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      Back Issues

      Pambazuka News 446: Joseph Stiglitz and the limits of liberal orthodoxy

      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. Pan-African Postcard, 5. Books & arts, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Blogging Africa, 9. Emerging powers in Africa Watch, 10. Highlights French edition, 11. Zimbabwe update, 12. Women & gender, 13. Human rights, 14. Refugees & forced migration, 15. Social movements, 16. Emerging powers news, 17. Elections & governance, 18. Corruption, 19. Development, 20. Health & HIV/AIDS, 21. Education, 22. LGBTI, 23. Racism & xenophobia, 24. Environment, 25. Land & land rights, 26. Food Justice, 27. Media & freedom of expression, 28. Conflict & emergencies, 29. Internet & technology, 30. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 31. Courses, seminars, & workshops

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      Highlights from this issue

      We open our first issue of Pambazuka News after the break with an article by Samir Amin, arguing that proposals in a UN report on reforms to the international monetary and financial systems sideline the South and ignore the fundamental structural problems that caused the economic crisis.

      Meanwhile, Olivier De Schutter talks about Africa and the global food crisis, Abahlali baseMjondolo’s S’bu Zikode discusses the barriers that prevent meaningful engagement between the government and people, Nigel C. Gibson considers Fanonian practices in post-apartheid South Africa and Silvestro Montanaro brings us fresh allegations around the assassination of the former president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara.

      Elsewhere, Lansana Gberie says it's time for ECOWAS to intervene in the Guinea–Sierra Leone border dispute and Sehlare Makgetlaneng explains why hopes that Obama will change the nature of America’s relationship with Africa are unfounded.ZIMBABWE UPDATE: South Africa wants faster talks
      WOMEN & GENDER: Women claim economic stimulus funds
      CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: AU summit on conflict opens
      HUMAN RIGHTS: ICC to take over Kenya poll chaos trials
      REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Somali camps ‘unfit for humans’
      EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Emerging Powers news roundup
      SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Zambia NGOs in uproar over new law
      ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Gabon city locked down amid post-poll riots
      CORRUPTION: Nigerian bank chiefs charged
      HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Figures reveal extent of Africa’s neglected diseases
      DEVELOPMENT: Poverty, inequality need home-grown solutions
      EDUCATION: Pan-African university could launch next year
      LGBTI: Circumcision ‘does not protect gay men’
      RACISM & XENOPHOBIA: Canada refugee ruling ‘racist’
      ENVIRONMENT: Trees ‘vital to food security
      LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Research not trickling down to farmers’
      FOOD JUSTICE: Moroccan citizen groups to protest food price hikes
      MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Censorship ruins Gabon election
      INTERNET& TECHNOLOGY: Finding and funding African innovators
      ENEWSLETTERS & MAILING LISTS: AfricaFocus Bulletin: Cape Verde: Transnational Archipelago
      JOBS: International Grants Programme Manager – Comic Relief
      PLUS: seminars and workshops

      *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


      A critique of the Stiglitz report

      The limits of liberal orthodoxy

      Samir Amin


      cc NBN
      In this week’s Pambazuka News, Samir Amin provides a hard-hitting critique of a UN report on reforms of the international monetary and financial system, from a commission chaired by former World Bank chief economist, Professor Joseph Stiglitz. While the report talks of ‘improving the global economy for the good of all the planet’s inhabitants’ and endorses the necessity of ‘action to resolve underlying structural problems’, Stiglitz’s analysis presents the current crisis as ‘short-term, provoked largely by excesses in credit expansion and suggests that rapid recovery is possible’ says Amin, ignoring the fundamental question of whether growth “set in motion by finance” is a viable form or whether it is a response to a crisis of accumulation. ‘Autonomous decision-making for the countries of the South’ is what is needed, Amin argues, rather than a “top-down solution” that restores the global domination of oligopolies and the ‘United States hegemony’. Samir Amin is a contributor to Aid to Africa: Redeemer or Coloniser?

      This critique relates to the Report of the Commission of Experts of the President of the UN General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System. This commission was set up by the current president of the United Nations General Assembly, Padre Miguel D’Escoto, and presented to that Assembly at its meeting of 24–26 June, 2009. Professor Stiglitz, the chair of the commission, had clearly imposed his own personal views. Therefore I consider correct entitling my critique ‘A critique of the Stiglitz Report’. The UN Assembly, therefore, experienced a setback, hardly noticed by the media. In reality, this was a victory for the countries of the South which, in abstaining from being represented at the required level, showed thereby, their refusal to ratify the unilateral decisions of the North, the only positions presented in the report.

      An exhaustive examination of the proposals in the Stiglitz report is a painstaking exercise of doubtful interest. For, as a whole, these proposals are no different from those of conventional liberal orthodox economists, with the exception of dogmatic liberal extremists, now in the minority.

      In this analysis, the present crisis is considered as a short-term one, provoked by excesses in credit expansion, even if it is accepted that it is accompanied by ‘structural problems’ derived from underlying undercurrents. It is therefore a V-shaped crisis from which rapid recovery is possible. Inevitable growth will be revitalised by financial expansion, as it was before the meltdown of 2008. The only precautions necessary are those which will avoid the by-products of this expansion.

      In its global dimension, the system should recommence growth within the same ‘open’ liberal framework which has characterised it for three decades, and avoid ‘protectionist’ responses to the passing current difficulties. The underlying vision of the future of the global system is similar to that expressed in the CIA report (The world in 2010) of which I had given earlier a critical reading (ref Samir Amin, Beyond liberal globalization, Monthly Review, New York, December 2006). Both reports do not envisage any ‘upheavals’, merely a greater commercial role for China and other emerging countries. I considered that vision as highly unrealistic.

      This evolution may be facilitated by – and facilitate in its turn – the progressive abandonment of exclusive reference to the dollar as international reserve currency. System reform should work towards this objective.

      The Stiglitz report apparently gave itself some general objectives, such as ‘improving the global economy for the good of all the planet’s inhabitants’ without forgetting the pursuit ‘of distant ideals of sustainable growth’ etc.

      But this is doubtless a case of lip service to stylistic requirements. No UN or government report could claim to be pursuing other objectives.

      Nonetheless, the Stiglitz report proclaims its intention of going further than liberal extremists in two dimensions.

      It endorses the necessity of ‘action to resolve underlying structural problems’ and it ‘recognises that sovereign markets are not in themselves self-correcting’.

      A number of questions arise in relation to the ‘structural’ problems mentioned. What are they, and how are they conceived and analysed? What policies are proposed in response to the challenges they pose? But equally: What are the ‘structural problems’ that the report does not mention?

      A second series of questions arises in relation to the corrections proposed to the vagaries of the market.

      ‘Ecological questions’ form the first group of ‘structural questions’ considered. It has now become impossible to ignore these, and no political power now does so. However, in this domain, as in the others, Stiglitz holds to the liberal orthodoxy and proposes the commodification of ecological rights. This view rules out any serious consideration of these questions and moreover mortgages the future of societies of the South. (ref Samir Amin, The ecology issue and would-be sustainable development, Pambazuka News, 2009)

      In fact, the ‘structural problems’ considered in the report exclude two large families of questions which define the challenge with which the current system is confronted.

      The first of these families concerns the organisation of production and of labour. There is not even one simple reference in the report to the ‘(final) crisis of Fordism’ for example which is, however, the origin of the crisis which has lasted for three decades, and without consideration of which the failure of the automobile industry – among others – remains unexplained. To ignore the structural crisis of Fordist accumulation is to make it impossible to understand how the latter created the conditions for an offensive against labour and why financialisation was, precisely, the means for it. But Stiglitz along with other orthodox liberal economists is not equipped to integrate such questions into their ‘market economics’.

      The second family of questions which has been ignored relates to the status of management (of capital). The existence of oligopolist groups is considered only through insignificant sections of the report proposing a ‘revision of business governance’! However, in the face of the right-wing orthodox liberal (in fact, downright reactionary) positions taken by Stiglitz, a wide range of public opinion has already become aware of the need to raise the question of the legitimacy of private management of these groups. One example is that of the medical profession which, on the whole, has no difficulty in understanding the need for the management of the pharmaceutical industry to subserve social needs, or even to be nationalised to that effect.

      Another series of ‘big’ questions clearly concerns the distance which, in the global system, separates ‘developed countries’ (the North) from ‘developing’ countries (the South). In a UN report of this kind located within the framework of the globalisation debate, this distinction cannot be ‘forgotten‘. But, as we shall see later, Stiglitz’ proposals do not go beyond the simplistic vision of Stages of Growth (Rostow) of liberal orthodoxy, which, in fact, ignores the question.

      Liberal orthodoxy can have no really serious or effective proposals relating to the ‘regulation of markets’. Moreover in this domain, the Stiglitz report is of a piece with numerous works located within conventional economics.

      Stiglitz’ proposals in this domain practically only deal with the ‘management of financial risk’. The fundamental question, which is whether growth ‘set in motion by finance’ is a viable form or whether, on the contrary, it is a response to a crisis of accumulation, is simply ignored. Stiglitz is, with the orthodox liberals of the Right, convinced that the system of growth of the two decades preceding the meltdown of 2008 was fundamentally ‘healthy’ and that, as a result, some improvements in the ‘management of financial risk’ are the sum total of what ‘must be done’. Liberal economists simply ignore those analyses, which relate financialisation of systems to declining hegemonies throughout history, superbly argued by Giovanni Arrighi (The long twentieth century, Verso 1994). I had qualified since 2002 the current pattern of financialisation as the ‘Achille's heel’ of globalisation, preparing ‘an imminent financial catastrophe’. And before all of us, Marx had pictured the illusion that money can create more money without passing through a process of production of real value as the summit of capitalist alienation, a phrase to which I also always referred in my analyses of globalisation.

      Moreover, these risks are, in fact, managed by the oligopolies themselves and are, indeed, their means of intervention in the financial markets. Like the G7 governments, Stiglitz does not question this ‘right’. He thereby confers on the relevant groups themselves the responsibility of self-regulation.

      Further reading of the report in no way causes one to question the impression of timidity – amounting almost to meaninglessness – of the proposals and also reveals Stiglitz’ staunch attachment to all the usual prejudices relating to the ‘superiority’ of the ‘Anglo Saxon’ model. For example, Stiglitz defends the principle of ‘accounting on the basis of market prices of assets’ (the United States model) and doubtless throws up without discussion the principle of ‘accounting on the basis of historical real prices’ in the European tradition. He appears to have no notion of the need, by contrast, to question the US principle, which facilitates speculation on a grand scale. And no doubt he despises his many liberal orthodox colleagues who do not share his opinion (which in fact is closer to the views of Wall Street brokers than of some other serious conventional economists).

      It will be no surprise, therefore, that proposals of a return to a separation between commercial and investment banks are not seriously considered by Stiglitz. We should also, in fact, be aware that such a separation – which is fully justified by numerous liberal economists – would run a high risk of being inefficacious. Assuming the legal separation of the two kinds of banks, if these belong to the same oligopolistic groups, they will find the means to communicate between each other to nullify the effects of their separation.

      Furthermore, we should not be surprised to note that the report does not know what to say or to propose on the subject of ‘rating agencies’.

      The proposal that financial regulation should be conferred on the host country and not on the country of origin will be considered below, in the context of a consideration of North-South relations.

      The Stiglitz report offers no prospect for autonomous decision-making for the countries of the South. The very idea of such autonomy is entirely foreign to his orthodox liberal concept of ‘globalisation’.

      Undoubtedly, Stiglitz makes an apparent concession of the need for ‘differential treatment of developed and developing countries’ and invites the former to ‘open their markets to exports from the South’. In fact, the spirit in which this concession is formulated amounts to conceding ‘favourable treatment’ for a limited number of years, since it openly embraces the conclusion of the Doha round which anticipates no more than this. The report displays total, and no doubt disdainful ignorance of severe and justified critiques of the WTO, for which the reader is referred to the crushing analyses of Jacques Berthelot and Via Campesina, about agricultural and food production and markets. The report does not even hint at the counter proposals made by groups of countries in the South. In fact, the insistence on the North opening up to exports from the South, seen as the golden thread of development by liberal orthodoxy, eliminates straight away any examination of another way, based on giving priority to the enlargement of the internal market of the countries of the South (individually and collectively) and on the relative reduction of their exports to the North.

      The serious question of the external debt of certain countries of the South is treated only in a proposal for a ‘moratorium when the debt is too heavy’. Examination of the circumstances and the working of globalisation that had lead to these ruinous debts is completely ignored. It is not enough to recognise that some of these debts bear an ‘immoral character’. What is needed is in fact a systematic audit of all these debts, allowing the reimbursement of the heavy disbursements paid by the countries of the South (it is well known that, due to the high rates of interest decided unilaterally by the creditors countries, the South have reimbursed the debt several times!). What is needed is also the development of an authentic legal regime ruling international debts.

      Stiglitz remains what he was – an executive of the World Bank to which he had addressed only minor criticisms. This is why his proposals for ‘democratic governance’ of these institutions are limited to reinforcing the voting rights for a number of emerging countries of the South as well as their partnership in the administration of the agencies. In fact that proposal is not much more than an attempt to make the emerging countries accomplices of the leading northern counties remaining in a position of domination of these ‘agencies’ (in fact their agencies in the management of globalisation).

      Some of the report’s proposals concerning the IMF may give the illusion that Stiglitz is going further. For example, the proposal ‘to achieve the issue of Special Drawing Rights approved by the IMF (in 1997!)’. But this ignores the fact that, by the rules which govern this issue, it is the richest countries (in particular, those of the North) which will be the major beneficiaries, while the sums which would facilitate the payments of the poor countries of the South remain insignificant.

      Stiglitz does not question the fundamental principles that govern the conditionality associated with the IMF’s interventions, even though he points to the need to mitigate their ‘procyclic’ effects. The IMF remains what it is: The colonial monetary managing authority for the countries of the South, to which can now be added those of Eastern Europe. The IMF’s recent interventions in Hungary and Latvia are evidence of this reality.

      There is no doubt that Stiglitz appears to recognise the legitimate right of the countries of the South to manage their capital accounts, or even to ‘control their financial flows’. The invitation to give priority to the legislation (liberal, naturally) of the host country rather than to that of the country of origin of banking institutions – referred to above – lines up with these concessions. But one could point out that on these points Stiglitz is merely inviting the IMF to return to its own principles, which were only abandoned, late in the 1990s, under the pressure of extreme liberal dogma. One could also observe that the resistance of China, which continues to reject global financial liberalisation, is perhaps also relevant to the author’s rare note of political realism.

      Stiglitz remains attached to extreme liberal orthodox positions which refuse to question the principle of flexible changes and of rates of interest being ruled by ‘the market’, in fact decided unilaterally by the dominant financial oligopolies In these circumstances it is doubtful that his proposals for a reform of the global monetary and financial system, opening the way for the substitution of a ‘new’ international reserve instrument for the dominant use of a national currency (in this case the dollar) as international reserve currency are really new.

      Stiglitz ignores the critical analyses produced by the Group of Shanghai (China, Russia and others) as well as by the BRIC countries which met in Ekaterinenburg. Yet these views go far beyond the proposals of Stiglitz and call for a diversification of the instruments for international reserve, including instruments issued by the BRIC countries themselves, without the ‘permission’ of the North. I am convinced that the deepening of the crisis will lead sooner or later to the creation of such instruments through unilateral independent policies formulated by the South.

      The Chinese authorities have, in fact, initiated a movement in this direction in previous agreements with several partners in the South. And although at the moment these agreements concern only a minimal fraction of China’s trade (5 per cent), they nonetheless remain an example of what the South can do, without seeking to obtain a ‘global consensus’ (in other words, the approval of the North) to authorise it. The ALBA agreements and those of the Banco Sur are made in this spirit, although they have not yet led to any significant results.

      Ultimately, Stiglitz’ proposal to set up an ‘Economic Security Council’ (the ‘World Council for Economic Coordination’) remains ambiguous. Is it a case of adding an additional obstacle to the legitimate rights of the countries of the South to decide for themselves the forms of their participation in globalisation, while imposing a ‘global consensus’? One has one’s suspicions. One can also suspect that if, by chance (by unfortunate chance for Stiglitz and his liberal colleagues), the countries of the South tried to put this institution to the service of their own concept of development, we would see the countries of the North marginalising its role, as they have done with the UN, UNCTAD, the Economic and Social Council and many other institutions once they evade their unilateral control.

      Stiglitz’ proposals constitute a coherent whole which presents a rigorously orthodox liberal vision.

      A reading of chapter 2 of the excellent article by Jean Marie Harribey and Dominique Plihon for Attac (Sortir de la Crise Globale, La Découverte 2009) allows us to measure the extent of the disaster represented by Stiglitz’ point of view, both on the social level and on that of the kind of international relations that it implies.

      These authors write (p.35): ‘Financialisation is not an autonomous factor, it appears as the logical counterpart to falling wages and a reduction in sufficiently profitable investment opportunities. This is why rising social inequality (within each country and between zones within the global economy) is a constitutive trait of the functioning of contemporary capitalism’.

      Now, Stiglitz’ goal is precisely to restart this system and to restore the functions described by Attac to financialisation. Stiglitz has admitted a more and more inequitable society, both at the national and at the global level, thereby nullifying his fine words about ‘poverty reduction’.

      This is the choice of the whole United States establishment, of which Stiglitz is a loyal defender. For in effect, the model in question (‘social and international inequalities associated with financialisation’) is the only one that allows the United States to maintain its position of hegemony – in two ways. On the one hand, because it permits substitution for the lack of demand associated with the overexploitation of labour with stimulation through debt. And on the other, because it enables the United States’ external deficit to be financed through opening up financial globalisation. As the Attac authors put it, ‘financial regulation is a necessary but not a sufficient remedy … Financialisation feeds off falling wages and destabilisation of the global economy. Financial deflation requires both these outlets to be closed off … which implies a further redistribution of wealth and a reorganisation of the world economy’ (p.41).

      In fact, neither the United States establishment, nor Stiglitz, accept the closing off of these outlets. For closing off the outlet would transfer the burden of the social crisis to the United States itself. This is why the crisis is, in my analysis, a double crisis, both of late capitalism of the oligopolies and also of the United States’ hegemony. And these two dimensions cannot be dissociated from one another. The choice defended by Stiglitz is, therefore, unacceptable and, in a more or less short temporal horizon, will be called in question by autonomous decisions made by the countries of the South, which are its major victims.

      The reactionary model of a ‘top-down solution’ to the ‘financial’ crisis and of a double restoration of the brutal global domination of the oligopolies and of United States hegemony, recommended by Stiglitz is certainly not the only solution. It is probably even the least realistic one, even if it responds to the wishes of successive Washington administrations and, from necessity, the subordinate governments of Atlantic Europe.

      There is another pattern of proposals for a ‘top-down solution’, recommended by other economists, equally conventional but nonetheless concerned with setting in train a substantial series of reforms of global capitalism. Whether one labels them ‘Keynesians’ or ‘Neo-Keynesians’ or otherwise, is of little consequence.

      In that frame, growing social inequities are not accepted as ‘the necessary fatal price of progress’ but, on the contrary, analysed as the product of strategies of oligopolistic capital, organising conditions favourable to it (the fragmentation of labour, and the organisation of international competition between workers). These strategies are the origin of the long crisis of accumulation which they perpetuate. The present crisis is not, therefore, a short-term V-shaped one but a long-term L-shaped one. A grand plan based on the reduction of inequalities is therefore needed, to transform the L into a U.

      The plan is bold and necessarily so. Nationalisation (as a point of departure for possible socialisation) is not ruled out (in particular for financial institutions). Stabilising the stock exchange around 50 per cent of the artificial and fantastic prices permitted by financialisation is not considered a disaster, but rather a healthy purge. Rolling back the commodification of social services (education, health, housing, public transport, social security and pensions) is therefore considered both necessary and positive. Massive and sustained growth in public-sector intervention, even growth in recorded public deficits (which is what earns the plan its ‘Keynesian’ label) is not considered any more catastrophic. In the medium term such measures constitute the condition for the recovery. This recovery therefore relates to economic production, and marginalises the impact of financial markets.

      This plan is a global one, but devised from the perspective of negotiated globalisation, permitting different countries and regions of the planet (including Europe) to favour their internal and regional markets. In this way, strategies of systematic support for peasant economies become possible and constitute a good response to the food crisis. Ecological challenges can also be taken seriously and policies to that effect not cancelled by the oligopolies. This global plan has a political component, which begins with the reinforcement of international institutions. It develops from a vision of ‘globalisation without hegemony’.

      It would have been good to see the United Nations taking the initiative with proposals based on this perspective. That, after all, is the role this institution is supposed to play.

      The big mistake is to seek a ‘global consensus’. For in the present state of affairs, an authentic consensus is impossible and the pursuit of this illusion comes down to lining up with the reactionary G-7, which sets itself up, as illustrated by day-to-day rhetoric, as ‘the international community’. In fact, a good part of the Stiglitz proposals had already been adopted by the G-7 and apparently even endorsed by the G-20. Not that the countries of the South which came together for the occasion, nor others which were not present, showed much enthusiasm. They swallowed the pill without great conviction.

      The fact that the situation is as it is indicates that the chaos of the global system is not being resolved. On the contrary, the world is heading for even greater chaos. The best alternative response is to seize the opportunity to reclaim the South’s autonomy, without, for the moment, seeking to convince the North with a false ‘consensus’.


      The ‘draft outcome document of the Conference’ prepared by the United Nations General Assembly which met on 24–26 June 2009 confirms our severe critique of the ‘Stiglitz report’.

      I do not know what the role of the editor chosen by the Triad Powers, i.e. the USA, Europe and Japan, (the Dutchman, Frank Majoor) may have been, and I do not exclude the possibility that he further diluted the Stiglitz report from its already insignificant state. What has resulted is a text without impact, which lays out a series of pious wishes without any concern to define the necessary conditions for their implementation.

      Seeking a ‘global consensus’ at any price (paragraph 6) is the basis of the failure described above. For the Triad Powers continue to pursue a single objective: To ensure that the distressed countries of the South ratify their unilateral decisions, which conform to the purest liberal orthodoxy and nothing more. The only response possible to this dictat must be to abandon the pursuit of this false consensus. The countries of the South must obtain for themselves the means to act unilaterally, in their turn, at the national and, as far as possible, at the regional level, as with the Group of 77 and China. Creating a ‘Bandung 2’ outside of any false consensus should be the campaign strategy of their people, nations and states.


      * Samir Amin has been the director of IDEP (the United Nations African Institute for Planning), the director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal, and a co-founder of the World Forum for Alternatives.
      * Aid to Africa: Redeemer or Coloniser? is available to order from the Pambazuka Press website.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Africa and the global food crisis

      Olivier De Schutter


      cc World Bank
      In an interview with Afroline (extracts of which appear in this week's Pambazuka News), UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter discusses the global food crisis, the 'intolerable' link between agricultural production and the price of oil, and the root causes of hunger. With the December 2009 Copenhagen climate summit approaching, De Schutter argues that it is first and foremost investment in sustainable agricultural models that will strengthen an African continent facing the consequences of climate change and an ever greater need to revitalise domestic programmes.

      AFROLINE: In 2007 and 2008 Africa was subject to growing riots, due to the booming food prices. In the second semester of 2008, prices registered a 40 per cent decrease, but in the last few months they have started going up once more. Is Africa protected from another food crisis?

      OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER: We cannot understand the tragedy of hunger based only on the evolution of food prices on international markets. By focusing on these aspects alone, we ignore all the problems related to the production chain and to the distribution of food. Poor people in African countries do not buy rice or manioc on the Chicago Stock Exchange, but in local markets or village shops; producers sell the goods to intermediates, and not to the international market.

      Therefore, even when prices do go up, few producers may in fact enjoy an increase in revenues. Similarly, the decrease of prices on the global markets does not automatically lead to lower prices for consumers: in April 2009 FAO [the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations] published a report made in 58 developing countries showing that in 80 per cent of the countries being looked at, foodstuffs were being sold at higher prices compared to April 2008, and 40 per cent of those surveyed had seen price increases from January 2009. In January 2008, hunger affected 923 million people, but today the hungry amount to 1.02 billion people worldwide. The crisis has never been this strong. That being said, the increase of prices does weigh a lot on the balance of payments and on the trade balances of poor countries, among which are many African net food-importing countries.

      Due to this dependence – resulting where for the past 30 years, investment has been in crops for the export market to raise foreign currency rather than growing food – countries remain extremely vulnerable.

      Finally, it is obvious to all that the link between agricultural production and oil is an intolerable situation. To date we have not acted on the root causes of price volatility and other jolts are inevitable.

      AFROLINE: The United Nations has several agencies to alleviate the problems of global food shortages, in particular among poor countries, the FAO and the WFP (World Food Programme). What more can a UN special rapporteur on the right to food do to help the world’s poor access food?

      OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER: Hunger is usually seen by the international agencies either as a production problem or one of availability – the FAO seeks to encourage more production, and the WFP to deliver food where it is needed, for instance following bad harvests or resulting from conflict situations… The root causes of hunger are discrimination and marginalisation, lack of accountability of governments to the needs of their population, or in adopting of policies that aggravate hunger instead of alleviating it. A framework based on the right to adequate food obliges us to include these questions – questions of governance if you like, or of accountability – into our answers to the hunger issue. Without this – without accountability mechanisms and a protection of the entitlements of the poorest – our solutions will remain short-term, insufficiently targeted, and ultimately ineffectual. It may result in increased production but completely fails to reduce the scourge of hunger. The right to food is therefore a vital part of the panoply of answers we have to develop against hunger.

      AFROLINE: In a recent article, The Economist claims that until agricultural productivity in poor countries increases, the balance between supply and demand will remain precarious. Do you agree?

      OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER: Although not false, this assertion is over-simplified. Firstly, it focuses on supply side without taking demand into account. For instance, the desire of Northern countries for animal protein, and more recently our thirst of agro-fuels, have a responsibility in the reduction of stocks and mounting tensions between supply and demand in the international marketplace. It is dangerous, however, to diminish the issue of hunger to an issue of just supply and demand.

      In 2008 harvests were excellent, but the number of hungry people increased. Why? Of course, the answer does not lie in a lack of production. The problem is that 80 per cent of families do not have access to social protection, the purchasing power of poor countries did not increase sufficiently and smallholders are not being helped out. And we cannot consider production without also considering distribution: it is a very important sector. Many production systems now do not minimise the problem but, by accelerating the duplication of the sector, the system is creating rural exodus and poverty as towns grow.

      AFROLINE: Why have poor and rich governments as well as international institutions abandoned agriculture over the last decade?

      OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER: Since the 1980s, agriculture has increasingly been ignored in many developing countries. This has happened both in development cooperation policies – where the share for agriculture dropped from 18 per cent in 1980 to 4 per cent in 2007 – and in national budgets. There are three main reasons.

      Firstly, looking at the huge supports – such as export subsidies – to agricultural producers in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) area – US$258 billion in 2007 – and the high competitiveness of agriculture in nations such as Argentina, Thailand or Uruguay, the agricultural sector came to be seen as unprofitable in the majority of developing countries, particularly the least developed countries (LDCs).

      It seemed easier to export raw materials such as minerals, oil, diamonds or crop cultivations such as cotton, coffee, tea and tobacco, and to import foodstuffs which were often already transformed, rather than strengthen family and subsistence agriculture.

      Then structural adjustment plans of the 1980s stimulated a production fall-off, for instance through either the organisation of production processes or of mechanisms that would allow to maintain price levels, with the aim of favouring the emergence of 'the truth of prices' – but the private sector has not taken up the relay and agriculture has been deserted, sometimes in a literal sense. Finally – and this third reason explains, at least partially, the two preceding ones – small farmers displaced in the countries are relatively marginalised on a political level. Their demands do not have clout compared to inhabitants of cities, for whom it was decided that less expensive imported foodstuffs bought on international markets should be encouraged with the use of food aid, at the expense local production, which accelerated the rural exodus. All the ingredients of the disaster we are now paying for were in the making.

      AFROLINE: On a political level, good governance has become a fashionable word, but it has been discredited by African leaders who rarely practise political transparency. Do you think that the current generation of African leaders is up to the challenge of dealing with the current food insecurity?

      OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER: From what I have seen during my meetings with African leaders, a definite change is on course. A new consensus is forming around the need to sustain agriculture and additional, new re-investments in the public rural sectors. There is often a lack of discussion on the ways to promote a green revolution which means failing to take up all the opportunities of agro-ecology and participative production, and this happens despite their potential, which has been widely proved.

      However, there is a real consciousness of the danger linked to a strong dependence on imports to guarantee food security: crops cultivation is coming back into fashion. At long last, the threat of climate change is being taken seriously: Agriculture has to transform radically and ready itself for an upcoming revolution, breaking its bonds with fossil energies and increasing its resilience.

      The current generation of planners is conscious of the challenges ahead, and Northern countries have to help them. I have made concrete proposals in this respect on development aid, food aid and international trade reform, but the considerable efforts that have been deployed on the national level will only be reaped if the international atmosphere is favourable. The contrary is also true: without positive policies at a national level, international aid – useful in the short term – will be inadequate to improve the situation in the long run. We have to cease with palliative measures.

      AFROLINE: A growing number of foreign investors are planning to use land for cultivation in Mali, Madagascar and other African countries. Do you foresee any problems arising from this? On the other hand, considering that governments have neglected such land, could this be rather an opportunity for poor nations like Madagascar? A lot of land cultivated during colonialism has since been neglected, depriving the country of a valuable source of income.

      OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER: Many of us have regretted the disinvestments in agriculture since the early 1980s. Public and private investors have once more started to take an interest in agriculture, which should be good news.

      However, the pace at which cultivable lands are currently sold to public investors or, more frequently, to private ones, the size of the arable lands that are involved in this process and land speculation which started during the food crisis in 2008, leave many questions unanswered.

      Farmers and nomadic breeders’ rights of access to the land are at risk of not being taken into account; frequently they do not have property titles to the land upon which they depend for their survival and well-being and they do not have possibilities of legal recourse in the event of expropriation.

      It is necessary to be cautious about talks concerning land that is 'available' or 'not used' or 'not exploited' which, even though not used intensively, is very often useful to semi-nomadic agriculture or to livestock breeding, which can insure support and help maintain local populations.

      Furthermore, investors are not forced to generate local employment, the transfer of new technologies or the respect of the environment; negotiations are often unbalanced, because they are made without transparency and without the local population on board.

      Thirdly, this approach could very well increase the dependence of these countries for investments on the international markets; it seems like a paradox, but as these countries are showing that they will be able to increase their production capacity, their dependency upon external forces will increase, and this could occur when they start re-exporting agricultural produce to foreign countries.

      With global markets now being less reliable, prices will climb and be subject to fluctuation. That is why investors want to buy lands instead of foodstuffs on international markets; it appears to give more guarantees. However, there is fourth problem: we do not have any guarantee that the earnings made through the handover of lands will benefit the local population, in terms of new infrastructures, schools and hospitals.

      In this context, I drew up 11 principles that come from the applications of the international laws on human rights. Early reactions are very positive, and they strengthen my vision: human rights laws do not just contain obligations, but opportunities too. Land represents not only the most important means of access to food for millions of small farmers and their families; it is also part and parcel of the identity of certain people and communities, but if the agreements for investing go against these realities, it could lead to the opposite effect.

      AFROLINE: Non-food growing countries with a bounty of oil riches are currently obtaining lands in poor countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Obviously, where there is the supply, those with the demand are moving in. The UN is one of the multilateral organisations against this new development, which it describes as ‘land grabbing’. Why?

      OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER: Various positions have been taken within the UN system on this issue. In June, I drew up 11 principles which, based on human rights, should ensure that these large-scale leases or acquisitions of land benefit the local population, rather than undermining their livelihoods and increasing inequalities within countries. In my view, if those principles are complied with, ‘land deals’ can work for the benefit of both investors and local communities, and I am therefore delighted that Mr Taro Aso, prime minister of Japan, has more recently proposed that such principles form the basis of an international consensus on this issue – which he hopes to achieve at the September session of the UN General Assembly.

      We must view the recent interest of investors in agriculture as an opportunity. But we must also be aware of the risks, which are considerable. It would already be an immense step forward for negotiations to be made more transparent, and involve local communities, so as to ensure that the arrival of foreign investors creates local employment, while at the same time respecting the environment and strengthening local food security.

      AFROLINE: Africa is preparing for the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009. Since 2006, some experts have been saying that this is the last chance for the continent to put across a clear common position. What can the continent expect from the conference? And in what way does the climate question influence food security?

      OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER: The impacts of climate change on food security are clear: it could have negative impacts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The frequency and timing of rain will change for example, both crucial for agriculture.

      Even if it is hard to measure with certainty the impact it will have on every region, an increase in arid and semi-arid zones by around 60 to 90 million hectares is possible. Research of the GIEC (Groupe d'Experts Intergouvernemental sur l'Évolution du Climat) predicts a halving of agricultural productivity in rain-related agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.

      It is more difficult to evaluate what the African continent can expect from Copenhagen. Most people know now that financing for the adaptation of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change is a sensitive and unresolved question. Developed countries have a historical responsibility when it comes to climate change, and they must take initiatives to draw up an equally historical agreement in Copenhagen.

      On the other hand, the choices that African states have with regards to their own resources, or those over which they have an influence, are not neutral from a climate point of view.

      By slanting the agricultural re-launch towards the use of chemical fertilisers, the risk is run of contributing to climate change and strengthening dependence on fossil fuels. The manufacture of these fertilisers is highly energy consuming. On the other hand, investing in sustainable agricultural models can not only reduce greenhouse gasses, but also bring to the fore the development of more climate change-resilient systems, and even stock carbon, as seen in the case of agro-forestry systems.

      This is why the crucial question today is not only the amount reinvested in African agriculture – in terms of billions of dollars or percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) – but in the direction in which it is heading and in the earmarking of funds for specific activities. This is what I developed in my 'green African revolution', a position I reiterated in my letter to African heads of states.


      * Olivier De Schutter is the UN special rapporteur on the right to food.
      * This article comprises extracts of an interview originally published by Afroline, in collaboration with Senegal's Sud Quotidien, Mali's Les Echos, Ethiopia's Addis Fortune and Madagascar's L'Express de Madagascar.
      * De Schutter highly commends Pambazuka Press's new book, 'Food Rebellions! Crisis and the Hunger for Justice' by Eric Holt-Giménez and Raj Patel, commenting 'At long last, a book which confronts the real issues. It is vital reading for all concerned with the right to food.'
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Meaningful engagement

      Bringing government to the people?

      S'bu Zikode


      © Abahlali baseMjondolo
      S'bu Zikode, elected head of South African shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, looks at some of the barriers that prevent meaningful engagement between the state and the people, with reference to Abahlali’s experiences in KwaZulu-Natal and in the Cape. Abahlali representatives Mnikelo Ndabankulu and Zodwa Nsibande will be speaking at public meetings in London, UK on 4–5 September 2009.

      S'bu Zikode, elected head of South African shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, presented the following paper at a colloquium on the topic of 'Meaningful Engagement' hosted by CALS (Centre for Applied Legal Studies) at the University of Witwatersrand.

      It is a fact that may not be disputed that not all engagements between the state and the people are meant to be meaningful. What is called ‘engagement’ or ‘public participation’ is often just a kind of instruction, sometimes even a threat. Many times it is done in such a way that all possibilities for real discussion and understanding are closed from the start. In these cases what is called engagement is really just a way for the state to pretend to be democratic, when in reality all decisions are already taken and taken far away from poor people.

      However all purposes of engagement are meant to be meaningful by virtue of their intention. When you engage for a particular purpose you want the purpose itself to determine the nature of the engagement. The purpose therefore comes first. In each engagement we must be clear about who we are and what we want. This determines our tactics and what we can accept and not accept in each engagement.

      It is one thing if we are beneficiaries who need delivery. It is another thing if we are citizens who want to shape the future of our cities, even our country. It is another thing if we are human beings who have decided that it is our duty to humanise the world.


      Some problems are technical. Some problems are political. But we find that without our own political empowerment we cannot even resolve the technical problems. The solving of even very small technical problems, like a broken toilet, requires that we are first recognised as people that count. If you are not recognised they will just say ‘who the hell are you?’

      To be recognised requires struggle. It took Abahlali baseMjondolo in Durban three years of hard struggle – with many police attacks, many beatings and arrests – before we were even recognised as people who could negotiate with the state. Then there was another year of a different kind of struggle within the negotiations before we were properly recognised there.

      Right now in Cape Town Abahlali baseMjondolo are still fighting the first struggle against repression. Right now communities all over the country are in rebellion. Many are still at the stage of demanding to be recognised as people that count. We are very much encouraged by many of these rebellions. We support the land occupations, the strikes and the eating of food in the big shops in Durban. Of course we condemn the new xenophobia in Mpumalanga. When the anger of the poor turns on the poor it is nothing but disaster. Terrible, terrible disaster.

      The road is long. We have travelled far in Durban but it remains possible that we could be pushed back. Therefore we must always remain strong – we must remain many, we must remain active, we must continue to think and to debate all issues. This is the only way to ensure that we keep going forward.


      There are some clear rules for meaningful engagement. Firstly the people that are suppose to participate in that engagement must be informed prior to the date of that engagement and they need to be aware of what is going to be discussed during that engagement. The time, place, language and culture of that engagement must suit the people.

      The leadership of the movement or community that will attend the engagement also has important responsibilities. They need to inform all of their members about the engagement in good time. They need to explain clearly what will be at stake. The organising and placing of notices should not only be limited to a leadership or organisational level but to ordinary people to avoid any form of exclusion. Women must be included on the same basis as men. The young and the old must be included on the same basis. The poor and the even poorer must be included on the same basis. There must be no distinction between people born here and people born in other countries.

      The local leadership must use its relevant culture and the strategies that are often used in that particular community. It is important not to allow the NGOs to teach people ways of being ‘professional’ about development that separate people from the culture of a community.

      Representatives must be elected and mandated. When there is ongoing engagement it is important that representatives are rotated and re-elected for each engagement. All decisions must be referred back to the movement or community before being finalised.

      During the engagement the processes should be conducted in a way that all the parties that are involved in that engagement feel that their opinions are being heard. You cannot have a situation where one party controls the agenda and chairs the meeting without consultation. Everyone must be able to speak freely.

      My experience in the past has been that some government officials would come up with a concluded decision with no room to accommodate views of the people and then organise an engagement. This is the experience of most communities and most movements. In these cases what is the point of engaging under these circumstances?

      This was most evident to us when the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature introduced the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Bill 2007, in the Kennedy Road Settlement. They started with a police helicopter just above us, flying low over the settlement. There were police everywhere. We were not allowed to speak if we couldn’t quote a section of Act. Those who did speak were dismissed without respect. Our concerns were treated as if they were ignorant or stupid.

      It became clear that there was no reason for the legislature to hold this public meeting except that they were required by the law to do it. We organised many shack dwellers to attend this meeting. We prepared for it very carefully. We read that Bill together line by line. We discussed each point in that Bill. On the day the Kennedy Road Community Hall was fully packed. But our presence was turned to be used to justify the passing of the Bill into an Act on the basis that a lot of people were present to endorse the Act! It is thus clear that the good move of holding public meetings can easily be monopolised and abused in order to justify the exclusion of the public from the discussions that really matter.

      In such instances one can rightfully say that, such government officials see no need to engage ordinary people on policy formulation matters that affect them directly. This thinking goes with the idea that ordinary people should just become the passive receivers of services. They must just trust that everything that is done in their name and for them is an attempt to help them. Of course we cannot trust in this because people are being evicted everywhere. People are facing forced removals everywhere. People are being dumped in transit camps everywhere. People are being disconnected everywhere, burnt everywhere, arrested everywhere, beaten everywhere. We have good reason not to automatically trust the state. Where we have achieved trust with some officials, it has been after long struggle and long negotiation followed by the experience of learning to work together.

      Active citizen participation is discouraged by those that hold the power. Sometimes it is discouraged with contempt. Sometimes it is discouraged with violence. Sometimes it is discouraged by making simple issues too complicated for ordinary people to understand. Sometimes it is discouraged by just making it too difficult to engage. How many shack dwellers can afford to be on hold on their cell-phones for twenty minutes?

      We expressed our anger at the so-called ‘public participation’ meeting for the Slums Bill. Some members of Abahlali baseMjondolo were then invited to the KwaZulu-Natal parliament to participate in the discussions there. They prepared carefully. They had a written submission and we were ready for all debates. They travelled there on a work day. But the Act was passed in their presence without any opportunity given to them to say a word. The Act was passed against the will of the people.

      Meaningful engagement will of course mean different things to different people. But it is clear that a reasonable service provider, stakeholder, leader or official should not be judged by how many public hearing meetings or izimbizos it conducts but by the number of people whom they manage to reach and listen to and to take into serious account during those meetings. Meaningful engagement should make sure that both parties involved will be able to benefit from that engagement. It can never be meaningful if it is just for the people to listen and to never be able to voice out their own thinking.


      The government says that it wants to ‘bring government to the people’. It is much better to ‘bring government to the people’ than to send in the police, the private security and the land invasions unit to evict and disconnect and to then call that good governance. But bringing the government to the people is not enough. Meaningful engagement will only happen when we can, through our struggles, bring the people into government.

      That does not mean that we want to replace one councillor with another or one party with another. It means that we want to bring the government, regardless of who is sitting on the comfy chairs there, under the control of the people.

      That is why we also say that the struggle of our movements is a struggle to democratise the society from below. Yes we do want services. Services are needed by our lives. They are basic to life. We will always engage to try and get or to keep these services. These little struggles are important.

      But we also want full recognition of our humanity. Things must be done with us and not for us or to us. Therefore the government must come under the people. This requires the current political system to be turned upside down. If each community and each movement builds its power by respecting its members fully so that as each individual grows in power each community and movement grows in its power then we can slowly achieve this step by step. That is our vision for meaningful engagement – a slow revolution from below, fought day by day across the country.

      * S’bu Zikode is elected head of South African shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo.
      * Abahlali representatives Mnikelo Ndabankulu and Zodwa Nsibande will be speaking at public meetings in London, UK on 4–5 September 2009.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Abahlali baseMjondolo and the politics of space

      Fanonian practices in post-apartheid South Africa

      Nigel C Gibson


      © Abahlali
      Reflecting on the experiences and ethos behind South Africa's Abahlali baseMjondolo shackdwellers movement, Nigel C. Gibson considers the group's 'living politics' in relation to the philosophy of liberation espoused in Frantz Fanon's classic 'The Wretched of the Earth'. With Abahlali growing on the strength of organised, bottom-up protest against the 'ordering and geographical layout' of post-apartheid South Africa, Gibson stresses the movement's significance in challenging those in positions of governmental authority to put the poor themselves at the forefront of solutions to poverty.

      'The nation does not exist in the programme which has been worked out by revolutionary leaders … [but] in the muscles and intelligences of men and women.' Frantz Fanon, 'The Wretched of the Earth'

      To speak about Fanonian practices in post-apartheid South Africa one first needs to think about the question of method in two not necessarily opposite directions. First, as an engagement with Fanon’s critique of decolonisation in its contemporary South African context; and second, from the perspective of new emergent movements of the damned of the earth that challenge philosophy. At the same time, since philosophy – not simply practical philosophy but an elemental philosophy of liberation – is always already present in the strivings of liberation of the damned of the earth,[1] a philosophic moment makes itself heard when the exchange of ideas becomes grounded in both the strivings for freedom and lived experience from those excluded, marginalised and dehumanised and when, as Marx puts it, philosophy grips the masses. These dialogues – often hidden, underground and subjugated – make up what could also be called a philosophy of liberation.

      Since his death, practising Fanon’s philosophy of liberation has taken many forms. For example, one could consider the resonances of James Cone’s 'Black Theology of Liberation' in the US or Paulo Friere’s 'Pedagogy of Liberation' in Brazil[2] (Cone 1986, 1997; Friere 1970). Each drew significantly upon Fanon as a liberation theorist. But on the African continent it was Steve Biko in South Africa who was perhaps the most significant practitioner of Fanon.[3] In a new context Biko extended Fanon’s project and developed 'Black consciousness' as a philosophy of liberation. In this paper I want to consider how Fanon’s philosophy of liberation is being challenged by new movements from below, specifically the shackdweller movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), and how such a movement has made concrete the importance Fanon places on the politics of space.

      While Fanon’s philosophy of liberation emerges from a specific physical space, 'reality' has a proper time and the form of his work is therefore 'rooted in the temporal' (1967 104, 14). 'Every human problem', Fanon adds, 'must be considered from the standpoint of time' (1967 14–15). Yet we are stuck in time, a neocolonial/post-colonial time. At the same time the present also seems far away from Fanonian invention. Indeed, so much has changed since Fanon’s day that it is fashionable to remark that Fanon is no longer relevant.[4] And, certainly, in today’s globalised, 'post-race' liberal 'cosmopolitan' world, the colonial world that Fanon described so vividly seems no longer applicable. After all, in South Africa, apartheid, that bulwark of colonial terrorism, has officially ended. We can date that 'ending' to April 1994, when the African National Congress (ANC) won the first fully franchised election. We could even create a timeline which would include the date of Nelson Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison on 11 February 1990, the repeal of the pass laws in 1986 and so on. We could review the new constitution of South Africa and its guarantees of rights and freedoms, we could look at successful governmental elections and at South Africa’s economy, all of which seem to prove Fanon wrong. The question is, is Fanon’s critique simply outdated? Indeed, some might wonder whether Fanon’s philosophy of liberation is still relevant to contemporary realities.

      Yet the Ghanaian Fanon scholar Ato Sekyi-Otu forcefully argues that Fanon’s 'slight revision of the Marxist analysis' is manifest in the elevation of spatial metaphors in the structure of dominance. Thus, added to a critique of inequality and the Manichean haves and have-nots, Sekyi-Otu’s reading of Fanon’s 'stretched Marxism' emphasises how the 'absolute difference and radical irreciprocity' of the coloniser–colonised relation is made manifest spatially (Sekyi-Otu 72–3). In 'The Wretched' Fanon argues that the oppressed is literally pressed from all sides and is only able to find freedom of movement in dreams of muscular prowess. Colonialism is also an experience of spatial confinement, of restraint and prohibition, a narrow world of poverty, oppression and subjugation. Fanon’s description of the open and strongly built colonial city, a town of light and plenty on the one hand and the cramped oppressive hungry 'native town' on the other (1968 39) as well as the Manicheanism of the colonial world – with its absolute difference between the coloniser and colonised, which finds its apogee in apartheid – is thus clearly expressed in spatial realities. In the colonial world 'space and the politics of space "express" social relationships and react against them' (Lefebvre 2003 15). Because the socio-economic spatial reality of the compartmentalised, divided colonial world can never mask human realities, an examination of this division – 'the colonial world’s … ordering and its geographical layout' – Fanon argues, 'will allow us to mark out the lines on which a decolonized society will be reorganized' (1968 38-40). In other words, since social relations are manifested in space, one Fanonian test of post-apartheid society is to what extent South Africa has been spatially reorganised. On this score, it is quite clear that 'deracialisation' of the city has been an essentially 'bourgeois' phenomenon with full membership and rights now accessed by money and consequentially with urban policy – under the guise of providing 'housing' – geared mainly toward the removal of the poor from urban areas.[5]

      In other words, by creating urban settlements, the shackdwellers had created some freedom for themselves as apartheid began to crumble but with plans to remove these urban settlements, the post-apartheid policy of 'slum clearance' is a return to the Manicheanism of the earlier period.[6] A fixation on creating 'formal' structures – the government has built around two million housing units since 1994 – tells us very little of the new housing for the poor. Those frightfully small and poorly built structures called houses[7] are based on the removal of the poor from city centres and built far away from bourgeois eyes and fears outside urban spaces. The poor are othered, uninvited and the shack communities fragmented. Post-apartheid housing, whether that be gated communities, or temporary tin shacks thus reinforces spatial segregation.[8] In the minds of the city planners, urban policy technicists and real estate speculators, and FIFA (World Cup) administrators, a 'world class' city cannot be built with shack settlements in the line of sight. Moreover, shack settlements and middle-class housing cannot exist side by side. And just as with other gentrification schemes, under the guise of 'upgrades' the poor are 'removed' from the city. These 'forced removals' – to use the language of apartheid – are the outcome of the ANC’s current promotions of 'slum clearance' which threaten millions of people who live in urban shack settlements with removal to 'transit camps' and other so-called 'temporary' tin-shack housing.[9] So what is at stake in Fanonian practices is not simply a critique of government failures and its inability to keep up with housing needs in terms of sheer numbers but the ways the 'ordering and geographical layout' of post-apartheid South Africa remaps apartheid.

      Since colonialism is about the expropriation of space it is immediately political. Addressing the politics of space, Fanon challenged the newly independent nations to deal with the legacies of colonialism by redistributing land and decentralising political power, vertically and horizontally. This move seems counter-intuitive in the context of Fanon’s critique of regionalism and chauvinism, and the threat of xenophobia, but the point is that the degeneration of national liberation arises in part from the race to take over the seats of power, leaving intact the privileges of the centres of colonial administration and expropriation. Additionally, for South Africa, Fanon’s critique is an important challenge to the centralistic and hierarchical culture of the ANC. As Fanon argues, decentralisation is not simply an administrative or technical issue, it is connected with the goal of involving the damned of the earth in what the shack dweller organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo call a 'living politics'.[10] And explaining to the formerly excluded but newly politicised people that the future belongs to them, that they cannot rely on an imaginary leader, prophet, or anybody else (1968, 197) necessitates a decentralisation of politics, but also that emergent movements demand it and challenge intellectuals to break with their elitism and work out new concepts.

      Born in Durban in 2005, Abahlali baseMjondolo (Zulu for people who live in shacks) has become the largest autonomous grassroots organisation in South Africa, with members across the country.[11] Propelled by those who have almost nothing, the shackdweller’s movement, which lives in a daily state of emergency and contingency, represents a truth of post-coloniality and offers a critique of its ethics in the most Fanonian sense. After all, the damned of the earth judge wealth not only by indoor plumbing, taps and toilets, but also by human reciprocity and the relationships that develop through a rigorously democratic and inclusive movement. It is a wealth that builds on and emphasises thinking, namely the thinking that is done collectively and on a continuing basis in the shack communities. Theirs is a politics of the lived experience of scale that begins at the bottom. It challenges policy-makers 'up there' to come down to the settlements and listen to the poorest of the poor and thus by doing encourages a new language of dialogue.

      The shackdweller movement represents a clear and emergent case that makes the intertwining of household and community scale explicit with national politics, and responds to Fanon’s critique and call to realise the radically humanist, decentralised national scale of postcolonial struggle. Fanon’s revolutionary theory also necessitates that space is produced differently. Abahlali may not equal Fanon’s 'future heaven',[12] but in its participatory democratic, decentralised and inclusive form, it is implicitly the idea of 'new society'. At the very least, it is a challenge to theoreticians to engage with it and rethink philosophies of liberation to help create a cognitive leap. What is significant about this new organisation is that it expresses a new beginning in the daily struggle, and its brilliance lies in its grassroots democracy and 'living politics' that is its 'own working existence'.[13] For example, while land and housing are essential elements to the struggle for a decolonised society, they understand that the struggle is ultimately about building spaces that recognise the humanity of all.

      In short, the shackdwellers are voicing their right to live in the city, challenging the idea of citizenship and insisting on an active democratic polity. In this sense, these organised shackdwellers are expressing a new kind of inclusive politics from the ground up, one which appears local and reformist, such as providing services to settlements, but which is also radical and national. They do not speak in terms of a critique of 'the state', nor in terms of a critique of political economy, but they do address the politics of the state and the spatial political economy of post-colonialism that concerned Fanon: If the shackdwellers' demand for housing in the city is won – and in Durban negotiations are currently taking place between AbM and the city[14] – and if housing policy is based in fully democratic and open discussions with the poor, the spatial and political economy of the city could be radically altered, and a fundamental shift in post-apartheid social consciousness and a decisive intervention in its spatial economy could occur. Crucial to this shift, and toward the 'reconceptualization of the urban' (Lefebvre 2003 15) would be a move from technocratic state planning toward 'grassroots urban planning' (Souza 2006).

      Such a radical change of consciousness, where 'the last would be first and the first last' (quoted in Fanon 1968 37), would encourage a shift in the 'geography of reason'[15] from the elitist and technical discussion of service delivery – mediated 'between those who decide on behalf of "private" interests and those who decide on behalf of higher institutions and power' (Lefebvre 2003 157) – to people’s needs mediated by the minds of those who were so recently reified as dirty, uneducated, poor, violent, criminal, not fully human and named the damned of the earth. This double movement – the de-commodification of the city and 'the new rights of the citizen, tied in to the demands of everyday life' (Lefebvre 2006 250) – would amount to a de-fetishisation of the city,[16] a shift away from the Northern-focused elite discourse of creating 'world-class' citadels in South Africa. But this movement from the praxis of 'the underside' of humanity will not be easy, nor will it come all at once. In July 2009, a new period of revolt and violent repression began with mass arrests, and a number of people have been shot dead. Indeed, Abahlali emerged from an earlier period of revolt that has been ebbing and flowing since 2004. The revolts emerge from necessity – namely from the state of emergency that is its daily reality and a historical necessity – and in the challenge to thought about the post-apartheid city itself toward humanist geographies based on people’s needs. In 2008 when xenophobic violence spread through the shack settlements across the country, Abahlali’s response was to take action while the authorities dithered. They simply declared that no one is illegal and that everyone counts: 'A person cannot be illegal. A person is a person whether they find themselves.'

      The organised shackdwellers have developed an infrastructure for self-organisation in what they call the 'University of the Abahlali'. It is a new kind of organisation; not outside, not above, not separate from the shackdwellers, but self-organised and insistent on decentralisation, autonomy, grassroots democracy and accountability. It appreciates acts of solidarity but shuns money and political power from government and non-governmental groups. It is an organisation, as Fanon understood it, a 'living organism'. This living politics represents the kind of challenge to committed intellectuals and activists that Fanon mapped out in 'The Wretched', namely that intellectuals need to put themselves in 'the school of the people'. After experiences of the elitism of some left, often Northern, intellectuals who actively deny that poor people can think their own politics, S’bu Zikode, the elected chair of Abahlali argues:

      'We have always thought that the work of the intellectual was to think and to struggle with the poor. It is clear that for [some] the work of the intellectual is to determine our intelligence by trying to undermine our intelligence. This is their politics. Its result is clear. We are shown to the world to not be competent to think or speak for ourselves' (Zikode 2008).[17]

      In the discussions that Abahlali has named 'Living Learning' what remains crucial is the principle that the usefulness of whatever is learnt from outside the shacks in schools and university courses is judged by the lived experiences of the struggle of people in the shacks. Knowledge is thus considered neither private property nor the means for private advancement; it is to be a shared endeavour that begins by shifting the geography of reason by putting 'the worst off' at the centre.

      Fanon’s visionary critique of post-colonial elite politics mapped out a 'living politics' based on a decentralised and democratic form of self-governing which opens up new spaces for the politics of the excluded from the ground up. Thus, Fanon’s project can be understood as building counter-hegemony from below that opens up spaces that fundamentally change the political status quo and contest the moral and intellectual leadership of the ruling elites. Recently Fanon's conclusions in 'The Wretched' – with their challenge to Europe and call to work out a 'new humanism' based on the inclusion, indeed centrality, in the 'enlightening and fruitful work' of nation-building (1968 204) – have been critically rearticulated by S’bu Zikode of Abahlali as he reflected on the current countrywide revolts (2009): 'It is one thing if we are beneficiaries who need delivery. It is another thing if we are citizens who want to shape the future of our cities, even our country. It is another thing if we are human beings who have decided that it is our duty to humanise the world.'


      * Nigel C. Gibson is currently a research associate in Africa-African Studies at Harvard University.
      * This article comprises a presentation given at the Frantz Fanon Colloque in Algiers, Algeria, on 7 July 2009.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      [1] I use the phrase 'the damned' rather than 'The wretched' because I think it better emphasises the philosophical, existential and material being of those people who are damned, outside and silenced. However, throughout I use the standard English translation of Fanon’s book 'Les Damnés de la Terre': 'The Wretched of the Earth'.
      [2] Friere’s 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed' has been viewed as an extensive reply to 'The Wretched'. Friere’s relationship to Africa, specifically to post-independence Guinea-Bissau should also be noted. See Friere (1978).
      [3] This is certainly not to downplay the significant influence of Fanon on the revolutionary theorist Amilcar Cabral (1969) or on writers such as Ayi Kwei Armah and Ngugi wa Th’iongo. The point here is that Biko’s debt to Fanon in his creation of a philosophy of liberation. On the continuing legacy of Fanon’s thought, see Gibson 1999.
      [4] See Homi Bhabha’s foreword to the new translation of 'The Wretched of the Earth' (2005). For a critique of Bhabha see Gibson 2007.
      [5] In 2000, Mrs Irene Grootboom successfully brought a case before the South African Constitutional Court on behalf of 510 children and 290 adults living in deplorable conditions in Wallacedene, Cape Town. The judgment called upon the state to design and implement 'a comprehensive and coordinated program to realize the right of access to adequate housing.' The case, as liberal lawyers argued, highlighted the potential radicalism of the South African constitution. But, as Marie Huchzermeyer argues (2004: 4), the judgment did not reform the system of access to 'temporary land' but was a request for 'disaster management, i.e., temporary relief for those living in desperate or life-threatening conditions. Mrs Grootboom never got her house. The temporal realities intervened to thwart the 'victory'. On 30 July 2008 she died in a shack, still waiting for the South African government to meet her constitutional right to a home.
      [6] Central to the removal (or 'relocation') is the KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act which Marie Huchzermeyer (2008) argues is 'not only reminiscent of apartheid policy [but] it reintroduces measures from the 1951 Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act, which was repealed in 1998'. The underlying assumption of the act is that all informal settlements should be removed and replaced by formal. This is, Huchzermeyer continues, despite admissions, even by the government, that RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) housing has removed people from their livelihoods, imposed transport burdens and made poverty worse. The 2004 'breaking new ground' policy of the national housing department sought to redress this by introducing an 'upgrading of informal settlements programme' (see Pithouse 2009).
      [7] The minimum standard for a house is 30 square metres (100 square feet) of floor space and the provision of water through a standpipe. The quality of houses has in fact declined, not only from the apartheid period matchbox housing (over 250 square feet) but also from the post-apartheid 'RDP' houses. Thus critics declare that 'Mandela’s houses are half the size of Verwoerd’s.' Following the privatisation model favoured by the World Bank, houses are built through subsidies to private builders. The builders look to use the cheapest possible materials and construction to guarantee a profit. Inflation has squeezed developers’ profits, who have in turn searched to make further cuts in the quality of the buildings.
      [8] Policy has been contested and alternatives developed. However the more progressive 'Breaking New Ground' which includes a proviso for 'in situ' upgrades of shacks has lain fallow (see Pithouse forthcoming). Even if lip-service is paid to it, the hegemonic position is that of removal and eradicating the shacks.
      [9] Since 'slum clearance' has been largely been directed toward shack settlements in the centre of the city (which under apartheid were areas designated for 'white', 'Indian' and 'coloured') rather than settlements in the urban periphery where conditions are worse, the policy also recapitulates the apartheid policy of separation.
      [10] 'Living politics' is a commitment to a politics that in Fanon’s terms speak in the language that everyone can understand: 'we must – as we always do – start with a living politics, a politics of what’s close and real to the people. This has been the basis of the movement’s success' (quoted in Ntseng and Butler).
      [11] By November 2009 the paid-up membership of AbM was just over 10,000 in 53 settlements. In 2008, AbM together with the Landless People's Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign formed the Poor People’s Alliance, a national network of democratic membership based on poor people’s movements.
      [12] Jovel Kovel remarks that AbM has opted 'to recreate commons … [and] have organized themselves into a modern simulacrum of the Paris Commune' (Kovel 2007, 251).
      [13] A phrase Karl Marx used, referring to the Paris Commune. One could add today that the brilliance of the shackdwellers' grassroots democracy and 'living politics' is its 'own working existence'.
      [14] It should be noted that at the same time the movement in Cape Town is being criminalised and shot with rubber bullets – especially since the Constitutional Court approved the 'removal' of residents of the Joe Slovo settlement to make way for a housing project that will not be affordable for the poor.
      [15] 'Shifting the geography of reason' is the motto of the Caribbean Philosophical Association (CPA).
      [16] Since the commodity is a social relationship between things, it is important to maintain that de-fetishisation is crucial to de-commodification. Without a critique of alienation and thingification of human relations, de-commodification is reduced to a critique of the market rather than the commodity form place and a new fetish is made of nationalised and public property.
      [17] In other words, they reject the Trotskyist position that they are lumpen in need of leadership and also reject the autonomist and Maoist desire that they are the suffering poor, a blank slate upon which one can write the most beautiful characters.


      Abahlali baseMjondolo. 2009. Http:// accessed on July 4.

      Bhabha, Homi K. 2005. Foreword to Frantz Fanon The Wretched of the Earth (translated by Richard Philcox) New York: Grove Press.

      Biko, Steve. 1978. I Write What I Like. London: Heinemann.

      Biko, Steve. 2008. Interview with Gail Gerhart (October 1972) in Biko Lives: Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko edited by Andile Mngxitama, Amanda Alexander and Nigel C. Gibson. New York: Palgrave.

      Cabral, Amílcar. 1970. Cabral Revolution in Guinea New York: Monthly Review.

      Cone, James H. 1986. A Black Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books [1970])

      Fanon, Frantz. 1967. Black Skin White Masks. New York: Grove Press.

      Fanon, Frantz. 1968. The Wretched of the Earth (translated by Constance Farrington) New York: Grove Press.

      Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the Oppressed New York: Continuum [1970].

      Freire, Paulo. 1978. Pedagogy in Process: The Letters to Guinea-Bissau New York: Seabury

      Gibson, Nigel C. 1999 Rethinking Fanon. Amherst, N.Y.: Humanity Books.

      Gibson, Nigel C. 2003. Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination.

      Gibson, Nigel C. 2007. 'Relative Opacity: A New Translation of Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth—Mission Betrayed or Fulfilled?' Social Identities Vol. 13, No. 16, January.

      Huchzermeyer, Marie. 2004. Unlawful Occupation: Informal Settlement and Urban Policy in South Africa and Brazil. Trenton NJ: Africa World Press.

      Huchzermeyer, Marie. 2008. 'Slums law based on flawed interpretation of UN goals.' Business Day May 18.

      Kovel, Joel. 2007. The Enemy of Nature, London: Zed Books.

      Lefebvre, Henri. 2003. The Urban Revolution. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

      Ntseng, David & Mark Butler, 2007. Minutes of the Abahlali baseMjondolo meeting to Discuss Legal & Political Strategies to Oppose the Slums Bill [online]. Available at:

      Pithouse, Richard. Forthcoming. 'A Progressive Policy without a Progressive Politics: Lessons from the failure to implement ‘Breaking New Ground’' Town Planning Journal No. 54.

      Sekyi-Otu, Ato. 1996. Fanon’s Dialectic of Experience. Cambridge: Harvard U.P.

      Souza Marcelo Lopes de. 2006. 'Together with the state, despite the state, against
      the state: Social movements as ‘critical urban planning agents’' City, Vol.10, No. 3, December, 327-342

      Zikode, S’bu. 2008. 'The Burning Issue of Land and Housing'

      Zikode, S’bu. 2009. 'Meaningful Engagement,'

      Italian revelations on the assassination of Thomas Sankara

      Silvestro Montanaro


      cc C Skillet
      Astounding allegations have come forth about the 1987 assassination of the former president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, through a documentary aired on Italy’s public channel RAI3. The documentary, entitled ‘African Shadows’ and by Silvestro Montanaro, details the alleged links of the American and French secret services to Sankara’s assassins and the involvement of the current President of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaoré. This week’s Pambazuka News brings you the striking three-part transcript of the recent documentary, featuring the testimonies of well-known Liberian figures.

      NARRATOR: This is an intriguing international issue. I am meeting with Liberian Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, ex-wife of Charles Taylor.

      SILVESTRO: Do you think that people should be worried if Taylor tells ‘the truth’? Should important people?

      LADY: Yes, absolutely. I am sure of it…

      SILVESTRO: Very important people?

      LADY: For sure. There is a part of this story that has remained hidden, even from me. I am certain that he still holds secrets. How did he leave the US? What deal did he make with Ghaddafi in order to train in Libya? Who were his friends, and what information did they give him?

      MOMO: He had lots of friends in the US…

      SILVESTRO: Important people?

      MOMO. Yes, certainly, business people.

      SILVESTRO: Can you give me any names?

      MOMO: Ah, no. I cannot divulge their names. I am not a fool… He had friends in diplomatic circles, who have gone underground, but I know who they are, and that they would not be happy if I spoke out. Taylor did not drop out of the sky just like that. From prison to Liberia. It is them who sent him to Liberia, and they are very aware of this fact!

      NARRATOR: This gentleman, also considered a war criminal by the UN, was Taylor’s aide-de-camp. Today, General Momo Jiba – one of those who know the real story – gives us a glimpse of the goings-on during the reign of Charles Taylor.

      SILVESTRO: Who sent him here?

      MOMO: Those who sent him know themselves. The big hand. They know everything. He did not come here alone. Taylor was in prison in the US … and all of a sudden, he was in Monrovia. How did he get out of a US prison? How was he able to escape?


      MOMO: Eh heh... I cannot say it … a big hand, The Big Hand.

      HISTORIAN: What happened in the US with Charles Taylor is quite a remarkable story.

      NARRATOR: Liberia’s current minister of posts and telecommunications, Marcus Dahn, is also one the country’s pre-eminent historians. He also suspects a third force behind Taylor’s escape.

      HISTORIAN: Taylor fled Liberia after President Doe accused him of stealing millions of dollars from state coffers. He was arrested and was due for extradition to Liberia. It is noteworthy that Taylor’s lawyer, Ramsey, one of the best in the country, was attorney general under Jimmy Carter. Taylor was incarcerated at a federal prison in Massachusetts, one of the most secure. It seems to me especially difficult to escape from a federal prison…
      Taylor managed to escape, to come back here and launch a revolution to depose Samuel Doe.

      BLEAH: It is impossible to escape form such a facility without someone’s assistance. Taylor was not a little bird. Neither was he God, or a spirit.

      NARRATOR: Mose Bleah was Taylor’s vice-president, and one of his top aides. When Taylor fled, he became president for a period of a few months.

      BLEAH: Many people, including some who currently occupy important posts in the government, helped us. Even our current president admitted to having assisted Taylor, and having given him financial assistance at the time.

      SILVESTRO: But it was mostly the Americans…

      BLEAH: Certainly … yes…

      SILVESTRO: In what way?

      BLEAH: How can I explain this to you… Our godfather – since some of us Liberians consider ourselves a province of the US – helped us. The US consented to Taylor becoming president.

      ALLEN: You must understand that the leaders of the NPFL [National Patriotic Front of Liberia] chose Taylor. The leadership of the NPFL included the likes of Mrs Ellen Sirleaf, the current president.

      NARRATOR: Cyril Allen was a leading figure in Taylor’s party, former head of the National Petroleum corporation and is now one of the top names on the UN’s blacklist.

      ALLEN: They were seeking help in toppling Samuel Doe. So the Americans asked whom they had chosen to lead their revolution. Their response was immediate and unequivocal; we have a Liberian who has a bone to pick with Samuel Doe. This man has a brilliant military mind, he is intelligent and courageous… Unfortunately, he is in one of your prisons. We ask that you to let him go so he can lead the revolution. They complied, and there Taylor was…

      SILVESTRO: They agreed?

      ALLEN: Of course, they made it possible for Taylor to escape.

      MINISTER DOE: You need to find out from the State Department, from the highest levels of the CIA, the FBI, and the political establishment … they know what happened. Listen, I never want find myself in the American prison system. It is practically impossible to escape. Incredibly, Taylor managed to escape. Who was Taylor’s lawyer? Ramsey Clark, former US attorney general and one of the most powerful men in the world. Taylor escapes from prison in Boston and the next thing we know, Taylor is in Africa. When Taylor got here, he had a sack-load of money. We enquired into the origins of the initial US$25,000. I had all this information on my computer, but unknown individuals destroyed it. Luckily, a friend of mine kept copies. One of the signatures on the document was that of the current president, and the other was, well, an American.

      SILVESTRO: Where were you trained, prepared?

      MOMO: I was trained…

      SILVESTRO: Please be truthful.

      MOMO: Yes… in Libya.

      Sivlestro: Who trained you?

      MOMO: He he, good question…

      SILVESTRO: What kind of instructors did you have? Where were they from? Which country? Please be honest.

      MOMO: I cannot reveal that on camera, it is top-secret. But they were definitely instructors.

      SILVESTRO: Who supplied you with arms?

      MOMO: For combat?

      SILVESTRO: Yes.

      MOMO: He he.

      SILVESTRO: The same people?

      MOMO: No, no, it was a revolution, we provided for ourselves. Nobody gave us anything. President Taylor used his own resources.

      NARRATOR: At this point, I ask the filming crew to leave and return with a hidden television camera.

      SILVESTRO: So, who was it that trained you?

      MOMO: He he … ok, I cannot tell him … besides he already knows…


      MOMO: Yes, the CIA trained me.

      SILVESTRO: How about Gaddafi … Libya.

      MOMO: Don’t go there, that’s politics…

      SILVESTRO: Unbelievable.

      MOMO: Let’s not get into that, that’s politics.

      SILVESTRO: And they gave you money…

      MOMO: Money, everything.

      SILVESTRO: Arms?

      MOMO: Everything, everything.


      MOMO : Don’t go there… that’s politics

      SILVESTRO: Good heavens.

      MOMO: You know, they are dangerous … right now they want it kept quiet … they would not appreciate us talking about it. If we do, it would be dangerous for them…

      SILVESTRO: How is it possible that the CIA helped Taylor escape from prison?

      LADY: I am sure that they were involved.

      SILVESTRO: But after that, he was in Libya planning the war against Doe. Libya was an enemy of the US.

      LADY: I believe that Taylor was nothing but a pawn in this game. The US was against Libya, but at the same time was eager to overthrow Doe. It is for this reason that they needed an ally, and authorised Taylor going to Libya for training to fight these people. Even before he triumphed and became president, he was in constant contact with the US. He was part of a scheme to topple Doe. He needed to be clear with his priorities: the Liberian question, his orientations vis-à-vis the US, the natural resources at stake, especially petroleum, from which the US would benefit. Liberia was a strategic target, and for this reason, more important than the Libyan question.

      NARRATOR: As General Momo states, Taylor was at this point working for the CIA, spying on Gaddafi and infiltrating African liberation movements that were training in Libya.

      MOMO: It was a CIA operation.

      SILVESTRO: The fact of the matter is that Taylor was working for the CIA, and had been sent expressly to infiltrate African liberation movements that were training in Libya.

      MOMO: Those are the facts.

      SILVESTRO: Are you sure about that?

      MOMO: Absolutely. I was working with him, and we spoke about these issues. I am not in the habit of lying.

      SILVESTRO: And how did Taylor go about spying on Gaddafi for the CIA?

      MOMO: One … a key area was Burkina Faso.

      SILVESTRO: Taylor’s mysterious escape path crosses with the fate of Thomas Sankara, the young president of Burkina Faso. Some time ago, Liberian senator and former warlord Prince Johnson, told the Truth Commission that he and Taylor had been involved in Sankara’s death. I approached him so he would explain the story.

      PRINCE: But this is not part of what you have written here…

      SILVESTRO: It is part of the last question.

      PRINCE: No, it isn’t. And in any case, you must stick to the agenda you prepared here…

      SILVESTRO: Excuse me?

      PRINCE: You cannot raise a new issue that was not mentioned before.

      SILVESTRO: Is it that difficult for you to answer the question?

      PRINCE: No, no, it does not work like that.

      SILVESTRO: So, what actually happened in Burkina Faso?

      PRINCE: No, we … once an issue has been dealt with one, two, three times…

      SILVESTRO: The issue of Thomas Sankara?

      PRINCE: This is getting tedious.

      SILVESTRO: Excuse me?

      PRINCE: I went to the Truth Commission, I gave an interview to the French media that was broadcast worldwide, and I will go on repeating what I said about Burkina Faso.

      SILVESTRO: I understand, but please answer the question.

      PRINCE: Right, after I spoke, the president of Burkina Faso faced all kinds of problems, and I do not want to end up there again. Besides, if you really want to know what happened in Burkina Faso, why don’t you go there and ask President Blaise Compaoré … you are part of the international media, you are like a doctor, to whom the truth must be told. Therefore, go to Burkina Faso… (bursts of laughter).

      NARRATOR: Then, with the camera ostensibly off...

      PRINCE: There was an international plot to get rid of this man, and if I tell you how this happened, are you aware the secret services could kill you?

      SILVESTRO: An international plot. Because the truth would harm the current president Blaise Compaoré. In 1987 when Sankara was murdered, Compaoré was considered his best friend. Immediately after Sankara’s death, Compaoré said 'I was ill'.

      NARRATOR: Momo and Allen recount to me what exactly happened.

      ALLEN: Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, Blaise Compaoré, Thomas Sankara, Domingo Guengeré, and ... Foday Sankoh, as well as the man from Chad, whose name I can’t recall, had all been trained in Libya and were all friends. They are the ones who actually organised the Burkina revolution and installed Sankara as president. Once in power, he set about putting in place his plans. The next thing you know, the US had infiltrated the liberation movements and set about overthrowing Sankara, who was leaning too far left. The Americans were not happy with Sankara. He was talking of nationalising his country’s resources to benefit his people. He was a socialist so he had to go.


      This section contains a sequence of archive images. What follows is the commentary accompanying the images.

      NARRATOR: Video showing Sankara: Thomas Sankara was president of Upper Volta from 1983–87, and renamed it Burkina Faso, meaning 'land of the honourable'. To avoid foreign dictates, he refused aid from the IMF and the World Bank. Burkina Faso was semi-arid, hungry, indebted and had one of the highest infant mortality rates, with no hope of going it alone. He had to fight desertification, achieve food self-sufficiency, and provide healthcare. The new motto was 'two meals a day and ten litres of water a day for all every day'. The whole country, especially women, were mobilised to achieve this goal: to consume only what the country could produce on its own, without unnecessary imports and military purchases, end waste, privilege and corruption. He led by example.

      SANKARA: Our ministers can only fly economy, not first class. We have abolished presidential immunity, and are in the process of lowering civil service salaries. There are court proceedings against those who are robbing our country, and these are taking place in public.

      NARRATOR: Sankara ate millet, like the peasants in his country, travelled around in a small ordinary car, always wore traditional dress, and never had any personal property. His presidential salary was a pittance, and he shamed every other statesman in the world and at home. His example was not followed with enthusiasm. Roads, railways, schools and hospitals were built, agricultural production grew and desert was reclaimed. In the space of four years, the goal of two meals a day and ten litres of water was a reality. But the spectre of external debt racked up by past corrupt governments loomed. Sankara was fighting on the global stage against this new debt-slavery.

      SANKARA: We must speak in one voice, saying this debt cannot be paid. And since I am the lone voice, I will be assassinated. We must say together, we cannot pay, because we have to work to build a future for our people. If only Burkina Faso refuses to pay, I will not be here at the next conference.

      Silvestro’s comments: Sankara did well, and did it for all. He called into question the delicate power dynamics of the time. It was an issue that needed to be tackled. Momo Jiba and Cyril Allen, Taylor’s closest allies, recount what happened.


      The interview continues

      MOMO: My boss told me to approach Sankara for help in taking power in Liberia. In return, he offered lucrative business opportunities. Thomas Sankara told him he was not interested and asked him to leave the country. He told him that he would not help and asked him to find another staging point for his rebellion. Guengere, who is currently Burkina Faso’s minister of defence, Blaise Compaoré, Charles Taylor, and Chad’s current president … you know who he is?

      SILVESTRO: Yes.

      MOMO: Yes, him too.

      SILVESTRO: Yes.

      MOMO: They all met in Mauritania for a whole day … after a while they were joined by a white man from Paris. The discussions carried on, and then there was another meeting in Libya, where the Sankara problem was discussed some more. What emerged was that if we were to use Burkina Faso as a launching pad, Sankara had to be eliminated. Blaise Compaoré, would become president, and he would help us…

      SILVESTRO: And was Gaddafi okay with the plan?

      MOMO: Yes, yes … please remember, this must all remain confidential.

      SILVESTRO: Yes, yes…

      MOMO: If Gaddafi helped Taylor, and France sent word that they were in support of the coup d’état … better yet, if France provided funds and indicated that they would recognise Compaoré’s government, then all was well. Blaise told Guengere, the current Burkinabe army chief to avail a group of commandos, Taylor provided other troops, and the coup was staged.

      SILVESTRO: Was France the only country involved?

      MOMO: France was totally involved.

      SILVESTRO: What about the US and the CIA?

      MOMO: I am not sure of that … I don’t want to tell you lies.

      ALLEN: The Americans and the French sanctioned the plan. There was a CIA operative and the US embassy in Burkina Faso working closely with the secret service at the French embassy, and they made the crucial decisions.

      SILVESTRO: So the CIA and the French secret service…

      ALLEN: And the French secret service decided to eliminate Sankara. Those are the facts.

      MOMO: They sent their men, some commandos, and then there was Prince Johnson, and myself. We communicated by walkie-talkie, we had all the information on Sankara … when he left home, and when he returned … everything was planned.

      SILVESTRO: Were you there?

      MOMO: Of course, I was in Burkina Faso, I was part of the operation.

      SILVESTRO: And were you present when Sankara was assassinated?

      MOMO: Of course, I was in the room when he was assassinated.

      SILVESTRO: What do you remember of that moment?

      MOMO (laughs).

      SILVESTRO: Sankara was waiting to meet Blaise Compaoré?

      MOMO: No, it was not a meeting … there were important discussions taking place.

      MOMO: And Blaise Compaoré, after seeming to have returned home at exactly midnight, was there, ready to act with the others … he entered the room and fired.

      ALLEN: He fired the first shot … Sankara was seated and Compaoré was across the table. Then there was a second shot, Sankara sank into the chair and died … a few seconds before that, he had been speaking to Compaoré.

      MOMO: I was right there when Thomas Sankara said, 'Blaise, you are my best friend, I call you my brother, and yet you assassinate me?' Blaise made an irritated gesture and said something to him in French – I don’t understand French very well – and then he fired a shot.

      ALLEN: If Blaise Compaoré had not shot Sankara, Guengere would have done so, and would now be president. All of this was part of America’s interest in controlling Burkina Faso.

      NARRATOR: Whatever the case, one thing is certain: The good will is gone and Burkina Faso is once again one of the world’s poorest countries.



      We hope this documentary will contribute to the search for the truth, and lead to more vital testimonies.

      We do not fully believe the version of events where Sankara was assassinated at midnight in the presence of Blaise Compaoré, who fired the fatal shot. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the assassination took place between 16:00 and 17:00. However, we must remain open to this.

      For a long time, Liberians have been suspected to have been implicated in the death of Sankara. Up to this point, not a single Liberian had offered an explanation as to what their role was. We have serious doubts as to the veracity of this account of the day he was assassinated, but the Liberian connection is confirmed.

      We unearthed a fresh confirmation of the accusations against France and Libya.

      Of great importance here is the implication of the CIA. Neither is this the first time that Liberians have confirmed it in detail. Charles Taylor would surely have collaborated with the CIA to infiltrate African revolutionary circles.

      There are already several accounts that express surprise at Taylor’s escape from the US. Shortly before the release of this documentary, Taylor himself recounted his surreal 'liberation escape' during the Special Tribunal on Sierra Leone, and confirmed that he had received assistance.

      The producer can confirm that this documentary was shot before the release of the Liberia Truth Commission report that implicates the current president and several other personalities.


      * Silvestro Montanaro is an Italian journalist working for RAI3.
      * This documentary was aired on 15–29 July 2009 on RAI3. The content is also available at Farafinamag. The Italian version is available from Thomas Sankara and RaiTV.
      * Translated from French by Josh Ogada
      * Please send comments to [email protected]
      or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      The Guinea–Sierra Leone border dispute

      Time for ECOWAS to intervene

      Lansana Gberie


      cc Wikimedia
      Once again, the source of an African conflict can be traced back to unsustainable demarcations of territories arbitrarily drawn by colonial powers and the resulting civil war, argues Lansana Gberie in this week's Pambazuka News. Drawing on interviews as well as personal experience of the Guinea–Sierra Leone border dispute, Gberie focuses on issues such as how the discovery of diamonds escalated the border conflict and proposes a set of steps needed – mainly through the involvement of ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States) – to see the dispute brought to an end.

      A necessary and mutually applauded security measure taken by Guinean forces during Sierra Leone’s brutal rebel war has escalated into a border dispute which threatens the stability of both states. But while the issue – the Yenga dispute – is often cast in romantic and highly inflammatory terms by Sierra Leonean poets, so-called civil society activists and journalists, the entire story is steeped in bathos. Before the war, Yenga was a tiny impoverished fishing village of fewer than 100 people and 10 old shacks. But it is strategically placed among a system (albeit largely undeveloped) of inter-connected waterways tied to the large Moa river and formed by the convergence of three other rivers emanating from Guinea, the Mellacourie, Fourecaria and Bereira. Much of this area, extending far into northern Sierra Leone and including Rio Pongas and Rio Nunez in Guinea was once known collectively as Mellacourie.

      Until its recent notoriety, hardly anyone emerging into Yenga from the humungous grassed and potholed road would take any particular notice; the more important places were Kailahun, Koindu, Bomaru and Sienga on the Sierra Leonean side and Guekecdou and Forecariah on the Guinean side. It was a sleepy fishing hamlet, separated from Guinea by the Moa river. However, this cartographic factor was purely fictive for the people living on both sides of the river: movement from Sierra Leone into Guinea and vice versa was unrestrained by border guards, and people on either side of the river maintained families on both sides.

      Believe it or not, this was exactly the vision of the colonial powers, Britain and France, when they demarcated the area between the two competing empires. The new political and geographical reality was only expressed in the two dozen or so beacons planted by the Europeans, over them flying two flags at the close of the 19th century. They rudely separated the Kissy people and even separated families living in the area, forcing them into states they never bargained for. The border demarcation wasn’t exactly as perfunctory as the carving out of Uganda, given as a birthday gift to Britain’s Queen Victoria by an English adventurer marauding through East Africa, but the logic was the same: there was scant consideration for the Africans living in these places and of course no concern about the future viability of the hastily created states. It is mainly for this reason that Amos Sawyer has made the important suggestion, as of yet not taken up elsewhere, that more concrete steps should be taken towards a political union of all three Mano river basin states (Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia).

      So why do people in the poverty-stricken and militarily disabled Sierra Leone and Guinea, who just recently emerged from brutal wars (with Guinea still crippled by political instability) speak about this strip of land as though they want to ignite another violent conflict in the region? There is obviously a need for a serious reality check.

      I recently spent a grim afternoon with a very senior (and overfed) Sierra Leonean army officer who told me rather blithely and against all available evidence that all the Sierra Leonean military needed was the order from 'the civilians' and Yenga would be recaptured from the Guineans promptly. And as I write, there is a virtual movement in Sierra Leone quaintly named ‘Save Yenga Save Salone’, a campaign that has attracted media activists, poets, ‘civil society’ and some politicians. One such politician, Musa Tamba Sam, belonging to the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) recently tried to get Yenga debated in parliament, but the effort was wisely rebuffed by the speaker. The issue, the speaker said, was being handled diplomatically by the government. The honourable Sam is from Yenga, born at a time when the village was still part of the Kissi-Teng Chiefdom in Kailuhun District in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone.

      The (uncharacteristic) restraint of the Ernest Koroma government on the Yenga issue, which mirrors that of the previous Kabbah’s, is admirable. If every serious national issue since Koroma came to power would have been approached the same way, calmly and deliberately, then a lot of the serious errors of judgment – the churlish sacking of civil officials believed to be supporters of the opposition, attacks on opposition infrastructure and many other acts of venality and peevishness that his government has committed – would have been avoided.

      The Yenga issue is, as hinted above, the legacy of two searing historical factors: European colonialism and a brutal post-colonial civil war. Surprisingly, both now carry equal resonance. However, for all the right reasons the emphasis should be on the more recent past. For Guinea entered Yenga not as an enemy but as a friend in pursuit of a common enemy, a 'rebel' force of medieval barbarity. Guinea, in fact, has been a very good neighbour of Sierra Leone, on countless occasions coming to the aid of the desperately inept Sierra Leonean army as well as taking up tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans fleeing the depredations of the rebels, as refugees. I will return to this point, but first to the colonial provenance.

      Ian Brownlie’s 'African Boundaries: A Legal and Diplomatic Encyclopaedia', published by Hurst (London) for the Royal Institute of International Affairs in 1979, at 1355 pages long is the invaluable guide to the historical basis of African borders. I picked up a copy at Hurst’s offices in London recently. The book reproduces a number of documents, including agreements and letters and memoranda from British and French officials which formed the basis of the Sierra Leone–Guinea border. The first was the Anglo-French Convention of 28 June 1882 (preceding the Berlin Conference which officially partitioned the African continent among the Europeans, by two years). The British recognised French claims to Mellacourie (of which, as I noted earlier, Yenga would have formed a part) which now meant French control of the entire Futa Jallon region, the basis of their colony of Guinea. Article 11 of the convention stated that the 'Island of Yelboyah and all islands claimed or possessed by Great Britain on the West Coast of Africa lying to the south … as far as the southern limit of the … colony of Sierra Leone' shall henceforth be recognised by France as belonging to Great Britain and the 'Matacong and all islands claimed or possessed by France on the West Coast of Africa to the north … as far as Rio Nunez' shall be recognised by Great Britain as belonging to France.

      This document is rather imprecise when broken down into parts and successive agreements between the two European powers would modify it considerably. In fact, the present border was only firmly agreed on in 1912–13. The original agreement, for example, placed Pamalap and a large part of Kabala District under French jurisdiction. However, pressure from British merchants (the area was lucrative in the groundnut trade) forced the British authorities to renegotiate with the French. Consequently, these places were ceded to the British. Then British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, who never visited West Africa, proposed the final adjustments in January 1911. The new agreement defined the Moa or Makona river as the physical boundary dividing the two entities; none of the documents – which are exact about place names and physical conditions ('ruined villages', etc.) – mention Yenga. It almost certainly did not exist at the time. But the final protocol delimiting the boundary is precise: 'the frontier … follows the thalweg [a line connecting the lowest points of successive cross-sections of a valley] of the River Meli [from Guinea] to its meeting with the Moa, or Makona, on the understanding that the islands marked by Letters A and B on the attached map belong to France and that the island marked C belongs to Great Britain.' The protocol, signed at Pendembu on 1 July 1912, accepted Grey’s proposal that within six months of the signing of the agreement 'the natives in the transferred territories shall be permitted to cross the frontier to settle on the other side and to carry with them their portable property and harvested crops.'

      Grey had also proposed – and this was accepted – that where 'a river forms the boundary, the populations on both banks shall have equal rights of fishing'. And there’s the rub. What if something more valuable than fish, oil or diamonds say, are found in the river? How would this agreement work? The agreement simply said that the use of 'hydraulic power' in the river would only be authorised by agreement between the two states. Furthermore, using a river as a boundary is problematic, since rivers can dry up (there is the greenhouse effect, which no one knew about then) and damming can change the course of any river.

      In fact, it all worked well until the recent war in Sierra Leone and with it, the Revolutionary United Front’s (RUF) discovery of diamonds in the Moa and subsequent Guinean occupation, initialised by RUF incursions into Guinea. It worked rather too well, in fact. Graham Greene, idling for a day or so at that border area in the early 1930s walked from Kailahun into Guinea (then French Guinea), but of course he does not mention Yenga in his classic travel book of this West African trip, 'Journey without Maps' as almost certainly, he wouldn’t have taken notice. The border between the two colonies, Greene wrote, 'is the Moa River, about twice the width of Thames at Westminster'. Then Greene makes a very sapient observation: 'The curious thing about these boundaries, a line of river in a waste of bush, no passports, no Customs, no barriers to wandering tribesmen, is that they are as distinct as a European boundary; stepping out of a canoe one was in a different country. Even nature had changed; instead of forest … a narrow path ran straight forward for mile after mile through tall treeless elephant grass.'

      I recently visited the area. The lush rainforest on the Sierra Leonean side that so impressed Greene has been largely denuded by unrestrained logging activity, generally no husbandry, etc. One now sees the same humungous or elephant grass that Greene saw on the Guinean side harassing the tiny motor road leading to Yenga. Guinean troops are now firmly in control and recently forced a Sierra Leone political contingent to disarm its security before entering the place.

      A bad sign, but in fact it was not always like that. The problem began in September 2000 when the RUF attacked a number of Guinean border towns south of the capital, Conakry. The area had become home to tens of thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees fleeing attacks on civilians inside Sierra Leone, part of the RUF’s 10-year campaign of terror and destruction in that country. Not long afterwards, the RUF attacked Guinean towns and villages in the ‘Parrot’s Beak’ area of the country, emerging from Sierra Leone and from points along the Liberian border. Here they caused much greater destruction and dislocation, driving Guineans out of their homes along with as many as 75,000 Sierra Leonean refugees who had been living on the Guinean side of the border for several years.

      The RUF attacks attracted little attention, except as a humanitarian footnote to the more notorious conflict in Sierra Leone. I spent two weeks in Guinea at the time researching a report for Partnership Africa Canada and I reported then that Guineans themselves appeared to be confused. Following rebel attacks on Forecariah, less than 100km from the capital Conakry and home to tens of thousands of refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia, in early September 2000 the Guinean President Lansana Conté broadcast an inflammatory statement on state radio and television. He blamed the incursions on the refugees, provoking widespread attacks by Guinean police, soldiers and civilian militias on the already traumatised refugees.

      The attacks on Forecariah, by RUF rebels operating from Kabala, a Sierra Leonean town close to the Guinean border, were diversionary and the rebels withdrew without much resistance after Guinean forces counter-attacked. However, better planned and more coordinated incursions were soon to follow. In January 2001 the RUF moved from Sierra Leone, along with Charles Taylor’s forces into the diamond-rich areas around Macenta (in the so-called Forest Region), Madina Oula (near Kindia) and the important trading city of Guéckedou, which like Forecariah, was home to tens of thousands of refugees. The attacks on Macenta and the destruction of Guéckedou alerted Guineans to the seriousness of the crisis. The attacks quickly spread, threatening to engulf the districts around Bonankoro.

      Then finally Guinea responded proportionately. With crucial help from the United States (which maintained an annual C-JET training program with the Guinean army) and France, Guinea acquired some armoured helicopters and some old MiG fighter bombers which were used to pound rebel bases in both Sierra Leone and Liberia. Guinea also helped to train over 1,000 Donsos (the Kono name for Kamajors or the Civil Defence Forces) made up of Konos and Kissis from the Yenga area and Kono District, all along the Guinea–Sierra Leone border, deploying them against the RUF. I saw about a thousand of them during my visit and also saw British officers who had an open-ended military commitment to Sierra Leone, helping to train the Guineans and the Donsu militia. Guinea routed the RUF, helping to accelerate the disarmament process in Sierra Leone; in effect, Guinea defeated the RUF. It then occupied the Sierra Leonean side of the border, including Yenga.

      After the war ended, Kabbah negotiated the withdrawal of most of the Guinean forces but renegade officers, now engaged in lucrative mining at Yenga, refused to move and the ailing Guinean leader was simply a hostage of the military. An agreement was signed on 15 November 2002, months after the war officially ended by Sierra Leone’s internal affairs minister the late Hinga Norman and his Guinean counterpart, El-Haj Moussa Solano, affirming the colonial-era border agreement. But the agreement was not conclusive, it called for the setting-up of a committee to work towards a resolution that would restore Yenga to Sierra Leone but assure Guinean border security – a very legitimate issue obviously. But the talks have become open-ended and there is no assurance that Yenga will be restored to Sierra Leone soon, or perhaps ever at the current pace.

      Personally, I see little problem with the Guinean presence at Yenga, but clearly it is a volatile issue, what with the attempt to politicise it. But all loose talk about reclaiming the village by force should be discouraged. Inflammatory steps by some NGOs like World Vision’s (a notoriously vulgar group which is in the habit of showing poor and sick black and brown kids on TV to raise money) which a couple of years ago claimed that it was prevented from building a school at Yenga by Guinean troops, should be firmly suppressed. Many of the impoverished villages on both sides of the border do not have functioning schools, so why pick on beleaguered Yenga?

      The flamboyant Sierra Leonean Defence Minister Paolo Conteh has been quoted saying that there is no point in negotiating with the Guinean junta since it has not been recognised by either the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) or the African Union (AU). He has a point, though it is utterly impolitic of him to have gone public with such a statement; street corner talk has its place, but it should be allowed in the Defence Ministry or State House.

      While President Koroma can make his very loud votaries and supporters feel good by declaring that Sierra Leone and Guinea are sister countries who are working together to resolve the Yenga issue without resort to international mediating bodies, the overheated rhetoric elsewhere is not reassuring. I think it is time that ECOWAS takes tentative steps to engage both nations on the issue. There is a clear early warning signal here…


      * Lansana Gberie is a Sierra Leonean academic and journalist.
      * Please send comments to [email protected]
      or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Africa's expectations of Obama are unfounded

      Sehlare Makgetlaneng


      cc US Army
      Given US President Obama’s Kenyan ancestry, hopes have run high that his administration would change the nature of America’s relationship with Africa, writes Sehlare Makgetlaneng in Pambazuka News. But, argues Makgetlaneng, these expectations, dented by Obama’s Ghana speech, have no basis in political, economic and ideological positions articulated by Obama himself. Obama’s interests in Africa, Makgetlaneng suggests, like those of his predecessors, are bound up with the defence and expansion of the strategic interests of the United States.

      Gerald Caplan in his article, Obama in Africa: A Major Disappointment maintains that he and his fellow ‘progressives involved in Africa’ are disappointed with Barack Hussein Obama’s foreign policy towards Africa as follows:

      ‘As expected, President Obama used his twenty-four-hour trip to Ghana to send messages about his thinking and his priorities for Africa. This was a moment that progressives involved in Africa have been waiting for, hoping for some clear thinking about Africa’s many challenges and the American role in addressing them. On the basis of his interviews and speeches, they will be sorely disappointed. Once we get beneath the eloquence and style, it’s hard to point to anything in any of his remarks that couldn’t have been said, however inarticulately, by George Bush.’[1]

      Caplan and his fellow ‘progressives’ are not alone in their major disappointment with the Obama administration’s Africa policy. Other individuals have registered this disappointment, particularly after Obama’s visit to Ghana. What are the sources of this disappointment? What is its basis? Caplan, ‘a Toronto-based researcher-writer and activist’ with a PhD in African history and the author of Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide has ‘documented the case against the Obama analysis of Africa’ in his book, The Betrayal of Africa, published in 2008. Has Obama betrayed Africa? What does it mean that Obama, the United States national and the president of the United States, has betrayed Africa? Has he ever maintained that he will solve its problems? Is his task to solve Africa’s problems?


      Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States of America on 4 November 2008. His inauguration as the United States president was on 20 January 2009. It is the first time in the history of the United States that an African serves as its president. This in itself is an issue of the socio-historical significance, not only in the history of the United States internal relations, but also in its relations with the rest of the world particularly Africa. He is the son of an African father from Kenya and of a European mother from the United States. This socio-historical development raised high expectations that that his administration will change the content of the United States internal relations and its relations with Africa. Some African leaders have articulated these expectations in public.

      What was the basis of these expectations? Was it expected that the United States was going to usher in a new qualitative direction in its relations with Africa because for the first time an African American with an African father from Kenya is its president? Was it also expected that the foreign policy of the Obama administration towards Africa was going to be informed by his ties to Kenya, and that these ties were going to help in providing him a great personal connection to the continent and its people, more than any other United States president before him? Was it appropriate to have raised the question as to whether his administration was going fulfil the requirements of these expectations because of his race and his connection to the continent through his family ties to Kenya? Did Obama articulate political, economic and ideological position raising these expectations?

      Another point is that the decisive majority of leaders of African countries in the post-colonial era have not advanced the interests of the masses of the people. They have served as their enemies. This brutal reality has not changed. It has remained essentially the same. The decisive majority of leaders of African countries are enemies of the masses of the African people and development and progress of their countries and the continent.

      These are the very same leaders who claim to expect Obama to contribute towards the resolution of problems internal to African countries – problems they have actively created and sustain – some by any means necessary, including violence.

      Is it realistic to expect the United States president and his or her administration to contribute towards the resolution of the structural problems in Africa – problems created and sustained by the United States? Obama made it clear in some of his statements that his administration was going to be committed to the defence and expansion of the strategic interests of the United States.


      This structural reality is understood by leaders such as Mwai Kibaki and his Kenyan national allies including Raila Odinga, and continental allies such as Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and His Majesty King Mswati III. They fully understand that the Obama administration in its policy towards Africa will not abandon the strategic value of continuity in the United States policy by crafting and executing substantial policy changes.

      It was structurally clear that those who expected that the Obama administration was going to substantially deviate from the expansive, moralistic, conservative, militaristic, brutal and ruthless essence of the United States foreign policy were going to be disappointed. The history of the United States relations with Africa in particular and the rest of the South in general has been the history of the struggle for the accumulation and expansion of power wealth and zones of control or spheres of influence.

      Regarding itself as a model for the rest of the world, the United States has been dealing with the world in terms of its subscription to its ‘manifest destiny’ thesis, used to justify that it must meet requirements of insatiable thirst for its imperialist expansion into Africa and the rest of the South. For some progressive forces to expect Obama and his administration to deviate from this essence of the United States foreign policy is to disappoint themselves, not by Obama and his administration.

      Ties and recycled members of cabinet and senior officials connecting the Clinton administration and the George W. Bush administration to the Obama administration and the prominence of those who were members of the Clinton administration are not the key reasons why the strategic value of continuity in foreign policy is not being abandoned. Obama articulated his position on subscribing to the strategic importance of the value of the continuity in the United States foreign policy before he was elected the president. During the campaign, he called upon the United States to continue being ‘the leader of the free world’, leading it ‘in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good’. According to him, the execution of this task is the issue of doing justice to its purpose in the world, which ‘is to promote the spread of freedom’.


      Obama’s victory was globally celebrated as a victory in the struggle against racism. It was also celebrated as a new beginning in the relationship between the United States with the rest of the world, particularly developing countries. Some of his statements during his campaign and in his inaugural address contributed to this celebration. He pointed out in his inaugural address that ‘we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord’ and that his administration will ‘seek a new way forward based on mutual interests and mutual respect’ in the United States international relations. However, his address was not focused. It was far from being a substantial and welcome addition to the presidential development and articulation of domestic and foreign policy direction.

      Obama made serious efforts to convince his fellow Americans that their country can use its power not to create more enemies, but to help to build its global acceptable view, more beneficial to the defence and expansion of its strategic interests particularly in developing countries. Hilary Clinton, secretary of state, alluded to this when she pointed out that by ‘electing Barack Obama our next president, the American people have demanded not just a new direction at home, but a new effort to renew America’s standing in the world as a force for positive change.’ Al Gore, former vice-president of the United States, was more direct. In his words:

      ‘Barack Obama’s vision and voice represent the best of America. His life experience embodies the essence of our motto – E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). That is the linking identity at the other end of all the hyphens that pervade our political culture. It is that common American identity which Barrack Obama exemplifies heart and soul that enables us as Americans to speak with moral authority to all of the peoples of the world, to inspire hope that we as human beings can transcend our limitations to redeem the promise of human freedom.[2]

      His electoral victory was used to morally, culturally, racially and politically rehabilitate United States’ imperialism and the worse it offers the masses of the people of the world. There are key issues which are regarded as factors making this possible.

      Firstly, his African and European combined racial identity. Secondly, his tactical means of being not focused, direct, serious and confrontational on race, race relations and racism in a society in which his fellow Africans are ‘a racial minority in a country where racism is a fact of life, a country that was founded on economic and imperialist racism.’[3]This second issue is highly appreciated by the United States rulers, their allies and their organic intellectuals. Thirdly, as the president of a multilateral imperialist superpower which is a racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious microcosm of the world, he is regarded by some forces as the deception tool to be used in representing the United States rulers, not only in their country’s internal relations, but also in its international relations in today’s world which is different from that of yesterday.


      Today’s world is characterised by the declining legitimacy of imperialist powers. This development in international relations is a result of various processes.

      Firstly, as the sole superpower, the United States, supported by some of its strategic partners such as the United Kingdom, has unprecedentedly increased its aggressive, combative, chauvinist, arrogant and reckless pursuit of policies, some of which are criticised and condemned by some of its allies. Some of these policies have increased the socio-economic suffering and pain of the masses of the people of the world who are the direct recipients of the damage inflicted on them by imperialism.

      Secondly, the legitimacy of the United States is interlinked with that of other imperialist powers. As the legitimacy of the United States declines, that of its imperialist partners is structurally bound to decline, particularly as a result of their solidarity and unity with their leaders and the global opposition it generates.

      Thirdly, the challenge to imperialist powers coming from countries with potential to lead to a multipolar power constellation, such as China. They are regarded as social formations destined to be the most important centres of power in international relations.

      Fourthly, the participation of the global movement for socio-political and economic justice is challenging the legitimacy of imperialist powers. This movement has played a role of crucial importance in ‘debunking and delegitimising’ imperialist powers by ‘questioning the very idea’ that the few ‘self-appointed countries can presume to determine the fate of humanity.’[4] Thanks to the efforts of this progressive movement, today’s world is characterised by the intensified mobilisation against imperialism, its global agenda and the basis of its governance and the authority it uses in articulating its rule and subjecting developing countries and their people to its domination and exploitation.


      How is the Obama administration going to respond to this global reality, is the question raising another question, as to how it is going to satisfy its supporters whose interests and positions are antagonistic? Included in the second question should not be the question as to what the administration can do for the global movement for social justice. The question for members of this movement is the issue as to what they should do, in advancing the cause his administration is structurally opposed to. It is not to say that they are disappointed by his administration’s implementation of its domestic and foreign policy decisions. They should expect it to implement decisions provide against the strategic and tactical objectives of the United States domestic and foreign policies.

      Obama was groomed for the presidency by the Trilateral Commission as more attractive and historically relevant than all other presidential aspirants to tackle this global reality confronting imperialism and its rulers. Some of its leading strategic theoreticians support this position. One of them is Zbigniew Brzezinski, the co-founder of the Trilateral Commission and its first executive director from its inception in 1973 until 1976 when he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as assistant to the president for National Security Affairs. Brzezinski, the author of several books serving as policy guidelines for the Trilateral Commission, was Obama’s principal foreign policy advisor. Introducing Obama at Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa on 12 September 2007, he criticised what he called colonialist policies of the Bush administration in a post-colonial world, as if he is against neo-colonialism which Nkrumah maintains that it is the last stage of imperialism.[5] In supporting and endorsing Obama’s presidential candidacy, he pointed out that ‘What makes Obama attractive to me is that he understands that we live in a very different world where we have to relate to a variety of cultures and peoples.’ For him, the issue in the 2008 presidential elections was not just to choose a new president. The choice made was going to ‘define America’s role in a historically new era.’ Maintaining that Obama ‘has a sense of what is historically relevant and what is needed from the United States in relationship with the world,’ he concluded that he represents ‘a new face, a new sense of direction, a new definition of America’s role in the world.’

      Obama is being used by leaders of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations to put a new face on the United States’ domestic and foreign policies and the institutions implementing them. Leaders of the Council on Foreign Relations are responsible for the formation of the Trilateral Commission. There are structural inter-linkages and close patterns of cooperation between these two organisations. Since its inception, the Trilateral Commission has been playing the central role in providing the political administration of the United States. The strategic importance of providing the political administration of the North American, Western European and Japanese trilateral centre of capitalism is one of the key purposes of the Trilateral Commission.


      Because of the racist nature of imperialism since its inception, the relationships between imperialist countries and developing countries, the relationship between the race question and the class question in the developed and developing countries – particularly in the distribution of wealth and privileges and their opposites – and the role of the United States in ‘safeguarding of the alliance of the capitalists of all countries against the working people,’[6] Obama’s presidency is regarded as an unprecedented development of crucial importance in the history of imperialism. It symbolises a necessary change in racial representation in the political management of imperialism in its post-Cold War multilateral phase, and a hope for a softer face of global capitalism. Any means necessary is used to rehabilitate and defend the imperialist system.

      Brzezinski is the same person who pointed out clearly in no uncertain terms that democracy is against the practical and theoretical task of serving imperialism and that it will become more difficult to execute key foreign policy issues in an increased multi-racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious United States. ‘Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilisation,’ he wrote in 1997.[7] He continued that as ‘America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstances of a truly massive and widely direct external threat.’[8] This position suggests that a person like Obama should not be the United States president. Why has Brzezinski, National Security advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, the Center for Strategic and International Studies counselor and trustee and co-chairperson of its advisory board, supported and endorsed Obama’s presidential candidacy and played a key role for him to be nominated as the presidential candidate and elected as the president?

      As the greatest strategic thinker, who understands the fundamental and structural need to make changes in policy to achieve what is in the best interests of the rulers of advanced capitalist powers sitting in judgement of their own actions, he is fully aware of the possibility that the seeds of the defeat of the system may lie internally in the United States and be carried by its increased multi-racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious nature against the present global pain and suffering its ruling class sustains.

      Imperialist domination of Africa under the leadership of the United States is the strategic objective that constitutes the focus of its policy makers. This is an integral part of the United States position, not only on its enemies and opponents, but also its allies and friends regarding the defence and expansion of its leadership of the world. This position is articulated by Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the leading strategic organic intellectuals of multilateral imperialism, in his works. According to him, the United States must protect its ‘global primacy’ by any means necessary. It must ensure that ‘no state or combination of states gains the ability to expel the United States’ from its leadership of the world ‘or even diminish its decisive role’ and that a ‘benign American hegemony must… discourage others from posing a challenge… by making its costs too high.’[9] For him, countries dominated by imperialism should not challenge the United States domination of the world. No other advanced capitalist country should attempt to take over the leadership of the world and imperialism from the United States. The United States must remain the leader of the world and the imperialist camp. The point is that ‘the only alternative to American leadership’ of the word ‘is international anarchy.’[10]


      Obama made it clear that, if elected the president of the United States, his administration was going to continue with Africa Command. It became fully operational on 1 October 2008, one month before he was elected the president. He made it clear that it was going to be central in the United States strategy using military force in Africa to intensify its access to energy resources and other vital strategic resources.

      Obama provided the conclusive evidence that his administration was going to continue with Africa Commandas the organisational structure serving the militarisation of the United States Africa policy in his answers to the Presidential Town Hall Meeting Africa Questionnaire, organised by the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation in October 2007. Responding to the questionnaire, he maintained that Africa Command ‘should serve to coordinate and synchronise our military activities with our other strategic objectives in Africa,’ that it should ‘help to integrate military capabilities with the other elements of US power and diplomacy’ and that it should ‘provide a more united and coordinated engagement plan for Africa.’ Maintaining that ‘there will be situations that require the United States to work with its partners in Africa to fight terrorism with lethal force,’ he concluded that ‘having a unified command operating in Africa will facilitate this action.’[11]

      Obama was calling for the intensification of the militarisation of the United States Africa policy. Throughout the campaign, he clearly articulated the need for the United States to intensify its military efforts in Pakistan with or without the approval of its leaders and its right to take unilateral military actions against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist organisations in Afghanistan. He repeatedly voted in the Senate supporting the Bush administration’s funding the occupation of Iraq. He called for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan. He never seriously criticised and questioned the legitimacy of the United States war against terrorism on the international scale.

      Paul Moorcraft maintains that that ‘Obama may have African blood flowing in his veins, but his main focus in foreign policy is the middle East and Afghanistan, the war on Islamist terror’ and that he ‘does care about the continent, but his’ main ‘priorities are the economy at home and abroad, getting out of Iraq, and fighting the long war in Afghanistan.’[12] Is he correct or incorrect in maintaining this position?

      Obama’s position that Africa Command ‘should serve to coordinate and synchronise our military activities with our other strategic objectives in Africa’ is the same position articulated by Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant secretary of defence for African affairs, in her testimony before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on African Affairs on 1 August 2007 that:

      ‘Some people believe that we are establishing AfriCom solely to fight terrorism, or to secure oil resources, or to discourage China. This is not true. Violent extremism is cause for concern, and needs to be addressed, but this is not AfriCom’s singular mission. Natural resources represent Africa’s current and future wealth, but in a fair market environment, many benefit. Ironically, the US, China and other countries share a common interest – that of a secure environment. AfriCom is about helping Africans build greater capacity to assure their own security.’[13]


      Obama made it clear that he was going to use his African and ‘Kenyan roots’ in advancing strategic interests of United States imperialism in Kenya and Africa. In his memo of gratitude to his Kenyan supporters he articulated the position that Israel is the strategic ally of the United States in the Middle East by stating that ‘part’ of the United States ‘foreign policy is to ensure the safety and secure borders of Israel, safe routes of our oil supplies and commitment to our bilateral and multilateral allies.’ Reminding them that Kenya has always been the friend of the United States, he concluded that United States–Kenya ‘ties shall now be strengthened’ by his ‘heritage’. He used dictatorial and bullying tone in addressing ‘a sovereign state’. He threatened the government of Kenya to allow his administration to build Africa Command headquarters in Kenya. In a typical Anglo-American imperialist arrogant and chauvinist style of addressing Africans and their governments, he told Kenyans and their government where his administration wanted to build Africa Command headquarters in Kenya. It is as if Kenya is an extension of the United States. Is he asking or demanding to build headquarters of Africa Command in a particular place in Kenya – headquarters, if built, to be led, coordinated and dictated by the United States. In his words:

      ‘Our relationship could be imperilled should your foreign policy be at odds with ours. We will never dictate your policy as you are a sovereign state, but our relationship is dependent on your choices. Kenya may benefit if it makes certain strategic decisions.

      What are these ‘certain strategic decisions’ which Kenyan rulers should make for them to benefit more in their relations with the United States under the leadership of their ‘son, brother’ and ‘friend?’ He continued in his patronising tone that:

      We are looking for a base in Africa to build our AfriCom headquarters, and Lamu is one of the likely locations. In the event that you accept our request, we will make Lamu a deep-sea port and build a railway line from there to Ethiopia, our other strategic ally in the region. The choice again I say is yours.’

      Beth Tuckey, the associate director of the development and policy programme at Africa Faith and Justice Network in Washington, DC, articulated the continued arrogance and chauvinism in the United States Africa policy after the November 2008 presidential elections, in the article published in Pambuzaka News on 2 October 2008, explains how the Obama administration will contradict Obama’s declared position on the importance of transparent and accountable government. In her words:

      ‘Never mind that AfriCom’s mandate involves direct military-to-military training and equipping, rather than support for an African Union (AU) that conducts multilateral peacekeeping missions. Never mind that AfriCom’s stated goals involve protecting American interests, rather than ensuring that the African people’s primary needs and desires are met. Never mind that many African governments and African civil society strongly oppose AfriCom. No, the next administration will ignore all of that in the blind belief that the United States can unilaterally bring peace and prosperity to the African continent.[14]

      Will the question what the Obama administration can do for the African continent and its people not be the defence of the continued arrogance and chauvinism displayed in the analysis of the United States Africa policy? Why some ‘progressives’ analyse only what American, Chinese Russian, Indian and other external actors, not African actors, in the theatre of the United States Africa policy? Is this not the articulation of the racist position that Africa is the field of action, not an actor in its relations with the United States?


      Like other United States presidents in their inaugural address, he pointed out in his inaugural address that his administration ‘will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence.’ There was nothing new in this articulation of preparedness to defend the system at all costs by any means necessary. President J.F. Kennedy articulated it in his inaugural address on 20 January 1961 when he warned ‘Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’ He called upon the people of the United States to actively play a role in ‘a struggle against the common enemies of man: Tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.’[15] Kennedy pointed out that the United States must be prepared in shouldering responsibility to control processes in the global capitalist order. He expressed this issue when he stated in his address that ‘In the long history of the world only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom from its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.’[16] It was in this address that an us-versus-them thesis was articulated clearly for the first time in the history of the United States foreign policy. Since the articulation of this thesis, countries have been forced to either become allies of the United States or to accept the consequences of being regarded as its enemies. This is the same ‘You are either with us or against us’ thesis articulated by President Bush following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. ‘Over time it’s going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity,’ Bush said. Pointing out that it was time for action, he concluded that ‘You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.’[17]


      The war on terror ensures the United States policy of containment for Africa. Obama made it clear that his administration was going to intensify the ‘war on terror.’ Speaking at the State Department on 22 January 2009, he told his diplomatic corps that ‘We are confronted by extraordinary, complex and interconnected global challenges: War on terror, sectarian division and the spread of deadly technology. We did not ask for the burden that history has asked us to bear, but Americans will bear it. We must bear it.’ This war on terror will be intensified against Africa and the rest of the South or ‘the dark corner of the world’ as George Bush pointed out in his address to the West Point graduating cadets on 1 June 2002. In his words: ‘Our security will require transforming the military you lead, a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world.’


      Peter Mandelson as European Union Trade Commissioner in 2008 called upon President Bush’s successor to ensure that the United States is with its European strategic partners in the fight to save imperialism from its enemies. This is to be done by ‘renewing’ the leading multilateral institutions to ‘hold’ developing countries ‘together by tough debates on climate change, energy security and trade,’ and ‘adapting’ the United Nations, the Word Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund to ‘give’ developing countries ‘a chance, not just to exercise their rights, but to assume their responsibilities’ within this system.

      Their role as dominated social formations is to enable the political leaders of the countries constituting its centre in ‘tackling economic insecurity and inequalities’ in their ‘own societies.’[18] Central to his position is the strategic importance of developing countries in helping advanced capitalist countries to manage their internal socio-political and economic contradictions. This issue is indirectly articulated by Mandelson when he maintains that:

      ‘Americans and Europeans might welcome the fact that globalisation is narrowing inequality between countries, but they are more worried by the risk that it is widening the gap within their own. If we want to preserve our open economies, we need to build a social contract that guards against economic insecurity and inequality in our own societies.’[19]

      If Mandelson is diplomatic about the role of the multilateral organisations in the defence of the imperialist system and the strategic interests they represent as well as their leadership, Brzezinski is sincerely and honestly brutal about the American leadership role of the system. In his words:

      ‘Unlike earlier empires, this vast complex global system is not a hierarchical pyramid. Rather, America stands at the centre of an interlocking universe, one in which power is exercised through continuous bargaining, dialogue, diffusion, and quest for formal consensus, even though that power originates ultimately from a single source, namely, Washington, D.C. And that is where the power game has to be played, and played according to America’s domestic rules. Perhaps the highest compliment that the world pays to the centrality of the democratic processes in American global hegemony is the degree to which foreign countries are themselves drawn into the domestic American political bargaining.[20]

      Brzezinski continues stating that:

      In addition, one must consider as part of the American system the global web of specialised organisations, especially the ‘international’ financial institutions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank can be said to represent ‘global’ interests, and their constituency may be construed as the world. In reality, however, they are heavily American dominated and their origins are traceable to American initiative, particularly the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944.[21]

      We must not base our unity and solidarity primarily on the race question. We must judge leaders including Obama not primarily in terms of their race, but by the form and content of their political, economic and ideological position and the way they substantiate their theoretical position on issues and processes in practice. There are Africans who are enemies of the masses of the African people.


      One of the socio-historical significance of the Obama administration on the ideological front of the struggle, particularly in the United States, is bound to be its contribution towards the correct view of the relationship between the class question and the race question. It will help in waging a war against the incorrect thesis of the primacy of the race question over the class question. It is going to contribute towards the acceptance of the correct thesis of the primacy of the class question over the race question. It will do so particularly if it fails to satisfy the needs, interests and demands of the masses of Africans of the United States. The failure of the African president of the United States to advance the interests of the masses of his fellow Africans of the country will be one of the key issues leading towards this contribution.

      Warning those highly optimistic that the Obama administration was going to significantly change the United States internal relations and its relations with the rest of the world and that it was going to help to effect international progressive changes of risk of being disappointed, Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister, concluded that ‘I am deeply convinced that the biggest disappointments are born out of big expectations.’

      We must ensure that our theory and practice reflect the link between knowledge and power in which the masses of the African people view themselves as historical subjects with power not only to transform their countries, but also, most importantly, as the foundation against subversion of structures of their power and authority against the system of socio-political and economic injustice by the fact that the president of the imperialist superpower is a member of their race.


      * Sehlare Makgetlaneng is the head of the Governance and Democracy Research programme at the Africa Institute of South Africa in Pretoria, South Africa
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      [1] Gerald Caplan, ‘Obama in Africa: A Major Disappointment,’ AfricaFiles, 13 July 2009.
      [2] Al Gore, quoted in Xolela Mangcu, ‘Beautiful or ugly, the United States produced Obama,’ The Weekender (Johannesburg), 30-31 August 2008, p. 4
      [3] Walter Mosley, ‘A New Black Power,’ The Nation, 27 February 2006, p. 1
      [4] Nicola Bullard, ‘The G8 – not the only show in town,’ Critical Currents, No. 1, May 2007, p. 13
      [5] Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, New York: International Publishers, 1966.
      [6] V.I. Lenin, Report on Peace and Foreign Policy of the Republic, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969, p. 34
      [7] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, New York: Basic Books, 1997, p. 35
      [8] Ibi., p. 211
      [9] Zbigniew Brzezinski, ‘A Geostrategy for Eurasia,’ Foreign Affairs, Vol. 76, No. 5, September/October 1997, p. 52
      [10] Ibid., pp. 51-2
      [11] Barack Obama, ‘Presidential Town Hall Meeting Africa Questionnaire,’ The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, Washington, DC, 2007,
      [12] Paul Moorcraft, ‘The message and potential of Clinton’s Africa safari,’ Business Day (Johannesburg), 6 August 2009, p. 11
      [13] Theresa Whelan, Exploring the U.S. Africa Command and a new Strategic Relationship with Africa, Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on African affairs, Washington, DC, 1 August 2007.
      [14] Beth Tuckey, ‘The Weight of ‘Change’? AfriCom and the Presidential Election,’ Pambazuka News: Weekly Forum for Social Justice in Africa, 2 October 2008.
      [15] John Fitzgerald Kennedy, quoted in Wikipedia, ‘Kennedy Doctrine,’ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (not dated),, page 2 of 4.
      [16] Ibid.
      [17] George W. Bush, quoted in CNN, ‘Bush says it is time for action,’ November 6, 2001,, page 1 of 2 (Accessed on 11 May 2006) and George W. Bush, quoted in CNN, ‘‘You are either with us or against us,’’ November 6, 2001,, page 1 of 2.
      [18] Peter Mandelson, ‘New U.S. president must fan flame of globalization,’ Business Day (Johannesburg), 20 June 2008, p. 11
      [19] Ibid.
      [20] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, p. 28
      [21] Ibid., p. 27

      Comment & analysis

      Memories of war in Sierra Leone: The August 18th uprising

      Karim Bah


      cc B Mikes
      Drawing upon near-death personal experience to shine light on the brutality of Sierra Leone's rebel forces, Karim Bah discusses the little-publicised events of the August 18th student uprising in Sierra Leone. What really happened to Vaffie Konneh, an activist who attempted to help with the organisation of student protesters? And why have the ruling class and international community alike abandoned Sierra Leone's youth? Students, Bah argues in this week's Pambazuka News, are the key to reform and should be at the forefront of the struggle for human dignity, social justice and the redistribution of national wealth, wealth which belongs to each and every Sierra Leonean, and not just the country's elites.

      Twelve rainy seasons have passed since youths and students all over the major cities in Sierra Leone came out to protest against one of the most brutal military regimes ever seen in Africa. Led by university students, youths and ordinary workers took to the streets on 18 August 2007. They engaged in running battles with junta forces led by Major Johnny Paul Koroma. The ruthless soldiers had occupied strategic locations, especially in Freetown, as students demanded an immediate return to democratic rule and a halt to the gross human rights abuses in the country.

      The democratic struggle led by Buddhist monks in Myanmar during 2007 against an equally brutish junta is well-known. More recently, the student-led uprising against the oppressive Iranian theocracy was well-publicised. In both these scenarios images of the protesters were beamed to a global audience by major international news channels.

      Unfortunately, this is not the case in Sierra Leone. Apart from the BBC’s Africa service coverage, the uprising against Johnny Paul Koroma’s vicious junta received little or no coverage by the world’s media outlets. But for those of us who were involved in that uprising, the memories will live on forever. To us it was as important as that of Iran in 2009, Myanmar in 2007 and indeed the Tiananmen Square massacre in China in 1989. Our minds will forever continue to be filled with the remembrance of the sheer brutality and wanton orgy of blood-letting that was visited upon us by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council–Revolutionary United Front (AFRC–RUF) alliance.

      The violence by the junta left ordinary people shocked and dumbstruck. The exact number of people killed is not known to this day. At least two students were known to have been killed, some say mutilated to death. Hundreds of female students were captured, distributed among the various military camps and subjected to two weeks of gang rape by rebels and soldiers. They were then released physically and psychologically damaged, carrying their pains alone to this day.

      Other demonstrators, mostly students, were arrested and locked in shipping containers at the Cockerill Army headquarters in Freetown. The containers, which were without any ventilation, had been used to deliver arms and ammunition for the army before the coup.

      The day itself broke with a sombre morning, enveloped by the grey rainy-season skies, filled with melancholy and the foreboding mourning that awaited us. Voices of fierce-looking soldiers and rebels looking for students to kill, the clatter of menacing fresh new machetes and the cocking of AK-47s rifles still echo in our minds today. The rumble of a helicopter gunship hovering overhead still lingers. Their aim that day was to crush us like ants. Why? Because students dared to raise their opposition against an illegal military junta that had taken power three months earlier, a year after the return to representative democratic rule for the first time in 30 years.

      So it was amidst this Hobbesian ‘state of nature’, where life looked ‘nasty, brutish and short’, that I left my family home in the far east of Freetown and ventured into the city centre. I was armed with two teargas canisters, which I had secured from a pro-democrat police officer the previous night. In my naivety at the time I thought that the junta would send in the police armed with teargas to disperse us. I hoped that I would be able to throw my own teargas at them whilst escaping theirs. How I was mistaken.

      The soldiers came out in full force, fully prepared for war, perhaps even for a massacre of those students 'who oppose our government'. As the soldiers sharpened their shiny and newly acquired machetes, preferring as they said not to waste bullets on 'bloody civilians', we, the would-be demonstrators, remained defiant. We looked for the slightest opportunity to converge, unfurl our banners and start our chanting against the junta. I stood at Kissy Road watching a soldier chasing a suspected student. The young would-be demonstrator, dashed into the nearby compound by the Clock Tower roundabout. The soldier followed him closely, albeit struggling to carry himself as he was overloaded with ammunition, an AK-47 and a machete in his hand. The machete-wielding soldier shouted as he rushed into the courtyard waving it in the air menacingly. Another soldier followed behind closely. 'If you don’t produce him, all of you are dead meat', he added, doing a little war jig whilst brandishing his weapon, a semi-automatic machine gun with bullets wrapped around his half-naked body.

      Eventually the young man escaped with the help of an old lady who hid him away in her house. No matter how stubborn the soldiers became, the old woman would not budge, maintaining her frail but firm voice that the boy was not in the house. Such was the level of solidarity among ordinary people, who defended the students by all means. They showed us shorter escape routes and provided information to help our hasty retreat when soldiers were closing in. Ordinary people did this in the face of brutality and at the risk of their own lives. Later I learnt that the first batch of students in the city centre, on being chased by soldiers, sought refuge in hospital wards, among the sick in the main referral hospital. It was also reported by patients that when the soldiers entered the hospital, they rampaged through the wards, beat up sick patients and ripped off IVs looking for escaping students. No one was spared, not even the bed-ridden.

      My first close shave with death on that ignominious day came when travelling in a taxicab through 'up-gun' roundabout, where the demonstration was planned to start. I had just listened to the exiled President Tejan Kabbah on the clandestine 98.1 FM radio. He urged students to go out and show the world our disapproval with Johnny Paul Koroma’s junta and our stance on democracy. Alie Bangura (then using his alias Abdul Hakim Sesay) was also on air, egging us on by calling students heroic and the demonstration historic. He was made minister of trade upon the restoration of the Kabbah government to power.

      Our taxi (like all other taxis heading into the city that morning) was stopped at Ferry Junction by heavily armed soldiers. It was a do-or-die affair as I had my teargas canisters with me, which I quickly hid under the driver's seat. I had to wait for the other two passengers to get out first so they would not see my ’weapons’ being hidden, just in case they were not 'pro-democrats'. Then I quickly jumped out of the taxi to be searched. Thinking about it now, I was very lucky because none of the soldiers bothered to search inside the taxicab, they just searched the booth. Any peep into the taxi by the soldiers would have been it … sure death. In the haste and panic, I left one of the teargas canisters protruding out from under the seat. Surely the junta propagandists would have had a field day with headlines, where teargas canisters would have turned into a taxi-load of grenades. My next encounter with the soldiers was at Connaught hospital.

      I still remember the red-eyed soldier approaching me, looking fierce and drugged, so deadened by drugs that he could barely open his eyes. He demanded to see our ID cards after having rushed into the main gates of the Connaught referral hospital by the outpatient department in central Freetown. I was standing among the group of people (mostly female students from the school of nursing) who were pretending not to be part of the demonstration. There were also doctors, sick people and families of patients milling around as they attempted to catch a glimpse of the shocking brutality meted out on students.

      The soldier was from the military police (MP) with the usual red armband matching drug-induced, equally red eyes that competed for attention. Of course I had only my student ID card with me, the discovery of which would result in either the death sentence, or a sure reason for arrest and merciless beating if one was lucky. But perhaps even more dangerous was the fact that I still had the teargas canisters on me – a sure reason for mutilation to death if found. Luckily for me, I was standing some distance from the last people in the crowd. This, in addition to the fact that the soldier was so drugged up he could hardly see anyone, led him to turn away from me instead asking for the dreaded ID card.

      As the soldier turned away, I shuddered then felt relief. I could not believe that I was lucky the second time. It felt like a container-full of iron rods had just been suddenly lifted of my shoulders. This second lucky escape left me so psychologically shaken that I retreated to our base (Abdul Rashid’s house on Mountain Cut) to care for my wounds and ponder the next moves.


      With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps it was foolhardy of all those involved to have gone so far as to put their lives on the line for such a hopeless and scornful ruling class, one that has since not even acknowledged the contribution of the martyred student activist Vaffie Konneh. Vaffie was a final year Environmental Science student at Njala University, who was captured by soldiers whilst trying to mobilise students near Connaught hospital (where I luckily escaped). He was then reportedly tortured, beaten with gun butts, mutilated and then chopped into pieces.

      To this day, his family has not seen Vaffie’s body. Not a single member of the Tejan Kabbah-led administration even visited his family after their return to power, let alone create a monument in his honour. His family was left alone to pick up the pieces. They have never been compensated. This action by the ruling class begs the question: Will anyone risk their lives in the future event of a military/rebel coup like that of the AFRC? Once back in power, the Kabbah government continued to engage in business-as-usual, deriding any claims by young people for dignity and recognition as equal citizens.


      After 10 years of misrule by the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and two years of equally less promising All People's Congress (APC) leadership, the situation of young people has not changed for the better. They are asking themselves, given the betrayal of the SLPP and APC, whether it was worth risking their lives in the name of democracy when all that politicians showed them was ingratitude and scorn.

      Other students I spoke to recently think the so-called international community should bear some responsibility for perpetuating the biggest lie of our generation, that it was the British intervention in 2000 that ‘saved’ Sierra Leone from 'limb-hacking and arm-chopping rebels'! Of course the Sierra Leonean ruling class has supported this narrative mainly to receive the crumbs Britain calls ‘aid’. In the case of Sierra Leone the ex-British prime minister – notorious for his lies and propensity to 'spin' news to suit his policies – tried to use this 'humanitarian intervention' to cleanse his blood-stained hands, dirtied by adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. (I will handle this subject separately in a future piece).


      For the students and youths of Sierra Leone today, 10 years on, the struggle for democracy started in 1997 and will continue to press for true social change and freedom for the youths and all the 'wretched of the earth' in the country. Today Sierra Leone is the poorest country in the world, with the condition of its youths worsening day by day, not to mention the appalling condition of rural peasants, women and workers. Students should take their rightful place as a vanguard in our people’s fight for social and economic justice.

      The issues to be addressed are numerous, evidence of which can be seen all around the country. One might highlight for example the disgraceful national health situation, the massive youth unemployment, the unjust 'justice' system, the oppression of rural youths by chiefs and the outdated chieftaincy institution, the lack of basic services like clean water and free, quality education. While the people languish in obscene poverty and squalor, the looting of our national wealth by Western multi-nationals (with the collusion of our politicians and their Western backers) goes on. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank continue to impose poverty-inducing policies like privatisation and the over-taxation of the poor while mining companies are given 'tax concessions'. The list goes on.

      In sum, students should be at the forefront of our people’s right to dignity, to live as human beings while being able to reach their full potential. This is the ‘mission’ of our ‘generation’. Progressive elements within the students' movement should keep Vaffie Konneh’s spirit alive by rising above 'black man' vs. 'white man' parochialism and demand social justice and the redistribution of national wealth, which belongs to all and not just the elites.


      * Karim Bah is a pan-African community activist for social justice, journalist and film maker.
      * Please send comments to [email protected]
      or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Ethiopia: A country behind bars

      Etyopian Simbiro


      cc ALEMUSH
      Bad leadership has plagued the Ethiopian people throughout the country’s history, Etyopian Simbiro tells Pambazuka News, and today the once oppressed rebels that overthrew a brutal military junta have become oppressors themselves, stifling human rights and dashing hopes for a better future. In order to return power to the people and avoid the installation of yet another dictatorship, democratic federalism, Simbiro argues, is the way forward.

      Ethiopia has been behind bars since its start as a state: Its people the prisoners, its rulers as jailers.

      First, the feudalist system incarcerated the poor people, kings and nobles notoriously ‘owning’ peasants whose existence meant nothing but serving these upper echelons with utmost loyalty. Those who had ‘the wrong complexion’ were sold in the broad daylight to Arab merchants; internal slavery lasted as late as the 20th century, although abolished eventually. (What a contradiction in a sub-Saharan African nation that was supposed to be a symbol of freedom and hope to enslaved black people around the world!)

      Second, the so-called ‘socialist Ethiopia’ brought another round of incarceration with it, though its rulers promised to end the era of exploitation and human indignity at first. But just like any dictators, the rulers failed to deliver what they promised and made the conditions in the country worse beyond imagination.

      Perhaps George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ can best describe what happened in Ethiopia between 1974 and 1991. A Soviet-style silencing of dissent reigned in the country, enforcing terror and murder as a daily ritual. During this military era, the number of prisons more than doubled in the country, overflowing with innocent lives, most if not all bullet ridden and thrown in the streets like dogs: Some because they were considered ‘anti-Ethiopia’ and others ‘betrayers of the revolution.’ Myopic army officers and their ill-advised cadres hijacked the poor people’s revolution, making it their own to fulfil a short-term goal: Pillaging the country. The unfortunate dissenters died a bitter death at the hands of ruthless security agents who satisfied their ego by castrating men and by raping innocent young women in harsh prison camps, where human life was no more important than a fruit fly; those who had the opportunity left the country to live among strangers, or ran to the jungles to fight back the oppressive system – though themselves to become oppressors later on. In every direction, poor Ethiopia endured chaos.

      Third, the former rebels who called the jungle their home, but are today’s ‘masters’, self-ordained ‘revolutionary democrats’, who won the battle against the military junta, have decided to lock the country behind bars again. They installed a new form of dictatorship, recycling the same old style of oppression.


      Yesterday’s oppressed have now become today’s worst oppressors, invalidating the meaning of fighting for freedom and exacerbating the culture of vengeance, ethnic prejudice, and discrimination. They are also destroying the possibility of a dissenting and freethinking in Ethiopia step by step. They have already let the country down, a country that listened to the wind of change carefully and hoped that a better future would come, free from state-sponsored terror, torture, rape, and murder. The last 18 years have brought more misery to Ethiopia than what people expected and hoped to see; the minor changes here and there don’t really count. Just like in the past, one group still dominates the rest of the population, a one party system deceptively dressed as a multi-party system.

      Major opposition groups and their supporters, pro-democracy leader Judge Birtukan Mideksa, many innocents who got caught in the wrong place (some targeted because of their ethnic background and some lost without trace), and all who disagree with the current regime have been thrown to infamous jails such as Kaliti. The concept of free press barely exists. The rule of law remains a joke. Human rights? Nobody cares! ‘You are either with us or against us!’–That is pretty much how things work in Ethiopia today.

      Disguised as ‘revolutionary democrats’, it seems that the current rulers are carefully imitating the Communist Party of China (CPC) as their prime example. The way they aggressively recruit members, deal with dissent, and monopolise the economy, has so much similarity with CPC’s tactics. CPC is globally known as a notorious party that does not welcome opposition from either inside or outside the country. Limiting and banning local media, violating human rights, jamming and blocking foreign media, using intimidation and force to control dissent, spreading hysteria, pretending pro-democracy, and centralising the economy, characterise the nature of CPC’s dictatorship.

      Ethiopia’s current rulers lecture their audiences that ‘revolutionary democracy will eventually wither away, replacing itself with liberalism,’ openly accepting that they are truly dictators who have not yet renounced Marxism-Leninism and who will do anything to stay in power.

      So what is the solution to the cycle of the oppressed becoming the oppressor, and vice versa? Who will eventually free the country from its confinement? Do we have a guarantee that the next will be better? Will power be eventually returned to the people or will there be another era of dictatorship once more, favouring one’s group over another (or better to say: Pretending to favour one’s group to further advance one’s self-interest)?


      The way forward: Democratic federalism for a new, liberated, Ethiopia.

      Although I have very little knowledge on such complicated issue, I believe that all opposition groups based inside or outside Ethiopia, despite their multitude of differences, have to find a common ground to successfully challenge the current dictatorship, which has done its homework very well to control the 80 million people, using smear campaigns and ethnic federalism as its formidable weapons, and changing its tactics from time to time just like the CPC.

      A democratic system that prioritises group and individual rights must replace and end the current system, which applies authoritarianism to enforce its presence. The will of the opposition parties, left or right, determines the success of democratising Ethiopia. The opposition groups have not set a good example yet to be followed. Many young people, including myself, have nowhere to go. The organisational vacuum that is so obvious in almost all opposition parties disillusions the young. Party chairmen seem more concerned about keeping their chairmanship. The factionalism, the infighting, and the uncompromising behaviours that have been going on within the various parties, make one wonder if a real and meaningful change is really going to come any time soon.

      Whatever the future holds for Ethiopia, I believe that democratic federalism is the way forward, where a constitution that every citizen respects and agrees with becomes the supreme law of the land; where present and past injustices are properly acknowledged and never to be repeated; where people are the boss, and leaders just employees who can be fired or replaced; where religious or ethnic tolerance prevails; where democratic institutions flourish, granting the various groups equal political and economic opportunities; where one region can act independently of the other without implementing discriminatory regional policies, allowing the free flow of people and goods, the celebration of one’s language, culture, and identity freely – under a central government, which is comprised of the various stakeholders in the country, unlike the present or the past, and which intervenes in regional affairs as stated in the constitution; and, where compassion replaces vengeance. Such and other approaches may finally set Ethiopia free from years of incarceration.

      As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.’ The poor people of Ethiopia will surely win one day after centuries of bad governance and exploitation.


      * Etyopian Simbiro is an Ethiopian student based in the US.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Realising economic justice by empowering women

      Lila Kiwelu


      cc Neil JS
      Despite scores of studies and summits, gender equality in Africa remains elusive, Lila Kiwelu writes in Pambazuka News. Here Kiwelu shares some practical tools for tackling one of the most important causes of inequality on the continent – African women’s lack of access to and control over resources.

      The importance of gender equality in Africa has been over-emphasised. Research has been done, reports written and summits have been attended to drive this point home. Yet real equality between the men and women, boys and girls has not been achieved. Numerous studies have identified lack of access to and control over resources by African women amongst the most important causes of gender inequality on the continent.

      A report released by the World Bank entitled Engendering Development reemphasised that improving rural women’s access to productive resources including education, land, and fertilisers in Africa could increase agricultural productivity by as much as one-fifth. Indeed, the facts are out there but the action in response to this is wanting.

      This article is not meant to be a déjà vu of all that has been written regarding this matter but rather to inspire action in empowering women, which ultimately will enhance economic justice.


      One way of empowering women can be through addressing national budgets so that they are gender responsive. Gender responsive budgets are a variety of processes and tools aimed at assessing the impact of government budgets, mainly at national levels, on groups of women and men, by analysing gender relations in particular societal contexts. It makes clear sense that allocations made in the budget are gender sensitive because the contributions of men and women differ, and in this case women are the ones who bear the largest burden of poverty.

      The benefits of gender budgets have, in fact, been raised by international and regional agencies such as the Commonwealth, UNIFEM, UNDP, SADC as well as gender activists and scholars.

      Their main argument is that although most macroeconomic policies aim to improve human development and reduce poverty, the achievement of these goals is jeopardised by inefficiencies resulting from the failure to take into account the gender relations, as well as the specific needs of women and men.

      For instance in many homes the decisions on how to spend the family income are made by men. This is the reality of the patriarchal society we live in. Therefore, while we do our best in bringing economic justice, we must have in mind that the only way to do this is through sensitivity to and transformation of the unequal gender relations in the society.


      Secondly, Structural Adjustment Programmes imposed by financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have led to a further increase in women’s roles in and out of the home. The reduction of government spending on programmes that focus on health or water or sanitation has a direct impact on women, as they face greater challenges particularly in reference to their reproductive health and the search for clean drinking water.

      Studies have indicated that the introduction of agricultural technologies and better seed varieties which are aimed at improving productivity among farmers, and reducing government spending on the provision of agricultural inputs often have the opposite effect on women, by increasing the time spent on various aspects of the agricultural cycle like weeding and bird-scaring.


      It is imperative that women are involved in the decision-making processes within these structures, bestowing upon us the terms of compliance. This is one sure way of increasing their capacity in making decisions that will be of more benefit to them and the society at large. This does not refer just to the educated women only, but also to the women farmers in the rural areas. Their voices must be heard and this can only be done if they are part and parcel of the decision making process within economic sectors. In fact, they have to be the core partners if indeed poverty is to be tackled.


      Fully and effectively implementing the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa would be a crucial starting point for African governments. Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) , a coalition of non-governmental organisations with 30 members has been advocating for that for the last six years.

      The protocol holistically fortifies the framework for the promotion and protection of women’s rights significantly. Issues such as violence against women, HIV/AIDS, health and reproductive, as well as rape, sexual slavery and other sexual violence all have an impact on the woman’s ability to remain productive in society.

      Poverty cannot be tackled by using only one approach but rather by encompassing all aspects affecting women’s productivity and enjoyment of all fundamental rights. Ratification of this protocol is a great starting point in addressing gender inequality in the continent as the protocol advocates for all that is beneficial to women. For instance, their right to inheritance, access to and control over land, property and natural resources, which are key to economic empowerment. The ratification and implementation of the Protocol in conjunction with women’s awareness of the existence of the law and how to use it to realise their rights will definitely have a positive impact towards achieving economic justice. Are African governments listening?


      * Lila Kiwelu is a gender justice and governance intern with Oxfam GB.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


      Musa, R., & Edeme, B. Advocating for Women’s Rights: Experiences from Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition
      King, E. & Mason, A., 2002, EnGendering Development-Through Gender Equality In Rights, Resources and Voice, World Bank < in Annan-Yao, E et al Gender, Economics and Entitlements in Africa (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2004)
      Kabeer, N., 1993, Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought in Annan-Yao, E et al Gender, Economics and Entitlements in Africa (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2004)
      Kabeer, N and Subrahmanian, R., 1996, Institutions, Relations and Outcomes: Framework and Tools for Gender-Aware planning’ in Annan-Yao, E et al Gender, Economics and Entitlements in Africa (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2004)
      Mukasa, R.S. 2008, The African Women’s Protocol: Harnessing a Potential Force for Positive Change (Sunnyside, Oxfam: Fanele)

      Bringing women into the workforce

      It’s time for gender-aware job creation

      Michele Ruiters


      cc Magnus Franklin
      As women in developed and developing countries alike find themselves among those hardest hit by the global financial crisis, Michele Ruiters writes in Pambazuka News on the need for the South African government to exploit opportunities to build a ‘good foundation for women’s equal participation in the country’s economy’, through ‘gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting’ and the inclusion of women in ‘decision-making processes’.

      The global economic and financial crises have affected every economy around the world, some more than others: White and blue collar workers have lost their jobs; companies are either closing or struggling to make ends meet; governments are trying to secure additional funds for social spending and grappling with job creation strategies; and individuals are forced to make spending choices as their disposable income decreases. Women have been hardest hit by the economic crisis both in developing and developed countries because they often comprise the majority of the poor and occupy vulnerable jobs in any economy.

      In the last year, key industries have closed down, especially textile and service industries that employ mostly women with the result that they will feel the brunt of this recession more than men. During the Asian Crisis, women were employed in low-ranking jobs to keep labour costs low and were employed above men because they were cheap, controllable and worked hard. Now women workers are being forced out of the economy and are returning to the household as more women lose their jobs and take up the burden of unpaid work in their communities and at home. In many instances, this is the first feminised recession.


      As the crisis deepens, women take on more responsibilities outside the formal market and public space. As long as our governments and economies do not give a financial value to women’s unpaid work in households, women’s work will remain unaccounted for and not contribute to GDP. This omission makes invisible a significant potential contribution to the economy. Informal markets also increase in size as women are forced out of formal employment and jobs but the sector also does not quantify women’s work despite their dominance in informal markets.


      One positive aspect that has emerged from this crisis is that countries, especially emerging markets such as South Africa, Brazil, India and China will be forced to focus on their domestic economies. There is a significant difference between protectionist and inward-looking policies as the latter will look at strategies to strengthen local sectors and economies to better engage with global markets. Venezuela has chosen its own path, but many developing countries do not have that luxury; therefore we need to find ways that allow us to engage equitably. In the light of this argument, there are a number of opportunities the South African government can exploit in the coming months that will establish a good foundation for women’s equal participation in the country’s economy.

      Gender-aware job creation, of paramount importance in the next period, should provide employment solutions that support women and men in different ways depending on their geographic and economic contexts. Extended public works programmes begin make women’s care work visible, but they do not equip women with the necessary skills to enter the job market when the economy finally stabilises. We have to ensure that women’s employment is created in male-dominated sectors, for example, construction and infrastructure development; the motor industry; and mining. More especially, we have to determine what the gendered impact of big projects are: Are women contractors involved, were women community members engaged in the decision-making stages; and what benefits accrue to women in the long run due to the new stadium, bridge, road, border post and water stand?


      Women are the majority care-givers in most societies, therefore the public sector employment should look at formalising women’s work both in terms of contributions to the formal economy and to household income. Each day, African and Indian rural women spend eight to six hours fetching water; that amounts to 40 billion hours of unpaid work for African women and a loss of 150 million work days and 10 billion rupees a year in India. The extended public works programmes could contribute greatly to employment generation for women by quantifying and rewarding the work that women do in their own and in other’s homes.


      Women should be provided with access to credit to own and build their own businesses. Small, micro and medium enterprises create employment and drive economies Land ownership should also be extended to women. We should move from purely extractive industries to beneficiation and value-add industries. African countries should begin to export finished goods and services, and not be a mere resource provider to the developed world.


      We should create policies that expand broadly shared capabilities and the well-being of all citizens. People-centred development programmes should be the core of every government’s economic growth plan. This means that broad participation in policy identification and formulation is important and that policy processes are transparent. In this downturn, it becomes vitally important that financial capabilities are transferred to the low and middle-income households whose consumption patterns, because of numbers, are most likely to generate demand for increased production and will subsequently lead to economic growth.

      Finally, the social sector and social services are essential in this period to provide safety nets to people who have lost their jobs or no longer have a breadwinner in the family. For these reasons, services should extend to those who do care work, to the informal sector and elsewhere where women are in the majority. Social grants only provide security in the short term; government needs to find ways to transfer skills to women, create employment that targets women and also open sectors that historically have been male-dominated. If this economic downturn becomes more protracted, the social sector, one of the largest employers of women, will begin to lose jobs and funds, thereby further affecting women’s access to health care, education and other social services.

      As I said in the beginning, this is an opportunity to restructure the global economy and our national economies. While doing this, we need to consider the poorest of the poor – women – and design systems and institutions that work for them. This includes gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting and including women in decision-making processes.


      * Michele Ruiters is senior researcher at the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      'Tribe' and tribal statistics in Kenya

      Samuel Abonyo


      cc Tom Maruko
      Concerned by government statistics on Kenya's ethnic composition, Samuel Abonyo laments the enduring difficulty presented by the concept of tribe in Kenyan society. First developed under the auspices of colonial-era governance, the practice of tribal geography, writes Abonyo in this week's Pambazuka News, is still going on in today's Kenya. But what really is a tribe? What is the government actually counting? Figures on tribes, Abonyo concludes, remain at best inaccurate and at worst highly damaging in depicting false, divisive categorisations.

      'Tribalism will live for at least another 50 years', Daniel arap Moi said in 1957, historian Keith Kyle tells us in 'The Politics of the Independence of Kenya'. Moi’s prophesy has been fulfilled, and his contribution to its fulfilment is huge. In the 1950s, his construction of the Kalenjin tribe had begun in earnest, and by the 1990s, Kalenjinisation was an established word in Kenya. Yet the existence of the Kelenjin tribe is still being contested.

      But what is tribe?


      A tribe, according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, is a group of people of the same race, and with the same customs, language, religion, etc., living in a particular area and often led by a chief. Webster’s Dictionary says that a tribe is any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions and adherence to the same leaders. Evidently, these definitions are not of much help, as, according to them, any group of people can conceivably be a tribe.

      Peter Skalnik, an anthropologist, believed that tribes were politically defined units having dimensions such as culture, language and territory. To that strange belief, he added the weird opinion that basic tribal identities are ancient, powerful and closed to amelioration, with the result that hostility and tensions break out when members of different tribes come into contact. Skalnik’s definition of tribe is definitely an exercise in pure futility.

      In 'Ethnic Groups and Boundaries', social anthropologist Fredrik Barth says that, as they are understood in social anthropology, tribal groupings 'are categories of ascription and identification by the actors themselves' that structure interaction between people. In the opinion of social anthropologists, tribe has other attributes in addition to that basic one. A tribe, they believe, is largely biologically self-perpetuating, shares fundamental cultural values, makes up a field of communication, and has a membership which identifies itself and is identified by others as constituting a group different from other groups of the same order.

      I have applied that meaning of tribe to my own tribe, the Luo, and it has not worked.

      A tribe is a label. A tribe is a logo. A tribe is a categorical identity which classifies you in terms of the biological background assumed to form your ancestry. A tribe is a socially defined biological master status others – who are excluded from it – use to recognise the difference between you and them and which you use to distinguish yourself from them. The other has its own socially defined biological master status. A tribe is a socially defined master status from which, because it is strictly enforced by sanctions of all sorts and the many mechanisms of social control that are the cages in which our lives are kept, those it includes and those it excludes can escape only at the price of achieving the status of social deviants. As we know, however, most people conform to the rigidities that are their lives, so that the tribe’s stranglehold on us is immensely powerful indeed.

      Once fully constructed, tribes tend to stick like leeches.

      But they are not concrete, they cannot be seen, they cannot be touched and they cannot be counted. They are not real. But they count. And they have real and palpable consequences.


      We are members of our tribes. But tribal membership does not constitute tribalism. The existence of tribes is not a necessary and sufficient condition for tribalism to occur. For tribalism to arise, a tribe in itself must be transformed into a tribe for itself. In pre-colonial Kenya, for example, there was no tribalism, even though we had tribes. But tribes were then not tribes for themselves. Tribalism was at the time not a reality, let alone the paramount reality it is now.

      It goes without saying that we fell from tribe to tribalism because of colonialism. The colonialists exploited our cultural pluralism to create tribalism. The colonialists brought with them Western nationalist discourse and ideology. Because of the discourse and ideology of nationalism, and the Western criteria for success and achievement the colonialists transplanted into Kenya, tribesmen began referring to their lots as better than their neighbours, or more advanced or superior in some way. That was tribalism.

      To institutionalise tribalism, the colonialists established administrative units that were almost the same as tribal ones. The practice of tribal geography, an effective means of maintaining tribalism, is still going on in Kenya.

      Colonialists lived in dread of African unity and fought hard to prevent it from arising. As late as the 1930s for example, colonial administrators sought to control the activities of the Roho Musanda, lest the members of that movement should proselytise among non-Luo communities. The 'religion' of Odongo Mango, the founder of the Roho Musanda, shows his theology was for Africans. As Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton reports in 'Women of Fire and Spirit: History, Faith and Gender in Roho Religion in Western Kenya', it was the colonial administration that turned the movement into a Luo thing.

      Once the colonialists had institutionalised tribalism, it now determined the life chances of individuals. Tribes were now politically significant. They now had leaders or spokesmen. They could now be represented as acting agents. They had now gone past beginning to call themselves Luo and Nandi, etc., to borrow a phrase from the nobleman in George Bernard Shaw’s 'Saint Joan'.

      But still – and this is one of the simplest but most effective tricks used to maintain politically important collective identities, and it is to keep our tribal identities alive – the Luo, the Nandi and so on have to be continually invoked and pronounced by 'authorised' persons like writers, priests, prophets, politicians, journalists, administrators and tribal statisticians.

      And that is how tribal statistics participate in the maintenance of tribalism.

      But it is not only the role of the statistics in tribalism that is the trouble with them, they are also of poor quality.


      It must be allowed that, if tribal statistics were up to standard, they would be useful. We know there are ethnic inequalities in Kenya. Those who want to reduce the inequalities may use the statistics to establish their causes so that they design appropriate policies. Even just confirming what we already know would in itself be good enough, since we would be confident that our policies are based on fact.

      The problem with counting tribes and their members is that we do not know what we are counting. Nobody really knows what a tribe is. Even the government does not know. And the way tribal membership is defined may also vary from tribe to tribe. For example, is it tribe at birth that is your tribe? Or is it acquired tribe? And if Kenyans were allowed to state more than one tribe, that is, if the question on tribe were open-ended, then we would have cases of dual or multiple tribal identities, even though tribe is a categorical identity.

      Further, we inaccurately count what we do not know. And we incorrectly aggregate the figures.

      The practices of tribal statistics discriminate on grounds of ethnicity. The statistics do not recognise the identities of tribes like Ogiek, and that is ethnic discrimination. The statistics amalgamate diverse tribes into fictional political identities such as the Kalenjin 'tribe'. The statistics have, for example, divided the Luo tribe into the Suba and Luo tribes.

      The statistics paint a misleading picture of the ethnic composition of the country.

      And there is no proper reason to collect the data. The government has not documented its claims that the statistics are used in planning. It has merely asserted falsehood after falsehood.


      * Samuel Abonyo is studying for a PhD in Sociology at the University of Oslo.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Kenyanisation from within: The limits of a new constitution

      Cheruiyot Collins


      cc Wikimedia
      Lamenting the longstanding inability of Kenya's citizens to transcend ethnic divisions, Cheruiyot Collins calls upon Kenyans to free themselves of ethnic jingoism in a bid to steer the country on a true path towards nation-building. While constitutional change and greater responsibility from politicians are not to be discounted, Collins contends in this week's Pambazuka News, ultimately Kenyans must strive for change from within and themselves take responsibility for the pervasive culture of greed and self-interest hampering the country.

      The padlock of development has been locked by ethnic chauvinism and the bestial corruption of values, but I wonder if we really need a new constitution? Which reforms are these? Are we a nation, or just a packet of tribes packed in a cocoon? Who are you? These are some of the questions that eat away at me as I listen to Kenyans in the media, on the street and in forums. When I was a student of Political Science at the University of Nairobi, I always believed that if ever Kenya was attacked from outside, and the national government called for volunteers to defend our homeland, I would be one of the first one to enlist in defending my lovely country. But today how Kenyanised we are confuses the nationalist in me as well as my pan-Africanist spirit. I believed we were united in blood and bonded nationally as a family.

      Kenya has long had a reputation of being politically risky and of being a place of ethnicised minds, of geological scandals of corruption, of famine, of insecurity, of uncertainty and where political connections are paramount. The major institutions such as the church, the judiciary, parliament, civil society and national organs have become platforms for a realm of ethnic contestation and tribal orgy shows, where the minority form a coalition umbrella of ethnic cosset cocoons while the majority are subjected to tyranny. All of this conspires to undermine the state in its quest for nationhood.

      In his book 'The Wretched of the Earth', the Pan-Africanist thinker Frantz Fanon warned that the post-colonial African states that were created held within their design all the seeds of a divisive and ultimately violent future for African people and societies. Fanon observed that the typical political party ‘which of its own will proclaims that it is a national party, and which claims to speak in the name of the totality of the people, secretly, sometimes even openly organizes an authentic ethnical dictatorship’. Fanon goes on to note that ‘this tribalising of the central authority, it is certain, encourages regionalist ideas and separatism. All the decentralizing tendencies spring up again and triumph, and the nation falls to pieces, broken in bits.' Kenya needs to go back to soul searching in order to derail the state from the rails of ruin.

      When Hilary Clinton addressed us at the University of Nairobi, I disagreed with her on many issues but accepted her sentiments that Kenya has a political culture, where everyone – rich or poor – is politically updated. Only good, if for our betterment. We are inhabitants of tribalised culture composed of small, boorish, poor, pitiable moguls and big-time rich barons, the chiefs of ethnicity. Kenya can never go anywhere with tribalism. The prophets of doom say Kenya has a strong ability to come good when the worst is about to happen. This national drive points to self-destruction. I think we are fools as far as nation-building is concerned. A politician gains out of it, but it is sad to see people languishing in poverty wrestle and spill the blood of another poor individual, deny opportunities and unfairly treat the other because they do not come from same community. How sad it is. This reflects bad leadership and the election of irresponsible figures into positions of responsibility. Thus the birth and path of trapping the state.

      We are languishing in misery, we are being ‘eaten’ by poverty, yet the Kroll report says our billions are being ‘eaten’ abroad. We are tribalists, even when we know tribalism destroys a state. We politicise every national issue, even when it is non-political. We refuse to fund agriculture yet we know it is the key to wiping off poverty. We accept rumours which we know are false. We accuse other tribes even when we are wrong. We steal from the poor whom we know to be off the beam. We support multinationals who grabbed our ancestral lands. We occupy other people's land and properties, yet we know this is unjust. The big landowners reject land distribution to the poor, yet they grabbed this land following the collapse of colonial rule and in the many years of misrule and mismanagement that followed. No electricity, no water, no food, no justice, no jobs, no transport, no security, no rains, nothing. A trapped nation supplies basic needs in scant supply, if at all. We cannot feed our country's people, neither can they feed themselves, yet this is the 21st century. We take pride as a regional hub, yet we are legions of hate-fest. This nation is under a web of traps and there is only one hope: the reform of hearts and minds.

      The change we want has to start at a personal level. Many times we shout that political elites are to blame for the woes of the nation. It is true, but we, the governed, are also to blame. We accept, receive and pay bribes, litter our environs, accept the tribalisation of the state, misuse national resources, overlap at the roads, misuse public toilets, believes our own tribes are superior, leave the water tap running, misuse our employers' time and do not obey traffic lights. In the estate where I live communities loudly play the music of their tribes. A kind of tribal music festival competition. The Kenyan masses have adopted and woefully embraced the culture of ethnic-eyeing, thus weakening their ability to bring their leaders to account.

      As argued by Fanon, it is evident that through the ‘ethnicisation’ of the state, political elites were and are able to appropriate state power to advance their own private accumulation. Asymmetrical economic development and ethnic jingoism are contributing factors to the exacerbation of ethnic chauvinism, particularly when ethnic coalitions utilise and instrumentalise the apparatus and machinery of the state to advance capital accumulation. The degree of ethnic animosity has been fuelled by years of misrule, economic mismanagement and corruption. Stephen Ndegwa suggests that ‘ethnic identity in Africa is a relatively recent phenomenon whose salience is largely a product of colonial rule and post-colonial dynamics in which elites have continued to reify ethnic identity for political mobilisation.'

      There is a perpetuated national myth that citizens are good and politicians are bad. Reality shows that most of us are but a bunch of greedy orang-utans, economic separatists, nihilists, anarchists, pugilists, evil-motivated, ill-intentioned and unscrupulous citizens – politicians included. We never accept to amend this reality, yet it is the key ingredient for a healthy national psyche and self-discovery.

      At a personal level many people identify themselves through the negative tribal lens. It is a question of values. We cannot expect everything to be solved by a new constitution; changing basic things like attitude and behaviour doesn’t require a new constitution. We have elected youthful leaders, elected women whom we thought would be the real agents of change, but who have turned out to be the ‘greediest’. The system we have is at an all-time low. Those at its helm couldn't change the system; instead it has changed them. Our values have become acerbic, acidic, bitter and priceless. The padlock of development has been locked by ethnic jingoism and the bestial corruption of values.

      Have faith though, the key is still within. The system needs to be overhauled. Our hearts and minds need to be re-clocked, and set on the path of national development and unity, and not this path of self-destruction. Tribalism robs us of our patriotism. The kind of revolution we need today in Kenya is therefore not constitutional, political, social, economic nor of ideas, but rather a revolution of values inspired by the desire to reform hearts and minds. This is our homeland; I pity and pray for my motherland. I pity and pray for my homeland.


      * Cheruiyot Collins is a committed pan-Africanist working in Nairobi.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Museveni’s letter on 'Bafuruki' political participation

      Vincent Nuwagaba


      cc D Blume
      Concerned by President Yoweri Museveni’s comments on the ‘Bafuruki’ (‘immigrants’), Vincent Nuwagaba questions the assumptions around identity held by Uganda’s premier, calling for greater solidarity and mutual respect between the country’s groups, regardless of origin.

      I was caught by shock and consternation after reading President Museveni’s letter to Beatrice Wabudeya concerning the ‘Bafuruki’s’ participation in Bunyoro leadership. All of us to begin with are immigrants. There are different accounts in relation to the Bantu and Luo migrations, all of which suggest that the different communities we have in Uganda migrated from somewhere. The crux of this article is not to give the varying accounts concerning migrations but to raise the bar of debate and to analyse whether that was a letter that should have been authored by a person we call ‘a fountain of honour’. I think a president must first think before he talks or writes, for his words have grave implications on our society and can heal or destroy depending on how they are phrased. Unfortunately, he has chosen to use his words to destroy and not heal, to disunite and not unite. Ultimately, Ugandans must begin to debate whether or not President Museveni is still relevant on our political scene.

      Mennelik once said that all human beings are descended from Adam and Eve and that therefore discrimination results from ignorance. Accordingly, it is an irony that the person who has been praising himself for introducing democracy is the very same person disenfranchising Ugandans on account of where they are staying and where they migrated from. I am sure if we were to trace Museveni’s origins, it may be difficult for him to stand for any position. Hon Tinkasimire told us that his father migrated to Bunyoro in the aftermath of the Second World War in the 1940s. Accordingly, Tinkasiimire is a Munyoro by environment. My grandparents migrated to Ankole in 1948. Both my father and mother were born in Ankole. Wouldn’t it sound strange to say, ‘Vincent Nuwagaba, since your grandfather was born in Rubanda, Kabaale, you should reserve certain political positions for the indigenous Banyankole.’? I am sure Museveni is not an indigenous Munyankole and I can swallow my shoe over this matter (I hope I will not be charged with sedition).

      The president should be contrite and apologise and withdraw the statements he has already put in black and white, although it is very difficult if not impossible to erase that in the minds of many Ugandans, especially those whose ancestry is Kigezi for they are known to tolerate no nonsense. Otherwise, Ugandans have a right to impeach him for he has not conducted himself in a manner befitting of a president. We are not ready to accept a leader who is hell bent on sowing the seeds of discord, moreover based on utter and stark ignorance and heartlessness.

      In Bunyoro, the president has turned his guns against the Ugandans whose ancestry is Kigezi. But as a leader who for years has claimed that he is the only person with a vision, he should work to actualise point three of his 10-point programme, which is the consolidation of national unity and the elimination of all forms of sectarianism. As such, the president should dedicate his efforts to making sure that he teaches the Bunyoro communities the benefit of living together harmoniously.

      All of us are in a way immigrants in this country and those who purport to be indigenous citizens in their localities are also potential immigrants to other areas. History tells us that both the Bantu and Luo communities migrated from somewhere at least. Personally, I have told everyone that I cannot deny being Rwandan since Kigezi only became part of Uganda in 1910. Accordingly, I cannot denigrate, discriminate and be pejorative or derogatory against any person of Rwandan origin or indeed Kenyan, Tanzanian, Sudanese or Congolese, you name it. As a Christian and pan-Africanist I also treat every member of the human race as my brother or sister. We must be guided by the golden rule of morality in the Bible which says ‘do to others as you would want them do to you’. The same Bible says that the measurement you use against others is the same measurement that should be used against you. As such, since the president has shown that he is against every non-indigenous community in Uganda, these communities should pay him in the same currency come 2011.

      The ethnic groups we are associated with are unnatural. They are social constructs; I need to elaborate. You would never have Batooro if there was no such area as Tooro. You wouldn’t have Banyankore if there was no such place as Ankole. You wouldn’t have Baganda if there wasn’t Buganda. Likewise, nationality is socially constructed. We are Ugandans because we live in Uganda or were born in Uganda. There’s no such person as a Ugandan by blood. I have stated that we descended from Kigezi but I am a Munyankole because I was born in Ankole, my mother and father were born in Ankole so they are Banyankole, but also my grandfather, who migrated from Kigezi, is a Munyankole by virtue of his residence. The only identities one can say are natural are our clans, but also our clans cut across different groups, the point being that all Bantu are related. For example, all the Bamugiri of Kigezi ancestry – who include the Bagiri from Bufumbira (Kisoro), Bahimba, Bajingwe and Bajaara of Kigezi, Ankole, Toro, Bunyoro, Buganda and other areas – are related to the Bakimbiri in Ankole and I am sure have other relatives in other Bantu ethnic groups. Actually, all the Banyakigezi clans have their equivalents among the Banyankore. The sooner Ugandans and Africans generally understand the stark truth that we are all related and none should be relegated as a Mufuruki the better for Uganda and Africa at large.

      The president claims to be a pan-Africanist. Pan-Africanism cherishes free movement and settlement, even across borders. Pan-Africanism cherishes brotherhood and sisterhood as opposed to sectarianism. Pan-Africanism cherishes issues and ideas as opposed to tribal or ethnic chauvinism.

      The Bafuruki (a derogatory term meaning immigrants) are not more in numbers than the indigenous communities in Bunyoro. That means that people who are voted are voted by both the so-called Bafuruki and the indigenous Banyoro. Accordingly, votes are cast on the basis of issues presented by the candidates to the electorate and I must commend and applaud the Bunyoro communities for being politically mature and casting their votes on the basis of issues and not petty sectarian sentiments. Those who peddle the contents of the president’s letter are naïve and immature politicians who cannot genuinely win a seat on their own. Sadly, they have chosen to use the president to impose undemocratic tendencies and practices. Denial of the Bafuruki from participating in leadership is not only anti-democratic, but a grave human rights abuse. Accordingly, the president has shown that he is the leading notorious human rights abuser. Nonetheless, personally I am not surprised because I don’t expect too much from Mr Museveni and that is why I have never voted for him. But also this could be a pointer of the oil curse that many people have prophesied.

      As a pan-Africanist, human rights defender and a victim of the president’s unholy letter since I have my roots in Kigezi, I am prepared to take this matter to the Uganda Human Rights Commission tribunal and if nothing fruitful is done, I will drag the author of the letter to the Constitutional Court. Finally, because of the dearth of substance, Museveni’s letter and his leadership should be dismissed with costs by all Ugandans. For God and my country!


      * Vincent Nuwagaba is a political scientist cum human rights defender.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Zimbabwe: A crisis driven by greed

      Dewa Mavhinga


      cc Michiel Dijcks
      Greed on the part of those in authority is the primary driver of the crisis in Zimbabwe, Dewa Mavhinga tells Pambazuka News. Political power is the vehicle these people use to satisfy this greed and that is why they are ‘prepared to shed blood’ to retain it, Mavhinga argues. Until politicians of this kind are removed from office, says Mavhinga, ‘charting a new political direction for Zimbabwe will remain a pipe dream’.

      I had not realised the true extent and impact of the Zimbabwe crisis on ordinary Zimbabweans until last weekend, when I embarked on a four and half hour drive from Johannesburg to Kabokweni, a tiny, far-flung township situated in a valley near Nelspruit, in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province.

      I was visiting my two brothers, a cousin, a nephew and an uncle who now, due to circumstances back home, are trying to eke out a living there. To my utter amazement, I soon discovered there are literally hundreds of Zimbabweans there, perhaps without a thought of returning home soon. Commenting on how he has been forced to put away his degree certificates and resort to doing odd, often degrading jobs just to survive, all that my uncle said to me was, ‘Look what Mugabe has done to us!’ I felt a deep sadness in the depths of my soul and began to agonise over the root causes on the crisis in Zimbabwe.

      This morning, while taking a shower (that is usually my time of greatest inspiration), it suddenly occurred to me that the primary driver of the crisis in Zimbabwe – and the consequent misery and suffering of the people – is greed on the part of those in authority. For the avoidance of doubt, authority in Zimbabwe resides in Zanu PF and its allies, the so-called war veterans, green bombers, and security forces.

      Greed has so consumed those in authority so much that they have ceased to care about anything except their excessive desire to accumulate massive wealth, which they neither deserve nor need. Political power, for them, is the vehicle through which they can satisfy their greed, and therefore, they would be prepared to shed blood to acquire and retain that political power. In their twisted sense of logic, they are therefore justified in unleashing waves of electoral violence and coerce people to ‘vote’ them into political power, or to use other fraudulent means to attain political office.

      Understanding that greed is the primary driver of the Zimbabwean crisis would lead to a better understanding of the paradoxical situation of Zimbabwe that, in the midst of all this suffering, you find multi-millionaires in United States dollar terms, on the streets of Harare. This also explains how a person like Joseph Chinotimba, a mere municipal guard (no offence to this humble profession intended), who was virtually penniless before he discovered the benefits of Zanu PF membership, can claim that due to loss of his mobile phone for just a week, he had lost business worth US$19 million! And this is not one of those Chinotimba jokes doing the rounds. What business is he into?

      Clearly there are a few people who are directly benefiting from the suffering of millions of Zimbabweans. That same group of people is reaping where they did not sow. Again, this is not just a figure of speech. Scores of those aligned to Zanu PF are currently on an invasion spree of white-owned commercial farms and are literally reaping where they did not sow. Zimbabwe has enough resources to support all those who live in it, and also to support the region, but a few politically connected and greedy people are busy plundering Zimbabwe and eating everyone’s share. I would not be surprised if there are people in Zimbabwe whose daily prayer is that the crisis never ends!

      Greedy political leaders who do not care about the people they purport to represent invariably breed misery and suffering. This breed of political leaders often have the following distinctive characteristics: (1) Although generally incompetent and lacking in business acumen, they are involved in all kinds of businesses; (2) they measure they political achievements by the amount of wealth accumulated or cars they own; (3) they publicly speak against the West and pose as pan- Africanists while privately sending their children to school in the West, drink wines imported from the West and do not miss on their monthly satellite television subscriptions; (4) all their ill-gotten wealth is derived exclusively from their political connections; (5) their lavish, and outlandish lifestyles are at odds with their professional salaries (for example, it is not surprising in Zimbabwe to come across a mere journalist working for state media, but with powerful political connections, owning several properties that he can never acquire on his journalist’s earnings).

      This breed of political leaders is beyond redemption and cannot be expected to reform and be like the biblical Zaccheus, the chief tax collector who repented and gave away his ill-gotten wealth. Politicians of this kind, who unfortunately at present dominate the political scene in Zimbabwe, must be removed from office and mechanisms put in place to ensure that this breed becomes extinct. This legacy of leaders who doggedly pursue self-serving interests must be broken. Without such a paradigm shift, charting a new political direction for Zimbabwe will remain a pipe dream. It is worthwhile noting for political leaders in government, particularly those in the MDC whom many of us look up to in hope, that greed is not a trait confined to leaders from one particular political party.

      Zimbabwe desperately needs political leaders with integrity, who deeply care for others, and have the ability to self-transcend. Political leaders are judged not on the basis of the political party they belong to, but on content of their character and their service to humanity. I am absolutely convinced that if we had leaders who really cared, then Zimbabwe would not have gone through the horror, pain and suffering which characterised the past decade and continues. It is not an act of God, neither is it a freak of nature, that Zimbabwe finds itself in this multi-layered socio-economic, humanitarian and political crisis. The issue boils down to want of able political leadership. Want of leaders who have already distinguished themselves in their private and professional lives who now take up public life leadership roles to serve, deriving satisfaction from putting a smile on an old woman’s face.


      * Dewa Mavhinga is a human rights lawyer based in Zimbabwe.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Advocacy & campaigns

      Gross violations of human and citizenship rights in Tanzania

      The Feminist Activist Coalition


      The Feminist Activist Coalition, FemAct, are calling attention to the gross violations of human rights and citizenship rights and breaking of laws carried out by the Tanzanian government operation to forcibly move Maasai pastoralists from their homes in eight villages within Loliondo Division, Ngorongoro districton behalf of the business interests of a private investor from the United Arab Emirates, namely Ortello Business Corporation (OBC).

      We member organizations of Feminist Activist Coalition, FemAct, who advocate for gender equality, human rights and development and women’s liberation together with the Pastoralists Forum (Arusha) are highly disturbed by the gross violations of human rights and citizenship rights and breaking of laws carried out by the government operation to forcibly move Maasai pastoralists from their homes in eight villages within Loliondo Division, Ngorongoro district. The forced removals of Maasai communities by state machinery and a private company began in early July this year and continues up to the present moment, on behalf of the business interests of a private investor from the United Arab Emirates, namely Ortello Business Corporation (OBC).

      After information about these violations of human rights and citizenship rights had been publicized in local and international mass media, FemAct and Pastoralists Forum decided to jointly investigate the facts about the issue for ourselves. Between August 19 and 23, 20009, leaders from FemAct and the Pastoralist Forum travelled together to four of the eight pastoralist villages concerned, namely Ololosokwan, Soitsambu, Olorien- Magaiduru and Arash, to talk to local villagers and their leaders; the team also met with Ngorongoro District leaders, and management of Oterllo Business Corporation (OBC). The aim of the visit was to investigate the situation and confirm whether or not government officers have collaborated with the investor (OBC) to violate the human rights and citizenship rights of the women, men and children in the villages mentioned above.

      Fem Act and Pastoralists Forum understand that OBC was allowed to rent an enormous hunting block in the Loliondo area in 1992 by government through the Ministry of Natural Resources. This aroused a major protest and led to a major public debate nationally and world wide, that was referred to as the ‘Loliondogate scandal’. The hunting block is within an area which was already settled and legally owned by eight pastoralist villages; hence their presence in the area is perfectly legal. At question is the issue of the hunting block to Oterllo Business Corporation, and whether or not it will be reissued to OBC next year, when it comes up for renewal!

      We found out that beginning in early July this year, the government used armed force, namely that of the police and the Field Force Unit( FFU), and with OBC’s own armed guards forcibly expelled Tanzanian citizens, who are residents of this area, from their homes and villages. The explanation given for this violent act was that it was necessary to protect the area against environmental degradation, without any consideration of legal rights to live in the area. This forced removal of Maasai women, men and children from their homes is a gross violation of human rights and citizenship rights, and breaks our government’s laws and our nation’s Constitution.

      When FemAct and Pastoralist Forum visited the area we discovered and confirmed the following:
      1. The operation by the Government and OBC is being carried out against villagers who legally reside on and own this land and other resources in the area, according to the Village Land Act of 1999; therefore the Maasai are not invaders as claimed by OBC;
      2. Gross violations of human rights and citizenship rights have taken place, and the laws and Constitution of our nation have been broken, which include the burning down of people’s homes (boma); destroying food supplies; specific violence against women and children, including rape; undue use of force which led to miscarriages; arresting and torturing villagers – the whole operation did not follow the law and appropriate rules and regulations;
      3. Government and investor claims that the pastoralist communities are degrading the environment is false. In reality, the opposite is true: environmental degradation has been caused by OBC Company, for example by establishing an airport right in the middle of wildlife corridors and birthing areas; causing noise and disturbance by air pollution from air craft, which include huge jets; building permanent houses illegally in animal conservation areas; and water piracy from water sources of the animal reserve;
      4. There are major shortcomings in the legal framework, which include:
      (a) Intervention from outside in the signing of contracts between OBC Company and the eight village governments to allow hunting to take place in the area; the contracts were signed by the government with the eight village governments on behalf of the OBC company; and OBC signed as a witness;
      (b) Hijacking Tanzanian communication networking systems in the area surrounding OBC Company. For example, as soon as you enter the area you receive a short message(sms) on your mobile phone from ETISALAT which welcomes you and says “WELCOME TO THE UNITED ARABS EMIRATES”
      (c) Construction of airport strip and operation of direct air travel between the area of the hunting block and foreign countries, with no immigration, customs and tax regulation. Large airplanes land and take off from this air strip, with the capacity of carrying more than four hundred passengers and a large number of motor vehicles.
      (d) Lack of transparency in tax and customs collection—there is no information or documentation showing that TRA is collecting customs from the cars imported from foreign countries, with registration plates from United Arab Emirates, and used locally; or taxing numerous other resources which are taken directly from Loliondo, reportedly including wild animals dead and alive; and
      (e) OBC Company is given and enjoying diplomatic status by the government, contrary to the situation for all other private companies. The OBC camp is guarded by the Field Force Unit (FFU), police and other state machinery organs. Different government units have been organized from the district to the national level to coordinate OBC Company activities. For example, FemAct and Pastoralist Forum leaders were denied entrance into the OBC company camp; instead they were removed from the place under FFU escort and later stopped and questioned by FFU allegedly under instructions from the Arusha Regional Commissioner and the Ngorongoro District Commissioner.

      5. Following these events and observations, FemAct reconfirms the position it took in its press release of May 22nd, this year, that the Tanzanian state has been hijacked by and serves the interests of wealthy private investors, with the connivance of corrupt national and international individuals (wafisadi), plundering the resources of the majority of the people, and in the process, causing them bodily and emotional harm.
      Given the information which we have documented and confirmed, FemAct and Pastoralist Forum demand the following:

      1) Government to immediately stop the operation to forcibly remove pastoralist communities from the Loliondo area and elsewhere, which are gross violations of human and citizenship rights and against government rules and regulations and the Constitution ;
      2) Government to hold accountable and discipline all those government officers who will be found to have participated in these unjust and illegal acts carried out against the pastoralist communities of Ngorongoro District;
      3) Emergency relief and humanitarian assistance to be sent immediately to the victims of the operation in Ngorongoro District, especially water, food, tents and care and treatment for women and children;
      4) Compensation be paid to all victims of the operation for their loss of property and the physical and emotional harm caused to them;
      5) Government be held accountable to explain why the OBC company has received official diplomatic status;
      6) Government to provide detailed information on tax and customs collection practices of TRA, tele-communications regulations (TCRA); use of national air space of Tanzania (TCAA); and the immigration status of all visitors (Immigration) associated with the Oterloo Business Corporation operations in Loliondo and Arusha Region in general;
      7) Government to communicate an official statement on the future of pastoralists in Tanzania;
      8) Government to provide a detailed explanation and plan for resolution of the conflict between laws pertaining to land and to wildlife, in particular the Village Land Act of 1999 and the Ngorongoro Crater Authority Act of 1959;
      9) Activists and all the people of Tanzania to immediately take action to protest against the unjust and illegal violations of human and citizenship rights of pastoralist communities and other villagers living in Ngorongoro District; and
      10) Mass media to continue to investigate and publicise all unjust actions and violations committed by the government in cooperation with the OBC company against the citizenship rights and human rights of pastoralist people in Ngorongoro District.

      Issued by FemAct and signed by:
      1. Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP)
      2. Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC)
      3. Concern for Development Initiatives in Africa (ForDIA)
      4. Youth Action Volunteers (YAV)
      5. The Leadership Forum (TLF)
      6. Coast Youth Vision Association (CYVA)
      7. Walio Katika Mapambano na AIDS Tanzania (WAMATA)
      8. Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA)
      9. Youth Partnership Countrywide (YPC)
      10. Tanzania Human Rights Fountain (TAHURIFO).
      11. HakiArdhi
      12. Women Legal Aid Centre (WLAC)
      13. Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT)
      14. Tanzania Ecumenical Dialogue Group (TEDG)
      15. HAKIELIMU
      16. Women Fighting Against Aids in Tanzania Trust Fund (WOFATA)
      17. Taaluma Women Group (TWG)
      18. Marcus Garvey Foundation (MGF)
      19. Tanzania Coalition on Debt and Development (TCDD)
      20. ENVIROCARE
      21. Pastoralists Forum
      22. Women’s Dignity (WD)
      23. Pastoralists Indigenous NGO’s Forum (PINGO’S FORUM)
      24. Ngorongoro NGOs Network (NGONET)
      25. Ujamaa Community Resource Trust (UCRP)

      27 August 2009

      Seeking support for Kenyans against Impunity

      Kenyans against Impunity (KAI)


      Kenyans against Impunity (KAI)is seeking support from willing Kenyans to carry out its activities which include public engagement on political and legal process to address among others corruption, extrajudicial killings, enforced evictions, enforced disappearances, mismanagement of public affairs, police brutality, arbitrary arrests, police harassments, rape and gender rights violations.
      Kenyans against Impunity have been having meetings to see how the war against impunity can be won in the country. A series of meetings and press briefings have been done with coordination and mobilisation of the same being done voluntary since 31st July 2009.

      The initiative was initially formed to address the issues and concerns around the swearing-in of the TJR Commissioners on the 3rdAugust 2009, which was against the Act and lacked confidence amongst Kenyans.

      The Act vividly states that, “…no person shall be qualified for appointment as a commissioner unless such a person is not in any way been involved, implicated, linked or associated with the perpetrators or supporters of the acts, crimes or conduct under investigations; shall be impartial in the performance of the function of the Commission under this Act and who will generally enjoy the confidence of the people of Kenya” .

      It is important to note that impunity, i.e. the unwillingness to bring to book the perpetrators of human rights violations on criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary proceedings and to make reparations to the victims, has eaten into our society in various ways and forms.

      Kenyans against impunity therefore intends to embark on a public engagement political and legal process to address among others corruption, extrajudicial killings, enforced evictions, enforced disappearances, mismanagement of public affairs, police brutality, arbitrary arrests, police harassment, rape, gender rights violations, terrorism, land grabbing, forest grabbing, draining of water catchments, human trafficking, drugs trafficking, unlawful confinements, domestic violence, child rights abuses, poor leadership, abuse of the rule of law, inaccessibility of justice by the majority who are poor, poverty and unemployment in the country. This informs the inclusion victims of injustices who can be enjoined in the case including the Mau Mau, Wagalla, Nyayo House, Turbi, Mwakenya, IDPs, the Indeminity Act amongst others.

      The process is inclusive and participatory, taking on board all the issues around impunity in its various forms and from the communities across the country.


      a) To document issues and cases of impunity during the public engagement processes

      b) To mobilise and organise public engagement and educative, forums and meetings on the war against impunity.

      c) To support the legal, technical and coordination team on the process.

      Anticipated outputs

      a) Informed citizenry on the loopholes in the TJR Act and why we are against the TJRC as formed and composed.

      b) Enhanced democratic process in the country with repeal of the TJR Act and participation of the people (victims and survivors).

      Time frame

      6 months

      Target groups

      All Kenyans but largely the victims and survivors of injustices


      a) Political mobilization and organizing for lobbying, advocacy and education strategies

      b) Technical and legal intervention strategies

      Peoples efforts -contributions so far!!

      As the work calls for commitment, those have been meeting agreed to be fundraising. So far the collections from individual members are as follow

      a) Koigi wa Wamwere - 5000/=

      b) Kalembe Ndile - 5000/=

      c) Gitu wa Kahengeri - 5000/=

      d) Wanyiri Kihoro - 3,500/=

      e) Abuya Abuya - 2000/=

      f) Njeru Kathangu - 2000/=

      g) Moses Muihia - 2000/=

      h) D.K Macharia - 1,500/=

      i) James Gachege - 2000/=

      j) Stephen Musau - 2000/=

      k) Ngotho Kariuki. - 2000/=

      l) Daniel Kago - 1000/=

      m) Aloo Ogeka - 1000/=

      n) Shem - 1000/=

      o) Mjr Waweru - 1000/=

      p) Mark Makore - 500/=

      q) Beatrice Kamau - 300/=

      r) Bunge la Mwananchi - 300/=

      Total collected Kshs. 37,100/=

      NB: This excludes the amounts being used by the coordinating team running errants to make the work a success.

      What we are seeking:

      1) Legal Interventions and Actions

      · Advocates fee ( 700,000)

      · Research and documents access fee ( 50,000)

      · Communication and coordination fee (30, 000)

      · Filing of the case in other key courts ( 300,000)

      Subtotal Kshs. 1, 080,000

      2) Political Interventions and Actions

      · Mobilisation and outreach fee (50,000)

      · Communication and coordination (200,000)

      · Publicity- Banner production etc ( 50,000)

      · Small support to consultative meetings (50,000)

      Subtotal Kshs. 350,000

      Total Kshs Kshs. 1,430,000

      Contingency (10% of the Total) Kshs. 143, 000

      Grand total: Kshs. 1,573,000

      Kenya 2012 election fever and dealing with the post-election violence

      Kenyans Eyes From the Diaspora

      Isaac Newton Kinity


      The Kenya 2012 general election is around the corner. A decision on where to try the perpetrators of the Post Election violence has not been reached. By September 2010, the 2012 election fever will have began. The Kenyans Eyes From the Diaspora urges for haste in both the prosecution of the perpetrators of the Post Election Violence and the setting up of a conducive and competitive Constitution.

      The ICC Prosecutor
      President of Kenya


      The Kenya 2012 general election is around the corner. A decision on where to try the perpetrators of the Post Election violence has not been reached. By September 2010, the 2012 election fever will have began. One big question is whether any debate on the violence will have any room after that. It is now one year and seven months since the violence erupted in Kenya and about one year since the Waki commission released its findings and recommendations on the violence.

      The recommendations were very clear on the deadline for the formation of a Tribunal in Kenya, with specifications of the option just in case a Tribunal failed to take off. The former UNO Secretary Mr. Koffi Annan extended the deadline 3 times while the ICC prosecutor Mr, Ocampo has extended it for the fourth time. The Waki Commission investigations and hence recommendations were timely. As time goes by, it will be extremely hard to implement the Waki recommendations once the election fever usurps the stage. The best time to place the Waki Recommendations in motion, is between now and April 2010.

      Kenyans and the World should by now have known the intentions of some senior individuals in governance. The formation of the TJRC to replace the ICC and/or Tribunal to try the Perpetrators of the Violence, is a direct abuse of Justice in Kenya. On July 24th. this year, two Kenyans were sentenced to death for stealing 40 shillings. The fact that Justice in Kenya is being bent to favor the senior politicians who sponsored and financed the killings of innocent women and children, means that Justice is far from resurrection. That is why it has been extremely important to have a proper constitution ready before the 2012 general elections, with good remedial structures to check and balance governance.

      The period slightly before the next elections may be very testing for Kenya especially now that the perpetrators of the Post Election Violence want to evade justice. Justice delayed, Justice denied. The sponsors and financiers of the Post Election Violence would do anything to stop prosecution. A Tribunal or a TJRC will not justify the curiosity of the Kenyan people to see the perpetrators of the violence pay their prize for the January 2008 killings. The history of the DRC, Somalia, Sudan and Burundi where war still ranges despite the presence of the UN peace keepers, should be an eye opener for all Kenyans and the entire world to support the prosecution of the perpetrators of the Post Election Violence at the Hague Netherlands with immediate effect and without any further delay. Immediate action will prevent a scenario where it may be impossible to contain and/or control a worse occurrence in Kenya. The Kenyans Eyes From the Diaspora urges for haste in both the prosecution of the perpetrators of the Post Election Violence and the setting up of a conducive and competitiveConstitution. Failure to act soon will lead to an uncontrollable situation like in Somalia, Burundi, DRC or Sudan. The Kenyans Eyes from the Diaspora also wants to remind Kenyans that it has a draft Constitution with structures that can necessitate comfortable governance for more than 400 years.

      Isaac Newton Kinity
      Former Secretary General
      Kenya Civil Servants Union and
      Executive Director of the
      Kenyans Eyes From the Diaspora
      Tel: 1 203 675 9354.
      [email protected]

      Gachahi Kimani
      Former Health Officer [Kenya] and
      Secretary/Co ordinator of the
      Kenyans eyes from the Diaspora
      Tel: 1 774 253 8405
      Email: [email protected]


      Human Rights Organizations
      International Press
      World Leaders

      Refocusing the People on the March to the Second Republic of Kenya

      Kenyans for Justice and Development


      Kenyans for Justice and Development have decided to constitute a parallel people’s government to widen the battlefield now that Kenya's two main parties, PNU and ODM have closed ranks to 'protect and propagate impunity', and to originate pro-people public policies and programmes that we will use to create a national platform for the people’s march to the Second Republic of Kenya.

      We, Kenyans for Justice and Development, are appalled by the reckless extent to which President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga are going to ensure Kenya doesn’t change for the better. The two and their cronies want to stay in power at all costs, even at the risk of destroying the country. They and their good-for-nothing, bloated, and over pampered Cabinet are politicking endlessly, outrageously wasting our very limited taxes, doing only those things that perpetuate their grip on power, while avoiding those that would unlock our great potential to make us free, with plenty within our borders.

      Even straightforward issues like allowing the country to set up mechanisms to end impunity by punishing those who meddled with the 2007 presidential elections, and the masterminds and perpetrators of the resultant post election violence, has turned out to be a task beyond them. Kenyanswill not be hoodwinked by the TJRC or any such phoney mechanisms they are trying to impose on us, in the vain hope of confusing anguished souls, so that they themselves can escape justice.

      Justice is our shield and defender and we don’t take it for granted. Kenyans will ensure that those who have looted public coffers, grabbed public land and assets, and those who have murdered, maimed and committed other crimes against humanity, face justice. No amount of smoke and mirrors, or running around in circles, is going to fool us. Crimes do not have an expiry date. There will come a time when each will answer for his or her role in the slaughter of innocent Kenyans, the pillaging, and the general desecration of the Republic.

      We demand that the Government saves whatever is left of the country by doing the following:
      (i) Engage in urgent national re-construction by tackling the skyrocketing prices of basics such asunga, paraffin, energy, water, sugar,matatufares, house rents, medical costs, and secondary school fees.
      (ii) Deal with insecurity and create an enabling economic environment for Mwananchi to thrive;
      (iii) Fast track the Constitution reform process to give the country a democratic constitution by December 31, 2009, to mark the end of the failed First Republic of Kenya;
      (iv) To hold General Elections under the new Constitution in February 2010 to usher in the new order.

      In the meantime, we are constituting a parallel people’s government to widen the battlefield now that PNU and ODM have closed ranks to protect and propagate impunity. The revolutionary People’s Government will be composed of a People’s Parliament and a People’s Cabinet which, together, will create a formal platform for the people to directly monitor and oversee each Government ministry to ensure that the Grand Coalition Government delivers on the demands we make above.

      The People’s Cabinet, to be launched in September 2009, will comprise twelve ministries and the Presidency. The Peoples’ Parliament is the people freely organised around their livelihoods and interests nationwide, including workers, farmers, touts, hawkers, students, teachers, professionals, businesspeople, the youth, and senior citizens.

      The issues raised by the People’s Parliament will be used to originate pro-people public policies and programmes that we will use to create a national platform for the people’s march to the Second Republic of Kenya, whose DNA is our National Anthem.

      Neto Agostinho – National Convener

      Pan-African Postcard

      Uphold Sudanese women’s human rights

      An open letter to President al-Bashir

      Mary Wandia and Lila Kiwelu


      Mary Wandia and Lila Kiwelu call on Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to withdraw the case against 13 women charged with ‘indecent dressing’ for wearing trousers, under Article 152 of the country’s 'archaic' criminal code. President al-Bashir must repeal the discriminatory provisions in this code, Wandia and Kiwelu write in Pambazuka News, and ensure that Sudan upholds its obligations as a signatory to the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.

      Dear President Omar Hassan al-Bashir,

      Your Excellency, I hope you are well.

      This letter is coming to you in the wake of several events in Sudan, most notably your indictment by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes in Darfur, not to mention preparations for the elections scheduled for 2010. However, I would like to engage you on a different issue – the disturbing occurrence that took place on 10 July 2009, in which Sudanese women were flogged, with those that refused to be flogged charged with ‘indecent dressing.’

      Your Excellency, 13 Sudanese women were arrested for wearing trousers, termed as ‘indecent’ dressing.’ Two of them pleaded guilty and were flogged 10 lashes after being released on a bail of US$100. Three others, including well-known journalist Lubna Hussein, opted for a lawyer so as to be tried in court. They are demanding elimination of Article 152 of the criminal code to eliminate discrimination against Sudanese women.

      For the women, some of whom come from southern Sudan, were charged under Article 152 (Indecent and Immoral Acts) of the 1991 Penal Code. From what is emerging, this law is not clear what ‘indecent dressing’ is, leaving it open to interpretation by Public Order Police who are responsible for its enforcement. This has left Sudanese women open to discrimination, a fundamental breach of their human rights.

      In case it has not yet been brought to your attention, harassment of women by the Public Order Police is common in the Sudan, yet under-reported. It exploits the fact that many women lack knowledge of their rights and, fearing social stigma, do not go to a police station, have a criminal charge laid against them and sign a paper that says that they will not repeat the offence. In addition, the bail of US$100 is expensive, especially for poor women.

      As you may recall, you offered the women a Presidential pardon, which they rejected – and rightly so. I know you are wondering why they would reject your offer, opt to go on trial and risk being flogged 40 lashes if found guilty. I will explain why they remain adamant.

      They know they have not violated any law but are victims of institutionalised discrimination entrenched in the Penal Code. The Penal Code provision on ‘indecent dressing’ is archaic – women have the right to choose how to dress. They are being ‘stubborn’ because they are fighting for this right for all Sudanese women.

      The Penal Code currently in use in Sudan contravenes international and regional human rights standards. The very existence of this law exists is evidence of discrimination against women because we have not heard of men being flogged or charged with ‘indecent dressing.’ Your Excellency, if I may remind you, your government has signed the African Union’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which under Article 5, prohibits and condemns all forms of harmful practices which negatively affect the human rights of women and which are contrary to recognised international standards. It goes further to call on AU states to take all necessary legislative and other measures to eliminate such practices. Your Excellency, as a State that has signed on to the Protocol, Sudan is under obligation to ensure that the provisions of the Protocol are adhered to at all times.

      Your country is a member of the AU and, going by the speed with which it and the region came to your defence following your indictment by the ICC, you ought to follow the standards it has set with the Protocol. You could turn this incident into a quick win for you by taking the opportunity to ratify the Protocol and implement it fully. It will save you such embarrassment in future. Surely, this is the image you want to portray to the rest of the continent and the world at large when human rights violations taking place in the Sudan are causing international concern and outrage?

      Your Excellency, I urge you to invoke the powers conferred on you as Head of State to demand the immediate withdrawal of the case against our Sudanese sisters. Go further and repeal the discriminatory provisions in the Penal Code without giving those provisions legitimacy by seeking to define what is ‘indecent dressing’ or ranting Presidential pardons to women whose rights are clearly being violated.

      You have the power to uphold Sudanese women’s human rights. You have the option of using this incident to affirm your commitment to human rights. What will you choose? Sudanese and African women are watching.


      * 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.
      * Lila Kiwelu is a gender justice and governance intern with Oxfam GB. She writes here in a personal capacity.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      The grand fall of the Grand Coalition Government

      L. Muthoni Wanyeki


      In the face of an ever greedy, self-interested ruling class, L. Muthoni Wanyeki considers what the majority of Kenyans could do to challenge the seemingly relentless ravaging of the public purse perpetrated by those in office. Firstly, Wanyeki suggests a tax boycott, taking the cue from the Langata Residents’ Association’s response to the Nairobi City Council, and secondly, preparing for new elections, albeit within a political system still in need of broad change. With the political settlement evidently having long reached its limits, Wanyeki argues for the need for the Grand Coalition Government to be entirely deprived of funds if Kenya’s politics is to move forward.

      In the furore around the fate of those with responsibility for the violence in Kenya last year, the chair and utility of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and how to manage simultaneous food, power and water shortages, several things have become abundantly clear. Our political leadership is unable and unwilling to govern foresightedly in the public interest. It has only managed, with reluctance and only when pushed to the wall, to lurch directionless from one crisis to the next, sometimes propelled by the unavoidable scale of public need (as with the decision about addressing famine in the country) and sometimes propelled by external actors (as with all of the feeble and half-hearted attempts to at least appear to be moving on the mediation process agreement). But never (never) propelled by reliance on data and planning in line with a public vision. And always, regardless of the direction taken, torn in half by considerations of economic and political self-interest.

      Maybe this has always been the case. Maybe the optimism we felt at having (finally!) turned the page in 2002 was an exception – merely a taunt, a tease – to keep us on the treadmill of working fruitlessly for change. Maybe this is the sad norm. Maybe it is ridiculous to keep demanding change from those who see nothing but personal economic and political costs in change and nothing but personal economic and political gains in the status quo. Maybe until such as time as we can all conceive of being able to make good livings in manners apart from robbing the public purse, change will continue to be a mirage – an oasis glimpsed wavering in the distance only to disappear upon drawing near, leaving nothing but the thirst for it.

      That being the case, we could just all wash our hands of the dirty game of it. Stop dignifying all the desultory efforts at appearances of normalcy and progress with our earnest attempts to engage those efforts. Retreat into cocooned absorption with simpler things – family, work. We could and perhaps we should.

      Except for the fact that we’d be leaving our hard-earned money (yes, some of us actually work for what we have – most of us, in fact) to the political leadership. All of us pay tax, one way or another. And although the Kenya Revenue Authority is finding it difficult to meet its collection targets – after years of upward collections – it is still raking it in: our income tax; our value added tax; customs duties; et cetera; et cetera; et cetera. Something rankles at the idea that we can have no control over what is actually ours.

      In addition, there is the question of public resources: our forests; our land; our water catchments; and so on. Left to the avarice of those running every level of government, if we all turned our backs, we could turn around again and find nothing left, save for expanding desert.

      What is it then that we could do?

      Two options present themselves. First, a national tax boycott, on the lines of the Karen-Langata Residents’ Association’s tax boycott of the Nairobi City Council, scaled upwards to the national level. Let those running every level of government do what they want to do, but not with our money. The devil is in the detail, for sure. But the detail can be worked out.

      Second, prepare for new elections. Some religious organisations have already called for the same. But the fact is we are not ready for new elections. We have not yet changed the electoral system to effect proportional as well as direct representation. We have not yet agreed on electoral boundaries, to address old and new gerrymandering as well as concerns of equitable representation. We do not have a national voters’ register. And, most importantly, we do not have strong political parties that actually respect their membership rather than serving as vehicles to advance feudal lords who believe political leadership is simply a question of genetics, or their inevitable hangers-on and sycophants.

      But addressing all of those limitations is something we can and must do. We have already wasted a year and a half playing into the energy- and time-sapping pretence of a follow-up to agenda items 1, 2 and 4. We cannot waste any more time. And we must begin to focus on the abject failure (actual inability) of agenda item 3 – the establishment of the Grand Coalition Government – to take us anywhere except further into the depressing, debilitating dumps. The political settlement brought us relative calm. But that calm is fragile, shaky, because apparently even what happened last year was not enough of a shock to propel rational action on the past and rational movement forward. And the political settlement has reached its limits – as is clear from the parliamentary and cabinet stand for impunity – whether over the violence or over as obvious (to us) an issue as the Mau forest.

      The political settlement has reached its limits. Let us deprive the Grand Coalition Government of our money. And let us focus all our energies now on moving our politics forward.


      * L. Muthoni Wanyeki is the executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC).
      * This article was originally published by The East African.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Books & arts

      Understanding Sudan’s saviours and survivors

      Darfur caught between humanitarian fundamentalism and Khartoum’s divide-and-rule

      Harry Verhoeven, Lydiah Kemunto Bosire and Sharath Srinivasan


      Reflecting on the analysis of the Darfur conflict offered by Mahmood Mamdani’s ‘Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror’, Harry Verhoeven, Lydiah Kemunto Bosire and Sharath Srinivasan find the book to be praiseworthy in its deconstruction of the conflict’s role within global humanitarianism yet lacking in its engagement with contemporary Sudanese politics. While Mamdani’s analysis of the Western-led global community’s bid to entirely de-politicise the conflict is highly perceptive, Verhoeven, Bosire and Srinivasan contend, ‘Saviors and Survivors’ neglects discussion of significant factors such as the violent, exploitative role of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the conflict’s evolution. These gaps notwithstanding however, ‘Saviors and Survivors’ represents a thought-provoking and insightful analysis of the misguided state of international humanitarianism and its relation to the Darfur ‘genocide’, the reviewers conclude in this week’s Pambazuka News.

      Crises in African countries are too often given a media attention-span of a couple of days. Millions of deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia’s two decades of disorder and the famines in Ethiopia only capture the imagination when related to gorillas, pirates and rock stars, respectively, before they return to their footnote status.

      Darfur, however, is different. A resource-poor region of Africa is at the centre of the most vibrant student activist campaign in a generation. In a unanimous vote in mid-2004, both the US House of Representatives and the Senate labelled it 'genocide' (before sending out a mission to inquire into whether it really was, but no matter). For five years since and counting, Darfur has consistently been at the top of the agenda for human rights activists, media outlets and the Western-led international community: aid organisations have set up the world’s largest humanitarian operation and more than 15,000 UN and AU peacekeepers now operate in western Sudan. To cap it all, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and is appealing to add a charge of genocide. What is going on?

      'Saviors and Survivors' [Editor: 'Savior' is the US spelling] is Professor Mahmood Mamdani’s answer to this question. This is a book about the naming and framing of violence, and its consequences. It explains why this war in particular has received such unusual publicity and become the object of international political and judicial activism. Through an investigation into the roots of the violence, Mamdani challenges the moral, apolitical rendering of the conflict in the activist – and consequently global – consciousness. Combining analytical strength and historical knowledge with a provocative tone, this book has unleashed, since its preview essay in the Nation and the London Review of Books a year ago, one of the most heated discussions of an African conflict in recent time.

      According to Mamdani, the ICC’s arrest warrants, the campaign of the Save Darfur Coalition (SDC), and the principle of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ should be understood in the context of the wider emerging Western thinking and discourse epitomised by the global War on Terror (WOT).

      'Saviors and Survivors' does not try to tie a conspiratorial thread between the WOT, the ICC and the SDC as some of its critics allege. Rather, it explicitly aims to highlight the problematic nature of the increasing tendency of the Western-led international community to remove the ‘political’ – the adversarial, the contestable – from key areas of public life and public decision-making. The SDC, just like WOT-theorists, de-politicises conflicts, preferring to cast them in intellectually easy, intuitively appealing and politically convenient terms of ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

      What is effectively a technocratic banner of ‘global justice’ and ‘universal values’ obscures quintessentially political questions about the who, what and why of ‘global’ interventionism and thereby also veils powerful interests and highly partisan decisions. In the WOT zeitgeist, complex violent processes are radically simplified and packaged in catchy sound-bites and emotionally charged messages. The contradictions and particular stakes of politics are removed from the war setting and replaced by absolutist norms that leave us with only one ‘a-political’ (and hence morally obvious) choice: military action. And just like the WOT, the supporters of military intervention in Darfur cannot be bothered with local nuances, socio-historical processes and the messy nature of on-the-ground conflict realities that do not fit nice legal or ethical categories. There can be no discussion of how certain ‘perpetrators’ were once ‘victims’ and how the ‘victims’ are at risk of becoming ‘perpetrators’ due to outside intervention, or of how the ‘saviours’ of some continue to be the oppressors of others.

      The reason for action is moral. Politics is to be kept at bay; it is too messy, analysing and understanding it takes too long – look where politics got us in Rwanda.

      And Rwanda is particularly emotive for the Darfur activists. As Mamdani notes, 'The lesson is to rescue before it is too late, to act before seeking to understand. Though it is never explicitly stated, Rwanda is recalled as a time when we thought we needed to know more; we waited to find out, to learn the difference between Tutsi and Hutu, and why one was killing the other… What is new about Darfur, human rights interventionists will tell you, is the realisation that sometimes we must respond ethically and not wait. That time is when genocide is occurring.' In other words, prescribe the solution without understanding the problem. What 'Saviors and Survivors' suggests is that an understanding of the problem would lead to a vastly different understanding of what solutions are necessary.

      Mamdani perceptively contrasts the current wave of Darfur activism with the anti-war campaign around Vietnam and the struggle against apartheid – the SDC’s bottom-line is about military intervention: it mobilises for war, not for peace. The tactics used to influence public opinion too are very different. A particularly striking paragraph is Mamdani’s description of how the SDC, in its early days, distributed ‘action packets’ according to faith with a specific message tailored to religious stereotypes: if Christians were asked to lead (the burden to save) and Jews were uniquely placed to bear witness (the Holocaust), then Muslims, cast in the WOT-framework, were asked to fight oppressors in their midst and identify perpetrators.

      The SDC’s mischaracterisation of the Darfur conflict as being about ‘Arabs’ committing genocide against Darfur’s ‘African’ population was meant to appeal to a very broad, albeit only American, audience, uniting east coast liberals, African-American churches and deep south nativists behind Congress resolutions. Led by movie stars and campus activists who decried Darfur as an ‘African Auschwitz’, Mamdani rightly criticises this ad hoc coalition of right-wing conservatives and youthful Western progressives for turning Darfur into a place and an issue ‘to feel good about yourself because we’re doing the 'right' thing and not engaging in politics’. Put differently, intervention in this brave new post-9/11 world claims to destroy evil, not to tackle a political problem. Quod non, of course.

      The outcome? Humanitarian impunity. Here, Mamdani points out that Africa is the site of experimentation: the logic of societal experimentation in the form of Structural Adjustment Programmes that led to collapse in the public sector continues in the work of the humanitarians. Today, in the messy situations of ongoing conflict, a new idea is being advocated, that of prosecutions at all cost, even when increased violence – as seen with the murderous rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army now engaged in violence in the DR Congo – becomes a real outcome. What are the implications for the institution of accountability itself and our hierarchies of principles when we embrace the dogma of unconditional, immediate justice – justice by force or through the suspension of peaceful negotiation if necessary? Who gets to decide which right trumps others? And before we say ‘the international community’, what legitimacy and accountability have those who constitute this group, assuming we can agree to the analytical content of this ‘international community’? In theory, prosecution and military intervention are elegant interventions. However, if they go wrong – and humanitarianism is littered with interventions gone wrong – architects do not have to live with the consequences of their action.

      Whereas 'Saviors and Survivors' offers some excellent reflections on the ideological background of the international community’s role in the Darfur conflict, it is less good at analysing what has actually (not) happened. For all Mamdani’s claims about the extraordinary efficiency of the SDC and its congressional resolutions, the policy of Washington (and by extension, other Western countries) towards Sudan over the past years has been incoherent and deeply ineffective. Nor has the principle of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) and its definition of sovereignty transformed the will of interveners. In making a case for the concept, one of R2P’s philosophical fathers, Gareth Evans, said, 'While the primary responsibility to protect its own people properly lies with the sovereign state, if that responsibility is abdicated, through ill-will or incapacity, then it shifts to the international community collectively – who should respond with force if large scale killing or ethnic cleansing is involved, and that is the only way to halt or avert the tragedy.'

      While Mamdani sees this discourse as thrusting open doors for the violation of African sovereignty, this outcome has not been forthcoming. Instead, the US has swung back and forth between long periods of silence, outright confrontation with al-Bashir, support for the former rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and attempts at normalising diplomatic relations with Khartoum. It initially supported African Union troops, then considered them to be inadequate, subsequently lobbied for a UN peacekeeping force only to fail to seriously support it when it finally took over in January 2008. Simultaneously, the Bush administration invited Sudan’s intelligence chief to Langley, Virginia, for collaboration in the context of the global WOT. Overall then, Washington and other stakeholders who have embraced the genocide label have struggled to manage competing interests – the Khartoum–SPLA peace agreement, terrorism, regional stability, Darfur – and have failed to develop a coherent long-term policy that really improves the human security of Sudanese civilians. It has been exactly this problem of inconsistency, confusion and the exigencies of realpolitik, rather than bellicose confrontationalism inspired by militant activism, that has dominated real world Western actions.

      This brings us to the second of three major shortcomings of the book: its own portrayal of the violence in Darfur. While 'Saviors and Survivors' does a masterful job of exposing the flaws in the orthodox ‘genocide’-narrative of the Darfur conflict, demanding that history and politics are injected into our understanding, it offers an account of its own that lacks engagement with critical parts of the historical context of violence in Sudan. In effect, Mamdani diminishes the importance of contemporary Sudanese politics that do matter to the understanding of Darfur.

      For Mamdani, Darfur is, essentially, a two-decades old war over land, caused by the nefarious interplay of prolonged drought, the colonial legacy of re-tribalisation and the Cold War’s negative impact. Building on earlier scholarship, he argues that Darfur’s history cannot be constructed as a simple settler (Arab) vs. native (African) narrative, as the SDC does, with a bad ‘Arab’ government as spoiler-in-chief; we need a far more sophisticated analysis in both space and time to understand the contemporary violence. While Darfur served as a launching pad for proxy warfare in neighbouring Chad between France, the US and Libya, displacement through desertification in the 1980s unleashed a struggle over ever-shrinking quantities of land: as Darfurians responded by resorting to increasingly narrow racial–ethnic constructs, the Malthusian trap became ever more violent. For Mamdani then, the national government’s role in all of this has largely been one of misreading local dynamics and failed attempts to broker negotiated settlements. By 2003, the violence had spiralled out of control and acquired broader national implications; the rise of two potent rebel movements led to a brutal counter-insurgency marked by gross human rights violations.

      The problem is not so much that these claims are wrong (though some scholars have taken issue with its reconstruction of the history of land and identity in Darfur), but that through their selectiveness, they could be seen as absolving the current regime in Khartoum from its devastating political, moral and legal responsibility for the atrocities and displacement in the region. Mamdani effectively diminishes the importance of recent deliberate political actions through an under-analysis of why Darfur is not exceptional and of why Sudan has been torn apart since independence by countless macro- and micro-conflicts: war in Sudan – whether in the east, in the south or in the west – is fundamentally not a 'clash of (Islamic and Christian) civilisations', nor a question of irreconcilable ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ cultures, but the result of the brutal exclusionary rule of a faction of Sudanese elite who control the country.

      'Saviors and Survivors' overlooks how, since coming to power in 1989, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has radicalised these core–periphery tendencies under the banner of militant Islam, rhetorically welcoming as equals all those from the peripheries who wanted to join its cause, but in reality deepening the political–economic realities of exclusion and wealth accumulation in Sudan. During the last decades, Darfur, like other ‘backward’ parts of Sudan, has been totally deprived of public goods like security provision, decent healthcare and roads, while its people have been excluded from government jobs at the centre. Historically, Darfurians had a wide range of mechanisms to deal with both climatic changes and tribal–political upheaval and did so without falling into ethno-ecological conflicts; the intensification of violence from the mid-1980s onwards has thus less to do with creeping desertification and ‘unfortunate’ governmental misunderstanding than with a context of structural exclusion that makes, and keeps, people vulnerable to disasters, whether natural or political. The ruling NCP did not merely fail to ‘think through’ the colonially crafted divide, as Mamdani sees it, but it reinforced and exploited divisive ideas of race, identity and citizenship in order to manage patronage politics, as it has done elsewhere in Sudan.

      The similarities between the tragedy in Darfur and wars elsewhere in the country go beyond their position in the Sudanese state and relate to the dynamics of the conflict itself. There is a vicious and deliberate interlocking of decentralised violence, forced migration, racialised language and ethnic divide-and-rule. The scorched earth tactics in which displacement and terror are often more important than actual killing; the dehumanising discourse that stirs up hate and antagonises communities; the use of proxy militias, composed of marginalised groups in their own right, who are given total impunity to combat the enemy; the systematic transfer of assets (cattle, land, waterholes etc.) from those targeted by the government to those fighting for Khartoum; the aerial bombardment of civilians and the use of aid as a weapon against people; the false ceasefires and the relentless obstruction of humanitarian operations to wear down the international community and rebel opposition: the pattern of violence in Darfur eerily mimics that of war in the 1980s and 1990s in Southern Kordofan, Equatoria and Bahr al-Ghazal. Ahmed Haroun (who has been indicted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity) exemplifies how the horrors of Darfur are connected to massacres in other parts of Sudan. Haroun was not only one of the chief organisers of the Janjaweed in 2003–04, he also led the government militias in their 1990s jihad in the Nuba mountains, raping, pillaging and killing to break the soul of the local communities.

      None of this is to be found in 'Saviors and Survivors’. While Mahmood Mamdani rightfully criticises the international community’s simplistic account of ‘genocide’ in Darfur, he engages in his own distortion through his downplay of the agency of those factions of the Sudanese elites in control of the state. War, exclusion and underdevelopment in Sudan have a history that needs to be told. And Darfur is now more than ever before an integral part of that history.

      The third problem with the book is in its vision of the contents of accountable politics. For Mamdani, there are three kinds of justice possible – political, criminal and social. Quite apart from the problem of the court being an extension of the anti-political humanitarian fundamentalist Zeitgeist – after all, the ICC considers cases according to technical specifications of gravity and applies the appropriate procedures, unencumbered by the politics that produced the violence – the ICC’s focus on criminal justice is inadequate. Seeking to deliver justice in accordance to the ‘Nuremberg Model’, the court assumes that it is possible to tell apart good and evil, perpetrators and victims. It also assumes that the survivors do not have to live together, that the violence has ended and that there is a winner. In Darfur, as South Africa, Mamdani offers, the situation is different. Right and wrong, perpetrator and victim, are far more fluid. People have to live together; there are no winners and losers. Everyone is a survivor. The solution lies in the establishment of political change and inclusive institutions, with an acknowledgement that amnesty may be a price to be paid. Instead of criminal justice, the focus should be political justice based on what Mamdani calls the Kempton Park model that brought an end to apartheid in South Africa. There the focus was on political justice, not criminal justice. The process focused on the political needs of the nation, privileging the sovereignty of the country over the principles of the amorphous international community.

      What Mamdani does not address is that the ‘Kempton Park’ choices of apartheid South Africa, Mozambique and southern Sudan were easier to make because the outside world was not all mobilised behind one principle, right or wrong. Is Kempton Park still on the table now that the rules of peace negotiations – and of who should end up in parliament and who should be in jail – have been transformed? Might the activists be satisfied with delayed justice, where amnesty and political transformation are privileged, with the knowledge that later, whenever domestic politics allows it, prosecutions can take place? After all, many countries are recently revisiting their old amnesty provisions. Mamdani does not make this proposal but it might be one worth considering, including its moral hazard. Further, South Africa has demonstrated that the Kempton Park model does not automatically address social justice, the other pillar of justice often part of the root causes of violence. Where does this leave us? This is not addressed.

      In conclusion, 'Saviors and Survivors' demonstrates how the humanitarian project – with the SDC and the ICC being just two examples thereof – has shifted and continues to shift the vocabulary through which all local claims are made, how people understand their problems, what solutions are availed to them and which ones are excluded. This thought-provoking book leaves us with an existential question: What are we do with a humanitarianism which, instead of increasing the agency of those it hopes to support, removes from them the possibilities of acting out of their predicament, turning them into wards, passive subjects in need of saving?


      * Harry Verhoeven and Lydiah Kemunto Bosire are reading for their doctorates in Politics at the University of Oxford. Sharath Srinivasan is the David and Elaine Potter Lecturer in Governance and Human Rights in the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge.
      * Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror is available from Pantheon Books.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Review of Chris Dolan’s ‘Social Torture: The Case of Northern Uganda, 1986-2006’

      Marina Sharpe


      Marina Sharpe reviews Chris Dolan’s ‘Social Torture: The Case of Northern Uganda, 1986-2006’. Commending Dolan’s counter narrative to the standard, short-sighted characterisation of the conflict enveloping northern Uganda, Sharpe applauds the author’s success in sensitively capturing the experiences and suffering of the north’s Acholi people.

      In ‘Social Torture: The Case of Northern Uganda, 1986-2006’, Dr Chris Dolan challenges the standard characterisation of the situation in northern Uganda as a civil war between a ragtag band of rebels seeking to rule the country according to the biblical Ten Commandments, and Yoweri Museveni’s government in Kampala, trying in vain to eradicate them. Dolan posits that there is no war in northern Uganda. Rather, the situation there is one of ‘social torture’ in which the Acholi people have for decades been subject to systemic torture through their enforced dependency on a protection system that is itself a primary source of violations. Such violations – of rights to a livelihood, to education and to healthcare and of physical and psychological well-being, among others – have subordinated a population that might otherwise represent a threat to Museveni’s hegemony, and have provided populations on the verge of dissent with a powerful warning. Dolan thus provides a convincing answer to the question of why the government of Uganda has been ostensibly unable to eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA): ending the conflict is not in its interests.

      The introduction provides an overview of the book and its central argument, seamlessly incorporating the work of key critical scholars of conflict, aid and development. Following a section outlining research methodology, Dolan provides an overview of the situation in northern Uganda, adding value by discussing subjective experiences of conflict where most accounts focus on the objective. By considering the nature of the LRA and the disjuncture between the government’s stated intentions and its actions, the fourth chapter goes a long way towards demystifying this hitherto misunderstood rebel group and confronts the usual depiction of a war of insurgents versus central authority. The following three chapters detail the experiences of the majority of the northern population, demonstrating how in the name of protection they have experienced key elements of torture: violation (chapter 5); debilitation (chapter 6); and humiliation, particularly of men (chapter 7). In chapter 8, Dolan articulates his model of social torture – the narratives of chapters 5 through 7 evidencing its constituent elements – and details the interests social torture serves and explains how public discourses of intra-ethnic war, terrorism and humanitarian crisis are used to legitimate it.

      Taken together, chapters 5 through 8 provide the evidence for Dolan’s central argument, that the oft-proffered Clausewitzian view of the situation in northern Uganda is flawed. If the government were truly committed to peace, the LRA’s self-limiting rejection of modernity would have allowed its military defeat years ago. The confrontation between the LRA and the government persists because it disguises a deeper process of social torture that supports a range of vested interests, namely, the Ugandan government’s interest in a process of ‘subordinate inclusion’ of the Acholi and donors’ interest in maintaining the government of Uganda in a subordinate position, to name but a few.

      The primary sites of social torture are the government-devised and internationally supported ‘protected villages’ found throughout northern Uganda. Dolan exposes these ‘villages’ as nothing more than squalid internal displacement camps into which people were forced, in violation of international law, and where they suffered a range of violations, in many cases perpetrated by members of the army (the Uganda People’s Defence Forces or UPDF), the very actors charged with camp protection. When not actively committing violations, the UPDF often failed to protect people from LRA attacks and general crime, which in many cases were the result of the extreme social dysfunction engendered by the camps. Dolan argues that by supporting the camps materially and not speaking out against them, international humanitarian agencies are complicit in the violations that occurred there: ‘like doctors in a torture situation, they appear to be there to ease the suffering of victims, but in reality they enable the process to be prolonged by keeping the victim alive for further abuse’.

      Dolan has not only skilfully demonstrated how powerful vested interests, most notably those of the government, allowed northern Uganda to become what the UN’s Chief of Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland famously called the most neglected humanitarian emergency in the world. Dolan has also provided a new theoretical lens through which to examine situations of protracted conflict, that of social torture. But perhaps most importantly, he has provided a rich, detailed and wide-ranging ethnography of Acholi suffering. The depth, rigour and humility with which Dolan describes Acholi people’s subjective experiences of the situation in northern Uganda actually serve to honour, and are a testament to, the conflict’s countless victims and survivors.

      The depth, breadth and scholarliness of Dolan’s account set it apart from other work on northern Uganda. LRA crimes have, however, been well-documented in academic and advocacy circles. Much of the recent work in this regard relates to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into the situation in northern Uganda. Thus far, the investigation has focused almost exclusively on the LRA. By exposing UPDF atrocities and those resulting from the government-backed system of encampment, and by querying government attempts to eliminate the LRA, Dolan provides an important counter narrative and a unique factual record demonstrating that all actors in northern Uganda – not just the LRA – have blood on their hands. Beyond having written an excellent book, Dolan’s real triumph will be if this counter narrative reaches beyond ‘Social Torture’s’ presumably academic audience. One can only hope that ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will read this book.


      * Chris Dolan’s ‘Social Torture: The Case of Northern Uganda, 1986-2006’ is available from Berghahn Books.
      * Marina Sharpe is legal officer and deputy director of the refugee programme at Fahamu.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Screenings of A Place in the City


      Still haven’t seen A Place in the City? In this film, made by Jenny Morgan and distributed by Fahamu, members of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the grassroots shackdwellers' movement lay out their case – against forcible eviction and for decent services – with passion, eloquence, and sweet reason. A Place in the City is being screened at festivals in South Africa, the US and the UK in September and October.


      Nearly 15 years since apartheid ended, millions of black South Africans still live in self-built shacks – without sanitation, adequate water supplies, or electricity.
But A Place in the City will overturn all your assumptions about 'slums' and the people who live in them.
In this film, shot in the vast shack settlements in and around Durban, members of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the grassroots shackdwellers' movement, lay out their case – against forcible eviction and for decent services – with passion, eloquence, and sweet reason.

      The film captures the horrible conditions in which shackdwellers live – but it also captures Abahlali's bravery and resilience, in a political climate where grassroots campaigners like them are more likely to be met with rubber bullets than with offers to talk.
'For the first time now', says S'bu Zikode, Abahlali's elected leader, 'poor people have started to speak for themselves. Now, that challenges those who are paid to think for us – who are paid to speak for us.'
At the heart of Abahlali's struggle is the struggle for meaningful citizenship rights for South Africa's poor majority. 'Or does freedom in South Africa,' asks Abahlali volunteer organiser Louisa Motha, 'only belong to the rich?'


      Johannesburg, Capetown, Durban, Tshwane
      TriContinental Film Festival

      3rd International Black DocuFest

      Haringey Independent Cinema
      Thursday 29 October

      Write a review for Pambazuka News!



      Reclaiming our Lives
      Kaori Izumi

      One World: A global anthology of short stories
      Various authors

      Postneoliberalism - A beginning debate
      Ulrich Brand/Nicol Sekler

      War Veterans in Zimbabwe's Land Occupations
      Wilbert Zakanyorwa Sadomba

      Courting Conflict?
      Nicholas Waddell & Phil Clark

      Africa's Development in the 21st Century
      Fantu Cheru

      Morocco and the Sahara
      Mohamed Cherkaoui

      International Journal on Human Rights No 8
      Various authors

      Who Answers to Women?
      Anne Marie Goetz

      A House in Zambia
      Robin Palmer

      Do something about it!
      Bill Porter

      Building the Green Economy
      Kevin Danaher/Shannon Biggs.Jason Mark

      Global Information Society Watch 2008
      Alan Finlay

      Women's Land Rights & Privatization in Eastern Africa
      Birgit Englert & Elizabeth Daley

      Waging the War on Want
      Mark Luetchfrod and Peter Burns

      Understanding Organisational Stability through African Proverbs
      Chiku Mulunga with Charles Banda

      Southern Africa (The Making of the Contemporary World)
      Jonathan Farley

      The Scramble for Africa
      Steven Fake and Kevin Funk

      The Trial of Robert Mugabe
      Chielo Zona Eze

      The Dark Sahara
      Jeremy Keenan

      ACCESS: How do good health technologies get to poor people in poor countries
      Laura Frost & Michael Reich

      Global Union Federations & International Business
      Richard Croucher & Elizabeth Cotton

      A Hand to the Plough
      Patrick Evans

      The Caine Prize for African Writing 2009: Work in Progress and other stories

      Letters & Opinions

      The West is wealthy at our expense

      Walugembe Tom


      Africa the place is not poor, but Africans are, writes Walugembe Tom – and you ‘do not have to be a genius to figure out’ why.

      On Monday 24 August 2009, the BBC aired the first programme in its documentary series titled, Why is Africa poor? While I found the programme quite informative, I must point out unequivocally that the title of these series is a deliberate and malicious falsehood. The presenter of the programme himself admitted that having covered Africa for over 20 years as a journalist, he knows that ‘Africa the place is not poor, but Africans are.’ One can not resist the thought that had the program been well intended the appropriate title should have been, ‘Why are Africans poor?’

      You do not have to be a genius to figure out that ‘Africans’ the people who occupy the most endowed continent on earth in terms of natural resources, land and water, are its poorest not because of some miracle or accident but because of a systematic and perpetual plunder of our natural resources by the West and lately the Chinese.

      In his book How Europe underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney argues that Europe developed directly at the expense of Africa. It is clear that up to today, the West continues to develop at the expense of Africans. This fact was perfectly illustrated to me about two weeks ago. The BBC reported that robbers had stolen items worth £60 million from a London jewellery shop. The two apparently smartly dressed armed men made off with 43 items in all, which included gold watches, diamond earrings and necklaces. The amount involved in this robbery was quite captivating and the Metropolitan Police confirmed that it was the second biggest robbery in the history of Britain.

      A quick search in the encyclopedia reveals that the only mineral wealth that Britain has to boast of is clay, coal and scanty oil wells in the North Sea. I therefore stand to be corrected, if there is any gold or diamond mine in Great Britain. Further research from the gold and diamond mining directories clearly shows that, according to the history of production of these two expensive minerals, Africa has contributed over 70 per cent of the world’s total production!

      Going by the statistics recently provided by the honourable minister of finance Syda Bbumba, £60 million is about 25 per cent of Uganda’s National expenditure for this financial year. It is clear thus, that if Africa’s abundant natural resources were used for the benefit of Africans, we would certainly not be poor. Africans are poor because it is the multinational mining companies that profit from their resources. Imperialism has changed face and tactics and it now operates under the disguise of these multinational mining companies.

      The multinational mining companies achieve their monopoly by coercing African governments into entering secret agreements with them, whereby they are given massive tax exemptions. It should also be noted that these parasitic companies do not avail their accounts books for scrutiny by African governments.

      According to a report Sierra Leone at the crossroads: seizing the chance to benefit from mining, Sierra Leone in 2008 earned only US$10 million from mineral exports worth £179 million. It is only obvious that the balance of $US169 million must have gone to the bank accounts of the parasitic multinational companies somewhere in Europe or America.

      African Nationalists have always insisted that the ultimate unity of Africa is the only viable solution to the continent’s underdevelopment. Unfortunately, this sacred goal has been derailed by the west using their puppet leaders in Africa to argue that regional blocs are more tenable. What these detractors deliberately ignore is the fact that despite the existence of these regional blocs for instance the EAC, SADC and ECOWAS, internal trade in Africa is less than 2 per cent! Kwame Nkrumah, one of the most dynamic flag bearers of African Nationalism, said in the 1950s that ‘any black man who says that Africa is not ready to unite is a hypocrite.’ Today in 2009, we are saying that any one who says that Africa is not ready to unite is our enemy!

      Africans will remain poor until there is but one strong united Africa, governed by one union government, with one African currency and one Africa passport. Gaining permanent membership to the United Nations Security Council would be inevitable for a united Africa. A united Africa is a potential world ‘super power’, the west knows this very clearly and they will do every thing within their means to prevent it from becoming a reality. The current crop of African leaders who continue to frustrate the unity of Africa can no longer afford to be complacent because the youth of Africa are now showing themselves to be conscious and vigilant about these issues to the extent that they are ready to use ‘any means necessary’ to achieve African unity.

      Long live African sovereignty, long live African unity.


      * Walugembe Tom is an African Nationalist.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Zambia needs an electoral complaints authority

      Henry Kyambalesa


      Henry Kyambalesa makes the case for an electoral complaints authority in Zambia.

      I wish to request all the participants in the plenary session of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) to seriously consider the prospect of making a recommendation for the establishment of an 'Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia', to be included among the commissions or institutions recommended in the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) Draft Constitution.

      The 'Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia' should assume the functions of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) stipulated in Clauses 6 through 8 of Article 112 of the Draft Constitution. These functions could be designated as a separate Article, and could be amended and paraphrased as follows:

      (1) The 'Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia' shall consider and determine all issues and matters of malpractices relating to the ECZ and/or its officers occurring before, during and after elections or referenda.

      (2) It shall also determine all electoral disputes and issues of malpractices, occurring before or during an election, within 24 hours of receiving a complaint with regard to the dispute or malpractice and shall have the discretion to make an order –

      (a) Prohibiting a person or political party from doing any act proscribed by or under an Act of Parliament

      (b) Excluding a person or any agent of a person or any candidate or agent of a political party from entering a polling station

      (c) Reducing or increasing the number of votes cast in favour of a candidate after a recount

      (d) Disqualifying the candidature of any person

      (e) That the votes cast at a particular polling station do not tally in whole or in part

      (f) For filing a complaint and making a report to a court or tribunal handling any electoral petition

      (g) Cancelling an election or election result and calling a fresh election, where the electoral malpractice is of a nature that would affect the final electoral results.

      (3) A decision of the 'Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia' on any matter referred to in Clause (2) shall be final only for the purpose of proceeding with the elections.

      (4) Any complaints connected to an election that shall be raised after an election shall be dealt with under an election petition by an electoral tribunal.

      Articles 113 through 116 of the Mung’omba Draft Constitution could be amended to incorporate the 'Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia', except Article 113(3)(b), which, for the purposes of the suggested authority, could read as follows: 'forwarding the names of the short-listed candidates for appointment to a "Committee on Elections" for ratification' (which would need to be created to expand the number of portfolio committees of parliament).

      So, in making the appointments of the members of the ECZ, the Appointments Committee (recommended by the CRC) shall forward the names of short-listed candidates for appointment to the president for ratification or confirmation. On the other hand, the Appointments Committee shall forward the names of short-listed candidates for appointment to the 'Electoral Complaints Authority of Zambia' to a 'Committee on Elections' for ratification or confirmation.

      There is a need for a separate governmental watchdog designed to monitor the activities of officers of the ECZ, and the conduct of elections in the country. This will hopefully lessen the vulnerability of the ECZ and the electoral process to the influences, manipulation and/or machinations of unscrupulous politicians and political parties.


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

      African Writers’ Corner

      An interview with Julius Chingono



      In a concise interview, Poéfrika asks the Zimbabwean poet Julius Chingono about his background and the craft behind poetry.

      POÉFRIKA: How did you get into writing poetry? Did any one thing push you over the edge?


      POÉFRIKA: Do you work on just one poem at a time, or do you work on several at the same time?

      JULIUS CHINGONO: Several.

      POÉFRIKA: Poets spend a lot of time perfecting their craft, and then perfecting each piece. How do you balance this with family life and with little income (compared with the input)?

      JULIUS CHINGONO: I work daily. I do not know how long it takes me to complete a poem.

      POÉFRIKA: These are difficult times, and they say laughter is the best medicine. What makes you laugh?

      JULIUS CHINGONO: Because I am part of the society I write about.

      POÉFRIKA: Is there a particular goal you seek when you write? Awake others? Entertain them? Tell the truth? What?

      JULIUS CHINGONO: Tell the truth.

      POÉFRIKA: How do you know when a poem is ‘finished’, and do you stop work on it then and there?

      JULIUS CHINGONO: It is difficult to convince myself that a poem is complete.

      POÉFRIKA: You are to encourage poetry students to write a poem. Please come up with a 'writing prompt' out of your own experience, or out of something else, using anything that invades your mind right now. Very short and simple.

      JULIUS CHINGONO: Put pen to paper and write whatever comes to your mind.

      POÉFRIKA: Which writers, living or not, have influenced you the most?

      JULIUS CHINGONO: Pablo Neruda, Charles Mungoshi, Oswald Mtshali.

      POÉFRIKA: How do you write? Drink coffee, wine? Listen to music? Type, scribble? What atmosphere do you feel out of place not writing in?

      JULIUS CHINGONO: There is no place I feel I cannot write.

      POÉFRIKA: Here's an ongoing poem. Please add to it.

      They stood before me that night
      With clenched fists and blown pupils,
      Shadowed by leafless branches of a cotton tree,
      The moon as bright as the moon and no metaphor

      For which image can serve? What simile
      Makes sense enough? The ghosts that guard
      The tree nod yes, though I’ve not said a thing.
      One shade uncurls and crooks a bony finger, calling me.

      The voices rise up like be-headed trees
      I stumble forward fear at my heels
      How did this night arrive and where is wisdom’s heed
      "Gone my child is your clothes – face now this thing."

      So strip off your nudity, and learn to be naked.
      Release your fears as branches drop leaves
      And let yourself see.
      The man with an axe stands by
      About to chop your ego,
      Stand well away.


      * Julius Chingono is a Zimbabwean poet. His work can be read at Poetry International.
      * This interview was originally published by Poéfrika.
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Blogging Africa

      The gift and the curse

      A review of the African blogosphere

      Dibussi Tande


      In this week's review of the African blogosphere, Dibussi Tande looks at Africa's inability to meaningfully exploit its natural resources, corruption in Cameroon, the ongoing water crisis in Kenya and questions of water catchment destruction, and male rape in Congo's ongoing violence.

      Ghana Pundit explains why Africa remains Africa lacks an effective strategy to exploit its natural resources:

      “At the heart of the problem is transparency and inequitable distribution of the wealth derived from Africa’s vast wealth. Some have referred to Africa’s natural wealth as the gift and the curse…
      The continent’s wealth has been the gift that could uplift the continent from poverty, but it has been a curse in as much it has brought wars, corruption and other ills associated with wealthy looting and exploitation. The control of Africa’s wealth has attracted untold suffering for some of its Citizens who have become victims instead of beneficiaries.
      The list of countries that have been totally devastated and remain poor despite unmatched natural wealth is rather long. This conflict is normally driven by a few who have control of the wealth and do not feel the need to properly re-invest the wealth within the communities where the wealth originally resides.
      In the Nigerian Delta oil centered conflict has been raging on, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) war has been going on, same in the Sudan , Angola and several other nations .Liberia and Sierra Leone went through horrible times fueled by blood diamond money.
      Closer to home Zimbabwe’s Chiadzwa diamonds have now joined the infamous league of blood diamonds … Despite being home to what is reportedly the second biggest diamond reserves in Africa , Chiadzwa remains an impoverished village whose inhabitants are haunted by those with the means. This has been Africa’s tragedy. The lack of will to be accountable with natural wealth. This lack of transparency breeds poverty as a few seek to hideously exploit this wealth and nothing much is re invested in the area and country of origin.”

      Our man in Cameroon contends that corruption is the sole barrier to development in Cameroon, and uses an excerpt from the book, The Undercover Economist, to explain why:

      “Because of its lousy education system, Cameroon is perhaps twice as poor as it could be. Because of its terrible infrastructure, it’s roughly twice as poor again. So we would expect Cameroon to be four times poorer than the United States. But it is 50 times poorer...
      The rot starts with government, but it afflicts the entire society. There’s no point investing in a business because the government will not protect you against thieves. (So you might as well become a thief yourself.) There’s no point in paying your phone bill because no court can make you pay. (So there’s no point being a phone company.) There’s no point setting up an import business because the customs officers will be the ones to benefit. (So the customs office is underfunded and looks even harder for bribes.) There’s no point getting an education because jobs are not handed out on merit. (And in any case, you can’t borrow money for school fees because the bank can’t collect on the loan.)
      It is not news that corruption and perverse incentives matter. But perhaps it is news that the problem of twisted rules and institutions explains not just a little bit of the gap between Cameroon and rich countries but almost all of the gap.
      Countries like Cameroon fall far below their potential even considering their poor infrastructure, low investment, and minimal education. Worse, the web of corruption foils every effort to improve the infrastructure, attract investment, and raise educational standards.”

      Kwasababu argues that current water changes in Kenya cannot be blamed entirely on climate changes:
      “The rains in Kenya have failed for four years in a row. As well as resulting in a shortage of water, there have also been crop failures, domestic animals dying in huge numbers and a shortage of electricity, much of which is generated by water.

      Despite all this, some Kenyan politicians think it is a good idea to give subsidies to foreign multinationals which grow biofuels for people in developing countries to burn in their cars. They also lease hundreds of thousands of hectares to foreign governments so they can grow food for their populations while Kenyans are dispossessed of their land and left to starve…

      The continuing hoohah over the Mau Forest is also relevant here. Land there was grabbed in large quantities by rich people, many of whom were senior politicians. They misappropriated the land, stripped it of its forest and did pretty much what they liked with it, regardless of the consequences for ordinary Kenyans. And now they have been challenged, rather than rectify the problems they have caused through pure greed, they will probably do little more than evict the poorest people in the forest, who ended up there out of desperation.

      Large tracts of land in other areas relevant to the country's water security, such as Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, are owned by rich landowners, often absentee landowners. Water shortages cannot be blamed entirely on climate change.”

      Mighty African analyzes the state of the Ghanaian movie industry:

      “They are making the same Nollywood mistakes, average sound and video quality, concentrating on making as many movies as possible instead of improving the quality of the production, etc. Do you pay attention to the dialogue in these films? Ridiculous...
      If you are making two movies a month, you are not spending enough time on each production… We should spend a little more time on the movies, re-take the scenes till they are excellent and edit them properly to get rid of times where the mic is showing on the top of the screen...
      Where are all the major actors who were around before the movie industry took a nosedive around 2004? Akofa Adjeani-Asiedu, Pascaline Edwards, Brew Riverson, etc? Can someone cast Oscar Provencal in some Inspector Bediako role in a movie? No one mentions NAFTI anymore, is it dead? The idea of doing auditions at hotels for movies is not the way to go. The fact that someone can come and play the part of a lotto doctor brilliantly for 2 minutes doesn't mean he'll play different roles that well in other movies. If we can't afford to teach our actors, let's spend a little more time on our productions. I already discussed the monetizing options, putting out as many movies in a short time is not the only way to make money.”

      Bombastic Elements comments on a video of an Al Jazeera panel discussion (available on the blog) about the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Congo:

      “With Jeffrey Gettleman taking the issue of rape to the next level in his NYT piece last week about men raping men in the DRC, the only hint he gave about why rape is being employed as a strategic tool in the Congo is where he wrote, ‘the ... sexual violence against men is yet another way for armed groups to humiliate and demoralize Congolese communities into submission.’ ‘Submission’ for what exactly? In the AlJazeera panel discussion above, Kambale Musavuli adds, apart from other things, some much needed context to the Gettleman article:
      ‘Rape is a tool used in wars throughout the world. Look at Algeria with the Algerian revolution. Look at Liberia, you see the same thing as well as in Kosovo. This has been a strategy to put fear inside the communities, to intimidate the population, and for a mass displacement. Just remember, where those people live is where the minerals are located; those are areas rich in minerals. The cheapest way to displace mass populations is by instilling fear inside the community... those are just some of the effects ... of the scramble for Congo's mineral resources that has been at the root of [ongoing conflict in the Congo] for 125 years.’”

      Annansi Chronicles links to an article in the Sunday Monitor (Uganda) which calls on African heads of State to become techno-savvy:

      "How might African leaders react to its [technology-enabled] active and reflexive citizenry? One option is to befriend the technology and use its potential to improve lives….The choice a government makes between allowing the technology to enable, and using it to control will depend somewhat on how familiar the head of state is with the technology. In the interests of free self-expression, they should all get Blackberries."

      Annansi Chronicles agrees with the Sunday Monitor with a caveat:
      "While I agree with the assertion that African governments should embrace technology, there needs to also be the right checks and balances. Citizens are already finding innovative ways to use technology to supplement infrastructure gaps and get access to opportunities. By tapping into the informal processes of citizens, governments can better understand where the major gaps are, if they don’t already."

      * Dibussi Tande, a writer and activist from Cameroon, produces the blog Scribbles from the Den

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

      Emerging powers in Africa Watch

      Africa’s Freedom Railway

      'How a Chinese development project changed lives and livelihoods in Tanzania' by Jamie Monson

      Stephen Marks


      This week, Stephen Marks reviews Jamie Monson's book, Africa’s Freedom Railway: How a Chinese development project changed lives and livelihoods in Tanzania. The book tells the story of the TAZARA Railway - a symbol of the first heroic stage of China’s involvement in Africa and an ideologically inspired symbol of anti-imperialist solidarity, in contrast with today’s more pragmatic and market-driven Chinese engagement with the continent.

      The TAZARA railway has assumed almost iconic status as a symbol of the first heroic stage of China’s involvement in Africa and an ideologically inspired symbol of anti-imperialist solidarity, in contrast with today’s more pragmatic and market-driven Chinese engagement with the continent.

      That was certainly how it was seen at the time it was built in the early 1970s. China came forward to build the railway and fund it with a US$450m loan after western donors – including the World Bank and the UN – rejected initial approaches to back the project.

      The news was greeted with alarm in the West. The Wall Street Journal warned that ‘the prospect of hundreds and perhaps thousands of Red Guards descending upon an already troubled Africa is a chilling one for the West’. One US Congressman luridly described it as a ‘great steel arm of China thrusting its way into the African interior’.

      The saga of the railway’s construction seems an almost archetypal tale of voluntarist Maoist heroism. It took only five years to build and was finished ahead of schedule in 1975. Before construction work began, 12 Chinese surveyors travelled for nine months on foot from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya in the Southern Highlands to hack a path for the railway through the bush. Later some 50,000 Tanzanians and 25,000 Chinese toiled on the actual construction.

      But the railway’s later economic and structural decay is often also seen as a parable of wider political and economic changes. The fall of the white supremacist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa reopened the Zambian copper belt’s earlier established rail and road links to the south, which TAZARA was intended to circumvent, and so lost it much of its profitable traffic.

      Economic changes in Tanzania also increased the economic pressures on the railway, at the same time as its Chinese sponsors were withdrawing from their earlier African involvement. And the dissolution of the Ujamaa villages planned and located along the route as part of Nyerere’s own brand of socialist vision only seemed to confirm the view of the railway as an inevitably decaying and predictably run-down relic of an earlier age.

      But Jamie Monson’s engaging and empathic study challenges these easy assumptions – and without merely rehabilitating the myths of an earlier period. She has drawn on the first-hand experiences of the engineers and labourers both Chinese and African who actually built the railway, as well retrieving and recounting the life-histories of the villagers, farmers and traders along its route who used it creatively as an opportunity to transform their own lives.

      Though the Chinese working on the project had little social contact with their African fellow-workers, the experience of working on the railway did transform the lives of the local workers it employed. But, Monson finds, the influence was not ideological as the Wall Street Journal had feared – or at least not in the way it feared.

      The most lasting effect on those involved was through the example of what Monson calls ‘the values of modernity and progress through the practice of self-discipline and hard work’. Modernity was experienced ‘not just through handling machinery in the foundry but in the form of working for a wage, a new experience for many of the young recruits, and following a work routine that was organised into hourly shifts’.

      But the railway did not only transform the lives of those who helped to build it. In the most stimulating and engaging section of her work Monson looks at the ‘ordinary train’ – the slow stopping train which on alternate days stopped at every station carrying local passengers and freight.

      In particular she looks at the middle section of the railway in western Tanzania, between Msolwa and Mbeya. With a team of researchers, between 1998 and 2003 Monson studied how the railway made it possible for those living along its route to transform their lives. The team interviewed residents and passengers, observed daily life, and even collected and studied detailed passenger-parcel receipts.

      As she concludes; ‘Conventional assessments of TAZARA, which rely on large-scale, international and transregional indicators rather than small-scale, everyday traffic in goods and people, are typically unfavourable. But local traders, farmers, and workers use the railway in many ways to improve their lives, and an analysis of these railway-platform markets suggests that the standard assessments overlook something real and important...We found that TAZARA has been an important resource for the development of a thriving entrepreneurial economy along the route from Kilsoa to Mbeya, in southern Tanzania. Today TAZARA connects local communities and provides farmers with the physical, social, and economic mobility they need to contend with rural Africa’s unpredictable economic conditions. And its successes – though unanticipated and hard to measure with any precision – may suggest some important lessons for economic development elsewhere’.

      A typical story is that of Balista Kidehela, who finished primary school in Mbingu at the age of 16 and began trading in retail goods. He left the village to seek a better life in Dar es Salaam. But after three years, finding it hard going as a young man with few resources, he came back to Mbingu and stayed with his uncle while he built up his own business, trading along TAZARA.

      He traded together with his wife, who took bananas from Mbingu to sell in Dar es Salaam. There she would buy wholesale consumer goods and bring them back to Mbingu, where Balista would sell them retail in a small shop.

      He now has a small farm where he grows crops and keeps some livestock, and has launched into a new business – photography. ‘In this way’ he explains, ‘when I combine all these things together; farming, livestock raising, photography and small-scale trading, I have the certainty of knowing that one way or another, tomorrow when I wake up I will be well’.

      As well as physical mobility, Monson shows how the railway empowers local people to move from one resource, product or occupation to another in response to the fluctuations and uncertainties typical of a rural economy.

      This flexible creativity is all too often ignored or smothered by the grand narratives of urban elites, whether the centralising left or the global ‘free-market’ right. And the railway which enabled all of this would never have been created or survived if subjected to the narrow criteria of official ‘market profitability’.

      Ironically however the TAZARA Railway, once the showpiece of the early heroic phase of Sino-Tanzanian relations, looks likely to be rescued from the state of disrepair into which it had gradually fallen to become a key link in one of the most ambitious projects of China's new African strategy.

      After years of under-investment and mounting competition from road transport had brought the rail link to the verge of financial and structural collapse, it is now being rehabilitated by Chinese firms as a key link between two of China's Special Economic Zones [SEZs]. One in Chambishi, in Zambia’s copper belt, centres on a US$250 million anchor investment in a copper smelter, and is promoted as creating up to 60,000 jobs through duty and tax incentives for Chinese firms.

      The other SEZ is in Dar es Salaam where China has already invested in the modernisation and extension of the port. But this reconstructed TAZARA will link up in Zambia with the Benguela line crossing Angola to the Atlantic coast, and which China is also reconstructing. The two lines together will create a first-ever functioning east-west corridor across the continent.

      If the new line is not dominated by the large-scale long-distance traffic to the exclusion of the local initiatives that Monson brings to life for her readers, it could indeed bring ‘important lessons for economic development’ across the whole continent.

      * Stephen Marks is research associate and project coordinator with Fahamu's China in Africa Project.
      * Africa's Freedom Railway: How a Chinese development project changed lives and livelihoods in Tanzania by Jamie Monson is published by
      Indiana University Press (ISBN 978-0-253-35271-2)
      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

      Highlights French edition

      Pambazuka News 112: Mauritanie : Incertitudes politiques et questions raciales


      Zimbabwe update

      IMF gives Zimbabwe Sh39bn boost


      The International Monetary Fund has given Zimbabwe a windfall of more than US$500 million (Sh39bn) after almost a decade of financial restrictions imposed on the economically troubled country. This follows the injection of US$283 billion into the global economy to boost member countries dwindling foreign exchange reserves due to recession.

      South Africa wants faster talks


      South Africa wants long-running power sharing negotiations in Zimbabwe to move ahead more quickly, a senior member of South Africa's ruling ANC said. Thandi Modise, deputy secretary-general of the African National Congress, said her country wanted to see a recovery in Zimbabwe that would allow millions of Zimbabweans who have fled economic meltdown in their country to return home.

      Tsvangirai frustrated by unresolved disputes


      Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said he is frustrated with the unresolved disputes with President Robert Mugabe which he said were still pushing the development of the country down. Tsvangirai and Mugabe who entered into a government of national unity early this year have continued to disagree of several issues which have forced donors to fail to commit funds.

      Women & gender

      Global: Forum opens with claim on economic stimulus funds


      Activists from 131 countries has convened to recharge a global movement for women’s health and rights, opening with an appeal from a leading German minister for countries to earmark 1 per cent of their economic stimulus funds for development needs.

      Kenya: Killing the cut but keeping tradition alive


      An ancient myth from Meru, eastern Kenya, tells of a war during which all the healthy men in the village were deployed to fight an enemy tribe, only to return and find the women had been impregnated by the men left behind, who had been deemed incapable of defending the village. From that day on, the legend continues, Meru women have had their clitorises removed to curb their sexual appetites and ensure their marital fidelity.

      Mali: Back to the drawing board for new family code


      Legislators in Mali will have to try harder to win support for the next draft of their new family code after the president sent it back to parliament on 27 August for re-drafting. The current draft code recognizes only secular marriages, increases the legal marrying age to 18, gives girls inheritance rights, and makes women equal with their husbands at home, according to lawmakers who said they had not done enough to get backing for controversial parts of the family code.

      Niger: HIV-law shortcomings hit women harder


      Despite a two-year-old law in Niger penalizing discrimination against people infected with HIV, seropositive women say they still receive substandard health care, are denied employment and risk losing their children because of their status. “When a woman is divorced as a result of her HIV status, it is difficult for her to keep her children,” said Sona Soumaré Conté, president of a local NGO that works with HIV-positive women. "Their husbands are afraid their children will not be well taken care of or will become contaminated.”

      Nigeria: Maternal mortality - a rural example


      Women, their children strapped to their backs, defy the mid-morning sun and converge on the Primary Healthcare Centre, located on the outskirts of Farasinme village, the Badagry West Council Development Area of Lagos State. Most of the women, and a few men, have trekked to the centre, about one kilometre from the village, for free diabetes and hypertension screening and eye tests. They have come here for a free health service, initiated by the Lagos State Government, offered from time to time via various local government offices and health centres in the region.

      Southern Africa: Sexual harassment still rampant in newsrooms

      Gender Links


      One of the thorniest and most uncomfortable workplace issues in media houses is sexual harassment. Recent research released by Gender Links, a South African non-governmental organisation, suggests that sexual harassment continues to be a problem in Southern African media houses. Glass Ceilings: Women and Men in Southern African Media, resonates with the voices of media women who are fed up, have left, or are considering leaving the noble profession.
      Portia Kobue, executive producer of the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Morning Live noted that, “Men (in the media) still grapple with this issue. If I like a man’s advances, I won’t complain but if I don’t like it I will say it’s sexual harassment. Men still use it as a way of saying we are confused—and that sexual harassment is just a buzzword. There are plenty of sexual suggestions in the context of work.”

      Only 28% of the 126 media houses surveyed for the research said they have sexual harassment policies, although this percentage differs significantly by country. Some countries have regulation on sexual harassment within the national labour laws, which media houses have followed. For example, 82% of the media houses in South Africa have sexual harassment policies. Sexual harassment is an important component of the Employment Equity Act, No. 55 of 1998 in South Africa.

      However, this is not the case in other countries, and there is often a gap between policy and practice. There is a section in the amendments to Zimbabwe’s Labour Relations Act that deems sexual harassment an unfair labour practice, and the country has a national gender policy. However, women in media houses surveyed in that country say there is a gap between national laws and policies, and what really goes on in their workplaces.

      A female respondent in Zimbabwe, for example, pointed out that complaints often go unresolved. “Where issues of sexual harassment or sexist language are concerned, women who raise these issues are often not taken seriously and in particular cases of harassment, male bosses sympathise with those accused of harassment and at times try to underplay the charge at hand.”

      Zainah Liwanda, a Malawian journalist turned researcher, was a reporter known for impeccable sources and well-written and meticulously investigated stories. Although Liwanda is no longer with the media she firmly believes reporting is her calling, and it is her passion. This is clear when she says, “I miss the newsroom! But one thing I know is that one day I will go back. That's my destiny. I was trained as a journalist and I will die as one.”

      Liwanda worked for seven years in the newsroom in various positions. Her first job was in 2000 when she joined Blantyre Newspapers Limited, publishers of the Daily Times, Malawi News and Sunday Times as a sub-editor. She was designated to the Malawi News. In 2003, she joined Nation Publications Limited (NPL) as a senior reporter. After about two years, Liwanda was promoted to news analyst.

      Asked about the main obstacles women face in advancing in editorial departments, she said there were many, among them being that men who dominate decision-making positions in media houses generally do not give women a chance to progress or be promoted. Liwanda cited accusations by male counterparts of female journalists being favoured if, say, their stories made the front page, or if they were promoted or advanced in any way. Some male sources were also an obstacle, she said, as they wanted to exchange sex for stories, and some female journalists quit for fear of these advances.

      A female respondent in Zambia agrees, “High levels of sexual harassment dominate in most media houses. For instance, editors would like sexual favours from female journalists if they are to be assigned more frequently to cover or attend seminars and workshops, otherwise you are bound to be in the office full-time, and not be given special assignments. Promotion is another critical area where female journalists fall prey to male managers who make it conditional on sleeping with them.”

      Women in media houses often find they must develop a thick skin to persevere in the business. Setsable Sibisi, head of current affairs at Swazi TV, can attest to this. "In the newsroom I have been called a bitch and accused of sleeping with the boss. But I don’t let it affect me. There are only two females in the newsroom, and I’m the only female manager. I try not to take it personally, as people will always try to intimidate – so it means I am doing something right, for people to take note.”

      In Swaziland, many respondents mentioned that inappropriate sexual verbal communication or gesturing happens constantly in editorial departments. But the term “sexual harassment” tends to be incorrectly limited to when someone touches another colleague in a sexual way. As one male respondent put it, “If I tease someone and she appears to be fine – sometimes we continue to make statements, and sometimes they make the statements. They seem to love this because they don’t complain.”

      Whatever the laws might say, discrimination in media houses is rampant. In essence, no matter how good women are in the media, they are regarded as women first and professionals second. Unless the media is transformed from within, there is unlikely to be much change in the way that women are reflected in media content.

      This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on every day news.

      Sudan: Women, children increasingly targeted in Southern clashes


      Women and children are being increasingly targeted in the escalating attacks against communities in Southern Sudanese states, exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation, say officials. "We have seen a drastic escalation in violence across Southern Sudan this year - from the Equatorial States besieged by LRA [rebel Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army] attacks, to the brutal clashes in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Lake States," Jonathan Whittall, head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Southern Sudan, said.

      Human rights

      DRC: Former leader to remain in ICC custody ahead of war crimes trial


      A former senior official of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who has been charged with war crimes will remain in custody ahead of his trial, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided.

      Kenya: ICC set to take over poll chaos trials


      The International Criminal Court could decide to take over trials of key poll chaos suspects after meeting a government delegation at the end of September. An official of the court made the revelation on Sunday as two Cabinet ministers and assistant ministers vowed to shoot down a Bill that is meant to set up a local tribunal to try the suspects.

      Rwanda: Tribunal’s work incomplete


      The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda may lose its credibility unless it indicts and tries Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) officers suspected of having committed war crimes in Rwanda in 1994, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the tribunal's chief prosecutor.

      Sierra Leone: Whether to criminalize child labour


      The child rights act ratified in November 2008 in Sierra Leone criminalizes child labour, but some child rights experts say instead of prosecuting parents, the government should focus instead on getting children into school. “We don’t want to penalize or criminalize poverty. Many of these parents have few options,” said Annalisa Brusati, child and youth protection coordinator at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Sierra Leone. “The aim of the act is to reduce child labour, not to have everyone committing crimes. Parents need to be aware of how to make new choices,” she said.

      South Africa: Pretoria addresses apartheid-era lawsuit


      In a move hailed by South Africa's victims and survivors of apartheid-era gross human rights violations, the South African government has written to the judge presiding over the South Africa Apartheid Litigation claims, Judge Shira Scheindlin, backing the stand that a New York Court is an appropriate forum for the claims. The claims, against General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co., IBM, Rheinmetall Group AG and Daimler AG, are based upon allegations that the corporations aided and abetted apartheid crimes, including, torture, extrajudicial killings and denationalization, all committed in violation of international law.

      Refugees & forced migration

      Ethiopia: Human rights violations and conflicts continue to cause displacement


      For decades, Ethiopia has been affected by famine and conflict. In 2009, there have been various reports of internal displacement resulting from conflicts and human rights violations perpetrated by the army and groups opposed to the government. It is difficult to establish the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) as neither the government nor any international organisation has undertaken a profiling exercise. The access of humanitarian and human rights organisations and the media to some areas of the country has been restricted.

      Kenya: Somali camps 'unfit for humans'


      Hundreds of thousands of refugees from the conflict in Somalia are being forced to live in woeful conditions, the aid agency Oxfam says. It says overcrowded and badly managed refugee camps in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are "barely fit for humans". Dadaab camp in north-eastern Kenya was meant to hold 90,000 refugees, but is now home to almost 300,000 people, and a further 8,000 arrive each month.

      Uganda: Returns outpace recovery planning


      Since the signing of a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2006, about two thirds of the 1.8 million IDPs who lived in camps at the height of the crisis have returned to their areas of origin. However, much work remains to be done to ensure that these returns are sustainable. Basic infrastructure and services in the return areas are inadequate or non-existent.

      Social movements

      Global: UK continues to exclude NGOs from G20 discussions


      The Jubilee Debt Campaign and Bretton Woods Projects, NGOs that are part of the Put People First platform, had their accreditation for the G20 finance ministers’ meeting revoked by HM Treasury. The UK also barred two members of Put People First from attending the G20 London Summit in April with little notice. Representatives of both organisations had received notification of accreditation on Friday, 28 August. Both received emails late on 2 September saying “Unfortunately your accreditation has been withdrawn by HM Treasury.

      South Africa: Abahlali baseMjondolo attacked by councillor warlords


      A delegation of Abahlali baseMjondolo leaders from Durban narrowly escaped assassination this Sunday by local councillor warlords in Tin Town, Dinizulu township, eShowe. Abahlali have been receiving calls daily from Tin Town shack-dwellers, excluded from an uMlalazi municipality housing project called Sunnydale, constructed by Umpheme Development Ptd (Ltd). Tin Town shack-dwellers are now undergoing mass forced eviction and being left homeless.

      Zambia: NGOs in uproar after president signs new law


      Zambian president Rupiah Banda has signed legislation regulating the operations of civil society, sending shock waves through the sector, which fears its independence will be severely compromised. Presidential assent means the 2009 NGO Bill, withdrawn in 2007 after widespread protests by civil society and opposition parties, now only needs gazetting to become legislation that will require "the registration and co-ordination of NGOs" and can "regulate the work, and the area of work, of NGOs operating in Zambia".

      Zimbabwe: Umvuthwandaba We Zimbabwe


      "Umvuthwandaba Voice" meaning The End of Revelations is a publication that pushes the agenda of new formation of the Zimbabwean politics. In a sense that the youth of Zimbabwe would want to riot now and cause a dramatic change in the leadership of any of the front political parties, it might be Zapu, Mdc, and Zanu PF. This has been brought about the youths that are in UK, South Africa and Botswana. In our view we need to see a man or woman age below 35yrs of Age taking the podium as the new President of Zimbabwe.
      "Umvuthwandaba Voice" meaning The End of Revelations is a publication that pushes the agenda of new formation of the Zimbabwean politics. In a sense that the youth of Zimbabwe would want to riot now and cause a dramatic change in the leadership of any of the front political parties, it might be Zapu, Mdc, and Zanu PF. This has been brought about the youths that are in UK, South Africa and Botswana. In our view we need to see a man or woman age below 35yrs of Age taking the podium as the new President of Zimbabwe.

      On the second note having Zimbabwe ruled by State governors in three States namely; Matabeleland, Mashonaland and Manicaland. Each state will use its natural resources in their state and benefit from them; this will be the some on their farming, industrials sectors. If a person belongs to Mashonaland and want to work in Matebelend he will do that under a permit depending on his skill otherwise all laborers will be from that State. why do we say so, we have seen a divide and rule that only put one tribe in the front and at the some time eliminate the other tribes which is unacceptable with many of the youths

      Farmers and Miners

      All farmers who were chased away by Mugabe should be brought back to their lands, the change will be that they will have to occupy only 60% of what they used to own before then accommodate new other farmers on the 40% of their land. Those on the 40% will with the help of the owner of the land work in hand and the products sold under the name of the owner of the land.


      The system will change and bring back the Cambridge system, which is an international standard.

      Presidential and Ministerial Offices

      All this will change, to forced transformation of only one term in the office unless re elected. The presidential office will be renamed to: The Servant Office One and the some with Ministerial office to Servant office (name) e.g.: Sport, Culture and Education. This will make the ppl in those offices understand their ppl and the ppls position.


      This will bring in new players and stations in radio, television and print media for all languages in Zimbabwe. Privatised.

      Military and Police Security

      Whether airforce, ground, marines and police will work under one roof of the State..

      Above a major units that will need major changes then be driven across the nation and implemented at the some time. Correct us if we are wrong.

      Now we have recognised the stand that you have taken looking at your biography. We need your help in bringing in all the white brothers and sisters that where driven away by Mugabe and his people. We need to engage them as soon as possible so that we start to move with this plan before the election process begins. We can't wait any longer we have suffered that's enough man..

      Emailing us the contacts of the farmers/miners or other former citizens you know will help us drive this agenda.

      Your National Servant
      Umvuthwandaba Technical Team
      Email: [email protected]
      South Africa

      Emerging powers news

      Emerging Powers News Round-up

      Sanusha Naidu


      In this week’s Emerging Powers news roundup, Sanusha Naidu looks at India and Russia’s investment forays in Nigeria, Namibia and Angola, respectively. China continues to establish itself across the continent, from Cape Verde to Cameroon and Ethiopia. China has also received mention for policies that will benefit domestic and global economic recovery. Elsewhere, Brazil, India and South Africa have held an inter-ministerial meeting to strengthen ties. There is also emerging evident that there is growing competition between India and China in the investment stakes

      Emerging Powers News Round-up
      A. Trade, Investment and Aid
      1. World Bank hails investment in Ugandan farming
      World Bank President Robert Zoellick visited Tilda rice processing plant in rural Uganda near the Kenyan border where Indian investors are providing a livelihood and market for more than 1,000 farmers who sell their crops for cash to the mill to assess how the country move toward commercial farming and greater food security.
      2. Nigeria turns on India Inc
      India Inc's hot new investment destination is Nigeria. And leading the investment push are the ONGC-Mittal combine, the Indo Rama group, Essar group and SREI. Besides, NTPC, Punj Lloyd and Simplex are entering the West African market
      3. India gains access to Namibian uranium
      In a bid to keep up with nations like China and Japan in the race to secure uranium supplies for nuclear energy, India has been busy forming ties with uranium producing countries.
      4. Experiences of China's African investment
      China's economic expansion abroad can give rise to resentment in the countries it targets -- risks that are likely to increase as China channels more foreign exchange reserves in overseas investments.
      5. China's direct investment in Africa up 81% in H1
      China's direct investment in Africa rose 81 percent in the first half year from the same period last year to US$552 million, according to a report released by the Ministry of Commerce (MOC).
      6. Alrosa to invest $500 mln in Angola building sector
      Russia's Alrosa, one of the world's biggest mining companies will invest $500 million to build homes, schools and dams in Angola in the next few years.

      7. Congo to downsize Chinese deal in debt relief bid
      The Democratic Republic of Congo announced it would downsize a controversial infrastructure-for-minerals deal with China, winning IMF assurances it could be in line for swift debt relief.
      8. Kenya woos Chinese investments in infrastructure, energy sectors
      The Kenyan government for more Chinese investment especially in the areas of infrastructure and energy.
      9. Chinese equity firm eye Mmamabula
      The China-Africa Development Fund (CADF) says it is keeping a close watch on developments at the Mmamabula Energy Project (MEP) with a view to snapping up a stake.
      10. Chinese hungry for Africa projects
      A CHINESE government initiative to support business partnerships between Chinese and African entrepreneurs is battling to find suitable infrastructure development projects and business in Africa.
      11. China supports infrastructure development in Cape Verde
      China is to support infrastructure development projects in Cape Verde, particularly for social housing, energy, cement production and the restoration of Cabnave shipyards, to the tune of over US$240 million.
      12. China's CDB launches $5.1 bln investment arm-paper
      State-owned China Development Bank has set up an investment arm with 35 billion yuan ($5.1 billion) in registered capital as it will focus on private equity deals.
      13. India, Namibia boost bilateral trade, defence ties
      India and Namibia strengthened bilateral relations on Monday by signing agreements that would boost investments in sectors such as tourism, agriculture, services, energy, communications and mining.
      14. China's Sinohydro has deal for Cameroon dam project
      Chinese construction company Sinohydro has reached a preliminary agreement to take over the 200 Megawatt Memve'ele hydropower station in southern Cameroon.
      15. WB Chief: China's policy to aid int'l recovery
      World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick China's decision to pursue proactive fiscal and moderately easy monetary policies would benefit the economic recovery of both China and the world.
      B. Special Features
      1. China buys the world
      Aljazeera news agency has put together a special coverage on China’s increasing global expansion as put the of the news agency ongoing reporting on China’s rise.
      2. Africa Energy intelligence
      A round-up of African energy contracts and investments.
      3. Building on Progress? Chinese Engagement in Ethiopia
      China’s economic engagement in Ethiopia focuses mainly on infrastructure development and tapping into the consumer base. Overarching judgements as to whether China’s engagement is a blessing or a curse for the country are still unclear.
      4. Brazil, India, South Africa to Broaden "Voice of the South"
      The sixth ministerial meeting of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) forum agreed to strengthen the dialogue between the three emerging powers in order to establish common positions on regional and international matters and boost South-South cooperation.
      5. Brazil - MFA - 6th Ministerial Meeting of the IBSA Forum - Brasilia, August 31 and September 1, 2009 - Joint Communiqué
      6. Thirst for African Oil -- Asian National Oil Companies in Nigeria and Angola
      The Report provides a comparative study of the impact of Asian companies on the two leading oil producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria and Angola.
      7. Forbes India: The Siege of Africa
      The newest frontier for global business. A fusion of tempting opportunity and formidable risk. A China-India battleground. Come, watch the potboiler called Africa.
      C. Agriculture and Land Issues
      1. International agricultural land deals award Ethiopian virgin lands to foreign companies
      During the last one year, the international media have reported with noticeable frequency on international agricultural land deals in Ethiopia. Experts worry about negative consequences.
      2. China slow to invest in expensive LatAm farmland
      Resource-hungry China has so far passed over investing in high-priced farmlands of South America in favor of Africa, with its less developed commodities markets, greater need for financing and open labor laws.
      3. Tanzania expects more Chinese investment in agriculture sector
      In an interview with Xinhua, Tanzanian Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives Stephen Masatu Wasira, hailed the good cooperation and the smooth implementation of bilateral cooperation projects in agriculture industry.
      4. Land Grabs: A direct infringement on Land Rights
      The land grabbing has become very sophisticated and the poor are bound to suffer. While we continue lobbying government for policy change, we need to sensitize and assist the poor access and legally own land.
      D. Rivalries and Tensions
      1. New Scramble For Africa
      As the scramble goes on, African countries must wake up and put their houses in order so that these high profile visits can be meaningful and beneficial to all Africans.
      2. India in race with China for tapping African biz opportunity

      Unlike China’s push driven by its government, the Indian march to Africa has been led by the private sector.
      3. Out of Africa and into China, emigres struggle
      Just as mass Chinese immigration abroad has fanned recent social tensions in Africa and other places, the influx of large numbers of foreigners, particularly Africans, into China is altering the social fabric of cities like Guangzhou and proving a headache to authorities
      4. India eyes Maldives to counter China in Indian Ocean
      In a bid to enlarge India’s footprint in the Indian Ocean region and counter China’s influence, Defence Minister A.K. Antony made a three day visit to the island nation of Maldives, where a pact for greater defence cooperation between the two sides is expected to be signed.
      5. India has to learn to compete better: Venu Srinivasan
      China’s way of competing is different from India’s. It may get the greater slice of the pie, but India needs to get an adequate piece too! How do we internally reform to make ourselves competitive? That’s India’s problem.
      E. Company News
      1. Continental Shift
      Since the end of apartheid South Africa has become a world economic powerhouse.
      2. What Sells in India, Goes Down Well in Africa
      Many companies from India want to globalise. The question is where should they go? Either they can go to the developed world or the developing world. Here, the largest market after India and China is really Africa.
      3. SAT clears hurdle to Bharti-MTN match
      The Securities Appellate Tribunal, or SAT, today dismissed a petition filed by a Bharti Airtel shareholder opposing an informal guidance by the Securities & Exchange Board of India (Sebi) exempting South African telecom major MTN Group from having to make an open offer to Bharti shareholders in the event of a merger of the two.

      4. CNPC Says ‘Nothing to Disclose at Moment’ on Repsol
      China National Petroleum Corp. said the country’s biggest oil producer has nothing to disclose at the moment on whether it’s in talks to acquire a stake in Repsol YPF SA’s Argentine unit.
      5. S.Africa govt support makes MTN-Bharti deal likelier
      South Africa declared support for a proposed tie-up between domestic telecoms operator MTN and India's Bharti Airtel on Tuesday, making the complex cash-and-shares deal more likely to succeed.

      Elections & governance

      Africa: Africa’s big men mess up and pay image cleaners in Washington

      Patrick Mutahi


      Due to bad governance and human rights violations, African governments have sought to enhance their tattered images abroad since it can make the difference between more and less foreign Aid. In the process, they have paid millions of dollars to lobby groups at the expense of development and democracy instead pursuing the most cost-effective way— putting their houses in order, writes policy analyst Patrick Mutahi.

      Benin: Five opposition parties to field single candidate in 2011 polls


      Benin's main opposition political parties will field a single candidate in the 2011presidential elections, according to a protocol signed in Cotonou. The protocol said the African Movement for Democracy and Progress (MADEP), the Party for the Democratic Renewal (PRD), the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Party of Benin's Renaissance (RB) and Key Force (FC) had decided to select a candidate for the 20 11 presidential election and future polls.

      Chad: Escaping from the Oil Trap


      the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the exploitation of oil revenues. Since 2003 they have contributed greatly to the deterioration of governance in Chad and to a succession of rebellions and political crises. The regime uses the revenues as a means to reward its cronies, co-opt members of the political class, and acquire the military means enabling it to reject genuine political negotiations. This has further limited space for the political opposition and civil society and helped keep the country in a state of political paralysis, stoking the antagonism between regime and opponents.

      Gabon: City locked down amid riots


      A night-time curfew has been declared in Gabon's Port Gentil after violence by opposition activists and attacks on French interests in the city. Earlier, opposition groups clashed with security forces in the capital, Libreville, after presidential election results declared Ali Bongo the winner. France, Gabon's former ruler, has told its 10,000 citizens to stay inside.

      Guinea: Respect rights of opposition


      Guinea’s coup government should respect the rights of demonstrators and end intimidation and threats against those who express dissent, Human Rights Watch has said. Opposition politicians and at least one human rights activist who have criticized the presumed candidacy of the coup leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, for the upcoming presidential elections have been threatened in recent days.

      Madagascar: Opposition wants army to head transition


      Madagascar's opposition said on Thursday the military should take the top three posts in a power-sharing government after they failed to reach an agreement with the current leader on who should have control. Andry Rajoelina, a 35-year-old former DJ who ousted former leader Marc Ravalomanana with the aid a dissident army faction in a March coup, has until now remained steadfast in demanding his party retains the presidency and post of prime minister.


      Nigeria: Bank chiefs charged


      Nigeria has charged more than a dozen bank executives sacked by the central bank for causing losses that nearly crippled the country's banking industry. A spokesman for the Nigerian anti-financial crimes agency said on Monday the charges had been filed against 16 bank chiefs arrested for causing losses amounting to billions of dollars in bad loans for five ailing banks.


      Africa: Body warns against a Doha deal at the cost of development


      An African group participating in the two-day informal ministerial meeting in New Delhi has stated that a rapid conclusion to the Doha world trade talks should not come at the cost of developing countries’ concerns. “We should not lose sight of the development aspects for the round which ensure the integration of African and developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, in a fair multilateral trading system”, said Rachid Mohamed Rachid, trade and industry minister of Egypt, which is heading the African group at the Delhi meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Doha Round.

      Africa: Poverty, inequality need home-grown solutions


      A world-renowned scholar of public policy, Yehezkel Dror, recently reemphasised the point that policy and politics “closely interact, often overlap, and in part cannot be separated even analytically”. This seemingly obvious point, with far-reaching implications, has also been made by various eminent scholars. On poverty, Martin Ravallion — a leading scholar on issues of poverty — made, a while back, a similar point: that (poverty) measurement and (public) policy issues are often inseparable. Without doubt, poverty and inequality remain the most pressing challenges confronting Africa specifically. This is not to say that other continents and/or regions do not have a poverty and inequality challenge.

      Global: Fragile states - a resource guide


      This resource guide introduces some of the best literature on the causes, characteristics and impact of state fragility and the challenge of aid effectiveness and lessons learned from international engagement in these contexts. It highlights the major critical debates that are ongoing within the international development and academic community in relation to understanding and responding to fragile situations.

      South Africa: The SA economy: Polarisation paralysis and the struggle for equity

      Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen


      An emerging description of the South African economy is captured in the words "polarisation paralysis." The term has several renderings and different emphasis across academic disciplines, with important nuance and extensions. Another rendering is that it might provide a metaphor for the first 100 days of the Jacob Zuma Presidency, but also sets the challenge for this term of government. Two features prefigure the shadow boxing over economic policy since the start of the Jacob Zuma Presidency.

      South Africa: Threat to nationalise still hangs over mines


      Debate on the nationalisation of the mining industry was revived in Parliament, with the chairman of the mineral resources portfolio committee saying the only way to avert it was to create a successful state- owned mining company.And a government official told the committee that such a company already existed, and had begun to build up an asset base.

      Health & HIV/AIDS

      Africa: Figures reveal extent of Africa's neglected diseases


      Africa's neglected tropical diseases (NTD) burden is more than double the burden of tuberculosis and almost half that of malaria, a new analysis has found — raising questions about funding priorities. More than 500 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa suffer from seven key neglected infections, according to researchers writing in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases last week (25 August).

      Africa: House screening sees dramatic drop in malaria


      House screening can reduce the amount of mosquitoes and prevent malaria related anaemia in children, a Lancet study has shown. Every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria and by 2006 over 247 million cases of malaria were reported resulting in a million deaths of mostly African children. It remains one of the world’s greatest childhood killers and accounts for close to 40% of public health funding.

      Ethiopia: Thousands affected by acute watery diarrhoea


      Ethiopian health authorities have dedicated three hospitals in the capital Addis Ababa to patients suffering from acute watery diarrhoea (AWD), according to a health official. Thousands of people have been infected and 34 killed by the outbreak, says the Health Ministry. Ahmed Imano, head of public relations in the ministry, said there were fears it could escalate with the rains.

      Global: Children's participation in responses to HIV and AIDS


      This document looks at the involvement of children, including young children, in responses to HIV and AIDS and examines issues around children's participation. It explores the challenges of enabling children to express their views and priorities effectively and suggests how they can best be supported through a range of appropriate media and communication approaches.

      Uganda: Survey shows major ART training gaps for non-physicians


      A survey of health facilities providing antiretroviral treatment in Uganda has found that nearly two-thirds of those providing ART are not doctors, and report major gaps in training. Two out of every five of this group had received no training in starting patients on ART and two-thirds had not been trained in how to monitor patients on ART. The findings were published in the August 23 edition of Human Resources for Health.

      West Africa: Cote d'Ivoire gets first female presidential candidate


      Former Ivorian Minister of Justice, Mrs. Jaqueline Lohoues-Oble, on Thursday announced her intention to run for the country's presidency, whose first round is scheduled for 29 November. Associate Professor of Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cocody, Oble, who was also a parliamentarian and senior adviser to Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, is the first woman to run for a Presidential election in Cote d'Ivoire.

      Zambia: Treating cervical cancer and HIV simultaneously


      The HIV/AIDS epidemic may have contributed to the high incidence of cervical cancer in Zambia, where the number of cases is the second highest in sub-Saharan Africa, and HIV prevalence is one of the highest in the world. Women infected with HIV are thought to be three to five times more likely to develop cervical lesions that can become cancerous. "In a suppressed immunity due to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS makes women more at risk from infection," said Prof Groesbeck Parham, co-director of the Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme in Zambia.


      Africa: Pan-African University could launch early next year


      The first 'node' of a Pan-African University (PAU) — a continental network of institutions training postgraduate students and promoting research — could open its doors as early as February next year, an African Union (AU) official has confirmed. The node at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa would be the first of five hosted by existing institutions across the continent, said Jean-Pierre Ezin, AU commissioner for science, last week (28 August).

      Burkina Faso: NGO wins UNESCO prize for literacy education


      One of the two UNESCO 2009 prizes for Literacy Education awarded by King Sejong and financed by the Korean Republic has been awarded to Burkina's "Tin Tua", an NGO in literacy and non-formal education, a press release from the UN special agency has said. The "Tin Tua" programme (Let's develop ourselves, in gulimancema, a local language in Eastern Burkina), got very good results by using the participants' mother tongue, producing material for specific reading and laying emphasis on issues of gender and sustained development of communities.

      Sierra Leone: Schools in crisis as teachers go unpaid


      Government’s refusal to pay the salaries of thousands teachers, while looking to recruit thousands more, has plunged the schooling system into crisis. With the new academic year poised to start, government and the national teachers’ union are still odds about payment for almost 3,000 teachers who have not received their salaries for over a year.


      Global: Circumcision does not prtoect gays from Aids virus - study


      Circumcision, which has helped prevent AIDS among heterosexual men in Africa, doesn’t help protect gay men from the virus, according to the largest U.S. study to look at the question. The research, presented at a conference, is expected to influence the government’s first guidance on circumcision. Circumcision “is not considered beneficial” in stopping the spread of HIV through gay sex, said Dr. Peter Kilmarx, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

      South Africa: Law failing lesbians on "corrective rape"


      "Women are getting killed in the Western Cape," says Ndumie Funda, who runs LulekiSizwe in her "cabin" in the township of Gugulethu near Cape Town. The project is named after her late fiancée, Nosizwe Nomsa Bizana, who was gang-raped by five men and subsequently succumbed to crypto meningitis, and Bizana's friend Luleka Makiwane, who contracted HIV when she was raped and later died of AIDS.

      South Africa: Anglican church welcomes and guides gay members


      The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) under the guidance of The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba has passed a Resolution to provide Pastoral guidelines for the gay and lesbian members of the church living in covenanted partnerships. This decision comes after a Synod of bishops met at the Diocese of Cape Town from the 20 - 22 August this year which was held at St. Cyprians’ Church of Cape Town.

      Racism & xenophobia

      South Africa: Canada refugee ruling 'racist'


      South Africa's ruling African National Congress has condemned as "racist" a decision by Canada to grant a white South African man refugee status. Brandon Huntley, 31, had told officials in Canada he could not return to South Africa after seven different attacks. They included three stabbings, which he said he had suffered as a result of his skin colour.


      Africa: Fury at plan to power EU homes from Congo dam


      Plans to link Europe to what would be the world's biggest hydroelectric dam project in the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo have sparked fierce controversy. The Grand Inga dam, which has received initial support from the World Bank, would cost $80bn (£48bn). At 40,000MW, it has more than twice the generation capacity of the giant Three Gorges dam in China and would be equivalent to the entire generation capacity of South Africa.

      Africa: Trees 'vital to food security'


      Countries tackling food insecurity and climate change adaptation can greatly benefit from agroforestry - integrating fleshy plants and trees into their farming systems, environmental specialists say. Sub-Saharan Africa has a history of food insecurity brought on by meagre rains, land degradation, declining soil fertility and bad management of resources, among other factors.

      Global: Africa threatens walkout from climate talks


      Africa's climate change negotiators led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi have threatened to withdraw from the upcoming global climate change talks. The Ethiopian PM said Africa might have to walk out if the December climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, failed to agree with Africa’s minimum position. “If need be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent,” he said.

      Nigeria: Abandoned tin mines endanger communities


      ERA monitors visited Sabon-Barki community and Gyel District, both in Jos South LGA of Plateau State on August 5, 2009 in response to the growing call by impacted communities for a remediation of the ecological disaster and dislocation wrought on their environment and livelihood by nearly a century of tin mining and the failure of government at the federal and state levels to address the problem.

      Southern Africa: Impact of climate change in South Africa: farmers' perceptions


      This report outlines how climate change is expected to have serious environmental, economic, and social impacts in South Africa. It states that rural farmers, whose livelihoods depend on the use of natural resources, are likely to bear the brunt of adverse impacts. The research uses a “bottom-up” approach to gain insights from the farmers themselves based on a farm household survey collected from 794 households in the Limpopo River Basin of South Africa for the farming season 2004–2005.

      Land & land rights

      Namibia: Government calls slow pace of land reform frustrating


      The Namibian government has expressed frustration with the slow pace of the land reform programme, saying at the current pace of land resettlement, government will not meet its 2020 target of addressing the skewed land ownership pattern. In a startling revelation, the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement said that the land reform programme in Namibia had been slow.

      Southern Africa: Research not trickling down to farmers


      Farmers could be losing tonnes of crops every harvest just because no one has bothered to tell them that scientists have found more effective methods of using water to farm. Isaiah Mharapara, chief executive officer of the Agricultural Research Council in Zimbabwe said much research has been conducted on water availability, distribution and use, but most of the findings have not been given to the farmers to use.

      Food Justice

      Morocco: Citizen groups call for sit-ins to protest food price increases


      A national committee against high food prices during Ramadan has called for protests and sit-ins in a number of Moroccan regions, starting with one in Berchid on September 11th, and another in front of the parliamentary building, said committee member Muhammed Ghafri. "A public protest organised by the campaign committee seems appropriate at this time of year, which coincides with summer, Ramadan, the start of the school year and the economic crisis, as we're faced with constant price rises," said Abdessalam Adib, the co-ordinator for the campaign against the rising cost of living.

      Media & freedom of expression

      Gabon: Election ruined by media censorship


      The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned what it called "Gabonese government censorship and restrictions on media coverage of the presidential election, including denial of accreditation to at least four international journalists". In a statement from its headquarters in New York, US, the CPJ said that prior to the election, Gabonese government authorities denied accreditations to international journalists from French media outlets, including international broadcaster France 24 and weekly L'Express, which were known for their probing coverage of late President Bongo's health and wealth.

      Mauritania: IFJ calls for release of online journalist


      The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called for the release of Hanevy Ould Dehah, editor of Taqadoumy website, who was charged with “offending public decency” and sentenced to six months imprisonment by the court in Nouakchott. “This is an unduly severe and political judgment, especially as only one of the charges was finally retained,” declared Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa Office. “Our colleague must be released,” he added.

      Niger: CPJ expresses concern about imprisoned editor


      The New York-based media rights group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed concern about the health of imprisoned editor Abdoulaye Tiemogo, after his transfer from a hospital in Niger's capital, Niamey, to a prison in a remote town. A CPJ statement obtained by PANA quoted Zeinabou , wife of Tiemogo, editor of the weekly Le Canard Déchaîné, as saying the husband is suffering from malaria and is no longer receiving adequate medical attention in a prison in Ouallam, 88 kilometres to the north of Niamey.

      Uganda: Four "Monitor" journalists face criminal prosecutions


      Four journalists from Uganda's largest independent newspaper are facing criminal prosecutions, joining four others already charged since 2007, according to local journalists and news reports. Criminal prosecutions against the Monitor are on the rise against the backdrop of mounting national tensions in the lead-up to general elections in 2011. This month, President Yoweri Museveni, who is expected to seek re-election, warned private broadcasters against inciting public discontent with the government.

      Conflict & emergencies

      Africa: AU extraordinary summit on conflicts opens


      The special session of the African Union's Conference on the examination and resolution of conflicts in Africa opened in Tripoli, Libya. This special session presided over by the chairman of the African Union, the Libyan Guide Mouammar Kadhafi, will examine the crisis and conflicts occurring in some parts of the continent, such as Somalia, Darfur and the Great Lakes region. Twenty-seven African heads of state attended the opening session.

      Africa: Conflict and state fragility: assessing the impact of the financial crisis


      It was thought that Sub-Saharan Africa would be largely unaffected by the financial crisis. However, as many Sub-Saharan African countries are dependent on foreign finance inflows and are even more dependent on commodity based exports, this has been swiftly revised. Subsequently, economists are now warning that although Africa is the least integrated region, it could actually be the worst hit. Furthermore, as the most conflict-ridden continent in the world, any subsequent exacerbation of resource scarcity could increase unrest across Africa.

      East Africa: Ethiopian troops enter Somali town


      Ethiopian troops have crossed into neighbouring Somalia and seized control of a town from Islamist fighters, witnesses say. Hundreds of troops reportedly entered the strategically important town of Beledweyne.

      Niger: Desert flooding wipes out electricity, homes, livestock


      Four days of intense rains in Niger’s northern Air Mountains and desert towns at its base have affected 7,000 households, damaged 3,500 homes and caused widespread livestock and agriculture losses mostly in the commune of Agadez, according to local officials. Agadez commune is one of 15 communes in Agadez region.

      Nigeria: Government 'will not extend amnesty for militants'


      The Nigerian government will not extend the 60-day amnesty offer to the country's oil militants when it expires 6 October 2009, according to President Umaru Yar'Adua. "Those who refuse to take advantage of (the) amnesty will be on their own after October 6, 2009," the President said at the opening of the 2009 Chief of Naval Staff Annual Conference in Uyo, capital of South-east Akwa Ibom state.

      Sudan: Scores killed in south Sudan clash


      At least 43 people have been killed in clashes between soldiers and cattle rustlers in south Sudan. Women, children and soldiers were killed after fighters attacked a settlement in the Twic East region of Jonglei state, on Saturday, Major-General Kuol Diem Kuol, of the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), said.

      Internet & technology

      Africa: Finding and funding African innovators


      How do you find the entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa who need investment funding to scale? There are really two big issues at stake. First, how to find the right people. Second, what funding level is needed. You’re not going to find the compelling African entrepreneurs while sitting in an office in the US or Europe. It’s only by spending significant time on the ground in the countries you’re wanting to invest in that you find the people you need to know.

      Africa: New cables to kick-start new broadband era - study


      Total broadband adoption in Africa will increase at a CAGR of 28 percent through 2013 as new undersea cables boost Africa's international bandwidth, a new report from Pyramid Research has stated. The report further said the undersea infrastructure will further reduce the number of coastal countries without any cable access from 19 to one.

      South Africa: 12 days to satellite lift-off


      The Department of Science and Technology's (DST's) decision to step up efforts to get SA's satellite off the ground seems to have paid off. The department announced this morning that the long-awaited SumbandilaSat will take to the skies in 12 days' time from its launch-pad in Baikonur, in Kazakhstan.

      Uganda: Taking action to preent e-waste


      To prevent e-waste in Uganda non-profit organisations IICD and Close The Gap will dismantle and recycle outdated or broken computers in Ugandan schools. More than 2000 cost-efficient high-quality used computers from the Netherlands and other European countries will be sent to schools in Uganda.

      eNewsletters & mailing lists

      Cape Verde: Transnational Archipelago

      AfricaFocus Bulletin Aug 18, 2009 (090818)


      The headling in Cape Verde's bilingual A Semana on August 13, ( or, read "Clinton's visit to Cape Verde ignored by American media." And if coverage was sparse, historical perspective was even more strikingly absent. Search for mentions of "Hillary Clinton" and "Amilcar Cabral" on the web, for example. Apart from a few mentions of her landing at the Amilcar Cabral International Airport, the only reference one is likely to find is a Fox News attack on Obama administration green jobs czar Van Jones, because of his affiliation with an organization which once praised Amilcar Cabral in its newsletter.

      Courses, seminars, & workshops

      Kenya: 2010 Peace Festival/ Conference

      Drum Cafe, 19-25 September 2010


      “THE DRUM CAFE”, is an innovative network of creative and performing professionals with the Central aim of re-defining drum music as a powerful medium of social change in east Africa. The first drum cafe was first hosted by Alliance francaise de Nairobi in September 2006 and supported by various individuals, cultural and artistic institutions. The DRUM CAFÉ 2010 PEACE FESTIVAL will be a seven day celebration presented by and for the various Kenyan ethnic subgroups and communities living in Nairobi.

      “THE DRUM CAFE”, is an innovative network of creative and performing professionals with the Central aim of re-defining drum music as a powerful medium of social change in east Africa

      The first drum cafe was first hosted by Alliance francaise de Nairobi in September 2006 and supported by various individuals, cultural and artistic institutions.

      Since then the Program has continued to work with younger and older drummers, organizations such as UNESCO, Sarakasi trust, Amref, Unity College and the Go down Arts center

      The drum café holds workshops and organize performances where skills and knowledge are shared with the audiences besides serving as a source of soulful entertainment.


      To highlight knowledge and practices in the field that advance artistic effectiveness to expand a collective impact.

      To promote the use of music as a medium for social change through a focus on effective measures,

      To increase cultural awareness and promote exchange between culture and development.

      To spear head and support the use of arts and culture in conflict resolution, education, Peace and friendship
      To improve knowledge on peace making through sharing information and experiences.
      To help societies retain their desirable values, arrest impending ailments on time and exercise dynamic avenues for the expansion of the frontiers of peace creation.
      To acknowledge cultural diversity as a driving force of development, not only on respect of growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.

      Problem statement
      At the end of December 2007, the Kenyan presidential election was marked by bloody confrontation during which 1,500 persons were killed and over 350,000 were displaced, some media did not hesitate to speak of ethnic hatred, while others concentrated on the political and economic causes of the crisis.
      World War I claimed over 40 million casualties, including approximately 20 million civilian and military dead. And some 60 million people died in World War II, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians. The twenty first century has witnessed civil wars in Africa which have claimed millions of lives of citizens.
      It could be remembered the Cultural practitioners and producers are invaluable at times of political stress. When crises emerge, or when repressive governments take control, artists often operate with a relatively safe space and can offer a strong civil society voice. So giving people the right to express their own culture, to an environment where their creativity flourishes, and to a range of cultural voices are all important ways of making sure that support for culture translate into giving people real choices.
      The rich cultural diversity has played a pivotal role in the tremendous growth of among others the local tourism industry in spite of the fact that culture may not have elevated itself to the level of a full-fledged industry - on the local scene.

      At the same time, acceptance and recognition of cultural diversity – in particular through innovative use of media and the Arts – are conducive to dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding, which has never been realized by many around the world.

      We envisage holding a two day conference on Peace and conflict resolution accompanied by a seven days’ festival in three slum areas around Nairobi and in the city centre. To achieve this we require partnering with all world peace loving Individual, Artistic and Cultural Organization, Government bodies Human rights Organizations and financial and material donors (private sector).
      “If we fail to use creativity as a force for social justice, transformation and the articulation of human need, we may unwittingly find that we are letting down the very people in whose name we work”.

      Relevance of peace and the world
      World peace is the Utopian idea of planetary non-violence by which nations willingly cooperate, either voluntarily or by virtue of a system of governance which prevents warfare.
      Many interpretations of the concept are not overtly political; however, world peace may simply mean the resolution of global and regional conflict through nonviolent means.

      The plausibility of world peace tacitly relies on the assumption of rational agents that base their decisions on future consequences, which is not self-evident.
      World peace has been depicted as a consequence of local, self-determined behaviors which inhibit the institutionalization of power and ensuing violence. The solution is not so much based on an agreed agenda, or an investment in higher authority whether divine or political, but rather a self-organized network of mutually supportive mechanisms, resulting in a viable politico-economic social fabric.
      If peace is defined as the absence of hostility, violence and conflict, world peace would imply a worldwide end to violence and thus to institutions which rely on threats of violence to sustain their existence. It follows that there could be no law enforcement, because force is a form of conflict. Without law enforcement, there could be no laws, except those which everyone voluntarily agrees to follow. Finally, there could be no governments of the type that rely on threats of violence to collect taxes, maintain their borders, or govern their citizens. Considered in this light, world peace goes beyond the cessation of nation-state warfare and calls for dramatic changes in most of the political institutions familiar to people worldwide.
      Perhaps one of the most complex concepts in human history, peace has been used to refer to everything from “absence of war” to “equilibrium” to “a utopian state of spiritual and social harmony devoid of conflict.”
      These widely differing images are indicators of essential differences in ideology, culture, and perceptions of history.

      Religious views of world peace
      Bahá'í Faith- Main article: Bahá'í Faith and the unity of humanity. With specific regard to the pursuit of world peace, Bahá'u'lláh of the Bahá'í Faith prescribed a world-embracing collective security arrangement as necessary for the establishment of a lasting peace. The Universal House of Justice wrote about the process in The Promise of World Peace.
      Buddhism- Many Buddhists believe that world peace can only be achieved if we first establish peace within our minds. Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, said, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.
      Christianity- The basic Christian ideal promotes peace through goodwill and by sharing the faith with others, as well as forgiving those who do try to break the peace. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:44 - 45
      Hinduism- Traditionally Hinduism has adopted a saying called Vasuda eva kutumbakam which translates to "The world is one family." The essence of this saying is the observation that only base minds see dichotomies and divisions.
      Sikhism- “All beings and creatures are His; He belongs to all” (Guru Granth Sahib, 425). Gurus furthermore preached to “Sing the Praise of the One, the Immaculate Lord; He is contained within all” (Guru Granth Sahib, 706). “
      Islam- Main article: Islamic Peace. According to Islam, faith in only one God and having common parents Adam and Eve is the greatest reason for humans to live together with peace and brotherhood. Islamic view of global peace is mentioned in the Quran where the whole of humanity is recognized as one family. All the people are children of Adam.
      Judaism- Judaism holds that when the Messiah comes, all nations will be united in peace.

      The DRUM CAFÉ 2010 PEACE FESTIVAL will be a seven day celebration presented by and for the various Kenyan ethnic subgroups and communities living in Nairobi.
      The DRUM CAFÉ 2010 PEACE FESTIVAL aims to create a safe place for all Kenyans and their international guests to value the importance of culture as a tool in conflict resolution and cultures vital role in maintaining peace in local communities, nations and throughout the world.

      ”In its rich diversity, culture has intrinsic value for development as well as social cohesion and peace.”

      The DRUM CAFÉ 2010 PEACE FESTIVAL will feature:
      A seven day showcase of performances, presentations, workshops, displays and demonstrations of music, theater, dance, storytelling, food, films, traditional medicines and crafts at various venues in Dandora, Kibera, Kawangware (slum areas which all experienced terrible consequence of the last post election chaos where by neighbors turned against each other, killed and or destroying each others property) and the Nairobi city center
      A peace march through the Nairobi city main roads
      A parade every day featuring hundreds of drums - to drum against the instability in our world with a very strong voice, and a loud and clear message to those who need to hear
      A two day conference on Peace in Our World - providing a platform for civic and religious leaders as well as cultural, educational and community spokespeople
      A wide range of performances on different stage with tailored productions on peace.
      A screening of various film based messages on large screens in all festival venues.
      A display of art facts and other materials on peace making on a variety of stalls around festival venues.

      The DRUM CAFÉ 2010 PEACE FESTIVAL will invite and engage the participation of young people, women, families, elders and men from Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa and around the World to come together and celebrate their shared history, their diverse identities and their common futures.

      The DRUM CAFÉ 2010 PEACE FESTIVAL will bring together Artists and Cultural entrepreneurs from a broad range of disciplines as well as government departments, Cultural institutions, Social and Humanitarian groups, Educational Institutions, Non-Governmental organizations, Private sector and community based organizations to strength the campaign towards achieving peace in Kenya and the world at large.

      THE DRUM CAFÉ 2010 PEACE FESTIVAL/CONFERENCE recognize the need to bring together at a practical level diverse experiences in arts, academics, religious, cultural, social and humanitarian services to identify the conditions necessary to achieve sustainable development on peace

      (I) Opportunity
      We have identified the opening that lures our citizens to their death.

      We have translated this opening into an opportunity; we have the production machinery, facility and presentations.

      We have the promotion facility with linkages on the ground and an outlet and a market although socially this is a reference out of context, yet we feel able to handle the festival with more motivation by subjecting to this perspective from the onset.

      We have identified the problem and produced a solution, we have designed a frame work, we lack resources to implement the framework, and our constraints are funds to progress. We are not seeking to begin we are seeking to continue

      (II) Human Resource Mobilization
      The promotion department (committee) will make initial contact with target groups, which have been identified as
      Community based groups(C.B.O.s)
      Religious organizations
      Constituents leaders (councilors, local chiefs and member of Parliaments)
      Youth organizations
      e) Artistic and cultural organizations
      f) Women groups
      Other forums/ leaders/ churches/ companies/ organizations etc.

      DAY ONE SUNDAY 19TH 09 2010
      08:00 Drum Parade
      09:30 Peace march flag off
      13:00 End of procession
      00:00 CLOSING
      DAY TWO MONDAY 20TH 09 2010
      08:00 Registration of conference participants
      09:00 Official opening of the conference and Festival
      10:00 Entertainment
      10:45 Break (coffee/tea)
      11:00 session one (Role of world citizens in conflict resolutions).
      13:00 Lunch break
      14:00 session two
      (Age, Gender and Professionalism perspectives in peace development.)
      16:00 Artistic session I
      (Cultural and Artistic interventions, practices and experiences in peace creation)
      17:00 Closing
      19:00 Poetry and traditional music night
      22:00 Ending
      DAY THREE TUESDAY 21ST 09 2010
      09:00 session three
      (Communicating dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding using available methods and facilities).

      10:45 Break (coffee/tea)
      11:00 session four
      (Communicating dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding using available methods and facilities.).

      13:00 Lunch break
      14:00 Session five (Investing in art and culture as a social tool for community development, empowerment and peaceful co-existence and integration)
      16:00 Artistic session II
      (Acceptance and recognition of cultural diversity through innovative uses of media and arts as key elements in developing sustainable peace).
      17:00 Closing
      19:00 Oral literature night – story telling, Narratives and short skits
      22:00 Ending
      08:00 Arrival of all local groups
      10:00 sound check
      11:00 program starts (30mins each group)
      14:00 Bands and international groups (1hr each)
      18: closing
      Tentatively the same program as above.
      Tentatively the same program as above
      08:00 Arrival of all groups
      09:00 Drum Parade
      09:30 Invited Guests and Institutions/organizations
      10:00 Program starts
      Activities happening on two stages
      00:00 Closing

      South Africa: World Summit on Arts


      The fourth World Summit on Arts and Culture, a project of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), will take place in Johannesburg from 22-25 September, hosted by the National Arts Council of South Africa. Mike van Graan, Programme Director for the Summit and Head of the Arterial Network’s Secretariat will write this weekly column in the build up to the Summit, raising some of the themes and provocative issues that will be debated at the event.
      The fourth World Summit on Arts and Culture, a project of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), will take place in Johannesburg from 22-25 September, hosted by the National Arts Council of South Africa. Mike van Graan, Programme Director for the Summit and Head of the Arterial Network’s Secretariat will write this weekly column in the build up to the Summit, raising some of the themes and provocative issues that will be debated at the event. With many on the Arterial Network database attending the World Summit, these columns will be sent to the database with the first four sent daily basis this week, after which they will be distributed weekly when they are published.

      Two of the primary divides in the world today are poverty and culture. Culture has probably overtaken poverty as one of the greatest threats to global security. The recent debate about banning the burkha in France and the rise of nationalism in Europe generally, are responses to perceived threats from immigrant communities with a culture different to that of the status quo, and irrespective of even the middle class positions of many within the immigrant community. Similarly, while they share the misery of poverty, refugees from Somalia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and the under-classes of South Africa are divided by culture, accounting for the ongoing xenophobic violence.

      In a post-9/11 world, and with the Cold War and its ideological divides now assigned to the scrapheap of history, culture is the primary global faultline.

      The World Summit on Arts and Culture – held every three years in a different country – will be held in a so-called developing country, and in Africa, for the first time. The event provides a unique opportunity for policy makers, funding agencies, development organisations, artists’ networks, think tanks and multilateral cultural bodies to reflect on the state of the world and its implications for the arts over the ensuing few years.

      Such a global gathering allows for key debates to be initiated, for visionary ideas to be launched and for networks to be consolidated so that the Summit is not be an end in itself, but a catalyst that will leave a lasting legacy for the global arts fraternity, and in this instance, for the African arts sector in particular.

      South Africa has long been regarded as a microcosm of the world: wealthy elite on the one hand and a huge underclass burdened by poverty on the other, with the inherent tensions within and between these further layered by racial and cultural conflicts.

      It is an appropriate time and place for a global gathering on the theme of the Summit: Meeting of Cultures: Creating Meaning through the Arts, a theme that resonates across a world that is increasingly divided by values, beliefs, religion, traditions and history – in short, by culture.

      What do these cultural divides mean for the arts?

      Music, theatre, dance, literature, film and the visual arts are seen by some policy makers and politicians as possible bridges between cultures, as safe, non-threatening points of entry into understanding “other” and as facilitators of “intercultural dialogue”.

      Yet, the arts can also play a divisive role, reinforcing cultural faultlines as shown by the literature of Salman Rushdie or movies that spark protests by Christian groups or the drawings of a Danish cartoonist or exhibitions that depict religious icons as gay. What effect will the political imperative and the need for social cohesion across cultural divides have on the arts if they are burdened with facilitating intercultural dialogue? To help to make the world a safer place, are public authorities demanding “safe” art?

      Many artists hate being – or feeling - conscripted for any cause, even ones they believe in. If they are to use their creative skills for “the public good”, then they want to choose to do this, or not. On the other hand, politicians, government officials, development agencies and public funding bodies often give the impression that when artists or arts projects are supported with public funds, it is legitimate to expect them to align their creative work with the “national interests”, as defined by those who inhabit political power at the time. In an increasingly security-conscious world in which culture is one of the roots of global tensions, is it acceptable for artists to be “conscripted” in the cause of building intercultural communities at local, national and international levels?

      What would this mean for South Africa? What if the NAC makes available funds for artists to create art that rejects xenophobia and that affirms good relations with refugees from other African countries? This would be considered in the interests of the greater public good. But what if an artist decides to make an art work that calls for the country’s borders to be closed to foreigners in order for government first to address the needs of impoverished South Africans? Should the artist be prevented from receiving public funds to create this art because it is not consistent with “the national interests”?

      For further information about the World Summit, see

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