Pambazuka News 395: The political economy of ethnic identities
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CONTENTS: 1. Action alerts, 2. Features, 3. Announcements, 4. Comment & analysis, 5. Advocacy & campaigns, 6. Pan-African Postcard, 7. Obituaries, 8. Books & arts, 9. Letters & Opinions, 10. African Writers’ Corner, 11. Blogging Africa, 12. Zimbabwe update, 13. African Union Monitor, 14. Women & gender, 15. Human rights, 16. Refugees & forced migration, 17. Social movements, 18. Elections & governance, 19. Corruption, 20. Development, 21. Health & HIV/AIDS, 22. Education, 23. LGBTI, 24. Racism & xenophobia, 25. Environment, 26. Media & freedom of expression, 27. Conflict & emergencies, 28. Internet & technology, 29. Fundraising & useful resources, 30. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 31. Publications
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Highlights from this issue
FEATURES: Onyango Oloo on the ethnicity question in Kenya
COMMENTS AND ANALYSIS:
- Andile Mngxitama et al on Biko's legacy and continuing relevance
- Kevin Pina looks at the disappearance of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine
- Stephen Lewis on peace, continuing sexual violence and the role of the UN
- African Conference on Participatory Democracy calls for socialism in Africa
- Sokari Ekine on racism in the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association World Championship
- American filmmaker detained in Nigeria
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Tajudeen Abdul Raheem on why Zimbabwe is not Kenya
LETTERS: Readers respond to the Pambazuka News Obama issue
OBITUARIES: Breyten Breytenbach remembers Mahmoud Darwish
BOOKS & ARTS:
- Rasna Warah reviews Yash Tandon's 'Ending Aid Dependence'
- Kim Scipes reviews Steve Ellner's 'Rethinking Venezuelan Politics: Class, Conflict, and the Chavez Phenomenon'
AFRICAN WRITERS' CORNER: Amina Koki Gizo interviews Sa'adatu Baba about Nigerian popular fiction and censorship
BLOGGING AFRICA: Sokari Ekine rounds up African blogs
AU MONITOR: AU Monitor looks at debates on Aid EffectivenessANNOUNCEMENTS: Seeking judges for children’s essay competition
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Details of deal emerge
WOMEN & GENDER: UN worker accused of rape
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Clashes in eastern DRC draw UNSC concern
HUMAN RIGHTS: States urged to prioritize victims’ rights
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Israel expels 91 migrants
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Report on shack-fires launched
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Angola opposition takes issue with vote in Luanda
CORRUPTION: Court rejects Zuma graft case
DEVELOPMENT: Africa becoming a biofuel battleground
HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Using mobile phones to fight HIV in Uganda
EDUCATION: Kenya education ministry ‘has failed’
LGBTI: Fighting miscarriages of justice in South Africa
RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: Belated apology for apartheid casualty
ENVIRONMENT: Experts examine trade and climate concerns
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Moroccan blogger jailed
ADVOCACY AND CAMPAIGNS: Cesária Évora nominated for peace award
INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY: Africans ‘to gain from Web plan’
PLUS: e-newsletters and mailings lists; courses, seminars and workshops, and jobs
*Pambazuka News now has a Del.icio.us page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit http://del.icio.us/pambazuka_news
Global: Sign on to reduce IMF power - letter to Finance Ministers & IMF Board
Below is a sign-on letter initiated by Bretton Woods Project (UK) encouraging Finance Ministers and members of the IMF Board to shut down the Poverty Reduction & Growth Facility (PRGF), with the funds in it handed over to a more suitable institution providing finance to the countries that have been receiving PRGF loans. Sign-ons to [email protected] Organisational (preferred) and individual sign-ons will be accepted until 26 September. Please indicate if you are signing as an organisation or individual. Questions can be directed at [email protected]
30 September 2008
XXX, Minister of Finance
IMF Executive Directors
Re: IMF Review of Lending Instruments, Facilities, and Policies
It is time to seriously re-think the role that the IMF should be playing in low-income countries. The Executive Board's plan to review all the Fund's lending instruments and facilities over the next few months presents an opportunity to do so.
The IMF has come under serious criticism both internally and externally about its focus and role in low income countries. The Malan Committee highlighted the inappropriate role the Fund is playing in low-income countries, overstepping its traditional role of addressing short term balance of payment crises to act as a development financier, even though it is not a development institution. The report concluded that "the Fund's financing in low-income countries is an area where it has moved beyond its core responsibilities."
The Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the IMF has highlighted problems with both the structural and macroeconomic conditions in PRGF countries. The IEO report released in January 2008 highlighted the lack of progress on reducing conditionality. Despite this, the first annual report on structural conditionality shows that it has increased rather than decreased. The 2007 IEO report demonstrated that PRGF programs largely replicate the conditions attached to the "structural adjustment" lending which has been so heavily criticized.
While the Fund may have a role to play in addressing short-term balance of payments problems, it is clearly not equipped to act as a long-term development lender in low-income countries. Conditionality included in PRGF programs constrains the domestic policy space needed by countries to develop innovative economic policies best suited to create growth and reduce poverty in their specific country contexts. It also undermines the accountability of borrowing governments, who blame IMF conditions for the lack of investment in their social sectors.
The IMF Board should take the necessary steps to insure that the planned review of the PRGF is rigorous and broad. We believe that any comprehensive examination is likely to echo past recommendations for a sharp curtailment or closure, given the IMF's lack of development expertise and apparent inability or disinclination to limit the use of conditionality. We call on you to close the PRGF to new requests. The funds remaining in the PRGF Trust should be shifted to other institutions and other forms of development assistance, implying no net decrease in resources available to low-income countries.
With new resources available to low-income countries from debt relief and scaled-up aid, now is the time to make sure that the international financial architecture meets the serious challenges faced by low-income countries. That calls for new thinking about the IMF's role. The undersigned organisations (and individuals) urge you to use the IMF's facility review to do just that.
Zimbabwe: Action alert from Pamberi trust
At Book Café we have created a place of beauty, joy, togetherness and tolerance; an arts centre that celebrates free expression, where artists work with dignity and audiences appreciate a diverse multitude of perspectives. Since 1997 our Book Cafe in Harare has guaranteed no censorship. It is a refuge from violence and threat that imposes cruel uniformity; a refuge from the denial of free creation that is the antithesis of African values.
“MANAGING CREATIVITY ~
Freedom of Expression in the Arts
Pamberi Trust and African Synergy are independent registered charitable trusts, governed by constitution, and under authority of Board of Trustees.
Today free expression in Zimbabwe is bloodied and torn. Crisis and repression have trampled basic tenets of our social and cultural life.
Some of us inside the country have decided to create the kind of life we wish to live; our chosen power is the arts. The humanity and freedom of African arts and its role in fostering social cohesion, is upheld at Book Café in Harare.
At Book Café we have created a place of beauty, joy, togetherness and tolerance; an arts centre that celebrates free expression, where artists work with dignity and audiences appreciate a diverse multitude of perspectives.
Since 1997 our Book Cafe in Harare has guaranteed no censorship. It is a refuge from violence and threat that imposes cruel uniformity; a refuge from the denial of free creation that is the antithesis of African values. Book Cafe has grown into a cultural icon in Zimbabwe - everyone goes because they can say things they feel must be said. We cry, laugh, sing and dance together. If you sit at Book Cafe long enough you meet every type of Zimbabwean.
Art is not a weak force: with freedom threatened, the economy in ruins and mob brutality tearing people’s lives apart, there is humanity through the arts. Art is not escape, it is transcendence. Book Café fights for human dignity.
Through Book Café hundreds of artists derive their livelihood and thousands more benefit from development, training, support and services.
BOOK CAFÉ IS UNDER THREAT
Economic freefall in Zimbabwe is painful. Zimbabwe is operating at 5% of manufacturing capacity, the economy has shrunk by over half, unemployment is 85%, life is expectancy 35 years, the main referral hospital cannot perform surgical procedures, universities and schools barely open, the currency has collapsed and over a quarter of the population has fled.
Aside from surveillance, intimidation of artists, and threats Book Café faces impossible economic conditions – 2,000,000% inflation, shortages of every commodity, spare parts, unbearable poverty and extreme hardship. One billion Zim dollars, the largest note in circulation, is now USD 80c and falling.
In April the authorities ‘quarantined’ (ie ‘borrowed or stole’) our entire project funds and financial reserves. We have begged permission to obtain our own funds, and very little has been availed to us. Book Café and its hundreds of artists are suffering. It is illegal, arbitrary and punitive.
Because of these 3 reasons: economic disaster, repression and theft of our financial assets our very existence is threatened. Our survival and phenomenal growth in arts (from 500 to over 650 events a year, plus huge increase in the numbers of artists engaged, maybe double, and now over 1000) counts as big past achievements. We intend to survive.
We have survived everything thrown at us (including attempted bombing by apartheid agents in 1987 and threats from our own government for 25 years).
We are determined to survive this most difficult and trying period ever.
Having cut expenditure to bare minimum, we have reserves to see us through to September. Thereafter, we are uncertain. We are asking for help.
If you or your friends would like to make any donation, please write to Steve Khoza, Director [email protected] We will reply with details.
Any amount is gratefully received and acknowledged. All funds are audited and spent in accordance with our goals. You will be sent our annual report.
If you would like to know more see BCC and Al Jazeera footage
“Six Nights a Week at the Book Cafe”
PART ONE : http://youtube.com/watch?v=HeYLB0ok_e4
PART TWO: http://youtube.com/watch?v=oo3JUXNkftQ
There is lots of information on internet; google Book Café Harare. If you would like to know more, we are happy to answer any question.
A Zimbabwean Arts NGO that operates Book Café and Mannenberg jazz club, stages over 600 arts events annually and manages the widest-ranging arts development program in Zimbabwe.
The arts are by definition untidy. Talent erupts in unlikely places at inconvenient times. Yet it is this stimulus that drives the arts, more critical than ever to basic freedoms, social progress and cohesion. If the arts are to be a vital force in the life of the nation, we have to accept responsibility to nurture diversity, sustain emerging talent and to create facilities for community participation in the arts.
identify and promote new indigenous artistic talent
provide training and development for performing artists
operate and promote venues and events for performing artists
organize debate on community issues
organize festivals of music and performing arts
operate retail outlets for material culture products
promote literature, written and published in Africa
provide information for the cultural community
American documentary filmmaker detained in Nigeria
Andrew Berends, an established, award-winning American filmmaker and journalist from New York, was detained Sunday August 31st by the Nigerian military along with his translator, Samuel George, and Joe Bussio, the manager of a local bar. Andrew entered Nigeria legally in April 2008 to complete a documentary film.
Andrew was held in custody without food, sleep, or representation, and with limited water for 36 hours. He was questioned by the army, the police, and the State Security Services in Port Harcourt. He was then temporarily released, with an order to the SSS office at 9AM Tuesday morning. The State Security Services has confiscated his passport and personal property. Andrew's translator, Samuel George, remained in custody over night.
The US State Department is aware of the situation, and an attorney has been retained on Andrew's behalf. We, Andrew's friends, family, and colleagues, are deeply concerned that he has been held without cause and are calling for his safe treatment and immediate release.
* Contact Aaron Soffin at Phone: 917.887.4063 / 212.712.2781 or by email at: [email protected]
**Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
The political economy of ethnic identities in Kenya
Part 1: Tribalism as shorthand for political problems
The question of ethnic identities in Kenya is intricately tied up with the country's politics and influences to a greater or lesser degree the class cleavages in ways which often defy orthodox analyses from the right or the left.
But if you ask Kenyans across the political, ethnic, racial and religious divide what is the cause of major political problems in Kenya, many of them will, without hesitation, cite "tribalism" as the number one problem. Depending on who you are talking to, it will be either those "Kikuyus"and their determination to hog all political and economic power to themselves. Or it will be those "Luos" who are perennial trouble makers and stone throwers not content with accepting the status quo. If you go down to the Coast, you may hear people grumbling about those upcountry "Wabara" people who have consciously marginalized the Coastals. A good friend of mine argued in a national newspaper column a few days ago that the "small tribes" have really been left out by the dogfights between the "major tribes". And on and on it goes with outbursts against those "Indians" when it comes to looking for a convenient scapegoat to explain away our economic woes.
Quite frankly these perceptions are naïve, shallow, ahistorical and dangerous.
There is no doubt that certain elites in Kenya converge around and along narrow ethnic or even sub-ethnic agendas that are detrimental to the national good. It is true that what passes for political parties in this country are frequently nothing more than vehicles of political expediency fueled by tribal agendas and tribal constituencies. It is also a fact that political elites have hijacked the neo-colonial state to divvy out economic goodies based on a system of ethnic and regional patronage. As someone who argues from socialist positions, I am also aware of the reductionism of certain doctrinaire approaches which reduces everything in society to class, overlooking gender, racial, religious, generational and other specificities. In other words, nobody in their right mind can downplay the corrosive and debilitating effects of what some observers call “negative ethnicity” in Kenya.
When I assert that using a broad ethnic brush to explain away our national problems is naïve, shallow, dangerous and ahistorical, I am merely pleading for a sober, scientific deconstruction of ethnic identities in Kenya based on our collectively lived historical experience.
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF ETHNIC IDENTITIES IN KENYA
The entity we now know as Kenya is a product of the historical interaction between diverse African peoples in this particular patch of the eastern part of our great continent with the forces of world monopoly capitalism. A version of the many anecdotes about the origin of the name Kenya has it that in the mid 1840s when a couple of German missionaries were busy exploring and “discovering” Africa they ran into a bunch of locals in the Mount Kenya region. Depending on whether it a Mgikuyu or a Mkamba retelling the story, Herr Krapf (or was it his counterpart Rebmann?) pointed to the snowy peaks of our tallest mountain and inquired via their guide about the name. He was allegedly told “ Kirinyaga” or “the place where God lives”. To his Teutonic ears, the German visitor heard and contracted it to “Kenya”, leaving us stuck with a distortion which ended up being the name of the country famous for its long distance runners, stunning environment and exotic wild life.
In a sense, our national identity was built on a stencil cut out by a clueless European traveler almost two hundred years ago.
More fundamentally, the process of “becoming Kenyan” was directly connected with the imperialist incursion at the tail end of the 19th century- from the ravenous carving up of the African continent at the 1884 Berlin Conference to the annexation of our country by the British, first by the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888 to the formal declaration of Kenya as a British Protectorate in 1895 to the promulgamation of Kenya as a British Colony in 1920.
What hitherto had been a conglomeration of diverse Kenyan peoples at various stages of socio-economic development from the autonomous semi-feudal kingdom of Wanga in the west to the Ismalized coastal city states of Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu etc and the myriad communal, largely egalitarian communities among the Mijikenda, Luo, Agikuyu, Maasai and the like were now transformed into a territorially distinct “country” where each and every one of these diverse Kenyan people were considered “British subjects” subservient to the Crown in the UK; a colony where the best land was grabbed by racist British settlers; a missionary lab where Christian ideologues attempted to wipe out all vestiges of the indigenous traditional cultures; a tea, coffee and wheat plantation dotted with vast ranches- with most of the proceeds destined for the so called “mother country”.
The British foreign domination was of course resisted by communities all over Kenya. In 1895-96 Mbaruk al Amin Mazrui led a valiant guerrilla war against the invaders along the Kenyan coast. In 1913-15, Me Katilili, an octogenarian grandmother emerged as a leader of the Giriama people in Kilifi mobilizing local peasants to resist forced labour and compulsory taxation. For her efforts she earned herself the title of Kenya’s first political prisoner- forcibly exiled hundreds of miles away from her community but heroically escaping from custody to continue her fight. Among the Dawida, Mwangeka also led and inspired an uprising. At around the same time in central Kenya Waiyaki wa Hinga was leading the charge against the British- he was later buried alive in Kibwezi. Among the Nandi, Koitalel arap Samoei was conducting a ten year armed resistance to the incursion of British imperialism, symbolized by the Kenya-Uganda Railway. Other stalwarts of these early resistance movements include women like Syotuna among the Akamba and Moraa wa Ngiti among the Gusii- not to speak of later nationalist heroes like Harry Thuku, Mary Nyanjiru, James Beuttah, Makhan Singh, Elijah Masinde, Oginga Odinga, Chege wa Kibacia, Muindi Mbingu, JD Kali, Pio da Gama Pinto, Achieng’ Oneko, Fred Kubai and others.
In the end, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, the British had the Maxim gun and we did not.
One of the immediate consequences of the brutal British take over was the question of entrenching tribal identities at the expense of more nationwide agendas. First and foremost, even the question of who were and how we called ourselves was mediated by the British colonial state. A colonial bureaucrat had in 1917 written a memo cited by Professor Al Amin Mazrui in his book on the history and identity of the Swahili peoples stressing the urgency of enforcing tribal identities as a bulwark against growing national consciousness. It is for this reason that the colonialists outlawed nationwide social and political organizations, restricting people to such outfits like the Kikuyu Central Association, the Ukambani Members Association, the Kavirondo Tax Payers Association, the Taita Hills Association and so on. This did not prevent these associations from collaborating together in a joint anti-imperialist project for national independence.
The other noxious by-product of British colonialism was the phenomenon of being "named" and identified by our oppressors. For instance upto this day in 2008 it is standard practice to talk of the "Kikuyus" even though the proper name is the Agikuyu; people refer to the “Taitas” even though they call themselves the Dawida. Fortunately slurs like “Kavirondo” for the Luos; “Suk” for the Pokot and “Kitosh” for the Bukusu have long since been abandoned. In the 1930s the colonialists robbed the Yiaku people of the Mukogodo forest in Laikipia District just north of Nanyuki of their identity by forcibly merging them with the Maasai. One of the consequences of that is that today, among the 4,000 remnants of the Yiaku, LESS THAN TEN can still remember and speak of their mother tongue and the majority are in their eighties and nineties dying out by the year. Similarly, the original indigenous hunter-gatherer communities of Kenya like the Ogieks, the Njemps and others are often arbitrarily “absorbed” into more dominant ethnic groups.
Also in the colonial period certain artificial clusters were baptized “tribes” even though it was often a convenient fiction to suit certain political agendas. An example is the appellation, “Abaluhyia” to refer to several distinct linguistic groups (Samia, Abakhayo, Marachi, Manyala, Wanyore, Ikhisa, Tiriki, Maragoli, Bukusu, Isukha, Idakho, Marama) as one tribe. The same goes with the “Kalenjin” cluster which brings together the Kipsigis, Nandi, Tugen, Keiyo, Marakwet, Pokot and other communities. One can make a similar argument that there are no such group as the Meru, but rather it has to be broken down to the Tharaka, Chuka, Tigania, Imenti and Egoji people. Until recently the Mbeere people were lumped together with the Embu. And in the 1960s, for political hegemonic reasons the larger “Meru” and “Embu” communities were cynically appended to the Agikuyu.
That is why it is bizarre to see, read and hear of violent evictions of so called “enemy tribes” in the 21st century- killed and displaced using the spurious and specious excuse of “ethnic purity”- when no such purity existed in the first place and even if it did has been thoroughly eroded through inter-marriage, urbanization and resettlements across the country.
THE MYTH OF ETHNIC PURITY IN KENYA
Here is my theory about so called "Pure" Ethnic Identities in Kenya:
By and large, these are historically determined, socially constructed CONVENIENT community MYTHS.
Some years ago- 2005 to be exact- when I was still residing in the west end of Toronto, Canada, I ran into a middle aged Southern Sudanese who happened to be a Dinka. He had also lived in Kenya for over a decade and he told me his version of how the Southern Luos ended up in Kenya. He said that in Sudan they have another name for the Luos which means that this appellation came later in the history of this community.
My uncle, the veteran historian Prof. B.A. Ogot has documented in his seminal text on the Southern Luos how many Luhyia clans in Gem (Siaya District) were assimilated as Luos. And he should know- this grandson of Agina the son of Paulo Opiche and grandson of Ayieko. His grandfather is my father’s grandfather and my father told me that this polygamous ancestor of Onyango Oloo had both Luo and Luhyia wives. Ogot’s grandmother was a co-wife of my father’s paternal grandmother (who I was told by my own paternal grandmother was another Luhyia who did not speak a word of Luo. Interestingly enough my own “Luhyia” grandmother from Emanyulia- who spoke BETTER Dholuo than her sons and daughters- in law from Karachuonyo, Oyugis and Seme- startled me when she revealed to me sometime in 1972 or 1973 that her folks had actually been “Luos from Alego” who had resettled in Emanyulia near the Butere-Yala train tracks.
Quite frankly I never believed her- until over thirty years later, when a Kenyan woman born and raised in Emanyulia writing online from southern France repeated this story in a certain Kenyan cyberforum almost word for word- yes, indeed there was actually a Luhyia clan in Emanyulia who were originally Luos from Alego! She herself was quite conversant with the Luo language and had relatives from Anyiko on the outskirts of Yala Township.
When I once argued that many Kisiis are former Luos and many Luos are ex-Kisiis I was virtually slapped by tribal venom from Luo and Abagusii friends and colleagues of mine. But I was right: the Luos know it and the Kisiis know it.
It is just that our accumulated, largely mythological creation stories have encouraged us to imagine the "ethnic jirani other" as the enemy who stole our land, raped our grandmothers and placed a multi-generational pox on us.
I should have added that there are similar kinship ties among the Luos and the neighbouring Kalenjin communities. For instance, one of my sisters has a kid whose name is Samoei- even though the kid’s father is a Luo. But guess what, his grandmother is a Nandi. Back in my Luanda Dudi village in Kisa West, Khwisero, Western Province there was this old pint sized cattle-herd who never ever married. And he used to tell us that he was a Meru. Again, how far fetched that story is I am not sure.
What I am saying about Luos can be extended to the Agikuyu and the Maasai; the Akamba and Meru; the Waswahili na Mijikenda and even many Kenyans who imagine they are pure Wahindis. How many people know for instance that Kenya’s SECOND Vice President Joseph Murumbi was part Mhindi and part Maasai? How many people know that Najib Balala is part Mhindi and part Mwarabu (with probably some Mijikenda relatives somewhere down his lineage)? How many people know that John Keen’s father was of European descent? How about Kariuki Chotara? His last name is often a pejorative equivalent to the equally derogatory “Point Five” slur used to describe Kenyans of mixed race.
In my own immediate family I have cousins who have Swedish mothers; nephews who have Tanzanian fathers; in laws who are from Nanyuki. My own son has two Meru grandparents on one side- apart from the whole mchuzi mix on his father’s side.
Who knows what Kenyan communities and the attendant ethnic identities would have emerged had the British colonialists not invaded and occupied our lands?
Is it possible that over time, the Luos, the Luhyias and the Abagusii would have merged into a synthesized ethnic group called the Abagusiluohyias? Think of the stranglehold they would have on the Soccer Championships!
Could we be talking about the Maagikumerumbians?
Or the Akamboranas?
Or perhaps the Turkopokotomarkweiyo?
How about the Gujarasomalis or the Arabogiriamas?
The possibilities are just endless.
What happened in Kenya instead is the REALITY of historical colonial oppression.
About thirteen years ago I read a book called The Swahili: Idiom and Identity of an African People by author/activist/scholar Alamin Mazrui and Ibrahim Noor Shariff. Somewhere in the pages of that book I recall a passage about a 1917 letter from some colonial DC instructing other functionaries to do everything they can to foster tribal identities among the Kenyan nationalities as a way of thwarting the growth of a collective national consciousness.
This is one of the reasons why the first nationalist organizations had names like the Kikuyu Central Association, the Taita Hills Association; the Kavirondo Tax Payers Association, the Ukambani Members Association and so on and so forth. It is not that Kenyans back then were so tribal that they could only form “tribal bodies” - on the contrary - they wanted to form nationwide patriotic formations but this was considered a grave threat to the colonial status quo.
For evidence, you will find out that all these organizations collaborated and worked together and had a common anti-imperialist objective of fighting for Kenyan independence. As early as 1923 Kenyans of Indian descent defied the attempt to segregate them from their African brothers and sisters by leading the fight which led to the defeat of the White Paper which wanted to transform Kenya into an apartheid state like South Africa or the former Rhodesia.
When we pick up this multi-ethnic patriotic thread in 1990 when Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia and to a certain extent the Reverend Timothy Njoya went public with their agitation for multiparty democracy we should not forget the very important 1981 to 1990 chunk of underground anti-imperialist organizing featuring patriotic and again multi-ethnic formations like Second of March Movement, Cheche Kenya, the December Twelve Movement, the Kenya Anti-Imperialist Front, Harakati ya Kupambania Demokrasia Kenya, Upande Mwingine, the Kenya Socialist Alliance, Chama Cha Ukombozi, the Kenya National Front, the Kenya Revolutionary Movement, Ukenya, Umoja, Mwakenya, the Me Katilili Revolutionary Movement, the Kenya Patriotic Front, the Muungano wa Kupambania Demokrasia Kenya, the Organization for Democracy in Kenya, UWAKE, the Februray 18th Movement and many others that have slipped my mind.
As a rule all of the above formations were multiethnic, multiracial NATIONAL progressive and patriotic formations something that can be gauged by some of the insiders and foot soldiers- Ngugi wa Thiongo, Koigi wa Wamwere, Willy Mutunga, Alamin Mazrui, Abdilatif Abdalla, Shadrack Gutto, Micere Mugo, Edward Oyugi, John Munuve, Rubiik, Odindo Opiata, Adanje, Shadrack Mwarigha, Kathini Maloba, Maina wa Kinyatti, Ngugi wa Mirii, Kaara wa Macharia, Omondi K'Abir, Njuguna Mutahi, Wahu Kaara, Wang'ondu wa Kariuki, Mwandawiro Mghangha, Wafula Buke, John Odongo, Zarina Patel, Shiraz Durrani, Sultan Somji, Irung'u Houghton, Njeri Kabeberi, Jembe Mwakalu, Oduor Ongwen, Odenda Lumumba, the Mungai Brothers, Tirop arap Kitur, Onyango Oloo, Adongo Ogony, Kishushe Mzirai, Mwangi wa Githinji, Chitechi Osundwa, Karimi Nduthu, Yusuf Hassan, the late Mwakdua wa Mwachofi, and a whole bunch of other people some of whom are alive and some who have passed away.
Ironically, some of the "Young Turks" veterans were much, much older than the patriotic comrades that I have name-checked in the preceding paragraph. But again, you see them continuing the very same multi-ethnic NON-TRIBAL national tradition of political mobilization- FORD’s founders like the late Jaramogi and the late Mzee Muliro and Martin Shikuku, Jaduong’ George Nthenge, Kenneth Matiba and Shahib Bamhariz liaised with younger firebrands like Wamalwa Kijana, Raila Odinga, Paul Muite, Gitobu Imanyara, Anyang Nyongo, James Orengo, Murtaza Jaffer, Kiraitu Murungi and other patriots to create the massive opposition that would have surely toppled Moi in 1992-were it not for the artificially created schisms imported from without.
The period between 1992 and 1997 again exhibited yet another multi-ethnic phase of popular mobilization with the likes of Dr. Willy Mutunga, Njeri Kabeberi, Kivutha Kibwana, Timothy Njoya and Davinder Lamba forging the NCEC into the most militant and progressive political machine agitating for democratic reforms and constitutional change.
The period between 1998 and 2002 we saw the faith communities led by stalwarts like Ndingi Mwana Nzeki, David Gitari, Timothy Njoya and Reverend Mutava Musyimi picking up the thread from fiery clerics of an earlier era like Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge and Henry Okullu to lead the fight for democratic reforms.
And of course we see the Unbwogable Eruption of 2002 leading to this massive anti-KANU pan Kenyan coalition umbrella group bringing together Charity Ngilu, Mwai Kibaki, Anyang Nyongo, Wamalwa Kijana, Raila Odinga, Najib Balala, Kipruto Kirwa, Mukhisa Kituyi, Kivutha Kibwana etc to confront and defeat the Moi-KANU dictatorship. Again we see that Kenyans coming together as Kenyans- not as Luos, Gikuyus, Kalenjins etc.
In summary, my argument in this section is that contrary to mainstream clichés, Kenyan politics has NOT always been dominated by narrow ethnicity as the driving force.
[To be continued]
* Onyango Oloo is Secretary General Social Democratic Party of Kenya Nairobi. This paper was delivered at the Goethe Institute, Nairobi on June 18, 2008. Be sure to look for Parts II and III in the next two issues of Pambazuka News.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Global: Seeking judges for children's essay competition
Men and women of African descent wanted from across the African diaspora to Judge essays written by children aged 8 to 16 years for "The Annual Essay Contest for Children of African Descent". Essays will be submitted in both English and French. Schools in English- and French-speaking Africa and the diaspora are invited to indicate their interest in participating in this contest. Visit: www.lornajones.net for previous years' winners. [email protected]
Steve Biko's paradise lost
Andile Mngxitama, Amanda Alexander and Nigel C Gibson
The following is taken from the introduction to Biko Lives! Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko is edited by Andile Mngxitama, Amanda Alexander and Nigel C Gibson and published by Palgrave Macmillan.
"This is one country where it would be possible to create a capitalist black society, if whites were intelligent, if the nationalists were intelligent. And that capitalist black society, black middle class, would be very effective … South Africa could succeed in putting across to the world a pretty convincing, integrated picture, with still 70 percent of the population being underdogs." - Steve Biko (1972)
The 30th anniversary of Steve Biko's murder in police custody (on September 12 1977) comes almost 15 years after the formal ending of apartheid in South Africa. This fact alone raises several fundamental questions: how do we remember Biko? What contributions did the black consciousness movement make to the course of black liberation in South Africa and the world? How does the conception of black liberation, as enunciated by Biko and his colleagues, square up against the realities of post-apartheid South Africa?
Indeed, Biko lives today in South Africa, but so do the material outcomes of colonialism, segregation, apartheid and - most recently - neo-liberal economic policies. South Africa continues to be characterised by sharply contrasting realities.
Under the terms of the negotiated settlement of the early 1990s, the ANC won political - but not economic - power. Less than 5 percent of the country's land has changed hands from white to black since 1994 and four white-owned conglomerates continue to control 80 percent of the Johannesburg stock exchange.
Black economic empowerment (BEE) schemes have created black millionaires in the thousands, making South Africa the fourth-fastest growing location for millionaires after South Korea, India and Russia.
But the vast majority of South Africans remain at the other extreme - these are the 45 percent of South Africans who are unemployed; the one in four who live in shacks located in shantytowns without running water or electricity. This is the country Biko continues to haunt, and to inspire …
Rather than a stage of psychological liberation, Biko considered "real needs" - the experience of "our common plight and struggle" - the challenge for black consciousness philosophy. At the same time, he insisted that radical intellectuals not only reject the racist regime and its invention of "Bantustan" politics but play an important role by using what they have learnt in the apartheid schools and colleges against the regime itself.
Biko's concept of black liberation anticipates the post-apartheid reality of black poverty and exclusion alongside white wealth, legitimised by a black presence in government.
It has often proven difficult to describe this phenomenon, especially since the 1994 "miracle" destabilised discourses and ways of seeing which were rooted in the black experience such as black consciousness. How do we name a social political formation that is managed by former liberation fighters, but remains in the service of the apartheid status quo?
When black consciousness appeared on the scene [in the mid-1960s] it loudly proclaimed its own name in its own language and created a new black whose raison d'être was the audacity to be, particularly, in the face of white supremacist power. When young activists of the black consciousness movement entered prison on Robben Island, they confronted the old political leaders who had been sitting in jail for decades with little hope and little fire for rebellion.
The new blacks appeared like a whirlwind, confounding the old leaders. Listen to Nelson Mandela recall the shock of this defiant quest to claim one's right to be:
"These fellows refused to conform to even basic prison regulations. One day I was at head office conferring with the commanding officer. As I was walking out with the major, we came upon a young prisoner being interviewed by a prison official. The young man, who was no more than 18, was wearing his prison cap in the presence of senior officers, a violation of regulations. Nor did he stand up when the major entered the room, another violation. The major looked at him and said, 'Please take off your cap.' The prisoner ignored him. Then in an irritated tone, the major said, 'Take off your cap.' The prisoner turned and looked at the major and said, 'What for?' I could hardly believe what I had just heard. It was a revolutionary question: What for?"
There are at least three main memories of Biko contending in South Africa today. The first finds expression in the black business class, through its claim to be entitled to the white wealth created from the exploitation of colonialism and apartheid. The BEE programme mobilises the common historical experience of oppression and exclusion by black South Africans to carve for itself a slice in the white world. The 1994 political settlement made it possible for those blacks most prepared to occupy the position of the whites in society to do so in the name of transformation without transforming the very structures of accumulation, production and redistribution created by colonialism and apartheid. Click here!
Biko advocated the rejection of such a scheme: "We believe that we have to reject their economic system, their political system and values that govern human relationships … We are not really fighting against the government; we are fighting the entire system."
Biko had foreseen that an economic model which integrates blacks into the very structures of colonialism and apartheid would create an unhealthy and self-defeating competition among blacks: "It is an integration in which black will compete with black, using each other as rungs up a stepladder leading them to white values. It is an integration in which the black man will have to prove himself in terms of these values before meriting acceptance and ultimate assimilation, and in which the poor will grow poorer and rich richer in a country where the poor have always been black."
The second contestation of Biko's memory comes from the state-linked political and bureaucratic classes. Their ascendance into the higher echelons of the post-apartheid bureaucracy has in practice also mobilised a version of black consciousness which, on the face of it, privileges blackness. The discourse of "transformation", "representivity" "and reflecting the demographics" of society are the concepts employed in the process …
As a bureaucracy, this confronts the majority of blacks as a cold, arrogant, often violent and indifferent system. The Biko who these two main post-apartheid black classes have appropriated is a Biko who is mute in the face of continued black suffering, exclusion and humiliation.
The business and political classes have nothing to say to the multitudes who live in the shacks and the RDP [reconstruction and development programme] houses that have been described as dog kennels; who continue to suffer unacceptable infant mortality rates; whose hospitals are less than places of abandonment and death; who continue to die from Aids. In a sense, Biko's thought has been reduced to slogans on T-shirts weaned of all its radical content as a philosophy of black liberation, and images of Biko have come to adorn glossy magazines.
The third contestation of Biko is the shout of the black majority for whom the formal ending of apartheid has not yet altered circumstances in any meaningful way.
This living Biko finds expression in the everyday struggles of the black masses for dignity and freedom. As Imraan Buccus writes, "Since 2004 an unprecedented wave of popular protest has ebbed and flowed across the country … This makes South Africa 'the most protest-rich country in the world'."
It is the explicit contention of the editors that Biko lives in these spaces of resistance which now appear and disappear and are revived in different forms and different parts of the post-apartheid society. The legacy carriers of the black consciousness philosophy are the excluded majority who continue to make life under extreme conditions and who, as Frantz Fanon once put it, cannot conceive of life otherwise than in the form of a battle against exploitation, misery and hunger.
An array of movements and organisations are demanding a dignity and a recognition that fundamentally challenges neoliberal post-apartheid South Africa. Every election cycle since the 2004 national election has seen movements across the country lift cries of "No Land! No Vote!" or "No Housing! No Jobs! No Vote!" signalling their refusal to participate in an unsatisfying "ballot box democracy".
Instead, they demand a genuine reciprocity, a different notion of politics, "a true humanity", as Biko puts it "where power politics will have no place".
If a politics that transcends the current reality is to emerge, it would in all likelihood emerge as these new movements and forms of self-activity continue to develop their own voice.
* Biko Lives! Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko is edited by Andile Mngxitama, Amanda Alexander and Nigel C Gibson and published by Palgrave Macmillan. This extract first appeared in the September 7th Sunday Independent.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org
Cover-up grows in the case of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine
Events marking the one-year anniversary of the abduction and disappearance of Haitian human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine took place in several major cities in August, 2008. Demonstrations and vigils were held in Port au Prince, Haiti where several hundred supporters marched to the Palace of Justice to demand that the government of President Rene Preval and the United Nations release a report on their investigations into his disappearance. Similar actions took place in London, Oakland and Los Angeles.
Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was last seen in Haiti after leaving a meeting with a human rights delegation from the United States and Canada on August 12, 2007. His abandoned vehicle was found the next morning and he has not been heard from since. Although his alleged abductors contacted friends and family two days later demanding a $300,000 ransom, most people including Amnesty International, believe this was a ruse to cover up what was actually a political abduction aimed at silencing Mr. Pierre-Antoine. They point to the fact that most kidnappers maintain contact in an effort to negotiate and arrange for payment. Amnesty International issued an appeal last January where they stated, "Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine's abduction was reportedly made to look like a kidnapping for ransom. On Tuesday 14 August, the alleged abductors called Pierre-Antoine's family asking for a ransom of USD 300,000. However there has been no further contact from the abductors."
So who is Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine and why is there a growing chorus of international condemnation of the government of President Rene Preval and the U.N. regarding his case? According to Amnesty International, "Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine graduated in psychology from the Haitian State University and obtained further specialisation on child psychology in Montreal, Canada. He has been involved for several years as a grass-roots community organizer, mainly working with children. In the early 1990s, he co-founded the Foundation for the Support of Children (Fondsayon Kore Timoun Yo) for young street children in Port-au-Prince, and a centre for teenage mothers (Foyer pour Mères Adolescentes)."
Mr. Pierre-Antoine is also one of the founders of the Fondasyon Trant Septanm (September 30th Foundation) and is a leading advocate and voice for victims of the 1991 brutal military coup in Haiti. He is also one of the fiercest critics of the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004 and is closely associated with his Lavalas political movement. Mr. Pierre-Antoine was appointed General Coordinator of the National Office on Migration during the last presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and was forced into exile after the U.S-installed regime of Gerard Latortue took power. He returned to Haiti to continue his human rights work in February 2006.
Brian Concannon is an attorney who works with a rights group called the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti or IJDH. Mr. Concannon, who is also a close friend and colleague of Mr. Pierre-Antoine, spoke of his decision to return to Haiti in 2006, “I know it was a difficult decision for Lovinsky, because he knew the risks, and he had a family that he loved. But in the end, Lovinsky felt he could not stay out of Haiti any longer, that he was needed to help organize progressive grassroots voices in Haiti.” Concannon recalled the pressure Mr. Pierre-Antoine faced after returning to his homeland, “I last saw Lovinsky in person in February 2007. At the time he was receiving threats, and frequently changing where he slept. He knew he was in danger, but also knew that in Haiti’s democratic transition that the traditional forces would have the upper hand. He knew that if the people did not organize, life would become more difficult for the majority of Haitians who are poor.” Days before his abduction, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine announced his intention to run as a candidate for the Haitian Senate under the banner of the Fanmi Lavalas Party, Jean-Bertrand Aristide's political party.
Wilson Mesilien, who has been standing in for Mr. Pierre-Antoine as Acting Director of the Fondasyon Trant Septanm, has condemned what he has called "a wall of silence" when referring to the investigation of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine's disappearance by the government of President Rene Preval and the United Nations in Haiti. A lack of any discernable progress made by them in the case has led to speculation ranging from a concerted effort to keep Mr. Pierre Antoine's disappearance quiet to charges of complicity in his abduction. When asked about progress made by Haitian authorities towards solving Mr. Pierre-Antoine’s case, Brian Concannon stated, “I have not heard of any report from any Haitian authorities on Lovinsky’s disappearance, despite requests from Lovinsky’s family, Fondasyon Trant Septanm, members of the U.S. Congress and human rights and Haiti solidarity activists from around the world.” In describing the progress of investigations made by the Haitian police in the case Concannon commented, “We also know that the police have repeatedly failed to follow up on leads they have been provided. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Haitian government is not reporting on its investigation because it is not conducting one.”
Other critics point to numerous death threats made against Mr. Mesilien and his family as proof of an organized effort to silence criticism of the authorities concerning their lack of a serious investigation. Amnesty International was moved to issue an appeal last December "calling for the authorities to ensure Wilson Mesilien’s protection in accordance with his wishes." Equally disturbing is the fact that the United Nations leadership has failed to recognize Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine’s abduction and disappearance altogether. According to a report delivered to the U.N. General Assembly on January 10, 2008 by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), there were no reported instances of persons disappeared in Haiti during the year 2007. The WGEID is part of the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights and as such is in the loop to receive regular human rights reports filed by the U.N. mission in Haiti.
More than five months after Mr. Pierre-Antoine’s disappearance and public acknowledgement of the case by U.N. authorities in Haiti, the WGEID completely omitted any reference to it in their report to the General Assembly. Brian Concannon is puzzled by this glaring omission on the part of the WGEID. He responded, “I cannot explain why Lovinsky was left out of the Working Group’s report. The UN Mission in Haiti issued a press release about it. The abduction was in the news, Amnesty International and other human rights groups issued action alerts. The omission was especially troubling because Lovinsky was such a high profile human rights activist, and candidate for the Senate elections.”
Whatever the reason behind the omission of Mr. Pierre-Antoine’s case in the WGEID’s report, it is sure to stoke fears of an organized effort to cover-up the facts of his abduction and disappearance one-year ago in Haiti. Demonstrations and vigils demanding accountability in the investigation of the disappearance of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, like those that occurred last week, are expected to continue to grow as a result.
*Kevin Pina is an independent journalist, filmmaker and an associate editor of the Black Commentator (http://blackcommentator.com).
*Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org
Peace is a mere illusion when rape continues
Here is an unassailable truth: if sexual violence is not addressed during the course of a conflict, then sexual violence will haunt the post-conflict period, and make of the ostensible peace a mockery for half the population.
Three days ago, I returned from Liberia. While in the country, I met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, with senior officials of the Ministry of Health, with the Minister of Gender, with the leadership of the Clinton Foundation, with the consultant who drafted the legislation for the special court to try sexual offences, with the UNICEF Representative and significant numbers of the UNICEF staff. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to meet with UNMIL, but the UN Mission in Liberia and its peacekeeping forces were inevitably a part of every conversation.
She was speaking about the contagion of sexual violence that currently engulfs the country and causes such intense concern. The statistics are horrifying: a recent study by UNICEF indicated that more than fifty per cent of all reported rapes are brutal assaults on young girls between the ages of ten and fourteen. The gender advisor in UNICEF felt that the percentage was probably on the rise, and it’s feared that increases in the HIV rates among female youth will not be far behind. The Minister of Gender showed me figures for March, 2008, indicating that the majority of reported rapes in that month were committed against girls under the age of twelve, some under the age of five, and she narrated stories of gang rape so insensate and so depraved that it reminded me of exhibits in a Holocaust museum. A further survey, of all fifteen counties in the country, found that girls and boys were united in their conviction that young girls were the most endangered group in Liberia, and incredibly enough, that there was no place and no time of day or night where adolescent girls could be considered safe.
The context of my discussions is encapsulated in the words of the Deputy UN Envoy for the Rule of Law in Liberia when she said, as recently as May 20th: We cannot expect the future leaders of Liberia, the doctors, nurses, and engineers of Liberia to be brought up amongst men who are rapists and women who are angry, degraded, frightened, depressed, embarrassed and confused.
Predictably, President Johnson-Sirleaf is thunderstruck by the force of the sexual violence. In a very real sense she is staking the integrity of her tenure on her ability to confront and subdue the war on women.
But how did it come to this? UNMIL has been in the country since 2003 it has a large contingent of women peacekeepers: it has an Office of the Gender Advisor and of the Advisor on HIV/AIDS; it has gender mainstreaming built into the mandate; both the UN Envoy and the Deputy UN Envoy are women; and the resolution of 2003 which constituted UNMIL incorporated Security Council Resolution 1325 which --- you will agree --- was supposed to guarantee the involvement of women in the peace-keeping processes, but more important, guarantee women protection and security from gender-based violence and violations of human rights. Clearly all that hasn’t worked in Liberia, where things for women and girls are getting worse. Where did we go wrong?
My own view, and the view of the organization to which I belong --- AIDS-Free World --- is that peacekeepers and force commanders alike have to take sexual violence much more seriously. It is simply untenable to argue that the responsibility to keep the warring parties at bay transcends every other human imperative. It doesn’t. You may succeed in manufacturing a semblance of peace, but for the women of the country, the conflict continues in the most painful and eviscerating of ways.
In the case of Liberia, it isn’t a matter of a contentious mandate: as I said, Resolution 1325 is built into the obligations of peacekeeping. Anyone would argue that when a peacekeeper in the field knows of acts of sexual violence having been committed, or has reason to believe that acts of sexual violence have been or will be committed, then he or she has the obligation to intervene or, to use the language of the day, the responsibility to protect. But let me be even clearer about this. Peacekeepers aren’t mere passive observers of the human family. Peacekeepers move into a country; they learn its social architecture; they watch the roiling political terrain on a day-to-day basis. They come to know the foibles, to know the extremes, to know the anomalies. More often than not, they can tell when trouble is brewing. They can intuit when men might hurtle out of control. They have the pulse of the culture. When it unravels, they’re there to bear witness. I’m saying that when patterns of sexual violence emerge, peacekeepers are rarely surprised. In some cases, they alone have anticipated the atrocities in the offing. And with that knowledge comes obligation. With that insight comes responsibility. It isn’t enough to stop the shooting when the raping continues apace. The only worthwhile armistice restores peace for the entire population, male and female. There can be no satisfaction in claiming a truce or a peace treaty which is soaked in the carnage of the women of the land.
Conventional wisdom says that it is the Security Councils job to set policy, and the peacekeepers job to follow it. But that’s too easy. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and its military contingents in-country, should be hollering from the rooftops whenever they feel that their role is somehow constrained. If you need more troops, ask for them. If you need more training, ask for it. If you require a larger contingent of police officers, insist on it. If, in the field, you see sexual mayhem in place, then after intervening, take the names of individual soldiers and witnesses and seek investigation and indictments from the International Criminal Court. If the UN’s Member States wont comply, then call a press conference and tell the world that women are being sacrificed on the altar of myopic parsimony, or perhaps more accurately, on the altar of Pavlovian sexism.
There is nothing facetious in this; I’m absolutely serious. The United Nations cannot allow the terrible assault on women to continue, while crouching behind the ambiguity of mandate. That, I remind you, is what the Department of Peacekeeping Operations did between January and April of 1994, in the perverse struggle with UN Force Commander General Romeo Dallaire over rules of engagement. And there followed the deaths of eight hundred thousand Rwandans and the start of the war in the Congo.
In the DR Congo, it is now estimated that 5.4 million people have died since the end of the Rwandan genocide. That conflict was finally supposed to have been resolved by a peace engagement of January last. To some extent, the battles stopped. But as always, just as in Liberia, the war never ends for women. In the case of DR Congo, the role of peacekeepers could not be clearer. The words of the Security Council resolution of December 21st, 2007, extending the mandate of the UN Mission in the Congo, MONUC, were absolutely unequivocal: Paragraph 18 Requests MONUC, in view of the scale and severity of sexual violence committed especially by armed elements in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to undertake a thorough review of its efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence, and to pursue a mission-wide strategy, in close cooperation with the United Nations Country Team and other partners, to strengthen prevention, protection, and response to sexual violence, including through training of Congolese security forces in accordance with its mandate, and to regularly report, including in a separate annex if necessary, on actions taken in this regard, including factual data and trend analyses of the problem . That sounds very much to me as though the Security Council knew full well that things were off the rails where sexual violence was concerned, and this was an explicit instruction to MONUC to get its act together. In that regard, it’s significant that the Security Council went even further: the final clause of the resolution requires the Secretary-General himself to report on the issues covered in Paragraph 18.
To be sure, I can’t pretend to know exactly what lay in the minds of the Security Council members, but these things I do know: Dr. Denis Mukwege, who heads the Panzi Hospital for survivors of rape and sexual violence in the Eastern city of Bukavu, told me when we met in New Orleans three weeks ago, that although the steady flow of raped women has slowed somewhat since the January accord, it continues in shocking numbers; the UNICEF staff in the field agree that things are still in the realm of nightmare for women, who live lives haunted by the fear of being violated, tortured, mutilated, infected with HIV. And who expected anything different, when the countless women who have suffered such demonic sexual violence were not sitting at the peace table last January, and were not signatories to the agreement a direct violation of Resolution 1325? Who can claim to be surprised by reports from Congolese NGOs on the ground, who say that in the country’s so-called peacekeeping period, women are still too frightened to leave their homes?
When Under Secretary-General John Holmes said the Congo was the worst place in the world for women, he was right. When Eve Ensler, the noted author of the Vagina Monologues wrote of the Congo that she had just returned from hell, she was right. When my co-Director of AIDS-Free World, Paula Donovan, visited in November, and observed that the war being waged against women may well be the most savage display of misogyny ever orchestrated in a conflict zone, she was right.
Terrible, unspeakable things have been done to the women of DR Congo. I want simply to argue that MONUC has it within its mandate to end the reign of terror. If it so chooses, MONUC can also have it within its power to end the reign of terror. Whatever MONUC feels it lacks to protect the women of the Congo --- numbers, police, equipment, training, time, leadership, resources --- let them demand it. And if those demands aren’t met, let them tell the world that madness is at work and it knows no end.
Normally, one would turn to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for help in this difficult situation. But how can we have trust?
The Secretary-General gets commendably engaged when it comes to Burma or the price of food, but where is the same sense of throbbing agitation when it comes to sexual violence? This is a Secretary-General who should be insisting on the invocation of the Responsibility to Protect in the Congo, but fails to do so. The defense and protection of the rights of women do not come instinctively to him. This is, after all, a Secretary-General who granted immunity to the former High Commissioner for Refugees, when a claim of sexual harassment against him reached a New York court. I remember that when the Secretary-General was first appointed, he told a group of NGOs that his learning curve on gender was virtually vertical. A year and a half later, the upward climb appears to have stalled at the bottom of the graph.
No, if we are to turn things around, with or without the help of the Secretary-General, the peacekeepers must lie at the heart of the transformation. How excellent that would be. Resolution 1325 would finally be liberated from the dustbins of the Security Council, and women, without fear, could take hold of their collective destiny. You can be sure there would be no vacillation. If all the peacekeepers were women, and the men of a country were under pervasive sexual assault, do you think the women would simply observe the carnage? Not a chance. And they wouldn’t need a Security Council Resolution to tell them what to do.
* These remarks were delivered at the Wilton Park Conference: Women targeted or affected by armed conflict: What role for military peacekeepers? in May 27, 2008.
* Stephen Lewis, is the co-Director of AIDS-Free World (www.aids-freeworld.org).
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
The Johannesburg Declaration: Build socialism now!
African Conference on Participatory Democracy
As comrades and compatriots, gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 14-16, 2008, from all parts of the world, at the African Conference on Participatory Democracy, hosted by the South African Communist Party and the Swedish Left Party under the auspices of the International Left Forum declare the following:
1. The African continent has been, and continues to be, ravaged by effects of neo-colonialism, the comprador bourgeoisie, and imperialism, devastated by curable diseases- amongst them TB, Malaria, underdevelopment, abject poverty and squalor living conditions affecting the majority of its inhabitants amidst its riches. That, the African continent is a repository of rich minerals - gold, diamond, coal, platinum, plants, water and oxygen resources and others.
2. The capitalist system and imperialist forces continue to plunder these riches at the expense of the majority whilst enriching a small capitalist class and some corrupt African leaders chosen to defeat substantive democracy and perpetuate a neo-liberal democratic outlook that promises rights without substance.
3. Our revolutionary support and commitment to the total liberation of the people of Africa, humanity as a whole, the working class, rural communities and peasants, free from exploitation, capitalist slavery and the commodification of human life remains unwavering.
4. Conference called on progressive forces throughout the continent and world to remain combat ready and immersed as the vanguard of everyday battles of the working class, to free the world from imperialism, neo-colonialism with all its remnants and vestiges.
5. Our passion to destroy capitalism wherever it may be, to free society from crass materialism and consumerism and to advance to a society that is democratic, co-operative and communal remains unwavering.
6. Conference committed to struggle and fight for Socialism, which is the only viable solution to the neo-colonial and capitalist crisis, putting human needs before greed.
7. Conference agreed that Socialism is the future and we must build it NOW!
8. Our unwavering solidarity among the progressive forces of the left, to join hands and strengthen organisational capacity to build a world solidarity movement, more organized and structured, assertive and militant.
9. We pledge our progressive solidarity with the left formations that continue to operate under dangerous conditions of illegality for example in Egypt and Cameroon.
10. We pledge our solidarity and continued focus on hotspots around the world that are currently under extreme violent capitalist oppression and in urgent need of relief and basic democratic rights in particular the people of Western Sahara, Darfur, Palestine, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somali, Burma and so on.
11. We pledge our commitment to the struggle for the total emancipation of women from patriarchy, religious bigotry, capitalism, racial and tribal oppression. Conference condemns the raping of women and girls and all other forms of violence.
12. We condemn in the strongest terms, the practice of child labour and child soldiers; this practice is an abominable true face of capitalism.
13. We resolve to contribute to speeding up the resolution of the land question, especially in Africa, where our people remain landless, homeless and enslaved.
14. We declare that, trade unions are potentially an important component in the struggle for socialism. We pledged to work to build progressive trade unions.
15. We commit to work with progressive forces amongst the working class, women organizations, religious, youth, children, the elderly and so on to end this crisis of capitalism.
16. We commit ourselves to build organizational capacity and leadership to promote popular participatory democracy.
17. We pledge our solidarity with the people of Latin America who are struggling to build an alternative society to the barbarism of capitalism based on human solidarity.
18. We pledge our solidarity and support to the Cuba revolution and call for the end of evil USA economic blockade and demand the unconditional release of the five Cuban heroes detained in the USA.
19. That in all the above struggles, intentions, and plans of action, participatory democracy must not, can not and will not be sacrificed for undemocratic, dogmatic and authoritarian practices, so often destroying our best intentions.
20. We call upon all communists and socialists on the African continent to work to exploit all the available democratic space to advance the cause for socialism and to promote networking among African socialists and progressive forces. The SACP was called upon to promote this regular contacts among African progressives.
We, the participants of the African Conference on Participatory Democracy declare unashamedly, proudly, and with the greatest passion, that history is not complete, until capitalism and all its vestiges come to a shameful end, and the road of the human race is lit with love for one another and with lit with Socialism.
As socialists we pledge to defend democracy, human rights and political pluralism.
Conference expressed its gratitude to the South African Communist Party and the Swedish Left Party for facilitating and hosting this historic conference on the African continent.
Conference also received and acknowledged messages of support from the communists, workers and radical left forces all over the world for which it was very grateful for.
SOCIALISM IS THE FUTURE. BUILD IT NOW!
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
* Names of organizations present:
1. Communist Party of Egypt.
2. South African Communist Party
3. Young Communist League of South Africa
6. Young Left of Sweden
7. Press Freedom Committee of the Post - Zambia
8. Left International Forum
9. Peace and Democracy Project
10. Development Work
11. South African Political Economy Series
12. Communist Party of Sudan
13. Communist Party of Greece
14. United Democratic Forces – Inkingi (Rwanda)
15. Kabale Socialist Club – Uganda
16. Communist Party of Brazil
17. Centre for Multi Party Democracy – Kenya
18. Left Party of Sweden
19. South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union
20. Public Entity
21. People’s United Democratic Movement – Swaziland
22. Centre for Policy Dialogue
23. Polisario Frente
24. Democratic Progressive Party – Malawi
25. Social Demlocratic Party - Kenya
26. Botswana National Front
27. National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa
28. National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union
29. Communist Party of Lesotho
30. Centre for Civil Society – SA
31. Centre for Policy Dialogue – Zambia
32. Khulumani Support Group – SA
33. MSP (Brazil Landless Workers Movement) – Brazil
34. National Union of Mineworkers
35. National Peasant Union – Mozambique
37. Sikhulasonke Women on Farms
38. Swaziland Youth Congress
39. Communist Party of Cuba
40. Western Sahara Solidarity Forum
41. New Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV)
Township Soccer in London
Sport is continuously being assigned to a non-political space but no-one lives in a bubble – sports people or LGBTI people. The arrival in London of the Chosen Few (CF), a team of young out Black lesbians from the township of Soweto to play in theInternational Gay & Lesbian Football Association World Championship tournament, which is overwhelmingly dominated by white gay men, is very much a political event. An event in which the only other three lesbian teams have a total of three Black players, and where the CF are stomped and fouled upon with some outrageously poor and unprofessional refereeing.
A little background on the tournament: one of the fixtures of the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association which was started in 1980. The description of the games in the Pink Paper is somewhat misleading ............"Six continents fight for cup” – one team from the whole of Asia, one from Africa and two from South/Central America with a totally disproportionate number coming from North America and Europe is hardly representative of “six continents”! Nonetheless the championship, like most amateur sporting events and associations has a laudable mission:
“to foster and augment the self respect of gay women and men throughout the world, and engender respect and understanding from the non-gay world, through the medium of football (soccer).”
But the IGLFA also needs to accept that there a huge amount of work to “engender respect and understanding” between LGBTI people. For example, acknowledging lesbophobia and racism as expressed by white gay men, as well as sexism and other prejudice in the non-gay world. The event claims to be a “World” tournament inclusive of lesbians and gay men. Yet no less than 95% of the participants were men, of whom 90% were white with only three teams from outside Europe and America – Japan, Mexico and Argentina. On the women’s side there were only five teams - the two CF teams from South Africa, one team from Chicago and two local London teams.
The hierarchies that exist everywhere do not just melt away in any context despite fine words. There is an assumption that these do not exist amongst the LGBTI people but they clearly do. This tournament played out those divisions and hierarchies. How can it be a “World Tournament” when many teams cannot afford to come, and if they could, are likely to be refused entry to the UK when they get here, or fear it will put them in danger back home? And where is the “level playing field” for those who do manage to participate when there is such a divergence in the support and welcome available to the teams – medical, diet, cost of food in the games tent and the cost of attending social events. The Chosen Few (CF) came to the games having struggled to raise the travel, accommodation and living expenses.. But they faced more obstacles in their living conditions in London: lack of support facilities such as steam rooms, access to physio treatment and a proper diet (the team had been told that their hostel had a kitchen but on arrival this was not the case and they had to resort to 1 week diet of cheap fast food) and were finally reduced to one team due to injuries. Without acknowledging and tackling these disparities, this event will continue as a white male tournament with the participation of lesbians, particularly Black lesbians, reduced to tokenism.
The Chosen Few who arrived on the 22nd August for a week’s soccer, are all members of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women based in Johannesburg. The team is made up of young unemployed women from Soweto Township for whom football is a passion and membership of the team, an uplifting and supportive network of friends. The tournament began on Monday (26 August) with each of the CF teams playing 3 matches on both days. By the close of play on Tuesday evening the number of injured had reduced the two teams to one team with reserves. One of CFs two goalies was stomped on her fingers yet no penalty was given against the opposing team. She came back the next day and was stomped on again and only her determination and bravery enabled her to play in the semi-final on Friday. So bad were the stomping, kicking and fouling that one CF player requires an operation to her ankle, and may never play again, and another was told she needed an MRI scan before any further assessment could be made about the severity of her leg injury. Three other players had injuries needing further treatment.
The girl’s insurance will not cover the cost of medical treatment for their injuries. Due to lack of funds, their sports insurance is the bare minimum and covers only basic treatment here in UK – x-rays, bandages, pain killers- and nothing when they return to SA. So the situation is that there are five young women who cannot afford to pay for private care in SA (free health care is limited and poorly resourced) so are left with untended injuries which may well affect them for life. The words “disposable people” come to mind. Next year there will be another team as those injured permanently will be replaced by a new set of youngsters. They in turn will be sent into the lion’s den unknowingly only to be eaten up by mismanagement, racism, and a disregard for the general well being of amateur athletes by an international association which is part of world football in the name of FIFA.
Despite their injuries the CF team returned to play the final games of the tournament on Friday determined to win but this was not to be. A combination of totally unprofessional refereeing and ungame’womanship’ towards the CF resulted in the team loosing the match to Hackney FC. As one impartial observer said the CF team had “lost the game even before they began”. Like a number of others, including the CF coach, she was so infuriated, she went to call for the organisers to come over to see what was going on but showed their disinterest by never bothering to turn up. Requests to have the match replayed with another referee were also denied. Although they had dreamed of taking the trophy back to Soweto, visibly biased refereeing left a sour taste in the mouths of the players.
Because of their sexuality and by their insistence on being proud out lesbians from South Africa, the Chosen Few are challenging the largely homophobic hetronormative society. To then come to an international event which claims to celebrate an LGBTI identity and foster harmony and then be further marginalised is disappointing and frustrating.
One would have thought that this would have been seen to be a fantastic opportunity for the LGBTI community in the UK to meet and hear directly from young lesbians from the townships about their lives and the situation generally in South Africa. Yet not one event was arranged by the tournament organisers to facilitate this. What did the two London teams do to welcome the teams from Soweto, except have the audacity to offer the very team that they had fouled and stomped a second hand football kit?
“We wanted to win and take the trophy back to South Africa. We are disappointed in not being able to do that but we are also angry and frustrated that the tournament was not conducted in an atmosphere of fair play and we believe racism played a part in the refereeing and fouling by some members of the opposing teams.”
If young vulnerable and relatively disadvantaged people are to be invited to international sporting events like the London 2008 G&L Championship then those responsible for organising the tournament need to make the appropriate provisions so they can play on a level playing field with other teams. Without addressing these issues, the organisers cannot defend themselves at best against disinterest and tokenism and at worst against the charge of racism.
* Sokari Ekine blogs at www.blacklooks.org
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Cesária Évora nominated for peace award
Cape Verdean singer Cesária Évora has been nominated for the second time for the Prince of Astúrias Concord Award, which is given to people or institutions whose work has contributed toward promoting peace and freedom and combating injustice and poverty in the world.
Kenya and Zimbabwe: No size fits both
There are indications that after so many false starts, grand standing, braggadocio and unrealistic demands, both sides in the Zimbabwe conflict are finally negotiating genuinely and a deal may be reached soon. It will be a tribute to the much criticised President Thabo Mbeki's tenacity but also a final realisation by the hawks on both sides that neither can finish the other without finishing the country.
One recalls a statement I made at a public meeting in Harare in 2000 soon after the unexpected defeat of Mugabe and ZANU PF in the referendum on the constitution. The Public Forum at Hotel Monomopata was organised by SARIPS (a formidable institute then, under the leadership of Prof Sam Moyo). The CDD Observer Group was led by Former President of Liberia, Prof Amos Sawyer, who also spoke at the forum. One of the speakers, Dr Ibbo Mandaza was booed because of his pro-Zanu PF stance.
My key contribution in that Forum was that the government was not prepared for defeat while the opposition was not prepared for victory. My conclusion was based on extensive conversations we had with different groups and leading figures on both sides. When we met Prof Jonathan Moyo, one of the key figures propelling the government proposals, at his Sheraton residence and office the day before the referendum, I asked him what will happen if they were defeated. His answer was that there was no way they could be defeated and if it happened, there was going to be chaos. When the delegation met Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, the same day, his response when I asked him what would happen if they won, was that there was no way Mugabe would allow it. He was convinced that the government would jail all opposition leaders.
Forty Eight Hours later the opposition had won the referendum and the government had sadza on its face. Since that day, the doomsday scenario feared for different reasons by either side had been unleashed on the people of Zimbabwe.
The fundamental reasons for the seeming unbridgeable gulf between the MDC and ZANU PF are not that many.
For one, neither of them thought the other was such a formidable opponent. ZANU PF hardliners believe themselves the liberators of the country and its only legitimate leaders into perpetuity. Worse still, the older liberators saw Morgan Tsvangirai and the youthful urban base of the MDC as a mere rebellion of prodigal kids that will come to pass. The MDC on its part underestimated the entrenchment of ZANU PF in the state and society and triumphantly thought that it could just sweep to power with its urban guerrillas armed with nothing more than their votes!
Secondly, after the referendum a reassessment began, but both sides went into the mutual delegitimation phase which has continued till now. ZANU PF denounced MDC as the creation and puppet of white settlers and their Anglo-American imperialist interests. Unfortunately, dominant sections of the MDC reinforced that image because of the way they attacked the liberation war heritage and everything ZANU PF did including the Land reform, which happens to be a very with the Black populations. By so doing, the MDC denied itself a share of the patriotic constituency.
Thirdly, the delegitimation produced different coalitions both internally and externally that encouraged belligerence. Internally and externally Mugabe, who was knighted by the British Crown and enjoyed cordial relations with the former colonial power for more than 10 years of his presidency, now became the Chimurenga war hero again promising to deliver what he could not do to the masses after 17 years in power. Internally, the MDC's ambiguities about historical wrongs made it appear politically closer to settler interests and more friendly to imperialism. Many Zimbabweans who were tired of ZANU PF became uncomfortable with MDC thereby furthering the stalemate.
Fouthly, the external dimension of the support for both sides created a racialist solidarity that made many Africans and peoples in the Third World to choose Mugabe and ZANU PF while people in Europe and America and other pro-western leaders were more sympathetic to the MDC. This made it difficult to get honest brokers.
And Fifth - As a result of the pattern of international alliances the MDC became dismissive of the African dimension of the conflict believing African leaders and states were as undemocratic as Mugabe, and therefore cannot call him to order. It took many years for the MDC to start taking intra African diplomacy seriously, thereby countering the historical identification with and sympathy for ZANUPF and MUGABE. Mugabe, having taken African and anti-imperialist support for granted did realise that people were no longer taking his vitriolic attacks on colonialism at face value. After the general elections which he lost in March 2008 before running against himself in the run-off in June, he became a complete embarrassment. He now needs Africa more than Africa needs him. In Cairo at the last AU summit, some leaders regained their public voice on the matter. Also, MDC was talking more and explaining its position to African audiences and players on the scene at the political, diplomatic and CSO levels.
How does Kenya inform the Zimbabwean situation?
The Kenyan crisis and the role of the AU and the legitimate political framework it provided through Kofi Annan's mediation and the support it got from the international community became a possible course for resolving the Zimbabwe crisis.
However similar they may seem, the parallels should not be forced. The Grand Coalition of Kenya was possible because composition of government was the main issue negotiated. In Zimbabwe it is the composition of the state that needs to be negotiated. If there are parallels between Kenya and Zimbabwe it is not 2007, but 1992. Imagine if Moi and KANU had been defeated in 1992 instead of his self chosen heir being humiliated in 2002?
*Tajudeen Abdul Raheem is the Deputy Director of the UN Millennium Campaign in Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya. He writes this article in his personal capacity as a concerned Pan-Africanist.
*Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
I just heard the terrible news that Mahmoud Darwish passed away. As for many of you, I’m sure, the anguish and pain brought about by this loss is nearly unbearable. Some of us had the privilege, only a few weeks ago, of listening to him reading his poems in an arena in Arles. The sun was setting, there was a soundless wind in the trees and from the neighbouring streets we could hear the voices of children playing. And for hours we sat on the ancient stone seats, spellbound by the depth and the beauty of this poetry. Was it about Palestine? Was it about his people dying, the darkening sky, the intimate relationships with those on the other side of the wall, ’soldier’ and ‘guest’, exile and love, the return to what is no longer there, the memory of orchards, the dreams of freedom…? Yes - like a deep stream all of these themes were there, of course they so constantly informed his verses; but it was also about olives and figs and a horse against the skyline and the feel of cloth and the mystery of the colour of a flower and the eyes of a beloved and the imagination of a child and the hands of a grandfather.
And of death.
Gently, repeatedly, terribly, by implication, mockingly, even longingly - death. Many of us were petrified. Maybe we sensed - remember Leila? - that this was like saying goodbye. Like this? On foreign soil? Time stopped there, and the lament was made nearly joyous in the ageless rhythm of the two brothers in black on their string instruments accompanying the words coming to us from the earth and from a light blowing over that distant land. We wanted to weep, and yet there was laughter and he made it easy for us and it became festive.
Afterwards, I remember, we did not want to leave the place. Light had fallen but we lingered, embracing and holding one another. Strangers looked each other in the eye, fumbled for a few words to exchange, some thoughts. How awkward it has become to be moved! I remember thinking how deeply he touched us, how generous he was. And how light. Maybe, had he known, he would have wanted to take leave in this way. No drama. No histrionics. No demagogic declarations. Maybe not even much certainty anymore. Despair, yes - and laughter. The dignity and the humbleness of the combatant. And somehow, without us knowing or understanding, his wanting to comfort us. He said he was stripping his verses of everything but the poetry. He was reaching out even more profoundly than he’d ever done before for the universally shared fate and sense of being human. Perhaps he was trying to convey that it was now time to “remember to die.”
The next day when we left, when we said goodbye in that Hotel Nord-Pinus with its huge posters of corridas and the photos of bullfighters fragile like angels in the intimacy of preparing for walking out into the blinding light, with the sweet smell of death lilies in the foyer, I wanted to kiss his hands and he refused.
Time will pass. There will be eulogies and homages. He will be ‘official’, a ‘voice of the people’… He knew all of that and he accepted it, and sometimes he gently mocked the hyperbole and the impossible expectations. Maybe the anger will be forgotten. Maybe even, the politicians will refrain from trying to steal the light of his complex legacy, his questioning and his doubts, and perhaps some cynics - abroad as well - will, this time, not disgust us with the spectacle of their crocodile tears.
Mahmoud is gone. The exile is over. He will not have lived to see the end of the suffering of his people - the mothers and the sons and the children who cannot know why they should be born into the horror of this life, the arbitrary cruelty of their dying. He will not fade away. Not the silhouette in its dapper outdated clothes and polished loafers, not the intelligent eyes behind the thick lenses, not the teasing, not the curiosity about the world and the intimacy of his reaching out to those close to him, not the sharp analyses of the foibles and the folly of politics, not the humanism, not the good drinking and the many cigarettes, not the hospitality of never imposing his pain on you, not the voice that spoke from the ageless spaces of poetry, not the verses, not the verses, not the timeless love-making of his words.
I just wanted to reach out to you. Some of you, I know, must be crying as I am now, and some never met him; but, surely, for all of us he was a reference. Maybe we will stop somewhere because we hear a flutter of birds overhead, and we will hold a protecting hand to our blinded eyes as we search the sky.
He will be alive for me in that rhythm of birds. I told him in Arles I want to propose to my fellow poets that we should, each one of us, declare ourselves ‘honourary Palestinians.’ He tried to laugh it away with the habitual embarrassment of a brother. And indeed, how puny our attempts to understand and approach the inconsolable must be! We cannot die or write in the place of his people, in the place of Mahmoud Darwish. Still, somehow, however futile the gesture, I need to try and say what an honour it was to have known this man a little and what a privilege and a gift his poetry is. And that I wish to celebrate the dignity and the beauty of his life by sharing this fleeting moment with you.
* Breyten Breytenbach was declared a "terrorist" and imprisoned in South Africa for his anti-apartheid activities.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Review: 'Ending aid dependence' by Yash Tandon
This week, ministers from over 100 countries, heads of donor agencies and representatives of civil society organisations are gathering in Accra, Ghana, for a meeting to discuss ways in which rich nations can help “developing countries and marginalised people in their fight against poverty by making aid more transparent, accountable and results-oriented”.
“Aid Effectiveness”, the main theme of this high-level meeting, has, however, come under severe criticism from the most unlikely quarters – the recipients of aid themselves. A leading voice is Benjamin Mkapa, former president of Tanzania, who in a foreword in the just released book, Ending Aid Dependence, by Yash Tandon, urges developing countries to formulate strategies to exit from the aid dependence bandwagon.
Mkapa argues that aid subjects recipient countries to “a discipline of collective control by donors right down to the village level” and that some of the most successful emerging economies, such as China, India, Brazil and Malaysia, developed not through aid, but through strong nationally-oriented investment and trade policies. (Mkapa’s own country, ironically, is one of the most aid-dependant countries in the world.)
The idea that aid is a bad idea has been around at least since the 1980s, when academics and activists began questioning the effectiveness of World Bank-IMF prescriptions, such as Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), which increased poverty levels in almost every country where they were implemented.
In his book, Tandon, the executive director of the South Centre in Geneva, argues that there needs to be a “radical restructuring of the institutional aid architecture” but falls short of calling for a total ban on aid. Aid that imposes ideological positions on countries, for instance, should be shunned completely, according to Tandon, but aid that supports struggles for social justice in the international community is acceptable as long as it is people-centred.
Ending Aid Dependence by Yash Tandon is published by Publisher: Fahamu and the South Centre 160pp.
Tandon’s views are not as radical as those of “post-development” advocates such as Susan George and Arturo Escobar, among others, who argue that aid is just another form of colonialism and should be done away with completely. These views have been articulated by various East Africans in the recently-published anthology (edited by yours truly) called Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits. In this book, prominent writers, academics and activists, including Issa G. Shivji, Bantu Mwaura, Onyango Oloo, Firoze Manji and Sunny Bindra, present an African perspective on the aid industry and why it has failed to lift millions of people out of poverty.
Bindra argues that “far from being productive or necessary, the donor-dependant relationship most often ends in mutual hatred” and that by and large, countries that have ignored donor prescriptions have prospered. Shivji, a leftist Tanzanian scholar, says that aid wrenches policy-making – a key function of government – out of the hands of African countries and into the hand of donors, which in effect makes these countries impotent bystanders, rather than active participants, in nation-building. Shivji even goes so far as to claim that the rapid rise of NGOs in Africa “is part of the neoliberal organisational and ideological offensive” that began in the 1980s with the adoption of SAPs. Manji argues that current models of development assistance breed and sustain inequalities in Africa because they are framed not in the language or rights or justice, but “with the vocabulary of charity, technical expertise, neutrality and a deep paternalism”.
So what can African governments do to get out of the aid trap? Tandon offers a seven-step programme: 1. Adjusting the mindset (psychologically liberating countries from aid dependence); 2. Budgeting for the poor and not for the donors; 3. Focusing on employment and decent wages; 4. Creating a domestic market and owning domestic resources; 5. Plugging the resource gap; 6. Creating institutions for investing national savings; and 7. Limiting aid to national democratic priorities (e.g building knowledge and research capacity or expanding social infrastructure, such as legal institutions etc.)
One of the shortcomings in Tandon’s book is that it does not show how countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Brazil weaned themselves off aid or what policies or strategies they employed to dramatically boost living standards and reduce poverty levels. In many of these countries, committed leadership made all the difference, not democratic institutions. Often, it is not “people-centred democracy” that delivers high per capita incomes and reduced poverty levels, but visionary dictatorship, as the Singaporeans and Chinese will attest.
Democracy alone has never delivered economic growth or prosperity to nations: democracy must be accompanied by a vision that is focused and aggressive. The vision should ensure that economic growth does not increase levels of inequality (which can be politically and socially destabilizing and which can adversely impact growth in the long term). The vision must also focus on developing people’s skills and strengthening institutions that enhance productivity (as did Malaysia). In addition, it should focus on eliminating corruption in order to gain citizens’ trust. Without these, it is unlikely that governments will be in a position to say no to aid.
*Rasna Warah is an editor with the UN. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations. ([email protected]).
Ending Aid Dependence by Yash Tandon is published by Publisher: Fahamu and the South Centre 160pp.
*Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Review: 'Rethinking Venezuelan politics'
Since the arrival of Hugo Chavez on the Venezuelan scene—and later, for the left and the right, on the world scene—he's been the source of considerable interest. Is he a new caudillo in the Latin American style, perhaps a reincarnation of Argentina's Juan Domingo Peron, or is he just an ego-maniac, who seeks to install a dictatorship on Venezuela?
Steve Ellner's recent book shows that Chavez and the movement he heads is much more important than either of these two questions suggest. Unlike the large majority of the writing on Venezuela in the Chavez era, which focus on Chavez' "style" or personality, Ellner focuses on substantive issues, especially around class and race. Ellner's approach rests "on the proposition that political movements best serve a developing nation by combining efforts to achieve four critical goals, as opposed to one or two of them to the exclusion of others." He then identifies these goals: "(1) the struggle for social justice; (2) the struggle for democracy; (3) the effort to promote national economic development; and (4) the adoption of economic and political nationalism."
Ellner's goal is to really grasp the essence of Chavez and his movement, and he places it firmly in the country's history since the arrival of the Spanish. He rejects the claim of "exceptionalism" traditionally applied to Venezuela by scholars. He argues the country's history is much more complex than has been recognized, and he reviews it with an eye to uncovering developments that emerge subsequently while having been ignored in the past. He's not doing this just as an academic exercise, but to help understand how the country got to the place where the population would elect Hugo Chavez to the presidency in 1998.
Where things get very fascinating for the general activist/scholar is the period between 1989 and 1999. Venezuela, which had long been seen as an "exceptional case" in Latin America, went from being prosperous and calm (at least by traditional accounts) to the site of leading opposition to neo-liberal economic policies that were being spread around the globe by the US Government and its' subordinate agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. What happened? Ellner argues successfully that the country was never as placid as described, but when the price of oil declined in the 1980s, it prevented the elite-led government from papering over problems as in the past.
The social explosion known as the Caracazo—a week of rioting and rebellion in early 1989—called into question the very legitimacy of the Venezuelan government. It also encouraged forces within the military—and most importantly, those led by Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez—to reject its role of societal "enforcer" against the poor.
Yet Ellner doesn't just focus on Chavez, the personality and ultimately political leader. He deftly examines various reforms initiated by various governments to address limitations in the social order, and sees that some of them further weakened the institutional power of the state. Combined with a general rejection of neo-liberalism by the populace, a weakened state, and a charismatic candidate such as Chavez—who explicitly rejected neo-liberalism in his efforts—Venezuelan voters shifted to his side, enabling him to assume the presidency in early 1999.
Yet Chavez does not operate alone—nor could he. He is the head of a movement that has a number of political parties and tendencies, and Chavez both initiates major projects and "oversees" discussion about policies by his followers. The Chavistas operate in a specific place and time, and among some ruthless sharks, including George W. Bush and the AFL-CIO, as well as extensive opposition from major sections of the Venezuelan elite; most importantly, the privately-owned mass media. This means the Chavez project in Venezuela has not moved in a linear fashion, but has bobbed and weaved through a coup attempt (April 2002), an eight week lockout by oil company management (late 2002-early 2003), and a recall referendum (August 2004) that ultimately left Chavez and his movement strengthened, and with the confidence to shift from initiating moderate to more radical proposals, ultimately seeking to develop "socialism for the 21st Century."
Ellner seeks to understand what happened, and why. He identifies four different stages of the Chavez presidency, and explains the two major ideological tendencies within Chavismo. He specifically examines internal Chavista debates around such salient issues as the labor movement, the oil industry, Chavez' political organization, the MVR (Fifth Republic Movement), and the issue of parallel social structures initiated by the state, and explaining how the two major ideological tendencies approached each one.
Yet Ellner argues that it is not enough just to examine the internal currents within the Chavistas. He also looks at how Chavismo differs from various Latin American populist movements of the past, and its relationship with its rank and file. His account differs from those who see the movement's rank and file as an uncritical mass, actually seeing it as the critical mass who is responsible for President Chavez' political survival between 2001-04. As I realized during my short visit to the country in June 2006, the massive mobilization in face of the coup was not organized by Chavez' political organization—they simply did not have the capacity—but was based on self-mobilization from below, with community-based activists being key.
Yet there is more to Chavismo than just the movement's rank and file. In fact, Ellner identifies two competing forces within Chavismo: those that focus on grassroots-initiated "horizontal" relations, and those that focus on the political party-initiated state, or "vertical" relations. He recognizes the grassroots, and its importance to Chavez and his project, but Ellner does not ignore the role of the MVR and the "political" struggle within the state and particularly among various nation-states, especially in regard to the United States. In fact, while he suggests that Chavez is more emotionally drawn to the grassroots, there are times when he prioritizes the "statist" aspect of the struggle. It is this strategic interaction between the grassroots and the statist aspect of the struggle that Ellner sees as being key to understanding the continuing Chavez phenomenon.
This is a very solid and sober reflection on the Chavez phenomenon, but it focuses on its development within the context of Venezuelan history, Latin America, and the global political-economic-cultural networks dominated by the United States and its allies. In fact, Ellner specifically writes about Chavez' rejection of the US-dominated "single polar" world, seeking to replace it with a "multi-polar" world. The fact that he has oil—oil that provides about 15% of the US's daily consumption (alone almost as much as from all the Middle East countries combined before the US invaded Iraq)--gives some "weight" to his position on the issue.
It's hard to critique this book, which is so well thought-out and presented: this is a major work. Ellner certainly focuses on the "class" differentiation within Venezuelan society, and he does an excellent job.
What I would have liked to see is a more-focused look at the issue of "race" in Venezuela: approximately one-fourth of the population is Afro-Venezuelan, and probably all have indigenous blood in their veins. And yet, the ones with power—corporate, governmental and social, at least before Chavez—have been almost totally white. Certainly, the white elite has historically ignored if not denigrated or destroyed the contributions of those "of color," but I believe that the elite opposition to Chavez is more than just because he threatens established interests as Ellner claims: there is no question that a significant amount of elite opposition is due to his dark complexion, support for those that are "of color," and his kinky hair, broad nose, etc., and his pride in his indigenous-Afro heritage. Videos of elite demonstrations against Chavez sure make this obvious to me.
Nonetheless, I believe Steve Ellner's new book is not only a major contribution to historiography and to political analysis of contemporary Venezuela, but it is watershed in academic work on Venezuela and Latin America overall. He takes a social "phenomenon," Chavez, and places him in a particular social context, which he understands more completely because he focuses on substantive issues and not just on "style" and "personality." He doesn't ignore Chavez' charisma, but he's not blinded by it, and he critiques the Chavista program and performance where he deems it necessary. Ellner really seeks to understand developments in his adopted country.
This, in turn, makes his book even more important. From his substantive analysis, Ellner argues that events taking place in Venezuela, despite the oil, are indicative of issues that affect the entire continent—if not even wider.
This book needs the widest readership possible—it is very rich and accessible—and my hope is that Lynne Rienner Publishers will reissue this in paperback to ensure its further dissemination. I cannot foresee any future work on Venezuela or Latin America that does not at least respond to the issues raised by Steve Ellner. He has set the bar high—and my hope is that future scholars and serious activists will accept the challenge that he has presented, a challenge that will help each of us better understand what is currently taking place in Venezuela.
* Kim Scipes, a long-time global labor and social activist, teaches Sociology at Purdue University North Central in Westville. This review first appeared at http://www.monthlyreview.org.
Rethinking Venezuelan Politics: Class, Conflict, and the Chavez Phenomenon
Steve Ellner Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner, 2008
*Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Obama - same old politics
Regarding Third world prospects in an Obama presidency: If you check the African-American press you will see widespread concern about Obama's lack of interest in the Black American community! He has been hand-picked by the American elite and has no interest whatsoever in Panaficanism as it is generally understood. He is no more a friend of Africa than Morgan Tsvangirai or the late Jonas Savimbi of Angola. the ethnicity or sex or age of the next American president will not be the deciding factors in the policies of imperial America. Obama is a product of corporate America and will do what he is told by the big banks and the pentagon!
Obama for better or worse!
So nobody really knows what the guy is gonna do - see Obama and US foreign policy. Obama might be a bit better than McCain - but he might even be worse. Remember the right wing Charles de Gaulle granting independance to Algeria, something the Socialist Party would not do being scared to be regarded as unpatriotic and weak.
At the end it may well be that Osama will pursue the same line as MacCain both serving US-corporate interests but that he will disguise this by grosser human rights propaganda.
Walden Bello's article
I have read Walden Bello's 2008-08-05 article "The Destruction of African Agriculture" and the comments on it made by Regina Birner (IFPRI) and Dan Taylor (Find your Feet).
Analysis of cause is, of course, important. Yet the essence is to actually do something to solve the issues which have arisen.
NGO Stichting Bakens Verzet ("Another Way") promotes a Model for self-financing, ecological, sustainable local integrated development projects for the world's poor. The Model enables grass-roots NGOs and interested parties in developing countries to draft their own advanced integrated development projects and apply for their seed financing. The Model provides simple, down-to-earth practical solutions to poverty- and development-related problems. It sets out step by step how the solutions are put into effect. By following the steps social, financial, productive and service structures are set up in a critical order of sequence and carefully integrated with each other. That way, cooperative, interest-free, inflation-free local economic environments are formed in project areas. Local initiative and true competition are then free to flourish there.
This work is in the public domain. It can be accessed and downloaded from website www.flowman.nl and is available for use free of charge. The website is ranked by search engines as one of the world's leading resources on a wide range of development-related topics.
A series of four short Powerpoint presentations on the Model are directly acessible from the website homepage.
It is hoped Pambazuka and its readers will consider setting a link up with the website and that researchers may see fit to cite and make use of our work in their future publications.
Why is liberation only felt away from home?
Wambui Mwangi's Barack Obama and the graveyard of hope is an articulate and well researched article that has touched the core. We are too quick to identify with heroes only when they are away and despise/ignore them when they are home. We only remember them when they die or leave for other lands and become victorious. Our mediocrity doms us to baselessness and unabashed revelry in pseudo victories which lead to no real growth. Why is liberation only felt away from home? Are we afraid to take the bull by the horns and the attendant responsibility imposed to see it through to the end. Is that why we elect substanadrd leaders over and over again who lead us to ruin? Thank you for the article. Am glad to know that it's a view held by many.
Censorship in Nigeria
Interview with Hausa novelist Sa’adatu Baba
Amina Koki Gizo
While formal publishing companies in Nigeria languished through the economic crises that accompanied the structural adjustment programmes of the late 1980s and early 1990s, young Hausa writers began writing about their lives and contemporary problems they faced. Bypassing formal publishers, they self-published their novels, often with the help of a writers' cooperative.
Although the books were dubbed ‘littattafan soyayya’ (romance novels) for the predominant themes of love and marriage, the novels -- written in colloquial Hausa that reflects the rhythms of everyday speech -- also serve as muckraking critiques of a corrupt elite and the failures of the older generation.
Women writers dominate the field, perhaps because of the large female readership; their work explores the daily life and tensions of women’s lives in contemporary Northern Nigeria. According to Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, the head of Kallabi Writer’s Association, a group of women writers, there are over 300 Hausa women publishing novels in Northern Nigeria.
The large female readership has caused anxiety, mostly from male authority figures, about a supposed negative effect the novels have on young girls. In May 2007, A Daidaita Sahu, the Kano state agency for the ‘reorientation’ of society, organized a book and film burning at a local girl’s school.
That book burning, however, was a tame threat compared to the new requirements that the Kano State Censorship Board, under the leadership of Director General Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, is seeking to impose on writers. In a letter to Kano's five writers' organisations dated Aug. 12, the board confirmed that it wanted each writer in the state to register individually before they can publish or distribute writing.
At 25, Sa'adatu Baba has twenty-three books in print and another twenty that are not yet published. She is also an executive committee member of the Association of Nigerian Authors and a student of Languages at Bayero University.
She spoke with IPS writer Amina Koki Gizo in Kano on 16 August about her writing and the current crisis Hausa writers are facing.
IPS: When did you start writing?
Sa'adatu Baba: I started writing in 1997. I write to educate -- because through writing you can send a message to the people.
Also, it soothes my worries. If I write something down, it is past tense. I just forget about it. So, it helps me psychologically and it sends a message to the people.
IPS: What is your bestselling book so far?
SB: Ban K’arya Alkawari Ba. (I do not break my promises). It is a story about love. When I released the book it sold out. I published more than 20,000 copies. We are always reprinting the book, but the more we reprint the book, the more it is finished. I can’t count how many times I have reprinted it. Now, I keep the plate with the publisher because it is always working. There is no need to take it back home.
IPS: Tell me about some of the problems you are facing and the current crisis with writers in Kano.
SB: The problem we are facing is lack of understanding.
My book Mu Kame Kanmu (Keep Ourselves Safe) is about HIV and how it is spread in our society. I wrote it because one of my friends became an HIV victim. She lost her daughter and separated with her husband as a result of this virus. So I decided to write a book about it.
When the book came out in 2006, some were asking me to put it into the newspapers, because some are reading newspapers and not reading books. So, I serialised it in the newspaper "Albishir", from Triumph publishing company.
After I finished serialising the work, there was one special assistant to the Kano State government, Abdullahi Musa, who attacked me personally. He said I collected millions of naira from European countries to spoil our culture.
I was offended because most readers take my advice. They call me and say this message is very important... I felt discouraged when he criticized, not my book, but me in person.
It’s a false allegation. Nobody gave me anything to publish my book. I am the one who wrote and published it myself .
IPS: How do you respond generally to people who say that writers are spoiling culture?
SB: I don’t believe in that. A writer is a responsible person in the society. As a responsible person, you cannot write something that can spoil culture or children. All of us writers are respecting ourselves, and we are respected and loved by our fans.
I don’t think we have a problem with the society. We only have a problem with this Kano State government.
(In one of my books, the heroine) is crying terribly, so the husband takes her veil and tries to wipe the tears. But they say it is wrong, just because the husband wipes the tears.
So, since he says we don't have the right to write about family or love, we are now beginning to write our next books on government.
We will not stop writing about social issues, we will write about them. The way they are killing people on election day. Many can lose their souls because of the election and the election rigging.
So we said our next write-up we will write about this current issue. They are torturing us now. Next time we will torture them...
If I have money I will write a book about government and release without fear. I think that nobody can attack me since they say they don't want love stories. If I write about government, I don't think there's anything they can do. Even if they will do something, it is fact.
[The censorship crisis began ]after a film actress used her phone as a video camera when she was making love with her boyfriend. They took the matter to the censorship board... They decided to bring law and order to the filmmakers.
The writers didn’t do anything, but they asked us to register our writers association... Later on they said booksellers should register. And after booksellers, publishers, and writers should bring their books to censor before we release them.
They told us that some of our books were spoiling children. We said we did not write our books for children, and we did not say anything against children. But they insisted that we bring the books for censoring. If you take your book there, you will pay them and they will censor the book. They will look for romantic scenes and cancel them.
But now, they said each writer will have to register individually. We will have to be registered before we will write anything. They will open a file for us and note everything about us and write it down and file it.
After this, we will come for an interview. If we pass the interview, they will give us an ID card so that we can be able to write. If we don’t do this, we break the law.*
IPS: What did the writers and the Association of Nigerian Authors' executive do in response?
SB: We called a three week strike for warning. Our elders said we shouldn’t write anything. We can write down what is in our heart and our thoughts but keep it without publishing because we don’t have the right to publish anything.
Then we wrote a reply to Malam Rabo about the letter he sent to us. We told him our strike is through. That we would resume writing our books by tomorrow, without taking our books to him.
He said every writer should register, but in the next statement, he said that if you could read the book in front of your parents without any shame... go ahead, don’t take the book to his office, distribute to the market.
So some of us said that they will use this statement to release their books into the markets. But I know that next time, in the next interview, maybe he will say that the journalist has written it, he was not the one that saying it, because he is always saying things that he denies later. What he will tell you in his office is not what he will say in the media.
Even yesterday, an Organization for Islamic Values Protection produced some papers in the mosque, they accused writers, saying some of us are agents of Jews and Europeans. They are intimidating society to hate us. But in Islam, what Malam Rabo has done is not acceptable. It is not in religion. What I believe is that he is using religion as a cover. This is not good.
Because of this, I think I will not release any of my books because I believe that he is looking for a way to attack us. I will wait till this government has finished their time and is gone so that I can go and write. We pray that a new governor will come, who will allow us to write.
IPS: What are you hoping to do in the next few years with your writing.
SB: I think what I will do is that I will write. I will keep on writing, but I will keep it aside, not publish it. In the next two years, the tenure of this governor is due. So what I wish, what I pray is that a new governor will come -- that his government will not accuse us.
What we want here: we want writers all over the world to look at the situation we are in now in Kano State--to help us in any way they can. As soon as they read my interview, I want them to help us, because we are in a worrisome situation.
We spent three weeks on strike. We are now resuming our work. We don’t know what is going happen. He promised us, whatever we do, if we break his law, he will take us to jail. I know that what we do will never be wrong. But they are looking for the opportunity...
* Since this interview, the Kano State Censorship Board has agreed -- following meetings with national and state representatives of the Association of Nigerian Authors -- that the various writers' associations will be registered, not individual writers.
*Amina Koki Gizo writes for IPS where this interview first appeared.
*Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Africa blogging roundup 10 September 2008
Kenyan Environment & Political News
Kenya Enviornment & Political News provides a historical “snapshot” of women organising in Kenya which he dates back to 1952. I am a little confused by what is meant here especially as he names a white women’s group as the first women’s group. I cannot imagine that Kenyan women were not organising themselves way before this date. Maybe the error here is taking some written historical registration of a women’s group as the date to mark the first organsing of women rather than to trace the history of Kenyan women and their roles in Kenyan society.
CyBlug asks the Nigerian anti-corruption body the EFCC, “where are the 23 corrupt governors?”
“To most Nigerians it is no longer news and strange that almost all the 36 Governors as at May 1, 2007 are corrupt. Former EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu having conducted thorough investigations into their affairs had then said that the Governors were found to have corruptly abused power, personalized their state treasuries thereby enriched themselves and were therefore liable to face prosecution.”
An excellent question to which I would add the question where are all the ex-Presidents, Military rulers etc? Promises promises promises – possibly the EFCC is itself compromised?
Timbuktu Chronicles reports on Santa Yalla, a “homegrown women’s loan association” working in the Casamance region of Senegal
“The Sante Yalla Cooperative is a microfinance group with twenty members dedicated to raising poultry and other activities. The women of the group find that demand outstrips their output, so they are asking for a loan to support their enterprise and meet market demand. This loan will be serviced by all the members in turn and they will reinvest their profits to continue raising poultry without outside financing.”
Loudrastrass returns from a recent visit to Zimbabwe on a “feminists solidarity mission”. In the post she explains why it was important for her to attend the sessions. Here are some of her reasons:
“Conversations matter; It is important to offer the kind of sisterhood and comradeship that makes sense for those you want to link arms with in struggle. This was part of my motivation; and one I particularly like:
“if you shiver with indignation whenever you know an injustice is done in the world, then we are comrades. I think we are all each other’s business;”
The group of women who participated have now set up a blog to discuss their impressions at http://tenafricanwomyn.wordpress.com/
Tree Revoultion looks at the implications for rising oil prices in Africa along side the issue of biofuels which are increasingly being produced in Africa at the expense of food farming. TR asks what are our choices for energy production?
“Three main technologies stand out: wind, solar and biofuels. The world’s capacity in wind power is growing at 30 percent per annum. This year wind power generation will have reached 100 gigawatts.
As more wind turbines litter the landscape, the incentive to improve the technology increases. Wind turbines can reach levels of efficiency of about 50 percent and costs have come down radically to about eight US cents a kilowatt hour. Similar levels of efficiency and new innovations are being made in solar energy.
Two key technologies will offer new pathways to mass-scale production and roll-out of solar energy: concentrated solar power using large arrays of mirrors or troughs to concentrate power where the heat is used to generate steam and run a turbine, and the other is thin film solar, which promise massive cost reductions and greater flexibility in the usage compared to crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells.”
Black Looks comments on a new policy to combat HIV in Nigeria’s Bauchi State – the pairing up of HIV+ couples for marriage.
“There are real complex issues around the “drug cocktails” such as resistance, side effects and the need to change drugs from time to time plus the implications for getting pregnant for both mother and baby. The more I think about this the worse it seems as it leads both the couples and everyone else thinking everything is OK when in fact it is not - it is deceitful on the part of Bauchi State to lead couples into believing this is to their benefit and is an appropriate HIV prevention policy.”
* Sokari Ekine blogs at www.blacklooks.org
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Caution greets deal as SA groups wait for change
The deal reached between Zimbabwe’s political leaders has been greeted with caution from South African human rights groups and trade unions – as the world waits to see what the deal has in store for Zimbabwe’s future. Human Rights Activist and Chair of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in South Africa, Elinor Sisulu told Newsreel on Friday the group is ‘cautious’ about commenting on the deal until all the details have been released. She explained that so much needs to change in Zimbabwe and the deal needs to encompass these changes, including opening up the media channels.
Details of Zimbabwe deal emerge
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is to retain control of the army and chair cabinet meetings, according to leaks of Thursday's power-sharing deal. South African President Thabo Mbeki said Mr Mugabe had agreed to share power with Morgan Tsvangirai but said details would be released on Monday.
Troubled times ahead for service chiefs
A senior advisor to Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday said that they expect the country’s service chiefs to follow the laws of the country and support the government of the day and the new political dispensation, or resign. The heads of the country’s army, police, air force, CIO and prison services have often repeated statements that they will not salute the MDC leader. Tsvangirai is expected to be confirmed next week as the new Prime Minister of the country.
Impact as Effectiveness
AU Monitor Weekly Roundup: Issue 150, 2008
The third high level forum (HLF-3) convened in Ghana this week to discuss aid effectiveness. Aid agencies that attended the forum said donors have not made enough progress since the 2005 Paris Declaration in dealing with long-time problems related to aid effectiveness. During the forum, Ghanaian president, John Kufuor, called on developing and developed countries to deploy and manage development assistance so that poor countries can cease being aid dependent. He further urged stakeholders to come up with ‘ambitious resolutions, to minimise existing impediments to aid effectiveness in recipient countries’.
Civil society organisations note that ‘with all the attention given to High Level Forums on aid effectiveness, it is easy to lose sight of the simple fact that after all aid effectiveness is not about the effectiveness with which aid is delivered, managed, aligned or harmonised such as how much comes through budget support versus project funding; but the positive impact it makes on the lives of the people at the grassroots such as those of Accra’s Sodom and Gomorrah and South Africa’s Free State which at best remains subtle’. In addition, participants of the HLF-3 discussed the aid effectiveness in situations of fragile and conflict states, suggesting that donors, in order to have greater risk-bearing capacity, should channel funds through the budgets of recipient countries.
An analyst suggests that donors should collectively ‘set an upper limit on the amount of aid they give to any developing country’. According to the author, ‘there are various reasons to be concerned about high aid dependence, but the most worrying is the undermining of good governance by distortion of political accountability. Governments that are highly dependent on aid pay too much attention to donors and too little to their citizens.’ The ‘Accra Action Agenda to Improve the Efficiency of Development Business’ was adopted at the closing of the HLF-3. The key terms of the Accra Action Agenda are predictability, country systems, conditionality and untying of aid. Some participants were relieved that civil society views were represented in the agreements, though other civil society representatives expressed concern donors would not adhere their new commitments and that attempts were made to block partner countries’ demands during the negotiations.
Still in development related news, the African Union (AU) and the African Development Bank are jointly organising the sixth African development forum that will be convened on the theme ‘Action on gender equality, empowerment and ending violence against women in Africa’ as one of the principal events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Economic Commission for Africa. Moreover, the commissions of the AU and the European Union (EU) are organising a forum on ‘Media and Development’ for academics and professional journalists. The AU and EU, by bringing professional journalists together with civil society representatives and political decision-makers, aim to show that Africa and Europe are seeking common solutions to the problems that confront them in the 21st century. Elsewhere, a conference on the development of renewable energy in Africa and the cooperation between Iceland and African states on the construction of a 50 megawatt geothermal energy plant, known as the Djibouti project, opened at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. Further, a high level discussion between the AU and the European Commission on the implementation of the Africa - EU energy partnership also opened on Monday at AU headquarters.
This week marks Africa week at the European Parliament, at which, a joint meeting of members of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and members of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific-EU joint-parliamentary assembly will be convened. Major issues concerning Africa such as food crisis and immigration will be discussed. The current food crisis in Africa has led experts to consider the possibility of the World Food Programme making cash distributions in West Africa which would allow more flexibility in distribution of aid.
In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe’s party has rejected calls by the AU to share executive power equally with his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai. The AU chair wanted to see a 50-50 power sharing deal agreed for Zimbabwe to end a devastating political and economic crisis. In Angola, the Pan-African Parliament sent a mission to observe the legislative elections that were held on 5 September.
In other news, the AU has finally launched the first permanent general assembly of its Economic, Social and Cultural Council. Further, African health ministers have joined the ‘first global patient safety campaign’ by signing on to the World Health Organisation’s global campaign. Lastly, the AU commission chairperson, Jean Ping, was awarded the honour of the Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in recognition of his achievements in the international arena.
*Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Africa: 6th ADF to focus on gender issues
The sixth African Development Forum (ADF VI) will be convened on the theme " Action on gender equality, empowerment and ending violence against women in Africa " from 19 to 21 November 2008 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa , Ethiopia. The Forum, one of the principal events of the Economic Commission for Africa 's 50 th Anniversary celebrations, is being jointly held with the African Union (AU) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Africa: French UN worker accused of rape
A former U.N. employee went on trial in France on Tuesday accused of raping around 20 underaged girls during missions to Africa between 1998 and 2004. Didier Bourguet, a mechanic who worked for the United Nations from 1994, faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years if he is found guilty of a series of sexual offence and pornography charges ranging from rape to corruption of minors.
Africa: ICC appeal for war victims
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has appealed for $14m (£8m) to help the nearly two million victims of sexual violence in Africa's wars. The ICC said sex attacks against women and girls had been found to be the most widespread form of criminality. Rape has become a weapon of war often used to fuel ethnic cleansing, it said.
Kenya: Armed Police disperse FEMNET staff and activists
Officials from the Zimbabwe High Commission this morning barred African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) from delivering a letter of solidarity with the women of Zimbabwe. While at the Zimbabwe High Commission, an official came to the gate to meet the FEMNET staff and activists from Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN) and assured them he was going to make arrangements for the letter to be officially delivered to authorities inside the offices.
26th August, 2008
For Immediate Release
Armed Police disperse FEMNET staff and activists from Zimbabwe High Commission in Nairobi
Officials from the Zimbabwe High Commission this morning barred African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) from delivering a letter of solidarity with the women of Zimbabwe.
While at the Zimbabwe High Commission, an official came to the gate to meet the FEMNET staff and activists from Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN) and assured them he was going to make arrangements for the letter to be officially delivered to authorities inside the offices. However, after waiting for over 1hour, 2 plain clothed police officers came to inform the group that Zimbabwe High Commission had called them, informing them that there was a huge demonstration outside the offices.
The two plain clothed police officers admitted that they were alarmed by the High Commission official, who called them saying that the demonstration was not as big as the Embassy had put it to them.
However, before the plain officers finished questioning FEMNET Executive Director, Norah Matovu-Winyi, armed uniformed policemen arrived at the scene and ordered the FEMNET staff and the activists to disperse in 2 minutes.
FEMNET is disappointed that even after giving a three weeks notice to the police about the protest, the official permit to conduct the peaceful protest march to the Zimbabwe High Commission was still not granted. Police instead claimed that they had lost a copy of the application letter. Police demanded a photocopy of the application letter bearing their stamp. The copy was availed to them in good time, but still the permit was not granted.
FEMNET strongly condemns the acts by police to curtail the solidarity action with the Zimbabwe women.
FEMNET also condemns in the strongest terms the Zimbabwe High Commission Officials for misinforming the police about the magnitude of the peaceful protest.
We also condemn the Zimbabwe High Commission for not opening the gate to enable FEMNET deliver the open letter addressed to Mr. Mugabe.
FEMNET believes that the action to protest was justified in upholding the UN Declaration on Human Rights. According to Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”.
FEMNET will continue to condemn the suffering of women and children in Zimbabwe who have been victimized for no apparent reason or cause.
The current problems in Zimbabwe are aggravating violence against women especially sexual exploitation.
We appeal to President Robert Mugabe to honour and listen to the demands of people in Zimbabwe. FEMNET sees the on-going peace talks as our hope for Zimbabwe to get back on track.
We therefore appeal to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Mr. Robert Mugabe to expedite the process of power sharing in Zimbabwe.
For more Information Contact: Carlyn Hambuba: [email protected]
Kenya: Murugi proposes life term for FGM culprits
People who practise female circumcision should be jailed for life, a Cabinet minister has proposed. The practice, according to Gender and Children Affairs minister Esther Murugi, was entrenched in all but four communities in Kenya and the prevalence was alarming. Ms Murugi said previous attempts by the Government as well as local and international organisations bore little success, going by the number of incidents reported.
Morocco: Strong reaction to underage marriage fatwa
Moroccans and rights groups are speaking out against a recent fatwa that would allow parents to marry off their underage daughters. Opponents to Cheikh Mohammed Maghraoui's fatwa say the marriage of nine-year-old girls is a violation of human rights in general, and children's rights in particular.
Nigeria: Widow set ablaze for shunning prostitution
Pandemonium broke out in Igueben Local Government Council of Edo State when a widow and mother of three, Patience Iyah was set ablaze by her uncle, Ahmed Okoro Evbohon over her refusal to take to prostitution abroad. The attack which took place when the widow arrived her village for the burial ceremony of a late relation created confusion in the community as the villagers wondered whether all was well with him.
Widow set ablaze by uncle for shunning prostitution
Written by Simon Ebegbulem
Sunday, 07 September 2008
Pandemonium broke out last week Monday, in Igueben Local Government Council of Edo State when a widow and mother of three, Patience Iyah was set ablaze by her uncle, Ahmed Okoro Evbohon over her refusal to take to prostitution abroad. The attack, which took place when the widow arrived her village for the burial ceremony of a late relation created confusion in the community as the villagers, wondered whether all was well with him. Sunday Vanguard gathered that the suspect who is now on the run, had been bothering the victim to travel abroad so that she could be making some money through prostitution and contribute to the family up keep. Having failed in all his moves, he poured fuel on the victim after he over powered her.
When Sunday Vanguard met the victim at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) where she was being treated, she was in a state of shock. Patience who is a fashion designer, narrated that her uncle had always threatened to kill her if she refused to accept the advice to travel abroad. To make matters worst for Patience, her mother who backed Ahmed’s suggestion ensured that the matter was not reported to the police.
After the ugly incident, Ahmed took to his heels when the villagers confronted him. The victim was however rushed to the Otibvor Hospital before she was refereed to the UBTH.
As if Patience ordeal was not enough, the management of the UBTH ejected her from the hospital because of her inability to foot the hospital bill. When Sunday Vanguard met her at the gate of the UBTH after she was ejected, she looked hopeless, in company of her mother Madam Theresa. Patience lamented that, “ I became a widow over five years ago and I have no body now to help me.
Sierra Leone: Unicef Goodwill Ambassador says no to prostitution
The UNICEF Goodwill ambassador Angelique Kidjo in collaboration with Children Associated with the War [CAW] at George Street in Freetown said that the practice of forcing girls into prostitution must stop, and the girls must be given a chance to rebuild their lives.
Burundi: Letter to UNHRC from human rights organizations
As representatives of national and international human rights organizations working in Burundi, we urge you to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi. He has been and should continue to be an effective counselor to the Government of Burundi, a firm support to Burundian civil society organizations, and a passionate voice for victims of human rights abuses.
Global: States urged to prioritize victims' rights
The OSCE Special Representative for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Eva Biaudet, has urged OSCE participating States to put victims' rights at the centre when investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases. "The victim-centred approach means taking the needs of the trafficking victim to be protected, assisted and ultimately empowered to live a dignified life, as the fundamental starting point during all phases of criminal proceedings," Biaudet said at the opening of a high-level conference in Helsinki.
HELSINKI, 10 September 2008 - The OSCE Special Representative for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Eva Biaudet, urged OSCE participating States today to put victims' rights at the centre when investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases.
"The victim-centred approach means taking the needs of the trafficking victim to be protected, assisted and ultimately empowered to live a dignified life, as the fundamental starting point during all phases of criminal proceedings," Biaudet said at the opening of a high-level conference in Helsinki.
The conference, titled "Successful Prosecution of Human Trafficking" and co-arranged by Biaudet's Office and the Finnish OSCE Chairmanship, aims to enhance national capacities to prosecute cases of human trafficking. The high-level event, including Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Finnish Justice Minister Tuija Brax as speakers, brings together policy makers and experts from more than 40 OSCE countries.
"We need to find ways to ensure that traffickers can no longer operate with impunity and that victims are ensured easy access to justice in a manner that ensures a respect for the victims' human rights," Brax said.
Biaudet asked participants whether the low rate of victim identification is caused by a lack of resources for investigations and understanding of the seriousness of the crime.
"Are our societies indifferent or even becoming tolerant to trafficking and exploitation? To what extent is prejudice and blaming the victim still part of the problem?"
A high number of victims all over the OSCE region still are being treated as criminals, she added, saying that officials and others often blame the victims for the exploitative conditions they are facing.
Pietro Grasso, Chief Anti-mafia Prosecutor of Italy and a keynote speaker, proposed improving the criminal justice response:
"I believe a better future for international co-operation in this area will come only with the establishment of joint investigative teams and other forms of concrete collaboration between police forces and the judiciary. Without developing such co-operation between countries of destination and origin, we will continue tackling the small fish without reaching those who direct and organize the hideous trade in persons and without touching their huge profits."
Biaudet added: "There is a clear need to develop effective legislation that makes people accountable for exploitation. I want to remind all States present that they have committed themselves to introducing a thorough discussion on how to strengthen legislative, social and cultural measures for reducing demand. The criminalisation of demand is of course only one measure - but can be a most effective measure in this regard."
OSCE Press release--
Kenya: On enforced disappearances
On the occasion of this year’s International Day of the Disappeared Persons -30th August- International Center for Policy and Conflict [ICPC] express its solidarity with families of all those who suffer from enforced disappearance in Kenya and internationally and pays special tribute to the selfless efforts of human rights defenders working for enforced or involuntary disappeared persons and their relatives.
On the occasion of this year’s International Day of the Disappeared Persons -30th August- International Center for Policy and Conflict [ICPC] express its solidarity with families of all those who suffer from enforced disappearance in Kenya and internationally and pays special tribute to the selfless efforts of human rights defenders working for enforced or involuntary disappeared persons and their relatives. ICPC stresses its grave concern that enforced disappearances in Kenya are becoming a daily occurrence; and yet the country has done nothing to create a specific criminal offence of enforced or involuntary disappearance. Enforced disappearance according to International Convention for the Protection of Persons against Enforced Disappearance is defined as act a deprivation of liberty, refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or concealment of the fate and the whereabouts of the disappeared person and the placing of the person outside the protection of the law .It is crime clarified under torture, murder and crime against humanity.
We unequivocally condemn continued reported cases of enforced disappearance of Kenyans as a serious human rights violation; and the Center is concerned that this humanitarian scourge is deteriorating. The Center urges Kenya government to fulfill its obligation under article 4 of the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Disappearance to treat all acts of enforced disappearance, whether by security agencies, ordinary civilian or organized criminal gangs, as offences under criminal law punishable by appropriate penalties which shall take into account their extreme seriousness. On this day, ICPC is encouraging the community of nations that are signatory to hasten the process of ratifying and locally domesticating the Convention to bring it into full operational. Kenya appended her signature to the Convention on February 2007 when it was opened for signing. The Center in collaboration with other affiliates of Kenyans for Peace, Truth and Justice [KPTJ] is at moment contacting relatives of victims to compile authoritative data of cases of reported enforced disappearances in order to seek appropriate intervention and justice from international justice institutions. A complain of a disappearance is a very serious matter. Every complaint that is reported the state is compelled to conduct thorough investigations and to explain the whereabouts of the person. This is an obligation the government owes to its people and not just to the victim and the families of the disappeared only. The state is under obligation to account for each and every complaint of a disappearance with fail. In case of failure, the relatives of the victim(s) have right and opportunity to seek remedy within internationally established mechanisms.
International Center for Policy and Conflict, Coalition of Kenyans for Truth, Peace and Justice [KPTJ] and international friends are calling an immediate establishment of an independent People’s Tribunal into Forced or Involuntary Disappearances by the government of Kenya. The Tribunal is to act on basis of solid investigations and evidence properly assembled through thorough investigations and documentation on all the reported deplorable and shocking cases of forced disappearances of people in Kenya. The time has come for the full truth of the crimes of the enforced disappearances to be shared before the world, so that those responsible can be unmasked, brought to justice and the relatives of the victims are compensated accordingly for the loss of their loved ones. Forced disappearance is a grave problem and human rights violation, especially if the perpetrators are state security authorities where the facts are closed and suppressed. Bodies of victims are found destroyed in order to conceal the evidence which may bind the perpetrators.
If the government of Kenya is not ready to act then the local human rights groups are set to petition and seek for international intervention to conduct independent investigate, documentation and public hearings on the all of the enforced disappearance of reported persons. The ICPC is concerned that recently the number of the disappeared has sharply increased in Kenya; while no action has been taken by the Kenya government on these cases despite many calls for urgent and decisive intervention on this grave human rights violations. ICPC phantoms the indifferent attitude displayed by the Kenya government. This kind of crime is aimed at silencing any kind of protest against human rights violations by the prevailing regime while ensuring its survival by means of the physical annihilation of all of those who are deemed to express their conscience and civil liberties freely. It is important to establish that enforced disappearance contain several elements, but at the very least in Kenya context there are serious allegations of direct or indirect participation of the state security authorities as well as the subsequent denial that they were involved.
We recognize that enforced disappearance is distinct crime meant to communicate a certain message to the target individual or group by those responsible for committing this heinous crime. ICPC and KPTJ do observe that enforced disappearance in Kenya are closely related to crime of extrajudicial killings and torture which has been characterized by a period of uncertainty regarding the fate of the victim(s) after the abduction; and in many cases that uncertainty is never cleared up. Lately, enforced disappearance in Kenya are allegedly committed exclusively at the initiative of the government, through its security agents, whether uniformed or in civilian. Historically, human rights violations like enforced disappearances are not new. However, the systematic and exceptional intensity manner in which they have been used lately in Kenya as a weapon designed to bring about not only the actual disappearance of certain person(s) but to generate a generalized state of anxiety, fear and insecurity is worrying.
Kenya has failed to do more to prevent the enforced disappearance of her citizens and to end the culture of impunity that often is accompanying this horrifying crime. Rarely are people who commit such crimes are brought to justice instead security apparatus are spending huge some of taxpayers money denying and launching unmitigated propaganda targeting human rights groups exposing these horrendous crimes. ICPC would like to inform the security forces in Kenya that impunity or denial of justice creates a social climate in which completely erode confidence in the institution. No amount of harassment or misinformation meant to silence human rights defenders is going to deter demand for accountability and justice from the duty bearers. It is unfortunate that culture denial and protection of criminals within the security forces is gaining momentum and sanctioned. If enforced disappearances remain unpunished, the memory of the disappeared will haunt the Kenyan society; the official silence surrounding enforced disappearances would exacerbate rather than quell insecurity; and fosters a spirit of vengeance.
The establishment of an independent People’s Tribunal by the government of Kenya to allow free public hearings would create an opportunity for the people to bring out the crucial evidence and unmask the culture of denial and impunity by the security apparatus. If the Grand Coalition Government genuinely believe in human rights and is serious in meeting its obligations and protecting basic rights of its people, it must uphold these principles by ensuring availing an opportunity for people voices to be heard through public hearing, which provides for speedy justice. Public hearings on the enforced disappearance are such useful tool in providing a voice to the voiceless those who have faced this horrendous injustice and are willing to testify against the person(s) in abuse power.
ICPC observes that state violence and injustice are alarming and eating away at the people in Kenya due to unlawful practices and excessive force by state authorities particularly security agencies and state compliant judiciary. The trend of forced disappearances, extra judicial killings and torture are turning phenomenally problems in Kenya with no state remedial measures in sight. This is even worrying considering that the alleged perpetrators are state authorities; which make it easier for the facts to be closed and suppressed. The victims’s bodies are either found disemembered, buried or taken secretly to mortuary in order to conceal the evidence which may bind and implicate the perpetrators. Many families of disappeared persons are living in fear while the state authorities do not place importance on finding the truth and trying to address this grave problem. This is one important reason that the government has been unable to obtain sufficient public trust, with a feeling of lost confidence in the security and justice system. We are challenging the Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs and the Attorney General to explain to the Kenyan people and the world why this gross human rights violations is going on under their watch yet Kenya government claim to uphold human rights and the rule of law credentials. It is a spectacular failure of these two crucial offices to protect the basic human rights of people; and more importantly, it is a collective conspiracy by government to side with the evil to silence and abrogate citizens’ right to security, life and liberty.
ICPC would want the Kenya government to acknowledge the scale of enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings and torture; give protection and support to affected victims and families; take firm action to resolve cases of all disappeared persons and prosecute the real perpetrators. It is clear that there will be no solution to the problem of people disappearing in Kenya until the question of all those already forced disappearances has been openly and fully addressed. It feeds into a circle of endless state violence against its citizens. There is no credible government that can whitewash a grave crime presuming that justice will never be delivered. The buck stops at the President and he needs to appreciate that international justice accountability might be called to prevail at a certain time.
The International Center for Policy and Conflict is calling on the President and the Prime Minster of Kenya respectively to observe and act appropriately into the following:
1. Realize the significance of this problem by returning justice to the public, especially to the persons who have been forcibly disappeared; provide protection to the families of the disappeared; and support and promote every person to gain access to justice equally;
2. Recognize that enforced disappearance is a continuing horrendous crime, as long as the perpetrators continue to conceal the fate of the disappeared person(s) and the facts remain unclarified; consequently, the need to non-application of statutory limitation periods to enforced disappearances;
3. Make clarification that no superior order or instruction of any public authority may be invoked to justify an act of enforced disappearance;
4. Exclusion of perpetrators of enforced disappearances from any amnesty or similar measures, and from any privileges, immunities or special exemptions from prosecution;
5. Enforced disappearance shall not be considered as a political offence;
6. Failure to effectively investigate any alleged enforced disappearance should constitute an independent crime with an appropriate punishment. The minister and/or the head of department responsible for the investigations and prosecutions should be held accountable under criminal law for the said disappearances;
7. Relatives of the disappeared persons should be recognized as independent victims of the enforced disappearance and be granted a right to the truth, right to justice and right to reparation;
8. Immediate release of the disappeared person if he or she is still alive, or the exhumation and identification of the body and the return of the mortal remains to the next of kin for a decent burial, as well as rehabilitation, medical, psychological and social care at the expense of the government responsible;
9. An official apology by the authorities, guarantee of non-recurrence and full disclosure of all relevant facts following an in-depth investigation and the prosecution of the perpetrators;
10. Compensation for material damage -including a realistic assessment of loss of income and maintenance of dependents, as well as legal costs- and an adequate support for the mental and physical suffering of both the disappeared persons and their relatives;
Executive Director [email protected]
South Africa: Is SA business ready to embrace human rights?
In June this year, the United Nations (UN) extended, Special Representative on Human Rights and Business, John Ruggie’s mandate to continue finding solutions to bridge the gap between business and human rights. Ruggie’s work is largely aimed at addressing the perils of globalisation given the increasing mobility of big companies marching across the planet in search of the best labour deals in the most pliable working environments
Zambia: Campaign breaks the silence on child abuse
Camfed Zambia this year launched an ambitious child abuse prevention initiative, funded by Irish Aid. Camfed’s Zero Tolerance to Child Abuse Campaign breaks through the culture of silence surrounding child abuse, and calls on all sectors of Zambian society to put an end to it.
Horn of Africa: Migrant bodies washed up in Yemen
Thirty-five bodies have been found washed up on the beaches of Yemen, Medecins Sans Frontieres says. The medical charity says the people died attempting to cross the sea from Somalia in an effort to escape the country's extreme poverty and warfare.
Middle East: IDF breaks own rules, expels 91 Africans
The army recently expelled 91 Africans who crossed the border into Israel from Egypt - in violation of its own procedures, which it presented to the High Court of Justice less than four months ago. In an affidavit presented to the court, obtained by The Jerusalem Post, the state admitted that the 91 infiltrators, who came from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia, had been returned to Egypt on four separate occasions between August 23 and August 29.
South Africa: Abahlali baseMjondolo launches a report on shack fires
Today (8th September) we are launching an important report on shack fires. We asked for this report to be written and we worked closely with the writer at all stages. We are releasing the report today so that it can be widely discussed in the lead up to the City Wide Shack Fire Summit called by the movement for Monday 22 September 2008. We will launch the isiZulu version of the report soon. We call on all organisations that are concerned with justice and that want a city in which everyone is safe to read and discuss the report.
South Africa: Helping the Desmond Tutu Hall dwellers
It's been three months since I sent out an email appealing for your help as the xenophobic crisis hit Khayelitsha. Your response was overwhelmingly rapid and generous, and has enabled us help the people who ended up living at the Desmond Tutu hall. (By now, most have re-integrated into the community, and about 30 of the original Desmond Tutu hall dwellers are now in the nearby Solomon Mahlangu hall).
It's been three months since I sent out an email appealing for your help as the xenophobic crisis hit Khayelitsha. Your response was overwhelmingly rapid and generous, and has enabled us help the people who ended up living at the Desmond Tutu hall. (By now, most have re-integrated into the community, and about 30 of the original Desmond Tutu hall dwellers are now in the nearby Solomon Mahlangu hall).
In total, IkamvaYouth received R76648.95 from a large number of people. Thank you so much to all of you, and especially to those who forwarded the email on and got your friends and family to donate as well. Thanks too to the people in the UK, Ireland, the US, Antigua and Basque Country who collected funds and transferred money to us. A very big THANK YOU is also due to the ikamvanites (learners, volunteers and interns from Khayelitsha, Cape Town, Ireland and the US) and TAC and other volunteers who gave their time and skills to help.
In the midst of this hugely depressing and disillusioning situation, your response gave hope. And it also provided basic essentials to people who have had everything taken away from them. Please see the break-down of the expenditure of your donations below. Your response to IkamvaYouth's appeal to help us help our neighbours was far larger and more effective than we had anticipated. And the impact was also further reaching. In addition to helping the displaced people, the involvement of our learners and volunteers in purchasing and distributing the food, medicines, kitchen equipment etc, sparked discussions and debate on issues of xenophobia and poverty, and helped to ensure that the Makhaza community was one into which many people have been able to re-integrate.
Please also have a look at the blog that we created: http://desmondtutuhall.blogspot.com/, which features letters of thanks from Willard and Juma, the extremely inspiring young men from Zimbabwe who stood up to lead the community of hall dwellers. Despite the dire situations in which they found themselves, and the daily challenges they faced (one example of many: two women employed by the Department of Housing broke into the kitchen in the early hours one morning and stole the donated groceries), Willard and Juma never failed to put the others in the hall before them, and worked tirelessly to ensure that the hungry were fed and the sick received care.
Willard and Juma's response to the xenophobia that has wrecked their lives is one of forgiveness and reconciliation. In order to rebuild their lives and address the poverty they believe caused the violent outbreak, they have established a wire art project in Makhaza. They are inviting the members of their community to join them (both South Africans and foreign nationals), and the objectives of their project are to provide a means for creative expression, income generation and collaboration for peace and prosperity.
If you would like to help Willard and Juma to purchase materials for their project, please deposit donations into the following account:
FIRST NATIONAL BANK
ACC NO 62176605940
BRANCH ST GEORGE"S MALL
Unfortunately, the crisis continues. There are still many halls and camps filled with many destitute people. The Treatment Action Campaign's amazing work to help people throughout the Western Cape is completely inspiring. From lobbying the Government in court (http://www.tac.org.za/community/node/2400) to continued humanitarian aid on the ground (http://www.tac.org.za/community/node/2392), TAC's leadership and action is interminable.
Please help them with the funds they desperately need to continue: http://www.tac.org.za/community/donate
More Zen, Less Phobia
Ikamva Lisezandlei Zethu / The Future is in Our Hands
Airtime for people in the hall to contact family members: R559.76
Food, heaters, medicine, baby stuff, kitchen equipment and gas refills: R37,565.82
Money for displaced Zambian learners at IkamvaYoth KZN to replace uniforms and textbooks: R1000.00
First month's rent for families to re-integrate into the community: R13,583.54
Printing for survey of needs and plans for the future, plus conversion of dv tape to dvd of footage from the hall: R480.26
Transport and telecommunications: R2610.68
Transport for unwell young woman to return to Zimbabwe: R1000.00
Investment in Willard and Juma's arts and crafts project: R1352.18
Bank charges: R565.11
+27 83 9513336
South Africa: SSM picket for free education
The Socialist Student Movement (SSM) is making a call to action for free education against the background of a year of protests at institutions of higher learning, culminating at the closure and beginning of the academic year. Financial exclusions, triggered by exorbitant annual fee increments, academic exclusions, shortages of accommodation, of resources necessary for learning and teaching and of qualified educators have pushed students into battles where they have been faced with brutal state repression, with shootings at for example Wits and the University of Johannesburg.
South African: Citizens protest mass eviction order in court
Dancing the toyi-toyi, stomping their feet and singing protest songs, more than 100 residents of the informal Joe Slovo settlement in Cape Town and their supporters rallied outside of South Africa’s Constitutional Court last month in support of the community’s right to adequate housing. Nearly all had traveled 28 hours by train to attend the hearing concerning the future of their community.
Zimbabwe: CHRA demands legal reforms from Parliament
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) condemns the decision to convene the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe. It is the Association’s view that the Parliament should have been convened after the completion of the inter party talks between ZANU PF and the MDC. Without an agreement between the two parties, it is very difficult for the Parliament to conduct its business. None the less, CHRA reasserts its demands for legal reforms on Zimbabwe’s local Governance system.
CHRA demands legal reforms from Parliament
25 August 2008
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) condemns the decision to convene the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe. It is the Association’s view that the Parliament should have been convened after the completion of the inter party talks between ZANU PF and the MDC. Without an agreement between the two parties, it is very difficult for the Parliament to conduct its business. None the less, CHRA reasserts its demands for legal reforms on Zimbabwe’s local Governance system. The following are CHRA’s demands
* The return of the executive mayoral system
* Constitutionalisation of Local Governance
* Creation of autonomous and cooperative system of local Governance
* The reversal of the ZINWA takeover
* Reform of the Urban Councils Act.
The Association is of the firm view that these reforms will help create a participatory and democratic system of local governance in Zimbabwe; and therefore open up space for residents’ participation in local Governance. CHRA reminds the Parliament that local governance is the link between the central Government and the grass root communities. It is the vehicle through which the ordinary citizens of this country can be able to actively participate and influence national policy formulation, implementation, evaluation and management. Through various reforms enacted by the previous and successive Parliaments, Zimbabwe’s local Governance system is in a state of collapse as the central Government has taken over most of the critical powers and functions of the local authorities. The final nail to the coffin of Zimbabwe’s Local Government system was the Local Governement Amendment Act which stripped the Mayors of their executive powers. In essence, this has robbed the residents of the only platform they could use to participate in national and community development. The previous cabinet’s authorization of the ZINWA takeover was yet another blow to the innocent residents. As a direct result of this irresponsible decision, Harare residents are now suffering a water crisis while ZINWA seems not to have a solution at all. The service delivery problems currently bedeviling the once sun shining city of Harare and indeed all the other towns and communities are a direct result of Government’s decision to usurp the powers and functions of the local authorities. CHRA remains firm on its demand for enhanced citizen participation in local governance. It is on this basis that residents across the breadth and length of the country rendered their support to the various candidates who are now Members of the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe. The Association realizes and appreciates the significance of the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe in fulfilling the residents’ desire for a democratic, people centered local governance system.
Farai Barnabas Mangodza
Chief Executive Officer
Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)
145 Robert Mugabe Way
Exploration House, Third Floor
Landline: 00263- 4- 705114
Contacts: Mobile: 011 563 141, 0912638401 and 011862012 or email [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]
Angola: 2008 National Assembly election provisional results
The election was held on 5-6 September 2008. Originally scheduled for the 5 September only, voting was extended to the 6 September as a result of delays caused by logistical problems.
Angola: Keep an eye on small fry
Have no doubt. Only one party can win Angola's parliamentary elections next Friday and that is the MPLA, the party of government since independence in 1975. More difficult to predict is whether or not it will win an absolute majority and, even harder, how the remainder of the vote will split. Beyond the MPLA's former civil-war enemy Unita, the Angolan opposition tends to be ignored as small parties only in the game for money and prestige.
Angola: Opposition takes issue with vote in Luanda
Angola opposition Unita on Friday contested at the Constitutional Court landmark elections in the capital, Luanda, where chaos resulted in a second day of voting last week. The former rebel movement last week accepted the result of nationwide parliamentary elections, with the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) guaranteed a large victory.
Southern Africa: Why regular Angolans find little solace in democracy
At the first sound of nighttime rain on the scrap-metal roof of her shack, Ines Monteiro wakes her husband and four children. She hustles them from the two beds they share, out into their metre-wide yard. And they stand there, for as long as the rain falls – sometimes as many seven hours. In daytime rains, they stand out, too: their house is perched on the sideof a mountain of garbage – of plastic bags, empty bottles, crushed boxes, scraps of food.
Sudan: Election 'could be delayed'
A minister in South Sudan's government has said nationwide elections due by July 2009 could be delayed by at least six months. Minister for Presidential Affairs Luka Biong said torrential rain and a series of logistical problems could make it difficult to vote as scheduled.
Cote d'Ivoire: W. Bank says aid tied to cleaning up cocoa
The World Bank has ordered Ivory Coast to tackle "serious corruption" in its lucrative cocoa industry, saying it will not lend money to the country unless it sees better governance of the sector. Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa region, said it would be "absolutely unacceptable" to support reducing poverty while the poor were being denied adequate reward for their work.
Kenya: Kenya to become looters' paradise
Over the past week, there has been a renewed Government proposal, seemingly in response to public comments by ex-PS John Githongo, to grant conditional amnesties for corruption as a means of dealing with the past. Githongo’s proposal seems to be based on one of the elements of the Usawa Programme an election manifesto proposal of the Orange Democratic Movement – Mr. Githongo is associated with authorship of Usawa’s anti-corruption aspects.
Sierra Leone: Government reviews mines policy amid iron ore dispute
Sierra Leone is reviewing its mining policy while two foreign firms fight over the rights to a potentially lucrative iron ore project, the government of the West African state said on Tuesday. The Marampa iron ore deposit at the centre of a legal battle between London Mining (LOND.OL: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and African Minerals (AMIq.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) is estimated to be worth at least half a billion dollars, according to one London Mining executive.
South Africa: Court rejects Zuma graft case
A South African court has ruled that a corruption case against ruling party leader Jacob Zuma cannot go ahead. He was facing charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering relating to a multi-billion dollar 1999 arms deal. A judge in Pietermaritzburg said there was reason to believe the decision to charge him was politically motivated.
Africa: Biofuels: Africa becoming a biofuel battleground
Western companies are pushing to acquire vast stretches of African land to meet the world's biofuel needs. Local farmers and governments are being showered with promises. But is this just another form of economic colonialism?
Africa: EU to help Africa expand energy sector
The EU is to help African countries expand their electricity networks and promote energy interconnections between Africa and the EU, such as a Trans-Saharan gas pipeline. The EU aid will amount to €1 billion for a period of two years, the European Commission and the African Union announced in a joint statement on Monday (8 September).
DRC: Government prepares to sell off mining assets
The government of Democratic Republic of Congo is planning to privatise some of its most valuable mining assets, as well as take a larger share of any future discoveries made in the mineral-rich country.Victor Kasongo, Congo’s deputy minister of mines, said on Friday that “a major future initiative” for the government was the transformation of state-owned mining companies into commercial entities.
Ghana: $22 million for poor farmers
The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has announced a $22 million loan to Ghana to boost the livelihoods of over 100,000 households in the West African nation. The funds from IFAD are part of a larger $103 million initiative targeted at achieving sustainable livelihoods for poor people in rural areas, especially small farmers, women and vulnerable groups in northern Ghana.
Southern Africa: Can the SADC FTA create growth?
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) free trade area (FTA) was launched on 17 August 2008 under the theme “SADC FTA for Growth, Development and Wealth Creation”. Eleven of the fourteen countries that comprise the SADC region are set to participate in the FTA.
West Africa: WB pulls out of pipeline on poverty rule
The World Bank said Tuesday it has withdrawn financing of a Chad-Cameroon pipeline because the Chadian government failed to honor an agreement to use some oil revenues for poverty reduction. The Chadian government "fully" prepaid the loan as of Sept. 5, the development lender said in a statement.
Kenya: Young girls the new bait for fishermen
Dunga Beach, along the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya's western city of Kisumu, erupts into activity when the boats bring in their catch. Female fishmongers scramble along the beach to buy fish, shouting themselves hoarse to get the attention of the fishermen and middlemen, who control whether or not the women will have anything to sell that day. Mingling with the jostling fishmongers is 19-year-old Lillian Onoka; stylishly dressed and with neatly plaited hair, she is easily noticed. "I do not sell fish but my aunt does, and she brings me along with her. I just help her get the fish without her
Kenya: ‘Shocking’ rates of adverse events seen with circumcision
A rate of adverse events, infections and delayed healing described as ‘shocking’ and ‘unacceptable’ by the investigators has been revealed by a survey of both traditional and medically performed circumcisions amongst a traditionally-circumcised ethnic group in Kenya.
Zambia: High mortality of HIV+ children prior to availability of ARV
During the pre-antiretroviral therapy era, the mortality rate in HIV-infected Zambian children was 7- and 25-fold higher than in HIV-uninfected Zambian children, respectively, according to the results of a prospective study published in the September 15th edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Zambia: Men queuing up to be circumcised
Hundreds of Zambian men are enthusiastically queuing to be circumcised as part of measures to curb HIV/AIDS in that country. Reports say men are put on waiting lists for close to four months or more and are sometimes turned away due to lack of doctors and inadequate health centers for such cases.
Kenya: Management of education: Ministry 'has failed'
Schools re-opened in the backdrop of recent violent strikes in secondary schools which have brought into sharp focus the role of the Ministry of Education in the management of the public education system in Kenya. Management is the art of getting people together to accomplish desired goals through planning, organising, sourcing, leading or directing, and controlling an organisation or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal, writes Collins Wanderi.
Kenya: Cleric stands his ground
“I do not find religious arguments against homosexuality persuasive because I have come to learn that historically religion has been manipulated and misinterpreted to oppose the rights of various minority groups such as women, slaves, etc.” So said Reverend John Makokha of the United Methodist Church of Kenya in his August 16 open-letter to Bishop Daniel Wandabula who is allegedly silent, after numerous complaints by Makokha that he is getting hateful messages from the church, based on his positive views on homosexuality.
South Africa: Fighting miscarriages of justice in the justice system
The agony for Eudy Simelane’s family and friends continues due to the failure of the South African justice system. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activists, social movements and Kwa-Thema residents held a public protest on September 10 aimed at raising their concerns over the delays in the Eudy Simelane court case.
South Africa: Belated apology for Apartheid casualty
In 1968 the BBC's Africa Editor Martin Plaut was one of 600 students at the University of Cape Town protesting because black lecturer Archie Mafeje had been denied a teaching post there. Returning to Cape Town 40 years later for a reunion of campus rebels, he discovered the real reason for the university's stance.
Benin: Coastal erosion threatening to wipe out parts of Cotonou
Rising sea levels have destroyed hundreds of homes, hotels, roads and harvests, and threaten to engulf large areas of Cotonou, Benin’s capital. A government-commissioned study about a year ago recommended urgent action to hold back the rising tides, and save the city’s ports, airport, and coastal communities, but political infighting has blocked funding.
Global: Climate talks end amidst fears over carbon colonialism
The United Nations climate talks focused on 'Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries' risk moving towards 'carbon colonialism', Friends of the Earth International campaigners warned. The inclusion of forests in carbon markets would allow rich countries to buy their way out of greenhouse gas emission reductions and threaten local communities who could be expelled from their forests.
Global: Experts examine trade and climate concerns
The relationship between development, trade and climate change has come under the spotlight as leaders seek practical ways to move rapidly towards a low-carbon world economy. Experts from Africa, the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean are examining key issues in order to suggest steps that policy-makers can take to start the process of adapting their economies to climate change.
Egypt: Government offensive on TV includes new broadcasting bill
Reporters Without Borders condemns growing Egyptian government control over the media, especially the broadcast media. Egypt already has a repressive press law and a state of emergency law that has been in effect since 1981. In November, parliament is due to examine a new broadcasting bill that is causing further concern. At the same time, several production companies working with foreign satellite TV stations have already been censored this year.
ALERT - EGYPT
9 September 2008
Government offensive against freedom of expression on TV includes new
SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris
(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns growing Egyptian government control over the media, especially the broadcast media. Egypt already has a repressive press law and a state of emergency law that has been in effect since 1981. In November, parliament is due to examine a new broadcasting bill that is causing further concern. At the same time, several production companies working with foreign satellite TV stations have already been censored this year.
“The Egyptian authorities are constantly giving themselves new tools with which to stifle free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Despite a level of diversity that is rare in the region, the Egyptian media must endure the yoke of political control, like the media in other Arab countries with authoritarian regimes.”
The press freedom organisation added: “We call on the members of the Egyptian parliament to reject the government’s new broadcasting bill and to draft alternative legislation that would lift the constraints on broadcasting and decriminalise press offences.”
The bill submitted to parliament in June poses a danger to broadcast journalists. It would introduce news penalties of between one month and three years in prison and would threaten free speech by making it possible for journalists to be prosecuted for “attacking social peace, national unity, public order and society’s values.”
Mostly using very vague working, the bill also provides for the creation of a national broadcasting regulatory agency to be headed by information ministry officials and members of the state security services, which would be empowered to withdraw a news media’s licence arbitrarily.
The Egyptian government launched an offensive against independent TV stations at the start of the year. In February, it got the Arab League to adopt a common charter that restricts the freedom of satellite TV stations and provides for sanctions for programme content that causes offence.
The charter was criticised by journalists but not by the head of Nilesat, a satellite operator owned by the Egyptian government, which supports the creation of a regional regulatory authority with the power to issue licences. This would mean that the community of Arab governments as a whole was responsible for censorship, rather than the Egyptian government alone.
At the moment, TV stations that want to transmit via Nilesat must obtain the Egyptian government’s approval. TV stations that dare to criticise governments are not welcome. Unlike Qatar, which gives Al Jazeera a great deal of freedom in its regional coverage, Egypt continues to closely monitor the content of the stations that use Nilesat. The privately-owned TV station Al-Hiwar, for example was dropped by Nilesat on 1 April without any explanation being given.
In an unrelated case, the government ordered the Cairo Video Sat production company on 28 August to cancel the recording of two programmes for Al-Hurra, an Arabic-language TV station that is funded by the US government. The two programmes were about “Youth and Politics,” and were to have been broadcast in the station’s showcase series “Eye on Democracy.”
Meanwhile, Nader Gohar, the head of the Cairo News Company (CNC), is still facing up to three years in prison on charges of “constituting an unauthorised communications network” and “broadcasting without a licence.” The fifth hearing in his trial is due to be held on 26 October. The main supplier of broadcast equipment for many foreign news media, CNC was closed by the authorities after Al-Jazeera, one of its main clients, broadcast footage of demonstrations in the north of the country in April.
According to the Egypt-based Arab Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI), two other agencies, Cairo Sat and the Arab News Agency, are also being harassed by the authorities.
For further information on the Gohar case, see:
For further information contact Hajar Smouni, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 78, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail:
[email protected], Internet: http://www.rsf.org
Kenya: Nation Media's Integrity Watch - KUJ Statement
Our attention has been drawn to the effort by the Nation Media Group to “stop corruption in media circles” by establishing an e-mail address to report corrupt photographers, reporters and editors. The group promises that “those who are found to have flouted our ethical principles will be dealt with firmly”.
Our attention has been drawn to the effort by the Nation Media Group to “stop corruption in media circles” by establishing an e-mail address to report corrupt photographers, reporters and editors. The group promises that “those who are found to have flouted our ethical principles will be dealt with firmly”.
While we support any and every effort to ensure the media is free from the shackles of corruption, we must raise a few issues about the new move by NMG, steeped as it is in the culture of impunity especially as regards to fair play in its very own newsrooms.
We are constrained to be the devil’s advocate and say that we suspect this to be another ruse, another avenue through which the powers-that-be at NMG can punish photographers, reporters and editors who don’t toe the line and who dare to question malpractices at the group.
We believe the biggest problem of corruption in the media lies with the top editors at this group and in all major newsrooms in the country. They are the gatekeepers, the people who receive, sometimes up to millions of shillings of unaccountable funds to ensure a story is either used, twisted or killed.
These are the same people who hire and fire editorial staff at will, without any recourse for aggrieved, hapless photographers, reporters and editors since they are discouraged or altogether barred from joining a trade union which can question wrongdoing and ensure they are properly remunerated. Needless to say, the bulk of so-called correspondents, who supply up to 70 per cent of content to the news group, take home peanuts that can make a Matatu conductor laugh.
Some of these people have presided over the same state of affairs that they are now trying to correct, for up to 20 years. Who will save a reporter, photographer or editor, who has just or recently joined the group, from the whims of such eternal, omnipotent bosses?
Who will form the prosecution, judge and jury of this “integrity watch” when all there is, is an anonymous email in the hands of a powerful top editor, claiming that so and so extorted so much so that a story could be used?
If this “integrity watch” idea is not hypocrisy, then tell us what is!
Kenya Union of Journalists
P.O Box 47035-00100
Tel +254 721 397 167
Morocco: Blogger jailed for peacefully expressing his views
On Monday 8 September, a Moroccan man became the first blogger to be sentenced to two years imprisonment. Mohamed Erraji was also fined 5,000 dirhams (US$625) for “lack of respect due to the King”. He is not the first Moroccan to be jailed for peacefully expressing his views on the monarchy, which is still a “taboo” subject in Morocco.
Niger: Minister urged to end crack-down
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has urged the Communication Minister of Niger, Mohamed Ben Omar, to stop his crackdown on the Press House, an independent media support group, after he threatened to dissolve its board and all the member associations."Minister Ben Omar’s comments represent a serious abuse of power and reflect his determination to silence any independent voice that can defend journalists and media workers in Niger," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office.
Nigeria: American filmmaker returned to US
Andrew Berends, the American filmmaker who had been detained by Nigerian State Security Services was returned to the United States Wednesday. He was escorted to his plane by Nigerian immigration officers without an explanation as to why he was being sent home. Berends was never charged with a crime, and had a legal business visa in his passport at the time of his detainment.
Nigeria: Writers, film-makers defy censors
"I don't sell cocaine," says the video vendor in Kano's Rimi market when I ask for Adam Zango's music video CD Bahaushiya. He is not referring to the white powder, but instead a new illegal substance -- Hausa films that have not passed through the Kano State Censors Board. The video CD in question is an especially hot drug: a series of six music videos satirising corrupt old men, lamenting fickle girlfriends, and featuring dancing Hausa girls.
Senegal: IFJ demands prosecution of gang boss
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Senegalese judiciary to investigate and prosecute the persons responsible for ordering the ransacking of two Senegalese newspapers after 12 members of the gang were convicted. Among those convicted were relatives of the former Minister for the Craft Industry and Air Transports.
Djibouti: Drought, high prices intensify extreme food insecurity
Drought conditions and high staple food prices have left more than 340,000 people - over half of Djibouti's population - highly or extremely food insecure and in need of emergency food and non-food assistance through the end of 2009. Four consecutive years of minimal rains to support pastoral and agropastoral production have left rural and urban Djiboutians even more dependent on food imports at a time when international commodity prices have risen steadily.
DRC: Army 'works with rebels'
The Democratic Republic of Congo army is collaborating with rebels to mine gold and tin, instead of fighting them, says lobby group Global Witness. Its researchers found that the two groups operated their own mines and even traded with each other.
DRC: Recent clashes in the east draw UNSC concern
The Security Council has voiced serious concern at the recent fighting between Government forces and rebel groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), some of the worst violence since the signing of a January peace deal. The Council stressed that the clashes that broke out in North Kivu on 28 August between the country’s armed forces (FARDC) and the National Congress for People’s Defense, known by its French acronym CNDP, are a violation of the Actes d’Engagement signed by both parties earlier this year.
Sudan: 'Don't protect Bashir' - HRW
We write in regard to the arrest warrant requested by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. We understand that this request is likely to come under intense international scrutiny in the coming weeks. The stakes are extremely high for the victims of atrocities in Darfur and for global efforts to curtail impunity for the most serious crimes. We urge your government to weigh these issues in light of basic principles already expressed by the Security Council.
Global: 'Africans to gain' from web plan
Google is helping develop a system to bring high-speed internet connections to three billion people developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. The 03b Networks system aims to use satellites to provide broadband services at the same speeds as those on offer in rich countries.
South Africa: Blogs help addicts get clean
Cape Town residents are using micro-blogging and instant messaging technology to fight drug addiction among township youth. Speaking during a Digital Citizen’s workshop, Marlon Parker, a lecturer at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, said parents can now smile knowing that their children are now protected from drugs.
Uganda: MP roots for extension of ICT services to rural areas
Though the phenomenon of rural-urban migration is on the increase in Uganda, the trend can be reduced with the extension of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services to rural busy ‘growth’ centres. According to Hon. Kasamba Mathias, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kakuuto County in Rakai District, the tendency to migrate to urban areas may be a thing of the past if people are able to access information.
Uganda: SMS a boon to Ugandan farmers
Rural farmers from the Lango sub-region in northern Uganda have learnt how to use mobile phone Short Message Service (SMS) to get prices of agricultural produce, seeds and markets. The service, so far restricted to MTN Uganda mobile telephone subscribers enables one to get for instance price information by selecting MTN services, then commodity prices, and selecting the name of the produce from the menu. Alternatively one can type the name of the commodity and send to 8198.
Africa: Nelson Mandela International Essay Competition 2008
The 2008 Nelson Mandela International Essay Competition on African Security and Development invites entrants to examine the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, explore why it remains such a dysfunctional, conflict-prone state, and speculate on future options for the country.
Africa: Wanted: African reporters
To serve our fast growing portfolio of international clients like KLM, Heineken, Microsoft, Nestlé and Nike Africa Interactive is urgently looking for African reporters to do paid assignments. We are looking for: African journalists, African photographers and African cameramen/women in all African countries, who speak English or French or Portuguese
Global: 2008 AHRC photo competition
To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Australian Human Rights Commission is holding a photo competition based on the theme - ‘Dignity and justice for all of us’. The theme reinforces the vision of the Declaration as a commitment to universal dignity and justice, and reinforces how human rights are an inextricable part of our lives – for everyone, everywhere, everyday.
Africa: Human rights fellowship program
Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde
Conectas Human Rights, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Open Society Initiative for Western Africa (OSIWA) and Open Society Justice Initiative (the Justice Initiative) are pleased to invite applications for the Human Rights Fellowship Program for the year 2009. The Fellowship Program is 21 months in duration and involves both academic study and practical experience in human rights/public interest advocacy. Human rights activists and lawyers from Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde will be selected to participate in the program.
Africa: LAWA Fellowship programme
Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa
The Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa (LAWA) Fellowship Program was founded in 1993 at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., in order to train women's human rights lawyers from Africa who are committed to returning home to their countries in order to advance the status of women and girls in their own countries throughout their careers.
Africa: Pan African Youth Leadership Forum II report
The first Pan African Leadership Forum (PAYLF) was convened in Accra Ghana 2007. The week-long, international event, held in Accra from June 18-25, 2007 brought together a diverse group of some of the continent’s brightest young leaders and afforded them the unique opportunity to offer their expertise in addressing key issues relevant to the youth, democracy, and development. The international forum was organized by Friends of Africa International (FAI), an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting human rights, democracy, good governance and social justice in Africa.
Pan African Youth Leadership Forum II – “New Generation of Leaders: Young People Making Change in Africa”
Cairo, Egypt. June 16 – 20, 2008
It is crucial that Africa listens to its youth who constitute over 40% of Africa’s population. Yet one of the most glaring faults of African leadership today continues to be the sustained denial and neglect of the potential and contributions of the youth. This continues to be propagated in many African countries by the lack of systematic, long-term planning that integrates African youth and equips them with skills, knowledge and resources to foster their development as future leaders. It is therefore important for African youth to convince governments of their importance by playing their role as productive citizens. Key to achieving this is working towards gaining recognition in the important channels of decision making through organizing and proactive involvement.
Prior to every African Union Heads of State summit, civil society and other stakeholders meet to deliberate on important issues affecting the continent after which they convey the message to the Heads of States through advocacy, informal briefings, press releases or direct contact. However, there is no platform for Africa’s young people to meet and discuss pertinent issues that affect their lives and that of the next generation.
It is with this in mind that the first Pan African Leadership Forum (PAYLF) was convened in Accra Ghana 2007. The week-long, international event, held in Accra from June 18-25, 2007 brought together a diverse group of some of the continent’s brightest young leaders and afforded them the unique opportunity to offer their expertise in addressing key issues relevant to the youth, democracy, and development. The international forum was organized by Friends of Africa International (FAI), an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting human rights, democracy, good governance and social justice in Africa.
The 2007 Accra Forum generated the kind of discussions and ideas needed to engage young people in African politics. Renewing the vision of democracy in Africa was a great initiation theme to this annual forum and Accra was the ideal place for it as it was the first African nation to be freed from colonial control. Issues discussed at this Forum included controversial issues such as the societal reintegration of child combatants to issues that the participating delegates really cared about such as the adoption and ratification of the African Youth Charter by the African Union Member States. Inspiring guest speakers such as Her Excellency, President Mary Robinson of Ireland, Professor Ali Mazuri of Rutgers University, as well as other speakers and honorable attendees, presented encouraging words of wisdom on what needs to be done in the pursuit of democracy on our continent. The forum concluded with youth delegates in Accra proposing recommendations for the goals of future youth forums as well as for higher regional bodies and the African Union and its Member States.
Many of today's African leaders have not taken into serious consideration the valuable contributions that young people make to Africa and have ignored the youth as invaluable resources in the future of African Public and Regional Policy. However, while the youth have the right to accuse African leaders of these actions, the onus is also on the youth to clarify what they specifically have to offer their continent. This was the goal of the second Pan African Youth Leadership Forum held in Cairo in June 2008, to help Africa’s young people develop skills in the areas of economic, political, and social development so to encourage youth based development initiatives; to provide them with the knowledge and skills, both practical and theoretical, to promote democratic ideals; and to provide them with the skills to make sound transparent and effective policy. Hence the theme of the Cairo Forum was “New Generation of Leaders: Young People Making Change in Africa”. Thus, the Cairo forum was not only convened to shape the youth as generational leaders of the continent of Africa, but as a follow up on the preceding forum, taking into account the ensuing recommendations and measuring the success of their goals.
The 2nd PAYLF in Cairo Egypt, June 16-20, 2008, brought together a diverse group of young people from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Niger, Botswana / South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Somalia, Madagascar, Turkey, including some of the participants from the previous forum in Accra. This second forum provided the platform for them to engage in interactive debates and dialogues on the key issues affecting the development of the continent.
Participants were able to engage in formal and informal discussions with Dr. Amany Asfour of the African Union ECOSOCC Accreditation Committee and the President of Egyptian Business Women Association, who acknowledged that the youth are the cornerstone of the continent and must invoke “choice and voice” in the cause of their development work. She urged stakeholders to focus on uniting and investing in human and natural resources in order to realize the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
A champion of youth and an avid advocate for African Unity, Her Excellency Honorable Saida Agrebi, touched on the importance of national and continental identities and the importance of education for all. She said that youth have the opportunity to improve Africa’s image so it can be re-branded to represent the beauty Africa possesses. Additionally, having youth meet in person is a chance to network, share ideas, and advocate for the voice of the youth. The participants could not agree with her more.
His Excellency, Engineer Khaled Elkweldi, President of International Organization for Peace & Relief (IOPR), Tripoli, represented by Mr. Jamal Amer, noted that IOPR aims to promote a just international peace that takes into account peoples social and cultural differences. He said that the organization also condemns all forms of aggression and military conflicts against peoples and denounce their instigators. He urged fellow Africans to commit to provide protection for refugees until a safe repatriation is made possible for them.
Discussions touched on the role of the elders in addressing peace and conflict in Africa and how young people could be advocates for peace and human rights. Ms. Obasi informed the participants that the institution of the elders was established in 2001 when two prominent people came together to address global issues of conflict and human rights abuses. It is comprised of notable figures including Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, Fernando Cardozo, Jimmy Carter, Mohammed Yunnus, and Mary Robinson. The group functions under three self-ascribed mandates that calls for the group to be a catalyst for resolution, to seek new approaches to global issues, and to share wisdom and provide outreach. These members have no political ties and are free to go to countries to assess political situations based on their varied but prolific experience in their careers as leaders. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR was discussed in the light of its 60th year and participants were urged to sign on to the every human has rights from the Realizing Rights website. The Future of the UDHR and how young people could engage Youth in Human Rights advocacy was also noted. Participants were introduced to the international human rights system and its reporting mechanisms. The history of African human rights system and its various units was discussed.
In her presentation on volunteerism and youth leadership, Ms. Onyeka Obasi, President of Friends of Africa International used her personal experiences and challenges she had faced in the course of her work to introduce the participants to what it takes to be a leader. She stressed the qualities that are necessary in order to volunteer and for those willing to step up and effectively lead. Traits include having a sense of focus, commitment, integrity, ability to delegate, and being able to handle challenges in the face of adversity. Also important is the ability to implement programs that are effective and that have achievable objectives, knowledge of technology and media, and communication skills. The participants were further urged to make decisions with a sense of strong ethics as young leaders. The youth delegates agreed that Africa should invest in building the culture of volunteerism and teach them in schools.
In a discussion facilitated by the youth delegates on the role of youth in conflict, the assembly cited two case studies: Somalia and Kenya. Somalia has been in disarray since the 1990’s and militia groups use youth by using economic incentives to draw them in. However this leads to serious psychological and developmental problems. In Kenya, the causes relate back to colonialism, inequitable distribution of vital resources such as land, and problems such as unemployment. Also noted was the importance of understanding the underlying reasons behind conflicts. To redress many of the aforementioned issues, a few recommendations were proposed that called for empowerment of youth; bringing about a sense of unity between young people; cooperation between youth and elders; political, human rights, and civic education; trainings at international platforms; engaging youth from a young age; using cultural and artistic avenues; utilization of IT/media/chatting with people globally; creation of a television station that can showcase the potential of African youth; encouraging youth representation on committees, particularly at the African Union; using local and national political processes to prevent and handle conflict; and engaging civic organizations and volunteerism.
Entrepreneurship and job creation was discussed in the light of the increasing rate of unemployment in Africa especially within the post conflict regions of Africa. Young people noted with concern the increase in the number of unemployed graduates in Africa and urged the African government to commit to building the skills of young people to be entrepreneurs and job creators. One of the participants, an expert on micro credit and small scale loans gave an example of success stories from their activities with young people. It was stressed that engaging young people in business initiatives is crucial to economic development. However, unemployment is a hefty challenge in many developing countries, gaining employment was considered a “self-initiative.” Recommendations included opportunities for youth to network with entrepreneurs, skill building in areas such as starting a business and savings and loan knowledge, and creating ideas that generate income in an innovative manner.
You cannot discuss Africa’s development without considering its institutional partners. Ms. Obasi identified some of these institutions and their roles including the World Bank, International Monitoring Fund, United Nations, and other bilateral and multilateral institutions working with Africa. The New Economic Strategy with Africa and the European Union, and China / Africa relations was further discussed. Participants were concerned about the trade-offs during these negotiations and urged the African governments to include young people when negotiating with its global partners.
It was also asserted that there could be no substantial dialogue on the Millennium Development Goals without exploring and noting the commitment of young people. A presentation on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) given by Dr. Thomas Deve of the United Nations Millennium Campaign Kenya, noted that leadership and the ability to focus are particularly important as is volunteering in order to mobilize groups and in development projects. In terms of the MDGs, he stressed that one must first understand what they are and the various issues they encompass such as education, health, women’s development, and the environment. In addition, the MDGs are broadly aimed to promote the right to live in dignity and with equality. However as of 2007, the picture was relatively negative in terms of the progress the MDGs have made and he stated that efforts needed to be doubled in order to reach the 2015 goal. The MDGs have made slower progress than had been hoped; there should be condemnation and praise where necessary. He posed the questions: “what type of Africa do you want to see? How do the MDGs contribute to this vision and what values and principles are necessary to make strides within the development world?”
Because development is so heavily reliant on economic growth and stability, Mr. Deve’s presentation also touched on issues relating to debt, trade and conditionality, production capabilities in Africa, and bilateral agreements. For instance, in bilateral agreements between African countries and other institutions or partners, what are some of the predominant issues on the agenda? Are they dominated by one side’s needs? How can agreements be leveraged that are fair? Another economic issue touched on was the need to develop demand driven economies instead of export driven economies. Production capabilities must be reoriented to first suit the needs of Africans and then other countries. In reaching these development goals, young people must be at the forefront, creating new visions; to read, read, and re-read, and then go and write, debate with their peers and challenge leadership.
The restoration of African dignity can be actualized with concerted effort through political thinking and action; action that involves and engages the youth. In terms of tangible action plans, centers of excellence for various sectors need to be developed and utilized for educational purposes. Furthermore, primary education should be made compulsory and accessible to all. On the economic front, there is much potential for import substitution which has the capacity to dramatically increase market productivity in African communities. These call for strong consideration by our governments and the private sector. In terms of politics, the nature of decision-making must be made more accountable and transparent policy shifts are necessary. Additionally, it is vital that people learn and develop the use of media and alternative media outlets in order to create solidarity platforms.
The institution, structure, key organs, and the decision making processes of the African Union (AU) were the essence of the presentation delivered by Mr. Desire Assogbavi, Pan-Africa Senior Policy Analyst, OXFAM, Liaison Office with the African Union. The AU began with the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, whose primary purpose was to secure the independence of African states. Now as the AU, it has different objectives which include improving the rule of law and human rights throughout the 53 countries that are a part of the AU (all African countries except for Morocco). These objectives can be carried out through force if necessary in circumstances such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The structure of the African Union is as follows:
1.Assembly of the Heads of States which is the highest body
2.Executive Council composed of all ministers
3.Permanent Representative Council which is made up of ambassadors
4.Commissions which is made up of other staff
There is also the Pan African Parliament which represents citizens, the Peace & Security Council which has 15 elected members and was established in 2003, and ECOSOC which allows involvement of civil society.
Mr. Assogbavi also mentioned the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) which is a way for African heads of State who voluntarily provide consent are self assessed by their peers and are held accountable in following rules and conventions. This body evaluates various aspects of life in a country and writes a report. Although not mandatory for countries to participate in, it is an “innovation.” He also mentioned the way the AU is funded, noting that 75% of the budget is paid by five countries- Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, and South Africa.
In general, the AU has helped bring more respect to the continent as it is a representative body that “tries to talk with one voice.” In terms of the AU Summit, he asked “What should this mean for us [youth]”? He emphasized the importance of youth becoming familiar with the workings of the AU saying, “we should be more informed.” He suggested looking for key topics before each summit to familiarize oneself with issues that are especially pertinent throughout the continent, joining the list serve, and visiting the website regularly. Additionally, one of the reasons he went over the different bodies of the AU was to let the youth delegates know that if there is a pressing issues that youth would like to present, the Pan African Parliament as well as the commissions are starting targets for influence and to interact with.
In a subsequent discussion facilitated by Bukamu Hulela, a youth delegate from Botswana/South Africa, the African Youth Charter (AYC) took center stage. The African Youth Charter is a legal and technical framework for governments to use in developing youth policies; it is also a binding document. However its ratification progress has been slow. Only eleven countries have signed and of those, three have ratified. This calls for African youth to take the initiative in advocating for the AYC in their respective countries. Amongs the ways in which the aforementioned can be carried out, it was suggested to create a project from one of the articles in the charter, and then take the project to public mechanisms and governmental bodies. Additionally, one should take advantage of IT, the media, and the private sector in pushing awareness and advocating for the charter. Ms. Hulela stated, “if we cannot develop youth, we cannot develop the African continent,” and that we must “ensure the ownership of the charter as young people.” Furthermore, even if it is not signed or ratified in a country, they were encouraged to still use it as a guideline.
Ms. Obasi gave a subsequent presentation on how to build a strong foundation for youth. This task falls into three different tiers - the local level, regional, and continental. Locally, youth can identify challenges in their particular communities and objectives of their organization, increase youth representation in local bodies, and create spaces for dialogue. On a regional basis, networking is especially important in addressing transnational issues such as immigration, visas, and displacement. On a continental level, the ratification of the AYC should be at the forefront through various means such as mobilization of organizations, lobbying ministries and relevant offices, and following up on initiatives. Additionally, the African Union has designated the year 2008 as the “African Year of the Youth” – African Youth in Peace and Development and as such, organizations should take advantage of this to push for the AYC and youth led projects so as to reinforce partnerships and increase empowerment.
In presenting what constitutes good governance, elements such as accountability, establishing and utilizing report systems, were a few of the suggested components discussed by the delegation. Also discussed was the capacity to call officials into action when situations necessitate, having access to relevant information, participation, provision of services, recognition of opposition groups, and public institutions. Many states throughout Africa, however, need to restructure domestic resource allocation, improve state development, ensure better policy coordination and management, and focus on poverty reduction. These challenges mean that weak institutions must fight corruption in order to fight poverty, produce and monitor governance indicators, and mobilize social services. An essential part of democracy is the presence of multi-party elections and the transparency of the electoral process. Additionally, provisions for human rights are also essential in building and sustaining a democratic society. Key challenges include: provisions for women, children and other vulnerable groups, independent electoral commissions, involvement of civil society, and economic/corporate governance.
The youth delegates engaged in serious discussions which centered on the capacity of the African Union and its response to conflicts across the continent. It was noted that the AU has limited resources and in most cases, is slow in addressing conflict in a timely fashion. A practical plan of action in responding to these conflicts is to engage in what can best be described as “shaming” the countries involved and the various bodies that fail to act. For example, a human rights organization brought red, yellow, and green cards to a meeting and used them to signify the human rights records of various countries. These kinds of simple yet practical actions can also be a tool to shed light on the lack of signatures for the AYC.
One of the major issues for the AU as well as all citizens in Africa, is the recent violence in Zimbabwe due to the election and South Africa due to a growing resentment towards immigration, it was suggested by many of the participants that in the recommendations there is a part that specifically addresses the recent violence and instability that these countries have faced and urges the AU to take action. Mr. Assogbavi noted with disappointment that there has not been a reaction from the AU on South Africa’s recent problems and that South Africa is showing a bad example by also not doing anything about Zimbabwe and its own violence against refugees and economic migrants.
The forum concluded with a drafting of recommendations to redress the many issues presented throughout the four-day gathering. Initial suggestions and comments included: using volunteerism to advocate for human rights; exerting effort for youth to bridge the gap between African countries; pushing to address issues relating to conflict; utilizing legal provisions (conventions, treaties) to address conflict issues; human rights education, sharing the recommendations with respective Ministers of Youth/Education; creating a fact-finding mission for countries such as Somalia and Sudan; collaborative efforts with youth in Sudan and Somalia; creation of a blog for Forum participants to keep in touch, network, follow progress of recommendations; concentrating on inter-African partnerships/trade; improve education about Africa, within Africa itself; encourage participation in programs such as Model UN and Model AU; increase the number of African Studies programs, all youth delegates should read the AYC by August; encourage inter-country volunteering; plan celebrations for Year & Day of Youth to shed light on youth issues.
The proceedings from this Forum were presented later that week by youth delegates from the Forum at the African Union Summit's 3rd Citizen's Continental Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
Finally, Friends of Africa International will remain connected with the participants of the first and second Pan Africa Youth Leadership Forum in order to follow up with the implementation of the action plans and recommendations.
President, Friends of Africa International
Africa: Website for the EQUINET conference 2009 now live!
The Third EQUINET Regional Conference on Equity in Health in east and southern Africa will be held at Munyonyo, Kampala, Uganda September 23rd-25th 2009 with the theme Reclaiming the Resources for Health: Building Universal People Centred Health Systems in East and Southern Africa. Welcome to the site where you will find latest updates on the conference,opportunities for participation and pre and post conference activities. Please let us know if you have any problems or feedback in using the site.... and welcome to Uganda in 2009!
Africa: African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF) - New Path
Call for articles
The New Path: The African forum for intellectual thought is published quarterly by the African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF) and provides a forum for innovative thinking about our common future and about how we need to tackle the most intractable problems facing Africa today – focusing on Eastern Africa. The editor invites your articles (opinion and analysis) for the September 2008 edition. This edition of ‘New Path’ will cover the following areas:
Global: September issue of Alliance
The September issue of Alliance, just published, has a special feature on ‘philanthrocapitalism’ and international funding; guest editors are Michael Edwards and Olivier Kayser. The new issue also has an interview with Luis Ubiñas, President of the Ford Foundation, and introduces two new regular columns. One will bring ‘investors’ perspectives’ while the other will offer stories ‘on the grapevine’. We are also happy to announce publication of the first issue of our new Spanish edition of Alliance.
IkamvaYouth's photography and poetry book FOR SALE!
Through Our Eyes, Ikamvanites' book of photography and poetry has just been released! The photographs and poems showcase some of IkamvaYouth's best creative talent, and provide unique windows into the lives of South African township youth.
Journal of African Cinemas
The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film.
Pan-Africanism and African Nationalism
The first edition of this publication was based on the proceedings of the 17th All African Students’ Conference (AASC) held in 2005 in Windhoek, Namibia, which series began in 1988. It covered the major issues arising for the unity movement from the 2005 conference, with diverse contributions from a broad range of participants, including a head of state, the head of a liberation movement, youth, students and various other concerned social groups and individuals.
Sierra Leone: A framework for citizenship education
This book has been written to lay the foundations of a single curriculum framework for citizenship education in Sierra Leone. It is a direct result of a consultative process aimed at complementing and consolidating a number of citizenship-related initiatives within and outside government circles in Sierra Leone. The framework it presents looks at some significant and critical themes, and goes on to set parameters and suggest guidelines to ensure its successful implementation.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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