.”

    Entire houses are being targeted and entire families are being murdered. Early Thursday morning the entire al-Haj family was wiped out — the father Mahmoud, mother Bassema and five children. No warning, a family targeted and removed from life. Thursday night, the same again, no warning, five more dead including four from the Ghannam family, a woman and a seven year old child amongst them.

    On Tuesday morning the Kaware family did get a phone call telling them their three-story house would be bombed. The family began to leave when a water tank was struck, but then returned with members of the community, who all came to the house to stand with them, people from all over the neighborhood.

    The Israeli jets bombed the building with a roof full of people, knowing full well it was full of civilians. Seven people died immediately, including five children under 13 years old. Twenty-five more were injured, and eight-year-old Seraj Abd al-Aal succumbed to his injuries later that evening.

    Perhaps the family was trying to appeal to the Israeli regime’s humanity, surely they wouldn’t bomb the roof full of people. But as we watch families being torn apart around us, it’s clear that Israel’s actions have nothing to do with humanity.

    Other places hit include a clearly-marked media vehicle, killing the independent journalist Hamed Shehab, injuring eight others, a hit on a Red Crescent rescue vehicle and attacks on hospitals which caused evacuations and more injuries.

    This latest session of Israeli barbarity is placed firmly in the context of Israel’s inhuman seven-year blockade that has cut off the main life-line of goods and people coming in and out of Gaza, resulting in the severe medical and food shortages being reported by all our hospitals and clinics right now.

    Cement to rebuild the thousands of homes destroyed by Israeli attacks had been banned and many injured and ill people are still not being allowed to travel abroad to receive urgent medical treatment which has caused the deaths of over 600 sick patients.

    As more news comes in, as Israeli leaders give promises of moving onto a next stage in brutality, we know there are more horrors yet to come. For this we call on you to not turn your backs on us. We call on you to stand up for justice and humanity and demonstrate and support the courageous men, women and children rooted in the Gaza Strip facing the darkest of times ahead. We insist on international action:

    • Severance of diplomatic ties with Israel
    • Trials for war crimes
    • Immediate international protection of the civilians of Gaza

    We call on you to join the growing international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign to hold this rogue state to account that is proving once again to be so violent and yet so unchallenged.

    Join the growing critical mass around the world with a commitment to the day when Palestinians do not have to grow up amidst this relentless murder and destruction by the Israeli regime.

    When we can move freely, when the siege is lifted, the occupation is over and the world’s Palestinian refugees are finally granted justice.

    ACT NOW, before it is too late!

    Signed by:

    Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions
    University Teachers’ Association in Palestine
    Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (Umbrella for 133 orgs)
    General Union of Palestinian Women
    Medical Democratic Assembly
    General Union of Palestine Workers
    General Union for Health Services Workers
    General Union for Public Services Workers
    General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers
    General Union for Agricultural Workers
    Union of Women’s Work Committees
    Pal-Cinema (Palestine Cinema Forum)
    Youth Herak Movement
    Union of Women’s Struggle Committees
    Union of Synergies—Women Unit
    Union of Palestinian Women Committees
    Women’s Studies Society
    Working Woman’s Society
    Press House
    Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
    Gaza BDS Working Group
    One Democratic State Group

    Young women stand up against violence and discrimination

    Peter Kenworthy


    Eradicating violence and discrimination against women in Zimbabwe is an arduous task that demands hands-on training and mobilization in the rural areas where the violence is most prevalent. Not by a well-meaning Western NGO, mind you, but by the women themselves.

    ‘Organizing young [Zimbabwean] women into representative leadership structures is key for harnessing young women’s power and ability to stand for themselves and challenge injustices,’ a recently published paper by the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) concludes. The organization trains and mobilizes poor young women in the political hotspot of Mashonaland Central Province, a rural area of Zimbabwe.

    One example of the status of women in Zimbabwe is the extensive politically motivated violence against women in connection with elections, particularly in 2008, where men loyal to President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF systematically raped and tortured thousands of women who were supposedly active or sympathetic towards opposition parties.

    But once the newsworthy images of tortured politically active women faded from sight, there has been little focus on how young Zimbabwean women are dealing with such violence and discrimination. But dealing with it they are, says Glanis Changachirere. She is the 31-years-old director of the IYWD.

    ‘We have inspired the young women to play active roles, taking action, and following up on the issues. And we have managed to break the silence on politically motivated violence, and raise awareness among young women on their rights and need to participate in political processes’.

    According to the IYWD paper, this awareness has manifested itself in many positive ways. Ways that are not only hypothetical or serve as matters of principle, but that also reflect positively on both the self-awareness and the material conditions of the women themselves.

    One example of this is the young rural women who, through an IYWD committee, challenged religious doctrines that discourage them from participating in public gatherings, by threatening the local chief and the church leaders with legal action, if they did not end this practice.

    Another example is that of a IYWD-committee of young women in the provincial town of Bindura, who last week threatened to take a local council to court for failing to provide a piped water system that they has been promised.

    Institute for Young Women Development has worked in partnership with Danish solidarity movement Africa Contact since 2012.

    * Peter Kenworthy works with Africa Contact


    Amnesty International Job: Individuals at Risk Campaigner

    Location: Nairobi Starting salary: USD$ 48,254

    A I

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    Use your experience as a human rights campaign strategist to respond to some of our most critical campaigning issues. Working with the global Individuals at Risk Team, you will lead our work on behalf of Individuals at Risk (IAR) in Sub-Saharan Africa, assessing changing situations and reacting quickly to emerging priorities, capitalising on your political judgement and inspiring worldwide action within days.


    The urgent human rights issues that we need to bring to the world's attention are hugely varied and so to make a real impact and drive understanding of these issues we work with individuals at risk.

    In this continental role you will work closely with our regional offices in Dakar and Johannesburg, Amnesty International sections and civil society actors, to design and support effective action on behalf of individuals and communities through developing campaign plans and techniques. You will prepare relevant materials and deliver appropriate communications and advice to multiple stakeholders in global locations. Spotting opportunities for action, you'll decide on effective strategies and tactics, coordinating the delivery of Amnesty International’s campaigns, increasing the effectiveness across the wider movement.

    Amnesty International’s annual letter-writing marathon, for which the IAR team is responsible, is one of our flagship projects and allows this Campaigner to be at the heart of shining a light of these urgent issues, engaging new supporters, and collaborating with other civil society groups. The work of the IAR campaigners brings a sense of immediate impact on people's lives; join us and be a part of making lasting change.


    You will be confident in developing and managing an effective portfolio of casework for campaigning on behalf of individuals at risk and delivering these in an ethical way. You will have rich experience of working in Sub-Saharan Africa, and local applicants are encouraged to apply. Through you working familiarity with the region you will have knowledge of risks and resources regarding human rights defenders and other individuals at risk in the region.

    You will be highly motivated and have experience in mobilizing individuals, communities, and human rights defenders at imminent risk. Your confidence combined with your campaigns communication expertise will enable you to swiftly hone in on key issues and pinpoint the most effective means of communication to ensure colleagues and supporters understand the approach and aims of each campaign. You will be an inspiring and engaging communicator in English, and for this continental role, the ability to work in French would be a strong advantage for the successful applicant. Flexible enough to adapt your approach as priorities change, you will also bring a real flair for innovation and will ensure the IAR campaigning actions are relevant and successful in the Sub-Saharan Africa region.


    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. 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.

    Closing Date: 20th July

    Application link:

    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 Advocacy Coordinator – Africa

    Salary: $68,699 per annum Location: Nairobi, Kenya


    cc A I
    For more than 50 years, we’ve been campaigning for human rights, wherever justice, freedom and truth are denied. We’ve reshaped policies, challenged governments and taken corporations to task. And in doing so, we’ve changed thousands of lives for the better.

    As Regional Advocacy Coordinator you will play a crucial role in the development, coordination and implementation of AI’s regional advocacy and lobbying activities throughout Africa.


    Working closely with your peers in the regional office, you’ll monitor and analyse developments and advocacy opportunities within the African Intergovernmental bodies (including the African Union, African Commission, the Pan-African Parliament and NEPAD), and provide advice and reports on key developments. That means developing and maintaining effective and strategic working relationships with key stakeholders and civil society partners in the region through information sharing, coordination of advocacy and campaigning. Beyond that, you’ll produce analysis, policy briefs, submissions and other relevant outputs, including the identification of threats, opportunities, trends and geo-politics within the regional bodies relevant for AI advocacy priorities.


    With extensive experience of advocacy and engagement with key the Africa IGOs, and strong knowledge of international relations, human rights law and humanitarian law, you already have the skills necessary to identify, analyse and exploit opportunities for influencing authorities on human rights issues in the region. Your proven political judgement, and relevant experience of research for advocacy purposes will ensure you are able to produce enhanced and systematic monitoring of regional bodies in Africa, and crucially - the consistent delivery of timely and sound political advice on trends, policies and advocacy opportunities.


    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 more than 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, human rights education, or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    To Apply: please visit
    Closing Date: 27th July 2014

    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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