Pambazuka News 461: Obama, oil and AFRICOM
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Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
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Highlights from this issue
- AFRICOM and militarisation continue under Obama, writes Daniel Volman
- Nicholas Jackson on the Chad–Cameroon Petroleum Development Project
- Sudan still the issue, says Khadija Sharife
- Michael Neocosmos on Abahlali's experience of South Africa's 'democracy'
- Senegal's political deficiencies under Abdoulaye Wade
- Fahamu recruiting a pan-African fellowship coordinator
COMMENT & ANALYSIS
- Percy F. Makombe considers the prospects around the Copenhagen climate conference
- Alemayehu G. Mariam on why dictatorships are as dangerous as climate change
ADVOCACY & CAMPAIGNS
- The Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession (ACIJLP) calls for freedom of assembly
BOOKS & ARTS
- Gerald Caplan reviews Linda Melvern's 'A People Betrayed: the Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide'
+ moreANNOUNCEMENT: Fahamu seeks coordinator for pan-African fellowship program
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: UN hails progress
WOMEN & GENDER: Gambian circumcisers abandon knife
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: A way out of Somaliland’s electoral crisis
HUMAN RIGHTS: Still struggling for peace in DRC
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Eritrea’s forgotten refugee problem
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Emerging powers news roundup
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Farmers mobilize in Copenhagen
AFRICA LABOUR NEWS: Algeria wage dispute resolved
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Ethiopia’s new election code sparks furore
CORRUPTION: Corruption – A crime against development
HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Good news for ART delivery
DEVELOPMENT: Africa R&D survey faces delays
LGBTI: Gambian president roars at gays
16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER VIOLENCE: South Africa’s ‘other’ epidemic
RACISM & XENOPHOBIA: Zimbabweans attacked in South Africa
ENVIRONMENT: We know why we are dying
LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Farmers push for food sovereignty at climate talks
FOOD JUSTICE: Food prices up again
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Dawit Isaak still in Eritrean prison
PLUS: jobs, fundraising & useful resources, publications, courses, seminars and workshops
*Pambazuka News now has a Del.icio.us page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit http://del.icio.us/pambazuka_news
Obama moves ahead with AFRICOM
In his 11 July 2009 speech in Accra, Ghana, US President Barack Obama declared, 'America has a responsibility to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity. When there is genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems – they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response. That is why we stand ready to partner through diplomacy, technical assistance, and logistical support, and will stand behind efforts to hold war criminals accountable. Our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold in the continent, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa and the world.'
And yet all the available evidence demonstrates that he is determined to continue the expansion of US military activity on the continent initiated by President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s and dramatically escalated by President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009. While many expected the Obama administration to adopt a security policy toward Africa that would be far less militaristic and unilateral than that pursued by his predecessor, the facts show that he is in fact essentially following the same policy that has guided US military involvement in Africa for more than a decade.
The clearest indication of President Obama’s intentions for AFRICOM (United States African Command) and for America’s military involvement in Africa is provided by the budget requests for the 2010 financial year submitted by the Departments of State and Defense to Congress in May 2009. The State Department budget request – which includes funding for all US arms sales, military training, and other security assistance programmes – proposes major increases in funding for US arms sales to a number of African countries through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme. The budget proposes to increase FMF funding for sub-Saharan African counties more than 300 per cent, from just over US$8.2 million to more than US$25.5 million, with additional increases in funding for Maghrebi countries. Major recipients slated for increases include Chad (US$500,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (US$2.5 million), Djibouti (US$2.5 million), Ethiopia (US$3 million), Kenya (US$1 million), Liberia (US$9 million), Morocco (US$9 million), Nigeria (US$1.4 million), South Africa (US$800,000) and the Africa Regional Program (US$2.8 million).
The same trend is evident in the Obama administration's request for funding for the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme. The budget request for the IMET programme proposes to increase funding for African countries by nearly 17 per cent, from just under US$14 million to more than US$16 million, with additional increases for Maghrebi countries. Major recipients slated for increases include Algeria (US$950,000), Chad (US$400,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (US$500,000), Djibouti (US$350,000), Ethiopia (US$775,000), Equatorial Guinea (US$40,000), Ghana (US$850,000), Liberia (US$525,000), Libya (US$250,000), Mali (US$350,000), Morocco (US$1.9 million), Niger (US$250,000), Nigeria (US$1.1 million), Rwanda (US$500,000), Senegal (US$1.1 million), South Africa (US$900,000) and Uganda (US$550,000).
The Obama administration also proposes major new funding for security assistance provided through the Peacekeeping Operations programme. The 2010 financial year budget proposes to increase funding for the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership – from US$15 million in the 2009 financial year to US$20 million in 2010 – and for the East Africa Regional Strategic Initiative from US$5 million in the 2009 financial year to US$10 million in the 2010 financial year.
It also includes US$42 million to continue operations in support of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Accords (CPAs) in southern Sudan, US$10 million to help create a professional 2,000-member armed force in Liberia, US$21 million to continue operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to reform the military (including the creation of rapid reaction force for the eastern Congo and the rehabilitation of the military base at Kisangani), and US$3.6 million for the Africa Conflict Stabilization and Border Security Program, which will be used to support monitoring teams, advisory assistance, training, infrastructure enhancements, and equipment in the Great Lakes region, the Mano River region, the Horn of Africa, Chad and the Central African Republic.
And it includes US$67 million to support the African Union mission in Somalia, along with a request for US$96.8 million for the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). The request for the GPOI includes funding for the African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance Program (ACOTA) – which provides training and equipment to a number of African military forces to enhance their peacekeeping capabilities – and the Obama administration has requested US$96.8 million for ACOTA activities in the 2010 financial year.
Furthermore, the Obama administration’s budget request for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) programmes contains US$24 million for Sudan to support the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Accords in southern Sudan and to assist programmes to stabilise Darfur by providing technical assistance and training for southern Sudan’s criminal justice sector and law enforcement institutions as well as contributing to UN civilian police and formed police units in southern Sudan and Darfur. It also includes funds for police reforms in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); for training, infrastructure, and equipment for police units in Liberia; to operate the American-run International Law Academy in Gaborone, Botswana; and to create a Regional Security Training Center for West, Central and North Africa.
And the Obama administration is also asking for funding to be provided through the INCLE programs for the first time to provide security assistance to countries participating in the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Nigeria. Major recipients slated for increases include Algeria (US$970,000), Cape Verde (US$2 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (US$1.7 million), Ethiopia (US$500,000), Gambia (US$450,00), Ghana (US$500,000), Guinea-Bissau (US$3 million), Liberia (US$8 million), Morocco (US$2 million), Nigeria (US$2 million), Sierre Leone (US$250,000), Sudan (US$24 million), Uganda (US$385,000), and the Africa Regional Program (US$4.5 million).
The Obama administration also proposes to increase funding for counterterrorism programmes. These include the Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program – which provides training to countries throughout the world – the Terrorist Interdiction Program/Personal Identification, Secure Comparison, and Evaluation System Program – which supports identification and watch listing systems to 18 countries (including Kenya) – the Counterterrorism Financing Program, which helps partner countries throughout the world stop the flow of money to terrorists – and the Counterterrorism Engagement Program, which is intended to strengthen ties with key political leaders throughout the world and 'build political will at senior levels in partner nations for shared counterterrorism challenges'. The Obama administration’s budget request requests increased funding for Kenya (from US$5 million in the 2009 financial year to US$8 million in the 2010 financial year), for South Africa (a new programme for US$1 million), and the Africa Regional programme (from almost US$15 million in the 2009 financial year to more than US$20 million in the 2010 financial year).
The Obama administration proposed 2010 budget for the Department of Defense requests US$278 million in operation and maintenance funds to cover the cost of AFRICOM operations and Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership operations at the AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The administration is also requesting US$263 million to provide additional manpower, airlift and communications support to AFRICOM. In addition, the administration is requesting US$60 million to fund CJTF-HOA operations in the 2010 financial year and US$249 million to pay for the operation of the 500-acre base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti and for facilities modifications, along with US$41.8 for major base improvement construction projects.
The administration has requested some US$400 million for Global Train and Equip (Section 1206) programmes, some US$200 million for Security and Stabilization Assistance (Section 1207) programmes, and some US$1 million for the Combatant Commander’s Initiative Fund. This money will be used primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay for emergency training and equipment, the services of personnel from the State Department and humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi and Afghani armed forces, but it will be available for the use of AFRICOM as well.
The administration’s budget request also contains US$1.9 billion to buy three littoral combat ships and another US$373 million to buy two joint high speed vessels, ships that will play a crucial role in US Navy operations off the coast of Africa. In addition, the administration has requested US$10.5 million to pay for naval deployments in west and central Africa in the 2010 financial year and another US$10 million for naval operations in east Africa.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travelled to Nigeria during her tour of Africa in August 2009, she met with Ojo Maduekwe, the foreign minister, and Godwin Abbe, the new minister of defence. In her remarks after the meeting, she was asked what the US government intended to do to help the Nigerian government establish stability and security in the Niger Delta. 'Well, the defence minister was present at the second larger meeting that the foreign minister convened,' she said, 'and he had some very specific suggestions as to how the United States could assist the Nigerian government in their efforts, which we think are very promising, to try to bring peace and stability to the Niger Delta. We will be following up on those. There is nothing that has been decided. But we have a very good working relationship between our two militaries. So I will be talking with my counterpart, the secretary of defense, and we will, through our joint efforts, through our bi-national commission mechanism, determine what Nigeria would want from us for help, because we know this is an internal matter, we know this is up to the Nigerian people and their government to resolve, and then look to see how we would offer that assistance.' Thus, in addition to the security assistance programmes in the budget request for the 2010 financial year, the Obama administration is now considering providing even more military support to the Nigerian government for use in the Niger Delta if the current amnesty programme collapses, as many analysts expect, and the government resumes military operations against insurgent forces in this vital oil-producing region (which produces 10 per cent of America’s total oil imports).
Another indication of the Obama administration’s intentions are provided by its decision to expand US military involvement in Somalia as well as its decision to continue the Bush administration’s policy of unilateral military attacks against alleged al-Qaeda operatives in that country. In June 2009, a senior State Department official (presumed to have been Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson) revealed that the Obama administration had initiated a programme of indirect military support for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia (the internationally recognised government of the country, although it only exercises control over a small part of the capital, Mogadishu) and a few other towns in the southern part of the country).
According to the official, the US government was providing funding to the TFG to finance weapons purchases and had also asked the governments of Uganda and Burundi, which have deployed troops to Mogadishu under an African Union mandate to protect the TFG, to transfer weaponry from their own stockpiles to the armed forces of the TFG in exchange for promises that the US government would reimburse them. In addition, the US government made its base in Djibouti available to other governments for them to provide military training to the armed forces of the TFG.
During her visit to Kenya in August 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the US government would 'continue to provide equipment and training to the TFG', stating 'very early in the administration, I made the decision, which the president supported, to accelerate and provide aid to the TFG'. She went on to declare that al-Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent group fighting to overthrow the TFG, was 'a terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda and other foreign military networks' and that they 'see Somalia as a future haven for global terrorism'. 'There is no doubt', Secretary Clinton stated 'that al-Shabaab wants to obtain control over Somalia to use it as a base from which to influence and even infiltrate surrounding countries and launch attacks against countries far and near.' Thus, 'if al-Shabaab were to obtain a haven in Somalia, which would then attract al-Qaeda and other terrorist actors, it would be a threat to the United States.'
The US government arranged for the delivery of an initial supply of approximately 40 tonnes of small arms and ammunition worth approximately US$10 million to the TFG between May and August of 2009 from the stockpiles of the African Union peacekeeping force, along with between US$1 million and US$2 million in cash to the TFG to finance its own arms purchase, and the delivery of another 40 tonnes of small arms and ammunition over the following months. A number of other governments – including Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and France – are also reported to have sent military personnel to the US base in Djibouti to provide military training to TFG troops.
According to a report by the Associated Press, American officials 'say the US military is not conducting the training and will not put any forces in Somalia'. Other countries were conducting the training, the Associated Press reported, because 'the [Obama] administration is making a concerted effort to avoid putting any American footprint in Somalia, which would risk alienating allies and add to charges by Islamic extremists of a Western takeover.' However, it has since become clear that most of the arms and training has been transferred to al-Shabaab, either by Islamic militants who had infiltrated the TFG military forces or as a result of the sale of the weapons and ammunition on the black market.
Then, in August, US Special Forces troops attacked and killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, an alleged al-Qaeda operative who was accused of being involved in the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 as well as other al-Qaeda operations in east Africa. The US Special Forces troops carried out the attack from onboard several helicopters that had been launched from a US Navy warship off the Somali coast, using machine guns and automatic assault rifles to strafe a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles carrying Nabhan and his retinue. Following the initial assault, the helicopters landed so that their troops could seize Nabhan’s body for positive identification. It is likely that the Obama administration will conduct further military operations in Somalia since, in the words of Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, the deputy commander of AFRICOM, 'the threat posed by al-Shabaab is something that we pay very, very close attention to.'
And in October 2009, the Obama administration announced a major new security assistance package for Mali that was delivered on 20 October 2009. The package – valued at US$4.5 to US$5 million (2.3 billion CFA) and which includes 37 Land Cruiser pickup trucks, communication equipment, replacement parts, clothing and other individual equipment – is intended to enhance Mali's ability to transport and communicate with internal security (counter-insurgency) units throughout the country and control its borders. The security assistance package is officially known as the 'Counter Terrorism Train and Equip' (CTTE) programme. Although ostensibly intended to help Mali deal with potential threats from AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), it is more likely to be used against Tuareg insurgent forces.
In addition, between April and June of 2009, 300 US Special Forces personnel were deployed to Mali to train Malian military forces at three local bases and, according to Lt Col Louis Sombora, deputy commander of Mali's 33rd Parachute Regiment (which was the recipient of the new US military aid package), more than 95 per cent of his soldiers have received US military training. And in early November 2009, US Air Force Brigadier General Michael W. Callan, vice commander of the US Air Force Africa (the Air Force contingent based in Europe and dedicated to AFRICOM), visited Mali along with other US military personnel in order to inspect local military forces (including the 33rd Parachute Regiment) and tour local military facilities. According to Lt Col Marshall Mantiply, defense attaché at the US Embassy in Bamako, 'we are working with the Mali ministry of defence on a ten-year plan' to enhance the country's military capabilities.
The aid package to Mali is just the latest instance of America’s growing military involvement in the Sahel region. In his testimony before the Senate subcommittee on Africa hearing on 'Counter-terrorism in the Sahel' on 17 November 2009, Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson identified Mali – along with Algeria and Mauritania – as one of the 'key countries' in the region for the US counterterrorism strategy. 'We believe that our work with Mali to support more professional units capable of improving the security environment in the country will have future benefits if they are sustained', he stated.
It is clear, therefore, that President Barack Obama has decided to follow the path marked out for AFRICOM by the Clinton and Bush administrations, based on the use of military force to ensure that America can satisfy its continuing addiction to oil and to deal with the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups, rather than to chart a new path passed on a partnership with the people of Africa and other countries that have a stake on the continent (including China) to promote sustainable economic development, democracy and human rights in Africa and a global energy order based on the use of clean, safe and renewable resources.
This is the consequence of two factors. To begin with, President Obama genuinely believes in the strategy of the global 'War on Terror' and thinks that Africa must be a central battlefield in America’s military campaign against al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups. Many analysts believe that terrorism does not constitute a significant threat to America’s national security interests and that it would be far more effective to treat terrorism as a crime and to reduce the threat of terrorism by employing traditional law enforcement techniques. But, as demonstrated by the president’s decision to escalate US military operations in Afghanistan, Somalia and Mali, the Obama administration is determined to use military force instead, despite the fact that – as US military analysts argue – this only helps to strengthen terrorist groups and jeopardises other US security interests.
And with regard to America’s growing dependence on African oil supplies, President Obama understands the danger of relying upon the importation of a vital resource from unstable countries ruled by repressive, undemocratic regimes and the necessity of reducing America’s reliance on the use of oil and other non-renewable sources of energy. But, for understandable reasons, he has concluded that there is simply very little that he can do to achieve this goal during the limited time that he will be in office. He knows that it will take at least several decades to make the radical changes that will be necessary to develop alternative sources of energy, particularly to fuel cars and other means of transportation (if this is even technically feasible). And he knows that – in the meantime – public support for his presidency and for his party depends on the continued supply of reliable and relatively inexpensive supplies of gas and other petroleum-based energy to the American people, more than any other single factor. In the event of a substantial disruption in the supply of oil from Nigeria or any other major African supplier, he realises that he will be under irresistible political pressure to employ the only instrument that he has at his disposal – US military forces – to try to keep Africa’s oil flowing.
Professional military officers also know that the repressive, undemocratic regimes upon which the United States relies to maintain oil production are likely to fail and that they are almost certain to find themselves sent into combat in Africa – whether they like it or not – if this leads to a major disruption of oil exports, and are already working on plans for direct military intervention in Africa. Thus, in May 2008, the Army Training and Doctrine Command, the Special Operations Command, and the Joint Forces Command conducted a war game scenario for Nigeria during war game exercise that it conducts each year at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
The scenario – set in the hypothetical year 2013 – was designed to test the ability of the United States to respond to a crisis in Nigeria in which the Nigerian government fragments and rival factions within the Nigerian military begin fighting for control of the Niger Delta, creating so much violence and chaos that it would be impossible to continue oil production. The participants concluded that there was little the United States could do to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict and that, in the end, they would probably be ordered to send up to 20,000 American troops into the Niger Delta in what the participants clearly recognised would be a futile attempt to get the oil flowing again. The fact that the participants in the Nigerian war games decided to go public with this information suggests that they believe that this scenario is likely to become a reality in the near future and that their only hope of avoiding this is to tell the public in the hope that this will prevent the order from being issued.
But the professional military officers who would actually have to lead their troops into Africa are not the only people who understand that America’s reliance on the military to solve the energy dilemma and the threat of terrorism is a dangerous mistake. Members of the US Congress are also increasingly sceptical about this strategy and are beginning to give AFRICOM the critical scrutiny it deserves. Moreover, a number of concerned organisations and individuals in the United States and in Africa came together in August 2006 to create the Resist AFRICOM campaign in order to educate the American people about AFRICOM and to mobilise public and congressional opposition to the new command. The Resist AFRICOM campaign will continue to press the Obama administration to abandon its plan for AFRICOM and to pursue a policy toward Africa based on a genuine partnership with the people of Africa, international cooperation, democracy, human rights and sustainable economic development.
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* Daniel Volman is the director of the African Security Research Project in Washington DC, and a member of the board of directors of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars. He is a specialist on US military policy in Africa and African security issues and has been conducting research and writing on these issues for more than 30 years.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
A failure but the oil keeps flowing
The Chad–Cameroon Petroleum Development Project
Over a year after the World Bank formally withdrew (September 2008) from the social welfare portion of the Chad–Cameroon Petroleum Development Project (CCPDP), acknowledging that the goals were not going to be met, the number and diversity of new analyses make now a good time to revisit the CCPDP and the lessons brought on by this 'pioneering and collaborative effort'.
I begin with a brief description of the project. The CCPDP formally involved the international financial institutions (IFIs) led by the World Bank, a consortium of petroleum corporations led by ExxonMobil (called Esso in Chad), and the governments of Chad and Cameroon, whereby an oilfield was constructed in the Doba region of Chad and a pipeline built from that oilfield to the Kribi port on the Cameroon coast. The World Bank offered three justifications for its involvement in the project. First, Chad has a comparative advantage in no resource except petroleum that could provide adequate revenue for the social welfare of its people. Second, though Chad has petroleum reserves, its governing institutions were too weak to beat the 'resource curse' (the argument that petroleum has inherent qualities that lead to corrupt governments). Thus, petroleum corporations did not have adequate incentives to assume the political risk required for investing in Chadian petroleum production. Third, and most important, the World Bank had a chance of beating the resource curse and helping Chad’s people by attracting petroleum corporations through mobilising the World Bank’s experience with 'development as governance'. According to the notion of development as governance, economic development requires not only the removal of barriers to free-market operation (structural adjustment) but also creation of institutions that enable effective market transactions to occur (governance, including contract enforcement and the protection of private property). As a result, the World Bank underwrote part of the Chad and Cameroon governments' financial commitments and more importantly underwrote the political risk by coordinating a multi-volume documentation of environmental, social and financial requirements for the project, as well as a multi-layered system of instruments for monitoring the implementation of these requirements.
I suggest four broad approaches in consideration of the project. The first approach comes from the IFI literature. In a November 2009 report, the World Bank Group (IFC and IBRD) acknowledged the following:
'The evaluation finds that the program’s fundamental development objective of reducing poverty and improving governance in Chad through the best possible use of oil revenues in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner was not achieved. It therefore rates [the] overall program outcome unsatisfactory despite the technical and financial success of the main pipeline project. While the program suffered from some design flaws and supervision shortcomings, the principal reason for its overall disappointing outcome was the lack of government ownership.'
This report is primarily an update of a December 2006 report where the World Bank declared the project satisfactory in design but unsatisfactory in operation, and the new report seems simply to elaborate the original conclusion. That is, the World Bank and the corporate participants did all they could, the Chadian government failed its people, there is little to be done to resolve the Chad situation, and this case can provide lessons for extractive industry support in the future. The lessons learned in the November 2009 report vaguely reference the ever-present need for increased concentration on capacity-building and measures to ensure government ownership.
The second approach is reflected in an August 2009 International Crisis Group (ICG) briefing report. The ICG comes to the same conclusions as the IFIs that the project failed because the Chadian government failed. Their report is marginally more useful because it places the project in larger historical context and also more accurately argues that external actors (governments and corporations) have their own personal goals and these goals are often not the same as the social welfare goals put forth in projects such as the CCPDP. However, the ICG does not interrogate these divergent goals, but rather portrays these goals as if they are externalities, not directly related to project success. The ICG 'solution' also simply restates the original goals of the CCPDP, calling for better governance and increased accountability and transparency for recipient countries. The ICG authors are more optimistic than the World Bank in that they suggest those goals can somehow still be achieved in Chad even given the failure of the CCPDP. The authors evidently hope that prescribing the same solutions over and over again will lead to a different result (somewhat like the famous quote that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result). Thus, the report is worth skimming to get a sense of the Chadian context, but not useful for understanding what should be done next.
The third approach primarily arises from social movements that spoke out in opposition from the beginning, arguing that the project did not have a chance of success. Particularly visible on an international level have been the Environmental Defense Fund, Catholic Relief Services and Amnesty International. These organisations argued that the Chadian government did not give adequate indication that it would follow through on the governance and social welfare promises. Different from the first two approaches, opposition groups place responsibility for project failure on the IFIs and petroleum corporations as well as the government. They accuse these organisations of acknowledging human and environmental rights only hesitantly, in a context of extensive social movement pressure, and often failing to follow through. Massey and May, in 'Dallas to Doba' (p. 273), call the extensive CCPDP documentation a good example of the 'ascendancy of transparency over compliance'. That is, there was plenty of documentation, monitoring and noting of failures. However, little seemed to change after the failures were brought to light and acknowledged. After the social welfare aspects of the project failed, these social movement organisations have primarily folded subsequent events into their original analyses, with few new conclusions and recommendations except that organisations need to keep up the pressure on government, business and intergovernmental organisations. Brendan Schwartz and Valery Nodem provide an excellent example of such analysis and prescription, with a strongly fieldwork-based argument in a recent Alternet article. Their article is quite valuable in that they offer many stories of people in Cameroon and Chad who have been denied the compensation that formed a core of the project’s social welfare documentation. They concentrate their recommended responses on the US, and concisely describe pressure group goals in the following manner:
'The ultimate goal of international campaigning is to "leave African oil in the soil" and build stronger governance beforehand since the extractive industries almost never contribute to development.'
I argue for a fourth approach, which resembles the third in that it is critical of IFIs, governments and corporations and also recognises the importance of social movement pressure in regulating these organisations. However, whereas the third approach concentrates on the failure of these actors as well as recipient countries to fulfil stated development objectives, the fourth approach is much more cynical about donor objectives and concentrates on important unanswered questions about such projects as the CCPDP. How is it that the project fell apart so quickly, almost as if it were a planned demolition, and under the watchful gaze of multiple layers of inspection? As Chad has descended again into civil war, ironically leading even to the destruction of the oil ministry office, how is it that the Doba oilfield is so well-protected from this instability? An 11 February 2008 Reuters article states the following:
'A rebel attack on Chad's capital a week ago did not affect the country's 140,000-160,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil output but the violence disrupted prospecting and plans for a new refinery, the oil minister said.
'"Production has continued as normal", Oil Minister Emmanuel Nadingar said on Monday amid burned papers and broken furniture at his ministry building, which was looted following the Feb. 2-3 assault on N'Djamena by eastern rebels.'
More broadly, why were all of the volumes of documentation by corporations, IFIs and governments limited to the initial development of the Doba oilfield in Chad and the pipeline through Cameroon to Kribi on the Cameroon coast? It is clear that the petroleum project is designed to be far broader than the Doba oilfield. Taguem Fah writes the following in an excellent article on the Chad Basin in 2007 (p. 105):
'The production capacity of the pipeline is currently 225,000 barrels of oil per day; and it will decline only after it reaches a peak in a couple of decades. However, the size of the investment signifies a commitment to a much longer-term exploitation. By the time the Doba field, estimated at a total reservoir of one billion barrels, is emptied, other fields already being explored in Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Central African Republic are expected to take over.'
In July of this year, news came out of work beginning on a new pipeline from the Koudalwa oilfield to the Djarmaya refinery north of the capital N'Djamena. The pipeline is a project of the China National Petroleum Corp.
This broader view of petroleum exploitation in the Chad basin has important similarities with the long period of key commodity exploitation in Nigeria. As Frynas argues, there is significant evidence that the kind of instability and violence found in the Niger Delta (and which I note now occurs in Chad) can actually be considered a competitive advantage if it allows for continued exploitation and if the cause can be placed on an ineffective and/or corrupt government rather than corporations or other interested parties. While this view of the CCPDP ascribes rather darker motives to corporations and allies than much of the social movement literature, the short-term implications are similar. Social movement pressure and information are critical for bringing light to the dark side of corporate-led petroleum exploitation, if only because corporations and associates are required to continue responding and changing their strategies. Long-term transformation, however, requires creative strategies that do not simply call on corporations and associates to respect their stated promises but incorporate much more difficult tasks of breaking through smokescreens between what corporations say they are doing and actions they take daily in furtherance of exploitation.
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* Nicholas Jackson is currently working on a project examining corporate responses to social movement pressure.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 See the World Bank Concept Paper at http://go.worldbank.org/2Q72D32120
 Watts offers an effective critique of the resource curse on p. 387 of 'Righteous Oil?: Human Rights, the Oil Complex and Corporate Social Responsibility' (Annual Review of Environment and Resources (30), 2005: 373-407):
. . . in this sort of analysis, it is not clear what causal powers these material and other features of oil actually possess . . . if oil hinders democracy (as though copper might liberate parliamentary democracy?), one surely needs to appreciate the centralizing effect of oil and the state in relation to the oil-based nation-building enterprises that are unleashed in the context of a politics that predates oil.
See also Watts, Michael J. 2005. Resource Curse? Governmentality, Oil and Power in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. In The Geopolitics of Resource Wars: Resource Dependence, Governance and Violence, ed. Philippe Le Billon:50-83. London; New York: Frank Cass.
 Horta, Korinna. 1997. Fueling Strife in Chad and Cameroon: The Exxon-Shell-ELF-World Bank Plans for Central Africa. Multinational Monitor 18, no. 5: 10-13.
 Gary, Ian and Nikki Reisch. 2005. Chad’s Oil: Miracle or Mirage? Following the Money in Africa’s Newest Petro-State. Washington D.C.: Catholic Relief Institute and Bank Information Centre.
 Massey, Simon and Roy May. 2005. Dallas to Doba: Oil and Chad, External Controls and Internal Politics. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 23, no. 2:253-276.
See also the wonderful blog http://pipelinedreams.wordpress.com/
 Fah, G. L. T. 2007. The War On Terror, the Chad–Cameroon Pipeline, and the New Identity of the Lake Chad Basin. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 25, no. 1: 101-117.
 See news in http://www.straitstimes.com/print/Breaking%2BNews/World/Story/STIStory_398066.html October update found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8298525.stm
 Frynas, J. G. 1998. Political Instability and Business: Focus on Shell in Nigeria. Third World Quarterly 19, no. 3: 457-478.
Sudan is still the issue
For Jerry Fowler, president of the 'Save Darfur' Coalition, Sudan's government – perpetrators of war crimes – got away scot-free as US President Barack Obama engaged in diplomatic-speak 'tacking Sudan onto a laundry list of items behind closed doors' during his recent trip to China.
Indeed, Fowler is correct in his declaration that Sudan is still the issue. The real question is: In what context, and to what end?
Quite some time before Darfur's 'genocide' was identified, George ‘Dubya’ Bush, best known for justifying wars in distant oil-rich lands under the guise of 'terrorism', signed the Sudan Peace Act of 2002, declaring that, 'the acts of the government of Sudan...constitute genocide.'
Fowler has described the war in Darfur, Sudan's westernmost region bordering eastern Chad, as one of the continent's most pressing crises, with the Save Darfur coalition placing the number of genocide victims at 400,000. The Coalition's 'Darfur Primer' states, ‘Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, even by the most conservative estimates. The United Nations puts the death toll at roughly 300,000, while the former UN undersecretary-general puts the number at no less than 400,000.’
The UN itself revealed that 'violence, disease and malnutrition' constituted the chief causes of these deaths.
According to the US's Government Accountability Office (GAO) however, 'most of the experts had the highest overall confidence in estimates by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).'
CRED, a WHO-affiliate, arrived at the figure of 118,142 victims (September 2003 to January 2005); 35,000 were directly attributed to violence-related deaths, with the remainder catalysed by disease and malnutrition.
This of course, should come as no surprise in a region where droughts leading to wide scale famine, lopsided 'right of access' to resources, and the scarcity of ecosystem services such as water and grazing land, have long since reached critical tipping points. As Ibrahim Thiaw of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) noted, in Sudan, ‘One of the root causes of the conflict is access to natural resources.’
But this does not imply that the government played no part in food deprivation, whether directly, through the lack of relief supplies (from food to medical care) as was the case during Ethiopia's great famine, or indirectly, by siphoning billions in oil revenue through for example, tax evasion, devouring one third of Sudan's revenue, or multinational mispricing – as much as 40 per cent or more of total oil revenue through cost oil.
Yet such blatant exploitation on the part of Khartoum is difficult to pin down as the actual revenues that Sudan receives, the volume of oil extracted and exported, the price for which it is sold, the conflict of interest between regulating authorities and those controlling corporate entities exploiting the oil, the lack of accountability – ranging from auditors to confidentiality clauses to name a few – are all but concealed.
This is chiefly due to the lack of mandatory information exchange, preventing countries (and citizens) experiencing flight of development finance from accessing data related to its destination, the lack of corporate country reporting, revealing economic activities in host countries, such as pre-tax profits, subsidies, financing costs, tangible and intangible assets etc, and Sudan's pariah status, rendering it ever more dependent on oil giants – external suppliers of 'rents' from oil than other similarly resource-rich regions.
Though the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, officially halting one of Africa's longest civil wars, grants the South – where the bulk of oil is located – the right to 50 per cent of revenues remitted to Khartoum, as well as six years of autonomy followed by an independence referendum to be held in 2011, it is lacking in other crucial issues such as disclosure, ownership of resources, ecological and human rights, reparations, representation and re-pricing.
Overall, Africa loses almost US$150 billion each year in illicit capital flight, over 60 per cent caused by multinational mispricing, indicating that the source of the 'resource curse' is rooted in systemic forces, lending to behavioural corruption on the part of states. This is because states are accountable to and dependent on multinationals – legal citizens (manufacturing distorted tax bases) – as opposed to nations made up of flesh and blood citizens.
The policy of 'tax competition', granting multinationals huge subsidies and concessions, eroding development finance, is yet another trick that works especially well with states that are either isolated, and/or corrupt and more than willing to receive under-the-table payments. This includes everything from low royalty rates, control of ports, railways and other infrastructure, exemption from environmental laws, casualisation of labour, cheapened access to water (especially lethal in regions characterised by droughts) and various other freebies.
This is unlike 'developed countries' where significant portions of the state budget is derived not from finite resources but from everyday people, rendering states responsive and accountable to citizens through democratic or representative processes.
But Africa's propped up political leaders, directly causing the continent to lose US$18 billion each year in conflict alone (or some US$280 billion since the 1990s), have no need for citizens as unearned, undisclosed revenue allows them to capture political power indefinitely.
And while 'wabenzis' or Africa's elites, rely on multinationals for revenue – funds that should be invested in citizens through state services such as education (the source of 80 per cent of 'wealth' generated in developed countries), African citizens are forced to survive and earn an income mainly from direct ecosystem services such as water, fisheries, farm and cropland.
This is where Sudan is placed at the edge of precipice, more so than most other nations: In stark contrast to Nigeria and other such ecologically 'rich' regions, much of Sudan is ecologically 'poor', compounded by structurally unjust systems of land tenure, the inherited legacy of British colonialism, endorsed by Africa's 'internal' colonialists.
But Sudan is rich in oil and it is this reality that has resulted in the country becoming one of Africa's fastest growing economies in Africa, despite US sanctions imposed on the country from 1997, the year the US's National Security Council declared Sudan 'the greatest threat to US security on the African continent'. Unsurprisingly, this stance coincided with China's entrance as Sudan's primary investor, holding 40 per cent of the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC).
These days, China, importing 60 per cent of Sudan's oil, is the country's largest trading partner, and Sudan, one of China's three main footholds on the African continent. Unfortunately for the US – consuming one quarter of global energy with just five per cent of global population, and hosting 910 military bases in 46 countries – a policy largely determined by the presence of oil and gas (and the US's need to geostrategically secure supplies), homegrown oil giants have been unable to access Sudan's resources under the rule of lifetime dictator Omar al Bashir.
Luckily for Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 military coup (resulting in the speedy 'exit' of Chevron), one freshly wrapped up coup in neighbouring oil-rich Chad, forever more to be ruled by French-backed dictator Idriss Deby, facilitated easy access of AK-47s flowing through the westernmost part of Sudan – Darfur. It was in fact this proximity to Chad's ongoing civil wars, incorporated into the arena of the Cold War (waged by the US and France on one side, and the Soviet Union on the other) that permanently altered Sudan's political landscape.
Whereas prior to this war, access to 'gifts of nature' like water, were more or less equitably managed through traditional 'tribal' mechanisms, the flow of arms militarising the region, accompanied by foreign agendas globally positioned Sudan as just another 'resource colony' for the taking. Specifically recruited were young males from socio-economically marginalised regions. Young males for example, from the Zaghawa 'tribe', composed part of the 'Janjaweed' alleged by the International Criminal Court to have engaged in genocide through targeting ethnic groups such as the Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa in Western Sudan.
According to the WHO, of the 20-30 per cent 'excess deaths' caused by the genocide, the bulk were composed of young males – not unlike the gang subculture so prevalent in the US, where young men born into shattered lives (often searching for identity and purpose) are easily co-opted in the wars of others.
Beneath the skin of the simplistically packaged civil war, portrayed as being rooted in age-old tribal, religious (Muslim versus Christian), and ethnic (Arab versus African) differences – all of which constitute the vehicle internationalising the 'genocide' – lies a far more complex reality.
Darfuris are predominantly Muslim. Though the 'Arab' government has centralised power in Khartoum, in Darfur, it is the 'Arab' that remains on the periphery of power. Similarly, all Sudanese are in reality of African ethnicity though geographic proximity to the 'Maghreb', historical trade routes and other factors lead to the 'Arabisation' of specific regions.
The use of 'Islam' – or Bashir's conveniently militarised, politicised version of it – as a weapon against the oil-rich Christian and theistic South may certainly have occurred and with great brutality, but it is not the root cause of the war, merely the dressing.
Sudan has thus experienced with the discovery of oil – and unearned resource rents – the speeding up of conflicts already ecologically fated for the nation, a fate that could well be averted if revenues derived from finite resources were sustainably invested.
In Sudan, oil represents at one and the same time the problem and the solution, a reality innately recognised by the CPA interrogating both revenue and power sharing. The presence of oil is, after all, the primary reason that foreign powers have taken an interest in Sudan. Through oil, Sudan's conflicts were geopolitically shifted from the local to the global level, intensified on a scale allegedly never experienced before the 1990s.
At around the same time, for example, that Chevron was strenuously 'encouraged' to leave in the early 1990s, the SPLA doubled its manpower to 60,000 troops. In 1996, one year prior to US sanctions (and the Sino-Sudanese marriage), the US sent special troops and US$20 million in military equipment to US-backed allies such as Uganda and Ethiopia, 'backing rebel forces' ie: the SPLA. Said leader John Garang trained at the US special academy of Fort Benning (USA) – described by investigative journalist John Pilger as the 'world's leading university of terrorism' – and this, in tandem with the discovery of oil in the 1970s.
Unlike the US, China does not favour active conflict aka 'gunboat democracy' as an enabling environment. Rather, it appears to support dictatorships as stable business climates in which forced peace can be achieved. Nor is direct access to resources obtained through the pretext of odious debt justifying the implementation of 'structural adjustment'; rather, the barter system, swapping geostrategic control for 'development' and 'returned' policy spaces. This enables dictators to move from the position of dogs-on-leashes to those guarding their own backyards with some measure of 'security'. China's military muscle is therefore rather underdeveloped.
Meanwhile, according to recent statements by the Pentagon, the US government is exploring the possibility of arming the SPLA ensuring the, ‘transition from a guerilla force to one that can provide adequate defence capabilities for its people and territory. Professional military education and training for officers and enlisted personnel is one key aspect; an air defence capability might be relevant.’
As John Jok, a Director on the board of South Sudan's Nilepet, and the head of the ministry of energy and mining, stated, ‘The fact that the movement has firmly established itself in these areas is evidence of its military gains.’
The semi-autonomous government of South Sudan, on the receiving end of more than US$7 billion in oil revenue from 2005, has no auditor, is over 95 per cent dependent on oil revenues, and rules over a population where 90 per cent live on less than a dollar a day (with no ecosystem services to act as a substitute).
If the South splits, as SPLM head, and president of South Sudan Silva Kiir recently called for – irrespective of whether majority votes are received, China stands to lose billions in investment perceived as a secure source of oil required to sustain a country housing 20 per cent of the planet's total population. The upside is that the US would then access South Sudan's oil, building alternate pipelines through the territory of one or the other of the US's allies.
But the US cannot directly confront China as the latter holds US$800 billion in treasury bonds, and over US$2 trillion in reserve currency. Thus, the instrument of choice was the UN Security Council, referring the case to the ICC (International Criminal Court). Given that the UN Security Council, made up of the world's leading arms-dealers and war-makers possesses the power to defer and refer cases (effectively immunising powerful countries from accountability), the actual legitimacy of the ICC as a vehicle of justice lacks authenticity. Though the ICC panel found Bashir guilty of crimes against humanity, genocide (neatly painting one victim and one aggressor) was dismissed.
Ironically, despite Fowler's statement indicating that Obama has not done enough to drive forward the 'peace process' it is through Obama's special envoy – General Scott Gration, an astute and at the same time 'khaki-minded' diplomat cognisant of the complexities informing Sudan's realities – that the door to political justice for all Sudan has finally been wedged open.
This stands in contrast to the policy of exclusive and selective criminal justice, which can only be achieved at the expense of real justice, characterised by peace – not the dictates of oil-driven foreign policy.
After all is said and done, chucking a sitting head of state for war crimes into The Hague is akin to regime change. If we're going down that route, we might as well start with Switzerland, the secrecy jurisdiction that is home to one third of the world's illicit flight – and the secrets of many a corrupt criminal, high level politician and corporate executive.
It would open up a world of possibilities.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article first appeared in The Huffington Post.
* Khadija Sharife is a journalist, researcher, visiting scholar at the Center for Civil Society (CCS) based in South Africa, and contributor to the Tax Justice Network.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Africa: Attacks on shackdwellers - a failure of citizenship?
The background and consequences of the recent violent destruction of the Kennedy Road organisation of the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) movement of shack dwellers by a combination of gangs recruited for the purpose, police action and local and regional ANC structures needs to be analysed at some depth. The reason is that this event and the actions surrounding it by various state apparatuses have major consequences for the democracy and citizenship rights which have been painfully fought for and constructed through popular struggle in this country over many years, but particularly during the popular upsurge of the 1980s. At this stage, AbM is trying to reconstitute itself in response to the ongoing attacks on its key militants but it is not yet clear how the attacks will change the movement.
I want to attempt to make sense of how the South African state – which calls itself a democracy – could come to a situation where it could largely condone (there has been no official condemnation of the events of September-October 2009 at Kennedy Road by any state official, so we can only conclude that these actions are condoned by the state and the state party) the state deployment of violence and murder on an organisation of the poor which has systematically engaged in peaceful protests and advocated peaceful alternatives to the dominant form of politics in Durban and elsewhere. This is particularly significant because the AbM have organised in the tradition of the United Democratic Front (UDF) of the 1980s by stressing an all-inclusive conception of citizenship and the nation, precisely along the lines of the Freedom Charter, which has been said to be at the core of ANC thinking on the transformation of South African society and the state.
I will do this by identifying a number of historical political sequences of nationalist politics in South Africa (SA) since the 1990s and will suggest that at the root of the problem of the state reaction to AbM has been not simply a failure of democracy, but a systematic failure of citizenship and of the nation. The sequences are defined in terms of the dominant political subjectivities/discourses at the level of the state, they do not correspond to the period in office of particular presidents although, given the power of presidents to determine the character of state discourse, it is clear that the specific presidential incumbent has had a dominant effect on its construction.
We need to start with ‘non-racialism’ as the name or signifier of a nationalist politics prevalent in the 1980s. The nation then was understood and could only be understood as an exclusively political conception not one founded on any social category of any sort. While this affirmation originated within Black Consciousness, it was developed to the fullest by the UDF and in its revival of the Freedom Charter so that it constituted a new framework for political thought.
The core of this understanding was the idea that SA belongs to all, and that the members of the nation were not to be defined by any social category but were comprised of all those who consistently fought for ‘the struggle’ irrespective of race, social background or even birth in SA. No one stopped to ask whether you were born in Lesotho and whether you were South African enough to be involved in the struggle. This purely political quality of the nation is made clear in Allan Boesak’s reminiscences in his recent book ‘Running with Horses’. His work is significant as he was a co-founder and main leader of the UDF in the 1980s. ‘The only real criterion [for membership of the UDF] was genuine commitment to the struggle’ (Boesak, 2009: 157). Freedom, democracy and justice within the nation were all purely a matter of belief and had to be practiced as the struggle unfolded in the here and now. It is clear that non-racialism required constant commitment and agency in order to be established; it was a statement of a universal politics. The foundation of the UDF provided the conditions for the universal political practice of non-racialism to be realised (this does not simply that empirically such non-racialism was uniformly adhered to); it becomes the condition of possibility of such a universal which is consequently in Badiou’s terms ‘anobjective’, an ‘incalculable emergence rather than a describable structure’ (Badiou, 2009: 26,28).
Non-racialism was not something that could be ‘delivered’ from above, and outside political agency. It could only be achieved through political action; it is in this sense that it can be maintained that the concept of the nation during this period was purely political and not social, as it existed only in thought, in the ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ of the activists engaged in such politics. The replacement of ‘non-racialism’ by ‘multiracialism’ or the ‘rainbow nation’ in the 1990s suggested the end of such a political conception of the nation and its replacement by a social understanding now propagated by the new state. This new nation could now be ‘delivered’ or ‘built’. In other words delivery implies the de-politicisation of the nation and if you like of its ‘socialisation’ or ‘objectivisation’ which can now be empirically described, analysed and measured. Such a process was not unique to the South African experience but is a common characteristic of the transition from emancipatory to state politics or from politics properly conceived as thought to the social as the objective foundation of state politics (or from a universal politics to a politics founded on interest; Fanon shows this transition in the form of one from Pan-Africanism to chauvinism for example; it can also be understood as the transition from political principles to the politics of command, opportunism and corruption, what Badiou calls the general lesson of Thermidor).
The New South Africa must be understood as beginning in 1990 and not in 1994, because in that year not only is the ANC unbanned but it enters the state and no important government decision is taken without its knowledge and involvement. Elections by universal suffrage in 1994 only legitimate the status quo compromise established over the years 1990-94 and do not inaugurate a new state form as such. In any case the government established after 1994 was a government of national unity, which allowed for a ‘transition period’ of joint control of the state by outgoing and incoming state parties and elites. The main post-1990 state political sequences can be briefly outlined as follows:
1) From 1990 to 1996: This could be named ‘the celebratory, nationalist social democratic and human rights sequence’. Its proper name is Mandela (and his Madiba shirts); it lasts until 1996 and the systematic introduction of neo-liberal thought and the dragging of the country into globalised hegemonic neo-liberal economics and politics. Until that date there had been a contradiction between statist nationalism – a ‘natural’ outcome of the previous sequence of non-racialism dominated by the UDF within a cold war developmentalist discourse – and the growing dominance of economic neo-liberalism as the New RSA was born as Bush senior’s ‘new world order’ was being established. The RDP had been an expression of a kind of statist developmentalist Keynesianism, which the erstwhile nationalism of the ‘cold war’ period had encouraged for newly independent states; it found itself overtaken by the new global hegemonic discourse of the ‘Washington consensus’ and was largely still-born. However these changes did not just concern ‘economic policy’ but much more broadly, they signalled an adherence to the building of consensus around a neo-liberal state, which it was believed could be checked through ‘civil society’ interest representation (the organisational inheritors of the UDF political tradition which were no longer seen as political or universal but simply as interest-bearing expressions of social groupings) could perform a ‘watchdog’ role and that ‘civil society’ and especially but not exclusively the COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) unions – could then provide a counter-pressure to government (this provided a justification for abandoning their erstwhile popular politics associated with the UDF in the 1980s and which constituted the main reason for liberation). In this manner a non-racial, non-sexist and for some ‘non-class’ democracy could be constructed. A number of corporatist structures (the most important of which was Nedlac in its final form) were set up and these simply integrated civil society organisations into state politics as civil society itself had wished. Broadly speaking, the organisations ‘of civil society’ which begin to operate during this sequence and the next (Anti-Privatisation Forum, Treatment Action Campaign etc) whether they be NGOs or social movements locate their politics within a framework in alignment with state politics and within a problematic of delivery as they tend to be dominated by professionals and intellectuals whose politics remain within the confines of classist conceptions (Keynesian or Marxist).
This sequence saw the final killing off of the remnants of an independent politics embodied previously in the UDF and approved by the ANC; the idea of non-racialism strongly rooted in BC (see Boesak, 2009) was gradually replaced by ‘the rainbow nation’ (‘of God’ according to Tutu’s original formulation) i.e. a form of ‘multi-culturalism’ of the liberal variety which eschewed a politics of national unification in favour of a simple ‘toleration’ or ‘recognition’ of existing cultural differences which of course remain untransformed (and thus essentialised) and hence obstacles to a national construction which implies unity in diversity – the state contributed to this in its gathering of statistics as apartheid racial categories were retained in a simplified form, viz. African, White, Coloured, Indian. Moreover these given unchanging ‘cultures’ can then provide the basis for nativism as well as for racism, so that apartheid divisions become even more entrenched. Concurrently the TRC process transforms the agents of the 1980s into supplicants for state help and ultimately pardons perpetrators more than it ‘empowers’ victims. Finally, democracy during this period becomes the name given to the new state (democracy is understood as a form of state from 1994 onwards according to a number of technical features), rather than to the form of politics which had been developing among the people especially from 1984 to1986; in other words democracy is no longer understood to refer to a form of politics but to a form of state.
By 1996, although frustrated by Mandela’s unilateral assertion without discussion that GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy) was fundamental ANC policy, civil society had fully agreed to form part of state political subjectivity. The nationalist grievances (for which the struggle had been fought including urban needs such as jobs and houses), were now to be addressed through the consensus of the state-civil society nexus. Convinced by the arguments of the IFIs and African-American businessmen, the dominant faction of the ANC leadership fell for the idea that the market rather than the state would be the basis of freedom in RSA, that state democracy rather than state nationalism would form the basis of both state and society.
2) From 1996 to 2008, this sequence could be called the ‘sequence of elite construction’ dominated by apparently a politically neutral expert/technical statism whose proper name is Mbeki and where the contradictions in state thought (especially between state nationalism and state democracy) are not always successfully papered over let alone resolved; when democracy and African state nationalism (more and more communitarian as indigeneity is stressed as opposed to democratic nationalism) are in central contradiction within state=ANC’s=Mbeki’s thought which dominates political discourse (e.g. Zimbabwe, the Press and racism, HIV/AIDS, Nepad and African Renaissance, Affirmative Action/BEE, Native Club, ‘ultra-leftism’, etc ) and when there is a growing denialism of growing communitarianism and xenophobia resulting precisely from an emphasis on indigeneity and other forms of identity politics developing more and more in this period as a result of state-sanctioned ‘nativism’ while the rest of the African continent is simply seen as a backward place to be led and acted upon, not to be a part of.
The new bourgeoisie is only interested in stressing its ‘Africanness’ in relation to whites in South Africa, not in relation to other Africans. There is a systematic state failure to unite the people behind a conception of a national community let alone behind a pan-African vision. The pathetic attempts to do so are treated with derision, and Ubuntu even though potentially a great unifying idea, finds no real root among the popular psyche and remains an empty slogan to be distorted by commercialism (with the notable exception of a small number of Constitutional Court judgements).
At the same time there is a growing rift within different statist politics represented by neo-liberal language, through which it is expected that the market will level economic differences (through ‘trickle down’) (with the help of Affirmative Action and a Black Economic Empowerment of a totally individualistic kind); while increasing evidence of corruption and speculative deals by those with state connections on the one hand and increasing poverty undercutting the power of civil society especially unions on the other become apparent. The tide of resistance within the ANC to what are seen as the pro-capital policies of Mbeki take-off with the sacking of Zuma from his position of deputy president as a court finds him tainted by corruption and imprisons his ‘financial advisor’ Shabir Shaik. It begins in 2005, builds up through various trials in 2006 and finally comes to power within the ANC at the end 2007 at Polokwane, when Mbeki is removed from power. Throughout his trials Zuma uses Zulu ethnic ‘culture’ as part of his defence and crowds are bussed outside the courts to support him and to chant derogatory slogans against his opponents (including crass sexist ones – the silence of the feminists within the upper echelons of the ANC was deafening and practically total apart from a very small number of lower ranking women in the party). The vision of a ‘non-racist’, non-sexist’ (and as some had optimistically mentioned ‘non-class’!) democratic society gradually disappears apart from in its crude formalistic sense. In fact all vision disappears under a cloak of petty corruption and scramble for resources while the judiciary is subjected to attacks of various sorts.
The emphasis on nativism to ensure BEE deals for the most ‘previously disadvantaged’=most ‘native’ and the tying of a nationalist project to accumulation by a chosen few, rather than to a popular conception wherein all the people could be brought together to engage in more communal schemes of a national character, not only provided the conditions for increased poverty but also for an impoverished communitarian nationalism which was regularly directed against non-nationals and which finally exploded massively in May 2008. This therefore constitutes the beginning of a new sequence. During this period the establishment of local ‘community’ power structures, some based on previous ones, (street committees) others founded on the distortion of originally democratic structures (e.g. Community Policing Forums, Ward Committees and Branch Electoral Committees which are often the same thing) lead to local social relations being dominated by local power brokers who require local ANC support and networks in order to ensure the reproduction of patron-client relations and power of both political and economic kinds. In other words elections, support, community organisations, and political parties at local level all combine to form (a standard for many countries) a process of power ‘clientelism’ at local level involving councillors, police, regional and sometimes national MPs (‘slumlords’ often in alliance with local politicians) which becomes a systematic threat to the democratic expression of grievances and to popular nationalism, but which it seems is seen as the only legitimate way of conducting local politics in the eyes of the state. Allan Boesak was rightfully indignant and disgusted at Mandela’s insistence on seeing only the ‘Coloured politics’ of ethnic opportunism and ‘wheeling and dealing’ in the Cape, rather than the democratic principled alternatives which the UDF had managed to construct (op.cit.:30).
Local politics then becomes run by local mafias so that serious attempts to develop a local politics founded on basic democratic norms, constantly butts against these repressive relations with which it comes into conflict. The most important of such politics is invented by AbM and a few others who discover the need to break from the politics of corruption associated with party politics. The revolt in the ANC, which removes Mbeki at Polokwane, does not alter this state of affairs; it merely changes the actors at a higher level but not the modus operandi at the base, which the top actors need for their survival and that of the ANC in power. Popular discontent with such politics, which enables both corruption and exclusion, becomes expressed more and more in communitarian forms as, in the absence of truly democratic alternatives as in AbM which are quite rare, no other avenue for the expression of popular grievances is left open. This frustration combined with identity politics of a non-religious kind finds its expression in communitarian forms of violence, most particularly in May 2008, where foreigners are killed and expelled ostensibly for ‘economic reasons’.
This sequence saw a failure in both state provisioning – quite predictable, given the failure to address national demands for jobs and housing in a neo-liberal context – and a failure of national politics and citizenship. This has been principally a failure of the state, and particularly, but not uniquely, a failure of the ANC as the main state party.
3) The current ‘communitarian sequence’ is inaugurated within the country in May 2008 (before the elections of 2009 which brought Zuma to power) with xenophobic pogroms of African foreigners and continues with ‘community protests’ – so-called ‘service delivery’ protests, which concern political but parochial concerns of communities. Initial research shows that while clearly these protests are not simply about increasing the speed of state ‘delivery’ and more about people in poor communities being systematically ignored by the state in terms of social provisioning and material resources, they are politically contradictory. On the one hand they assert the need to be taken seriously politically, on the other their ideology seems to be dominated by narrow interest politics at best, and by identity or communitarianism and xenophobic politics at worse. The absence of consistent democratic politics in these forms of protest is quite palpable. This sequence continues and is expressed in the ethnic mobilisation against AbM in September/October 2009.
AbM is unique in its development of non-state, non-party politics at a distance from all state modes of thought and founded on a universal conception of citizenship in which the statement of the Freedom Charter that South Africa belongs to all who live in it provides the basis of an alternative universal truly democratic politics in line with those of the UDF. The name of these politics is no longer ‘non-racialism’ but a ‘living politics’, but its foundation in subjectivity remains the same. The ‘living politics’ which they espouse is a purely subjective notion founded on belief and faith, and is not reducible to any social category other than ‘the poor’. Among all the organisations ‘of civil society’ which saw the light of day during the previous sequence, AbM is the only one to have developed such a politics of the universal and has thus positioned itself beyond the pale of civil society itself.
After its destruction in Kennedy Road, the state asserted that it was an illegitimate organisation, even though it had mass support in the community and that the ANC structures the state imposed by force were legitimate. Clearly this legitimacy refers to legitimacy in the eyes of the state and not in those of the people. This is precisely why AbM can be said to exist beyond civil society. The overall result is that the democratic politics of the AbM had become a threat to the patron-client relations on which local politics is founded as well as to the state-civil society consensus around which the politics of stakeholders are deployed. AbM has managed to provide a universal conception of citizenship and the nation where the state has proved itself singularly incapable of doing so. The vision of another world in the here and now (viz the ‘all here and now’ of Boesak’s speech at the launch of the UDF in 1983) proposed by AbM has succeeded in providing leadership where the state has failed and has been quite unable to provide such a vision for the country. Not surprisingly then, the state found AbM an ideological threat in Kwazulu-Natal.
The attack on AbM amounts to an attack on a universal democratic alternative of the kind which mobilised the politics of liberation of this country, and precisely on the popular democratic traditions of the UDF type and which had been in the past embraced by the ANC. The attack on AbM also shows how ethnic slogans today can be mobilised for reactionary and repressive ends justified often by chauvinistic slogans (the democratic nation and the citizen turning into their opposite, from a universal to a narrow social category).
The attack on AbM in Kennedy Road is bound to affect politics generally in a reactionary direction, not simply because it threatens the form of state which calls itself a democracy, but also because it does so in a way that legitimises authoritarian communitarianism. It must be stressed that it was not the police that initially broke up the Kennedy road organisation and its politics, but thugs chanting ethnic chauvinist slogans. Although AbM has always been a peaceful and non-violent organisation, the violent attack on Kennedy Road was initially successfully repelled by the community; the police then came in and arrested those that had organised the resistance thus allowing the attack to then succeed and the homes of all AbM leaders to be demolished.
Of course the police have been used as agents of the interests of local powerful figures and political ‘lords’ and came in later to ensure that ‘calm returned’ in a manner which excluded AbM from Kennedy Road: i.e. by allowing the ethnic thugs to continue their rampage unhindered. This attack denotes a failure of nationalism and citizenship and not only a failure of democracy. The outcomes of these changes are such as to suggest that, in this current sequence, some people have the right to rights and others do not. In this sense, the democratic practice of popular politics which has enabled in the case of AbM the formation of a politics based purely on the subjective belief that a better world is possible and that what South Africans fought for must be taken seriously, is simply sacrificed at the altar of an apparently democratic state whose modus operandi is light years removed from what South Africans did indeed fight and die for.
In this latest sequence in SA hegemonic politics, it seems more legitimate to deploy ethnic politics than to insist on universal conceptions of citizenship and the nation – this has been exacerbated by Zuma’s coming to power and his espousal of ethnic politics evident during his various trials, but it began independently of his rise.
At the same time, there is evidence of police engaging more and more in raiding poor communities (along with an emphasis on the militarisation of the police and ‘shoot to kill’ policies by the new government ostensibly to combat crime). The idea here is no longer ‘community policing’, itself heavily compromised by its xenophobia and its control by local power brokers, but conceiving of communities as enemy territory as under colonial forms of state.
The police raid usually for a short period and the intention seems to be to instil fear into a community. They knock down doors as if they are on enemy territory, beat people up (men and women), sometimes arrest people on trumped up charges – and often simply release them a few days later as no charges have been laid. A recent example of this is the Pemary Ridge Police attacks. There is no way this can be justified as crime-fighting. It is an expression of a particular form of state politics akin to the politics of colonialism and apartheid, where a certain section of the community is considered as the enemy. Who is the enemy in this case? Recall that for the apartheid state, the liberation struggle was simply criminal, to be dealt with by a policing action. Is the enemy the urban poor? Is it the organised urban poor? Is the idea to try to force people out of their areas before the Football World Cup? On whose orders are the police acting? The fact that this is probably on the orders of local and regional politicians suggests a disastrous move towards a form of politics similar to chiefly politics in the rural areas, hence with one more similarity to communitarianism, although the political signifiers need not always be evidently ethnic.
The politics of human rights has been gradually displaced by a politics of communitarianism and by the division of the South African population into two broad groups, in which those who have the right to rights are attempting to construct a consensus founded on a state politics of systematic plunder of collective resources and oppression of the poor who have to suffer, not only economically but also by being deprived of the right to rights, and being forced against their will into patronage relations necessary for the former elites to exercise their rights.
The situation is quite simply disastrous and a major catastrophe is simply waiting to happen, as citizenship rights have been systematically eroded and people lack the medium to express their grievances. In the words of Allan Boesak’s book on which reflection is urgently required: ‘this is precisely the tragic situation our country faces today. When one strays from the path of non-racialism, one inexorably moves into the camp of ethnic nationalism. Or one is pulled in... We then begin to fear when there is nothing to fear’ (Boesak, 1990: 398).
How can a way forward begin to be thought? This question has to be answered both at the level of the state and at that of society. At the level of the state, it seems that the country is crying out for a vision, an idea as to where it is going. The original idea of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic society has simply fizzled out and the state by its total monopoly of transformation has made it impossible to involve ordinary people in such a process even though they had been involved in the 1980s. It is this enforced exclusion by the state that arguably lies at the root of recent protests, as people were given the impression that things would be different when a new ‘left-leaning’ government was in power. At the level of the state, a national dialogue is required to develop/rekindle a vision and to assert just what is and what is not permissible in terms of political behaviour. The professionalisation of the police and its independence from local power elites is crucial for this process, which otherwise would not impact on people at the base.
At the level of society, what is required is not the creation of a ‘working class party’ – such a move would only take us backward as the issue is not one of ‘taking power’ – but perhaps an umbrella organisation of popular political organisations and the development of a mass non-party politics ‘at a distance’ from state subjectivities. The issue is not so much the ‘Zanufication’ of the ANC, as Jeremy Cronin had noted with regard to Mbeki’s ANC in 2005 – although his description of authoritarian trends in the party have been largely borne out – but the fact that all party politics is statist and corrupt within the period of globalisation, where the distinction between state and market has largely collapsed.
The ‘left-right’ dichotomy that had oriented our political thinking is itself no longer useful in a period of consensual politics among state parties. The point of politics should therefore not be aimed at controlling the state, but at developing a universal politics beyond the state. AbM has recognised this and was subject to attack simply because it was small and isolated within single communities such as Kennedy Road. A much more extensive network and larger organisation (within which affiliates can operate independently within criteria applicable to all which have to be established) is clearly necessary. Moreover, in order for there to be a counter to the politics of patronage at local level, more AbMs (not ATMs!) are necessary. The politicisation of communities in this fashion would also ensure eventually a gradual understanding of the common interests of the poor and of all the population in an open society. A moral community of active citizens could thus be constructed.
A democratic state worthy of the name can only be a state which provides conditions for the independent operation of popular organisations within mutually agreed limits to be established jointly at a national conference. Leadership can only be established in dialogue with these independent organisations and the way forward must be found jointly and not imposed by state institutions and power. In the absence of this kind of process, the country will remain in perennial crisis.
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* Michael Neocosmos is honorary professor in global movements at Monash University, Australia and South Africa.
* The author is grateful to Richard Pithouse for encouragement and detailed comments and suggestions on earlier drafts. He is however solely responsible for all errors and oversights in this text.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
AbM various documents and press releases to be found on www.abahlali.org
Badiou, A. 2009 ‘Thinking the Event’ in A. Badiou and S. Zizek Philosophy in the Present, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Boesak, A, 2009 Running with Horses: reflections of an accidental politician, Cape Town: Joho Press.
Gibson, N and Patel, R 2009 ‘Democracy’s everyday death: South Africa's quiet coup’ Pambazuka News, Issue 451.
 On the recent events at Kennnedy Road, see Nigel Gibson and Raj Patel ‘Democracy’s everyday death: South Africa's quiet coup’, Pambazuka News, 2009-10-08, Issue 451
Between centralisation and decadence: Senegalese politics under Wade
Politics in Senegal under President Abdoulaye Wade has always been something of a passionate wrestling of rancid tales and counter-tales. The ruling party – the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) – has the habit of accusing the opposition of sabotaging the ‘established’ democracy of the country that sent its own list of grievances to the 1789 French revolution. The opposition in its turn points to the government’s wanton contempt towards both the citizens and institutions it is supposed to preserve. While rigidly eschewing any form of dialogue with the opposition, the Wade regime never misses an opportunity to disparage efforts initiated by the latter to reflect on issues facing the country, mainly the degrading quality of life for millions of Senegalese while state functionaries ever enjoy stupendous lifestyle. Thus the nationwide consultations and dialogue (Assises Nationales), held between 1 June 2008 and 24 May 2009 and designed to institute dialogue across politics and society, were met with derision and dismissive condescension by the Wade government.
Until four years ago, claims of an orchestrated dynastical (monarchical) succession plan would have been dismissed as conflated conspiracy theory. There are inevitable lessons, however, to be learned from the recent successful coups de force from figures like Togo's Faure Gnassingbé and Gabon's Ali Bongo, to name only the most recent ones, who succeeded their fathers as the heads of their respective states. In spite of the tremendous resistance locally (protests were repressed in blood in both instances) and the international public’s outcry, the ‘monarchists’ had power, the material means and the hypocrisy of their allies on their side to carry their successional design to fruition.
Things do not seem to be going according to the octogenarian’s plan however, as the extraordinary reluctance of the Senegalese people to Wade grooming his son to succeed him seems to have shaken the confidence of both dad and son, Karim. Wade junior registered a bitter loss in the March 2009 local elections when he competed for office under the aegis of his ‘Génération du Concret’, which, while not officially a political party, has garnered all imaginable strands of opportunistic members both in Senegal and among the diaspora.
Legally, this situates creates a deadlock. Those aspects of the Senegalese constitution intended for a statute on the question of succession have been effectively atrophied. Since taking power in 2000, President Wade has fiddled with the Supreme Law a record seven times! With a national parliament dominated by a ruling majority (the opposition having boycotted the previous parliamentary elections) and a newly established senate entrusted to a class of political ‘elephants’, retrieved friends and a horde of marabouts (religious chiefs) who have traded sermons with praise songs to the benevolent 'Gorgui' ('old man', President Wade’s nickname), Wade’s got carte blanche to institute a succession. Both in parliament and the Senate, political participation has become essentially a ritual for those enjoying palatine privileges of various sorts, from trips in private jets to luxurious mansions in the much sought-after Almadies district of Dakar.
Sadly, the experience of the Senegalese state-building is a story told too many times in Africa. The rapid passage in the 1960s and 1970s from constitutions tailored along the lines of those from Westminster or French republic to rounds of military coups across Africa have become such a familiar sequence that the 'déjà vu, déjà vécu' effect has somewhat sobered the greatest of Afro-optimists.
In many places, independent heroes lasted for decades in power and ruled on the basis of an entrenched dictatorship (such as Ivory Coast's Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta and Ethiopia's Haile Selassie). As a result, the state evolved as essentially centralised without becoming necessarily a more stable entity. In Senegal, after 40 years of unbroken rule of the Socialist Party (PS), the 2000 democratic change that saw the rise of a die-hard opponent was hailed as historic, but the tremendous expectations aroused were soon to be disappointed. Nine years down the road, the state has only spoils to offer to the accomplices of the ruling party and many promises to wider society.
With frustration growing among the youth and all sectors of society, the Senegalese state thus seems to be hanging over a precarious balance. With almost an almost 90-year-old president (officially 83) addicted to power, no smooth succession plan in place, a divided opposition which is only starting to see the benefits of an eventual but highly uncertain united front, and a bankrupt state, some whisper that the military is the only opportunity structure. Was President Wade not, after all, the first head of state to embrace the pariah Moussa Dadis Camara of Guinea, becoming, in the process, his putative father? The national budget is gnawed by over 50 agencies attached in one way or another to the president's services and taking over, in effect, the prerogative of designated ministries. The Wade administration has been tumultuously eventful: with a dismal rate of change of ministerial nominations, members of the executive body seem a little more than front puppets. As a result, the state structure has been fragmented, and its legitimacy eroded.
Like any other big party made of unconnected bits of other parties, the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party’s unity, which made possible Wade’s ascendancy, was short-lived. The euphoria of a historical victory dissipated at the same time that the party started to show cracks in its unity. Where dissidents could not be co-opted or maintained with allowances or other forms of privilege, they were alienated, ostracised, smeared or jailed, from Moustapha Niasse, the rainmaker in the 2000 elections to Wade’s former Prime Ministers Idrissa Seck and Macky Sall. Wade’s legacy will not only be a record decline in democratic gains; he has also set a marked precedence for ruling parties to trample the opposition with the view to discrediting it as inept, inadequate and irrelevant. And that is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes of his administration.
The implications for state-building in Senegal and similar regimes are clear: democratic change may be a prerequisite but the absence of an institutionalised effort to stabilise the system beyond the regime remains an obstacle. The Wade administration may have few days of glory left. But the damage done by his ruling style to the state-building project is immense. The nominal state has become a carcass institution with a flag and an anthem. Its leading structure is a coalition of an amorphous body made of new political aristocrats whose main characteristics are wealth and relative economic prosperity. Efforts to consolidate the democratic gains and, beyond, the institutional stability of the state are undermined by the fact that this leading aristocracy has primarily been constituted upon and derives its domination from the manipulation of state prerogatives. A direct consequence of this is the state’s inability to perform its basic administrative functions and provide for basic services to its populations. Part of Dakar and other cities are, for instance, constantly plunged in darkness due to power outages that money poured into the national power company Senelec does not seem to solve. In fact, the clientelistic tendencies of the state, while gnawing away at the state budget, also erode its capacity to invest in sustainable areas of production, and they scare investors away. The redistributive capacities of the state have suffered from the economic downturn, diminishing revenues and therefore investment in social infrastructure.
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* Amy Niang is a PhD candidate at the School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Africa's children are important
‘A fault confessed is half redressed.’ (Swahili proverb)
‘Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.’ (Doug Larson)
‘Silences have a climax, when you have got to speak’. (Elizabeth Bower)
Allow me to depart from the traditional form of address common to opening ceremonies, so that I can engage in a personal and candid conversation with you, fellow Africans in civil society, about the state of children in Africa and our collective failures to meet our responsibilities. By dint of geography, race and history we share a common fate and a common destiny. There is no place for hiding or obfuscation.
I am at an age where I should be tempered by wisdom, serenity, and humility, no doubt all great qualities. That unfortunately is not the case; I am someone that is saddened and outraged by the condition of the millions of children around the world who are disadvantaged and excluded. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I view myself as a world citizen. Like the poet John Donne, I say, ‘no man is an island, entire of itself; I am a part of the whole; every man’s death diminishes me; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’
But, above all, I am an angry African who has lost patience with
- The hypocrisy of the international development actors or ‘partners’, to use the more polite though somewhat less-than-honest description
- The complacency of the African public and the buffoonery that excuses indignities and harmful in the name of African culture and tradition and
- The callousness and hypocrisy of our politicians who talk incessantly about slavery, colonialism, global capitalism, international responsibility, reparations and so on, while abusing their people, squandering their nations’ wealth, and evading national responsibility and accountability.
And so, angry I am; and I will tell you why and what, I hope, we can do to build an Africa fit for children and help nurture an African man and woman that can walk with pride on the world stage.
THE CYNICAL USE OF AFRICAN FACES
The other day I was at a major international gathering of some 500 or so people mostly from Europe, but also from around the world to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child). The great show at the event was a video on the great, the good and the beautiful from Hollywood and the world of music – so called Goodwill Ambassadors – and the grand work they are doing to save the world’s children.
Personally, I do not care for this kind of PR, but I should perhaps grant that the recourse to such means is a matter of taste in communication and advocacy work, and so, notwithstanding my deep distaste, I should say to the many and increasing number of agencies that do: Good luck with your approach.
What really got me was the gratuitous use of African faces to demonstrate the worldwide problem of child abuse and exploitation. This video was supposed to be about the world’s children but what you saw were mostly African faces – faces of pathetic African boys and girls crying for the generosity and good hearts of Western donors. No reference at all about the sexual abuse that many children in the west are subjected to; nothing about the pornographic rings in Belgium, the UK and much of Western Europe, or, about the decades of child molestation in the bastions of high morality in US or Ireland; nothing about child trafficking in Europe or America; nothing about global tourism and child prostitution in Africa and Asia! I find such hypocrisy and the cynical use of African and Asian faces for fundraising and self promotion rather unsettling.
Yes, we have problems and do appreciate international help and solidarity, but not at the cost of our dignity. We in civil society in Africa should therefore regard watchfully the behaviour and work of international development partners, be they within the UN system or in the international NGO community, and insist that our African boys and girls are seen and treated with dignity.
Now to the second point: African complacency. Africa is a very young continent, the youngest in the world. Children under 18 constitute some 51.5 per cent of the population, with the ratio being as high as 54.8 per cent in Nigeria, 55.2 per cent in Ethiopia, and 60.8 per cent in Uganda. That it is so can be a blessing but also a potential curse. The extent to which African governments respect children and protect them from harm and abuse, and provide them with opportunities for a healthy and productive life has an impact both on the future of the children concerned and the future of the region. A healthy, well-fed and educated child population is a necessary foundation for a modern productive and knowledge-based economy that can effectively participate in today’s globalised world.
Similarly, the way we raise and treat our children at home and in school is critical for what they will be as adults and citizens. A child growing up in an environment where he sees his mother beaten by the father, where girls are discriminated against and excluded, where differing views and opinions are not tolerated, and where choices are not negotiated is unlikely to be the builder of a peaceful and democratic order. But look at the facts:
- Over a third of children less than five years old suffer from moderate to severe stunting.
- Each year some one million babies are stillborn; about half a million die on their first day; and, at least one million babies die in their first month of life.
- As if this is not enough, we now face a huge and growing orphan population, estimated at for example some 20 per cent of the under-15 population in Congo (Brazzaville), Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Look at the absolute number of orphans in selected countries: 4.2 million in DR Congo, 4.8 million in Ethiopia and a staggering 8.6 million in Nigeria. According to ACPF, the orphan population in sub-Saharan Africa could, within a couple of years’ time, be equal to the size of the combined populations of South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho.
- There is then the problem of violence against children. This is a widespread problem throughout Africa and is found at home, at schools, at work and in the community. In an ACPF survey of violence against girls in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, over 90 per cent of the girls surveyed reported being victims of one form of violence or another. FGM is deeply ingrained and early marriage a common practice.
- Finally, low access to schooling. Briefly, despite the progress, fewer than half of children of primary-school age in Sub-Saharan Africa go to school.
These are some of the sad facts. Yet, in far too many countries, children are given an inferior place in the scheme of things, at home or in the larger community. We have to combat and correct this reticence and complacency. This is all the more important given that we do not have a supportive public environment or public opinion in much of Africa. Where are the African voices that speak out against child rights violations say in Darfur, DRC, Somalia and Uganda?
Regrettably, the voices we have heard in the past and continue to hear today are those of individuals and organisations outside our region, almost all in the West. This has several explanations, of course, but is nonetheless unacceptable. I have no patience for us, Africans, who are the first to talk about historical or contemporary injustices while perpetuating, justifying and even defending abusive practices here at home and turning a blind eye to crimes by Africans against fellow Africans. We need to speak out and claim our place on the human and child rights agenda. And such talk should begin with African civil society.
POLITICS AND AFRICAN LEADERSHIP
Finally, I am disappointed and even shamed by the kind of politics that guide and inspire African leadership.
ACPF has done an evaluation of the performance of African governments. The results of our analysis and findings are reported in The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2008: How child-friendly are African governments? This report uses some 40 indicators and a composite Child-friendliness Index to score and rank the performance of 52 African governments. And this showed that the ‘most child-friendly governments’ group consisted of Mauritius, Namibia, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa, Algeria and Cape Verde, and in that order. Rwanda and Burkina Faso have also done very well, coming 11th and 12th, respectively, in the Child-friendliness Index ranking despite their low economic status.
These and the other countries that emerged in the top ten or twenty did so mainly for three reasons. First, they put in place appropriate legal provisions to protect children against abuse and exploitation. Secondly, they allocated a relatively higher share of their budgets to provide for the basic needs of children. Finally, they used resources effectively and were able to achieve favourable wellbeing outcomes as reflected on children themselves.
At the other extreme are the ten ‘least child-friendly governments’ in Africa – Comoros, Guinea, Swaziland, Chad, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Gambia, Central African Republic, Eritrea and Guinea Bissau. Of course, the political and economic situation and the underlying causes vary from one country to another. But, by and large, the poor performance or low score of these governments is the result of their failure to institute protective legal and policy instruments, the absence of child-sensitive juvenile justice systems, and the very low budgets allocated to children.
EXCUSES FOR INADEQUATE ACTION
A recurring explanation or excuse given by governments for inadequate action is limited financial capacity, lack of resources and poverty. To what extent is this true? Comparison of the Child-friendliness Index ranking with their economic status reveals that national commitment to children is not related to national income. The Child-friendliness Index shows that, despite their relatively low GDPs, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Burkina Faso are among the best performers in Africa. They are among the twelve countries that have made the greatest effort to put in place an adequate legal foundation for the protection of their children and for meeting their basic needs. On the other hand, relatively wealthy countries, with relatively high GDPs – Equatorial Guinea and Angola, for example – are not investing sufficient budgetary resources in ensuring child wellbeing, and so have scored very low on the Child-friendliness Index ranking, coming out 38th and 35th, respectively.
The Child-friendliness Index data confirms that it is politics, and not economics, that accounts for differences in government performance.
CLAIMING OUR DESTINY
We Africans should claim our destiny and hold our governments and ourselves accountable for our being what we are and where we are. We should be truthful, honest and critical with ourselves as individuals and as citizens. Yes, we should insist on our right to be treated with dignity. But, most importantly, we should have the courage and be the first to speak out and engage in the defence of the inherent rights of all human beings including children.
Secondly, we should resist afro-pessimism. Yes, there are considerable challenges facing governments in Africa, but change and progress are possible and feasible even at very low levels of development. You do not have to have oil and diamonds to provide a better country for your children. Rather, success has to do with whether children figure out in the election manifestoes of politicians and their parties; whether they are at the heart of the budgeting process and given a hearing; whether laws are based on the principle of the best interest of the child; whether the state has established a child-sensitive juvenile justice system; and whether we are moving towards a polity and society that is child-friendly. In other words, good governance, and this means: Politics that put them first, laws that protect them, and budgets that provide for them.
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* These were remarks made at the opening session of the 2nd Civil Society Organisation Forum on the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), 11 November 2009, Addis Ababa.
* Assefa Bequele PhD is executive director of The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF).
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Not all cultural traditions are worth keeping
The bull that caused recent controversy in South Africa has now been sacrificed in Nongoma – with the approval of the courts – as part of the Ukweshwama ritual to offer symbolic thanks for the first crops of the season.
Yet, the bigger challenge for all communities in South Africa – from whatever colour – remains: To honestly re-examine all their cultural, traditional and religious assumptions and practices. To reduce such a call as an all or nothing battle between so-called ‘modernists’ versus ‘traditionalists’, or Western ‘civilisation’ versus African ‘backwardness’; or as an attempt to ‘denigrate’ African cultural beliefs’, is simply wrong.
Of course, as Africans we have experienced first-hand the barbarism of Western cultures that have portrayed themselves as ‘civilised’, ‘enlightened’ and ‘superior’ compared to African cultures, but that in practice have oppressed vast numbers in the most dehumanising ways imaginable.
The debate over the fate of the killing of the bull offers us the opportunity to reflect on parts of all cultures in South Africa that may conflict with the values of our constitution, individual dignity and safety. It is not going to be easy: These issues go to the heart of our sense of self.
The judiciary may pronounce on cultural practices that undermine constitutional values, individual dignity or safety, but ultimately, ‘triggers for (cultural) evolution are the people themselves who practice such cultures’, as Zizi Kodwa, the spokesperson for ANC President Jacob Zuma puts it.
Whatever our culture, we must treat animals in a humane way in our traditional rituals. For another, as African parents (many whites also) it was accepted as part of our ‘culture’ to beat a child that misbehaves. Yet, the practice of ‘disciplining’ a child through beating inculcates a culture of violence.
Our constitution calls for gender equality. As African males (white South Africans also) we have grown up viewing women as our ‘possessions’. In the Eastern Cape, King of theAmaMpondomise, Mpondombini Sgcau, criticised the old cultural practice of Ukuthwala because it was abused by forcing young girls to marry old men – this is the kind of leadership we need now. Again, prejudice against gays and lesbians is also carried out on the basis that it is allegedly against African ‘culture’ – which is nonsense. Eudy Simelane, one of the stars of Banyana Banyana, South Africa’s national female football squad, was gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs, because she was lesbian. What kind of culture approves of this?
Many young Xhosa men die every year during circumcision operations at traditional initiation ceremonies. Deputy police minister Fikile Mbalula was a few years ago
dragged unwillingly to participate in a traditional initiation ceremony. Firstly, the space must be created for individual conscience to decline to participate in circumcision, or any other traditional ritual he or she opposes. But for those strongly feeling the need to participate in initiation ceremonies, there should be better conditions governing circumcision.
Furthermore, the curriculum for initiation schools should be adapted to grapple with the new challenges of our time – including the notion of gender equality, safe sexual behaviour and discouraging the dominant ‘macho’ perception of maleness.
The King of the abaThembu, Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo stands accused of kidnapping, arson and culpable homicide. The king is awaiting sentencing after he was found guilty of kidnapping a mother and her six children after he had personally set their home alight, to ‘discipline’ them. His defence advocate, Terry Price, argued that because of the king’s status, he should be treated with leniency.
‘What you cannot lose sight of is the fact that he did not go out to destroy lives but was committed to disciplining his community … They got the punishment that they deserved,’ Price said in mitigation of sentence. Surely, if we claim our cultural practices allow our traditional leaders to do as they please – even kill, then there is something wrong with aspects of such culture. It is wrong to blindly support morally wrong practices on the basis of cultural solidarity.
African culture has a long tradition of democratic practices also, such as consensus seeking and internal debates. But it also has some very autocratic practices – it is not wrong to admit so, neither is it wrong to say let’s discard such aspects. Finally, if only those who so zealously defend the most dehumanising aspects of ‘culture’, would declare African leaders’ greed, corruption and clinging to power as against African culture – and fight these ails with the same resolve, the continent would be a much better place.
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* This article first appeared in the Sowetan.
* William Gumede is co-editor (with Leslie Dikeni) of the recently released The Poverty of Ideas.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
'How Africa's integration can work for the poor' by Jeggan C. Senghor
Africa Research Institute event
African Research Institute Christmas party at St Stephen's Club, Tuesday 15 December, 34 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AB
Live Congolese music from Grupo Lokito
Wine and canapés will be served
[email protected] or 020 7222 4006
Climate chaos: What prospects from Copenhagen?
Percy F. Makombe
Over the next two weeks, the world’s attention will be focused on Copenhagen, where delegates from 192 countries are meeting to discuss a climate deal. This meeting comes at a time when there is a misconception that is running riot saying the Kyoto Protocol (KP) is expiring in 2012, hence the need to negotiate a new agreement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever spin is put on the KP, the fact of the matter is that rather than ending the protocol, the climate talks should be about implementing it.
The KP does not expire in 2012. It is not milk that carries a ‘best before’ label. Ten years ago, 37 more or less industrialised countries and economies in transition (Annex 1 Parties) agreed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5 per cent below 1990 levels over a period of four years, starting in 2008. It is this commitment of Annex I Parties under the protocol that is expiring in 2012. The rest of the provisions of the protocol remain intact.
Parties to the protocol have been in heated discussions on subsequent commitments, and this is where developed countries have shied away from making adequate reduction commitments. The climate talks reached fever pitch in Barcelona recently, when the African Group threatened to walk out because of the failure by developed countries to make a commitment on figures for emission cuts.
The KP is a legal binding document and a major problem of it is that the United States abandoned it in 2001. The US is not interested in an internationally legally binding document hence chances that it will sign to the second commitment period of the KP are between slim and zero. Slim has gone out of town while zero is very much around. At the Bali climate meeting in 2007, it was thought that if the US did not return to the protocol, then it would be treated separately and dealt with under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, of which it is a member.
Other industrialised countries are giving signals that they want to join the US bandwagon and are therefore not interested in doing a second period of Kyoto. This has angered the G77 members and China. This bloc of developing countries has over 130 members and has called for respect of the Kyoto Protocol. They have gone so far as to suggest that Copenhagen will be ‘a disastrous failure if there is no outcome for the commitments of developed countries for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.’
Mithika Mwenda, the coordinator of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), argues that the causes and consequences of climate change lie principally with the developed countries: ‘We call on developed countries to acknowledge that they have used more than a fair and sustainable share of the Earth’s atmospheric space. They must repay their debt through deep domestic emission reductions and by transferring the technology and finance required to enable us to follow a less polluting pathway without compromising our development.’
It is not surprising that there has been a lot of agitation in Africa about climate change issues. The United Nations has identified 49 countries as being least developed countries based on three criteria: Low income, high economic vulnerability and weak human assets. Thirty-three of these countries are in Africa. In his welcome address at the opening ceremony of the Copenhagen Climate Change talks, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri pointed out that: ‘In Africa, by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to water stress due to climate change, and in some countries on that continent yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent.’
Given that such serious issues are at stack, it is surprising that the much respected UNFCCC has been circulating fact sheets to the media and the public that border on falsehoods. One of the fact sheets states that: ‘The international community, in drawing up the broad parameters for a climate change deal in Bali two years ago, acknowledged that industrialised countries must accept binding emission reduction targets.’ According to PACJA this is not correct because the industrialised countries ‘were already committed to accept binding emission reduction targets through a second commitment under the Kyoto Protocol.’
Another fact sheet states that: ‘However despite the fact that key developed country forums such as the G8 have recognised a 2 degree celsius limit, pledges for mid-term targets by industrialised countries fall woefully short of the IPCC range (25 per cent to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020).’ This too boggles the mind, not least because the IPCC does not make any recommendations. In fact, many developing countries are calling for emission reductions of more than 85 per cent by 2050.
PACJA quite rightly contends that: ‘The 25 per cent to 40 per cent is not an IPCC range. The IPCC lead author has confirmed that the range is not a recommendation by IPCC. It is simply a summary of a small number of studies on burden sharing between developed and developing countries (most of which were conducted by authors employed or funded by EU institutions), which reflect the assumptions of those authors and their models...’.
Climate change is a long struggle and it is not going to be resolved at Copenhagen. What is disappointing is that the shenanigans of the World Trade Organisation are spilling into the climate talks. Divide and rule tactics are being used. Experienced Philippine negotiator Bernarditas de Castro Muller who was the spokesperson of G77 and China was dropped by the Philippines government from its list of delegates to the Copenhagen talks. No clear reasons were given for this action, although speculation abounds that this was at the behest of the EU and US. Muller has been the Philippines representative in the UNFCCC since 1994.
His exclusion has raised alarm with civil society organisations. Chito Tionko of the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Working Group on Climate Change and Development has been quoted saying: ‘The negotiators of industrialised countries are really afraid of Ditas Muller, because she keeps reminding them of their responsibilities. They want her out of the picture so that they can push their own agenda. There are many developing countries that depend on Muller to defend their interests.’ It is these steamroller tactics that are so characteristic of the WTO talks that have been perfected in the climate talks. The Danes also stand accused of organising small unofficial selective meetings in very much the same way of the much condemned WTO Green rooms.
A deal that works is very important especially for Africa and international cooperation is needed for this. This is where the key issues of mitigation and adaptation come into play. Mitigation is about reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to avoid the worst impact of climate change. Adaptation is about how people adjust and cope with climate change. As a result of climate change, millions of people will face water and food shortages as well as health risks.
Former UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson argues that ‘while mitigation policies encouraging bio-fuel production may decrease emissions and bring benefits to certain farmers, they also reduce the land available for food cultivation and increase conflicts over land. Land scarcity translates to decreased food production, which leads to higher prices for staple foods putting communities at risk.’
Robinson goes on to say: ‘Adaptation policies may also have unintended human rights consequences, particularly for traditionally marginalised groups. As communities face increasing food security brought on by climate change, women will bear the brunt of the burden as they struggle to feed their families often compromising their own health and nutrition to do so.’
Questions have been raised on the role that the World Bank will play in receiving and distributing climate change funding. Without finance, Africa will find it next to impossible to deal with climate change. It is therefore important that funds are channelled inside the UNFCCC rather than the World Bank, given the latter’s chequered history in dealing with the socioeconomic development of Africa. If the World Bank controls the money, there is a real fear that most of it will go to mitigation and there will not be enough for adaptation which is really what is urgent for developing countries as they are already struggling with how to cope with climate change.
There is also the issue of technology transfer. This is important because reducing greenhouse gas emissions poses technical challenges for developing countries. This is why there is talk of developing climate friendly technology for mitigation and adaptation. However this will not mean much if intellectual property rights (IPR) are left intact. Technology transfer is nothing if IPRs are maintained. There is therefore a need to push for the relaxation of IPR rules for developing countries to fight the climate battle. Currently there is no structure in the UNFCCC dealing with technology transfer. They merely have an advisory group. It is therefore necessary to set up a body with policy-making powers to handle technology transfer issues. This body should among other things recommend what policy is needed on IPR. The overriding goal should be to treat IPRs in a manner that allows access to technology at affordable prices.
In the gospel of Matthew, Pharisees and Sadducees are rebuked because they know how to read the face of the sky but cannot read the signs of the times. It is important that Copenhagen reads the signs of the times and responds appropriately. The only problem as aptly argued by Professor Ernst Conradie is that: ‘politicians will be inclined to accept ecological suicide later more readily than political suicide now by proposing a stringent environmental deal.’
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* Percy F. Makombe is the programmes manager of the Economic Justice Network (EJN) in Cape Town, South Africa.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Sierra Leone: President Koroma fights upsurge in armed robberies
Roland Bankole Marke
President of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma, employing the powers vested in him as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, recently issued an executive order authorising a joint contingent of military and police forces to patrol the streets of Freetown and the major provincial towns to fight a brazen upsurge in armed robberies in the capital city. Freetown is a target because of its economic activities and the influx of foreign businessmen and visiting foreign nationals. Sierra Leoneans are nervous due to this wave of violent robberies, shaking them to the core. It seems like a dress rehearsal of the recently terminated rebel warfare happening all over again.
On 9 October the United States Consular Affairs division in Freetown issued a warning to all US citizens in Sierra Leone, including those wishing to travel there, of the heightened possibility of armed robbery in Freetown. Americans who wish to travel to this West African nation should register online before travelling or do so at the embassy in Freetown. This measure will make it easier for the embassy or State Department officials to contact them for security briefings in case of an emergency. In addition business fraud schemes are increasingly becoming rampant and the perpetrators often target foreigners, including Americans.
Sierra Leoneans believe that historically armed robberies took place mostly in wealthy, industrialised nations, where guns are abundant and easy to purchase. Guns are not sold freely here in the market. There’s evidence that not all the guns were recovered from society after the rebel insurrection. With the nation’s porous borders, an influx of weapons-smuggling could not be ruled out to ferment another crisis. In the West the freedom to broadcast violent movies showcasing armed robberies might have resulted in copycat behaviour by professional criminals. The poor stress that this crime should not happen in their poor communities, where it is a daily challenge trying to make ends meet. Recent sporadic cases of audacious armed robberies have been reported by the media and police. Citizens have actually witnessed the execution of such criminal operations right in their own backyard or neighbourhood. Critics say that this measure to put armed security on the streets did not materialise fast enough to beat the criminals at their heinous game. An international critic suggested that another Somalia might result if the necessary strategic calibration is not implemented in an organised manner.
Just arrived transnationals – nicknamed JCs – are admired here yet at the same time resented, probably because of a lifestyle of perceived prosperity. A few JCs have reported being victims of armed robberies in Freetown as well. In some cases these turn out to be inside jobs masterminded by relatives or members of the same household. But we cannot divorce the abject poverty predominant here, and the dearth of social amenities, from the recent developments of armed robberies. A minority connected to the upper echelons are seemingly living flamboyant lifestyles with prosperity abounding all around the poor. Where are the sharks getting their sudden wealth from, while the masses are barely guaranteed a day’s meal? The economic and social disparity is incongruently disproportionate here, if not blatantly diverse and glaringly apparent.
Security forces now patrol the nation’s cities and towns from 7pm to 7am with vehicle checkpoints or road blocks manned at strategic locations. If this measure does not yield the required dividend, a draconian measure of capital punishment to thwart armed robberies might result. It should not be completely ruled out that criminals would not be shot on sight. The president’s stance puts to rest numerous accusations made by whistleblowers and pundits alike from various camps, who think that he’s weak and needs to wield an iron fist in effectively steering the nation’s ship of state in a nation that is painfully and tenaciously trying to heal its deep wounds from a brutal decade-long civil war and chart its course towards economic and socio-political recovery and prosperity. Positive change is what the people voted for. Voters could run out of patience if the sacred promises made during the past elections by this government are not kept. Sierra Leoneans are capable of evaluating the progress report card of their government, making sure that it delivers on its promises. And previously, the people had united to boot a government from office for poor performance. But the Koroma-led APC (All People's Congress) government is making some progress towards redeeming the country from darkness by providing electricity in some areas, and promoting economic development. The bar is now set high in executing the people’s business.
But Koroma’s task is Herculean in nature and structure, with an enigma within his own inner circle. Ministers and leaders are heaped with titles like 'Honourable', inflating their arrogance. What is honourable in a minister who squanders public funds and treats his people like trash? He has no place in any position of leadership. Choice is the people’s political capital, which they should spend judiciously. Recently, two of the nation’s ministers were found inefficient or involved in endemic corruption and contract-gate. This attempt would fleece this impoverished nation of its scarce resources, which fuels the engine of transformation that Koroma passionately oversees to a final destination. These culprits have been fired, indicted or both. The psychology for survival seems to be playing out too, attempting to balance out this equation of the haves versus the have-nots that is as multifaceted as it is complicated.
Crime prevention can become effective starting at the local community level, where everyone serves as a watchdog. For internal vigilance is the price we all must pay for freedom, peace and sustained security. It’s collective effort that produces favourable results. Employing an innovative measure, the police chief Chris Charley is dividing the country into 860 zones, with 10 youth volunteers in every zone to help police the streets and neighbourhoods. There’s 70 per cent perennial unemployment among the youth. These idle hands can be put to work to ease the threat they might otherwise pose to security and peace in the nation. They would love to utilise their creative, dynamic minds to produce positive results. But they should receive remuneration for their services. The restoration of their dignity would make all the difference, and would help the police fight anti-social behaviour and armed robberies.
To calm the anxiety of the nation that ex-child soldiers and former combatants might infiltrate the volunteers, background checks are done to exclude those with prior criminal backgrounds. Charley said that: 'The volunteers must be 18-years-old or above, must be a member of the community where they reside, must not have a criminal record. They must be physically and mentally fit and they must not be alcoholics or drug addicts.' This auxiliary group would 'complement' the police rather than replacing them, he added. In a fragile democracy, anarchists, rogues, vandals and miscreants masquerade as politicians or business owners to exploit the vulnerable nation. There are too many wolves attired in sheep’s clothing to wreak untold havoc and pandemonium on society. They must be identified and weeded out among law-abiding and peaceful citizens. The tremendous gain made so far since the advent of peace cannot be squandered by an array of outcasts. The United Nations and the rest of the international community, including the United States, would not sit comfortably and tolerate an ill-motivated, disoriented minority prevailing. Their assault on democracy is never the prescription for peace, good governance and prosperity.
* Roland Bankole Marke is a Florida-based writer, poet and author, originally from Sierra Leone.
* Roland Bankole Marke © 2009.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
ACIJLP Condemns Sudanese government's practices regarding right of peaceful assembly
The Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession (ACIJLP) expresses its deep concern about the practices of the Sudanese government towards the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which represents explicitly violation of international instruments and commitments in particular Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Cairo, on December 7th 2009
ACIJLP Condemns the Sudanese government's practices regarding the right of peaceful assembly
The Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession (ACIJLP) expresses its deep concern about the practices of the Sudanese government towards the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which represents explicitly violation of international instruments and commitments in particular Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that " The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.. "
The events in the city of Omdurman, Sudan - Khartoum - raises many concerns about the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly in the Sudan; where the Sudanese security forces, on Monday 7 December 2009, used excessive force against a peaceful march before the National Sudanese Council - Parliament - resulted in the arrest of several demonstrators, and injuries to “Yasser Arman”, Deputy of General Secretary of the People's Movement for the Liberation of the Sudan, and a member of the Sudanese Parliament
What raises the concerns of the Center is that the Sudanese opposition, which organized this peace march, had already informed the security authorities of this march.
The Sudanese opposition has called for this march to present a memorandum to the National Sudanese Council claiming for legislative amendments to the laws restricting freedoms like the National Security Act, the referendum law on the fate of southern Sudan, and the law of the popular consultation of the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile region, as well as demanding for the current political situation in Sudan..
While the Center condemns these practices of the Sudanese security organs, it urges the Sudanese government to respect its international obligations and commitments, and to ensure the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as well as the immediate release of Sudanese detainees who were arrested in this march.
Arab women issue a call to Arab Heads of State
On the 30th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the regional Coalition for “Equality without reservation” launched a call to Heads of State of Arab countries to promote the equality and citizenship of Arab women and in particular to:
• Withdraw all reservations to the Convention and reform all discriminatory laws which constitute obstacles to the fulfilment of the rights of women as citizens.
• Integrate the principles of equality and non-discrimination based on gender into constitutions, laws and action plans and ensure their implementation.
• Support the efforts of non-governmental organisations to raise awareness on the Convention and contribute to its implementation in order to end all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality.
The Coalition for “Equality without reservation”, established at the conclusion of the first regional conference on the withdrawal of reservations to CEDAW and the ratification of its Optional Protocol, held in Rabat, Morocco in June 2006, is composed of women’s rights organisations and generalist human rights organisations from the Arab world. The Coalition’s main objective is to encourage Arab states that have not yet done so to ratify CEDAW (Sudan and Somalia), and to call upon states parties to withdraw reservations which are incompatible with the aims and objectives of the Convention as well as to ratify its Optional Protocol, whilst harmonising national legislation with the provisions of CEDAW.
The Coalition, in its appeal, welcomed the positive measures that have been taken in recent years in this area, in particular:
- The withdrawal by Egypt and Algeria of reservations to Article 9(b) concerning nationality
- The withdrawal by Jordan and Algeria of reservations to Article 15(4) on freedom of movement and choice of residence
- The announcement by the Moroccan government of its intention to withdraw reservations to CEDAW
- The ratification by Tunisia of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, thereby becoming the second country after Libya to have ratified this Protocol
- The ratification by Qatar of the Convention.
However, the Coalition expressed its concern about persisting gaps between constitutional provisions and the requirements of national laws, and political commitments and institutional practices of Arab countries. These discrepancies maintain and strengthen discrimination and violence against Arab women and their exclusion, in both the public and private spheres.
The Coalition drew attention to the significant efforts of human rights and women’s rights organisations to overcome obstacles which prevent Arab women from enjoying their human rights, in particular concerning transmission of nationality, personal status, violence and political participation.
The Coalition called on the League of Arab States to organise a regional event to celebrate International Human Rights Day and to effectively include national institutions for the promotion of women’s rights and non-governmental organisations.
Finally the call to Arab leaders underlined the efforts undertaken by the Coalition to bring about the withdrawal of reservations to CEDAW and the ratification of its Optional Protocol, and reiterated the recommendations of the second regional conference (Amman, Jordan - May 2009), which emphasised the need for Arab governments to take all measures to ensure that the women of the region can enjoy all their human rights and full citizenship.
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Dictatorship more dangerous than climate change
Alemayehu G. Mariam
The inconvenient truth about Africa today is that dictatorship presents a far more perilous threat to the survival of Africans than climate change. The devastation African dictators have wreaked upon the social fabric and ecosystem of African societies is incalculable. Over the past several decades, bloodthirsty dictators like Uganda's Idi Amin, Zaire's (The Congo) Mobutu Sese Seko, Central African Republic's Jean Bedel Bokassa, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, Chad's Hissiene Habre, and the political fraternal twins Mengistu Haile Mariam and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia have been responsible for untold deaths on the continent. Millions of Africans have starved to death because of the criminal negligence, depraved indifference and gross incompetence of African dictators, not climate change. Millions more suffer today in abject poverty because corrupt African dictators have systematically siphoned off international aid, pilfered loans provided by the international banks and plundered the tax coffers. Africans face extreme privation and mass starvation not because of climate change but because of the rapacity of power-hungry dictators. The continent today suffers from a terminal case of metastasised cancer of dictatorships, not the blight of global warming.
The fact that greenhouse gas emissions (global warming) from human activities are responsible for a dangerous elevation of the global temperature is accepted by most climatologists in the world. Only clueless flat-earther troglodytes like US Senator James Inhofe believe that climate change is a conspiracy hatched by ‘the media, Hollywood and our pop culture.’ The general scientific understanding is that the planet is facing ruin from an unprecedented combination of extreme weather patterns, floods, droughts, heat waves and epidemics. The developed countries are primarily blamed for the rise in temperatures caused by excess industrial carbon emissions. This is evident in the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans. Africa has contributed virtually nothing to global warming. For instance, Africa produces an average of one metric ton of carbon dioxide per person per year compared to 16 metric tons for every American.
For Africa, climate change paints a doomsday scenario: Global warming will severely aggravate the atmospheric circulation and precipitation in the African monsoonal system resulting in severe shortages in agricultural output. Millions of Africans will die from famine, and the continent's agriculture will be crippled. Deforestation and overgrazing will cause further increases in global temperatures through emission of greenhouse gases. Africa's subsistence farmers who already operate in marginal environments will face catastrophic consequences in terms of decreased tillable and pastoral lands. Competition for water, agricultural and grazing land and other resources will inevitably result in conflicts and wars. Vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, trypanosomiasis and others will spread rapidly causing large scale deaths in Africa.
The climate change debate has been honey in the mouths of forked tongue African dictators. It has provided them the perfect foil to avoid detection and accountability for their corruption and mismanagement of their societies, and a convenient opportunity to divert attention from their criminal state enterprises. Global warming has proven to be the perfect substitute for the old Bogeymen of Africa – colonialism, imperialism, neo-colonialism and poverty. Why is Africa reduced to becoming the ‘beggar continent of the planet’? Global warming! Why are millions starving (euphemistically referred to as ‘severe food shortages’ by officials) to death in Ethiopia? Climate change. African dictators are using global warming as their new preferred ideology behind which they can hide and ply their trade of corruption while expanding their thriving kleptocracies.
The global warming debate has also offered African dictators a historic opportunity to guilt-trip the industrialised countries and rob them blind. Beginning on 7 December, a phalanx of African climate change negotiators will swarm Copenhagen to attend the UN Conference on Climate Change. For Africa, the outcome of the negotiations is foreshadowed by pronouncements of comic bravado. On 3 September 2009, the patriarch of African dictators and head of the ‘single African negotiating team’ on climate change, Meles Zenawi, huffed and puffed about what he and his sidekicks will do if the industrialised countries refuse to comply with his imperial ultimatum. Zenawi roared, ‘We will use our numbers to delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position... We are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threatens to be another rape of our continent.’ (Whether African dictators or the industrialised countries are raping the continent is an open question. Witnesses say it is a gang rape situation.)
It was vintage Zenawi with his trademark zero-sum game strategy writ large to the world: ‘My way or the highway!’ It does appear rather preposterous and irrational for the master of the zero-sum game to open negotiations with his long-time benefactors by sticking an ultimatum in their faces. Obviously, the strategic negotiating bottom line is to shakedown the industrialised countries and strong-arm them into forking over billions in carbon blood money; and Zenawi did not mince words: ‘The key thing for me is that Africa be compensated for the damage caused by global warming. Many institutions have tried to quantify that and they have come up with different figures. The sort of median figure would be in the range of US$40 billion a year.’
Curiously, we could ask what Zenawi and his brotherhood of dictators would do with the windfall of billions, if they could get it? It is reasonable to assume that they will use it to expand their kleptocracies and cling to power like ticks on a milk cow. They will certainly not use it to meet the needs of their people. What they have done with the international aid money and loans they have received over the decades provides compelling extrapolative evidence of what they will do with any windfall of carbon blood money.
As Dambisa Moyo and others have shown, in the last fifty years the West has poured more than a trillion dollars of aid into Africa. Today, over 350 million Africans live on less than US$1. Real per-capita income in Africa is lower today than it was four decades ago. Aid money and international bank loans have been stolen by African dictators and their henchmen to line their pockets and maintain their huge kleptocracies.
In 2002, an African Union study estimated the loss of US$150 billion a year to corruption in Africa, and not without the complicity of the donor countries. Compare this to the US$22 billion the developed countries gave to all of sub-Saharan Africa in 2008. In 2006, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who faced impeachment for corruption and ineptitude, declared at an African civic groups meeting in Addis Ababa that African leaders ‘have stolen at least US$140 billion from their people in the decades since independence.’ Ghanaian economist George Ayittey citing UN data argues, ‘These are gross underestimates... US$200 billion or 90 per cent of the sub-Saharan part of the continent's gross domestic product was shipped to foreign banks in 1991 alone. Civil wars in Africa cost at least US$15 billion annually in lost output, wreckage of infrastructure, and refugee crises... In Zimbabwe, foreign investors have fled the region and more than four million Zimbabweans have left the country along with 60,000 physicians and other professionals...’ Is it any wonder that Africa today is worse off than it was 50 years ago?
The question is not whether global warming could impact Africa disproportionately, or Africa is entitled to assistance to overcome the effects of greenhouse emissions caused by the industrialised countries. The question is whether African dictators have the moral credibility and standing to make a demand for compensation and what they will do with such compensation if they were to get it. Certainly, the ‘capo’ African negotiator has as much credibility to demand compensation in Copenhagen as a bank robber has from the bank owners. It has been a notorious fact for at least two decades that Ethiopia is facing environmental disaster. Ethiopia's forest coverage by the turn of the last century was 40 per cent. By 1987, under the military government, it went down to 5.5 per cent. In 2003, it dropped down to 0.2 per cent. The Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute says Ethiopia loses up to 200,000 hectares of forest every year. Between 1990 and 2005, Ethiopia lost 14.0 per cent of its forest cover (2,114,000 hectares) and 3.6 per cent of its forest and woodland habitat. If the trend continues, it is expected that Ethiopia could lose all of its forest resources in 11 years, by the year 2020. What has Zenawi's regime done to reverse the problem of deforestation in Ethiopia? They have sold what little arable land is left to the Saudis, the Shiekdoms, the Indians, the South Korea and others with crisp dollar bills looking for fire sales on African lands.
There has been a lot of environmental window dressing and grandstanding in various parts of Africa. In Ethiopia, lofty proclamations have been issued to ‘improve and enhance the health and quality of life of all Ethiopians’, ‘control pollution’ and facilitate ‘environmental impact’ studies. The ‘nations, nationalities and peoples’ are granted environmental self-determination. There is an Environmental Protection Council which ‘oversees activities of sectoral agencies and environmental units with respect to environmental all regional states.’ The Environmental Protection Agency is ‘accountable to the Prime Minister.’ What have these make-believe bureaucracies done to save Lake Koka, just outside the capital, and the 17,000 people who drink its toxic water daily?
Zenawi and his minions will show up looking for a pot of gold at the end of the Copenhagen rainbow. It does not appear that a bonanza of riches will be awaiting them. If the advance Barcelona negotiations held last month are any indication, a deal does not appear possible in Copenhagen. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Barcelona summit that ‘global climate negotiations would inevitably drag out after the meeting in Copenhagen ends on 19 December.’ African dictators deserve our grudging admiration for their sheer tenacity and brazen audacity. After sucking their people dry, they are now moving camp to the greener pastures of climate change to continue their vampiric trade.
The fact of the matter is that while the rest of the world toasts from global warming, Africa is burning down in the fires of dictatorship. While Europeans are fretting about their carbon footprint, Africans are gasping to breathe free under the bootprints of dictators. While Americans are worried about carbon emission trapped in the atmosphere, Africans find themselves trapped in minefields of dictatorship. Handing over carbon blood money to African dictators is like increasing industrial emissions to cut back on global warming. It is the wrong thing to do.
Africa faces an ecological collapse not because of climate change but because of lack of regime change. It is humorously ironic that African dictators who panhandle the industrialised countries for over two-thirds of their budgets should threaten to walk out on them. We know the bravado is nothing more than the ‘chatter of a beggar's teeth’. As the bank robber will not walk out of the bank empty handed because of moral outrage over the small amount of money sitting in the vault, we do not expect the band of African negotiators to walk out Copenhagen because they are offered less than what they are asking. We expect to see them making a beeline to the conference door for handouts for there is no such thing as a choosy beggar. We wish them well. Go on, take the money and run.
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* This article first appeared in The Huffington Post.
* Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Review of Linda Melvern's 'A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide'
The front cover of Linda Melvern's updated edition of 'A People Betrayed' carries this superlative blurb from General Roméo Dallaire, commander of the UN mission to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide: 'The best overall account of the background to the genocide.'
Of course any book these days can find someone or other to sing its praises, and almost all do. Mostly they are to be ignored. This is not one of those books. Melvern's two previous Rwanda books (the other is 'Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwanda Genocide') and her many articles, accompanied by a slew of addresses around the world, had already established her as one of the world's indispensable authorities on the events leading up to and during the hundred days. This updated version of 'A People Betrayed' only reinforces this status.
I should quickly add that one manifestation of continuing neocolonialism in Africa is that the vast majority of books on the 1994 genocide, certainly in English, continue to be written by non-Rwandans. This strange phenomenon surely could not be true of a major event on any other continent, and is certainly not true of the study of other genocides. We can only hope that the belated but welcome inauguration in Rwanda of an MA programme in genocide studies will eventually reverse this trend. In the meantime, if outsiders are still doing most of the writing on the genocide, it's a good thing that Linda Melvern is one of them.
Melvern has several purposes in this book. One is to powerfully rebut the growing school of genocide deniers and the specious arguments and false information they use to make their case. Melvern is also properly impatient with well-known scholars who don't quite deny the genocide but offer ammunition to those who do. Most notably this includes those who have jumped on the bandwagon that claims Paul Kagame and his RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) shot down President Juvénal Habyarimana's plane, for which no serious evidence exists to this day. No one except those responsible have any idea who they were. But if anything, as Melvern documents, the circumstantial evidence that does exist points directly at Hutu extremists. If truth matters to the study of history, deniers would crawl back into their holes. But Melvern very seriously worries that their side is gaining momentum, and if truth does matter, this book will go far to shut them down.
Second, and related, Melvern carefully documents the development of the plot by Habyarimana's family and close advisers to deal with their array of crises by wiping out the entire Tutsi population of the country. None of this was accidental or spontaneous, even if the planning might have been haphazard and irregular. Clearly the military was split, not all by any means persuaded by the Hutu Power extremists. Yet these moderates were sold out by the world's indifference. Rwanda's ambassador to the UN was by chance a member of the UN Security Council at the time, faithfully reporting back to Kigali the deliberations of his peers. Had the council shown the slightest intention to take the genocide seriously, the moderates would have been strengthened and the extremists less brazen. But thanks to the information they were receiving from the inner sanctum of the Security Council, the extremists knew they could literally get away with mass murder.
As the evidence shows, the moment they got the right signal – in this case the shooting-down of the president's plane – the genocidaires were ready to begin their 'work'. It's well-known that moderate Hutu were murdered in their hundreds in the first few days of the genocide. But Melvern reminds us that as early as 7 April, the day after the plane went down, indiscriminate slaughter of Tutsi had begun, and that by 9 April, churches packed to the rafters with terrified Tutsi were the scenes of sadistic mass butchery by the Presidential Guards and the notorious interahamwe militia. They were primed for genocide, and they instantly began to put it into effect.
Melvern's third purpose is to underline in greater detail than ever before how much was known about the genocide by all the key players – the US, the UK, Belgium and the UN Secretariat especially – making their abandonment of Rwanda and their subsequent excuse of inadequate knowledge even more reprehensible than was already believed. We already had a great deal of information about how much the entire Clinton administration knew from the very beginning. Melvern here offers more damning evidence against UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, who insists that behind the scenes she opposed America's immoveable refusal to intervene. Even more toughly, and with hard evidence, Melvern skewers her own UK government, led by John Major, and especially its UN ambassador David Hannay. If any of them have a conscience – a question to which Melver implies the answer – they should all be cursed with endless sleepless nights.
But perhaps Melvern's greatest contribution in this new edition is the new material she has extracted from her unique archival sources, which demonstrate France's extraordinary complicity in the genocide. Of course, French officials have from 1994 to today denied any responsibility whatsoever for the catastrophe, and have accordingly refused to issue any kind of apology. But Melvern puts together a case that is surely irrefutable. The US and UK were guilty of sins of omission, of abandoning Rwanda instead of bolstering Dallaire's puny mission, as he repeatedly begged. But France was guilty of sins of commission, of actively betraying Rwanda by enabling the genocidaires in so many ways – legitimation, arms, funds, training, political and military advice, and public relations. Towards the end of the genocide, France had the gall to send a so-called humanitarian mission to Rwanda, with the shameful approval of the guilt-ridden majority of the Security Council. The singular contribution of this Operation Turquoise was to allow a large number of genocidaire leaders and their military equipment to escape across the Rwandan border into Zaire (Congo). The appalling conflict that has devastated eastern Congo ever since began at that moment. The French establishment will never concede their deadly responsibility for all these deeds, before, during and since the genocide. But the rest of the world need have no doubt of it. There is much work here for the International Criminal Court.
Why does Linda Melvern persist in her mission to continue building the case against 'the international community' for its failure to acknowledge the role of outsider players in the genocide? Because she won't rest until there is real accountability. She demands what one might have thought would be a given from every party that failed Rwanda – serious, independent public investigations to get to the bottom of why. The UN Secretariat, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the Belgium government launched such investigations.
But France, Britain, the US, the Catholic church, Canada – all of whom had some role in enabling the genocide – have not. (I wish Melvern had given more attention to the role of the Catholic church in Rwanda's history; it's not a pretty picture). Yet you can be quite sure when it comes to genocide anniversaries and public memorials, leaders of all of them will be front and centre, hands on hearts, solemnly pledging 'never again!' Some may well be teary as they listen to their own heartfelt words as prepared by some professional speechwriter. But so long as they refuse to inquire why earlier, equally earnest pledges by weepy predecessors proved to be so much hot air, not a word from them should be believed. Indeed, maybe each should be obligated to announce how they charged to the rescue of Darfur.
For all who want to know both about how the genocide in Rwanda really happened, and how much the so-called international community can really be trusted to care about humanitarian disasters, 'A People Betrayed' is simply a must-read.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Linda Melvern, 'A People Betrayed: the Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide', revised and updated edition 2009, ISBN: 9781848132450, Zed Books.
* Gerald Caplan is the author of 'Rwanda, the Preventable Genocide' and 'The Betrayal of Africa'.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Review of Francis Nyamnjoh's 'Married but Available'
The title of Francis Nyamnjoh’s 'Married but Available' (MBA) is both inviting and intriguing. Being MBA as opposed to having an MBA! Reading the cover page, it was evident to me that the author had set out to refute, or at least interrogate, the existing practice of people being simultaneously married and available for relationships with persons other their married partners. This is a practice that can be traced to almost all societies of the world. Nyamnjoh sheds light on this phenomenon not only in relation to the traditions of the fictional Mimboland in which the novel is set, but more on the global motives behind the possibility of marriage and availability. The most fascinating aspect of Mimboland is its unique ‘products’, such as Mimbo Wonder beer, Air Mimbo and the University of Mimbo, which surface throughout the novel.
Arranged in 30 chapters totalling 371 pages, the novel tells the story of Lilly Loveless, a researcher from Muzunguland (another fictional place) who visits Mimboland to study about sexuality and power relations in relation to consumerism. Britney, a student of the University of Mimbo, assists Lilly Loveless in her research. From these two characters, we see how the author has elevated the role of research assistants in the field of ‘anthropological’ research. Britney’s experience as an insider seems to override the researcher’s knowledge, especially in the way she presents data, as opposed to Lilly Loveless who is obsessed with theories that she can barely substantiate empirically. The author uses names which tell the reader about the character of the characters. For example, names such as Dr Wiseman Lovemore, Professor Dustbin Olala, Dr Simba Spineless, Desire, Dr Sexwhale, Helena Paradise, Amanda Hope and Adapepe reflect the personality and character traits of the characters who bear them and answer the question ‘why’ these characters behave the way they do.
The author uses Lilly Loveless’ doctoral research topic to convey the theme of the novel and the obsession with and dangers of consumerism in our present day world. The novel centres on stories of social mingling, political machinations, economic stagnation and burning desire. It is evident that MBA reflects the current situation of the digital revolution. In it we see how the internet and mobile phones function as instant forms of communication. In celebrating the technological revolution in human bodies, the author shows how women’s ovaries can be frozen for future use. We see how the media struggles to shape the life of people in Mimboland. The Talking Drum, one of the famous musical instruments in West Africa, represents the name of the famous newspaper in Mimboland edited by none other than the most talkative hypercritical Bobinga Iroko (Godlove).
The language adds to the aesthetic success of the narrative. Expressions such as Japanese handbrake, used to refer to men who are slow in providing financial assistance to women, and flying shirts, which refer to young men who are financially incapacitated, give the novel a truly West African flavour. The writer uses terms that are deeply rooted in the cultures of his ‘native’ country, Cameroon, even as his novel is clearly beyond Cameroon in theme and appeal. Although Nyamnjoh uses fictional names for places and characters in the novel, it is not difficult for the reader to identify these with real-life places and figures in Cameroon’s historical present. The use of Pidgin English in many parts of the novel makes the narrative more fascinating and heightens the humour, although it poses a great challenge to a non-West African reader who battles to understand the language, especially in places where no translations are provided. For the most part, the author avoids euphemisms, using direct language instead. Perhaps it is because the subject under discussion is sex and research, and hence warrants a degree of openness and bluntness, especially in the era of HIV/AIDS.
It is unfortunate that I have not read other novels by Nyamnjoh to be able to state conclusively what his ideological standpoint is on the matter of male–female relationships. But I have to say that this novel 'Married but Available' has ultimately portrayed Nyamnjoh as a mature scholar with experience in research skills, a writer whose language is rich in imagery and sense of humour devoid of dullness. He has certainly portrayed women as ‘ingenious’ when it comes to issues of sexuality and possessions, although the cultural settings do not always give them such accreditations.
Regardless of the success of the novel, its style demands that the reader has a certain level of knowledge of research concepts to build the plot, which to some extent means that mostly intellectuals with field-research experience can fully grasp the novel’s narrative style. Although he manages to balance the stories in terms of gender representation, there is still some context-specific use of terms such as watchman (guard/security guard) and houseboy (housekeeper). Tout ensemble, Nyamnjoh’s 'Married but Available' is a great addition to African literature and in my opinion it will serve as interesting ‘raw material’ for other media such as film series and radio soaps.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Francis Nyamnjoh, 'Married but Available', Langaa Research and Publishing, Bamenda, ISBN: 9789956558278, 2009.
* Vicensia Shule is a performing artist working at the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Post-freedom dreams and nightmares
A review of Lesego Rampolokeng’s ‘Bantu Ghost: A stream of (black) unconsciousness’
Mphutlane wa Bofelo
Let me start by declaring a conflict of interests: I am an avid lover of the works of Lesego Rampolokeng and have an intimate association with him based on our common commitment to taking poetry out of the elitist enclave of ‘high-art’ to make it speak to the concrete issues affecting individuals, communities and the world we live in. ’Bantu Ghost: A stream of (black) unconsciousness’ is vintage Lesego Rampolokeng, recreating language, overturning idioms/concepts/terms, giving birth to new words and developing new proverbs to deal with ‘new’ realities. In Bantu Ghost, Rampolokeng captures the contrast between the bling-bling, opulence and crass consumerism of urban suburbia and the squalor, wretchedness and hopelessness of township life. He uses the device of ‘uncouth’/‘vulgar’ language and the imagery of filth/dirt and gore: Excrement, vomit, etc – to highlight ravages of the new world order on the social psyche, as well as the rampant corruption and moral decadence from the top echelon to the bottom-rung of society. Like Aimé Césaire in Return to the Native Land, Lesego Rampolokeng shuns romantic portrayal of his motherland’s past and present (and future). He uses graphically surreal images – and definitely not politically correct lingo – to interrogate post-freedom dreams and nightmares, slogans, rhetorics and realities.
It is succinctly clear that Rampolokeng adds a spice and puts a spin and twist to words and concepts, not as an exercise in word-play, but as a ‘subversive’ act of questioning the slogans and rhetoric of the new dispensation. His is a critical, sceptical engagement with official, dominant discourse and established literary and political canon. The New World Order is rendered as the New World Hoarder, IMF and World Bank are respectively referred to as Iron Mother Fucker and World Shank, the middle-class becomes the diddle-class, and renaissance is ‘transliterated’ as ‘rear naai sense.’ Even the sub-culture/counter-culture/ underground fraternity does not escape the redefining pen of Rampolokeng. ‘More fire’ - the mantra of poetry sessions, and hip hop and dance-hall circles becomes ‘whore fire’, and the word-play shadow fights of battle-rappers comes under spotlight: ‘battle-cats on sulphur-trips / word-cut the cipher drips/ strychnine rhyme-busted lips / hips twisted off the break / beat on the outskirt …shit and bleed. ‘
Bantu Ghost: A stream of (black) unconsciousness is a poetic treatise on the psycho-physical condition/state of the masses and the new political and economic elite in post/neo- apartheid South Africa. It started as a tribute to Steve Biko but ended as homage to black thinkers who have made a contribution to theorisation on the Black Experience. In the prelude and chapter four – entitled ‘The Black Word’ – Rampolokeng particularly celebrates and presents the voice of mostly writers and thinkers who have contributed on the discourse on the politics and economics of identity and the psychology of the rulers and the ruled in a both a colonial/settler-colonial as well as post-colonial/neo-colonial setting. In many ways Bantu Ghost: A stream of (black) unconsciousness is a continuation of the project initiated by writers like Fanon, Césaire and Biko: The theorisation on the conditions and forces that puts black under-classes at the receiving end of the politics and economics of race and class. Like most of the characters and personas in the novels, plays and poems of Rampolokeng, the protagonist of Bantu Ghost is an archetype through which the writer/poet/actor/narrator takes us through his study of the pathology and psychology of people who have been victims of various forms of denigration, degradation, de-humanisation, and de-personalisation
Through the mind/voice/eyes of Bantu Ghost – an institutionalised demented abstract or a saintly prisoner of experiment for the Pavlovs of power possessed by Biko’s spirit, Lesego Rampolokeng interrogates the exteriorities of South Africa to delve into the interior – the psyche, consciousness and sense of identity of the new political and economic elite, the literary, academic and public intellectuals and the general masses. From Bantu Ghost’s perspective, the much celebrated peaceful change in South Africa was the result of no miracle but a forced choice of reform above revolution: ‘We promised Mabrak-time / a black lightening strike / but then we got struggle fatigue.’
The book is divided into six chapters with self-reflective titles, and ends with notes of which titles are also allude to their thematic contents. Aptly titled ‘The Cell’, chapter one portrays the mental cage and psychological prison, identity crisis, state of anaesthesia and false consciousness that ‘flag freedom’, manufactured consent and romanticised narration of history and mediocre representation of history and social reality puts the people into.
The internet, television, radio, exhibitionist and conformist literature and arts are presented as the new instruments of self-alienation and self-ostracisation that help to keep truth and conscience in manacles: ’Torture instruments have changed / brains caught in the internet / they incubate the minds in the television / they radio-fry vision’.
The Tower of Babel, chapter two, raves against the hijacking of the language and songs of liberation to promote sexist, homophobic and ethnic prejudice, and the cooption of intellectuals and activists by corporate capital and the political establishment. It takes a critical look at the hypocritical double standards and forked-tongue of the world in dealing with race politics and human rights issues:
‘Life is gauged on broken scales / the weight of humanities in unequal / like stomp the kaffirs / but just do not touch the jews / history will not allow it…’ This is clear allusion to the great powers affinities towards Zionist Israel and their amnesia with regard to the holocaust of slavery and colonialism suffered by black people, reflected in among others, the concerted efforts towards removing Zionism and slavery from the agenda of the world conference on racism, xenophobia and related forms of discrimination. The poet is scathing in his critique of this conference: ’in the Sandton sun / a race conference / they are plumbing identity / behind Anal-eyes…’
Bantu Ghost is equally harsh in revealing South Africa’s tendency to skirt around the problem of racism and present a false picture of racial bliss at the expense of obfuscating the reality at the ground. He laments the loss of an opportune moment for a transformed anti-racist humane society in South Africa:
’humanity’s greatest most silent crime / the alienation of emancipation / non-race gone obsolete at birth / redundant concept at conception/ we celebrate a still-birth’.
In chapter three, aptly titled ‘Chaining the minds’, Bantu Ghost castigates the mediocrity of the cult of consumerism, the celebrity culture, and the false securities and paranoid insecurities of the new black middle class. Chapter five is a critique of ‘The New World Hoarder’, with its obscurantist flight into fantasy, its massacre of intellect and its sale of spin rather than truth to the masses. The co-option of intellectual and activist voices in the big conferences organised by officialdom is exposed:
‘Another conference / they call for toilet papers / all to present their faeces / what is your deception / are you content to lick arse / they say it nourishes’.
Chapter six, ‘The search for consciousness’, is a damning critique of liberal democracy, with its proclivity to give a real voice only to the rich and propertied. Bantu Ghost could be talking about the systematic exclusion of other political voices through devices such as the ZAR1.5 million required for a party to register to contest in South Africa’s general national elections:
‘they cram democracy in a can / & put it in a shelf / they can buy who afford’.
The whole chapter constitutes a critic of the regimes and regiments of global capitalism and neo-liberalism such as Bretton Woods institutions, and also exposes the ravages of neo-liberal macroeconomics of South Africa on the poor. For instance, it makes an allusion to the ruthless eviction of the poor:
‘Lefifi Tladi said we are the elephant/ but some are the red ant’.
There is also a criticism of acquiescent ‘poster poets’ and the erasure of memory. The six chapters are followed by the Notes: Mountain Sermon, Black Art of the Perry Normal, Notes for TOU (The Original Ungovernables) and Notes from the Smoke.
I will only talk about my favourite notes in the book: Notes for TOU (The Original Ungovernables). The note is in the loving memory of the unnamed, unknown, boys and girls who walked into the lion’s den to make Apartheid South Africa ungovernable to free Mandela to liberate South Africa to build a new South Africa to see the dawn of the government of the people… the young lions who never returned from exile, the combatants who disappeared (not) mysteriously, the former guerillas who were not fortunate enough to make it to parliament or to know someone who knows someone who has they key to getting tenders. Like Edward Said speaking truth to power, the poet-persona in Notes for TOU scratches beneath the veneer of political correctness to interrogate the neo-apartheid dispensation with tough questions and frank testimonies of the harsh realities on the ground.
Because the heads of states usually provide us with the state of their heads rather than that of the nation, the poet takes it upon himself to do a thorough stock-taking of the condition of the nation. Since writers, poets and singers are supposed to be windows to the soul of the nation as well as watchdogs of society at the ground – or, so to speak, the ears, eyes, and noses of the common people – the poet dares to question the state of the word, written/ spoken/recited/ sung/mumbled. This is no easy task as the culprits of turning the word into commodity on the dough/ dung exchange market are colleagues, including trusted/celebrated god-fathers turned entertainers, stripping pro bono for par-lie-mantrarians – bored men and women in grey suits and outdated hairstyles. It truly must hurt to witness the massacre and death of the word at the hands/mouths of people who include pioneer word-combatants of the freedom struggle:
‘in the beginning was the dread-word / & that’s where it all ended. dead./ the holy recorder spun & cadavers fell out. / blood-oily how the vocoder sound the deathbout’.
Even soothing melodies and healer-sounds such as the symphonies of Zim Ncqgawane and Wilhelm Richard Wagner’s synthesis of the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts can be appropriated by the ideologue and aparatnik to be opium that turns people’s heads into vegetables by sucking out their memory and keeping them too busy grooving and merry/baby-making to notice the preservation of white privilege by clauses aimed at ensuring that the sun never sets on white bureaucrats and technocrats. And leaving the people too sound-drunk and drama-befogged to see the spear of the nation being turned into ammunition for the racketeering political elite whose reward for corruption is handsome golden-handshakes:
‘Now the sun sets on THE clause / populace abide by c / laws of the land are arse-wipes/ gangs in government-approved stars & stripes rackets wrapped around tax brackets painted ‘immune’ in blood / no arrest warrant but a cold-blood-age pension car d/ license to steal permit to get loose the perversion flood / from ‘mkhonto sharpened to intshumentshu is a national hemorrhage /
the bleed is internal this liberation age’.
It is not so much the political cover-ups and collusion between the police and crime syndicates that is shocking, but the ululation/cheering of veteran wordsmiths turned groupies of the establishment that is mind-shattering and arse-choking:
‘police farce so crime syndicated ultra-sophisticated / it moneyed / tendered lethal plastic economic explosive with) ghost-in-the-latrine-bred intentions) / Don Dada top of the political machine ladder / makes capital bank-rob/rupt semantics
The poet raises our consciousness about the conscious decision of the establishment to demonise counter-culture voices that challenge the commodification of art as well as the cult of consumerism:
‘anti-consumerism rap they establishment yap it crap-talk lyric / theory it psycho-conspiracy chaotic-verbal dummy-bulleted anarchic dung’.
He also makes us aware of the carrot and stick manoeuvres of the establishment. This takes the form of offering cash and massive coverage and ample performance podium to apolitical, hip-swaying, clapping poets/singers/rappers who transport people away from social reality with happy-verses / anaesthetic lyrics, and labelling conscious art as primitive and out of the times. This works as a co-optive measure, as those who crave for His Masters’ endorsement stamp and crumbs from big capital dada join the ‘talk-a lot-and-say-nothing’ crowd:
‘got my thoughts stapled to my tongue / so all I drop is bung /
crease&shined/ muff-buffed/ trance-verse-tightened up / pre-apartheid-historic / caught between kgositsile’s gravedigger precision text / & celan’s concentration camp black milk /I house them cemetery-dead-gold-heaven stratospheric’.
Notes for TOU depicts the reality of neo-colonialism, as it exposes how the new elite continues the legacy of the old colonial elite (as Fanon predicted), by creating wealth out of the blood/sweat and death/misery of poor men daily swallowed by the hungry death. This is aptly captured by allusion to former mine-workers turned into mine-owners or former foremen at the mines becoming chairmen of the directorate boards of the same mining companies that turn workers into cogs-in-a-machine, our parents into boys and our men into the devil/god-knows-what. The poet shows us how even the taste and eating habits of our new middle and comprador bourgeois class change with their newly acquired status:
‘How they get down, the diddle-class…better raw boerewors copulation with spanspek’.
But the poet has a stubborn hope and a remembering mind that is tuned to the most seasoned verses and lyrics from sons and daughters of the land who keep it real enough to hear the telegraphed message of the blue sky, to affirm Africa’s sons’ belonging to the sun, and expose the prostitution of the word:
‘pimp-poetry became fashion, style & flash, dracula-dressed up in drag pattern u swung roots radics-style’.
Notes for TOU is a verbal/frontal attack on the abortion of a better life for all and/or the miscarriage of ‘the people shall govern’ false consciousness, respectable petty bourgeosie lies, and kitsch illusions sold to the masses as reality. The poet raises his voice above the noise of the truth-slaying mess media and the tell-lie-vision, to caution against phantom roars of young lions living in the shadows of big daddy former guerrilla now gorilla munching from instead of feeding the masses:
‘voices from the palace & noises in the sewers / is spitters & swallowers difference- / whether all fours or prostration the crack’s always in between / now youth league/organisation/congress is hog-dick-&-run / to hide inside father-cock’s panties’.
The sharp eyes/words of the poet are spot on with regard to the old trick of media-created radicals who spit cold-fire to take the attention of the masses away from real alternative voices. The poet is not fooled by empty pronouncements on freedom of speech, while in reality there is no travel-space for non-parrot artists and dissident voices, and the public broadcaster offer us little live debates and public forums but a lot of ‘parliament live’– a dead show of ’wrinkled arse-shuffle on the bench afro-chic petty & boozed up on hysteria’s versions of history’s perfumed stench’.
Notes for Tou is a lethal attack on poetry/music for the sake of arse-shaking and ranting only for the sake of paying rent or fitting the bill. It is the assertive voice of a dissident poet refusing to flow with the time or to let his individuated voice be swallowed in the vast cesspool of kitsch culture and fashion trends. Here poetry is not a passport and visa from concrete reality but a means of ‘rememorying’ the place that the poet calls home and the times and spaces that characterise it without any selective memory or schizophrenic romanticising.
The notes make us ware that we are trapped in the same old story of taking power in the name of the people but never giving it to the people…the same old tale of two cities:
’The leadership carries cannibal cargo… / fakes a people’s power cumming & spurts Soweto-Mouth way./ No receipts for the royal seminal-flushing /
nothing for the receiver/deceiver/achiever of revenue / Joburg moves its jaws, Soweto’s stomach rumbles.’
The same old story of jet-setting, globe-trotting leaders and denialism with regard to critical issues afflicting the country and the world:
‘Mista Leader proclaims in foreign cities: / nothing to heal zero to mend there is no crisis / as he strokes his beard the body of labour suffers a stroke.’
Bantu Ghost takes us into the idyllic, paradise that is suburbia, and then into the dusty god-forsaken streets, into the lives of ordinary men and women, boys and girls trying to eke a living and make sense out of the misery, into the world of the subaltern people on the fringe of the market economy – euphemistically called the second economy; and into the underworld and/or underbelly of society, into the world of vampire insurance schemes, and into the utopian/escapist world of religion and idealism: ‘in blithe & tithe visitations we guzzle Jesus chalice profanity / In religious drunkenness attempt to puzzle out the lice from the fleas…/ as the bloody waters continue to rise, life’s little prices / it’s all venereal soaking thru my notes.’
Reading Bantu Ghost – a stream of (black) unconsciousness, one could not help but come to the conclusion that Lesego Rampolokeng is to literature and theatre what Fanon and Biko are to sociopolitical analysis and activism.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a writer-activist with a passion for using creative education, literature and theatre as tools for transformation and development.
* Bantu Ghost: A stream of (black) unconsciousness by Lesego Rampolokeng is published by Mehlo-maya.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Contradictory identities: An interview with Jennifer Armstrong
Conversations with Writers
Zimbabwean author Jennifer Armstrong has worked as a martial arts journalist. Her memoir, Minus the Morning(Lulu, 2009) explores what it was like to grow up in a white, Christian, Rhodesian family.
She is also the author of three e-books: Dambudzo Marechera (Lulu, 2009), which explores the link between Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera, and shamanism;father, son, holy ghost(Lulu, 2009), which has been described as ‘a story of Oedipal knowledge and realisation, in Africa’; and, Skydive on Zimbabwe(Lulu, 2009), a poem in freeform verse. All three e-books are available to download free from Lulu.
Currently, Jennifer Armstrong lives in Perth, Australia. In this interview, she talks about her writing:
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: When did you start writing?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: The medium I had the most natural affinity for, at school, was art. When I begun to grow up, I had no idea what I wanted to be, so I gravitated towards the visual arts, only to find that I got much more of a thrill when explaining the concept of my art to others, as compared to actually making the art. That pointed me in the direction of philosophy and theory. It was my natural arena for questioning and developing ideas.
I began writing as an undergraduate in the humanities. Then I sprang into martial arts journalism.
I was still finding my feet as a writer and as a migrant from the Third World to the First World when my own, personal world came crashing down. I was bullied at work because of who I was, because of where I was from (Zimbabwe). That was when I first began to write as if I really meant it, as if something was at stake.
I wrote in order to figure out what was true and what wasn’t. To understand the world around me accurately was my greatest imperative. I wanted to know things accurately and not merely impressionistically, like before. So I began writing my memoir, but it was full of gaps that indicated that my knowledge of the world was still incomplete. I couldn’t make sufficient sense of my own narrative to write in a way that would have led to a swift completion of the memoir, because I had been brought up in a bubble of innocence – innocent of politics and what that meant for me and the people around me (white and black), innocent of the ideologies and psychological torment that had been afflicting my father, I have very little conception of the world around me as a child growing up in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe).
It seems that my culture had conspired to raise me as a Victorian child-woman, who would marry my rightful master, probably in all innocence about the biological intricacies of sex and gender roles.
Upon migration to the more sophisticated – but more cynical and often mean-spirited First World – I was totally at a loss as to what to make of almost everything around me. Nothing rang a bell. Everything was cold and life was seemingly driven by forces I couldn’t reckon with.
After enduring the workplace bullying incident (which had been driven by xenophobia, but also by a misplaced notion of political correctness – that it was perfectly moral to bring a ‘white African’ down a peg or two), I had to try to restore my physical health. It meant a lot of waiting around, and trying to build up the strength of my digestive system again. I had difficulty eating solids without my belly swelling up with air. (Even today, my digestive system has not fully recovered from that trauma.)
I had to wait twelve years before the bits and pieces of knowledge and the ability to conceptualise my experiences came together. The last pieces of the puzzle arrived in my consciousness late last year, and I was able to drop them into place.
After that, I was keen to publish the manuscript immediately, to get it out there, and out of my system.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: How would you describe your writing?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: I would say it is very difficult to describe the writing I am doing. It overlaps somewhat with my PhD interests, which is to study the psychology of one Dambudzo Marecherain the light of contemporary knowledge about shamanistic consciousness.
So, I am very interested in how people think, and why, and what enlightened thinking looks like.
What interests me a lot is to think about how we make unconscious assumptions about people, and act upon them. Where do these assumptions come from that are unconscious? They can be very racist or sexist assumptions, but somehow we often do not know we have them. So, I am thinking very much about identity, and how our views of our own or others’ identities do not seem to relate to rational processes very much, if at all.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: Who is your target audience?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: Ultimately, I've had so much negativity from some right wing trolls on the Internet – those who try to correct my thinking because it is not in tune with a narrow and obnoxious ideology of social conformity – that I decided to direct my writing to a non-populist level, to intellectuals and fellow artists.
In other words, I don’t want to direct my ideas to an audience who will only half swallow my thinking, to vomit up that which they have understood incompletely. I’m directing my writing towards intellectuals and academics of all sorts – those who have a background of sufficient rigour to give my writing the consideration it deserves.
At the same time, I think there is a lot that can be readily ingested in my recently published memoir. There are some more difficult sections in it, but for the most part, anyone who has an appreciation for good literature should be able to read – (and hopefully enjoy!!) – my humble (but not-so-conformist) memoir.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: Which authors influenced you most?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: Of course Dambudzo Marecherawould have to come to the top of my list.
I’m interested in other experimental writers like James Joyce. I really love philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche and Georges Bataille.
There is a lot of quasi-Freudian influence in my memoir, but I do not love [Sigmund] Freud or his later adherents and interpreters as much because they are prone to produce theories that are only narrowly psychological, rather than more complex and taking into account other dimensions of life like social and cultural conditioning, history and politics.
There is a strong feeling of an affinity with ‘Nature’ as a powerful force of inspiration in my life. I am beholden to [William] Wordsworth and Percy Shelley.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: As one whose identity was uprooted (after my family’s emigration from Zimbabwe in 1984), I have been exceedingly intrigued with the idea of identity, how identity is created, and how it can be undermined or destroyed at an emotional level.
I think identity is really a political formulation, but what is not so well known is that it can come under attack at any moment in a way that really is akin to the underhand way that spies and other ‘dark forces’ go about their business.
There are all sorts of indirect forms of coercion that work on our emotions at an unconscious level. Why are some identities considered more desirable than others? Why is it more difficult, in general, for someone who is female or who has black skin to get ahead in the world than for a white male to do so? What are the unconscious psychological forces that get us to treat these kinds of people differently, without necessarily even realising that we are doing it?
Dambudzo could not have a black, Rhodesian identity that had any self-determining qualities to it, since ‘black Rhodesian’ and ‘self-determining’ were contradictory qualities during the era of Ian Smith – thus his anguish. Similarly, there are those who attribute rationality as being a quality pertaining to males, and not by any means to females. So there are members of my own family that are unable to consider me rational, despite the fact that I am doing a PhD and conduct myself with a level of bearing that is appropriate to my greater degree of knowledge and educational levels. In fact, my father is unable to recall what degree I’m doing, despite the fact that I have now been at if for several years. He wills himself not to know, because it contradicts his idea of womanhood that a female could be doing anything important.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: What are your main concerns as a writer?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: I’m concerned with understanding the real influences on human behaviour – not what people claim to be influenced by, but what is really driving them to do what they do, and more importantly, what is also driving them not to do whatever it is they do not do.
I think there are broad as well as narrow political and historical currents that shape the characteristics of any people, in terms of their time and place in the global discourse. The degree to which we are not shaped by our conscious choices, but by the choices made for us by historical and social chance – this largely goes unrecognised.
I think most people assume that we give ourselves our personal characteristics by the conscious, moral and political choices that we make. However, I couldn’t disagree with that notion more strenuously. I don’t think that’s the way it works at all!
My challenge as a writer is to try to convey that there are whole different mechanisms at work influencing our outlooks and behaviour, other than those that we would take to be rational. I take a look at the ‘pre-oedipal’ or unconscious emotional dynamics that govern the way we relate politically to others in our social spheres. I use more than one authorial voice to get across this idea.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: What are the biggest challenges that you face?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: My biggest challenge is that I am not speaking to an audience that is a ready-made demographic. My writing has yet to seek out and discover an audience for itself.
I eschew identity politics, and writing for a ready-made demographic, because I have been so damaged by it.
I cannot speak precisely for the ‘ex-Rhodies’, many of whom might have been quite normal conservatives in the past, but have since turned to the extreme right, in my view. I could try to speak for black Zimbabweans perhaps… but I am white! Yet, much of my way of thinking was influenced by black Zimbabwean culture, as I have belatedly discovered. Perhaps those irreverent cultural aspects to my character were what brought on the workplace abuse? They are certainly not typically ‘feminine’!
I spent the first sixteen years of my life in Zimbabwe, and the last four years we were assimilated, blacks and whites, at my high school, Oriel Girls.
My thinking is also somewhat off-kilter in relation to that of Australian, middle-class whites. I don’t relate to their materialist middle-class aspirations at all. I don’t relate to their submissiveness and laissez-faire attitude to social ethics. They are not involved enough in their own lives, and seem to allow others to direct their views of what it right or wrong too much.
It is all very perplexing!
I try to deal with this situation I find myself in by writing in a way that can reach different people at different levels – although, unlike the one who ended up carrying a donkey on his back, because he wanted to please all his critics, I’ve decided to draw a line (at least in my mind) against trying to please all.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: Do you write everyday?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: I write every day. It really depends on how much I’ve been reading, and whether I’ve allowed enough time for ideas (that I’ve been exposed to) to percolate in the subconscious mind. Suddenly, the subconscious ideas will be ready, and I will begin to experience a mood of general agitation, which doesn’t stop until I’ve written everything that was in me down.
It must be like the biological process of giving birth – something I never hope to replicate in a concrete sense.
Sometimes I write huge amounts, sometimes only little. But I write every day.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: How many books have you written so far?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: Just one book so far, I’m afraid! It’s Minus the Morning, published by Lulu (Amazon is selling an earlier version, due to my mistake). It was released in early 2009. It’s kind of an ‘out of Africa’ memoir, concerning the first three decades of my life.
Of course, it has to do with the issue of identity, from an experiential and philosophical point of view.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: How did you choose a publisher for the book?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: I decided to go the self-publishing route, via Lulu just since, as I explained before, I don’t have a ready-made demographic of readers – which might be necessary to lure a commercial publisher into accepting me.
Also, there are things I want to say which are not for everybody’s ears. I am critical of institutionalised abusiveness, for instance. This is not something everybody wants to hear, and it has the potential to make some people – those who are prone to untoward behaviour and ideological sniping – very uncomfortable.
Furthermore, I’m not trying to seduce my reader with my lyrical prose, like the excellent Alexandra Fuller. I’m not writing in a traditional feminine way at all – I’m trying to speak directly to two parts of the readers’ minds: their own innate sense of what it means to belong or not to belong on an emotional level, and their intellect!
Lulu is a very efficient and exciting publisher, from my point of view. I can get any number of my books ready at hand, just by ordering them and paying for them on the basis of need. Of course, marketing is a problem when you have to do it by yourself, but I’m simply happy to make the book available online. It’s great technology that is available to writers at last – in the 21st Century.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: Which were the most difficult aspects of the work that you put intoMinus the Morning?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: The hardest part, for me, was writing about the hidden psychological dynamics that operate behind the dysfunctional relationship I have had (and probably still do) with my father. It was very hard because I didn’t know enough about his background, until much later, to be able to make sense of some of it.
There were a few family skeletons in the closet, which I have chosen not to reveal very much about, because my writing of this book has not been to cause people shame, but to elucidate my own responses to the situation of being brought up in a white, Rhodesian family, with a Christian ideology.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: I’ve enjoyed finishing it the most – and seeing it in paperback. The whole thing took me more than a decade to write! It was a great relief to see it not as ether (something still in my mind) or as converted bits and bytes on a computer screen, but in a solid form – in ink and paper!
Truly, it has been painful to finish in some ways, too. When I began writing it, I thought that if I made an exposé of some of the injustices in the world, that people would at least sit up and take notice. Nowadays, I thoroughly doubt that this is true or that it will happen.
Looking deeply into Dambudzo’s work, you can see that it is all about the injustice of having to accept an arbitrary social and political identity – but people these days are still struggling to find that sort of meaning in his work. It is a difficult message to put across.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: What sets Minus the Morning apart from other things you've written?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: Merely that the other books do not exist as yet.
I do want to write a book that analyses the perversity of right wing consciousness, however.
I want to look into the psychology of bigotry and why bigots can be so efficacious at convincing others to get on their side and walk in lockstep with them. There is never a bully in this world except that he has those who take his side.
CONVERSATIONS WITH WRITERS: What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG: Not resorting to compromising with the truth, or giving in to my impatience to get the work done. I waited and checked everything, until after more than twelve years, I knew that what I had was really psychologically accurate.
In Minus the Morning, I tell the truth about what it is like to grow up as a white Rhodesian (and later Zimbabwean) in a family that later turned to the right.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article first appeared in Conversations with Writers.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
American Evangelists and the Growth of Homophobia in Africa
My Heart’s in Africa reviews a report by Rev. Kapya Kaoma, an Episcopalian Priest from Zambia, which explains how American evangelists are fueling the current wave of homophobia in African countries such as Uganda:
“In a conference call with members of the media today, Kaoma declared that, “The US culture wars are being exported to Africa. They’re having an impact not just in the US, but also amongst African Christians.”
The culture wars Kaoma refers to have been particularly intense within the Anglican communion, his (and, as it happens, my) church. After the election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, to bishop of New Hampshire, a number of bishops moved to “realign” their congregations outside of mainstream Anglican authority. Two new, more conservative Anglican groups have emerged, and some African congregations have aligned with these new groups.
Kaoma argues that, in the mainline US churches, most congregants and pastors are leaning towards progressive Christianity. The more conservative individuals – in the minority – are aligning with the fast-growing churches in Africa…
These conservative pastors, Kaoma argues, “need to demean the leadership of US mainline churches,” and present their views as the legitimate alternative. It’s become common to present the US mainline churches as imperialistic, and to argue that these mainline churches as trying to export non-African values. “Once you appeal to the post-colonial ethos, people are bound to overreact. The entire gay issue has been put into the post-colonial narrative.” Because the issue of gay rights has been turned into a battle about a purported recolonization of the African continent, Kaoma argues, a struggle for gay rights isn’t seen as a human rights issue, but as an attempt to export “un-African” ideas to the African continent.”
Racialicious questions why African Americans continue to play African roles in movies set in Africa:
“’Invictus,’ a film about Nelson Mandela’s efforts to unify post-apartheid South Africa through rugby, opens Dec. 11. The film stars Matt Damon as captain of South Africa’s 1995 rugby team and Morgan Freeman as Mandela.
I’ve little interest in seeing this film, but the commercials for it caught my attention when I noticed someone attempting what I considered to be an atrocious South African accent. That someone was Freeman, an amazing actor, no doubt, but not convincing to me as a South African ….
After pondering how Freeman speaks in the film, I wondered why a South African wasn’t cast in “Invictus.” With Clint Eastwood as director and Damon in a starring role, would it have been that much of a gamble to cast an unknown in the role of Mandela? Then, I thought about other films set in Africa—“Hotel Rwanda,” “Cry Freedom,” “The Last King of Scotland” and “Sarafina!” All feature black Americans in starring roles as Africans. A recent exception would be 2006’s “Blood Diamond” in which Djimon Hounsou has a starring role.
I understand that casting African American film stars likely makes movies about Africa more marketable, but would African Americans be as accepting if roles designed for them were given to whites to increase a film’s marketability? Judging from the uproar surrounding Angelina Jolie starring as Mariane Pearl in “A Mighty Heart,” I think not. So why aren’t more people speaking up about the tendency of African roles to go to black Americans?”
Grandiose Parlor wonders why no effort is being made to transform the Makoko slum in Lagos, Nigeria, into an entertainment hotspot:
“Slum on stilts is the description for the 50,000+ strong fishing community called Makoko that abuts and stretches into the Lagos lagoon. Some have called it ugly, “ugly (” Idowu Ogunleye, photo journalist, Lagos), and even “dangerous and volatile” (John Vidal, Guardian).
Looking from outside, either though photographs, or from above while driving across the adjacent bridges, I see something different: I marvel at the resiliency of the inhabitants.
Ugly, dangerous and volatile are far from my minds, I see in Makoko, an exotic breed striving to lead a meaningful life despite all odds. Even despite the dire circumstances, I see culture in confluence with commerce.
Makoko is certainly different, and may be tough on the exterior, but it has life, it’s unique and lively. I wonder why the powers-that-be would rather see it as an eyesore than a vibrant community needing uplifting?
Yet, all it takes are few committed minds that can see beyond the grime and grunge and transform Makoko into a commercial and entertainment hot-spot on the lagoon. “
Bankele gives a number on tips on how Africa can profit from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa:
“So besides global giants like Sony and Coca Cola, what other opportunities are there for Kenyan and other African nations & companies?
The World Cup will draw thousands of people making their first or a rare trip to African continent, which can yield opportunities for locales outside South Africa
- Beach tourism: The World Cup is associated with summer, but takes place in winter in SA (southern hemisphere), and while the weather will be relatively mild compared to Europe and US winters, it’s not beach strolling weather like you could get in Mombasa, Zanzibar or Seychelles.
- Regional packages: Ethiopian Airlines has travel packages that cover more than one country e.g. see the attractions of Ethiopia, Tanzania, Egypt, and Kenya and will probably sell those in SA. Likewise Kenya Airways (or local agents) who will probably have travelers from Thailand and China can draw on the same to entice people on the way back e.g. also tour the Great Rift highlands of Kenya and Ethiopia and visit athletic camps to see where world beating Olympic athletes hone their skills...
Governments: there are opportunities for proactive governments to get involved and promote their countries with marketing campaigns, or with travel advice for locals, expedited transit visas (JKIA) or passport renewals. See what UK government is doing.”
Ushahidi, an African open source project which allows users to crowdsource crisis information, announces that it has received a $1.4M grant from the Omidyar Network:
“The funding will enable us to scale the platform, put resources towards Swift River and grow our operations in Kenya.
Omidyar has funded Digg, the Wikimedia Foundation, Creative Commons, WITNESS and the Sunlight Foundation. Why should they fund us?
A good starting point is their boilerplate, which states: ‘Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change...’
Where Ushahidi fits in is their Media, Markets and Transparency section, specifically in the way that the Ushahidi platform can be utilized around the world for greater government transparency. Ushahidi’s innovative use of technology to strengthen democracy by amplifying citizen voices and its ability to connect potentially millions of individuals to information that could transform their lives are what drew Omidyar Network’s interest.”
Upstation Mountain Club announces the death of Cameroonian novelist, poet and politician, Mbella Sonne Dipoko, one of the leading first generation Cameroonian writers alongside the likes of Mongo Beti and Ferdinand Oyono. The announcement includes a link to an interview from 1990 in which Dipoko talks about his writing, his life in Europe, his return to Cameroon, and his eccentric look:
“In the West they would call me a romantic, one of the last breed, I suppose. A romantic and not a mad man, as some people do here, in Africa, fearing the beard and scared of the head of hair...
I tell you, in Douala, sometimes it takes me as long as an hour to get a taxi. When they stop, it is to give some chap who might be waiting with me a ride. But me, no! They don’t want the beard. They don’t want my look. They are damned scared.
Don’t let anyone impose their will on you. So let them be scared of my look, of my beard, of my head of hair. They are just philistines who are afraid of originality. They wish to be caricatures of Europeans. When they are scared of a mere beard, what would these people do when war comes, when the horizon suddenly begins to sneeze smoke and spit flames? Who will save the nation? For only the courageous can defend the colors of a country? Only people like those few taxi drivers who, not minding the way I look, give me a ride in their vehicles, will be at the command of our cannons. For, they are courageous people. They love all their people, even those who do not look like caricatures of Europeans.”
* 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 Pambazuka News.
Nairobi workshop gives civil society dimension on FOCAC
How should Chinese and African civil society respond to the challenge of FOCAC
2009? That was the question addressed by some 30 activists, researchers and
academics at Fahamu's two-day CSO FOCAC workshop in Nairobi on 26th and 27 November
Africa's non-state actors have long played a vital role as a shadow ‘peer review
agency’ in relation to the continent's old development partners. But theystill have a long way to go to develop the same capacity and awareness where China-Africa relations are concerned. Fahamu’s Emerging Powers in Africa programme believes that to achieve this African civil society activists and organisations will need to build alliances and establish a dialogue with their Chinese civil society and social movement partners.
The two-day workshop was intended to aid that process by providing a crucial platform for African Chinese and Northern CSO actors, researchers and scholars to debate and discuss the outcomes from the 4th FOCAC Summit hosted in Egypt on 8-9 November 2009.
It was also the occasion for Fahamu's China in Africa Programm to launch its six policy research reports, originally commissioned in April 2009 [though visa problems prevented one of the papers from being presented]..
As Sanusha Naidu, research director of the Fahamu programme, pointed out in welcoming participants, the FOCAC meeting showed that Beijing is aware of the importance of the civil society dimension to the China-Africa engagement, and realises that a truly 'win-win' relationship must be people-centred. This meshes with the emphasis of Fahamu's China-Africa project and AU Monitor project.
Professor Horace Campbell (Professor of Political Science, Syracuse University) set the scene with a Panafrican perspective on China-Africa partnership. There were lessons to learn from the transformation of China in the past 40 years. Chinese investment in infrastructure demonstrates that transformation is possible. But China, he urged, should not repeat its past mistake in supporting such leaders as Savimbi in Angola. It should realise that most existing leaders will not be there in 10 years time.
Dr. Enyu Ma, from the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, outlined the work of official organisations such as the Chinese Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, the All-China Womens Federation, and the All-China Youth Federation in sending technical training teams and organising exchange visits by volunteers specialists and scholars.
Five of the six commissioned research papers were presented and discussed. Anna Chen [Standard Bank, South Africa] presented the paper on ‘Chinese enclave communities in Africa’ which studied the 350,000-strong South African Chinese community - over half the Chinese on the continent. Dr Liu Haifang [IWAAS, Beijing] was the Discussant.
Joseph Onjala, [Institute of Development Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya] presented the paper on 'China's comparative trade, aid and investment behaviour in Kenya vis-a- viz India and the European Union ', which looked at specific sectors in Kenya, and asked how China's role differed in trade and aid, from others. Brian Kagoro of ActionAid Kenya, was the Discussant.
Tsidiso Disenyana, [South African Institute of International Affairs, Johannesburg, South Africa] presented the paper on 'China's Manufacturing Exports and Africa's De-industrialisation' which looked principally at the impact on the clothing and textles; furniture; iron and steel; and leather and footware sectors. Paul Kumau [IDS Nairobi] was the discussant.
Prof. KK Matthews, [University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia] presented the paper on ‘Assessment of Chinese companies in Ethiopia', an empirical study involving over 50 companies at all levels. Professor Alemayehu Geda [Addis Ababa University ] was the discussant.
Jean Pierre Okenda, [Action Contre l'Impunite pour les Droits Humains (ACIDH) (DRC)] presented the paper on 'Public and Private Investments in Katanga Province , DRC: Good Governance and Human Rights' which looked particularly at the mining sector, but also at the China-DRC joint venture agreement. Johanna Jansson [Independent Analyst, Cape Town] was the Discussant.
Unfortunately colleagues from FOCARFE [Cameroun] were unable to attend to present their paper on 'Impact of Chinese investment on the Environment in Cameroon' due to visa difficulties.
The first of four panel discussions looked at ‘International Development Cooperation and Strategies for Poverty Reduction outcomes from FOCAC 2009’. Dr. Alex Vines [Head of Africa Programme, Chatham House, UK] felt the most important outcome of the FOCAC meeting was the commitment to infrastructure spending, as well as the emphasis on 'peoples wellbeing' as a major theme. Chinese infrastructure development aid was allocated to all countries without regard to natural resources. But the same was not true of Eximbank loans.
Dr. Li Pengtao, [Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University] analysed the Premier’s speech to identify which measures were new. He also referred to recent dicussions on the limitations of the Western aid-based approach.
Professor Alemayehu Geda [Addis Ababa University] introduced the second panel discussion on ‘the Chinese firm in Africa: What impact on the ground?’. He drew on a 26-country case study which he had just concluded. He found that apart from South Africa and Kenya, African countries appeared to lack the capacity to adapt to the displacement effect of Cbinese competition in thrid country markets. But there were positive effects including lower-cost machinery imports, and increased competitiveness from Chinese-provided infrastructure.
Wang Donying, [Global Environment Institute (GEI), Beijing] gave a powerpoint presentation on the work of the Institute. She also outlined some of the findings of a GEI research survey on the environmental behaviour of Chinese overseas businesses to be released early in 2010. It found a low level of environmental awareness and performance, which GEI was working to correct through guidelines and draft legislation.
Anthony Yaw Baah [Labour Research Resource Institute (LARRI) Namibia], described the findings of the report ‘Chinese Investment in Africa - Opportunity or threat to workers?’ recently published by the African Labour Research Network (ALRN) to which LARRI is affiliated.
It found a consistent pattern of poor labour relations and practices. He advised trade unionists , as had been done in Ghana, to engage with Chinese companies and the Chinese embassy as well as pursuing traditional methods of trade union action.
Reg Rumney, [Director, Centre for Economics Journalism in Africa, School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa] introduced the third panel discussion on ‘the role of the media in reporting on China-African engagements’. He outlined the diversity of the media and the distortions of presentation that can arise from different corporate structures and levels of professionalism.
Dr Karambu Ringera, [School of Journalism, Nairobi University] said that her students at the school of journalism often wonder about the motives of Chinese involvement in Africa and especially in Kenya. She urged the need for cultural exchanges between China and Africa to be two-way, and for African people, especially in rural areas, to be better informed about China’s role.
Robert Watkinson, [Portland, Nairobi, Kenya] described the research programme on China in Africa which Portland, a communications consultant with a specialism in African issues, had been conducting, including the regular weekly review of media coverage which it produces. One of the imbalances he found was a comparative lack of African coverage of China and China-Africa relations compared to Chinese coverage of Africa.
As Stephen Marks [Co-ordinator and Research Associate, Fahamu Emerging Powers in Africa Programme] concluded in a final overview, the discussion had marked a step forward from the previous China-Africa civil society dialogue workshop in Nairobi in April 2008. Instead of the presentation of opposed and entrenched positions, there had been a genuine exchange of experience and opinion, and there was real enthusiasm for continued cooperation and exchange.
In particular, there was active interest in the next steps evisaged for the programme, including journalist exchanges, and further seminars, exchanges and workshops, including programmes for activists on environmental and labour issues.
The research papers will be revised to take account of the points raised in the discusssions, and will be published on Pambazuka News, as will a fuller conference report.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Stephen Marks is research associate and project coordinator with Fahamu's China in Africa Project.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News 126 : Incuries politiques et drames de l'immigration clandestine
Government spending more on travel than civil servants healthcare
There has been renewed outrage over the unity government’s expenditure after it was revealed last week that it is spending more of the country’s money on travel than on healthcare.
Top UN official hails progress
A top UN official has praised "great progress" in easing Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis, but urged donors to continue supporting the country's recovery from a decade of economic freefall. "It has been refreshing to see great progress in so many aspects that worried us in February. I trust this positive trend will continue," UN assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs Catherine Bragg told a news conference.
Williams, Mahlangu and refugee seven further remanded in Bulawayo
WOZA leaders, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, appeared in the Bulawayo Magistrate's Court this week as instructed only to be informed that their court record file, which apparently is kept separate for security reasons, was not accessible.
Zanu PF discusses its future as rifts widen over Mugabe heir
The battle over who will eventually succeed 85-year-old President Robert Mugabe as party leader threatens the future of his long-ruling Zanu PF but analysts say an immediate split is unlikely at a congress which began this week.
Africa: Preventing Violence against Women and HIV
A Call for partners in the Horn, East and Southern Africa - Raising Voices
Raising Voices invites applications for organizations in the Horn, East and Southern Africa interested in participating in an extensive, 3-year technical assistance partnership to prevent violence against women and HIV in their communities using the SASA! Activist Kit. Deadline for applications December 21st, 2009.
Africa: South Africa's 'other' epidemic
It has been ten years since the South African government held its first annual '16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women' (and children) campaign. While the campaign has, no doubt, achieved a degree of success in relation to raising awareness, this has clearly not translated into much positive, practical impact.
Ethiopia: Shelter from the storm: Escaping from gender violence
The safe house for victims of gender-based violence hides behind tall, grey walls in a nondescript neighbourhood of the capital. Run by Tsotawi Tekat Tekelakay Mahiber (TTTM) – the Organization Against Gender-based Violence -- is known only to the police.
Gambia: 60 circumcisers abandon knife
GAMCOTRAP, an NGO that promotes women's social, political, economic and cultural rights and focuses on sexual and reproductive health rights has marked the symbolic abandonment of the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practice.
Global: UN women's treaty weakened by slew of reservations
A landmark UN treaty on women’s rights, which will be 30 years old next week, is in danger of being politically undermined by a slew of reservations by 22 countries seeking exemptions from some of the convention’s legal obligations.
Botswana: Bushmen’s land ‘should be reserved for wildlife’ - official
One of Botswana’s senior officials has argued that the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), the ancestral home of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen, ‘should be reserved for wildlife’, despite the fact that the country’s High Court has ruled that the Bushmen have the right to live there.
DRC: Conflict minerals: A cover For US allies and western mining interests?
Kambale Musavuli & Bodia Macharia
As global awareness grows around the Congo and the silence is finally being broken on the current and historic exploitation of Black people in the heart of Africa, a myriad of Western based “prescriptions” are being proffered. Most of these prescriptions are devoid of social, political, economic and historical context and are marked by remarkable omissions.
As global awareness grows around the Congo and the silence is finally being broken on the current and historic exploitation of Black people in the heart of Africa, a myriad of Western based “prescriptions” are being proffered. Most of these prescriptions are devoid of social, political, economic and historical context and are marked by remarkable omissions. The conflict mineral approach or efforts emanating from the United States and Europe are no exception to this symptomatic approach which serves more to perpetuate the root causes of Congo’s challenges than to resolve them.
The conflict mineral approach has an obsessive focus on the FDLR and other rebel groups while scant attention is paid to Uganda (which has an International Court of Justice ruling against it for looting and crimes against humanity in the Congo) and Rwanda (whose role in the perpetuation of the conflict and looting of Congo is well documented by UN reports and international arrest warrants for its top officials). Rwanda is the main transit point for illicit minerals coming from the Congo irrespective of the rebel group (FDLR, CNDP or others) transporting the minerals. According to Dow Jones, Rwanda’s mining sector output grew 20% in 2008 from the year earlier due to increased export volumes of tungsten, cassiterite and coltan, the country’s three leading minerals with which Rwanda is not well endowed. In fact, should Rwanda continue to pilfer Congo’s minerals, its annual mineral export revenues are expected to reach $200 million by 2010. Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen says it best when he notes “having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.” As long as the West continues to give the Kagame regime carte blanche, the conflict and instability will endure.
According to Global Witness’s 2009 report, Faced With A Gun What Can you Do, Congolese government statistics and reports by the Group of Experts and NGOs, Rwanda is one of the main conduits for illicit minerals leaving the Congo. It is amazing that the conflict mineral approach shout loudly about making sure that the trade in minerals does not benefit armed groups but the biggest armed beneficiary of Congo’s minerals is the Rwandan regime headed by Paul Kagame. Nonetheless, the conflict mineral approach is remarkably silent about Rwanda’s complicity in the fueling of the conflict in the Congo and the fleecing of Congo’s riches.
Advocates of the conflict mineral approach would be far more credible if they had ever called for any kind of pressure whatsoever on mining companies that are directly involved in either fueling the conflict or exploiting the Congolese people. The United Nations, The Congolese Parliament, Carter Center, Southern Africa Resource Watch and several other NGOs have documented corporations that have pilfered Congo’s wealth and contributed to the perpetuation of the conflict. Some of these companies include but are not limited to: Traxys, OM Group, Blattner Elwyn Group, Freeport McMoran, Eagle Wings/Trinitech, Lundin, Kemet, Banro, AngloGold Ashanti, Anvil Mining, and First Quantum.
The conflict mineral approach, like the Blood Diamond campaign from which it draws its inspiration, is silent on the question of resource sovereignty which has been a central question in the geo-strategic battle for Congo’s mineral wealth. It was over this question of resource sovereignty that the West assassinated Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba and stifled the democratic aspirations of the Congolese people for over three decades by installing and backing the dictator Joseph Mobutu. In addition, the United States also backed the 1996 and 1998 invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda instead of supporting the non-violent, pro-democracy forces inside the Congo. Unfortunately and to the chagrin of the Congolese people, some of the strongest advocates of the conflict mineral approach are former Clinton administration officials who supported the invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda. This may in part explains the militaristic underbelly of the conflict mineral approach, which has as its so-called second step a comprehensive counterinsurgency.
The focus on the east of Congo falls in line with the long-held obsession by some advocates in Washington who incessantly push for the balkanization of the Congo. Their focus on “Eastern Congo” is inadequate and does not fully take into account the nature and scope of the dynamics in the entire country. Political decisions in Kinshasa, the capital in the West, have a direct impact on the events that unfold in the East of Congo and are central to any durable solutions.
The central claim of the conflict mineral approach is to bring an end to the conflict; however, the conflict can plausibly be brought to an end much quicker through diplomatic and political means. The so-called blood mineral route is not the quickest way to end the conflict. We have already seen how quickly world pressure can work with the sidelining of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and the demobilization and/or rearranging of his CNDP rebel group in January 2009, as a result of global pressure placed on the CNDP’s sponsor Paul Kagame of Rwanda. More pressure needs to be placed on leaders such as Kagame and Museveni who have been at the root of the conflict since 1996. The FDLR can readily be pressured as well, especially with most of their political leadership residing in the West, however this should be done within a political framework, which brings all the players to the table as opposed to the current militaristic, dichotomous, good-guy bad-guy approach where the West sees Kagame and Museveni as the “good-guys” and everyone else as bad. The picture is far grayer than Black and White.
A robust political approach by the global community would entail the following prescriptions:
1. Join Sweden and Netherlands in pressuring Rwanda to be a partner for peace and a stabilizing presence in the region. The United States and Great Britain in particular should apply more pressure on their allies Rwanda and Uganda to the point of withholding aid if necessary.
2. Hold to account companies and individuals through sanctions trafficking in minerals whether with rebel groups or neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda and Uganda. Canada has chimed in as well but has been deadly silent on the exploitative practices of its mining companies in the Congo. Canada must do more to hold its mining companies accountable as is called for in Bill C-300.
3. Encourage world leaders to be more engaged diplomatically and place a higher priority on what is the deadliest conflict in the World since World War Two.
4. Reject the militarization of the Great Lakes region represented by AFRICOM, which has already resulted in the suffering of civilian population; the strengthening of authoritarian figures such as Uganda’s Museveni (in power since 1986) and Rwanda’s Kagame (won the 2003 “elections” with 95 percent of the vote); and the restriction of political space in their countries.
5. Demand of the Obama administration to be engaged differently from its current military-laden approach and to take the lead in pursuing an aggressive diplomatic path with an emphasis on pursuing a regional political framework that can lead to lasting peace and stability.
To learn more about the current crisis in the Congo, visit www.friendsofthecongo.org and join the global movement in support of the people of the Congo at www.congoweek.org
* Kambale Musavuli is spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo. He can be reached at [email protected]
* Bodia Macharia is the President of Friends of the Congo/ Canada. She can be reached at [email protected]
DRC: Still struggling for peace
One year after receiving the Rafto Prize, pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josué, right, is still fighting to establish a dialogue between the rebel soldiers, government and international forces, and civilians in the Congolese Kivu region.
Nigeria: Police 'kill at will' - report
Amnesty International exposed the shocking level of unlawful police killings in Nigeria in a new report. “The Nigerian police are responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings every year,” said Erwin van der Borght, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.
North Africa: 3 simple actions to save Sahrawi Ghandi
Your support can make a difference at a crucial time in the campaign to save the life of Aminatou Haidar known as the ‘Saharawi Ghandi’. Aminatou is a prominent human rights activist and former political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She is known for her non-violent resistance to the illegal occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco.
USA: Couple charged with human trafficking for exploiting Swaziland woman
A United States couple has been indicted on charges of conspiracy, forced labour, document servitude, which is confiscating someone's passport and visa, and harbouring an alien for financial gain, the Justice Department announced.
Côte d’Ivoire: Land reform must not shut out IDPs
A reform programme designed to formalise customary land rights in Côte d’Ivoire may compromise durable solutions for internally displaced persons (IDPs) if their specific needs are not taken into account, according to a new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC.
DRC: Needs unmet as refugees flee from Congo to Congo
Aid agencies have been unable to fully meet the needs of tens of thousands of people who have fled inter-communal clashes over natural resources in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Eritrea: A forgotten refugee problem
Eastern Sudan hosts more than 66,000 registered Eritrean refugees, the first of whom arrived in 1968 during the early years of Eritrea’s war of independence against Ethiopia. These days, Eritrea’s policy of indefinite military conscription, coupled with drought and poor economic opportunities, prompt some 1,800 people to cross into Sudan every month, according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
Global: African countries condemned for poor migrants treatment
Several participants attending a forum on migration in the Arab and African regions have deplored the conditions in which migrants who are either in transit or in residence are treated.
South Africa: Improve migrants’ access to health care
South African health care professionals are endangering the health of the country's large foreign population by routinely denying health care and treatment to thousands of asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants, Human Rights Watch has said in a report.
'Global: Farmers movement mobilize in Copenhagen'
La Via Campesina
Industrial agriculture is the skeleton in the closet of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). If we consider production, processing and transportation, the whole food chain could be responsible for up to half of all global greenhouse gas emissions (1).
Industrial agriculture is the skeleton in the closet of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). If we consider production, processing and transportation, the whole food chain could be responsible for up to half of all global greenhouse gas emissions (1). However negotiators do not seem ready to acknowledge the impact of our current food and agricultural system – and the need to radically change our food policies.
The international farmers movement La Via Campesina which gathers hundreds of millions of small farmers from around the world is going to Copenhagen to claim that sustainable small scale agriculture is the way out of the current crises.
It is time to relocalise food production, to put an end to fossil fuel hungry corporate farming, give land to farmers and to implement food sovereignty. Such a move would provoke a reduction of ½ to 2/3 of current global emissions. Combined with a strong reduction in consumption it would lead to a significant effective reduction contrary to the false solutions such as carbon trading and the technical fixes presented for corporate agriculture schemes as currently discussed by the UNFCCC.
Such a transformation of world agriculture would not only greatly contribute to solving the climate crisis - it would also provide healthy food for all - as well as provide livelihoods to millions of women and men.
Around 100 Via Campesina farmers - women and men - from about 30 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas will join the mobilisations, workshops, debates and protests with a wide range of other social movements from December 10 to 18 in Copenhagen.
Via Campesina highlights for the media
* 10 December: Candle light vigil at 6pm at Gammeltorv - Nytorv (city center) in solidarity with the peasant victims of climate change, carbon trading, land evictions, REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), climate ready genetically modified seeds and other false solutions to climate change.
* 11 December: Press conference from 12:00 to 12:30 at Klimaforum: “Farmers mobilisations for a cool planet”
* 13 December: Action and street press conference at 12:00 in front of Axelborg building (Verstrobrogade/Axeltorv) : “Industrial agriculture is frying the planet”
* 15 December: Press conference at 9:00 at Bella Center, Asger Jorn room, Hall H. “ Agriculture and Climate: the small scale farmers' solution”
* 15 December: Mass mobilisation starting at Havne Parken at 12pm “Change the food system not climate!” (by the Harbour pool, near Langebrd bridge)
(Action's places will be confirmed)
Interviews with farmers leaders and information:
Boaventura Monjane: [email protected]
Isabelle Delforge: [email protected]
Mobile numbers: +32 498522163 (before December 5) and +45 5059 8325 (from December 5)
Or meet us at the Via Campesina stand at Klimaforum -
More information on www.viacampesina.org
Global: The World Bank - Civil Society Engagement: Review of Fiscal Years 2007 to 2009
A new report, "The World Bank - Civil Society Engagement: Review of Fiscal Years 2007 to 2009" was launched at a reception on October 4 at the Annual Meetings in Istanbul. Some 100 CSO representatives and Bank staff attended. Senior Vice President Marwan Muasher made a few remarks in which he stressed how the review vividly documents the myriad forms of engagement between the Bank Group and civil society across the institution and globally.
Somalia: Mogadishu bombing - the backlash
This month's deadly bombing of a medical school's graduation ceremony in Somalia will likely reduce the popularity of the country's main Islamist insurgency, despite the group's denial of involvement, say analysts. A civilian uprising against Al-Shabab seems to be under way, with street demonstrations in Mogadishu on 7 December, and in camps for the internally displaced (IDPs) on 8 December.
South Africa: A Report on AbM & the Kennedy Road Settlement
Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), a shack dwellers’ movement in Durban has contributed tremendously to the protection of the right to adequate housing by mobilising shack dwellers to resist and challenge forced evictions and insist on in-situ upgrading of their areas as the only acceptable solution.
Algeria: Government, unions resolve public-sector wage dispute
Civil servants will receive a long-awaited pay rise and back wages dating from January 2008, the Algerian government announced after talks with labour leaders.
China sets its sights on African research cooperation
China is continuing to show an interest in developing African research capacity with the announcement of a cooperation programme in science and technology.
China’s new strategy for improving health in Africa
A group of senior officials from China, Africa, and from international organizations involved in health assistance in Africa met in Beijing on December 4-5, 2009 to review China's health assistance to Africa and to discuss opportunities for international cooperation in achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals in Africa.
Emerging powers in Africa news roundup
Stephen Marks compiles a roundup of emerging players in Africa News.
While top negotiators of the Africa Group at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen remain positive, there are indications that the continent is disagreeing on several key issues.
“A rise in global temperatures by two degrees Celsius means effectively a rise of 3.7 degrees in Africa”, said Sudanese G77 China group chair Lumumba Di-Aping yesterday. “There is no scientific basis for these two degrees, it’s only being proposed for reasons of feasibility, but for whom and at what cost? If you choose two degrees, you choose a certain death for Africa.” More
African countries were reported to be in around-the-clock consultations to hammer out a common position to counter a proposal by the developed countries, led by the host nation Denmark. The troubling clause in the Danish proposal leaked this week. It proposes holding the global temperature rise at 20c. The counter proposal by Tuvalu and other nations proposes a target of 1.50c. ]More
At the same time, the world’s major emerging economies led by China are calling for a “binding” amendment to the Kyoto Protocol requiring rich countries to slash carbon pollution by more than 40 percent compared to 1990, according to a document seen by the French news agency AFP
The previously unseen 11-page draft “Copenhagen Accord”, to be posted on the website of French daily Le Monde, was finalised on November 30 after a closed-door meeting in Beijing between China, India, South Africa and Brazil.
The initiative, led by Beijing, was conceived as a rebuttal by developing countries to another backroom accord hammered out by Denmark, host country for the December 7-18 climate change summit.
The text embraces the objective of limiting the increase by 2100 of global temperatures to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times, a goal shared by developed countries.More
China's carbon emissions will peak between 2030 and 2040, the country's science and technology minister told the Guardian as the global climate change summit began in Copenhagen. In an exclusive interview, Wan Gang said he hoped the maximum output of Chinese greenhouse gases would come as soon as possible within that range, and spelled out the steps that needed to be taken to achieve this. More
Chinese officials give more details on carbon intensity targets at their first ever dedicated space at a major climate meeting. Senior Chinese climate statesman He Jiankun, speaking at the Chinese Pavilion at the Copenhagen Climate Talks, announced yesterday that the Chinese carbon intensity would be introduced as legislation to be passed by China’s National People’s Congress, its highest law-making body.
Professor He emphasized that China’s commitment to making the 40-45% reduction in carbon intensity between 2005 and 2020 will be binding domestically, and that the government would also focus on implementing specific programs to meet it. He argued a carbon intensity goal is the best way to measure progress on climate change mitigation for a country in the midst of rapid industrialization and urbanization. More
China earns billions in carbon-offset sales. But there are claims that by taking credit for projects that would have been built anyway, it may not be playing by the rules. More
The Chinese government, battling severe over-capacity and high pollution levels in the country’s steel industry, plans to eliminate mills with a capacity of less than 1m tonnes per year, according to a draft policy document released on Wednesday.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology also said it will force mills that do not meet environmental standards to upgrade equipment or lose their licences. More
China has said it will agree to concrete emissions reduction targets by 2050 if the US offers greater cuts now. But, with Republicans at home railing against any agreement, Obama has little wiggle room. More
The Financial Times reports that China will receive no significant funding from the US to combat climate change, according to the US delegation leader at the Copenhagen conference. The statement, which shocked many negotiators, was part of a broader US attack on China and other developing countries for not promising deeper concessions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More
Copenhagen: China's Oppressive Climate
But on the New York Review of Books blog, Perry Link argues that The best Chinese partners for the international community would be the environmental activists and the large and growing number of ordinary people in China who are concerned about pollution. As long as their voices are repressed, it will be difficult for the most populous country to take effective action on global warming’. More
CHINA’S AFRICA DEALS
Chinese companies have proposed investing $50 billion to buy 6 billion barrels of oil reserves in Nigeria, the African nation's presidential adviser on energy said Tuesday.
"Chinese companies have made proposals to buy reserves in Nigeria. Specifically, their application is to acquire 6 billion barrels of oil reserves, which we are currently discussing," Emmanuel Egbogah told reporters on the sidelines of an industry conference. More
China will triple its manganese ore imports from Ghana, according to information from global steel industry sources. Manganese ore which is an important raw material for the production of steel is in high demand following the rising demand for steel and the decline in manganese ore stocks.China which imports about 80% of its manganese ore from Gabon, South Africa, Australia, the ASEAN region and Ghana is intent on doubling the overall import figure. More
China is in partnerships with African countries principally Mozambique to introduce modern farming grounded in innovation, research and development. This is good news for Africa for lately China is venturing into agricultural investments in Africa not just in Mozambique but in Nigeria, Angola, Malawi and Zimbabwe. More
The Chinese government has shown "strong interest" in setting up factories in Africa, helping the continent develop a manufacturing base and boost its economy, according to the president of the World Bank.
"There is not only willingness but strong interest among some in China, and I've discussed with the minister of commerce, Chen Deming, that there may be possibilities of moving some of the lower-value manufacturing facilities to sub-Saharan Africa, toys or footwear," Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, told the Financial Times.
It is thought the scheme might involve creating industrial parks – possibly part-funded by the World Bank and China – so companies could settle in quickly and operate more effectively. More
The heads of Africa’s two largest banks indicated to Dow Jones Newswires in interviews last week from their Johannesburg headquarters that they are staking a key part of their future on China’s unsatiated appetite in trade and investment in Africa. The comments from Jacko Maree, CEO of Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s largest bank by assets, and Sizwe Nxasana, incoming CEO of FirstRand Ltd., the continent’s second-largest lender by assets, underscore the growing economic relationship between the world’s third largest economy and the resource-rich continent. More
INDIA IN AFRICA
The World Bank and New Delhi are in talks about financing the international expansion of Indian Railways, one of the largest and most profitable networks in the world, to bring transport infrastructure to African countries and other developing nations. Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, said the Washington-based multilateral lender wanted to build on a $2bn commitment to strengthen India’s rail system by helping state-owned Indian Railways to grow beyond its borders.
An ambitious partnership with Indian Railways is at the heart of a World Bank strategy to persuade India and China, two of the fastest-growing large economies, to participate more directly in the development of the world’s poorest nations. India, Asia’s third largest economy, is the largest borrower from the World Bank with about $22bn (€14.8bn, £13.3bn) invested in projects.
“It fulfils what I was hoping to achieve when I first came to the bank, which is to draw in some of the emerging economic development [countries] into the development process whether by sharing information, sharing business models and expanding investment,” Mr Zoellick said.
“We’ve done it with China. I’d like to do it with India, and I hope to do it with other countries.” More
Indian renewable energy company Praj has signed an agreement with Ethiopia’s Eco Energy, a bio-fuel producing company, for providing consultancy in cultivating thousands of hectares for generating bio-fuels. More
India would invest in Africa’s oil fields and increase purchase of crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the continent, minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Jitin Prasada said here on Tuesday. “Our objective with Africa has been to build up a strategic partnership of enduring dimension in the oil and gas sector,” the minister said at a conference. As India is hugely dependent on oil and natural gas imports, there is a huge potential of Africa and India coming closer, he said addressing representatives from 15 countries. ONGC Videsh, the international exploration arm of public sector energy giant ONGC has already invested $ 2.5 billion in the Sudanese oilfields, he added. More
EMERGING POWERS IN THE WORLD
A sensitive question loomed this week over celebrations for the 10th anniversary of an international convention aimed at curbing bribery: Where were China and Russia? More
China imposed duties on Thursday on imports of certain specialty steel products from the US and Russia, in the latest sign of trade tensions between Beijing and its main trading partners. More
A significant global financial landmark is passing virtually unnoticed – obscured, perhaps, by the ongoing fallout from the economic and financial crisis in industrialised countries.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), foreign direct investment to emerging markets and developing countries in 2008 amounted to $730bn or about 43 per cent of global FDI receipts. If trends from the first half of 2009 continue, FDI to emerging markets and developing countries, which are sometimes referred to as “the South”, is on track to exceed direct investment in the mature markets of “the North”, according to Columbia University’s Vale Institute. ]More
China's second biggest oil and gas company has secured a 20-year supply of gas from Papua New Guinea. It is the latest in a series of moves by Chinese companies to secure resources to feed the country's growing economy. Sinopec, which is owned by the Chinese government, will buy around 2m tonnes of liquefied natural gas each year. The LNG supply will come from a project being developed by Exxon Mobil and other investors. More
Angola: President re-elected ruling party head
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos was re-elected head of Angola's ruling MPLA party on Wednesday, a move that signals the 67-year old leader plans to extend his three-decade long rule of one of Africa's top oil producers.
Côte d’Ivoire: Security Council calls for credible polls at the earliest
The UN Security Council has called for the holding of credible presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire at the earliest date possible, after the much-delayed polls were recently postponed again.
Ethiopia: New election code sparks furore
Opposition parties are troubled by what they say is government’s strategy to keep them out of the general elections in May 2010. They accuse the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) of harassment. This includes arrests, obstruction of public meetings, and even murder.
Madagascar: AU worries over lack of progress on crisis talks
The African Union (AU) Wednesday expressed deep concerns over the lack of progress on key talks aimed at ending the political deadlock in Madagascar, following a coup in the Indian Ocean island in March 2009.
Africa: Corruption - a crime against development
Corruption is preventing the world from reducing extreme poverty, from averting child deaths and even from fighting epidemics like HIV/AIDS. And it will have a devastating effect on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals if not tackled directly by each national government.
Mauritania: Top businessmen held in bank fraud case
Mauritanian authorities detained three top businessmen charged with embezzling millions of euros of public funds late on Wednesday in a case that has sparked new political tensions in the desert state.
Nigeria: Ex-governor Attahiru Bafarawa in fraud raid
Nigerian anti-corruption officials have raided a meeting of opposition leaders and arrested Attahiru Bafarawa, who ran for president in 2007. The EFCC accuses him of involvement in a 6bn naira ($40m) fraud from his time as governor of Sokoto State.
Africa: African experts, ministers to design documents for petroleum fund
African experts and ministers responsible for hydrocarbons are gathering in Ethiopia to craft key documents in the energy sector, the AU has disclosed.
Africa: How can governments regain control of the aid process?
In the last three decades, changes in the global economy have led to debt and balance of payments crises in many African countries. They desperately needed foreign exchange which they could only get from the World Bank and the IMF. These institutions used this opportunity to expand their influence over the recipients' national policies. This paper discusses country ownership which is a central issue of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.
Africa: R&D survey faces delays
Countries taking part in Africa's most detailed survey of research and innovation to date have been given a three-month extension to gather the required data. The extension was granted at a workshop for the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (ASTII) initiative that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week (30 November – 3 December).
Africa: The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa
Call for contributions
The Agricultural Innovation in Africa (AIA) Project is inviting input on good practices for consideration for inclusion in the forthcoming study, The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa.
Chad: Re-assessing the aid footprint
When an aid vehicle is stolen in the eastern Chad town of Abéché, some people cheer and say the aid organization got what it deserved, according to the French think-tank Emergency Rehabilitation Development (URD), which is preparing a report on the impact of international aid groups on Abéché residents.
Global: Information Economy Report 2009
The Information Economy Report 2009: Trends and Outlook in Turbulent Times' is the fourth in a series published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The report is one of the few publications to monitor global trends in information and communication technologies (ICTs) as they affect developing countries.
Morocco: government unveils programmes to support SMEs
The Moroccan government is taking fresh steps to support beleaguered local businesses, which are a key part of the national economy. Two new programmes by the National Agency for the Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (ANPME) are intended to boost competitiveness in the struggling sector.
North Africa: Maghreb leaders set sights on knowledge-based economy
Arab and Muslim countries must review their development strategies to benefit from transformative policies, innovative projects, and plans for renewal linked to shifting to a knowledge-based economy, according to a declaration issued December 3rd by participants in a Tunis conference.
Sierra Leone: Compensating war victims
Sierra Leone has made a strong start in compensating war victims but these are early days: Long-term government commitment and funding is needed, says an NGO which monitors progress in this area.
Africa: Good news for ART delivery
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can be delivered safely in the first year without routine laboratory monitoring for toxic effects, according to an article in The Lancet.
Africa: Hospital-acquired HIV underestimated
The role of blood-borne HIV infections from unsanitary healthcare procedures has been underestimated in sub-Saharan Africa's HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to several researchers and epidemiologists.
Africa: UN envoy reviews progress, challenges in controlling malaria in Nigeria, Kenya
The United Nations official leading efforts to tackle malaria is visiting Nigeria and Kenya, the two nations which together account for one third of the estimated 1 million deaths worldwide from the deadly disease.
Global: Children in rich and poor countries doing equally well on HIV drugs
The effectiveness of one year of antiretroviral treatment in treatment-naive children in resource-limited settings is comparable to that of children in resource-rich settings, report Andrea Ciaranello and colleagues in a study published in the December 15 edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Global: TB report – Millions cured, but too many still dying
Some 36 million people have been cured of tuberculosis (TB) over the past 15 years through a rigorous approach to treatment, according to the World Health Organisation. However, last year 1.8 million people died from TB including half a million deaths associated with HIV - many of them because they did not access antiretrovirals.
Kenya: "Men of the blood" come clean
Every December, the village of Kangete, in eastern Kenya's Nyambene District, gears up for yet another season of festivities - not Christmas, however, but the initiation of hundreds of young men into manhood through circumcision
South Africa: Improved PMTCT yields dramatic results
The percentage of HIV-positive mothers who pass the virus to their newborn babies in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal Province has dropped by nearly two-thirds since dual antiretroviral (ARV) therapy was introduced for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).
South Africa: No growth check for infants despite maternal HIV infection - study
HIV-exposed but uninfected children grew as well as children of HIV-uninfected mothers, no matter how they were fed in the first two years of life in a non-randomised cohort study in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa from 2001-2004, Deven Patel and colleagues reported in a study published in advance online by the journal AIDS.
Zimbabwe: Government blasted for condoning "sexual terror"
Zimbabwe’s ruling political party has been accused of launching a "widespread and systematic campaign of rape and sexual terror" aimed at intimidating opponents and voters in the troubled African nation, according to a new report released here.
Gambia: President roars at gays
Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, is once again on the offensive against homosexuality, describing the practice as an act of 'indecency' which has no place in the country's military.
Southern Africa: Violence against lesbians, gays, bi- and trans-sexuals
Homophobia, hate crimes, and the fear of violence, are part of the daily experience of gay men, lesbian and bi women and trans diverse communities in Southern Africa.
Homophobia, hate crimes, and the fear of violence, are part of the daily experience of gay men, lesbian and bi women and trans diverse communities in Southern Africa.
Two recent incidents highlighted this issue for me. The first one was a missing LGBT activist in Lesotho – he did not arrive home on Friday and was missing the entire weekend. Talking to my colleague we discussed the fact that he may have been abducted or murdered because of his open sexual orientation. Sadly he had died in a car accident but that almost came a relief, that he was not targeted because he was an openly gay man, and we did not have to deal with another act of violence because of sexuality.
The second incident was a posting in my adopted son’s face-book page – he had mention that two of his school friends, who were assumed to be gay by others, were going for an HIV test. A vitriolic discussion about “homosexuality” ensued - and one boy posted the following “I hate gay people and I think they should all be killed brutally.” This comment was not met with the outrage and disgust it deserved – seemingly it is ok to spew out such homophobic hatred amongst teenage boys.
Growing numbers of LGBT people are experiencing physical, verbal, emotional and sexual violence because of their sexual orientation and lifestyle choices – and this is becoming more and more blatant. Throughout the region the pattern is the same, and even in South Africa, with our progressive constitution, LGBT people are just not protected. In short, violence has reached epidemic proportions in our region with murders of lesbian women not uncommon: women who have sex with women are systematically targeted for abuse such as abduction and murder (1), for example, the killing of 19 year old Zoliswa Nkonyana in February 2005 by a gang of youths simply because they deemed her behaviour to be too masculine. (2) The murder of two lesbian activists, Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Massoa, on the 7th July 2007, in Meadowlands Soweto, shocked the lesbian community globally, and gave rise to the 07-07-07 campaign against hate crimes. (3) In April 2008, a prominent lesbian and former national soccer player, Eudy Simelane, was gang raped and murdered. Many other acts of violence, on un-named LGBT people go un-noticed.
The 16 days of activism does raise public awareness about violence against women, and although the responses are never enough, and action is lacking there is a sense of outrage at such violence. Violence against LGBT communities is never condemned, never highlighted – an indication of the high levels of global homophobia that cannot and should not be addressed by LGBT groups alone.
* Vicci Tallis is the HIV/AIDS Programme Manager for the Open Society Institute of Southern Africa (OSISA).
1. Johnson, C.A. 2007
2. Johnson, C.A. 2007
Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009
Pan Africa ILGA statement
On behalf of the Pan Africa ILGA part of the global Pan Africa International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). We write to express our concern about THE UGANDA ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL, NO 18, 2009.
South Africa: Six Zimbabwean men in serious condition in new attacks
Six Zimbabwean men were in a serious condition in hospital after they were attacked by residents in the Westenburg area of Polokwane, South Africa, on Monday night, Limpopo police said.
Africa: We know why we are dying
Few are more aware of the devastating legacy failure will leave than the teams of African negotiators in the Danish capital to hammer out a final position. As talks began on Dec. 7, the Africa Group had put numbers to the hard line taken at a preparatory conference in Barcelona last month.
Global: NGOs slam draft Copenhagen agreement
Non-governmental organisations attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Tuesday slammed the leaked draft Copenhagen Climate Change agreement proposed by the Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen.
Global: Copenhagen: Key issues for developing countries
This paper summarises the key issues that need to be resolved if the Copenhagen Climate Conference is to succeed. They include the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate regime, the emission cuts of developed countries, the attempts to shift responsibiity to developing countries, finance and technology for developing countries, and the danger of climate trade protectionism.
East Africa: Farmers push food sovereignty at climate talks
For centuries, farmers like Berhanu Gudina have tended tiny plots of maize, wheat, and barley amid the lush green plains of Ethiopia’s central lowlands. But now, Mr. Gudina says he sees people from India and China farming these lands. He says before, it was just locals. “What do they want here?,” he asks. “To steal everything? Our government is selling our country to the Asians so they can make money for themselves.”
Senegal: Rural women demand improved access to farmland
The community of Thiénaba is located in western Senegal. Here, as in other Senegalese communities, most of the farmland is controlled by men. But there are five acres under the control of women. A women’s group called Fass Jom (which means “make do” in the local language of Wolof) has secured this land for its members.
Global: Food prices up again - FAO
Global food prices are on the ascent again with the FAO Food Price Index – a food basket composed of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar – registering four straight monthly rises.
Global: Hunger and Global Warming
Sérgio Barbosa de Almeida
When, as we speak, it is been discussed in Copenhagen how to reorganize human activities that accelerate climate change in global scale, threatening the life of a large number of people living in this planet, it is impossible to leave aside the issue of hunger, which since 2005 it has once again started to spread in the world.
When, as we speak, it is been discussed in Copenhagen how to reorganize human activities that accelerate climate change in global scale, threatening the life of a large number of people living in this planet, it is impossible to leave aside the issue of hunger, which since 2005 it has once again started to spread in the world. The solution for this obscene problem is closely linked to climate change. The meeting of the parts called by the United Nations for Food and Agriculture- FAO, in mid November, in Rome, attracted very little attention from rich countries, whose heads of State abstained from participating, with the exception of Italy, the host country.
But what is the scale of the problem? In 2009, FAO estimates more than one billion the number of people underfed, in other words, one in each habitant of the planet. Asia contributes with 640 million “starving” people, Africa and Middle east with 310 million, Latin America with 53 million and amazingly, rich countries with 15 million. Nowadays, every six seconds a child dies of hunger in the world and the perspectives in the short term are frightening. According to Olivier de Schutter, FAO Special Rapporteur for the right to food, “all the conditions for a new food crises (sic) in the next two years have been put together, it is not a matter of knowing IF it will occur, but rather when” (Source: Le Monde, 16/11/2009). In spite of the statement of the Rapporteur, the political weakness of the FAO can be verified when we look at the projections for hunger reduction, with the pact of the country members, which it was repeatedly revised for worse: in 1991, a target was established to cut it in half, by 2015, the number 840 million malnourished. In 2005, the target was raised from 420 to 750 million, but there was no reduction of the malnourished but rather a rise to one billion people (Refer to image Bellow, published in the conservative paper Le Figaro, 16/11/2009). Besides, the Rome meeting closed without rich countries committing to the demands of Jacques Diouf, FAO General Secretary for 15 years, neither in the terms of financial contributions requested nor in regards to the proposal for “Hunger Zero”, the first of the Objectives for the Millennium, established in 2000. Ironically, we also live with half a billion people affected by health problems originated by excess or inadequate diet, many of them are poor, and can only access foods to “appease” hunger, but which are not nourishing enough and cause problems such as obesity and other illnesses.
During the FAO meeting, Via Campesina and other social organizations organised a parallel event, where they intensified the defence of the concept of “Food sovereignty”, counterposing “Food security”, a divergence that transcends semantics. In practice, “food security” as it is understood by governments represented at FAO, it is based in making new financial resources available for the intensification of the so called “Green Revolution” and its fundaments are the intensive development of monoculture in large land holdings - involving irrigation and the use of chemical fertilizers – the use of selected seeds, which very quickly was blurred with genetically modified seeds, agro-chemicals, produced and controlled by a very limited number of companies.
In its turn, the proposal for “food sovereignty” restated by organizations that congregate small farmers, landless rural workers, peoples of the forests and fisher folk, among other groups, is based on the “fundamental human right of all peoples, nations and States to define their own systems and food production policies”, in order to assure everyone’s access to adequate and healthy foods, which respect people’s cultural diversity, including the food and linguistic knowledges and traditions. The organizations that attended the parallel meeting drafted a document “ Policies and actions to eradicate hunger and malnutrition”, available at the site www.eradicatehunger.org in Spanish, French and English, presenting in broad detail the gearings of the dominant system for food supply, as well as alternatives to overcome the problem of hunger in the planet. The document discusses: a) deficiencies and limitations of the dominant process of food supply for the world population; b) a conceptual vision for food sovereignty; c) access ways for sustainable agriculture; d) relationship between environment, climate change and agrofuels; e) relationship between markets, price policies and agricultural subsidies; f) the role of States and international institutions.
The autumn of the Green Revolution
Until the beginning of the 19th century, the Green revolution was exalted as the one responsible for the transformation of India from a country, strongly dependent on food imports into a nation with record world production of rice, wheat and other foods for exports, even though millions of Indians were malnourished. Time has shown that the techniques employed acted as a true dropping of productive arable land in India, which slowly lost its fertility. If at first, agrochemicals worked as defensives against some agricultural pests, in time they strengthened them, the arise of new pests, micro-organisms malnutrition, parts of the fauna and flora responsible for natural soil fertilization, besides affecting pollinating insects which contribute for the productivity of the crop. Therefore, it is requires the increasing use of fertilizers to compensate the drop of fertility of soil, with the consequent rise of production costs. On its turn, intensive irrigation had the double side effect of significantly lowering the levels of underground water and salinizing the soil. Simultaneously, the use of “selected seeds”, controlled by a few companies, has reduced the diversity of crops and the actual environmental biodiversity.
As a consequence, countless Indian farmers find themselves in no position to honour the commitments signed with Banks that financed the “modernization” of the agricultural activity they developed. Some sell the land, causing a sharp concentration of land, others opt out for suicide, and the numbers are rising among small farmers, in the opposite trend to national indexes.
The dominant food supply system has also demonstrated to be a powerful fuel for global warming. It is estimated that one third of all green house effect originate from agriculture and cattle ranching, as a consequence of the intensive use of chemical fertilizers produced from oil, the expansion of the meat industry and the destruction of green coverage for the production of agricultural commodities, which have to be transported to increasingly longer distances: it is easy to buy Indian rice in any Brazilian supermarket, as well as Mexican lemons in a countryside town in France.
Beneficiaries of the international food system
It would be appropriate to ask: who benefits from a productive system that leaves one billion people in food destitution and which contributes for global warming? Well, the nine large transnational corporations from the food sector have multiplied their profits during the period in which food crises has aggravated. Between 2006 and 2008, Monsanto, Cargill, Syngenta and Bayer tripled their earnings. Potash Corporation, the largest fertilizer company in the world, made US$ 5 billion in 2008, against “just” US$ 1 billion in 2006! (Source: Via Campesina: “Small scale sustainable farmers are cooling down the Earth”)Your browser may not support display of this image.
There are others players betting on the game of hunger. In the parallel meeting in Rome, worker´s organizations centred efforts in denouncing the policies that have been adopted by several countries on the world, where agricultural production is insufficient to feed their people, and therefore they are renting or buying agricultural land in poor countries in Asia, Africa and South America. The main “buyers” are Saudi Arabia, South Korea, India, Japan and China. The main countries which are having their land used for the production and export of food are Sudan, Indonesia, Uganda, Philippines and Argentina, nations where expressive population contingents have food difficulties. Due to the return of this colonial form of agricultural production ( or large land holding globalization), companies and banks from rich countries – such as Goldman Sachs in the US, Louis Dreyfuss in Holand and Deutschbank in Germany– produce reports about opportunities and investment risks and facilitate the purchase of farming land
In other words, the greater the need for food, more profitable the investments in land acquisition. It is reasonable to expect people’s reactions in countries where their territories are being given out, including international courts. It is not an accident that Saudi Arabia, one of the leading countries in the use of foreign lands for the production of food, “generously” covered the total cost of US$ 2.5 million for holding the FAO Conference in 2009.
Brazil wastes food
In Brazil, despite the implementation of the Zero Hunger Programme and other initiatives from society, it is estimated that there are 14 million malnourished people. One of the routes to be taken for overcoming the problem is the reduction of the high index of food wastage in the country.
According to Embrapa – Research Brazilian Company in Agriculture and Cattle Farming, published in Desafios magazine, Sept/Oct 2009, from the total wastage in the country, 10% occurs during harvest; 50% during food handling and transport; 30% in supply centres; and the last 10% are diluted between supermarkets and consumers.
Now the Brazilian Institute of geography and statistics – IBGE estimates that 67% of cargo in Brazil is transported through roads, the least advantageous for long distances. Transferring gravity pole areas of grain production from Southern and South-eastern regions to centre-western regions, conjugated with very bad road conditions in the country, makes transport costs for one bag of soy beans from Mato Grosso to the export harbour to reach nearly 50% of the cost of the grain. A research from the national Supply Company – Conab for crops between 1996 and 2002 estimates the grain loss in approximately 10% of production, which corresponded to 9.8 million tons. The wastage in a tropical climate country is aggravated by deficiency in storage and cooling structures for perishable goods.
Therefore, in spite of being a short term solution for the reduction of wastage in the expansion of Brazilian food offer, the government has allocated only R$ 500 thousand in 2010 for developing studies to carefully detail the reasons and alternatives to solve it.
Global: Toolbox to aid in promoting the right to food
The purpose of the Methodological Toolbox is to provide a practical aid for the implementation of the Right to Food Guidelines. It contains a series of analytical, educational and normative tools that offer guidance and hands-on advice on the practical aspects of the right to food. I
DRC: Journalist detained by intelligence agents in Béni
JED is calling on the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) National Intelligence Agency (ANR) to put an end to the abuse of authority by officials at its Kasindi and Béni offices after radio reporter Maurice Lutendero was detained in Kasindi on 30 November 2009.
Eritrea: Dawit Isaak still in prison after more than eight years
The time that Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak has spent in a jail in Eritrea, without a trial and without any visits from his family or lawyers, today reached 3,000 days.
Ethiopia: Independent newspaper closes, editors flee country
Three editors of independent Amharic-language weekly Addis Neger have fled Ethiopia, saying that the government intends to prosecute them under Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009, promulgated on 28 August 2009. The last edition of the newspaper, which has been closed down, appeared on Saturday, 28 November.
Global: CPJ's 2009 prison census
Freelancers now make up nearly 45 percent of all journalists jailed worldwide, a dramatic recent increase that reflects the evolution of the global news business, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, CPJ found a total of 136 reporters, editors, and photojournalists behind bars on December 1, an increase of 11 from the 2008 tally.
Mozambique: Journalists banned from covering Renamo leader
Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo has banned its leader, Afonso Dhlakama, from speaking to the press. According to a report issue on 2 December 2009 in the local independent daily "O Pais", Renamo has threatened violence against any reporters who try to visit Dhlakama at his residence in the northern city of Nampula.
Zimbabwe: Permanent Secretary admits to state monopoly over broadcast industry
Permanent secretary for Media, Information and Publicity George Charamba, has conceded that the state has always had a controlling monopoly of radio services. He admitted to this in an interview with the Herald newspaper where he sharply criticized the continued operation of Voice of America's (VOA) Studio 7 amid allegations by his office that there was a government-to-government agreement between the United States and Botswana.
Africa: Efforts to thwart rebels in eastern DRC a mixed bag - UN
Progress in bringing stability to the war-wracked east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is mixed, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report, noting the heavy humanitarian toll wrought by a military operation to flush out a notorious ethnic Hutu militia.
Ethiopia: Nearly 5 million will need food aid in first half of 2010 - UN
Some 4.8 million Ethiopians will require emergency food and related aid costing $270 million for the first six months of 2010 in a country already plagued by prolonged drought and crop failure, according to newly released United Nations estimates.
Guinea: Junta arrests 60 for 'trying to kill Camara'
Alleged plotters who tried to kill Guinea's junta leader Capt Moussa Dadis Camara are being "hunted down" and arrested, the military government says. Junta spokesman Idrissa Cherif told the BBC more than 60 people had been held over last week's assassination attempt.
Guinea: Junta backs out of peace talks
Guinea's military junta has pulled out of crisis talks with opposition groups to wait for the recovery and return of its leader, Captain Dadis Camara, who is receiving treatment in Morocco following an assassination bid.
Somaliland: A way out of the electoral crisis
This latest briefing from the International Crisis Group examines what stalled democratisation could mean. It concludes that politicians must finally uphold the constitution, abide by electoral laws and adhere to inter-party agreements if the region, which seeks independence from Somalia, is to hold genuinely free and fair elections in 2010.
Sudan: SPLM arrests spark southern unrest
Protesters set alight the office of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir's party in a southern town after three southern politicians were arrested in Khartoum. There were no reports of casualties at the National Congress Party (NCP) building in Wau, and police later freed the three politicians.
Africa: Will Google Trader help farmers in Africa?
Software and web-search giants Google on Monday November 1st, 2009 launched the online Google Trader pilot in Uganda to connect sellers and buyers of goods and services, including in agriculture.
Kenya: ICT training plan places 185 into employment
An initiative by a mobile phone manufacturer, Samsung, and three non-governmental organisations to train youth from poor backgrounds in Nairobi in ICT and entrepreneurship is beginning to bear fruits.
Kenya: Wananchi lowers Internet prices with eyes on SMEs
Multimedia company, Wananchi Group, moved to slash the cost of its internet offering by half, saying it was keen to cash in on its investment in fibre optic technology as it passed on savings to its customers.
Journal of Media and Communication Studies
Call for papers
The Journal of Media And Communication Studies (Jmcs) is a multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal published that will be monthly by Academic Journals (www.academicjournals.org/JMCS, http://www.acadjourn.org) JMCS is dedicated to increasing the depth of the subject across disciplines with the ultimate aim of expanding knowledge of the subject.
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