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      Back Issues

      Pambazuka News 439: Calling on the AU to lead on women's rights

      The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa

      Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

      CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Comment & analysis, 3. Advocacy & campaigns, 4. Obituaries, 5. Books & arts, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Emerging powers in Africa Watch, 9. Highlights French edition, 10. Zimbabwe update, 11. Women & gender, 12. Human rights, 13. Refugees & forced migration, 14. Emerging powers news, 15. Elections & governance, 16. Development, 17. Health & HIV/AIDS, 18. Education, 19. LGBTI, 20. Environment, 21. Land & land rights, 22. Food Justice, 23. Media & freedom of expression, 24. Conflict & emergencies, 25. Internet & technology, 26. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 27. Fundraising & useful resources, 28. Courses, seminars, & workshops

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      Highlights from this issue

      - SOAWR calls for AU to secure women's rights in Africa
      - Hilary N. Ervin & Caroline Muthoni Muriithi on what the global downturn means for women's rights in Africa
      - Norah Matovu Winyi calls for the AU to implement the African Women's Rights Protocol
      - Lyn Ossome on promoting women's rights at the 13th AU Summit
      - Mary Wandia argues that securing women's rights will boost food security and economic growth
      - Anushka Sehmi on the need to protect the rights of elderly women
      - Walden Bello critiques orthodox perspectives on the global food price crisis
      - Mphutlane wa Bofelo on achieving fair growth in South Africa

      - Kate Tissington says SA's Constitional Court has let down Joe Slovo residents
      - The Tanzania Gender Networking Programme analyses Tanzania's latest budget

      - Le Niger d’une rébellion touarègue à une autre: Mêmes causes, même effets

      - Rural women farmers call for increased investment in agriculture
      - Phil Ya Nangoloh says Congolese refugees in Namibia fear for their lives
      - Support peace and development, say no to military action
      - Solidarity statement on the SOAS cleaners
      - Tanzania's Mara region experiences Barrick Gold toxic spill
      - CPJ alarmed by DRC'S ban on RFI broadcasts

      - AU leaders should be accountable to citizens, writes Kofi Ali Abdul
      - Meles - has the die been cast? asks Ethiopian Recycler
      - We need writers like wa Bofelo, says A. Khwezi ka Ceza

      - Giovanni Arrighi: Internationalist par excellence

      - Africa in Motion 2009

      - Mildred Kiconco Barya interviews Segun Afolabi, 2005 Caine Prize winner
      - Cool Papa by Roland Bankole Marke
      - Poetry for Africa by Kingwa Kamencu

      - Anthony Yaw Baah and Herbert Jauch on increasing Africa's benefit from ChinaZIMBABWE UPDATE: China justifies veto of sanctions
      WOMEN & GENDER: Mass rape in Goma prison
      CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Protect civilians in armed conflict
      HUMAN RIGHTS: Call for cessation of torture in Angola
      REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Resettlement programme for refugees launched in Chad
      ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: SADC to mediate in Madagascar
      CHINA-AFRICA WATCH: Chin-Africa news roundup
      HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Men and care in the context of HIV
      EDUCATION: Education “forgotten” in post-conflict aid
      DEVELOPMENT: Global finance ignores world’s poor
      LGBTI: Research puts rural gays under spotlight in South Africa
      ENVIRONMENT: Alternative fuel saves trees in DRC
      LAND & LAND RIGHTS: India cultivates Africa
      FOOD JUSTICE: Ethiopian wins World Food Prize
      MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Congo neighbours in media control plot
      ENEWSLETTERS & MAILING LISTS: AfricaFocus: Uganda: Recovery from conflict?
      INTERNET& TECHNOLOGY: eLearning Africa
      PLUS: seminars and workshops, and jobs

      *Pambazuka News now has a page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit


      It's time to secure the rights of women in Africa

      Solidarity for African Women's Rights


      This special issue of Pambazuka complements the work of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) coalition in advocating the ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

      Through a series of five articles, it highlights key human rights issues currently affecting women on the continent, putting them within the context of the debates happening at the 13th African Union Summit. The theme for the summit, held from 24 June to 3 July 2009, is ‘Investing in agriculture for economic growth and development’.

      The special issue puts the women’s agenda within the theme of the summit, as well as highlighting other violations against women that need to be addressed by African leaders. It is a call on all African Union member states to ratify, domesticate and implement the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women as it provides a framework for the protection of women in Africa.
      Global downturn: What now for African women?
      Women's rights and the world financial meltdown
      Hilary N. Ervin & Caroline Muthoni Muriithi

      A call to action: Implement the Africa Women's Rights Protocol
      Norah Matovu Winyi

      Promoting women's land rights at the 13th AU Summit
      Lyn Ossome

      Safeguarding women’s rights will boost food security
      Mary Wandia

      Denied the right to a dignified life
      The forgotten women of Africa
      Anushka Sehmi

      The world financial meltdown: What now for African women?

      Hilary N. Ervin & Caroline Muthoni Muriithi


      cc hdptcar
      As the global economic crisis takes its toll on Africa’s fiscal revenues and household incomes, Hilary N. Ervin & Caroline Muthoni Muriithi fear that the continent’s achievements in human rights and development may be reversed, worsening the condition of women already struggling against an ‘entrenched patriarchy’. Despite embracing commitments to gender equity on paper, Ervin and Muriithi say many countries lack the funding and resources to implement policies and legislation. Programmes focused on women, largely funded by multi-lateral donors, are likely to decline as aid dries up the authors warn, while at a domestic level many households will prioritise the education and welfare of sons over daughters, with ‘long-term consequences for overall development’. Calling for the ratification and implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, Ervin and Muriithi suggest that ‘investment in women's livelihoods, particularly in African economies,’ should be ‘a central focus of governments’ economic recovery policies’.

      Today the global community faces widespread economic turmoil, which has implications of considerable scope for the inclusion and promotion of human rights in general and women's rights in particular. In 2007-2008, many African countries enjoyed relative economic growth and increased investor confidence like never before. Sound economic policies were an important factor, as was the favourable external environment and increased external support in the form of debt relief and higher inflows.[1] However at the end of 2007, the world experienced an increase in commodity prices like fuel and food, followed by the global financial crisis. This crisis has seen commodity prices drop with negative effects on export earnings and the external current account, fiscal revenues, and household incomes.[2] Some African countries have seen a fall in equity markets, capital flow reversals, and pressure from exchange markets.[3]Remittances to Africa are also projected to decline by 4.4 per cent[4], and foreign aid, if the precedent set by the Scandinavian financial crisis of the 1990's[5] is any measure, will likely decline as well.

      It is feared that the current crisis will result in reversal in achievements made under the Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs) and human rights in Africa. The slowdown in growth will likely deepen the deprivation of the poor and of the large number of people clustered just above the poverty line, who are particularly vulnerable to economic volatility and temporary slowdowns.[6] This is particularly true for African women who for a long time have been the face of poverty in Africa. In Africa many women are already struggling daily against an entrenched patriarchy, enforced through formal and informal social, cultural, political and economic practices. They often face rampant sexual and psychological abuse, which is further exacerbated by the numerous conflicts on the continent. For example mass rape of women and girls in the Congo and Darfur, which subsequently contributes to the increase in levels of HIV/AIDS in Africa and further endangering the health of women on the continent. Women continue to bear the burden of feeding the continent. They constitute 70-80 per cent of the agricultural labour force, yet they have limited access and control over land and the produce they grow; no access to credit and agricultural inputs and are never involved in decision making processes. Women continue to face various forms of harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, early marriage, and other forms of slavery and bondage that leave them vulnerable to abuse and health complications.

      Women rights advocates across the continent have fought long and hard to ensure that their governments adopt and implement laws and policies that seek to remedy the injustices faced by women. As a result funding for women-centred programming varies considerably across Africa, but with limited resources being invested in the implementation of women's rights. Though on paper many countries have embraced broad commitments to gender equity and female empowerment, including the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) [PDF]; the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women ('The Protocol') and commitments under the Millennium Development Goals, funding for the financial and human resources necessary to bring laws and policies into action has thus far been negligible[7]. With the current crisis, this negligible funding may result in no funding at all.

      The current financial crisis has amounted to a decline in household income, meaning the reallocation of scare resources towards boys' welfare and education. In times of economic crisis, the rate of child mortality among girls has been shown to increase, while the percentage of girls enrolled in primary education rapidly declines.[8] This could also mean a drop in the gains made on girl child education, with parents choosing to invest in education of boys and removing girls from school due to high cost of living and education. The crisis also has far-reaching effects on women's ability to assert and demand their individual rights within the current economic context, especially when they are forced to rely on their husband and male relatives for money. Women are mostly likely to have jobs in the informal sectors of the economy with virtually no job security. They are also the first to get laid off as they are often less skilled than their male counterparts.[9] This will increase the vulnerability of women and make them susceptible to human rights violations such as trafficking, prostitution and domestic violence to mention a few. When basic survival is a daily concern, the overall rights agenda takes a back seat, and with many African nations struggling to feed their people social welfare programmes become a mere luxury. The International Labour Organization recently released a report on the Global Employment Trends for Women, which reconfirms the reality of gender inequality in the global labour market in terms of access, freedom of occupational choice, participation rates and levels of unemployment.[10] Couple this with contractions in the market, reduction in remittances and a decrease in micro-lending and you have dire consequences for women, a reversal of the progress made towards gender equity over the past decade and long-term consequences for overall development.

      With industrialised (i.e. donor) nations reallocating funds towards domestic sources and economic stimulus packages, many programmes dependent on foreign aid in Africa and other developing areas will no longer be able to operate or will face significant programme reductions. A decrease in funding for women specific programming will result in further marginalisation of their rights and self-efficacy. As we are aware, many women based initiatives in Africa are funded through multilateral aid agencies and country foreign aid programmes from wealthy donors. The inclusion of women-centred programmes and social funding in many national budgets of African countries is negligible and as such, a large percentage of women who are currently benefiting from externally funded projects will no longer be able to access services as donor governments continue cutting aid in favour of investment at home.

      This is why full ratification and implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is so vital to both the empowerment and status of African women as well as economic recovery across the continent. The protocol does not only spell out the rights of women but clearly guides state parties on their obligations in ensuring that the rights provided are adequately implemented. Article 26 (2) calls on state parties not only to adopt measures stated in the protocol but also to ensure that it provides budgetary and other resources for the full and effective implementation of the protocol. The protocol is bold in providing for a number of human rights for women such as: A call for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, the rights of widows; the rights of women to property and inheritance; calling on states to invest in social programmes for women; the right to food security and housing; a right to sustainable development; the prevention of early marriage for girls; and sexual and reproductive health rights among others.

      For example, the fact that the Kenyan government has yet to ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is indicative of the culture of male dominance that dictates many social and cultural practices in the nation. In Kenya reproductive health is not a government priority and provision of services are extremely limited with respect to family planning and maternal health. In a nation where 1 in every 39[11] women is at risk of maternal mortality during her lifetime and an estimated 30-50 per cent[12] of those deaths are attributable to unsafe abortions and resulting complications, a reduction in external programme funding translates to an even higher mortality rate. Beyond direct funding for health services, a reduction of aid targeted towards community programmes and women's initiatives that aim to educate women on their reproductive and family planning options will result in an increase in number of unwanted pregnancies, abortions and ultimately mortality rates among the population, not to mention other continuous violations of women's rights. This is just but one example of how fluctuations in the market will, can and do affect the implementation and realisation of women's rights in any context. Unfortunately, for women in Africa the battle to level the playing field is still being fought. It is clear that many African nations did not invest resources to fund social welfare programmes prior to the global crisis and the impacts felt locally further complicate respective government's financial capacities now.


      Sound policy choices now, which adequately account for women, will have both short-term and long-term positive impacts on development and economic sustainability – for example the inclusion of women in national budgets and all investment policies. This again necessitates the ratification and implementation of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.

      Though there are rapidly evolving and increasing challenges facing the global community, the current upheaval in the economy does offer a unique opportunity for the insertion of a women's rights and equality agenda. History demonstrates[13] that investment in women's economic security and their place within the workforce helped pull the United States out of the Great Depression and aided the stabilisation of the Latin American economies during the regional economic crisis of the 1990s. However, a focus on the massive wealth of resource available on the continent and responsible adjustments that focus on the human development and specifically women's socio-economic empowerment is important during this period of economic turmoil.

      Addressing gender specific issues of the economic crisis at the 53rd United Nations session Sakiko Fukuda-Parr points out that 'global governance needs to provide for safeguards against such downside risks that threaten the security of human lives'. Investment in women's livelihoods, particularly in African economies, should be a central focus of governments' economic recovery policies. In any society the status of women has an effect on the overall level of national development and level of freedom enjoyed by the people as a whole. Accounting for women's rights and development of inclusive policies and practices now will help both to stabilise many economies in Africa feeling the heat of the current global crisis and to reposition African countries on the world's stage.

      * Hilary Ervin is a freelance writer on human rights and an intern at Equality Now.
      * Caroline Muthoni Muriithi is a human rights lawyer and currently a programme officer at Equality Now.
      *Please note that the views reflected in this article are not necessarily the views of Equality Now.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      [1] See, Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Sub-Saharan Africa , p. 3 , 2009 (International Monetary Fund.
      [2] Id.,
      [3] Id., p.4
      [4] Ratha, Dilip. Remittances Expected to Fall by 5-8% in 2009. World Bank.
      [5] Rodman, David. History Says Financial Crisis Will Suppress Aid. Global Development: Views from the Center.
      [6] Shimelse Ali, Impact of Financial Crisis on Africa, International Economic Bulletin, April 2009, viewed at
      [7] See, African Center for Gender and Social Development. Financing Gender Equity and the Empowerment of Women in Africa. United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Transcript Published December 2007.
      [8] Buvinic, Mayra. Emerging Issue: The Gender Perspective of the Financial Crisis. Interactive Expert Panel. March 2009
      [9] Id., p.3
      [10] International Labor Organization. Global Employment Trends for Women. International Labor Organization. March 2009
      [11] UNICEF. Kenya Statistics.
      [12] Mulama, Joyce. Break the Silence on Abortion. Health Kenya. IPS. August 30th, 2009.
      [13] Commission on the Status of Women. Governments Must Focus on Women as Economic Agents During Global Financial Crisis if Their Disproportionate Suffering is to be Averted. United Nations Economic and Social Council. May 5th, 2009.

      A call to action: Implement the Africa Women's Rights Protocol

      Norah Matovu Winyi


      cc Juan Falque
      In the five years since the adoption of the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, some 26 countries have ratified Africa's first regional human rights instrument. But with 27 countries yet to do so, the challenge remains to see each African nation commit to fully upholding women's rights. Moral arguments aside, implementing women's rights offers clear social and developmental benefits for all, argues Norah Matovu Winyi, benefits which will only be realised through sustained political will.

      It is more than five years since the Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (hereinafter referred to as the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol) was adopted. For the last five years members of the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) coalition have lobbied the leaders of states and governments at African Union summits to sign and ratify and then implement in full the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol. Combined with those of many other actors, these efforts resulted in the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol being the first regional human rights instrument in Africa to come into force only two years after its adoption in 2003 at the 2nd Ordinary Session African Union Summit held in Maputo, Mozambique. Since then 26 countries have ratified the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol, and they are now expected to domesticate the protocol (to pass a law in parliament where it is required to make the protocol applicable in the national context) as well as taking appropriate policy, administrative and practical measures and actions to facilitate its full implementation.

      There are still 27 African countries yet to ratify the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol. It is however important to note that 20 African countries have taken the first step of signing onto the protocol, which in legal terms means that the countries essentially agree with the provisions of the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol and they only need to complete the legal process of ratification in order to make it applicable in their respective countries. Therefore, only five countries have neither signed nor ratified the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol. These are Botswana, Egypt, Eritrea, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Tunisia. The aim of the initiators of this home-grown human rights instrument was to ensure that it has universal application in Africa within the shortest time possible as a means to secure gender equality and the rights of women and girls in all aspects of their lives.

      The adoption of the African Women’s Rights Protocol was considered a significant achievement during the Beijing + 10 review process held in 2004–05. The five-year review of progress made in the implementation of the millennium development goals (MDGs) also noted the adoption of the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol as a groundbreaking achievement. The Beijing Declaration and PfA and the MDGs specifically recognise gender equality and women’s empowerment as development goals in themselves. They also state that they are key to the achievement of sustainable development, and this is particularly true in the context of Africa.

      For Africa to realise its development aspirations and goals it has to achieve economic growth. Higher economic growth is dependent on the successful promotion of human rights for all and the implementation of programmes and interventions intended to achieve gender equality and social, economic and political empowerment for women and men. Therefore, the adoption of the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol is a very positive step in the right direction. It provides a legal framework for the recognition of women’s rights and creates obligations for states and governments to take measures to ensure that every woman and girl in Africa enjoys these rights. Ensuring that women enjoy their rights to dignity, to freedom from violence, to education, to health (including sexual and reproductive health rights), to employment, to own property and to have access to development resources like land and credit facilities is one critical way of achieving urgently needed economic growth (not less than a 7 per cent growth rate for every country in Africa) required to realise the MDGs in Africa by 2015.

      The big question therefore remains: How is it that some countries have not ratified the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol if implementation of its provisions would result in significant benefits for these countries and Africa as a whole? Why has a country like Uganda, which has taken the lead in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment on the continent and has enjoyed tremendous benefits in terms of economic growth, not ratified the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol?

      SOAWR coalition members had the opportunity to meet and discuss with several permanent representatives (ambassadors) resident in Addis Ababa and ministers of foreign affairs from different countries during the pre-AU summit meetings in January 2009. Some of the reasons advanced by these leaders for the non-ratification thus far included 'mistakes in translation of the text of the Protocol from English to Arabic', and 'the Protocol having contentious provisions especially those related to the right to health including sexual and reproductive health rights'. These are very simple reasons that have quick solutions if African leaders could exercise the political will to achieve gender equality and protect, promote and respect the rights stipulated in the protocol.

      Arabic is one of the five official languages used by the African Union. Therefore countries that prefer to receive their documentation in Arabic have a right to demand and receive a quality service from the African Union Commission (AUC). Secondly and as we all know, where there is a right there is always a responsibility. Therefore, where a state party finds discrepancies in the legal texts of such a key instrument due to translation, they have the responsibility to bring it to the attention of the chairperson and the legal department of the AUC. This matter should not be a cause for delay for a country to sign and ratify the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol.

      For those countries which have expressed reservations on Article 14 – which provides for women's right to health, including sexual and reproductive health – it is important to remind our leaders that African countries have adopted several sector-focused declarations on HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health and rights, education, peace and security in line with the provisions articulated in the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol. These sector-specific declarations fully acknowledge the centrality of gender equality and women’s empowerment in achieving progress in development.

      Gender inequalities give rise to inequalities between men and women in health status and access to quality healthcare services. There are biological differences and there also differences between men and women that arise due to social factors. The social dimension of gender inequality in relation to health in Africa includes unequal power in decision-making at the family level and the level of choice on matters that affect women and men’s lives. It has already been scientifically proven through numerous studies by the World Bank that gender inequalities hinder development. It is on this premise that the drafters of the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol included provisions that can address most of these gender inequalities.

      A woman must have the right to decide when to get married and the choice of her partner. Parents, religious and community leaders can provide guidance on how to make the choice, but under no circumstance should they negate the right of a woman to make her choice of partner. A woman should also have a right to have or not to have children. She should be able to decide how many children to have and how best to space them. Where women and girls lack the power, ability, information and sufficient education to make such informed decisions they end up being subjected to early marriages, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and having large families which keep them and their families in a vicious cycle of poverty, hunger and disease. There is no doubt that denying women’s health rights hinders development. Women’s lack of access to resources and decision-making within the household – particularly in relation to their bodies and sexuality – denies them the right to live in dignity, to live free of violence, the right to development and to realise their full potential, as well as having a negative impact on their health and that of their families, communities and the nation at large. Poor health results in low levels of productivity.

      One of the most contentious provisions in the protocol is the right for a woman to make a choice for a medical abortion in exceptional circumstances, particularly where the continuation of the pregnancy is a risk to her own health or life. For example, it provides for the right to make a choice where the pregnancy is the result of rape (such as gang rape in a conflict situation) or defilement (in case of a girl below the age of 18 years of age) or incest. Most importantly, the provision on medical abortion does not in any way disregard the sanctity of life. The life of the pregnant woman is as important as the life of the unborn child. Therefore, women and men, boys and girls have the right of access to vital information and proper health services in order to make appropriate decisions about their health. This would definitely minimise unwanted pregnancies and the risks associated with unsafe abortions.

      It is imperative that all countries that have not ratified the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol do so to secure its universal application across the whole of Africa. This will increase its impact as a practical advocacy tool for women's and girls’ rights. Secondly, countries that have ratified the protocol must take action to implement it in full. They should focus more on addressing the large unmet need for universal education, access to higher education for both boys and girls, the provision of family planning and other reproductive health services, creating employment opportunities and eliminating gender imbalances at the family level. This is the purpose of the protocol, to focus everyone’s attention on these rights.

      If these rights are consistently promoted and programmes and interventions implemented to ensure that every women and girl enjoys them, then this human rights approach to development will go a long way to reducing the high rates of teenage and unwanted pregnancies and the many cases of violence against women and girls. In the present circumstances the lack of recognition and respect for women’s rights results in many cases of violence and illegal and unsafe abortions, among many other social problems. If men and women come to recognise and respect each other's human rights, we will reduce cases of women requiring abortions.

      The delay around ratifying the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol – which brings numerous political, social and economic benefits to women and girls in every country in Africa, and to the continent as a whole in terms of its development goals and aspirations – is similar to the situation of a desperate man searching for a haven, who instead of taking off in the opposite direction decides to take the route where his enemies are coming from. If African leaders exercise the political will to rid this continent of poverty, hunger and disease, they cannot simply continue business as usual. Gender equality and women’s empowerment must be goals in themselves. The commitment to the full implementation of the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol is a political choice that will ensure Africa faces the direction of the safe haven.

      The SOAWR coalition is a group of organisations and regional networks that came together to work towards the universal ratification and full implementation of the Africa Women’s Rights Protocol. Since its formation in 2004, the 31-strong member coalition has produced advocacy materials to popularise the provisions of the protocol, organised coordinated lobbies around African Union summits, supported national-level advocacy initiatives for the ratification and implementation of the protocol, and established working relations with relevant AU departments to track the progress of ratification. The members have met with presidents, ambassadors and ministers to remind them of their obligations to meet commitments made on behalf of their citizens to achieve the goals of gender equality and women's empowerment.

      * Norah Matovu Winyi is the executive director of FEMNET – The African women's development and communication network.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      Promoting women's land rights at the 13th AU summit

      Lyn Ossome


      cc Maristella
      With Sirte, Lybia, hosting the 13th African Union summit this week, Lyn Ossome of Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) challenges African heads of state to keep women's land rights on the developmental agenda. At a time of marked global economic difficulty, women remain acutely vulnerable to unstable food prices and restricted access to land, meaning that African governments must now more than ever challenge discriminatory laws and customs, Ossome argues. If the AU's summit is offer progress, Ossome contends, African heads of state must make strong commitments to policies favourable to women's empowerment such as subsidising non-industrial agriculture and securing women's land tenure.

      Heads of African states and governments must recommit themselves to honouring the dignity of women’s work and their contributions to economies in ways that work for our people on the continent.

      In its preamble, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa recognises 'the crucial role of women in the preservation of African values based on the principles of equality, peace, freedom, dignity, justice, solidarity and democracy' and in this summarises the dilemmas that continue to define the dialectic between governance and productivity. At the heart of this lies the role of women in development and their access to and control of factors of production.

      The above issues should be considered seriously both by heads of states whenever they meet in their continental forums and on the national level, especially in the areas of implementation.

      Conflict and militarisation have increased insecurity at all levels and taken valuable resources away from fighting poverty on the continent to fighting wars. The feminisation of poverty has deepened and now more than ever, African governments are called upon to review the structural inequalities that continue to impoverish and exclude a large section of the population, including women.[1]

      Women’s right to land is a critical factor in determining social status, economic wellbeing and empowerment. Their right to property is unequal to those of men in many African countries, and their right to own, inherit, manage and dispose of property is under constant attack from customs, laws and individuals. Institutions that ought to affirm this right and guarantee them secure tenure remain constrained by outdated laws; by the notion of land rights as being resident in oppressive legal and policy frameworks inimical to the principles of gender equity; and by an essentially zero-sum interpretation of women’s rights to property within customary law.

      Constitutions, as well as reaffirming the sanctity and protection of private property, ought to reflect a shift from the historical power imbalances that have traditionally disenfranchised women. Countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia have an opportunity to do so through their current review processes, within which African states must reject land policies that despite reflecting equitability in land size, class and productive capacities, nonetheless fail to dispense with institutional biases militating against women’s access to credit from banks, financial institutions and other credit circles. Mitigating conflicts through balancing positive components of customary laws (particularly through the bill of rights) between constitutional and international provisions on gender equality on the one hand and customary practices and legislations that discriminate against women in relation to land ownership and inheritance on the other is another challenge states are faced with.

      African states are further challenged by the current restructuring of the global economy, a restructuring which relocates African women in spaces that recall their vulnerability to agricultural exploitation during the structural adjustment period of the 1990s. Women are especially vulnerable to the food crisis because of their reproductive responsibilities. They must also confront a lack of access to and control over land, technologies and credit. Thirty years of failed agricultural policies have also made it more difficult for women to deal with rising food prices. A set of questions straddles the nexus between desired economic growth and women’s right to food security, and should provide the catalytic bases of response by African states to the issue of guaranteeing women land-related freedoms. If, as has been argued by some experts, the problem is not the availability of food but access to food resources, then which strategies need to be adopted and prioritised by African states in tackling food insecurity? As a minimum, global development models that marginalise half of the world’s population must be challenged by African states.

      Globally and in Africa women are now calling for food sovereignty, an approach that protects the environment and advances human rights. Within this, climate change presents significant threats to the achievement of the millennium development goals (MDGs), especially those related to eliminating poverty and hunger and promoting environmental sustainability. An increasing body of evidence points to the disproportionate negative impact that climate change will have on the poorest countries that, ironically, have contributed least to the problem. Are African governments ready for the challenges posed by the potential impacts of climate change? Its impacts on food production relate to African women in very specific ways: As food production shrinks and demand for productive land escalates conflicts, the imperative reverts back to states to reduce women’s vulnerability to sexual violence and exploitation that increased mobility in search of productive land and resources invariably exposes them to. This is possible through investment in holistic, gender-sensitive approaches to climate change adaptation and land use.

      Further, the scarcity of productive land is a major force against women’s right to own and inherit land. Broadening returns through a national income valuation of women’s productive contribution towards land improvement is one way to secure tenure, and is possible through official recognition of time use and efficiency and through increased budgetary allocations towards farm subsidies for non-industrial production, value addition to small-scale and indigenous crops traditionally farmed by women.

      Dispute resolution mechanisms that favour class interests over productive pragmatism are also part of the problem denying women access to justice and must be addressed. In many African countries, corruption in land allocation, acquisition and redistribution is endemic and the existence of systemic balances with regard to transparency and accountability is often taken for granted. States can recommit themselves to enhancing the responsiveness of local- and national-level justice systems to women’s rights.

      In conflict and post-conflict countries, states secure provision of emergency food aid to the most vulnerable groups, and work with farming families to increase longer-term food production and distribution of drought-resistant seed varieties through women’s resource networks. Stronger links between state and civil society organisations are crucial here, as is the need for civil society groups to systematically campaign around land rights for women as a single issue.

      The real dilemma with regard to enhancing the role of women in agricultural production and food security lies in securing their use of all factors of production and maintaining a reciprocal relationship entailing value addition and remuneration. During the forthcoming AU summit therefore, African heads of state and government must:

      1) Make serious commitments towards directing capital investments to subsidise non-industrial agricultural farming, in view of the current global state of compelled resource re-appropriation
      2) Invest in research and technologies that support profit-retention values of small-scale agricultural output
      3) Act on the cultural impunity that continues to impede the implementation of progressive land policies
      4) Secure women’s land tenure by increasing their opportunities to share and play a more substantive role in agrarian reform processes.

      Heads of African states and governments must recommit themselves to honouring the dignity of women’s work and real contributions to our economies. The way to do this is by consciously supporting value-derivative processes with the aim of increasing the benefits to women from production and protecting their right to determine economic growth and food security on the continent.

      Of course, overcoming poverty will not be possible without challenging patriarchy, capitalism and the current model of development, which puts profits before public goods, human security and welfare. A more equitable distribution of land and other resources is necessary to overcome poverty – especially rural poverty – and as they decide on the economic direction of the continent, African governments must remain trained on the truism of political will as the most powerful weapon in lessening the burden of poverty on African women.

      * Lyn Ossome is a human rights activist.
      * This article is dedicated to the memory of Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, who tirelessly spoke out against the marginalisation and exclusion of women from their own struggles and without whom and for whom the struggle must continue.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      1. FIDA, Land Policy Brief: Debating Women’s Land and Property Rights against the Background of the Land Reforms in Kenya, 2009.
      2. Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
      3. The Montevideo Declaration, 5 May 2007

      [1] The Montevideo Declaration, 5 May 2007

      Safeguarding women’s rights will boost food security

      Mary Wandia


      cc Find Your Feet
      African women play a critical role in ensuring the food security of the continent, writes Mary Wandia in the run-up to the 2009 African Union Summit (24 June-3 July), which has its official theme ‘Investing in agriculture for economic growth and development’. Highlighting that women contribute 60-80 per cent of the labour used to produce food both for household consumption and for sale, Wandia writes that improved women’s ‘access, control and ownership of land and productive resources are key factors in eradicating hunger and rural poverty’. Yet while land is ‘critical for improving women’s, social security, livelihoods and their social status’, culturally embedded discrimination continues to weaken their land rights and livelihood options, Wandia cautions. It is therefore essential, Wandia argues, for governments to ensure that women’s rights are comprehensively addressed in the AU ‘Africa land policy framework and guidelines’, scheduled for adoption at this year’s summit.

      The importance of agriculture to economic development in Africa and the critical role that rural women play within this sector cannot be overemphasised, especially in smallholder subsistence agriculture, which is critical to ensuring the food security of the continent. About 73 per cent of the rural population consists of smallholder farmers (IFAD, 1993:6). In Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture accounts for approximately 21 per cent of the continent's GDP and women contribute 60-80 per cent of the labour used to produce food both for household consumption and for sale.[1] Estimates of women's contribution to the production of food crops range from 30 per cent in the Sudan to 80 per cent in the Congo, while their proportion of the economically active labour force in agriculture ranges from 48 per cent in Burkina Faso to 73 per cent in the Congo and 80 per cent in the traditional sector in Sudan.[2]

      It is widely acknowledged that improved women’s access, control and ownership of land/natural and productive resources, are key factors in eradicating hunger and rural poverty. This has been restated in the framework of international commitments.[3] Land is critical for improving women’s, social security, livelihoods and their social status. Women face discrimination under both customary and formal systems as a result of culturally embedded discriminatory beliefs and practices, male control of inheritance systems, and the spread of HIV/AIDS, which further weakens land rights and livelihood options of widows and orphans.[4]

      Securing land rights for women would dramatically alter the insecurity, disempowerment and abuse that are associated with poverty and inequality, and would create new fronts for rolling back HIV and AIDS. Thus, ensuring that women’s rights are comprehensively addresses in the on-going Africa Land Policy Framework and Guidelines discussed below is very critical.


      Structural adjustment and macro-economic stabilisation programmes have demanded reductions and/or the commercialisation of social services including health and education, leaving women to bear the burden of care. Agricultural liberalisation programmes, subsidy withdrawal and the closure of state marketing institutions have resulted in the collapse of smallholder livelihoods, forcing women to abandon food production for alternative livelihood strategies and, often, a hand-to-mouth existence.

      Market-based land reform has repeated the mantra that investment – particularly foreign direct investment – is the means to financial growth. The experience of many communities who have leased out land to investors is that they lose the land as well as the common resources on it, for leases that might be for up to 50 years, with few overall benefits for the community. Women are not party to these negotiations and are not in a position to prevent land leases. Indigenous women’s land rights are constantly being undermined as a result of displacements and evictions, intrusion of other actors on their lands, and assimilationist policies. Dispossession of indigenous lands is frequently an extremely violent process, which has included crimes of rape, murder and torture of women as a means to subjugate indigenous populations.[5]

      In Africa, rural women have less access to credit than rural men, which limits their ability to purchase seeds, fertilisers and other inputs needed to adopt new farming techniques. An FAO analysis of credit schemes in five African countries, where women predominate in food production (Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe), found that women received less than 10 per cent of the credit directed at smallholders and just 1 per cent of the total credit directed to agriculture (Bullock, 1993, p.47). In addition, in all of the countries, rural populations generally have less access to credit than urban residents.[6]

      Women are under-represented in decision making and therefore in the administration and management of land and other productive resources. Women are under-represented in decision-making organs for land administration at all levels. Thus their concerns are often not taken on board and they have limited influence over the policy-making processes.

      Due to the conflicts on the continent, African peoples as a whole have been displaced from their land and this places all citizens land rights in jeopardy. Internally displaced women face multiple forms of displacement as when they return to what would have been their natal home they are not considered as belonging.

      In sub-Saharan Africa, women now account for 61 per cent of people living with HIV, up from 57 per cent in 2003[7] and young women aged 15 to 24 are more than three times as likely to be infected than young men[8]. While hunger fuels the spread of HIV, the virus is equally a cause of hunger and poverty in households. The arguments for women’s land, livelihood and property rights to be part of the battle against HIV and AIDS are therefore multiple: Rights provide security and protection against violence and dispossession, allow women control over their sexuality and choices, meet basic needs such as food and shelter and provide women with an income and a home.

      Discrimination against women in respect of their access to and control over land has dire and direct implications for the African peoples as a whole. Firstly it affects food security and undermines sustainable development. It has been noted that in Ghana for instance, limited security of tenure for women ‘is one of the obstacles to the introduction of soil conservation practices’.[9] Some studies have shown that if women farmers were given equal access to extension services their yields would increase by up to seven per cent and that if all women farmers were had primary schooling, yields would increase by 24 per cent.[10]


      Governments have made numerous international commitments to promote and defend women’s rights, as well as recognising the importance of women’s rights in combating HIV and AIDS. However, these commitments are far from reflected in the ways in which resources are allocated and programmes are prioritised.

      Drawing on, and benefiting from the wealth of information and the impetus from the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development Declaration (ICARRD) the African Union (AU), the African Development Bank (ADB) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), launched an initiative aiming at the development of a Land Policy and Land Reform Framework and Guidelines for Africa in March 2006 that will be adopted by the AU Summit in Libya in July 2009.

      It is envisaged that it will:
      - Provide a basis for commitment by governments at the continental level to common actions at regional and national levels by putting in place sound land policies as a basis for sustained economic growth and poverty reduction;
      - Establish guidelines and benchmarks for good practices of land policy and land reform and the performance of land institutions, as well as making land policies and the performance of land institutions subject to the African Peer Review Mechanism;
      - Serve as a platform for gaining commitment of partners to a sustainable funding framework and capacity building.

      To kick-start the process of developing of the Africa land policy and land reform framework and guidelines, the AU, ECA and ADB in collaboration with partners launched through a regional consultative workshop held in Addis Ababa, 27-29 March 2006. Regional assessments and consultative workshops have been held[11] allowing the critical challenges to be assessed and key issues to be addressed by national land policies and implementation process and also to provide valuable insights into commonality and diversity of situations among regions and countries.

      In November 2008, in a meeting ‘Securing women’s access to and control over land in Africa through the Africa land policy framework and guidelines’ after the African Development Forum VI (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 21-22 November 2008) made recommendations to the task force on how to integrate women’s rights throughout the draft[12]. Their concerns and recommendations reiterated what African women have been demanding for a long time[13]:

      - Governments should dismantle all discriminatory policies and legislation in line with regional and international commitments
      - Women’s role in the agricultural sector must be given due recognition through affirmative action programmes specifically targeted at providing women with rural support services, increase tenure security and land rights
      - Strict procedures and guidelines should be followed to ensure that land transfers do not deprive communities of common resources. They should be sensitive to gender differentiated land uses and fully protect women’s land rights
      - Agrarian reforms must see rural communities – both women and men – as a key force for national development. They should provide for sustained and adequate levels of public investment in communities, aimed at creating a vibrant and prosperous small scale farming sector
      - The role of women in sustaining rural life and agriculture must be acknowledged by asserting women’s land rights and building leadership of rural women in community and national decision-making
      - Governments must support forums where rural women dialogue with each other and put forward proposals to policy makers
      - Women’s representation in local decision-making structures in charge of land administration matters (village councils, committees etc) must be given priority in strengthening land administration systems. The necessary training must be provided to women office holders so that they are able to build strong political constituencies to defend and promote the interests of women peasants.

      The Experts and Ministers of Land/Agriculture adopted the Draft Framework in April 2009 in Addis Ababa paving the way for its adoption by the AU Summit in July 2009. As things stand, some of the recommendations have been integrated in the draft. However, women’s rights need to be treated more comprehensively in each of the dimensions of the land question mentioned in the draft policy framework (state sovereignty over land, unequal distribution of land resources, duality of property systems, enhancing agricultural productivity, sustainable management of the environment, protecting the commons, impact of HIV/AIDS).


      Women are the primary agriculturalists in Africa yet this is unacknowledged and they are not provided with training; nor can they own what they produce or access agricultural credit. What difference would it make for Africa’s future if this injustice were addressed? Women hold indigenous knowledge pertaining to biodiversity. This isn’t recognised so Africa cannot benefit from this knowledge. Imagine the opportunities that would be available to the continent if women’s indigenous knowledge was acknowledged as a resource. Isn’t it time we got rid of the claw backs – in what way are they benefiting us?[14]

      Small scale farmers, largely women, must be at the centre of agricultural development in Africa taking in to account the fact that they are the major producers and in recognition of the fact that a majority of the African population lives in rural areas and are not directly dependent on the market economy. Investment must be made to smallholder farmers so that they have the capacity (tools and inputs) and skills (extension service) to develop their own knowledge systems oriented to more productive technologies.

      To ensure that agricultural and wider economic development in Africa is pro-poor, it is necessary to ensure a viable future for family farming and reconcile existing land rights and the need for investment, through equitable frameworks for land access by both rich and poor men and women, and through strengthening market access, technical support, credit availability and farmers organisations.[15]

      Will the African Union Summit delegates acknowledge and demand that the Land Policy and Land Reform Framework and Guidelines embraces these realities before they adopt it in Libya in July 2009?

      * Mary Wandia is a feminist from Kenya with over ten years experience in women's rights at regional and international level. She is currently gender justice and governance lead
 for Oxfam GB’s Pan Africa programme. She writes here in a personal capacity.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at


      [3] Including: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976); UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS; Declaration of Commitment (2001); Millennium Declaration (2000); FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food (2004); World Food Summit and its Plan of Action (1996); the FAO’s 32nd Committee on Food Security in October (2006), The International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development-ICARRD- Declaration (2006) and the African Union’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003).
      [4] FAO ‘Agrarian Reform, Land Policies and the Millennium Development Goals: FAO’s Interventions and Lessons Learned During the Past Decade’, ARC/06/INF/7 (2006)
      [5] See ActionAid International Policy Brief, Women’s Land Rights, 2006
      [7] UNAIDS, AIDS Epidemic Update, December 2007
      [8] UNAIDS/UNFPA/UNIFEM, Women and HIV/AIDS: Confronting the Crisis, 2004
      [9] E.B. Aryeetey, Behind the Norms: Women’s Access to Land in Ghana, The Dynamics of Resource Tenure in West Africa, eds. C.Toulmin, P.L. Delville and S. Traore, (London: IIED, GRET, Currey and Heinemann, 2002) as quoted in the Draft Land Policy Initiative: A Framework to Strengthen Land Rights, Enhance Productivity and Secure Livelihoods. Regional Assessment on Land Policy in West Africa
      [10] See Agnes R. Quisumbing et al, Women: the Key to Food Security, Food Policy Report (Washington DC: The International Food Policy Research Institute, August 1995). In this report there are various studies cited illustrating the food security benefits out of enhancing women’s access to extension services and ensuring their land rights.
      [11] Southern Africa (August 2007) Eastern Africa (January 2008), West Africa (April 2008) Central Africa (August 2008) and North Africa (November 2008)
      [12] The meeting co-hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB), African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), Urgent Action Fund Africa and ActionAid International.
      [13] See ActionAid International Policy Brief, Women’s Land Rights, 2006
      [14] Atsango Chesoni -‘African Women’s Rights to Land, the Challenges and Commitments in International and Regional Policy Frameworks’ November 2008
      [15] FAO ‘Agrarian Reform, Land Policies and the Millennium Development Goals: FAO’s Interventions and Lessons Learned During the Past Decade’, ARC/06/INF/7 (2006)

      Denied the right to a dignified life

      The forgotten women of Africa

      Anushka Sehmi


      cc United Nations Photo
      Traditionally African culture dictated that elderly citizens be treated with respect, writes Anushka Sehmi, but as economic constraints erode the extended family system and fuel rural-urban migration, many old people languish in villages with no-one to care for them. With a quarter of African women left widowed by mounting conflict, disease and poverty, Sehmi explores abuse of and discrimination against elderly women in the light of cultural practices such as widow-inheritance and land ownership. Noting that ‘there is almost no legal or policy framework’ that safeguards the rights of elderly women in Africa, Sehmi calls for states to ratify and implement treaties that protect them, such as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and for marginalised groups to ‘be engaged and educated regarding their civic and political rights’. It is up to us to lobby and push our governments to perform this task, says Sehmi, or ‘these forgotten women will forever be denied the right to a dignified life’.

      Improved healthcare and knowledge regarding health choices, sanitation and development has led to improved life-expectancy rates the world over. According to a report by Help-Age International, however, the pervading attitude among many people is that older persons have outlived their usefulness, are unproductive and over-dependent.[1] The rights of the elderly are usually last on the agenda when it comes to the protection of the human rights of a population as a whole. In fact the rights of the elderly have also taken second place on the global agenda in terms of policy-making and protection.

      Traditionally African culture dictated that elderly citizens be treated with respect and were seen as a source of great wisdom in the extended family system. However, a complete erosion of the extended family system is taking place as a result of economic constraints and cultural practices, with appalling consequences for the elderly. In recent times the elderly have become ever more vulnerable to abuse and various forms of negative stereotyping and discrimination.

      The situation in Africa is dire; increasingly the circumstances are such that many young people are moving to towns and cities in order to search for better job prospects, whilst older members of the family are being forced to languish in villages without anyone to care for them. This is especially true in the case of women who generally live longer than men and more commonly face poverty and isolation. Furthermore, elderly women seem to bear the brunt of discrimination, especially in terms of cultural practices specific to Africa, such as widow-inheritance and land ownership. The seemingly unstoppable tragedies of major armed conflict, HIV/AIDS and mounting poverty in many parts of Africa have pushed the widowhood rate up to a full 25 per cent of all African women.[2]


      Older people face discrimination and abuse in a variety of forms in Africa. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a significant impact on elderly women in a number of ways. In many cases an elderly women and grandparent of an AIDS victim may have to act as a full-time caregiver, to the detriment to their own quality of life. In the case where elderly women are suffering from AIDS themselves, it may be the case that there is no one to care for them. Furthermore, elderly women whose children have died of AIDS are invariably left destitute. In Africa and Latin America, older people are more likely to be living in absolute poverty than the population as a whole. The proportion of older people living on less than US$1 per day is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (47 per cent). The elderly traditionally have limited access in healthcare facilities and this is particularly the case in Africa where homes for the elderly are virtually non-existent. Furthermore, lack of government initiatives for the elderly persons in general, such as effective retirement policies, mean that many elderly women are financially dependent on their relatives and do not have proper access to healthcare.

      In Tanzania and parts of Zambia, there have been reports of older women being accused of witchcraft and discriminated against. In Kenya alone, there are numerous instances of witchcraft allegations towards the elderly. The Standard newspaper reported that five witchcraft suspects were lynched in Kisii in March 2009[3]. The five – four elderly women and a man – were burned to death in broad daylight at Kanund village in Kitutu Chache. Ironically, residents, including some church leaders have supported the move to lynch suspects, with the chairman of the Kisii Pastors Union, Lawrence Omambia being quoted as saying that residents had a right to eliminate those ascribing to black magic. Belief in witchcraft is widespread across Africa but in northern Tanzania, it is particularly strong. Many attacks go unreported, while it is estimated that some 1,000 people in Tanzania lose their lives annually to witchcraft-related violence, the majority being women over the age of 50.[4]

      In Kenya, a 110 year old grandmother was found raped and strangled in her home; also in 2007 the decomposing body of a 68 year old was found in the same village after a similar rape ordeal.[5] In November 2008, a disabled 80 year old woman was alleged to have been repeatedly raped in her home in the slums of Korogocho.[6] Rape of elderly women is sometimes attributed to young men’s belief that they are free from sexually transmitted diseases, and furthermore, women’s fear of visiting hospitals or reporting to the police for fear of exposing themselves and embarrassment makes them vulnerable to attacks. Many of the elderly are illiterate and in many instances may not be aware of their rights or may be physically incapable of asserting their rights.

      This situation is further exacerbated by cultural practices that discriminate against women, such as widow inheritance and customary inheritance laws which leave women –especially elderly women – destitute, since they can no longer work due to health restraints. Many customary tenure systems provide little independent security of tenure to women on the death of their husband, with land often falling back to the husband’s lineage.[7] To add to this, many countries in Africa allow discrimination in application of the law when it involves matters of customary law. For example, in Kenya the constitution permits discrimination in matters of personal law that includes marriage, separation and divorce, burial, devolution of property on death etc.[8] This means that women have no legal protection when it comes to matters of personal law and they are generally at the mercy of the customs in their communities. In many African societies, women do not have the right to inherit property and land and must always depend on their male relative to have access to property. Therefore when a husband dies, women are likely to loose the matrimonial home and any other properties that may have been accumulated during the marriage to male relatives of the husband, leaving them destitute and vulnerable even in their old age.


      Neither the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, nor the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights(ICESCR) contain any explicit reference to older persons. However, many of the provisions in these instruments are of direct relevance to ensuring equal opportunities and the full participation of the elderly. The ICESCR committee expressly addresses the economic, social and cultural rights of older persons. In the ‘general comment’, the committee calls on state parties, inter alia, to pay particular attention to older women as they have often not engaged in a remunerated activity entitling them to an old-age pension; to institute measures to prevent discrimination on grounds of age in employment and occupation; to take appropriate measures to establish general regimes of compulsory old-age insurance; and to establish social services to support the whole family when there are elderly people at home, and assist elderly persons living alone or elderly couples wishing to remain at home. The African charter on human and peoples’ rights does, however, expressly mention older persons as a group in need of special protection. Article 18(4), the African charter stipulates that the aged shall have the right to measures of special protection in keeping with their physical or moral needs. The protocol to the African charter on human and peoples’ rights on the rights of women in Africa sets out special protection for elderly women. It is as follows:

      Article 22- Special protection of elderly women:

      The states parties undertake to:
      - Provide protection to elderly women and take specific measures commensurate with their physical, economic and social needs as well as their access to employment and professional training;
      - Ensure the right of elderly women to freedom from violence, including sexual abuse, discrimination based on age and the right to be treated with dignity.

      In 1982, the World assembly on ageing, held in Austria, adopted the Vienna international plan of action on ageing, the first international policy document on ageing. It was endorsed by United Nations general assembly resolution 37/51.[9] More recently the 2002 Madrid United Nations international plan of action on ageing was adopted by the Second world assembly on ageing. In Article 5, the Second world assembly proclaims its confidence towards ‘eliminating all forms of discrimination, including age discrimination’. It asserts that ‘persons, as they age, should enjoy a life of fulfilment, health, security and active participation in the economic, social, cultural and political life of their societies’ and proclaims its resolve ‘to enhance the recognition of the dignity of older persons to eliminate all forms of neglect, abuse and violence.’

      How do the above legal provisions translate into action and protection for elderly people? Not very well – unfortunately many African countries are not yet signatories to the 2002 Madrid Convention. Furthermore, the African Women’s Protocol, which provides specific provisions for elderly women, has been ratified by just 27[10] out of the 53 African Union member states, with a minimal number of states even domesticating and implementing its provisions. The fact is that there is almost no legal or policy framework that protects the rights of elderly women in Africa, despite the policy and legal standards set out above. In the few instances where there are national policies and programs to safeguard the rights of the elderly, these provisions are not implemented properly. Thus, even if there are legislated policies for the aged, governments simply don’t take the initiative to execute these policies effectively. The worsening social and economic state of many African countries means that the rights of the elderly are not placed high on the agenda to the detriment of many older persons all over Africa.


      African states have to take immediate steps to remedy the situation affecting elderly women. Treaties such as the African Women’s Protocol must be ratified, domesticated and implemented without delay. Moreover, marginalised groups such as the elderly ought to be engaged and educated regarding their civic and political rights. Formal retirement is not a benefit enjoyed by all elderly persons. In fact in Zambia only public servants who have worked in the formal sector are entitled to a pension equivalent to US$10 a month. Furthermore, there is no pension arrangement for people who have not worked in the formal sector.[11] This policy inherently discriminates against women whose work takes place in the informal sector. Economic and health policies concerning the elderly have to be reviewed and reformed for any lasting changes for the elderly women of Africa to take place. It is therefore time to act, governments have the tools and instruments to lay down and implement comprehensive laws and policies for the elderly. However it is up to us to lobby and push our governments to perform this task, otherwise these forgotten women will forever be denied the right to a dignified life. This will be me and you in a number of years to come, if not sooner.

      * Anushka Sehmi is a lawyer and young women’s rights activist from Nairobi, Kenya.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at


      [2] Source:
      [3] The East African Standard Newspaper, Wednesday 4th March, 2009.
      [4] Source:
      [5] The Standard Newspaper, 14 January 2009 p. 16
      [6] The Standard Newspaper, 26 November, 2008 p.13
      [7] ICWR, ‘ To Have and Hold: Women’s Property and Inheritance Rights in the Context of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa’, Working paper, June 2004, viewed at
      [8] Article 82(1) (b) of the Constitution of Kenya
      [10] Countries that have ratified include: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. For the full list visit

      The global food price crisis

      A critique of orthodox perspectives

      Walden Bello


      cc joespake
      In an extract from his forthcoming book Food Wars, Walden Bello critiques the orthodox views of economist Paul Collier on the global food price crisis. Collier argues that not enough food was produced to meet increased demand from Asia, thanks to a failure to promote commercial farming in Africa, the European Union ban against GMOs and the diversion of American grain to biofuels production. Bello counters that a globalised system of production has 'created severe strains on the environment', 'marginalised large numbers of people from the market, and contributed to greater poverty and greater income disparities within countries and globally'. Defenders of peasant agriculture, says Bello, blame 'capitalist industrial agriculture, with its wrenching destabilisation and transformation of land, nature, and social relations' for today’s food crises, with 'rates of profit determining where investment will be allocated' rather than the desire to satisfy 'the real needs of the global majority'.

      Perhaps the most influential orthodox view on the causes, dynamics, and solution to the food price crisis was provided by Oxford University economist Paul Collier in an article that came out in Foreign Affairs[1] Collier, author of the controversial The Bottom Billion[2], asserted that the food price crisis stemmed from the increased demand for food in Asia, brought on by prosperity that was not matched on the supply side owing to three problems: The failure to promote commercial farming, especially in Africa, the ban against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the European Union (EU), and the diversion of around a third of American grain to the production of ethanol instead of food.

      In the 1980s and 1990s, it was widely acknowledged that the world had enough food to feed some seven or eight billion and that hunger and malnutrition stemmed from unequal income distribution that translated into unequal access to food. By the turn of the millennium, the problem had become one of production. However, Collier’s diagnosis of the supply constraints left much to be desired. The diversion of corn to agro-fuel production was one cause that was certainly incontrovertible, but the other two factors he identified – the European ban on GMOs and the restraints placed on the growth of commercial agriculture – were questionable.

      Collier’s identifying Europe’s GMO ban – now eased, incidentally – as a key constraint on production is disingenuous. The main problem with European agricultural production has, in fact, been overproduction and dumping brought about by heavy subsidisation. He adds though, that he is concerned about the ban’s impact on Africa’s farmers, discouraging them from engaging in genetically engineered agriculture owing to fears of their exports being banned from entering Europe. A 'New Green Revolution' based on genetic engineering (GE) is necessary, says Collier, because the productivity of African agriculture is so low, having missed the first Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s.

      Collier’s attributing African agriculture’s problems mainly to the lack of a GE-inspired miracle is idiosyncratic, to say the least. Moreover, his dismissal of concerns about GMO-based agriculture is cavalier, implying an unscientific stance among those critical of a GE transformation of agriculture. He fails to appreciate that the stance of critics of GE is a legacy of the well known negative ecological and social impacts that accompanied the first, chemical-intensive Green Revolution. Moreover, he fails to recognise that the fears about GE are not abstract but are concerns that are well-grounded empirically.

      Proponents of GMOs have not been able to alleviate worries that transgenic foods have the potential for creating unexpected reactions in humans unless these foods, which have never been seen before and thus not selected for human consumption by eons of evolution, are tested rigorously in accordance with the universally recognised precautionary principle. Neither have they been able to allay worries that non-target populations might be negatively affected by genetic modification aimed at specific pests, as in the case of Bt corn’s impact on the monarch butterfly. Nor have they dispelled the very real threat of loss of biodiversity posed by GMOs. The risks are hardly trifling, as noted by one account:

      The effects of transgenic crops on biodiversity far extend the concerns already raised by monocropping under the Green Revolution. Not only is diversity decreased through the physical loss of species, but because of its 'live' aspect, it has the potential to contaminate, and potentially to dominate, other strains of the same species. While this may be a limited concern with respect to the contamination of another commercial crop, it is significantly more worrisome when it could contaminate and eradicate generations of evolution of diverse and subtly differentiated strains of a single crop, such as the recently discovered transgenic contamination of landraces of indigenous corn in Mexico.[3]

      Collier’s advocacy of GE is, in fact, out of line with even orthodox expert opinion at this point. The recently released International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) – sponsored and funded by, among others, United Nations (UN) agencies, the World Bank, and other institutions – failed to endorse GM crops, choosing instead to highlight the lingering doubts and uncertainties regarding their ecological and health impacts.[4]

      Collier’s promotion of an African Green Revolution powered by genetic engineering is linked to his third contention – that it has been the non-development of commercial agriculture in Africa that has been responsible for the failure of supply to keep up with continental demand. Instead, 'over the past 40 years, African governments have worked to scale back large commercial agriculture.'[5] For Collier, the solution to Africa’s food shortages are commercial agricultural farms employing genetically modified seeds. Further, peasant agriculture is part of the problem. Peasants, he says, are not entrepreneurs or innovators, being too concerned with their food security. Peasants would rather have jobs rather than be entrepreneurs, for which only a few people are fit. The most capable of fitting the role of innovative entrepreneurs are commercial farming operations:

      '[Re]luctant peasants are right: Their mode of production is ill-suited to modern agricultural production, in which scale is helpful. In modern agriculture, technology is fast-evolving, investment is lumpy, the private provision of transportation infrastructure is necessary to counter the lack of its public provision, consumer food chains are fast-changing and best met by integrated marketing chains, and regulatory standards are rising toward the holy grail of traceability of produce back to its source.[6]'

      Collier’s account has, at least, the merit of posing starkly a choice between peasant and small farmer-based agriculture and industrial agriculture as the solution to the world’s food needs. However, his choice, the 'Brazilian model' of industrial agriculture, is not exactly one that would elicit enthusiasm, being a model identified with having placed tremendous stresses on the environment. Moreover, the Brazilian agro-enterprise is part of a larger system of global industrial agriculture, marked by large agribusiness that combines, monopolistic trading companies, long-distance transportation of food, and supermarkets, catering largely to the global elite and upper middle class.

      This globalised system of production has created severe strains on the environment, effectively marginalised large numbers of people from the market, and contributed to greater poverty and greater income disparities within countries and globally. The Brazilian model is part of the problem but Collier's awareness of the model’s systemic flaws only comes when he notes that some 'have criticised the Brazilian model for displacing peoples and destroying the rain forest, which has indeed happened in places where commercialism has gone unregulated.'[7]

      But what is most astounding in Collier’s account is the absence of any reference to externally imposed policies that severely weakened agricultural capacity in a wide swath of developing countries and transitional economies. He notes that part of the problem in Africa has been the breaking down of publicly funded research stations that was part of a 'more widespread malfunctioning of the public sector.' But he fails to point out that this breakdown was due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank's structural adjustment policies (SAPs) that systematically starved agriculture of state support. In October 2008, a report by an independent evaluation team of the World Bank simply confirmed what others had pointed out for two decades:

      'Bank policies in the 1980s and 1990s that pushed African governments to cut or eliminate fertiliser subsidies, de-control prices and privatise may have improved fiscal discipline but did not accomplish much for food production. It had been expected that higher prices for crops would give farmers an incentive to grow more, while competition among private traders reduced the costs of seeds and fertiliser. But those market forces often failed to work as hoped.'[8]

      There was a link between the Brazilian model and SAPs. Both were central elements of a capitalist transformation of agriculture that was intended to integrate local food systems via trade liberalisation, into a global system that is marked by a division of labour that would allegedly result in greater efficiency and greater prosperity in the aggregate. Collier fails to see that SAPs were the cutting edge of this process by seeking to supplant peasant producers with capitalist entrepreneurs who are producing not just for local but for global markets as one step towards large-scale globally integrated capitalist industrial agriculture.


      As for his put-down of peasants and small farmers, Collier is not unique. Many analysts share his view, some of them with progressive credentials. In his acclaimed 1994 book The Age of Extremes, Eric Hobsbawm wrote that 'the death of the peasantry' was 'the most dramatic and far-reaching social change of the second half of this century,' one that cut 'us off forever from the world of the past.'[9]

      Hobsbawm’s proclamation of their death as a class struck many as premature since as he himself noted, 'Admittedly… regions of peasant dominance still represented half the human race at the end of our period.'[10] Yet Hobsbawm’s views have a respectable pedigree. Marx himself compared peasants to a 'sack of potatoes' with little real solidarity and even less class consciousness, and thus destined for the ash heap of history.

      Yet peasants have refused to die and go gently into that good night to which Collier, Hobsbawm, and Marx have consigned them. Indeed, one year before Hobsbawm’s book was published, Via Campesina was founded in 1993, and over the next decade this federation of peasants and small farmers would become an influential actor on the agriculture and trade scene globally. The spirit of internationalism and active identification of one’s class interests with the universal interest of society that was once a prominent feature of workers’ movement is now on display in the international peasant movement.

      Certainly, de-peasantisation and de-agrarianisation have greatly advanced with globalisation, with local self-subsistence production no longer, in many places, the escape that it usually provided for peasants who are caught up in market relations. Summing up a research on 'disappearing' peasantries, Deborah Bryceson writes that under conditions of rapid globalisation and neglected peasant hinterlands, peasants crossing international borders now provide a massive supply of labour for global capital. Although psychologically, many of these peasants still have the notion of a piece of land as a fallback in times of need, in fact, 'as a class, they face proletarianisation by the force of global commodity and labour markets combined with government indifference.'[11]

      Yet the belief that the land is waiting, as a refuge of last resort, continues to persist among many peasants-turned-workers, among them those rural migrants in China who are returning en masse to the countryside as factories close owing to the spreading global recession.[12] Indeed, peasants continue to show an extraordinary persistence to survive as a class, and perhaps nothing underlines this more than Mexican peasants who continue to plant corn for subsistence despite their having been priced out of the market by imported corn dumped by the United States. In other areas, small farmers have confounded those who have preached their demise by showing that labour-intensive small farms can be far more productive than big farms. To cite just one well known study, a World Bank report on agriculture in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador showed that small farms were three to 14 times more productive per acre than the large farms.[13]

      Perhaps the most significant recent development in the long struggle of the peasants as a class has been their organising internationally to protect their interests from the steamroller of industrial capitalist agriculture. Via Campesina – translated as the 'Peasant Way' – has not only been effective in mounting opposition to the World Trade Organisation (WTO); it has also offered an alternative paradigm for agricultural development called 'food sovereignty'. The analysis and appeal of groups like Via Campesina resonate widely because the ability of capital to absorb labour is so limited under the conditions of inequitable globalisation that in recent years, there has been a return to the countryside of significant numbers of both ex-peasants and semi-proletarians, such as the ex-urban dwellers that have driven the land occupations of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra or Movement of the Landless (MST) in Brazil.

      Indeed, not only in the South but also in the North, one witnesses farmers and others who seek to escape the dependency on capital by reproducing the peasant condition, where one works with nature from a limited resource base to create a condition of autonomy from the forces of capital and the market. The emergence of urban agriculture, the creation of networks linking consumers to farmers within a given region, the rise of new militant movements for land – all these, according to Jan van der Ploeg, indicate a movement of 'repeasantisation' that has been created by the negative dynamics of 'Empire' and seeks to reverse them. Under the conditions of the deep crisis of globalisation, which is felt widely as a loss of autonomy, 'the peasant principle, with its focus on the construction of an autonomous and self governed resource base, clearly specifies the way forward.'[14]


      Romanticism, says Collier, is at the root of the increased salience of small-scale agriculture as an alternative to globalised farming in progressive circles. In this he is joined by some intellectuals of the left like Henry Bernstein, who refers to partisans of the new peasant movements as the 'new populists', implying their similarity to the Narodniks of pre-revolutionary Russia. But however their conditions and vicissitudes are analysed by the intellectuals, some of whom even question the label 'peasant' to describe many of them, small food producers are gathering allies, including many of the governments of the South, which torpedoed the Doha Round of the WTO by their stubbornly hanging on to their advocacy of 'Special Safeguard Mechanisms' (SSMs) against agricultural imports and the designation of key commodities as 'Special Products' (SPs) exempt from tariff liberalisation to protect local production, much of it by small-scale farmers. This resistance stemmed not only from the pressure exerted by groups like Via Campesina, which was not negligible, but to a growing sentiment in official circles that corporate industrial agriculture could not be allowed to completely restructure the global economy without any accountability.

      More broadly, with environmental crises multiplying, the social dysfunctions of urban-industrial life piling up, and industrialised agriculture creating greater food insecurity, the 'peasant way' has relevance not only to peasants but to everyone threatened by the catastrophic consequences of global capital’s vision for organising production, community, and life itself. It is this that lies at the heart of the 'romanticisation of the peasant' that exercises Collier so much.

      Ultimately, the battle between globalised agriculture and the new peasant movement will hinge on the question of food production carried out under different paradigms – a global market-driven paradigm on the one hand and a local-market centered paradigm on the other. To people like Collier and Bernstein, the latter is no solution, with Bernstein asserting that 'advocacy of the peasant way largely ignores issues of feeding the world’s population, which has grown so greatly almost everywhere in the modern epoch, in significant part because of the revolutions in productivity achieved by the development of capitalism.'[15]

      Partisans of the peasant way hotly dispute this, claiming that peasants and small farmers continue to be the backbone of global food production, constituting over a third of the world’s population and two thirds of the world’s food producers.[16] Indeed, according to agroecologist Miguel Altieri:

      'Millions of small farmers in the Global South still produce the majority of staple crops needed to feed the planet’s rural and urban populations. In Latin America, about 17 million peasant production units occupying close to 60.5 million hectares, or 34.5 per cent of the total cultivated land with average farm sizes of about 1.8 hectares, produce 51 per cent of the maize, 77 per cent of the beans, and 61 per cent of the potatoes for domestic consumption. Despite the fact that Africa now imports huge amounts of cereals, the majority of African farmers (many of them women), who are small-holders with farms below 2 hectares, produce a significant amount of basic food crops with virtually no or little use of fertilisers and improved seed.[17]

      From the perspective of the defenders of peasant agriculture, it is capitalist industrial agriculture, with its wrenching destabilisation and transformation of land, nature, and social relations, that is mainly responsible for today’s food crises, and it points to a dead end both socially and ecologically. For instance, to capital, food, feed, and agrofuels are interchangeable as investment areas for capital, with rates of profit determining where investment will be allocated. Satisfying the real needs of the global majority is a secondary consideration, if indeed it enters the calculation at all. To the critics of capitalist agriculture, it is this devaluation and inversion of real relations into abstract relations of exchange – otherwise known as commodification – that is at the crux of the crisis of the contemporary food system.

      * This article is taken from the author's upcoming book Food Wars, published by Verso Books. Food Wars will be available in July 2009. We are grateful to Women in Action for permission to reproduce this article from their publication.
      * Walden Bello is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist, professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines and senior analyst at the Bangkok-based research and advocacy institute Focus on the Global South.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at


      [1] Paul Collier, ‘The Politics of Hunger: How Illusion and Greed Fan the Food Crisis,’ Foreign Affairs, Vol. 87, No. 6 (Nov-Dec 2008).
      [2] Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
      [3] Gerardo Otero and Gabriela Pechlaner, ‘Latin American Agriculture, Food, and Biotechnology: Temperate Dietary Pattern Adoption and Unsustainability,’ in Gerardo Otero, ed., Food for the Few: Neoliberal Globalism and Biotechnology Revolution in Latin America (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008), p. 50.
      [4] Lim Li Ching, ‘A New Green Revolution,’ Development, Vol. 51, No. 4 (December 2008), p. 572. The IAASTD is the equivalent in the agricultural sciences of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on global warming issues.
      [5] Paul Collier, ‘The Politics of Hunger: How Illusion and Greed Fan the Food Crisis,’ Foreign Affairs, Vol. 87, No. 6 (Nov-Dec 2008), p.73.
      [6] Ibid., p. 71.
      [7] Ibid.
      [8]‘World Bank Neglects African Farming, Study Says,’ New York Times, Oct. 15, 2007.
      [9] Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: the Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (London: Abacus, 1994), p. 289.
      [10] Ibid., p. 291.
      [11] Deborah Bryceson, ‘Disappearing Peasantries? Rural Labor Redundncy in the Neo-liberal Era and Beyond,’ in Bryceson, C. Kay, and J. Mooij, eds., Disappearing Peasantries (London: Intermediate Techology Publications, 2000), p. 313.
      [12] 101 East, Al Jazeera, Dec. 19, 2008.
      [13] Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins, ‘Why Can’t People Feed Themselves?,’ in Douglas Boucher, ed., The Paradox of Plenty (Oakland: Food First, 1999), p. 65
      [14] Jan van der Ploeg, the New Peasantries (London: Earthscan, 2008) p. 276
      [15] Henry Bernstein, ‘Agrarian Questions from Transition to Globalization,’ in A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi and Cristobal Kay (New York: Routledge, 2009), p. 255.
      [16] Wayne Roberts, cited in Philip McMichael, ‘Food Sovereignty in Movement: the Challenge to Neo-liberal Globalization,’ Draft, Cornell University, 2008.
      [17] Miguel Altieri, ‘Small Farms as a Planetary Ecological Asset: Five Key Reasons why We Should Support the Revitalization of Small Farms in the Global South,’ Food First, 2008;

      Achieving fair growth in South Africa

      Mphutlane wa Bofelo


      cc András Osvát
      Deeply dissatisfied with the South African government's current economic record and policies, Mphutlane wa Bofelo calls on the country's leaders to implement a model of socio-economic redistribution. Rather than pursuing the spending cuts and reduced public sector prescribed by classic neoliberal orthodoxy, the Zuma administration should instead work towards the real and lasting developmental benefits to be found in spreading wealth around, wa Bofelo argues. For if labour and economic disparities simply breed social unrest, wa Bofelo contends, promoting fairer policy will foster social cohesion and people's lasting participation in a genuinely egalitarian society.

      The current global economic recession is bound to provide a convenient excuse for the liberal and conservative establishment to prescribe an austere, minimalist state and major cuts on social spending as a panacea for all the economic woes of society. Already the Youth League of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) is admonishing workers to take it easy on demanding wage-increases and placing other labour demands. They are urging workers to make their contributions to help the country weather the storm of economic depression. South Africa is back to the rampant neoliberal macroeconomics of the Mandela–Mbeki era where workers are asked to tighten the belts to help kick-start and push–push the skorokoro capitalist economy.

      But in tackling the problem of economic recession and depression, it is important to take cognisance of the huge income and livelihood disparities between workers, managers and bosses as well as the colossal chasm between the capacity of the rich and the poor. Unfortunately, our economic analysts and politicians have been sipping too much sherry to celebrate the country’s jobless economic growth to worry about the fact that socio-economic disparities and wage-inequalities have almost tripled in post-1994 South Africa. High income- and livelihood-inequality undermine social cohesion, and societies with high levels of inequality are more vulnerable to external shocks such as a global economic recession. High income-inequality is mostly responsible for regular labour strikes and greater political instability, which undermine the development agenda. The sad reality is that inequality is intrinsic and indispensable for the capitalist system. The most basic reason why income inequality causes economic crisis – what Marxists call 'the crisis of overproduction' – is that if workers aren’t paid enough to buy what they (and others) produce, capitalists don’t have enough consumers to buy their products and so they try to maintain their profits by encouraging debt.

      The economic recession provides South Africa with an excellent opportunity to shift from perceiving redistribution as a gradual by-product of economic growth to using redistribution as a means to grow the economy in a sustainable way, as well as to promote greater social cohesion and political stability. This implies that the government will have to focus on policy programmes aimed at improving the income and livelihood of the majority of the population, which will in turn enhance the savings levels as well the possibilities for active participation in the economy for the majority of the population. At the moment there is sufficient research that skewed income distribution tends to limit the domestic market, and that redistribution will provide the impetus for consumption, increase aggregate demand, help to do away with access capacity and encourage further investment in capital.[1]

      On the other hand, improved income and livelihoods of the majority and greater income equality could boost levels of savings and promote greater social cohesion, thereby creating an environment conducive to economic growth and development. Greater equality improves government structures by enhancing cooperation and trust, therefore reducing the need for costly enforcement of expenditure through policing and various security measures. This calls for a redistributive social policy grounded in the understanding that egalitarian income redistribution would broaden domestic markets, stimulate better capacity utilisation and encourage new investments.[2] The fact of the matter is that the current GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution) strategy of hoping redistribution will be the outcome of the trickle-down effect of economic growth does not work. The story of economic growth in South Africa has actually been the tale of a growth in consumption mostly by the wealthy rather than a growth in income or an improvement in the livelihoods of the general population. When one considers that this mass consumption is itself spurred on by credit rather than improved incomes and enhanced livelihoods, we will realise that there really was little economic success to celebrate.

      Before they can even consider ways of improving the income of poorly paid workers or creating jobs for those who have no income, the government and the corporate sector need to review the salaries of top and middle management, political officials and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), whose huge earnings have no relation to their contribution to the economy. The government should reduce the wages of its CEOs and top government officials and tax the salaries of corporate bigwigs (since they’ll never decide to reduce their own wages) and redirect the money towards job-creation and social services. The first steps in the direction of a redistributive social policy will (or should) be to:

      1) Hold onto the ruling party’s election manifesto with regard to bettering the scope and reach of social grants and expediting land redistribution and rural development
      2) Improve the quality and access of social services and enhance the social productivity of labour through the provision of free, quality education and healthcare as well as a minimum labour standards, including a living wage and safe and healthy working and living conditions
      3) Do away with labour brokers or so-called ‘secondary employment’
      4) Introduce a basic income grant and widen and accelerate public works programmes
      5) Implement anti-poverty programmes focused on asset creation, livelihood improvement and community-run micro-credit and savings projects
      6) Foster the devolution of resources at provincial and local levels and build the capacity of local governments to deliver quality services.

      In terms of policies aimed at ameliorating the conditions within local industry and the broader population, the government should increase tariffs on foreign industries and foreign products that are harmful to local industries and local products. They should also increase taxation on tobacco and alcoholic beverages and use the capital accumulated to improve government social spending and push the developmental agenda. As a measure to improve the overall level of savings and foreign exchange available for importing capital goods – as well as a means of promoting social cohesion – the government should seriously consider developing policy programmes aimed at restraining luxury consumption. The government should also cancel apartheid debt and cancel the payment of foreign debt and redirect the money to social services and development.

      The government should also develop policies and programmes geared towards redirecting big capital from industries that produce luxury products and those that use little labour to industries that provide essential products and services as well as job creating, labour-intensive industries. Today's difficult economic conditions also call for the government to seriously consider reducing interest rates by a reasonable percentage and to seriously consider moving the goalposts away from aiming at keeping the rate of inflation at 5 per cent to keeping the country away from a two-digit inflation rate. This basically means keeping inflation rates between 5 per cent and 9 per cent until such time that the country is out of economic recession.

      Even as we propose these policy reforms, it is critical that we emphasise that the depression (which the corporate media calls a recession), the escalating inequities and uneven development are simply indicators of the rotten state of crony, speculative and profiteering capital. To do away with the rot and decay forever, we have to disabuse ourselves from the lie that there is no alternative to unbridled capitalism. The time is now for us to wear our thinking caps, put on our working gears, roll up our sleeves and work hard for the realisation of the ideal of an egalitarian socialist society. For the sake of humanity we cannot afford not to believe that a more humane world is possible, and it begins with each one of us.

      * Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a writer-activist with a passion for using creative education, literature and theatre as tools for transformation and development.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at


      [1] See Thandika Mkandawire, 'Social policy in a development context' and Ha Joon Chang, 'Reflections and lessons from East Asia'.
      [2] See Mkandawire, 'Social policy in a development context'.

      Comment & analysis

      Joe Slovo residents let down by court

      Kate Tissington


      cc Jerome Love
      ‘A better life beckons for the people of Joe Slovo informal settlement,’ the South African government has said, following a decision by the Constitutional Court that the settlement’s 20,000 residents will be evicted to Delft make way for the N2 housing project. Describing the statement as ‘utter nonsense’, Kate Tissington writes a personal reaction to the judgement, which, she argues, ‘has effectively allowed government to get away with a national project that was misconceived from the start’. Relocation from the settlement would ‘severely disrupt the lives of residents’, increasing their commute to work and essential services and damaging the existing community and social networks upon which they rely, says Tissington, pointing to government's failure to understand people’s needs. While it is unlikely that the eviction will go ahead as envisioned, says Tissington, the court’s judgment is ‘technical, cowardly and naive in the face of the obvious’.

      The highest court in South Africa has decided the fate of the 20,000 Joe Slovo informal settlement residents to be evicted to Delft to make way for the N2 Gateway housing project, in what is a disappointing and frustrating judgment that orders their eviction, albeit on the proviso that engagement occurs and that certain mitigating measures are undertaken.

      Two years spent battling the possibility of this mass eviction has ultimately resulted in a naive patch-up job by the Constitutional Court, whose actions have allowed the government to make appallingly triumphalist statements like ‘a better life beckons for the people of Joe Slovo informal settlement. The court has pronounced its judgment, and the biggest winners are the families who will soon put the misery of shack dwelling behind them.’ What shameless spin and utter nonsense.

      What follows can be described as a personal insider reaction to the judgment and why it is disturbing, given what many already know to be the sad reality of the N2 Gateway project and what I have learnt over the last two years being involved in the case. In many respects I am most likely preaching to the converted. It was written in response to a preliminary reading of the judgment and does not constitute a rigorous academic or legal analysis of it. Indeed, I doubt anyone has yet to fully digest all 220 pages of the judgment and in the next few weeks and months it remains to be seen how the engagement process between the parties will play itself out. There is surely much incisive analysis and commentary still to come.

      What I argue below is that despite the court's ordering of meaningful engagement and the provision of alternative accommodation for all Joe Slovo residents, the reality is that the N2 Gateway project was never conceived or implemented in a reasonable manner, and the mass eviction sought in its name is thus unreasonable. There are manifold reasons for this and I will touch on the socio-economic impact of eviction to Delft; government's persistent misunderstanding of informal settlement upgrading; the numerous flaws with the N2 Gateway project as described by its provincial project manager and recently exposed by an auditor-general's report; the choice of Delft as a site of temporary relocation and the reality of life in Delft TRAs; problems with the deeply political bent of the project; and what N2 Gateway looks like at Joe Slovo at present. Finally, the deeply problematic belief (which the court has seemingly adopted) will be discussed, which implies that simply because there is a good end (in this case the delivery of some low-cost housing), there is justification for top-down, bureaucratic and unacceptable means that render many people worse off.


      Sitting in the Constitutional Court and listening to Justice O'Regan read out the order, one got the sense of a court completely naive and out of touch with reality, failing at its duty to adjudicate on socio-economic rights compromised by bad implementation of wrongly interpreted government policy. The court refused to condemn the eviction of Joe Slovo residents to Delft, which will result in an uncertain future for them in so-called temporal housing (basically, government shacks) managed by that defunct and debatable ‘national public entity’ called Thubelisha Homes. Lest we forget that this agency is now technically insolvent.

      The court, unwittingly or not, has effectively allowed government to get away with a national project that was misconceived from the start, described by many as merely a grandiose vanity project; implemented with no consultation or bottom-up planning; and which is contrary to the spirit and letter of national housing law and policy and the constitution. This, despite it being the pilot project for the Breaking New Ground (BNG) housing plan.

      This failure is sadly true for every one of the five judgments, despite agonising individual attempts by Yacoob, Moseneke, Ngcobo, Sachs and O'Regan to defend their devastating consensus to grant the eviction order. The order is highly problematic, regardless of the mitigating efforts made by the court to render the eviction more ‘humane’, by ordering ongoing meaningful engagement, setting standards for the alternative accommodation at Delft and stipulating the 70 per cent allocation for current and former Joe Slovo residents.

      There is perhaps an element of sympathy with the court's predicament – this was obviously not a straightforward case for them to adjudicate. The legal strategy of the applicants was to argue this highly complex case on the most winnable legal points, which also happened to be rather technical, arguing that the residents had tacit consent to occupy the land, were thus lawful occupiers and were entitled to adequate notice before their eviction, which never occurred. Therefore, there are no grounds to evict. Given the nature of the case and that of the court, this tactic was not necessarily wrong. However, it has unfortunately resulted in over 220 pages of a judgement which still condones a mass eviction (including 25 pages spent by Justice Yacoob agonisingly unpacking the nature of consent).

      It should be stated at this point that the above comments in no way serve to bolster recent criticisms made by Judge Hlophe (who initially ordered the eviction of the residents in the Cape High Court with no regard for their predicament or provision of mitigating measures). He attacked the Constitutional Court for their long judgments and the ‘complex and scholarly’ manner in which they write them, stating that the court has a responsibility to write simple and accessible judgments which can be understood by ordinary people. While this is undoubtedly an enduring problem with the judiciary and needs to be addressed urgently, it is rather a cheap shot from Hlophe. Most likely Joe Slovo residents did not really care that when their eviction was ordered by him it was done in a short, ‘simple and accessible’ judgment. Content that favours ‘ordinary people’ is surely as important as the form it takes.

      During the hearing, the court expressed some distaste at the technical line of argument followed, in a case they viewed as so clearly being about more complex issues of justice and equity. The amici curiae submission by the Community Law Centre (CLC) and Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) attempted to counter this deficiency of reality by providing the court with insight into how the N2 Gateway project runs contrary to international best practice and South African housing law and policy, explaining why the temporary relocation areas (TRAs) in Delft do not constitute adequate alternative accommodation for Joe Slovo residents considering their lived reality, and stressing the lack of meaningful engagement throughout the project.

      However, this information came to the court as an aside in a sense, and they clearly did not it into account sufficiently. Likewise, information known by those actively working on the project, like the provincial project manager I will mention below and that which has emerged from the auditor-general’s report, was never going to make it to the court. Thus its ability to properly or fully decide whether an eviction would be ‘just and equitable’, given the realities of how and why the socio-economic rights of Joe Slovo residents are affected by misinterpreted government policy and its thoroughly flawed implementation, was constrained by its focus on addressing, and rebutting on the whole, the technical arguments presented.

      And yet there are many reasons why the court should not have granted the eviction order. While conducting research for the amici submission on the socio-economic impact of the removal to Delft, as well as how and why the N2 Gateway project looks the way it does, I came to several obvious conclusions.


      Firstly, it is clear that the lives of Joe Slovo residents will be severely disrupted if they are forced to move to Delft. This conclusion is not simply an academic one, but emerges from hundreds of affidavits submitted to the court, which provide testimonies of Joe Slovo residents facing eviction to Delft. Even Thubelisha acknowledges this much (although they assert, misleadingly, that this will be merely a temporary disruption). At Joe Slovo, residents are close to Langa, Pinelands, Epping and other economic hubs where jobs and food can be easily sourced. Children attend school within walking distance, young adults attend night classes which they are able to make in the evenings due to proximity, and gogos attend churches they have frequented for 15 years. The settlement is close to Cape Town CBD, and there is a cheap train network operating, making commuting brute early and late at night to and from work easier for people. There is no train network in Delft, transport is expensive and the TRA settlement is more than 15 km further from the City.

      Due to their poverty, residents lead fragile existences and therefore a strong community and social networks are extremely important to mitigate its effects. A telling quote from a resident sums this up well: ‘Delft is a new place, and we do not have a community there. I have visited Delft. Houses are built from asbestos and are brittle. My things will not be safe inside. It is fine for rich people to live in a place without a community, because they can afford expensive security. We cannot. We need our community to be safe.’

      Thubelisha’s assertions that the move to Delft will be merely a ‘temporary hardship’ for Joe Slovo residents have been misleading and shameful, and will be discussed further below.


      This leads me onto how and why the N2 Gateway project looks the way it does. Firstly, from the above, it is clear that the project never took the actual lived realities of Joe Slovo residents or their needs and desires into account in the process. The decision to do a massive relocation rather than in situ upgrading on the site was never adequately explained by government (further, neither was the decision not to build more densified housing typologies at Joe Slovo).

      One likely reason seems to be that government, despite its progressive informal settlement upgrading programme (Chapter 13 of the Housing Code) included in BNG in 2005, has consistently misinterpreted slum eradication to mean demolishing informal settlements. According to Marie Huchzermeyer, professor at the Wits School of Architecture and Planning and informal settlement policy expert, the national Housing Act, Code and BNG policy, as well as international best practice, all speak to indirect measures that need to be taken to improve the lives of shackdwellers, and which will ultimately result in the eradication of the need for informal settlements and thus actual informal settlements themselves. Government continues to misinterpret this goal as being about eliminating the symptoms of the problem, rather than addressing its causes. Informal settlements are a reasonable and legitimate response to apartheid geography and a major housing backlog in South Africa. If this had been taken into account by the project, and a real dedication shown to the true spirit of informal settlement upgrading, the N2 Gateway project would have undoubtedly looked very different.


      Second on this point, from the outset there was no real consultation with Joe Slovo residents, and the project was condemned at the time by non-governmental organisations working in the settlement, who later pulled out of the project citing lack of bottom-up planning and engagement. During research conducted on the N2 Gateway project by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) in November 2008, I spoke to the N2 Gateway project manager at the Western Cape provincial department of housing.

      He slammed the project and revealed that there has been no proper communication between Thubelisha and the provincial department; that Thubelisha is poorly managed and largely incompetent; that there has been no community participation in the project; that the situation at Delft is dire; that there have been endless problems with contractors at the Delft site; and, finally, that there is an acute lack of an efficient and transparent TRA allocation process which has led to major corruption and the bizarre situation of beneficiaries not being found for newly built houses and them standing empty once completed. According to him, when houses were finished in Delft 7-9 and they needed to hand over the units, there was no list of beneficiaries from Thubelisha and they had to ‘just find and put people in.’ People had not been signed up fast enough in the TRAs to be put through the provincial Housing Subsidy System (HSS) in order to be allocated a house.

      In April 2009, a damning report on the special audit conducted by the auditor-general for the National Department of Housing emerged (it was written in June 2008), which found serious problems with the N2 Gateway project and its implementation. Among these:

      - Lack of adequate planning and lack of approval of a business plan before construction started
      - ‘Fruitless and wasteful expenditure’ occurred since reasonable care was not exercised during the planning phase
      - Identification and securing of sufficient land was not finalised prior to construction
      - Adequate geotechnical surveys not conducted before construction
      - No clear roles and responsibilities defined between the different spheres of government
      - Selection of beneficiaries not finalised prior to the commencement of construction
      - Affordable housing was not provided for the target market identified: The national housing code, the Breaking New Ground plan and the draft business plan were not consistent with regard to the qualifying criteria for proposed beneficiaries, especially in respect of the monthly household income requirement. It was also noted that the criteria communicated to the different communities were not consistent.
      - Overambitious time-frames adopted. As of 31 May 2007 (two years after project commenced) only five per cent units of the revised planned units had been completed, while 21 per cent of the total budget had been utilised
      - Initial project manager was appointed despite being ranked number 6 in the evaluation committees evaluation, not preparing costing in compliance with the terms and conditions of the request for proposal, lacking sufficient in-house and specialist expertise to perform various project management functions, and was furthermore paid project management fees exceeding the norm and which were not performance based
      - Thubelisha was appointed without following a proper procurement process.

      It was clear from my meeting with the gatvol provincial official (and now supported by the auditor-general’s report) that the entire N2 Gateway housing delivery exercise has been, and continues to be, extremely technocratic and top-down. He explained this to me aptly as there being no matching up, no bottom up and it was clearly visible when we discussed what would happen if the Joe Slovo eviction order was granted and he frantically shuffled around maps and numbers on his desk. According to him, there is simply no more space left in Delft.


      It is important to note that the decision to move residents to Delft was never a preordained or beneficial one for residents, as government has spun it to the media. According to a report by the Development Action Group (DAG), Delft was a last resort for establishing temporary accommodation, following several months of lengthy and unsuccessful negotiations to find suitable land for relocation. The decision came after no less than 17 other sites closer to Joe Slovo were considered, in the first instance to relocate those affected by the fire at Joe Slovo in 2005, and later for those envisioned to be removed to make way for Phase 1 of N2 Gateway.

      The reason these 17 sites were rejected in 2005, including the preferred sites in Epping and Langa, was due largely to objection by Langa and Athlone residents, and organisations like the Epping Industrialists Association and Pinelands Residents and Ratepayers Association, amongst others. Unsuitability of land and other reasons, which mainly included anticipated community opposition, were also cited for rejecting certain sites. Eventually, the only feasible site was the former hostel site on the edge of Langa and a planned cemetery site on the edge of the built-up area in Delft. Thus, Delft TRA was born.


      A March 2007 survey conducted by DAG entitled Living on the Edge: A Study of the Delft Temporary Relocation Area concluded that 63 per cent of respondents were unhappy about living in the TRA, mainly due to being on the periphery of the city and the resulting high transport costs, as well as dissatisfaction with the TRA structures summed up by one resident as ‘being very cold during winter, very small and, above all, they are not safe.’ Further, people talked about their social and economic networks being severely disrupted; service provision lacking (poor maintenance of ablution blocks, lack of electricity, dissatisfied with access to water and washing facilities, refuse removal); overcrowding; tension with existing backyarders in Delft; loss of jobs as a result of the move (due to high cost of transport, lateness for work) and less opportunity to look for informal work; the need to spend money and time on their so-called temporary shelter; and unhappiness with levels of crime in Delft.

      In its recommendations, DAG cited the importance of location and the enormous impact it has on households’ income and expenditure and on their social networks. It stressed that the impact of relocation needs to be analysed carefully before decisions are made as it can leave people worse off, even if some of their living conditions are improved as a result. Apart from the socio-economic impact of the move on households, the survey also highlighted the potential burden on the government to provide a larger social safety net and to mitigate the social problems caused by the relocation to a peripheral area like Delft. Indeed, the mitigation measures handed down by the Constitutional Court, particularly their ordering ‘the provision of transport facilities to the affected residents from the temporary residential accommodation units to amenities, including schools, health facilities and places of work’, speak to this.

      The survey points to how the burden on the state to provide a social safety net often increases due to relocation, particularly as ‘living in relative isolation in areas such as Delft can give rise to an increase in the occurrence and variety of social problems, which in turn can create high levels of social instability. This instability is already evident in greater Delft, and although government carries the cost in its expenditure on, for example, crime prevention, the social cost is also borne by the households who live in these areas.’

      There has always been the fear that Delft TRAs would become permanent accommodation for those removed from Joe Slovo to Delft and who do not qualify for housing subsidies. Gerald Adlard, who administered the N2 Gateway project for the Western Cape provincial department of housing in 2006, stated in his affidavit for the applicants that it is precisely for these particular people that an upgrading project, such as could have been provided at Joe Slovo, should have occurred. He further stated that ‘TRAs are meant to provide emergency housing for disasters, such as fires and floods, not accommodation for the poor so that the land that they occupied can be provided for the better-off.’

      And what about those who relocated from Joe Slovo over three years ago to Delft? Many are still living in dire conditions in shacks in the Tsunami TRA, watching houses being built across the road and waiting for one to be eventually allocated to them.


      Another important point that should not be sidelined is that of the deeply political bent of the project. N2 Gateway came to its zenith during the period when the DA controlled the City and the ANC controlled the Western Cape province. The project has been as much about political campaigning and mud-slinging as it has been about low-cost housing delivery.

      The fact is that there are thousands of people living in backyard shacks in and around Delft who qualify for government houses, and who have been living in the surrounds as long as Joe Slovo residents have been at Joe Slovo. Allocation of houses should have been based on meeting a housing demand and need that existed on the ground, not playing around with percentages that favoured particular political constituencies or showed up rival political parties. There continue to be families living along Symphony Way in Delft who were evicted from N2 Gateway houses that they occupied in protest of the project and its flawed allocation process. They refuse to move to TRAs for many of the same reasons Joe Slovo residents do not want to move there, and now face eviction by the City.

      It is common knowledge that the DA pulled out of, and has repeatedly slammed, the N2 Gateway project in the past. It is going to be very interesting to see how the former ANC-led provincial government, who played largely a monitoring and allocation role in the project, and who recently become DA, are going to respond to the judgment.


      Indeed, Joe Slovo residents’ only mistake has been to access well-located land in the city and build shacks there, in the context of a massive housing backlog and the continued legacy of apartheid spatial planning. The irony (unfortunately more common and malevolent than the court appreciates) is that this mass eviction is part of a low-cost housing development being implemented by government, ostensibly to provide poor people with housing. This cannot and should not serve as simple justification for its manifold failures. If a golf estate was to be built on Joe Slovo informal settlement would the court have even entertained the thought of a mass eviction? Highly unlikely.


      The reality is that Phase 1 of N2 Gateway has resulted in very poorly constructed rental units built at Joe Slovo, which have turned out to be unaffordable to the low-income bracket. According to the auditor-general’s report, ‘although the average income of households in the region was approximately R1,200 per month according to the earlier versions of the business plan and communities had raised their concern regarding affordability, the actual tenant profile indicated that the income of 99,6 per cent of the current tenants ranged from R1,500 to R7,500 per month.’ Since mid-2007, Phase 1 tenants have been on a rent boycott as they claim no one is willing to address their concerns over unacceptable rent increases and poor living conditions in the flats. The auditor-general’s report also revealed that despite the R40,000 per unit overrun, there were problems with the units including cracks, doors not fitted properly, uncovered drainpipes and blocked drains. Apparently, the certificate of completion for the building contract was erroneously issued.

      Phase 2 consists of affordable bond houses, which are distinctly unaffordable to Joe Slovo residents, as well as what Thubelisha refers to as a ‘show village’ of subsidised BNG houses. Standing in Joe Slovo settlement, looking next-door at what has been built already as part of N2 Gateway, the only logical conclusion would be: ‘hold on, there is no way this is project is going to benefit me and I am far better off here in my shack than living in extended limbo in a shack in Delft.’

      One of the court’s mitigating measures, which stipulated that 70 per cent of BNG houses to be built at Joe Slovo must be allocated to current or former Joe Slovo residents, cynically leaves one phrase ringing in my head – 70 per cent of nothing, is nothing. Indeed, even if the 1,500 BNG houses were built on the site (and Thubelisha has two weeks to inform the Court if this is still the case), this would only mean that 1,050 would be allocated to Joe Slovo residents. There are over 4,000 households currently living at Joe Slovo.


      It remains to be seen how the engagement process, as outlined in the order, will play itself out and if the parties can engage productively and come to an agreement. Given the reality of the project and the court’s exhaustive mitigating provisions, it appears unlikely that the eviction can go ahead as envisioned. However, while this inability to effect the eviction order would probably be a blessing for Joe Slovo residents (not least because the inability will be expressed by them in the meaningful engagement process), it does not vindicate the court’s judgment(s), which remains technical, cowardly and naive in the face of the obvious.

      * Kate Tissington is a researcher at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University. She writes in her personal capacity.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      Sustainable development for all

      Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP)


      cc Katie Freeland: klf photography
      Efforts to increase domestic revenue and reduce dependency on foreign donors and the allocation of substantial resources to education and health are among the aspects of the new budget welcomed by the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme's (TGNP) budget analysis task team. Critical of plans to privatise water and the government's prioritisation of large-scale producers over peasant and small-holder farmers in its response to the economic crisis, TGNP has called for more measures to ensure that the budget 'adequately serves the majority of Tanzanians, especially poor and marginalised women, children, and the disabled'.

      Tanzania Gender Networking Programme’s (TGNP) budget analysis task team consisting of TGNP staff and members of the weekly Gender and Development Seminar Series, GDSS, welcomes many aspects of the budget for 2009/10. We are pleased that the budget aims to increase domestic revenue so as to reduce dependency on foreign donors, and has allocated substantial resources to key social sectors such as education, agriculture, health, infrastructure and water. However, information is lacking on mechanisms to ensure that resources actually reach and benefit the end users, especially marginalised women, people living with HIV/AIDS, and the disabled.

      We endorse the government’s plans to decrease expenditure by reducing travel costs, workshops, seminars and big four wheel cars costing Sh100million each – although this is not the first time that such pledges have been made – but what about reducing the size of the central government? With 26 ministries, the current government is unwieldy and often seems to be operating at cross purposes.

      TGNP endorses government’s efforts to take advantage of opportunities arising from the global crisis such as production of surplus food to feed ourselves, regional and global markets, and capitalising on our position as a transportation and communications hub to support land locked countries. However, the bulk of the bail out package responds to the needs of big business. What kind of social protection will be provided to peasant producers who lose markets or suffer from lower prices for their goods? Or for workers who lose jobs when the same businesses downsize? Or for micro-small entrepreneurs who lack adequate resources to survive the crisis?

      The global crisis also provides the government – and the Tanzanian people – with an opportunity to review the neo-liberal macro-economic framework that was imposed on us in the mid-1980s by the World Bank, IMF and other major donors, and develop a balanced economy which is more self reliant and less dependant on global markets for export and imports. Governments in the North have recognised the shortcomings of neo-liberalism which provoked the crisis in the first place, and have taken bold steps to intervene more strategically in both finance and the economy. We urge our government to do the same, in order to develop a sustainable development strategy which benefits all Tanzanians in both rural and urban areas.

      We applaud efforts to strengthen the tracking of tax payments in order to enhance accountability, provide financial resources to retain staff in underserved areas and to broaden the tax base; and make specific mention here of the welcome reduction of taxes for women sanitary pads. In increasing the tax base, however, the burden should not be placed on micro/small scale entrepreneurs and poor Tanzanians. Focus should be placed on progressive taxation, whereby the top 5 percent of income earners pay at least 40 per cent income tax, including commercial corporations. Given the rising cost of living and the depreciation of the Tanzania shilling, the salary line for 30 per cent income tax should be raised from Sh720,000/ to Sh1,000,000/ or more, and the bottom line for income tax should be raised from Sh100,000/ to Sh150,000/ to provide relief for low income earners living close to the poverty line. We also question the government’s decision to reduce corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent for companies listed on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange with 30 per cent company shares issued to the public.

      The abolition of blanket tax exemptions is welcome, but the government did not go far enough to include mining corporations registered before this year. And why give tax holidays to gem mining companies, instead of providing the necessary support for smallscale miners in gems and gold who will be better able to survive the global crisis? Our economy is being held hostage by multinational corporations whose profit calculations are entirely different from those of small national capital. Careful consideration must also be given to tax relief for genuine service delivery costs incurred by non-profit-making religious and non-governmental organisations, with appropriate safeguards to abolish misuse of this privilege.

      In last year’s budget, the government tried to finance recurrent expenditure solely through domestic resources whereas this year donor funding will be relied upon for both the recurrent and development budget. The government dependency on external grants and concessional loans (33.7 per cent of total budget) increases Tanzania’s vulnerability – a good example is the 25 per cent reduction in the national budget for HIV/AIDS, largely due to reduced donor support coming from USA and elsewhere. Does this mean that our government does not prioritise the battle against HIV/AIDS and the lives of People Living with HIV/AIDS? Or the lives of pregnant women, given the high donor dependency in health as well? Who will fill this gap when the donors reduce their support?

      We applaud the government’s other efforts to sustain social services but what about the particular needs of marginalised women? Building more classrooms, more water infrastructure, and more dispensaries is welcome – but what resources have been set aside to increase the quality of service delivery? For example, education receives the highest allocation, some 18.3 per cent of the budget, and the government has succeeded to increase enrollment at all levels of the public education system, but where are the measures needed to provide quality education, and retain students, especially female students, in school? How can the government stomach the fact that nearly 30 per cent of this year’s graduates from public primary schools are illiterate, while a small segment of our population is provided with top quality education in a few high cost private schools? Here we also want to question the government’s decision at the end of last year to abolish public boarding secondary schools for girls and demand that the government reverse its decision – all Tanzanian girls, and boys, have the right to quality education whether they are rich or poor.

      In order to save the lives of pregnant women and their newborn infants, adequate resources and follow up are needed to ensure that every woman has access to free delivery kits as per policy, as well as quality referral services, trained health workers and emergency care and treatment when needed. The budget lines for reproductive and maternal health need to be clearly demarcated so that it is possible to track them properly and we expected more resources to go to the support of home-based care for people suffering from AIDS and other chronic diseases. We also expected serious steps to reach the Abuja Declaration goal of 15 per cent national budgetary resources to health and not a stagnant figure of 10.1 per cent.

      We deplore the fact that the government has handed over responsibility to water provision to the private sector, as shown in the bill on water privatisation that was so hastily passed by parliament earlier this year, and the measly 3.7 per cent allocation to water in this year’s budget. Water is a basic human right and not a commodity. Without universal access to safe and clean water, it will be impossible to eradicate water borne parasites, malnutrition, and vulnerability to HIV and many other diseases. Moreover, forcing women and girls to spend countless hours each day toting water is unfair and unjust, it increases the burden of unpaid family labour, and reduces available time for education and economic activity.

      The government’s prioritisation of large scale producers in its response to the economic crisis and in the overall 'Agriculture First Strategy' is misplaced. Where are the resources to support the revitalisation of the peasant sector on which the majority of rural people depend for their livelihoods and women in particular? Small scale farmers and livestock keepers need support in reaching the market, price support systems, accessible farm inputs and equipment. The total budget for agriculture (seven per cent) is small in comparison to the other sectors such as education and infrastructure (11.5 per cent), and less than the 10 per cent pledged under the Maputo Declaration of Agriculture and Food Security in 2003. We also believe that ‘agriculture first’ should be part of an overall rural development and diversification programme which promotes small scale industry, including agro-processing, in the countryside as well as urban areas. This will depend however on adequate resources for rural electrification – which are not found in this budget. Improved technology in small scale industries will also reduce the unfair burden of unpaid work on both rural and urban women in the home.


      In the midst of the challenges experienced due to the global economic crisis, we call for more measures to ensure that the budget adequately serves the majority of Tanzanians, especially poor and marginalised women, children, and the disabled. Government efforts to enhance participation in budget formulation and monitoring process are highly welcome. However, more space and resources are needed to reach the goal of fifty-fifty equality between women and men in elections to local government this year and national elections next year, and to expand citizen engagement with budget processes so as to enhance democracy and ensure accountability and transparency.

      * Tanzania Gender Networking Programme is an activist organisation focusing on the practical promotion and application of gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      Advocacy & campaigns

      Burundi are being forcibly repatriated from Tanzania

      Daniel Neumann

      Fahamu Consultant


      Burundian refugees are being forcibly repatriated from Tanzania. Fahamu's consultant visited Tanzania on a research mission and has filed his report.

      Africa: Rural women farmers call for increased investment in agriculture


      African Rural women farmers from Burundi, Burkina Faso, Mali and Malawi participating in the Gender Pre- Summit meeting in Addis Ababa Ethiopia convened by the Women, Gender and Development Directorate of the Africa Union and UNDP, have called on African heads of states to honour their commitment to increase investment in agriculture to 10% of their overall annual budgets.

      20th June, 2009

      African Rural Women Farmers call on Head of States to increase investment in Agriculture

      African Rural women farmers from Burundi, Burkina Faso, Mali and Malawi are participating in the Gender Pre- Summit meeting in Addis Ababa Ethiopia convened by the Women, Gender and Development Directorate of the Africa Union and UNDP. The purpose is to strategise on what they want heads of states and government in Africa to prioritize during the forth coming African Union Summit to be held in Libya. In collaboration with Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition, the women have called on African heads of states to honour their commitment to increase investment in agriculture to 10% of their overall annual budgets.

      Bangou Marimpoa rural farmer from Burkina Faso said increased investment in agriculture must include targeted investment in small scale farming, and in particular providing incentives to women small-scale farmers, building the entrepreneurship capacity of women to engage in agri-business and grow cash crops, and ensuring that State investments in social protections are not sacrificed.

      Other recommendations made by the rural women and members of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR Coalition) in the meeting include:

      * The need for state parties of the AU to take measures to increase women’s land ownership and access to credit facilities, agricultural inputs, information and technology which is in line with the provisions of the Protocol on African Women’s Rights.

      * The urgent need to take measures to achieve gender parity in decision making bodies at all levels in order to guarantee increased participation of women in decision making. Women continue to be underrepresented in decision-making positions in governments, civil society and the private sector, and as such their needs, issues and constraints are not sufficiently reflected in policy-making processes and laws impacting their lives.

      The 13th Ordinary Summit of the African Union Assembly to be held in Libya next month will take place at a time when millions of Africans face the threat of starvation and famine, insecurity leading to massive displacement of people from the land which is their mainstay and source of livelihood. The theme for this summit is “Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security,” could not have come at better time than this one. Africa is essentially an agricultural society with a largely rural population. In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture accounts for approximately 30% of the continent’s GDP, and women are the backbone of the agricultural workforce, responsible for 60-80% of food production for consumption and sale1.

      Today the world is undergoing a three pronged crises - dire food insecurity, high fuel prices and an ever-expanding financial and economic crisis. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) the number of the new and urgently hungry in 2009 is increasing by an average of 4 million a week worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, recent food price increases have sunk an additional 28 million Africans into poverty. This paints a grim picture for African women who as we know are most disproportionately affected by poverty.

      The grassroots women in collaboration with the SOAWR Coalition have also called on African leaders in particular those of Kenya, Uganda, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Bostwana to lead by example and accelerate the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa before the 13th Summit of Heads of States and Governments scheduled to take place in Sirte in Libya on the 1st – 3rd of July 2009.

      For Further Information Contact:
      Carlyn Hambuba Communication Officer:
      Tel: + (254)20.2712971/2 or + (254)20 2341516/7 (Wireless)
      Cell: + (254)725.766932 [email protected]
      OR Naisola Likimani + 251 910 980 669 (Addis Ababa Ethiopia) [email protected]

      To talk to the Executive Director of FEMNET call Norah Matovu Winyi on 254 20 271 2973/ 254 729 571 544. You can also contact Ms. Faiza Mohamed the Regional Director of Equality Now which hosts the Secretariat for the SOAWR Coalition on 254 20 271 9913/ 271 9832.

      Namibia: Congolese refugees fear for their lives

      Phil Ya Nangoloh


      Congolese (DRC) nationals living at the Osire refugee camp in Namibia have constituted themselves into the Association of the Voiceless (AV), a refugee rights group formed to voice concerns over dissatisfactory conditions at the ORC. The ORC is situated some 220 kilometers northeast of Windhoek.Owing to their membership in the AV, these refugees and asylum seekers have allegedly received both open and veiled threats, including imminent death, from Namibian Police officers at the camp.

      June 18 2009
      Windhoek Namibia



      Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Phil ya Nangoloh, Executive Director of NSHR.

      Currently there are protracted situations affecting millions of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide with no tangible solutions in sight. Millions of human beings like you and me have been languishing in exile for years and, sometimes, decades. Regrettably, however, for the decision-makers, this state of affairs is apparently a low-profile, albeit being a high-risk situation with serious humanitarian and human security implications.

      In its 2006 report on the state of the world's refugees, the UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), noted that “the majority of today's refugees have lived in exile for far too long, restricted to refugee camps or are eking out a meager existence in urban centers throughout the developing world.” According to UNHCR, 42 million people have been uprooted more by civil strife than by international conflict. This figure includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people (IDPs).

      Today, i.e. two days before the worldwide commemorations of the International Refugee Day, refugees and asylum seekers remain one of the most vulnerable sections in Namibia. As concerned human rights defenders, we (NSHR) are duty bound to monitor and advocate for the respect, protection and fulfillment of inter alia the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

      On June 9 2009 we were approached by a group of 41 refugees and asylum seekers---men and women and their children—most of who have been living at the Osire Refugee Camp (ORC) here in Namibia for more than five (5) years. These Congolese (DRC) nationals have constituted themselves into the Association of the Voiceless (AV), a refugee rights group formed to voice concerns over dissatisfactory conditions at the ORC. The ORC is situated some 220 kilometers northeast of Windhoek.

      Owing to their membership in the AV, these refugees and asylum seekers have allegedly received both open and veiled threats, including imminent death, from Namibian Police officers at the ORC, from fellow refugees, and, sadly, from the Government of Namibia (GoN) per se. Prima facie, there is compelling documentary and circumstantial evidence that the AV members as such have received death threats, that they face imminent expulsion from Namibia and, further, that they might be subjected to refoulement (i.e. forcible repatriation) to the DRC.

      For example, on March 30 2009 the AV addressed a non-violent letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration (MHAI), detailing some of the unacceptable conditions at the ORC. Regrettably, in response to this constitutional exercise of their right to freedom of expression and opinion, the MHAI replied that the AV’s “writings constitute a threat to peace and security […].” The MHAI then ordered the AV to “stop writing sensational articles […]. Anybody, as an individual, found continuing with that adversary type of behavior shall be requested to leave the Republic of Namibia within a specified period.”

      Secondly, through the attached Affidavits by Kabangu, Ngoma and Mwenze, they have alleged that they have, on several occasions, received death threats from GoN officials.

      Thirdly, the AV members are also apprehensive of the life-threatening statements, as widely reported in the local media, made by Founding Father of the Namibian Nation, Dr. Sam Nujoma, at Helao Nafidi town on or around May 23 2009. Dr. Nujoma reportedly made inter alia the following statement: “We will only work together and co-operate with those foreigners who are respecting us and those who do not can pack and go or they will face bullets in their heads.”

      There is no other interpretation than that these Congolese nationals are in effect regarded as not respecting the Namibian people due to their writings.

      Naturally disturbed by the aforesaid allegations, on June 10 2009 we directed an urgent letter (see attached) to the MHAI (Tel: +264 61 292 2017) wherein we have requested GoN to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of these people by affording them all necessary protection in accordance with our national laws and international obligations. We have also written a To Whom It May Concern letter copied to, among others, Namibian President Lucas Hifikepunye Pohamba (Tel: +264 61 270 7356), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Tel: +264 61 237 143 or +41 22 204 6500), International Committee of the Red Cross (Tel: +263 4 790 260) and the International Organization for Migration (Tel: +27 12 342 2789) As of today 10h00 the MHAI has not responded to our letter.

      Since we have received no response from the MHAI, on June 11 2009 we issued the attached Press Release to register our strongest disapproval of the manner in which the MHAI has allegedly treated AV members.

      According to AV President Joel Mwamba Kabangu and his colleagues, both GoN and UNHCR-Namibia have failed to grant them practical refugee protection as provided for in the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and other related international laws governing refugees, including those adopted by the African Union. These treaties are legally binding in Namibia.

      On June 15 2009, we sent an Urgent Appeal petition (see attached) to Mr. Philip Alston, who is the incumbent UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions based in Geneva (Tel: +41 22 917 9377). His mandate includes urgently and effectively responding to information that comes before him, in particular when an extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution is imminent or threatened or when such an execution has occurred.

      I would like to state, in passing, that Namibia was and is part of the resource-driven conflict in the DRC from which these people have fled. Namibia was deeply involved in the brutal war in that country between 1997 and 2002. This is also why a Namibian state company called August 26 is said to be benefiting from a lucrative diamond mine it operates at the village of Maji Munene, some 45 kilometers southwest of Tshikapa in that country’s Katanga Province.

      The Special Rapporteur discharges his or her mandate mainly on the basis of information brought to his attention by inter alia non-governmental organizations. This extra-conventional mechanism is guided primarily by international legal standards, with specific reference to articles 6, 14 and 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These provisions have the same force and effect as Article 6 of the Namibian Constitution.

      I thank you!

      Support peace, say no to military action


      A few weeks ago, a new piece of legislation was introduced in the US Congress, calling for development and justice in northern Uganda. While the bill boasts many excellent provisions, it also includes a statement of policy that would allow AFRICOM to pursue the Lord's Resistance Army in DR Congo. This petition asks members of Congress to be more attentive to the need for peace in this troubled region

      Support Peace and Development, Say No to Military Action

      A few weeks ago, a new piece of legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress, calling for development and justice in northern Uganda. While the bill boasts many excellent provisions, it also includes a statement of policy that would allow AFRICOM to pursue the Lord's Resistance Army in DR Congo.

      Please sign this petition, asking members of Congress to be more attentive to the need for peace in this troubled region!

      Dear Honorable Member of Congress:

      I commend Senators Russell Feingold and Samuel Brownback and House members James McGovern, Brad Miller, and Edward Royce for introducing a bill (S. 1067, H.R. 2478) that addresses many of the broader development and justice challenges faced by northern Ugandans.

      However, I am concerned about the implications of the statement of policy that suggests:

      “eliminating the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army to civilians and regional stability through political, economic, military, and intelligence support for a comprehensive multilateral effort to protect civilians in affected areas, to apprehend or otherwise remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield, and to disarm and demobilize Lord’s Resistance Army fighters.” (sec. 3, lines 14-21)

      I believe that any military action against the LRA should be the sole responsibility and decision of the governments of countries affected by LRA violence. The United States should not use its own military resources to support this effort. If a military attack is waged, there will likely be civilian casualties, no matter how strong the emphasis on civilian protection. Furthermore, many LRA are abducted child soldiers, a fact which should give further pause to a strike against Joseph Kony.

      Operation "Lightning Thunder," a military attack conducted in December of 2008, proves that the region’s militaries are unable to execute an effective plan despite U.S. government assistance. We have no reason to believe that this will be any different, or that the U.S. is justified in supporting an undemocratic regime’s armed forces. There is no precedent for successful military action against the LRA. Instead, military action increases levels of instability, human rights violations, and civilian deaths.

      Rather than proposing military action against the LRA, the United States should encourage a peaceful resolution to the conflict that avoids interventionism and enhances local efforts at promoting an end to the conflict. Reports from the ground indicate that local leaders and members of civil society in DRC, Sudan, and Uganda are calling for a new political process that emphasizes communication with LRA leaders. A diplomatic process that relies on civil society and local knowledge of the issues may produce more fruitful results.

      Therefore, I urge you to: 1) Support a locally-led political process aimed at bringing peace to LRA affected areas. 2) Remove sections of the above-mentioned bill that would provide U.S. military assistance to strike against the LRA. 3) Ask the Congressional Research Service conduct a study on viable alternatives to military action as well as a report that evaluates the strategic interests of regional militaries in carrying out a strike within DRC. 4) Encourage the UN to commission a report on Kony’s support network and use this information to deprive him of any assistance he receives. 5) Continue to fund reconstruction and development in northern Uganda and support a restorative justice approach to addressing the crimes committed during Uganda's 22-year war.

      Solidarity statement on the SOAS cleaners


      Nine cleaners from the School of Oriental and African Studies were taken into detention after a dawn raid by immigration police on Friday 12th June. Five have already been deported, and the others could face deportation within days. One has had a suspected heart attack and was denied access to medical assistance and even water. One was over 6 months pregnant. Many have families who have no idea of their whereabouts. This petition is an expression of solidarity, and well as a call for a halt to the deportations.

      Solidarity Statement on the SOAS Cleaners

      We are writing to express our solidarity with the SOAS cleaners who were forcibly detained by the Immigration and Border Police at the School on 12 June, and to denounce the School authorities for facilitating this outrageous assault on a vulnerable group of migrant workers who dared to fight back.

      Many of us are former and current SOAS PhD students and staff, researching and teaching in the field of Development Studies.

      We note that the SOAS cleaners were one of the first groups of university cleaners to win union recognition in a notoriously exploitative industry that runs on cheap labour drawn from the poorest parts of the planet, and believe that the SOAS immigration raid was intended to intimidate other agency workers struggling for the right of union representation and decent living conditions. That this should happen on the premises of a British university is shameful enough. But it is a total disgrace that the raid took place at an institution actively recruiting students from around the world on the basis of its reputation as a leading centre for the study of global justice, human rights and racial tolerance.

      We note too that this raid came at a time when the government is forcing university teachers to spy on the immigration status of their students and colleagues, effectively turning us into an arm of the UK Borders Agency. SOAS should be actively resisting the Government’s racist immigration policy, not using the most brutal side of it to enforce labour discipline. Clearly a section of the SOAS management cannot escape the School’s colonial past.

      We finally note that the aggressive outsourcing strategy, which allowed a company like ISS to take over the School’s cleaning functions, is a consequence of the wider marketisation of Higher Education that has turned students into ‘consumers’, academic research into an exercise in market competition, and junior academics into low-paid, casualised and insecure teaching fodder. We therefore see the SOAS cleaner’s fight as our fight and stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

      We demand that the deportations are halted, the affected cleaners reinstated, cleaning and all other outsourced functions bought back in house, and the SOAS managers responsible for this vicious attack on union and immigrant rights, which has left an indelible stain on the whole School’s reputation, dismissed.

      Tanzania's Mara region experiences Barrick Gold toxic spill

      Evans Rubara


      Following a toxic spill in the north of Tanzania's Mara region by the Canadian company Barrick Gold Corporation, Evans Rubara of Norwegian Church Aid Tanzania [mp3] is interviewed by Zahra Moloo of Montreal's Amandla! radio about the situation on the ground, local mobilisation and the potential extent of environmental degration. Overflows of toxic sludge have been a regular fixture for residents in the area, with fields and livestock being exposed to contaminated water. Questions also remain over the relationship between the local community and the mining giant, with reports of shootings from security personnel, denial of the use of road infrastructure and land grabbing commonplace.

      CPJ alarmed by DRC's ban on RFI broadcasts


      In a letter to president Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged the Congolese government to lift its ban of RFI in the eastern cities of Bunia and Bukavu.

      His Excellency Joseph Kabila
      President of the Democratic Republic of Congo
      c/o Embassy of the DRC to the United States
      1800 New Hampshire Ave. NW
      Washington, D.C. 20009

      Via Facsimile: (202) 234-2609

      Mr. President,

      We are alarmed by the government’s decision to indefinitely ban FM broadcasts of Radio France Internationale (RFI) in the eastern cities of Bunia and Bukavu. We call on you to use your influence to reverse these rulings, which we believe deprive residents of eastern Congo of access to diverse sources of information about the conflict in their region.

      On June 10, Communications Minister Lambert Mende announced the government’s suspension of RFI in Bukavu, the capital of eastern South Kivu province, due to “reasons of national security,” according to Agence France-Presse. “We hold RFI responsible for inciting soldiers to disobey orders, to revolt, to cause trouble in the barracks, at a time when our country is at war,” the agency quoted Mende as saying.

      Mende did not cite any specific evidence supporting the broad accusations, which have been denied by RFI.

      Journalists based in Bukavu told CPJ this week that RFI has been off the air in the city since late May. The station had been airing reports critical of the government’s management of the army and its handling of the security situation in eastern Congo, they said.

      Earlier, on May 4, Mende announced that RFI broadcasts were banned in the city of Bunia in Eastern Province, according to news reports. Mende accused RFI of “throwing oil on the fire of all of the armed conflicts in the country’s east,” inciting soldiers to mutiny, and spreading “theses” calling for the redrawing of DRC’s borders, according to news reports. The government would strip RFI of its frequencies “one by one until we are heard,” he said.

      Mende also criticized RFI journalist Ghislaine Dupont’s coverage, accusing her of “attempting to destabilize the country.” The then-transitional, power-sharing government expelled Dupont without explanation in July 2006, according to CPJ research. In an e-mail to CPJ, Dupont disputed the accusations, saying the ruling was retaliation for critical political coverage, including reports of corruption within the ruling party and mismanagement of the army.

      In Bunia and Bukavu, bans were imposed without the disclosure of any specific grounds. Thus, the decisions appear to be arbitrary and based on unsubstantiated accusations. We believe that residents of eastern Congo have a fundamental right to diverse sources of essential information about the unfolding conflict in their region. We ask you use your influence to reverse these rulings.

      Joel Simon
      Executive Director

      Lambert Mende, Minister of Communications
      H.E. Faïda Mitifu, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the U.S.
      H.E. Pierre Jacquemot, Ambassador of France to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
      United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
      Faith Pansy Tlakula, African Commission Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
      Journaliste en Danger
      Union Nationale de la Presse Congolaise
      Réseau des Radios et Télévisions de l'Est du Congo
      American Society of Newspaper Editors
      Amnesty International
      Article 19 (United Kingdom)
      Artikel 19 (The Netherlands)
      Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
      Freedom of Expression and Democracy Unit, UNESCO
      Freedom Forum
      Freedom House
      Human Rights Watch
      Index on Censorship
      International Center for Journalists
      International Federation of Journalists
      International PEN
      International Press Institute
      Karen B. Stewart, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
      The Newspaper Guild
      The North American Broadcasters Association
      Overseas Press Club

      URL >

      CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit


      Giovanni Arrighi: Internationalist par excellence


      Salimah Valiani


      Socialist scholar Giovanni Arrighi was a man who lived the knowledge he was seeking and who built his life around it, writes his former student Salimah Valiani.

      A good friend in New York City from Latin American circles, then a good friend from African solidarity circles based in Toronto, asked me to write something about Giovanni Arrighi, who died of cancer on June 18, 2009. Because of these two requests, and though I have not been in contact with him for years, I thought I should write something, as one of the few who knew Arrighi, among the many touched by his work. That two of my friends from completely different circles both asked me to write seems emblematic of Arrighi’s reach: An internationalist par excellence, open to considering the historic trials of a range of collectivities, however they define themselves.

      I remain a student of Arrighi’s thought, but studied directly under him only in 1998, when I began a PhD at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Binghamton. Having read Arrighi’s work on labour force and capitalist development in Southern Africa, I headed for Binghamton in large part because he was there. The department of Sociology at SUNY-Binghamton was the centre for world systems studies in the 1980s and 1990s, though fading when I reached there. Giovanni Arrighi, along with Immanuel Wallerstein, Terence Hopkins, Dale Tomich, Caglar Keydar, others from the global North, and a host of intellectuals who came yearly to Binghamton from the global South, had built the graduate program, combining what may be called orthodox Marxist ideas with historical approaches to capitalism more familiar in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

      There was plenty of heated debate. How did the Atlantic slave trade fit into the development of world capitalism? What about formal colonialism, and countries of largely peasant-producers? Does national development have to emulate development in Western Europe in order to be called ‘capitalism’? One of the first things that stood out to me was that Arrighi had the rare ability to articulate plainly a differing opinion to his co-panelist, or colleague, while keeping warmth in his voice. I never saw him take offence or become defensive in intellectual discussion. This was a trait I would never forget and always learn from.

      Having left his country of birth, Italy, for pre-independence Zimbabwe, in the early 1960s, Arrighi began exposing himself to completely new environments from early in life – a flexibility which would be reflected in much of his research and theorising. A young graduate of economics wanting to escape the feudal-like university system in Italy for paid academic work, he got a job in the satellite of a British university in Africa, not unlike the American university satellites now proliferating in the continent. After joining, with other academics, in some pro-independence, campus political activity, he was jailed for a week and sent away, in 1966. He then spent three years at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where scores of people and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere had recently made Tanganyika and Zanzibar (fused to form Tanzania) British-free. Unlike many progressive Europeans, Arrighi understood the historic importance of achieving independence from European colonisers, even if it wasn’t a socialist victory at the same time. With his exceptional clarity of mind, Arrighi, in this instance and many others, was able to make the distinction between the historically necessary and the historically possible. Similarly, in his work on China and the potential of its current transformation, unlike most Western progressives, Arrighi is not condemning of the Communist Party’s changing policy direction, leaving judgement open for the unfolding of history. This openness, and ultimately, hope, comes from Arrighi’s appreciation of the ancient history of collective resistance in China, of which the Maoist revolution is only a very recent example.

      Returning to Italy in 1969, where he spent about ten years, Arrighi became well known among students for his radical critique of development theories. Countering dominant theories of development, which prescribed a capitalist route for post-colonial societies, and assumed the development history of Western European countries as the norm, Arrighi, along with Samir Amin, Andre Gunder Frank, and others showed how violence, coercion, and world scale inequality were instrumental in forming capitalist relations in colonies, precluding liberal democracy as an outcome.

      Like Amin and Gunder Frank, Arrighi then went on to pose larger questions about development and capitalism – how is it that world wealth and power are concentrated in a handful of countries – a question still relevant today. His major work, The Long Twentieth Century (1994), was the answer he offered, having worked on the question for some 15 years, primarily in Binghamton. The dedication in the book is worth noting, as it demonstrates the intimate relation Arrighi had to his intellectual inquiries:

      ‘Between conceiving a book like this and actually writing it, there is a gulf that I would never have bridged were it not for the exceptional community of graduate students with whom I have been fortunate to work during my fifteen years at SUNY-Binghamton. Knowingly or unknowingly, the members of this community have provided me with most of the questions and many of the answers that constitute the substance of this work. Collectively, they are the giant on whose shoulders I have travelled. And to them the book is rightfully dedicated.’

      Unlike most, who dedicate books to their partners or close family, Arrighi dedicated his book to his students of the period. Perhaps these were his close family and partner-to-be, but this underlines the point: Here was a man who lived the knowledge he was seeking, who built his life around it.

      This type of commitment is reflected in all of Arrighi’s writing. Responsible to the extreme, his effort to read all inter-related works existing previous to his, in various disciplines, is evident in lengthy bibliographies and rich frameworks. Along the same lines, for the intellectual contributions which he found useful to combine in his own analysis, Arrighi always acknowledged the precise ideas attached to names – from Terence Hopkins, to Fernand Braudel, to Paul Sweezy, to Sugihara Kaoru.

      Towards what we know now was the end of his life, Arrighi spoke of the need for a world based on mutual respect between humans, and a collective respect for nature. In a recent interview David Harvey asked if this could be called socialism. In classic Arrighi-honesty, Arrighi replied that socialism is a word which has been abused, which has become associated with the practice of state control gone sour. In the interview he assigned David Harvey to find a new expression for this vision. This is a task for us all to share, in honour of the memory of Giovanni.

      * Salimah Valiani is a researcher in political economy and world economic development, an activist, and a writer
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      Books & arts

      Africa: Africa in Motion 2009

      CAS symposium on realities and representations of reconciliation in Africa


      Africa in Motion 2009 aims to incorporate a number of screenings and events that confront issues of trauma, conflict and reconciliation. This symposium aims to foster discussion and understanding of old and new research dealing with the various realities and representations of reconciliation in Africa.

      Letters & Opinions

      Another good article from wa Bofelo

      A. Khwezi ka Ceza


      This is yet another good article from this guy. We need writers like him, who look at serious issues that affected our society, despite the euphoria that first came with the 'sainthood' of Mandela, the British conservativeness of the Mbeki era and now the Zunami, which is already promising to inflict more sufferings for the ordinary citizens. I suggest you give him a regular column.

      AU leaders should be accountable to citizens

      Kofi Ali Abdul


      Kofi Ali Abdul campaigns for the 850 million citizens of the AU member states to be able to vote for representatives in the Pan African Parliament, arguing that AU leaders must be accountable to the people.

      While I am trying to digest the article on the injustices and malpractices going on in the Pan African Parliament (PAP) and the window dressings, it will be good to let you know that I am just back from Accra, Ghana where I join others on an awareness campaign of the need for the voting right of all the 850 million citizens of the AU member states to the AU Commission chairperson.

      This clip gives a brief picture of what we did. In fact the attachment centres on this concern, as this was what destroyed the OAU that was run in an irresponsible and unaccountable manner. Bureaucracy and personalising of public issues is becoming the order in the PAP, which tends to be the case when public officer holders take up office without the mandate by those they are representing.

      Who is in charge of what and who appoints who? Who is financing the whole PAP activities than the ordinary citizen of the AU? Who is going to be the final victim if it all goes wrong than the ordinary AU member state citizen? Then why is he/she not being the one to decide who will head the Union administratively for every four years by the ballot box? How many AU member states citizens even know what is happening in the PAP or the AU Commission? How many AU member states citizens even knew that there was a lady PAP president and that it is a new male president by the name Hon. Dr Idriss Ndele Moussa? Who is having the final say when things go wrong in the AU of which the PAP is serving as a legislative arm? As the PAP continued in its effort to play its legislative role, is the AU Commission going to continue as a mere secretariat of civil servants instead of public servants and its the Commission chairperson Dr Jean Ping as its chief errand boy rather than the chief public servant that he is supposed to be? The PAP and the Africa Court of Justice will continue to be useless until we have all started our voting directly to choose the AUC chairperson.

      As far as I am concerned, we have all created an atmosphere of irresponsibility, nepotism, favouritism, bureaucratic, elitism, kleptocracy, injustice, inequality, individualism and self-centeredness, etc, and what are we getting than that? That is what all the article is all about and this can only go by everyone’s participation in a common AU election! Democracy is about accountability that starts with the voting of every AU member state’s citizens under the principle of universal adult suffrage. That is what we stand for and for it, we shall lay our lives!

      * Kofi Ali Abdul is coordinator of the Action Group of Africa.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      Meles: Has the die been cast?

      Ethiopian Recycler


      Ethiopian Recycler wonder why no one is not suspicious that Meles may be part of the problem.

      PM Meles is pulling out his old playbook once again - word for word, page by page. He needs to do this because he has come under intense pressure from forces within Ethiopia. 'Re-invading' Somalia on the pretext of a 'serious threat to his country' not only creates a diversion from impending woes [power blackout, corruption gone wild, recent 'attempted coup', etc] but will allow him to go back on his word to retire.

      Over the past two weeks the PM's statements on invading Somalia have gone the same old route: From denial to partial admission to waiting for 'invitation' to turning down invitation to blaming the World Bank for power blackout [to make it appear the 1 billion dollar Bank grant has nothing to do with the Somalia mission] to demanding international cooperation to threatening to go it alone when the fact is his troops were already in Somalia. He had blamed the US for one reason or another prior to the 2006 invasion to prove he was an independent actor. He was lying. He only admitted when seasoned reporters got out the news that he was following orders. He did the same about secret renditions. He is lying again. There is a pattern.

      If Aweys is 'a real threat, an existential threat to us,' philosophises the PM, 'and if he wants to be attacked then of course we will try to do what we did before,' Meles said in an interview in Addis Ababa. 'If he poses a clear and present danger, then we will deal with a clear and present danger in any way we can.' Read more.

      The fact that the World Bank earmarked US$1 billion beginning next month in addition to the over half that amount extended by US government in the last two months signals the die has been cast. Obama Administration should be forewarned that a similar plan was sold to the Bush Administration in 2006 [right after Meles's embarassing defeat in the 2005 elections.] That intervention was declared a 'success', a 'mission accomplished'. Those exact words!! Let us not forget it is less than a year to elections in Ethiopia. In 2006 world attention was on Iraq, now on Iran. As we say in Ethiopia, commotion is a boon for thieves!

      We just wonder why no one is not suspicious that Meles may be part of the problem!

      African Writers’ Corner

      An interview with Segun Afolabi

      Mildred K Barya


      With this year's Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist now announced, Mildred Kiconco Barya interviews Segun Afolabi, the 2005 winner of the prize. The winner of the 2009 prize will be announced at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Monday 6 July.

      Segun Afolabi was born in Kaduna, Nigeria, and grew up in various countries including Canada, Indonesia and the United Kingdom. His first novel, ‘Goodbye Lucille’, was published in 2007 and won the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award. His first book, ‘A Life Elsewhere’, a short story collection, was published in 2006 and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Afolabi was awarded the 2005 Caine Prize for African Writing for his story ‘Monday Morning’.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: Why do you write?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: Curiosity, a desire to tell stories, a love of psychology, trying to understanding human behaviour – all sorts of reasons.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: At what age did you start writing creatively?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: In my mid-20s.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: Describe your writing journey.

      SEGUN AFOLABI: Necessarily slow. A journey of discovery – of writers who helped expand my view of the world.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: What are the thematic concerns in your writing?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: I don’t think in terms of themes, but rather issues, problems, and dilemmas that need to be examined, picked apart, even understood.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: What inspired you to write ‘Monday Morning’?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: A sentence that popped into my head one chilly winter evening in London: ‘“I want to piss,” the boy said…’ I had no idea who this boy was or what the story would be about, but often that’s the joy of writing – discovering a story as the words surface onto the page.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: How did you know about the Caine Prize?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: I didn’t.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: What was your initial response when you won the Caine Prize?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: Bafflement, glee. I didn’t understand how I had been shortlisted in the first place, since I hadn’t entered it into a competition.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: What has been happening or not happening since winning the Caine?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: I’ve published two books, a collection of short stories (‘A Life Elsewhere’) and a novel (‘Goodbye Lucille’), which won the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award. I’m working on a new novel and more stories, but as I’m a part-time writer everything happens very, very slowly.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: If you were to rewrite your submitted story what would you change?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: I don’t feel it’s my story to change – the characters have their own lives and histories. Perhaps I’ll feel differently in ten years’ time.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: How often do you revise or redraft your stories?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: I don’t keep score, but the revision process seems, necessarily, endless, which used to bother me, but I now realise it all adds to the creative process.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: What’s your take on writing?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: Discovery, bliss, frustration, despair, boredom, excitement, solitude, anxiety, dissatisfaction, poverty – all thrown into one pot.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: How do you deal with a writer’s rejections?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: I tend to think of rejection as an opportunity to examine the writing, refine it to another degree – another stage in the editing/revising process. But, honestly, rejection never gets any easier.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: Apart from writing, what else do you do and why?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: I work full-time, as an editor. Always have. I like to be part of the world, with all the interaction, excitement and frustration that comes with it. I’m not sure I could write full-time – the ideas wouldn’t flow as easily, I don’t think. I might get bored and stuck.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: Forty years from now where do you see yourself?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: On trains, crossing continents, travelling with family and old and new friends, still writing and reading, still learning.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: What’s your best quote?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:13)

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: Which five authors do you admire most and why?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: This list changes according to time of day, week, month, year etc., so it’s rendered almost meaningless: Graham Greene, James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, Jamaica Kincaid and J.M. Coetzee.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: List your favourite five books.

      SEGUN AFOLABI: Again, take with a pinch of salt: ‘The Magus’, ‘The End of the Affair’, ‘Farewell to Arms’, ‘L’Etranger’ and ‘Beloved’.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: What genre do you read most and why?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: I used to read anything: horror, science fiction, comics etc. I rarely read anything apart from literary fiction now (and non-fiction), since there’s so little time to devote to anything else, although a colleague recently recommended ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: If you were to make a wish right now what would it be?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: The discovery of a cheap, sustainable energy source that obviates the need for oil/coal etc., which would end the rapidly developing environmental crisis.

      MILDRED KICONCO BARYA: If you were to have powers of a genie what two things would you change?

      SEGUN AFOLABI: I’d redistribute climates so that there’d be more rain and it would be cooler in Africa, Australia, the Middle East etc., and hence dryer and warmer elsewhere. An inbuilt propensity for altruism in everyone.

      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      Cool Papa

      Roland Bankole Marke


      Papa, you’re the apple of my eye
      Clothed me in love like happiness:
      Worked hard striving to nurture me
      Papa, I’m honestly so proud of you.

      I cherish him with child-like passion
      Oh papa, papa you’re innately cool
      So awesome, wonderful, cool to me
      What a blessing, you raised no fool
      Our bond is as solid as igneous rock.

      Some kids wished they had my dada
      Dada personifies my precious jewel
      His love runs deep like Sewa River
      Today, tears of joy saturate my life
      Thank you God: for my caring papa.

      From infancy, he loved and cared
      Proudly, championed my fragile life
      Without him life would be chaotic
      A bond anchored as the baobab tree.

      * Roland Bankole Marke © 2009. On the occasion of Father's Day, Roland dedicates this poem to his deceased father, Joseph I. Marke.
      * Roland Bankole Marke is the author of two collections of poetry, 'Teardrops Keep Falling' and 'Silver Rain and Blizzard'. His third book is 'Harvest of Hate; Stories and Essays'. Visit his website at to sample his craft.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      Poetry for Africa

      Kingwa Kamencu


      Poetry is dangerous,

      It’s that so often talked about
      Double edged sword
      That cuts both ways.
      It’s more lethal
      Than Zuma’s Umshini Wami,
      More deadly than the now ubiquitous
      Post election violence panga
      More than Rwanda’s genocidal machete.
      It’s deadlier than Sierra Leonese, Sudanese child soldiers,
      More powerful than the Shona-Ndebele, Majimaji, Mau Mau wars put together.

      It can bless you
      Or curse you
      Deliver you to your grave-
      Ask Pushkin.

      It can build continents,
      Empires, kingdoms,
      And just as quickly,
      Tear them down.
      Ask Africa

      Be careful how you use your words,
      What you confess,
      You will, without a single doubt
      Soon possess.

      So let’s sing dangerously progressive
      Subversively possessive
      Poetry for our motherland,

      Africa will arise
      Not by Zuma’s Umshini Wami,
      Or the P.E.V.’s menacing panga,
      Rwanda’s machete,
      North African child soldiers
      Or Shona-Ndebele, Majimaji, Mau Mau resistance ire.

      Africa will arise
      By our dreamy
      Amazing words,
      Our outlandish prophecies,
      Our ridiculously zany confessions
      Of a better beautiful, peaceful, abundant Africa
      Whose reach
      Is within
      Our possession.

      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      Emerging powers in Africa Watch

      Increasing Africa's benefit from China: Developing a strategic approach

      Anthony Yaw Baah and Herbert Jauch


      cc colodio
      In a wide-ranging summary of China's activity on the African continent, Anthony Yaw Baah and Herbert Jauch of the African Labour Research Network (ALRN) argue that African governments must develop a more strategic approach if their countries are to truly benefit from the Asian giant. Now Africa's third largest trade partner after the US and France, China's no-strings-attached approach to aid and investment has made the country popular with many African leaders. While China's demand for raw materials has pushed up the global prices of several commodities extracted in Africa, limited processing takes place on the continent. If African countries are to avoid the role of mere material suppliers, they must look to shape relations with China more to their own advantage, Yaw Baah and Jauch contend. With serious doubts over working conditions within much of Chinese-run industry, the need for workers' collective bargaining and direct action is becoming ever greater. If governments are not to subordinate social and labour issues to economic growth for fear of losing foreign investment, Yaw Baah and Jauch conclude, they will need to develop their own agenda and positions of negotiation.

      During the 1960s and 1970s, Chinese relations with African countries were driven by ideological considerations, with China presenting itself as an alternative to both the West and the Soviet Union. During that time, China’s support consisted mainly of moral and material support for liberation struggles. During the 1980s, the relationship shifted towards economic cooperation based on common aims. After the end of the 'Cold War', China attached importance to both political and economic benefits and portrayed itself as an attractive economic partner and political friend. For African governments, this presented an alternative to the 'Washington Consensus' and was termed the 'Beijing Consensus' – support without interference in internal affairs.

      China’s engagement with Africa today is less motivated by ideological considerations but based on a commercial agenda that aims to sustain rapid industrialisation and economic growth rates. China’s 'socialist market economy' is driven by market-oriented State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and its interests in Africa are geared towards energy resources and minerals to feed its industrialisation programme. Chinese investments and trade with Africa have increased significantly over the past few years, although Europe and the USA are still the predominant sources of foreign investments and the main markets for African exports. China is now Africa’s third largest commercial partner after the USA and France and – like the former colonial countries – backs its trading relations with aid, debt relief, scholarships, training and the provision of specialists. China also accounts for about 8 per cent of Africa’s military hardware imports. However, Africa is by no means a major destination of Chinese investments as only about 3 per cent of China’s overall FDI (foreign direct investment) outflows were destined for Africa in 2007.

      Overall, there are about 450 Chinese-owned investment projects in Africa: 46 per cent in manufacturing, 40 per cent in services and 9 per cent in resource-related industries. The latter accounts for 28 per cent of investment value. This scenario differs significantly between individual countries as Chinese investors focus on oil extraction or uranium in some countries and on construction and retail in others. China’s main export destinations in Africa are South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Algeria, while the main African exporters to China are Angola, South Africa, Congo and Equatorial Guinea. Africa’s main exports to China are minerals, petroleum and timber, involving very limited processing on the continent. Africa’s imports from China consist mainly of capital and consumer goods. Overall, the trade balance is slightly in Africa’s favour, although several countries like South Africa, Morocco and Ghana have substantial trade deficits.

      Since 2003, China has become the second-largest consumer of oil and is expected to overtake the USA by 2030. China relies on outside energy resources for its continued industrialisation and currently covers about a quarter of its oil needs through imports from Africa, especially from Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria, Chad and Gabon. China’s demand for raw materials has driven up world market prices for several of Africa’s commodities, but Africa also needs to consider the utilisation of its resources for sustainable industrialisation on the continent instead of remaining merely an exporter of raw materials.

      There is a danger of the Africa–China economic relations following the colonial pattern of relegating Africa to the role of a supplier of raw materials. The major challenge facing African countries is how to shape this relationship differently and to ensure that beneficiation takes place in Africa, resulting in job creation and economic development. The nature of the current trade relationship needs to be altered if Africa is to substantially benefit from trade with China.

      Since 2000, China has established trade and investment promotion centres in Africa and also signed investment promotion agreements with over 20 countries. By 2008, the number of sizeable Chinese enterprises in Africa had reached about 800, with South Africa attracting the largest share of Chinese investments. South Africa is also the only African country with significant investments in China, mainly in mining, brewing and the financial sector.

      In the 10 countries covered by our study, 'Chinese investments in Africa: A labour perspective', Chinese investments were concentrated mostly in the energy, mining, manufacturing, construction, retail and finance sectors. The emphasis varied between countries, but investments in large infrastructure projects as well as mining ventures were common across the continent. Chinese investments in small retail outlets – 'China shops' – are mostly undertaken by private business people and hardly create linkages to the local economy as they source cheap consumer goods from China, which are popular amongst poorer consumers. In some instances, however, this has negatively affected local traders as well as local manufacturers who could not withstand the Chinese competition. As a result, thousands of jobs were lost in countries like Zambia, Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Sudan.

      Chinese construction projects in Africa, on the other hand, are usually carried out by State-Owned Enterprises and they often resort to the utilisation of large numbers of Chinese workers. In some cases, like the construction of a stadium in Ghana, Chinese migrant workers accounted for up to two-thirds of the labour force.

      China’s presence in Africa is welcomed by African governments due to the offer of trade, aid and investments with no strings attached. China is also seen as a solution to the creation of local infrastructure where local capacity is lacking. In general, African leaders consider their engagement with China as a viable alternative to the often neocolonial relations they have had with the West, as exemplified by the neoliberal policies of the 'Washington Consensus'.

      Labour relations in Chinese firms in Africa, as well as working conditions in China, are a bone of contention. China has a labour force of 770 million, of which 193.5 million are urban workers. China has achieved a significant reduction of people living in poverty during the last 30 years, but levels of inequality have increased and reached a level comparable to Latin America. A new middle-class emerged in the cities while the earnings of farmers in rural areas declined. Rural farmers account for 47 per cent of the population but earn only 19.9 per cent of the national income.

      One strategy used by China to address the problem of unemployment is to send workers overseas to work on projects carried out by state-owned companies or through labour brokers. This explains the relatively large number of Chinese workers at construction sites as well as in some manufacturing ventures in Africa. Within China, workers in SOEs earn significantly higher wages than migrants from the rural areas. Migrants are also excluded from benefits such as maternity and unemployment benefits and social assistance. The 'household registration system' makes it very difficult for rural workers to change their status to urban workers.

      The number of labour disputes in China has risen significantly in recent years as workers resorted to work stoppages, sabotage, go-slows and court action to defend their rights. The global economic crisis has affected Chinese workers directly as more than 10 million migrant workers had to return to their hometowns with little hope of finding jobs.

      The All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is the world’s biggest union and played a crucial role in the struggle against imperialism. Today it is closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party and plays the role of linking the party with workers. The ACFTU is widely regarded as an extension and 'relief agency' of government as it does not support militant workers’ action. Most industrial action in China is spontaneous and not supported by the ACFTU. Attempts to form independent trade unions in China have not succeeded thus far.

      Although working conditions at Chinese companies in Africa differ across countries and sectors, there are some common trends such as tense labour relations, hostile attitudes by Chinese employers towards trade unions, violations of workers' rights, poor working conditions and unfair labour practices. There is a virtual absence of employment contracts and the Chinese employers unilaterally determine wages and benefits. African workers are often employed as 'casual workers', depriving them of benefits that they are legally entitled to.

      Chinese employers tend to be amongst the lowest paying in Africa when compared with other companies in the same sector. In Zambia, for example, the Chinese copper mine paid its workers 30 per cent less than other copper mines in the country. In general, Chinese companies do not grant African workers any meaningful benefits and in some instances ignore even those that are prescribed by law. Wages above the national average were only found at those Chinese companies with a strong trade union presence. Chinese staff members enjoy significantly higher wages and more benefits than their African counterparts.

      Collective bargaining hardly takes place in Chinese companies. They resort to union bashing strategies to discourage their workers from joining a trade union. In many instances, Chinese businesses were supported by host governments who defended Chinese investments against the demands of labour. Trade unions see the practices of Chinese companies as a threat to the limited social protection that unions have achieved over the years through collective bargaining.

      Chinese employers violate several of the core ILO (International Labour Organization) conventions. These include the right to join trade unions, to bargain collectively, to receive equal remuneration and to be protected against discrimination. Basic rights such as paid leave are often ignored and workers are forced to work overtime – at times without any additional remuneration. Workers often fear that refusal to do so would result in their dismissal. A particularly grave case of workers’ rights violations is the 'locking-in' of workers during working hours, which led to deaths during fires in Nigeria and Kenya.

      Health and safety issues receive very little attention at Chinese companies as precautionary measures are ignored and no training on health and safety issues is provided. In some countries, Chinese employers terminate the employment of female workers once they fall pregnant. Chinese companies tend to employ African workers for basic tasks at very low pay while importing Chinese managers and supervisors for higher-paid positions.

      Following the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) with privatisation policies and the resulting mass retrenchments of the 1980s and 1990s, Africa’s trade unions are relatively weak and face a host of challenges today. Union membership has declined as labour struggles to recruit and represent non-permanent workers and those in the informal economy. Employers, including the Chinese, take advantage of flexible labour markets and undermine collective bargaining. Trade unions expect government support for the enforcement of local labour laws and international labour standards but in many countries, host governments are reluctant to intervene for fear of losing foreign investments.

      Organising workers and improving their working conditions through direct action and collective bargaining is undoubtedly the most effective way to redress the current problems at Chinese companies. The aggressive union-organising strategy in Zambia, for example, has had some success. In many cases, however, this proves to be very difficult and thus supplementary strategies could be used. These include national minimum wages and basic conditions of employment that are enforced by trade unions and labour inspectors alike. Building alliances aimed at promoting Africa-wide and sub-regional framework agreements may also help to improve working conditions. Furthermore, African trade union bodies as well as the global union federations can take up labour rights violations at the continental level and also bring it to the attention of the All China Federation of Trade Union (ACFTU) in an effort to exert pressure on Chinese companies in Africa. Likewise, unions could use political linkages to call on the Chinese government to pressurise companies through Chinese embassies in Africa.

      Other steps that might strengthen trade unions’ ability to deal with Chinese companies include courses in the Chinese language (Mandarin) for African union organisers, improving the capacity for organising and negotiations amongst trade unions, translation of documents outlining labour laws and regulations for Chinese companies into Mandarin, broadening the decent work agenda through social dialogue at a national and international level and ongoing campaigns for minimum wages and their enforcement.

      There is a need to develop meaningful exchanges between African and Chinese workers beyond the high-level visits of trade union leaders. Exchange programmes must target workers at a grassroots level and must be driven by a will to develop joint strategies in the fight against exploitation. Understanding each other’s environments and struggles may not only counter racism and divisions but may also pave the way for coordinated action at an international level in future.

      The common trends found in most African countries point to the urgent need to develop coherent continental approaches to Chinese companies and foreign investment in general. The current practices of attracting investments 'at all costs' has led to a downward spiral in terms of labour and environmental standards. Continental and sub-regional trade union bodies need to spearhead a campaign for a common approach towards foreign investment that is more selective and strategic than the current 'open door policy'. A government policy of sacrificing labour issues for the sake of attracting foreign investment cannot lead to sustainable development.

      The relationship between African states and China is currently not equal and requires significant changes to become mutually beneficial. African governments must strengthen their bargaining position and ensure local processing. They must also improve monitoring to ensure that investors do not divert their focus away from manufacturing and that skills and technology transfer actually takes place. Instruments like tender requirements, work permits, labour laws and investment conditions can be used to achieve desired outcomes.

      A new economic relationship will have to be built around Africa’s own strategic development agenda. The Chinese cannot be blamed for pursuing their particular development objectives, including access to the raw materials and energy resources needed to sustain China’s industrialisation programmes. African governments will have to set their own agenda and then negotiate the best possible deals with potential investors, including those from China. In the absence of a strategic approach by African governments, Chinese investments in Africa will remain of limited benefit for Africa’s development.

      The many problems associated with Chinese companies in Africa should not be seen in isolation from the broader challenge of dealing with the consequences of neoliberal globalisation, which places economic growth above all social considerations. The trade patterns that characterised Africa’s relations with Europe and the USA are replicated to a significant extent in Sino-African relations. Thus the quality of economic relations needs to be altered substantially if Africa is to benefit in future. The global economic crisis provides trade unions with an opportunity to intensify advocacy campaigns for alternative policies to the neoliberal agenda with a view to placing redistribution and Africa’s development priorities at the centre of all external relations.

      * This article comprises the Executive Summary of the May 2009 'Chinese investments in Africa: A labour perspective' report by the African Labour Research Network (ALRN) (edited by Anthony Yaw Baah and Herbert Jauch). It is reproduced here with ALRN's kind permission.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

      Highlights French edition

      Pambazuka News 105: Ces feux qui couvent au Niger


      Zimbabwe update

      China justifies veto of Zimbabwe sanctions


      China's veto of proposed sanctions against Zimbabwe by the United States and Britain last year has been vindicated by the formation of the inclusive government, outgoing Chinese Ambassador Yuan Nansheng has said. Addressing a press conference on the eve of his departure to a new posting in Suriname, Yuan said it was likely that Zimbabwe could not have proceeded to form an inclusive government without the vetoes by China and Russia.

      Constitutional stakeholders meetings begin


      The process for a new Zimbabwean constitution kick started on Wednesday when the Parliamentary Select Committee began constitutional hearings across the country. Political commentator Professor John Makumbe said the meetings that took place began with the registration of various interested groups in the five provinces. The stakeholders were told go back to their provinces and nominate representatives to attend an All Stakeholders conference in July, which will elect thematic committees.

      Government denies diamond killings


      A Zimbabwean minister has denied any killings in the eastern Marange diamond fields, where rights groups have sounded the alarm over the forcible evictions of small-scale miners. Zimbabwe's deputy mining minister Murisi Zwizwai told a meeting of the Kimberley Process, the international scheme to curb the sale of "blood diamonds" , that the situation in Marange had been brought under control.

      State concedes Mukoko’s abduction was illegal


      A state prosecutor on Thursday conceded that the way human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko was abducted by state security agents, was illegal. The 53 year-old former news reader has taken her case to the Supreme Court, seeking a permanent stay of her prosecution. A full bench of the Supreme Court heard submissions from state prosecutor Fatima Maxwell that they did not dispute Mukoko’s evidence that she was abducted and held incommunicado against her will, which also violated her human rights.

      Women & gender

      Côte d’Ivoire: Children selling sex, having babies


      The baby was born and 12 days later died on a dilapidated upper floor of the Adjamé market in Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital Abidjan. The mother, Aminata*, is barely 15. She does not know who the father is. Aminata exchanges sex for money – so she can eat, she said. Aminata is among scores of young girls – some as young as 10, according to a local NGO – who sell their bodies at Adjamé market, known locally as ‘Biêlôgô’; in the Dioula language, lôgô means market and biê means the female sex organ.

      DRC: Mass rape in Goma prison


      Twenty female detainees in the central prison in Goma, a large town in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were raped during a recent riot, officials have said. "Twenty female prisoners were raped on Monday [22 June] night during an attempted prison escape by a group of militia sentenced to long terms and jailed in the prison," Oscar Kasangandjo, the public prosecutor in Goma, told IRIN.

      South Sudan: Women ready to take their place


      When the women of South Sudan welcomed the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, they were cognizant of the fact that true democracy will be realised only when their human rights are realised. It is a young democracy battling to stay afloat against the backdrop of a fragile peace arrangement. A 22-year-war rained terror on the land, and caused unimaginable levels of destruction, killing two million people and displacing four million more according to U.N. estimates.

      Women Making Airwaves for Peace

      Call for Applications


      Women Making Airwaves for Peace (WMAP) is a five-day seminar that gathers around 30 women community radio broadcasters from the Asia Pacific region. It is a space where participants share their experiences, particularly best practices towards engendered peace building and disaster management -- enabling community radio to empower women in crisis situations.

      Human rights

      Angola: Rights body call for cessation of torture


      The human rights body has urged the Angolan government to halt unlawful detention and torture of people suspected of rebel activities in oil-producing province of Cabinda. According to the 27 paged report released by Human Rights Watch today, Angolan armed forces and state intelligence officials have arbitrarily arrested 38 people belonging to the Liberation Front of the Enclave of Cabinda accused of state security crimes in Cabinda between September 2007 and March 2009.

      Angola: Stop military abuses in Cabinda


      The Angolan government should immediately end the unlawful detention and torture of people suspected of rebel activities in the oil-rich enclave province of Cabinda, Human Rights Watch said. In the 27-page report, "‘They Put Me in the Hole': Military Detention, Torture, and Lack of Due Process in Cabinda," Human Rights Watch shows a disturbing pattern of human rights violations by the Angolan armed forces and state intelligence officials.

      Kenya: Mau Mau in UK court bid


      Five Kenyan independence fighters who are now in their 70s and 80s have launched a compensation claim for alleged human rights abuses under British colonial rule. The suit was filed at the high court in London on Tuesday and follows the British government's rejection of a demand for compensation and a formal apology made in 2006.

      Rwanda: Jury still out on effectiveness of 'Gacaca’ courts


      Rwanda’s traditional `Gacaca’ courts, set up in 2001 to try some of those responsible for the 1994 genocide and to decongest the prison system, wind up on 30 June, but questions remain as to how much they achieved. Gacaca courts have tried at least 1.5 million cases (with about 4,000 pending). However, at least 100 genocide survivors, have been killed - most of them after testifying against suspects in these courts, according to the umbrella organization for survivors, IBUKA.

      Uganda: Act swiftly on long-term detainees


      The Ugandan minister of justice should immediately inform 17 individuals who have languished in prison for years of their legal status, Human Rights Watch has said in a letter to the minister of justice. The individuals have long awaited "minister's orders" from the minister of justice to determine whether they should be imprisoned, released, or placed in the appropriate custodial care.

      West Africa: Togo abolishes the death penalty


      Togo's parliament has voted unanimously to abolish the death penalty. The vote was witnessed by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. He has been campaigning for a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its total abolition.

      Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai challenged to implement reforms


      Amnesty International's Secretary General, Irene Khan, expressed concern about the continuing harassment and intimidation of human rights activists, journalists and lawyers in Zimbabwe during a meeting with the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai. The talks -- in London on Monday -- came a week after a six-day Amnesty International mission to Zimbabwe, led by Ms Khan.

      Refugees & forced migration

      Africa: AU plans landmark convention on internal refugees


      African countries are set to adopt a ground-breaking convention providing rights to millions of people forced to flee their homes because of conflict. Africa has some 12 million internally displaced people (IDPs) who are uprooted within their own country. Unlike refugees -- people who have fled to another country -- IDPs benefit from little or no protection. The convention, the brainchild of the African Union, will for the first time provide them with similar rights to refugees, according to a draft seen by Reuters.

      Chad: UNHCR launches resettlement of refugees


      The UN refugee agency has begun a pilot programme to resettle 1,800 refugees in Chad to the United States, with a first group of 11 from several countries flying out of N'Djamena at the weekend. The group that left on Sunday included seven urban refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), three urban Sudanese refugees and one person from the Central African Republic (CAR) who had been living in Dosseye camp in southern Chad.

      Kenya: Thousands displaced in ethnic clashes in southwest


      Tension remains high in Kenya's southwestern district of Kuria East, on the Tanzania border, where at least 6,000 people have been displaced by inter-clan fighting, humanitarian officials said. "Although there is relative calm in the district, with no reported incidences of attacks or torching of houses in the past few days, tension remains high in the area," James Kisia, deputy secretary-general of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), said on 24 June.

      Morocco: African refugees targeted


      More than 300 African refugees are gathered at the gates of the Moroccan United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), asking to be moved to another country because their rights are not respected in Morocco. Several refugees say they have been beaten up by Moroccan UN personnel. On Tuesday morning, the refugees who are from Angola, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and some other countries, entered their ninth day of protest in front of the Moroccan office of the UNHCR in capital Rabat. Their numbers are steadily growing.

      Somalia: Clashes force another 26,000 from their homes


      Ongoing clashes between Government forces and insurgents have uprooted another 26,000 people from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in the past five days, the United Nations refugee agency has reported. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that there are now 160,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) resulting from the fighting that has been taking place since early May between Government troops and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups.

      Emerging powers news

      China-Africa news roundup


      Sanusha Naidu does a roundup of the week's Sino-African news

      Repair Africa's roads to pave way for trade: UNCTAD
      Unions allege Chinese companies exploit African workers
      Russia horns in on China in Africa
      Tackle Financial Crisis and Achieve Common Development
      Russia's Medvedev in Nigeria to sign energy deals
      China, South Africa seek for closer bilateral ties
      Africa, Asia seek to strengthen tour ties
      Zimbabwe: Mutambara Hails Sino-Zim Relations
      South-south soured
      World Bank Sees Slow Growth for Economy
      India cultivates Africa
      President Medvedev arrives in Egypt for tour to revive relations
      Fertilizer Divide: Too Much, Not Enough
      Medvedev to Pursue ‘Bigger Mandate,’ Energy Deals in Africa
      Shenhua, Sasol project to start building next year
      Duet With the Dragon: What’s Next In U.S.-China Relationship?
      Sudan policy pays off as aid returns
      Indian tigers descend on Africa
      Bric quartet defined by differences
      Article Up on Asia Times: China, Copper, the Democratic Republic of Congo--and the IMF
      Currency, culture, Confucius: China's writ will run across the world
      Asian economies feel pull of protectionism
      Morals vs profits, a tug of war for business in China
      Zambia Sees Success in Trade Deal with China
      India begins poverty alleviation project in China
      Ambassador: Sino-Gabonese friendship deeply rooted
      India to ban replica handsets from China
      East Africa has fiber-optic cable -- now what?
      Brazil and the BRICS
      Despite Law, Job Conditions Worsen in China
      China's accelerating financial reform
      Sinopec seeks capacity, reserves with Addax bid
      BRIC Builders
      Commission outlines 'clean coal' China plan
      India’s wealth gap threatens growth
      India, China like Africa — with reason
      Ausaid and China

      Elections & governance

      Guinea-Bissau: Beyond rule of the gun


      This latest policy briefing from the International Crisis Group warns that the killings of General Tagme (the chief of defence staff) and President Vieira in March, as well as the recent assassinations of opposition leaders and former ministers, are an indication the democratic process cannot cope. The military’s use of force has overwhelmed state institutions. Both the political elites and the international community must send a strong message condemning the widespread abuses committed by the armed forces.

      Guinea-Bissau: Election a test for region’s stability


      Guinea-Bissau’s election on Sunday to replace its slain president will be a test for West Africa’s ability to stop the retreat of democracy as well as for a state destabilised by drug smugglers and army rivalries. The fact the vote is happening at all is something of an achievement within four months of President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira being shot dead and after the killing of a top contender and another senior politician during the campaign.

      Madagascar: SADC steps in to mediate


      Where many have tried and failed, now the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has called on Madagascar’s political rivals to consider peaceful dialogue to end months of political crisis. Heads of State of the 15-nation regional body met in South Africa on 20 June to consider the political and security situation in the Indian Ocean Island after the last mediation attempt by the African Union (AU) collapsed on 16 June.

      Morocco: New political party sweeps local elections


      The new Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) edged out the Istiqlal Party on Friday (June 12th) to win the greatest number of seats in Morocco's communal elections. The accomplishment may change the political landscape in Morocco. According to a Saturday announcement by Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa, Fouad Ali El Himma's PAM received roughly 18% of all votes cast and won 6,015 seats (21.7%) of the 27,795 contested.


      Africa: Africa has vast agriculture potential, UN study


      A vast stretch of African savannah land that spreads across 25 countries has the potential to turn several African nations into global players in bulk commodity production, according to a study published by FAO and the World Bank. The book, entitled Awakening Africa’s Sleeping Giant - Prospects for Commercial Agriculture in the Guinea Savannah Zone and Beyond, arrives at its positive conclusions by comparing the region with northeast Thailand and the Cerrado region of Brazil.

      Global: Global finance ignores world's poor


      As government officials from around the world descend on New York for a UN conference on the economic crisis and its impact on development, the main issue up for debate is how the poorest countries can influence the way the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank operate.

      Nigeria: G-8 Invites Yar'Adua to next month's summit


      Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has been formally invited to attend this year's G-8 Summit of the world's industrial nations holding in Italy. Next month's meeting, holding from July 8 to 10, 2009 at L'Aquila will be the third since President Yar'Adua was sworn in on May 29, 2007 and the first he is being invited to attend.

      Southern Africa: Climate proofing the Zambezi


      The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a USD$ 8 million initiative to help build the disaster resilience of 600,000 people living along the Zambezi river in seven southern African countries. The Zambezi River Basin Initiative (ZRBI) is a response to "a dramatic increase in the numbers of floods along the river basin” according to Farid Abdulkadir, IFRC disaster management coordinator for the southern Africa region.

      Southern Africa: Expensive funerals cause household hardship


      In Southern Africa, funerals are generally considered an individual’s most important rite of passage and households may spend the equivalent of a year’s income for an adult’s funeral. Loans might be taken out with money lenders, if need be, in order to have a funeral that befits the status of the household and of the person who has died. This paper argues that increases particularly in mortality in middle age (primarily AIDS related) can lead to economic hardship for households that experience the death of a relative, especially if burial insurance policies have not been taken out and if types of funerals do not change to reflect changes in mortality patterns.

      Health & HIV/AIDS

      Africa: Men and care in the context of HIV


      What drives the enormous burden of AIDS-related care which falls on women and girls? What strategies are needed to reduce this burden? Rather than focusing only on ways to increase men's participation in shouldering a more equitable share of the burden of AIDS-related care, this paper by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women starts out with an analysis of the structural forces that affect how AIDS care is provided.

      Africa: More information on causes of death needed to fine-tune ART services


      Knowing the causes of death as well as mortality rates among patients on antiretroviral therapy in Rwanda may help improve service delivery, Innocent Turate and colleagues reported in a study presented at the HIV Implementers’ Meeting in Namibia earlier this month. Loss of patients to follow-up continues to be a significant problem for treatment programmes in many parts of Africa, but measures to improve patient retention in care require a better understanding of why patients are lost to follow-up, and in particular, the number of deaths and the causes of death among those who start treatment.

      Cote d'Ivoire: 2 swine flu cases confirmed


      A new case of the swine flu, confirmed by the Institut Pasteur laboratory, has brought to two the number of people infected by the AH1N1 virus in the Cote d'Ivoire, health sources told PANA here Thursday. The latest case involves a 20-year-old girl who was in close contact with the first case, confirmed on Monday. They were among the 57 passengers on board the Brussels Airlines aircraft which flew in from Brussels via Monrovia, Liberia, on 19 June.

      Global: Uprooted must be included in national HIV strategies


      UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has said more must be done to ensure governments include refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) in their national strategies for dealing with HIV/AIDS. In a wide-ranging address Monday afternoon to the UNAIDS governing body, the Programme Coordinating Board (PCB), Guterres said people on the move – whether refugees, IDPs or migrants – can be more vulnerable to HIV.

      Namibia: Women take legal action over alleged sterilisations


      Two HIV-positive Namibian women who allege they were sterilised against their will in public hospitals are seeking redress through the courts, the first of more than 20 known cases, according to the International Community for Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW). The ICW raised the alarm over what it terms forced or coerced sterilisations among HIV-positive women more than a year ago, after hearing accounts of it through its regular forums for HIV-positive young women.

      South Africa: Time to rethink testing


      It has become a given – test more people for HIV and you'll get more people on treatment earlier, plus cut down on risky sex. But recent research on the behaviour of people who test HIV negative, has led some doctors to question the testing gospel. Speaking at the monthly meeting of the South African HIV Clinicians society, Dr Francois Venter said what seemed a strong relationship between increased testing, treatment and behaviour change is not necessarily valid in the South African context.

      Uganda: 40% of HIV patients in diagnosed late


      Forty percent of patients with HIV in Uganda only have their infection diagnosed when they are already ill because of HIV, or have developed AIDS, investigators report in a study published in the online edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. The authors believe that this figure is likely to represent the lower bound for number of patients diagnosed late.


      Africa: Education "forgotten" in post-conflict aid


      Education is the forgotten aspect of post-conflict humanitarian aid and aid for refugees”, New Security Foundation Chairman Dr Harold Elletson told delegates at a ground-breaking session on ‘post-conflict distance learning’ during eLearning Africa in Dakar, Senegal. With these words, he initiated a debate which should prove to be a hot topic at this year’s Security and Defence Learning Forum in Berlin.

      Africa: Love is in the ear


      Inaugurated last year by Deutsche Welle, a radio project called “Learning by Ear” is reaching into parts of Africa where computers are yet to be seen. Today, more than 33 million people on the African continent are able to listen to this distance-education programme. Its popularity lies in its unconventional format and true-to-life stories that embrace diverse themes depicted in the form of features, interviews and even soaps.

      Global: Education stimulus for developing world


      Lost in the recent debate in Congress over expanded funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was the key question of how that money should best be spent in order to promote a global economic recovery. Here in the United States, our own economic stimulus included unprecedented levels of funding, over $100 billion, in new education spending.


      South Africa: Research puts rural gays under spotlight


      The University of South Africa (UNISA) together with Gay Umbrella, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) organisation in the North West Province, have joined forces in a two year systematic research project that will provide important insights into the rural perspective of gays and lesbians. The project is set to focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in rural areas of the North West Province with a view to get a closer look at their lives and the challenges they face on a daily basis in terms of empowerment.


      DRC: Alternative fuel saves fuel and trees


      Banana peels, sugar cane and manioc are widely found in the trash piles that collect outside of homes in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They're also the ingredients being used by environmental advocates to create a light, inexpensive cooking fuel that could ease deforestation in the region. Clement Kitambala, a Congolese advocate, and Ned Meerdink, an Advocacy Project (AP) Peace Fellow, came upon an idea online to make briquettes out of organic waste material. Mr Kitambala, who also produces the environmental newsletter Tunza Mazingira ("Conserve the Environment" in Swahili), secured $150 in funding from a United Nations fieldworker to construct a wood press for making the briquettes (shown below). He recently produced the first batch of about 500.

      Land & land rights

      Africa: India cultivates Africa


      In a new wave of outsourcing, Indian firms are acquiring swathes of farmland in poor African countries to produce food meant to be exported to India. But food policy experts are lambasting the strategy as “ neo- colonialist”. They say such deals exploit the natural resources of poor countries who are themselves facing acute food shortages.

      South Africa: Live or die for eNkwalini


      This film is about the eNkwalini community’s struggle for land rights. It highlights the attacks by the local neighbouring farmer who has been trying to evict them since 2005 when he started to demolish their houses. The film tells a story of a rural community that is waging a struggle against ferocious tides of oppression. It is a story about a territorial war between the poor rural community and rich land owner.

      Food Justice

      Africa: Ethiopian wins World Food Prize


      Developing drought- and parasite-resistant sorghum hybrids are just some of the achievements of 2009 World Food Prize Laureate Gebisa Ejeta, a professor of agronomy at US-based Purdue University. The Ethiopian scientist — announced as the 2009 Laureate on 11 June — was responsible for Africa's first drought tolerant and high-yielding hybrid sorghum varieties, which improved crop productivity and birthed a commercial sorghum seed industry in Sudan.

      Zimbabwe: Bumper crop, but Zimbabwe hungry


      Some three million people face hunger in Zimbabwe, despite a significant rise in food production, the UN says. Good rainfall over the past year has boosted production of the staple crop, maize, by 130% to 1.1m tonnes.But about 2.8m people will still face food shortages this year, warned the report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme.

      Media & freedom of expression

      Africa: Congo neighbours in media control plot


      The media regulation bodies of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) have signed an agreement on the control of political propaganda programmes. The agencies signed a commitment not to allow any of their media to advertise political propaganda programmes from either of their countries’ for any politicians. The signing ceremony took place last Saturday in Kinshasa.

      Gambia: Detained journalist granted bail without charge


      Augustine Kanja, a reporter of privately-owned Banjul-based The Point newspaper, was on June 24, 2009 released on police enquiry bail in the sum of 50,000 Dalasis (approx. 1700 US$). Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s sources reported that although Kanja has not been charged with any offence, he has been asked to report daily to the Serrekunda Police station.
      Augustine Kanja, a reporter of privately-owned Banjul-based The Point newspaper, was on June 24, 2009 released on police enquiry bail in the sum of 50,000 Dalasis (approx. 1700 US$).

      Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s sources reported that although Kanja has not been charged with any offence, he has been asked to report daily to the Serrekunda Police station.

      Kanja, a Sierra Leonean, was arrested on June 22 at the premises of the Kanifing Magistrate Court while covering proceedings of the seven detained journalists and executives the Gambian Press Union who have been accused of publishing with “seditious intention”. The journalists were granted bail to reappear on July 7.

      The sources said until his release Kanja was denied visits like many other detained journalists.

      Prof. Kwame Karikari
      Executive Director
      Tel: 233 21 24 24 70
      Fax : 233 21 221084
      Website :
      Email: [email protected]

      Gambia: Seven detained journalists granted bail, another arrested


      Four newspaper journalists and three executives of the Gambian Press Union (GPU) charged with three counts of publishing with “seditious intention” were on June 22, 2009 granted bail by the Kanifing Court in the sum of 200,000 Dalasis (about US$7, 000) and two sureties each.
      Four newspaper journalists and three executives of the Gambian Press Union (GPU) charged with three counts of publishing with “seditious intention” were on June 22, 2009 granted bail by the Kanifing Court in the sum of 200,000 Dalasis (about US$7, 000) and two sureties each.

      Additionally, the journalists are to produce two landed properties.

      The seven journalists received the same bail conditions as that of Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, vice president of the GPU who was granted bail on the June 19 because she is nursing a six-month old baby.

      Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s sources reported that the journalists refused to take their pleas because their lawyers were not present.

      Meanwhile, Augustine Kanja, reporter of The Point newspaper was arrested by security personnel deployed outside the court premises for attempting to photograph the large crowd which thronged the court to provide solidarity to the journalists.

      The crowd, mainly colleague journalists, family members and other well-wishers were prevented from entering the court premises which was heavily guarded by military personnel armed in riot gear.

      The highway, between Banjul, the capital and Serrekunda, the second largest city in Gambia; leading to the court house was also blocked.

      The United Kingdom High Commissioner and his United States counterpart also attended the court session.

      The journalists and the GPU executives would reappear on July 7.

      Prof. Kwame Karikari
      Executive Director
      Tel: 233 21 24 24 70
      Fax : 233 21 221084
      Website :
      Email: [email protected]

      Mauritania: Journalist arrested and detained


      Hanevy Ould Dahah, managing editor of the online newspaper Taqadoumy was on June 18, 2009 arrested and detained by gendarmeries in Nouakchott. The paper reported on its website that Ould Dahah was handcuffed and led to a police station in Nouakchott, the capital.
      Hanevy Ould Dahah, managing editor of the online newspaper Taqadoumy was on June 18, 2009 arrested and detained by gendarmeries in Nouakchott.

      The paper reported on its website that Ould Dahah was handcuffed and led to a police station in Nouakchott, the capital.

      Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that no charges have been preferred against him yet.

      This is not the first time that a member of staff of Taqadoumy has been detained by the military.The website’s editor, Abou Abbass Ould Brahim, was on March 15 arrested and detained for criticising the military regime. The site was then blocked but it reappeared 24 hours later.

      Prof. Kwame Karikari
      Executive Director
      Tel: 233 21 24 24 70
      Fax : 233 21 221084
      Website :
      Email: [email protected]

      Senegal : Court jails two journalists, publisher exonerated


      A magistrate court in Dakar, capital of Senegal on June 16, 2009 sentenced two journalists of the Week-End, a privately-owned weekly magazine, to three months imprisonment for defaming Mme Aida Mbodji, second deputy speaker of the country’s national assembly.
      A magistrate court in Dakar, capital of Senegal on June 16, 2009 sentenced two journalists of the Week-End, a privately-owned weekly magazine, to three months imprisonment for defaming Mme Aida Mbodji, second deputy speaker of the country’s national assembly.

      Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) correspondent reported the two journalists, Papa Samba Diarra, managing editor, and Mame Sèye Diop, a reporter were also fined ten million francs (approx. US$ 21, 000) each.

      The court, however, acquitted and discharged Mamdiambal Diagne, general adminstrator of Groupe Avenir Communication, publishers of the Week-End, who was jointly sued.

      The correspondent said the sentence would not be enforced until the final determination of an appeal filed by the journalists’s counsel.
      Meanwhile, the plaintiff has also expressed her intention to appeal if the court does not reconsider its decision to acquit Mamdiambal Diagne. During the proceedings, the prosecutor requested a three-year jailed term and an outrageous fine of five hundred million francs (1,057, 000 US$) for each of the accused persons.

      Mme Mbodji brought the legal action following the Week-End’s edition of 8 to 14 August 2008 that accused her of being a dishonest politician.

      The article written by Sèye Diop said Mme Mbodji, a former radical socialist activist in the erstwhile administration of ex-President Abdou Diouf, defected to the camp of the ruling party after the country’s political changeover in the year 2000.

      The article headlined: “the underhand dealings of Aida Mbodji” chronicled the personal background of the deputy speaker without crosschecking with her.

      Prof. Kwame Karikari
      Executive Director
      Tel: 233 21 24 24 70
      Fax : 233 21 221084
      Website :
      Email: [email protected]

      Sierra Leone: SLAJ intensifies campaign to repeal criminal laws


      The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has announced that it would on July 13, 2009 march through the streets of Freetown, as part of its long-sustained pressure to get the country’s Supreme Court to give a ruling on the case it filed in February 2008 challenging the constitutionality of provisions of the Public Order Act of 1960.
      The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has announced that it would on July 13, 2009 march through the streets of Freetown, as part of its long-sustained pressure to get the country’s Supreme Court to give a ruling on the case it filed in February 2008 challenging the constitutionality of provisions of the Public Order Act of 1960.

      According to SLAJ, the Public Order Act contains criminal and seditious provisions that have been used to send a number of Sierra Leonean journalists to prison.

      Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that this latest move was an outcome of SLAJ’s general assembly on June 20 that reviewed the June 13 news blackout that the Association imposed on the country’s judiciary.

      Even though the Supreme Court should have given its verdict within three months after the end of the court case, as required by the Constitution, it has failed to do so.

      SLAJ’s action has been necessitated by the failure of the blackout to yield the desired impact. To make it more effective, the boycott on the judiciary remains in force until June 27.

      Prof. Kwame Karikari
      Executive Director
      Tel: 233 21 24 24 70
      Fax : 233 21 221084
      Website :
      Email: [email protected]

      Conflict & emergencies

      Global: Protect civilians in armed conflict


      The United Nations Security Council should make sure that its existing commitments to protect civilians during armed conflict are actually carried out, Human Rights Watch has said in a letter to council member states. On June 26, 2009, the Security Council will hold a debate to discuss its work on civilian protection, in which all UN members can participate.

      Nigeria: Government offers amnesty to militant


      Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua has unveiled details of a 60-day amnesty for militants in the Niger Delta. Ministers of Nigeria's Council of State have approved the proposal - an effort to end years of attacks on the region's beleaguered oil industry. A presidential pardon, rehabilitation programme, education and training are being offered to militants taking part.

      Somalia: Spiralling violence claims hundreds of lives


      The United Nations refugee agency has voiced its grave concern over the escalating violence and worsening displacement crisis in the Somali capital, where local hospitals report that over 250 civilians have been killed and nearly 1,000 others wounded since fighting erupted last month.

      Internet & technology

      Africa: eLearning Africa


      eLearning Africa brings people together to exchange ideas and create partnerships. The conference has been the birthplace of numerous fruitful collaborations, and at this year’s event, the ECDL Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation registered in Ireland, and the Senegalese Ministry for Technical Education and Professional Training signed a significant agreement for the development of IT skills and education in Senegal. Their joint venture will promote digital literacy by introducing the “International Computer Driving licence” (ICDL) in Senegal.

      Tanzania: 'Know your CD4' campaign improves knowledge


      A large-scale drive to improve knowledge of CD4 cell counts among people receiving HIV care in a Tanzanian district resulted in increased uptake of CD4 testing, an increase in treatment initiation and an improvement in patient retention, Tanzanian researchers reported at the HIV Implementers’ meeting earlier this month in Namibia.

      eNewsletters & mailing lists

      Uganda: Recovery from Conflict?

      AfricaFocus Bulletin Jun 24, 2009 (090624)


      This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a statement by the Washington-based Africa Faith and Justice Network, a participant in the coalition lobby effort for the billin the UC Congress, but an outspoken opponent of the military option; the full statement from the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative; an open letter from Resolve Uganda stressing the need for U.S. support for reconstruction; and additional references to recent analytical background material from the Enough Project, Conciliation Resources (London), Institute for Security Studies (Pretoria), and Ronald Atkinson's two-part series in the Independent.

      Fundraising & useful resources

      Africa: New fund for innovative knowledge sharing launched


      Africa’s poor and vulnerable communities rarely have the opportunity to share their valuable experience and learn from others in broader or more formal exchanges of knowledge on climate change adaptation. The AfricaAdapt network, which is funded by the joint UK Department for International Development (DFID)/International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Climate Change Adaptation in Africa Programme , is launching its new Knowledge Sharing Innovation Fund promoting new ways of sharing knowledge that can help address this problem.

      South Africa: Pro Bono HIV/Aids legal clnic


      People who are HIV+ often have to cope with more than illness. Sometimes health rights are violated and access to treatment is denied or severely limited. Because of HIV+ status, there is discrimination at work. Discrimination is also suffered when it comes to housing and insurance. It is for this reason that ProBono.Org, a non-profit clearing house increasing access to justice via pro bono legal services, provides a weekly legal clinic where HIV+ people can access free legal advice and services. This service is available to people throughout South Africa. All you need to do, is call in on a Tuesday morning.
      8.30 am – 12 noon: every Tuesday
      9th Floor Schreiner Chambers – South Wing
      94 Pritchard Street, Johannesburg
      tel: 011 336 9510 fax: 011 336 9511
      [email protected]

      People who are HIV+ often have to cope with more than illness. Sometimes health rights are violated and access to treatment is denied or severely limited. Because of HIV+ status, there is discrimination at work. Discrimination is also suffered when it comes to housing and insurance.

      HIV+ positive people, who suffer most discrimination, are also the ones who have least access to legal services. Additionally, the cost of legal services is generally not within their reach.

      It is for this reason that ProBono.Org, a non-profit clearing house increasing access to justice via pro bono legal services, provides a weekly legal clinic where HIV+ people can access free legal advice and services. This service is available to people throughout South Africa. All you need to do, is call in on a Tuesday morning.

      The weekly legal clinic operates as follows:

      * It is open from 8.30 am to noon every Tuesday.
      * The clinic is staffed by experienced attorneys from different law firms.
      * Clients must make appointments, or are seen on a ‘first come first serve’ basis.
      * If you are outside of Gauteng, the attorneys are available to give telephonic advice.
      * Attorneys assist clients in any of the following ways: advice, opinions, non-litigious interventions, alternative dispute resolution, and/or litigation.
      * As far as possible, attorneys attempt to resolve the problems immediately. Where this is not possible, the client becomes a client of the relevant firm, and the firm will finalise the matter on a pro bono basis.

      Courses, seminars, & workshops

      Global: Human Rights Defenders Fellowship Program - 2009

      Call for Applications


      The purpose of the Fellowship program is to offer a possibility for human rights defenders at risk to take some time out from their normal work to undertake a project which will further develop their capacities and contribute to the protection of human rights defenders internationally. Front Line Fellowships will now be offered on a more flexible basis for periods of one to six months.

      Global: McGill conference on global food security

      October 5-7 2009


      The global economic crisis has had a devastating impact on the world’s hungry. In the past year, approximately 100 million people have been added to the ranks of the roughly 1 billion people worldwide considered by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization to be undernourished, according to its report issued June 19, 2009.

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