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Fahamu is pleased to announce the appointment of Hakima Abbas as its new executive director (ED). Hakima began with Fahamu as the coordinator of the AU Monitor initiative and subsequently served as deputy director over the last two years. The founding director, Firoze Manji, stepped down as ED in January 2010 to enable him to lead on Pambazuka News and Pambazuka Press, a position he will continue with. Hakima takes up the post as executive director of Fahamu in November 2010. Here she maps out her perspectives for the future direction of the organisation.

We stand at a critical juncture in the movement for social justice in Africa and the global South. Important gains have been achieved but few consolidated. And despite these gains, the world – both mother earth and the people that inhabit it – is buckling under the contradictions of patriarchal super-capitalism and the reign of democratic ‘unfreedom’.[1]

As the people of Africa, we continue to stand on land and natural resources, including biodiversity, that global powers stake out with envious greed. But, we also continue to be divided by the manipulation of false consciousness, be it based on ethnicity, race, gender (and its variances), religion and sexuality, or other differences that we fail to embrace. A self-serving elite continues to reign, repressing resistance, be it through the fist and the barrel of the gun of a so-called state ‘security’ apparatus or through the violence of the daily indignities of economic oppression. Indeed, even development has become a militarised endeavour enabling colonialism to merge its two guises of missionary and general, playing good and bad cop simultaneously, as armed Western soldiers dig wells in our villages.

Within this, the people are on a move, seeking new just, sustainable and equitable potentials. While we have been fed development ‘alternatives’ that, at their highest attainment, aspire to make inequality and oppression only more bearable, a number of movements demanding and asserting the rights of peoples and mother earth to fulfil their full potential and redress power are capturing the imagination of the oppressed globally. These transformative social movements are organised in various forms, from community-based institutions, citizens’ assemblies and organic peoples’ movements to trade unions, non-governmental organisations and solidarity movements. Each one provides an important platform for the voices of the most marginalised to express their interests, provide services and create people-centred alternatives, and together they create the movement for social justice that is daily building new perspectives, knowledge and action.

This movement is reigniting the understanding of power and oppression on the basis of the frames, tactics and instruments that we use for change and inspiring the necessity of genuine solidarity between peoples of the globe. These networks will challenge us to address our own internal contradictions and hold each other accountable to the values that we are creating. While we have rested on the frameworks inherited by great progressive thinkers (understanding that the voices of the greatest are most probably missing from our books), the movement is itself creating knowledge generated by our organic intellectuals and our actions, reclaiming learning from the institutions long drained by structural adjustment. It is this knowledge that will create definitions and institutions of democracy that go beyond mimicry for the sake of appeasing market interest, and which create mechanisms for self-determined and mutual leadership for our diverse communities. Together these movements have the power to create people-centred unity across Africa, challenging and setting the agenda for our policy makers so that we might cease to be pawns and begin to hold our peoples’ interests at every global interaction.

Unfortunately today, our movements are often deliberately marginalised from policy fora, lack the resources, information and platforms to effectively drive processes of change, face state repression – often violently, are disparate geographically and/or by the issues they seek to address, and are unable to create networks across these lines, thus lacking peer support and access to learning. Notably, movements and activists have also been deliberately removed from the history and theory of social justice in Africa.

I believe that Fahamu is uniquely placed to support the movement for social justice at this critical juncture and, as someone who has been active in several movements, I am committed to seizing the time, nurturing and consolidating further gains on the journey for change through Fahamu’s work. Because we don’t impose generic solutions, Fahamu’s interventions are relevant, timely and significant to the movements we serve. Our approach respects the collective leadership, self-determination and self-sustainability of our partners. Further, we always look for diverse and innovative approaches, tactics and resources. In particular, our use of new media and technologies, to amplify voices and strengthen advocacy for meaningful change, is critical. With our expertise, access to information and networks, we enhance the access of social movements to each other as well as to the processes, knowledge, skills, experience and platforms to strengthen their work.

Fahamu is seeking to create an open, democratic and transparent space for dialogue, learning, the germination of ideas, debate and discussion. We seek to support the movement for progressive and transformative change working with workers’, mass-based human rights, feminist, queer and sex worker, refugee and land-based (including landless) peoples’ movements. I believe that our imprint to date has given activists comfort, confidence and solidarity, while our unique position, networks and reputation have enabled us to support movements by providing platforms for advocacy, communication, learning and access to research. Indeed, Fahamu’s programmes and projects are interrelated at various levels. For instance, as we work on creating platforms for Africa-centred advocacy, we continue to generate analysis through Pambazuka, spurring in-depth thinking and knowledge generation that further contributes to the learning we develop by and for the movements we work with. We are bound by our commitment to respond to the needs and articulated goals of the progressive movements for social justice that we seek to serve. It is this cycle and synergy that makes Fahamu uniquely placed to continue to grow networks for social justice and to support change.

I have a vision of Fahamu as an organisation providing progressive peoples’ movements solidarity, support and networks. I believe that we can create a unique space, physical and virtual, in which movements are inter-connected, have access to resources – particularly knowledge – and forge common trajectories. Fahamu seeks to shift language and liberal paradigms of debate, creating the nexus between theory and practice. I hope that Fahamu itself can support a shift in the NGO world as we dare to invent a future where the work that we do becomes obsolete, sincerely creating space without sustaining power relations that keep us in business, and challenging our own contradictions as part of the NGO world and the aid architecture. I have witnessed the fruits of this vision in much of our work in the last two years and value the opportunity to further this vision as executive director with the skilled, visionary and inspiring team that make up Fahamu from the staff to the board.

I look forward to building with many others a common vision, just and equitable institutions, and popular consolidation of progressive norms. And particularly, I look forward to working myself out of a job.




* Hakima Abbas is Fahamu’s executive director.
* The phrase 'seize the time' comes from Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party.
* The phrase 'daring to invent the future' comes from a Thomas Sankara quote: 'You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. [...] We must dare to invent the future.'
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


[1] Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man